Archive for the ‘Icons & Iconoclasts’ Category

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George Follmer eases his oh-so-powerful Porsche 917/10 around the demanding swoops of Watkins Glen, New York State, 23 July 1972…

Follmer won the Can Am that year after taking over the drive vacated by Mark Donohue who had a disastrous second round practice crash at Road Atlanta, Georgia in July. Follmer was a wise choice by Roger Penske, the right mix of speed, engineering nouse and mechanical sympathy to deliver the goods at short notice. Watkins Glen was Follmer’s first race in the challenging 917/10, he was 5th, the hitherto dominant McLaren’s of Denny Hulme and Peter Revson were first and second- it was the last race win for the McLaren works team in the Can Am…

I must admit I have always been in two minds about these beasties. On the one hand they are very clever bits of engineering in adapting an existing race winning design made redundant into an altogether different and equally successful bit of kit. On the other, their dominance effectively, along with some silly SCCA rule decisions, destroyed the best ‘Formula Libre’ racing category on the planet. Make that the best racing category on the planet.

Porsche had of course competed in the Can Am before 1972, the decision to get serious was effectively made on its behalf by the FIA in making redundant the Group 5, 5 litre Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512S cars which provided two of the best ever seasons of sportscar endurance racing in 1970 and 1971.

Zuffenhausen’s  existing 3 litre 908 was unlikely to be competitive with the Grand Prix engined designs of Ferrari and Matra, a completely new 3 litre engine would have been required under the new endurance racing rules.

So Porsche planned to spend its racing budget on winning the Can Am in its most important single market- using the existing 917 package of engineering goodies as rather a sound base.

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Follmers 917/10 Watkins Glen 23 July 1972. Donohue’s crash destroyed the only super lighweight titanium spaceframe chassis, this is the heavy! aluminium one. Two massive Eberspacher turbo’s, see the wastegate above the exhaust outlet pipes, new 4 speed transaxle developed for the 917/10 (Rainer Schlegelmilch)

Early Design and Development…

After the 1971 Le Mans classic was won by the Gijs Van Lennep/Helmut Marko Porsche Salzburg 917K a new open ‘Spyder’ designated the 917/10 was built based on the learnings of the open cars raced by Porsche in the Can Am in 1969 and 1970.

Jo Siffert raced the new car in four 1971 Can Am meetings before his untimely demise in his F1 BRM P160 in the Brands Hatch Victory Race.

Jo took two 2nds at Mid Ohio and Road America, 3rd at Watkins Glen and a 5th at Donnybrooke in the series won again by the dominant papaya McLarens, this time by Peter Revson in an M8F Chev.

Private owners of 917 Coupes were given the opportunity to convert their cars to Group 7 specification inclusive of a 5.4 litre version of the big Flat-12, a change achieved by increasing the bore to 90mm. The ultimate power increase was not as appreciable as the jump in torque as the valve sizes and timing were as per the original 4.5 litre lump.

Seppi leads Denny in turn 9 at Laguna Seca on 17 October 1971- Porsche 917/10 and McLaren M8F Chev. Jo died at Brands Hatch a week later. The earliest evolution of the 917/10 body clear in this shot. Revson won at Laguna with Hulme 3rd and Jo 5th (Manor)

At about this time the commercial arrangements between Porsche and Penske Racing were concluded for 1972 (see tailpiece) so most of the development efforts went into the turbo-charged 917/10 to be raced by Mark Donohue.

The ‘development efforts’ required were truly stunning to take the existing spaceframe design and evolve it to cope with circa 900bhp rather than the 450bhp 4.5 litre flat-12 engine first fitted to the chassis in 1969. Then there are the aerodynamics and the small matter of an engine with sufficiently good throttle response for road circuits, not something achieved before by a turbo engine.

After the contracts were signed Donohue, Penske and Senior Engineer Don Cox travelled to Germany to meet the Piechs, Helmut Flegl ‘who was to be our only contact with the Porsche factory. He and no-one else was to make decisions at their end’ Mark Donohue says in his ‘The Unfair Advantage’, the superb book written by him together with Paul Van Valkenburgh.

During that first visit the Americans were stunned by facilities which Donohue likened to Chevrolet R&D albeit on a much smaller scale ‘We were truly impressed. We reckoned all we had to do was put the operation in the proper gear, push it forward and we would have unlimited success’ said Mark. It was to be not quite that easy.

Donohue, Penske, Don Cox and Helmut Flegl at Weissach with the normally aspirated test 917/10 at Weissach on that first trip to Germany as related in the text. Note the ‘sissy’ rear wing compared to the big, butch muvva developed by Donohue and the Penske lads in the ‘States pictured elsewhere (Porsche)

An amusing anecdote of that first trip to Germany was Donohue being asked to do some laps in the test car which had about 1500 miles under its belt in the hands of Willy Kauhsen under Flegl’s supervision. Donohue had endured a couple of long boozy nights with his new colleagues and a big lunch but he figured the request for some action shots, in a car he had never sat in before, would be ok.

He did some laps ‘It was ‘hunting’ back and forth on the straight as though it had an inch of toe-out. I had to jamb my legs against the steering wheel to keep it in a straight line at 150mph. And I couldn’t shift it well because the gears were in odd locations and there weren’t any definite gates’.

When Donohue stopped Flegl told him he had done a time of 53 seconds against the lap record of 51.5…he was expected to better it!

Donohue played for time, asking for the pedals to be adjusted and went out again, improving a smidge. He stopped and Flegl asked him ‘What do you think of it now?’. Donohue asked the German (remember that Mark was a degree qualified engineer) about toe, camber, steering geometry, spring rates and wing angles- everything. ‘It was basically an understeering car, but it was oversteering in the high speed bends. And it had instability in the straights…I said I think it will be better if we stiffen the rear anti-roll bar, increase the wing angle and reduce the toe-in at the front. Flegl became very angry. He said ‘You tell the mechanics what to do, but you don’t tell me what the car does! What is my job? Obviously, you don’t need me’. I had made a political mistake already. His bosses were standing around watching while I appeared to be doing his job. They were all used to the concept of separating the driver, the engineer, and the mechanics. They weren’t prepared for a driver to have some engineering knowledge’.

Donohue then jumped into the car and got below the record; all were pleased except Flegl and Kauhsen who had put 1500 miles on it only to have Donohue go quicker having not sat in the car before, hung over, all in the space of about three hours! ‘Flegl figured I had gotten him fired. But because Cox and I had already done a good job (in the days earlier) convincing him of our combined forces approach, we were able to keep the relationship from falling apart’, said Mark.

Donohue intended to devote three days to chassis testing but stayed in Germany for three weeks!, working with Flegl on every variable, using the test track and two skid pads- one with a 100, and one with a 400 foot radius.

They started with the suspension and then worked on aerodynamics. The Germans were not convinced about Donohue’s tried and true technique of test pad before heading to the test track but Flegl stuck up for them ‘The two of us could discuss the situation in engineering terms and reach a stronger conclusion than either of us working alone. It was much easier on me as I could concentrate more on my driving. Flegl constantly kept elaborate records of precisely everything we did, and how it affected the car’.

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Where did I drop the bloody thing?! Mechanic at work on the #59 Brumos ‘customer’ 917/10, 4.5 litre, during the Watkins Glen Can Am 23 July 1972 (Rainer Schlegelmilch)

‘We tested springs, bars, shocks, ride heights, wings and all possible variations in suspension alignment…It became obvious that all of their suspension geometry was wrong. I could tell by looking that the front was wrong, because it had such a short swing-arm radius. That’s why it was hunting so badly on the straightaway’.

‘At the rear the problem was apparent in tyre wear. The inside two inches of the tyre would wear out immediately…they agreed it was obviously wrong…As we got to the end of our tests, we started looking at the engineering drawings, and computer curves of the geometry. It became apparent that the rear roll centre was too low…When the original chassis was built (in 1969) they hadn’t anticipated all the aerodynamic downforce that could be generated. Now, in a turn, cornering forces were causing the rear suspension to fall, causing too much camber change and wearing the tyres out wrong. I couldn’t convince them of the seriousness of the problem (noting the 917 had just won its second Le Mans!), but i knew that once we had the car at our own shops (in the US) we could modify the geometry ourselves. We could run an A-B test, and let them know how it turned out. I also tried to convince them we needed a locked differential (a Donohue fetish used successfully on most of his cars!), and they fought that too. I figured the sooner we got the car to America, the better’.

