Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

(Mr Reithmaier)

I love the build up and tension before the start of a big race; here it’s the grid prior to the start of the New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe, in the north of NZ’s North Island on 6 January 1968…

Chris Amon readies himself and his Ferrari Dino 246T before the first round of the 1968 Tasman Series, a race in which he wonderfully and deservedly triumphed. Missing on the front row is Jim Clark’s Lotus 49T Ford DFW. Car #2 is Pedro Rodriguez’ BRM P261, the Mexican is bent over the cockpit of his car but failed to finish with clutch problems. Car #7 is Alec Mildren’s Brabham BT23D Alfa Romeo T33 2.5 V8 with chief mechanic Glenn Abbey warming up the one-off car. Lanky Franky Gardner is adjusting his helmet beside the car, it was a good day for Frank, the car was second.

Look closely and you can see a camera crew behind the Brabham which is focusing on 1967 reigning world champion Denny Hulme and his #3 Brabham BT23 Ford FVA F2 car- Denny’s head is obscured by Frank’s body. Hume boofed the ex-Rindt BT23 during the race badly enough for a replacement chassis to be shipped out from the UK.

I’ve always thought these F2/Tasman Ferrari’s amongst the sexiest of sixties single-seaters. The 166 F2 car was not especially successful amongst the hordes of Ford Cosworth Ford FVA engined cars in Euro F2 racing. However, the car formed the basis of a very competitive Tasman 2.5 litre Formula car when fitted with updated variants of the Vittorio Jano designed V6 which first raced in F2 form and then owered the late fifties Grand Prix racing front-engined Ferrari Dino 246. It was in one of these cars that Mike Hawthorn won the 1958 World Drivers Championship.

Amon won the Tasman Series in 1969 with Ferrari Dino 246T chassis #0008 with fellow Kiwi Champion Graeme Lawrence winning in the same car in 1970 against vastly more powerful, if far less developed Formula 5000 cars. The story of those championships is for another time, this article is about Chris’ 1968 Tasman mount and campaign.

Amon hooking his gorgeous Ferrari Dino 246T ‘0004’ into The Viaduct in the dry at Longford 1968. Early ’68, we are in the immediate pre-wing era, and don’t the cars look all the better for it! (oldracephotos.com/D Keep)

In many ways Chris was stiff not to win the ’68 Tasman, a title, the last, won by the late, great Jim Clark…

Ferrari entered only one car that year with chassis #0004 assembled in Maranello by longtime Amon personal mechanic Roger Bailey and tested at Modena in November 1967. It was then freighted by plane to New Zealand where it was assembled by Bruce Wilson in his Hunterville workshop in the south of the North Island.

The cars chassis was Ferrari’s period typical ‘aero monocoque’, a ‘scaled down’ version of the contemporary F1 Ferrari with aluminium sheet riveted to a tubular steel frame forming a very stiff structure. The 166 was launched to the adoring Italian public at the Turin Motor Show in February 1967.

In F2 form the 1596cc, quad cam, chain driven, 18 valve, Lucas injected engine developed circa 200bhp at an ear-splitting 10000 rpm. It is important to note that this F2 engine, designed by Franco Rocchi, and in production form powering the Fiat Dino, Ferrari Dino 206 and 246GT and Lancia Stratos is a different engine family to the Jano designed engines, evolved by Rocchi, used on the Tasman Dino’s.

The F2 166 made its race debut in Jonathon Williams hands at Rouen in July 1967, and whilst it handled and braked well it was around 15bhp down on the Cosworth engined opposition. Whilst the car was tested extensively at Modena, including 24 valve variants, it was not raced again that year.

Amon, who had not raced in the Tasman Series since 1964, could immediately see the potential of the car, suitably re-engined, as a Tasman contender given the success of the small, ex-F1 BRM P261 1.9-2.1 litre V8’s in the 1966 and 1967 Tasman Series. The same approach which worked for the boys from Bourne could also work in Maranello Chris figured. A parts-bin special is way too crass, but you get my drift of a very clever amalgam of existing, proven hardware as a potential winning car.

In fact Ferrari went down this path in 1965 when a Tasman hybrid of a then current F1 chassis was married to a 2417cc variant of the Jano 65 degree V6 for John Surtees to race in the 1966 Tasman. John had Tasman experience in Coventry Climax FPF engined Coopers and Lola’s at the dawn of the sixties and could see the potential of a small Ferrari.

That plan come to nothing when Surtees was very badly injured in a Mosport Can Am accident in his self run Lola T70 Chev in late 1965. This car, Ferrari Aero chassis ‘0006’ played the valuable role of proving Surtees rehabilitation when he completed 50 laps in the car at Modena. It was in the same chassis that Lorenzo Bandini finished 2nd in the 1966 Syracuse and Monaco GP’s as Ferrari sought to get the new 3 litre V12 F1 312 up to speed, Bandini electing to race the Dino on both occasions. He also finished 3rd aboard the car at Spa. The allocation of this more competitive car to Bandini rather than team-leader Surtees was amongst the many issues which lead to the confrontation between John Surtees and team manager Eugenio Dragoni during Le Mans practice and Surtees departure from the team.

An unidentified fellow, Jim Clark, Ferrari engineer Gianni Marelli, Chris Amon and Roger Bailey share a joke during the 1968 Longford weekend. Chassis ‘0004’ is fitted with the 24 valve V6 covered in the text. Note the quality of castings, fabrication and finish, inboard discs, sliding spline driveshafts and single plug heads of this very powerful- but less than entirely reliable engine in 1968 form, it’s shortcoming cylinder head seals (oldracephotos.com/Harrison)

The engine of the 166/246T was carried in a tubular subframe attached to the rear of the monocoque which terminated at the drivers bulkhead. The car was fitted with a 5 speed transaxle designed by Ingenere Salvarani and Girling disc brakes.

Suspension was also similar to the contemporary F1 cars in having an front upper rocker and lower wishbone with inboard mounted spring/shocks and conventional outboard suspension at the rear- single top link, inverted lower wishbone, two radius rods and coil spring/shocks.

For the 1968 NZ races- Chris won at Pukekohe after Clark retired and at Levin, leading from flag to flag, was 2nd to Clark at Wigram and 4th at Teretonga- a 3 valve variant (2 inlet, 1 exhaust) of the 65 degree fuel injected V6 was fitted which was said to develop around 285bhp @ 8900rpm from its 2404cc.

Chris crossed the Tasman Sea with a 9 point lead in the Series from Clark and the might of Team Lotus. It was a wonderful effort, whilst Ferrari provided the car free of charge, and took a share of the prize money, the logistics were of Chris’ own small equipe. And here they were serving it up to Gold Leaf Team Lotus with a couple of World Champions on the strength, plenty of spares and support crew.

For the four Australian races a 24 valve version of the engine was shipped from Maranello. Its Lucas injection was located between the engines Vee rather than between the camshafts and had one, rather than two plugs per cylinder. This engine developed 20 bhp more than the 18 valver with Chris promptly putting the car on pole at Surfers Paradise, a power circuit. He won the preliminary race and had a head seal fail whilst challenging Clark in the championship race.

At Warwick Farm he qualified with the 18 valve engine and raced the 24 valver having rebuilt it- they only had one of the motors. He was challenging both Clark and Hill in the race and then spun in avoidance of Hill who was having his own moment…he was 4th on the tight technical Sydney circuit.

At Sandown during the AGP, the pace of the car, and Amon, was proved in an absolute thriller of a race in which he finished 2nd to Clark- let’s not forget the best driver in the world driving the best F1 car of the era powered by the Tasman variant of the greatest GP engine ever- and took fastest lap.

As the team crossed Bass Straight from Port Melbourne on the ‘Princess of Tasmania’ Chris knew he had to win the Longford ‘South Pacific Championship’, with Clark finishing no better than 5th to win the Tasman title.

At Longford, still fitted with the 24 valve engine, which must have been getting a little tired, he qualified a second adrift of Clark and Hill. He finished 7th in a race run in atrocious conditions on the most unforgiving of Australian circuits having initially run 2nd to Clark but then went up the Newry Corner escape road and suffered ignition problems from lap 10.

Piers Courage won in an heroic drive aboard his little McLaren M4A Ford FVA F2 car that streaming day, in a series which re-ignited his career.

Chris was a busy boy during the Australian Tasman leg as he also drove David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 350 CanAm/P4 in sports car support events at each round in addition to the little Dino.

These races were outstanding as they all involved close dices between Chris and Frank Matich in his self designed and built Matich SR3 powered by 4.4 litre Repco Brabham ‘RB740’ V8’s- with Frank getting the better of him in each of these races. The speed of the Matich was no surprise to Chris though, both had contested rounds of the Can Am Championship only months before the Tasman in the US.

Click here for my article on the Ferrari P4/CanAm 350 #’0858’ Chris raced in Australia;

https://primotipo.com/2015/04/02/ferrari-p4canam-350-0858/

Amon lines David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce Ferrari P4/350 Can Am up for Longford’s The Viaduct during the 1968 Longford Tasman meeting. Matich didn’t take the SR4 to Longford so Chris had an easy time of it that weekend. The sight and sound of that car at full song on the Flying Mile at circa 180mph would have been really something! (oldracephotos.com/D Keep)

For the ’69 Tasman Chris applied all he learned in 1968 returning with two cars, the other driven by Derek Bell, four well developed 300bhp 24 valve engines with the logistics taken care of by David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce.

He promptly lifted the Tasman Cup in a very successful campaign from Jochen Rindt, Graham Hill and others. With a little more luck, or greater factory commitment in 1968 it may have been two Tasman’s on the trot for the Maranello team and Chris…

Bibliography…

oldracingcars.com, sergent.com.au, ‘Dino: The Little Ferrari’ Doug Nye

Photo Credits…

Mr Riethmaier, oldracephotos.com, Rod MacKenzie

Tailpiece: Love this moody, foreboding Longford shot by Roderick MacKenzie. Chris has just entered the long ‘Flying Mile’ in the streaming wet conditions during Monday’s ‘South Pacific Trophy’ famously won by Piers Courage little McLaren M4 Ford FVA F2 car. 4 March 1968…

(Rod MacKenzie)

 

 

The finalists are off to a flying start in the 6 October 1930 ‘World Championship’ for under 1500cc cars on dirt, Penrith Speedway, Sydney…

The glass plate negative, wonderful monochrome photograph creates such an evocative feel apart from the scene itself. From the outside is John Sherwood’s cumbersome looking Lea Francis Hyper, then the Sam Aggett and Charlie East driven Bugatti T37’s and on the inside Tom Lord’s, Geoff Lowe owned Austin 7 Brooklands. On the very inside verge is a touring Lea Francis slowing having paced the competitors for a lap before the championships 3 lap journey, East was the winner in his Bugatti.

Event and Competitors…

A record entry of 79 cars was received for the meeting. The winner of the feature event, Charlie East, described as an ‘old hand track and competition driver’, was proclaimed World Champion for cars under 1500cc on dirt tracks.

The 6 entries for this 3 lap race were all rather local notwithstanding the grandiose title of the Light Car Club of New South Wales promoted event, not that there is anything new in promoters ‘puff’ to put bums on seats!

The Nepean Times reported that the race was ‘No mere crow attracting stunt, but a legitimate worlds championship event’. The ‘International Racing Organisation…specified certain electrical timing apparatus, this to be controlled by officials sanctioned by the leading motor body of the state’. The event was supervised by the Royal Automobile Club of Australia, the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport was not formed until the 1950’s.

The Sydney Morning Herald noted Mr TF Lord’s supercharged Austin 7 Brooklands was a new car with Messrs Charlie East and Sam Aggett entering 1496cc (T37) Bugatti’s. Tom Sulman had a career which went all the way from the early 1920’s in the UK to his unfortunate death in a Lotus 11 Climax at Bathurst in 1970, was entered in a 1096cc Salmson.

John Sherwood was a luminary as a driver, businessman, motoring and motorsport administrator down the decades, he entered a 1496cc Lea Francis. Sherwood was the driving force of the NSW Light Car Club as well as the key individual who created the Mount Panorama track at Bathurst. From a pioneering motoring family, he was a formidable competitor and later, as a Director of Empire Speedways, was a big contributor to the growth of Speedway Racing in Australia.

WH Northam was the final entry in another 748cc Austin, a combination which had many wins at Penrith and who later raced to 6th place in the 1932 Australian Grand Prix aboard this car. Bill Northam had an extraordinary life of achievement in commerce, sport and as a charity fund raiser. Long after he stopped motor racing he took up yachting in his mid-forties making the Australian Olympic Team and winning the Gold Medal in the 5.5 metre class at the Tokyo 1964 games. He was knighted in 1976 and died, aged 83, in 1988.

Other races on the ‘Eight Hour Day’ Monday public holiday card were an all powers handicap over 5 miles, a handicap for under 850cc cars over 3 miles, a four mile scratch race and finally the NSW LCC handicap over 3 miles.

The Championship Race…

Four starters took the flag with Sulman and Northam knocked out in eliminations conducted over 1 lap, a mile, with each car having a flying start. Aggett was the fastest qualifier at 66.91 mph from East, Lord, Sherwood, Sulman and Northam the slowest on 60mph.

The racers were given a rolling start behind JA Fields Lea Francis, then East immediately took the lead in his Bugatti from Lord’s Austin, then Aggett’s Type 37 and Sherwood’s Lea Francis ‘handicapped by a cumbersome body’, ‘Sherwood’s Lea Francis could not be opened up except in the back stretch’ in 4th. East drew away to a lead he never relinquished, and led Aggett by 100 yards from Lord. East’s lead stabilised at about 400 yards from Aggett, who was handicapped by an oiled plug, Lord was 100 yards further back and then Sherwood last.

In the final quarter of a mile Lord and his little supercharged Austin seized an opening through the dust, coming alongside Aggett’s Bugatti in 2nd. ‘Aggett swung a trifle wide on the last turn onto the home stretch, and, straightening up, cut down to the inner edge of the racing course. The two cars touched with the Austin spinning wildly. ‘Lord’s car spun on its side, dragging the driver, who was half out, and half in the Austin. Lord sustained abrasions to his legs and face. Charlie East one of the Maroubra stars, won in a time of 2 minutes 33 seconds at 70.58 mph by 100 yards with a wheel, literally, between Aggett and Lord in 2nd and 3rd. Sherwood’s Lea Francis was last car home.

The excitement was far from over though. ‘With Lord in the hands of the ambulance people, the stewards took prompt action. They disqualified Aggett and ‘sent him out’ (banned him from competition) for six months’. ‘The Referee’s’ report of the race then pointed out the unfairness of this process which was so speedy, their was no call for full evidence and Aggett appealed. I’m uncertain of the response of officialdom to this request.

Aggett and Lord make contact, the accident attributed to the Bugatti T37 driver rather than Lord aboard the tipping Austin 7 Brooklands (Fairfax)

John Sherwood’s Lea Francis  won the final of the open class ‘Widgery Cup’ Handicap, the ‘Clyde Battery Cup’ handicap for cars under 850cc final was won by CB Tye’s Austin 748cc and the All Powers Scratch Race final by CO Spurgeon’s Rajo Ford with the Club Handicap for under 2000cc cars won also by Tye’s Austin. In a day of interesting racing a special match race between Captain Hammond’s Gypsy Moth aircraft was won by the plane over J McCutcheon’s Morris Midget by a few lengths, the distance a flying mile, pun intended!

Penrith held the international spotlight for a week during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, the town is 50Km west of Sydney on the Nepean River, it was the site of the whitewater rafting and rowing competitions. But the hype about the Penrith 1930 World Championship race inclusive of its title were not indicative of the events true local nature.

The competitors were all from New South Wales, a notable absentee was Bill Thompson, three time winner of the Australian Grand Prix and in sparkling form in 1930. Earlier in the year he won his first AGP at Phillip Island and had swept the board in the same AGP winning Bugatti T37A during the Gerringong Beach racing carnival on NSW’s Illawarra Coast in May. Thompson was reported to be entered at Penrith but did not race, his entry was received ‘out of time’ and so was refused. Talk about a promoter putting due process in front of ‘the show’! ‘The Referee’ report noted the ‘the field was unworthy of a world championship. Without entries from Thompson, Drake-Richmond and Terdich, to mention but three of the missing cracks, the field was not even truly representative of Australia’. Both Harold Drake-Richmond and Terdich were Victorian stars, Arthur winner of the 1929 AGP at Phillip Island aboard a Bugatti Type 37A.

Charlie East, all smiles aboard the winning Bugatti T37, Penrith, October 1930 (Sydney Morning Herald)

Not that the quality of the final lacked talent in the context of Australian Motor racing, very much nascent at the time…

The Australian Grand Prix was held for the first time on an oval dirt layout around the showgrounds at Goulburn, New South Wales in 1927. The 1928 AGP, ‘The 100 Miles Road Race’ at Phillip Island, the first proper race in Australia on a road, run on a large, rectangular, gravel course was more indicative than Goulburn of the direction Australian racing would take and was indeed the race which started the tradition of road racing in Australia.

At the time Australian motor racing was largely amateur, a ‘run what you brung’ approach prevailed with most competing cars driven to and from the track. The sport evolved from hillclimbs, sprints and races on horse-tracks, the province of the gentry pre-War, to hillclimbs at Waterfall Gully, Kurrajong, Mount Coot-tha and Belgrave, beach racing at Gerringong and Sellicks to venues such as Aspendale, Maroubra and Penrith Speedways. Racing on Sydney’s banked, concrete  Maroubra Speedway track was very professional. Maroubra was owned by a commercial enterprise, not a car club, there was prize money to be won, the approach of the top competitors was consistent with that- the importation of cars and preparation thereof with a view to commercial success prevailed.

