LOOKING BACK ON Stuart Lewis-Evans
In F3 he raced the Bears-Cooper with considerable success. Aston Martin signed him for long distance sports car events, though he never shone in sports cars in quite the same way as in single-seaters. Still, he and Brooks were lying fourth at the Nfirburgring when, late in the race, their car was forced off the road. Partnered by Carroll Shelby, Lewis-Evans finished third in the Tourist Trophy.
There were races, too, in the 11/2-litre Willment-Climax sports car and others in an Elva. When commitments permitted, hr drove an F2 Cooper for the British Racing Partnership, scoring a couple of wins and picking up several other places against first class opposition. He ran well in a Porsche in the Tour dc France partnered by Jost Behra.
'The world was opening up to him and he was taking all the opportunities it was offering. In the background there were plans to run in 1959 with a team of Coopers owned and nal by Bernie Ecclestone.
Of the nine Grands Prix which Vanwall undertook in 1958, Lewis-Evans was a team member for eight races, the outfit had had a lot of engine blow-ups and there simply was not enough equipment for three drivers to use at the NOrburgring. At Monaco he retired with overheating. Zandvoort saw him set pole in practice and finish third. A third at Spa was followed by retirement at Reims, fourth at Si/vet-stone, third at Oporto .d another retirement at Morri.a. Moss and Brooks won three races each in Vanwalls and Lewis-Evans did everything which could be expected of a number three driver with equipment which was inevitably number three. In the final round at Casablanca, all the attention was focused on the championship
decider between Moss and Hawthorn. By finishing second to Moss, Hawthorn clinched the title by a single point to become Britain's first World Champion. The news bulletins which gave out the glad tidings at home also mentioned that Lewis-Evans had crashed and was badly burned.
On the 42nd lap out of 53, his engine had locked solid on a fast bend and the car had spun off, the tail hitting a solid object (a tree, a boulder. a marker stone, depending on the report you read), the petrol tank had ripped open and the car caught fire. Stuart escaped from the cockpit with his overalls alight but, in his confusion, had run in the opposite direction to ready help. His injuries were terrible. Tony Vandervell arranged to fly him back
to East Grinstead hospital which had developed so many techniques for treating burns during the war. Stuart was conscious and lucid and even spoke of the cars he would drive the following season. The doctors, however, had already told Bernie Ecclestone only that he he would not live, in their view, nobody could have survived those burns given the state of medicine at the time. On October 25th, a courageous and supremely talented driver passed away, leaving a widow and young family to whom he was devoted. He was just 28-years-old. More than anything else, Stuart's death caused Vandervell's withdrawal from racing. It clouded a great year for the "Guv'nor" who had seen his cars win six of the nine races they started and take the very first Constructors' Championship. David Yorke, in a taped interview with Doug Nye, later said that Vandervell blamed himself, for the cause of Stuart's accident had been mechanical and something like that was more or less inevitable when stretching his team's resources to run three cars. Though Vanwall later developed new cars, the team made only four solo entries in races during the next three years and then folded for good.
Formula Three, a category whose natural life had been prolonged by Stuart's presence in 1958, faded very quickly.
Bernie Ecclestone cancelled his plans for his own Fl team and backed away from the sport for several years. Who can tell how Grand Prix racing might have changed had Stuart lived and Ecclestone become involved in it in 1959? Had he driven Ecclestone Coopers in 1959, we would probably have seen a different Lewis-Evans for the cars were that much easier to drive and with greater experience his stamina problems would surely have been overcome, allowing that great talent its full rein. At the time of his death, the ability of Lewis-Evans had only been scratched on thr surface. M.L.