Archive for the ‘F1’ Category

(Brabham Family)

Brabham’s Cooper T23 Bristol was billed as the fastest car of its type in the world as a Jack’s ongoing development of it with Frank Ashby’s advice and mentoring off to the side.

These images from the Brabham Family Collection were taken at Mount Panorama during the Easter 1954 meeting, the start of the A-Grade scratch race.

Jack’s T23 being tended by Keith Holland in the white overalls and Arthur Gray of Belshaw Foundry in the blazer (Brabham Family)

I’ve done Cooper Bristols and Jack’s T23 chassis ‘CB/1/53’ to death, here; https://primotipo.com/2017/02/24/the-cooper-t23-its-bristolbmw-engine-and-spaceframe-chassis/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2016/06/24/jacks-altona-grand-prix-and-cooper-t23-bristol/

The other two photos are at Mount Druitt, Stephen Dalton reckons June 27 1954 or 8 August 1954, thanks to Stephen and John Medley for photo IDs.

Credits…

Brabham Family Collection, ‘The Jack Brabham Story’ Jack Brabham with Doug Nye, Stephen Dalton, John Medley

Tailpiece…

(Brabham Family)

Finito…

(R Herrick)

Ken Wharton’s BRM P15 is pushed onto the Ardmore grid during the January 1954 New Zealand Grand Prix weekend.

He had the race in the bag until a silly problem caused by a bit of road grit ruined his race, see this article for a feature story on this machines trip south to the Ardmore and Wigram meetings that summer; https://primotipo.com/2019/11/18/ken-wharton-and-brms-grand-turismo-south-in-1954/

(R Herrick)

It was this rare photograph of the unclothed rear of P15 chassis ‘2’ which caught my eye. Note the chassis, beefy de Dion tube, big Exide battery mounted nice and low, no lightweight aircraft Varley batteries in those days. The Dunlop brake calipers- one of the edgy aspects of the design can be seen and the oil tank at the extreme rear, the big fuel tank is behind the driver but within the machines wheelbase.

I know the car was bonkers, was it Doug Nye who described its design and construction as being akin to a group of Victorians attempting a moon landing?  In any event, the thing is endlessly fascinating in terms of the projects politics, personalities, extraordinary engineering and innumerable ‘what if’s’.

(M Millar)

Credits…

Roger Herrick, Max Millar

(R Herrick)

Ardmore paddock, interest in the rear of the car indicates that things up-front ok, even if for a brief period of time! Love the Lucas mans service vehicle, probably the busiest service man in New Zealand…

Finito…

(B Henderson)

Cripes! Move. My clutch! My water temperature!

Look a bit closer, the Formula 3 car caught in the 1969 Monaco GP traffic is being towed by the Simca in front. I love the creativity of Bryan Henderson’s shot, a Scot who emigrated to Sydney, Peter Houston tells me he was a Formula Vee racer in the mid seventies, he plies his trade as Scanpix.

Bryan recalls, ‘The 1969 Monaco GP was my first F1 race, i had just arrived to pursue a career as a freelance photographer and jumped on a train down to the south of France to catch the race. I remember taking the photo of the car in the traffic, I was waiting to cross the road and there was the open-wheeler in my way! I was able to get the shot as it drove away.’

So, who is it?

F2 Index to the rescue. My guess as to the number is 50, 52, 58 or 59! #50 was Bernard Plaisance who raced an Ecurie Tecno France, Tecno 69 Ford, DNQ. Car 52 did not arrive, so let’s cross him off. #58 was Peter Hanson’s Chevron B15 Ford DNQ and #59 was Roger Keele, EMC F3 Ford, he was eighth in the race won by Ronnie Peterson’s Tecno 69 Ford. I’m going for Bernard, he’s French, the other two blokes are British so would probably have a Pommie registered tow car…

I’ve chosen a few other Henderson shots which are a bit different from the average, the first is Vic Elford heading up the hill from Ste Devote in his Cooper T86B Maserati.

(B Henderson)

 

(B Henderson)

The next one is Jackie and Helen Stewart walking down the hill towards Ste Devote, JYS even has a bag-man, who is the guy, he looks familiar?

How great would it have been to have attended the race then, plenty of challenges too that weekend, high wings were banned after the Thursday session by the CSI so the shot of Jo Siffert’s Rob Walker Lotus 49B Ford sans wings is probably on the Friday, by Saturday front wings were back.

(B Henderson)

Credits…

Bryan Henderson at Scanpix.com.au

(B Henderson)

Denny Hulme’s McLaren M7 Ford on Pit Straight, perhaps a Matra ahead, classic Monaco shot with that home made fence in the foreground!

Finito…

DB, Brabham BT59 Judd EV V8, AGP 1990 (BA)

It was great to see David Brabham race a Brabham in Adelaide during the 1990 Australian Grand Prix, whilst the BT59 Judd looked the goods it was not a great car, and Brabham was hardly the marque it was during the Brabham/Tauranac and Ecclestone eras.

David qualified 25th and failed to finished after spinning off on lap 19, we saw him again in 1994, when he raced a Simtec S941 Ford HB V8 but that simple car, still fitted with a semi-manual gearbox, remember them, was well and truly under-cooked in amongst the Top-Guns.

And that, sadly, turned out to be the end of David Brabham’s time in Formula 1, mind you, he had a great professional race career inclusive of a 2009 Le Mans win aboard a Peugeot 908 HDi FAP in amongst heaps of sportscar and other victories.

In more recent times, after a legal battle of about a decade, he has gained control of the Brabham name and intellectual property and built the awesome Anglo-Australian Brabham BT62 Ford Hypercar, the first of what will hopefully be a long line of racing and road cars. If ever there was a time for ‘Team Australia’ to climb aboard it is now?

DB, BT62 during the Adelaide Motorsport Festival 2019 (InSydeMedia)

Here is the car during the 2019 Adelaide Motorsport Festival, love the circa 1990 Brabham era livery!

When I think of David Brabham in Adelaide it is the 1987 F1 carnival weekend which sticks in my mind. DB won the 15 lap, ANF2 (1.6 litre, SOHC, two-valve, carbs) one-race Gold Star  Championship event from the back of the grid, finishing ahead of a classy 28 car field including most of the top ten placegetters of the six round Formula 2 Championship which concluded a couple of months before.

In more recent times David has made public his motivation for that great drive. In one of those ‘shit happens’ moments of youth, he had ‘potted’ his girlfriend, and as an expectant father, Jack had given DB the ‘that’s the end of your F1 aspirations’ brush off. #3 son’s drive in Adelaide was an ‘I’ll faaarkin show you mate moment’, and man it was really impressive to watch!

I was rooting for Mark McLaughlin’s Elfin 852 VW as an enthusiast of the marque, and watched with amazement from the East Terrace section of the track as he caught and passed the competition hand over fist. It wasn’t his first race on one of the more technical road courses, Brabham was second in the Formula Ford Championship race the year before, and his Ralt RT30 VW was the right bit of kit, but it was an impressive drive all the same. A portent of what was to come.

DB, Ralt RT30 VW, Adelaide 1987 (driving.co.uk)

 

DB Adelaide 1987 (BA)

 

BT62 launch at the Australian High Commision, London (BA)

Jack Brabham and Ron Tauranac would chuckle with delight at the pragmatism of the BT62.  The car bristles with the latest in technology in some ways but beneath the sinfully edgy and sexy aerodynamically efficient carbon fibre and kevlar body delivering 1,600 kg of downforce, lurks a good old fashioned multi-tubular spaceframe chassis and a wonderful 5.4 litre modular Ford V8 modified to Brabham Automotive specifications.

Brabham and Tauranac won a couple of world titles in 1966-1967 with engines of relatively modest technical specifications and were still winning Grands Prix with spaceframes in 1969 when a change to regulations requiring ‘bag’ fuel tanks effectively mandated monocoques in F1.

The poverty pack BT62 is priced at US $975K plus taxes, whereas the ducks guts BT62 ‘Ultimate Track Car’ hits the road at a giddy US $1.3M, only proprietors of Chinese Wet Markets should apply. Seventy cars only will be built at Brabham’s new 15,000 square metre facility, at Edinburgh Parks, within parent company Fusion Capital’s complex.

(BA)

 

(BA)

The Ford ‘Voodoo’ based, Brabham DOHC, four-valve, fuel injected, flat-plane crank 5.4 litre V8 has a bore/stroke of 94 x 97 mm for a capacity of 5,387 cc giving 700 bhp @ 7,400 rpm and 492 lb/ft of torque. This lot hits the road via a six-speed sequential Holinger transaxle. Suspension front and rear is by way of push-rod actuated upper and lower wishbones and coil spring/dampers with adjustable roll bars at both ends. Brakes are carbon/carbon and carbon/ceramic for race/road.

BT62 has enormous, menacing presence, it is 4,460 mm long, 1,950 mm wide, 1,200 mm high and weighs 972 kg with a weight distribution of 41/59% front/rear.

Brabham delivered its first competition BT62 to Horsepower Racing in the UK in May 2019 to contest the Britcar Endurance Championship, in a wonderful start for the machine it won its first race from pole driven by David Brabham and Will Powell at Brands Hatch last November 9. Great stuff!

(BA)

 

(BA)

There is something wonderful about Brabhams being built in Adelaide’s Edinburgh Parks, only a kilometre or so from Holden’s closed Elizabeth factory. The city has a long history of automotive engineering and manufacturing excellence with such famous/prominent companies as Elfin Sports Cars, Clisby Engineering, Birrana Cars, Globe Products, ASP and many others building racing cars and components since the earliest days of motoring in Australia.

