hill 1

(Brian Watson)

Graham Hill having a squirt of  Jack’s Brabham BT26A Ford in British GP practice, Silverstone July 1969…

GH in a Brabham is not such a big deal; he raced F2 Brabhams with success for years as well as Tasman Formula ‘Intercontinental’ Brabhams in the mid-sixties. Later he was the pilot of Ron Tauranac’s intriguing ‘Lobster Claw’ BT34 in 1971 but he was a Lotus F1 driver in 1969, so ’twas a bit unusual  to practice an opponents car.

puke

Hill’s red Brabham BT11 Climax from Clark’s Lotus 32B and Aussie Lex Davison Brabham BT4, all Climax 2.5 FPF powered on the way to an NZGP win for Graham. Pukekohe, 9 January 1965. Hill also raced an earlier BT7A in the ’66 Tasman for David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce, the entrant of the car shown, he was familiar with Brabham ‘GP’ cars long before 1969! (unattributed)

Jack was still recovering from a testing accident at Silverstone in June when a Goodyear popped off a front rim, his car ploughed into an earth bank, his ‘equal worst accident’ with the Portuguese Grand Prix one in 1959. He lay trapped in the car with a badly broken ankle, Cossie V8 screaming at maximum revs until he punched the ignition cutout and extinguishers to minimise the chance of the pool of fuel in which he lay igniting. Eventually a touring car also on the quiet circuit mid week stopped and raised the alarm.

Jacky Ickx driving the other Brabham was late for Silverstone’s first session, all timed for grid positions in those days, so Tauranac had 2 cars idle.

Graham and teammate Jochen Rindt were peeved with Colin Chapman, to say the least, as the Lotus transporter was not in the paddock when the session got underway. Graham was ‘ready to rock’ all suited up but had no car to do so and was more than happy to put in a few laps for Tauranac. Rindt remained in his ‘civvies’ and fumed as the rest of the field practiced.

hill 2

Ron Tauranac giving Hill a few tips on his very quick, twice a GP winner in ’69, BT26. ‘Just don’t over rev the thing for chrissakes Graham, Jack will kill me if you do…’ Is that Ron Dennis at right? (unattributed)

1969 was the year of 4WD experimentation for Matra, McLaren, Lotus and Cosworth. Ultimately, very quickly in fact, 4WD was determined an F1 blind alley; the traction the engineers sought was more cost effectively provided by advances in tyre technology, Goodyear, Firestone and Dunlop were all slugging it out in F1 at the time, none of ‘yer control formula’ bullshit then. The effectiveness of the ‘low wings’ mandated from the ’69 Monaco GP also played its part in getting grip.

Chapman’s issue was pursuading his pilots to treat the Lotus 63 Ford, his 4WD design seriously, to test it with a view to developing it rather than to humor him. 4WD was successful at Indy; Chapmans ’68 Indy Lotus 56 ‘wedge’ was 4WD and came within an ace of winning the race, so was the ’69 Lotus 64, ignoring the misfortune surrounding both of these cars.

It was a challenge to get Rindt into the thing at all but he did finish 2nd in the August 1969 Oulton Park Gold Cup. The result meant nothing though, in front of him was Ickx’ Brabham BT26A but all the cars behind were F5000 and F2 cars not GP machines. Still, it was useful testing for Chapman if not for Rindt, his 4WD view was formed!

Chapman’s solution to his drivers recalcitrance was to sell 2 of his Lotus 49’s, one each to Jo Bonnier and Pete Lovely, leaving only one 49 in Team Lotus’ possession! A car you don’t have is a car you cannot drive. Said drivers were not best pleased.

graham 63

Hill, Lotus 63 Ford 4WD, British GP practice, Silverstone July 1969. ‘Turn in bitch!’, understeer and the inability of these cars to respond to delicate throttle inputs plus excessive weight were the main performance deficiency issues. As well as the absence of the electronic trickery which helped make 4WD work into the 80’s (Brian Watson)

When the showdown with Chapman occurred and the speed, or lack thereof, of the 63 was clear Col borrowed back the car he sold to Bonnier, GH raced that 49 and JoBo the 63. Chapman rescinded the contract with Lovely.

