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Herbert MacKay-Fraser was a popular and jovial American whose racing career in Europe was tragically short.
Upbringing and early racing career
Born on his father’s Brazilian coffee plantation, he had already been a Wyoming rancher before discovering motor racing relatively late on. That was having moved to California where he began to race a Jaguar XK120 and Ferrari 750 Monza sports car in SCCA races.
"Mac" raced in Brazil for a short time before moving to London to further his ambitions in the sport. It was during 1956 that he started to attract attention. He shared Ivor Bueb’s Lotus 11-Climax in that year’s Reims 12 Hours and they led before stripping second and third gears to retire.
That performance established the American and earned a works drive for the Le Mans 24 Hours. He shared Colin Chapman’s Lotus 11-Climax but again retired late in the race.
Works Lotus driver and Grand Prix debut
A fulltime Lotus driver in 1957, he won the 1100cc class at Le Mans and began racing a Lotus 12-Climax in Formula 2 events. Third place in the Lavant Cup was lost when he crashed at Goodwood’s chicane but he finished second to Jack Brabham at Brands Hatch.
With Lotus a year away from graduating to Formula 1, MacKay-Fraser made his Grand Prix debut in a BRM P25 at the 1957 French GP. He qualified in 12th position at Rouen-les-Essarts and ran sixth during the early laps before his engine failed. His was a promising bow but he was killed just a week later when his streamlined Lotus 11-Climax crashed at high speed during the F2 Coupe Internationale de Vitesse at Reims.