"He lived a life without sense, without an analyst, and provoked astonishment and affection in everyone"—Team Principle, Motor Racing Heroes
Robert McGregor Innes Ireland (12th June 1930 - 22nd October 1993) was a British racing driver and military officer, born in Yorkshire, England. Racing under the name Innes Ireland, the Brit raced for Team Lotus during the early phase of his Formula One career, claiming their (and his) maiden victory at the 1961 United States Grand Prix.
Ireland raced from 1959 until 1966, and became a popular figure in the motorsport world for his personality and driving style. He became a Team Lotus driver for his début season, having won the Brooklands Memorial Trophy in 1957, and raced for Colin Chapman's outfit until 1962. He was offered a drive with BRM for 1962, but upheld his agreement with the UDT Laystall team instead, possibly forfeiting a chance at the title as Graham Hill claimed the crown.
The rest of Ireland's career saw him drive for the British Racing Partnership, Reg Parnell Racing and Bernard White Racing teams, before retiring from racing in 1967. The English born Scot would also race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, BSCC and NASCAR during his career.
- 1 Formula One Career
- 2 Formula One Statistical Overview
- 3 References
Formula One Career
Once an apprentice at Rolls Royce and a member of the Parachute Regiment serving in the Suez Canal between 1953 and 1954, Ireland got his first taste of racing in 1957, having begun work at an engineering firm. Running an ex-Le Mans spec Bentley, Ireland claimed a notable victory in the Brooklands Memorial Trophy race of 1957, prompting Colin Chapman, owner of the Team Lotus group in motor racing, to offer him a drive in their sports car programme. An impressive début season in 1958 followed, with Ireland signed up to the Lotus Formula One outfit for 1959.
Début Delight: 1959
Ireland joined up with the Team Lotus campaign at the 1959 Dutch Grand Prix, and proceeded to delight his new colleagues with his race style. Having qualified in ninth, Ireland battled through the lower reaches of the top ten, before retirements carried him up to fourth place in the closing stages of the race, with the Brit fending off a potential challenge from Jean Behra to claim three points on his début. It was not a successful second race, however, as Ireland retired from the French Grand Prix a few weeks later after a wheel issue.
After missing the British Grand Prix, Ireland endured three successive retirements in his next three races, all caused by mechanical issues. Yet, the season ended on a high as Ireland claimed fifth in the season finale, the US Grand Prix, having battled for points throughout.
Potential Pretender: 1960 - 1961
Continuing on with Team Lotus, Ireland started the 1960 season well, claiming sixth place in the season opener, before finishing ninth in the following Monaco Grand Prix after multiple issues. With Team Lotus missing the Indy 500, Ireland's next drive came at the Dutch Grand Prix, where the Brit showed his talent. Claiming his first front row start, Ireland battled with eventual winner Jack Brabham, as well as compatriots Jim Clark, Stirling Moss and Graham Hill on his way to second, claiming a maiden podium.
His talent was again on display in Belgium, where Ireland set fastest lap on his way to retirement, before a ninth place finish in France. Then came his début at his home race, the British Grand Prix, where Ireland fought with Jo Bonnier, Hill and new team mate John Surtees to finish third, just behind the latter. That put Ireland into the top five of the Championship, although he was too far adrift of Brabham to have a realistic shot at the title.
That said, Ireland continued to impress, claiming sixth at the following Portuguese Grand Prix, having battled with team mate Clark early on. After missing the Italian Grand Prix, Ireland put together another delightful performance at the season ending 1960 United States Grand Prix at Riverside, finishing second to end the season fourth overall. 1960 would also see three non-Championship victories for Ireland as he continued to gain attention for his race craft.
1961 was expected to be a dream season for Ireland, although it almost ended all too tragically at the opening round in Monaco. Ireland was pushing his Lotus hard to earn a qualifying spot around the streets of the city state, only to crash heavily in the final sector, breaking his leg. Yet, the Brit was determined to get back in the seat, and pushed his car to victory at the non-Championship Solitude Grand Prix, before returning to the Championship at the Belgian Grand Prix. Unfortunately, his return was scuppered by an engine failure.
Ireland's first points in 1961 were earned in a hard fought drive in the French Grand Prix, with the Brit securing fourth after a long battle with team mate Clark. A tenth place was earned at the following British Grand Prix, before he swapped his car with Stirling Moss at the Italian Grand Prix. He would retire in Italy, having done so at the proceeding round in Germany.
Yet, the season would end spectacularly for Ireland, albeit amid news that he was to be ousted from the Lotus squad in favour of Clark. In his final performance for the Chapman team, Ireland had his engineers working hard throughout the US Grand Prix weekend, requiring a new steering mechanism and gearbox during qualifying before claiming eighth on the grid, with his mechanics certain the car would not finish. Fate was on the Brit's side, however, and a stunning opening lap saw him leap into third place at the start, before almost being put out of the race after spinning on oil left by team mate Surtees a lap later. After falling to eleventh, an incredible recovery drive left Ireland in third, before two retirements ahead of him saw him lead the race. Yet, Ireland was nursing his car by this stage, and a challenge from Hill saw the lead swap between them for fifteen laps, until Hill's car ground to a halt. Roy Salvadori was the next contender, but the British-Italian would fall short with an engine failure with four laps to go, having closed to within a few seconds of Ireland. With Salvadori out, Ireland was left to cruise home to claim a maiden victory, and the first for Team Lotus in Formula One.
