- November 17, 1939
- United Kingdom
- Not Active
Chris Craft is a British former racing driver who was active between 1962 and 1984, participating in many different racing disciplines, including sports car racing, touring car racing and open-wheel racing.
The highlight of his career was the third place overall at 1976 Le Mans 24 Hours, when he was driving Lola T380-Cosworth together with Alain de Cadenet. Earlier in a career, in 1971, he recorded two participations in Formula 1 Grand Prix events with Alain de Cadenet's team Ecurie Evergreen.
Some other great results for Chris Craft were the second place in the 1969 British Saloon Car Championship when he was driving a Ford Escort, and a championship title in the 1973 European 2-litre Sports Car Championship.
Starting a career in a Ford Anglia
Born in November 1939 in Porthleven, Cornwall, Christopher Craft started his racing career in 1962, driving a Ford Anglia in national events. In 1964, he was driving Ford Anglia for Alan Mann Racing at Monza's round of the European Touring Car Championship. He also participated with Ford Cortina Lotus in some races of the British Saloon Car Championship and US Road Racing Championship.
In 1965, the highlight of the season was his class victory in the Brands Hatch 1000km race, together with Jackie Oliver in a Jaguar E-Type.
In 1966, Craft participated in the British Saloon Car Championship but also in some Formula 3 races. Driving a Ford Anglia Super for Superspeed Conversions, he scored three wins in Class B and finished 8th in the overall BSCC standings.
Wide programme of races in 1968
In 1968, Craft had a wide programme of races in the touring car and sports car races. He participated full season in the British Saloon Car Championship with Team Broadspeed, driving a Ford Escort and scoring four class wins. He also took part in Nurburgring's round of the European Touring Car Challenge, scoring Division 2 victory in a Ford Escort 1300 GT he was sharing with Roger Clark.
In the 1968 British Sports Car Championship, Craft was driving a Chevron B8-BMW for Techspeed Racing, scoring two class wins. He was also driving Lola-Chevrolet for Techspeed in some non-championship races. In 1968, Craft also participated in Formula 3 Monaco Grand Prix, driving a Tecno-Ford.
Vice-champion in the 1969 British Saloon Car Championship
In 1969, Craft achieved his greatest success in touring car career. Driving a Ford Escort 1300 TC for Team Broadspeed in the Class B category, he scored seven victories to ended a season as a vice-champion, behind Alec Poole. Outside BSCC, he participated at Spa 24 Hours in a BMW 2002, sharing a car with Dieter Quester. They didn't finish the race.
Besides contesting in touring car races, Craft continued to race in the British Sports Car Championship with Techspeed Racing, driving a Lola T70-Chevrolet. He also made few starts with that car in the International Championship for Makes.
Partnership with Alain de Cadenet started in 1969
Next race in a Porsche was Nordic Challenge at Mantorp Park in August, where Craft finished second. Until the end of the season, Craft and Piper were driving Porsche in two more races, finishing second at Barcelona 12 Hours and third at Paris 1000 Kilometers.
Victory at 1970 Kanonloppet (Swedish Grand Prix)
In 1970, Craft started a season at 1000 km of Buenos Aires, driving a Lola T70-Chevrolet for David Piper Racing. In Europe, he was driving McLaren M8C for Alain de Cadenet's Ecurie Evergreen. His best result in that car was a victory at Swedish Grand Prix (Kanonloppet).
In touring car competitions, he continued to drive Ford Escort for Broadspeed, scoring six wins in the British Saloon Championship to finish fifth in the final standings.
Le Mans debut and Formula 1 debut in 1971
The season 1971 will be remembered because of Craft's debut both in the Le Mans 24 Hours and Formula 1. In June, he was sharing the #16 Ferrari 512 LM with David Weir at Le Mans, driving for David Piper Racing. They finished in the fourth place, behind two Porsche 917Ks and NART's Ferrari 512 LM.
In September 1971, Alain de Cadenet's Ecurie Evergreen entered the Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport with Brabham BT33-Cosworth. Craft failed to qualify for the race. Two weeks later, he managed to qualify for the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, retiring after 30 laps with broken suspension.
Of other commitments in 1971, Craft was driving for Chevron Racing and Ecurie Evergreen in sports car races all over the world. He won Oulton Park's round of the British Sports Car Championship in a Chevron B19-Cosworth and Interserie race at Norisring in Evergreen's McLaren M8E.
