Obituary: Jim Crawford

Jim Crawford has died at the early age of 54. The Scotsman was once a great white hope in Formula 1 but then drifted away from the Grand Prix scene and ended up in the United States where he became a regular competitor in the Indianapolis 500. He suffered appalling leg injuries in an accident at the Speedway in 1987 but came back to finish sixth in the race the following year.

Born in Dumferline in 1948, Crawford was 24 when he started working as a mechanic in Formula Atlantic in Britain. His abilities as a driver were quickly recognized by the boss of Chevron, Derek Bennett, and he began racing a factory Chevron in the Atlantic series the following year and went on to win the British title in 1974. In 1975 he was signed up by Team Lotus to be a test driver for the Formula 1 program and he made his F1 debut when Colin Chapman was looking for a replacement for Jacky Ickx and decided to run a third car at the British GP, alongside Ronnie Peterson and Brian Henton. He qualified 25th in what was only his 25th motor race but crashed out. The team then dabbled with a couple of others (notably John Watson at the German GP) and then Crawford returned at the Italian GP, where he finished 13th.

He had not done enough to convince Chapman to keep him and he found his career adrift and left racing for a while to help Toyota develop a number of its racing programs before returning to the cockpit in Formula Atlantic in 1979 to finish second in the championship with four wins. In 1980 he moved to the Aurora British Formula 2 series and after a period in the European series in 1981 he returned to the British F1 series and won the title in an AMCO Racing Ensign in 1982.

He was then hired by RK Technologies, which was a carbonfiber manufacturing company to race a Paul Brown-designed CanAm car, which was known as the RK-March 847. He finished second in the CanAm series that year and in 1984 repeated the success and made his Indycar debut with the Theodore chassis. That led to a chance in 1985 with the Wysard Indycar team but thereafter he raced only at the Indianapolis 500. He suffered serious leg injuries in a huge accident at the Speedway in 1987 but returned in 1988 and finished sixth in the race, having run third until the closing laps. He continued to enter the event until 1995 but failed to qualify in both 1994 and 1995.

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