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It is with great regret that we must inform Members of the death on Monday of Life Member Mike Garton. He was 84 years of age and had been only quite recently diagnosed with terminal cancer.

After competing in motor cycle scrambles (as motocross was then known) Mike’s circuit racing career began at Mallory Park in 1961 with a ‘Frogeye’ Austin-Healey Sprite whilst employed as a motor-cycle salesman by Burrows Bros of Peterborough. Products of the British Motor Corporation remained the focus of his racing activities for the rest of the decade, principally with Sprites but also MGBs, an Austin-Healey 3000 and a BMC A series-engined Mini Marcos GT.

After two years of success with his original Sprite MEG 199, Donald Healey’s son Geoff arranged to take it off Mike’s hands in part exchange for the 1961 works Le Mans Sprite 1411 WD. First time out with the car at Snetterton, Mike won the up to 1150 cc class. Two weeks later, again at Snetterton, in the Archie Scott-Brown Memorial Trophy, Mike found himself up against Christabel Carlisle in a Spridget-bodied car entered by Geoff Healey. Keen to impress on a new set of Dunlop tyres, Mike went off at the Esses in practice to the serious detriment of the rear bodywork. Gathering up the bits and pieces, he returned to the paddock where members of the Austin-Healey Club came from all corners of the circuit to help with repairs which enabled the car to take to the grid and finish third in class, splitting the then dominant Dick Jacobs MG Midgets in the process. In the full rebuild back at his home workshop, Mike decided to cut off the rear bodywork and create the Kamm-type rear end for which the car became very well known.

The Nurburgring Nordschleife became one of Mike’s favourite race tracks. Although he retired from his first 500 Ks with 1411 WD in 1963 and again in 1964, at the third attempt he finished 10th overall and second in the 1150 cc class to the unbeatable combination of Kurt Ahrens and a factory Abarth-Simca. There had been Nurburgring success in 1964, however, Mike finishing 12th overall and second in his class in the Rheinland-Pfalz Preis GT race supporting the German Grand Prix. Mike was also able to keep both the Dick Jacobs Midgets behind him in the Archie Scott-Brown Memorial Trophy to win the 1150 cc class in 1964.

The highlight of 1965 was undoubtedly finishing second in the Brands Hatch Double 500 with Paul Hughes behind the winning MGB of John Rhodes/Warwick Banks but ahead of all manner of potent machinery including the Jaguar E-type of Jackie Oliver/Chris Craft and the Austin-Healey 3000 of Paddy Hopkirk/Roger Mac. On a rare venture into touring car racing, Mike and Paul shared a Mini 850 in the Snetterton 500 Ks round of the European Touring Car Championship. In among the Lotus Cortinas, Alfa Romeo 1600 GTAs and BMW 1800 Tis, it may not have been the fastest car out there but at least it finished the four hour race with fourth place in the 850 cc class.

In a departure from BMC machinery, in 1966 Mike campaigned a Lotus 23B entered by Vegantune in many of the major British sports car races including the RAC Tourist Trophy at Oulton Park. Sprites were not forgotten, however, Mike finishing second in class with David Corderoy in the Brands Hatch 1000, 11th overall and third in class in the Spa 1000 Ks with John Harris and third in class in the Nurburgring 1000 Ks with Alec Poole. The following year Mike shared a BMC-engined, works-entered Mini Marcos GT in the latter event with Autosport’s then Assistant Editor Paddy McNally, bringing the car home 18th overall and winning their class. A month later Mike was in the Mini-Marcos once more in the heat of the Mugello road race, this time sharing with Tim Lalonde. Mike also joined forces for the first time with Roger Heavens for some rounds of the European Touring Car championship in an Austin Mini-Cooper S, finishing 15th overall and fourth in class in the Nurburgring 500 Ks.

In 1968 for his last race in a Sprite, Mike shared with Clive Baker a rather special prototype, Donald Healey-entered Sprite LWD 959E in the Sebring 12 Hours before moving on to share Jean Denton’s MGB in his favoured events such as the Nurburgring 1000 Ks and 500 Ks, Mugello  and the Barcelona 12 Hours. For the last three years of his active driving career, Mike teamed up with Roger Heavens to share various Chevrons – a B8 in 1970, a B16 in 1971 and a B21 in 1972. Among the highlights was seventh place in the Barcelona 1000 Ks and second in the Group 5 class to the Porsche 917 of Derek Bell/Gijs van Lennep no less which, to be fair, was a few places and several laps ahead. The B8 produced some solid results in 1970 in the Vila Real 500 ks (5th), Montlhery 1000 Ks (6th) and Jarama 6 Hours (6th). In the Nurburgring 1000 Ks in 1972 Mike and Roger brought their Chevron B21 home 15th overall and third in their class.

After retiring from active competition Mike remained very much part of the international sports car racing scene. He became Chief Scrutineer for the BRDC in the days when the Club was running race meetings and championships. In particular he oversaw the various Rover saloon car series. This led to his appointment as a MSA Technical Commissioner and FIA Technical Delegate with a principal involvement in Group C racing for many years. He was Chairman of the Fellowship of the Motor Industry and President of the Healey Drivers’ Club. He had also found time to write Tuning BMC Sports Cars, published in 1969 and still much sought after.

Mike was a proud and passionate Member of the BRDC who was regularly in the Clubhouse with his wife Lyn, enjoying the camaraderie and meeting his many friends and acquaintances from his many years in the sport. Mike will be much missed when the Clubhouse re-opens. To Lyn and to their family the Club extends its deepest condolences.


The Club regrets to report on the death of Neville Hay, who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1993
The Club regrets to report on the death of Alan Minshaw, who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1984
The Club regrets to report on the death of Ray Thackwell who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1957
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