Some brave kids watching a competing car at Kurrajong Hillclimb, 75Km northwest of Sydney in the lower slopes of the Blue Mountains, October 1920, the competitor has the two outside wheels in the dirt on turn in! Hillclimbs were incredibly popular forms of motorsport in Australia at the time either as stand alone events or as part of trials which were events mixing navigation and speed events, usually sprints and hillclimbs. Between 1915 and 1926 there were at least 50! different hillclimb venues used across the country (Michael Terry)

John Medley wrote that ‘it was some time before other groups followed (the Light Car Club of Victoria’s Phillip Island) road racing direction, preferring the simpler expedient of running trials with speed sections included (rather like modern rallies) or contests on simple dirt speedways- both of these being more easily controlled by the organisers and also less accessible to the long arm of the law. One consequence was that their was very much a casual air to the whole occasion, with ‘chop picnics, family gatherings and exuberant overnight parties.’

I have not used the term speedway racing as the ‘forked road’ the sport took in later years had not yet occurred, competitors contested a variety of events as above. In addition solo intercity record-breaking attempts were also important with Graham Howard recording that ‘…intercity records…were the most consistent form of competitive motoring in Australia until the late 1920’s, and produced our first household-name drivers…’

A little snippet in the ‘Nepean Times’ article is a reminder of the important co-existence, with the motorcycle dudes the leaders, of ‘bikes and cars racing at the same meetings. The article notes that the Penrith meeting was ‘the only all car one in New South Wales for about five years’. It is also reported in terms of contemporary competitor numbers (79) that the meeting had ‘a record entry for a car race meeting for any part of Australia’. Also amusing, the ‘Times notes ‘Women are barred, (from entering the championship race) which means that Mrs J.A.S Jones will not be driving her supercharged Alfa Romeo. (6C1750) But it is hoped this fine car will race even with a mere male at the wheel’!!

Penrith Speedway’s first meeting was at Easter in 1924 and morphed through lap distances of 1 mile 80 yards to the 1 mile course used in 1930. The track was touted by international competitors who raced there as ‘The Worlds Greatest Dirt Track’ but its life was relatively short-lived. The Commonwealth Defence Department compulsorily acquired the land in 1941 and the circuit was consumed in that process.

RG Potts racing the Mrs JAS Jones owned Lea Francis on Gerringong’s Seven Mile Beach, 50 Mile Handicap on 10 May 1930. You can just see the pole at left which Potts is turning around to head back the other way on this beach near Kiama, 130 kilometres to Sydney’s south. There was no road racing in NSW at the time so racers did ‘the lot’- sprints, the hillclimbs which were often part of the trials conducted by local car clubs, the speedway at Penrith, and here upon Gerringong Beach. Sellicks Beach on Adelaide’s Fleurieu Peninsula was also used by ‘bikes and cars to race (Fairfax)

The six ‘World Championship’ entrants were all experienced New South Wales competitors with Sherwood and Sulman later entrants in Australian Grands’ Prix. Sherwood’s car appears to be a Lea Francis ‘Hyper’, a competition variant of the marque successful in the UK at the time and powered by a supercharged 1496cc 4 cylinder engine.

I can find no details of Sulman’s Salmson and am keen to hear from any of who may know about his car. Tom Sulman is revered in Australia as a doyen of racers who simply never stopped until the sport eventually took his life. I was at Winton a fortnight ago and looked again at the Sulman Singer, the amazing self-constructed dirt car Tom built and raced in England in the 1920’s before his return to Australia. It was a constant in Australian motor racing in both contemporary circuit events, and later from the mid-seventies, in historic racing when driven by Ron Reid. Upon his death not so long ago, his sons continue to race a car which must have done more racing miles than any other on the planet!.

Somewhat bizarre is that the ex-Charlie East Bugatti T37, chassis  ‘37104’ sits in Earl Davey-Milne’s garage in Toorak, Melbourne one kilometre from where I am writing this article right now! Chassis ‘37104’ was the fourth T37 built and shipped to Sydney’s  Russell Taylor, the prosperous owner of the Advanx Tyre company. It was raced for him by Charlie East, a driver whose stature was growing at the time. East was a Maroubra regular, one of its stars having first raced there in 1926 and subsequently lapping at over 96mph and on one occasion his lap was timed at over 116mph. Davey-Milne bought the car in 1943, it remains in the Chev Corvette V8 engined, open chassis form Earl rebuilt it to in the late 1950’s. East didn’t race the car in an AGP but ‘37104’ was raced in the 1933/4/5 events at the ‘Island driven by Cec Warren in 1933 and John McCutcheon in ‘34/5.

It isn’t clear if either or both the East and Aggett Bugatti T37’s were normally aspirated or to T37A, supercharged specifications. I can find no references as to which particular Bugatti Aggett raced and am keen to hear from any Bugatistes who can help with the identity and specification of the car and the drivers background. Similarly, whilst Lord’s Austin 7 is reported to be of blown Brooklands specification I have no details of the Northam Austin 7. All details again gratefully received. These snippets of history are all interesting i think!

In this case the photo which inspired the research and the resultant article popped up on that internet thingy when I was messing around looking for shots of Bill Thompson after reader Rob Bartholomaeus corrected the caption of an article I’d written about Thompson and his Bug T37A. Its funny how one thing can lead to another!…

Intercity record breaking was a popular form of solo road competition in Australia until outlawed in 1935 due to accidents. Here is the 25.5hp Th.Schneider with Arthur Barnes at the wheel and mechanic Bill McCulloch alongside- they have just taken the Broken Hill, NSW to Adelaide, SA record covering the 533 kilometres of unmade roads in 8 hours 3 minutes. The car is parked out front of Booth’s Garage, 411 King William Street in Adelaide’s CBD. 12 August 1925 (WS Smith)

YouTube Footage of Penrith…

Makes clear the speed and danger of the place! I looked at the film enthralled but the danger was readily apparent before discovering other footage of a multiple fatality when a car crashed into spectators in 1938. When ‘shit happens’ at speed, without protective barriers, its all over in the blink of an eye. Racing entry tickets still have the ‘Motor Racing is Dangerous’ message to this day, and so it was for all, spectators included until not so long ago!

Bibliography…

‘Nepean Times’ 27 September 1930, ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ 30 September and 7 October 1930, ‘The Referee’ Sydney 8 October 1930

‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’, John Medley, ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard and Ors, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden

Photo Credits…

Fairfax, Sydney Morning Herald, State Library of South Australia, WS Smith, Michael Terry

Finito…

 

 

 

image

Lord Howe in the process of loading his Mercedes 38/250 SS onto ‘Southern Railways’ cross-channel steamer ‘Autocarrier’ cross channel ferry on 30 March 1931…

AF Rivers-Fletcher in a letter to MotorSport in February 1976 relates his experiences with this car which Howe acquired after Rudy Caracciola’s victory in the 1929 TT at Ards, Northern Ireland. The great German won the 30 lap race with a 5 lap handicap in a rain storm.

Fletcher wrote the letter in response to Bill Boddy’s article some months before comparing the Bentleys and Mercedes in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Fletcher ‘having been at different times, closely involved with both camps, Bentleys and Campbell/Howe Mercedes, found his allegiance torn’. His impressions and recollections make very interesting reading.

irish gp

1930 Irish GP/Eireann Cup start, 19 July 1930 #1 Campbell Merc SSK from #2 Howe Merc SSK, #6 Jean Chassagne Bentley Blower, #8 Birkin Bentley Blower, #9 ?, #10 Giulio Ramponi O.M. and the rest (Mercedes Benz)

I first drove some of the cars-Le Mans 6 1/2 litre Bentleys and Earl Howe Mercedes more than 40 years ago..’and in more recent times. ‘Even more revealing was being driven by Barnato, Birkin, Campbell and Howe in the very cars at the time of their racing success. Regretfully, however i never rode as a mechanic in the Mercedes or Bentleys…watching as an apprentice with pangs of enyy during practice for the Brooklands Double Twelve as Wally (Hassan) jumped down into Barnato’s Speed Six Bentley to ride with him as a mechanic’.

Fletcher; ‘After Caracciola’s epic victory with the 38/250 Mercedes SS in the 1929 TT, Lord Howe bought the car and raced it for several seasons. I drove it several times, once on quite a long run with Leslie Callingham of Shell…it must be remembered that Malcolm Campbell and Lord Howe ran their Mercedes in sprints and hillclimbs as well (as long distance races). They were very successful in spite of the brakes, the ‘achilles’ heel of the racing Mercedes.’.

‘…i always thought one of the best performances of Lord Howe’s Mercedes was its run in the 1933 Mille Miglia. Driven by Penn-Hughes and Percy Thomas (Lord Howe’s excellent mechanic) the Mercedes was in fact acting as the tender car to the ‘old mans’ successful MG Magnette team. It was loaded with MG spare parts under the tonneau’.

irish 2

1930 Irish GP/ Eireann Cup: Rudy Caracciola Merc SSK from the Howe SSK (Mercedes Benz)

Fletcher then compared the Benz with the Bentleys of the day; ‘The Bentleys particularly the 6 1/2, felt a good deal bigger than the Mercedes, perhaps because you sat so much higher in the Bentleys. Comparing the cars is very difficult because they felt so entirely different. Despite the record i still feel the Mercedes was pre-eminently a sprint machine with ‘bottom-end’ performance. The very light steering, terrific getaway aided by the unique blower installation and the compact feel of the car all made the Mercedes an ideal car for tight circuits and the hills-despite those brakes’.

‘The Bentley was a long distance car with ‘top-end’ performance. With its heavier steering it felt incredible sure footed. It needed more thought in deciding on a line through a corner, but was, i believe, quicker on the faster swerves than a Mercedes. The getaway from rest and from tight corners was slower than the Mercedes, but it made up for this by having tremendous torque in the middle and upper ranges. The ‘big 6 Bentley’ really accelerated between 70-100 where the Mercedes lagged a bit unless the supercharger was used all the time, which was seldom a proposition for long periods. The Bentley brakes were always excellent, with SO little fade, despite the considerable weight’.

cam howe

Malcolm Campbell and Earl Howe at Brooklands upon the unveiling of the new BRDC, and still thankfully current! logo, 9 September 1931. What are the cars tho? (Underwood)

Fletcher, in a fascinating letter, his impressions of driving the cars ‘in period’ of vastly greater relevance than any modern ‘comparative tests’ concluded the correspondence with a comment ‘As to the drivers-Campbell, Howe, Barnato and Birkin (one could write of any of the Bentley team, but Birkin and Barnato come to mind as they were most involved with ‘Mercedes baiting’)- it would need to be a complete article, or even a book, to compare them. All were thrilling to ride with, Barnato seemed the safest and Lord Howe the most frightening. Suffice it to say that in many ways Campbell, Howe and Barnato were rather like their cars and Birkin was more like a Mercedes! Don’t you think?’

1930 Irish Grand Prix…

The Irish Grand Prix format from 1929-1932 comprised two handicap, 300 mile races each year with a formula determining the overall winner of the GP. The ‘Saorstat Cup’ was run for cars under 1500cc on the Friday of race weekend  and the ‘Eireann Cup’ for the over 1500cc ‘heavy metal’ on the Saturday. Phoenix Park, the venue is just west of Dublin’s City Centre, the circuit was first used for racing in 1903 and was 6.8 Km long at the time. The 1930 races were won by Victor Gillow’s Riley 9 Brooklands with Rudy Caracciola’s Benz SSK taking out the over 1500cc event and awarded the GP itself.

Of interest to Australian enthusiasts is Adelaide born, but British domiciled Arthur Waite’s 3rd place in the ‘Saorstat Cup’ aboard his Austin, Captain Waite was the winner of the second Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island in 1928. Caracciola’s margin was 8 minutes from Giuseppe Campari’s works Alfa 6C 1750 GS with Howe 3 minutes further back in his SSK- then Birkin’s Bentley Blower circa 35 seconds adrift of the SSK.

howe 1

Lord Howe togs up for the 1931 Irish GP/ Eireann Cup in which he was 5th and set fastest lap in his Mercedes Benz SS. The winner was Sir Henry Birkin’s Alfa Romeo 8C2300. An amusing sidebar is this snippet from the Adelaide Advertiser’s report of the race in its 9 June 1931 edition ‘…Birkin’s car, made in Italy, was turned out for the race only by the intervention of Mussolini, who said that, as an Englishman had honoured Italy by ordering an Italian car for an English race, the Alfa Romeo company should provide a double-shift to complete the job. These shifts were necessary because this company is making also the engines for the Italian Schneider Cup planes’, the report concludes. Alfa went to great lengths to get the car to the race in time, factory race mechanic Alessandro Gaboardi accompanying Clive Gallop, a member of Birkin’s team in driving Vittorio Jano’s brilliant 8C2300 from Portello to Phoenix Park and then sat alongside Birkin during the race.

Birkin, Gaboardi and Alfa 8C2300 after their 1931 Eireann Cup win, Phoenix Park, Dublin (Popperfoto)

Mercedes S, SS, SSKL 1926-33…

Click here for a link to the factory site and a summary of these magnificent cars;

https://mercedes-benz-publicarchive.com/marsPublic/en/instance/ko/S-SS-SSK-SSKL-1926—1933.xhtml?oid=4175

Credits…

WG Phillips, Rivers Fletcher letter to MotorSport February 1976, Mercedes Benz

Tailpiece: ‘Carach’ on the way to winning the 836.9 Km 1929 RAC TT at Ards in the works Mercedes Benz SS, on 17 August…

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(Mercedes Benz)

The RAC International Tourist Trophy, a race for ‘production sports cars’ was held from 1928 to 1936 on a 13.67 mile road course on the outskirts of Belfast at Ards, eight spectator fatalities after a car crashed into the crowd in 1936 caused the events demise.

 

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The numbers of the cars pictured in the Pescara pits do not correspond to the unlimited capacity Coppa Florio race entries. Perhaps cars from the support, 1100cc race (Imagno)

‘Il Duce’, Benito Mussolini attends the 1933 Coppa Acerbo, he is the little stout chap in the nifty Ermenegildo Zegna military suit…

By 1933 Mussolini had been in power in Italy for 11 years, he was elected Prime Minister in 1922, he established a dictatorship in 1925. It’s said he was a motor racing enthusiast, no doubt the public relations benefits of attending high profile events such as the Coppa Acerbo did not escape him.

The 15 August 1933 Coppa Acerbo was an important race that year given changes to the driver line up amongst the Italian teams, some very shortly before the event which gave added interest to the meeting.

Alfa Romeo withdrew from Grand Prix racing at the end of 1932, electing to leave its superb monoposto, the first single-seaters in Grand Prix racing, Tipo B’s behind the closed doors of its Portello works leaving the new Scuderia Ferrari to race older Alfa Romeo Monzas. No amount of remonstrating with Alfa Romeo management by Ferrari was successful in releasing the quicker, newer design. Not early in the season anyway!

As a consequence Ferrari was unable to keep his team together as his drivers sought more competitive mounts. Rudi Caracciola and Louis Chiron formed Scuderia CC, although Louis returned to the Maranello fold later in the year. Taruffi left too, having been forced to cede his car to Nuvolari whilst leading the French GP. Then, after an argument with Ferrari post the controversial Tripoli GP Nuvolari departed, taking his friend Borzacchini with him. Giulio Ramponi went to join Whitney Straight’s private team to add to the rout.

Ferrari fought back of course, hiring Fagioli who was not keen on seeing Nuvolari take the #1 seat at Maserati with Campari also joining him at Scuderia Ferrari. Eventually Ferrari succeeded in having the Tipo B’s released to him in time for the Coppa Acerbo and then the Maserati runners were at a disadvantage!

Fagioli aboard a 2.6 litre Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Tipo B monoposto suggests to Piero Taruffi he is ‘coming thru’, 3 litre Maser 8CM, 1st and 3rd respectively. Vittorio Jano’s Alfa Tipo B/P3 the dominant car of 1932 to early 1934 (Imagno)

So…the Coppa Acerbo loomed. Fagioli had defected from Maserati as did Campari, back to Scuderia Ferrari following a disappointing race at Reims 9 days before. Nuvolari and Barzacchini raced 3 litre straight-8 Maserati 8CM’s as independents. Taruffi too raced a Maserati 8CM in Pescara for the first time.

Scuderia Ferrari entered eight cars; 2 1932 2.6 litre straight-8 monoposto Alfa Romeo Tipo B/P3 which, as noted above, the Alfa factory had just released to Ferrari for Campari and team leader Fagioli. 2.6 litre Monzas were prepared for Trossi, Carraroli and Tadini and 2.3 litre Monzas for Brivio and Comotti. Five Bugattis were entered, not the new 2.8 litre Type 59 which did not appear until the last GP of the year in Spain, but 2.3 litre factory T51’s for Dreyfus and Varzi’s privately entered car. Also Bugatti mounted was Earl Howe and Brunet in Type 51’s with Mille ‘Helle Nice’ in a 2 litre Type 35C. All were straight-8 engines of course.

Enzo Ferrari and riding mechanic during the 1924 Coppa Ciano meeting, Alfa Romeo RL Super Sport (unattributed)

Famous agriculture minister Giacomo Acerbo named the race in honour of his brother Captain Tito Acerbo, a decorated war hero killed towards the end of the war in 1919. The first event was held in 1924 and won by Enzo Ferrari in an Alfa RL Super Sport after a tyre failure befell Campari who was well in the lead in a similar six-cylinder works Alfa to Ferrari’s.

