Simanaitis Says

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INNES IRELAND was an extremely talented racecar driver—giving Team Lotus its first F1 victory in 1961—a wonderful raconteur and writer, and a dear friend. Stories galore come to mind. I offer here a song, a poem and a toast, all taught to wife Dottie and me by Innes.


Robert McGregor Innes Ireland, 1930-1993. Image, circa mid-1980s, by Dorothy Clendenin.

Innes had already been writing for the British Autocar magazine when R&T took him on as a correspondent sharing Grand Prix coverage with Rob Walker ( The first day Innes showed up at R&T’s Newport Beach, California, offices in the early 1980s, he charmed one and all with his larger-than-life personality and wonderful sense of humor.

Before long, he was teaching us all the outrageous lyrics of “Dear Mrs. Murphy,” which he sang in quite the presentable baritone.

“Dear Mrs. Murphy/And your five lovely daughters/Thank you for having me/And being oh so kind./I’ve got pains in my back/My knees have turned to jelly/My dork is getting shorter/And I think I’m going blind.”


This portrait by Leo Bestgen ( suggests another side of Innes, his intensely competitive spirit.

Succinctly, Innes was a race driver—and intensely competitive. But he was decidedly of an era when race driving was an entertainment, not a business.


All Arms and Elbows, by Innes Ireland, with foreward by Jack Brabham, OBE, Transport Bookman Publications, 1994. Both and list it in this and other editions. First editions published in 1967 are highly collectible.

In his book, All Arms and Elbows, Innes describes the deal when he joined Lotus in 1959: “In the first year, I would receive 25 percent of the starting money, I think 33 1/3 percent of bonus money and 50 percent of prize money (actually, 45 percent, since one traditionally gave the mechanics 5 percent).”

There is no mention of anything resembling a salary. A team’s income in 1959 was negotiable with the race organizer. Starting, or “appearance,” money for each car might be ₤500 ($1400 back then). Mike Hawthorn, the 1958 World Champion, might command a bonus of an added ₤100 ($280). Other bonus money would come from being on pole or having the fastest race lap. A first-place finish in 1959 might be worth ₤600 ($1680).

Innes’s book certainly describes what it was like to be a top-ranked driver competing with the likes of Stirling Moss (Innes’s good friend), Graham Hill, Dan Gurney and Jim Clark. Innes’s heroic effort in 1960 pushing his Lotus up the hill at Monaco—and then through the tunnel and completing the rest of a lap—is memorable.


Sideways to Sydney, by Innes Ireland, William Morrow & Co., 1971. Both and list it.

Both Arms and Elbows and Sideways to Sydney share Innes’s zany side. The latter describes his codrive of a Mercedes-Benz sedan in the 1968 London-to-Sydney Marathon sponsored by London’s Daily Express newspaper. Seven days—and 7500 miles—from London to Bombay (today’s Mumbai); getting stoned along the way by political agitators in Pakistan; spending a night in a Karachi jail; earning the Private Entrant Award in Bombay. Then on to Australia, and 3500 more miles in 3 1/2 days.

Innes recounted this adventure with a gleam in his eye, as he shared a whimsical bit of his own poetry, “Ode to a Karachi Jail.”


“Ode to a Karachi Jail,” in Innes’s own hand.

“Birds do it—and fly;/Bees do it—and die;/But I mustn’t do it/And I’ll tell you why./I’m betrothed, you see,/And I must be true./But I’ll tell you what I’ll do,/I’ll lie terribly still /And let you.”

Raised a good Scotsman (though, indeed, he was born in England), Innes liked his Scotch whisky (no “e,” you’ll note). Wife Dottie, he and I enjoyed plenty of Famous Grouse and occasionally celebrated with a single malt.


A pronouncing guide, in Innes’s own hand.

The phrase “Slàinte mhath!” is Gaelic for “Good health!” Its response, “Slàinte mhòr!,” means “Great health!” Phonetically, Innes taught us, it’s “Slange-e-va,” and “Slange-e-vor.”

Innes, rest his soul, enriched our lives in many ways. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2013

3 comments on “POETRY FROM INNES

  1. Aaron Lewis
    May 8, 2013

    Thanks for sharing, Dennis.

  2. don knowles
    May 8, 2013

    Dennis, I met Innes when he co-drove with us at the 24 Hours of Nelson Ledges, back in 1981, I believe, with John Dinkel and Bill Fishburn. As Innes put it so well at the time, “luckily” the car broke early and so we had a long evening dinner with drinks, and more drinks. I remember we headed back to DC the next day and he stayed overnight with us, after climbing into our house via an unlocked upstairs bedroom window. I think he did it to save the motel expense! Anyway, I sure had fun with him and he was quite candid that he was temperamentally more suited to the “gentleman racer” era of F1 than the more business like era. Thanks for the story about Innes, brings back good memories.

    • Jay Novak
      February 20, 2015

      Wow, I thought I was the only guy who remembered this. I was team mechanic and was THRILLED to meet Innes. I worked my ass off but was thrilled to be part of a team that included Innes Ireland. This is one of my great racing memories.

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This entry was posted on May 7, 2013 by in Classic Bits and tagged , .
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