Archive for the ‘F1’ Category

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…

(MotorSport)

Mark Webber at Knockhill, Fife, Scotland during the 1996 British Formula Ford Championship- works ‘Duckhams’ Van Diemen RF96.

It was a good season, he won four races, was second in the title race won by Kristian Kolby in another RF96 and won the important Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch at the seasons end. This victory secured a test with Alan Docking Racing’s top-notch F3 outfit.

This shot made me think about Webber’s progress from the more junior ranks, this short, mainly photographic piece tracks his ascent from the early nineties to 2002.

Before arriving in England he cut his racing teeth in Karts before contesting the Australian Formula Ford Championship in 1994 and 1995 (fourth) before racing in the Formula Ford Festival at Brands- his fourth place secured the Duckhams Van Diemen seat for 1996.

In Formula 3 with Alan Docking Racing in 1997 he was fourth in the British Championship, taking a win at Brands Hatch and three podiums, the title winner was Jonny Kane in a Dallara F397 Honda. In addition Webber was fourth in the important Macau GP and third in the F3 Masters at Zandvoort won by Tom Coronel- the top 37 cars on the grid were separated by less than one second, to provide an example of the competitiveness of F3!

It was a tough year though, only Australian rugby international David Campese’s loan of $100,000 kept Webber afloat and in the Dallara F397 Honda for the full season.

Lola B99/50 Zytec F3000 at Imola in April 2000, third place the first time he raced in the class (MotorSport)

 

‘Fuck me! Again!’, or thoughts along those lines. The second of Mark’s flips on the Hunaudieres at Le Mans in 1999, Mercedes CLR. Peter Dumbreck also took to the sky during the race

In 1998 he progressed to the FIA GT Championship with Mercedes Benz-AMG, how thrilled we all were to see him demonstrate the 6 litre V12 CLK GTR at Albert Park before the season in Europe began.

Paired with Bernd Schneider, they won five of the ten races but finished second overall to  teammates Klaus Ludwig and Ricardo Zonta who also won five but had better placings.

Webber’s aerobatics at Le Mans in 1999, in two sessions remember, showed just how tough he was but the season was a write-off when Mercedes cancelled their program after Webber and teammate Peter Dumbreck both took flight.

In 2000 and 2001 Webber mixed F1 testing roles with Arrows and then Benetton and the European F3000 Championship, finishing third (one win and three fastest laps) and second (three wins) respectively.

In 2002 he broke through into F1 with a Minardi PS02 Asiatech 3 litre V10 (née Peugeot F1), by then the Italian F1 stalwart was owned by Aussie aviation entrepreneur Paul Stoddart.

Webber’s fifth place at Albert Park was a great start to the season and indicative of the career towards the top of the pyramid to come- 9 wins, 42 podiums, 13 poles and 19 fastest laps throughout a stellar Grand Prix career.

Webber, Minardi PS02 Asiatech, Albert Park 2002 (MotorSport)

Etcetera…

(unattributed)

Mark started his karting career at Fairbairn Kart track in Canberra aged 14, winning his first title, the NSW karting championship in 1993.

He is shown above in that machine, what chassis and engine is it folks?

With Mum and Dad- Queanbeyan, early years (M Webber Collection)

 

(unattributed)

Mark ran a well funded Formula Ford campaign in 1995 aboard a Van Diemen RF95 after an exploratory year aboard Craig Lowndes 1993 championship winning RF93 in 1994.

This was the start of the business relationship with Ann Neale, who organised the Yellow Pages deal, helped him make it all the way to F1 and remains his partner in life.

He was fourth in the Australian FF Championship won by Jason Bright in another RF95, in a season of typical depth the class of ‘95 included later V8 Supercar greats Jason Bargwanna and Todd Kelly.

Above the Van Diemen RF95 is on the way to winning the Australian GP, Formula Ford support race at Adelaide in November 1995.

(unattributed)

In some useful ‘big car’, wings and slicks, experience Mark raced Malcolm Ramsay’s Birrana Engineering Reynard 90D Formula Holden at Mallala in June 1995.

He finished second behind his teammate and multiple Gold Star Champion Paul Stokell in the teams 91D.

Webber did one final meeting before heading to Europe in 1996, he contested the Formula Holden AGP support races at Albert Park in one of Graham Watson’s Ralt Australia Reynards, winning the Sunday race in a 91D.

(MotorSport)

The Bouchut/Heidfeld/Dumbreck AMG-Mercedes CLR leads the Tiemann/Webber/Gounon machine during practice at Le Mans 1999.

(MotorSport)

A before and after shot Le Mans 1999 shot.

The photograph above is of the Webber CLR after the first flip at Indianapolis on Thursday night.

Takeoff speed was about 185mph, the car was rebuilt overnight around a new chassis. All three team cars were fitted with front winglets in an attempts to keep them on terra firma.

On the short Saturday morning warmup, one can imagine the courage required to get back in the car, he again took flight whilst following a teammate closely on the hump on the Mulsanne. The car crewed by MW, Jean Marc Gounon and  Marcel Tiemann was withdrawn from the race.

The other two machines, with further tweaks took the start with Peter Dumbreck taking off on lap 75, about 5 hours in, on the bumpy section towards Indianapolis. This time the car flew off the side of the track amongst the trees- Mercedes, lucky not to lose another driver, but with another PR disaster on their hands in France, withdrew the other car- and from sportscar racing as it later transpired.

(MotorSport)

Martin Brundle in the pole winning Toyota GT-One with Pedro Lamy, Mercedes CLR- behind him his teammate Christophe Bouchut with the BMW V12 LMR alongside him, and the rest, Le Mans start 1999.

Testing duties for Benetton at Estoril in September 2000.

Car is the Benetton B200 Playlife 3 litre V10. ‘Playlife’ engines were rebranded Supertec motors which derived from 1998 Renault RS9 engines built by Mecachrome. Goddit?

Raced by Giancarlo Fisichella and Alexander Wurz, the B200s were also-rans in 2000.

Super Nova Racing F3000 Lola B99/50 Zytec V8 at San Marino in April 2001, the Lola behind is driven by Darren Manning.

Mark had a great weekend, winning from pole and taking fastest lap. He won in Monaco and at Magny Cours as well, finishing second in the title chase behind Justin Wilson, his later teammate at Jaguar.

His run home was poor with collisions in all three final rounds.

(Getty)

The shots above are at Silverstone during the 2002 British GP weekend.

Minardi PS02 Asiatech, Q20 and DNF clutch in the race won by Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari F2002 3 litre V10.

Webber during the Red Bull years, meeting and date unknown (unattributed)

Credits…

MotorSport, Frederic Le Foch, Wikipedia, Getty Images, Mark Webber Collection

Tailpiece…

(unattributed)

After retiring from F1 at the end of 2013, Webber joined Porsche’s endurance racing program.

2014 was a building year, but Mark won the World Endurance Racing Championship along with Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley in 2015, the same crew having not won a race the year before.

But not the elusive Le Mans win- here is his Porsche 919 Hybrid during the 2016 race- the same trio raced the car that year as in the two seasons before, they were classified thirteenth, the race won by the sister 919.

Finito…

Christian Lautenschlager descending the ‘le piege de la mort’ switchback, Mercedes 18/100 HP (4.48 litre straight-four), first in the July 1914 French Grand Prix run over a 752 km road course in a little over 7 hours 8 minutes.

Mark suggested I write something on ten of the more interesting cars I have had the privilege of driving. (Car 2 I have only been a passenger in, but it is included here because of its relevance to Car 1). This could be a challenge for others to produce their lists. Although I have had extensive experience of a few of the cars, the majority are more an exercise in name dropping. Here goes in approximate date of manufacture order:

1. 1914 Grand Prix Mercedes

Yes, I have driven Lautenschlager’s winning car (above).

In 1974 I went to Lyon for a memorable dual celebration of 60 years since Mercedes won the Grand Prix de l’ACF at this venue, coupled with 50 years since the debut of the Type 35 Grand Prix Bugatti on the same circuit. (Incidentally, the latter was the inspiration for my proposal that we similarly celebrate 50 years of the AGP at Phillip Island in 1978).

To cut to the chase; I had a Rosé infused lunch sitting opposite Phillip Mann, the then custodian of the 1914 winning Mercedes. He proposed I ride with him in the afternoon, and handed me the wheel for the last couple of hours.

What a car; a low first gear to cope with starting and the ‘fourche’ at Les Sept Chemin and then three close and high ratios to follow. Quick and light; two-wheel brakes did not seem to be a problem, and when Phillip said, “Bob, if you used third gear more, you would not use the brakes so much” (‘code for have a go’), the car came alive.

As we followed a road that swept beside the twists and turns of the Loire, there were ample opportunities to extend it in third and then into top, which was only a smidge higher ratio. Road holding and steering were what one would expect from a car that had won one of the greatest races of all time. The 750 km. race had taken just over 7hrs – heroes all, those Belle Epoque drivers.

A short piece on the 1914 French GP; https://primotipo.com/2017/05/01/1914-french-grand-prix/

 

Arthur Duray in the 4.44 litre straight-4 Delage Type S before the off. #9 is Paul Bablot (unattributed)

2.1914 Grand Prix Delage

I am also privileged to have had a couple of rides as passenger in the wonderful Murdoch family Delage, Type S, that raced with the Mercedes at Lyon.

Twin OHC, desmodromic valves, four valves per cylinder, four-wheel brakes, five speed gear box with direct drive on third (two overdrives), and all this in 1914. Usually known as the ‘Indianapolis Delage’, this is a much more sophisticated bit of kit than the Mercedes, but it was not to win that mythic race.

Like the Mercedes, it was designed for the circuit; again a lowish first gear and then a bunch of higher ratios, one for each piece of this track that varied from the aforementioned hairpin to  right angle bends through the town of Givors and then a long fourteen km. straight back to Sept Chemin, necessitating the high gearing of these cars.