Without drawing too long a bow in making an historic connection between Brabham and Adelaide, Clisby Engineering in Prospect manufactured the 1967-1970 30, 40, 50, and 60 series cylinder heads for the range of Repco-Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd. racing V8s, including those used on the ‘740’ engines which won the 1967 world F1 championships.

Ooops, forgot! Jack’s first national championship speedway win was at Kilburn Speedway on 25 February 1949, 9 km from Adelaide’s GPO, so lets take the Adelaide/Brabham connection as a given.

Fusion Capital, the Brabham Automotive parent company, is based in Waymouth Street, Adelaide, they position themselves as ‘a partner of investors and small business’ and operate in three business sectors; advanced manufacturing and renewables, property and private equity.

Brabham Automotive’s brothers in the advanced manufacturing and renewables division are Precision Buses, Precision Components, a manufacturer of pressed metal and fabricated components, and Heliostat, a business which makes heliostats, mirrors which turn to reflect light in solar energy applications.

(BA)

 

(BA)

Hopefully Fusion Capital has a balance sheet of sufficient strength to allow Brabham to complete the construction of the seventy BT62s in their business plan as the first step of a process which will establish the company as a manufacturer of road and racing cars with a return to F1 at some point.

It is amusing to hear of ScoMo’s mob’s recent interest in the manufacturing sector given the final act of automotive sodomy which destroyed the motor industry was performed by Tony Abbott, a knuckle-dragging, towering monument to intellectual and leadership bankruptcy. In truth the seeds of the industries ultimate failure were established at birth, that is, a total lack of Australian ownership and therefore control. Generational management failure, union and head office greed, governments of both stripes applying economic rationalism since 1972 (and I’ll fess up to supporting such policies) without any ‘societal good’ over-ride and our high dollar did the rest.

The ongoing success of Bolwell in Mordialloc, who have navigated the travails of manufacturing in Australia with nimble skill since the sixties, 35 year old (yes!) Borland Racing Developments closeby, Geelong’s ‘Carbon Revolution’ wheel maker, and now Adelaide’s Brabham Automotive give great cause for optimism in the weird world in which we live, long may these enterprises prosper.

(BA)

Etcetera…

(BA)

 

(BA)

 

(BA)

 

(BA)

Credits…

Fairfax, Adelaide GP FB page, driving.co.uk, InSydeMedia, Getty Images, BA-Brabham Automotive, Fusion Capital

Tailpiece…

(BA)

Match race between David Brabham’s BT62 and Matt Hall in a Zivco Edge 540 V3 aircraft, during the Adelaide Motorsports Festival in 2019.

Finito…

(CAN)

Chris Amon carefully pushes his Maserati 250F ‘2506’ (or ‘2504’ or ‘2509’) out of the ‘escape driveway’ during the February 3 1962 Dunedin Road Race…

Its practice and wet, the Kiwi great overshot the corner at the junction of King Edward Street, Wilkie Road and Bridgeman Street. The angle suggests the photo was taken from the building opposite, the dark industrial buildings contrasted by the colourful advertising hoardings, red Maserati and dead, gold grass all create a very atmospheric panorama.

Chris retired his car after a collision with Bill Thomasen, Cooper T51 Climax. It was a sad event, champion racer John Mansel died in his Cooper T51 Maserati, the race was won by Pat Hoare’s Ferrari 256 V12 from Jim Palmer, Lotus 20B Ford and Barry Cottle’s Lola Mk1 Climax.

(E Sarginson)

Allan Dick, a ‘famous photograph above of the first lap at Dunedin in 1962. Against all expectations it was Chris Amon who led the first lap, not Pat Hoare who eventually had an easy win’. Chris retired after the collision with Thomasen, see photos below.

Hoare’s Ferrari 256 was a 246 Dino to fit a Testa Rossa 3 litre V12 at the factory. Click here for an article about that awesome car here; https://primotipo.com/2015/11/09/pat-hoares-ferrari-256-v12-at-the-dunedin-road-race-1961/

(CAN)

 

(B Wilson)

 

(B Wilson)

Allan Dick picks up the story, ‘Chris is almost out of the car as his 250F hits the power-pole dead centre. Amon led the first lap but reality struck and the faster, better, newer  cars passed him one by one. He was in fourth place when Bill Thomasen (Cooper T51 Climax) tried to take him on the outside of the left-hander out of Andersons Bay Road into Princes Street South, the two cars tangled and ran off the road.’

Chris’ Maser was repaired by Bruce Wilson in Huntsville (I must buy his book ‘The Master Mechanic) returning with a longer nose.

John Mansel, Cooper T51 Maserati rounds the Glen Hairpin on what was to be his last lap (CAN)

Unfortunately John Mansel also fell foul of one of the lamp-posts. The champion driver started the race after many laps, he had completed about 10 when he lost control of his ex-Centro Sud Cooper T51 ‘F2-13-59’ Maserati 2.9 and slid into the immovable object side on. He was thrown from the car and died of head injuries sustained a week or so after the accident, a very sad day in Kiwi motor sport indeed.

He was eighth at Wigram and Teretonga in the fortnight prior to Dunedin and had been very successful in the ex-Moss 250F, Stirling won the 1956 NZ GP in chassis ‘2508’ and sold the car at the end of his trip, for some years.

John Mansel at Teretonga the week before, here ahead of Ross Greenville, Lotus 18 Ford and John Histed, Lola FJ Ford (CAN)

 

(E Sarginson)

The couple of photographs are of Pat Hoare on his way to victory in the Ferrari.

In the monochrome shot he is traversing ‘Cemetery Corner’, the lower photograph shows just how wet the track was and therefore how treacherous given the normal road hazards, which were, in the traditions of the day, ‘modestly protected’ if things went wrong at higher speeds. A statement of the obvious. The bruised nose of the sleek Italian V12 racer is a consequence of kissing the back of Brian Blackburn’s Maserati 250F whilst lapping him.

(CAN)

They are crackers of shots aren’t they, the docks area of the city was used for this event and then the Oval Circuit from 1962. Click here for an article in part about the development of the Dunedin and other circuits post-war; https://primotipo.com/2019/09/05/the-gp-aston-martin-dp155/

Credits…

Allan Dick- ‘Classic Auto News’, Bruce Wilson, Euan Sarginson, Derek Woods

Etcetera…

(D Woods)

 

(CAN)

This is Chris in practice, clearly it was a very soggy weekend throughout, Amon wore goggles in practice and went with a visor in the race.

Pat Hoare’s Ferrari 256 lines up on the grid, the black car is the Bob Eade ex-Moss/Jensen/Mansel Maserati 250F with Bill Thomasen’s Cooper T51 Climax alongside. There is another red car almost obscured as well beside the M Garr Ltd garage- I wonder if the premises are still there?

(B Woodford)

Beautiful crisp colour shot of Jim Palmer’s Lotus 20 Ford 1.5, he is in his fourth season of motor racing and still a teenager’ noted Allan Dick.

Went all the way to the top of racing too, winning the NZ Gold Star drivers championship on four occasions in the sixties, click here for a brief article on Jim; https://primotipo.com/2018/01/02/renwick-50-and-jim-palmer-new-zealand-1965/

(B Wilson)

Who are they, Chris and his Leica excepted and where was the photograph taken? Ardmore perhaps?

Credits…

Allan Dick- ‘Classic Auto News’, Bruce Wilson, Euan Sarginson, Bob Woodford

Tailpiece: Pukekohe 1963…

(B Wilson)

Derek Woods was there that weekend and recalls, ‘Chris sits on the pit counter in blue T-shirt, goggles and racing boots whilst the Cooper T53 Climax is warmed up after qualifying sixth. He stormed through to third on the opening lap but fell back and pitted with ignition problems when running in fourth or fifth. He then made a late charge to finish seventh. Had things gone to plan he would have finished in the top three, possibly second. Typical Amon luck right from those early days.’

By the end of that summer Chris was off to Europe with Tim Parnell, and the rest, as they say, is history. Thats David McKay, the car owner at far right chopped in half by the crop- a key person in Chris’ rise and in his later 1968/69 Dino 246T Tasman campaigns.

Finito…

Reg Parnell and Peter Whitehead in line astern- Ferrari 555 Super Squalo 3.5’s during the Southland Road Race, Ryal Bush, New Zealand 16 February 1957…

The two Brits had a very successful New Zealand summer taking this race in a one-two in Whitehead’s favour with Horace Gould’s Maserati 250F third.

The Kiwi international season opened at Ardmore with the New Zealand Grand Prix, it was a Parnell-Whitehead one-two there, in fact it was the last major victory of Parnell’s very long career. There was little joy in the win though, fellow Brit Ken Wharton died after a tragic ‘racing incident’ accident aboard his Ferrari Monza in the sportscar preliminary immediately prior to the feature race.

At Wigram it was Whitehead from Jack Brabham’s Cooper T41 Climax 1.5, in Dunedin, Parnell from Brabham with Whitehead third, then Ryal Bush before the circus proceeded on to Mairehau although by that stage the two Brits had returned to Europe.

