John Miles


Record updated 13-Jun-06

John Miles was a very successful club racer who joined the Lotus works team. Promoted to the full F1 team in 1970 he quit after the death of Jochen Rindt.

John Miles
John Miles, son of the late theatre entrepreneur Sir Bernard Miles, who made his name building up the Mermaid Theatre in London, was born in Islington in the middle of World War II. He studied engineering and started racing in the mid 1960s. After winning numerous races at club level with a Diva-Ford in 1964, hr continued his winning ways in 1965 with Willment taking third-place the Grovewood Awards that year.

1966 started with nine consecutive wins in the Willment Lotus Elan, which led to his involved with the works Lotus team, racing the GT Europa and F3 Lotus 41 in 1967 and 1968 with tremendous success.

In 1969 he was due to drive a full season of Formula 2 for Lotus but after three races Colin Chapman entrusted him with the task of developing the experimental 4WD Lotus 63, driving it in five Grands Prix. When Graham Hill suffered serious leg injuries at Watkins Glen at the end of 1969, Miles was taken on to replace him as teammate to Jochen Rindt, while Hill moved into Rob Walker's team, which had landed sponsorship from Brooke Bond Oxo.

In 1970 Miles worked on developing the new Lotus 72 which Rindt began winning with. Then came the fateful Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Chapman ordered Miles to follow Rindt in running the Lotus 72 without wings to take advantage of the Monza circuit's fast, low-downforce corners. Miles complied but was unhappy with the wingless 72's handling on the straights. Then in practice, one of the brakes failed on Rindt's Lotus and the car veered off the track, going under the steel barrier that was placed too high for the wedge design of the 72. Rindt, who had only recently acquiesced to wearing a simple lap belt, slid underneath and died when his throat was cut by the belt buckle.

Rindt's accident, following the deaths of Bruce McLaren and Piers Courage, was too much for Miles. A trained engineer, he became extremely apprehensive about the fragility of the Lotus 72 and was dropped from the team and replaced by Reine Wisell. His only points came in the South African Grand Prix that year, where he came fifth in a revamped Lotus 49D.

Miles' Grand Prix career was over though he drove a BRM in the non-championship Jochen Rindt Memorial race at Hockenheim in 1971.

He raced in a few 2-litre sports car events for the DART team before retiring to concentrate on technical journalism and road testing. He later took up an engineering career with Group Lotus on the road car side of the business and in 1992 expanded his engineering involvement to the Lotus F1 team.