image

Gavin Youl in the new MRD Ford making a sensational championship debut in Ron Tauranac and Jack Brabham’s Formula Junior at Goodwood on 19 August 1961…

The young Taswegian arrived in England with sportscar and touring car experience in Australia and made a huge impact in finishing 4th in his heat, and 2nd in the final of the BARC FJ Championship in what was only his fourth outing in single-seaters.

Alan Rees won the race in a Lotus 20 Ford. To give perspective on the level of competition, there were 19 non-qualifiers and a field of 24 which included future champions Mike Spence, Richard Attwood, David Piper, John Rhodes, Frank Gardner and Hugh Dibley.

Gavin made a huge splash, and so too did the nascent ‘Brabham’ marque, the MRD was their first car, the established production racing car paradigm was given a shake that day. Arguably Brabham were the most consistent, competitive, cost-effective customer proposition for  most of the sixties and early seventies in FJ, F3, F2 and F1.

The story of Jack Brabham and Ron Tauranac’s partnership in forming Motor Racing Developments Ltd in England, the company which built Brabham cars is well known. So too is the decision by the two partners to change the name of the cars from ‘MRD’ to Brabham upon the advice of prominent Paris based Swiss journalist Jabby Crombac. He told Jack that MRD was pronounced ‘merde’ in French the literal translation of which is ‘shit’! And Brabham’s were very rarely, if ever, shit cars!

The MRD was retrospectively given the model name BT1, there was only one built, thankfully the car is still in Australia where it has raced all of its life other than the seven race meetings in England Youl contested between late July and late September 1961.

It’s intriguing to contemplate the look on Frank Gardner’s face at the speed of the MRD at Goodwood as the multi-talented Aussie- who raced a Jim Russell Race Drivers School Lotus 20 that year, was one of a small team who built Tauranac’s new car being peddled so quickly by novice Youl!

Gavin was sold the car by Ron during a Brabham plane trip. Jack took several friends to see the Tourist Trophy bike races at the Isle of Man. It appears there was no great process of choosing the driver of their first car, the commercial imperative was someone who could pay for it! Mind you, no doubt Gavin was aboard the plane with that commercial end in mind as well as his potential as a driver.

image

Ron Tauranac’s MRD Ford Holbay was a pretty, effective, competitive car. RT had built numerous Ralts in Australia prior to the design and build of the MRD which was his first ‘water cooled engine’ design! The ‘Brabham’ was competitive from the start, here at Goodwood in Youl’s hands, very much indicative of the amazing run of strong, reliable, fast cars built through until Ron’s sale of the MRD business to Bernie Ecclestone at the end of the 1971 F1 season (Getty)

In the MRD’s initial outings (see listing below) not much notice had been taken of it, their were plenty of specials in FJ at the time. But at Goodwood, a circuit on which he had not raced before Youl caused a sensation by popping the car on pole for his heat, 0.8 second under the lap record. Tauranac recalls things were looking good but then the car caught fire, RT rebuilt it in time for the race on the Bank Holiday Monday. Youl was 4th in his heat, it may have been higher but he overcooked it on a corner, but in the final kept it all together to finish 2nd to Rees, then very much a rising star.

Jack’s connection to the car had been kept very secret. The MRD was built in a room at the back of a garage on the Esher bypass with all of the specialist purchases needed to construct the car being made very discretely. The Goodwood meeting was a national event, the FJ events were supports to the RAC Tourist Trophy sportscar race with plenty of press presence. ‘The paddock buzzed with speculation and some people were adding two and two to make four’ wrote Mike Lawrence in ‘The Ron Tauranac Story’. Soon of course the connection was known as were Jack’s plans to leave Cooper at the years end.

Tauranac arrived in the UK in April 1960, whilst he occupied himself with Climax engined Triumph Heralds and other projects for Jack Brabham Motors in Chessington, his main task was to design the MRD in the bedroom of the flat the Tauranac’s rented above a shop in Surbiton.

Sensibly, the car was a conventional multi-tubular spaceframe chassis design fitted with an attractive, fully enveloping aluminium body. Suspension at the front comprised a single upper link and Y-shaped radius rods and lower wishbone with coil spring/Armstrong dampers. At the rear broad based upper wishbones, lower links and twin radius rods were used again with coil spring/dampers. The car was reputedly the first to be fitted with adjustable roll bars.

