Archive for the ‘Who,What,Where & When…?’ Category

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A parade of Auto Unions through the streets of Zwickau on November 7 1936, Auto Union’s home town to celebrate Bernd Rosemeyer’s 1936 European Championship victory…

The cars were built in the Horch factory located in the town. Bernd Rosemeyer drives the lead car with Hans Stuck, Ernest Von Delius and Rudolf Hasse in the cars behind.

After two years of Mercedes supremacy it was the turn of the mid-engined, 6 litre, 520bhp Type C V16 engined cars. Rosemeyer was the dominant driver winning 3 of the 4 championship rounds- the German, Swiss and Italian GP’s. Rudy Carracciola’s Mercedes W125, powered by a 600bhp 5.6 litre V12 in 1936 took the Monaco race. Rosemeyer also won the Eifelrennen and Coppa Acerbo non-championship events.

Mercedes would be back with a vengeance of course, but for now victory is sweet and to be celebrated…

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Rosemeyer’s German GP win 26 July 1936, Auto Union Type C (Getty)

Credit…

Imagno

Max Stephens powers his 2 litre Cooper T40 Bristol up the Domain Hillclimb, Hobart, Tasmania probably late 1959…

Its not just a T40, it’s THE T40, Jack Brabham’s 1955 Australian Grand Prix winning car, Jack took a somewhat lucky win when the more powerful cars of Stan Jones and Reg Hunt fell by the wayside or were mortally wounded.

Colour isn’t so common in Australia in the period given its cost and the fact that professionals mainly shot in monochrome given printing constraints of the day ensured good ole black and white in magazines prevailed. This is a fantastic colour photograph from Lindsay Ross’, oldracephotos.com archive, I’m not sure who the ‘snapper is in this particular case but his/her composition took my eye.

The ’59 Australian Hillclimb Championship was held at the Queens Domain on Saturday 14 November 1959, in fact the weekend was a ‘double-banger’ with competitors over from the mainland able to compete at Baskerville on the Sunday. Perhaps this photo is of Max during the championship meeting, i’m intrigued to know.

The journalist Rob Saward, writing on The Nostalgia Forum had this to say about T40 ‘CB/1/55’ and Stephens: ‘The gearbox was always this cars weakness. …It was the usual Citroen based (ERSA modified) box Cooper were using in the early Bobtails and F2 cars, which worked ok with the FWA or FWB Climax, but 2 litres of Bristol power meant it had to be treated very gingerly. Longford was always hard on transmissions, even more so before the railway crossing was rebuilt prior to the 1960 meeting’.

‘Max Stephens never really had the chance to demonstrate his true potential in the car- he was a gifted motorcycle racer, Tasmania’s best in the 1950’s and there is no reason why he could not be good in a car also. I don’t know whether it was his (Max Stephens Motors in Moonah, a car sales, later accessories and motorcycles) business that stopped him getting more involved in car racing or whether money was the issue…he died a few years ago’. ‘The car was sold in about 1962/3 to Alan Robertson of Hobart who converted it from central seat to sportscar format and raced a few times before Bristol engine problems intervened…the car was purchased by Frank Cengia, who restored it in the original Brabham 1955 colours, but in the 1990’s it was unfortunately sold overseas…’when Pat Burke who owned the car fell upon hard times.

Cooper T40 ‘CB/1/55’ whilst in Stephen’s ownership at Longford in 1959 or 1960. It is the car that Jack built, literally, days before his championship F1 debut at Aintree in the 1955 British GP. The car was constructed on the T39 Bobtail sports jig, with modifications. Note the curved Cooper spaceframe chassis, Bristol 2 litre engine sitting tall in the chassis, alloy wheels…such a clever car (oldracephotos.com)

Talented engineer Geoff Smedley added that ‘the car was prepared (in Tasmania) by the late Eric O’Heaney, one of the old school motorcycle mechanics who gave Max a lot of success in his bike days…Eric himself was an avid bike racer until a serious accident…In my mind Eric was an earlier version of the great Phil Irving, both with the same demeanour in their thinking and dedication to the development of the sport…’