Parnell on the Dunedin Wharf road circuit, 2 February 1957- he won from Brabham’s Cooper T41 Climax and Whitehead’s Ferrari  (G Paape)

 

Peter Whitehead with his crew during the 1958 Le Mans 24 Hours. First Englishman since Dick Seaman to win a major European GP in taking the 1949 Czechoslovakian GP aboard a supercharged Ferrari- the first also to coax such a car from Enzo- the man really did have impeccable Ferrari connections (Motorsport)

Whilst these cars were never the weapons in Grand Prix racing the predecessor 2 litre Ferrari 500 was, they were pretty handy Formula Libre cars when fitted with 3431cc Tipo 860 Monza four cylinder motors rather than the 2.5 litre fours which sat below their bonnets in F1 events.

By January 1957 Ferrari’s frontline weapon was the Lancia-Ferrari D50 V8, variants of which they ran in F1 from the 11 September 1955 Italian GP, indeed the lack of pace of the 555 (and 625) was one of the reasons for the deal brokered gifting the cars to Ferrari when Lancia went bust. I really must get to the D50 at some stage, it’s one of my favourite Grand Prix cars.

The Parnell #2 and Whitehead in the Albert Park AGP practice in December 1956- the tail of car #9 is Lex Davison’s ex-Ascari/Gaze Ferrari 500/625 3 litre (J Lineham)

While the drivers returned to England after Ryal Bush the two Ferraris stayed in the Antipodes. Whitehead’s ‘555-1’ aka ‘FL/9001’ was bought by (later Sir) Tom Clark of Crown Lynn Potteries fame, later still becoming the famous ‘Morrari’ before its resurrection.

Parnell’s ‘555-2’ aka ‘FL/9002′ passed through the hands of McMillan/Glass and others including the Gilltrap Collection on the Gold Coast and eventually into Bernie Ecclestone’s hands. Click here for an article about this chassis’ ‘Australian phase’; https://primotipo.com/2015/08/25/arnold-glass-ferrari-555-super-squalo-bathurst-1958/

Reg Parnell in the Goodwood paddock in April 1954. Happy chappy that weekend- he won the Lavant Cup in this Ferrari 625 from Roy Salvadori’s Maserati 250F- a very good win

Both machines were works entries in 1955 but were surplus to requirements once the D50’s were unloaded at Maranello before being eagerly snapped up by existing customers Whitehead and Parnell after fitment of Tipo 860 Monza engines. The chassis’ were lengthened to allow them to fit, new chassis plates were affixed to the frames during this process.

Some older enthusiasts remember these cars in Australia as both contested races during the two weekend 1956 ‘Olympic’ Australian Tourist Trophy/Grand Prix carnival at Albert Park in late November/early December. The ‘Scuderia Ambrosiana’ duo were third and sixth, Peter was behind the ‘Officine Alfieri Maserati’ 250F’s of Stirling Moss and Jean Behra.

It was then off to Port Melbourne and across the Tasman Sea then, the NZ GP was on 13 January.

The #4 Parnell Ferrari 555 and Whitehead’s behind at Wigram in 1957, note the aircraft hangars in the background. Car #46 and driver folks? (Library NZ)

 

(CAN)

Lady Wigram Trophy start 1957.

Ron Roycroft, Ferrari 375, Parnell and Whitehead Ferrari 555’s and Brabham’s tiny Cooper T43 Climax at far left on row one. Gibbons, Jensen and Gould on row two and Shuter, Jensen, Clark and Freeman on row three. Whitehead won from Brabham and Roycroft- the shot below shows the Whitehead crew in the Wigram pitlane, make that runway!

(J Manhire)

 

Tom Clark at Levin circa 1957, he first raced the car- having graduated through a pre-war Maserati 8CM and the ex-Macklin/Gaze supercharged HWM Alta, in February 1957.

He contested six meetings in it from then until February 1959, his best result was a victory in the South Island Championship Road Race at Mairehau in 1957.

(CAN)

Stunning Hillclimb vista in New Zealand with Tom Clark right on the apex- whereizzit I wonder Kiwis?

(M Clayton)

Ferrari 555 Super Squalo cutaway drawing, perhaps by Giuseppe Cavara, technical specifications as per text.

Etcetera…

The front view of Paul Frere’s Ferrari 555 ‘555/1’ during the 1955 Belgian GP meeting at Spa- the local boy did well in what would become Whitehead’s car.

He was fourth behind Farina’s third placed 555 but the first and second placed Mercedes Benz W196’s of Fangio and Moss were nearly a couple of minutes up the road. Castellotti was on pole that day in a Lancia D50- a single car final entry for the team, with Farina’s third slot the best of the four Ferrari 555’s which practiced.

And the rear view of Eugenio Castellotti’s ‘555/2’ at Zandvoort in 1955- Mike Hawthorn raced ‘555/1′ at this meeting for seventh place. Castellotti (in Reg’s car) was fifth with the ole’ Mercedes W196 one-two delivered by Fangio from Moss.

The Ferrari’s weren’t quick though, Maurice Trintignant’s was the best of the Ferrari qualifiers with eighth slot in his 555.

Its interesting to see how the bodywork of the cars evolved from F1 to Formula Libre specifications.

Lady Wigram Trophy 1957 start. #4 Parnell, Ferrari 555, #19 Ron Roycroft, Ferrari 375, #2 Horace Gould, Maserati 250F, #5 Whitehead, Ferrari 555, #3 Brabham, Cooper T41 Climax (S Dalton)

Credits…

John Manhire Collection, Godfrey Paape, James Lineham, Getty Images, Ellis French, Stephen Dalton Collection

Tailpiece…

(E French)

Arnold Glass in the #2 ex-Parnell ‘555-2’ alongside Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S at Longford in March 1958 before the Gold Star race won by Ted Gray in Tornado 2 Chev. The bit of blue is the tail of the Bruce Walton driven, Norman Hamilton owned Porsche 550 Spyder.

Finito…

Ickx/Hobbs first place Mirage M1 Ford from Piper/Attwood Ferrari 412P and Hawkins/Love Ferrari Can-Am 350, Crowthorne Corner, Kyalami 1968 (G Kegel)

Paul Hawkins had a very successful African tour in November/December 1968 with his ex-works Ferrari 350 Can-Am, winning five of the seven races he entered.

Ferrari raced four P4s in the 1967 World Sportscar Championship, one of which was an upgraded P3, at the WSC seasons end two of the cars were lightened and modified to ‘350 Can-Am’ specification. David McKay acquired one of the cars at the end of the 1967 Can-Am Challenge Cup, ‘0858’, for Chris Amon to race in the 1968 Australian Tasman Cup round sportscar supporting events where he was beaten on every occasion he raced Frank Matich’s Matich SR3 Repco. The story of the P3/350 Can-Am is here; https://primotipo.com/2015/04/02/ferrari-p4canam-350-0858/

After Chris returned to Europe Bill Brown raced the car throughout the domestic Australian season until after the Surfers 6 Hour enduro at which point Hawkins bought it and took it to Africa.

Kyalami (royckdboats)

 

4176cc, DOHC three valve, twin plug, fuel injected V12, 480 bhp @ 8500 rpm, five speed transaxle. Kyalami (royckdboats)

 

PH getting stuck into the Pommery after winning the 1968 Monza 1000 km- he shared the winning Gulf Wyer GT40 with David Hobbs

The prestigious Kyalami 9 Hour was the first race on Hawkins’ tour, there, on 11 November, sharing with South African single-seater ace, John Love, they were third having started from pole, the race was won by the Ickx/Hobbs Mirage M1 Ford. Tim Schenken took fourth outright and a 2 litre class win in a Chevron B8 BMW he shared with Brian Redman.

A week later Hawkins won the Cape Town 3 Hour at Killarney and was again victorious on 1 December at the GP Bulawayo, on the Kumalo circuit, he was second in the GP of Rhodesia on the same weekend. He again placed second in the 3 Hour de Lourenco Marques, in Mozambique that race won by Mike Hailwood and Malcolm Guthrie’s Mirage M1 Ford. He finished his tour with victories in the Roy Hesketh 3 Hours in Pietermaritzburg and 500 Km of East London on January 4 1969.

In May Hawkins raced a Lola T70 Mk3B Chev at Magny Cours, he entered Mike Hailwood in the Ferrari with Mike winning the race despite Paul setting pole and fastest lap of the race. Several days later Hawkins won the Dijon International, this time Mike started from pole and did the fastest lap but finished eighteenth. Shortly after this Paul sold the car to racer/dealer David Piper who had plenty of opportunities to evaluate the merits of the car on circuit!

Cyril Simson/Hawkins Healey Sebring Spite s/c, 20th with Morgan and Ferrari 250GT SWB in close attendance during the 1960 Tourist Trophy, Goodwood- the victor, Moss Ferrari 250GT SWB (Getty Images)

 

Hawkins/Makinen works Austin Healey 3000 during Targa in 1965. 21st and second in class. Vaccarella/Bandini won in a Ferrari 275 P2 (Bonhams Collection)

 

Paul Hawkins, Willment F2 Lotus 25 Coventry Climax FPF from Sam Tingle, LDS 1 Alfa Romeo during the 9 January 1965 Cape South Easter Trophy at Killarney, Cape Town, South Africa. Hawkins won from John Love and David Prophet (R Winslade)

 

Hawkins in a works-Lotus Ford Cortina FVA Group 5 machine during the 1967 BTCC, circuit folks? (unattributed)

‘Hawkeye’ was born in Melbourne’s inner eastern suburb of Richmond on October 12 1937, his father was a builder who later became a clergyman. He started racing circa 1958, having a few runs in Terry Valmorbida’s Austin Healey 100S before jumping a ship to the UK where a job with Healey quickly led to racing the marque.

