Former Team Lotus driver John Miles has died at the age of 74.
A multiple championship winner in assorted British sportscar series during the 1960s, Miles’s Formula 1 opportunity came when neither of Graham Hill nor Jochen Rindt wanted any part of developing the Lotus 63 4WD, which they believed to be too dangerous. Miles made his F1 debut in the car in the 1969 French GP, dropping out when the fuel pump failed, and made four other appearances in the 63 over the remainder of the year, registering his only finish with a 10th at Silverstone.
When Hill left the team at the end of the season Miles was promoted to No.2 behind Rindt. He spent the first part of the year switching between the 49C and the early anti-dive and anti-squat suspension incarnation of the 72, but his results, while decent, were a clear step down on Rindt’s, and Colin Chapman was increasingly beginning to view new arrival Emerson Fittipaldi as the team’s future. This, Miles told Motor Sport magazine years later, was reflected in his pay packet:
“I had no money at all: he paid me £300 a race, and out of that I had to pay my own expenses. Once, flying back from a race, I was so broke I had to ask him if he could give me some money. He pulled a big roll out of his pocket, peeled off a few notes and gave them to me. He regarded me as a sort of grease monkey.”
The internal drama within Lotus came to a head at the fateful 1970 Italian Grand Prix, where Miles described a heated argument between himself and Chapman on the Saturday evening over Chapman’s insistence on removing the 72’s wings to capitalize on Monza’s long straights.
“Colin’s actual words to me were, ‘The only way you’re going to go quick is to take the wings off your car’,” he told Motor Sport. “I said, ‘Maybe so, Colin, if we had time to sort the car out properly to run without wings. But as it is now I cannot drive that car without wings’. He said, ‘You’ll do as I say’.”
The following morning, Rindt was killed when he suffered an apparent brake shaft failure and crashed at the Parabolica during practice. Lotus withdrew from the race and also missed the Canadian Grand Prix, and Miles was preparing to return to the track at Watkins Glen when he received a call from team manager Peter Warr telling him that he’d been replaced by Reine Wisell.
Miles declined an offer to race for Lotus in F5000 instead, and after a brief stint at BRM, where he was primarily deplyed as a development driver, he turned his attention to sports cars again before retiring from competition in the mid-1970s.
After his driving career was over, Miles moved into engineering, switched to journalism, and then returned to engineering again, first with Lotus Engineering, then Aston Martin, and later with Multimatic. He also founded a record label that specialized in British jazz.