Trevor Taylor

Lotus Grand Prix driver Trevor Taylor has died from cancer aged 73. At the peak of his career he was team-mate to Jim Clark, sharing one victory with him and on one occasion beating him in a non-championship F1 event, but he was not a lucky driver and a number of accidents, not necessarily his fault, overshadowed his abilities. He made up for luck with Yorkshire grit, repeatedly bouncing back from crashes and career reverses to try new directions, coming close to taking the inaugural F5000 title in 1969.

Growing up around his family garage business near Rotherham, racing was an obvious outlet and after finding his feet in 1954 and ’55 in a Ford-based special and a Triumph TR2 his father bought him, he began serious competition in a variety of 500cc Formula 3 machines. In 1958 he secured the national championship, progressing to F2 the following year, when he tried unsuccessfully to qualify his Ace Garage Cooper-Climax for the British Grand Prix at Aintree. However, Colin Chapman had noted his speed and offered him a Formula Junior drive for 1960 if the Taylors bought a Lotus 18. The proposal worked well; by the final round he and team-mate Jim Clark were on equal points in the lead, but as Clark could not make the last race Taylor sportingly asked that they share the title. The following year as a works driver he won the FJ championship outright and made his F1 debut, deputising for an injured Innes Ireland at Zandvoort, though he finished last.

In a quartet of South African races over the winter he took a second and that win over Clark, leading Chapman to drop Ireland and slot the Yorkshireman alongside the Scot. The 1962 season started well and then collapsed, a second at Zandvoort presaging several bad crashes, but sharing victory with Clark in Mexico and then winning the Natal GP closed the season on an upturn.

1963 brought a couple of seconds but only one title point, while Taylor had an amazing escape in the non-championship Enna GP when flung from his car at over 100mph, rolling to a stop virtually uninjured. Clark’s dominant ride to the title only highlighted the contrast in fortunes, and following Napoleon’s precept about lucky generals Chapman replaced him with Peter Arundell. Instead Taylor followed Ireland to BRP for 1964, a move which brought many retirements and one solitary title point. At the same time he started a touring car team, Aurora Gear Racing, running Mini Coopers with his sister Anita. Still compelled to race single-seaters, he reverted to Formula 2 for 1965-6, running a Brabham under the Aurora banner, and also made the brave decision to drive the under-developed Godiva V8-powered Shannon F1 car in the 1966 British GP. It retired with a split fuel tank, Taylor’s last Formula 1 race.

A switch to Ralph Broad’s equipe brought much touring car success in Anglias and Escorts, and Taylor also continued to race sports cars, culminating with victory in the 1969 Tourist Trophy in a Lola T70. That year also marked the beginning of F5000, and a new single-seater career for the outspoken Northener. In a Surtees TS5 he challenged Peter Gethin for the title right to the last event where the two collided, giving Gethin the edge. Taylor continued to race the 5-litre machines for three seasons, but never recaptured the fire of the first year and retired from racing at the end of 1972, aged 36.

When asked about ‘the old days’ he always hedged, saying “I’m writing my memoirs – that’s my pension fund” before producing a string of gleeful tales about teams and rivals. The memoirs remain unpublished.