The 25.5Km road course was a daunting one set in the Abruzzi Mountains. The track was loosely triangular in shape like Reims, starting in Pescara on the shores of the Adriatic. After a 1 Km stretch the road turned inland for about 11 Km along a winding road into the Abruzzis.

It plunged through the forests and hill villages of Villa Raspa, Montani, Spoltore, Pornace and Villa St Maria rising 200 metres from the coast. The racers then descended to Capelle sul Tavo and then after a hairpin into the 11Km long Montesilvano downhill straight to the coast at very high speed. The straight was followed by a fast right turn at Montesilvano railway station which led onto the Lungo Mare Straight along the coast back to the start/finish line in Pescara. Nuvolari’s fastest lap in the 2.6 litre Alfa Tipo B monoposto in 1932 was 147Kmh. The event comprised 12 laps, a total of 306Km.

The fast boys in practice were Nuvolari’s Maserati 8CM, Campari’s Tipo B and Varzi in another Tipo B. Varzi was given the car to test by Ferrari but elected to race his Bugatti, Molsheim being not keen on the notion of Achille racing the Alfa. The grid was determined by ballot of course, over 50000 spectators lined the course in anticipation of an epic battle amongst mainly Italian drivers.

Two races were run during the carnival, one of 4 laps for 1100cc cars which was won by Whitney Straight’s MG K3 Magnette. It was an exciting race, Straight’s margin at the events completion only 1/5 second from Barbierri’s Maserati.

The field is away, #24 Campari’s Tipo B, the distinctive shape of big, beefy Giuseppe behind the wheel, #28 Earl Howe Bug T51, #34 Varzi’s similar car and beside him on the left Dreyfus’ light colored works T51. #38 Taruffi Maser 8CM, #46 G Zehender Maser 8CM, #52 Nuvolari 8CM, #26 Silvio Rondina’s 2.2 litre straight-6 supercharged O.M. 665S, #42 R Brunet’s Bug T51 then at far left, straddling the white line the distinctive shape of Fagioli’s winning Alfa Tipo B (Imagno)

Duke d’Aosta, first cousin of the King of Italy, gave the starting signal for the main race for cars of unlimited capacity at 10am accompanied by His Excellency Acerbo. Only 16 cars took the start with many of the entries failing to materialise.

Campari’s red monoposto Alfa was in front followed by Varzi’s Bugatti, Howes green Bugatti T51 and Dreyfus in the factory T51. Soon the faster cars ballotted towards the rear started to come through the field. As they crossed the line at the end of lap 1 Campari’s Alfa was right behind Nuvolari’s Maser, this relentless scrap was to be the pattern of the challenging race. The first lap took Tazio 11m03sec, then came Campari, Taruffi 2s later, then Fagioli and Varzi. Zehender Maser 8CM, and Dreyfus were 6th and 7th already 43 seconds behind the two leaders. Whitney Straight and Ghersi, Alfa Monza 8th and 9th, a second apart were 56s behind the leaders.

Borzacchini was stranded only 12Km from the start with a seized driveshaft universal joint on his Maserati 8C3000 gearbox. He borrowed a bike and pedalled slowly back to the pits to the amusement of the vast crowd. The spectators were more thrilled though, by the dice between old rivals Nuvolari and Campari. They swapped the lead but were always able to see each other. Behind them were Taruffi 3rd, Fagioli, Varzi and Dreyfus.

Nuvolari and Campari raced wheel to wheel on laps 4 and 5, on lap 5 Nuvolari passed Campari and this time began to pull away. When the Mantuan finished lap 6 Campari was 8s back from Fagioli, Taruffi, Varzi, Dreyfus, Zehender and Howe. After 8 laps Nuvolari had extended his lead to 16 seconds and was on course to win the race.

Sensation happened on lap 9 when Campari, still chasing Nuvolari, left the road near Spoltore and was thrown from his Alfa, he was fortunate to be only lightly injured. Earl Howe was quoted in ‘The Motor’ October 1933 ‘Campari took a corner too fast, his car ran up a bank and was overturned, fortunately he was not badly hurt. I nearly hit his car, the presence of which i had no warning’.

Fagioli then inherited 2nd but he was 1m11s behind Nuvolari who completed the 9th lap from Fagioli, Taruffi, Varzi, Dreyfus, Zehender, Howe whilst Pelligrini, Alfa Monza, Grosch and ‘Helle Nice’ were already lapped. Straight had retired his Maserati 26M on course with mechanical failure.

Nuvolari sensibly eased his pace on lap 10, allowing Fagioli to draw within a minute of him, but there was further sensation at the end of lap 11 when Luigi crossed the line in Pescara ahead of Nuvolari! He too, like Borzacchini, had a gearbox driveshaft universal joint seize and was slowly making his way to the pits to rectify it. Career Maserati mechanic/engineer/test driver Guerino Bertocchi poured a bucket of water over the hot, smoking driveshaft to cool it down and Nuvolari resumed the race in a great cloud of steam and smoke but his countryman was well gone.

Tazio drove like only he could and saved 2nd place from Taruffi in the other Maser 8CM monoposto. The spectators gave Nuvolari real shouts of acclamation and appreciation of his wonderful drive as the moral victor of the contest.

Automobil-Revue reported that Fagioli shouted, as the Italian National Anthem was played- ‘But the true victor is Nuvolari’, the great man set a new lap record on lap 7 of 10m31.8s. Varzi was 4th some 4m25s back, Bugatti T51, then Howe 14m18.4s behind Fagioli, also aboard a T51. Pellegrini, Alfa Monza had been lapped once and and was flagged off as were Grolsch, Alfa Monza and Helle Nice, Bugatti T35C lapped twice and thrice respectively.

Nuvolari races to victory or so he hoped! Coppa Acerbo 1933. Maser 8CM, conventional car for its time, a monoposto version of the existing 1932 car with 3 litre supercharged, DOHC straight 8 giving circa 250bhp@5500rpm. Car initially performed poorly as the very narrow chassis was insufficiently stiff- this change made from the Belgian GP in July, the power of the engine could then be more fully exploited. Noteworthy was the introduction of hydraulic brakes on all 4 wheels- revived by Masers 12 years after Duesenberg demonstrated their effectiveness in the 1921 French Grand Prix (unattributed)

Maserati 8CM…

Tazio Nuvolari made the Maserati 8CM sing when he first got his hands on it, it was not the first time the great man achieved results with a car lesser mortals struggled to match.

The engine and gearbox was great from the start, it seems probable the M26 car first raced with the 3 litre straight-8 at the 1932 German GP, but this cannot be confirmed. The 8CM was a more powerful car than Scuderia Ferrari’s bored out Monzas, and more than the equal of Alfa’s Tipo B in terms of power if not the handling and ability of the car to put its power to the ground courtesy of brilliant designer Vittorio Jano’s ‘bifurcated’ twin driveshaft rear end. The Tipo B/P3 was ‘the car’ of the 1932 to early 1934, ‘pre Silver Arrows’ phase!

Maserati designed a beautifully narrow monoposto which presented nicely to the airstream but the period typical 8CM girder chassis lacked structural rigidity. This was addressed by Nuvolari on the eve of the Belgian Grand Prix, his first GP in the car. Nuvolari, after driving the car in practice and being disturbed by its behaviour at speed, diagnosed the chassis shortcomings and took the car to the Imperia car factory at Nessonvaux where additional bracing was added to the chassis and the problem was solved- he won the Spa race.

From that point on the 2991cc, cast iron, DOHC, two valve, Weber (or Memini) fed, Roots supercharged straight-8, giving circa 250/280bhp@5800 racer became a very effective tool, and not just in Nuvolari’s hands.

In 1933 Campari won the French GP in an 8C3000 before decamping to Scuderia Ferrari. Nuvolari took wins in the Belgian GP after his last minute chassis mods and in the Coppa Ciano and Nice GP. It is sad that Alfieri Maserati died during kidney surgery (on 3 March 1932) but he bequeathed his firm two wonderful engine designs in both 1.5 litre 4 cylinder and 3 litre 8 cylinder, DOHC, supercharged layouts before his passing. Winning designs for both the Voiturette and Grand Prix classes.

The 8CM was also a very commercially successful car for Maserati, 19 were built in total, the car became a tool of choice off the back of its 1933 performances for privateers who sought its blend of performance and reliability. Alfa chose not to sell the Tipo B to privateers, having initially announced they were building 25 cars for sale, that decision very much to Masers benefit when drivers sought mounts for 1934.

To comply with the 1934 ‘750 Kg Formula’ regulations the chassis was widened from 620mm to 850mm to facilitate fitment of bodywork to comply with the new cross sectional regulation requirements, with the package otherwise remaining the same. The 8CM was initially a ‘pork chop’, tipping the scales at more than 750 Kg but some judicious weight saving made the car comply.

Beautiful shot of the Maser 8CM showing its narrow chassis, lissom lines, solid beam axle suspension and hydraulically operated, finned drum brakes, splines and knock-on hubs. The where and when is more of a mystery, such are the vagaries of Getty Images captions. Its a weighbridge, the narrow chassis/body suggests 1933, #14 matches the GP de Marseille entry of Goffredo Zehender’s works car at Miramas on 27 August 1933, he was 5th- but its just an educated guess, i’m intrigued to know the facts if any of you have the answer (GP Library)

The Italian and French cars were largely ‘make weights’ as the German onslaught gathered pace throughout 1934, the first appearance of the silver cars was at the Eifelrennen on 3 June. The Bugatti T51 and T59, Alfa Tipo B and Monza’s, and Maser 8CM were fighting for the scraps but were good tools for the ‘non-championship’ Grands Epreuves so prevalent at the time. These races were in the main not contested by the German teams. The most impressive performance in 1934 was Nuvolari’s 2nd place, with the Auto Unions and Mercedes present, at the 1934 Coppa Acerbo. It was a power circuit but there was still the opportunity for circuit knowledge and ‘tiger’ to come to the fore. Luigi Fagioli won the race in a Mercedes W25

In terms of 1934 8CM wins, Benoit Falchetto won both the GP Picardie and GP de L’ V.M.F. at Montlhery and Phillippe Etancelin the GP Dieppe. Whitney Straight had much success with his modified cars at home, winning the Donington Park Trophy and the Mountain Championship at Brooklands and right at the end of the year, the South African GP. Straight also took a heat win in the GP Vichy.

Later in the year Maserati’s factory team focus switched to the new 3.7 litre 6 cylinder engined 6C34, the new engine fitted into the 8CM chassis. Tazio won the Circuit of Naples and Circuit of Modena in these cars that October, but the model was not an outright contender. The net result was that Nuvolari made the decision to join Scuderia Ferrari for 1935. Maserati’s 1935 challenger, the 4.8 litre V8 Maserati RI made its GP debut at Marne that July but was never fully developed when Maserati lost interest in GP racing, it was an unequal struggle after all, the Silver Arrows were well into their stride by then, Tazio Nuvolari’s stunning German GP win aboard an Alfa Tipo B duly noted!.

Technical Specifications…

Engine: As per the text above, in addition- Bore/stroke 69X100mm, compression ratio 6.4:1. Gearbox: 4 speed utilising many Fiat Tipo 522 components, Maserati were to use Fiat gearbox components for many years

Chassis: Sheet steel girder type with aluminium body attached to light weight supports

Suspension: Front- Solid axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs & friction dampers Rear- Live axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs & friction dampers

Steering: Fiat worm and sector. Brakes: Large 4 wheel finned electron drums with hydraulic actuation. Weight: 750Kg in 1934

Bibliography…

kolumbus.f1, ‘MotorSport’ October 1933, ‘The Racing Car Development and Design’ by Clutton, Posthumus and Jenkinson, ‘Maserati: A History’ by Anthony Pritchard

Photo Credits…

Imagno, GP Library, Getty Images

 

 

 

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‘yer don’t tend to think of Rodriguez as a Can-Am driver but he contested many races over the years without ever doing a full season’s program. A pity, as his fearless, blinding speed aboard big hairy V8’s would have been worth travelling a mile or three to see…

Here Pedro is with the 7.4 litre BRM P154 Chev during the Monterey Grand Prix weekend at Laguna Seca on 18 October 1970.

BRM built the P154 Chev to contest the 1970 Can-Am with George Eaton as its driver, the car was one of two brand new cars by Bourne’s just joined designer, Tony Southgate.

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The immensely talented BRM Chief Engineer, team manager and designer Tony Rudd fettling his nemesis, the complicated, heavy and recalcitrant! BRM P83 ‘H16’, Monza, Italian GP practice in 1966 (GP Library)

BRM had two terrible years by their lofty standards in 1968 and into 1969. The BRM H16 engine was finally made reliable-ish in 1967 but it’s corpulence, it was well over 300 pounds in excess of it’s designed weight made the cars power to weight ratio poor whatever the chassis designers did to take weight out of the rest of the bolide.

The replacement P101 2 valve 3 litre V12, first raced by Bruce McLaren in his McLaren M5B at the Canadian GP  in late 1967 was concepted as a sports car engine. Whilst light it wasn’t a match for the Ford Cosworth DFV’s power, torque, fuel efficiency or reliability, the same problems being confronted by Ferrari and Matra with their own V12’s.  Into 1968 the DFV was being raced in numbers; by Lotus, McLaren, and Ken Tyrrell’s Matra International team.

As the Bourne engineers focussed on engines they lost their way with chassis direction, a strength prior to this. As a consequence Tony Rudd, who had masterminded BRM’s rise and consistency for over a decade left in mid-1969 to join Colin Chapman at Lotus.

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British GP practice, Silverstone 1969 with Surtees telling the boss just how shite things really are! Sir Alfred Owen, the immensely successful industrialist listens carefully and acts, with ‘generational change’ at Bourne. Allan Challis is the BRM mech in orange (Rainer Schlegelmilch)

’69 BRM driver, John Surtees was having a shocker of a season on both sides of the Atlantic, Jim Hall’s conceptually brilliant but flawed Chaparral 2H CanAm car was an even bigger ‘sheissen-box’ than his BRM F1 P139 BRM. Time was ticking in terms of his own driving career, he was 35 and had managed to land in the wrong team at the wrong time, twice in the same year when time was very much a precious commodity!

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Surtees in the BRM P138 in Monaco 1969 practice. The cars all raced raced sans wings due to a CSI  overnight safety decree severely limiting them. Surtees Q6 and DNF after Jack Brabham ran up his clacker when his gearbox failed, no injury to either driver (Rainer Schlegelmilch)

With BRM owner Sir Alfred Owen’s consent Surtees approached Tony Southgate, with whom he had worked at Lola on the T70 Can Am and T100 F2 cars and more recently designed competitive cars for Dan Gurneys ‘All American Racers’ in Santa Anna, California.

Southgate’s Eagle 210 Offy won the 500 in Bobby Unsers hands in 1968, he also designed a successful Formula A car and a stillborn ’68 F1 car design, elements of which were picked up in the Indy and ‘A Car’.

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George Eaton at Monaco in 1970 in Tony Southgate’s brand new, BRG BRM P153 V12. Compare the ‘old and new’ P138 Monaco ’69 with P153 Monaco ’70  (The GP Library)

Southgate’s brief when he joined BRM was twofold; ‘do what you can now to get the P139 competitive and design a new car for 1970’…

The Brit quickly decided their was little he could do with the P139 so pressed on with the design of the P153, it and the evolved for ’71 P160 were front running, GP winning (4 wins) cars.

Whilst in the middle of the P153 design the chaotic BRM ‘decision making process’ determined that a Can Am challenger for 1970 was a good idea. It was a good earn after all. In a way it was a good decision as Southgate had Can Am experience at Lola and AAR but at the time focus on the ‘main F1 game’ would have been the more prudent course, but racers to the core the BRM outfit were!

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Tony Southgate’s quarter-scale layout drawing of the BRM P154 (Tony Southgate)

Given the designation P154, the car was very much a wedge-shaped device, developed at quarter scale in the Imperial College wind tunnel, then in MIRA’s full-size tunnel when it was completed.

Southgate recalled testing the car at MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association test facility); ‘MIRA has a large test track, with high banked corners to enable high average speeds to be maintained…the one and only Jaguar XJ13 was there for a filming run…an hour or two later whilst in the wind tunnel we heard a load bang. The XJ13 crashed violently at 125mph when a rear wheel collapsed, it rolled four times, I’m glad to say Norman Dewis, Jag’s legendary test driver was only bruised’.

‘By comparison with the 1965 prototype Le Mans car, certainly pretty but what then seemed like old technology, basically it looked like an E Type with an engine in the middle, very round in section with low drag the clear priority. By comparison the P154 was very aggressive looking, wedge-shaped with square sections and downforce was written all over it.’

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‘The P154 model in the Imperial College wind tunnel. There was no moving floor in those days so the wheels were fixed with a small 1mm gap between them and the floor. The model was covered in chalk and paraffin so that when it dried the chalk left a surface air flow pattern for studying.’ (Tony Southgate)

The P154 had a neat lightweight monocoque chassis, the front suspension was similar to the P153 with a single upper link, lower wishbones, coil spring/Koni shocks and an adjustable roll bar. But the rear suspension was quite different as Southgate sought to run the exhaust low down, locating the exhaust primaries below the rear suspension lower wishbones, the aim was to lower the CG. ‘The end result looked good’. The suspension itself was conventional, single upper link, lower wishbones, twin radius rods for forward and lateral location and coil spring/Koni shocks and adjustable roll bar.