He progressed through one of the toughest schools of all, British Formula Junior and then Formula 2 with John Willment in 1964, he was ninth in the 1965 South African GP aboard Willment’s Brabham BT10 Climax.

Along with Alberto Ascari, Hawkins is a Monaco Grand Prix diver survivor. He was racing Dickie Stoop’s Lotus 33 Climax towards the rear of the field on his eighthieth lap of the100 lap race in 1965. Denis Jenkinson saw it this way ‘…there was a bit of a furore at the chicane for Hawkins struck the wooden barrier at the entry and spun through the straw bales and over the edge of the quay and into the harbour. The Lotus sank to the bottom and the rugged Australian bobbed to the surface and struck out for shore, while boats went to his rescue.’

DSJ wryly observed ‘There was some discussion as to whether Hawkins used an Australian crawl or an American crawl to return to the edge of the harbour after his dive. Whatever it was it was an impressive and powerful stroke. Exactly ten years ago Ascari went in at the same place in a Lancia.’ Graham Hill won the race in fine style in his BRM P261.

Monaco 1965, Paul, Lotus 33 Climax about to be rounded up by second placed Lorenzo Bandini’s Ferrari 1512. Hawkins accident happened on his eightieth lap (unattributed)

 

Hawkins slightly soggy Lotus 33 Climax is repatriated from the chilly waters of Monaco Harbour. Chassis ‘R8’ lived to fight another day and is alive and well

 

Hawkeyes’s Lotus awaits him at a subsequent meeting! (R Schlegelmilch)

 

Hawkins on the way to winning the 1967 Targa Florio aboard a works Porsche 910 together with Rolf Stommelen (unattributed)

Hawkins quickly became a very fast, safe pair of endurance/sportscar hands winning Targa together with Rolf Stommelen aboard a works Porsche 910 and the Paris 1000 Km at Montlhery in a Mirage M1 Ford with Jacky Ickx in 1967 as well as the 1968 Monza 1000 Km together with David Hobbs. He was placed in five rounds of the World Sportscar Championship assisting John Wyer’s iconic Gulf sponsored Ford GT40s to victory in 1968.

At 31 he was still a young man in a wonderful career sweet spot racing factory cars and his own cars in national and international non-championship events.

On 26 May 1969 whilst running a works supported Lola T70 Mk3B Chev during the Tourist Trophy at Oulton Park, battling to get back in the lead group whilst running sixth, he hit a tree at Island Bend with poor Paul caught in the car as it was engulfed in flames. Brian Redman wrote ‘…I have no doubt his Lola T70 Mk3B suffered suspension failure, later in the race I crashed heavily at Knicker Brook due to the same problem.’

Treat this as a teaser, we will come back to Paul Hawkins, who is somewhat forgotten in Australia, Oulton was such a tragedy at a time his career trajectory was very much on the up.

1965 South African GP, East London. Paul Hawkins ninth place Brabham BT10 Lotus-Ford t/c from Dan Gurney’s Brabham BT11 Climax DNF- Jim Clark was up front in a Lotus 33 Climax (MotorSport)

 

Spa 1000 km start 1968. Hawkins GT40 inside Herman’s 908 Coupe, fourth and third respectively, Ickx/Redman Wyer GT40 the victor (unattributed)

 

Hawkins/Hobbs Gulf Wyer Ford GT40 Spa 1000 km 1968 (MotorSport)

Credits…

MotorSport, Brian Redman on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’, Gary Kegel, royckdboats, Richard Winslade, Mike Hayward Collection, Peter Maslen, Rainer Schlegelmilch, autopics.com.au, Bonhams Collection

Etcetera…

Hawkins Lola T70 Mk3 Chev about to surge past Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 906 during the 1967 Surfers 12 Hour (P Maslen)

We saw a bit of Paul in Australia later in his career. He contested the 1967 Surfers Paradise 12 Hour in a Lola T70 Mk3 Chev shared with car owner, Jackie Epstein, the duo were second in a race either they or the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 350 Can-Am Hawkins shortly thereafter acquired should have won but both machines had problems, see here; https://primotipo.com/2018/08/28/1967-surfers-paradise-6-hour/

David McKay included Hawkins in his ‘works’ Holden Dealer Racing Team Bathurst 500 lineup in 1968.

Paul popped the Holden HK Monaro GTS327 he shared with Bill Brown third on the grid, but the pair were disqualified after ‘slicing’ a wheel in The Cutting and receiving outside assistance. In the shot above he is ahead of Fred Gibson’s works XT Ford Falcon GT. The race was won by Bruce McPhee and Barry Mulholland in another GTS.

It’s interesting to speculate about the manner in which Paul Hawkins Racing Ltd may have developed whilst Hawkeye continued to race and once he retired. Here Mike Hailwood ponders more pace from his Hawkins Racing Lola T142 Chev F5000 during the the 4 April 1969 British F5000 championship round at Oulton Park.

The spaceframe chassis, surplus T70 parts-bin special T140/142 is unlikely to be on any list of Lola’s greatest cars. This event was the first ever British F5000 championship race, Mike qualified third behind the David Hobbs Surtees TS5 Chev and Peter Gethin’s McLaren M10A Chev, Peter took the win from David with Mike a DNF after a driveshaft broke.

Tailpiece…

(Lola Archive)

Paul has the big, brutal Lola T70 Mk3B Chev beautifully dancing on its tippy-toes on the way to a win in the Guards Trophy at Snetterton in April 1969.

Finito…

 

 

 

When I think of the pioneers of mid-engined racing cars, it’s always the Auto Unions of the thirties which pop most readily into my mind, but that does the 1923 Benz Tropfenwagen a huge disservice.

Dr Edmund Rumpler’s ‘Tropfenwagen’ (teardrop vehicle) was the hit of the 1921 Berlin Motor Show, it was said to resemble a Zeppelin Airship. Rumpler’s aeronautical design in particular and automotive experience went back to 1903, click here for more and Rumpler and the significance of this design; http://8w.forix.com/rear-engines-prewar.html

Rumpler 10-50 PS 1925

 

Mice have well and truly attacked those chassis longerons, making something which would have never been stiff positively flaccid- fuel tank forward and engine and gearbox aft must have given the pit pundits of the day something to ponder- the opposite of existing orthodoxy (GP Library)

The car had low drag coefficient of 0.28, a rear engined layout and independent suspension. Benz’ Berlin representative and future Auto Union Team Manager Willy Walb could see the potential of the design concepts when applied to a racing car. ‘Benz obtained the reproduction rights for this car immediately’ according to Mercedes Benz. In 1922 Chief Engineer Hans Nibel led a team which designed and developed the Benz ‘Type RH’.

The chassis was of the period typical ladder frame type, it was ‘underslung’ resulting in the racers low build.  Nibel specified a six-cylinder, two litre, DOHC, 12 valve motor of 1991cc, fed by two Zenith carburetors the unsupercharged motor gave about 90 bhp @ 5,000 rpm. The Benz had a three speed gearbox behind the engine with a diff which was attached to the frame, short halfshafts with universal joints provided the drive to the rear wheels. Leonard Setright accords the car the honour of having the first independent rear suspension of any racing car. Brakes were inboard at the rear, outboard at the front with supreme streamlining of course- the machine had a rounded nose, a tapering tail and a radiator which sat proud of the rear bodywork, aft of the driver mimicking some early seventies F1 airboxes.

Franz Horner, Benz Tropfenwagen, Monza- cars said to handle very well but lacked power sans supercharger

 

(GP Library)

Whilst four cars were commenced in 1922 they were not completed until the following year ‘due to the economical situation at the time’ Mercedes wrote. Finally ready, the design only contested one major race, the 9 September 1923 Grand Prix of Europe at Monza, attended by the most enormous crowd.

Drivers were Willy Walb, Franz Horner and Fernando Minoia. The pace up front was set by the Fiats and Millers but the unconventional cars finished fourth and fifth- Minoia from Horner but both were 4 laps adrift of the winners. Walb’s machine had engine troubles.

The race was won by Carlo Salamano from Felice Nazzaro in Fiat 805s powered by Tipo 405 eight cylinder, supercharged, DOHC, two-valve, 2 litre motors- the winner covered the 80 laps of the 6.214 mile course in 5 hours 27 minutes 38.4 seconds. Jimmy Murphy was third in a Miller 122, over 5 minutes adrift of the victor, then came Minoia, Horner and Martin de Alsaga in another Miller.

It was an important race for the supercharged 146 bhp Fiat 405s given their French GP failures at Tours earlier in the year- the cars placed first and second establishing the dominance of supercharged engines in the sport until Ferrari challenged the orthodoxy with their 4.5 litre V12 normally aspirated 375 in 1951.

The five hour race was not an exciting one. The 120 bhp Miller straight eight, normally aspirated, DOHC, two-valve 122s were nowhere near as quick as the Fiats and the Benz’s were further back again, nonetheless to have two of the three new cars entered finish the long race was a portent of greater performance in the future with development.

