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Was Mike Wilds really a Formula One driver?


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#1 MCS

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Posted 22 October 2003 - 20:28

Seeing the thread on Helmut Koinigg and, more specifically, the picture of Helmut with Mike Wilds, made me wonder - not for the first time - how good Wilds really was...

Undoubtedly, he was a very mild-mannered and gentlemanly person. But in his chosen role as a racing driver I never understood how he could absolutely annihilate a top class Formula Three field at Mallory Park one weekend and appear completely pedestrian the following weekend at Oulton Park, or Snetterton, or wherever! And let's not forget that his opposition at the time - Brise, Jones, Lafitte, Henton, etc. - was hardly weak, so his good performances were clearly quite something.

His expertise in all manner of machinery in later years of course tells us that he was very talented indeed - of that there can be little doubt. But, in his heyday, how good was he?

Did he deserve his F1 "chance?" Or do you believe without Dempster Developments it simply wouldn't have happened? Would he have flown in a Lotus or a March (as opposed to the BRM?).

What do you reckon ?


Edited by MCS, 21 January 2011 - 14:40.


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#2 ghinzani

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Posted 23 October 2003 - 11:41

At the time I guess he was held back by the weight of his beard! :lol:

#3 D-Type

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Posted 05 December 2003 - 23:41

I have to admit that he's not someone whose career I have followed closely. To me he is one of the many who shone in lesser formulae but failed to cut the mustard in Grand Prix racing. And it's often difficult to give a reason.

I was going to start a thread, naming a few and asking "Why", but as even Ottorino Volonterio (spelling?) would blow me into the weeds I decided not to. However, it is an interesting question: "Why do some fail to fulfil their early promise?" Part of it is the need to be hungry enough and ruthless enough.

#4 neville mackay

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Posted 06 December 2003 - 20:02

I saw Mike Wilds race quite a lot during his F3 days, and although he was undoubtedly a reasonably regular frontrunner I never felt that he displayed that "little bit extra" that would mark him out as a future F1 winner. That particular era was blessed with a huge number of talented F3 drivers. Some made it big, some looked destined for greatness but never quite made it - anyone remember Jacques Coulon and Andy Sutcliffe? - and some, like Mike, had moments of inspiration that allowed them to showcase their talents from time to time. Over the years Mike evolved into a rapid and reliable driver in many semi-professional formulae, but to my mind a career in sportscar racing or F5000 was about as good as he was going to get. He did however have a very friendly personality and a wonderfully legible autograph!

Neville

#5 Rob29

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Posted 07 December 2003 - 10:06

Most of those mentioned never got a chance in a top F1 team. Others who were my heroes,include Tiff Needell & Ian Ashley.One who was a comlete flop with the Brabham team was Richard Robarts.

#6 Mallory Dan

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Posted 08 December 2003 - 14:06

1973, was the first year I got into racing generally and started getting MN. As I recall F3 that year was pretty good, with some drivers who became big over the next few years, the names mentioned above specifically. One I'v aoften wondered about was Russell Wood. He mixed it with the likes of Wilds, Robarts, Brise, Jones, Henton etc but then diasppeared completely. Anyone know anything about him.

As for Wilds, agree with pretyy much all of the above, Ok at F3/F5000/Sportscars level, probably not quite F1 material, but then that could apply to many that make it that far.

#7 Twin Window

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Posted 22 May 2004 - 21:00

Originally posted by Mallory Dan
One I've often wondered about was Russell Wood. He mixed it with the likes of Wilds, Robarts, Brise, Jones, Henton etc but then diasppeared completely. Anyone know anything about him.


Russell Wood was, I believe, killed during a test session at Silverstone circa late 80s/early 90s. He suffered brake failure at the end of the straight down into Woodcote (on the then, i.e. older, club circuit configuration) and hit the barriers pretty much head-on.

I seem to remember this was his first (or at least an early) test prior to making a racing comeback, and he may even have been in an historic F3 car from the period which saw him a front-runner.