The weight limit for this race was 1100 kg’s and with 4 1/2 litres of sophisticated racing engine to propel them, these cars, for their day, had super-car performance with a maximum speed of close to 170kph. Even today this 104-year-old car can hold its own with modern traffic.

Delage were out of luck; two of their three team cars were said to have had valve adjustment issues with their complicated desmodromic valve gear and the third car of veteran Arthur Duray was delayed after running near the front of the race and could only manage eighth place, over 40 minutes after the winning Mercedes.

Regardless of the result, of the two cars, I think the Delage would be my choice based on its sophistication, not to mention its booming exhaust.

 

The Sunbeam team cars lined up at Strasbourg before the start of the 1922 French GP- #9 Jean Chassagne, #16 Kenelm Lee Guinness and #21 Henry Segrave (Selou)

3.1922 Grand Prix Sunbeam

Four of these Ernst Henri designed cars were at Strasbourg for the 1922 Grand Prix de l’ACF.

The three racing cars broke down with valve trouble through over-revving attributed to low reading rev-counters and the practice car suffered an engine fire before the race. Not an auspicious debut.

This was another epic race over 803kms of public roads won by Felice Nazzaro at an average speed of close to 130kph – these 2 litre cars were not slow.

By December 1925 Jean Chassange’s car was competing at Maroubra in the hands of Hope Bartlett. The car is now in a restored condition in Queensland.

The Sunbeam I drove was imported to Australia in 1984 by Tim Hewison, and it was during his custodianship that I drove it. Having had some experience of the often-underrated vintage touring Sunbeams, I found that the GP car had all the same attributes of light and precise controls – a delight to drive.

Although of only two litres, its twin overhead camshaft engine, coupled with a light racing body, gave it a satisfyingly brisk performance. With direct but light steering, powerful brakes and a delightful gear-change, this would have been a wonderful road-car and an exciting racing car.

My drive was limited to a quick squirt up and down the Flinders-Mornington Road. Unfortunately, the car was only in Australia for a short time and I never had the opportunity to take it for a serious drive.

Hope Bartlett’s GP Sunbeam shortly after its arrival in Australia, Sydney 1925 (H Bartlett Collection)

 

Bugatti T32 ‘Tanks’during the 1923 French GP weekend at Tours. #18 Prince de Cystria, #16 Pierre Marco and #11 Pierre de Vizcaya. Segrave’s Sunbeam won, the best placed T32 was Ernest Friderich’s in third place (unattributed)

4.1923 Grand Prix Type 32 Bugatti Tank replica

After a satisfactory 1922 Strasbourg GP, with second, third and fifth placings, hopes must have been high at Molsheim for these innovative cars in the 1923 Grand Prix de l’ACF at Tours.

The triangular layout with three long straights had focused Bugattis mind on streamlining, and with only three corners per lap, he was happy to make do with a three-speed gear box, albeit in a trans-axle configuration.

Disappointingly, they could manage no better than third place in yet another marathon event; Henry Segrave’s winning Sunbeam averaged 123 kph for the 800kms. Of the team of five cars one was reconstructed around remaining parts and is now in Italy. Another unmolested example is in the Cité de l’Automobile (Schlumph) museum in France.

Noted Bugatti enthusiast Bob Sutherland was given unrestricted access to the Schlumph car which enabled him to construct a ‘tool-room’ copy, apart from a three main bearing crankshaft; the full roller bearing crankshaft of the team cars was only revealed in more recent times when the Italian car was restored.

Bob Sutherland entrusted me to race his car at three Australian historic meetings – Winton, Sandown and Phillip Island.

The Tank lost in the wide open spaces of Winton (B King Collection)

 

Tank office, the magneto is on the back of the engine, so the driver sits right amongst the machinery (B King)

Legend had it that these cars were evil handling because of their 3 metre wheel-base coupled with aerodynamic lift engendered by their ground-hugging, enveloping bodywork.  I can categorically say that the rumours were not true; the car was a delight to buzz through bends and there was no sign of lift at 100 mph.

On the flip side, the car was tricky to drive with the gear change to the trans-axle and the lever for the rear wheel brakes being operated by the left hand, while the right foot was busy being a human balance-bar operating the front wheel brakes as well as an almost inaccessible throttle pedal courtesy of the tight packaging of the straight eight engine which intruded into the cockpit. (Braking was not a priority at Tours with only three corners per 23 Km lap).

Once you got your head around the complicated controls, it was a delight to drive, just like any other Bugatti; and fast enough to pass an Alvis 4.3 litre racing car and a Gypsy Moth engined car down the main straight at Phillip Island. In the absence of a rev-counter and in deference to the three main bearing crankshaft fitted to this car, it was thought necessary to lift off well before turn one. Ettore Bugatti must have had sufficient confidence in his new 5 main bearing ball and roller crankshaft to deem a rev counter unnecessary.

A quickie; https://primotipo.com/?s=1923+french+grand+prix

Bugatti T39 #4607 at Stag Corner during the 1985 AGP meeting (B King Collection)

5.1925 Grand Prix Bugatti Type 39

Of Bugattis I have owned, I chose this one as the most delightful to drive.

The Type 39 was the 1 ½ litre variant of the straight eight GP Bugatti – more normally 2 or 2.3 litre. The Type 39 was designed for competition in the Voiturette races in 1925, but initially appeared in the Grand Prix de Tourisme with skimpy touring bodies which barely complied with the rules (and probably not the spirit of the competition).

After the 1000Km touring car race at Montlhery they were rebodied with the familiar GP bodywork and then sent to Italy for the 1925 Italian Grand Prix des Voiturettes. The five team cars were successful in both endeavours.

Remarkably two of the team cars were competing at Maroubra by June 1926, where they met with limited success, being too high geared for the track. However, my car, chassis No. 4607, won the 1931 Australian Grand Prix with Carl Junker at the wheel.

After several blow-ups, the engine was replaced with a Ford V8 in which form it went on to even more fame as the Day Special, driven by Jack Day and then Gelignite Jack Murray. Many years on I was able to restore it using the engine from its sister car.

The car had all the usual attributes of GP Bugatti, as one would expect, with razor sharp steering, a ‘knife through butter’ gear box and powerful brakes. All this was complemented by precise, delicate, handling on beaded edge tyres and an engine that loved to rev courtesy of its short stroke roller bearing crankshaft (60×66 mm). Carl Junker used 7,000 revs through the gears in winning the 200-mile AGP at Phillip Island; almost unheard-of engine speeds for those days. His average speed was 110kph on the rough and dusty roads of Phillip Island.

A bit about the ‘Day Special Ford V8’ aka this Type 39 is here; https://primotipo.com/2018/11/08/the-spook-the-baron-and-the-1938-south-australian-gp-lobethal/

The Type 39 #4607 shortly after its arrival in Australia- here at Maroubra, Sydney note the elaborate scoreboard and banked track in the background (B King Collection)

 

Type 40 not long after restoration, outside David Mize’s barn in Vermont. The Indo-chine number plate was useful to fuzz the Fuzz (A Rheault)

6.1928 Type 40 Bugatti touring car

Why are Bugattis always so maligned? Is it envy or a dearth of experience of these cars, or is it easy to make fun of some of their antediluvian features?

Of all Bugattis, the Type 40 has suffered the most slings and arrows. Usually passed off as the ‘Molsheim Morris Cowley’, it is a humble car with its 1500cc engine usually burdened with a none-too-light four-seater body. However, it maintains all the usual characteristics that make Bugattis a pleasure to drive, and has a cruising speed half as much again as the maximum speed of the aforementioned Morris.

David Mize was employed by the State Department of the US Government in Vietnam and was able to liberate this original factory bodied Grand Sport Type 40 which he found in the killing fields.

Following light restoration, the Type 40 saw active service on numerous International Bugatti Rallies from the mid-nineties. He and the car visited Italy, France, Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal, England, Scotland, Corsica, Sardinia, Tunisia and Australia, including Tasmania. In Europe it was driven to and from events, usually with the writer at the wheel.

Although outpaced by its more sporting brethren in a straight line, it could usually keep pace with them on twisty roads; so long as the roads did not go up-hill. An epic cross USA adventure came to a premature end when the output shaft of the gear box fractured at a point where an unfortunate modification had been made.

In all, David and I did more than 40,000 kms in the car, but this was the first time that it did not get us home. My last drive was as memorable as my first, from Provence to Luxembourg in 2015; David sadly died in 2018, aged 90, but the car remains on active service with his close friends.

The author enters the car while David Mize makes space in the narrow (and svelte) body, Corsica, 2007 (B King)

 

Ron Reid in the Sulman Singer chases Colin Bond, Lynx Peugeot s/c at Oran Park 1967 (oldracephotos.com)

7.1935 Sulman Singer

This car might seem a little out of place in this exalted company, but it is included because of its unique place in Australian motoring history.

It was my fortunate lot to be invited to drive this remarkable car at Wakefield Park at an ‘All Historic’ meeting in 2013, through the generosity of Malcolm and David Reid.

This was a car with which I had had many memorable dices in my Anzani Bugatti when it was raced by its long-term custodian, Ron, the Reid boy’s father. Ron mostly had the upper-hand, particularly if he was using a hot motor; if he had a ‘cooking’ motor, then we had great dices.

Singer Le Mans power in a light weight chassis added up to a spritely performance – sufficient for me to pass the ex-Osborne 18 l Hispano-Delage at Wakefield, definitely a case of David and Goliath. Unfortunately, my drive was curtailed by rattles in the engine – the crankshaft had broken at only 4,000 revs. Not to worry said the Reid boys, ‘that was our $10 motor fitted 10 years ago which was about to be replaced anyway’.

