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Mike Lawrence

NEWS STORY
22/12/2020

It is with great regret that we have learned of the passing of Dr Mike Lawrence.

Long-time readers of Pitpass will be aware that Mike was with us from the very start indeed, prior to that he worked with me at that site that shall never be named.

I first met Mike unaware that I already had a couple of his books on my shelf, 'The Story of March (Four Guys and a Telephone)' and 'Brabham Ralt Honda (The Ron Tauranac Story)'.

I was running a poll on an F1 site in 1998 and going through the responses I came across one that stood out from the rest, I made a note to contact the author and as a result our friendship began.

Mike was a truly genuine character, and though there are tears in my eyes as I type this, I cannot help smiling as I recall some of the things he wrote and the countless anecdotes.

Mike could (and would) talk for hours about motor sport, and whether it was drivers or machines he was a true expert, an amazingly knowledgeable man. Yet, rather than concentrate on personalities or chassis numbers (a common fault in motor racing literature), Mike preferred to weave a story around his painstakingly researched facts.

He was just as knowledgeable about William Shakespeare, while also being a keen movie fan. Being a fan myself I remember sitting in disbelief with him as he guffawed all the way through Ted, while I could barely raise a smile, and late last year, after he had watched Vincent Price’s Theatre of Blood, we had a long discussion about the many other films that used the penthouse at Alembic House, the property originally owned by legendary composer John Barry, who subsequently sold it to a certain B C Ecclestone who in-turn sold it on to Jeffrey Archer.

A former teacher, Mike's passion was to share his knowledge with others but always in the most entertaining of ways.

His all-time racing hero was Stirling Moss - or Sir God as he called him - and it is fitting that one of the last things he wrote was a tribute to the racing legend when he passed away earlier this year.

As well as the many books, including 'Colin Chapman - Wayward Genius', Mike had helped Bernie Ecclestone put together his famed collection of race cars, and was a key player when the Goodwood Festival of Speed was first being put together.

Then there was Track Torque, the legendary motor sport radio show hosted by Mike and Rob Widdows, broadcast by Radio Victory in the late 70s. Though only available in the south of England the show not only attracted a sizeable audience of fans each week but some of the biggest names in the sport, names like Frank Williams, Colin Chapman, Stirling Moss, Mario Andretti, Niki Lauda, Ron Dennis, Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost...

I am sure Mike would enjoy the fact that later today Film 4 is showing the Peter Sellers movie, A Shot in the Dark - the second of the Pink Panther series - for it was in this film that Sellers good friend Bryan Forbes had a minor role as a guitar-playing nudist camp attendant, the character listed in the ending credits as Turk Thrust.

Turk, of course, was to achieve legendary status as advisor to FOSU, the Formula One Script Unit, the mythical organisation that Liberty Media would surely love to have back on board and at times still appears to be working in the background.

Then there was the time Mike was perceived as having gone a little too far and was threatened with legal action over something he'd written for us. Instead of a grovelling apology or a crowdfunding page, Mike proceeded to mock the lawyer's name (Marvin) in a series of the funniest letters I have ever seen. Eventually, clearly worn down by the experience, the lawyer and litigant gave up.

"Marvin," he wrote, "I turn the name over in my mouth and find no fault with it. Marvin is the name I would choose if writing fictional comedy about a firm of solicitors who cannot write a letter.

"Thank you, Lord Harry, for delivering a Marvin to my hands. There is much potential in 'Marvin', as you will discover. Marvin is not just a silly name, it is a stupendously ridiculous name. I shall have a lot of fun with 'Marvin. I reckon that Marvin even beats Elmer."

In the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral in London, above the tomb of its architect, Sir Christopher Wren is the epitaph: "Reader, if you seek his memorial - look around you."

Might I suggest that you spend some time over the coming days reading the genius that was Mike, for when all is considered, his magnificent writing is his epitaph. All his features for Pitpass can be found here.