Variety of sports cars in 1972
In 1972, Craft joined Ecurie Bonnier to drive a Lola T280-Cosworth in sports car races all over the world. In the Interserie, he was driving a Lola T70-Chevrolet for David Piper Racing.
At 1972 Le Mans 24 Hours, Chris Craft was sharing a car for the first time with Alain de Cadenet. They were driving a Duckhams LM-Cosworth for Duckham's Oil Motor Racing. They ended a race in 12th place. They returned to Le Mans in the same car in 1973, not finishing the race.
Winner of the 1973 European 2-litre Sports Car Championship
In 1973, Craft clinched his only championship title in a career. He triumphed in the European 2-litre Sports Car Championship, driving a Lola T292-Cosworth for British team Crowne Racing. In eight rounds, he scored two wins, at Misano and Imola, to win in the championship ahead of John Burton.
Crafts' other competition in 1973 was the British Formula 5000 Championship. Driving a McLaren M18 or Chevron B24 for Racing Team VDS, he scored no wins or podiums to finish 17th in the points. In 1974, he participated full season in the European Formula 5000 with Crowne Racing, scoring two podiums to finish 9th in the points.
Le Mans podium for Craft and Alain de Cadenet
After two Le Mans attempts in a Duckham prototype, Chris Craft and Alain de Cadenet returned to Circuit de la Sarthe in 1974 with De Cadenet LM prototype. Craft's co-driver in the #10 was John Nicholson. They retired after an accident. In 1975, de Cadenet and Craft were driving the #4 De Cadenet Lola T380, finishing in 14th place.
And then, in 1976, their fifth attempt resulted with a podium. The #12 De Cadenet Lola T380 crossed the finish line as the third-placed car, twelve laps behind race winners Jacky Ickx and Gijs van Lennep in a Porsche 936.
Craft was on a podium again in 1977, finishing fifth overall and third in the S+2.0 class, sharing the #5 De Cadenet Lola with Alain de Cadenet. A pair Craft/de Cadenet returned to Le Mans 24h one more time, in 1978, finishing in the 15th place.
Four BSCC victories in a Ford Capri
Chris Craft returned to British Saloon Car Championship in 1976, driving a Ford Capri II 3.0 in the most powerful Class D. He scored no wins in 1976, improving his performance in 1977 and winning three times. In 1978, he was a race winner in a Ford Capri III 3.0S.
He was also driving a Ford Capri in some international events, including Spa 24 Hours. His best result was fourth place at Spa in 1979 when he was sharing a car with Jeff Allam.
Five Le Mans attempts with Japanese Dome team
In 1979, Craft ended a partnership with Alain de Cadenet to join Japanese team Dome in the World Championship for Makes and also at Le Mans 24 Hours. His partner in the #6 Dome Zero RL-Cosworth was Gordon Spice, they retired after 40 laps.
A year later, Chris Craft and Bob Evans managed to reach the finish in the #12 Dome RL80, ending the 24-hour race in 25th place. The third Le Mans attempt with Dome followed in 1981 when Craft and Bob Evans retired after 154 laps. Craft recorded one more DNF at Le Mans in 1982, sharing the #36 Dome RC82 with Eliseo Salazar. The fifth Le Mans race with Dome, in 1983, ended with the same result – DNF. Craft's partners in the #38 Dome RC82 were Eliseo Salazar and Nick Mason.
1984 - Last Le Mans attempt in a Porsche 956
During the years he spent with Dome team, Craft occasionally raced with other teams. In 1981, he scored a success in the World Championship race at Brands Hatch, taking the Group 5 victory in a BMW M1 he was driving for Emka Productions Limited. His co-driver was Derek Bell.
In June 1984, Craft came to Circuit de la Sarthe for the last time as a driver. He was driving the #21 Porsche 956 for Charles Ivey Racing, sharing a car with Alain de Cadenet and Allan Grice. They didn't finish the race.
Founder of the Light Car Company
After retiring from racing, Chris Craft stayed involved in motorsport and automotive industry. In 1991, he and Gordon Murray founded the Light Car Company. They were producing the Rocket model, known by its lightweight construction. Production ended in 1998.