Stirling and Susie were sad to hear that Mike Taylor had passed away at the age of 82, having lost his battle with cancer.
Michael John Clifford Taylor, Mike to his friends, was the son of a pre-war racing driver who ran the Taylor & Crawley Mercedes-Benz dealership in Mayfair.
Taylor began racing with an MG TC and a Jaguar SS100 in the mid 1950s, followed by a Lotus 7 in 1957. His father bought him a Lotus Eleven for the 1958 season, which took him to several victories and podiums across the year, including the BARC race at Goodwood, earning him the Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy.
This impressed Colin Chapman, leading to Taylor sharing a Team Lotus Eleven at the 1958 Le Mans 24 Hours with Innes Ireland. They lead the 1100cc class until the car was retired late on the Sunday morning with mechanical problems. He raced a Formula 2 Cooper T45-Climax for Alan Brown later in the year, finishing ninth at German round, held on the AVUS circuit.
Taylor continued driving for Brown in 1959, his best result being a fifth place at the BARC Aintree 200, where he was the first Formula 2 car across the line, ahead of Stirling, whose own Cooper T45 failed to finish because of gearbox problems.
He made his Grand Prix debut at the 1959 British Grand Prix when he just scraped into the field in Brown’s Formula 2 Cooper T45-Climax, only for its transmission to break after 15 laps of the race.
A new Climax powered Lotus 18 was acquired for 1960 season. His first outing in the Lotus 18, now racing for his father’s dealership, under the Taylor & Crawley name, was the non-championship BRDC International Trophy, held at Silverstone, and won by Innes Ireland. He also raced Lotus sports cars with some success in 1960, as he had done the previous year.
Taylor took the Lotus 18 to Spa-Francorchamps for the tragic 1960 Belgian Grand Prix. Both he and Stirling were seriously injured during practice, when their respective Lotuses suffered different mechanical failures. Taylor crashed into trees at around 150mph, when his steering column snapped. He was thrown out of the car and broke his neck, back, legs and arms and punctured a lung. Stirling’s Lotus crashed heavily at about 90mph, when a stub axle broke. He too was thrown from his car, breaking his legs and crushing three vertebrae. Taylor and Stirling survived their crashes, sadly Chris Bristow and Alan Stacey were less fortunate, with both killed during race itself.
Taylor subsequently won a court case against Lotus following the accident, receiving damages for negligence from Lotus’s insurance company. He never raced again, although he did compete in a number of rallies, including the 1968 London-Sydney Rally, with Innes Ireland, and the 1974 London-Sahara-Munich Rally, when he shared a Mercedes-Benz 280E with Stirling. They broke down next to an abandoned French Foreign Legion fort and were stranded in the desert for several days, running low on water, before help arrived.
Taylor later worked in property and then the motor trade, marrying Stirling's former second wife, Elaine Barberino, in 1980.
Stirling and Susie extend their condolences to his wife Elaine, son Luke and daughter Emma.
Lotus 15 image © George Phillips Photograph Collection