The British karting prodigy who should have been the female Senna - MPH


While W Series hopes to find the next female F1 talent, Lorraine Peck could have been a star says Mark Hughes

Lorraine Peck, 1978

Peck had all the talent to make it to F1 but tragedy kept it from happening via Facebook

Forty-six years ago, the racing world lost a 16-year-old mega-talent who had arrived on the karting scene a raw novice and within 15 months was second in the junior world championship, beating Elio de Angelis among others. This racer was backed with proud zeal by the father, a property developer with the means to propel the prodigy to their joint dream of F1. He had already bought a Formula Atlantic Chevron B25, so as to make the move into car racing once the racer had turned 17, which was just a month away when a brake failure at the world karting finals in Fulda, Germany resulted in a fatal freak accident, July 10 1975.

The racer’s name was Lorraine Peck. She was, by all accounts, an incredible talent. Some of those who witnessed her or raced against her still talk of her on karting chat sites. Here’s a few of their quotes:

“Bear in mind that Ayrton Senna feared Terry Fullerton. Lorraine arrived on the scene as a black plate novice and within less than two years of karting was being regarded as Britain’s number two to Fullerton.”

“When I first started I would get lapped and my dad told me when the leaders came past, just try to stay with them as long as you can and try to learn from them. Except if it’s Lorraine – there’s no chance you’ll keep up with her.”

“In my mind I have no doubt that we lost British karting’s first F1 world champion.”

“She was so fast. If ever someone was destined for great things it was her.”

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Who knows how it may have panned out? A move to the potent Formula Atlantic class was certainly ambitious, missing out the traditional rungs of Formula Ford. But for a mega talent, possibly quite feasible. The British Atlantic series at that time was being fought out between Tony Brise and Gunnar Nilsson, the former already having made his F1 debut (with Graham Hill’s team) and causing something of a stir there, the latter set to have a sparkling F1 rookie season with Lotus in ’76.

A strong late-season debut, mixing in that company, from a gifted 17-year-old female racer, possibly as the reigning junior world karting champion (she was one of the hot favourites for the event when she suffered her accident during practice) would certainly have created the sort of buzz that might have propelled her to the big time.

The photograph above is the podium from the 1974 Junior World Championship final at Rye House where at 15 she has finished second to Felice Rovelli (world champion of ‘76 and 77, whose industrialist father founded a karting engine company to power him), with a 17-year-old Martin Leach (who would later go on to be boss of Ford Europe and who died of cancer in 2016). Elio de Angelis finished sixth, future FF1600 star Sean Walker 13th.

This was at a time when there seemed to be a real appetite to get women drivers into F1. Lella Lombardi had just finished sixth in the Spanish Grand Prix, Brands Hatch impresario John Webb was supporting both Davina Galica and Desiré Wilson and the latter in particular looked to have real potential. But the ideal would have been – and remains – a young, super-talent who was wiping the floor with the opposition. A female Senna.

All these years later the search continues and W Series is doing its part. Lorraine Peck showed in her brief time that it’s feasible. The appetite of the business side of F1 today for such a thing is immense. It’s just a case of waiting for the identity of the next Lorraine Peck to become apparent.