‘We never went back to their test track until the last day I was there. After all that work the car was half a second faster. I was tremendously disappointed. I expected it to be two seconds better. It was a great victory for Flegl though. He stuck to our way of doing things, and he showed everyone that it was better. Without making any design changes to the vehicle, we had produced a new lap record…’

Follmer’s 917/10 at Watkins Glen on 23 July 1972. Note the beautifully triangulated aluminium spaceframe, steering rack above the drivers knees, big ventilated discs, beefy left foot brace and battery location on the cars floor. Decent view of the rear wing detail too at left (Schlegelmilch)

The cars chassis had to be slightly redesigned to accommodate the turbo installation and the wheelbase increased by 5/8 inch to allow the more rearward position of the driveshafts.

Very stiff titanium springs and roll bars were fitted with lateral accelerations of greater than 1.6g measured on the Weissach steering test pad.

917/10’s sold to private owners had aluminium frames, the weight only increased marginally to 60Kg with additional reinforcements made necessary by the engines colossal output. Amazing really. The magnesium development frame had done more than 3500Km practising and racing at Le Mans, a magnesium framed car was one of the two supplied to Penske for the ’72 season.

Paul Frere records that the magnesium frames were so difficult to weld that only two specialists at the factory could ‘fizz’ the things together. The mag frame saved 32lbs over the ‘ally ones, total weight of it circa 100lbs with all attachment brackets.

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Engine Development…

The pioneering work on turbo-charged racing engines was done in the ‘States in the mid-sixties to keep the venerable Offenhauser 4 cylinder engine competitive against the new, sophisticated DOHC Ford ‘Indy’ V8.

Stu Hilborn, the fuel injection expert, engineer Herb Porter and Bob DeBisschop of Garrett AirResearch, a manufacturer of turbo’s for Diesel engines most notably contributed.

With a standard Garrett TE06 diesel turbo unit running up to 100,000rpm, and capable of delivering 1.7 bar of pressure- the Offy gave 625bhp at 1.2 bar of pressure, any more than that and the modified 168cid blocks were in mortal danger. This was 150bhp more then the fuel injected 255cid Offy it replaced.

With development this grew to 800bhp by 1971, as power grew throttle response diminished and this of course was the big engineering challenge Porsche had to meet. It was one thing racing open-wheelers in top gear on long corners of constant radius, another thing entirely in road racing where instant throttle response was everything.

Further inspiration for Porsche came from BMW who won the European Touring Car Championship in 1968. Swiss engineer, Michael May, the same guy who pioneered wings on racing cars, developed a blown version of BMW’s 2 litre engine which gave 270bhp on 1.1 bar of boost. Despite detonation dramas the car won 4 races before turbo’s were banned in touring car racing.

At this point, 1970, Porsche started playing with a turbo-charged 2 litre 910 engine, then switched to a 4.5 litre 917 engine using Eberspacher turbos.

Fundamental reserves of Porsche engines are something easily understood once yerv had a chance to own one- I have in mind my over 225000Km ’85 Carrera 3.2, a 15 year old car when I bought it, and a daily driver for 7 years. The engineering of the things is superb and so it was for the 917 engine which was not significantly altered despite the 950bhp developed by the 5 litre turbo compared with the 580bhp claimed for the 4.5 litre normally aspirated motors, around which the original design work was done.

The compression ratio was lowered from 10.5:1 to 6.5:1 by changing the pistons. Inlet valve lift and valve overlap were reduced by substituting an exhaust camshaft for the inlet one and then making an inlet manifold to feed the exhaust gases to the turbine and another to take the compressed air to the intakes via a pressure balancing plenum chamber over each bank. Valentine Schaffer was in charge of  engine development.

There is a lot going on, have you ever seen so much complexity, not exactly an owner-drivers car! Note the spaceframe chassis, dry sump and oil system foreground centre, to its left fuel pumps above one tank, to the dry sumps right a duct for the rear brakes. See the distributor and throttle linkage centre, Bosch injection pump to its left and blow off valves on top of the inlet manifold. Donnybrooke, Minnesota 17 September 1972 (Upitis)

When Hans Mezger’s team did initial drawings for the 917 Turbo engine amongst key design tenets was the decision to use two turbo’s, one per bank of cylinders for the simple reason that two small turbo’s would ‘spool up’ quicker than a big single one offering better throttle response.

The chosen Eberspacher Turbo’s were adapted from industrial diesel units. They ran up to 90,000 rpm on ball bearings and delivered 0.55 of charge per second at a temperature of 150 degrees centigrade, the exhaust temperature went as high as 850 degrees. To withstand such heat the housing was aluminium but the turbine was made of steel.

The induction system was simple- log type manifolds were used for each bank of six cylinders with each turbo feeding one of the simple plenum chambers driven by the exhaust system. The two induction systems shared a common wastegate with a crossover pipe to equalise pressure on each side.

A Garrett wastegate was used and operated as it did in Indy racing. It had a diaphragm valve controlled by an adjustable-tension set spring which allowed the valve to open once the boost pressure was high enough to overcome the set tension. The idea was not to obtain maximum boost, but to obtain steady boost over a workable power band.

Early development problems included exhaust valves seizing in the guides, the heads were unmodified with the reduction in compression ratio and inlet cam profiles noted earlier. By mid 1971 Schaffer had improved durability such that a 4.5 litre engine survived an 8 hour full power run ‘something which reportedly could not be said for the dyno to which it was bolted’!!

The real dramas though were on the test track though where the drivability, read engine response was impossible, and even then after difficulties in just getting the engines to fire, to start. Part of the problem was an engine test cell fire which cost 3 months development time in mid 1971.

The first test ‘victim’ was Willy Kauhsen who tested chassis 917/10-001 at Weissach early in the summer of 1971, Ian Bamsey reports a ‘traumatic experience for the Porsche test driver…at first it took an hour or two to start! And when it eventually stated it went slowly , then suddenly exploded, there was nothing in the middle of the power band. And there was long, long turbo lag – ‘unacceptable’ he quotes Helmut Flegl as saying.

By the end of the year Kauhsen had his time on the Weissach test track to 49.1 seconds, two tenths quicker than Donohue in the same chassis but with a normally aspirated engine. Jo Siffert had the same difficulties driving the car at Weissach and Hockenheim.

The cooling fan size was retained although the speed was increased to 1.2 times engine speed. By now the engine timing had been fixed at 22 degrees B.T.D.C. To stop the engine running on, the injectors had been positioned lower down and close to new butterfly throttles- fuel had been spilling even after the pump supply had been cut. The fuel injection system was the usual Bosch unit used on the 917 throughout and required lots of  tweaking during early 1972 to get the engine race ready.

Back in the USA…

Penske were delivered a car which was identical to the chassis Flegl and Donouhue had optimised at Weissach.

Initial modifications centred around bigger and better rear wings. ‘We built two new wings, one the same shape as Porsche’s, only twice as big and one with a modern split flap design. I figured if the drag was too much with them, we could always level them out for the same downforce.’

Whilst waiting for a replacement engine, the team blew one having run it with insufficient oil ‘…Woody prepared an alternate front suspension, which incorporated the long swing-arm…It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it was the best we could do within the structural limits of what we had. The rear roll centre was still too low…We could look to the rear after we got the front suspension working right’. At Atlanta the car was immediately one second a lap quicker with the new front suspension, Donouhe telexed Flegl, the changes were made to the chassis at Weissach, taking the approach even further and producing exactly what Donohue wanted.

Back again at Road Atlanta, with the changed suspension geometry, altered springs and bars and with the split-flap rear wing the car was five-tenths under the circuit record. At that stage Donohue writes he was not convinced the team needed the turbo engine, with Penske assuring him the twists of Atlanta were different to the demands of a power circuit like Riverside. A test at Riverside proved they had enough downforce at the rear, the difficulty was trimming it at the front, where the various profiles tried never achieved the downforce needed.

Donohue’s first introduction to turbo road racing was at Road Atlanta in late January 1972, the latest iteration of the engine was installed in the Penske team’s test spyder, 9117/10-003. Mark found the task impossible, after towing the car to start it, he had the same driving experience as Kauhsen and the late Jo.

‘Once it started we couldn’t keep it running…I tried to drive it for a few laps and discovered that the throttle worked like an ignition switch-it was either wide open power, or off…After a banzai effort I got down to about the same lap time as the non-turbo engine with about 300 more horsepower…Towards the end of the test the blower failed, scattering parts into a cylinder and ruining the engine. We sent it back to Germany with a long dissertation on the problem and possible solutions they could try’.

After another test in March, again at Road Am, and this time with the press present after which Mark returned to Weissach with the Porsche engineers. ‘I decided it was foolish to spend any more time in the states…I told Flegl I’d go to Germany to work with their engine men personally’. With Penske watching he struggled to to do a lap of 49.7 seconds at Weissach. At that stage both men thought the early Can Am rounds should be missed until the engine was driveable.

