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NOTICE OF DEATH - MIKE ANTHONY (1928 - 2020)

It is with great regret that we have to report that Life Member Mike Anthony died yesterday at the age of 91. He had been in declining health for a while but had remained diligently in touch with the Club until a week ago.

Mike was a furrier by profession which, as he used to recall, was a convenient occupation for a racing driver since it kept him very busy in the winter but not so much in the summer and the racing season! Before racing Mike’s sport was rugby which he played at a high level, representing Harlequins as an open side wing forward. His shirt carried the number 13 which he always tried to secure both as his competition number for his racing cars and registration number for his road cars.

After leaving the Army in 1947 Mike acquired a Jaguar SS90 for road use which he soon deployed in hill climbs and the occasional race meeting including a notable day at Silverstone in 1951 when he won one handicap race, finished third in another and rounded things off with second place in a scratch race. One day at Goodwood towards the end of 1953, Mike spotted Colin Chapman’s Lotus Mk VI going indecently quickly and resolved to acquire one, thus becoming one of the first Lotus customers. Before the advent of Coventry-Climax engines, the MG XPAG unit was the engine of choice in the 1500 cc sports car class but lack of money forced Mike to acquire an old Riley engine under the impression that it came from a wrecked ex-RAF Morris Ten Pickup. The engine failed to survive the car’s first race, the 1954 BRDC British Empire Trophy at Oulton Park. Colin Chapman, with his new Mk VIII and Peter Gammon with a MG-engined Mk VI were also entered for Oulton Park and it was agreed that they should call themselves Team Lotus. Thus was a famous name born!

Looking for something more powerful than the Mk VI, with its Nuffield cocktail of an engine could provide, Mike persuaded Colin Chapman to build a Mk VIII stretched to accommodate the 2-litre Bristol engine and this became the Mk X. Of the handful that were produced Mike’s car PCD 13 has continued to lead a very active racing life to this day. Mike’s problem was not so much the car but Lister-Bristol driver Archie Scott-Brown who was almost unbeatable. During the 1955 season, Mike was regularly in the top three in the very competitive 2-litre sports-racing car class but only once did he win, at Goodwood on a day when Archie was racing at Brands Hatch.

Good as the results were with the Mk X, Mike’s season was tainted with tragedy when he shared Bob Chase’s rear-engined Cooper-Bristol T39 with Mike Keen in the Goodwood 9 Hours, the latter crashing fatally. A few weeks later he shared a Lotus-Climax Mk 9 with Peter Jopp in the RAC Tourist Trophy at Dundrod only for Peter to be caught up in the terrible accident on the second lap which involved several cars and cost the lives of Bill Smith and Jim Mayers.

Colin Chapman’s new car for 1956 was the glorious Lotus Eleven, most of which raced with 1150 cc Coventry-Climax engines. However, Mike preferred to stick with the tried and tested Bristol motor, an idea which did not really meet with Colin’s approval. Only once did the car finish one of the few races which it started and that was in fourth place at Brands Hatch in the hands of Mike’s partner in the project Mark Lund. This performance by Mark earned him a test day with Aston Martin at Silverstone for a place in the factory team but tragically he crashed with fatal consequences. Most of Mike’s racing had continued to be in the UK but an offer of generous start money tempted him to drive down to Bari on the Adriatic coast where the car retired as usual. The car also let Mike down during practice for the other two races in this Continental trip – the Reims 12 Hours and the Supercortemaggiore Grand Prix at Monza. By this time the ever-ingenious Mike had built his own Standard Vanguard-based version of the famous Mercedes-Benz high speed single-car transporter which served him well at speeds of up to 100 mph on his British and European odysseys.

The Eleven was retained for 1957 but brought Mike no better fortune than the previous year, another fourth place at Brands Hatch being the only finish. The Lotus was sent packing although Mike stayed with Bristol power for 1958 with an AC Ace-Bristol. Highlight of the season came in the 2-litre Spa GT race which Mike won. In fifth place that day, in Ian Scott-Watson’s Porsche 356 1600 Super, was a certain Jim Clark having his first race outside the UK. The following day Archie Scott-Brown lost his life after his Lister-Jaguar crashed and caught fire while contesting the lead of the main Sports Car Grand Prix with Masten Gregory’s similar car. This year Mike did start the Reims 12 hours, sharing another Ace-Bristol with its American architect owner Herb Jones. ‘He didn’t like the fog, he didn’t like the dark, he didn’t like anything so I drove for 11 of the 12 hours’ was Mike’s recollection of the event. They finished 13th overall.

With Bill Frost, Mike set up Car Exchange (Brighton) Ltd which specialised in trading Lotus Elevens, one of which Mike raced and won with at the tiny Roskilde circuit in Denmark. For 1959 Mike acquired one of the new Costin-bodied Listers but, rather than following the UK trend of using a 3.8 litre Jaguar engine, preferred to go the American route with a 5.5 litre Chevrolet V8 unit. It was not a success although in more recent times, with the benefit of years of development, Julian Bronson turned the beast into a spectacular race winner which gave Mike some quiet satisfaction. During 1960 Mike also had the chance to drive one of the Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar D-types in the sports car race supporting the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in which he finished 11th in a car that was by now outclassed. A third place at Roskilde in a Lotus Eleven was the year’s best result.

At the end of the year the Lister was sold to Mike Pendleton and Mike turned to Formula Junior for occasional outings, mostly at Roskilde, over the next few years. With a Fitzwilliam Racing Team Lola-Ford Mk 2 Mike was third in the 1960 Copenhagen Cup and was also third in his heat, seventh in the final of the Grand Prix Mid Pyrenees du Languedoc at Albi. He also finished seventh in a strong field at Solitude in West Germany. For 1961 Mike acquired a new Gemini Mk 3A which brought him some modest success at Roskilde but no luck elsewhere. With increasing family and business commitments he decided it was time to retire.

Mike loved the fact that he was a BRDC Member. He remained engaged with the Club, attending race meetings, AGMs and other club events whenever he could, to his last months. He never shouted about his achievements but was fascinating to listen to if prompted to recall his racing days. He also took great delight in seeing his former Lotus-Bristol Mk 10 and Lister-Chevrolet kept in such fine condition and going so well in modern historic racing. The BRDC offers its most sincere condolences to Mike’s son William and to the rest of his family. A private family service will be held shortly.

We are very sorry to have to advise Members of the death of Life Member Bob Hicks last Thursday.
The class of 2020 includes some of the UK's hottest prospects in a wide range of motor racing categories
We regret to give notice of the death of Neill Ratcliffe who was elected as an Honorary Member in 1978
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Notice of Death - Mike Anthony (1928 - 2020) | 19-Mar-2020
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