The three Benz RH lined up at Monza- Franz Horner at left #13 Willy Walb and #1 Fernando Minoia (Mercedes Benz)

 

The front two cars of Minoia and Bordino are not shown- the light coloured car is the Avions Voisin of Eugenio Silvani and on this side the #4 Rolland Polain of Albert Guyot, then Franz Horner ina Tropfenwagen on this side and  alongside perhaps Felice Nazzaro, Fiat 805- the strange looking car on the outside left of row two is one of the Voisins (Popperfoto)

 

Minoia at Monza in 1923, Tropfenwagen (Agence de presse Meurisse)

The cars were evolved, but not in the most critical manner. The rear brake drums changed from inboard into a more conventional location within the wheel hubs, the cars were also fitted ‘with a new dropped rigid steering stub axle instead of the straight front axle’- the translation from German to English seems to have suffered here!- i’ve no idea what that means. Most importantly, a supercharger was not fitted…

From 1923 a sports version was built which also competed in races and trials as well as the GP machines, but as dly, post Monza 1923 the cars were deployed in minor events only.

Horner was fifth in a hillclimb at Solitude in 1924, Walb won others at Konigstuhl and Freiberg in 1925. Future Mercedes works driver Rosenberger was quickest at Herkules. The car also did well in races held to open Opel’s new test track, Tigler won a ten lap event.

Rosenberger’s winning run in the Rund um die Solitude on May 16 1925 was the cars last run ‘in period’, at which point the company returned to building conventional cars. It’s worth noting that Benz & Cie and Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft formally merged after two years of cooperation into Daimler-Benz on 28 June 1926, their joint automotive products called Mercedes-Benz.

Ferdinand Porsche was appointed Technical Director of Daimler in 1923, there is little doubt he took a long hard look at the Tropfenwagen design and used some of its concepts in his later Auto Unions.

Etcetera…

 

(Mercedes Benz)

What an enormous crowd.

That is a Miller 122 amongst the masses in the foreground- three of them were entered and driven by Murphy, Martin de Alsaga and Louis Zborowski.

Benz up the road a bit surrounded by another big crowd.

Such a distinctive shape for the time- it is a shame that the machines were not supercharged which would have gone most of the way to bridging the gap to the dominant Fiats of the day- click here for a piece on those epochal Fiats; https://primotipo.com/2019/11/22/fiat-806-gp-1927/

Overhead shot shows the location of major components, the 130 litre fuel tank up front must have given the crews pause for thought.

Inline six, three speed gearbox and differential behind it and swing axle rear suspension, 4.53 metres long, 1.58 metres wide, wheelbase 2.78 metres and a quoted weight of 750 kg.

(Mercedes Benz)

 

That is the radiator mounted forward and above the rear wheels.

Ignore that though and take in the ‘pure tear-drop’ shape as it tapers from front to rear.

Great rear suspension detail- swing axles, notice the inner pivots alongside the diff and leaf springs which are performing locational duties and are inwardly inclined where they bolt at their inner ends to the engine. Note too the curvy radiator overhead.

The originality of the thing takes your breath away really.

(Mercedes Benz)

 

Carefully posed shot at Monza with probably the three drivers and two of the technicians- perhaps Franz Horner at left then Fernando Minoia on the other side of the car and in front Willy Walb.

Induction side of the engine with the two Zenith carbs prominent- note the inner spring mount under the carb closest to us.

The six cylinder, gear driven DOHC, two valve Type ‘Bz 6516’ engine is of built up construction- steel cylinders with welded on steel water jackets, the cylinder head is fixed, welded to the cylinders.The crankshaft is Hirth type and has seven main, roller bearings. Notice how the front section of the crankcase spans the chassis longitudinal members.

The bore and stroke are 65 x 100 mm, 1997 cc, one spark plug per cylinder, Bosch magneto ignition, compression ratio 5.8:1. Maximum power 90 bhp @ 5000 rpm with a maximum rev limit of 5,400 rpm.

(Mercedes Benz)

 

 

Exhaust side of the engine.

 

(Mercedes Benz)

Minoia on the inside of two Fiat 805 on the first lap of the Monza race.

And below in the pits, note the additional small radiator alongside the driver, which is shown more clearly in the final photograph in this piece below.

(Mercedes Benz)

 

Steering is worm and nut, front suspension by rigid axle, leaf springs and friction shock absorbers. Wire wheels of course, 105 cm in diameter with mechanically operated drum brakes all around, initially inboard at the rear.

Bibliography…

‘The GP Benz Tropfenwagen’ Bill Boddy in September 1986 MotorSport, ‘Benz Tropfenwagen’ in grandprixhistory.org, Mercedes Benz public archive, ‘The Grand Prix Car’ Leonard Setright

Credits…

Brian Hatton, Popperfoto, GP Library, Mercedes Benz AG, Agence de presse Meurisse

Tailpiece: Fernando Minoia, Monza 1923…

Finito…

Sandown main straight, November 1974, Matich A51 Repco-Holden (autopics.com)

‘Who the bloody hell is Lella Lombardi?’ I thought.

The Sandown and Oran Park promoters were bringing an ‘unknown chick’ to contest back to back Gold Star rounds at Sandown Park and Oran Park- the Australian Grand Prix that year, in November 1974.

The series needed some fizz too.

The season looked good on paper at it’s outset, but Warwick Brown nicked off to the States to race after the first round, then John Walker and Graeme Lawrence boofed their Lolas at Surfers Paradise, whilst John Goss didn’t seem to have the dollars to run his ‘spankers’ ex-Frank Matich, A53 Repco. All of a sudden the grids looked decidedly skinny.

I thought i knew what was going on in Europe too.

You couldn’t buy Autosport in yer suburban newsagent in Oz back then, still can’t. So, once a month after school on a Friday i jumped on a tram and headed into Melbourne’s emporium of fine publications, ‘Tech Books’ in Swanson Street to buy a copy.

Lella did not jumped off the pages, nor should she as her European F5000 Championship performances aboard a Lola T330 Chev were average to good rather than the ‘next greatest thing’ since sliced bread. Her machine, T330 ‘HU18’ is now Peter Brennan’s car which has been well ventilated on these pages; https://primotipo.com/2014/06/24/lellas-lola-restoration-of-the-ex-lella-lombardi-lola-t330-chev-hu18-episode-1/

Oulton Park 12 April 1974. Brian Redman, Lola T332 Chev (winner) with the two VDS Chevron B28s on row 2- Pilette #1 and Gethin #8. Yellow car is Ian Ashley, Lola T330 Chev, the blue Lola alongside him is David Hobbs T330 with Mike Wilds, red with yellow striped March 74A Chev- Lella’s yellow Lola is at far right. Redman won from Hobbs and Ashley (S Jones)

 

Lombardi during 1974- top shot, where folks? Lola T330 Chev (unattributed)

 

Lombardi at Brands during one of the 1974 Euro rounds held there (unattributed)

 

Five foot two inches of Lella, in the Australian colloquially uncouth circles in which I mix, is a ‘Pocket Rocket’. She fits rather easily into the Matich A51 designed to keep just under 6 foot of Frank Matich comfy. Love to know what she thought of the A51 Repco-Holden compared to her T330 Chev- both 1973 model 5000’s, here at Oran Park

So it was with a great deal of interest i watched her at Sandown.

What struck me was how small she was, strong too. Those 500bhp roller skates are not for the faint hearted or weak. She was very self-contained, focused on the job at hand, not the attention of thousands of males wanting to check her out. She was here to do a job, her mind was concentrating on just that- new country, unfamiliar langauge, new car, no testing, new circuit- a lot to process quickly.

Alf Costanzo was on hand to interpret, it was a wise choice of a racer to interpret set-up communication, whilst noting, with an affectionate smile on my face, that Alfie’s English after only fifty years in Australia still requires concentration on the part of the listener!

Frank Matich was in attendance to lead the crew looking after Matich A51 chassis ‘5’, one of the two cars FM used in the 1973 L&M F5000 Championship stateside. FM retired after the 1974 Tasman Cup, by that time Kevin Loy owned the car but a lease deal was done- this machine was the same chassis Gossy used to win the AGP at Sandown in 1976.

On circuit she was quick, right into it despite not being familiar with the car. Beautifully timed changes up and down, on the throttle nice and early and ‘Matich precise’ with not a lot of attitude on the car rather than ‘Bartlett sideways’.

Lella was race fit big time. She had come off the back of the eighteen round Euro championship, many of which had heats, as well as a final, plus a couple of races in the US so she had raced the big cars over thirty times between mid-March and late October in addition to test sessions and practice.

In the Brands pitlane during the Race of Champions weekend, March 1974, NC. Nose of Gethin’s Chevron B28 behind. Jacky Ickx Lotus 72E Ford won the F1/5000 race, Ian Ashley’s Lola T330 the first 5 litre car home (P Diegoli)

 

Lella, Sandown Park, punching out of Dandy Road (B Keys)

 

Lombardi during the 1973 Monaco GP weekend, Brabham BT41 Ford-Novamotor (R Pagliacci)

 

Lombardi from Sam Posey at Riverside in October 1974- Lola T332 Chev and Talon MR1 Chev (M Hewitt)

Fresh out of 1.6 litre F3- again with average results, she started the European Championship with back third of the field qualifying and mid-field finishes, and ended it with front third of the field qualifying efforts and top five finishes.

That year the series had depth too- the likes of Redman and Hobbs were there early on, before heading to the US with regulars Peter Gethin, Teddy Pilette, Guy Edwards, Bob Evans and Ian Ashley doing the championship in full.

In Europe with grids of around twenty cars, her best qualifying performances were fourth, fourth and fifth in the final three rounds at Snetterton, Mallory Park and Brands Hatch, whilst Lella’s best finishes were fourths- at Brands, Monza, Oulton Park and Mallory Park.