Scott Stephens describes his father Max‘…as a respected car and motorcycle racer. He was the only Australian, whilst riding a Manx Norton 500, who successfully passed Geoff Duke for the race lead whilst Geoff held the mantle of current World Champion, this was achieved during the Australian Grand Prix held at Longford…Observed motorcycle trials was his last competitive stance. He was the Kawasaki and Maserati distributor in Tasmania…In his Hobart store he was the approved reseller of Norton, BSA, Velocette, Triumph, Laverda, Maico, Cotton, AJS, CZ, Montesa, Bultaco, Ossa, Hodaka, Italjet and Suzuki’ makes down the decades. Scott himself was a successful professional racer who rode for Kawasaki Australia, Matich Pirelli Racing and Suzuki quips that Max ‘Loved and was amazed by anything driven by fuel!

Bibliography…

The Nostalgia Forum- contributions by Rob Saward and Geoff Smedley, scottstephens.com.au

Photo Credits…

oldracephotos.com

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…

 

 

 

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This fantastic advertorial shot is of Frank Matich’s Brabham BT7A Climax and Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 27 Ford at Sandown in April 1964…

The magazine is the much loved and lamented ‘Australian Motor Sports’, the cover its June 1964 issue. The caption reads ‘…picture taken on the main straight up from the Dunlop Bridge, that’s the Dunlop R6 tread pattern photographer David Parker has caught so clearly on Frank’s car, at the April Sandown meeting’.

The 19 April meeting featured the Victorian Sportscar Championship which Matich won in the Total Team Lotus 19B Climax, the weekend for the team made almost complete by Geoghegan’s Lotus 27 victory in the ‘Victorian Trophy’, that year limited to 1.5 litre cars. Matich retired the Brabham with gearbox problems in the 15 lap racing car feature for ‘Tasman’ cars whilst in the lead, the race was won by Lex Davison’s Brabham BT4 Climax.

At the time the French oil company had aggressively entered the Australian retail market. Formation and promotion of this team, launched in July 1962, was an important part of their marketing and positioning strategy.

Total supported the Matich and Geoghegan team cars of Frank, Leo and brother Ian Geoghegan. Both Frank and Leo I have written about in detail, clink on the links below to read about them.

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Ian or ‘Pete’ Geoghegan’s Lotus 23 Ford, Leo G’s Lotus 27 Ford and Frank Matich’s Lotus 19B Climax at Oran Park, NSW in 1965 (Rod MacKenzie)

Credits…

AMS, David Parker, Rod MacKenzie Collection

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Engine 4 cylinder monobloc, 1 inlet and 2 exhaust valves, SOHC, 4493cc-100X143mm bore/stroke, 4 speed box, 4 disc clutch, brakes on transmission, front and rear wheels, 1025Kg

Antonio Fagnano blasts his Fiat through a village during the 14 July 1914 event, Lyon…

Fagnano was a Fiat all-rounder and institution, he was a mechanic, foreman, member of the test department and graduated from riding mechanic to race driver of the works team!

For 1914 the GP ‘Formula’ provided for an 1100Kg maxiumum weight and engines of no more than 4.5 litres in capacity. The race was a contest between Peugeot and Mercedes in the context of imminent war; Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated less than a week before the GP at Lyon which drew a crowd of over 300,000 filling hotels within a 50Km radius of the course.

Christian Lautenschlager and riding mechanic on the way to winning the 1914 French GP, Mercedes GP 35HP. Engine 4 separate cylinders, 4 valves per cylinder, SOHC, 3 plugs per cylinder, 4456cc-93X164mm bore/stroke, claimed power 115bhp@2800rpm. 4 speed box, leather cone clutch, brakes on transmission and rear wheels, 1080Kg, top speed circa 110mph (unattributed)

Christian Lautenschlager won from teammates Louis Wagner and Otto Salzer in 7 hours 8 minutes 18.4 seconds at an average speed of 65.665mph.

