- May 01, 1951
- United Kingdom
- Not Active
Geoffrey Geoff Lees is a former racing driver from England and the only man who was both European and Japanese Formula 2 champion.
He was born on 1st of May 1951 in Atherstone, Warwickshire. As a boy, Geoff was interested in cars and mechanic. At the age of 15, he left school to began working as a mechanic apprentice. A year later, Lees attended Jim Russel Racing School course.
The first steps in the world of racing Lees made driving a Lotus 23 but moved to Formula Ford in 1971. Lack of funding slowed his progress through the ranks but in 1975 he caught the eyes after impressive performances in the British Formula Ford 1600 Championship and Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch driving a Royale RP21.
Geoff missed the start of 1976 British Formula 3 season after being unable to secure proper funding. When he joined the series, Lees did an excellent job before taking the 3rd place in the standings. Many expected more of Lees in the following year but it turned out to be a disappointing season.
Inglorious results in Formula 1
In 1978 Lees debuted in Formula 2 and Formula 1. More precisely, he retired from the F2 race at Donington and failed to qualify for the F1 British Grand Prix. Geoff’s F1 career was marked by occasional outings. He raced for seven teams, driving the eight different cars that were uncompetitive.
Lees made his Grand Prix racing debut by replacing Jean-Pierre Jarier for the 1979 German GP with Tyrell team. He finished in a career-best 7th position. In 1980, Lees was hired by the hopeless Shadow team for five events and that he qualified in South Africa was a remarkable achievement. His car prepared by Theodore Racing was eliminated at the start of the 1982 Canadian GP and he was 12th for Lotus in the 1982 French Grand Prix, replacing the injured Nigel Mansell.
Formula 2 championship title winner
One of his biggest achievements was title won in 1981 European Formula 2 Championship. Driving for the Ralt Racing team, Geoff won the races at Pau, Spa, and Donington. He also was 2nd at Mugello, Misano, and Mantorp Park. At the end of the season, Lees was well ahead of some well-known names like Thierry Boutsen, Stefan Johansson, and Michele Alboreto.
When success in Formula 1 proved elusive, he moved to Japan. That proved to be a good decision after English driver enjoyed successful time at the Far East. His first big success was a triumph in the 1983 Japanese Formula 2 when he defeated local star, Satoru Nakajima.
Lees was racing star in Japan
The title won in F2 was just the beginning of the successful period in Japan. Geoff represented various Japanese marques in sports car racing, becoming a highly paid and highly respected part of the Japanese racing scene. He was All-Japan Grand Champion in 1987, 1988 and 1989. Lees also scored the maiden World Sportscar Championship race win for Toyota in 1992 at Monza, proving his versatility.
Unsuccessful attempts to conquer Le Mans
Over the years Lees had numerous attempts to triumph at Le Mans 24 Hours but a good result at Circuit de la Sarthe remained just a dream. Geoff raced in various class, driving for many teams but only once was able to score a Top 10 finish. It was in 1993 when he drove Toyota TS010 alongside Jan Lammers and Juan Manuel Fangio II. They finished 8th overall and 5th in the C1 class.
His final success was the title won in 1998 European GT Championship, driving a GTC McLaren. Two years later, Geoff retired from motorsport, probably knowing that he could do much more in his career if he had adequate financial support at odd times.