Between the 26 August Brands, and 8 September Oulton Park Euro rounds Lombardi contested two SCCA/USAC F5000 Championship meetings in the US- the California Grand Prix at Ontario on 1 September and the season ending Riverside Grand Prix on 27 October.

At Ontario she qualified an Eagle 74A Chev fourteenth, then finished a good fifth in her heat and retired from the final but was classified fourteenth- Brian Redman won in a Lola T332 Chev. At Riverside, Lella ran the Lola T332 Hunt had raced at Ontario, she was a poor Q21 and finished eighth in her heat. Mario Andretti won the race in another T332, with Lombardi ninth.

In front of Lella that weekend were Andretti, Redman, Warwick Brown, Al Unser, Graham McRae, Brett Lunger, John Morton and David Hobbs, all experienced hands and in the case of Andretti and Redman arguably two of the decade’s Top 20 Racing Drivers regardless of class.

What comes through strongly looking at her European Championship results is progressive improvement and speed and a great finishing record throughout the season. A reasonable conclusion is that the car was well prepared, that she had mechanical sympathy, was easy on cars which were and are notoriously fragile.

Lets not forget the jump straight from 160bhp F3 to 500bhp F5000, not necessarily an easy transition.

Lets go back to Australia. At Sandown Lombardi started from the second row of the Victoria Trophy nine car grid. She had second place ‘in the bag’ of the 32 lap race behind Max Stewart’s Lola T330 Chev until the car started to splutter for want of fuel on the last lap letting Kevin Bartlett’s T332 Chev back into second- she shared fastest lap of the race with Stewart.

It was a great start to the tour. The promoters worked things pretty hard, there were good crowds at both races with large chunks of Australia’s Italian population turning out to support their intrepid female racer.

Lella and Australian ace Test fast bowler Dennis Lilley at the Sydney Cricket Ground, 12 November 1974. And below. Quite what this has to do with the AGP i’m ferked if i know- any column inches are good ones i guess, to get bums on seats

 

 

Lella, Oran Park

At Oran Park in a race of misfortune up front, Warwick Brown ran away with the race from the front row and looked a winner until his crankshaft harmonic balancer failed taking with it an oil pump belt and a fuel line.

Lombardi’s Matich was out the lap before with a seized oil pump whilst running third. Bartlett led until he too had dramas, his engine was starved of fuel when a one way valve in the fuel line restricted the flow of fuel on right hand corners- allowing lucky Max Stewart to take the AGP despite a rear anti-roll bar mount breaking very early in the race, slowing him. Lella was quick again too- clutch problems limited her practice on the short, tight circuit, but she still did second quickest lap of the race behind Brown.

It would have been magic had Lombardi contested the 1975 Tasman Cup where she would have been up the pointy end but there were bigger fish to fry in 1975- F1.

A pair of Matiches- Lella’s A51 from Jon Davison’s lapped A50- Davo was fourth behind Stewart, McCormack and Lawrence. AGP 1974

 

Lella wheels the A51 thru BP and onto the main straight- big crowd there on the day. Oran Park AGP 1974 (R Garth)

 

Shidday or the Italian equivalent are the words of Lombardi and Kevin Bartlett at right- and lucky Maxxie at left. Still, to finish first, first yer have to finish. Stewart is 6′ 2″ and Lella 5′ 2″- it says a lot about a Lola’s capacity to absorb drivers of all shapes and sizes! AGP Oran Park (Fairfax)

The ‘Tigress of Turin’, Maria Grazia Lombardi was born in a small town of about 2,000 people, Frugarolo, Piedmont on 26 March 1941- 80 km south-east of Turin. Hey, it was a great ‘handle’ by one journalist, which stuck even though she did not live that close to Turin.

Lella was the last born of four daughters, her father was a butcher/meat trader who operated between Frugarolo and the Ligurian Riviera. Her early competition years are a bit hazy, it’s variously said she started in Karts or local touring car races and rallies in the mid-sixties, with her savings bolstered by contributions from her partner Fiorenza, her sister and brother in law.

She bought a C.R.M. Formula Monza 875 during 1965, with money tight, the machine was paid for by instalments.

The new 500cc C.R.M. arrived on a truck only an hour before her first race, Lella’s team comprised the local blacksmith who ‘knew a bit about engines’ and Pino, a childhood friend. By May 1965 she had some support from Sandro Moroni’s automotive business in Lodi. Lombardi contested the first F Monza ‘Trofeo Cadetti’ in the C.R.M. at Monza that May, the machine was entered by Scuderia Moroni, she was unplaced in the big field.

Lombardi did not have the overt support of her father, but when she was not around he proudly spoke of his racer daughter and accomplishments reported in the local papers.

In 1967 after scrimping and saving Lella entered four rounds of the Italian F3 Championship aboard a Branca Ford for three DNQ’s and an eighteenth at San Piero a Sieve in June, part of the old Mugello road course.

The Branca F3 was a ‘Brabham knock-off’ built by Aquilino Branca in a Buscate workshop on the outskirts of Milan. There was nothing wrong with them either, Grand Prix winner GIancarlo Baghetti drove one to victory in the 4 June Monza Lottery race which Lella, Dave Walker, Allan Rollinson and Wal Donnelly failed to qualify for.

She did some Formula 850 events that year in a Biraghi, including the occasional hillclimb. In 1968 Lella raced in one Italian F3 round at Monza in April, but in essence she needed to step backwards to advance,

In 1970 she raced a Biraghi Fiat, Formula 850 winning four races and taking the well contested championship overall. Lella also raced an Alfa Romeo GTA in May in the Coppa Piemonte at Monza, a relationship with a marque she would renew several years later. She won two further F850 races at Monza and Vallelunga early in 1971 which allowed her to put together a good F3 program for 1972.

The Lotus 69 Ford-Novamotor was one of the great F3 cars of 1970-1971, it was perhaps a tad over the hill in 1972 but still not a bad thing to have, the machine was run under the Scuderia Jolly Club banner. Her program comprised twelve Italian F3 meetings and the Monaco F3 GP. Lella’s best results at home were a pair of fifths at Imola and Varano in July and August, the Brabham BT35 was the winningest car in Italy that year. Lombardi’s later teammate at March, Vittorio Brambilla  won the title using a mix of Birel 71, a Brabham BT35 and BT38, Lella was tenth.

At Monaco the winner was Patrick Depailler’s Alpine A364 Renault, the long list of non-qualifiers included Lella, James Hunt, Alan Jones, Tony Brise, Vittorio Brambilla and Tom Pryce.

Only Barrie Maskell in England and Claudio Francisci in Italy achieved more with a Lotus 69 in 1972- Lella did well with the tool at her disposal.

Demonstrating versatility, Lella’s Alfa Romeo interlude that year was the Monza 4 Hour where she and fellow F3 pilot Carlo Giorgio raced a GTAm to twelfth place. Another opportunity to broaden her experience and compete in a powerful car was at Interlagos that September- she was eleventh in an Abarth 3000.

Lombardi appropriately stayed in F3 in 1973 with a campaign of nine meetings at home, and four in England later in the year, her weapon of choice was a new Brabham BT41 Ford-Novamotor. It was a car which did plenty of winning that year in Italy at least, three of the top five cars in the Italian F3 Championship were BT41s- Carlo Giorgio won in a March 733 Ford.

Lella’s best result was a win in her heat and fourth in the final at the season ending Vallelunga meeting in November and a pair of of fifths at Alessandria and Varano early in the season. Lella finished eighth overall- that is not really indicative as she missed several rounds. Still had the odd DNQ too- Italian F3 then typically had entries of over thirty cars.

Monaco met with more success too- she was ninth in her heat and twelfth in the final won by Jacques Laffitte’s Martini Mk12 Ford. DNQ’ers of note that year included later F1 drivers Tony Brise, Brian Henton, Alan Jones, Larry Perkins and Bob Evans- that was and is such a tough event!

Lombardi in a Branca Ford F3 at San Piero a Sieve, 20km north of Florence on 11 June 1967 (N Ricci)

 

Lella during the 1967 Coppa CPF Cavagna- Sarezzo-Lumezzane hillclimb, Brescia on 17 September 1967- Biraghi Formula 850. FTD that day went to later Ferrari driver and Team Manager Peter Schetty’s Abarth 2000 Prototipo from Nanni Galli’s Alfa Romeo 33 Fleron (A Vimercati)

 

Lombardi with her Biraghi Fiat, Formula 850 during 1970 (Getty)

 

Lella at Monaco in 1972- Lotus 69 Ford-Novamotor- missed the cut that year (unattributed)

At this stage John Webb, Britain’s most successful race circuit owner and promoter spotted Lombardi and saw her potential as a drawcard.

‘She performed exceptionally well (at Monaco). ‘We’d just started the Shellsport Celebrity Series (for Ford Escort Mexicos) and my wife Angela invited her to compete at Brands Hatch in July. She won from the third row, beating Jacques Laffitte and Mike Wilds and we became friendly and kept in touch’ Webb said when interviewed by MotorSport.

Whilst Lella shone in the Escort her four British F3 events in July, September and October were unimpressive- a DNQ, DNF and twelfth at Brands and a thirteenth at Oulton Park was the yield. The BT41 was competitive in Italy, it was not so in the UK, no BT41 figured in the Top Ten of the BRSCC John Player British F3 Championship with Russell Wood the only driver in the Top Ten of the BRSCC Lombard North Central F3 Championship, to put Lella’s BT41 British performances into perspective.

