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NOTICE OF DEATH - GORDON SPICE (1940 - 2021)

With great regret, we have to report that Life Member Gordon Spice died yesterday, finally succumbing after a long battle to the cancer from which he had been suffering for some years. He was 81 years old and was first elected to the BRDC in 1970.

Gordon, known as ‘Gordy’ throughout the motor racing world, enjoyed a highly successful career both as a driver and in business. He competed in the Le Mans 24 Hours on 14 occasions in cars ranging from a Deep Sanderson to Spice Group C2 machinery, twice finishing third overall for Rondeau before winning the Group C2 category three years in succession in a Spice with Ray Bellm. He contested eight Spa 24 Hours races, finishing first overall with Teddy Pilette in a Ford Capri in 1978 on the old road circuit, and also raced and won in Formula 5000. In the pre-Super Touring era Gordon won his class in the British Saloon Car Championship seven times including six in a row with Ford Capris from 1975 to 1980. Away from the track, Gordon built up the Gordon Spice Cash & Carry motor accessory business empire and established Spice Engineering Ltd to build Group C and C2 cars for customers.

After an unpromising beginning with a MG TF in 1962 when he either failed to finish, or even start, any of the five races which he entered, Gordy acquired a Morgan +4 which brought him some success in 1963 including a couple of second places overall at Oulton Park and class wins at Aintree and Mallory Park. Racing a Morgan brought Gordon to the doors of Chris Lawrence’s Lawrencetune business where he obtained unpaid full-time employment and his Morgan was converted into one of the very few SLRs ever created which was effective in its class until written off at Goodwood.

One of Lawrencetune’s creditors was Downton Engineering where Gordon found fresh employment as Sales Manager and, in Daniel and Bunty Richmond, employers who were willing to support his racing aspirations. Thus began the Mini racing phase of Gordon’s career which continued through to 1970, principally in the British Saloon Car Championship but also with occasional forays into Europe. Initially he was supported by Downton before securing a semi-works drive with Jim Whitehouse’s Equipe Arden which gave Gordy the opportunity to win the 1000 cc class of the BSCC. On the back of this success Gordon was offered a place alongside Steve Neal in the Britax-backed, Downton-prepared 1300 cc Mini-Cooper Ss. Inter-team rivalry was strong with Gordy emerging ahead of Steve in the final standings although beaten to the class title by the late Chris Craft’s Broadspeed Ford Escort GT.

During 1969 two straws in the wind for the future included the opportunity to share Jose Juncadella’s Escuderia Montjuich Ford GT40 in the Brands Hatch BOAC 500 round of the World Sports Car Championship, the Barcelona 12 Hours, Paris 1000 Ks at Montlhery and the Jarama 6 Hours. Third place at Jarama was the best result and whetted Gordon’s appetite for endurance racing. The other was an encounter with Tony Kitchiner who was keen to run his K3A Formula 5000 car in the new category. Despite having no previous experience of racing single-seaters, Gordon liked the idea and committed to a full season in 1970 although the funding ran out in July. By then the little team had enjoyed some reasonable results including fourth on aggregate at Monza, fifth at the Salzburgring and sixth places at Oulton Park and Zandvoort. Touring car racing took second place in 1970, Gordy returning to Arden and a 1275 Cooper S with which he won his class at Silverstone but was more often than not second to the Escort GT of John Fitzpatrick.

The Formula 5000 venture continued into 1971 which began with Gordon competing in the non-championship Argentine Grand Prix for Formula 1 cars with a F5000 class. Self-confessed conservative driving of the team’s newly-acquired ex-Howden Ganley McLaren M10B enabled Gordon to finish both legs of the race, be classified eighth on aggregate and pocket a decent wodge of prize money. After a crash in testing at Snetterton, the McLaren was rebuilt with various Tony Kitchiner innovations which led to it being re-named as the Kitchmac. The best result, albeit on a tragic day, came in the end of season Brands Hatch F1 Victory race in which Gordon was running fourth in the F5000 class when the race was stopped following the fatal accident to Jo Siffert. Continuing with the Kitchmac in 1972 Gordon started from pole position at Mallory Park, going on to finish fourth, in the second race of the year. A week later the Kitchmac’s suspension failed while Gordon was leading at Snetterton, having set fastest lap. For the moment that was the end of Gordon’s single-seater racing and it was back to saloon cars.

