Chris Lawrence

Chris Lawrence

27/7/1933

A club driver from the late fifties in MGs and particularly Morgans, with which he clocked up some modest triumphs, Lawrence ran a London engine-tuning business, and became involved in the ill-fated Deep-Sanderson sports car project of 1963-64.

Chris Lawrence prepared, tuned and raced a Morgan Plus 4 to resounding success in the 1959 season in England. Lawrence continued to race his Morgan in 1960, entering the full 22-race schedule for the Freddie Dixon Trophy. He won 21 of them … and finished 3rd in the other. In 1961 Lawrence drove his Morgan to Le Mans but the car was rejected by the technical inspectors as being too old.

Peter Morgan agreed to give him full works support for the 1962 season which paid off at Le Mans where Lawrence won his class.

He was working at the Rotax aero engine company in Willesden when he decided along with three colleagues, to leave to form their own preparation company, Lawrence Tune. While Chris’ reputation brought work from sports car owners, he had his sights set on single-seater racing. He decided to tackle Formula Junior and he set about building one. His design seemed quick enough in a straight line during the 1960 season, but the two cars he built lost out badly to the opposition around corners due to excessive camber change in roll.

Lawrence had established a commercial relationship with the Morgan factory, preparing engines to special order in the facility which eventually became Lawrencetune. The Lawrence-tuned cars eventually were cataloged by Morgan as the Plus 4 Super Sports, using the aluminum alloy "low-line" body developed for Le Mans.

One of his partner, Len Bridge, suggested that they design a road car. So they set about building an open, two-seater prototype powered by a Mini engine behind the seats. It incorporated Lawrence Link suspension on the front but the transverse engine prevented the same system being utilised on the rear. They entered two Deep Sanderson 301's at Le Mans the following year. After 15 hours one of them was leading the 1000cc class before being excluded on a technicality.

Tragically, on the way back from the Sarthe that year, the driver of the car Chris was sleeping in the back of, dozed off at the wheel. The crash put Lawrence in hospital and it took nine months to recover from his injuries.

During that time the business ran into severe financial problems but Chris managed to sell the patent on the Lawrence Link suspension to Rover cars. Later when he decided to develop the 301 into a 302 with a north-south engine installation for the 1968 Le Mans, he approached Rover for permission to use the suspension. However they were unaccommodating and he had to use more orthodox suspension.

With the introduction of the 3-litre formula in 1966, Chris raced a Cooper-Ferrari special, which he took to fifth place in that year's Gold Cup race at Oulton Park.

In the late sixties, Lawrence Tune became involved with the design and development of the C.F.P.M. Monica, a 4 seater 4 door sports saloon. Unfortunately the Monica Project was closed down in 1975 before any cars were sold.

He then spent most of the 1980s preparing historic racing cars in Calfornia. Lawrence Tune West Inc. had a reputation for good restoration and race preparation for mainly European cars. Starting in Fountain Valley Orange County, and moving to Downtown East Los Angeles, Lawrence Tune West was doing very well when the bottom fell out of the classic car market. In the late 1980's many classic cars went into negative equity and with it their owners interest. Lawrence Tune West went from 12 employees down to 2 and Chis sold up and returned to England.

On his return to the UK in the early 1990s, he was approached by Jem Marsh of Marcos to help develop the LM600 which went on to win the British GT Championship. This turned into a job at the Morgan Motor Company, which resulted in the first entirely new Morgan since 1936, the Aero 8.

He recently bought one of his Deep Sanderson 301 and prepared it to compete in the Le Mans classic historic race. Coincidently, one of his Formula Juniors, now owner by Duncan Rabagliati, appeared the same year at the Goodwood Revival meeting following a long restoration.

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