Archive for January, 2018

(B D’Olivo)

Jim Hall and his Chaparral 2G Chev look surreal juxtaposed against the Mojave Desert, Stardust GP, Las Vegas in November 1967…

Other worldly really, which of course they were. Like so many of us outside North America i missed the Can Am but have always been fascinated by it. One of THE great racing categories ever with some marvellous circuits, Bridghampton for me the most photogenic and Las Vegas the least. But not this monochrome, sundown shot by Bob D’Olivo which has a magic, eerie, feel to it. Hall failed to finish the race won by John Surtees’ Lola T70 Mk3B Chev.

Wings were well and truly a Chaparral paradigm by then, it wasn’t until 1968 they appeared in Grand Prix racing.

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Chap 2G Chev, Road America pitlane September 1967. Jim Hall, Q7 and 4th in the race won by Denny Hulme’s McLaren M6A Chev. First race of the ’67 Can Am. The Papaya McLaren era is underway (D Friedman)

I wonder if the demonstrable pace of the winged 2F’s throughout Europe in 1967, campaigning in the World Manufacturers Championship effectively forced other designers to look at an area of aerodynamics they didn’t understand? That is, they could be ignored in the US as some sort of big car Can Am aberration, but the monthly sight of the things on ‘your own doorstep’ performing so well, if somewhat unreliably, forced a closer look. Check out my 2F article;

https://primotipo.com/2015/05/22/chaparral-2f-chev/

And so it was that wings flourished unfettered in F1 during 1968. And were then reigned back in after CSI dictates over the 1969 Monaco GP weekend in response to some appalling engineering, make that under-engineering of said wing support structures.

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Series of body and aero shots of the Chap 2G at Road America (D Friedman)

Innovation is such an interesting thing. I mean that literally. Stuff being different to an existing paradigm makes it interesting because of its difference. Same, same, is boring doncha reckon?

We don’t get a lot of innovation in most of our motor racing classes these days, be it single-seaters, sportscars, or ‘taxis’. The rules either mitigate against it or mandate conformity of approach. Not least in F1. Often such rule changes or evolution has occurred to ‘contain costs’ and ‘ensure the drivers can compete on equal terms’. Who says that the latter is a good idea other than in the most junior of formulae where history tells us that uniformity of core package has worked well.

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Jim Hall, Road America, September ’67 (D Friedman)

The funny thing about Jim Hall, Chaparral and innovation is that the powers that be were happy to allow their creativity to run free whilst the cars weren’t race winners. But when they were, or appeared to be, with the 1970 2J ‘Sucker’ it was legislated out of existence. So, in that sense we can be thankful that Jim, Hap, and Phil didn’t win more races or perhaps these wonderful cars may have been restricted by the intervention of vested interests of the paradigm much earlier!

God bless the innovators though, we need some. Now. And rules that allow differences of approach. Times are more complex than the sixties though. My polemic on F1 a while back supported innovation amongst other changes but how can it be afforded?

https://primotipo.com/2017/08/31/halos-are-a-brilliant-f1-idea-so-too-is-to-get-rid-of-those-dangerous-open-exposed-wheels/

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Chap 2G looks as modern as tomorrow- as a reference point one needs to look at its sportscar and single-seater peers. Road Am ’67. Aluminium monocoque 2C based chassis. Engine aluminium 427 cid Chev 90 degree, pushrod OHV injected V8, circa 525 bhp @ 6000 rpm. Chaparral/GM 3 speed ‘automatic’ transaxle, circa 780 kg (D Friedman)

Jim’s wings, automatic gearboxes and fibreglass monocoques were relatively simple (but very clever) whereas innovation now, will probably involve ‘power units’ of massive complexity and cost akin to the current ones used in the highly restricted and complex F1. Which means major manufacture involvement and resultant ‘winners and losers’, ‘haves and have nots’ in terms of the approaches which are successful and those which are dogs. Teams ability to afford such equipment is an issue with potential impacts on grid size.

But that’s probably a good thing, smaller more interesting grids of different looking and sounding cars has to be preferable to the highly contrived, boring sameness we see now?