Tom Sulman had built the car while living in England and had many successes with it in the pioneering days of speedway in England before repatriating himself and the car to Australia post-war. Tom achieved a memorable 5th place in the 1947 AGP at Bathurst. Raced by two generations of Reids, the Sulman has probably had more starts in Australian Historic Races than any other car.

See here for a feature on Tom Sulman and his cars; https://primotipo.com/?s=sulman+singer

Mal Reid in the Sulman Singer passes George Hetrel’s Bugatti Type 35C at Phillip Island (FB)

 

‘Nash in England is the car sitting outside the factory in Isleworth on the day the first owner took delivery (G Bain)

8.1934 Frazer Nash TT Replica

Interestingly, in the Australian context, the first owner of this car was mystery man AG Sinclair. However, Sinclair had nothing to do with this car’s arrival in New Zealand in 1936; he had already sold it.

In New Zealand this extensively raced car went through numerous incarnations as a special before being bought by Gavin Bain in 1976 in restored condition, now fitted with a 6 Cylinder 2 litre ohc AC motor in place of the original 4ED Meadows.

In 1984 Gavin invited me to drive it in Dunedin in a hill climb (Bethune’s Gully) and in road races. The road race was a true ‘round the houses’ affair on the historic Wharf Circuit made famous by Peter Whitehead and Tony Gaze in their Ferraris. Tony later told me that part of the circuit was rough gravel in their day – fortunately it was all bitumen by 1984.

Characteristically, Frazer Nashs are defined by the way they ‘hang the tail out’ when cornering. No matter how hard I tried, this car tracked true, possibly because of the extra two cylinders ‘up-front’ altering the weight distribution. What-ever, it was great fun to drive with its rapid gear change courtesy off the chain drive transmission and its direct steering. And I was hooked on around the houses racing; just like the Ards TTs, except that the left-right flick past the butcher’s shop in Comber was replaced by a plumbing supply company in Dunedin.

The author lines up on the front row of the grid, Dunedin Wharf Circuit 1984. Definitely round the houses (G Bain)

 

The Ferrari 212 when owned by Nino Sacilotto (M Bunyan)

9.1951 Ferrari Type 212 Export Berlinetta Chassis ‘212 0112E’

This fabulous car competed in the Mille Miglia with its original owner, Count Guerino Gerini, having already been uprated to 2.7l, Type 225 specifications.

By 1956 it was in Sydney with Nino Sacilotto, a textile agent and the Italian Consul; he also had a smart Italian restaurant in Kings Cross, where I met zabaglione for the first time. Nino drove it to Melbourne for the 1956 Australian Tourist Trophy at Albert Park. By 1959 it was with Adelaide engineer Harold Clisby who undertook an extensive mechanical rebuild after the crankshaft broke on his delivery drive.

In the sixties it was owned by Ian Ferguson, and I had the opportunity to drive it for several laps at Winton on an early Australian Ferrari Register track day. Ian and I were both Bugatti owners, and I likened it to driving a Grand Prix Bugatti with a roof. Like the Bugatti, one’s left knee rested on the gear box (5 speed with dog engagement); also housed under the unlined aluminium roof was a howling 2.7 l, 12-cylinder engine. Motoring heaven.

One quickly appreciated Sacilotto’s description of the ordeal of driving it from Sydney to Melbourne: “I started out with a full bottle of scotch wedged between the seats; by the time I got to Melbourne, the bottle was empty”.

At a later date I had a number of rides in New Zealand in Phipps and Amanda Rinaldo’s Type 166 Inter Coupe (Chassis 007 – the earliest road registered Ferrari). The contrast was stark. This car with a 2l engine and the usual interior creature comforts was civilized; sure, you could enjoy the whirring 12 cylinders, but there was none of the cacophony of the later racing car – Sydney to Melbourne would have been a pleasure; even without the whisky.

 

The 375 MM back ‘home’ in Modena (G Bain)

10.1953 Ferrari 375 MM Chassis ‘MM 0370AM’

Again, through the good offices my friend Gavin Bain, I had the opportunity to drive this beast in practice at an All Historic Amaroo meeting – we swapped drives, he drove my Bugatti.

Gavin had replaced his Grand Prix Ferrari 375 F1 with this car which had won the Buenos Aires 1000km in 1954 when driven by Umberto Maglioli and Giuseppe Farina. The fabulous Pininfarina body on it was draped over a bellowing 4.5l, 12-cylinder engine, matched to a close ratio gear box.

Gavin warned me that it had a high first gear and that the clutch was ‘in or out’ and therefore you needed to give it a few revs to get moving. I did just that and went wheel spinning up Bitupave Hill. Wow, how good is this? Real power. I drove it for about 12 laps and cautiously sped up.

By the end of my stint I felt that if I could drive it for week, I just might be able to drive it at racing speeds, but I was well aware of my limitations and felt that I could never be drifting it through corners with only inches separating me from my competitors – I was never going to be a Maglioli or a Farina.

Somewhere in Italy (G Bain)

Epilogue.

Reg Nutt, who as a young fella was riding mechanic to Carl Junker in the winning Bugatti Type 39 in the 1931 AGP, told me that he had raced 27 cars, but had never owned a racing car – an enviable record. I guess I have been lucky to have had, mostly brief, acquaintance with some pretty remarkable cars.

Photo Credits…

Bob King/Collection, Gavin Bain/Collection, Merv Bunyan Collection, Lynton Hemer, A Rheault, Selou, Hope Bartlett Collection

Etcetera…

(G Bain)

Frazer Nash being worked on at Dunedin in 1984 an below in Gavin Bain’s New Zealand yard.

(G Bain)

Finito….

(R MacKenzie)

Pedro Rogriguez BRM P126 V12 howling its way around Surfers Paradise in the summer of 1968, behind is Dick Atwood’s sister car…

This shot is by Rod MacKenzie, loved his work, especially the more creative stuff of which there is heaps- he died last year sadly, see here for some of his work; https://primotipo.com/2018/09/27/oz-racing-books/ and here for the BRM P126; https://primotipo.com/2018/01/25/richard-attwood-brm-p126-longford-1968/

 

(oldracephotos.com.au/King)

Bob Jane from Allan Moffat in Lotus Cortinas at Mountford Corner, Longford in March 1965.

Didn’t these two characters go at with considerable ferocity for a couple of decades, who won the encounters on this weekend? Click here for the Lotus Cortina; https://primotipo.com/2014/11/16/jim-clark-lotus-cortina-sebring-1964/ and here for Moff’s more formative career years; https://primotipo.com/2020/03/06/moffats-shelby-brabham-elfin-and-trans-am/

 

(I Smith)

Feel the earth move under your feet- Formula 5000 at Sandown was what hooked me into the sport.

McRae, McRae GM3 Chev, Costanzo, Lola T332C Chev and Kevin Bartlett’s partially obscured Brabham BT43 Chev, another three T332s and the rest on the run down from The Rise down into Dandy Road- Sandown Park Cup, Rothmans International Series, February 1978.

Warwick Brown won from Garrie Cooper and John Cannon- Lola T333/T332C Chev, Elfin MR8-C Chev and March 73A/751 Chev, McRae, Costanzo and Bartlett were all DNFs.

Piece on Graham McRae here; https://primotipo.com/2018/09/06/amons-talon-mcraes-gm2/

 

(S Jek)

Stan Jones, Maserati 250F during the 1956 Australian Grand Prix.

Taken from the spectator foot bridge on Pit Straight, Stan was fifth in the race won by Moss’ works 250F, see here; https://primotipo.com/2018/01/16/james-linehams-1956-agp-albert-park/

 

(unattributed)

The Corkscrew, Laguna Seca Can-Am 15 October 1967.

Skip Scott, McLaren M1C Chev from Frank Matich, Matich SR3 Repco ‘620’ 4.4 V8 and Chris Amon, Ferrari 350 Can-Am V12 with a Lola T70 up top.

Bruce McLaren won that day in his M6A Chev- the first of the long series of dominant orange Can-Am Big Macs.

For Matich, his 1967 tour was a toe in the water exercise, but he never did go back with a sportscar, the SR4 chassis and Repco 5 litre 760 engine were both hopelessly late, in the event he used a sledge hammer to crack a nut in torching the local opposition in the 1969 Australian Sportscar Championship- see here; https://primotipo.com/2016/07/15/matich-sr4-repco-by-nigel-tait-and-mark-bisset/

 

(Peter Weaver Motorsports Photography)

John Smith, Ralt RT21 Holden, Formula Holden, Phillip Island during the opening 1990 Gold Star round in March 1990.

Schmiddy put Dave Mawer’s immaculate car second on the grid but had a mother and father of a prang during the pre-race morning warm up comprehensively destroying the car after a high speed off at Lukey Heights.

I became a Smith devotee in his Bowin P4A Formula Ford days where his dazzling car control was Bartlett-esque, he carried that pace into the Galloway ANF2 and then the ex-Scuderia Veloce/Larry Perkins Ralt RT1 he raced with both pushrod Ford and BDA Ford engines in both ANF2 and Formula Pacific- nifty that, I always thought.

The thinking drivers of that F Pac period were Alf Costanzo and John Bowe- the ‘maddies’ perhaps Andrew Miedecke, Lucio Cesario and Smith- with the latter two probably or possibly the quickest of the five over a given lap and Costanzo and JB more often victorious. Alan Jones duly noted of course.

Alf should have gone to Europe in 1969 (or did he? and returned), Smith in 1979 and Bowe and Cesario in 1981- man there was talent aplenty amongst that lot.

John boofed a few cars mind you- the RT1 was retubbed at least once, ditto one of the RT4s, ditto this RT21 but he was always ‘on it’ in a very European kinda way as was Lucio, and let’s not forget the latter was a Lancia LC2 Ferrari Group C works driver for a season or so- I really must write that story.

