A combination of amazing car control and phenomenal bravery enabled Jim Crawford, who has died suddenly at the age of 54, to rise rapidly from a humble racing mechanic to a Formula One driver, and then to reinvent himself as a ChampCar racer nearly a decade later.
Born in Dunfermline, Scotland, Crawford dabbled in rallying before getting a job preparing Formula Atlantic racer Stephen Choularton’s Chevron. The chance to race this car at Croft brought him to the attention of Chevron boss Derek Bennett, and in a works-loaned car he began the meteoric ascent that took him to the Southern Organs Atlantic title and second place in the John Player series in 1974.
On the back of a Grovewood Commendation, he earned a testing contract with Lotus and his F1 debut in the 1975 International Trophy at Silverstone. Two grand prix starts followed, in the rain-hit British event, where he crashed out, and then the Italian race, where he finished 13th.
These did not lead to more grands prix chances, though, and he returned to the domestic single-seater arena, coming second in the 1979 Atlantic series and winning the British F1 title in 1982 in an Ensign. At the end of the same year he switched his career to the USA, where he spent the rest of his life.
After success in Can-Am sportscars, finishing as runner-up in the series in 1983 and ’84, he switched to ChampCars, in which he came to be regarded as an Indianapolis 500 specialist.
He contested the big race eight times with a number of teams, usually in Buick-powered cars. He often starred in qualifying but suffered from the V6 engine’s lack of endurance. He scored a best finish of sixth in 1988. That result came one year after a huge crash in qualifying which left him with bad leg injuries, from which he never fully recovered.
Latterly, the Indy 500 was the only race he contested each season. He made his last start at the Brickyard in 1993, failed to qualify for the next two years, and then retired to Florida. Up to his untimely death he was still involved in motorsport as a ‘spotter’ in the Indy Racing League.
Lance Macklin was a successful sportscar driver and occasional participant in Formula One in the 1950s, but he remained best-known as an innocent party in the 1955 Le Mans disaster.
Lance, who died on his 83rd birthday, was the son of Sir Noel Macklin, who was behind the Invicta sportscar marque.
The young Macklin started racing as competition resumed after the war, driving an Invicta and competing in the Spa 24 Hours in a Bentley. In 1949, he made his debut in the Le Mans 24 Hours in an Aston Martin before joining the HWM team in 1950, racing all over Europe in non-championship F1 races as well as with the Aston Martin sportscar team.
In 1951, he scored one of his most important results, a third at Le Mans partnering Eric Thompson in an Aston Martin DB2. Over the next three seasons he started 13 grands prix with HWM.
He registered only a handful of finishes for the underfunded team, but he did win the International Trophy F1 race at Silverstone in 1952. His best grand prix result with the Walton-on-Thames outfit was eighth in the Dutch event that same year. He was also one of the drivers of the advanced Bristol 450 that caught fire at Le Mans in 1953.
His last season of racing was 1955. At that fateful Le Mans, his Austin Healey was hit by Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes, which then somersaulted into the crowd with catastrophic consequences.
A month later, Macklin took the Stirling Moss-owned Maserati 250F to eighth in the British Grand Prix at Aintree, but after walking away from a big accident in the Tourist Trophy at Dundrod, this fun-loving free spirit retired permanently from racing at the end of the year.