Posts Tagged ‘Alfa Romeo P3’

Doug Whiteford, Ford V8 Spl leads Lex Davison, Alfa Romeo P3 early in the Vintage Festival Championship, Nuriootpa April 1949 (SLSA)

South Australia’s Barossa Valley, 75 km north of Adelaide is one of the states great wine producing areas.

32 km long and 8 km wide it includes the towns of Lyndoch, Tanunda, Greenock, Seppeltsfield, Angaston and just to its north-west, Nuriootpa.

Somewhat unique in Australia, large numbers of Germans settled in the Adelaide Hills and surrounding areas from the 1840s planting some of the earliest grapevines in the country.

By 1949 the Barossa had 22,000 acres of vines producing 60% of the total South Australian Vintage. Keen to maintain some of the cultural traditions of the old world, in 1947 community leaders organised a festival similar to those held in the Rhine Valley at vintage time, to foster a greater sense of community, raise funds for charitable causes and have fun!

The climax of the two day 22-23 April 1949 celebration was a carnival at Tanunda with dancing sideshows, a draught-horse derby and barbeques of three 600 pound bullocks! Not to forget motor racing…

1949 Festival program

 

Greenock float heading past the Nuriootpa Community Hotel during the 1948 Festival (Advertiser)

 

Nuriootpa circuit map. In terms of the narrative below, the start/finish is in the top right corner

South Australia hosted Australian Grands Prix at coastal Victor Harbor (correct spelling) in December 1936 and on the daunting Adelaide Hills, Lobethal roller-coaster road course in January 1939, Nuriootpa was chosen as the 1950 venue.

In that sense the Vintage Festival race meeting was a ‘warm up’ for the organisers and racers alike- the Nuri road course was only used on those two occasions seven months apart.

Some maps make the track appear a simple square layout around the town but the more detailed drawing above shows the flat 3.1 mile/4.98 km course to be not quite so easy, whilst not on the same planet of difficulty as Lobethal.

The start line was on the Penrice Road/Research Road corner with cars heading clockwise- the top right corner of the map above, the paddock was on parkland on the outside of this corner.

Racers headed down the straight for a fast run into the double-right hand ‘Atze’s Corner’ and then onto Railway Terrace- gently to the right, then a short straight, then a quick left before another hard application of brakes for ‘Tolleys Corner’- the intersection of Railway Terrace and Nuriootpa’s main drag- Tanunda Road/Murray Street.

There the cars kicked away with parklands on the left, gently left over a wooden bridge to clear the North Para River before heading straight- going past the shops then more hard braking for another right-hander at the Penrice Road intersection.

Exiting, the cars gently curved left and gently right before another straight section past the finish line just before the Penrice Road/Research Road intersection and then another lap…

Bill Patterson, MG TC Spl s/c. Plod on this side, St Johns Ambos on the inside. Probably, as many of these shots are, the intersection of Murray Street and Penrice Road- Bill is entering Penrice for the run to the finish line (HTSA)

 

Harry Neale’s Ford V8 Spl at left and Jim Gullan, Ballot Oldsmobile on the right (HTSA)

34 cars and 46 motorcycles entered the meeting, no doubt the poor entry of cars was a function of the traditional Easter fixture at Mount Panorama which took place the weekend before.

Top guns at Bathurst were Lex Davison’s 1934 GP Alfa Romeo P3, Frank Kleinig’s legendary Kleinig Hudson Spl, Bill McLachlan’s Mackellar Spl (Bugatti T37A Ford V8) and Jack Murray’s Day Special (Bugatti T39 Ford V8). The feature event, the 25 lap All Powers Handicap, was won by Arthur Rizzo’s Riley Spl from Curley Brydon, MG TC and Kleinig.

Bathurst contestants who made the trip to South Australia included Davison, Tony Gaze, HRG and Bill Patterson, MG TC Spl s/c.

The Davison and Patterson crews had barely 24 hours to give their cars a tickle in Melbourne before loading up again for the 750 km trip on the Western Highway to the Barossa.