RIP my dear friend.

Chris Balfe

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by sagosac, 17/01/2021 15:01

"Me also I was too busy and heard this terrible news only via newsletter.
I did not have direct contact with his estimated EXCELLENCE.
Though I had a glimpse of a soupçon of an idea about his literacy in many regards.
If we now mix this knowledge and wisdom with the conveyed humour and manners, Sir Mike Lawrence must have been a pretty nice chap -- [ER] a good character, I wanted to say.
I believe such a combination of traits should be called nothing short of the most enviable GOLD standard of personality in human existence (if you allow me -- I bet he would allow me).
May you rest in peace, Sire Mike Fire"

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2. Posted by Paul C, 06/01/2021 16:23

"I was too busy with family, work and the holidays to keep up checking into Pitpass. This hit me like a football in the gut, a feeling I remember from a few games as a goaltender. Mike did a lot to help me understand motorsports and life. When F1 got a bit monotonous we touched on family advice and events. I was always honored to hear from him. He also got me connected into the rich history of motorsport by encouraging me to check out Sebring International Raceway events. He called it equal to Silverstone. I wish I had shared the video of me driving the family Nissan Sentra on parade laps early in December with him.

I have numerous good memories of emails and correspondence. He even sent me a signed book from the Goodwood Festival which has a central place on my bookshelves.

Thanks for all of the correspondence and memories, Mike. Rest In Peace."

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3. Posted by Redphyve, 02/01/2021 10:06

"Dr Mike:
Arsenal and F1. Many many articles I used to read and re-read...to the extent that I would stop my work to devour his articles...talking to Chris in the mornings before work and discussing Mike's latest piece...wondering if Mike would ever write a book about all the stories he hinted at, but would not, could not speak about as he was honour-bound not to reveal.

He taught me so much about F1, the minutiae, correcting my misconceptions, and encouraging me to read more, research more, find out more. I honestly used to smile in anticipation when I saw he had a new article or post out. his views were always thought-provoking, challenging, and most importantly, amazingly good reading...I used to quote him or refer him to so many people who were initially ignorant of F1, that they later would say "Yup, I see what you mean now."

And don't get me started on Turk Thrust and the FOSU, quite possibly the highlight of my day...I would be laughing all day long and begging people to read it...and being delighted to see a friend actually BELIEVE that Turk and FOSU existed...for weeks this went on before he twigged.

Mike Lawrence's passing has left a void in F1 journalism, for me personally it's like when another great journalist LJK Setright passed, you know you were privileged to read their work and know that a giant has passed and you may never see their like again. I will miss the man and his writing, and will bookmark the link that Editor Chris Balfe has left us.

RIP Mike...Hamba Kahle "

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4. Posted by rhenryjr, 26/12/2020 7:40

"RIP"

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5. Posted by Mad Matt, 23/12/2020 18:24

"I had the privilege to exchange a few e-mails with him related to some articles posted here. Saddened to hear of his death.

R.I.P
"

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6. Posted by Editor, 23/12/2020 12:14

"As his son Mark pointed out in an email last night:

"Auspiciously his death coincided with the Winter Solstice and the 400 year Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. That's a Shakespearean touch, the portends on the night of the death of a king. Somehow, despite being an ordinary man, he deserved the full acknowledgement of heaven.""

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7. Posted by Wokingchap, 23/12/2020 9:57

"R.i.p. Mike."

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8. Posted by Editor, 23/12/2020 8:18 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 23/12/2020 8:25)

"@ Piston Broke: The correspondence was with a lawyer and therefore subject to the usual legal protocols. It is not for sharing.

@ FrancisN: Being an English gentleman, and the last of the genuine eccentrics, Mike was a stickler for certain things. Indeed, his beloved Panama hat could only be work during certain months of the year.

I am sure had your baseball cap been adorned with an image of Daffy Duck - along with Sir God, William Shakespeare and Samuel Johnson - one of Mike's great heroes, you would have been forgiven.

