Lotus 49B Ford chassis R8…

Posted: February 26, 2022 in F1
Tags: , , , , , ,
(T Marshall)

Graham Hill talks to the lads about his brand-spankers Lotus 49B, chassis R8 in the Pukekohe pitlane during the 1969 NZ GP weekend…

Maybe he is talking about his car, or perhaps the blistering pace of Jochen Rindt, his new teammate.

While it’s a brand new chassis the car is fitted with a ZF gearbox rather than the Hewland DG300 which he had been using in his definitive spec F1 49B in late 1968. Both Hill’s R8, and Rindt’s R9 were concoctions of the original 49, and of the subsequent 49B. Type 49 features included the front-mounted oil tank, use of a combined oil/water radiator, original front rocker arms mounted at 90 degrees to the tub rather than swept forward, the ZF gearbox, and old style rear suspension mounted to ‘fir-tree’ brackets bolted to the DFV.

The main 49B feature adopted was the use of cutouts in the lower rear part of the tub to locate the lower rear radius arms. The cars used high-wings mounted atop the uprights in the same style first used on Jackie Oliver’s R2, and used the wing feathering mechanism pioneered in Mexico at the end of 1968.

There was enormous excitement in Australasia prior to the 1968 Tasman when the quickest cars of the 1967 F1 season, Lotus 49s powered by the 2.5-litre short stroke DFW variant of the F1 3-litre Ford Cosworth DFV were raced by Jim Clark and Graham Hill; chassis’ R2 and R1 respectively.

Jim Clark won the Tasman Cup, his last championship, and the Australian Grand Prix at Sandown, his last GP win before his untimely death at Hockenheim on April 7, 1968.

While there was huge enthusiasm for Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt, the absence of Clark tugged at the hearts of enthusiasts, Jim was such a popular visitor to our part of the world, his first tour was in 1962.

Rindt finally had a car with the speed and occasional reliability – he was hard on it mind you – to post the results he deserved. His first GP win came at Watkins Glen late in 1969, but he perished less than twelve months later at the wheel of a Lotus 72 during practice for the Italian Grand Prix.

Graham Hill did a sensational job in picking up Team Lotus lock-stock-and-barrel after Clark’s death. He filled the leadership void until Colin Chapman clicked back into gear after mourning Clark’s loss. Graham would have a tough season in 1969, Rindt’s pace was apparent from his first laps at Pukekohe, at Watkins Glen Hill had the bad accident which hospitalised him for months.

Team Lotus built two new cars for the ’69 Tasman assault; 49Bs R8 – a new chassis – for Hill, and R9 – the prototype R1 rebuilt – for Rindt which were identical in specifications.

NZ GP Pukekohe 1969, the off. From left Amon with Bell right behind then Leo Geoghegan’s white Lotus 39 Repco, Hill’s Lotus a row back, then Jochen up front alongside Chris and Piers at right in the Williams Brabham BT24 Ford
Gardner, Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ Alfa, Hill, Rindt in the Wigram dummy grid in 1969 (CAN)

Chris Amon mounted a very successful 1969 Tasman campaign using the learnings of the prior year. He had Bruce Wilson as lead mechanic again, and an additional car to be raced by Derek Bell with a strict rev limit given the small float of engines available between two cars. Logistics were taken care of by David McKay’s (Sydney) Scuderia Veloce outfit.

Chris opened his account with intent, he won the first two races at Pukekohe on January 4 and at Levin the week later. Jochen was second in the NZ GP whereas Graham had two DNFs, a front suspension ball-joint failed after completing 13 laps in the first race, and driveshaft failure at Levin, this time on lap 12 when running in third place from grid five.

Jochen came to grief at Levin, he spun on lap four whilst leading, and then repeated the mistake two laps later but in more costly fashion, rolling the car atop a safety embankment. Jochen was ok but R9 was rooted, too badly damaged to be repaired away from home base. 49B R10 was despatched to the colonies, much to Hill’s chagrin. It was the first of many Lotus accidents and component failures for the Austrian during the next twenty months, not that the cause of this shunt was the fault of the car.