John’s Ralt RT4 looking a tad second hand after a difference of opinion with the Adelaide International real estate before the first Gold Star round in 1982 (SLSA)

 

(T Parkinson)

Bunbury ‘Round The Houses’ down south as the Perthies refer to Margs (Margaret River) and its surrounds.

The real 100S Austin Healey deal ‘AHS3909’ which Tony Parkinson identifies as driven by Perth disc-jockey Mike O’Rourke during the 1963 New Year weekend.

See here for more about these West Australian town venues; https://primotipo.com/2017/03/23/bunbury-flying-50-allan-tomlinson-ferrari-500-et-al/

 

(Govt Singapore)

John Walker’s Elfin 600B Ford twin-cam leads winner Graeme Lawrence, Brabham BT29 Ford FVC through the tropical jungle alongside the Thompson Road track, Singapore GP 1971.

This piece is about the Singapore GP generally but with a focus on the 1972 event; https://primotipo.com/2016/11/24/singapore-sling-with-an-elfin-twist/

 

(J Ellacott)

Beautiful John Ellacott shot at Mount Druitt in July 1957.

The two Johns, Ellacott and Medley identify the entrants as the #81 George Websdale MG TC, #9 Howard Hunt MG TA/TC Spl s/c, Jim Johnson MG TC Spl, #20 Don Wright, Citroen Spl and Gordon Stewart in the mid-engined Wheeler MG Spl s/c, and on the second row Ray Walmsley, Alfa Romeo P3 Alvis, unknown, the George Pearse Cooper MG and maybe Ken Bennett’s Austin Healey 100-4, Medley notes in the background the red Jack Robinson Jaguar in the background.

A piece on Mount Druitt is here; https://primotipo.com/?s=mount+druitt

 

(A Doney)

Soap Box Derby in Bendigo.

Nineteen-forties d’yer reckon? All of us with a billy-cart or three in our past can relate to this wonderful shot. More on billy-carts; https://primotipo.com/2019/02/10/spitty/

 

Poignant.

The I’ll-fated Rocky Tresise Ecurie Australie Cooper T62 Climax is pushed onto the grid at Longford in March 1965.

Warwick Cumming at the rear, Lou Russo up front- two of the AF Hollins crew who always looked after Lex Davison’s cars.

A rather sad story, a ‘Greek Tragedy’ as some have described it, here; https://primotipo.com/2016/05/20/bruce-lex-and-rockys-cooper-t62-climax/

 

(Peter Weaver Motor Sport Photography)

Bap Romano, Kaditcha Ford Cosworth DFL, Winton, 1983.

Bap won both heats of the Australian Sportscar Championship that day- I was there and still remember the raucous, sharp exhaust note of Barry Lock’s marvellous car.

It needed a bit of work from ex-Alan Jones Williams mechanic, Wayne Eckersley to get the structure and aero right but it was a jet once they got the thing sorted.

I went to several meetings just to see and hear this car.

 

(I Nicholls)

Tiger In Your Tank indeed.

Ray Parsons and Jim Clark watched by a fascinated Sandown Park crowd during the 1966 Tasman meeting.

Clark’s Lotus 39 Climax was the least competitive of all of his Tasman mounts, the two BRM P261s were the class of the field that year with Jackie Stewart taking the title convincingly.

See here for an epic on this car which was driven so well for so long after acquired by Leo Geoghegan after the Longford round which followed this Sandown event; https://primotipo.com/2016/02/12/jim-clark-and-leo-geoghegans-lotus-39/

 

(N Macleod)

Aussie Abroad.

Warwick Brown in Jack McCormack’s Talon MR1A Chev at Mosport during the 1975 US F5000 Championship.

He gave Mario Andretti a surprise that weekend pushing him hard in the heat, in the final he was third behind Mario and Brian Redman’s Lola T332 Chevs.

A bit about Warwick here; https://primotipo.com/2017/03/09/wb-for-73/

 

(D Simpson)

The old and the new.

There are not too many shots of Bob Jane’s second and third Mustangs together on track together as here during the 1969 Australian Touring Car Championship round at Mallala.

Bob in the 1968 Shelby built Trans-Am leads John Harvey in the GT390 with Terry Allen’s Chev Camaro in shot too.

Pete Geoghegan won the race in his Mustang from Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 911, Bob retired mid-race, not sure about Harves and Terry Allan, I don’t have my ATCC book to hand- folks?

1969 ATCC article here; https://primotipo.com/2018/02/01/1969-australian-touring-car-championship/

 

(J Ellacott)

Stunning John Ellacott work- look closely, there is so much going on in this magnificent photograph taken during the 1962 Warwick Farm 100 weekend.

Moss practiced this Lotus 21 Climax but preferred Rob Walker’s Cooper T53 so won in that from Bruce McLaren and Bib Stillwell in similar cars.

Read about the Lotus 21 here; https://primotipo.com/2016/04/08/ole-935/

 

(M Terry)

Aspendale Park 1929.

James Crooke built a race track inside his horse racing course in 1905, the first race meeting was held on 29 January 1906 making it the ‘world’s first purpose built racing circuit.’

I am intrigued as to the cars and drivers above identification folks?

See here a great piece on this Melbourne bayside motorsport 1905 to 1951 race venue, Melburnians who want to check the location should pop Albany Crescent, Aspendale into Google Maps and drive along it- it once was the track’s back-straight.

See here; https://www.hyperracer.com/history

 

(R Lambert or D Mills)

Surely Garrie Cooper was the most multi-talented man in Australian motor racing apart from Jack Brabham?

Designer, engineer, constructor of production racing cars in some scale for a couple of decades and a bit, small business owner and employer and elite level racing driver- not at the  apex of the latter of course.

Nobody has a bad thing to see about the bloke either, he was a decent, honest man of his word in a sea filled with no shortage of white-pointers.

Here he is aboard his superb Elfin 600C Repco ‘830’ 2.5 V8 during the JAF Japanese Grand Prix weekend in 1969 in this race won by

Per head of population the Elfin 600 was one of the most successful production racing cars ever built- the only model missing from the Edwardstown concerns line up was a Formula Vee variant!

Craig Sparks, Elfin 792 VW inside Bob Prendergast’s Cheetah Mk7 , Winton March 1981

 

Winton ANF2 championship round in March 1981. John Bowe, Elfin GE225 VW from Ricahed Davison’s Hardman Ford, Russell Norden’s March ‘Aryben’ 793 VW and Peter Macrow, Cheetah Mk7 Toyota. JB wrote of this car ‘Loved that car, would have liked to run it for a bit longer but my sponsor wanted to go Atlantic racing straight away which meant Ralt. I’m sure Garrie could have built an awesome Atlantic car but the time frame was crucial’

I remember looking at John Bowe’s works Elfin 792 VW car at the Winton ANF2 championship round in 1979 and going simultaneously ‘woweee’ and ‘ya missed the boat Gazza’ when first glimpsing the gleaming Ansett sponsored car, it was the year ‘all’ the production racing car manufacturers had a crack at a ground-effect car, ‘black art’ that it was at the time.

The 792 wasn’t a GE car but the GE225 VW F2 which followed it was- and was a quick machine, John Bowe rated it and then Chris Leach, his sponsor, wanted to go Formula Pacific so the car was sold sooner than ideal, so too was the MR9 Chev F5000 but it’s developmental opportunities were not at an end when Garrie died suddenly in early 1982.

I’ve often wondered what he would have achieved had he continued on, for sure the historic restoration work he had commenced would have provided valuable cash-flow as the market for production racing cars got tougher especially as the carbon-fibre era began.

The cars designed and built by Don Elliot, Tony Edmondson and Jon Porter were the real Elfin deal mind you, god bless ‘em for taking the torch forward as they did.

R.IP. GC Cooper- see here for the 792; https://primotipo.com/2016/06/10/elfin-light-aircraft/

 

Bib Stillwell at Mount Panorama aboard his Cooper T51 Climax in October 1960.

Bib owned and raced more cars than you and I have had hot dinners- the Coopers he had in this period alone takes a bit of reckoning.

This one ‘F2-18-59’ is the car he leased to Lex Davison and in which, despite its 2.2 litre Coventry Climax FPF engine, compared to the oppositions 2.5s, Lex won the 1961 Australian Grand Prix at Mallala, click here for that story; https://primotipo.com/2018/03/29/the-naughty-corner-renta-gp-winner/

 

(HRCCTas)

Alan Hamilton’s Porsche 904 leads a gaggle of cars into the Viaduct at Longford during the 1966 Australian Tourist Trophy.

Behind him is Lionel Ayers, MRC Lotus 23B Ford, Spencer Martin in the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM- Frank Matich is up front in his new Elfin 400 Olds and took the win.

Here is a piece on Hamilton’s sportsracer Porsches of this period; https://primotipo.com/2015/08/20/alan-hamilton-his-porsche-9048-and-two-906s/

 

(Brabham Automotive)

‘Orf with his head!’

Arise Sir Jack, Sir Zelman Cowen, Australia’s Governor General completes the Knighthood ritual in Canberra, 1979.

And rather well deserved too.

 

(unattributed)

Aussies Abroad, for quite a while the case of these blokes…

Brian Muir, BMW 3 litre CSL chases Frank Gardner, Chev Camaro ZL-1 7 litre at Brands Hatch during a British Saloon Car Championship round in 1973.

Frank left Australia as a sportscar pilot and forged a great career in those things as well as single-seaters and tourers whilst Brian left Sydney as a touring car driver and mixed that in Europe with sportscar drives.

Frank returned to Oz in late 1974 whilst Brian died suddenly in England on 11 September 1983.

 

(unattributed)

The raucous bellow of the XK Jaguar engine bellows and echoes off the surrounding gums as Ron Phillips’ Cooper T38 exits Kings Bridge during the 1959 Australian Grand Prix at Longford…

Phillips, son of Wangaratta between the wars top racer Jack Phillips didn’t win that day but he won the event at Lowood in 1959.