By the way, I watched A Shot in the Dark last night, purely to see Turk Thrust in the flesh, so to speak.

Having thought long and hard over the last 24 hours, other than the infinitely long pauses he subjected one to during phone calls, the only fault I can find with the man was his support for a certain football team which he referred to as the Royal Academy of Football Art and Science."

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9. Posted by Max Noble, 23/12/2020 7:06

"RIP Mike. Prayers and thoughts with his family, and loved ones.
Some years ago Mike was a huge encouragement with my writing, and my article “A Brief History of Cottonwool” came from an email correspondence with Mike back around the turn of the century. A generous, amusing, intelligent, and in the finest sense a delightful eccentric of the Classic English kind.

Long may his charming, and informed writings linger in our hearts and minds.

Simply... Thank-you Mike. A life well lived, and memories to honour and treasure."

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10. Posted by Piston Broke, 23/12/2020 6:52 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 23/12/2020 8:25)

"Could you possible post links to the "Marvin" correspondence? Thanks!"

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11. Posted by CH686130, 23/12/2020 1:44

"It was this morning that I read an E mail received from his son that Mike had left us. It was with a tear in my eye that I replied, but for me, I have lost a friend and a remarkable man has left this mortal coil. His E mails to me would cause open laughter mixed with astonishment at his depth of knowledge on many subjects, but particularly of English Literature.
He could never be questioned on matters pertaining to F1, and his wit and inimitable style will be a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life.
We spoke via the telephone on a few occasions as he endured his illness, but despite his pain and discomfort, his wit and humour shone brightly.
The Christmas lights have dimmed in my home, and the Christmas spirit has diminished. I feel a genuine and abiding sense of loss with Mike's passing. He can never be replaced.
Thank you Dr. Mike. Thank you for bringing a smile to my face, a light in my eyes and a spring in my step.
My thoughts go out to his son, daughter in law and his two cherished grandchildren, the 'Munchkins' as he fondly referred to them.
God, you are in for a real treat as you open the Pearly Gates to this giant of a gentleman.You can expect peals of laughter and much joy in the heavens as he walks through those gates in his 'Daffy Duck' tie and Panama hat."

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12. Posted by @R1Racing71, 22/12/2020 21:20

"I once spent the whole day at work binge reading all of Mike’s articles for pitpass.
It was the absolute pinnacle of my working career. "

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13. Posted by Kai, 22/12/2020 20:06

"Just when I thought 2020 could not be worse, I read today of the terrible loss of a legend of motorsport in his own right.

From my many years back, reading Mike Lawrence’s contributions has often been the highlight of my day. As I saw him as a giant, and myself being just a simple French F1 fan from Montréal, I did not dare writing him very often, but each time I did so Mike was such a gentleman taking the time to respond and doing it with such camaraderie and elegance.

I would love to be a dove up there peaking on Mike’s animated conversations with Sterling, Jim, Jack, James but also Juan Manuel, Ayrton, Gilles, Enzo and many more. Although I am not sure James made it there yet…

Repose en paix, mon cher Mike."

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14. Posted by francisn, 22/12/2020 19:34

"Chris - it is much sadness that I read of Mike's death. Over the Pitpass years I had a lot of correspondence with him, not always answered immediately but always answered eventually and always at length with a lot of wit. Not for him a one line answer!

I also had the pleasure of meeting him a few times at the Goodwood Festival of Speed where I would tag along as he told me about all the various cars in the paddocks before he repaired to the Media Centre for refreshments. I learned after the first time not to wear a baseball cap - quite incorrect - had to be proper hat!

A proper educated gentleman with a most generous nature, who will be sadly missed"

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15. Posted by flyinglap, 22/12/2020 19:18

"RIP Dr Mike Lawrence, you will be greatly missed. Condolences to family and friends, at least Christmas is near now, which is encouraging, as this surreal year comes to its end.
"

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