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Stephen South

19th February 1952 (Age 68)
Harrow, London
Most recent race (in database):

Rarely does such a promising career turn so sour so quickly. At the end of 1979 Stephen South had just completed a race-winning first season in European Formula 2 and landed the plum ride for the new season. He was also on the verge of a Grand Prix career and both he and Derek Warwick were considered more likely to succeed than Nigel Mansell. But within months his life had changed forever.

Success in Formula 3 and F2

Vandervell British Formula 3 Champion in 1977 with a Team BP March-Toyota, progress in 1978 was hampered by a lack of backing. However, a couple of late-season appearances in an unsponsored F2 March 782 enhanced his reputation. He qualified on pole position (ahead of all the GP cars) for his debut in the British Formula 1 Championship at Brands Hatch and then finished fourth in Hockenheim’s European F2 finale.

South graduated to the 1979 European F2 Championship on a fulltime basis with Ron Dennis’s ICI-backed Project Four Racing. Victory at Hockenheim in June was the highlight as he finished a fine fifth equal in the standings.

Formula 1 test and McLaren opportunity

An impressive Lotus F1 test followed as Colin Chapman sought to decide Mario Andretti’s team-mate for the coming year. South was quickest of the young chargers but Elio de Angelis was ultimately chosen.

Instead, South signed to lead the BP Toleman team in the 1980 European F2 Championship. However, just two weeks after the announcement, South was fired when he tested for McLaren rather than travel to Vallelunga with Toleman. Brian Henton, his replacement, won the F2 title and progressed to F1 with the team in 1981. For South, it was a case of what might have been.

F1 did beckon when South deputised for the injured Alain Prost for the Long Beach GP. However, hampered by a lack of testing, he failed to qualify the McLaren M29-Ford for his debut and an unhappy year soon became much worse. South accepted a late ride with Paul Newman’s Can-Am team but he crashed heavily at Trois-Rivières and was seriously injured. Initial reports of his progress were promising but complications forced surgeons to amputate his left leg beneath the knee.

Robbed of his career and distraught by disability, South shied away from the sport he once loved for many years. He had the talent to be a successful GP driver, but Stephen South endured a year from hell in 1980.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1980 F1 World Championship
Marlboro Team McLaren
0 (1) 0 0 0 0
1979 European F2 Championship
Project 4 Racing
12 2 3 1
9% win rate
5th 19
1978 European F2 Championship
Stephen South
Raven Racing
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
16th 3
1978 Aurora AFX British F1 Championship
Stephen South
2 1 0 0
0% win rate
27th 2
1977 European F3 Championship
Team BP
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
1977 Vandervell British F3 Championship 1st -
1976 European F3 Championship
Bogarts Racing
0 (1) 0 0 0 0
1975 European F3 Cup
Rayrace International
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
17th 3