I’ve an article largely completed on that ex-Whitehead/Jones car and tangentially the driver, I really must get on with it Ian McDonald!

 

(Castrol)

Bathurst 1000, 2019: Lee Holdsworth, Tickford Racing Ford Mustang GT…

The Mustangs brought a great new shape to V8 Supercars in 2019 with the DJR Scott McLaughlin car taking the title from Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup.

Holdsworth was ninth at Mount Panorama sharing with Thomas Randle and finished tenth in the overall seasons point score with a best placing for the year third at Sandown.

 

(P Cross)

Phil West at the wheel of the Scuderia Veloce ex-Gardner Ferrari 275GTB during the 1968 Surfers Paradise 12 Hours.

He finished ninth sharing the car with George Reynolds and – the race was won by the SV Ferrari 250LM driven by the Brothers Geoghegan.

Whilst the 275GTB are somewhat iconic Phil wasn’t impressed at all, his thoughts about it are here; https://primotipo.com/2019/10/24/franks-fazz/

 

(R Watson)

Bob Jane at Calder aboard his Brabham BT23E Repco circa 1968.

Janey raced single-seaters regularly circa 1964-1966, he had an Elfin Mono Ford ANF1.5 and at that stage more or less switched to touring cars but not exclusively so, when he felt like it he had a whirl in his Elfin 400 Repco, and here aboard his ex-Jack 1968 Tasman machine usually piloted by John Harvey.

This car is covered in this piece here; https://primotipo.com/2015/12/22/jack-brabham-brabham-bt23e-oran-park-1968/

Bob Jane, Elfin Type 100 Ford twin-cam ANF 1.5, Warwick Farm Tasman meeting 1966 (autopics.com)

Photo and other Credits…

Roderick MacKenzie, Sharaz Jek, oldracephotos.com, Peter Weaver Motorsport Photography, Tony Parkinson, John Ellacott, Allan Doney, Ian Nicholls, Norm Macleod, Dick Simpson, Michael Terry, Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania, Brabham Automotive, Castrol, Richard Watson, hyperracer.com, autopics.com, S5000 Facebook

Tailpiece: Surfs Up…

(S5000 FB)

Tim Macrow testing the prototype S5000 Ligier at Phillip Island on 19 September 2019.

Lovely shot by Peter Weaver, who said all modern circuits are ugly? Weaver is the master at the Island, his work there is exceptional.

This was one of several test days at the circuit before the new categories first race at Sandown several weeks hence, click here for a feature on the class; https://primotipo.com/2019/10/26/progress/

Finito…

(S5000)

Stan Jones in typical press-on style aboard his Maserati 250F #2520 during the 1958 Melbourne Grand Prix at Albert Park on 30 November- Stan The Man often wore these super short shirts when he raced, his tensed muscles were always a good indication that the cars of this era had a physicality about them the nimble mid-engined cars which followed did not quite so much.
A couple of those nimble machines were up front of this race- the Stirling Moss and Jack Brabham 2 litre Cooper T45 Climaxes finished first and second, Stan was a DNF after loss of oil pressure having completed 19 of the 32 laps- 100 miles in total.
The ‘John Comber Collection’ piece aroused plenty of interest- in particular from enthusiasts who remembered it racing at Sandown that November 1963 sans bonnet.
A volley of emails followed including this one from David Zeunert, a Melbourne Maserati enthusiast and historian- here ’tis for all to enjoy- shortly thereafter Stephen Dalton, Rob Bailey and Bob King chipped in with comments/and/or photographs- it was all great stuff which should be shared as there is some gold amongst the silver and bronze- where ‘the bronze’ is defined as stuff which is pretty well known amongst older Australian enthusiasts at least.
‘I was very fortunate to buy the Stan Jones Maserati cylinder head in a Jeff Dutton auction many many years ago, from memory he had owned it for a long time, he held an auction in a large factory in Cremorne Street, Richmond- not his famous car store in Chapel Street, South Yarra, at the time he was closing this and moving to a new outlet in Cromwell Street, South Yarra, and was raising capital for that venture.’
‘There was spirited bidding and it got close to $1,000 but hey the money is forgotten later and it is a Very Special Maserati Memory of “Stan The Man”- I have seen other original 250F pieces around, once again I think when Stan sold out there were spares that Colin Crabbe, who bought the car, did not get hold of. When Bill Leech sold his Cisitalia and Maserati 300S to Steve Forristall (Texas Wheeler racing car dealer) in the late 1980s I am pretty sure he got a spare Maserati 3 litre engine as part of the deal. Forristall only had the Maserati 300S – chassis #3055/Behra’s car back in the USA a short time before he flogged it.

Stan Jones, 250F at Sandown, St Vincents Hospital charity historic meeting during practice- look carefully and you can see the bonnet does not appear to be seated properly on its leading edge- on Sunday raceday he ran sans bonnet as shown below where Melbourne’s cooler weather kicked in- note the natty v-neck jumper (J Comber)

(R Bell Collection)

‘The Maserati Team brought a heap of spares with them for the 1956 Australian Grand Prix and Tourist Trophy races “Down Under”. Being short of money, Team Manager Nello Ugolini sold the two 300S Maserati’s soon after the race. Chassis #3059 went to Reg Smith- the father of Gary and Warren Smith – Melbourne car traders and much later a Maserati Bi-Turbo agent’s in Oakleigh (I am still to confirm this). Chassis #3055 was sold to Doug Whiteford and then in the late 1950’s early 1960’s to Bill Leech.’
‘I still have fond memories of Bill Leech driving the road registered 300S- with Victorian Rego WL333 down at Pearcedale, Bill at this stage lived in Humphreys Road, Mt Eliza, I had the pleasure of visiting Bill and viewing his Bugatti, Cisitalia and Maserati 300S all together in his garage.’
‘Another piece of Maserati trivia- for years I believed the visiting Maserati Team (two mechanics – team manager – head mechanic plus Stirling Moss and Jean Behra) has stayed at the Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda but around three months ago I found out this in incorrect. I speak regularly with Adolfo Orsi in Modena, Adolfo is the grandson of the owner of Maserati from 1939 – 1968, I exchanged some rare photographs with Adolfo of the team when they were in Melbourne and surprise-surprise, he told me he has receipts of their stay in Melbourne- at The Brighton Club Hotel, then owned by the Sierakowski family, now Dan Murphys in Brighton just 300 metres down from Reg Hunt’s garage where all the team’s racing cars- plus Hunt’s and Ken Wharton’s were fettled prior to be raced at Albert Park.’
Bob King, ‘Maserati Chief Mechanic and Test Driver, was, needless to say, Guerino Bertocchi, i think another was Ermanno Lotti, who later returned to Australia to look after Reg’s 300S and then worked for my mate Ron McCallum as a machinist- very good he was too. Ron, 96 today, re-metalled one big-end bearing on the Moss 250F, which involved pulling the engine down overnight.’
Zeunert, ‘As is well known Bertocchi and the mechanics drove the cars along Brighton Road and the Nepean Highway from Reg’s workshop to Albert Park, exactly as they often did in Europe. I believe BP UK stumped up the money to enable the Maserati team- six people, five cars and a whole heap of spares, to come to Australia, BP’s local subsidiary was the Commonwealth Oil Refinery.’
‘Ken Wharton was a close friend of Reg Hunt and was the driver who suggested to Reg that he approach Maserati to buy a racing car- he ended up buying two from the Orsis in the 1950s (2.5 litre A6GCM and 250F) and the rest is history…Ken was killed in early 1957 in New Zealand’ racing a Ferrari Monza in a support sportscar event immediately prior to the NZ GP at Ardmore.

Albert Hunt admires his son’s new 250F, chassis #2516  prior to rolling it off the trailer in Elsternwick (B King Collection)

Leech 300S at Pearcedale on a Maserati Owners Club run circa 1988/9 (D Zeunert/B King Collection)

Maseratis as far as the eye can see! Reg Hunt’s Elsternwick garage- from left, a box of spares, Moss’ 300S #3059, Behra’s 300S #3055, team spare short nose 250F, Behra 250F long-nose #2521, Moss long nose 250F #?, Hunt’s short nose 250F #2516 with Hunt’s Cooper T23 Bristol at far right. DZ ‘Probably a BP PR shot, there was a cocktail party @ Hunts to welcome the team to Melbourne and one @ ‘Killara’ the Davison family farm near Lilydale- a traditional Aussie BBQ’ (R Hunt via D Zeunert Collection)

Adolfo also has the 1956 Australian Grand Prix cup awarded to Stirling Moss for his win in the 250F, I have asked Adolfo to email me pics, the Maserati 250F head is as light as a feather, the Italians were masters of the dark art of light weight foundry production, this goes right back to 1926 when Isotta Fraschini did all the special casting for the Maserati brothers for their emerging racing cars.’

‘Reg Hunt and his wife and son Graeme arrived in Australia circa 1948, Reg’s grandparents had been involved in the motor industry around Manchester in the 1890’s- I believe his grandmother raced motor bikes even back then, Reg was introduced to the family business, a motorcycle shop in Salford Road, Manchester, almost from birth running errands for pocket money before the 1930s, his parents taught him very early the good habits of thrift and saving for a rainy day.’

‘Reg was also involved in racing motor bikes however the second world war put an end to that, Reg told me he worked on tanks in England during this time of war, afterwards Reg was married with a son and was looking for a better place than the danky cold Manchester where he grew up. He  considered going to Canada but saw some motoring magazines from Australia and decided to bring the three of them ‘Down Under, no he was not a “Ten Pound Pom” to the best of my knowledge.’