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‘The prototype BRM P154/01 being assembled at Bourne. I am showing (TS left) the Castrol USA representative (sponsor) around whilst Tim Parnell (team manager at right) looks on. The monocoque was quite neat and full-length, finishing at the gearbox. The engine is a Chevy developed by BRM, the gearbox a Hewland LG500.’ (Tony Southgate)

Designed for super wide 19inch wide Firestones which never appeared, the car always looked ‘over bodied’ with the 17’s the car raced with. This contributed to the handling dramas attributed to the beast.

The engine was built in-house at BRM and seemed competitive; Chev ZL1 aluminium blocked 7.4 litre, Lucas injected, magneto ignited, dry sump V8 developing circa 650 BHP. The gearbox was one of Mike Hewland’s LG500’s.

The car had little testing, ‘it was thrown together and sent to America for the mechanics to sort out on the hoof” Southgate quipped in a MotorSport interview. The poor unfortunates sent to the US with the car were Roger Bailey and Mike Underwood!

The car sorely needed testing as BRM’s first Can Am machine and the cars driver, Canadian George Eaton didn’t have the experience of big sports cars of both other 1970 BRM F1 drivers, Pedro Rodriguez and Jackie Oliver. ‘It was a low budget operation and the results reflected that. For me, it was a distraction at the time from the real thing-Formula One’ said Southgate.

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‘The completed P154 outside the Bourne workshop in 1970. Note the paintwork was not complete when this photo was taken. In this shot you can see the undersized tyres front and rear, which proved a problem on the circuit (Tony Southgate)

Racing the P154: George Eaton 1970…

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George Eaton with the BRM P154 Chev, 11 June 1970 (Dick Darrell)

Eaton was far from devoid of ‘Big Car’ experience, however.

He raced a McLaren M10A Chev Formula A, 5 litre chassis successfully in North America in 1969 and had raced customer McLarens in the Can Am since 1967.

He was a very strong performer in his beautifully prepared McLaren M12 Chev in the 1969 Can Am consistently qualifying in the top 6 in a field with great depth of talent. His best results were in Texas 2nd, Edmonton 3rd, Watkins Glen 4th and Mid Ohio 6th. He was a bright young spark in these, big, demanding cars.

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‘An early race for the P154, George Eaton, Eatons distant 3rd at St Jovite Canada being a rare highlight’ (Tony Southgate)

So George knew what a good, sorted McLaren was all about and how to drive it figuring a bespoke BRM works car would be a very good thing. Which it was not! The lack of development miles told in the early part of the season.

He qualified 7th at Mosport and 3rd at St Jovite for a DNF with oil and transmission problems and a strong 3rd place. At Watkins Glen he had brake failure, Edmonton a wheel bearing failure and at Mid Ohio fuel pressure problems having qualified 13th, 6th and 25th. At Road Atlanta an engine blew having qualified 5th.

Pedro Rodriguez joined the series from Donnybrooke in September where he was 9th, ‘it didn’t go well in Eaton’s hands so we put Pedro in a car’ was Southgate’s quip, it rather implied the problem was George, which it was not.  The Mexican finished 5th at Laguna and 3rd at Riverside but was out qualified at each round by George. Frustrating for Eaton was Pedro’s results given the hard yards he had put in. He had rocker failure at Donnybrooke and crashes at both Laguna and Riverside, in the latter event a practice shunt which prevented him taking the start.

No way did Eaton have Pedro’s speed in a GP BRM but he was certainly mighty quick in a Can Am car. Southgate ‘Pedro wasn’t a technical driver , he’d just get in and drive his heart out’, clearly Eaton was quick, Pedro was Top 5 in the world at the time, Top 7 anyway! One rather suspects the P154 needed testing miles with a development driver to both stress componentry, the role Eaton played in races early in the season and to re-engineer or tweak the package to make it behave. Southgate says the suspension geometry, designed for 19inch wide tyres didn’t work well with 17’s.

Best results for the P154 in a season dominated again by the papaya McLarens, the M8D in 1970, were George’s qualifying performances at Road Atlanta and Donnybrooke, his 3rd place at St Jovite, Pedro’s 3rd at Riverside and 5th at Laguna.

In essence Eaton did a very good job with an under-developed, evil handling car, one of the best in the world also struggled with it…

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Eaton P154/01 Chev, Laguna Seca (The Enthusiast Network)

Development of the P154: Pedro raced the car later in the season and afterwards ‘came to see me in my office in Bourne to talk about the experience and told me in its present form the car was horrible to drive’ said Southgate.

‘I had great admiration for Pedro, so I knew it must be really bad. I was very embarrassed and immediately set about re-engineering it and fixing all the problems. The revised car, the P167 went on to be very good in 1971 but it was still a low budget operation’.

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This is an interesting drawing of mine because it shows the wind tunnel development shapes that were produced to arrive at the distinctive ‘shovel’ nose on both the P154 and P167. The heavy line indicates the final shape.’ (Tony Southgate)

Modifications to make the car competitive comprised a large rear wing, widening the front and rear tracks to get the outsides of the wheels out to the most extreme width which the proposed for 1970 19 inch wheels were supposed to achieve. The front to rear balance was achieved with a shovel-type concave nose section. ‘It was the same design theory I arrived at in the wind-tunnel for the nose of the P160 ’71 F1 car.’

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The 1971 BRM P167 was a P154 extensively modified.’…A new shovel nose section was added, new rear bodywork created and a rear wing fitted. The tracks, front and rear were widened.’ (Tony Southgate)

In fact when Howden Ganley, the talented Kiwi mechanic, engineer, racer and test driver drove the 1971 evolved car, the ‘P167’ at Goodwood the nose ‘grounded’ under brakes as so much downforce was being created. The fix was making the nose mounts more rigid.

Said Tony, ‘This was my first experience of very large aerodynamic loads deflecting the structure. The phenomenon was the visual interpretation to my understanding the sheer power of aerodynamics which could be produced on a modern car’.

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‘The BRM developed Chevy V8 performed well and was quite reliable, the trouble was we had no spare available. The car ran without bodywork between the wheels as shown here.’ 1971 P167 (Tony Southgate)

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‘The rear view of the P167 shows the exhaust system, which was unusual for a US V8 engined car. I liked it because of the lower CofG’ Note the rear suspension; single upper links, lower wishbones, coil spring/Koni alloy body dampers and roll bar. Inboard discs, LG500 Hewland ‘box with oil cooler above and magneto above it again. Note ‘stays’ to locate ‘mudguards’ above lower wishbones and monster wing compared with wingless P154 (Tony Southgate)

In a very limited Group 7 program by BRM in 1971 Pedro first raced the P167 in the European Interserie at Zolder in June, for Q7 and a DNF with a cylinder liner problem. He missed the next couple of rounds and then came the fateful Norisring round at which he lost his life, more of that below.

In September Brian Redman drove the P167 to a win at Imola and then in early October at Hockenheim against good fields, not Can Am quality mind you. The car was entered by Sid Taylor Racing, that year also running Brian in European F5000 events in a McLaren M18 Chev.

Buoyed by those results the Bourne hierarchy shipped the car to North America to contest the last two Can Am rounds in California. The car was raced again by Sid Taylor with his team providing the support. Jerry Entin and engine man George Bolthoff were with the team at both US races.

At Laguna Seca, Brian was Q6 and a strong 4th, and Howden Ganley raced the car at Riverside, Redman stayed in Europe to attend Jo Siffert’s funeral. The poor Swiss perished at the wheel of a BRM P160 at the end of season, 24 October, Brands Hatch ‘Victory Race’ after a tyre failure, the tyre moved on the rim and suddenly deflated, causing him to veer off the track and roll in the dip before Hawthorn Bend. He was almost uninjured but perished in a horrible fire. The plucky Swiss started the race from ‘equal pole’ with Peter Gethin, it demonstrated his competitiveness right to the very end of his career.

The talented Kiwi, Ganley a BRM F1 driver that season qualified 9th and finished 3rd behind the dominant McLaren M8F’s in the P167.

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Howden Ganley at The Times Grand Prix, Riverside, P167/01 in 1971 definitive form, 4th (The Enthusiast Network)

‘Alcan Team BRM’ ran the car as a works entry in the 1972 Interserie with Ganley scoring wins at the Nurburgring and Zeltweg amongst a swag of DNF’s for the P167. Mike Pilbeam engineered the car with Reg Richardson, principally an engine man, the cars mechanic. Once the Porsche 917/10 appeared in Europe the going got much tougher for the V8 brigade, Leo Kinnunen took the title, Porsche mounted in ’72.

In an unfortunate and bizarre sequence of events the P167 led to Pedro’s death, Southgate again; ‘During 1971 when the P167 was showing promise, Pedro decided he wanted to race it in Europe. So the car was entered for the big Interserie race on the Norisring street circuit in Nuremberg’

‘Part of the preparation was to re-run the engine on the Bourne dyno, hoping to find a few more horsepower. Tragically, as it transpired, the engine was damaged and we had no spare so we cancelled our entry’.

Pedro ‘phoned me that evening to see how the cars preparation was going, only to be told as far as we were concerned the race was off. I told him I was sorry for letting him down. ‘Never mind he said, I have been offered a drive in a Ferrari (512M) for good money-£1500′. I wished him luck in the race. Little did I know this would be the last time that I ever spoke to Pedro. He was killed driving that Ferrari’.

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Pedro and P167/01 in still evolving aero form, first race, Zolder, June 1971 (unattributed)

Tony Southgate has very fond memories of the great Mexican; ‘Pedro was extremely popular with everyone and I admired him both as a person and driver. He was a charismatic character with a particular aura about him, always appearing immaculate to the outside world, sleeking back his hair and wiping his brow after driving before he would talk to anyone. Actually he was a very private and quiet man…He never was a balls out qualifier; he preferred to save his efforts for the race. When his grid position was not as near the front as we would have liked, he would tell us that he would simply overtake a few cars on the first lap, which he often did. He was easy to work with, not a technical driver, but naturally talented and brave. Very brave…’

Bibliography…

‘Tony Southgate: From Drawing Board to Chequered Flag’ Tony Southgate, MotorSport interview by Simon Taylor, Jerry Entin on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’, classiccars.com

Credits…

The Enthusiast Network, Southgate biography as above, Getty Images

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Pedro, P154/02 1970, Can Am circuit unknown (unattributed)

Build Numbers…

British racer and former twice national hillclimb champion David Hepworth bought all of the chassis’, patterns, drawings and moulds when BRM dropped the Can Am program, his best Interserie result was 5th at Silverstone in 1972.

It appears there were 5 chassis built: the two P154’s raced by Eaton and Rodriguez in 1970- P154/01 and P154/02. P154/02 was reduced, it’s parts donated to the P167 program, in recent years the car has been rebuilt/reassembled.

There was one P154/167 and two P167’s. The P154/167 ‘bastard car’ combined the P154 short wheelbase with P167 suspension geometry- this car does not appear to have been raced upon perusal of published records.

Rodriguez, Redman and Ganley raced the definitive P167/01 in 1971 in both the Interserie and Can Am.

Ganley raced P167/01 in the 1972 Interserie, Vern Schuppan practiced the same chassis but did not race it at the Nurburgring after engine failure in practice. Hepworth raced P154/01 in 1972 and in the 1973 Interserie, P167/01.

P167/02 was assembled later from spares acquired in the ‘job lot’ acquisition of cars and parts from BRM in 1972- it appears, entered for Hepworth, at the Nurburgring Interserie in 1974.

For many years the Hepworth family owned four of the five cars. I’m not sure of the present status of said racers but wouldn’t P167/01 be a nice thing to have?- ex-Rodriguez, Redman, Ganley, Schuppan and Hepworth…

Tailpiece: Racers Racer…

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Pedro, Laguna Seca and P154/02 1970 (The Enthusiast Network)

 

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The Story of the Repco-Brabham V8 Racing Engine as conveyed in Repco Technical News Volume 12 No 2, November 1965…

This gem is from Michael Gasking’s Collection and is reproduced in all of its glory, this is the 1966 Tasman/F1 engine later more commonly referred to as ‘RB620’, its internal Repco Parts Co project code was ‘620’. It will be difficult to read on your ‘phone, a bit easier on a larger device!

We have covered this engine already in primotipo, click on the links at the end of the article for these stories. Just a couple of ‘editorial comments’ or observations.

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RB620 and F1…

No mention is made of the engines F1 application so late in the piece, the new 3 litre F1 began on 1 January 1966. Brabham and Repco were playing their cards, understandably, close to their chest. Remember the RB620 V8 first ran in a car at 3 litres not 2.5, at Goodwood before racing in the non-championship South African GP, at Kyalami on 1 January 1966.

Melbourne motoring journalist Chris de Fraga, well known and respected by generations of Victorian enthusiasts is credited with first reporting Repco’s F1 plans in the Melbourne ‘Age’ in early October 1965, a report denied by Repco at the time. This document dated November 1965 was presumably circulated in that month or the following one.

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Jack’s Lovechild…

Brabham’s parentage of the project is ignored in this largely technical treatise of the engine, Jack’s involvement not ‘front and centre’ in this public document given the need for F1 confidentiality.

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‘The Men’…

The duo credited with the engine in the brochure are Chief Engineer of the Repco Parts Group, Frank Hallam and Project Engineer Phil Irving, the only guy missing, as stated above is Brabham. Its worth musing for a bit about the roles these three men played in the championship winning RB620.

In simple terms Jack was the engines conceptual designer- he pitched the Repco board a simple engine using the F85 Olds block as a base whose completed dimensions were to fit the existing BT19 chassis. Phil designed it, inclusive of its drawings. Jack provided both conceptual design and practical feedback to Phil on regular visits to Irving who was based near Brabhams early in 1964 as he progressed the engines design. All of the ‘RB620’ drawings were done by Phil and signed by him according to ex-Repco engineer and Repco Historian, Nigel Tait who has seen and reviewed them all in the process of archiving them with RMIT University, Melbourne, in recent years. Hallam was Repco Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd. General Manager and Chief Engineer. His role was primarily a management one although he had engineering oversight, his direct design and engineering input into RB620 something Hallam has sought to grab a greater share of down the decades.

After Irving’s death, Hallam in his book ‘Mr Repco Brabham’ comprehensively dumps all over Irving and seeks to take more credit than he is due for the ‘RB620’ engine inclusive of positioning Irving as its ‘draftsman’ – ‘draftsman casual’ in the employee list in his books Appendix. In fact all of the ‘Drawing Office Personnel’ listed are described as ‘draftsman’ despite several being degree qualified engineers. Hallam, on the other hand, formally qualified as a motor mechanic, lists himself as General Manager/Chief Engineer. The positioning he inaccurately seeks to convey is clear. In that context its interesting to see Phil’s title as ‘Project Engineer’ in this Repco publication of the day.

The very well known F1 engine designer and manufacturer John Judd joined the Repco Brabham Engines Maidstone design team at Jack Brabham’s behest in 1966. He pretty much unwittingly walked into a storm in terms of the final breakdown in the progressively declining working relationship between Hallam and Irving. Judds arrival at Maidstone was unannounced by Frank to Phil, the design leader at the time, thereby lighting the fuse for a final confrontation which was becoming increasingly inevitable.

Judd got the ‘rounds of the kitchen’ from Phil when he joined RBE according to both Phil’s autobiography and Frank’s book but Judd has this to say about Irving’s contribution to ‘RB620’ in a recent ‘Vintage Racecar’ magazine interview;

‘When Jack returned (to the UK) from the (1966) Tasman  series, he asked if I could go to Melbourne almost immediately, and work with Repco designing parts toward the next year’s engine. That lasted for about four months and I was back again for six months in 1967 working on the 1968 4-cam engine.’

‘The original 1966 engine had been designed almost 100% by Phil Irving of Velocette and HRD fame with input from Jack and Ron Tauranac, but Phil didn’t fit in well with the Repco corporate structure and fell out with his boss Frank Hallam. My insertion into an already fragile situation led to Phil leaving after I had been there two months or so, and to his replacement by Norm Wilson. Looking back at Jack’s 1966 World Championship winning engine, I believe it was largely the product of one man, Phil Irving, to an extent that is and will remain unique.’

Don’t get me wrong, Hallam played a vastly important role in marshalling Repco corporate resources to assemble the men and modern machines to build World Championship winning engines in 1966 and 1967. He was also a wonderful foil between the demanding requirements of the Repco Board and the daily dramas in Maidstone of building and servicing racing V8 engines so far from Brabham Racing Organisation’s Guildford base. But his contribution is more management than engineering detail of RB620 when objectively looked at in the context of all the published evidence and the views of those there at the time.

The antipathy between Irving and Hallam was and is well known, few Repco people want to go ‘on record’ about the topic, which is both understandable and frustrating at the same time. They, rightfully, recognise the contributions of both men. Irving’s book is respectful of Hallam, Hallam’s of Irving not so and was published well after Phil’s death- the shit-canning of Irving is grubby and un-Australian really. If you are going to ‘have a crack’ do so when the other dude can defend himself. Hallam’s book was contracted by him from Simon Pinder, the author. It is not objective as such (neither is Irving’s autobiography of course) but does add much to fill in the RBE story, the long interview with ’67 RB740 designer Norman Wilson is gold for example,  but the books quality varies from gold to ‘merde’ depending upon the chapter. One needs quite a lot of Repco knowledge to pick the chapters to treasure and those to treat with rather more circumspection.

