Posts Tagged ‘1964 Tasman Series’

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Frank Matich, Brabham BT7A Climax tries to outbrake Bib Stillwell #6, Brabham BT4 Climax, December 1963…

Photographer John Ellacott upon posting this shot online described it as ‘the two great rivals on Hume Straight’…Matich braking down the outside on the run into the slow second gear ‘Creek Corner’. Frank’s car was brand new, just unpacked, it had only turned a wheel for the first time several days before the 1 December ‘Hordern Trophy’, the final round of that years Gold Star, the Australian Drivers Championship.

Frank’s car was fitted with 2.5 litre ‘Climax FPF, Bib’s older chassis had an ‘Indy’ 2.7- a fair duel, one guy with the edge in chassis perhaps and one with a bit more power?

Stillwell led from the start of the 34 lap race and then FM began to reel him in finally catching the Victorian on lap 20, the pair tangling in ‘The Esses’. The collision was enough to put Matich out of the race but Stillwell finished 4th, the race was won by John Youl in his Cooper T55 Climax 2.5 from David McKay’s ex-Brabham BT4.

frank and bib wf discussion

Frank left and Bib- looking very natty is his BRDC blazer and developing his listening and empathy skills by the look of it after the ‘Hordern Trophy’. Great rivals with a lot of respect for one anothers abilities (Sports Car World)

In the 1964 Tasman Series which followed the month after this race Youl was the most successful of the locals. Stillwell only contested three Australian races gaining a strong second in the AGP at Sandown whilst Matich was prodigiously fast but had woeful reliability, we shall pick up the Tasman shortly.

I described the rivalry between Frank and Bib in a post about the Stillwell Cooper Monaco.

https://primotipo.com/2015/03/10/bib-stillwell-cooper-t49-monaco-warwick-farm-sydney-december-1961/

It’s fair to say Stillwell, born 31 July 1927 took a while to mature as a driver. He started racing MG’s in the late 1940’s and as his motor dealerships became more successful throughout the 1950’s he acquired and raced some expensive, fast cars- D Type Jag and Maser 250F included. By the time he commenced racing Coopers he had well over 10 years of experience and was ready to take on anybody winning his first Gold Star in 1962 and the last in 1965- four on the trot.

Matich, born 25 January 1935 was a more precocious talent who first competed in an MG TC at Foley’s Hillclimb circa 1954 and raced seriously from later in the decade after selling his Austin Healey and purchasing the ex-Frank Gardner Jaguar XKC- he soon drove cars for Leaton Motors who employed him as Sales Manager. Bib was more the ‘silver spoon special’ born on the right side of the tracks and funded into his first dealership with family money. Mind you, whatever Bib started with he multiplied many times over, he was an extremely successful businessman in Australia and then became an executive of global calibre inclusive of being President of the Gates Learjet Corporation in the US.

Frank, the young pro, was cut from totally different cloth. He was educated at De La Salle College, Marrickville in Sydney’s inner west and was apprenticed as a fifteen year old Diesel Engineer at Sydney’s Kurnell Oil Refinery before progressing through Butlers Air Transport and in 1954 to Selected Sportscars where he first came into contact with the Englishman who owned the MG TC Frank prepared and both men raced.

FM’s ability and ‘gift of the gab’ attracted patrons and commercial support from very early on in his career, Matich too was shortly to do well out of the business of motor racing with Australian franchises for Firestone and later Goodyear racing tyres and Bell helmets apart from the sale of some of the Matich sports and F5000 cars he built.

Matich and Stillwell were intensely competitive, driven, successful men- they had far more in common i suspect than not, especially in terms of mindset and will to win.

The battles between the pair were absorbing, Matich very quickly got on the pace of the big 2.5 Climax Formula Libre cars (the 2.5 Tasman Formula started in 1964, Australia’s national F1 ‘ANF1’ was F Libre till then), having come out of powerful sportscars- Jags C and D Types, Lotus 15, 19, 19B and small bore single seaters- ‘works’ Elfin FJ Ford and Elfin Catalina Ford 1.5.

At the time these 2.5/2.7 litre F Libre/Tasman cars were the fastest road racing cars in the world, F1 having changed from a 2.5 to 1.5 litre formula from 1 January 1961. Given his experience it was not a surprise when Frank was on the pace straight away as he jumped out of his Lotus 19B sporty and into the new Brabham acquired with the French Oil Company, Total’s, support.

Well before the Tasman Series commenced in 1964, we had a strong International Series of races in Australasia in January/February, with enough of the best in the world to test the locals in equal cars Matich was more than a match for any of them. So was Bib on his day.

matich wf private practice brabham

Matich mounted up and ready for his first test of the naked BT7A, devoid of all signwriting and in ‘civvies’ at Warwick Farm the week before the ‘Hordern Trophy’ above. Brian Darby, at the rear, picked the car up from the Port Melbourne wharves the week before, Bruce Richardson is the other mechanic in shot. Note reinforced wide based top front wishbone and rubber mounted ball joint, inverted wishbone at the top and single lower link in the rear suspension. The later BT11A had the opposite rear set up- single top link and inverted lower wishbone (John Ellacott)

Matich was very quick in the Brabham throughout that ’64 Tasman Series and the short period in which he raced the BT7A, its interesting to look back at his time in the car.

The late 1963 pre-international events in New Zealand are covered in this article here;

https://primotipo.com/2017/09/08/bay-of-plenty-road-race-and-the-frank-matich-lotus-19s/

The first 1964 international was at Levin, which Frank missed, at Pukekohe, the NZ GP on 11 January, he ran strongly behind Brabham, McLaren, Tim Mayer and Hulme- he passed Mayer for third only to pop his engine on lap 26, McLaren won the race in a Cooper T70. After Puke he shipped the car home to Australia and re-joined the circus at Sandown on February 9. There he ran ahead of the locals before suffering crown wheel and pinion failure on lap 4.