The ferry trip to the South Island brought better fortune. Hill and R8 finished second in the Lady Wigram Trophy race on the Royal New Zealand Airforce Base outside Christchurch on January 18, but Jochen made good use of his new car from pole setting fastest lap and race time. Jochen was 34 seconds in front of Graham, with Chris Amon another four seconds behind Graham, then Piers Courage another six seconds back in Frank Williams’ Brabham BT24 Ford DFW.

The following weekend Graham was second again at Teretonga near Invercargill, the world’s most southerly racetrack, the winner this time was Courage. This time it was Jochen’s turn for driveshaft failure, interesting given the DFW gave circa 50bhp less than the DFV, with Chris Amon third and looking good for the title as the circus crossed the Tasman Sea for three Australian rounds.

Graham blasting through the Teretonga scrub country. Note the long exhausts of the 2.5 DFW, look how flimsy the wing supports look, and were- Chapman at his worst. Note – look hard – the Lotus aero-screen (LAT)
Early laps at Levin. Piers Courage in a Lotus sandwich, Hill in front with Jochen aboard the ill-fated R9 in third (LAT)
The off at Wigram. Courage, Brabham BT24 Ford and then Graham with Jochen on pole in Lotus 49Bs. Amon behind Jochen, the light coloured car behind Chris is Gardner’s Mildren Alfa V8 (T Marshall)

First stop was on February 2, 1969, at Lakeside, Brisbane, for the Australian Grand Prix.

Graham finished fourth in R8, while Jochen’s R10 had engine failure. Both cars had wing mount failures- Chapman’s In-God-We-Trust engineering of these things was cavalier for so long it is a joke. Only Jochen’s celebrated Come-To-Jesus (whilst I am on religious metaphors) letter after the collisions inflicted upon Rindt and Hill at Montjuic Parc in early 1969 gave Our Col pause to consider his desire to attend another driver funeral.

GLTL then headed south to Sydney for the Warwick Farm 100, basing themselves at the Brothers Geoghegan emporium of fine sportscars in Haberfield, a stones-throw from the Farm at Liverpool.

While practice was dry, Rindt massacred the lap record, then drove away from the field during the race in a mesmeric display of wet weather feel, bravado, pace and dominance winning at a reduced canter by 45 seconds from Derek Bell’s Dino and Frank Gardner’s Alec Mildren Mildren Alfa Romeo 2.5 V8.

Poor Graham’s R8 snap-crackle-‘n-popped its way around the technically demanding course with his ignition very much rain affected. Chris and Piers tangled early in the race which gave the Kiwi sufficient points to win the Tasman Cup.

Hill aboard R8 with Rindt in R10 in the Sandown pitlane, February 1969. Note the open bonnets, spoiler atop the nose of Graham’s  (I Smith)

The final round of the Championship took place at Melbourne’s Sandown Park on February 16.

There Chris drove a wonderful race to win by seven seconds from Jochen with Jack Brabham third in the Brabham BT31 Repco 830 2.5 V8, in Jack’s one off 1969 Tasman race, with Gardner fourth, Bell fifth and then Graham sixth, three laps adrift of Amon.

Jochen’s R10 was airfreighted home to the UK, it was required in F1, whereas R8 returned by ship. In the Spanish Grand Prix both high-winged Lotus 49Bs of Rindt and Hill were very badly damaged in separate accidents triggered by rear wing strut failure over the same high-speed brow on Barcelona’s Montjuic Park circuit- as mentioned earlier. See article here; ‘Wings Clipped’: Lotus 49: Monaco Grand Prix 1969… | primotipo…

While Graham wasn’t hurt, Jochen was severely concussed and was unable to drive at on May 18. Team Lotus lacked a car to replace Rindt’s R9, the chassis of which was consigned to a rubbish skip at Hethel. As a consequence, R8 was rushed off the ship from Australia, fitted with a 3-litre DFV, 1969 roll-over hoop, and fire extinguisher system before being taken to Monte Carlo for substitute driver, Richard Attwood to race.

He had shone in a BRM P126 the year before, setting fastest lap and finishing a strong second behind Graham Hill’s winning Lotus 49B R5.

At Monaco driving R8 with minimal preparation after seven hard races in the Tasman Cup, Attwood finished a fine fourth and set fastest lap in the race again won by Hill aboard 49B R10. With Jo Siffert third in Rob Walker’s Lotus 49B (R7) three of these wonderful cars were in the top four, the only interloper was Piers Courage splendid second place aboard Frank Williams’ Brabham BT26 Ford.

