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Lance Macklin

Full Name:
Francis Noel Lancelot Macklin
Born:
2nd September 1919
Kensington, London
Died:
29th August 2002 (Aged 82)
Tenterden, Kent
Nationality:
British
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Lance Macklin’s unwitting part in the 1955 Le Mans disaster overshadows the story of a quick racing driver. With natural talent in abundance, it has been said that he did not harness that gift. His father, Sir Noel Macklin, was the force behind the Invicta sports car marque so it is no surprise that Lance drove such a car when he began racing after World War II.

Early racing career

Invited to join Aston Martin, Macklin was fifth in the 1949 Spa 24 Hours and at Le Mans a year later driving a DB2 on each occasion. He was partnered by Eric Thompson for the 1951 Le Mans 24 Hours and their DB2 finished third overall on a fine day for the marque – leading an Aston Martin 1-2-3 in the 3000cc class.

Macklin also raced single-seaters and had finished second at Chimay in 1949 with a Maserati 6CM. He repeated that result in the following year’s Naples Formula 2 race for HWM and Macklin remained with the small British team in 1951. He won his heat at Angoulême before being beaten by Rudi Fischer in the final.

Grand Prix driver for HWM

F2 was adopted as the Grand Prix formula in 1952 and Macklin showed his promise by winning the International Trophy at Silverstone against a quality field. He made his GP debut in the opening round in Switzerland and competed in all-but-one of that year’s championship races. Eighth in Holland was the best result both of his season and during his 13-race GP career. 1953 was hampered by HWM’s fragility as he retired from each World Championship round he entered.

The Le Mans tragedy and retirement

Macklin joined Austin Healey for the 1954 sports car season and was third at Sebring. He shared a Healey 100S with "Les Leston" in the fateful 1955 Le Mans 24 Hours. Surprised when Mike Hawthorn’s leading Jaguar darted to the pits, Macklin swerved to avoid collision and was hit by the following Mercedes-Benz of "Pierre Levegh". The silver car was launched into the crowd with a tragic loss of life.

"Levegh" and over 80 spectators were killed and the tragedy weighed heavily on Macklin’s mind. He made a final GP start at Aintree when eighth in a Maserati 250F and was fourth in the Goodwood Nine Hours that autumn. He deliberately crashed during the early laps of the 1955 Tourist Trophy at Dundrod rather than hit the wreckage in which both Jim Mayers and Bill Smith had been killed.

Macklin decided enough was enough and retired from the sport.