The ever restless Lotus chief didn’t give up on 4WD in Fl, the gas turbine powered Lotus 56 campaigned in some 1971 events had its moments and potentially a great day in the wet at Zandvoort until Dave Walker ‘beached it’.

The 49 raced on into 1970 and in ‘C’ spec famously won the Monaco GP in Rindt’s hands before the Lotus 72, Chapman’s new 2WD sensation, which made its debut at Jarama was competitive.

grham 49

Hill races his Lotus 49B to 7th place. Silverstone 1969 GP (unattributed)

At Silverstone Hill raced the 49B to 7th having qualified 12th and Bonnier retired the slow 63 with a popped engine. John Miles making his F1 debut raced the other Lotus 63 to 9th, the young, talented Lotus engineer stroked the car home from grid 14.

Stewart won a thrilling high speed dice on the former airfield with Rindt, only ruined when Jochen’s wing endplate chafed a rear Firestone, some say it was the greatest British GP ever, on the way to his world title in a Matra MS80 Ford.

It would be interesting to know Graham’s opinion of the Brabham BT26 compared to his 49, the competitiveness of which, especially in Rindt’s hands not at all in doubt despite the 49’s middle age, it was a little over 2 years old in 1969.

I am a huge Graham Hill fan, he was well past his F1 best by the time i became interested in motor racing in 1972 but he was still quick enough to take F2 and Le Mans wins then, he was my kinda bloke, sportsman and champion. A statesman for his sport and country.

joc and jack

Jochen and Jackie scrapping for the ’69 British GP lead, Jochen’s Lotus 49B with bulk, uncharacteristic understeer. Look closely and you can see the closeness of his LR wing endplate to Firestone tyre, the cause of a pitstop to rectify and then back into the fray only to run outta fuel, the 49 notorious for its incapacity to sometimes scavenge the last few gallons from its tanks. Stewart Matra MS80 Ford (unattributed)

1969 was as tough a year for Hill as 1968 was great.

Jim Clark’s April 1968 death impacted Hill deeply on a personal level, they had been friends for years and Lotus teammates since the ’67 Tasman Series. Colin Chapman and Clark were like brothers and whilst Colin struggled with his grief, Hill in a tour de force of character and leadership marshalled Team Lotus by their bootstraps and refocused them on the year ahead. The result, World Titles for Hill and Lotus by the seasons end.

graham and jim

Clark and Hill beside Graham’s Lotus 48 Ford FVA F2 car prior to the start of the Australian Grand Prix, Warwick Farm, 1967. Car behind is Kevin Bartlett’s Brabham BT11 Climax. Clark was 2nd in Lotus 33 Climax FWMV 2 litre, GH DNF with a gearbox failure. JYS won in BRM P261 2.1 litre (History of The AGP)

The Tasman Series in early 1969 showed just how tough a year Graham was going to have within Lotus. Rindt joined them from Brabham and whilst enjoying it, he had committed to Jack verbally to return to Brabham in 1970, landed in the team in the year the Repco 860 quad-cam engine failed consistently.

Jochen had been in GP racing since mid 1964, was a consistent winner in F2 and had taken the 1965 Le Mans classic with Masten Gregory in a Ferrari 250LM, was regarded as one of the fastest guys around, if not the fastest but had still not scored his first GP win. Graham was simply blown-off by a guy with it all to prove, Jochen finally got the breakthrough win at Watkins Glen, the last round of the season in which Graham had what could have been a career ending shunt.

He spun mid race, undid his belts to bump start the car and of course was unable to redo them unaided; he spun again on lap 91, this time the car overturned throwing him out and breaking both his legs badly.