‘He brought with him the bare bones of a special in suitcases to form the Hunt Special or “Flying Bedstead”, he then honed his skills and basically went on from there, I believe his parents came out after Reg settled here in Melbourne- Bert and Edna, his brother also made the journey and became an employee of Reg Hunt Motors.’
‘Reg  then bought some better race cars and eventually the two Maserati racing cars in 1954 and 1955 to race the following seasons here and in NZ, there are a million stories with Reg and I am gradually working thru his photographs and digitising them for all to see.’

‘In terms of his business, Reg started selling used cars from his first home in Noble Park, then a friend advised him to move closer to the city so he bought in Elsternwick and again did very well, he then thought he needed more exposure to the moving traffic so he rented the car park of the Church of England on the corner of the Nepean Highway and Glenhuntly Road, Elsternwick- it’s now a Zagame used car outlet.’
‘Reg being Reg, he decided, as time moved on to move further down the road and gradually bought up space to create the “Golden Mile of New and Used Cars” in the 1950s, Reg once told me he knocked down over 300 houses to create his various dealerships there.’

‘He is an amazing man and still with us, my wife and i have dinner with he and his long term partner, Julia Hunt as often as we can- 97 years old this May just gone’ David concluded.

Who is the pretty boy then!? Reg Hunt looking very cool and dapper with sports jacket, flat-hat and Raybans, near the old army drill hall where the swim/basketball stadium is today, Albert Park. DZ suspects this is a pre-event AGP PR shot by ‘The Argus’ newspaper (D Zeunert Collection)

Moss’ works Maserati 250F, 1956 AGP weekend at Albert Park with Guerino Bertocchi tending. Bob King thinks it may be Sil Massola by the car’s tail (B King)

 

Whiteford trailer after restoration by Kerry Manolas (R Bailey)

Stephen Dalton chips in, ‘Reg Smith was indeed Garry and Warren’s father. He originally had Smith’s Radios in Smith Street Fitzroy, but branched into the car trade as ‘Reno Auto Sales’, his race entries can be found with either of those business names as the entrant.’
‘Before the 300S he had a pair of air cooled Coopers and Jack Brabham’s 1955 AGP-winning Cooper Bristol T40 – the rear engine ‘Bobtail’ type car. He only had the 300S for about six months before trying to move it on. I’m (currently) aware of adverts in the July 1957 AMS and the June 1957 Rob Roy programme.  There was obviously no takers, until Bob Jane came along in late September/early October 1958. The sale is recorded in the 15 October 1958 Australian Motor News – a fortnightly late 1950s Auto Action type publication.’
‘Bob got the 300S after Reg had purchased a new Ford Thunderbird, then at the following weekend Jane ran the 300S at Fishermen’s Bend. Reg Smith was one of many to lose his life on Conrod Straight at Bathurst, driving a Porsche 356 during the October 1960 meeting. Graham Hoinville once stated to me that at Reg’s funeral there was talk of his generosity to the needy around his business area.’
‘My understanding is that the Leech brothers took over ownership of the Doug Whiteford 300S in or around August 1961- the car was run at the 27/8/61 Geelong Speed Trials by old and new owners. It’s recorded in the Nov 1961 AMS within the 10/9/61 Rob Roy report that Doug was having his second run in the 300S after the change of ownership.’
Now Rob Bailey, note that we all terribly biased Stan Jones fans here…
‘A long term family friend Don McDonald (Black Mac) who raced in the 1953 AGP at Albert Park always told me that Jones was the best racer of the period and would have made it overseas, Peter Brock even mentioned that Jones was one of the period drivers that “Straight lined” or “line drove”.
Regarding Rice trailers, Glenn Coad had in storage, up to a few years ago the Whiteford one all restored  sitting in a factory behind Izy Hertzog’s business in Port Melbourne, whilst the sister trailer was owned till his passing by that very fine gent John Best who would park it  around the corner from Barkers road Hawthorn East- his son Roy had it for sale several years ago.’
Derek Rice owned Rice trailers (no relation to the UK Rice trailers ) was a man of taste who acquired  from Bernard Down the Rolls Royce Phantom #lll 3AZ158 the Gurney Nutting 3 position sedanca. For many the most magnificent  Rolls-Royce or Bentley to have ever reached these shores. Rice hit hard times in the 1960s, as a child I can remember being with my father going to his home in the Murrumbeena area when he purchased the Phantom…’
‘Its interesting how Walter Baumer’s Maserati 300S book notes that the Moss/Jane car #3059 was raced in the 1956 Mille Miglia by Taruffi for second place and the same years Targa Florio (Taruffi) and also won the 1956 1,000 km Nurburgring- such a wonderful reference book…’

Bob Jane 300S- where/when folks? (unattributed)

Etcetera…

(S Dalton Collection)

Australian Motor Sports piece on the occasion of the arrival of Stan Jones’ 250F in Australia and spare 3 litre 300S engine.
Moss exits Jaguar Corner on the way to a most impressive demonstration of high speed car control during the AGP.
Credits…
Many thanks to David Zeunert, Stephen Dalton, Rob Bailey and Bob King
S5000 Facebook page, Rob Bailey, David Zeunert Collection, Reg Hunt, Bob King Collection, Ray Bell Collection, John Comber, Bill Leech Collection
Tailpiece…

(B Leech/COR via D Zeunert Collection)

Stunning shot of the visting Officine Maserati team to Australia for the Melbourne Olympic Albert Park race meetings, again at Reg Hunt’s Elsternwick garage.
From the left-Nello Ugolini, Team Manager, Emmore Manni, Mechanic usually associated with JM Fangio, Guerino Bertocchi, Chief Mechanic and Test Driver, Jean Behra, Beppe Console, Mechanic and Stirling Moss. Then Dennis Druitt, BP UK head, funds from BP allowed the Maserati entourage to Australia in full force, Ken Wharton and Reg Hunt on the far right. The 250F is Jean’s #2521.
Finito…

(Bonhams)

A couple of months ago, fifty years back Jack Brabham lost the Monaco Prix on the last corner of the last lap when he goofed his braking point for the Gasometer Hairpin- harried as he had been by Jochen Rindt who had been in ‘cruise and collect mode’ for a good percentage of the race until misfortune outted many of the dudes in front of him.

At that point, with a sniff of victory, he tigered in an amazing way- fastest bloke on the planet as he undoubtedly was at the time. Up front Jack’s comfortable cushion was whittled back by his former teammate aided and abetted by some unintended baulks by other drivers.

It is a well known story i have ventilated before, here; https://primotipo.com/2018/05/24/jochens-bt33-trumped-by-chunkys-72/ and here about Jack’s last season of racing; https://primotipo.com/2014/09/01/easter-bathurst-1969-jack-brabham-1970-et-al/

The two blokes alongside Jack in the shot above are his teammate Rolf Stommelen and on the outside the V12 Matra MS120 of Henri Pescarolo- Rolf did not qualify whilst Henri finished a splendid third, one of my most popular articles is a piece on the Matra here; https://primotipo.com/2014/07/06/venetia-day-and-the-1970-matra-ms120/

Love those ‘knock on’ hubs- a carry over from BT25 perhaps? BT33 a sexy and very quick jigger which was still very competitive in Tim Schenken’s hands in 1971 (Official Brabham)

 

Nice look at Ron Taunanac’s second monocoque chassis, Jack aboard BT33 at Monaco, the first being the 1968-1969 BT25 Repco ‘760’ 4.2 V8 engined ‘Indycar’

I wouldn’t have bothered with another article on BT33 but a couple of these photographs popped up lately and are too good not to share. The other thing which intrigues me a bit are the ‘Jet Jackson’ United States Air Force fighter pilot type crash helmets Jack, Jackie Stewart and Piers Courage experimented with in the earlier months of 1970 during the Spanish, Monaco and Dutch Grand Prix weekends that year, and in other events the drivers contested.

We are only, at the start of the 1970 season, nearly three years down the path since David ‘Swede’ Savage first used the first ‘Bell Star’ in motor cycle competition in mid-1967. The design was a great step forward in driver safety, Jackie Stewart was a safely crusader as we all know, it’s interesting that he chose to trial these open style of helmets which on the face of it , pun intended, seems a retrograde step.

Jackie Stewart- who else could it be with his distinctively branded USAF helmet in early 1970. March 701 Ford (Getty)

 

Piers contemplating the next change to be made by Gianpaulo Dallara to his De Tomaso 505 during early 1970 (Getty)

Most sadly, Piers put his to the ultimate test, he was wearing it when he crashed to a most gruesome death at Zandvoort on 21 June 1970- in no sense am i suggesting a Bell Star would have saved his life I might add.

When he went off on the flat or nearly flat out curves at the back of the circuit and into the catch fencing his helmet was wrenched off with both Adam Cooper and Jackie Stewart writing that he was probably dead before the conflagration which susequently engulfed the De Tomaso 505 Ford.

After some basic research i cannot find who made these helmets, i am intrigued to know the answer to that question if any of you know it.

After Monaco Brabham and Stewart do not appear to have worn the helmets again in Grands Prix.

(B Cahier)

 

(unattributed)

Jack thinks about an inside run at Jackie during the March 1970 South African GP- Kyalami.

At this stage of the season, the first championship round of course, they are both Bell equipped- Stewart in a ‘Star’ and Brabham a ‘Magnum’- Jack won the race with the reigning World Champion back in third aboard a machine which was not one of his favourites but far from the worst GP car he ever drove.

Brabham used three helmet types that season, two Bells- a Magnum and Star plus the USAF fighter helmet.

He was a busy boy in 1970 running the full GP season, selected F2 races in a John Coombs owned Brabham BT30 Ford FVA and five or so endurance events with Matra, plus the odd one-offs, here he is jumping out of his MS650 during the 1000 Km of Brands Hatch in April still wearing the fighter helmet, but a slightly different one to that he used in Monte Carlo.

