Britons who could have been champions had they lived

The contemplation of champion promise unfulfilled is always painful. Two years before Bristow and Stacey fell at Spa, the talented Stuart Lewis-Evans succumbed to burns received in the Moroccan GP.

In 1968 Mike Spence, who stood in for the late Jim Clark at Indianapolis, got out of the groove entering Turn One. The BRM team leader struck the outer wall at a gentle angle but, in a tragic foretelling of Ayrton Senna’s accident, the right front wheel came back into the cockpit and inflicted fatal head injuries. Spence was on a final shakedown run in the car of inexperienced team-mate Greg Weld.

Two years later, Piers Courage lost control of his de Tomaso during the Dutch GP at Zandvoort. Three years later Zandvoort sank into infamy when upcoming Roger Williamson was left to die in his burning upturned March as craven marshals refused to assist fellow race-driver David Purley’s valiant rescue efforts.

Like Williamson, both Tony Brise and Tom Pryce were tipped as future champions. But after showing brilliance with Graham Hill’s team in 1975, Brise was killed along with the former champion in an air crash that November. In March 1977 Pryce was the hapless victim in South Africa when a teenage marshal ran across the track directly in front of him.

There, but for fortune, went Britain’s future champions. Men whom close observers believed possessed every bit as much talent and promise as those upon whom Fate chose instead to smile.