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Follmer’s 917/10 from the rear showing the huge, carefully developed rear wing, Watkins Glen 1972 (Upitis)

Back to the dyno the turbo went, this time with its injection pump fitted with an additional control element dependent upon boost pressure. Flegl ‘…with a normally aspirated car the injection system had responded to revs and throttle position…now we had a third parameter we had to learn to work with. Right from the first moment the setting of the pump for high boost, intermediate boost, low boost had been incorrect. We had to run different settings on the dyno, then all the knowledge had to be put into the injection pump. It took two or three months to produce a completely new system, with the pump about right’.

Donohue then easily took ‘001’ around the test track in the record time of 48.9 seconds, other than the addition of  extra valving the engine was ready to race; one more butterfly valve on each manifold, linked to the throttle and designed to bleed air out when the throttle was closed and four suction operated valves were located on top of each manifold log to ensue there wasn’t a vacuum in the system while the turbos were spooling up.

The decision was taken to use 5 litre engines (4.5’s for Interserie) in the Can Am, the three engines provided to Penske in 1972 had power ranges of between 894-918 BHP dependent upon boost of between 1.3-1.4 bar. Maximum boost chipped in between 5000-5500rpm. The turbo-4.5 litre variant customer engines gave 850bhp.

Whilst the engine was butch enough to cope with the additional loads imposed upon it the transaxle was not…

Torque produced by the engines was in excess of 700lb/foot so a completely new gearbox was designed and built, 4 speeds being determined as sufficient given the big, fat band of torque. Lubricant was circulated within and pumped through a radiator located above the ‘box. Titanium half shafts were reinforced and splined joints deleted in favour of massive rubber ‘donuts’. Stub axles, uprights and brake disc bells were all titanium as they were for earlier 917’s.

Porsche also developed their own heavily ribbed aluminium brake calipers for the car.

Race Record 1972 and 1973…

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Follmer at Watkins Glen 1972 (Getty)

The rout of the Can Am by the Penske and customer Porsche 917/10 and ’73 917/30 is well known, this article is more about the engineering of the cars, but the race summary goes something like this.

Donohue popped the car on pole at the 1972 Mosport first round but Denny Hulme took the win for the McLaren M20 Chev.

In the Road Atlanta round Mark had a huge accident destroying the magnesium chassis when a rear bodywork locating pin was not secured properly, the departing body and loss of downforce caused the prang from which he was lucky to escape- but Mark did not return until the Edmonton round. George Follmer stepped in, no pressure!, and won from Q2.

At Watkins Glen he was 3rd behind Denny and Revvie- The Empire Strikes Back!

But that was it, George then dialled in to the car and won at Mid Ohio and Road America before Tyrrell F1 driver Francois Cevert, proving his versatility, won in an ex-works M8F Chev at Donnybrooke with George 4th.

 

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Porsche 917/10 cutaway drawing (Tony Matthews)

Donohue won at Edmonton proving he had not lost his mojo upon his return to racing with George winning in California at both Laguna Seca and Riverside and the drivers title, the manufacturers of course going to Porsche.

Hulme halved George’s points haul, the Kiwi on 65 with Milt Minter in a normally aspirated 917/10 3rd and Mark 4th despite missing 60% of the rounds.

In 1973 it took a couple of rounds to get the evolved 917/30 right with Charlie Kemp and George winning in customer 917/10’s at Mosport and Road Atlanta. From then on though Donohue took the lot, winning six rounds from pole, the drivers title and again the manufacturers championship for Zuffenhausen.

McLaren withdrew from the series at the end of ’72, Porsche in ’73- the Can Am, mortally wounded by rule changes which drove away Chaparral at the end of 1970, and now with the departure of McLaren and Porsche limped on but as a shadow, very sadly, of his former self. Shadows of 1974/5 duly noted. Nothing is forever of course, but what a show the Can Am was whilst it lasted…

Bibliography…

‘The Porsche 917’ by Paul Frere in ‘Cars In Profile’, ‘Porsche 917: The Ultimate Weapon’ Ian Bamsey, ‘Mark Donohue: The Unfair Advantage’ Paul Van Vandenburgh with Mark Donohue

Photo Credits…

Rainer Schlegelmilch, Alvis Upitis, Manor, Getty Images

Tailpiece: Roger Penske, 917/10 and fans…

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Donohue ‘Our program with Porsche began at Le Mans in 1971, while we were there with the Ferrari (512M)…Mrs Piech and her sons Michael and Ferdinand asked to see Roger Penske for lunch…At that meeting the Piechs expressed a desire to go racing in the Can Am…Roger followed it up by flying to Grrmany four or five times and eventually they began to hammer out a contract…because of the dollars involved we couldn’t work from a handshake’.

Porsche’s commercial arrangements with Penske were similar to those with John Wyer. The actual preparation and racing of the cars was Penske’s responsibility, with 5 litre engines were delivered straight from the Porsche Experimental and Racing Department and tended at race meetings by factory engineers. Engine development work was done by the Porsche based upon feedback from the drivers and team as well as the engineers in the field.

It worked rather well…

Finito…

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This photo of the front of the epochal Lotus 72 Ford was taken in the Jarama paddock upon the cars race debut during the Spanish GP weekend on 19 April 1970…

It wasn’t quite the debut the equally trendsetting Lotus 25 Climax and Lotus 49 Ford made in ’62 and ’67 respectively, but Jochen popped it 8th on the grid and then failed to finish, his Cosworth DFV had ignition problems. Jackie Stewart won the race in Ken Tyrrell’s March 701 Ford.

I like the shot as it shows the car as Maurice Phillipe originally detailed it. The jewel of a thing won at Zandvoort on June 21, 2 months later as a Lotus 72C! It evolved from 72, 72B to 72C spec in 2 months.

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‘Gees Colin it needs some work!’ Rindt to Chapman in the Jarama paddock 1970. The ‘SOL’ pitboard is local boy Alex Soler-Roig who had a steer of Jochen’s old Lotus 49C, failing to qualify, as did John Miles in the other works 72 (unattributed)

Jochen loathed the 72 in its original form. It had severe handling deficiencies, the car rolled excessively and lifted inside rear wheels. The anti-dive geometry made the light steering lack feel as the suspension stiffened under braking. Anti-squat was suspected of inducing a diagonal jacking moment across the car causing that inside rear wheel to lift in corners.

Chapman prescribed a raft of changes including removing the anti-dive and anti-squat aspects of the cars suspension geometry front and rear. It’s easy to say but involved Hethel’s fabricators unpicking the cars lovely aluminium monocoques to change the suspension pick up points at the front, and to make a new subframe at the rear.

Chapman, not only one of the design greats but also a race engineer of extraordinary ability and perception turned a ‘sows ear into a silk purse’, the car famously winning its first titles that year, Rindt’s drivers championship posthumously of course.

Other changes to the car before the French GP, held that year on the rolling glorious roads of Clermont Ferrand included stiffening the rear of the chassis by cross bracing it, fitting stronger suspension pick-up points and re-siting the rear Koni shocks which were being ‘fried’ by hot air exiting the hip radiators.

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Lotus 72C Ford cutaway; aluminium monocoque, wishbone upper and lower front suspension, torsion bars providing the spring medium and Koni shocks. Single top link, parallel lower links and again torsion bars and Koni shocks at the rear. Ford Cosworth DFV 3 litre V8 and Hewland FG400 gearbox (unattributed)

Checkout the following in the first photo at the articles outset; the monocoque ending at the front, drivers feet bulkhead, fabricated tubular steel front subframe and all it supports. The infamous inboard front brakes are clear, a design tenet of the car was reduced unsprung weight. I can’t see the front torsion bars, but the lack of co-axial coil springs and use of long solid torsion bars as the springing medium was also revolutionary at the time. The front battery is handily placed to be removed in the event of a front impact, as is, sub-optimally, the onboard fire extinguisher.

The front of the 72 is far less ‘butch’ or strong, than, say, the ‘full monocoques’ of a 1970 BRM P153, or a McLaren M14 but the perils for racing drivers of frontal impacts at any speed in all of the cars of the period are clear in this shot. Note the hip-radiators, Chapman was playing with weight, which he placed increasingly onto the rear of the car over the 72’s long, 1970-75 life as well as aerodynamics. Still, the wedge wasn’t new, his 1968 Lotus 56 Pratt & Whitney Indycar first deployed the approach.