At the Farm, Matich’s home turf, he started from pole, followed Jack away, then passed him but muffed his braking at Creek and ran off the road. Off to Queensland, at Lakeside, he was driving away from everybody before the engine let go- a Weber ingested a stone and the expensive motor went ka-boom on lap 8. After the long tow to Tasmania he finished third in the race won by Graham Hill’s BT4 and was first of the locals despite a misfire and a revolution amongst his mechanics who pushed the car onto the grid but left his employ after the race.

Ray Bell wrote that ‘He had a mixed bag of results in shorter races during the middle part of the year, taking a number of outright lap records, then came the Gold Star closing events. Lakeside…pole and the lead before an oil line came adrift; Mallala he didn’t turn up (Stillwell basically could not be beaten for the Gold Star by this stage) and he led the Hordern Trophy till half distance before yet another engine failure’.

The 1965 Tasman Series was won by Jim Clark’s Lotus 32B Climax, despite not contesting the four Kiwi rounds Matich was right on the pace at Warwick Farm, the first Australian round, starting from pole and leading to Creek corner, he then raced with Brabham behind Hill and Clark up front. ‘Both Hill and Matich had troubles in this race with cement dust getting into the steering, Hill spinning on the last lap because of it and failing to finish. Matich was third behind Clark and Brabham’s BT11A, Stillwell (BT11A) was thirty seconds behind him’ wrote Bell.

matich bt7a lakeside 1964

Matich in his ‘semi-nude’ BT7A in the hot 1964 Lakeside summer sun, puddle notwithstanding! He is trying to stay cool in the searing Queensland summer heat, lower side panels removed…shot shows the proximity of the aluminium side fuel tanks containing lots of Avgas…no rubber bag tanks prior to circa 1970 (Peter Mellor)

Down south at Sandown he ran just behind the internationals ahead of Stillwell only to retire with ignition failure- a rotor button on lap 10. During the AGP at Longford he pitted with suspension problems on lap 5 whilst best of the locals having run in sixth place. At Lakeside he contested the non-championship ‘Lakeside 99’ and made it a real race dicing with Clark on this high speed, demanding circuit for most of the race. ‘They traded places many times, but Matich did have a pitstop and lost some laps before rejoining the battle’. It was a race FM rated as one of his best.

Into the domestic season Stillwell won the Victorian Road Racing Championship Gold Star round in April after a couple of Matich spins, albeit FM was second despite a failing engine- and started from pole a half-second clear of Bib.

That was all the racing he ever did in that car. At Lakeside’s Gold Star round in late July, he crashed his Lotus 19B Climax- he took the sportscar to the meeting to test it in advance of the Australian Tourist Trophy which was held at the circuit later in the year, was burned and hospitalised and in the aftermath Total took the decision to cease their racing program and sold the cars and parts.

The story of the next phase of Frank Matich’s career in sportscars, initially with the Elfin 400 aka ‘Traco Olds’ is told in links within this article.

Frank Matich was one of Australia’s many F1 mighta-beens, to me the most likely to succeed of all, but with a young family and business ties in Oz it never happened despite offers being made to him on more than one occasion to go to Europe.

As noted, Matich didn’t race single seaters for long at this stage of his career- from 1963 to 1965, racing sports cars very successfully until 1969 when he came back to open wheelers with the advent of F5000- where he was a star as both a driver and constructor. Click here for an article on this phase of his career;

https://primotipo.com/2015/09/11/frank-matich-matich-f5000-cars-etcetera/

It’s a shame he didn’t drive Tasman 2.5 cars throughout this golden-era of single-seater racing in Australasia, his battles against the internationals as well as the local hotshots in both Tasman races and domestic Gold Star competition would have been sensational, Matich mixing it with Bartlett, Martin, Geoghegan, Harvey and the rest would have added depth to Gold Star fields which were increasingly  ‘skinny’ as the decade wore on.

Stillwell retired at the end of 1965, he was certainly as quick as anybody on his day and arguably had not quite peaked when he did retire. No less an observer of the local scene than journalist/racer/Scuderia Veloce owner David Mckay believed that by 1965 Stillwell had reached F1 standard, not least for his ability to drive fast without mistakes or destroy the equipment.

brabhams longford 1965

Intercontinental Brabhams at Longford, AGP 1965. Stillwell’s dark blue #6 BT11A (6th), Matich BT7A (DNF) and Frank Gardner in Alec Mildrens yellow BT11A (8th), the race won by Bruce McLarens’ Cooper T79 from Brabhams’ BT11A (Kevin Drage)

The Intercontinental Brabhams…

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The first of the Intercontinental Brabhams. Jack in BT4 ‘IC-1-62’ on its debut at the Australian Grand Prix, Caversham, WA on 18 November 1962. He retired after colliding with another car whilst lapping him, Bruce McLaren won in a Cooper T62 Climax (Milton McCutcheon)

When Jack started his climb to the top in Europe he returned and raced in Australia each summer, bringing a Cooper with him and racing it successfully, then selling the car to one of the locals before returning to Europe. It was a nice little earner and helped fund his way in Europe as he fought to gain a toehold in international competition.

Cooper sold a lot of cars in Australia, Jacks business brain was as sharp as his cockpit skills so it was natural that some of the earliest Brabham production racing cars were for Australasian Formula Libre and from 1964, the 2.5 Tasman Formula- which in effect meant cars built for Coventry Climax FPF ex-F1 engines- 2.5 litres but increasingly 2.7’s after Jacks successful Indy 500 run in 1961 in the Cooper T54 with its 2751cc FPF engine. The Tasman Formula mandated 2.5’s of course.

