Chris Irwin


Author: ArchitectPage

written in early 1967

CHRIS IRWIN is following in the footsteps of Jackie Stewart, taking the Formula 3 crown in 1966 with 17 wins and graduating straight to Formula 1. Irwin's steamroller successes in Formula 3 undoubtedly earned him his chance with BRM, but the people who expect him to go out grabbing pole positions and battling for the lead Stewart-style against the established Formula 1 men are going to be disappointed. At 25 he has a long career ahead of him if he doesn't try to do things alI at once, and he is well aware of this. He can afford to be patient.

When he left school he decided to train for a position in the family printing business and was attending the London College of Printing when he took time off to see a race at Snetterton. His interest suddenly took on a sharper edge, and he was soon enrolled in Jim Russell's driving schoo1. The fee was £1 ($2.80) a lap, fairly steep for a college student, but he was a bright track pupil and his first race was in a Lotus 18 in 1961. Irwin began to gain recognition when he turned up in Merlyn F2 and F3 cars, displaying the smooth and unruffled style that was to catch BRM's eye two years later. Graham Warner from Chequered Flag gave Irwin a ride in one of his F3 Brabhams when team driver Roger Mac had a bad shunt at Reims in 1965 and from then on Irwin was a full-time racer and a part-time printer. Before then he'd had the skill and lacked the car, now he had both and the Chequered Flag Brabham won race after race. His skill in the F3 Brabhams had also earned him favorable glances when Jack Brabham and Esso competition manager Geoff Murdoch talked together. Consequently, Irwin was the only driver apart from Brabham and Hulme to aim one of the all-conquering Brabham-Honda F2s in 1966. He made the front row of the grid at Albi and Brands Hatch, placing third at Albi and dropping out at Brands Hatch.

Brabham also entered a third car for Irwin in the British Grand Prix the "old faithful" 2.7-liter Climax-engined car-and he drove this at a respectable pace to finish seventh just behind Bruce McLaren's McLaren-Ford. Although it seemed that Irwin would be in line for a Brabham works ride in 1967 no word came from Jack, so when BRM and Shell came lip with their offer Irwin signed on the dotted line. When John Surtees heard that Irwin had gone with Shell he bagged him the second F2 Surtees Lola.

BRM had played safe by signing both Irwin and Piers Courage to back up Stewart and Mike Spence in the works cars and both "new boys" were flown out to the Antipodes to race the 2.1-liter Tasman BRM V-8s with Stewalt. Irwin drove at Warwick Farm, Sandown Park, and Longford; being as unspectacular as Courage had been hairily enthusiastic. But Irwin was taking his time and learning to walk before he started to run.

Irwin married recently and lives with his wife Charlotte in a London flat. He is a lean individual who wears-his hair longer than most racers and dresses, in a conservative Carnaby Street style. Printing is now in the background, but Chris maintains a semi-working directorship.  

Irwin has the talent and is in no hurry to make the top-which is a fairly sure way of being an old, bold, successful, and rich racer. He can look back on his quid-a-round laps of Snetterton as a wise investment.

Note: Later in '67 in F1 at Le Mans French GP:

Irwin had his moment of glory when he went faster than Stewart on the first day in the V8 car. On the second day Stewart jumped into Irwin's car and Irwin moved over to the H16 BRM. The result of this however was that Stewart failed to match Irwin's time while he went quicker than Stewart had done in the H16 car. In the race the BRMs were not on the pace of the Brabham-Repcos but Stewart finished third. Irwin was running fourth when his engine began to misbehave and on the last lap the car stopped. This allowed Jo Siffert to take fourth place.

Following year '68 and in a Sports Car:

Irwin stayed under contract to BRM in 1968 but in mid-May he flipped an Alan Mann Ford GT40 in practice for the Nurburgring 1000km race and suffered serious head injuries. He never raced again.

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Post 1945 Drivers