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Press launch of the Lotus 72 wedge in London, 6 April 1970 (Norman Quicke)

A magic car with a long competitive life, yet again Chapman set a path so many others followed…

Credits…

The GP Library, Norman Quicke, Doug Nye ‘The History of The Grand Prix Car’

Tailpiece: Jochen Rindt riding the Lotus 72 roller-coaster at Jarama in 1970, ‘anti-dive’ inclination of top wishbones clear in shot…

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Juan Manuel Fangio eases his Maserati 250F through Tatts Corner,  Aintree, Liverpool during the 1957 British Grand Prix on 20 July…

Fangio qualified 4th but retired on lap 49 with engine problems, its an amazing shot ‘the maestro’ looks so relaxed at the wheel. Its the cover shot of a book i have, much of my library is in storage, a real pain in the arse in terms of access to research material, maybe one of you have the same book and can recall the title?

The race itself was a Vanwall benefit; Moss lead then took over Brooks car when his own engine went off song, Stewart Lewis-Evans Vanwall also lead briefly before being passed by Moss, he and Brooks shared the win from the Lancia Ferrari 801’s (LF801) of Luigi Musso and Mike Hawthorn.

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Stirling Moss in Tony Brooks Vanwall VW57, Aintree 1957 (Michael Turner)

This article is pieced together around a swag of photos of Fangio aboard Maserati 250F’s in 1957, in many ways the combination defines the 1950’s for me. The greatest driver of the decade in its quintessential car, it may not have been the fastest of the era but for sure it provided a platform for so many drivers from journeymen (and women) to gods, to strut their stuff.

Monaco, 19 May 1957…

Between Moss who left Masers to join Vanwall and Fangio who left Ferrari to join Maserati the seven 1957 championship rounds, ignoring Indianapolis, were mopped up by those two drivers- Juan with 4 wins and Stirling 3.

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Fangio’s Maser 250F being unloaded from its transporter in Monaco

Fangio made the 250F sing, the car was towards the end of its long competitive life with the great Argentinian extracting all it had to offer. He was at the height of his powers, I don’t doubt he retired at the right time, he was 46 years of age by the end of the season after all.

Having said that it would have been fascinating to see if he could adapt to mid-engined cars, I don’t doubt he would have had he raced on for a few more years. But best to retire at the top, and alive. So many elite sportsmen and women do that one season too many, Michael Schumacher for one, Fangio did not.

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# Carlos Menditeguy DNF spin and #34 Giorgio Scarlatti DNF oil leak in the Officine Maserati garage, Monaco 1957. 250F x 2

Fangio popped his 250F on pole in the Principality but Moss led into the first corner with Fangio behind him. Sterling went off and crashed at the chicane on lap 4 with Collins, LF801, taking exasive action and hitting a stone wall as a result! Fangio managed to get through without a problem and Brooks Vanwall braked hard only to be rammed up the chuff by Hawthorn’s Fazz.

Only Brooks was able to keep going- but he was 5 seconds behind Fangio by the time he was up to speed again. Jack Brabham was up to 3rd late in the race in his little Cooper T43 Climax. It was a portent of the 1958 breakthrough win for a mid-engined car by Moss in Argentina, but had to push the car home as result of fuel pump failure, Jack was classified 6th, with Fangio ahead of Brooks, Masten Gregory in a Maserati, Lewis-Evans Vanwall and Trintignant LF801.

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Fangio during Monaco practice in Giulio Alfieri’s 250F V12. The 60 degree, DOHC, 2 valve, 24 plug, Weber fed 2.5 litre engine developed circa 300-320bhp at a dizzy 10500rpm, about 50bhp more than the venerable inline 6 but the power was all at the top of the band. The engine had conrod and valve spring troubles early in its development too. Behra raced one in the Italian GP, he chomped thru tyres, such was the engines power and then retired with a lubrication problem. The engines time would come, but not for a decade!

Whilst the 250F was in the Autumn of its life Maserati were still developing the thing, not least with a 2.5 litre, quad-cam, 2 valve, Weber carbed 300 odd bhp V12. Fangio is putting some development laps into the thing at Monaco above.

The engine raced only once at championship level at Monza 1957, but suitably evolved in 3 litre, fuel injected form won a race or two mounted in the back of Cooper’s T81 and T86 in 1966/7. (Wins for Surtees ’66 Mexican GP and Rodriguez ’67 South African GP, both in T81’s)

An interesting Australian sidebar to this Maser V12 is Frank Gardner and Kevin Bartlett testing a 2.5 litre variant in the butt of a ‘cut and shut’ Tasman Brabham BT11A in February 1966. Sydney Alfa/Maserati dealer and former Australian 1960 Gold Star Champion and AGP winner Alec Mildren used his impeccable Maserati connections to score the engine which the team sussed as an alternative to the venerable Coventry Climax 2.5 litre FPF  which was the Tasman staple moteur at the time. Simply put the engine was like an on/off switch in terms of its power delivery, then blew, which rather settled the matter of a ‘Warwick Farm 100’ start. A story for another time.

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Fangio, quayside at Monaco in 1957, enroute to victory. He won in Argentina, Monaco, France and Germany. The Vanwalls won in Britain, Pescara and again in Italy at Monza; Moss/Brooks, Moss and Moss

The thing that always amazes me when looking at photos of Fangio is just how relaxed at the wheel he is. It’s key to great lap times, if you are that tense that your butt-cheeks grab the seat cover as you alight your racer you are definitely not going to feel what your steed is doing to extract the best from it! I remember Frank Gardner talking to me about this very point several decades ago.

When the laconic Aussie all-rounder returned home in 1975, in that first year he drove Bob Jane’s Holden Torana Chev Sports Sedan and fronted the Jane/Gardner Racing Drivers School at Calder. He wasn’t there much. In fact ex-Aussie F3 driver/mechanic and later Hardman F2 designer/builder Jim Hardman did most of the driver instruction aided by Andrew Newton, who also raced with some success. Both of them looked after the fleet of Elfin 620B Formula Fords driven by the bright eyed hopefuls, of whom i was one.

Anyway, on this particular frigid July day ‘ole FG was in effusive mode telling me about both the car setup advice and driver coaching he was giving to a well known fellow who had not long before jumped up from Formula Ford to F5000-105bhp to 500bhp is a big step.

His central point in talking about ‘the big car challenge’ was all about relaxing in the car- having soft hands and gentle feet and just being able to, as a consequence of not being so tense, feel what the car was doing and therefore be able to push the thing to its limits by  better sensing said limits when reached…Easy to say of course, harder to do especially when you have 500bhp of fuel injected Repco-Holden V8 shoving you ferociously towards the horizon!

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FG would have approved of Fangio’s relaxed demeanour in a car. Don’t confuse my meaning with the ferocious competititiveness and delicacy of control that went with the outer calm one can see here!

Fangio never looks anxious whether he is being closely followed at Monaco in third gear or drifting through the very high speed swoops of rural France at over 140mph in fifth.

It was magic to observe Fangio’s car control at close quarters when he was 67 years old and booting his W196 Benz sideways lap after lap in third gear through Sandown Park’s Shell Corner, only 30 metres away, during ‘The Fangio Meeting’ in 1978. The sight of this grand man of racing flicking the bellowing, powerful straight-8, silver beastie around is forever etched in my memory.

Cool, calm, collected, composed and FAST! Exactly as he was in 1957…

French GP, 7 July 1957…

The classic was held at the super fast Rouen-Les-Essarts road circuit in Grand-Couronne and Orival, northern France.

There are so many wonderful 250F shots of Fangio in 1957 drifting the sublimely forgiving chassis at well over 140 mph on public roads through wooded hillsides. I’m not suggesting, in describing the car as forgiving, it was easy my friends!

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Crusin’ in having set pole i wonder? Rouen 1957. The lines of the 250F in 1957, here it’s Fangio’s ‘regular ‘Long nosed, lightweight’ chassis ‘2529’ spec are perfect, inch by sculpted inch. The cars epitomise everything great about Italian racing machines. Alfieri’s ’57 lightweight chassis was 40% stiffer than in ’56 with greater rear weight bias-48/52% front/rear. The 250F was maybe not quite the fastest tool in the 1950’s shed but it was close to it, enduring and capable of winning the 1954 and 1956 titles in addition to ’57 with more luck or the right bloke behind the wheel all season! No-one was going to beat Fangio in a W196 Merc in 1955 i don’t think

Fangio was fastest from Behra and Musso also on the front row. Behind them were Schell 250F and Collins then back a row Salvadori, Vanwall VW57 Hawthorn and Trintignant. At the jump Behra lead but Musso soon got ahead. Fangio was 3rd then Collins and Schell giving chase and then a fast-starting McKay-Fraser, BRM P25. Fangio worked his way past Behra on lap 2 and then took Musso for the lead on lap 4.

Collins got past Behra and the order remained unchanged at the front all the way to the flag with Fangio winning from Musso and Collins. Behra slipped behind Hawthorn, giving the Lancia-Ferrari 801 a 2-3-4 finish behind Fangio.