Soon Repco were making Climax parts and eventually building the engines in totality under licence in Australia. The bits were plentiful which was just as well as the level of competition was such that the long stroke donks were being pushed well beyond their limits with spectacular blow-ups fairly common.

stillwell lakeside 1963

Bib Stillwell in his BT4 Climax ‘Lakeside International’ 1963, 2.7 FPF powered. 3rd in the race won by John Surtees Lola Mk4A Climax 2.7 (Bruce Wells/The Roaring Season)

The first Intercontinental Brabham, i use that descriptor as that was the chassis prefix for each car (‘IC’), the design intended for the shortlived Intercontinental Formula created in response to the new 1.5 litre F1- was the BT4 based on the first Brabham GP machine, the 1.5 litre Coventry Climax FWMV V8 powered BT3.

The first Brabham, retrospectively referred to as ‘Brabham BT1’, was the MRD, an FJ machine first raced by Gavin Youl with the BT2 an evolution of the MRD/BT1. The Intercontinental cars which followed the BT4 were the BT7A in 1963 and BT11A in 1964, both F1 cars adapted for Climax FPF engines.

Some incredibly talented guys raced the ‘IC’ Brabhams- Internationals such as Brabham, Hulme, Gardner, Hill and Stewart as well as Australian champions including David McKay, Lex Davison, Stillwell, Matich, Spencer Martin, Kevin Bartlett, John Harvey, John McCormack and other drivers in New Zealand and South Africa.

hill and stillwell longford brabhams

Graham Hill ahead of Bib Stillwell, BT4 Climaxes, 1st and 4th. ‘South Pacific Trophy’, Longford March 1964. (Rod MacKenzie)

Jack Brabham won Australian Grands’ Prix in a BT4 and BT7A in 1963 and 1964 respectively. The cars won the Australian Drivers Championship, the ‘Gold Star’ for Stillwell in 1963 and 1964 aboard his BT4, in 1965 with a BT11A and for Spencer Martin, again BT11A mounted in 1966 and 1967.

bib stillwell wf 1965 bt11

Bib Stillwell in his final and successful Gold Star year 1965. BT11A at Warwick Farm. His final year of racing, he had a top year in the car at WF, finishing 4th in the Tasman race albeit behind Matichs’ BT7A in 3rd and 1st in the Hordern Trophy at the end of the year (John Partridge Collection)

The ‘Brabham IC Australian party’ ended in 1968 when Kevin Bartlett won the Gold Star in BT23D/1, a one off car built for Alec Mildren’s Team around Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 2.5 V8’s he secured to add a bit of Italian flavour to the local scene, Mildren was an Alfa Romeo dealer.

The Intercontinental cars were typically fast Tauranac designs of the period. They had rugged spaceframe chassis, suspension by upper and lower wishbones at the front with Armstrong shocks and coil springs. At the rear there was a single upper link, inverted lower wishbone, twin radius rods and coil spring damper units with adjustable sway bars fitted front and rear. With Jack doing all of the initial chassis setup work the cars were quick and chuckable ‘straight out of the box’.

Hewland HD5 gearboxes were used in the main (Colotti in the BT4) and rack and pinion steering completed the package with the cars clad in a slippery fibreglass body.

brabham bt 4 from rear

Bib Stillwells’ Brabham BT4 Lakeside February 1963. 2.7 litre ‘Indy’ 2751cc Coventry Climax FPF engine, 58mm Webers, Colotti T32 5 speed ‘box. Rear of the spaceframe chassis apparent. Suspension- inverted upper wishbone, single lower link and twin radius rods for location, coil spring damper units, no rear roll bar here. Stillwell’s cars famously immaculate in preparation and presentation (Peter Mellor/The Roaring Season)

After Repco’s 2.5 litre Tasman V8 engine made its debut in BT19, Jacks victorious 1966 F1 winning chassis, in 1966 the Tasman Brabhams were variants of the BT23 frame (BT23A and BT23E) with the exception of the very last BT31 for the 1969 series. See Rodway Wolfe’s article about BT31 which he owned for many years; https://primotipo.com/?s=brabham+bt31

Once the 1.5 litre F1 ended in 1965 BRM quickly realised a stretched variant of their P56 V8 in a P261 chassis would be a Tasman winner and ‘their endeth the locals’ in Climax engined cars taking on the Internationals similarly mounted on more or less equal terms.

The Repco Tasman V8’s provided a supply of competitive customer engines for locals so the Tasman Formula continued into 1970 with engines capable of matching the internationals when the ever expanding F1 season and more restrictive driver contracts made eight weeks in January/February in Australasia no longer a proposition for the best in the world. With it went a wonderful decade or so of intense but sporting summer global competition in our backyard.

Those Intercontinental Brabhams were gems though and gave both the international aces and local hot-shots very effective tools with which to strut their stuff, not least Messrs Stillwell and Matich…

matich longford grid 1964

The Matich BT7A being pushed onto the Tasman grid, Longford 1964. Steering is Graham Matich, looking down at the rear is Geoff Smedley. Matich finished 3rd, just in front of Stillwell, Graham Hill won the race in a BT4 (oldracephotos.com)

Tailpiece: Wanna buy a car matey, or a plane?…

bib and jack and bedford

Stillwell and Brabham, rivals and friends in the Longford paddock 1965. They are sitting on Bibs’ Bedford truck, BT11A up above…i doubt Jack sold anyone more cars over the years than he did Bib?! Bib put them to very good use mind you (Kevin Drage)

Frank Matich on dealing with ‘Wily’ Jack Brabham…

http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/halloffame/jack-brabham/frank-matich-on-jack-brabham/

Etcetera…

matich hordern trophy 1964

Matich in his BT7A contesting the ‘Hordern Trophy’ at Warwick Farm in 1964. DNF in the race won by Leo Geoghegan in a Lotus 32 Ford 1.5, a great win for Leo, he and his brother Sydney Lotus dealers, Leo graduated to the ex-Clark Lotus 39 Climax at the end of the 1966 Tasman series (John Ellacott)

matich bt7 longford 1965

The Matich BT7A sitting in the Longford paddock in 1965. DNF with suspension failure in the race won by McLarens’ Cooper T79 Climax. Rear suspension by this stage to BT11A spec (Kevin Drage)

matich magazine

Front page spread in ‘Australian Motor Sports’, no advertising allowed on racing cars in Australia in those days but the colors on the nose of Franks’ Brabham (Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus alongside) are those of ‘Total’ the French oil company who were prominent in Australia at the time, the spread no doubt a ‘cross promotion’ as the modern marketers would call it!

stillwell rcn

‘Racing Car News’ and Stillwell’s Gold Star win in 1964. Brabham BT4 Climax.

