I’ll be honest straight away, I didn’t get this autograph myself, my Father did. Back in the sixties my Dad worked in the building trade and was doing some work at entrance to the pits at Silverstone. Graham was there that day testing a Formula One car, but being unable to remember the exact year I’m not sure if it was a BRM or Lotus. Safety concerns for people back then weren’t the same as they are today, so Dad carried on working at the same time as Graham was on the circuit. Graham thought he’d take advantage of this, so whenever he came in to the pits, he pointed the car in my Dads direction, and drove as close as he could to move him out of the way! Later that day Dad went for a chat with him and to get his autograph, Graham then got a knife, cut off two pieces from one of the cars tyres and gave them to Dad as a souvenir. I still have the pieces of tyre and have included them along with the autograph.
Graham started is racing career quite late by today’s standards, he didn’t take his driving test until the age of 24, but five years later he was taking part in his first Grand Prix, at Monaco driving for Lotus. Before taking up racing Graham took park in rowing, it seems he liked to sit down when taking part in sport. He was a member of the London Rowing club and always wore their colours on his crash helmet during his racing career. After two unsuccessful years at Lotus he moved to BRM in 1960, and finally in 1962 after four years of Grand Prix racing he won his first Grand Prix, as well as going on to win the world championship that year. In 1967 he moved back to Lotus and claimed his second world championship the following year. At the American Grand Prix in 1969 he had an horrendous crash, injuring both his legs. During his recovery in hospital he spent his time writing is autobiography, Life At The Limit, one of the best racing books I’ve ever read.The following year he returned to racing driving for Rob Walker, but he never had the same speed as he did before the accident. After moving to Brabham, he had last victory in a Formula One car at the Daily Express meeting at Silverstone in 1971, he then gave the longest victory speech I’ve ever heard! In 1973 he started his own team, and continued to drive as well as being an entrant. But finally after failing to qualify at Monaco in 1975, a race he had won five times in the past, he decided to retire from racing. As well as taking part in 176 Grand Prix’s, Graham also took part in many other events, and is still the the only driver to have won the world championship, Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans 24 hours races.
On the flight home on the 29th of November 1975, following a test at the Paul Ricard circuit in France, Graham along with five members of his team died when the plane he was flying crashed in freezing fog at Arkley golf course North London.
I did have a couple of chances to get Graham’s autograph myself, which I now regret not taking, as I would have loved to have spoken to the great man myself.
The Mighty Arms Of Atlas