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This Californian was the North American importer for Lotus during the late 1950s and early 1960s who was also a works sports car driver for the marque. Jay Chamberlain first met Colin Chapman at the 1956 Sebring 12 Hours and he retired a works Lotus 11 from the race a year later.
Le Mans class winner
Chamberlain shared such a car with Herbert MacKay-Fraser in the 1957 Le Mans 24 Hours. The Americans finished ninth overall to win the sports 1100cc class and finish second in the Index of Performance. Second in the 1500cc Coupe Delamere-Debouteville at Rouen-les-Essarts, he was severely injured during practice for the Reims 12 Hours during the same meeting that cost MacKay-Fraser his life.
Chamberlain returned at the start of 1958 and was ninth at Sebring before sharing a works Lotus 15-Climax with Pete Lovely at Le Mans. The car was much delayed before Chamberlain crashed in torrential rain during the night. Lightly injured, that was Chamberlain’s final appearance in the French classic but he raced a Lotus Elite at Sebring twice more.
Formula 1 privateer for a season
Also racing a Formula Junior in America by now, he made his entry into the Formula 1 World Championship with an Ecurie Excelsior Lotus 18-Climax during 1962. Fifth in the Lavant Cup at Goodwood, Chamberlain’s championship debut was in the British GP when he finished in 15th position. He failed to qualify for the subsequent German and Italian races but was ninth in the non-championship Mexican GP at the end of his only F1 season.
The Chamberlain/Lotus relationship later ended in a sour legal wrangle after poor initial sales of the Lotus Elite in America. The dispute resulted in Chamberlain being removed from his own company by his erstwhile backer Dr Jack Briggs.