Tony Gaze had an amazing couple of weeks- he drove the HRG from Melbourne to Bathurst, raced it to fifth in the All Powers Handicap feature race won by Rizzo, then drove to Nuriootpa, raced it again for a couple of third places and finally drove it back to Melbourne!

Lex’ machine had misbehaved at Bathurst- he had braking problems, nor would the exotic 2.9 litre twin-cam straight-eight reach maximum revs. Patterson didn’t start his events at Mount Panorama so his boys in Ringwood no doubt had a busy night as well.

Other entries included plenty of MGs- John Nind’s TB Spl, plus four South Australians in TC’s of varying specification- David Harvey, Ron Kennedy, Steve Tillet and Harold Clisby- the prodigiously talented, intuitive, eccentric engineer of 1.5 litre Clisby V6 F1 race engine fame, and much, much more who was making his race debut.

John Crouch raced another HRG, Ken Wylie his clever, fast Austin A40 Spl s/c, Eldred Norman ran his Ford Double-8 Spl- which as the name suggests was powered by two Ford V8’s. Later driver of that car, Harry Neale entered his Ford V8 Spl and Les Robinson the ex-Segrave/Hope Bartlett 1922 GP Sunbeam Ford V8 Spl.

Jim Gullan brought from Melbourne his quick Ballot Oldsmobile Spl with close mate Doug Whiteford there to race his legendary Ford V8 Ute based special ‘Black Bess’- a combination which would win the AGP at Nuri seven months hence.

Lex’ Alfa landed in Australia in February 1948, he was still getting the hang of the car without too many circuits upon which to race it at the time. Theoretically it was the fastest car in the country- in reality Alf Barrett’s older Alfa Monza was the quicker combination but the Armadale blue-blood was at the end of his career at 38, ‘retiring’ in 1948 whereas the 26 year old Lilydale blue-blood was just at the start of his long, distinguished career.

Interestingly, Davo’s car was being looked after by later four-time Gold Star champion Bib Stillwell who, at 22, had commenced his first retail and repair automotive business in partnership with respected, experienced, ten years older than Bib, Derry George in January 1949.

‘Magnette Motors’, or more commonly ‘Stillwell & George’ operated from 121 Cotham Road, Kew, a building owned by Bib’s mother- it was the start of Stillwell’s motor businesses which occupied this and adjoining sites into the 2000s. George learned his craft with Reg Nutt and before that legendary outfit A.F Hollins in Armadale, who would ultimately prepare Lex’s cars with great success upon the recommendation of Tony Gaze.

Australian racing events were mainly run to handicaps at this stage. Bill Patterson’s marvellous Reg Nutt/Doug Whiteford built, Bob Baker bodied MG TC Spl s/c was half a chance. Whiteford’s ‘Black Bess’, continually developed by the talented and driven racer/engineer since it first appeared in 1939 was a well known combination to the handicappers, his challenge would be greater.

Jim Gullan commented about how little time there was to practice and had the opposite braking problem to Davison- his anchors were too good!

With the assistance of Jack Pearce at Paton Brake Replacements (P.B.R. later the Repco Brake Company) Jim and Doug Whiteford had been supplied with a new braking package which comprised light commercial drums, aluminium brake shoe castings copied from Jim’s Ballot, aluminium backing plates and large wire air-scoops which looked great and were no doubt a wonderful psyche!

Gullan found his new brakes so powerful that ‘they were bending the chassis, making the car almost unsteerable on the rough Nuriootpa roads. The only thing to do was to apply them gently.’

Jim Gullan, Ballot Olds in front of a group shortly after the start of the over 1500cc Vintage Festival Championship scratch- #2 Bill Wilcox, Dodge Spl, #11 Harry Neale, Ford V8 Spl then #2 folks and in the dust behind, Robinson’s GP Sunbeam Spl (J Gullan Collection)

 

Davison now in front of Whiteford in their Vintage Festival Championship tussle- from Murray Street and into Penrice Road (HTSA)

A crowd estimated at 30,000 people attended Sunday raceday, the final day of the carnival to see a six event program- it was fine and warm, good conditions for racing.