Sorry to be so sketchy; if you're even there six months later! :)

TW

#8 MCS

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Posted 22 May 2004 - 21:13

Originally posted by Twin Window


Russell Wood was, I believe, killed during a test session at Silverstone circa late 80s/early 90s. He suffered brake failure at the end of the straight down into Woodcote (on the then, i.e. older, club circuit configuration) and hit the barriers pretty much head-on.

I seem to remember this was his first (or at least an early) test prior to making a racing comeback, and he may even have been in an historic F3 car from the period which saw him a front-runner.

TW


What awful news TW - I didn't even know that Russell Wood had attempted to make a comeback. :(
Oddly enough I found an old, autographed race programme in the garage only the other day with his picture on the front from 1973.

What you've outlined reminds me of the terrible accident that befell poor Dick Parsons.

Hopefully you have some happier tales of Mike Wilds...


Edited by MCS, 21 January 2011 - 14:41.


#9 Twin Window

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Posted 22 May 2004 - 21:24

Yes, awful; I remember being shocked to hear it at the time, especially as - like you, probably - he was still quite safe and stored in the back of my mind, under the 'good driver; why did he quit' section.

I think I'm a tad slow tonight, because Dick Parsons rings a loud bell, but I can't place him... My mind keeps saying 'Dick Barker, Benny Parsons' and for some reason 'Dave Morgan! :eek: I'll have another tot to see if that helps! :D

Please kick my @55 into gear...

TW

#10 Eric McLoughlin

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Posted 23 May 2004 - 08:01

My only experoence of seeing Mike Wilds in action is a pretty unfortunate one. He crashed Nick Mason's ex-Villeneuve Ferrari 312 right in front of me at the 1994 Goodwood Festival of Speed. Luckily, both the Ferrari and Mike have been restored to full working order.

#11 ghinzani

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Posted 23 May 2004 - 09:43

Originally posted by MCS


What awful news TW - I didn't even know that Russell Wood had attempted to make a comeback. :(
Oddly enough I found an old, autographed race programme in the garage only the other day with his picture on the front from 1973.

What you've outlined reminds me of the terrible accident that befell poor Dick Parsons.

Hopefully you have some happier tales of Mike Wilds...

MCS


It does sound a lot more like the Dick Parsons accident. He was in a class b Reynard, having had a few good runs the previous season as he eased back into motor racing - I think his GPA helemet was knocked off by the catch fencing, sadly Dick being one of the last victims of this so called safety device.

#12 Twin Window

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Posted 23 May 2004 - 09:55

Good Lord! Has my memory really let me down that badly?! :eek:

If so, then I humbly apologise for my mistake. Maybe I should quit... :(

TW

#13 Cirrus

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Posted 23 May 2004 - 10:25

Dick Parsons is rather a forgotten character. At my very first kart race in 1971, he was one of the front runners, but he still took the time to offer some advice and encouragement. He began racing in about '72, but unwittingly fell foul of a 'bent engine' situation and received a ban. During this time he tested Cirrus 001 (a 100cc kart) and was again very encouraging.

His subsequent low budget F3 drives in Ensign, Modus and Anson showed he lacked nothing in the talent department, and to die in the way he did was very sad and quite shocking - he was a genuinely nice guy.

Twin Window - maybe your confusion arose through the physical similarity between Dick and Russell Wood, both being dark haired and sporting a Tony Orlando-style moustache.

#14 ghinzani

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Posted 23 May 2004 - 10:45

Dick drove the Smiths crisps Ensign in the mid 70's IIRC, fairly well funded - then there was chance of F5000 in the states but it fell thru - he didnt re-appear for another 10 years until he came back in F3 inSolar or CW racing F3 Ralt in 85 I think - he was instantly quick but by this time he was mid 30s. However he still had the balls to mix it with the young lads in F3. Such a shame he suffered that accident, I think it was his first outing of the year as a deal for an entire season had fallen thru. I beleive as usual he was grabbing the opportunity with both hands and had been running quickly at the point of his smash. Something tells me I read it was a car breakage, stuck throttle or lack of brakes? can anyone confirm?