Photo and Other Credits…

John Ellacott, Milton McCutcheon, The Roaring Season/Peter Mellor/Bruce Wells, Kevin Drage, Rod MacKenzie, The Nostalgia Forum, Australian Motor Sports, Racing Car News

theroaringseason.com, oldracephotos.com, Ray Bell on The Nostalgia Forum

Tailpiece: Matich, Brabham BT7A, and Graham Hill, red BT11A and Clark, Lotus 32B, ‘Warwick Farm 100’ 1965…

(J Ellacott)

Finito…

 

 

 

 

smedley twin plug FPF

Levin, NZ January 1964 (Smedley)

Geoff Smedley fettles his ‘Twin Plug’ 2.5 Coventry Climax FPF engine fitted to John Youls’ Cooper T55 …

In the late Formula Libre period in Australasia, just before the Tasman Formula commenced on 1 January 1964 the engine of choice was very much the Coventry Climax FPF. In fact the Tasman Formula was specifically designed around the ready availability and price of the 1959/60 World Championship winning 2.5 litre FPF engine to allow the locals to compete against the internationals on more or less equal terms.

Before then (1 January 1964)  ‘the go’ was the 2.7 litre ‘Indy’ FPF, most of the locals and visiting internationals each summer raced with this engine.

But down in Australia’s south, in beautiful Tasmania, a very clever engineer, Geoff Smedley was working on another solution to make the FPF produce more reliable power and torque. His driver was the very quick John Youl, the car an ex-works/Bruce McLaren 1961 F1 Cooper T55. Here is the story in Geoff’s words.

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John Youl cruises thru the Warwick Farm paddock in 1963, Cooper T55 Climax (Smedley)

‘Firstly in 1963 the fad was to re-sleeve the 2.5 Climax to 2.7 litre chasing more hosepower but ‘bigger holes’ was the American way and I was sure a better alternative could be found.

Frank Hallam at Repco Research had been playing around with a twin plug head for one of Brabham’s engines, using two distributors driven from the rear of each cam bank and couldn’t make it work through an inaccurate spark which was put down to windup in the camshafts in the high rev range.

I preferred to stick with a man’s toy, the magneto and two of these more robust spark producers set up properly must be the answer. A total new drive was made up for a second maggy from the crankshaft protruding the front of the sump which allowed comfortable room within the confines of the T55 chassis and the head modified to accommodate a second plug.’

‘1963 saw the end of alcohol fuel for our cars and reverting back to 100 octane caused a few problems leading to the idea of a cleaner more efficient fuel burn. Obviously there are easier methods today but 50 years ago we were still looking in any way we could, without the aid of computers, only perhaps a slide rule and something to write on and a lot of time lost to mistakes but on the occasion when you were successful it was nice being 10ft. tall….’

‘The initial effort seemed rewarding with a test day at Symmons Plains circuit, the result was pleasing and being able to alter each magneto individually the differences were very noticeable.

Living in Tasmania and being able to carry out this work undercover of our opposition (who were based on the Australian mainland) was an advantage, I and my young family were living at Symmons Plains in those days and my workshop was a converted coachouse close to the main homestead where all the chassis work was carried out, but the big advantage I had was having full use of the family workshop (Bedford Machine Tools) where I was able to produce any part required.

The final test for the engine was to take it all to Melbourne and place it on Repco’s dyno at Dandenong to test the result. We were met by Frank Hallam who was very dubious about the whole thing, but some 4 hours later he confessed that our 2.5 Climax had shown better figures than any previous Climax including the fashionable 2.7 litre. The horsepower was up but more importantly the torque figures were so much improved. Those days of satisfaction have melted into oblivion and all that is left is a lot of frustrated old farts that look back and remember when….!!!!’

smedley fpf on dyno

The Smedley twin plug, twin magneto engine being being tested on the Repco Research dyno in November 1963. The engine reverts to ‘standard’ by replacement of the standard CC sump. (Smedley)

Racing the Cooper T55 twin-plug FPF…

‘Gosh! It’s hard to believe more than 54 years have passed since those heady days but it doesn’t seem that long,  but as mentioned I have been pressured into writing my autobiography which has meant scratching back over the coals to bring those great times back to life again and starting with taking the land speed record way back in 1961’.

We will trouble Geoff for that story, achieved by Geoff’s Chev engined Cooper T51 owned and driven by Austin Miller, another time.

‘I went to work for John Youl in 1962 and stayed with him until his retirement in ’65, we had a lot of fun as a team being able to work here in Tassie so privately and then  going to the mainland where the car would be pounced on and inspected for the sign of any tinkering’s that may help our opposition! So in that respect it was always a lot of fun and yes the duel ignition trick really did work wonders on the old FPF engine’.

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John Youl and Geoff Smedley aboard the Cooper T55 ‘twin-plug’ for a debut win- on the victory lap after winning the ‘Advertiser Trophy’ Gold Star round at Mallala, South Australia in October 1963. John won from the 2.7 litre Brabham BT4 Climax of Bib Stillwell and Wally Mitchell’s Brabham BT1 Ford 1100 (Smedley)

‘Now the very first race for this new configuration was the Gold Star Race at Mallala, South Australia on the 14th October 1963 which we won from Bib Stillwell and Wally Mitchell. Then came the Hordern Trophy Race at the ‘Farm on 1st December 1963, we won that one as well from David McKay and Bill Patterson’.

‘Then it was off to New Zealand for the 1964 Tasman Series.