Looked at objectively Lombardi had not done enough to jump clear of F3, but, after a decade of toiling away, doing the hard yards and paying her dues she was about to get her big chance.

Back to John Webb, ‘Jackie Epstein was running a Formula 5000 team out of Brands (he ran Vern Schuppan and Alan Jones in Lola T332 Chevs in the Australian Rothmans Series a couple of years later) and we pursuaded him to give Lella a try that winter. She impressed him not only with her driving but also by her mechanical knowledge and feel. Towards the end of the test she pitted because she correctly thought the car had developed a puncture; not severe but enough to make a difference.’

And so it was that Lombardi raced a Shellsport Lola alongside Ian Ashley in 1974 finishing fifth in the championship behind Bob Evans, Lola T332 Chev, Peter Gethin, Chevron B28 Chev, Ian Ashley, Lola T332 Chev and Teddy Pilette in the other VDS Chevron B28. This was no mean feat as all of the guys in front of her had extensive F5000 experience with Gethin a Grand Prix winner- all became GP drivers.

Lella also had a serious crack at qualifying for the 1974 British GP aboard a Brabham BT42 Ford run by Hexagon Racing. By Thursday’s end she was within 1.1 seconds of John Watson’s sister car but had a broken driveshaft later in the day preventing a final crack at the grid. The pint sized Italian lapped as quickly as Tom Belso, who had raced her Lola T330 for Epstein in 1973, Vern Schuppan, John Nicholson, Howden Ganley, Mike Wilds and Leo Kinnunen.

Other one-off endurance drives that year were in a Lola T282 Ford DFV for third in the Casale Interserie round in September and the Brands Hatch 1000 Km with Pino Pica, DNF.

Lombardi at Brands Hatch during the 1974 British GP weekend, Brabham BT42 Ford. DNQ race won by Sceckter’s Tyrrell 007 Ford  (MotorSport)

 

Anderstorp 1975 March 751 Ford. DNF fuel system after 10 laps from Q24. Lauda won in a Ferrari 312T (unattributed)

 

Race of Champions, Brands Hatch, March 1975, March 751 Ford. DNF from Q11. Tom Pryce won in a Shadow DN5A Ford

 

Lella and March Director/Partner Max Mosley who was also her Race Engineer

Lombardi had done enough to break into F1, plenty have ascended having achieved far less, this she did with March in 1975 thanks to the financial support of Italy’s Count ‘Gughi’ Zanon di Valgiurata.

Lella famously became the only woman to score a championship point so far when she gained a half point from the flagged off ’75 Spanish GP at Montjuic Parc after the accident which befell Rolf Stommelen’s Hill GH1 Ford.

Somewhat well known now, Lombardi did not get the best opportunity with March due to a problem with the car diagnosed by Lella but which was failed to be acted upon by the team.

After a crash during practice in Monaco, and the car was repaired, Lombardi complained consistently of a problem with her car, (751-2) which understeered badly into corners, then its rear end would suddenly ‘fall over’ into a big oversteer when the power was applied.

March’s Robin Herd, ‘He (Max Moseley), a much better engineer than some people might think, asked me if he could borrow Vittorio (Brambilla) for a few laps. Vit would come back and say, ‘Yeah, yeah, car’s perfect’. But i don’t think he ever did a flying lap in that car. I totally trusted him. On reflection, however, he was probably looking after himself.’ When Ronnie Peterson described the same handling characteristic in 1976 Lella was vindicated. We gave Ronnie a new chassis for Monaco after his misundersanding with Carlos Reutemann in Belgium’ said Herd. ‘He did a few laps and said, ‘It’s neutral, It’s perfect. The damaged monocoque was still in the workshop so we took it apart- and discovered a crack in its cast-magnesium rear bulkhead. Poor Lella, she’d had bad traction all along. I feel sorry for her and wonder about it even now’ Herd concluded.

No one is suggesting Lombardi would have gone as quick as Peterson but for sure her results would have been better than they were. She had eleven championship starts with March in 1975 for one DNQ, four DNFs due to mechanical failure, a collision at Monza, with her best results the point-winning sixth at Montuic and seventh, and on the same lap as the winner, at the Nurburgring, the first time she had raced there.

Vittorio Brambilla showed just how fast a good 741/751 was, he rarely qualified outside the top ten, won at the Osterreichring and had even more DNFs than Lella so even someone as biased as i am in the pint sized powerhouse failure cannot say her March was not as well (or poorly) prepared as Vittorio’s…Whilst noting that cracked rear bulkhead which cost her dearly, in noting that i am not saying she would have been as quick as her countryman, but for sure she would have been faster than she was.

In a very full season Lombardi was also engaged by Alpine Renault to race a 2 litre Alpine Renault A441 which was shared with French racer, and regular visitor to Australia, Marie-Claude Beaumont. The pair contested six events with best placings fourth in the Monza 1000 km and sixth in the Mugello 1000 km. At Le Mans they failed to finish.

Lella aboard the Alpine A441 Renault 2 litre V6 at Le Mans in 1975, shared with Marie-Claude Beaumont- DNF after only 20 laps with fuel feed problems. Race won by the Bell/Ickx Gulf GR8 Ford DFV (unattributed)

 

Lombardi, Brazilian GP practice 1976, March 761 Ford- fourteenth in the race won by Lauda’s Ferrari 312T (unattributed)

 

Lombardi/Dacremont Lancia Stratos Turbo, Le Mans 1976. Twentieth and second GTP. Race won by the Ickx/Van Lennep Porsche 936 (unattributed)

 

Austrian GP 1976, Lella the Brabham BT44B Ford- twelfth from Q24 race won by John Watson’s Penske PC4 Ford (unattributed)

Peterson’s departure from Lotus at short notice was the end of Zanon’s support- Count Gughi was a huge Peterson fan and supported his return to March whilst ‘smoothing Lellas’ departure MotorSport wrote. Lombardi’s final race for March was the 1976 Brazilian GP- Q22 and fourteenth.

She had three unsuccessful Grands Prix in a RAM Racing Brabham BT44B for two DNQs and twefth at the Osterreichring, that really was a waste of time for a team which never did much outside British national events.

Lella had a full season of endurance events aboard a factory Osella PA4 BMW and Porsche 934. Her best placings were fifth places at Silverstone and the Nurburgring Interserie. Lella and Christine Dacremont were twentieth at Le Mans in 1976 aboard a Lancia Stratos Turbo.

In 1977 she raced an Inaltera Ford DFV (née Rondeau) in the two 24 hour events at Daytona and Le Mans for a DNF and eleventh. She also raced an Osella PA5 BMW to third at Imola, a Porsche Carrera and Lola T282 Ford.

In a low key year for Lombardi, Fiat contested the 1978 European Touring Car Championship with a 128 Sport Coupe, in seven events with the Jolly  Club car, Lella achieved three class wins with Carlo Giani at Brands, Salzburgring and Estoril. Other interesting drives included a couple of races in the Heims owned Porsche 934, an Alfa GTA in the Giro d’ Italia, Osella PA6 and a Toyota Sprinter Trueno in the Spa 24 Hour where she shared a car with Thierry Boutsen and Avez, their race over with conrod failure after only 5 laps.

Her relationship with Enzo Osella continued in 1979, a good season of fourteen events yielded a win in the Vallelunga 6 Hour and seconds at Wunsdorf and Ulm. More of the same in 1980 resulted in second place at Varano and third placings at Magione and Vallelunga.

It would be intriguing to know what Lella thought of the Jolly Club Chev Camaro she raced in six events in 1981 for a best of third in the 500 km Tourist Trophy at Donington where she shared the car with Anna Cambiaghi. The nimble Osella PA9 BMW was a different kettle of fish, she and Georgio Francia had a great season- a win in the Mugello 6 Hour, a pair of seconds at Monza and Enna-Pergusa and a third at Magione resulted in fourth place in the drivers World Championship.

Lombardi then had a long period as a mainstay of Alfa Romeo’s Touring Car program racing GTV6 and the 75 Turbo from 1982 to 1986, with a best result of sixth place in the 1985 title, her final full season was aboard a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth in 1987.

She fell ill with cancer after the 1985 season and died in a Milan clinic on March 3 1992.

Silverstone 6 Hours 1980, Lella in the Osella PA8 BMW, shared with Vittorio Brambilla DNF. Race won by de Cadenet/Wilson De Cadent LM Ford DFV (M Lee)

 

Lombardi and Tony Parma, Alfa GTV6. 1982 RAC Tourist Trophy, Silverstone (unattributed)

So, what to make of Maria Grazia Lombardi, whilst noting i am about as objective here as i am writing about Kevin Bartlett, Frank Matich and Chris Amon! Lella wriggled into my favourite driver category all those years ago on that fleeting visit to Australia.

Lombardi was a racer to her core, she was smitten by it at a young age. Of modest means she did it the hard way, earning and cadging money from family, friends and the trade to graft away in F Monza and F850, two tough schools in Italy. By the time she got her first decent F3 drive with the secondhand Lotus 69 in 1972 she was already 31- no spring chookin’ even by the standards then.

Were there more deserving drivers of the Shellsport F5000 drive in 1974? Of course, make your own list, it’s not difficult at all. But John Webb was looking through a slightly different prism as a promoter than the average team owner. There were better credentialed drivers but John and Angela Webb’s end game was to promote a female driver. That was laudable, even more so as Lella was homosexual at a time when most were a lot less enlightened than fifty years hence.

