Obituary: F1, hillclimb and sportscar racer Michael MacDowel

At 17 laps, Michael MacDowel's grand Prix driving record was among the shortest in Formula 1 world championship history

Obituary: F1, hillclimb and sportscar racer Michael MacDowel

Yet the two-part career of this gracious gentleman - who died of cancer on January 18 - spanned club racing and national hillclimb championship titles around a stint as Jaguar competition manager in the E-type's heyday.

Born in Suffolk, MacDowel showed promise in 1954, his debut season, winning twice at Ibsley in a Lotus VI.

Graduating to a Lotus Nine in 1955, Mike dominated the 750 Motor Club's 1172 Formula championship and partnered Le Mans winner Ivor Bueb to a class-winning 10th in the RAC Tourist Trophy race at Dundrod in a works Cooper T39 'Bobtail' (pictured above).

After a string of sportscar successes in 1956, Charles and John Cooper rewarded Mike with his first start in a Formula 2 car.

His big break came in 1957, when they entered him in an F1 spec 1500cc Cooper T43 for the French Grand Prix - or Grand Prix de l'ACF - at the daunting Rouen-les-Essarts road circuit.

Juan Manuel Fangio, Luigi Musso and Jean Behra headed the pack, with British stars Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins enhancing their reputations at Ferrari.

When team leader Jack Brabham damaged his two-litre T43, 'MacDowell' (as Autosport founder Gregor Grant's report recorded; Harry Schell was 'Shell' throughout!) was signalled to hand his machine over. Brabham finished a distant seventh.

MacDowel mainly raced closed-wheel cars until 1964, including a Jaguar Mk2 and Ferrari 250 GTO for motor trader John Coombs, a resourceful '50s racer who entered cars for rising stars such as Jackie Stewart into the '70s and had close links with Jaguar. Mike was subsequently appointed a director of his Coombs of Guildford dealership.

Having enjoyed some hillclimb success with Cooper, Mike returned to that exacting arena in 1968, with a Jaguar E-type. Single-seaters followed as the bug bit again, McDowel scoring his maiden national championship round victory in a Brabham-Climax BT30X at Jersey's Bouley Bay in '69, and pairs over the next two years with the Brabham and a three-litre Palliser-Repco V8.

Mating a five-litre Repco V8 to an F2-type Brabham BT36 proved the golden ticket. A series of victories in late 1972 augured well and that momentum was carried into '73 and '74, when the standout combination landed back-to-back RAC British titles convincingly with 16 round wins.

Thereafter, Mike hillclimbed the unique three-litre Chevron-BMW B19 and ex-Larry Perkins '75 European Formula 3-winning Ralt RT1 powered by an F2 engine built by Brian Hart (the other 1172 Formula champion to contest an F1 world championship round, the '67 German GP in an F2 Protos).

In its ultimate Coogar evocation, the Ralt was reworked by Tyrrell designer Derek Gardner to take a 3.3-litre Cosworth DFV V8, but the sport had moved on. MacDowel hung up his helmet at the end of 1979.

Mike remained closely involved with the BRDC, particularly with its early Historic Festivals at Silverstone and its benevolent fund.

He was also active behind the scenes of historic racing, overseeing the preparation of cars in which old pal 'Noddy' Coombs had an interest from a workshop in Guildford.

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