Anyway, here is to innovators, god bless em…

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Exquisite detail wherever you look, 2G cockpit, Road Am ’67 (D Friedman)

Photo Credits…

Bob D’Olivo, Dave Friedman

Tailpiece: Truly wild in profile, Chaparral 2G Chev, Road America, 3 September 1967…

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(D Friedman)

 

(L Richards)

A motorsport event in Kew, Melbourne even in 1954 is a new one on me?!…

Its a rather nice, leafy, green suburb through which the Yarra River flows 5 Km from Melbourne’s CBD- ‘stockbroker belt’ stuff with some of Melbourne’s ‘better’ private schools contained therein. There is plenty of wealth in the area, then and now. So how come the good citizens of Kew allowed a motor sport event to take place on their turf prey tell?!

Stan Jones’ Cooper Mk4 JAP and a motor-cyclist are about to ‘blast off’ along the Kew Boulevard at Studley Park by the look of it. The flag-man is Reg Robbins, long-time member of Stanley’s racing equipe.

It’s a stretch of road we have all done lap records upon before the long arm of the law toned things down somewhat. A ribbon of bitumen that commands respect as a fair proportion of it is open and high speed despite changes to slow things down.

I have it on good authority that the number of 911’s which go in backwards is not that much different now to the 1980’s when there were plenty of wallies with loads of money not reflected in commensurate levels of driving talent. Many an insurance tale of woe was born on this stretch of blacktop.

(L Richards)

In any event, what is going on here, some of you are Kew locals, we are all intrigued to know?

Stan has his ‘Maybach’ helmet on , it was a good year for him, he had just won the New Zealand Grand Prix at Ardmore in perhaps Australia’s most famous special, the Charlie Dean/Repco built and prepared Maybach on 9 January. No wonder he has a big smile upon his face.

For Jones it was an easy event logistically. He lived in Balwyn, an adjoining suburb and his ‘fettler’ Ern Seeliger’s garage was in Baker Street, Richmond, also a couple of kays from The Boulevard on the other side of the river.

I am intrigued. Do tell folks!?. Maybe its a promotion and i’m getting excited about absolutely nothing…

An idea of the Kew Boulevard in 1958- not much different now, leafy green and lots of curves. This is the finish of a ‘car trial’ treasure hunt social event (L Richards)

Photo Credits…

Laurie Richards, State Library of Victoria, David Zeunert

Tailpiece: Stan and Cooper JAP, Templestowe Hillclimb circa 1952…

(SLV)

Templestowe Hillclimb was not too far from Kew, where the shots above are taken, so here is a snap of the man in action there. I’ve no idea of the date in the event that one of you were there to sort that point. Jones hustled a car along, he was a physical, press on kinda driver who pushed hard, not lacking finesse mind you, but you could always see him trying to get the best from his mount.

Just as he is here, using all of the available road…

Lionel Van Praag, Wembley, London 10 September 1936…

Its amazing what you don’t know, in fact I’m never surprised at my own ignorance. I reckon I know a bit about my interest and hobby, but really I’m only scratching the surface of motor racing history in Australia.

Australian topics are hard too, the research that is- pre-War there was little in the way of local magazines, post war it becomes a bit more straight forward from the time of the publication of ‘Australian Motor Sports’ magazine and the relatively large number of publications which followed it. What is fascinating in the research adventure is the stuff you find looking for something else.

In this case it was randomly coming upon this image of Lionel Maurice Van Praag (1908-1987) after winning the inaugural World Speedway Championship at Wembley on 10 September 1936.

An Australian World Motor Racing champion pre-war, wow! And not without some controversy too. And I had never heard of the Redfern lad despite his admission to the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in recent times.

L>R- Charlie Spinks, Arthur Atkinson and Lionel Van Praag, First Test England/Australia at Belle Vue in 1938 (defunctspeedway.co.uk)

Graham Howard wrote that ‘Van Praag was a speedway rider and aviator, born on 17 December 1908 at Redfern, Sydney. The only child of Sydney-born Louis Van Praag, tram conductor, and Mozelle May. A bright student and an all-round athlete, he was educated at Cleveland Street Intermediate High and Redfern Junior Technical schools, both in inner Sydney. He was apprenticed as a typewriter mechanic, he had a natural feel for machinery that was useful all his life’.