In that series of races we came back with (in heats and championship races) one 1st, two seconds including Lakeside, two thirds including Sandown and fourth’s at Levin, Wigram and in the New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe behind Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Tim Mayer. We were fifth at Longford in the final round’.

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Levin form up area for the very first Tasman Championship race on 4 January 1964. Youl’s #5 Cooper T55 Climax, the two Cooper T70’s of McLaren #1 and Tim Mayer and then the victor, Denny Hulme’s works Brabham BT4 Climax. Mayer was 2nd, McLaren 3rd and Youl 4th (Smedley)

‘Prior to all this, we, like others using the Jack Knight gearbox on their Coopers, found the crown wheel and pinion was the big weakness and only 2-3 races seemed to be their life span. So i set about making 2 sets myself as I fortunately had access to the family business’s machine shop. The first set of these was fitted to the gearbox just prior to fitting the duel ignition system’.

‘This new CWP was straight cut but considerably stronger using a much higher grade steel than the original. Although a little noisy at first, it soon settled down by fitting a separate oiling system. The same CWP was in the car when John sold it to Arnold Glass in 1965.

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John Youl, Cooper T55 Climax at Mount Maunganui, NZ, December 1963 (Fistonic)

‘The car, then around 1967, I think- Cooper T55 Chassis No. F1/11/61 was sold to a collector in the USA and years later in the nineties the car was sent to England to be auctioned. I have found it there in photos sitting in the pits in places such as Goodwood and the like’.

‘The car is back today in its original form being Bruce McLaren’s  1961 works car it looks great and I have no idea but it could still have the twin plug motor in it, who knows!’

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Smedley with his charge, note the comments about the gearbox in the text, twin plug 2.5 FPF fitted, Longford Tasman 1964 (Smedley)

 Etcetera…

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‘The card was drawn up by John Youl himself as a record of the T55 during his period of ownership’- Geoff Smedley

The shot below is of Youl jumping from second grid slot away from McLaren #10 on pole, Tony Maggs #3 and John Surtees #2, as well as Bib Stillwell in the light blue Brabham BT4 and Chris Amon’s red Cooper T53- its the start of the Lakeside International on 17 February 1963.

McLaren, in a Cooper T62 the two Lola Mk4A pilots Maggs and Surtees and Bib were all driving the latest cars with 2.7 FPF’s, Youl was in a 1961 car, his Cooper T55 with a 2.5 FPF, not Smedley’s twin-plug engine either. Surtees won from Graham Hill’s Ferguson P99 and Stillwell. Youl retired on lap 7 that day.

Its such a shame ‘duty called’ with John Youl, he needed to manage the families large grazing properties in Tasmania, so his racing career was ended way before it should have. For sure he was a driver of world class, as indeed was Smedley as an engineer/mechanic.

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(Smedley)

Special Thanks…

Geoff Smedley, many thanks for this very special account of an interesting engineering obscurity which should be more widely known

Credits…

Geoff Smedley Collection, Milan Fistonic, oldracingcars.com

Tailpiece: John Youl, Cooper T55 Climax in the Levin form up area, January 1964…

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Car #4 is Chris Amon in a Reg Parnell Lola Mk4A Climax, perhaps Denny Hulme’s Brabham alongside him (Smedley)

 

mayer goodwood

Bruce McLaren tested the first of these Cooper T70 chassis at Goodwood in October 1963, lapping in 1:20.5 seconds with an engine well past its best, fiddling with tyre pressures and spring rates. The date of Tim’s test is unclear. Note the Bruce McLaren Motor Racing logo/sticker attached to the cockpit (Getty)

Tim Mayer sizes up the cockpit of  his new Tasman Cooper T70, full of optimism having just tested the car at Goodwood, October 1963…

Tim Mayer is one of motor racing’s many ‘might-have-beens’, cut down in his prime in a Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd Tasman Cooper T70 Climax at Longford, Tasmania on 28 February 1964.

The young American made a huge impact in Australasia during his 1964 tour and is remembered in very fond terms by enthusiasts fortunate enough to see him race the big GP Cooper here.

This article was inspired by John Ellacott’s color shot at Warwick Farm in the body of this article and some Getty Archive photos I tripped over researching something else. Other layers of personal interest are a growing obsession with Longford and that one of my mates, Adam Berryman, restored and owns one of the two Cooper T70 chassis.

I hadn’t intended to explore each chassis in this article but the level of interest created online makes it important to provide this summary of each of the two chassis and their destiny, the details are courtesy of oldracingcars.com and Adam Berryman. Here goes…

Tim raced ‘FL-1-64’ at Levin, Pukekohe, Wigram, Teretonga and Sandown. Bruce decided to swap cars with Tim at Warwick Farm, racing ‘FL-1-64’ at Warwick Farm, Lakeside and Longford.

McLaren raced ‘FL-2-64’ from the Tasman’s commencement at Levin, Pukekohe 1st NZ GP, Wigram 1st, Teretonga 1st and Sandown. Tim raced ‘FL-2-64’ at Warwick Farm, Lakeside and at Longford when it was destroyed in practice.

For his 1965 Tasman campaign Bruce returned with a new Cooper T79 for himself, only one was built, it was tagged ‘FL-1-65’.

‘FL-1-64’, the surviving 1964 chassis raced as above was updated and used very competitively in the ’65 Tasman by 1961 World Champion, Phil Hill. In fact the series was his last in single-seaters. When updated the perfectly good, ‘FL-1-64’ tagged frame was re-tagged with the ‘FL-2-64’ plate off the frame destroyed by Mayer at Longford. This was done at Coopers with the consent of all concerned; John Cooper, McLaren, Teddy Mayer.

It is this chassis, ‘FL-1-64’ now tagged ‘FL-2-64’ which raced on in Australia ‘in period’ by John McDonald and was later acquired by Richard Berryman, and upon his untimely death passed to his son Adam.

Simple isn’t it!