#15 Twin Window

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Posted 23 May 2004 - 10:51

Originally posted by Cirrus


Twin Window - maybe your confusion arose through the physical similarity between Dick and Russell Wood, both being dark haired and sporting a Tony Orlando-style moustache.


Yes, that might well be why. Still, hugely embarassing nonetheless... :(

TW

#16 MCS

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Posted 23 May 2004 - 19:41

Originally posted by Cirrus
Dick Parsons is rather a forgotten character. At my very first kart race in 1971, he was one of the front runners, but he still took the time to offer some advice and encouragement. He began racing in about '72, but unwittingly fell foul of a 'bent engine' situation and received a ban. During this time he tested Cirrus 001 (a 100cc kart) and was again very encouraging.

His subsequent low budget F3 drives in Ensign, Modus and Anson showed he lacked nothing in the talent department, and to die in the way he did was very sad and quite shocking - he was a genuinely nice guy.


With virtually no money, he appeared at the Cadwell Park F3 round in 1975 with his rented Modus and, despite his 1600cc twin-cam engine, still finished third against the two-litre powered works cars and set fastest lap. That was a pretty good achievement, believe me.

He was certainly quick (I have a distinct recollection of Ian Phillips or Chris Witty voting him as best up and coming driver - or something like that) and I think he did at least test in America in a F5000 Talon and was certainly very competitive, but as ever there weren't the funds available.

Perhaps our US friends could shed some light on this - it would have been 1976/77.


Edited by MCS, 21 January 2011 - 14:43.


#17 Mallory Dan

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Posted 24 May 2004 - 12:56

Am I right in thinking that TW mixed Dick Parsons up with Russell W. If so, we're still no nearer knowing about Russell since the end of 1973, anyone have anything further ?

On poor Dick P, I too remember reports about him doing US F5000 in a Talon in about 1975. Was Chris Amon involved in this somehow from memory ?

#18 ghinzani

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Posted 24 May 2004 - 13:13

Originally posted by Mallory Dan
Am I right in thinking that TW mixed Dick Parsons up with Russell W. If so, we're still no nearer knowing about Russell since the end of 1973, anyone have anything further ?

On poor Dick P, I too remember reports about him doing US F5000 in a Talon in about 1975. Was Chris Amon involved in this somehow from memory ?


Was'nt Amon in a Talon a bit later on, 76 maybe? Just prior to him running the Wolf Can-Am?

#19 MCS

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Posted 24 May 2004 - 19:37

Originally posted by ghinzani


Was'nt Amon in a Talon a bit later on, 76 maybe? Just prior to him running the Wolf Can-Am?


Yes, I'm sure you're right.

Has anybody got any details on Parsons' time in the States ???


Edited by MCS, 21 January 2011 - 14:43.


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#20 ghinzani

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Posted 09 June 2004 - 07:05

Originally posted by Cirrus
Dick Parsons is rather a forgotten character.


I have received some info on Dicks fatal crash from a third party who was close to the scene of the accident on that fateful day. They are happy for me to share this info with you all, hopefully it will shed some more light on a sad subject. As you will read they are critical of the GPA helmet he was wearing, a criticism I have heard here before. I have also heard strenous defence of said lids. I will pass on any queries or comments, but perhaps we can refrain from a GPA good or bad arguement in this case y'all?

Heres the well constructed mail I received:

The accident was very strange and I don't think a definitive answer was ever arrived at. It was someway through an F3 practice session on a glorious early summer's afternoon. Conditions could hardly have been any better. Dick came into my view in the black Reynard 853 underneath the Daily Express bridge. At the normal braking point the front brakes locked up but the car did not seem to slow at all as, with some right lock on but still with both front wheels locked, the car ploughed into the catch fencing on the outside of Woodcote near to the Silverstone clubhouse. Either the first or second row of fencing somehow unlatched Dick's helmet (probably as a result of a blow from one of the fence poles) and a later row of fencing caused the helmet to come off of Dick's head as the car submarined under the fencing.