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Hang on…Fangio indulging in one of his signature, oh so fast, oh so subtle and oh so wonderful, delicate, four wheel drifts. Poetry in motion innit!? Wonder who or what he tapped?

Germany, Nurburgring, 4 August 1957: Greatest GP of all?…

Fangio’s heroic drive at this most demanding of circuits proved to be his greatest ever drive and one of the best in the history of Grand Prix racing.

Fangio took pole with Hawthorn, LF801 Behra, 250F and Collins LF801 completing the front row. Then came Brooks, Schell and Moss on Vanwall VW57, 250F and Vanwall VW57. At the start Hawthorn and Collins battled for the lead with Fangio and Behra giving chase. On lap 3 Fangio passed Collins and soon led. Collins then passed Hawthorn and chased after Fangio with the great man edging gradually away.

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Nurburgring 1957: Hawthorn and Collins, L Ferrari 801, Fangio and Behra 250F, then Moss and Brooks Vanwall VW57, Masten Gregory’s white Maser 250F, Lewis-Evans Vanwall VW57 and the rest…

A slow mid-race pit stop, scheduled for 30 seconds, lasted 1 minute and 18 seconds. One of the mechanics dropped the wheel hub nut under the car, it couldn’t easily be found! This left Fangio a minute behind the two Ferraris but then the chase was on! He drove absolutely at the limit, at the ragged edge of the cars capabilities, chasing down the two much younger men.

Fangio famously broke the lap record 10 times and passed both Collins, and then Hawthorn on the penultimate lap. Fangio won the race and in the process, his 5th and final World Title in a drive still spoken about in reverential terms and forever remembered whenever the great GP races are considered.

Pescara GP, 16 August, The Coppa Acerbo…

The FIA included the Coppa Acerbo, Pescara GP in the World Championship for the first time given the cancellation of the Dutch and Belgian GP’s early in the season due to squabbles about money. The daunting, dangerous 16-mile road circuit on the Adriatic Coast, still used then for non-championship events was the longest ever for an F1 race.

Ferrari didn’t bother to send 801’s for Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins as the World Championship had already been won by Fangio and partly as a protest against Italian government’s move to ban road racing following Alfonso de Portago’s, Ferrari 335S Mille Miglia accident earlier in the year. Local boy Luigi Musso convinced Ferrari to lend him a car however, which he entered as a privateer. Shades of NART entries in the 1960’s when Ferrari wanted to protest, but not too much!

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Shot at left shows Fangio’s Maser having a rear wheel replaced after spinning on Musso’s engine oil and danaging it

The Pescara battle was between Maserati and Vanwall and resulted in a Maserati pole for Juan-Manuel from Moss’s Vanwall VW57 and Musso’s ‘private’ Ferrari 801.

Musso took the lead but Maserati 250F privateer Horace Gould hit a mechanic who was slow to get off the grid. Brooks retired his Vanwall VW57 early with mechanical troubles. Moss took the lead from Musso on lap 2 from Fangio in 3rd but the field thinned as the heat took its toll; Lewis-Evans, Vanwall with tyre failures, Behra 250F engine failure. Then Musso disappeared on lap 10 when his engine blew, the oil caused Fangio to spin and damage a wheel. When Fangio rejoined, Moss had an unassailable lead, he won the race ahead of Fangio, Schell in 3rd ,Gregory 4th and Lewis-Evans 5th.

Fangio won the World Championship on 40 points from Moss and Musso on 25 and 16 points respectively. Maserati 250F, Vanwall VW57 and Lancia Ferrari 801.

Credits…

All photos by Louis Klemantaski/Getty Images, Michael Turner

Tailpiece: The Maestro, Karussell, Nurburgring, Maser 250F  chassis ‘2529’ German Grand Prix 1957, history being made. Majestic shot…

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Gino Valenzano’s Lancia D24 passes Reg Parnell’s Aston Martin DB3S in the early morning Brescia fog, the action captured by Louis Klemantaski aboard the Aston as both navigator and ‘snapper. Mille Miglia 2 May 1954…

It wasn’t to be a happy event for either car, they both failed to finish as a result of accidents. The competitiveness of Vittorio Jano’s newish D24 design was underlined by Alberto Ascari’s win in another of the cars in a time of 11 hours 26 minutes and 10 seconds. Vittorio Marzotto’s 2nd placed Ferrari 500 Mondial was 34 minutes in arrears.

Piero Taruffi’s Lancia led the race early from Brescia, that year fog replaced the more usual rain, he was first into Ravenna with a lead of 1.5 minutes. Castellotti retired his Lancia by Rome, soon Piero’s car developed an oil leak so he too retired. Ascari then assumed the lead but on the home leg north his throttle return spring failed, a rubber band provided a temporary repair. By Florence he was ready to retire but was prevailed upon to continue, then by Bologna all of the quick Ferrari’s had retired so the final 200Km into Brescia was a ‘cruise’ if the final hours of a race lasting 11 plus hours can be so described!

Gianni Lancia and Vittorio Jano created some stunning sports and racing cars in the early 1950’s, at least the Lancia heir could look back on them as a legacy when he was forced to cede management of the company such was its parlous financial state into 1955.

The new D24 ended 1953 with a stunning 1-3 in the November Carrera Panamericana in Mexico; Fangio won from cars driven by Piero Taruffi and Eugenio Castellotti. Felice Bonetto’s death in a D24 during the event somewhat muted the joy the team felt in victory, to say the least.

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Brescia 1 May 1954: Lancia D24’s are islands in a sea of people. #541 Valenzano DNF distributor, #602 Ascari’s winning car and  #540 Castellotti DNF accident (unattributed)

The D24 evolved from the D23 Spyder, itself begat by the D20 Coupe design. Jano’s development times were short, the D23 made its race debut at the Monza GP on 28 June (2nd Bonetto) and the D24 at the Nurbugring 1000Km on 30 August (Taruffi/Manzon and Fangio/Bonetto both DNF). The wheelbase of the D24’s tubular steel spaceframe chassis was marginally reduced. The quad-cam, chain driven, 2 valve, triple Weber 46DCF3 fed, 60 degree V6 engines capacity was increased from the D23’s 3102cc to 3284cc with power in the range 240 to 270bhp @ 6500rpm for each of the two engines.

The cars late 1953 speed carried through into 1954 with the Taruffi/Manzon D24 leading the Sebring 12 Hour until an engine failure about an hour before the end. Despite that the car completed 161 laps compared with the 168 of Stirling Moss and Bill Lloyd in the winning OSCA MT4.

Wins at the Targa by Taruffi, not a championship round in 1954, and 4th & 6th in the Tourist Trophy gave Lancia 2nd place in the Manufacturers Championship with 20 points to Ferrari’s 38 despite not entering Le Mans.

Lancia did get plenty of promotional rub-off for their considerable investment in Italy with the cars winning a swag of races and hillclimbs in ’54. Castellotti won the Treponti-Castelnuovo, Coppa Firenze-Siena, Bolzano-Passo Mendola and the Aosta-Gran San Bernardo. Taruffi took the Giro di Sicilia, Catania-Etna and Coppa d’Oro di Sicilia and Villoresi the Oporto GP.

Lancia’s F1 program absorbed plenty of resources, the D50’s first race  was the final ’54 championship round on 24 October, the Spanish Grand Prix at Pedralbes, Barcelona. Alberto Ascari’s jewel of a Lancia D50 started from pole and led until clutch problems caused him to retire on lap 9.

Lancia D24 cutaway: essential elements of Vittorio Jano’s car. Multi-tubular steel spaceframe chassis, Pininfarina designed and built aluminium body, 60 degree DOHC, 3284cc 270bhp V6, independent front suspension, de Dion rear suspension, leaf springs and tubular shocks. Gearbox 4 speed mounted at rear. Inboard drum brakes front and rear. Weight 740-760Kg (Betti)

Despite the competing GP car program Jano evolved the D24 design later in the year by increasing the capacity of the V6 to 3550cc for which 300-305bhp @ 6500 rpm was claimed. Two of these cars dubbed D25 were entered for Ascari/Villoresi and Fangio/Castellotti  at the Tourist Trophy, Dundrod in September but both retired with diff and engine failure respectively. Taruffi/Fangio and Manzon/Castellotti were 4th and 6th in D24’s.

The timing of the GP debut was unfortunate as the D24 was a mighty fine, fast car which deserved to have been the primary competition focus of Lancia that year.

The D50 changed the course of GP history in terms of its brilliant design, it’s contribution to Lancia’s fiscal disaster and of course giving Ferrari a car which won the world drivers championship for JM Fangio in 1956. But the D24 could conceivably have won Lancia a sportscar manufacturers championship in 1954 had the necessary, exclusive effort been applied to that campaign.