Alford and Alder uprights were fitted at the front to which were attached 13 inch Brabham alloy wheels, unique to BT1,  front and rear. Rear uprights were cast magnesium. The car used 9inch drum brakes at the front and inboard mounted 8 inch drums at the rear.

The gearbox was a modified VW Beetle 4 speed with Jack Knight cutting gears to give RT the ratios he wanted. The steering rack was also made by Jack Knight to a pattern and drawings RT brought to England from Australia. A Morris Oxford pinion was used with a specially cut rack. Initially a 1000cc Ford engine was fitted with an 1100cc Holbay Ford used from the Goodwood meeting.

Jack was still racing for Cooper as noted above but he found time to help build the car together with Ron, Frank and Peter Wilkins who had assisted Tauranac build the chassis frames of his ‘first series’ Ralts in Australia and was asked to come over to the UK to help build the MRD.

Gavin Youl contesting the FJ race in the MRD at the Warwick Farm international meeting on February 4 1962. He was 3rd behind Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 22 Ford and Glynn Scott’s Lotus 20 Ford (John Ellacott)

In October 1961 the MRD was shipped to Australia where Gavin raced it to some success. He contested some of the support events for that years international meetings in the summer finishing 2nd at Lakeside, 3rd at Warwick Farm and then winning the FJ race at the 1962 Longford international meeting. There, the little car was timed at 132mph on the ‘Flying Mile’. He took a win at Calder in late February and then made the long trip to New South Wales in March- he won the NSW FJ Championship at Catalina Park beating Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 20 Ford. Gavin then returned to the UK to race a new BT2 FJ in selected British and European events.

Victorian Wally Mitchell was the lucky purchaser of the MRD which over the years passed through many owners hands. The car is a much admired part of the local historic scene and together with Jack’s 1966 F1 championship winning BT19 Repco would be the most significant Brabham in Oz.

Works Brabham FJ Campaign in 1962…

The factory assisted drivers in 1962 were Gardner and Youl with Frank initially racing BT2 ‘FJ-3-62’, a car he built. When Gavin arrived in the UK he raced this car with Frank racing ‘FJ-8-62’, both of these cars went to Australia after the initial season of racing in the UK/Europe.

Gavin’s campaign was set back from the start after a testing accident at Brands Hatch made a mess of both the car and his collar bone which was broken. He recovered whilst the car was repaired.

The BT2’s differed from MRD ‘FJ-1-61’ in that outboard disc bakes were used front and rear and Specialised Mouldings built fibreglass bodies replaced the one-off ally body of MRD. A Hewland Mk5 gearbox replaced Ron’s modified VW unit whilst noting the Maidenhead built ‘box also used a VW case.

11 BT2’s were built, the first 2 or 3 by Gardner and Wilkins, the balance by Buckler Cars. Buckler are credited in the Tauranac and Brabham biographies as the constructor of the sole MRD frame, to Tauranac’s drawings, a claim denied by Frank Gardner. In conversations with Australian Brabham owner/historian Denis Lupton, Gardner said the MRD frame was built by Gardner, Wilkins, Tauranac and Brabham.

Buckler built at least 5 BT2 chassis. Of course Arch Motors, the unsung engineering concern, were soon thereafter to become the builder of both Brabham and Ralt ‘production chassis’, in addition to their many other clients!

Peter Arundell’s works Lotus 22 Ford leads Youl’s Brabham BT2 Ford and Denny Hulme’s Cooper T59 BMC through the Nouveau Monde hairpin during the 8 July 1962 Rouen GP for FJ. They were 1st, 12th and 10th overall with Youl crashing in the first heat, he was 9th in the second heat (Sutton)

The BT2 proved to be a competitive car but the FJ combination to beat in 1962 was Peter Arundell in his works Lotus 22 Ford Cosworth. BMC engines were not prominent and the Holbays used by Brabhams were not the ‘ducks guts’ either. When Gardner and Youl’s cars finished they were often the best of the Holbays, that is, best of the non-Cosworth engined cars.