Nigel Tait told me that Jack Brabham was very angry with a fair bit of the contents of the book- it would have been a good idea for the great man to have read its contents before writing the publications foreword! I will explore the relationship between Irving and Hallam, and Hallam’s claims, in detail, soon. In short, this Repco corporate piece puffs up Hallam’s racing background and downplays Irving’s, ‘twould be interesting to know who ‘signed off’ the content of this document before it’s publication.

Enjoy ‘The Story of The Repco-Brabham V8 Racing Engine’, its sensational. Wish I had it when Rodway Wolfe and I tackled the articles linked below 2 years ago!, having said that we have included a good bit of granular stuff not included in this official publication, so read together are not a bad crack at the ‘RB620’ subject…

Bibliography…

Repco, ‘Vintage Racecar’ magazine, ‘Mr Repco Brabham’ Simon Pinder

Credits…

Michael Gasking Collection

Tailpiece: Repco Brabham Boys, Longford, March 1966…

Phil Irving, with collar and tie chats to Brabham whilst Frank Hallam at right susses the Brabham BT19’s suspension. Not sure what Roy Billington is up to. Note the long inlet trumpets of the Tasman 2.5 RBE620 V8. Its the engines 3rd race, South African GP then Sandown Tasman the week before Longford. Jack was 3rd with overheating and low fuel, Jackie Stewart won in a BRM P261 from Graham Hill’s sister BRM. Its 6 or 7 March 1966. BT19 was Jack’s F1 championship winning 1966 car, still in Oz owned by Repco (oldracephotos.com/Harold Ellis)

 

 

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(Bert Hardy)

Stirling Moss sets off on his first test laps of an ‘orrible looking Mercedes Benz W196, Hockenheim 4 December 1954…

Stirling Moss started the 1954 Grand Prix season, the first year of the 2.5 litre formula with a customer Maserati 250F acquired with family resources and some trade support. By seasons end he was Officine Maserati’s ‘team leader’ albeit unsigned by them for 1955 which rather created an opportunity for others.

Mercedes re-entered Grand Prix racing from the ’54 French Grand Prix and quickly, again, became the dominant force. The idea for this article was finding some Bert Hardy ‘Picture Post’ images of Stirling Moss’ first test of the W196 at Hockenheim on 4 December 1954, the precursor to him joining the great marque for 1955.

Some quick research uncovered an article written by Mattijs Diepraam and Felix Muelas on 8w.forix.com, a great website if you haven’t tripped over it by the way.

It’s a ripper article the contents of which they sourced from Ken Gregory’s and Stirling Moss’ books. Rather than re-invent the wheel I have truncated their article a smidge without taking away their interesting, nitty-gritty of circumstances around Stirling and Alfred Moss, and Moss’ Manager, Ken Gregory’s deliberations and negotiations about ‘the boy’s 1955 contractual commitments.

‘The Hockenheimring, was still raced anti-clockwise like they do at Indianapolis when Stirling Moss flew in to test the car that was the class of the field from the word go at the 1954 French GP.

After a few laps he knew. And then there was that handsome offer made to Ken Gregory. Mercedes simply wanted Moss and the effort to get him was meticulously planned. It left Gregory gaping at the negotation table – as he readily admits in his highly entertaining 1960 book ‘Behind the scenes of Motor Racing.’

‘And still it almost went wrong – although knowing Neubauer cum suis a plan B and even plan C would have been rushed out of the Untertürkheim premises forthwith. The first thing Moss and Gregory noticed of Mercedes-Benz interest was a brief and factual telegram by Daimler-Benz AG enquiring about the availability of Stirling Moss for 1955.’

“CABLE WHETHER STIRLING MOSS BOUND FOR 1955 STOP. OUR INQUIRY WITHOUT COMMITMENT – DAIMLER-BENZ.”

‘Stirling’s gut reaction was no. He had a signed contract with Shell-Mex and BP for 1954 and 1955 and was sure of a sponsorship clash with Mercedes suppliers, Castrol. Beside that, the contract was a done deal and he would not think of dissolving it so shortly after he had given his word – of which, in Stirling’s view, the contract was merely a written confirmation. He didn’t have time to think about it anyway, as he was due to leave for the US, to race in the so-called Mountain Rally.’

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Moss relays to Rudy Uhlenhaut left and Karl Kling what its like out there, car far less forgiving than the 250F Moss raced in 1954. Stirling has done plenty of laps by the look of his face (Bert Hardy)

‘Gregory thought otherwise, and after consulting Alfred Moss, decided to go Stuttgart himself. On the advice of Stirling’s dad, Ken armed himself with monstrous demands, to act like a tough British cookie and see what happens. It was a total shock to Gregory to find that Herr Neubauer, the long-time Mercedes boss, was infinitely better prepared for the meeting. Not only did the overbearing team manager come up with the most remarkable details of Stirling’s career – he also came up with a figure that would amount to Moss’ salary, a number that froze Gregory to the ground and left him gasping for air until he got on the flight back to England.’

‘Before leaving he convinced Alfred Neubauer to pair Moss with Fangio in the new 300 SLR sportscar, and of giving Stirling a test before anything was signed. The rest of the deal was ironed out on the spot. The Shell and BP matter was conveniently postponed until after Stirling’s arrival.’

‘On his return Gregory phoned Stirling in the States, having tracked him down in the Rootes building in New York. Initially an irritated Stirling reiterated his view on the contract with Shell and BP but then Ken told him about the contract terms – the sportscar pairing with Fangio, the permission to race his 250F in non-championship events – and, of course, the money involved. An honourable human being he may be, Stirling is only human as well. This was too good to be true.’

‘According to Gregory his stance immediately made an about-turn. And this is where Stirling’s own account of things takes off in his 1957 book In Track of Speed… “I was to receive the sensational and most encouraging news that the German Mercedes firm was ready and anxious to sign me as one of their official Grand Prix team for 1955. It is not easy, now, properly to analyse my feelings when the news reached America. I had gone over there to compete in the Mountain Rally, and had driven a Sunbeam in a trio of cars which won the team prize. When I heard of the Mercedes offer, I was a little awed, a little bewildered, and very pleased. With all my experience, I had not done a lot of real racing in the Grand Prix series on cars which stood a real chance. True, I had led the Maserati team for the latter half of the year, but to have a place in that all-conquering team – and I felt in my bones that it would all-conquering – was to give me a unique personal opportunity.”

And this is the November 22 entry for Stirling’s diary: “Up early, called on Jaguars, then to Rootes, where Ken called and told me of the fantastic Merc offer. Wow!”

Enough said.

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Neubauer projects and Moss listens and talks to Uhlenhaut (Bert Hardy)

Hockenheim Test and Build-up…

‘Between November 22 and December 3 lay a couple of weeks that became a string of field days for the press. The latter date would be the day of Moss’ return flight to London where he would meet up with his father and manager, the three of them flying straight through to Frankfurt for the planned test on December 4. In the meantime, Jerry Ames of Downtons, the British publicity agent for Mercedes-Benz did everything to alert his Fleet Street colleagues on the arrival of the important test, and this caused a flurry of reports on the Moss-Mercedes case. Did he have a verbal agreement with Maserati? What about the Shell/BP deal? How much would Neubauer be willing to fork out? And where were the principles of a man that had stated that he wanted to win the World Championship in a British car?’

‘All of it was fairly benign, though. From the US, Stirling had already released a carefully worded statement about his ambition to win the Championship in a British car but that there was very little hope in doing so the following year, and that as a professional racer he really had no other option than to accept the offer. These words were generally accepted as sincere. On the day of the test, however, the press were dealt a red herring by a wicked Neubauer. Although the news of the test was carefully leaked by Ames, leading to Picture Post magazine sending their feature writer Trevor Philpots and star photographer Bert Hardy on a plane to Frankfurt the very same day, the two Brits were picked up by a Mercedes-Benz driver pretending to have no knowledge of English and driven off in the wrong direction. It left Neubauer in the safe knowledge that Moss would say yes to them first before the British press could get hold of a possible no. The Picture Post duo were only allowed onto the Hockenheim grounds by the time the serious business was long underway.’

‘And so Stirling arrived at Hockenheim undisturbed to find everything thoroughly prepared for his test. And that’s understating things- to Moss and his party thoroughness was redefined. Mercedes chief engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut had seen to it that the car had every aspect modified to Stirling’s build and style. So that was one excuse out of the way. Then there was Mercedes regular Karl Kling to set a yardstick – one that was set at 200kph just days before by the same Kling. But there had been a recent rainstorm, so that when Stirling did his reconnaissance laps on a 220A saloon, then switching to the 300SL gullwing sportscar, the track was still wet. These first laps soon created a dry-ish line on which Moss got his first hand on the W196.’

‘He thought it (the W196) was uncompromising, as any Mercedes driver would reveal. He admitted as such to a watchful Ken Gregory. “Stirling was not immediately at home with the Merc, and while Kling was circulating he told me he thought it was a very difficult car to drive; it was ‘fighty’, inclined to oversteer, and much more sensitive to handle than the Maserati, though the power, he said, was ‘fantastic’.” Despite being confused by the peculiar transmission at first he felt confident that he could master the car. He got down to a 2.15 – comparing to an average of 201kph – a time that was later equalled by Kling on a track still drier. A previously nervous Uhlenhaut was by now beaming with pleasure. A short discussion followed with Alfred Moss and Gregory, after which Stirling concluded that he should take Mercedes up on their offer, assuming that the sponsorship clash between the oil companies could be solved – and indeed it was solved in a most gracious way, with Bryan Turdle, competitions manager of Shell-Mex and BP, not hesitating to release Stirling from his 1955 Shell commitments.’

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Neubauer and a thoughtful Moss, the most recent of so many stars the German worked with (Bert Hardy)

Maserati Intervention…

Then came another thing to be solved. During the test a telegram arrived for Neubauer. It came from Commendatore Orsi of Maserati, claiming he had a contract with Moss and that Mercedes should back off. The claim was understandable as Moss had quickly become the lead Maserati driver since his display at the 1954 Italian GP and Orsi wasn’t particularly keen to see the second best driver of the world go off and team up with Fangio, doubling Maserati’s task. But Moss Sr and Gregory were able to convince the Germans that Stirling had in fact not agreed to anything, not even verbally. And so Stirling Moss was announced as the number two Mercedes-Benz driver for 1955 shortly after.’

‘For Moss the choice of Mercedes was obvious…The British manufacturers were a long way from threatening the establishment, and the new Climax engine was still not ready. Mercedes-Benz by all means were. And they showed it at that December 4 test. It had been a test with a thoroughness previously unseen by British drivers. But also one with immaculate attention for the human being inside the driver. That was Mercedes-Benz too. This is Stirling’s own recollection of the comfort he was supplied with as soon as he got back to the pits: “What really impressed me was that as I clambered out of the car, rummaging in my pockets for a handkerchief or rag to wipe my face, a mechanic suddenly appeared, bearing hot water, soap, a flannel and a towel! Out there in the middle of the desolate Hockenheimring this was forethought I could hardly credit. I thought then that to be associated with such an organization could not be bad…”

 Checkout my article on the Mercedes W196…

https://primotipo.com/2015/10/09/mercedes-benz-w196-french-gp-1954/

Photo Credits…

Bert Hardy

Bibliography…

8w.forix.com article ‘How Stirling Got His Mercedes Breakthrough’ by Mattijs Diepraam and Felix Muelas

Tailpiece…

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Neubauer, Alfred and Stirling Moss toast 1955 success, a year of bitter sweet for the great marque, Le Mans not in their wildest, worst dreams (Bert Hardy)

 

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(Ken Devine)

Doug Green blasts his oh-so-famous ex-Ascari/Gaze/Davison Ferrari 500/625 chassis #5 down a suburban West Australian, Bunbury street on 26 December 1960, a far cry from the European circuits on which it won Alberto’s two World Championships in 1952 and 1953 …

Western Australia has a rich history of racing on street circuits; Albany, Collie, Katanning, Mandurah and Narrogin in addition to Bunbury all had street racing at one time or another.

Bunbury’s racing history is particularly long. The Indian Ocean port city services the farm, mining and timber industries of Western Australia’s South West 175 Km south of Perth and had car and motorbike racing ‘around the houses’ up until 1988.

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Ray Barfield’s ex-works/David McKay Aston Martin DB3S ‘9’, at Carey Park, Bunbury, December 1960 (Ken Devine)

Racing commenced there in 1938 with the running of the ‘Bunbury Flying 50’ on a large circuit in the town itself, Allan Tomlinson the victor…

The first event, held over 25 laps of the roughly 2 mile course on 14 November 1938 was won by Allan Tomlinson’s MG TA Spl s/c in 63 minutes. The race, a handicap as was the case for much of Australian motor racing for decades, such was the relative paucity of racing cars let alone vehicles of equivalent performance, was a big success. Norm Kestel and Jack Nelson were 2nd and 3rd in MG TA and Ballot V8 respectively with Kestel, in a TA similar to Tomlinson’s pushing him hard all the way.

The 22 year old Tomlinson was a very fast, skilful and thoughtful driver, his performance in Bunbury, off a handicap of 40 seconds and setting the fastest race lap at 2:24.0 was indicative of his pace.

In fact he was a ‘child prodigy’ by the standards of the day having only started racing aged 18 at Lake Perkolilli in 1936. He drove a Ford V8 in the stock car handicap and scored an excellent win. Subsequently he raced a midget at Claremont Speedway and then bought the MG TA for regular racing and competition work.

He was employed in the family business, the Tomlinson & Co foundry and engineering shop and applied those resources and his own mechanical skills well. The TA arrived shortly before the premier race in WA, the Albany GP, in 1937 and was quickly fitted with a Marshall blower and stripped of all superfluous parts. Allan drove well but the cars brakes failed on lap 16, he sailed through the barriers of Salvation Army Corner, unharmed!

During 1937 he continued to perform strongly at track meetings at Dowerin, with a couple of wins and in the WA Car Clubs Hillclimb at Victoria Reservoir.

Tomlinson’s winning MG TA ahead of  Jack Nelson’s Ballot V8 2nd, Albany GP 18 April 1938. Note the difference in the body of the Tomlinson car here and as a monoposto below (Terry Walker)

His first major success was in the 1938 Albany GP, that Easter he won off a handicap of 3 minutes 30 seconds from Jack Nelson’s Ballot V8 and Kestel’s quick MG TA. The handicappers were onto him though, his Bunbury handicap was 40 seconds but the youngster and his team were further modifying the MG away from the gaze of authority. Tomlinson, Bill Smallwood and Clem Dwyer carefully rebuilt the engine and clad the racer in a light, pretty, aerodynamic monoposto body which was painted blue. Extensively tested, the car was running perfectly, the race win the reward for careful attention to detail.

Tomlinson and the teams fanatical attention to the preparation of the car was unusual and remarkable for the day. They were about to show the east coast ‘big boys’ just how to prepare for, and drive a motor race.

Allan Tomlinson winning the 14 November 1938 ‘Bunbury Flying 50’ in his light, powerful, highly developed, 1340cc supercharged MG TA Spl (Terry Walker)

In early-December the team loaded the little 10/6 Marshall Rootes supercharged, aluminium bodied MG onto a ship in Fremantle for the short voyage to Port Adelaide.

On 2 January 1939 Tomlinson won the Australian Grand Prix on the immensely demanding, 8.6 mile long Lobethal road course in the Adelaide Hills.

The team had a spare T Type for Tomlinson to explore and master the swoops, dives and blind corners of the place. He also walked the roads, studying the gradients and topography closely. Historians still debate the speed of the little MG on that day, with its trick axle ratio it was good for 130mph, with Tomlinson claiming later speeds close to 140! There were some much faster cars in the race, Jano straight-8 Alfa Romeos and others, but whilst many drivers were on the brakes or a trailing throttle Tomlinson used skill and circuit knowledge to go flat where others were not…

Allan returned triumphant to WA aboard the ‘Kanimbla’ and was given an informal reception at the Albany Council Chambers on 8 January. The team then returned to Perth and on to another big victory, this time the ‘Great Southern Classic’ at Pingelly over 25 miles- ‘his fourth successive motor racing win in twelve months’ The West Australian reported.

Disaster struck at the Tomlinson foundry in East Perth on 4 May 1939 when Allan, whilst fixing an oil blower to a piece of machinery, had it explode, badly damaging three fingers on his left hand; two were later amputated in Perth Hospital, the lacerated index finger recovered. A ‘rock star’ in Perth by this time, his progress was covered daily in the local press. Tomlinson recovered but did not race again in 1939, the winds of war were blowing by then of course.

Sadly the Lobethal course that gave him his greatest win bit him very badly during the New Years Day 1940 ‘South Australian Hundred’.

The young driver was lucky to escape a very high speed trip through the countryside; he accidentally tagged the back of a Morgan, left the road and went through the bush, down an embankment and ended up against a tree in a roadside camping area. He broke his ribs, received internal injuries, shock and a long stay in Royal Adelaide Hospital. Whilst the car was not badly damaged-the body was dented and the wheels buckled, but the engine and chassis were undamaged according to Bill Smallwood.

As to Tomlinson, a highly promising career was over. After 5 months in hospital Allan returned to Perth with intentions to race but with the outbreak of war, motor racing ceased. Post-war Tomlinson had a lifelong involvement in the WA Sports Car Club and VSCC. He died aged 95 having lived a full life.

Now, where was i?! Back to Bunbury!