Wonderful hindsight of course, one of my strengths!…

Credits…

Louis Klemantaski, STF, Bruno Betti

Tailpiece: Alberto Ascari’s Lancia D24 chassis ‘006’ of nine cars built, in Rome and ‘heading for home’ 2 May 1954…

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(STF)

 

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Steve McQueen drives an Alfa Duetto as part of a series of track-tests at Riverside on 13 June 1966-published in ‘Sports Illustrated’ magazine’s 8 August 1966 issue…

Its an interesting read in terms of McQueen’s background in cars and motor racing before insurance issues- the studios for whom he worked wanted to protect their asset ended his racing, and his opinions on the eight cars tested.

The ‘roll of honour’ included the Duetto, E Type, Corvette, Ferrari 275GTS, Aston DB6, Benz 230SL, 911 and Cobra 427, a nice day at the Riverside office for Steve!

He rated the Alfa’s brakes, handling, 5 speed gearbox and engine albeit the little car lacked the power McQueen was used to in his daily rides, a Ferrari and Jag XKSS. ‘It is a very forgiving car, very pretty too, the Pininfarina body is swell’ Steve quipped.

Click on this link to read the article, well worth the effort, in full;

http://www.mcqueenonline.com/sportsillustrated66.htm

Credits…

James Drake, Bettmann

Tailpiece: More serious 1966 work Steve?…

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McQueen leaving the set of ‘Sand Pebbles’, Hong Kong. Is it a racer he is riding back to the hotel or a Cafe Racer, exhaust system looks pretty racey? (Bettmann)

 

 

 

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Smile for the camera boys! The presence of local lads Bobby Unser and Mario Andretti at Watkins Glen in 1968 must have added 25,000 punters to the gate?…

A good deal of interest was added to the end of season 1968 races by the participation of American aces Mario Andretti and Bobby Unser at the Italian and US Grands’ Prix on 8 September and 6 October.

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Andretti checking out his nice, new Simpson Team Lotus overalls, Hill convinced the Hinchman product the better Nomex choice! Monza 1968 (Peter Darley)

Mario raced a third works Lotus 49B and Unser a factory BRM P138 vacated by Richard Attwood. Both did quick times at Monza before returning to the US to race in the ‘Hoosier 100′ at Indy but were precluded by racing back at Monza due to a rule which forbade drivers competing in another event within 24 hours of a GP.

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Bobby Unser and Mario Andretti enjoying each other’s company prior to the ‘Michigan 250’, at Brooklyn, Michigan International Raceway on 13 October 1968. Ronnie Bucknum won in an Eagle Offy with Mario 2nd in a Brawner Offy. Its clearly not the chassis Mario is sitting in here which is Ford engined. Unser DNF in another Eagle Offy  (Upitis)

Unser was primarily a USAC racer whilst Mario mixed road racing with a diet of speedway events on dirt and champcars as well as the occasional NASCAR event. I wrote an article about the greatest all-rounder a while back, click here to read it; https://primotipo.com/2014/10/24/the-most-versatile-ever-magic-mario-andretti/

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Unser during the USGP at Watkins Glen 1968, its a pity he didn’t seek other F1 opportunities, his speed and ‘tiger’ potent down the decades, BRM P138. DNF engine (Upitis)

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Mario put the ‘cat amongst the pigeons’ by plonking the Lotus 49B Ford on pole ahead of all the aces of the day. Unser’s weekend didn’t start so well, boofing the P138 in the first session of practice, he qualified 19th. His cars engine failed in the race on lap 35.

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Andretti jumped away from the start well but was headed by Jackie Stewart by the end of the first lap, on lap 14 his Lotus was losing its bodywork causing a pitstop which dropped him to the back of the field. The Lotus’ clutch failed on lap 32. Jackie Stewart’s Matra MS10 Ford won from Hill’s Lotus 49B and John Surtees’ Honda RA301.

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Graham Hill at the pit counter whilst Colin and Mario arrive at a pole winning setup, Watkins Glen 1968 (Upitis)

Andretti impressed Colin Chapman bigtime with his speed, mechanical feel and sympathy. It wasn’t until 1976 that the ‘planets aligned’ and eventually the two great men worked together again. The Lotus 77 and 78/9 wing/ground effect cars the result, not to forget the 1978 World Championship of course!

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Osterreichring 12 August 1979, DNF clutch failure without completing a lap in the race won by Alan Jones’ Williams FW07 Ford (Schlegelmilch)

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Lotus 79 Ford, British GP, Brands Hatch 1978. Checking the tyre temps, Andretti famously brought ‘stagger’ to F1, DNF here with engine dramas, Carlos Reutemann took a Ferrari 312T3 win (Schlegelmilch)

Credits…

Alvis Upitis, Rainer Schlegelmilch, Peter Darley

Tailpiece: Hi-winged Lotus 49B Ford, Watkins Glen 1968, Andretti…

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Lordy that’s a big grid! Its the Formula Vee race which supported the 1967 German Grand Prix, the Nurburgring of course. I’ve no idea who won the race or the names of any of the competitors but that’s not really the point of this article. Mind you, if any of you do know get in touch and I will add the details.

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FV served a useful function by providing entry level racing for future world champions Emerson Fittipaldi, Niki Lauda and Keke Rosberg. Emerson was the first FV graduate to win a world title, for Lotus in 1972. That wasn’t really the point of the class which was fundamentally to provide thousands of enthusiasts globally the chance to compete cost-effectively. Me included.

Formula Vee gives me ‘Summer of ‘79’ smiles and recollections of fun, carefree times of long ago.

My Monash University years were lost really. The clever guys chased the babes, I saved my part-time factory work income, skipping dates with expensive sheilas to fund a Venom Mk2 Formula Vee in March 1979, the same month in which I joined the ‘real world’ of permanent work.

Scuderia Schitt-Fite was born! (SS-F)…

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SS-F works driver M Bisset at the Venom’s test session #1 (the only test session the noted team ever did) at Winton in February 1979. Copious sponsor decals on the drivers ‘Race-Safe Wool TT’ overalls indicative of his market worth. 1975 Venom Mk2 FV

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Nurburgring 1967 (ullstein bild)

The Venom was a secondhand but front third of the field car when acquired (for A$2350 with some spares including a ‘tall’ Phillip Island ‘box and trailer), it continued to go well until my impressive mechanical skills were applied to said vehicles preparation. Memorable were the Scrutineers discovery of loose rear wheel nuts at Winton on one occasion and the steering column thru-bolt popping onto the Venoms aluminium undertray with a neat mechanical ‘pop’ sound just as the car was pushed onto the concrete scruts’ inspection slab at Sandown…we just kept pushin’ the car straight thru into the paddock to fasten said nut and bolt. ‘Me an me mate Tilly used to ‘prepare’ the car in the carport of my parents house, lack of a light and ever present wind and rain were obstacles to engineering excellence. Ignorance another.

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My $8500 per annum graduate accountants salary didn’t run to motel accommodation on weekend trips away so luxurious, old, ‘on site’ caravans had to do. Liz, my girlfriend of the time, I’d found one by then, used to come away with me.

These 20 year old monuments to design bad taste were quite something replete as they were with shag pile orange carpet, extensive stains on all of the sumptuous synthetic material clad couches and lashings of Laminex as far as the eye could see. Which was not far as these luxurious caravans were not exactly generous in size. The mood lighting comprised lots of missing globes so my toolkit always carried a couple of 45 watters to make up for what the van park proprietors  were reluctant to provide.

The final straw to the use of this cost-effective accommodation for the impecunious racer was the presence of bugs in the bed, I’m sure Liz’ scream that night could have been heard in Melbourne.

I was a sophisticated boyfriend of course, a Saturday night out at the suburban North Balwyn chinese joint with some good tucker washed down by a bottle of Lindemans ‘Ben Ean’ Moselle (such nectar of the gods was the vignerons equivalent of Coca-Cola, something not to be missed then and not missed at all now) very metro-sexual. A dude taking a bottle of Ben Ean to a gig was definitely going places, just not so sure exactly where.

Liz was a ‘real trooper’ happy to help unload the Venom, wash, polish, change wheels as well as take care of the drivers emotional and physical well-being. A bonus was her taking charge of the big, roaring Ford Fairmont towcar at meetings end for the long trip back to Melbourne, the ‘tired hero’ asleep alongside after the physical demands of the weekend.

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SS-F on tour, here we are at Lorne on Victorias Great Ocean Road, we did a hillclimb, Mt Leura at nearby’ish Camperdown that weekend. I’m 21 and this shot shows my total net worth; the $2600 Fairmont which had been my dads company car and the $2350 Vee & trailer. No spare cash, no margin for error. A 1981 Sandown shunt took 1 1/2 years to fix as i couldn’t afford the repair, boy we had some fun tho!