Far from it in fact. The details were only unravelled when Adam Berryman met Wally Willmott, who built the T70’s with Bruce at Coopers, all those years ago. As part of the rigorous process of Berryman getting the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport historic ‘Certificate of Description’ to race the car, the history of  the two chassis was clarified as a result of information shared and debated between Berryman, Doug Nye, (who wrote ‘Cooper Cars’) Willmott and Bryan Miller, the CAMS Historic Eligibility Commission Chairman.

Further detail on each chassis i will cover in an article on the T70’s.

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Bruce in #47 and Tim in the Pukekohe paddock 1964, wonderful shot captures the relaxed atmosphere of this demanding circuit (Getty)

Bruce went on to win the inaugural, 1964 Tasman Series with a fighting second place behind Graham Hill’s Scuderia Veloce Brabham BT4 Climax at Longford, the series final round He won by 6 points from Jack Brabham’s BT7A and Denny Hulme’s Brabham BT4.

Tim’s accident took place during the Friday afternoon practice session. He was keen to do well of course, racing amongst F1 champions Hill and Brabham, GP winner McLaren as well as host of aspirants; Frank Matich, John Youl, Tony Shelly, Jim Palmer, Greg Cusack, Frank Gardner, Dave Walker and others.

Longford’s 4.5 high-speed miles of undulating, tree and telephone pole lined roads with culverts was completed with a railway crossing, two bridges, a railway viaduct and more. Its blend of Tasmanian roads and topography was unforgiving to say the least. It had many nuances, younger drivers needed miles there to appreciate them. Neither Mayer or fellow Cooper pilot Rocky Tresise, a year later, learned the subtleties of the place and paid the ultimate price as a consequence. Undoubtedly it was a circuit to attack only after deep familiarity.

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Bruce in front of Tim in the Puke paddock, the other Cooper #8 is the very fast and reliable, several years old T55 of Taswegian John Youl. McLaren won the NZGP from Brabham’s BT7A, Ron and Jack’s latest ‘Intercontinental’ tool, and Mayer who was 26 seconds adrift of his team-leader. Cockpit very tight especially for the lanky American, note Bruce’s mini-dashboard to which the essential three Smiths instruments are affixed; tach, oil press, and oil and water temps (Getty)

I asked multiple Australian Gold Star Champion, Taswegian John McCormack if he raced his ex-Brabham BT4 Climax there, ‘I drove there, I wouldn’t say that I raced that first time though’ was John’s typically candid response.

Needless to say these cars were far from ‘safe’; they were of multi-tubular spaceframe construction and had no deformable structures other than the aluminium saddle tanks carrying plenty of Avgas…The 2.5 Coventry Climax 4 potter gave 235 powerful horses, the cars did better than 160mph on ‘The Flying Mile’, more than quick at a place like this. A ‘big one’ was all too often the drivers last in cars of this ilk.

Mayer was on the ‘back section of the track, on the fateful lap. He had completed pit straight, then headed down hill, traversed the left-hand, blind entry left, right Viaduct and crossed the River Esk on Kings Bridge. He was on Union Straight which leads to Longford/Pub Corner, a 90 degree right hander. Tim was using a tall top gear doing better than 160.

The tricky bit of the circuit here, important for lap times was to fly the hump before Longford Corner; critical was landing square and braking almost immediately upon landing but not being too savage on the brakes to avoid giving the car a big fright whilst it was relatively unstable.

The landing was the problem in this case. Perhaps the car landed badly due to wind or being lined up poorly, or perhaps Tim braked too hard before the Cooper had settled enough back onto its springs, either way it was all over in the blink of an eye. ‘The Cooper slewed sideways into a 15ft plane tree. The car split into two; Tim was thrown 50 yards to the other side of the road, instantly breaking his neck’ recounts Barry Green in ‘Longford: The Fast Track Back’.

Eoin Young in his report in the April 1964 ‘Motor Racing’ said ‘…Mayers Cooper landed slightly offline just before the right-angled right-hander at the hotel, and slewed sideways into a a tree…’

‘Sports Car World’ reported that ‘Apparently (always a worry when a report says this!) Mayer became airborne off the hump after Kings Bridge. The car landed slightly sideways, Mayer caught it, but the two left hand wheels had got into the dirt. The car then slid into a plane tree and disintegrated throwing Mayer out’. I don’t wish to labour the point but rather use three contemporary reports to look at their similarity and differences, it does not change the result but the actual cause will never precisely be known.

Tim’s death directly lead, as most of you know, to his manager brother Teddy Mayer’s involvement as a shareholder/director of Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd. Tyler Alexander was part of Mayer’s Tasman crew too, both he and Teddy were huge contributors to the phenomenal McLaren success which followed over the ensuing decade. In that sense, something positive became of the terrible events all those years ago, without in any way trying to make light of Tim’s demise.

Long Weekend at Longford…

Checkout this amazing short documentary on the ’64 Longford carnival. There is some in car footage which superbly illustrates the difficulties of the track, inclusive of the area where Tim came to grief.

 

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Mayer in the Goodwood paddock. The T70 was built in Coopers workshops but was Bruce’ project and conceptual design, designed for 100 mile Tasman events, rather than the GP cars he had previously taken home to the Antipodes. Its now said to be ‘the first McLaren’. The T70 was entirely conventional with spaceframe chassis albeit very narrow for the time, 25 inches wide cockpit, to slip through the air nicely. Front suspension was by upper and lower wishbones and coil spring/damper units with anti-dive geometry, and single top link, lower wishbone with a single top radius rod for fore and aft location. The Coventry Climax FPF 4 potter was at its 2.5 litre GP capacity, down from the 2.7’s widely used during the pre-Tasman F Libre years, output circa 235bhp. The gearbox was a Colotti Type 21 5 speed in ‘FL-2-64’ and Cooper 6 speed in Tim’s ‘FL-1-64’ . This Colotti T21 was famous at McLaren/Cooper’s as the most used gearbox ever having started life in Tommy Atkins Cooper, was then used in the T70 and then later in the Cooper/Zerex Oldsmobile. Fuel tankage comprised 8 gallons under the seat and smaller side tanks either side of the drivers knees holding a total of 7 gallons (Getty)