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LVP, middle of shot at Speedway Royal, Wayville, Adelaide in 1928. Bike is an Ariel ‘3 and a half’ (M Gray)

Lionel began riding motorcycles at 15. After a number of novice races at the Olympia Speedway at Maroubra he concentrated on the Speedway Royal in Sydney from July 1926, almost instantly he became a senior competitor. He then had an outstanding 1926-27 season in Brisbane. He was successful in the eastern mainland Australian States and in New Zealand. In 1931 after years of rejecting offers, he followed other Australian riders who competed in England and joined the Wembley Team, riding in both the UK and Europe during the Australian off season.

Lionel Van Praag aboard a Harley Davidson ‘Pea Shooter’ in 1927, 19 years old. Factory 1926  racer designed for US AMA races- devoid of brakes, clutch and transmission. Frame shortened, weight 215 pounds, 350cc OHV, circa 100mph (unattributed)

The first World Speedway Championship, at Wembley, London 1936…

The event was a strange one as riders carried into the meeting a score of bonus points amassed in the qualifying rounds. It was possible that the rider who scored best on the night would still not be world champion because of his qualifying record- and such was the case.

‘Bluey’ Wilkinson scored a maximum but Langton had more bonus points than Van Praag. In a night of excitement and controversy, Eric Langton and Van Praag lined up for a match race but Eric broke the tapes. Van Praag declared he would not be champion by default and sportingly demanded a re-run! Langton gated ahead and led until the final bend when leaving the smallest of gaps and he was unable to hold the dashing Australian, the Hall of Fame entry says.

LVP on a mini-bike at Wembley in 1932 (Getty)

Further ‘Langton’s near miss …assumed a degree of controversy in later years. The deciding match race with ‘Praagy’ was ‘fixed’ between the pair according to sources close to the action. It was alleged that Eric and Lionel agreed that whoever got to the first corner in front would go on to win and they would split the prizemoney between them. It almost worked out, Langton was ahead until the final corner when he left a small gap which Van Praag couldn’t resist going for. The first ever world final was won by about a wheel width and the Australian took the title’.

Van Praag also qualified for the finals in 1937-7th, 1938-4th and 1939. In 1931-39, and again in 1947, he represented Australia in Tests against England.

He learned to fly in the UK at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire in 1931, it was a capability he put to good use throughout the rest of his life.

Graham Howard wrote that ‘Van Praag was a non-drinker and a heavy smoker, and he had a short temper if provoked. At around 5 ft 9 ins (175 cm) he was taller than most of his rivals; he was dashingly handsome, with dark curly hair and notable physical strength. He had a minor role in the British film Money for Speed (1933), but an envisaged cinema career did not materialise’.

LVP on a 1930’s JAP, date and place unknown (defunctspeedway.co.uk)

On 11 August 1941 Van Praag enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force and was appointed to No.2 Wireless Air Gunners School, Parkes, New South Wales with the rank of acting sergeant.

Engaged on flying duties, he was promoted to probationary pilot officer in October 1942 and flight lieutenant in October 1944.

In January 1942 the transport plane of which he was a co-pilot, an RAAF Douglas DC-2 A30-8, was shot down by a Japanese aircraft over the Sumba Strait, off Indonesia whilst on a flight from Surabaya, Java to Koepang/Kupang Timor. For thirty hours, whilst subject to shark attacks, he and his Captain, Flying Officer Noel Webster, supported the two crew-members, both non-swimmers and secured their survival, acts of bravery for which they were awarded the George Medal.

A full account of the incident appears in the book ‘And Far From Home’, written by John Balfe who flew with Lionel.

Balfe had this to say about Van Praag as a man ‘…in flying with Van I had perceived in his slight wiry form, a man of particular capacity and directness. He cared nothing for false values in anything or anyone and did not hide from the fact. I found him only a week out of hospital after the ditching (of the DC-2) but already back in a comprehensive engineering workshop he had behind his unpretentious home on Botany Bay’s (Sydney) north shore. He had plant and equipment there to wet the appetite of any metal engineer. One of the real Australians, Van had led a hard life racing motorcycles from early manhood and lived to standards he had not relaxed. He was moderate in thought and habit and held in quiet contempt those who were not. He valued his friendships above human faults, but chose his friends carefully and for the most part made them for life. His mind and memory remained sharp and retained an accuracy in detail that I had noted flying with him in 1943’.