Jackie Stewart famously won Grands Prix by applying a policy of sexual abstinence the night before a Grand Prix. JYS felt it gave him a little extra raceday ‘edge’ rather than the sated, chilled feeling most of us have after ‘relieving the tension’, as we say in polite society.

My parents didn’t have a relaxed attitude about us kids ‘horizontal folk-dancing’ under their roof so every opportunity for passion away from Almond Street was to be enthusiastically embraced. Liz took a strong leadership and teaching role in relation to such matters, the little minx!, i wonder what became of her?

Its probably drawing too long a bow to suggest the differences in speed between Jackie Stewart and my good self are entirely due to his maintenance of ‘raceday edge’ by adherence to the Popes no-nookie dictum, and my more relaxed ‘shagadelic’ approach.

But its nice to think that had one made such sacrifices in the quest for speed that the great Scots achievements could easily have been surpassed.

Anyway, that’s my theory as to my own lack of competitiveness, and I’m sticking to it!

I suspect my ‘Summer of ‘79’ smiles are shared by many FV’ers not just Emmo, Niki and Keke…

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Venom, Calder 1979

History of Formula Vee…

http://www.volkswagen-motorsport.com/index.php?id=411&L=1

Credits…

Getty Images/ullstein bild

Tailpiece…

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Nurburgring 1967 (ullstein bild)

 

 

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Jacques Laffitte and Tico Martini swapping notes as the old mates catch up in 1977…

This shot is dated 1 June 1977, note the presence of Didier Pironi’s ’77 Monaco F3 GP winning Mk 21. There are a few cars being assembled in the Magny Cours ‘shop, by the looks of the brakes on the monocoque in the foreground it’s probably a Mk22 F2 chassis.

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Jacques at Paul Ricard in 1971, Alpine Formula Renault

Jacques first sprung to prominence with a win in the ’72 French Formula Renault championship aboard a Martini Mk8 and proved his inherent speed with Monaco F3 GP and French F3 championship wins in a Martini Mk12 Ford in 1973. He was also 4th in the British Championship in the same car. His Martini pedigree went back further though, to 1969 when he started to put together some good results in the F3 MW4, he was not an overnight success mind you, doing plenty of time in the junior formulae  before his ultimate progression.

Tico Martini built his first racing car, a hillclimber in Jersey in 1962. At the Boulay Bay hillclimb he met Bill Knight, who was running the Jim Russell Racing School at Magny Cours. The following year Martini moved to Magny Cours to look after the school cars and prepare a fleet of its F3 cars which he also raced.

In 1965 the Knights acquired the school and renamed it ‘Winfield’. In 1968 Martini built the MW3 F3 car (MW-Martini Winfield) F3 car. And so a firm which went all the way to F1 with Rene Arnoux in the Mk23 Ford DFV in 1978 was born, the full history of the marque a feature for another time.

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Laffitte, Williams FW04 Ford on his way to 2nd place to Reutemann’s Brabham BT44B Ford at the Nurburgring in 1975. German GP (Schlegelmilch)

Jacques jumped up to F2 in 1974 initially with a March BMW, he switched to Tico’s Mk16 BMW in 1975 winning the title in emphatic fashion with six round wins; Estoril, Thruxton, Nurburgring, the Pau GP, Hockenheim and Enna. Michele Leclere and Patrick Tambay completed a French sweep of the placegetters in March 752 BMW’s.

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Estoril 1975, Jacques 1st in the opening round of the Euro F2 Championship in ’75. Martini Mk16 BMW. March had the works BMW engines and their distribution rights, Jacque’s engines Schnitzer BMW M12, DOHC 4 valve, injected 2 litre circa 300bhp units (unattributed)

Mind you, by ’75 Jacques had made his F1 debut the year before, in one of Frank Williams Iso Fords.

Martini’s 1977 F2 car was the Mk22 Renault which convincingly won the European F2 title in Rene Arnoux’ hands from Eddie Cheever’s Ralt RT1 BMW and Didi Pironi in the other works Martini.

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Thruxton 11 April 1977, Brian Henton on the way to a great win in the Boxer PR276 Hart, Didi Pironi on the inside in his Martini Mk22 Renault DNF and Michele Leclere in the Kauhsen nee Jabouille 2J Renault DNF (unattributed)

Tico took the journey with Arnoux to F1 in 1978, a tough year to do so with Lotus 79 ground effects dominance. The Ford DFV powered MK23 with backing from Elf, RMO and Silver Match was uncompetitive. The team failed to qualify at Kyalami and Monaco but Rene made the field and finished 9th in the Belgian, Austrian and US GP’s and 14th in France. He retired in Holland and Canada, lack of sponsorship caused the teams withdrawal from F1 at seasons end.

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French GP, Paul Ricard, July 1978. Rene Arnoux Martini Mk23 Ford 14th leads a mid field gaggle including Clay Regazzoni Shadow DN9 Ford, Vittorio Brambilla Surtees TS20 Ford, Hans Stuck Shadow  DN9 Ford, Bruno Giacomelli McLaren M26 Ford and Rupert Keegan Surtees TS20 Ford (Schlegelmilch)

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Rene Arnoux, Martini Mk23 Ford  during Monaco 1978 pre-qualifying, he was 27th of 30 and didn’t make the cut, the race won by Patrick Depailler’s Tyrrell 008 Ford (Schlegelmilch)

Martini bounced back with Alain Prost’s success in the 1979 European F3 Championship, he won 7 of the 11 races in a Martini MK27 Toyota.

The company continued to win in F3 right through the 1980s and returned to F2 in 1983-84. Tico continued to build Formula Renault chassis with much success until 2004 when he sold the company to Guy Ligier and a new assault began on Formula 3.

The car beside Tico and Jacques, Pironi’s Monaco winner is a Toyota powered Mk21 chassis, behind him at Monaco was Elio De Angelis’ Chevron B38 and Anders Oloffsson’s Ralt RT1, the ‘Class of  1977′.

The Martini chassis were period typical aluminium monocoques with upper and lower wishbone front suspension and single top link, twin parallel lower links and twin radius rods for fore and aft location with outboard coil spring/shocks and roll bars at the rear. We are a couple of years before the ground effect era and its knock on impacts on chassis design and aerodynamics.

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Didi Pironi Martini Mk21 Toyota 1st from Elio de Angelis Chevron B38 Toyota 2nd Monaco F3 GP 21 May 1977 (Schlegelmilch)

The gearboxes were Mike Hewland’s ubiquitous, reliable 5 speed transaxles; the Mk9 and FT200 for F3 and F2 use respectively. Both classes specified 2 litre engines, the F3 rules inlet restrictions limiting the 4 valve, fuel injected 4 cylinder Toyota unit to circa 190bhp. Francois Castaing’s gorgeous ‘CH’ Renault Gordini 90 degree, 4 valve, fuel injected 1997cc V6 gave around 300bhp @ 10500rpm. It won Euro 2 litre sportscar and F2 titles and spawned Renault’s successful turbo-charged Le Mans and GP winners, stories for other times.

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There is a great book about Tico and his cars, inevitably its only published in French, which is a bumma for me at least!

Credits…

Benjamin Auger, Gerard Rouxel, Rainer Schlegelmilch

Tailpiece: Jacques in his ‘Winfield Racing’ F3 Martini MW4 Ford, ‘Coupe de Salon’ Montlhery October 4 1969…

He didn’t finish the race won by Emerson Fittipaldi’s Lotus 59 Ford from Francois Mazet and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud both in Tecno 69 Fords. The field included Depailler, Brambilla, Jarier, Jabouille, Wisell, Schenken and Peterson in a sea of talent!

image

 

 

e type

The E Type not ‘Pete’ the painter. Never owned or driven one but always loved the things…

The shot is dated 25 May 1961, ‘pete’ is completing the ‘computer aided finish’ of the cars luscious body, looks like a house-brush to me! I’ve got a nice E Type article ready to go, must get reader Rob Bailey, an old Alfisti, racer mate and E Type owner to pen me two paragraphs about ‘the owners experience’ then its done!

The ‘E’ was released, export only at first from March ’61, so this is an early-build 3.8 drop-head in the Browns Lane, Coventry paint shop.

The picture below is at the Geneva Show in November 1961.

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Credits…Getty Images

The shot below is again Browns Lane, the production lines idle on 14 February 1972, during the UK Miners Strike. On the line are V12 E’s and XJ6′, has their ever been a more curvy, muscular but handsome sedan? ‘Grace, Space, Pace’ was Jags sedan advertising tagline of the sixties, says it all really!