The editor of New Zealand’s ‘Motorman’ magazine, Donn Anderson wrote this tribute to Tim Mayer soon after his death. This contemporary piece has a wonderful intimacy and familiarity about it written by a journalist upon whom Tim Mayer clearly made a big impact as both a young racer and as a man. It has far more validity than anything any of us can pen ‘from 50 years afar’…

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Mayer, Sandown 1964, ‘FL-1-64’. He was 2nd to Brabham when he started to have fuel feed problems and was overhauled in the last stages by Stillwell and Youl to finish 4th, Brabham won (autopics)

‘Scholar Journalist and Sportsman…Tim Mayer’…

‘It is so very hard to write an appreciation of one who was more than just another racing driver to us. Tim Mayer was a newcomer to international racing and although we knew him for only five weeks in New Zealand, it was not difficult to make an accurate appraisal of the 26-year-old American.

His death during a practice session for the final round of the Tasman Championship at the Longford circuit in Tasmania on February 28 was a sudden shock to many. Twelve months ago he was practically unknown and even of late his appearance to some was much of a novelty.

Tim was not the ‘boy’s book’ ideal of a racing driver. He looked more the university or law student figure and, indeed, he did have a very sound education. Tall and slender – 6 foot and 145 lbs – Timmy was married in 1961 to charming Garril.

He was born to a wealthy family in Pennsylvania, and it soon became obvious that he was talented in both studying and athletic fields. Some six years ago he went to his first motor race at Sebring with a cousin and was immediately taken in with the sport. He entered his first race in an Austin Healey in 1959. ‘It was wet and I was very much a newcomer to motor racing,’ Tim told The Motorman recently. ‘I spun trying to change gears down a straight!’ The young driver competed in 5 of 13 national races that initial year with the Healey and finished fourth in the national class standings

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Mayer Pukekohe, small size of the car accentuated by the way Tim sits out of it! T70 chassis # FL-1-64 (Getty)

Even then Timmy was backed and assisted by his brother, Teddy, who has accompanied him throughout his career with cars. Of his early racing he says it was mostly ‘crash, burn and try to learn.’ For 1960 Tim had a new Lotus 18 junior and in eight races he was second five times. The car was wrecked when Timmy ran into a horse barn at Louisville, thus bringing the year’s racing to an end. At that meeting he met Dr Frank Falkner, Cooper’s agent in the U.S., who was to help the young American. By the age of 22 Tim had a degree in English literature from Yale University but it was time for the two-year army stint.

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The Long and The Short of It: Tim in the shades at rear and Teddy in between the well nourished lads at Cumberland in 1962. Teddy’s flair for team management was clear early on; ‘Revem Racing’ ran Tim, Peter Revson and Bill Smith in FJ in ’62. Tim WAS fast and Teddy managed his brother well (unattributed)

Of his first run in a single-seater Tim said: ‘I had overturned the Lotus 18 within 10 minutes of driving the thing and finished hanging upside down strapped in with my seat belt. Everyone uses belts, even for open cars, in the States, so when I went to Europe it took a while to become used to not being tied in.’

Tim was able to continue pursuing his desire to become a top-line driver in the army, however, as the officers appreciated the value of a quick corporal at motor race meetings. He used an FJ Cooper and while based in Puerto Rico was able to race almost every weekend in many parts of the country.

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Tim Mayer Cooper T59 Ford from Peter Revson in a similar car, first and second. #106 Bill Smith Lotus 20 Ford. ‘Jaycees Cup’ Cumberland Airport, Maryland 13 May 1962.Tim won the US FJ Championship in 1962 from Floyd Aaskov and Walt Hansgen, Revvie was 5th, Augie Pabst 6th and Mark Donohue and Roger Penske equal 9th In 1963 Teddy (and Bruce?) introduced Tim to Ken Tyrrell who ran him in a handful of European and British BARC FJ Championship rounds in a Cooper T67 BMC, not the engine of choice at all. Even tho the season was well over, the contenders dialled into their cars, to say the least, Tim was in amongst the top 6 Cosworth engine cars.  Mayer’s European FJ campaign comprised a fast blast through France in mid-year, he contested the GP de Rouen, Coupe International de Vitesse des Juniors, the FJ support race during the French GP weekend at Reims and Trophee d’Auvergne at Clermont Ferrand on June 23, 30 and July7 respectively. At each meeting he was ‘first in the BMC Class’ in 7th,8th and 4th in his Tyrrell Cooper T67, the races won by the Ford powered Brabham BT6’s of Paul Hawkins, Denny Hulme and Jo Schlesser. The BARC British championship leader board that year included amongst its Top 13 Peter Arundell, Denny Hulme, Frank Gardner, Richard Attwood, David Hobbs, Paul Hawkins, Mike Spence, Alan Rees, Peter Procter, John Rhodes and Brian Hart amongst others, Tim was 13th with a point. That he shone through in a tiny number of races amongst this lot says a lot! (unattributed)

The big break came in 1962 when he was acclaimed the most improved and outstanding driver of the year. With a brand new Cooper junior he won the United States SCCA Formula Junior Championship. These results landed him an entry in the US Grand Prix with a third car owned by the Cooper works. He was the fastest of the privateers in practice but the gear lever came unstuck during the race.

Last year Tim was off to Europe to join the Ken Tyrrell racing team. Although the Cooper Juniors were down on power compared with the Lotus Fords, he was able to gain much experience all over England and Europe. ‘There is much more competition in Europe compared with the States. Formula Junior racing in Europe is like Russian roulette. The BMC engines were outdated and if we finished fourth or fifth we were doing well. The Cooper had little power but fantastic cornering – superior to the Lotus.’