Youl’s results are in the table below, his first meeting after recovery from his injuries was at Silverstone in May, his last at Albi in September. His best results were a pair of 5ths at Albi and Goodwood, the latter event was the BARC Express and Star British Championship, where he was the best placed Holbay car.

Gardner’s 7th on the Monaco FJ grid was indicative of his place (that is fast!) in the pantheon of FJ drivers that year, a race he failed to finish with clutch failure. Arundell won still the most prestigious international junior event from Mike Spence and Bob Anderson, all three aboard Lotus 22 Ford Cosworths. It would have been very interesting to have seen how the Gardner/Youl combo would have gone with Cosworths behind their shoulders in ’62. Right up there for sure.

Gavin shipped his car to Oz after the European races he had competed in with Gardner’s ‘FJ-8-62’ accompanying Frank back to Australia at the end of the year. The lanky Sydneysider raced the car in two of the Formula Libre Australian Internationals in early 1963- Lakeside and Longford with the car being sold to Len Deaton later in 1963.

The history of the 11 BT2 chassis built for those interested can be seen, in all of its intricate glory, on oldracingcars.com and Ten Tenths, just Google away.

image

John Youl, with his engineer, Geoff Smedley beside their ex-works/Jack Brabham F1 Cooper T55 Coventry Climax FPF on the Longford grid prior to the ‘South Pacific Trophy’ on 2 March 1964. He was 5th in the race behind Graham Hill, Bruce McLaren, Frank Matich and Bib Stillwell in his 3 year old car (Smedley)

The Youl Family Story…

The story of Gavin and his older brother John, a racer of Cooper T51/55 Coventry Climax engined cars (second in the 1962 AGP to Bruce McLaren at Caversham and twice second in the Gold Star, the Australian Drivers Championship) is an interesting one for another time. So too is the history of the family, the patriarch of which was an early clergyman in Tasmania and with a land grant made on the South Esk River in 1818 commenced a very successful grazing concern which continues to this day.

Unfortunately Gavin’s promise, his raw speed, was never realised. He raced the BT2 at a few meetings at home, including the 1962 Australian FJ Championship, at Catalina Park in late October. He was 2nd to Frank Matich’s works Elfin Ford with Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 22 Ford 3rd, but decided to retire to focus on the family grazing properties and his other interests which included aviation, both he and John were talented pilots.

The apocryphal Youl/Brabham aviation story involves Gavin being asked by Jack to deliver his single engined Cessna 180 from the UK to a farmer in Tasmania to make way for the Cessna 310 twin to which he was upgrading. Youl needed to get home for Christmas 1961/2, so too did Eoin Young the renowned Kiwi racing journalist and key figure in Bruce McLaren Racing in its early days, as well as Roger Tregaskis, a mate of Youls.

Gavin was the pilot, Roger was in the co-pilots seat and could steer if necessary and Young sat in the back ‘with maps, the five man liferaft and forty pounds of emergency rations. To eliminate customs difficulties we were given the honorary ranks of co-pilot and navigator.’ So off they set with Gavin’s intention to fly over as much land as possible keeping sea crossings to a minimum. ‘The Timor Sea between Indonesia and Australia was our biggest worry. We comforted ourselves in the fact that, as a high winged tail-dragger the Cessna could be landed on the Ocean without tipping over’ Young wrote.

Eoin was later to admit that he was better not to know that the plane was not a new one as he thought, but rather a ’54 model which Jack bought from Lance Reventlow of Scarab fame. All was well on this adventure though, the 7.7 litre, 225bhp, 4 cylinder Continental engined aircraft didn’t miss a beat on the month long trip- 98 flying hours, 30 stops in 18 countries, 13000 miles in total at an average speed of 151 mph chewing through 950 gallons of Shell fuel to do so. What an amazing experience- last word to Eoin Young.

‘It wasn’t until we delivered the plane to its eager new owner that we discovered it had been refused a Certificate of Airworthiness because there was so much corrosion in the fuselage that the wings were about to fall off!’ Boys Own Adventures and exploits indeed.

The Youls were never far from the sport, indeed they were major supporters, Symmons Plains circuit is built on land they owned. Very sadly, Gavin, an important figure in the earliest Motor Racing Developments years died in 1992 at 45, way too young, after a brief battle with a very aggressive cancer.