Car #3 is the Scueria Filipinetti Ferrari 512S raced to thirteenth place by Herbie Muller and Mike Parkes

 

Jack shared the car with Jean-Pierre Beltoise , the pair finished twelfth in the race won by the JW Automotive Porsche 917K raced by Pedro Rodriguez and Leo Kinnunen, this being the race in which the Mexican Ace mesmerised the drenched crowd with his car control of the 450bhp machine as he flicked the big car frm lock to lock as though it was a nimble Formula Ford.

Wind the clock forward a month and Brabham had his last crack at Indianapolis in a Brabham BT32 Offy- this car was one of the BT25 Repco ‘760’ 4.2 V8 chassis modified by fitment of the turbo-charged four cylinder Offy motor- note the Bell Star in use at Indy.

This is during qualifying on 9 May, Jack was classified thirteenth from Q26, he retired with engine problems having completed 175 of the 200 laps, the race was won by Al Unser’s ‘Johnny Lightning Spl’ Colt Ford V8

Jack all ready to boogie with his Sunday best shoes on, no less. Same knock off hubs as the BT33 by the look of it

 

(Brabham Family)

 

(unattributed)

The Charade circuit just outside Clermont Ferrand was another French Grand Prix course which sorted the roosters from the feather dusters- I nearly made it there two years ago having first promised myself I would visit the place when falling for it with my nose buried in Automobile Year 18 in 1971. Drat.

Jack leads here from Jochen Rindt and Henri Pescarolo- Jochen won that day from Chris Amon and Jack with Henri fifth.

Brabham has his Bell Star on as does Henri but Jochen has swapped the full-race Star he used in 1970 more often than not for one of his old Magnums as the nature of the challenging course through the Auvergne-Rhone Alps countryside made him feel motion sickness which was solved with a change of helmet

Jochen was wearing a Bell Star on that fateful day at Monza in September but the crutch-straps of his Willans six-pointer were not items the great Austrian used- on that particular day in that particular accident he needed them badly, and divine intervention.

(Flickr)

‘It turns in ok but as I apply throttle…’ two great mates doing wonderful things together discussing the next chassis change at Zandvoort in 1970- Frank Williams and Piers Courage, note the helmet.

The car was not too flash at all in Kyalami but with each race Courage, the car’s designer Gianpaulo Dallara and Williams were improving it- expectations of both Williams and Courage were high for 1970 as the second-hand Brabham BT26 Ford they raced in 1969 had proved Piers’ place was right up front.

At Zandvoort Courage was running seventh from Q9 ahead of John Miles in a works Lotus 72 (below) when the accident occurred on lap 23- there was not enough of the wreck intact to determine whether the cause was cockpit/component/tyre.

(Twitter)

Pretty enough car which was progressively ‘getting there’, that oil cooler locale is sub-optimal, some revs lost perhaps in top speed. Dallara did get the hang of this racing car thing didn’t he?

In Australasia we had three visits from Piers and Sally Courage aka Lady Curzon, Earl Howe’s daughter, the couple and Piers pace and personality endearing them to all.

In 1967 the #1 BRM Tasman P261 2.1 V8 seat was occupied by Jackie Stewart (apart from Teretonga) with Richard Attwood, Courage and Chris Irwin sharing the second seat, the seasoned Attwood performing best.

In fact that year was a character building one for the Courage Brewing scion, it was said he was ‘over driving’ and despite John Coombs supposedly advising he get out before he killed himself the plucky Brit bought the McLaren M4A Ford FVA he had raced for Coombs that season and headed off south with a couple of FVAs funded by savings, some sponsorship from Courage, a loan from his father and a deal with Coombs which deferred payment for the car until the end of the series.

He had a brilliant 1968 summer with the Les Sheppard prepared 205 bhp car amongst the 2.5s, demonstrating all the speed which had been always apparent but with a much bigger dose of good judgement in the series of eight races over just as many weekends. He blotted his copybook at Pukekohe on the first day of practice but after Les ‘read the riot act’ his performances were very good to brilliant.

Teretonga 1967, BRM P261 2.1 V8, DNF engine after 53 laps- Clark won in his Lotus 33 Climax FWMV 2 litre from Attwood in the other BRM  (Ian Peak Collection)

 

Piers third and Chris Amon fourth with a deeply appreciative and enthusiastic Warwick Farm crowd at the end of the 1968 Warwick Farm 100- McLaren M4A Ford FVA and Ferrari 246T. Up front were the Team Lotus duo of Clark and Hill in Lotus 49 Ford DFWs (B Thomas)

 

Teretonga 1969- Derek Bell, Ferrari 246T from Graham Hill, Lotus 49B Ford DFW and Piers, Brabham BT24 Ford DFW. Piers took a splendid win that day from Hill and Amon (Steve Twist Collection)

Whilst fun in the sun is part of Tasman lore- and fact, there was plenty of pressure on a small equipe such as the Courage outfit to prepare the equipment and race it weekly, for the most part on unfamiliar circuits all of which were well known to his main competition- Clark, Hulme, Gardner, Hill to name a few.

His season ending win at Longford is still spoken about in reverential tones by those who were there- it literally pissed down with Piers legendary bravery coupled with a deftness of touch on one of the most daunting road circuits by then still in use in the world- whilst noting it was sadly the last time the circuit was used too.

In many ways the campaign ‘re-launched’ his career. Adam Cooper wrote ‘Thanks to the extensive press coverage his exploits received, Piers’ reputation was in better shape than he could have predicted. He was a failure (not entirely fair in that he was fourth in the 1967 European F2 Championship behind Ickx, Gardner and Beltoise despite pinging off too many bits of real estate) who had made himself into a hero. Those who had paid closer attention noted that his solo campaign also reflected an incredible determination and a hitherto unrecognised ability to organise. Even before Longford he’d been approached by Tim Parnell about renewing his relationship with BRM. Tim had seen the Courage revival at first hand, and was impressed.’

Back in at Slough Frank Williams was readying the Brabham BT23C FVA for the 1968 Euro F2 Championship, in addition he had his BRM ride and a personal retainer with Dunlop, he was away…

Rather than prattle on now about his Tasman exploits lets do ‘Piers in The Pacific’ soon- his Tasman Cup runs in 1967-1969 in BRM P261, McLaren M4A Ford FVA and Brabham BT24 Ford DFW respectively.

Bell Star…

Dan, Nurburgring 1968 as seen by (P-H Cahier)

 

There was no shortage of interest in Dan Gurney’s fancy-schmancy new Bell Star over the German Grand Prix weekend at the Nurburgring over the 4 August 1968 weekend, understandably so- mind you, he used the helmet at Indy that year too- May of course so it was already’out there’.

Dan was ninth in his Eagle Mk1 Weslake, doubtless his head was a bit more dry than the competition- up front it was Stewart from Hill and Rindt, Matra MS10 Ford, Lotus 49B Ford and Brabham BT26 Repco in a day of challenging rain.

But the first Bell Star use credit seems to go to David ‘Swede’ Savage in his motor cycle racing days, here is below at Santa Fe in 1967 so equipped- 9 June to be precise.

Perhaps the first life saved by the technology was that of Evel Knievel who came terribly unstuck upon landing when attempting a motorcycle jump over the Caesar’s Palace Casino Las Vegas fountains (43 metres) that 31 December, breaking and crushing countless of his bodies bones- but not his head!

If Swede’s 9 June use of the Bell Star is not ‘the first’ i am intrigued to know who has that honour and its date.

(Forever Savage)

 

(Forever Savage)

 

It was a pretty happy month of May for All American Racers when three Eagles filled the top four places of the Memorial Day classic, Bobby Unser won from Dan Gurney (above) with Denny Hulme fourth, the interloper was Mel Kenyon’s third placed Gebhardt Offy.

Of historic interest to we Eagle buffs is that the three Tony Southgate designed Eagle Mk4’s were powered by quite different engines- Unser’s used an Offy Turbo four, whilst Dan used a pushrod fuel injected Gurney-Weslake V8 whereas Denny in the other works car used the Ford DOHC ‘Indy’ V8- the options were certainly well covered, were it not for a rear tyre puncture minutes from the end of the race which befell Hulme, it would have been a clean sweep of ‘the podium’ placings.

Oh yes- Dan’s Bell Star, first use of the helmet in car racing.

Photo and Reference Credits…

Official Brabham/Brabham Family Collection , Automobilsport, MotorSport, LAT, ‘Piers Courage: Last of The Gentleman Racers’ Adam Cooper, ‘Forever Savage’ Facebook page, Ian Peak and Steve Twist Collections on The Roaring Season

Tailpiece…

(LAT)

Another one that got away.

Brabham exits Druids Hill with millimetre precision during the 1970 British Grand Prix- he had passed and was driving away from Jochen to what seemed a certain win but for a shortage of fuel hundreds of metres short of the chequered flag. Oh yes, Bell Star equipped.

Finito…

 

(L McGrath Collection)

The photographer, Mr McGrath, has composed and executed a brilliant oh-so-wide format shot of the battle for outright honours between Alec Mildren’s leading Cooper T51 Maserati and his pursuer, Lex Davison in his new but old-school, glorious front-engined Aston Martin DBR4/250 3 litre during the 1960 Australian Grand Prix.

The shot really has drama doesn’t it?

The action is framed by the crowd in both the foreground and background, half of them are sun-smart- love the ‘coolie-hats’ (am I allowed to say that these days?) but my favourite headgear is the ‘Cockie’ to the left in the worn Akubra. Checkout the two ‘thrill-seekers’ atop the Castrol sign filming the action- hopefully there was no involuntary swan-dive before the end of the race. Marvellous shot despite the flat as a tack ex-airfield terrain McGrath had to work with.

The other shots herald the death of Lotus 12 Lycoming ‘351’ aka ’Sabakat’ in a preliminary event after the fearless Ern Tadgell lost control of one of the biggest piles of merde ever allowed through a scrutiny bay in this country.