The lack of practice Gullan commented on was because practice was scheduled to start on raceday at 6 am but there were still revellers from the night before in Murray Street, so the circuit didn’t open until 6.40 am and was then made over to the bikies at 8 am.

The only incidents were spinners John Crouch and John Nind- who bent his front axle in the process.

Whilst the 48 mile, 8 lap Barossa Valley Handicap was nominally the feature event, the Vintage Festival Championship scratch race for the over 1500cc cars was probably the thriller of the day with a wonderful scrap between Davison and Whiteford.

Contrary to modern practice, the fastest cars started from the back of the grid. Whiteford’s Black Bess made the best start, then came Gullan, Ballot Olds, Davison’s P3 and Harry Neale in his Ford V8 Spl.

He was followed by Melburnian Bill Wilcox in the Gullan designed Dodge Special- a Dodge six-cylinder engine and Lancia gearbox clad in a sexy Bob Baker built body of Mercedes Benz GP style, and then Mount Gambier’s Les Robinson in the GP Sunbeam Ford V8.

During lap 2 Davo passed Gullan and ranged up behind Whiteford, Wilcox was close to Neale but behind Robinson.

It took Davison 3 laps to get past the hard driven Bess, which was not as quick in a straight line as the Alfa (Davo did 144 mph on Conrod aboard the P3 in 1949 whilst Doug did 121 mph in Bess in 1950) but stopped better and had Doug’s cornering brio- and then stay ahead of Whiteford. Positions then remained the same to the end of the race, Davison won from Whiteford, Gullan, Neale and Robinson.

Graham Howard wrote that Davison’s win was an important milestone, it was his first victory after only two and a half years racing, discounting a ‘club level’ win on the grass at Nar-Nar-Goon in Victoria.

Davison in front of Whiteford in Nuriootpa village- Murray Street into Penrice Road corner (HTSA)

 

Ken Wylie, Austin A40 Special s/c (1250cc) on the Murray/Penrice corner- note the ever present, cast iron/concrete ‘Stobie’ poles distinctive to South Australia. Lex Davison famously bent one of these whilst destroying wife Diana’s MG TC Spl at Lobethal in January 1948- and lived, a bit bruised, to tell the tale! (HTSA)

The car racing program opened with the Motors Ltd Championship under 1500cc scratch event over 8 laps, 24 miles.

Crouch’s HRG led for the first lap- Patterson spun with the Tillet and Harvey TCs, Gaze’ HRG and Ken Wylie, Austin A40 Spl coming through in a bunch.

Patterson worked through to the front, overcoming his spin and led from Crouch and Wylie- then Wylie passed Crouch and set the fastest lap of the race, and came to within 12 seconds of Patterson but the Wylies and Gaze cars faded with overheating, the latter having lost its fanbelt.

Patterson won from Crouch, Gaze, Wylie- then Tillett, Kennedy and Harvey having a ball in their TCs then R Head, Riley Spl and I Jackson, GN.

John Crouch had a good year, he won the 1949 Australian Grand Prix that September in his ex-John Snow Delahaye 135CS on the Leyburn ex-RAAF base runways in Queensland- he was 5 minutes ahead of the pursuers led by Ray Gordon’s MG TC Spl.

Tony Gaze would soon return to the UK, having had a distinguished flying career during the war, to say the least, for the ‘serious’ part of his racing career in Europe. Jim Gullan and his wife Christine joined Tony and Kaye Gaze for the early part of that trip, 1951- an interesting story for another time.

In the Barossa Valley Handicap 16 lap feature, Bill Patterson won off 4 minutes 25 seconds.

The cars initially ran in handicap order with Head, Clisby and Ravdell Ford A Model Spl s/c early retirements. After 8 laps Keith Rilstone led in a Morris Minor from the Howard Austin Ulster then the MGs of Tillett, Kennedy and Ohlmeyer (TA).

Patterson was past Crouch, Harvey and Wilcox whilst Davison passed the Ford Double-Eight driven by Eldred Norman- ‘…while Norman was out on the dirt passing Harvey, Davison was dancing from one side of the road to the other, behind them, shaking his fist in search of an opening, Nuvolari style’ AMS reported.