1962 Australian FJ Championship grid before the off at catalina park, Katoomba on 28 October 1962. #8 Leo Geoghegan Lotus 22 Ford, #2 Youl Brabham BT2 Ford and #4 Frank Matich Elfin FJ Ford. #16 is Clive Nolan Lotus 20 Ford. Matich won from Youl and Geoghegan, Nolan was 5th (Ed Holly)

Etcetera: G Youl European Race Results…

1961 British FJ Results: Gavin Youl MRD Holbay/ Brabham BT1. I have also listed the winner of each race

23/7/61 Mallory 2nd. Jack Pearce won in a Lotus 20 Ford

29/7/61 Silverstone 5th , holed fuel tank, pitted to top up with fuel. Mike Spence Emeryson Mk2 Ford

7/8/61 Aintree 17th, forced out of final with blown head gasket. Peter Proctor Lotus 18 Ford

19/8/61 Goodwood 2nd, great effort of 4th in the heat, team had a pit fire during practice. Ian Rees Lotus 20 Ford

2/9/61 Crystal Palace DNQ. Trevor Taylor Lotus 20 Ford

23/9/61 Oulton Park 13th. Tony Maggs Cooper T56 BMC

30/9/61 Snetterton 31st. Mike Parkes Gemini Mk3A Ford

1962 British and European FJ Results: Gavin Youl  Brabham BT2 Holbay

12/5/62 Silverstone  DNF oil pressure. Peter Arundell Lotus 22 Ford

1/7/62 Reims DNF lap 1. Arundell  as above

8/7/62 Rouen 12th. Arundell as above

14/7/62 Silverstone 12th. John Fenning Lotus 20 Ford

6/8/62 Brands 7th. Tony Maggs Cooper T59 BMC

18/8/62 Goodwood 5th. Arundell as above

21/9/62 Zandvoort DNF. Arundell as above

9/9/62 Albi 5th. Arundell as above

Random but sorta sixties related; Aussies Abroad in Europe…

I was flicking through the ‘F2 Index’ database to research the FJ/F3 race results of David Walker (article coming together very slowly) and Gavin Youl and it occurred to me just how many Australian’s ‘had a crack’ in England/Europe in the 1960’s.

It was a long way away then, 12000 miles- it still is the same distance I expect! but the cost and means of making the journey, then mainly by ship, as flying was so expensive, made it seem further and harder than now. What follows is a quickie list of guys, tracking them through the Junior Formulae. I don’t pretend its complete, do let me know if there are fellows I have missed. The period researched is 1960-1970 in the UK- where the racing was outside the UK I have clearly stated so.

1960 FJ

Steve Ouvaroff Lotus 18 Ford, Frank Gardner Cooper Ford

1961 FJ

Frank Gardner JRRDS Lotus 18 Ford- FG famously straightened cars at the Jim Russell School and was allowed to race them on weekends! Gavin Youl works MRD Ford

1962 FJ

Frank Gardner and Gavin Youl works Brabham BT2 Ford, Steve Ouvaroff Alexis Mk4 Ford, John Ampt Ausper T4 Ford- now there is a story to be written- about Geelong racer, Tom Hawkes’ Ausper project

1963 FJ

Paul Hawkins and Frank Gardner Brabham BT6 Ford- both guys careers took off into F1 within 12 months, Gardner raced big ‘Tasman’ 2.5 litre cars in the ’63 Australian summer as well as BT2, a go home and race summer trend he continued until his permanent return to Australia during 1974. John Ampt Alexis Mk5 Ford, Martin Davies Lotus 20 Ford

1964 F3

Martin Davies Lotus 20 Ford (running top 10)

1965 F3

Jim Sullivan Brabham BT15 Ford (he won some kind of Driver to Europe award didn’t he?) (ran top 10)

1966 F3

Jim Sullivan and Wal Donnelly Brabham BT18 Ford, Dave Walker Brabham BT10 Ford- all 3 ran under the ‘Team Promecom’ banner racing in Europe

1967 F3

Tim Schenken Lotus 22 Ford- made an immediate splash in this self prepared ‘ole clunker, having learned many of the Pommie circuits in 1966 aboard a Ford Anglia twin-cam.

