Innes Ireland was a Scottish military officer, engineer, and race car driver. He was a larger-than-life character who, according to a rival team boss, "lived without sense, without an analyst and provoked astonishment and affection from everyone.
Robert McGregor Innes Ireland was a Scottish military officer, engineer, and race car driver.
He was a larger-than-life character who, according to a rival team boss, "lived without sense, without an analyst and provoked astonishment and affection from everyone."
Ireland was born June 12, 1930 in Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire, England, the son of a Scottish veterinary surgeon. Despite his later reputation as a hellraiser, Innes came from a Scottish Presbyterian background; his uncle was a Church of Scotland minister and his grandfather, Allan Ireland, lectured on behalf of the Hope Trust, a temperance organization. His family returned to Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway, in Scotland during his youth, and he trained as an engineer with Rolls Royce, first in Glasgow and later in London. Commissioned as a lieutenant in the King's Own Scottish Borderers, he served with the Parachute Regiment in the Suez Canal Zone during 1953 and 1954.
Ireland's first serious year of auto racing was 1957, by which time he was running a small engineering firm in Surrey. Success in sports car racing saw him make his Formula One debut for Team Lotus in 1959.
In 1960 Innes moved from Surrey to Downton House, a Georgian mansion near New Radnor in Mid Wales. To the newspapers he was now the Scot called Ireland who was born in England and lived in Wales. that year he won three non-championship Formula One races and finished fourth in the World Drivers Championship. During the Belgian GP he lost it approaching Blanchimont and spun along the track, eventually coming to rest sideways on. He dropped the clutch, but the car didn't move. Assuming he had clutch slip, he fumbled around in the cockpit. In fact, the wheels had been spinning furiously, and when they suddenly gripped, the Lotus shot straight off the road into a ditch!
The 1961 season started badly for Innes with a heavy crash at Monaco when he selected the wrong gear, but despite a fractured kneecap he was soon back in his stride, producing a splendid performance to win the Solitude GP, followed by a win in the Flugplatzrennen at Zeltweg. His great moment arrived at the end of the season when he won the US GP after a text book drive, Team Lotus first ever victory.
Ireland upset Lotus boss Colin Chapman and the team sponsors by giving up his car to Stirling Moss of the rival Rob Walker team at the 1961 Italian Grand Prix. This led to him being arbitrarily sacked at the end of the '61 season. Despite occasional successes, Ireland never again had a car to match his talent.
1966 saw Innes concentrating on long distance sportscar events, with a brief return to Formula One towards the end of the season in Bernard White's happy go lucky outfit. Bill France had tempted Ireland to compete in the 1967 Daytona 500, a race in which he ran 7th before retiring. Innes made occasional forays into motor sport - the London-Sydney rally in 1968, some drives for Lancia in 1969, the World Cup Rally in 1974, the Playboy Endurance Series with Moss in 1985.
In 1970 Innes returned to Kirkcudbright in Scotland where he set up home in the village of Borgue. Here he ran a trawler business, fishing the Irish sea. This unusual career move was the source of many a good tale but little financial reward, and Innes returned to England after six years. He worked for a while in the car trade and then in the 1980s resumed his journalistic career with Road and Track also freelancing for magazines such as Classic Cars, and even writing on occasions for The Times. As Grand Prix editor of Road and Track and later as a TV/radio commentator. Innes was once more a fixture on the Motor racing scene.
In 1992 Ireland was elected President of the British Racing Drivers Club, succeeding the Queen's cousin Gerald Lascelles. The club, which owns the Silverstone circuit and ran the British Grand Prix was facing a major crisis which Innes met effectively, despite the tragic death of his son. Around this time Ireland was diagnosed with cancer and after a courageous struggle he died in October 1993, having been married that summer to his third wife Jean Mander (nee Howarth), a former model who had been engaged to Mike Hawthorn at the time of the World Champion's death.
A talented writer, Ireland produced a classic autobiography, All Arms and Elbows, and worked as a journalist for the American Road & Track magazine, as well as skippering trawlers in the North Atlantic. Towards the end of his life, he was elected president of the prestigious British Racing Drivers' Club, which post he still held at the time of his death from cancer on October 22, 1993, at Reading, Berkshire, England.
wikipedia with input from Tredelyn and Steve Small