Jim Gullan passed Tony Gaze whose car was boiling, with Patterson taking the lead on lap 14- at this point Rilstone was second from Tillett, Kennedy and Howard.

With 2 of the 16 laps to run Patto had consolidated his lead whilst Tillett was within striking distance of the Rilstone Morris then Wilcox, Dodge and Howard, Austin.

Doug Whiteford only gets a mention towards the end of the AMS report but consistent laps in the 2 minute 30 second mark saw him finish fourth behind the top three- Patterson, Tillett and Wilcox. Kennedy’s TC was fifth, then Gullan, the Crouch HRG, Rilstone, Ohlmeyer’s TA, R Howard’s Austin Ulster, the Harvey TC, Harry Neale’s Ford V8 Spl and the Nind TB Spl.

Bill Patterson first raced a modified MG TC before switching to his new racer (below) which was built in late 1948- he first competed in it at Rob Roy in January 1949, so the Sports Car Club of South Australia handicappers did not have much to work with in the way of results, always handy!

25 year old Bill Patterson in the Nuriootpa paddock after his first big win- the Barossa Valley Handicap in the ‘Patterson’ MG TC Spl s/c’. His ascent as a driver was commensurate with better cars, itself a function of the growing success of his outer eastern Melbourne, Ringwood Holden/truck dealership. Won the Gold Star in a Cooper T51 Climax in 1961, his pace was apparent from the start of his career (R Townley Collection)

 

Stobie pole growing from the cockpit of the Patterson TC- fine lines, driven and developed further by Curley Brydon after its sale by Patto in 1950 (HTSA)

To qualify for the last event of the day, the Consolation Handicap 6 lapper, entrants had to have not won more than forty pounds in any of the previous races!

For the first 4 laps the lead was swapped between Rilstone and later Australian Tourist Trophy winner, Derek Jolly’s Austin 7 Spl with the race won by  Ron Kennedy from Steve Tillett both in MG TC’s and then John Crouch’s HRG which had a very consistent weekend, then came Gaze, Gullan, Wilcox and Davison who set the fastest race time and a lap record of 75 mph.

Then was Ohlmeyer, TA, Jolly, Austin 7 Spl, the Nind TB Spl, Harry Neale, Ford V8 Spl and the N Jackson GN.

Harold Clisby made the local papers after losing control of his MG TC and backing it into a fence. The Clisby family account is that ‘…he was leading the race until another car cut him off on a corner sending him careering over a bridge with only the fencing wires preventing him ending up at the bottom of a creek.’

Jim Gullan, Ballot Olds, the chassis rails of which have been copiously drilled for lightness, no doubt at the cost of torsional rigidity which probably was not great before he started. Which corner? Dunno. Stobie pole marks the apex (unattributed)

Etcetera…

Jim Gullan and Doug Whiteford were close friends, as noted above, in the best traditions of the day, after the 1950 Nuriootpa AGP ‘…we drove each others car around Albert Park one evening, both previously having driven the other’s car a short distance’ wrote Gullan.

‘My impression of the Ford was it had more power and torque than the Ballot, with a rougher engine. The brakes had a very hard pedal and poor retardation, the steering was light and spongy. The car was tail light, tending to wander at speed, difficult to drive at racing speeds.’

‘Doug’s impression of the Ballot, very smooth high revving (6000 rpm) engine, steering and brakes too sensitive, difficult to drive!’

Gullan, mused over the changes to ‘the scene’ in 1950 with drivers getting faster imported cars and ‘nearly half the field in the 1950 Grand Prix had been made up of MG’s, which made for interesting under 1500cc Scratch Races.’

He concluded that the Ballot had reached the limit of its development without a new chassis fitted with independent suspension.

By the time he returned to Australia after twelve months in Europe, in early 1952, air-cooled Coopers were plentiful, Stan Jones was racing Maybach 1, Doug Whiteford had his first Talbot-Lago T26C and much, much more- the times were changing with much of the evolution due to the growth of scratch racing, to win one needed the equipment to do so.

