Former Lotus Grand Prix driver John Miles is celebrating his 67th birthday today.
The son of the late thespian Sir Bernard Miles, John turned his back on following his father’s footsteps with a career in the theatre and instead ventured into a world of motorsports. An engineering student, he had close ties with Lotus from an early age, representing them in sports cars and Formula 3 in the mid-1960s.
He was called up to the works Lotus team in 1969 as a test driver for the 4WD Type 63, but a leg injury to Graham Hill saw the former champion shuffled aside to Rob Walker’s team and the young Miles appointed in his place for the 1970 season alongside Jochen Rindt.
In the early part of the season, Miles worked to develop the Lotus 72 into a race-winning car, which Rindt duly achieved considerable success in until a sudden failure during qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix saw Rindt killed in the ensuing shunt. Devastated at the loss of his team-mate – in a year that also saw the F1 world robbed of Bruce McLaren and Piers Courage – Miles’ apprehension with the fragility of the 72 was too obvious, and team boss Colin Chapman quickly moved to shuffle Miles aside when it became apparent that his motivation had completely gone.
Miles made a few non-championship outings for BRM in 1971 and then switched to sports car racing before retiring and pursuing a role in road car development and motoring journalism. He later returned to the F1 stage in 1992, again with Lotus, as a race engineer alongside Peter Wright until the team closed its doors at the end of the 1994 season.
[Original image via The Cahier Archive]