Richard Attwood in h-winged R8 during Friday practice at Monaco in 1969- after the wing ban the car raced denuded of same (R Schlegelmilch)
Attwood, Monaco, race day, fourth place- wonderful result having not parked his arse in the car before practice (unattributed)

Back at Hethel R8 was altered to latest 49B specifications and raced by Hill, nursing a sick neck to seventh in the 1969 British Grand Prix, at Silverstone on July 19.

Meanwhile, Colin Chapman’s four wheel drive Type 63, the proposed Type 49 replacement, struggled to find pace and the support of its drivers, as did the other 4WDs fielded by Matra, McLaren and Cosworth.

Given the choice, World Champion Hill, and Fastest Guy On The Planet Rindt, preferred the conventional rear-drive 49B. To prevent them having the choice Chapman decided to sell Team’s 49s, R8 went to Swedish journeyman owner/driver Joakim Bonnier.

He raced it in the German Grand Prix in August, DNF fuel leak. Jo crashed it after front suspension failure during practice for the non-championship Oulton Park Gold Cup on August 16. Out of love with the car, the damage was repaired at Hethel prior to sale to Dave Charlton for South African national F1 racing in 1970.

Jo Bonnier returning to terra firma, R8, Nurburgring 1969 German GP. (unattributed)
Dave Charlton with R8, now in 49C specifications, during the 1971 Highfeld 100 (N Kelderman)

Charlton used R8 to win the first two of his six consecutive South African national Formula 1 Championship titles between 1970-75.

The car won nine rounds in 1970; the Highveld 100 at Kyalami, the Coronation 100 at Roy Hesketh, followed by the Natal Winter Trophy there, the Coupe Gouvernador Generale at Lourenco Marques, Rand Winter Trophy at Kyalami, False Bay 100 at Killarney, Rhodesian GP at Bulawayo, Rand Spring Trophy at Kyalami and the Goldfields 100 at Welkom.

In 1971 the Charlton/R8 combination won four events of six he contested before switching to a Lotus 72: the Highveld 100 at Kyalami, Coronation 100 at Hesketh, Bulawayo 100, and the South African Republic Festival race back at Kyalami.

R8 was then campaigned to the end of 1972 by South African drivers Piet de Klerk and Mayer Botha. Botha damaged the left side of the tub badly at Killarney in August. Sydney’s The Hon. John Dawson-Damer bought the damaged, dismantled car in late 1975, painstakingly restoring it with the assistance of Alan Standfield.

It was completed in 1982 and was a regular in Australian historic racing, driven by John, Colin Bond and John Smith, until DD’s sad death aboard his Lotus 63 Ford during the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2000. Adrian Newey now owns it.

Dave Charlton in his Scuderia Scribante Lotus 49C Ford during the 1970 South African GP at Kyalami. DNF 73 laps, classified 12th (unattributed)

Credits…

Terry Marshall, LAT, MotorSport, Rainer Schlegelmilch, Nico Kelderman, Ian Smith, oldracingcars.com, ‘Lotus 49: The Story of a Legend’ Michael Oliver

Tailpiece…

(unattributed)

Graham Hill’s R8 butt at Warwick Farm on February 18.

The Brit contemplates a soggy, humid day in the office to be made worse by a misfiring engine and Rindt’s masterful brio behind the wheel of the other Lotus.

The car has the same pissant wing supports as it had at Pukekohe seven weeks before, but note the Hewland DG300 transaxle rather than the ZF unit used at the Tasman’s outset, a fitment which contradicts the history books…

Finito…

Comments
  1. Simon Curry says:

    Dave Charlton raced it in Lucky Strike colours not Gunston. Otherwise great article, thanks.

  2. Claudio Navonne says:

    Thank you for this excellent article.

  3. prn31 says:

    Hi Mark,

    As a Sydney local I can assure you that Geoghegan’s Lotus dealership at Haberfield is more than a stones throw from Warwick Farm. The Geoghegan’s taxi business was based at Liverpool, which is a stones throw from the Farm. Was that still in operation in ’69? It would make sense to base the Team Lotus cars there rather than at Haberfield, which even back then would have been more than a thirty minute drive from the track.

    Paul

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