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Chris Craft, a former Formula 1 driver, one of the greatest British racers of the 1970s, died at the age of 81 after a long illness.
Born in Porthleven, Cornwall, he began his career in 1962 with a Ford Anglia and became known as a leading saloon car driver, notably with the Broadpeed Escort team, which he campaigned for from 1968 to 1970.
Having also driven a Tecno in Formula 3, he turned to sports cars from 1968 onwards, first with a Chevron, then teamed up with Alain de Cadenet to drive his Porsche 908 and McLaren M8C. It was this association that led him to take part in two Formula 1 World Championship Grand Prix in 1971 at the wheel of a Brabham BT33 prepared by Cadenet’s Evergreen team, but he failed to score a championship point. He did not qualify for his first world championship race (the 1971 Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport Park), but could have started the race after two other drivers dropped out due to accidents during the warm-up sessions of the race.
His second Grand Prix, at Watkins Glen, ended with a suspension failure and tyre problems during the race.
Craft continued to compete in many other forms of motor racing, including sedans, notably with a Ford Capri; sports cars, including a period with Team Dome in the early 1980s; Formula 3 and Formula 5000. Craft won the European Sports Car Championship in 1973 at the wheel of a Lola T92. One of the highlights of his career was his third place at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1976.
His last race was at Le Mans in 1984, when he shared a Porsche 956 with de Cadenet and Australian touring car ace Allan Grice. The car withdrew from the race due to an engine problem and, at the age of 44, Craft ended his career as a professional racer.
More recently, Craft has been a regular participant in historic races thanks to his friendship with Grahame White, then CEO of the Historic Sports Car Club.
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