The inspecting fellas must have misplaced their guide dogs that day even if I try to apply the standards of the day which were far less risk averse than in the litigious lilly-white politically correct world in which we live today.

(L McGrath Collection)

 

(AAA)

Crop duster pilot/entrepreneur Tadgell had wedding tackle of porn-star proportions to drive the Lycoming aero-engined monster he created from the delicate little flower imported from England, but in the end the laws of physics got the better of him- either a rear hub broke or the car ran wide on a corner, it then rolled, throwing Ern clear whereupon the whole lot burned to death in a conflagration Guy Fawkes would have been happy with. Tadgell, thankfully and luckily, lived to fight another day in an exciting life lived to the absolute full.

(AAA)

 

(L McGrath Collection)

‘Far-canal, what are we going to do with it now!?’ seems to be the issue at hand.

Digger at right awaits instructions, which are just about to be provided by the ‘fog-horn’ wielding Queensland Racing Drivers Club official in blazer and tie (must have been hot in that). The lean fella at left in the white overalls appears to be a crew-member, he is holding a cast iron brake rotor which has survived as has the steel spaceframe chassis, or parts of it anyway.

You can see the rear of the chassis frame- it is upside down with the rear facing us. There are a couple of driveshafts and remains of wheels, a fuel tank at right, a coil spring and the remains of some of the torn fibreglass bodywork. The Lycoming 7.86 litre six cylinder engine was constructed mainly of light alloy, so it, and the Cheshunt made cast components melted in what was a decent old bonfire.

Whilst the wreck was deemed beyond economic repair back then many a modern ‘rebuild’ has started with far less than this, a nose badge or vinyl decal will do. As you will see from the Sabakat story attached Graham Howard would have been delighted to have had these discarded, very well heat-tempered chassis parts when he chased the remains of this car in the early seventies before building the faithful replica we all know and love today; https://primotipo.com/2019/08/22/just-add-lightness/

(L McGrath Collection)

 

(AAA)

Mildren and Davison race to the line- in the end the 2.5 litre Maserati four triumphed over the brawny 3 litre Aston Martin six in that final sprint, a well deserved win for Alec, this time Davo’s famous AGP luck did not not quite hold by half cars length, with the epitome of a sportsman gallant and generous in defeat. Click here for a full report of the race towards the end of this feature on Mildren’s Cooper; https://primotipo.com/2018/06/08/mildrens-unfair-advantage/

Credits…

Lindy McGrath Collection, ‘AAA’- Aussie Automotive Archives

Race Footage (no sound)…

Tailpiece…

(L McGrath Collection)

It burned and burned, famously, the start of the AGP was delayed so much that Alec Mildren was able to repair his Cooper’s broken driveshaft in time to take the start- and subsequently win the race.

Ernie was a very lucky boy that day but that car…

Finito…

James Courtney’s Dallara F302 Toyota-Toms races to a good win in the first leg of the Fiftieth Macau Grand Prix on 16 November 2003…

He also led the second leg, and set the weekend’s fastest lap until a puncture eliminated him on the races eleventh lap, Nicholas Lapierre won, and having finished second in the contest’s earlier race won the GP overall- the field included later F1 drivers/test pilots Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Nelson Piquet Jnr, Robert Kubica and Ryan Briscoe, a total of thirty contestants in all.

One of the British F3 Championships top runners in 2001 and 2002, James was rebuilding his career after a massive, very high speed shunt at Monza aboard an F1 Jaguar R3 Cosworth came close to ending his life.

That year he was mixing an F3 campaign in Jaguar’s team with Grand Prix car test duties- his F3 season started with a bang- he won the first round of the British F3 Championship.

Courtney, Jaguar R3 Cosworth at Silverstone in 2002 as is the shot below. Malcolm Oastler designed car was launched on 4 January that year

Race drivers for Jaguar in 2002 were Eddie Irvine and Pedro de la Rosa, the cars designated R3/R3B were powered by Cosworth CR-3 and CR-4 3 litre 72 degree V10s.

The team were testing at Monza on July 2- the circuit at which James made his F1 test debut the year before when he suffered a rear suspension failure at 10.14 am-  he was on the brakes at 330 kmh when a wishbone pulled away from its gearbox mounting, pitching him into the barriers at 306 kmh- the machine hit the fence so hard that it bounced away from the wall at 70 kmh- the impact was estimated to have a force of 67G, an incredible impact for the body to absorb.

Unconscious, his first sight was Michael Schumacher who was testing his Ferrari at the same time- James freaked out when he found he could not move the right side of his body and was bleeding from his eyes.

He later said ‘It took me a year to recover, i couldn’t walk without getting a migraine- which anything would set off.’ He also said that he could not see for weeks after the accident, and that he decided at that point never to be scared of having a crash again, stating ‘Its over if you are scared. Its all or nothing’ in an amazing exercise of mind over matter.

He did test again the following year but his F1 chance was gone.

The young Australian, born in Penrith between Sydney and the Blue Mountains on 29 June 1980 was amongst the brightest of young kids with the most prodigious of raw ability amongst his generation and the steepest of career trajectories.

In Karting he won locally before finishing second in the 1994 Australian National Kart Championship, at 15 he moved to Italy to pursue a racing career winning the World Junior Karting Championship and CIK International Championship in 1995 and was World Formula A champion in 1997.

Into 1999 he shifted from Italy to England to race cars becoming a member of the works Duckhams Van Diemen Team finishing fifth in the British FF Championship, in fourth was fellow Aussie Marcos Ambrose, the title won by Nicholas Kiesa’s Mygale. In addition he was second in the Formula Ford Festival- he went all the way in 2000  winning the championship aboard a works Van Diemen.

A veritable youth or kid- date and Kart spec welcome? (Aaron Noonan/an1images.com)

Courtney’s skills and Allan Gow’s management bagged him a place in the Jaguar Junior Team for 2001 contesting the British F3 Championship driving a Dallara 301 Mugen-Honda.

Whilst he won at the Silverstone season opener it was consistency which placed him fourth in the title chase won by Taka Sato from Anthony Davidson and Derek Hayes. In a year of dominance Sato won twelve of the twenty-six races- all three of the drivers raced Dallara 301 Mugen Hondas.

British F3 Championhip, last round- Silverstone, 29 September 2001, Dallara F301 Mugen-Honda. A pair of fourths that weekend, Taka Sato the winner of the race and championship (P Spinner-Getty)

Into 2002 Courtney again raced for Carlin Motorsport racing a Dallara 302 Mugen-Honda as did title winner Robbie Kerr- Courtney won four races whilst Kerr won nine and finished ahead of Courtney and Heikki Kovalainen.

The gruelling championship which has produced so many talented drivers down the decades comprised two races at each of thirteen venues, a format which tests prospective future F1 stars thoroughly.

Courtney circa 2002 (Getty)

2003 ended up being a rebuild year noting the physical aspects the Monza accident inflicted upon the young charger.

James chose to do the Japanese F3 Championship racing a Dallara F302 with punchy Toms Toyota 3S-GE engine- Mugen-Honda and various Toyota tuners engines were the most common in Japan with Three Bond Racing using Nissan SR20VE motors.

In another year of dominance James won thirteen races in the ten circuit tour finishing in front of Paolo Montin and Tatsuya Kataoka.

If there were any doubts about the loss of Courtney’s raw pace in ‘that shunt’ it was well and truly dispelled when all of the stars of the year met at Macau for the F3 ‘Grand Final.’

Macao GP 2003 Dallara F302 Toyota, #32 is Hiroki Yoshimoto

None of the 2002 F3 brigade got F1 seats in 2003- James Courtney, Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Nelson Piquet Jnr, Robert Kubica and Ryan Briscoe- all would get their chance of course and two of them did, and still do rather well!

Toyota continued to support his career in 2004 and 2005, he contested the All Japan Grand Touring Car Championship for sixth and second places respectively aboard Toyota Team TOM’s Supras.

His first appearance ‘back home’ in quite a while was with the Holden Racing Team in 2005  he contested the endurance races partnered by Jim Richards who was perfectly placed to assist the Supercar ‘newbee’ with the nuances of these powerful, heavy, demanding cars.

Courtney aboard the Toyota-Toms Supra during the All Star 200 at Fontana in December 2004, he shared the car with Tatsuya Kataoka (L Miller-LAT)

 

Courtney at the 2010 Sydney 500- James won the title whilst Jonathon Webb and Lee Holdsworth took the round race wins. Ford FG V8 Supercar- 5 litre pushrod V8 circa 465Kw @ 7,000rpm, 6 speed manual sequential gearbox, 1355Kg (Getty)

Courtney raced for the Stone Brothers Ford operation from 2006 to 2008 taking his first round win at Queensland Raceway in 2008- he won the title aboard a Dick Johnson Racing Ford FG Falcon in 2010 taking five wins and finishing ahead of 2009 champ Jamie Whincup.

In recent Covid 19 times he has been in the news with a shift of team- probably the last spin of the Supercar Roulette Wheel for the soon to be forty year old.

Still, this article isn’t about V8 Supercars- i think its great that a young fella from out west has forged a career of his passion for the better part of thirty and a bit years- his lifestyle on the Gold Coast would be splendid but man what couldaa been but for that testing accident, at that speed, at that circuit- i always thought at the time he really was the goods and looked a good bet to go all the way towards the top of the pyramid…

Etcetera…

(unattributed)

James Courtney back to his roots at Queensland Raceway in 2015 aboard one of the Karts he had commenced to manufacture and market that year.

Photo Credits…

Aaron Noonan and an1images.com, Getty Images, P Spinner-LAT, Crash, L Miller-LAT, motorsport.com,

Tailpiece…

The broken rear wing element of the R3 with Courtney aboard earlier in the year is almost a portent of rear end of the car things to come soon after- Silverstone 2002.

Finito…