Tributes paid to F1 legend and ex-Team Lotus chief mechanic Eddie Dennis
- Credit: Archant
Heartfelt tributes from across the motor racing industry have been paid to a highly-regarded ex-chief mechanic who helped legendary drivers like Jochen Rindt and Emerson Fittipaldi win the Formula One world championship.
For many years Eddie Dennis was a key part of the historic Team Lotus, working tirelessly to help build cars that delivered four drivers' championships and five constructors' titles in his years of service between 1966 and 1979.
His success did not just stop with Formula One. After leaving his close relationship with team owner Colin Chapman, he went on to set up his own engineering company and joined Classic Team Lotus in 1994 to help keep the memory of the famous black and gold cars alive.
But his extraordinary success was also tinged with tragedy – he famously ran with Bernie Ecclestone to the scene of the crash which killed driver Jochen Rindt at Italy's Monza circuit in 1970.
'He was badly affected by Rindt's death and the tragedy of that but he soldiered on,' said his son Nigel Dennis, who grew up watching a man fiercely dedicated to his work.
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'It was a time when safety was pretty low and it was not uncommon at all for drivers to die on a motor racing circuit. He was extremely upset but he was one to keep his feelings to himself.'
Despite travelling the world with the likes of Graham Hill and Mario Andretti on the F1 calendar, Mr Dennis grew up and spent most his life in and around Norwich.
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Born on May 30 1938, he attended what was the Henderson School and left aged 15 to join Harford Engineering.
He later moved into working specifically with cars at Morgan's garage in Drayton, Averill's and Mann Egerton's in Norwich.
'Anything mechanical, he was able to turn his hand to,' said Mr Dennis Jnr.
'He was always interested in how things worked and fixing things. He was very good at spotting problems and solving them.'
He was best known for his work at Team Lotus, joining the team in 1966 aged 28 and rising to become chief mechanic in 1972.
The film If You're Not Winning You're Not Trying captures moments of Mr Dennis' close working relationship with Mr Chapman during the successful 1973 season.
He often described himself as the 'middle man', liaising between the drivers and team manager to lead a team of mechanics in producing a winning car.
'It was an incredibly demanding job,' Mr Dennis Jnr said, who described an occasion when his father once went to work on a Tuesday morning and didn't come home until Thursday evening because he was working so hard.
'It was quite a relentless schedule.
'He was well-respected by drivers, colleagues and other people in the sport. He had quite a notoriety in racing circles.
'He was very humble and modest and never really said much about himself – he'd simply describe the work. Other people have said about his determination and bravery, never backing away from doing the right thing.'
'Ultimately he had a huge respect from within the industry. He was hard-working, diligent and very honest. Beyond that he was a very kind and generous man, devoted to his family.'
Another thing that drove Mr Dennis was a huge sense of competition, even when it came to playing sport such as football in his early years and later with golf.
'I think he thrived on the challenge,' his son said.
A statement from Classic Team Lotus said: 'Eddie is one of the great figures in Team Lotus history and will be sorely missed by his team mates from so many victorious seasons.'
After leaving Team Lotus in 1979, he co-founded DC Developments with friend Ian Campbell, continuing to do some work in F1 development, before setting up his own company, Dennis Engineering.