The Bunbury town circuit layout was used again post-war in November 1946 albeit the cars raced in the opposite direction to 1938. In 1950 the Australian Motor Cycle TT was held on the same layout.

The relative isolation of Carey Park, a suburb 3.5Km south east of Bunbury allowed the ‘Bunbury Flying 50’ to take place again in 1960. Competing vehicles were mainly production sports cars, the exceptions Green’s Ferrari 500 and Jack Ayres 1.5 litre, supercharged GP Alta. Ray Barfield’s ex-works Aston Martin DB3S was a sports car of considerable performance too.

The race was also called the ‘Carey Park Flying 50’, whatever it’s name results have been hard to find although photographer/historian Ken Devine believes the feature race, these photos are from that event, was won by Green’s Ferrari. If any of you have a race report I’d welcome you getting in touch.

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Jack Ayres, Alta ‘010’, starting the turn into Ecclestone Street from Forrest Avenue, pretty car, nicely proportioned lines, nose of the original car modified locally (Ken Devine)

Jack Ayres’ GP/F2 Alta s/c ‘010’…

Geoffrey Taylor’s first Alta sportscar was built in 1929.

He decided to build a 1.5 litre, supercharged GP car post-war, the  first of which appeared in 1948. The three cars built had ladder-frame chassis and wishbone suspension with rubber as the spring medium. The third of these cars, ‘GP3’, bought by Irish motor trader and wheeler-dealer Joe Kelly in 1950 was powered by a DOHC, 1496cc, SU fed, two stage Rootes type supercharged engine developing 202bhp at 6000 rpm. It contested non-championship F1 races and both the 1950 and 1951 British GP’s at Silverstone in Kelly’s hands finishing over 15 laps in arrears of the winners in both years.

Later ‘GP3’ was fitted with a Bristol engine by Kelly to contest F2 events, the sophisticated supercharged engine was then fitted to Alta ‘010’, a hitherto F2 chassis raced by Robert Cowell in 1949/50. The story of father and ex-Spitfire WW2 pilot Cowell is an interesting one as he became she; Roberta Cowell was the very first transgender Brit, the operation took place in 1951.

The car was bought and imported into Australia in 1956 by Gib Barrett of Armadale, Melbourne. Gib and Alf Barrett were formidable racers for decades both pre and post-War, Alf Barrett one of the all time greatest Oz drivers.

The car was fettled and finished 1oth in the post Olympic Games 1956 Melbourne GP at Albert Park in Gib’s hands, it was sold soon thereafter to Perth’s Syd Anderson in 1957. And so began an intensive period of racing for ‘010’ in WA. Syd raced it in the 1957 AGP at Caversham near Perth but retired, the race was won by Lex Davison and Bill Patterson in the Ferrari 500/625 also featured in this article.

Jack Eyres then bought ‘010’ racing extensively in the West in all kinds of events, he was 5th in the ‘WA Trophy’ Gold Star round in December 1960, that race won by Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati. By the following August, Caversham Gold Star round Ayres had moved on to a Cooper MkV powered by a 1.1 litre Ford engine, with the Alta raced by new owner, Jim Ward.

The old car had by the early sixties become uncompetitive and dilapidated, the cars restoration was commenced by Jim Harwood in WA in the later 1960’s and finished by Lotus doyen John Dawson-Damer in outer Sydney. Graham Lowe owned it before it passed to Peter Briggs museum at York in WA, which was fitting given the cars WA racing period. ‘010’ was fully restored and always looked a treat when it appeared at Australian Grands Prix and other special events. Sadly the car left Oz some time ago, it recently appeared at Retromobile, offered for sale.

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Touring Car action at the ‘Highway Corner’, Bunbury 1960 (Jodie Krikkie)

Ferrari 500/625 Chassis #5, 3 litre…

Ferrari 500 #5 is said to be the most successful Grand Prix car of all time; it won 6 of the 7 championship Grand Epreuves held in 1952 and 9 in 1953 to win Ascari’s two drivers titles.

I don’t plan to cover the detailed history of this car now, it seems appropriate to do so in an article about Lex Davison who achieved so much Australian success in it; the 1957 and 1958 AGP’s, the very first Australian Drivers Championship, the ‘Gold Star’ in 1957 to name a few.

Lex eventually sold his beloved car to West Australian Doug Green in 1960. It had finally become uncompetitive in the eastern states but still had a year or so of relevance in WA.

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Doug Green proudly displays his Ferrari 500/625. Caversham, WA (Terry Walkers)

Davison wasn’t done with front-engined GP cars though, he very narrowly lost by a cars length the 1960 AGP at Lowood, Queensland to Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati in a superb Aston Martin DBR4 before finally changing to ‘the mechanical mice’ as he described Coopers, winning his fourth and final AGP at Mallala, South Australia in a T51 Climax in 1961.

Davison bought the Ferrari off his friend, Tony Gaze, after the NZ summer races in 1956, Gaze had success with it in 1954 and 1955 having acquired it from the factory fitted with a 3 litre sportscar ‘750 Monza’ engine for the Formula Libre events common globally at the time.

The Fazz was eventually bought by Tom Wheatcroft in the late 1960’s, the first car for his famous Donington Collection, it’s  identity as Ascari’s chassis unknown at the time Tom acquired it. The car had chassis number ‘0480’ when bought by Gaze. During the restoration of the car the provenance of it was investigated by Doug Nye amongst others and confirmed after careful ‘forensic examination’ and in communications with Ferrari.

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Doug Green’s Ferrari 500/625, Carey Park, Bunbury 1960 (Ken Devine)

Doug Green bought ‘5’ in 1960, having graduated from an 1100cc Cooper. He got to grips with it, racing extensively in WA, soon improving upon Davo’s times in it at Caversham. He contested the Caversham Gold Star rounds in 1960 and 1961 finishing 4th and 2nd in thin fields, respectively. He sold the car in 1963 upon retirement from racing.

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Rare colour photo of the engine bay of Ferrari 500/625 #5 at Bunbury in 1960. I just about blew a head gasket when I saw the opening photo and this one, color shots of this car are rare, I’ve seen few of its engine bay let alone one with the ‘atmospherics’ Ken Devine has composed and captured here. 3 litre 750 Monza DOHC inline 4 cylinder engine produced circa 290 bhp. Local kids fascinated by the exotic, and still contemporary enough, racer (Ken Devine)

The Ferrari 500, designed by Aurelio Lampredi, used a ladder frame chassis typical of the period, suspension at the front was double wishbones and coil spring /dampers. A De Dion rear axle was used, the gearbox mounted to the diff and connected to the engine by a short propshaft.

The F1 2 litre engine was a 1985cc in line 4 cylinder engine with DOHC and 2 valves per cylinder. Magneto’s provided the spark and Weber 58DCOA3 carburettors the fuel, the engine gave around 185/190bhp@7500rpm. When acquired by Tony Gaze a 3 litre Monza engine was fitted, this gave circa 290bhp. Power is quoted from 245-290bhp depending upon the source.

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Doug Green, Ferrari 625/500, Caversham 1960, he eventually lapped faster in the car, having got the hang of it, than Lex some years before (Julian Cowan)

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Keith Rilstone’s Zephyr Spl having just passed! Greens Ferrari 500/625, the supercharged car very potent, it was a different thing under brakes, Murray Trenbath in the Alta Repco Holden further back. 1960 Caversham (Ken Devine)

Bunbury Circuits…

Bunbury probably won’t be known to most Aussies other than those who have visited the Margaret River region in which case you may have made a fuel ‘pitstop’ on its outskirts.

My brother lives in Perth and has a place at Gnarabup, Margaret River so I know the place a bit, but its motor racing history had passed me by until seeing these fabulous photos posted on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ by Ken Devine. On a future visit I’ll drive the circuit(s), which you can still do.

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The Carey Park track itself, for Perth readers and visitors who may want to drive it, used Clifton, Victoria, Arthur, Stirling, Wittenoon and Prinsep Streets, Upper Esplanade then Wellington, Wittenoon and Carey Streets. The map below will make more sense of it when you visit.

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In fact the Carey Park road circuit, 3.5Km from the centre of town was only one of many used down the decades in greater Bunbury.

Racing started on the ‘Bunbury Central Circuit’, which as the name suggests was in the centre of town. Car racing ceased between 1947 to 1960 but motorcycle racing continued on this circuit and then the ‘Bunbury Moorelands Little Circuit’, also known as the ‘Glen Iris Circuit’. This track was laid out on public roads next to the Preston River and was ideal as the area was rural and so caused little drama to the public. The Bunbury Motorcycle GP meeting was held annually there from December 1963 to Easter 1974.

‘TQ’ Speedway cars raced on the ‘Carey Park Short Circuit’ of .95 of a mile in late 1958 ‘The South Western Times’ in its article before the meeting helpfully advised spectators to ‘…take the greatest possible care while watching the (5) races…under no circumstances should they cross the road while races are in progress’. So ‘Carey Park’ was used by speedway cars in advance of road-racers two years later for the 1960 ‘Bunbury Flying 50’.

In March 1975 the Bunbury Motorcycle Club hosted heats for the WA Road Racing Series around the streets of Davenport, Bunbury’s industrial area, 6.5Km from the town centre. This layout was also confusingly called ‘The Ring Road Circuit’ as it incorporated the new Busselton By-Pass and North Boyanup Road, well known to Perthies visiting ‘down South’ as they call a visit to Margaret River and beyond.

Wayne Patterson thrilling the crowds in 1988; Yamaha TZ350, Bunbury Back Beach circuit (Patterson)

This fairly ugly locale was used in 1975/6/7 before the move to the altogether more visually attractive and challenging ‘Bunbury Back Beach Circuit’ in 1980. In Australian Beach Lingo a ‘Back Beach’ is a surf beach and a ‘Front Beach’ is calmer water, I’ve no idea from where this derives! This fairly wild looking circuit overlooking the Bunbury break was used from 1980 to 1988. Then there are the local drags and speedway venues- they like their motor racing down south!

Ray Barfield’s Aston Martin DB3S chassis #9 was a car of impeccable provenance and specification…

The car was one of two built for works use in 1956, chassis #10 the other, whilst the successor design, the 1959 Le Mans winning DBR1 was in development.

DB3S/9 was first raced in the GP of Rouen as a warm up to Le Mans on 8 July 1956. Peter Collins raced it to retirement with bearing problems but Moss was 2nd in DB3S/10 behind the winner, Eugenio Castellotti’s works Ferrari 860 Monza and ahead of the 3 litre Maser 300S of Jean Behra.

At Le Mans on 28/29 July, ‘9’ was driven by Moss/Collins, the lead factory car was ahead of the field but finished 2nd after gearbox problems slowed it. Ninian Sanderson and Ron Flockhart won, a lap ahead of the Aston in an Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar D Type. The AM ‘LM6’ 2922cc engine fitted for Le Mans developed 219bhp @6000rpm- good for 150mph at La Sarthe.

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Ray Barfield Aston Martin DB3S into the right hander into Ecclestone Street (Ken Devine)

Moss won in the car at Oulton Park in August, and at Goodwood on 18 Septenber Roy Salvadori was 2nd to Tony Brooks in another DB3S. The last appearance of DB3S’9′ as a works entry was at Goodwood on 22 April 1957 driven by Brooks, he was 3rd.

The car was rebuilt and offered for sale by Aston’s as they focussed their attention on the new DBR1 and was bought by David McKay, the Australian racer/journalist keen to acquire a works car having owned an earlier customer DB3S, chassis ‘102’ a car David raced as part of ‘The Kangaroo Stable’. This group of three DB3S Astons raced by Australians David McKay/Tony Gaze, Tom Sulman/Jack Brabham and Les Cosh/Dick Cobden in 1955 is a story in itself.

Australian oil company Ampol provided financial support for the purchase, the car immediately became the fastest sportscar in Australia, winning upon its debut at Bathurst in October 1957. David won 8 of 9 races in it finishing 2nd only once, to Doug Whiteford’s Maser 300S in the Tasmanian TT at Longford. McKay’s last race in DB3S/9 was at Bathurst in October 1958 when he won the 100 mile Australian TT from Derek Jolly’s Lotus 15 Climax and Ron Phillips Cooper T33 Jaguar.

The car passed through Stan Jones hands in Melbourne, he only raced it once, before being bought by Barfield in mid-1959. The Mount Helena racer used it regularly in the West through to the Christmas Cup meeting at Caversham on 22 November 1963, fittingly, he won the 5 lap sportscar scratch race.

In 1956 when built the DB3S was pretty much the state of the sportscar art in terms of specification, it was closely derived from a road car and could, fairly easily be driven on the road. By 1963 the long distance racing paradigm was perhaps best defined by the specialist racing, mid-engined Ferrari 250P- a 3 litre V12 engined car which was far from a ‘roadie’ however much Enzo Ferrari tried to position the 250P’s cousin, the 250LM as such. The point here is just how focussed sports-racing cars became and how much racing technology changed in a very short period of time.

Barfield then retired from racing, it was fitting that the wonderful ex-works Aston won its last race however insignificant a 5 lapper at Caversham in 1963 was relative to 24 hours at Le Mans in 1956!

Ray retained the car inside it’s Rice Trailer on his farm outside Perth, famously keeping the engine fully submerged in a container of oil, having discovered a crack in the crankshaft, for 25 years.

Many people knocked on his door to buy it over the years including David McKay on more than one occasion but all were aggressively turned away. Finally a big wad of cash allowed Sydney’s Kerry Manolas to buy it, sight unseen, and it was not a pretty sight when he did see all of its components in October 1987! The car was superbly restored by Gavin Bain’s ‘Auto Restorations’ in Auckland. I wonder where in the world it is now?

Oh to have seen the Ferrari, Alta and Aston race on the Carey Park streets in the ‘Bunbury Flying 50’ all those years ago. Three amazingly interesting and diverse cars in the one race, and all so far from ‘home’!

Bibliography…

The Nostalgia Forum particularly the contributions of Terry Walker, Ray Bell and Ken Devine. 8Wforix.com, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, oldracingcars.com

Photo Credits…

The Ken Devine Collection, Julian Cowan, Terry Walkers Place, Jodie Krikkie, Wayne Patterson Collection

Tailpiece: Vin Smith, Alpha Peugeot 1.5 s/c…

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Vin Smith at the Highway Hotel Hairpin, Bunbury 1960. This effective, pretty little special was one of several built and raced by Smith from the mid-fifties to the mid-sixties. So much of Australiam motor racing was reliant on ‘specials’, usually very fast ones at that! for 50 years (Ken Devine)

 

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Warwick Brown, Lola T332 Chev, Riverside 1974 (TEN)

‘WB for 73’ was the T-Shirt catch phrase of Warwick Brown’s team during the 1973 Tasman Series…

The good looking, well heeled young bloke from Wahroonga on Sydney’s North Shore had graduated from the relatively forgiving McLaren M10B Chev in which he cut his F5000 teeth in 1972 Australian Gold Star competition to an altogether more demanding mistress for the Tasman  Series, a Lola T300 Chev.

His ex-Niel Allen/Bob Muir car, chassis ‘HU4’ was a very good one, but the T300 was a fast, albeit flexy, twitchy little bugger. With guidance from mentor and engineer Peter Molloy, Warwick quickly adapted well to his new mount.

He didn’t finish the first Tasman round at Pukekohe, the Lola out of fuel but was third behind Graham McRae and Frank Matich in their own designed and built cars, two very hardened professionals at Levin. He was second the following round at Wigram behind McRae. Warwick then went to Australia feeling great despite a poor 7th at Teretonga with undisclosed car dramas.

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WB, Team Target (retail stores) Lola T300 Chev, New Zealand, Tasman 1973

At Surfers Paradise though he became a ‘Lola Limper’ bigtime…

His car got away from him on the fast, demanding circuit spreading bits of aluminium and fibreglass over the undulations of the Nerang countryside and broke both of  Warwick’s legs. He got wide onto the marbles on the entry to the flat out in fifth right-hander under Dunlop Bridge and bounced across the grass into the dirt embankment surrounding the circuit. The light aluminium tub folded back, in the process doing horrible things to Warwick’s feet and lower limbs. He had a very long recovery, made somewhat easier by the promise of a new car from his near neighbour patron, mining millionaire Pat Burke.

That September 2nd in 1973 i attended the ‘Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy’, the F5000 Surfers Paradise Gold Star round in 1973, and hobbling around on crutches was Warwick talking to his fellow F5000 competitors and the fans…

He really was struggling just to get about and obviously in pain. Unbelievably, I couldn’t believe it when I saw the race report, he contested the next Gold Star round on October 7, one month later in Adelaide. No way could he get in and out of the car unaided.

To me it was madness, given his state, but to Warwick it was everything. He withdrew his old M10B after 8 laps and spent the following months getting properly fit for the ’74 Tasman but he had put down a marker as one determined, tough hombre!

Pat Burke bought him a new Lola T332 Chev, chassis ‘HU27’, the first production T332 and WB had a very consistent Tasman series in it…

He never finished worse than 7th, only failing to complete the NZ GP at Wigram, and won the final round, the Adelaide International. The ’74 Tasman had depth, the field included Teddy Pilette, Graeme Lawrence, John Walker, Max Stewart, Kevin Bartlett, John McCormack and Graham McRae- Peter Gethin won it in a VDS Chevron B24 Chev.

Warwick, Pat and Peter Molloy had plans to take on the best in the US by taking their Lola to the ‘States, ‘match fit’ as it was after the rigours of the eight race Tasman program.

