John Miles: 1943 - 2018

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Formula One record books show that John Miles started 12 Grands Prix with Lotus, scored points just once and finished 19th in the 1970 World Championship. But the text does not reveal facts that are chilling, even by the sport's more hazardous and cavalier standards of the day.

Miles, who died on Monday at the age of 74, used his substantial skills as an engineer and driver to make a Lotus Elan quick enough to score nine consecutive wins and claim a British GT championship in 1966. The reserved, bespectacled Englishman may have looked like a studious accountant rather than a racing driver but his progress on the track was good enough to attract the attention of Colin Chapman and the offer of F3 and F2 drives with Lotus.

The engineer in Miles found the mercurial Chapman and his ideas inspirational. But John was not so impressed by the Lotus boss's reluctance to accept that some of his revolutionary concepts might render the cars difficult and sometimes impossible to drive.

One such was the Lotus 63 four wheel drive F1 car that Chapman wanted Jochen Rindt and Graham Hill to race in 1969. When Rindt, very much the superstar in speed and spirit, and Hill showed no interest in the 63, Miles was instructed to solider on. As the third driver, Miles found himself wrestling with a car hamstrung by its own complexity to the point where it would suddenly spin with a momentum all of its own.

It wasn't as if the Englishman was doing it for the money, Miles receiving the princely sum of £300 per race. He started five Grands Prix with the 63 and finished just one; 10th and last in the 1969 British Grand Prix, several laps behind after as many pit stops.

Chapman eventually focussed on the Lotus 72, arguably one of the greatest F1 cars of all time. But it didn't start out that way. Miles found that the anti-dive and anti-squat characteristics made the initial concept unpredictable; a conclusion reached by Rindt, who refused to race it in the early part of 1970. With Hill having moved on to a private team, Rindt and Miles raced developments of the Lotus 49, Miles using the tried and trusted car to score his only championship points by finishing fifth in South Africa.

Once the anti-dive suspension was abandoned, the Lotus 72 became a winner to the point where Rindt was leading the championship by the time the Italian Grand Prix came round in September.

Searching for even more speed, Chapman elected to remove the front and rear wings during practice. When Miles tried the car, he found the oversteer scarily excessive in Monza's fast curves and returned to the pits. His view that the car was totally unmanageable was not shared by Chapman, who ordered his driver to continue.

Whether or not Miles would have to race the 72 in this configuration never came to pass. Rindt was killed during qualifying when he crashed (due to a brake shaft failure) and the team withdrew. Rindt became the sport's only posthumous World Champion. Miles was unceremoniously dropped for the final three races.

Following a couple of non-championship F1 races for BRM, Miles returned to sports cars, winning another British title in 1971. After retiring from racing, John became an engine builder, wrote road test reports for Autocar and worked in various roles within automotive engineering.

In 1985 he also founded Miles Music, a jazz recording company that won the BT Jazz CD of the Year Award with 'Tamburello', a CD by Pete King inspired by the death of Ayrton Senna. With Senna having won his first Grand Prix with Lotus, the connection was symbiotic in a small and rather curious way that summed up the relationship between John Miles and F1.