Morgan racing legend and Monica creator Chris Lawrence dies

| 15 Aug 2011

Morgan engineer and Le Mans racer Chris Lawrence, passed away on Saturday 13 August. He was 78 years old.

A gifted innovator in both design and engineering, Lawrence's prolific and varied career spanned six decades and a raft of projects - from a class win at Le Mans to campaigning his own race team and developing a supercar, to chassis design at Morgan.

Lawrence's race exploits came to the foreground when he won his class at the 1962 Le Mans 24 Hours in a Morgan +4 in a grid packed with exotic fare. 

A year later he was back with his own creation: the 997cc, Mini powered Deep Sanderson DS 301 (C&SC, July 2010) that famously alarmed the competition when it was clocked at 152.6mph, before head gasket failure put it out of the race.

Lawrence returned to Le Mans in '68 with the later, Ford Cortina-powered DS 302 which was disqualified on a technicality but by then he was running a design consultancy out of his Kensington premises and involved in the development of the Monica (C&SC April 2008).

The four-door supercar, backed by French industrialist Jean Tastevin (who named it after his wife), was a Chrysler V8-powered attack on the exotic market in the mould of the Facel Vega but development problems and an ill-timed launch (in the teeth of the oil crisis) meant it was largely still born.

In later years Lawrence was involved in the design of the Morgan Aero 8 - the BMW-powered, aluminium monocoque replacement for the marque's long running ash-framed cars - and instrumental in the company's return to La Sarthe with a finish at the 2004 Le Mans 24 Hours.

He was diagnosed with cancer while on the later Morgan Aeromax project and passed away in his sleep at his Herefordshire home.

Lawrence leaves two sons and his wife Carrie.