Sailer led by 18 seconds at the end of the first lap, by lap five he had built a lead of almost 3 minutes and then retired with a blown engine on lap 6.  Boillot’s Peugeot took over the lead for 12 laps, at one point he led by over 4 minutes.

The Mercedes drivers made one stop during the race for new Continentals. This contrasted with the poor wear of the Dunlops of Peugeot, Boillot made eight stops for tyres, the Frenchman’s many tyre changes allowed Lautenschlager to pass on lap 18. By the end of that lap, Christian had opened up a lead of over 30 seconds.

Fagnano’s Fiat was the best placed of the Italian cars, the talented driver died of an illness, aged 35, on 8 July 1918.

France, 1914 and the Art Historians…

If you have a hankering for this era of racing here is a very interesting article with a completely different angle.

http://www.king-of-the-boards.com/articles/france1914.pdf

Credit…

Roger Viollet, Alinari Archive, T Mathieson ‘Grand Prix Racing 1906-1914’, Patrick Ryan Collection

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Tailpiece: Dealership ‘in period’, the first Fiat dealership in Geneva with two 501’s out front, circa 1921…

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(Alinari Archive)

 

 

 

 

 

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Eric Brandon and Alan Brown, ‘Ecurie Richmond’ drivers with capped patron Jimmy Richmond, a haulage contractor from Nottinghamshire and mechanic Ginger Devlin at Silverstone 14 July 1951…

It’s the British Grand Prix meeting, the cars the latest Norton engined Cooper MkV 500cc F3. The motors were tuned by the highly rated Steve Lancefield and Francis Beart. The very competitive drivers were first (Brandon) and second in that years Autosport F3 Championship from the JBS’ of Peter Collins and Don Parker. They didn’t win at Silverstone though, Stirling Moss won in the new Kieft CK51 from Ken Wharton and Jack Moor.

The Ecurie Richmond pair netted 16 major victories and 41 heat wins in a marvellous 1951 season. The Brands Hatch Junior Championship in ’51 was taken by Cooper mounted BC Ecclestone.

Ecurie Richmond progressed to F2 in 1952 with Brown’s Cooper T20 Bristol achieving the great marques first championship GP points with his 5th place at Bremgarten in the Swiss Grand Prix, F2 adopted as F1 in 1952-3 of course. Heady days indeed…

Credit…

GP Library, 500 Owners Association

One of our online friends, Rob Bartholomaeus, sent me these excerpts from the program of the ‘S.A. Centenary Grand Prix’. I was going to add them to the article I wrote about the race quite a while ago, but they were too good to disappear without trace within an existing article, so here they are…

Then I started thinking about history and the recording, interpretation and restatement in relation thereto.

There was no ‘Australian Grand Prix’ held in 1936 or 1937.

The 32 lap, 240 mile ‘South Australian Centenary Grand Prix’ was held on 26 December 1936 and down the decades, no-one seems to know who started it, has been acknowledged as the 1937 AGP despite being held on 26 December 1936 and despite not being called the AGP at the time.

Graham Howard in his introduction to the seminal, defining, authoritative and entirely wonderful ‘The 50 Year History of The Australian Grand Prix’ (HAGP) describes the reporting of motor racing in the early days in Australia as being ‘casual to the point of useless’. He then cites as an example of the lack of precision in reporting the AGP ‘the wonderful way in which a race staged in 1936 as the South Australian Centenary Grand Prix could, within a few years, acquire not only Australian Grand Prix status, but rank as the AGP for 1937’.

Go figure.

