Classic Sports Car

CHRIS CRAFT 1939-2021

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Former tin-top hero, Le Mans ace and later specialist car manufactur­er Chris Craft died on 20 February following a lengthy illness.

Having started his career in the automotive industry with an apprentice­ship at Ford, Craft soon found his way into the competitio­n department and began racing in ’61 in a press fleet Anglia. He became a stalwart of the British touring car scene driving for Superspeed, Broadspeed and Gordon Spice.

Although perhaps best known for his exploits in saloons – he narrowly missed out on the 1969 BSCC title – Craft drove some 44 different makes and models in a wide variety of formulae across his 20-plus years on track.

He achieved huge success in sports cars, with 14 appearance­s at Le Mans and victory in the 1973 European Sports-prototype Championsh­ip, but his Formula One record was rather shorter, with just two disastrous outings in 1971 aboard Alain de Cadenet’s Ecurie Evergreen Brabham BT33.

“I never really liked single-seaters,” Craft told Richard Heseltine in a 2010 interview for C&SC, having watched too many of his friends perish in open-wheelers. “I did Formula Three and F5000, but I preferred saloons and sports cars.”

The redundant Brabham formed the basis of the Duckhams Special that Craft raced at La Sarthe in 1972, introducin­g him to a young South African designer by the name of Gordon Murray. Some years after his final race – Le Mans in 1984 – Craft and Murray were reunited for a road car project, the sensationa­l Light Car Company Rocket. “For years I’d wanted to do a road car but he was always too busy,” said Craft. “Gordon wanted a single-seater, but I’m no fan of those so we compromise­d on a tandem layout.”

Always busy himself, from furniture to F1 to fishing, Craft was a great character who will be sorely missed.

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