A Missed Opportunity?: 1962
Ireland was invited to drive for the BRM team for 1962, but declined the chance to partner Graham Hill for the season. The Brit instead drove for the privateer UDT-Laystall Racing Team instead, having made a gentleman's agreement with Alfred Moss after news of his break with Team Lotus was announced. BRM would ultimately go on to support Hill to his first World Championship in 1962, as Ireland and UDT Laystall struggled with reliability issues.
In his first four outings for his new team, Ireland suffered four mechanical failures, before claiming a sixteenth place finish at the British Grand Prix. Another retirement followed in Italy, before Ireland secured an eighth place finish at his now favourite venue Watkins Glen. It was at the season ending South African Grand Prix that Ireland finally scored for UDT Laystall, claiming fifth a lap down to new World Champion Hill.
Pursuing Partnership: 1963 - 1964
UDT-Laystall returned to their original name of the British Racing Partnership for 1963, with the team also opting to build their own chassis, although it would not arrive until partway through the season. Two retirements when using an older Team Lotus machine, including at the season opening Monaco Grand Prix. His début in the BRM engined BRP machine also ended poorly, with Ireland retiring from the Belgian Grand Prix having started on the third row.
His first points in the new car would come at the following round in the Netherlands, with Ireland fighting with former team mate Surtees for the podium until the closing stages. A ninth place in France was followed by a retirement in the British Grand Prix, before Ireland ended his racing season prematurely with points at the Italian Grand Prix. Ireland looked on for a podium in the closing stages, but suffered an engine failure on the final lap to concede third, instead classified in fourth. BRP opted not to attend the final three rounds, meaning Ireland missed out on more potential points.
Like 1963, Ireland's 1964 campaign started with a retirement in a Lotus, as BRP tried to improve their car from the year before. The updated car was available to Ireland from the third round in Belgium, with the Brit claiming tenth in the race. Another tenth place finish came at the British Grand Prix, after Ireland retired from the French Grand Prix, with BRP then missing the following round in Germany.
Two inspirational drives in Austria and Italy followed, with Ireland claiming fifth in both races. In the latter, Ireland had been within an outside chance of the podium, trailing Richie Ginther and Lorenzo Bandini in the final stages. Unlike the previous year BRP attended the flyaway races at the end of the season, with Ireland ending the year with a twelfth place finish in the Mexico.
Final Fling: 1965 - 1966
Ireland moved to the Reg Parnell Racing outfit for 1965, using two Team Lotus built machines throughout the season, albeit after missing the opening two rounds. A thirteenth place finish on his début for his latest team in Belgium was followed by two retirements in the following two rounds, before a tenth place finish in the Dutch Grand Prix. Ireland recorded another finish in the Italian Grand Prix, before retiring from the penultimate race in America. The Englishman was due to race in Mexico for the season finale too, but was fired by Tim Parnell after getting lost en-route to the circuit.
Ireland would miss the majority of the season for a variety of reasons, although he would get two final races in Formula One before the end of 1966. Joining up with the Bernard White Racing team for the United States and Mexican Grand Prix, Ireland would retire from both, having been on the verge of the points in his penultimate race.
Ireland retired from Formula One at the end of 1966, having started 50 races, taking one victory and four podium positions. His racing career would end in the next year, with Ireland taking part in the 1967 Daytona 500 among a number of final races that year.
Formula One Statistical Overview
Formula One Record
|Year||Entrant||Constructor||WDC Points||WDC Pos.||Report|
|1962||UDT-Laystall Racing Team||Lotus-Climax||2||16th||Report|
|1963||British Racing Partnership||Lotus-BRM||6||9th||Report|
|1964||British Racing Partnership||Lotus-BRM||4||14th||Report|
|1965||Reg Parnell Racing||Lotus-BRM||0||NC||Report|
|1966||Bernard White Racing||BRM||0||NC||Report|
|Front Row Starts||1|
|Distance Raced||12160 km (7556 mi)|
|Distance Led||159 km (99 mi)|
|Win Number||Grand Prix|
|1||1961 United States Grand Prix|
|Complete Formula One results|
|3rd||DNQ||Did not qualify|
|5th||Points finish||DNPQ||Did not pre-qualify|
|14th||Non-points finish||TD||Test driver|
|NC||Non-classified finish (<90% race distance)||DNS||Did not start|
|Italics||Scored point(s) for Fastest Lap||[+] More Symbols|
Images and Videos:
- F1-history, 'Jim Clark | Innes Ireland (France 1961)', deviantart.com, (Deviantart, 16/09/2012), http://f1-history.deviantart.com/art/Jim-Clark-Innes-Ireland-France-1961-327575249, (Accessed 01/02/2016)
- Newman, Robert, Motor Racing Heroes: The Stories of 100 Greats, (Dorset: Veloce Publishing Ltd, 2014), p.202
- 'Motor Racing: Innes Ireland, flamboyant driver, dies', independent.co.uk, (ESI Media, 23/10/1993), http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/motor-racing-innes-ireland-flamboyant-driver-dies-1512748.html, (Accessed 31/01/2016)
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: UNITED STATES GP, 1961', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr102.html, (Accessed 05/01/2016)
- 'DRIVERS: INNES IRELAND', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/drv-ireinn.html, (Accessed 31/01/2016)
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: UNITED STATES GP, 1959', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2014), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr084.html, (Accessed 31/12/2015)
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: UNITED STATES GP, 1960', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr094.html, (Accessed 02/01/2016)
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: MEXICAN GP, 1965', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr141.html, (Accessed 28/07/2016)
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