There is some ‘competition’ globally as to which countries have ‘the longest continuous’ Grand Epreuve, the French have the oldest which was first held in 1906.The Italian commenced in 1921, Belgian in 1925, German GP in 1926 and the Australian in 1927- these races are the longest continuing GP’s. The US and Britain for example, don’t qualify in ‘the longest continuing’ as both had big gaps when the event was not held despite the races being first run in 1908 and 1926 respectively. I’ve given the Germans a free kick as they were ‘black-balled’ till 1950 post-war, you can take them off the list if you are not as generous in spirit as me in your ‘longest continuous’ definition!

As in Australia with the 1936 ‘South Australian Centenary Grand Prix’ and the 1928 ‘100 Miles Road Race’ at Phillip Island, both later appropriated as Australian Grands Prix, some of the events globally were not held as ‘The Whatever Grand Prix’ at the time they were conducted either. Rather they were adopted later as such, as part of the continuum of the countries premier road racing event in that year. The first American GP, at Savannah, Georgia was ‘The 1908 Grand Prize of The Automobile Club of America’ and the first British GP held at Brooklands was entitled ‘1 Royal Automobile Club Grand Prix’.

In recent times an Australian motoring historian, David Manson whilst trawling through some Sydney newspapers in the early 1980’s discovered that an Australian Grand Prix was held in Goulburn, 200Km from Sydney on 15 January 1927.

This 6 lap event was won by local racer Geoff Meredith in a Bugatti T30. 7 cars contested the races on an oval dirt layout, 1 mile and 75 yards long around the Goulburn Showgrounds. The contest comprised 2 heats and a final between the quickest pair.

Whether a six lapper lasting 6 minutes 14.8 seconds between 2 cars on an oval dirt course is a ‘Grand Prix’, even in the Australian context of the time, let alone the European one is debatable. The fact is, an event named, styled, promoted and run as the ‘Australian Grand Prix’ ‘for all powers racing cars’ was contested in Goulburn on 15 January 1927.

John Lackey has edited a stunning little book titled ‘A History of Australia’s First Grand Prix’ with contributions by a number of people including the highly respected John Medley, one of the authors of HAGP, it’s a must for any Australian enthusiasts library. One of the reasons the book is significant is Medley’s coverage of the event and it’s competitors but more so his perspective of the role motorcyclists and their clubs had in paving the way for car racing in Australia- they were the true racing pioneers Medley records. It’s not a perspective I’d read before. More about this race meeting another time.

To the point of David Manson’s hugely significant discovery the first AGP was acknowledged as being the ‘100 Miles Road Race’ held by the Victorian Light Car Club for cars of no more than 2 litres capacity, at Phillip Island on 31 March 1928. The race on a rectangular, 6.5 mile dirt road course near Cowes was later appropriated as the first AGP despite the name. The first AGP held under that name was also promoted by the Victorian Light Car Club at Phillip Island in 1929. The VLCC staged the event annually at the island until 1935.

As a result of the 1927 Goulburn event discovery, the HAGP published originally in 1986, was reprinted to add the 1927 AGP as it’s first chapter in 2015.

So, its a fact that the first Australian Grand Prix was held on 15 January 1927. Its a fact the ‘South Australian Centenary Grand Prix’, later appropriated as an Australian Grand Prix, I have no issue with that, was held on 26 December 1936. The event, won by Les Murphy’s MG P Type as matter of fact is the 1936 Australian Grand Prix not, without wanting to belabour the point, the 1937 Australian Grand Prix.

Adding the 1927 GP to the new edition of HAGP updated and corrected history, which, as we can all see from the very late discovery of the Goulburn event is a living, breathing thing. Why not also have altered the date of the Australian Grand Prix of 1937 and call it what it factually was and is- ‘The 1936 Australian Grand Prix’. HAGP is ‘The Bible’ on these things, an opportunity was lost, sadly.

Its all about history, it’s recording, interpretation and restatement, which I think is about where I came in. Sorry to be a pedant, but it’s just plain wrong and always has been. That the 26 December 1936 SA Centenary GP is ‘generally accepted’ as the 1937 AGP does not make it right let alone factually correct.