At this point the engine was still revving as if the throttle was stuck open. The car went through 6 or 7 rows of fencing before striking the armco/sleepers at a still frightening speed. Apparently during this impact Dick's neck was hyper-extended and his forehead struck the steering wheel/dash and he suffered an instantly fatal open skull fracture. He did not suffer and was quite clearly dead as I arrived at the car within seconds of it coming to a standstill.

The coroner gave a verdict of accidental death. There was a suggestion that driver error was the root cause. Dick may have left his braking a fraction too late and then locked up. Revving of engine explained as he would have been preparing to 'heel and toe' as he would have downchanged into the chicane.

Further clouding of the circumstances came out during the inquest as it came to light that Dick had ben suffering, quite badly it seems, with depression and was taking anti-depressants. This information was withheld, apparently, from the doctor who examined Dick for the purposes of issuing/renewing his competition license. I recall that, foolishly in my opinion, some suggested that this could have been a suicide.

Bottom line for me - that helmet, not sure of the brand, but it was the one with the 2 hinged collars forming the fastening was the main problem. Fundamentally unsafe. Clearly the fencing played a part too but I imagine with a conventional helmet on Dick would have had a headache and no more.


#21 MCS

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Posted 10 June 2004 - 09:12

I was under the impression (rightly or wrongly) that the car suffered a stub axle failure...

MCS

#22 ghinzani

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Posted 12 June 2004 - 07:54

Originally posted by MCS
I was under the impression (rightly or wrongly) that the car suffered a stub axle failure...

MCS


Anyone else know different?

#23 Quixotic

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Posted 21 January 2011 - 13:38

I have received some info on Dicks fatal crash from a third party who was close to the scene of the accident on that fateful day. They are happy for me to share this info with you all, hopefully it will shed some more light on a sad subject. As you will read they are critical of the GPA helmet he was wearing, a criticism I have heard here before. I have also heard strenous defence of said lids. I will pass on any queries or comments, but perhaps we can refrain from a GPA good or bad arguement in this case y'all?

Heres the well constructed mail I received:

The accident was very strange and I don't think a definitive answer was ever arrived at. It was someway through an F3 practice session on a glorious early summer's afternoon. Conditions could hardly have been any better. Dick came into my view in the black Reynard 853 underneath the Daily Express bridge. At the normal braking point the front brakes locked up but the car did not seem to slow at all as, with some right lock on but still with both front wheels locked, the car ploughed into the catch fencing on the outside of Woodcote near to the Silverstone clubhouse. Either the first or second row of fencing somehow unlatched Dick's helmet (probably as a result of a blow from one of the fence poles) and a later row of fencing caused the helmet to come off of Dick's head as the car submarined under the fencing.

At this point the engine was still revving as if the throttle was stuck open. The car went through 6 or 7 rows of fencing before striking the armco/sleepers at a still frightening speed. Apparently during this impact Dick's neck was hyper-extended and his forehead struck the steering wheel/dash and he suffered an instantly fatal open skull fracture. He did not suffer and was quite clearly dead as I arrived at the car within seconds of it coming to a standstill.

The coroner gave a verdict of accidental death. There was a suggestion that driver error was the root cause. Dick may have left his braking a fraction too late and then locked up. Revving of engine explained as he would have been preparing to 'heel and toe' as he would have downchanged into the chicane.

Further clouding of the circumstances came out during the inquest as it came to light that Dick had ben suffering, quite badly it seems, with depression and was taking anti-depressants. This information was withheld, apparently, from the doctor who examined Dick for the purposes of issuing/renewing his competition license. I recall that, foolishly in my opinion, some suggested that this could have been a suicide.

Bottom line for me - that helmet, not sure of the brand, but it was the one with the 2 hinged collars forming the fastening was the main problem. Fundamentally unsafe. Clearly the fencing played a part too but I imagine with a conventional helmet on Dick would have had a headache and no more.