He crashed during the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood in 1963 after a brake caliper broke and suffered a badly twisted neck, and he also had a bad shunt at Silverstone. Driving his own 2.7-litre Cooper Monaco, Tim was third to Penske and Salvadori at the international Brands Hatch meeting last year. He also had a number of races with Cooper’s Minis. “I had a lot of fun with Sir John Whitmore – he must be the second best known driver in the U.S. next to Clark

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Tim Mayer Pukekohe (Getty)

At Riverside last year he led the 2-litre class with a new Lotus 23B until heat forced his retirement, but he won his class and finished 5th overall at Laguna Seca.

He was made two Christmas presents – a drive with one of the McLaren Coopers in the Australasian series, and number two man in the Cooper works formula one team for 1964.

When Tim first drove the 2.5 he found it a different kettle of fish to the juniors. ‘With the little cars you have no power to get out of trouble.’ So Tim, Garril, Teddy and mechanic Tyler Alexander came south to New Zealand with the McLaren team – and they won many friends. He was second at Levin, took third place at Pukekohe, but had trouble at Wigram and couldn’t do any better than 8th position. At Invercargill he finished second to his team-mate and was fourth in the Australian GP after losing second position with fuel trouble. He was third at Warwick Farm.

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Mayer, ‘Warwick Farm 100’ 16 February 1964, Homestead Corner, T70 ‘FL-2-64’ : Tim qualified just behind Bruce at The Farm, his first time at the highly technical circuit. Peter Windsor on his blog ‘…clearly remembers Timmy biffing the back of Bruce’s Cooper…on the opening lap at Creek Corner. Team leader nudged by his number 2! Both raced on though and finished 2nd and 3rd (Jack won in his BT7A by 4 tenths of a second from Bruce with Tim 10 seconds adrift-not bad in this company on that track, familiar turf to the other two blokes)…I watched them all afternoon. Timmy was always fast, always aggressive punching the throttle out of Creek (corner, a hairpin), applying the opposite lock with crisp precision. Bruce by comparison, was only slightly more fluid. Timmy, clearly was fast’ was Windsor’s conclusion (John Ellacott)

Consistent placings resulted in the American driver finishing third on points in the New Zealand races for the Tasman Championship, behind McLaren and Hulme, with 16 points.

Timmy – the nephew of Governor Scranton of Pennsylvania – had a real American outlook to motor racing: he wanted to go to the top. He was perhaps fortunate in having financial means to purchase the best machinery during his early career, but he also developed the ability to handle same. Money cannot buy driving skill.

From his ‘varsity days when he worked as a disc jockey on radio stations he was a keen journalist and wrote for a number of publications.

Not only was Timmy a fine driver and scholar: he was also an enthusiastic athlete. Water skiing, squash and other activities were the order of the day in New Zealand when other business was cleared.

He was genuinely interested in motor racing, no matter where. He spoke to me at length on the unfortunate situation of import duty and restrictions in this country and said it must stifle the sport here. ‘An FJ Cooper can be imported into the States for less than 1200 pounds, whereas it costs more than twice that here.’

Wherever the Mayers went in this country they gained respect. Tim, with his broad accent, was a fine ambassador for his country and a true enthusiast. There was always time to talk to anyone – no matter how small they were on the circuit, or how insignificant their name might be.

Quiet, unassuming, and not likely to be noticed in a crowd of drivers, Timmy Mayer left his mark in this country. It would seem very cruel that we should lose a fine driver who had come so far in such a short time. We pay tribute to Tim Mayer and his kin, Garril and Teddy who helped him so much in the sport he loved’.

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Garril and Tim Mayer at Warwick Farm 1964, T70 ‘FL-2-64’ (autopics)

 

McLaren himself spoke of Mayer in the Autosport column he wrote together with journalist Eoin Young;

‘Intelligent and charming, Timmy had made dozens of friends during his career.  As often occurs, to look at him you wouldn’t take him for a racing driver.  You had to know him, to realize his desire to compete, to do things better than the next man, be it swimming, water-skiing or racing.

So when, during second practice at Longford, he crashed at high speed and we knew immediately that it was bad, in our hearts we felt that he had been enjoying himself and ‘having a go’.

The news that he died instantly was a terrible shock to all of us.  But who is to say that he had not seen more, done more and learned more in his 26 years than many people do in a lifetime?

It is tragic, particularly for those left.  Plans half-made must now be forgotten and the hopes must be rekindled.  Without men like Tim, plans and hopes mean nothing.To do something well is so worthwhile that to die trying to do it better cannot be foolhardy.  I can’t say these things well, but I know this is what I feel to be true.  It would be a waste of life to do nothing with one’s ability.  Life is measured in terms of achievement, not in years alone.’

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Love this casual shot on the Teretonga grid, T70 ‘FL-1-64’. Famously the most southern circuit on the planet. Tyler Alexander and Tim await the off. It was a great race for ‘Team McLaren’ with Bruce over the line by a tenth of a second from Tim with Kiwi Jim Palmer 3rd in a Cooper T53. That Tim was quick was undeniable, his pace in these big, fast GP cars was immediate (Alexander)

Bibliography…

Article by Donn Anderson in the April 1964 issue of New Zealand’s ‘Motorman’ magazine, oldracingcars.com, The Nostalgia Forum, Stephen Dalton, Ray Bell, Bryan Miller

Credits…

John Ellacott, Getty Images, oldracingcars.com, Tyler Alexander, autopics.com, Stephen Dalton Collection, Euan Sarginson

Etcetera…

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Tim Mayer chats to some young enthusiasts/admirers at Levin (Sarginson/Dalton)

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Tim all loaded up in the T70, chatting with Kiwi international, Tony Shelly ‘adopted’ by the Davison’s as Ray Bell put it, complete with one of Lex Davison’s ‘Ecurie Australie’ tops Pukekohe 1964 (Getty)

 Tailpiece

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Tim Mayer Goodwood, October 1963. Trying to jam his lanky frame into the confines of a car designed around Bruce’ more compact dimensions! Which chassis?, i’m not game to guess! (Getty)