I know such a change wouldn’t contribute to world peace, it doesn’t really matter, but just sayin’…

Credit…

Rob Bartholomaeus Collection

Bibliography…

‘The 50 Year History of The AGP’ by G Howard and Ors, ‘The 1927 Australian Grand Prix’ Editor John Lackey, ‘A History of Australian Grand Prix 1928-1939’ by John Blanden

Tailpiece: Geoff Meredith aboard his Bugatti T30 at Goulburn during his victorious AGP meeting in 1927…

Whilst a top NSW driver of the day at places like the daunting Maroubra Speedway in Sydney, Geoff Meredith was a Goulburn local, a sheep grazier from nearby Windellama. His 2 litre straight-8 Bugatti T30 won a purse of £50- a ‘Grand Prize’ at the time, the Bug, is, happily still in Oz. Meredith died of pneumonia he contracted by exposure to the elements at the Isle of Man, he was in a support role to a group of Australian riders less than 12 months after his AGP win (unattributed)

 

Andrew McCarthy Ralt RT4 Ford ahead of Benetton BMW and Cheetah Mk8 Ford at Phillip Island (VHRR)

If Bathurst is ‘The Cradle Of Australian Motor Racing’ (1) then surely  Phillip Island is its ‘Birthplace’, given the early Australian Grands’ Prix held on the road circuit not too far from the permanent track we now all know so well…

I’ve always had a sense of the history of the place, as a competitor you get a twinge of excitement the week before and as you cross the bridge from San Remo to Newhaven on the Island itself your sphincter twitches a tad such are the speeds of the circuit. My top gear at Winton short circuit is third in my Van Diemen Formula Ford at the Island, you are motoring fast there even in a car without a surfeit of power.

The meeting has become ‘Bigger Than Ben Hur’, too many entries actually, yer don’t get a lot of bang for your entry fee buck these days but it’s still one of the great Historic Meetings in Australia. There are always a few ‘furriners’ who double enter their cars at the Island and Albert Park for the F1 Gee Pee historic event so there are plenty of  different cars to see each year.

I’m not racing this year but I have been helping ‘me mate Andrew McCarthy prepare his Ralt RT4 Formula Pacific for the rigors of the weekend.

Ron Tauranac is regarded by many of his peers as the ‘High Priest’ of production racing car designers, ignoring the two World Constructors Championships his bespoke Brabham F1 cars won in 1966/7!

The Ralt RT2/3/4/5 F2/F3/FA-Pacific/FSV cars are one of the great series of customer racers of all time. They were winners for lots of customers in all of these classes across the globe in the 1980’s. The Ralt RT4 pretty much did to Formula Atlantic/Pacific what the Lola T330/332 did to F5000, that is, help weaken the class for a while such was their dominance.

I will get around to writing about these cars in detail eventually, RT4 ‘261’, the 1981 Australian GP winning car driven by Roberto Moreno I owned for a while so I won’t prattle on about the background to these cars now, i’ll save it for the article on Roberto’s racer. For every RT4 driven by a hero ten were sold to normal customers whose bums pointed to the ground in much the same way as yours and mine.

Dan Carmichael, Ralt RT4 Ford ‘354’ at Brainard Intl, ‘Jack Pine Sprints’ National Races, 1984 (Winker)

McCarthy’s car ‘354’ is one of these cars, a 1982 chassis, the first RT4’s were 1980 models; it was sold to Dan Carmichael a ‘doyen’ for decades in American SCCA Club Racing. So in the pantheon of drivers he is somewhere between a hero and a regular customer!

‘Fatlantic’ on TrackForum.com said of Carmichael ‘…without a doubt THE MAN in club racing and perhaps of any sport was Dan Carmichael. He…was still a winner and national champ in the fastest SCCA class of all, Formula Atlantic at the age of 80++!!! But thats not all, Dan was a WW2 fighter ace (Hellcats) and then flew jets in the military until the mid 1960’s when they threw him out because he was too old’.