What then followed was a winter of Hill’s familiar grit and determination to be on the South African GP grid in March 1970. He was and  finished 6th in Rob Walkers Lotus 49C Ford.

Quite a guy, G Hill.

graham and col

Team Lotus 1969. Hill, Chapman and Rindt. A tough season all round. With some reliability from his Lotus and mechanical sympathy to it from Rindt, there was a serious opportunity at the title that year, not to be (unattributed)

Etcetera: Lotus 63 Ford…

miles 1

John Miles races the Lotus 63 to 10th on his GP debut at Silverstone 1969. Rounding him up is Piers Courage’ Frank Williams owned Brabham BT26 Ford, he finished 5th at Silverstone in a ripper season in this year old chassis. He emerged as a true GP front runner in ’69 (unattributed)

63 1

Cutaway self explanatory for our Spanish friends! Key elements of 4WD system in blue; see front mounted Ferguson system diff, Ford Cosworth DFV and Hewland DG300 ‘box mounted ‘arse about’ with driveshafts on LHS of cockpit taking the drive fore and aft to respective diffs. Rear suspension top rocker and lower wishbone, coil spring/damper, brakes inboard (unattributed)

miles 2

John Miles, young Lotus engineer and F3 graduate ponders his mount. Lotus 63 Ford. He was later to say the 63 was not so bad, he did more miles in it than anyone else, until he first parked his butt in a conventional Lotus 49! which provided context. Note forward driving position for the time and sheet steel to stiffen the spaceframe chassis. Nice shot of disc, rocker assy and stub axle also (unattributed)

63 2

Fantastic front end detail shot of the Lotus 63. Spaceframe chassis, Lotus first since 1962, beefy front uprights, upper rocker actuating spring/shock, lower wishbone. Ferguson system front diff axle and driveshafts to wheels. Big ventilated inboard discs. Intricate steering linkage from angled rack to provide clearance required (unattributed)

Photo Credits…

Brian Watson…http://www.brianwatsonphoto.co.uk/FormulaOne/races/brit69.html#1

Graham Howard ‘History of The Australian GP’

Tailpiece: Tauranac, Hill and the ‘Lobster Claw’ BT34 1971…

ronster

RT seeks feedback from GH during Italian GP practice Monza 1971. Hill Q14 and DNF with gearbox failure on lap 47. GH best results in 1971 5th in Austria and Q4 in France. Teammate Tim Schenken, in his first full F1 year generally quicker than GH in the year old, very good BT33, BT34 not RT’s best Brabham. No doubt RT missed Jack Brabham’s chassis development skills, Jack was on his Wagga Wagga farm from the start of 1971 (unattributed)

Finito…

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Comments
  1. John L says:

    “I am a huge Graham Hill fan……….”
    So am I, and I was fortunate to be able to watch him from 64 onwards in the Tasman series and was able to have a few words with him as a star struck teenager. A great driver – not brilliant, like Clark, Stewart or Amon, but great.
    I recall an episode when he was filming an advert for a new breakfast drink…called Brink, of course. 1965-66?..at the track in race gear, of course. He did his spiel to the camera about how great it was and how he always started his day with it, then took a swig!. The director called cut, and Graham immediately spat out the Brink in his mouth with an exclamation of ” Shit what’s in this muck!” much to the amusement of those who already knew how awful it was.
    It helped pay the bills, and Graham was a true professional!

    I love your site, by the way – quirky and highly informative. Thank you.

    • markbisset says:

      Cheers John,
      Like you, I am a big Hill fan, but was not fortunate enough to see him race, he may not have had as much pure ability as some but he made full use of all that he had.
      And he was a character who was full of cheek and panache, not like the dull vanilla, boring sports folks of today.
      He was taken way too soon, like JYS he would have been a wonderful ambassador for his sport and country had he survived into his dotage.
      Thanks for the feedback too, I’m always on the lookout for the obscure, so quirky suits me well!
      Go well,
      Mark

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