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WB in ’73 (John Lemm)

In 1974 the SCCA/USAC F5000 field included Mario Andretti, Brian Redman, Jackie Oliver, Sam Posey, Graham McRae, Brett Lunger, David Hobbs, Al Unser, Lella Lombardi, Vern Schuppan, James Hunt, John Cannon and others.

By the time Warwick and his crew got to the Ontario round on 1 September it was ‘Formula T332’- Mario Andretti had won two rounds, Brian Redman a couple and David Hobbs one, all in Lola T332’s, the greatest F5000 car ever.

Brown was 11th at Ontario and then 5th at Monterey in mid-October behind Redman, James Hunt in an Eagle 755, Andretti, and Eppie Wietzes in another T332. In the series final round, the Riverside GP, he was third behind Andretti and Redman.

As a WB fan reading about these performances in Australian weekly ‘Auto Action’ I remember being blown away by his speed in such august company viewed through the prism of just how badly hurt he was- and would be again, he had three ‘Big Ones’ in his pro career. I could see his pain getting around at Surfers.

It takes extraordinary guts to get back into these things after big accidents in which you are hurt. The mind management and sheer courage involved has always intrigued me. Not that he was the only ‘Lola Limper’ in Australasia, Graeme Lawrence and Kevin Bartlett spring readily to mind.

But those three US races in ’74 made him really, he proved to himself he could do it. The crew came back to Oz later in 1974 and Warwick was running away with the AGP at Oran Park until mechanical problems intervened. He then won the ’75 Tasman in a close fought battle with fellow T332 drivers Graeme Lawrence and John Walker and set up a US pro-career for the next few years with Jack McCormack’s Talon nee McRae cars in 1975 and then Team VDS.

It’s not an article about the entirety of WB’s career rather a reflection on mind over matter, toughness, passion, resilience and the fierce desire to compete and win that separates elite drivers like Brown, Lawrence and Bartlett from we mere mortals…

Credits…

oldracingcars.com, Bob Harmeyer, The Enthusiast Network, John Lemm

Tailpiece: Brown winning in the Lola T333CS Chev, Watkins Glen 1978…

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Warwick Brown’s VDS Racing Lola T333CS Chev enroute to a single-seat Can Am win at Watkins Glen on 9 July 1978, he won from Al Holbert and Rocky Moran both also Lola T333CS mounted. The car following WB is George Follmer’s Prophet Chev. Brown was 2nd in the championship that year but the class of the field was his countryman, the 3 years older Alan Jones who took 5 victories and the title in the ‘works’ Carl Haas T333CS. Jones was ‘moonlighting’ in 5 litre cars having gained a toehold in F1 (Bob Harmeyer)

 

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Phil Hill’s ATS 100 enters the Curva Parabolica during the 1963 Italian Grand Prix, Monza 8 September…

The expression on the great American’s face is probably indicative of the joy he is deriving from the car. He is on his way to 11th place, a finish at last in the third race meeting for Carlo Chiti’s little spaceframe 1.5 litre V8 engined racer.

ATS was born as a result of a confluence of events; Ferrari’s senior management ‘Maranello Palace Revolution’ of late 1961 and the eagerness of 24 year old Venetian Count Giovanni Volpi di Misurata to part with a swag of his inheritance…

Doug Nye describes Laura Ferrari, as a ‘spitfire wife’, she was famous for her interfering ways in the family business which seems to have been rather well run by Enzo down the decades if in a somewhat imperious, autocratic manner.

The senior team at Ferrari eventually tired of Laura’s incessant interference, she had always been a Scuderia Ferrari shareholder but became a regular visitor to the factory and to the races in 1960. One not shy in providing direction to said chiefs where she felt it warranted.

Her intrusions and interference grew so bad that after Taffy Von Trips funeral in late 1961 a letter was written to Ferrari signed by various of his senior managers requesting she stay clear of the factory. During the following regular weekly meeting with the Commendatore he gave those miscreants as he saw them, their marching orders, eight ultimately departing.

Ferrari, in time honoured Italian fashion, was a bit of a scallywag with the signoritas and was always under a certain amount of pressure from the chief. A believer in the ‘Happy Wife, Happy Life’ dictum he gave the boys their parting cheques, keeping wifey on side was more important than them. He rated the depth of talent he had within the factory gates. What he lost and didn’t have he could hire, Ferrari was a place people wanted to work after all?

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The boys before the falling out, first test of the 120 degree V6 engined 156 at Modena in April 1961. Phil Hill leans against the bosses Ferrari 250GT with Ferrari to his right. Richie Ginther in the car, leaning forward over the front of the car is Luigi Bazzi, senior technician, the big guy to his left is Medardo Fantuzzi who built the car’s bodies. Chiti is in the suit jacket leaning over Richie and the fellow in the hat behind the car is Romulo Tavoni, team manager (Klemantaski)

In fact he survived rather well of course but trashed the 1962 season in the process.

Their simply was not the depth of engineering talent to turn the championship winning 156 of 1961 into something suitably evolved, a 156B if you will, in response to the much greater British threat of 1962. The Lotus 25 and 1.5 litre Coventry Climax FWMV and BRM P56 V8’s great examples of progress in big leaps over the winter of 1961/2 in the UK.

Volpi on the other hand was an adherent of another dictum; ‘The best way to make a bit of money in motor racing is to start with a lot of money…’ The Italian had just come into his inheritance and formed a racing team ‘Scuderia Serennisima di Venezia ‘Serenity of Venice’ team, to start churning through it. Mind you Volpi was not the big loser in the A.T.S. (ATS) mix as we shall see.

The Palace Revolution was good for quite a few who went on to bigger and better things; Carlo Chiti and Giotto Bizzarini to name two, and it rather created a wonderful opportunity for Mauro Forghieri to step up into the engineering vacuum created at Maranello. It was one he took with open arms influencing in a very positive sense the engineering direction, design and speed of Ferrari racing cars for a couple of decades or thereabouts. For Chiti, Tavoni and Bizzarini though ATS was a thoroughly forgettable experience- their 1963 was worse than Ferrari’s 1962.

Scuderia Serenissima raced customer Porsche and Maserati sports and GP cars but the young Italian Count wanted to become a manufacturer in his own right…

He wasn’t silly though, in terms of funding, he had the support of both a Bolivian tin billionaire, Jaime Ortiz Patino and Italian businessman/industrialist Giorgio Billi. Volpi hired Ferrari departees Carlo Chiti, Giotto Bizzarini, Romolo Tavoni and Girolamo Gardini to design, build, develop and race a sports and F1 car. These staffing choices were all excellent, however much the Ferrari 156 bombed in 1962, Chiti’s design won the 1961 title in Phil Hill’s hands.

Both Chiti and Bizzarini were also no-nonsense kind of folk; they were quick, efficient and ‘mucked in’-important attributes in a nascent business devoid of significant engineering and construction resources.

The Serennissima partners soon fell out over the project though, so the enterprise took on the ‘Automobili Turismo e Sport’ or ATS name. The team was based at Sasso Marconi near Potecchio Marconi, a depressed area south of Bologna. A place which the Serennisima partners thought would attract some government funds, such grants not ultimately forthcoming.

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Hill, Spa 9 June 1963. What to change next? ATS 100. No point wanting a quick engine change, at this stage of the cars development the engine was impossible to remove without removal by hacksaw or torch of a chassis tube or three (Getty)

The Lotus 25 made its debut at the Dutch Grand Prix in 1962, many of the F1 paddock’s designers were in the process of knocking together their version of a monocoque chassis somewhat in the Chapman idiom.

There was plenty of life in the multi-tubular spaceframe yet though. Ron Tauranac’s Brabhams won two GP’s in 1969 so equipped, it was only the bag tank regs of 1970 which rained on Ron’s spaceframe parade. Carlo worked away on a spaceframe chassis, key elements of which were a relatively long wheelbase and extreme lowness partially made possible by the use of a new Colotti T34 six-speed gearbox which was to be ‘underslung’ between the main upper and lower chassis members at the rear.

The chassis, to Chiti’s design, was assembled in Palermo by Aeronautica Sicula. It had conventional upper rocker and lower wishbones and inboard coil spring/damper units at the front and multi-link rear suspension comprising upper and lower wishbones and a single lower radius rod providing lateral location. Again coil spring/dampers were fitted with adjustable roll bars front and rear.

Uprights were cast magnesium and disc brakes outboard at the front, and inboard beside the transaxle at rear. This approach was advanced, it helped get the masses low in the frame contributing greatly to a low centre of gravity. The ‘box ended up being a problem in terms of its reliability and difficulties in changing gear ratios ‘in the field’ but of itself the design made sense in search of Mark Donohue’s ‘Unfair Advantage’.

The body was styled by Alfonso Galvani in collaboration with Chiti, Alfonso was ex-Stanguellini. Nye recounts that the ’…F1 chassis was assembled in a farmhouse standing on the new factory building site (Pontecchio Marconi) which the company had just acquired. When the the car was completed a wall had to be demolished to get it out!’

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Rear view of one of Baghetti’s ATS, alighting the car, at Spa. Rear suspension as per text, you can also see the top rockers and lower wishbones at the front. Body beautifully faired at the rear to aid airflow over the low rear deck, but you can see the messy, last minute nature of the above engine section caused by the need for late body changes as a consequence of adding in various additional chassis members to the frame as designed to get required levels of torsional rigidity. The engine could not be removed without ‘Louis The Torch’ to perform necessary surgery to said chassis members…(Getty)

The first chassis was completed by late 1962 and was powered by a new all alloy, quad cam, 2 valve, 4 Weber carbed 1494cc 90 degree V8. 190 bhp was claimed for the engine upon debut, the optimism of Ferrari dyno’s seemed shared by those of ATS! The engine built upon Chiti’s learnings at Ferrari, he was convinced the V8 route was the way to go to keep the package compact but obtain greater piston area to squeeze more power than had been possible with the various incarnations of the Ferrari V6 he knew so well.

The ATS people sought to ‘serve it up to Ferrari’ and on the face of it the car was a sensible mix of engineering choices, with a dash of innovation and was acclaimed upon its launch.

The first testing of the car was done on the roads near Pontecchio Marconi, with Teodoro Zeccoli ‘ starting from Pila St along straight stretches and muddy paths and on a straight stretch for 300 metres on the Porrettana under the curious gaze of passers by…’ only in Italy, bless em!

Roberto Businello and Mario Cabral, also like Zeccoli, Serenissima drivers, also drove the car in these sessions with alterations to spring/shocks early tweaks

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ATS 100, race debut Belgian GP, Spa 9 June 1963. Starting fron the rear is the dry sump tank, rear suspension as per text, note the inboard discs and calipers beside the Colotti transaxle. Note its ‘underslung’ between the main chassis members location; good for weight distribution but problematic in terms of ratio changes. Remember they did not have computer simulations to get the ratios right before arrival at the circuit, with a brand spankers new car ratio changes were a dead cert. Engine; Weber carbs, DOHC, 2 valve, twin plug, see the distributors driven off the end of each inlet camshaft (Getty)

Whilst Romulo Tavoni worked upon securing the services of 1961 World Champion Phil Hill, he did so on 8 January 1963 and that of 1961 prodigy, Giancarlo Baghetti, late of Ferrari, the new car was further tested before its unveiling at the Baglioni Hotel, Bologna on 15 December 1962.

Before the ATS 100 launch, by mid November 1962, the partners in the project had fallen out however…

Volpi was ‘rattled’ by the death of his good friend Ricardo Rodriguez in a Lotus 24 Climax during the Mexican Grand Prix weekend and was questioning whether the firm should be involved in racing. Volpi made these pronouncements to the press and whilst he made it clear he had partners whose views he had to consider, fissures between the parties were opening.

Billi expressed the view that the nearly completed ATS 100 F1 car was important to promote the 2500 GT car. Others have observed that both Volpi and Billi wanted to be President but in the end Billi bought both Volpi and Patino out.

Billi’s woes were added to in buying out his business partner in a machinery manufacturing business which was the primary source of his wealth and then the failure of government financing or a grant to help establish Pontecchio Marconi facility.

At the cars launch in December Billi announced the name of the project as ‘Automobili Turismo e Sport’ (ATS) and at the same time, 30 November 1962 in fact, the return of the rights to the name and mark ‘Serenissima’ to Volpi.

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The Baghetti/Frescobaldi ATS 2500 GTS before the start of Targa 1964. ATS 2500 GT/GTS. A mid-engined road car was being designed by Chiti before he left Ferrari to be powered by a V8. Ferrari built the V12 powered 250LM if you call it a road car! The 2500GT was Chiti’s concept finalised and launched at the 1963 Geneva Show. Engineering by Giotto Bizzarini and Carlo Chiti, styled by Bertone’s Franco Scaglione and built by Turin’s Serafino Allemano the cars had a multi-tubular spaceframe chassis, all independent suspension by wishbones and coil springs, disc brakes all round and a 2500cc all alloy 90 degree V8, the GTS a Colotti ‘box, weighed 750Kg and developed around 250bhp. 12 chassis were built but only 8 cars completed

Rather than focus exclusively on F1 the company was also developing a sports car, a project pushed by one of ‘The Maranello Eight’ Girolamo Gardini. Along the way Giotto Bizzarini left the company, ending up very soon thereafter at Iso, as he felt his views were not being listened to by Chiti.

This GT car was unveiled at the March 1963 Geneva Motor Show. The car was fitted with a 2467cc alloy 90 degree V8 giving circa 220/250bhp @ 7500rpm for the GT/GTS variants. As a consequence of the mixed priorities of the engineering team the F1 car lacked development and missed the early races in 1963, despite Billi announcing the planned debut of the ATS 100 at the Syracuse GP in April..

Testing progressed at Modena and Monza in April with Baghetti and Jack Fairmanwho had been recommended to ATS by Dunlop’s Dick Jeffrey. Issues included ignition, gearbox and rear suspension, although the wonderful if unusually translated Lazzari  ATS book does not make clear the precise nature of the issues. In the weeks before Monaco Phil Hill returned to the factory to test the car but the Monaco date was also missed.

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ATS 100 upon its debut on 15 December 1962. As initially raced the car looked quite different as a result of testing changes, cohesive nature of the design was received to optimistic critical acclaim, especially in Italy! (unattributed)

Belgian GP 1963, ATS 100 debut, June 1963…

Whilst the cars were not race ready Billi insisted, it was his money after all, that the cars contest the Belgian GP at Spa.

The majestic Ardennes circuit is one of the toughest on both engines and of high speed handling so it was a supreme test of an under-developed new car. During that weekend Tony Settember’s Scirocco-BRM was also making its debut.

The ATS boys missed first Friday practice, with Tavoni reporting to Denis Jenkinson that the team transporter was delayed on the road.

As the second session neared its end with Brabham setting the pace in his Brabham BT7 Climax, the ATS team arrived on the other side of the pits and unloaded the cars in time for two exploratory laps for both Hill and Baghetti.

Denis Jenkinson’s Belgian GP report says after Saturday practice that ‘Phil Hill (was) being delighted, if not surprised by, the handling and roadholding but feeling he needed more bhp as the rpm would fall off peak all too easily’.There were whole seconds of difference in performance between the front runners let alone Baghetti and poor Phil, whose best lap was 11.6 seconds slower than pole, he was 17th and Baghetti 20th on the grid.

During the race Phil could sense a problem early, due to lack of heat in his cars cockpit, which indicated to him the cooling water was not circulating forwards to the radiator, he stopped to have a vapour lock diagnosed and rectified. But he was still not happy as the single throttle return spring was broken and the pedal was not returning rapidly. Then the car coasted to a halt, the gearbox had silently broken. The race was won by Clark’s Lotus 25 with Hill retiring on lap 17 and Baghetti who also had gearbox problems on lap 7. Lack of proper testing miles was already indicating the new gearbox was an ongoing weakness.

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ATS 100 1963, cutaway drawing and profile shot, specifications as per text (unattributed)

Whilst Jenkinson’s report didn’t comment on the engineering of the cars Nye writes ‘ The two cars presented…were a disgrace, with ill-fitting unfinished body panels, looking as if they had been sprayed from a spud gun, while the hastily installed engines were actually imprisoned by welded on additional chassis stiffening tubes which would have to be sawed through to permit engine removal…’ The Colotti designed inboard mounted gearboxes and carburetion were weak points as identified by Hill.

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Hill, ATS 100, Spa 1963 (Getty)

These sort of problems should not have been present given the six months between unveiling of the well finished prototype and the Belgian GP. There seems little doubt that the distraction of the GT car and management problems caused in part by the departure of two of the projects original partners resulted in the company/team not being well run on a day to day basis. Billi’s other equipment manufacturing business occupied most of his time.

The differences in appearance of the car between its launch and appearance at Spa are due, according to Lazzari’s book ‘to a hump between the driver, built to cover a new part of the chassis. This comprises tubular members to increase the rigidity of the crib of the motor. The additional tube had been settled on the existing chassis, so that it resulted (in being) impossible to remove the propeller (engine) without resorting to the oxy-hydrogen flame, whilst waiting to prepare a definitive version (of the chassis) endowed with a system of bolts’! I’m sure the Italian text is eloquent but the translation is amusing, to say the least. ‘The bodywork has been shortened and strengthened just before the steering wheel; in that zone an additional (fuel) tank has been inserted’.