‘Then he took up racing and for the next 35 years won several championships and races usually in very fast sportsracers and formula cars. But there is more, the very first live televised sports event was a college baseball game in the 1940’s, Dan Carmichael was the winning pitcher for Princeton! In the early 1980’s Dan was the Ohio state amateur golf champion (not just for his age bracket). He had a successful engineering firm and was the president of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce for many years and was a winning tournament racketball player until his 80’s when his knees got too bad’.

‘…Always a true gentleman, when I raced against him if you pointed him by he would politely wave as he blew past you. I used to wait until I knew we were coming up to a busy part of the track, but he never forgot to wave, he must have been driving at 150mph with no hands on the wheel, at 80 years old!!! A TRULY great man and a role model for all of us’. It would be great to hear from any of you who know about Carmichael.

Dan first raced the Ralt in October 1982, crashing it badly enough 12 months later to need a new tub which was built by Mark Bahner in late 1983. The car passed through several hands in the US before being purchased by one of the ‘Doyens’ of Australian Historic Racing, former national Formula Ford Champion Richard Carter circa 2002. Richard ran at the front of the fields in the very well developed car before selling it to Matt Lloyd in WA, Lloyd sold it to Andrew not long before his untimely demise in 2008.

McCarthy is a pretty good mechanic for a stockbroker and prepares the car in his home workshop in a twee inner eastern Melbourne suburb. The setup is small but works fairly well, mind you, the passing parade of lissom young Armadale ladies working out in the park opposite is not particularly conducive to the concentration levels needed for the important car preparation task at hand.

Peter Brennan of ‘Racers Retreat’ fame (click the bar at the top of the site) provides lots of advice, not that he says Andrew listens to much of it, and specialist capability inclusive of engine maintenance. That’s been the major task this week, the Jennings built ‘big valve’ Ford Cosworth BDD 1.6 litre engine ingested a washer which helped retain the air intake ‘snorkel’ to its baseplate at Winton in May last year- whilst huge carnage, ‘nuclear fission’ inside the engine was avoided prudence suggested it was a good idea to pull the engine out and send it off to PB, who is not too far away in Burwood.

The motor needed pistons, rings, bearings and valves. The engine developed 212bhp @ 8500rpm last week with another 700rpm to come. In Melbourne’s heat the thing was getting too hot to give it a ‘big ‘tug’, a full power run on Brennan’s dyno. Click on this link to an article on Formula Atlantic/Pacific, which includes information on the engines used in the class;

https://primotipo.com/2015/10/18/keke-rosberg-attacks-the-pukekohe-chicane-new-zealand-grand-prix-january-1978/

The rear endcase of the Hewland FT200 ‘box is a bespoke Ralt casting which incorporates a mount for the wing support post (Bisset)

McCarthy holding his bell-housing above, RT4 awaits its engine. The engine bay is big, there is plenty of space for a variety of engines and moving them backwards and forwards in the monocoque chassis to alter weight distribution as needed for different classes or as ideas about such things (weight distribution) evolved from year to year. Compare this shot with the one below and note how the whole rear end ‘wheels away’ obviating the need to realign the suspension if time is short- which it is in this case!

Tauranac used aluminium ‘legs’ or extensions either side of the main chassis section to attach the engine rather than a tubular steel subframe. You can see by reference to this shot (below) and the one above where the aluminium cross beam attaches, with the rear end attached, via 4 high tensile bolts each side, to each of the ‘leg extensions’.

See the mechanical tach drive (photo below) off the back of the exhaust cam, 48DCO2 Weber carbs (fuel injection was not allowed by the FA regs) and inlet manifolds which are Jennings own castings. The dry sump tank is to the right of the ‘right leg’ with a red cap. In front of it is the dull yellow coloured plastic oil catch tank, you can just see the slim, red battery mounted flush along the side of the ‘leg’ extension. Clutch is a twin-plate Tilton.

