Mike Parkes

Mike Parkes was the son of a Royal Air Force officer who retired from the service after World War II and became the managing director of the Alvis car company. He was born in 1931 in Richmond, Surrey, and went to school at Haileybury College in Hertfordshire where he was a contemporary of Stirling Moss.

When he left school in 1949 he became an engineer with the Rootes Group in Coventry and began racing for fun in his twenties at the wheel of an MG and then a Frazer-Nash. In 1957 he acquired a Lotus and that led to an invitation to become a reserve driver with Team Lotus at Le Mans. Soon afterwards his father suggested to Alec Issigonis, who was involved in the Fry Formula 2 project, that Mike would be a useful recruit and he raced the car in 1958 and 1959. This led to a gradual ascent through the ranks to sportscar racing and his breakthrough was in 1961 when he finished second at Le Mans, sharing a Ferrari Testarossa with Willy Mairesse. This led to an invitation from Enzo Ferrari to join the company as a sportscar driver and a test and development engineer in 1963. Parkes enjoyed much success in sports car racing, notably with victory in the Sebring 12 Hours in 1964. He went on to win the Monza 1000kms in 1965 and the Monza and Spa 1000kms in 1966.

In the middle of 1966, however, John Surtees unexpectedly quit the team and, needing a new F1 driver in the midseason, Enzo Ferrari decided to promote Parkes. At his first race in France he qualified in third position and finished second. Later in the year he qualified on pole at Monza and finished second. The following year Parkes did fewer F1 races but shared victory at Syracuse with Lodovico Scarfiotti and then won the Daily Express Trophy at Silverstone. After the death of Lorenzo Bandini at Monaco, Parkes was called back into the F1 team. He finished fifth at the Dutch GP but then crashed heavily at Spa, suffering head injuries and a badly broken leg.

Although he raced once or twice after the accident Parkes was not as competitive as once he had been and he moved on to a management role at Scuderia Filipinetti. In 1974 he joined Lancia where he worked on the development of the Dino engine and the Lancia Stratos. In 1977 he was on his way to Turin, driving in a rain storm, when he was killed in a head-on collision with a truck.