|First race||Italian Grand Prix||Monza||September 8, 1963||Race results|
|Last race||South African Grand Prix||Kyalami||January 1, 1968||Race results|
Mike Spence grew up with cars - his family ran a garage in Maidenhead - and his early racing experience came in his father's vehicles. He had contracted polio when aged five so it was remarkable he was able to drive at all. In 1959, after serving as a tank commander, he moved to Formula Junior and made enough of an impression to be offered non-championship Formula One drives in 1961, a season capped by second place in a race at Brands Hatch. In 1962 he moved to the privateer Ian Walker Racing team, driving a Lotus, and onto the Lotus Formula Junior squad in 1963.
Towards the end of the season he was drafted into the F1 team as an injury replacement and made his debut in the Italian Grand Prix. An accident suffered by Peter Arundell gave him another chance in 1964, driving alongside Jim Clark, and he managed a fourth in Mexico at the end of the year.
Spence started 1965 well, winning the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, and taking third in the International Trophy at Silverstone. However, he was unable to build on that success and his only championship points came in the season finale, again in Mexico. He was released by Lotus and in 1966 signed for BRM, and from there was lent to the Reg Parnell Racing team. In an old Lotus he was again never a frontrunner, but as had been the case in earlier years, he did better in non-championship events and won that year's South African Grand Prix.
He was more consistent in the full BRM team in 1967, alongside Jackie Stewart, with five fifth-places from seven finishes. He was also hired by the Chaparral sports car team where he found much greater success, partnering Phil Hill to victory at Brands Hatch in the BOAC Race.
In 1968 he was re-signed by BRM in F1 and moved to Alan Mann Racing in sports cars. Spence was invited back to Lotus to drive in the Indianapolis 500, but in a practice session three weeks before the race he misjudged a turn and crashed into a concrete wall, the front wheel of the car broke free and hit him in the helmet. He died in hospital a few hours later.
Martin Williamson November 2009