She was no more or less physically attractive that most of the 1974 F1 grid, not many of the blokes would have been invited onto the catwalk either! Other women have come into F1 since Lella, none has yet matched the Lombardi’s half championship point- none have come up the hard way either. Desire Wilson was perhaps the female with the greatest F1 potential, but that my friends is a debate for another time.

Lets not forget Lella Lombardi, The Tigress of Frugarolo, a most capable elite level racing driver…

Etcetera…

Formula 875 Monza was created by Romolo Tavoni, Sporting Director of Monza- later Ferrari Team Manager and the Automobile Club of Milan’s Director, Luigi Bertett as a cost effective entry-level single seater racing class. Italy’s Formula Vee if you will.

The cars were based on Fiat 500 components, the ‘875’ bit is that the racer’s purchase price  be less than 875,000 lire- a little less than a new Fiat 500 at the time.

The class started in 1964 with Lella contesting the first Cadet Trophy on 10 May 1965.

Vast numbers of Italians cut their racing teeth in the class and its Formula Panda successor (1983), F1 graduates include Lella, Michele Alboreto and Fabrizio Barbazza.

May 1965 Cadet Trophy, Monza. Lella’s C.R.M is #29

Lella’s Fiat Giardiniera powered C.R.M. was built in Modena, the chassis constructed by Manicardi & Messori and the body by Fantuzzi.

I am intrigued to know more about C.R.M. if any of you can assist, it was one of a vast number of constructors which popped up to cater for cars in a class which exploded with interest, other makes included; Plastic Thiele, Ambivero, Bianchi, Oleari, Amilcar, Cavallini, Vargiu, Lab, Melesi, Santandra, Reggiani, Libertini, Mercatelli, Corsini and more…

Lella with her Biraghi Fiat Formula 850 at Monza during 1970- a strong year with four wins and the championship.

In the shot below she leads an F850 bunch in the Coppa Autodromo di Monza- Lella’s Biraghi from Georgio Francia in a Dagrada, then Piero Bongiovanni in a De Sanctis then a Tecno.

(unattributed)

 

(unattributed)

Lella during the 1974 season, whilst the shot below is the Epstein Lola T330 at Zandvoort on 3 June.

Q12 and seventh in the race won by Gethin’s Chevron B28.

(unattributed)

 

(unattributed)

At home during the European F5000 Championship in 1974- the Monza paddock on 30 June.

Familiarity with the circuit showed too, she qualified sixth and finished fourth behind Gethin, Pilette and Evans.

(Fairfax)

International Formula 5000 buffs will know this as one of Kevin Bartlett’s cars, in this case a Lola T332 Chev at Oran Park during the 1974 AGP weekend.

As an obscurity it would be great if Lella had done a few laps in it, but she didn’t, it seems the car was used as a background shot for the daily papers given her own Matich was late arriving at the circuit.

(unattributed)

That pointscoring race at Montjuïc Parc, Barcelona, Spain in 1975.

Lella’s March 751 Ford in front of Bob Evans, BRM P201, its early in the race as the BRM only completed 7 laps. Rolf Stommelen’s Hill GH1 Ford accident happened on lap 26 with the race ended after 29 laps.

Jochen Mass, McLaren M23 Ford took his only GP win in an extraordinary day.

(LAT)

Lombardi in fifth position ahead of another Porsche 934 (Striebig/Verney/Chasseuil) during the Silverstone 6 Hours on 9 April 1976.

First Group 4 car home, the winner was the Fitzpatrick/Walkinshaw BMW CSL 3 litre.

(unattributed)

Lombardi aviating her RAM Racing Brabham BT44B Ford at the Nurburgring on 1 August 1976- German GP practice.

She did not make the cut, the car carried both #33 and 37 that weekend.

(unattributed)

Le Mans 1977 aboard the Inaltera (Rondeau) LM77 Ford DFV she shared with Christine Beckers to eleventh place, the race won by the Ickx/Barth/Stommelen Porsche 936/77.

The same pair shared the car at Daytona but were outed after Beckers collided with another Porsche having its own moment after a tyre blew.

(unattributed)

Lombardi returned to Australia to contest an endurance Group C touring car race, the 1978 Rothmans 500 together with Sue Ransom at Oran Park- DNF.

Pity she didn’t have a run at Mount Panorama in an outright car, Lella had plenty of taxi experience throughout her career.

Lella aboard the Luigi Racing 5.7 litre Chev Camaro she shared with Anna Cambiaghi, Tourist Trophy, Silverstone, September 1981.

She qualified the car third but the pair failed to finish with engine problems.

Bibliography…

‘She Made Her Point’ Paul Fearnley in April 2015 MotorSport, oldracingcars.com, F2 Index, racingsportscars.com, ‘Formula 875 Monza’ on motormotion.it, ingegnere.it

Credits…

Getty Images, Rosanna Pagliacci, Steve Jones, Bruce Keys, Martin Lee, Russell Garth, Paolo Diegoli, Niccolo Ricci, A Vimercati, Rico Harman, Michael Hewitt, Roger Gerhold

Tailpiece…

Lella at Sydney Airport before heading off to Melbourne for her first race in Australia, 30 October 1974.

Finito…

 

 

(unattributed)

If only Jochen Rindt had rejoined Jack and Ron at Brabham as he had committed to do.

But the Lotus/Ford money was too good to resist and Jack ‘let him off the hook’.

If only he had run with wings.

But Ickx was bridging the championship gap, the Ferrari flat-12 had plenty of punch, Rindt needed more top speed, 800rpm was provided by eliminating wings, his skill would make up for some of the lost corner speed.

If only he’d used the Willans’ crutch straps.

But he had a thing about them.

If only Chapman and Philippe’s slide rules had done a better job.

They didn’t.

If only the car’s Monza Armco angle and point of entry was different.

It wasn’t.

If only Saint Christopher had been aboard Lotus 72C Ford chassis ‘R2’ that 5 September 1970 afternoon fifty years ago.

He was A.W.O.L.

And so, with a horrible confluence of factors, the fastest man of his generation and one of the quickest ever, was killed during the Saturday afternoon session of the Italian Grand Prix.

Jochen’s right-front inboard brake driveshaft fractured under hard braking into the South Curve from about 190mph pitching the car hard left into the Armco safety barrier support staunchion.

Rindt suffered fatal throat wounds after ‘submarining’ forward under his lap belts given the force of the impact.

Lotus 72 being denuded of wings and airbox by Chief Mechanic Eddie Dennis. Other competitors also practiced sans wings. The RHS inboard brake driveshaft which broke is clear. Whether the failing was in component design or subcontractor manufacture is not entirely clear

 

Jochen and Nina 5 September 1970

 

Before the off. Jochen found 800rpm by eliminating wings and then fitted a taller 205mph fifth. Airboxes removed but sitting on the rear of the car. Siffert’s works March 701 Ford behind

Childhood formative memories are so powerful.

Somehow, two years before i ever went to a motor race, via Automobile Year 18 in the case of Jochen and via Australian Motor Racing Annual 1970 in the case of Kevin Bartlett, i had my two favourite drivers, both of whom were cut from the same ‘automotive acrobat’ cloth.

The world’s best are a mix of on-board computer and speed, they are not for me though.

I’ve always preferred the balls to the wall types who defy the laws of physics by doing things with cars which are perhaps not theoretically possible- so its Nuvolari, Rosemeyer, Fangio, Moss, Peterson, Villeneuve, Rosberg K, Senna, Bellof- dudes of that ilk who appeal to me most.

I apply a ‘friggin homicidal arsehole filter to this entirely subjective, emotional list- as a consequence Schumacher doesn’t make the cut. Senna was lucky to get through it. Of course both fellas are not sportsmen in the Marquis of Queensberry sense either. I’m a bit traditional in my views in that regard.

It’s entirely debatable of course, but it seems to me that the winged cars of 1968 through to the advent of John Barnard’s carbon-fibre chassis McLaren MP4 of 1981 were amongst the most lethal of all.

With 400-525bhp, and then later towards 1,000bhp, with loads of grip, cornering speeds were far higher than ever.

Drivers were ensconced within aluminium monocoques, which whilst more ‘shuntable’ than the girder/spaceframes which went before, did not have great capacity to absorb the physics unleashed when something went terribly wrong, as it did at Monza.

Very fast road circuits were still part of the 1970 tour, Clermont and Spa to be specific, by 1980 that was not the case, not in their original, more lethal forms anyway.

None of the blokes cited were targets for life insurance salesmen, they did their stuff without a safety net, with minuscule margins for pilot error or mechanical failure.

I don’t propose to rattle off Jochen’s full career summary but lets not forget the 1970 posthumous F1 drivers world title, 1965 Le Mans win with Masten Gregory aboard a N.A.R.T. Ferrari 250LM, countless Brabham and Lotus F2 wins and sheer blinding speed in everything into which he popped his bum.

R.I.P. Karl Jochen Rindt, 18 April 1942-5 September 1970.

British GP weekend, Brands Hatch, July 1970. The dashboard support became a mandated structural element to protect the driver from the commencement of the 1976 season- it was no such thing in any of the cars in 1970

 

Poor Eddie Dennis absorbing the gruesome reality of it all (unattributed)

Credits…

Getty Images, Geoffrey Harris Collection

Tailpieces…

(G Harris)

One of Graz’ favourite sons- the place in which Rindt was brought up and called home is being celebrated on the city trams at present.

(G Harris)

Finito…