After recuperating from the ditching, Lionel returned to flying C-47’s with No 36 Squadron out of Townsville, Far North Queensland. His RAAF appointment ended on 27 July 1945.

LVP aboard a Penny Farthing in 1951, interesting to know the occasion, and place! (Fairfax)

Post war Lionel resumed motorcycle racing and soon developed a career in aviation…

Van Praag headed a riders’ consortium that promoted speedway at the Sydney Sports Ground in 1945-48. He rode for the English team New Cross in 1947. After 1948 he effectively retired from racing, although in the early 1950s he briefly raced self-built small speedboats off Manly on Sydney Harbour.

In his new career as a commercial pilot in 1952 he combined his aviation and speedway interests by contracting with Empire Speedways to carry the Great Britain and Australian competitors, along with their bikes and equipment between the various Australian speedway venues in a Lockheed Lodestar.

He flew charter, and freight planes, did aerial top-dressing or crop-dusting in a Bristol Freighter, this plane was lost in December 1961 when it crashed at Wollongong after an engine failure on a freight flight. Lionel and the rest of the crew escaped injury. He later flew for an airline in Pakistan for a year before returning to Australia.

LVP in his later aviation years (adastron.com)

He joined Adastra Aerial Surveys, a company originally formed as a flying school in 1930 at Mascot, Sydney circa 1962 as a pilot and later became chief pilot. Although he had two well-publicised crashes, including the one described above, people who flew with him valued his informality and his resourceful flying ability.

In adult life, Van, as he was known, turned away from his Jewish upbringing. In 1929 at the district registrar’s office, Redfern, he married Elizabeth Margaret Pearl Cosgrove, a machinist, they divorced in April 1937. On 1 October that year at the register office, Hendon, England, he married Gwendoline Iris Hipkin, a dressmaker.

In 1968 he retired to his own Island, Temple Island, south of Mackay. In 1973, aged 65, he ferried a Hudson VH-AGJ from Sydney to Strathallan Museum in Scotland. Hudson’s were the primary survey aircraft used by Adastra.

He died on 19 May 1987 from emphysema, at Royal Brisbane Hospital. His wife, their daughter and two sons and the daughter of his first marriage survived him.

Post death recognition includes being inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1990. In addition, in 2000, the Government of the Australian Capital Territory decided to honour several Australian sportsmen with the naming of streets, including ‘Van Praag Place’ in the Canberra suburb of Gordon.

Three of my fathers uncles served in World War 2. As I became a teenager and understood, to an extent, what they endured in the Middle East and New Guinea I held these wonderful, private, kind, gentle but strong men in considerable awe. I always called them my ‘Boys Own Heros’ when I saw them at family events. Certainly Lionel Van Praag was a Boys Own Hero- in spades. Truly an amazing, full life of achievement.

Bibliography…

‘Australian Dictionary of Biography’ entry by Graham Howard, Australian Sports Hall of Fame, adastron.com

Photo Credits…

Getty Images, Fox Photos, PA Images, , Malcolm F Gray, State Library of South Australia, Fairfax, defunctspeedwaysuk.com

Tailpiece: LVP and friends at the Sydney Sportsground on 4 September 1945, first post-war meeting I wonder?…

 

 

(Jack Inwood)

Three-time Kiwi Gold Star champion Jim Palmer leads John Riley during the 1964 running of the ‘Renwick 50’ held each November in the township of Renwick…

Palmer’s car is the ex-Jack Brabham works 1964 Tasman Series  Brabham BT7A Climax FPF ‘IC-2-63’, Riley’s the ex-Tony Shelly Lotus 18/21 Climax FPF.

When I initially saw this shot I imagined the cars were returning to the paddock but in fact they are entering what was in effect a single car at a time part of the track, a right-hander, the course was essentially rectangular in layout through the roads of Renwick.