David Walker Merlyn Mk10 Ford with his racing the on the road ‘gypsy existence’ in Europe going from race to race living on start and prize money. Kurt Keller, Barry Collerson and Wal Donnelly all raced Merlyn Mk10 Fords (Donnelly occasionally his BT18) throughout Europe that summer no doubt offering each other lots of support. All four were Sydneysiders, mind you they did not all do the same meetings by the look of it

1968 FF&F3

Tim Schenken won both the British FF and F3 championships in the same year, a feat never achieved before or since, and took the Grovewood Award. He raced a Merlyn and Chevron B9 Ford respectively.

Walker also ‘stepped back’ to FF that season to successfully re-launch his career. John Gillmeister Lotus 32 Ford- F3, Wal Donnelly Brabham BT18 & BT21 Ford F3 in Europe

1969 FF&F3

Tim Schenken Brabham BT28 Ford F3, John Gillmeister Lotus 35 Ford.

Dave Walker won the Les Leston FF C’ship in a Lotus 61 and joined the works Lotus F3 Team later in the season- Lotus 59 Ford and was immediately in the leading group (with his dominant Lotus 69 F3 season in 1971, the same year he made his F1 debut)

Jim Hardman raced a Brabham BT21B Ford in F3. He returned to Oz in 1975, after a stint running the Bob Jane/Frank Gardner Racing Drivers School at Calder he prepared cars for others, designed and built 3 ANF2 cars- one of these Hardman JH2 Fords won the ANF2 title in Richard Davison’s hands. He prepared championship winning cars for several drivers/team owners and is still in the business in outer Melbourne.

Buzz Buzaglo Merlyn Mk11 FF, I wrote a feature about Buzz a while back, click on the links at the end of the article to read it.

Vern Schuppan Makon MR7 FF

1970 FF&F3

Tim Schenken broke into F1 in sad circumstances- he joined Frank Williams and raced the De Tomaso after Piers Courage death.

Dave Walker GLT Lotus Lotus 59 Ford- 2nd in BRSCC F3 C’ship, John Gillmeister Brabham BT28 Ford.

Alan Jones, a couple of races in a Lotus 41 Ford and then late in the season in a Brabham BT28 Ford running down the back at this early stage (Jones F3 breakthrough and breakout of F3 season was in 1973)

Buzz Buzaglo Merlyn Mk11 FF (Buzaglo raced in F3 in 1973/4) Vern Schuppan works Palliser FF (Vern’s ascension was in ’71 when he won the first British F Atlantic series in a Palliser and was picked up by BRM in F1)

As to others, Aussie touring car ace Brian Muir carved a great career for himself in the sixties and seventies racing tourers and occasionally sports-racers in the UK and Europe.

Speaking of ‘Taxis’, Shepparton’s Bryan Thomson sold his truck business and took his ex-Beechey Mustang to the UK and raced it for 2 seasons in the mid-sixties before coming back to Oz and being a force in racing as either a driver or entrant for a couple of decades.

John Raeburn raced a Ford GT40 and a Porsche in endurance events in 1966-8 with Tim Schenken an occasional co-driver in the longer events.

As I say, it’s a quickie list- let me know who I have forgotten in that 1960-1970 period, it would be great to assemble a complete list. I’ll attack other decades another time after the going ‘cross-eyed’ exercise in creating the list above abates.

I’m also interested in what became of each of these guys and am keen to hear from any of you who can help flesh out the stories other than for the ‘stars’ of course, the histories of whom are well known.

Bibliography…

Ten Tenths Forum especially Denis Lupton, Ron Tauranac website, F2 Index, ‘Brabham, Ralt, Honda: The Ron Tauranac Story’ Mike Lawrence, ‘The Jack Brabham Story’ Jack Brabham with Doug Nye, Eoin Young article in MotorSport August 2011

Photo Credits…

Getty Images, John Ellacott, Sutton Photographics, Ed Holly Collection

Tailpiece: Beautiful portrait of  25 year old works Brabham FJ pilot, Gavin Youl at Rouen on 8 July 1962…

(Sutton)

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s