Mike Beckwith was versatile driver who raced saloons, sports cars and single seaters.
Michael Geoffrey Beckwith was born in Pinner, Middlesex, the only son of a company director. Small in stature but with real determination he worked his way up the competition ladder from his first race in a Series 1 Lotus Eleven at Goodwood in September 1960.
He bought a second hand Lotus Eleven in 1961 and proceeded to take 9 wins, 9 seconds and 9 third places during the year. For 1962 he was sponsored by Normand Ltd of Park Royal, London, where he worked as a car salesman. Normands bought a Lotus 23 for him and he had a number of memorable races that year. At a club race at Castle Combe, Roy Pierpoint lead from the start in a front-engined Lotus followed closely by Beckwith in the new light blue Lotus 23. Every lap Beckwith would poked his nose alongside at the last corner and every lap he'd get a little further. On the very last lap he finally squeezed passed and took the chequered flag. He justified Normand's investment by winning 21 races as well as taking 5 second and 2 third place finishes. He won the sports racing class of the Autosport Championship, the Chris Bristow Memorial Trophy and the Lotus Trophy.
He stayed with Normand in 1963 now joined by Tony Hegbourne. He drove a Lotus Elite Mk14 to a class victory in the 1963 R.A.C. Tourist Trophy race at Goodwood and also raced a Lotus 23 taking second place overall in the Auvergne Trophy in Clermont Ferrand with Hegbourne. He made his F1 debut that year standing in for Jim Hall in the British Racing Partnership Lotus BRM in the Oulton Park Gold Cup, but failed to finish. With the Lotus 23 he took6 wins, 8 seconds and 2 thirds in National and Continental races.
At the start of 1964 Mike tested for BRM and though he was not signed up, he proved that he had the ability to make it at the highest level. Normand decided to take a step up into Formula 2 that year, keeping Hegbourne and Beckwith as their drivers. Beckwith also taking responsibility for running the team. Bucking the trend, Normand acquired two new Cooper T71s with Cosworth SCA engines. And, the cars looked pretty in white with bright blue and red stripes, they handled appaulingly. The car was quick in a straight line and Hegbourne won both heats of the Berlin Grand Prix at Avus in May.
Unfortunately there was only one Avus with it's two four-kilometer long straights linked by a hairpin at one end and by the banked Nordkehre at the other and thus the team struggled everywhere else. That year Mike drove a Lotus-Cortina with Jackie Stewart in America winnning the Malboro 12-hour race at Marlboro Park Speedway.
In 1965 Frank Lythgoe Racing had a F3 version built of the Lola T60 for Mike. He took a win at Monza the following year though generally results were poor.
In 1965 the first Brabham-DAF appeared and in 1966 DAF and Brabham teamed up with The Chequered Flag garage to run their F3 team. The team contracted Beckwith to race the Brabham-DAF BT18A. The team took part in 16 races all over the continent using the Variomatic transmission. Beckwith's best results came in the Lotteria GP at Monza with a second place and in the late-summer in the Leston Trophy at Brands he came third.
In 1967 The Chequered Flag hired Gijs van Lennep to partner Beckwith, and after a short spell with BT21s, the Brabhams were swapped for a pair of Geminis. The Gemini-DAF combination proved to be the best match-up between chassis and CVT, as a late-season charge saw Beckwith take second at Brno in early September before winning outright at Brands at the end of October, followed up by a third at Jarama, in the wake of Clay Regazzoni's emerging Tecno. Guest-starring in the non-championship Swedish Stockholmsloppet at Skarpnäck on September 24, Beckwith took pole while Van Lennep went on to win the 20-lap race. Mike also tackled 4 European F2 rounds during the year with Bob Gerard run Cooper T82.
Having seen the quick Tecno beat Beckwith at Jarama, DAF decided to up the ante one more time in 1968, moving closer to home by handing over operations to Racing Team Holland, the famous Dutch outfit run by Pon and Slotemaker, and replacing the successful Gemini with a couple of Tecnos. The change to Tecno chassis for 1968 seemed wise, as was proven by the numerous wins taken for Tecno by Wisell, Peterson, Jaussaud, Regazzoni and Cevert. In all, that season Tecno cars won 32 out of 65 international F3 races. However, none of them sported a Variomatic transmission. To top that, the team shot itself in the foot when it did lead a race. Tellingly, the final race of the season – what turned out to be DAF’s last F3 break – ended with Van Lennep and Beckwith shunting each other out of first and second position.
He drove for David Bridges Racing in European F2 in a Lola T100 and also raced in sports cars driving with Tony Dean in a Ferrari Dino 206S in the Brands Hatch 6 Hours and a Porsche 906 in the RAC Tourist Trophy. At Le Mans he drove a closed Costin-Nathan GT with Roger Nathan. Powered by a 1006cc engine, it retired in the fifth hour with electrical problems having run dead last up until that point.