The Marlborough region is a stunning part of New Zealand, its the countries largest wine growing area, in the far north of the South Island and famous the world over for some marvellous Sauvignon Blanc whites.

Palmer’s ex-Clark Lotus 32B Climax during the January 1966 Levin Tasman round, he was 5th in the race won by Richard Attwood’s BRM P261. Jim Clark won the ’65 Tasman in this car, chassis ’32-FL-8′ with 4 wins and then sold it to the Palmer family. Superbly prepared and driven, Palmer won the 1965/6 NZ Gold Star in it and then finished 4th in the ’66 Tasman with a mix of speed and reliability- only Stewart, Hill and Clark were in front of the plucky Kiwi. The car then raced in Oz in the hands of Greg Cusack and Mel McEwin. Ultimately restored by John Dawson-Damer in Sydney and sold/part exchanged for a Lotus 79 to Classic Team Lotus 20 years ago. 2.5 CC FPF and ZF 5 speed box clear in shot as is very beefy rear chassis diaphragm (TRS)

Click here for an article about the Lotus 32B and the Levin International won by Jim Clark in 1965;

https://primotipo.com/2017/11/02/levin-international-new-zealand-1965/

The Renwick event was run from 1961 to 1967 with Palmer having a bit of a mortgage on it- he won in 1964, 1965 and 1966 in Cooper T53, Brabham BT7A and Lotus 32B, the latter the car Jim Clark won the Tasman Series with in 1965. All of these cars were powered by the venerable 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF 4 cylinder engine- the World Championship winning engine of 1959-60. Palmer won the New Zealand Gold Star, the NZ drivers championship in 1964/5, 1965/6 and 1967/8 in the Brabham, Lotus and a McLaren M4A Ford FVA F2 respectively.

Jim Palmer aboard the Scuderia Veloce Brabham BT11A Climax, not so long before vacated by Spencer Martin, at Bathurst, Easter 1966. The shot is taken near the crest at Reid Park Gate. Palmer drove well, albeit against no other 2.5 litre competition, to win the racing car feature ‘Mt Panorama Gold Cup’. It was about this time he failed his CAMS licence due to some vision issues, a great shame as the speedy Kiwi would have been a welcome addition to our Gold Star grids, skinny as they were (John Ellacott)

A top driver he retired too early in my book, partially due to being unable to get an Australian CAMS racing licence, he was ‘long sighted’ in one eye. He also married and decided to focus on his business interests in the retail motor trade and commercial property, which centred on Hamilton where he still lives.

Jim Palmer in the ex-Clark Lotus 32B Climax on the way to 6th place in the 1966 Warwick Farm 100 on 13 February. Clark won from Hill and Gardner (Bruce Wells)

The 1964 Renwick 50 was run over 20 laps of the 2.414 km course (three variants of Renwick roads were used over the years) on 14 November, a smidge under 50 km in total. Palmer won and took the lap record at 1: 17.0 with Morrie Stanton, Stanton Corvette 2nd and Red Dawson in a Cooper T53 Climax 3rd.

Check out this YouTube footage which shows the undulating, narrow nature of the circuit. Whilst the caption says 1965, the footage is from several of the Renwick meetings including 1964.

Bibliography…

sergent.com, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, oldracingcars.com

Photo Credits…

Jack Inwood/The Roaring Season, John Ellacott, Bruce Wells, Marlborough Car Club

Tailpiece: Chris Amon, Maser 250F, Renwick 50 November 1962…

Chris Amon, Maser 250F just ahead of Bob Eade’s similar car with John Histed’s Lola Mk2 Ford behind. Angus Hyslop Cooper T53 Climax won from Amon and Barry Cottle, Lola Mk1 Climax. This race on 10 November 1962 was Chris’ last race in the Maser (Marlborough Car Club)

Postscript: Next stage of Chris Amon’s career…

Click here for an article on the next critical months in Amon’s career after the Maserati was put to one side and Chris drove David McKay’s Cooper T53 Climax in the 1963 Australasian Internationals; https://primotipo.com/2017/09/06/chris-amon-cooper-t53-and-the-australian-grand-prix-1963/

Finito…