Mike Spencer and Chris Rogers are Lewis Hamilton’s peers and were regarded as great prospects in motorsport but, unlike Lewis Hamilton, they failed to break through. The story behind the F1 dream realized by Lewis Hamilton and always remained a dream for Spencer and Rogers.
During their time in karting they were the equal of Lewis Hamilton and of course they also hoped to reach the highest level in motorsport, Formula 1. All three learned the tricks of the trade at Rye House Kart Raceway in Hertfordshire and won they titles in the British Cadet Karting Championship.
In 1995 it was Lewis Hamilton who won the title, while a year later he could only take sixth place and it was Chris Rogers who took the title. Mike Spencer had already won his title two years earlier.
Despite the fact that the pair were not inferior to the now seven-time Formula 1 world champion, they have never made it to the pinnacle of motorsport and they say that for two reasons: relationships and money.
I probably needed £150,000 a year but I started with £30,000, Rogers told The Times.
In 1998 it was also Rogers who beat Hamilton in the championship, but in the meantime Hamilton already had the support of McLaren boss Ron Dennis, whom he had met in 1995 after winning his title.
Thanks to that support, Hamilton was able to continue chasing his dream and it ended for Rogers. Mike Spencer raced against Hamilton until Formula Renault in 2003, but he said that he also encountered the fact that Hamilton had many relationships and enjoyed the support of a powerful person like Ron Dennis.
“The problem with Formula Renault is that if you’re not in the right team, you don’t win the races, and if you don’t win the races you get forgotten pretty quickly,” said Spencer.
In his last race, Spencer managed to set the fastest lap and finish second behind Hamilton, but he only finished eighth in the championship while Hamilton won ten of the fifteen races.
Spencer owed that low place in the championship mainly to retirements and then it becomes difficult to make a good impression. It certainly marked the end of his career.
Developing relationships like the one with Ron Dennis proved to be key to Lewis Hamilton’s success and Spencer explains it this way: Basically you have to be a beast on the track and a gentleman off it.
I am quite a black and white and straightforward person. I will always say what I think and unfortunately that’s not always the right thing to do.
Kevin OMalley is one of the owners of the Rye House Kart Raceway and confirms that Hamilton has made it this far thanks to the support of the likes of Ron Dennis, but he notes that Mike Spencer has also been given opportunities.
Mike Spencer had no mentor, while Lewis Hamilton had Ron Dennis. But it’s not like the opportunity never presented itself.
He also piqued the interest of Keke Rosberg, Damon Hill and Nigel Mansell when he became karting champion, but unfortunately he was never able to get sponsors from them and that is often detrimental to a young driver.