From 1973 through to 1982 the 3-litre Ford Capri V6 in its various versions was the car which brought Gordy great success both in the British Saloon Car Championship and the Production Saloon Car series, and also in Europe. In total he won 27 BSCC races overall and, despite having team mates of the highest calibre such as Andy Rouse and Chris Craft, Gordy won his class for six successive seasons. He also finished second overall in the first Tour of Britain to James Hunt in Richard Lloyd’s much more powerful Chevrolet Camaro. In 1978 such was Gordy’s success that he won the Tarmac Championship awarded at that time to the British or Commonwealth driver scoring the most points in international events. Runner up was Alan Jones who turned the tables in 1979 and 1980.

In parallel with the touring car racing, Gordy revived his Formula 5000 career in 1975 with the ex-Brian McGuire Lola T332 with the financial support of Chris Reed and the car run by the late Bob Salisbury. At Oulton Park for the second round of the Shellsport European Formula 5000 Championship, with snow lining the circuit, Gordy scored his first (and last!) victory in an open wheel car. Fourth at Zandvoort a few weeks later was encouraging before a heavy crash while testing at Mallory Park seriously injured Gordy and put him in hospital for many weeks.

After the Deep Sanderson experience in 1964, Gordon returned to Le Mans in 1970 to share Jose Juncadella’s Ferrari 512S which was crashed by its owner in the seriously wet conditions. However, it was seven years later that he began an almost unbroken sequence of participations in the race which continued, with the exception of 1983, until 1989. After the third places overall in 1980 and 1981 in the Rondeau-Cosworth M379, Gordon joined forces with Ray Bellm initially with a Spice-developed Tiga which was succeeded by a series of Spice cars from the GC85 to the Group C1 SE89C of 1989. In that period, Gordy and Ray with various third drivers won the C2 category on three occasions (1985, ’87 and ’88). In 1984, together with the late Neil Crang, Gordy and Ray won the C2 class of World Sportscar Championship races on five successive occasions at the Nurburgring, Brands Hatch, Spa Francorchamps, Imola and Sandown Park. In 1985 in addition to Le Mans, there were C2 class wins at Mugello, Mosport and Spa Francorchamps which secured the C2 Drivers’ Championship for Gordy and Ray and the C2 Constructors’ Championship for Spice Engineering.

Gordon won the C2 Drivers’ World Championship again in 1986, 1987 and 1988 usually with Ray although in ’87 the late Fermin Velez joined Gordon. Spice Engineering won the Teams’ World Championship in 1987 and 1988, losing out to Ecurie Ecosse in 1986 by just two points.  In 1987 he was awarded the Guild of Motoring Writers’ Driver of the Year accolade. The 1989 Le Mans 24 Hours was Gordon’s last race. He retired quietly to concentrate on his business interests. Spice Engineering Ltd was formed from the ashes of what should have been a lucrative Group C contract with Ford which was cancelled but with appropriate compensation from the Blue Oval. The decision was taken to float Gordon Spice Ltd on the Unlisted Securities Market and it became Spice plc with Gordon as Chairman. But all did not go well for a variety of reasons and in 1989 the company which Gordon had created was put into receivership. Happily he had been able to protect Spice Engineering Ltd.

Gordon Spice was a remarkable individual who was able to combine a very successful and varied racing career with the creation of a business empire whilst at the same time having fun and doing all he could to look after the welfare of his employees. He was a proud Life Member of the BRDC who was never averse to speaking out on matters of particular interest to him. To his wife Mandy and to their son Patrick the BRDC offers its deepest condolences. Funeral details will be notified to Members when available.

The BRDC regrets to report the death of Sir Frank Williams CBE who was elected as a Member in 1971
The Club regrets to report the death of Tony Dron, who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1974
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