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Peter Gethin (R.I.P., 1940-2011)

December 6, 2011

One-time Grand Prix victor, Peter Gethin, has sadly passed away at the age of 71 following a lengthy illness.

Born in Surrey in early 1940, Gethin is most famous for winning the 1971 Italian Grand Prix 0.01 of-a-second ahead of Ronnie Peterson and his Cosworth-powered March.

The result was made even more spectacular by the top-five being separated by a mere six-tenths at the line, with François Cevert, Mike Hailwood and Howden Ganley completing the close-knit quintet.
Gethin, who started the final in 4th place, surged through at the Parabolica, to grab a fondly remembered victory.

In a Formula 1 career that ran sporadically for five years, Gethin qualified for thirty Grand Prix, driving for the likes of McLaren, BRM and Embassy Hill Racing, Gethin found himself finishing mostly outside the points.

The angles of Gethin’s Formula 1 career were sadly all too often turned by tragedy. His debut came about due to Bruce McLaren’s fatal accident while testing a Can-Am car at Goodwood in June 1970.
The tragic circumstances offered the 30-year-old an opportunity to establish himself as a marker in motor racing, although his first outing at Zandvoort would go unnoticed due to the death of Piers Courage on the twenty-second lap.
In his fifth Grand Prix at Canada’s Mont-Tremblant, Gethin scored his first World Championship point, coming home 6th and two laps adrift of race winner Jacky Ickx.

Gethin stayed with McLaren until the middle of the 1971 season, moving to BRM to replace the recently killed Pedro Rodriguez, grabbing victory in only his second race with the squad.
He stayed for the entire 1972 season, scoring a point at Monza before dropping out of the limelight completely, after a single Formula 1 appearance in 1973.
He would return to the top flight for the 1974’s British Grand Prix with Embassy Hill Racing to replace the injured Guy Edwards – it would prove to be his last Grand Prix.

Outside of World Championship competition, Gethin achieved a number of other good results, including a memorable victory at the 1973 Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, when he became the only driver to ever beat F1 driver with F5000 in a combined event.
Brands also proved a difficult venue for the Briton. Gethin claimed victory there at the shortened World Victory race in October 1971 – a race sadly brought to an early halt by Jo Siffert’s fatal accident on lap fifteen.

As a racer, Gethin proved himself a worthy contender in various types of machinery. Initially a competitor in Lotus 7’s and 23’s in the early ‘60’s, he took his first title, assuming the Guards Championship in 1963, moving to British Formula 3 two years later.
Several class victories followed, earning Gethin much praise, although a jump to Formula 2 in 1968 proved to be a less than fruitful charger.
He did manage a popular victor at Pau, before the Surrey man would find his niche in Formula 5000, where he reigned as British Champion in 1969 and 1970.
Amidst his Formula 1 and 5000 duties, he took over from Dan Gurney to compete in the Can-Am Challenge Cup for Team McLaren, winning at Road America and taking 3rd in the Drivers’ Championship.

Four years later, Gethin picked up the Tasman title thanks to his trademark consistency, beating the likes of Malcolm Stewart and eventual Australian Drivers’ Champion Johnnie Walker to the crown.
Although he claimed no further titles, Gethin went on a rather unusual run of form by finishing 2nd over in the European Formula 5000 championship (1975) and the Rothmans International Series (1977). He also finished runner-up in the Can-Am Cup during 1975 and ’77 as well.
Victory at Road America in 1977 was his final hurrah as a racing driver, before moving into management during the 1980’s.

While Gethin presided over Ayrton Senna’s first season in Formula 1 as Toleman’s Team Manager, he would soon leave to se up Peter Gethin Racing, managing Beppe Gabbiani and running the likes of Adrian Campos in Formula 3000 in 1986.
Several years later, Gethin ran a driver school at Goodwood.

Peter Gethin passed away yesterday following a long illness. He was 71 years old.

From → Driver Profiles

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