The final accident

Because his Lancia job was based in Turin Mike rented a flat in Turin.  However, his heart was still in Modena in many ways.  He kept his flat (and his aeroplane and the Bentley) in Modena and continued to go back there at weekends and for holidays.

At the end of August 1977, after a period staying in Modena while the motor industry in Turin was shut down for the summer holidays, Mike was driving to Turin on a Sunday evening to go back to work and got caught in a typical Italian end-of-summer thunderstorm.  Near Riva di Chieri not far from Turin he entered a sharp right-hand bend at the end of a four-kilometre straight; the road was poorly cambered and a pool of water had collected on the inside of the bend; the car, a Lancia Beta HPE, started to aquaplane and slid outwards towards the other side of the road, hitting an oncoming lorry head on.  He died instantly due to a fractured spine.  After the accident, his family discovered that in the previous five years twenty-five people had been killed at this well-known “black spot”. Mike was buried in England, in the graveyard of Charsfield in Suffolk, where his father lived.  After so many years of risking his life in motor races, in the end he died in an ordinary road accident.  He never gave the impression of someone who planned to live to a ripe old age.  His approach to life was “carpe diem” – get the best out of what it has to offer, day by day, with a generous dose of thrills and spills.

The Sixties are now seen as a golden age of sports, GT and Prototype racing.  As the years passed, many of the major players dropped out – Ferrari in 1973, Matra in 1974, Porsche and Renault in 1976, Alfa Romeo in 1977.  The regulations and qualifying races for the Championship changed.  Several of the racing circuits then used have since been abandoned.  The attention of the media is now concentrated almost exclusively on Formula 1.  Looking in retrospect at Mike’s racing career, he was extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to race such superb cars in the heyday of sports and prototype car racing, and before motor racing became so massively commercialised as it is now.  On the other hand, motor racing has, fortunately, become much safer.  It is quite shocking to realize how so many of the top-class drivers with whom or against whom he raced were killed, either on the track or not long after they gave up racing: Ludovico Scarfiotti, Lorenzo Bandini, Joachim Bonnier, Ignazio Giunti, Pedro Rodriguez, Graham Hill, Jim Clark and Willy Mairesse, to name just some of them.

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