(Bisset)

When the car was rebuilt after its ’83 prang Carmichael fitted ’83 spec RT4 rocker rear suspension (above) rather than the earlier (‘80/1/2) simple conventional coil spring/shock unit which was cleverly done by RT, but the rocker setup cleans up the airflow thru the all important ground effect tunnels even more. Calipers are AP-Lockheed, discs cast iron. Brakes went outboard at the rear in the G/E period again to keep bits and pieces outta the sidepods where they mucked up airflow. See the canisters for the Fox adjustable shocks- this photo shows just how independent from the rest of the car the back bit is.

Gearbox is, of course, a ubiquitous Hewland, the FT200 pretty much de-rigour in F2 since 1967. Andrews is FT200 #1561, I wonder if that means Mike Hewland’s amazing Maidenhead (its worth a visit to the factory folks) outfit had built 1561 of these ‘trannies between 1967 and 1982?! Look closely under the box and you can see the gold coloured frame to which the lower wishbones on either side mount.

McCarthy is a press on kinda driver, feisty as you might expect of a fellow of Irish catholic descent. He is very quick considering how few miles he does. Had a few FF2000 races on a business/pleasure trip to the UK in his youth many decades ago and has competed in historic racing for about 15 years. Nice view of the sidepods and lower rear wishbones, robust tho Tauranac’s chassis are they are not built to withstand Learjet type take-offs and landings. This Winton contretemps creased the chassis quite badly (McCarthy Collection)

This attempt at aerobatics at Winton in 2013, impressive as it is was Andrew, was not conducive to survival of ‘354’s second chassis and so it was off to Mordialloc to have a chat to Mike Borland about repair.

The builder of Spectrum Racing Cars diagnosed a crease from McCarthy’s ungodly rear end assault upon another competitor and other wear over the decades from previous misdemeanours- replacement of the tubs inner and outer aluminium skins was the only option, the quality of the workmanship superb.

As of this Wednesday evening, the car loaded up, so with luck our hero will be on-circuit on Thursday.

Do come and find the red RT4 #112 in the paddock amongst the Group Q and R entries, and say gedday, hopefully it will be a fun weekend…

Credits…

1 ‘Bathurst: The Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, Jerry Winker, VHRR, McCarthy Collection

 

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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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(oldracephotos.com/Ellis)

The ‘Longford Trophy’ race start in Tasmania, 5 March 1960 with Jack Brabham and Bib Stillwell in Cooper T51 Climaxes on the front row…

Jack is on the far left, in yellow is Austin Miller’s Cooper T51 Climax then Bib’s red Cooper and far right in red, Arnold Glass’ 4th placed Maser 250F, the beach umbrella atop the starters stand is a nice Oz summer touch, meanwhile the man in the white cap surveys it all and snaps away. Glorious!

I wrote an article about this event a while back, Lindsay Ross recently published the evocative photo above of  a wonderful summers day of a time and place so long ago, too good not to feature.

https://primotipo.com/2015/01/20/jack-brabham-cooper-t51-climax-pub-corner-longford-tasmania-australia-1960/

Brabham won the 17 lap race from Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati, Alec and his car were to be Australia’s Gold Star champions that year, and Stillwell 3rd.

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Brabham with Stillwell alongside, then Aussie Miller in yellow beside the Glass Maser. Almost ready for the off (John Ellacott)

Here is publican, crop-duster pilot and racer Austin Miller’s immaculate Cooper T51, 2.2 litre Climax powered, in the Longford paddock amongst the sportscars, he retired on lap 3. How sweet it is. This car, chassis ‘F2-20-59’, driven by the intrepid Austin, later set an Australian Land Speed Record, which then Chevy 283cid V8 powered makes it Australia’s first ‘F5000’, and is a fascinating story for another time…

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(John Ellacott)

Credit…

oldracephotos.com/Ellis, John Ellacott, oldracingcars.com