Tailpiece…

jags

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For many of us, it’s probably difficult to imagine life in the immediate post-war with the hardships placed on society by the hostilities – dependant upon our age of course. Certainly many of our parents and grand-parents had a frugal existence for at least the first 10 years after WW2 ended. A family with a car was an exception, not the rule. The point of having a car made even more difficult with fuel rationing. So to be involved in motor sport wasn’t often on too many people’s minds, but it was on 2 young enthusiasts, one of whom could tap into his dad’s vast experience. It of course, also helped they had the right connections. But things could have been a lot different if the original intent of building a ‘mud plugging’ Trials special had eventuated.

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July 1946 Prescott paddock John & Charles Cooper with the prototype Cooper Special 500 (Motor Sport)

To indulge in such motor sporting pleasures in early post-war a few quid no doubt helped. Eric Brandon, then 25, with access to his family’s Halsey’s Electrical business could help there. He was almost 3 years to the day older than his toolmaker mate, John Cooper, 22, and his experienced 52yo dad, Charles with their Surbiton Garage facilities at their disposal. But after hours! This meant mud plugging was quickly scratched from the agenda when Cooper junior was exposed to what would become ‘The 500 Club’ movement. Having only come into the thoughts of a group of  Bristol Aeroplane Co Motor Sports Club enthusiasts nearing the end of 1945 and slightly later the concept gained publicity in the pages of 3rd April 1946 The Motor.

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Go to British Pathe to see a great film showing John Cooper being a rascal around Surbiton in Cooper T2.

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/racing-car/

Seventy years ago in 1946, circuit racing was in limbo and needing to find a proper home again. There had been an event in North London’s Cockfosters estate, prior to its full development on 14th July 1945. But the likes of Goodwood, Silverstone, et al were still pipe dreams for enterprising Motor Clubs to demob from the War Ministry. Until such, Hillclimbing and Sprints, or Speed Trials as they tended to be called had to suffice. So the ‘Coopers got coopering’ and between them turned out their interpretation of a small 500cc racing car after the odd favour was forthcoming. Not least getting ones hands on a Speedway JAP engine and rear end damaged Fiat Topolinos to graft the salvaged front end/suspension from the baby Fiats together. One of which was supplied by a man, who would also build racing cars, John Heath of HWM.

The 5 week effort to build the prototype of what would be the two early JAP motorcycle-engined Cooper specials saw Eric & John each have a birthday just prior to the shared competition debut of the new Cooper special at the 27th  & 28th  July 1946 Prescott Hillclimb. However, in the run up to the event (Friday 26th) that rascal John, with Cooper Garages’ trade plate ‘307 PD’ took the prototype for a spin and caused a bit of a racket around Surbiton. Even so, it wasn’t enough to stop the Cooper special’s Prescott debut going without hiccups, nor another that would follow. Just 500cc of J A Prestwich, Charles Cooper-breathed upon ‘Speedway’ JAP engine produced enough torque to set forth a series of engine mount failures and head scratching to solve it from continuing to happen. Also at the July Prescott meeting, John fluffed a gearchange and bent a valve. They were however, young, keen and although not the first within the ‘The 500 Club’ movement to create their own cars, one of the very earliest to have a car running. Just two 500s built and ran before the Cooper. In the process meaning they were about to get noticed and soon there was plans afoot to help make motor sport easier to be a part of.

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Eric Brandon (Sutton/Lawrence)

Essentially John and Eric’s 1946 events with the Cooper special consist of 4 events. That 1st Prescott, followed by another 31st August event with further engine mounting issues as previously mentioned. Their 3rd event was the 7th September Brighton Speed Trials on Madeira Drive. Early that morning bringing on another of John’s Kingston by-pass tests! As he stated in an April 47 IOTA feature “It was a joy to be alive though the occupants of the houses probably thought otherwise, and I believe blamed the “Hellish” racket on to Jeff Taylor whose works are situated nearby and who was also racing at Brighton that day.” Jeff was in fact Geoffrey Taylor, who built Alta racing cars in the area and getting the blame that time. But no doubt the locals would soon learn who the real culprits were as they spotted Cooper racing cars on their streets and by-ways in the years to come!

Brighton showed promise with their efforts to iron out the bugs in the Cooper special when both John and Eric ran entry #29 Cooper in two classes. John in the ‘Racing Cars up to 850cc’ – that he duly won with a 35.81 second run over the 1 kilometre course. Eric running the ‘Racing Cars up to 1100cc’ for a 4th place in class. Amongst their fellow competitors were Alec Issigonis and George Dowson with their Lightweight special and Marcus Chambers running his Austin. A name or two, part of BMC and Mini folklore. ‘Issi’ came second to Cooper and Dowson won the 1100 class.

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Part of 15 September 1946 West Court entry list (S Dalton Collection)

The fourth 1946 meeting for John and Eric was the 15th September, West Court Speed Trails – run by the Hants & Berks Motor Club at Finchhampstead. That day dawned with hostile reception from Cooper senior when awoken by Eric breaking a manhole cover in the process of loading up the car below Charles Surbiton Garage flat. Despite his threats of damage to the Cooper special, West Court became a successful day for John & Eric. The full entry list reads as a who’s who of British motor sport of the day and into its future – Sydney Allard, Roy Salvadori, Daniel Richmond and Ken Wharton to name a select few.

With 13 entrants in Class 5 (Racing Cars up to 1100cc) and what appear to be 10 starters, John and Eric did themselves proud with the following times.

58 J Cooper Cooper Special 498 1st run 25.7; 2nd run 24.73

60 E Brandon Cooper Special 498 1st run 27.66; 2nd run 24.42

Giving a few other drivers and larger class cars a fright, because they too could only muster 24 point something second passes at best. After this, enthusiasm down Surbiton way was on a high.

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Upon showing this photo to Mr Cooper (as I always called him) in 1997, he recalled that it was a visit he made with the Cooper special prototype to the Cadets of Sandhurst – Royal Military Academy. He’s the one with the pipe in the middle. (S Dalton Collection)

So by the end of 1946, the 500 Club was gaining popularity. In ‘The Sporting Side’ feature of the 8th January 1947 The Motor, there’s a piece titled ‘The 500 Virus’ stating the Club already has a membership of 247 with 67 cars under construction. Garnered so successfully because of the club’s ethos to help amateur racing car builders get started.

Showing some of his astute ways, Charles Cooper knew that not everybody had the wherewithal to build a racing car. So Cooper’s made mention in early April 1947 of their intent to start production to ‘make hay’ of this 500 virus. At the time they were in the process of completing a small streamlined sports car with a Triumph motorcycle engine and Eric Brandon’s own slightly tweaked second version of the prototype Cooper special. A couple of the ever so slightly visible differences between each car being the nose/grille treatment, slightly different in shape to #1 and more sloped placement of the grille. While on #1’s there is 2 spaced dimples under the grille area and on its RHS cockpit area there’s a lever poking through the bodywork and Eric’s car doesn’t feature this. The head fairing on each of the engine covers differ too, on #1 it looks like an afterthought and on Eric’s it’s made to be there, plus dimensionally smaller. There was also a lone inch added to the wheelbase of Eric’s car to accommodate his frame a little easier. As best I can find this car made a brief appearance with #1 on the Saturday of the 2 day, 26th – 27th April 1947 Prescott practice meeting and there’s photographic evidence of them together at the 11th May 1947 Prescott meeting. Around that time there was also a bit of publicity for the Cooper-Triumph sports car in the pages of 23rd April 1947 issue of The Motor and a month later in The Autocar.

Events-wise 1947 brought forth more variety of events, seeing John and Eric criss-crossing England. But in the main that’s not what this feature is about. It’s just a reminder of the efforts those 3 men and their little ‘childs car’ – that some press christened it at the time – played 70 years ago in creating what many Cooper racing car and Mini Cooper enthusiasts enjoy to this day. We know who got the last laugh! Retrospectively, in Cooper model ‘Type-number’ code, the Cooper special prototype became T2, Brandon’s T3 and the Cooper-Triumph T4. With the T1 title entrusted to the Cooper-Austin 7 special of 1935 – John’s 12th birthday present.

This Saturday, 30th July there is a special 70th anniversary meeting being held at Prescott Hillclimb to celebrate Cooper. https://www.prescott-hillclimb.com/

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Artists impression of Eric Brandon Cooper 500 by Peter Garnier (Iota)

Credits…

Special thanks to Stephen Dalton for writing the article and use of images from his collection

The Motor, MotorSport, British Pathe, Sutton Images, Iota, Dacre Stubbs Collection/Martin Stubbs

Tailpiece: Dwarfed by the 1904 Mercedes 18/28, John Cooper sits in the 500-based, Cooper-Triumph T4 sports car at the 1947 Brighton Speed Trials (Dacre Stubbs / Martin Stubbs collection)

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