• December 16 down the years

The quite brilliant Colin Chapman

What happened on December 16 in Formula One history?
A jubilant Colin Chapman celebrates victory for his team at the 1978 Belgian Grand Prix © Sutton Images

Lotus founder Colin Chapman died prematurely in Norfolk of a heart attack - he was 54. As the boss of the iconic Lotus team, perhaps only Enzo Ferrari would rank above Chapman in terms of his influence. He was an entrepreneur, designer and innovative engineer who despite limited resources often led the way in taking motor-racing to new levels. He set new standards for the use of aerodynamics, and replaced the traditional chassis with a monocoque. He developed the wing car and then was a pioneer in the use of ground effects in design. His cars won seven world titles between 1963 and 1978. His death signalled the end for Lotus, although the decline was slow and heartbreaking to watch. Without his drive, vision and sheer determination, it gradually became just another small team slugging it out with the big boys.

After a ten-month trial in Monza, a judge in Italy dismissed manslaughter charges against Frank Williams and five other defendants over for the death of Ayrton Senna in 1994. Viviane Senna, the dead driver's sister, said: "The family will maintain, with regard to the verdict of the Italian judge, the same silence which it has maintained ever since the accident." The FIA had said that if any of the defendants were found guilty it might be difficult to persuade teams to go to Italy for races. But Rosario Alessi, president of Italy's motor racing federation, said there was no question of a "generous" verdict. "If there had been responsibilities, then they would have come to light because the judge and prosecutor have been very scrupulous right from the start."

Justin Wilson was unveiled by Minardi as their new driver but it only happened because he brought around £2 million of sponsorship with him. Wilson's height had counted against his attempts to get a drive - at 6'3" he was considered too big - and he was turned down by Jordan in 2002 despite an impressive test drive because they could not get him to fit into the car properly. Minardi told him he could have a drive if he found sponsorship, and he did just that. "I believe Wilson will be the star of 2003 and a future race winner," Minardi boss Paul Stoddart said. "His career has been leading up to this but his height has held him back. I have always felt it would be an opportunity lost if Justin's size prevented him from being a grand prix driver. We are the only team in the pit-lane who are prepared to give him a break. There's no one else who would take the chance on him because he would have to be shoe-horned into any car."

Les Leston was born in Nottinghamshire, his parents christened him Alfred Lazarus Fingleston - no need to ask why he changed his name! He entered three grand prix, the 1956 Italian, the 1957 Monaco and the 1957 British race - he failed to finish any of them. After building a successful motorsport accessory company he moved to Hong Kong in the 1970's where he took up a career in broadcasting.

Oscar Galvez died in Buenos Aires, he was 76. He raced in his local grand prix in 1953 in a Maserati - he finished fifth. In recognition for his tireless work in motorsport in Argentina, the national circuit was named after him.

British driver Henry Taylor was born in Bedfordshire. He started eight grand prix between 1959 and 1961 - his best result came in the 1960 French race when he finished fourth in a Copper Climax. After retiring from racing he became competitions manager at Ford.