Ahhh a GPA. Were they really that unsafe? I have never seen one in the flesh here in Aussie


#24 f1steveuk

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Posted 21 January 2011 - 14:27

Hated mine with a vengance!

As for the main reason of this thread, my opinion is, that if Mike had got into a Lotus 72 or Tyrrell 006, he would have been top ten, possibly top 6. Although not blindingly fast he was very very consistant, he good bang in lap after lap within tenths of each other, bloody fast laps too!

#25 Quixotic

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Posted 22 January 2011 - 02:49

Everything I hear about him is that he was a bit too much of a nice guy. Could that have been to his detriment?

#26 Giraffe

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Posted 22 January 2011 - 09:50

Everything I hear about him is that he was a bit too much of a nice guy. Could that have been to his detriment?


You are probably right Quixotic, and he remains so to this day, so it probably paid off in the end. Mike couldn't make it to Autosport International this year as he was part-way through a three week cruise............ :)

Posted Image
By null at 2010-04-14

Colin Bennett with his old friend Mike at Mallory Park testing last spring.

Edited by Giraffe, 22 January 2011 - 10:41.


#27 ralt12

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Posted 26 January 2011 - 18:06

Mike putting some temperature into 017/4 at Willow Springs....
http://www.youtube.c...p;v=3HaYCqTrEQs

Like others have said, a genuinely nice guy.

Edited by ralt12, 26 January 2011 - 18:08.


#28 rdmotorsport

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Posted 30 January 2014 - 15:03

Trust me if MW was given the correct machine he would have been a very useful GP driver , he drove the life out of the now tireing BRM in South America keeping up with Niki around the back of the circuit (and others) but lost out with BHP when needed, I later worked with MW at Le Mans years later and again in lesser machinery displayed good pace.

#29 Paul Parker

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Posted 30 January 2014 - 17:41

Without a competitive F1 car it is impossible to say of any given driver, assuming an established level of competence and speed which Mike Wilds certainly had, whether or not they would have made the top half of an F1 grid, even 40 years ago..

 

In this instance driving around in the dying embers of BRM or some other unsatisfactory machine was a recipe for being dismissed as being of no consequence, a fate suffered by other Brits in period, regardless of their talent.

 

To succeed even then you needed to spend as little time as possible in a grid filler car, even better if you could jump from F3 straight into a works F1 drive.



#30 Stephen W

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 09:40

1973, was the first year I got into racing generally and started getting MN. As I recall F3 that year was pretty good, with some drivers who became big over the next few years, the names mentioned above specifically. One I'v aoften wondered about was Russell Wood. He mixed it with the likes of Wilds, Robarts, Brise, Jones, Henton etc but then diasppeared completely. Anyone know anything about him.

As for Wilds, agree with pretyy much all of the above, Ok at F3/F5000/Sportscars level, probably not quite F1 material, but then that could apply to many that make it that far.

 

 

Without a competitive F1 car it is impossible to say of any given driver, assuming an established level of competence and speed which Mike Wilds certainly had, whether or not they would have made the top half of an F1 grid, even 40 years ago..

 

In this instance driving around in the dying embers of BRM or some other unsatisfactory machine was a recipe for being dismissed as being of no consequence, a fate suffered by other Brits in period, regardless of their talent.

 

To succeed even then you needed to spend as little time as possible in a grid filler car, even better if you could jump from F3 straight into a works F1 drive.

 

If you take a serious look at the machinery that Mike drove in his F1 career they were not what I would call front row material. I think the biggest hurdle that Mike had was the hugely talented drivers coming up through F3 at the same time he did. F3 was fickle, some years there were lots of talented drivers on show whilst in others the pool of talent was very shallow, Mike was certainly in at the deep end in F3 and didn't get the offers from the F1 teams higher up the grid. Never-the-less with the cars at his disposal he did a wonderful job given how poorly others performed in similar vehicles.