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Top; Hill at the top of Raidillon, botton pitlane, body as per text, note Dunlop knock on magnesium wheels, Spa 1963 (Getty)

The team attended the Dutch GP  two weeks later on 23 June…

It was at Zandvoort in 1962 that Colin Chapman produced his ‘monocoque’ bombshell into Grand Prix racing. Clark lead the race until clutch trouble intervened, he proceeded to dominate the event in 1963, winning from pole, the Lotus 25 had none of the reliability issues in 1963 which prevented Colin Chapman and his merry men winning the title the previous year.

Denis Jenkinson reported on the progress made at Bologna ‘The A.T.S. team had tidied up the bodywork of their cars since Spa, but they were still not very elegant, and the tubular structure over the engines had been cut and jointed with threaded muff-joints that would have done credit to a plumber! Similar joints had been incorporated in one of the cross-members above the gearbox/axle assembly. Phil Hill’s car had the four exhaust pipes on each bank fed into single tail pipes and Baghetti’s car had separate pipes from each cylinder, ending in small megaphones’.

As practice got underway on the Friday  the ATS team were soon in strife with Jenkinson reporting that Baghetti’s car broke a distributor and developed a fault in the brake master-cylinder and ‘Phil Hill was not in the running’.

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Giancarlo Baghetti’s ATS 100, Zandvoort 1963, shot shows pretty lines of the car and evolution of the bodywork since Spa. Note rear brake duct to inboard disc (Schlegelmilch)

‘The opening lap ended with Clark leading Graham Hill and McLaren, but the Cooper driver was waving Brabham by into third place, as his gearbox had gone wrong again and he had only 5th and 6th gears available. Sure enough he pulled into the pits at the end of the second lap and his mechanics took the gearbox selector mechanism apart. On lap 3 there was a semblance of order, Clark always in front, hotly pursued by Graham Hill and Brabham, but the BRM engine was running a high water temperature. In fourth place was Maggs in the second Cooper and after a short pause came a truly impressive crowd of cars getting involved in some pretty serious motor racing in the best tradition. This included Ginther (BRM), Surtees (Ferrari), Bonnier (Cooper), Amon (Lola), Phil Hill (ATS), Ireland (BRP), Taylor (Lotus), Scarfiotti (Ferrari), and Gurney (Brabham), the rest of the runners being spaced out behind’.

Baghetti retired with ignition trouble on his ATS on lap 16 the other car went out in a cloud of sand as Phil Hill spun off the road due to the left-hand rear axle stub breaking off.

Jenkinson concluded his race report thus ‘As at Spa, Clark had led from the first corner to the chequered flag, the Lotus Climax V8 performing perfectly in the sort of race that must soon label Jimmy Clark as a second Stirling Moss. Not as fast, but equally praiseworthy was the performance of Dan Gurney, who started last, had a pit-stop and yet finished second.’

ATS then sensibly missed the French and British GP’s won by Clark to get some sort of resolved specification and levels of base line preparation and reliability to the two cars prior to their home event, the Italian GP at Monza on September 8th.

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Hill Dutch GP 1963, ATS 100 (Getty)

Looked at objectively the choice of the drivers to join ATS makes complete sense.

The engineering team were ex-Ferrari and won a title in 1961, financial backing was solid. It made sense to jojn a team comprised of senior people Phil and Giancarlo knew well, and had won races with in ’61. Phil’s Ferrari history of course went way back to his days driving Ferrari customer sportscars for team owners in the ‘States.

By the Nurburgring in 1963 they must have wondered what the hell they had gotten themselves into! The team truck did not make it to the Eifel Mountains mind you, it crashed en-route, so the cars did not start, nothing was going right! Next the Italian GP.

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Car quite beautiful in profile with its all enveloping, evolved bodywork and discs over the Dunlop alloys to eke out a few more rpm on Monza’s long straights. Phil Hill, Italian GP ’63 (Getty)

Off to Monza it was important for all the obvious reasons they do well; the cars did finish with Hill 11th and Baghetti 15th. The little red single-seaters were also looking like GP cars rather than lash-ups, better finished with neat enveloping bodywork and drag reducing wheel fairing discs fitted for the usual high speed Monza slipstreaming.

Jenkinson observed ‘The Bolognese cars were looking a lot tidier and clearly the design is becoming settled and parts are being made in a more permanent manner. Carburettors are still used although experiments have been carried out with Lucas fuel injection, and the rubber-ring universals in the drive shafts were replaced by normal Hardy Spicer joints.

During practice Phil was going better, at one point matching Brabham’s times, with Denis noting he was amongst the preofessional teams such as B.R.P. and Parnell. Baghetti only made the cut after Cabral, in front of him on times, withdrew after some pursuasion was applied!

Hill raced in company with Siffert and Jim Hall but began to lose ground, then pitted for fuel, the difficulty of topping up clear in the photo earlier in the article. Fuel was slopped into the cockpit in the process adding to Phil’s woes. Baghetti had pitted with electrical dramas but both were still in the race and running getting valuable race miles.

Clark won the race and the titles for he and Lotus with wins at Zandvoort, Spa, Reims, Silverstone and Monza. Progress was being made at ATS, it seemed.

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Phil Hill looking hopefully over his shoulder at the experimental Lucas injected variant of the little ATS V8, Watkins Glen 1963 (Lyons)

No doubt it was with some trepidation that the little team from Bologna loaded its car up for the ‘away races’ at Watkins Glen and Mexico City on 6 October and 27 October respectively…

As Jenkinson looked at the cars in the upstate New York paddock he observed that whilst Baghetti’s car was of  the same specifications as at Monza Hills had been quite heavily modified, ‘…the gearbox (was) now behind the axle. This had been done by turning the whole gearbox axle unit around and putting a spacer between the engine and axle to keep the wheelbase the same without moving the engine back. Both cars had a short radius arm from the top link to the chassis halfway along the engine. This radius rod was approximately half the length of the lower one, and was as used at Monza’.

Hill, Clark and Surtees were soon down to quick times with plenty of drams in the ATS pits, the meeting had started badly when an oil plug blew out of a scavenge pump coating the circuit with oil. ‘What was wrong at ATS was not easily definable as the mechanics were tearing both cars to pieces. In Hill’s car they rather foolishy fitted the experimental injection engine for the next day…The injection ATS engine was losing a lot of oil and Hill said he had no power at the top end, which was disappointing after the way he went the day before with the carburettor engine’, said Jenkinson.

Hill’s car started the race, as did Baghetti’s with the carburettor engine, the two BRM”s initially led from Surtees and Gurney. Baghetti’s ATS completed half a lap and retired with a broken oil pump. As Brabham moved into second place behind G Hill’s BRM his namesake retired from the race, again with a broken oil pump. Hill and Surtees diced for the lead at the 30 lap mark, with Surtees seemingly in command of the race, then his engine started to lose power leaving the win to Graham Hill’s BRM P578.

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ATS 100 cockpit shot, Spa 1963, Baghetti up. Rough as guts body clear, as is radiator pipe to engine and Veglia Borletti instruments (GP Library)

Mexican Grand Prix…

Jim Clark ran away from pole and hid, his Lotus 25 won the race by a minute and a half from Brabham’s BT7 Climax and the BRM twins Hill G and Ginther in BRM P578’s.

It was the first championship GP in Mexico, a non-championship event was run the prior year. The high altitude of Mexico City, 7400 feet above sea level, always played havoc with the fuel systems/mixture of the cars back then, another variable for the poor over-worked ATS technicians to deal with! Jenkinson observed ‘Last year when all the entries were on carburettors (the ’62 non-championship GP) it was fairly simple to change jets until by a ‘suck it and see’ method a correct mixture was determined. This year, most cars were using fuel injection and to weaken the mixture it was necessary to reshape the metering cam…’

Between the ‘Glen and Mexico ‘The two engines had been sent back to Italy and arrived on the eve of practice, necessitating a night session before practice for the whole team. The engine fitting was made more difficult by the fact that a tremendous thunderstorm had cut off the electricity and the whole job had to be performed by torch and headlights’, MotorSport reported. ‘All a great pity as the race report starts by complimenting the organisers on the 600 acre sports arena in which the circuit is located, particularly the pits facilities and lockable pit garages themselves. Not a lot of use without power mind you! The two chassis were as at Watkins Glen.

The weekend went from bad to worse for ATS. In the first session Hill’s car was not revving very well but changing the jets improved things albeit when the engine did rev it sprayed Phil with hot oil from the breather. After few laps for which no times were given, Hills car was moved away to be worked on, soonish Baghetti’s car also followed with oil circulation troubles. Clark was setting the pace, just for something different!

The ATS boys did another all-nighter ‘…tearing the cars to pieces. They found that in the few laps Hill had done the bearings were beginning to break up. The same trouble was found on Giancarlo’s ATS. After Monza two extra scavenge pumps were fitted because excess oil in the sump was losing power. The sump was also dropped 8mm. Since this modification was done there had been consistent trouble with bearings and oil pressure pumps. Overnight the two extra pumps were removed in the hope that the cars would keep going’.

The ATS was sounding crisper on the Saturday morning but Hill was now having gear selection problems, having to jiggle the lever between 3rd and 2nd…

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Phil Hill’s car in the Mexican GP pits 1963, dramas as per text (Friedman)

The ATS’ both took the start but as Clark lead Baghetti’s car was misfiring visiting the pits on lap 3 and again on lap 8 when it was pushed into the paddock for attention. He retired on lap 11 having been told he could not return to the race after going to the paddock.

In the meantime Phil’s car popped and banged its way around the track, the poor ATS mechanics had been dealing with much more fundamental engineering issues and had simply run out of time to get the mixtures right for Mexico’s altitude challenges. He didn’t appear for the 41st lap, a lower rear wishbone mount broke away from the chassis, a similar problem to the one which outed him at Zandvoort.

The end to a weekend from hell for the team- the oil circulation problem seemed solved though given the large number of laps completed by Hill. Jim Clark won the race from Jack’s Brabham BT7, Ginther’s BRM P578 and Hill G’s similar BRM.

South African Grand Prix…

Two months after the Mexican round, the final event of the 1963 World Championship was held at East London, on the south-east coast of the countries Eastern Cape province on 28 December. Jim Clark won the race in his Lotus 25 Climax, of course he and Lotus had wrapped up the drivers and manufacturers titles at Monza some months before.

The ATS team were amongst a group of cars not invited to the event. With the high cost of transporting drivers, cars and mechanics to South Africa, the R.A.C. of S.A. invited two cars from each of the main teams, with one European private entry, the rest all being local boys.

And with that, or more precisely the two cars that raced in Mexico City, the short life of ATS was effectively over.

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15 December 1962, the ATS presentation at the Hotel Baglioni, Bologna. Romolo Tavoni shakes Giancarlo Baghetti’s hand in the drivers seat, ATS owner Giorgio Billi kneeling right. Twelve months later it was all over (unattributed)

The End of The Beginning…

Chiti had progressed design of a new car for 1964 which featured an overhung gearbox instead of the inboard Colotti type used in 1963.

At the end of 1963 the ATS project got into financial difficulties, Billi had over extended himself as outlined earlier. Patino and Billi opted for closure, but Volpi decided to pick up some of the assets. The GP project was shelved, several 2.5 litre mid-engined GT Coupes were built, two of which raced at the 1964 Targa Florio (ATS 2500 GTS Coupe-Baghetti/Frescobaldi DNF 3 laps ignition and Zeccoli/Gardi DNF 1 lap ignition) with the car building factory facilities split into three; a foundry doing contract work, a machine shop similarly contracting out and finally ATS Racing comprising the GP cars, components and spares.

Alf Francis and Vic Derrington formed a partnership to continue racing the two ATS cars.

One chassis ‘100-02’ was refashioned in the ilk of a Lotus 24 or Brabham BT3 with the wheelbase shortened by 6.5 inches, the Colotti box attached directly to the engine in conventional style. Componentry of the original chassis used comprised the front cross member, upper front wishbones and inboard springs, uprights, wheels and brakes. At the rear bits of the original car used included the uprights, wheels, brakes and Colotti box. Water was shifted between engine and front mounted radiator via the top left side frame tube, returning via an external pipe. The nose cowl was tidied up and the V8 engine developed over the winter, the focus its lubrication system and adaption of Lucas fuel injection. 200bhp @ 11000rpm was claimed.

The Derrington Francis ATS raced on into 1964 driven initially by Portuguese driver Mario Cabral. The plan was to run one car in GP racing and to develop the engine for sale to interested constructors, to build engines for future racing with a 3 litre version of the Grand Turismo engine already underway’ MotorSport reported in October 1964.

The car was reviewed very favourably but the development of ATS 100 chassis ‘02’ raced only once at Monza in 1964 where Cabral diced at the back of the field with Peter Revson and Maurice Trintignant before retiring on lap 24 with ignition problems.

John Surtees won the race in a Ferrari 158, on his way to the 1964 World Title. Resilient chap, that Ferrari…

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Italian GP 1964. The #50 Derrington-Francis ATS with driver Mario Cabral in black and Alf Francis looking across the car from the nearside in short sleeved shirt, DNF lap 24 Q19. The other car is Maurice Trintignat’s BRM P578 DNF fuel injection. John Surtees won in a Ferrari 158 (unattributed)

The Serenissima Wheel Turns…

Volpi established his short lived Serenissima marque, with some of the assets acquired above, in the small town of Formigine, half way between Modena and Marnello.

The CEO and team manager was Nello Ugolini with Alf Francis as technical head and Bruce MacIntosh as chief mechanic. They decided to build a mid-engined, spaceframe chassis sportscar. The Jungla GT or 308V was first tested at Modena on December 20 1964. It was powered by a 3 litre 90 degree V8 designed by former Maserati engineer Alberto Massimino, he also designed the chassis.

It was this engine, which contrary to some views has no resemblance to the ATS V8 it was a clean sheet road car design according to Volpi, which McLaren used in F1 races in 1966. The ‘Tipo M166’ was a 2996cc all alloy 90 degree, DOHC, 2 valve, Weber carbed, 305 bhp @ 8500rpm engine which was fitted, personally by Bruce to his F1 McLaren M2B.  Bruce McLaren used it three times in his , click on the link at the end of this article to read about that episode, one of several engines Bruce used in 1966. Finally click here for an interesting article by racer Jonathon Williams who raced for Serenissima in the late 1960’s , its fascinating and fleshes out the end of this story in the nicest possible way; http://www.motorsportsmarketingresources.com/short-stories/jonathan-williams/serenissima.html

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Jonathon Williams and Alf Francis at Modena, Serenissima 3 litre V8 Coupe, circa 1968 (unattributed)

ATS Postscript…

The old adage, speaking again of such things, ‘If ‘Yer Aunty Had Balls She’d Be Yer Uncle’ springs to mind in relation to this venture. I think this saying is attributed to Frank Gardner but it’s a part of Australian vernacular, witty and pithy as Francis G was I don’t think he ‘owns’ that one.

Had ATS focussed on the GP car exclusively from December 1962 until when it should have first raced, pick a non-championship F1 event prior to the Monaco GP, rather than also building the very tasty 2500 GT/GTS, the problems with the ATS 100 engine and gearbox should have been sorted away from the harsh glaze of race weekends.

Maybe Chiti’s ATS first design should have been more conservative? Perhaps he should have foreseen the difficulties just getting a new engine right, the Colotti box however much it made conceptual sense was one step too far and these things always took time to get raceworthy, read competitive and reliable.

IF Volpi, and Billi and Patino stayed together as partners the venture would probably have continued, the combination of pockets and egos was deep.

IF Billi had not over extended himself buying out the other fellas- and his partner in his primary business he probably would have continued.

IF the government funds the venture sought to defray their capital costs were forthcoming the financial equation would have been stronger.

The ATS boys did not cover themselves in glory during 1963 but they are far from ‘the biggest F1 debut clusterfucks’ of all time. BAR springs to mind and all they did was build a chassis.  How bout Toyota too, how could so much money be wasted so fast by a company who knew a thing or three about motor-racing?

The scale of the ATS venture was heroic in terms of ‘taking on Ferrari’, how stupid it was to do that kind of posturing though? By building engines as well as chassis the ATS lads were not seeking to be mere garagistes but rather create something of enduring scale- a marque which produced wonderful road cars as well as racers. They were lofty but noble aims.

But of course none of that happened, so the design Chiti laid down for 1964 never saw the light of day and the whole venture went out with a whimper in the form of the Derrington-Francis ATS in the 1964 Italian Grand Prix.

Enzo and Laura Ferrari certainly had the last laugh!?

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Phil Hill aboard his ATS 100 and simultaneously wondering what to change and what will go wrong next! Circuit unknown. Inboard front suspension as per text (unattributed)

ATS 100 Build…

The prototype car, ‘100-01’ was Phil Hill’s 1963 race chassis, it was sold to Tom Wheatcroft in 1970 and formed part of his Donington Collection until sold to Philip Walker in 1999.

Chassis ‘100-02’ was Baghetti’s race chassis in 1963 and built into the Derrington Francis ATS as described above, Walker also acquired this car in 1998/9. The MotorSport November 2000 article on which this paragraph is based states that ‘Philip has acquired a second chassis…’, which rather suggests, three, at least, chassis were built.

Bibliography…

‘The History of The Grand Prix’ Car Doug Nye, The GP Encyclopaedia, 8w.forix.com, ‘A.T.S. – The Team That Challenged Ferrari’ Michael Lazzari

Photo Credits…

Getty Images, The Cahier Archive, Pete Lyons, Rainer Schlegelmilch, Dave Friedman Archive

Tailpiece: Giancarlo Baghetti, ATS 100, Dutch GP, Zandvoort 23 June 1963…

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