 

Yet one more shot of the Davison/Whiteford dice, Doug almost wholly obscured by Davo and the Stobie (HTSA)

 

(State Records SA)

 

(SLSA)

This is the only clear motorcycle shot I can find, John Medley identified the rider as South Australian, Les Diener, his machine is a Velocette 350 MkVIII KTT.

He had a great weekend, winning the 5 lap Barossa Junior TT and finished third in the Senior event despite giving away capacity to most other entrants.

Diener and Lloyd Hirst had a good go in the Junior event, Hirst leading for the first 2 laps, in the Senior TT Laurie Boulter’s Norton and Hirst’s Vincent-HRD finshed in front of Diener.

Check out this fascinating article about Les Diener- what a talented rider and engineer he was; https://www.shannons.com.au/club/bike-news/old-bikes-australasia-the-eldee-velocettes/

After the final race the crowd swarmed into Nuriootpa’s main street- Murray Street for the start of a procession of sixty decorated floats. At the end of the day 25,000 people converged on Tanunda Oval above, ‘to see the most lavish spectacle ever staged in a South Australian country town.’

The Barossa Vintage Festival is now held biannually with a week long calendar of events including wine workshops, heritage events and church services- the Barossa’s Lutheran leanings reflect its German heritage, which is about where we came in…

Otto Stone’s copy of the race program, programme I should say! from Stephen Dalton

Bibliography…

‘Lex Davison: Larger Than Life’ Graham Howard, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, ‘As Long As It Has Wheels’ James Gullan, ‘Harold William Clisby: The Life of a Restless Engineer’ on clisby.com, Australian Motor Sports 16 May 1949 via the Bob King Collection, Stephen Dalton Collection

Photo Credits…

‘HTSA’ History Trust of South Australia, State Records of South Australia, Adelaide Advertiser, State Library of South Australia, Richard Townley Collection

Tailpiece…

(State Records SA)

Grape pickers during the 1949 Festival- its seventy years ago my friends. Lots of happiness and optimism in those pretty smiling faces.

Finito…

(Cummins Archive)

Ken Richardson in Rex Taylor’s Talbot-Lago T26C, rounds a corner on the Southport road course- Queensland’s Gold Coast, 6 November 1955…

The event was the 114 mile Queensland Road Racing Championship, sometimes referred to as the 1955 Queensland Grand Prix, the second and final occasion on which the challenging layout was used for car racing- there is a bit about the 5.7 mile track in this piece on the 1954 Australian Grand Prix here; https://primotipo.com/2018/03/01/1954-australian-grand-prix-southport-qld/

Amongst the favourites for victory were Lex Davison, aboard the same HWM Jaguar in which he won the AGP twelve months before and Jack Brabham in the Cooper T40 Bristol in which he took a fortunate victory at the 1955 AGP at Port Wakefield, South Australia several weeks before, on 10 October.

Other contenders were Richardson, who was third at Southport in his Ford V8 Special the year before, this time he raced the dual AGP winning Talbot-Lago acquired by Rex Taylor from Doug Whiteford in mid-1954. Queensland youngster, Steve Ames aka Count Stephen Ouvaroff was aboard the ex-Lex Davison Alfa Romeo P3 he purchased not long before- a total of eleven cars took the start.

Davison burst into the lead from Brabham, Richardson and Ames at the drop of the flag, Jack outbraked Lex on lap 2, no doubt the nimble, light Cooper did this relatively easily but he kept his advantage for only a lap before mechanical trouble intervened.

He retired a car which became somewhat notorious for its unreliability with bent valves after the machine popped out of gear on one of the rough circuit’s many bumps causing a big enough over-rev to end Jack’s run.

Into the first corner Davison’s HWM Jag leads Brabham’s Cooper T40 Bristol, Ken Richardson’s Talbot-Lago T26C and Ames in the Alfa P3- narrowness of the road clear (Wheels)

 

Twenty year old Steve Ames, in the demanding Alfa Romeo Tipo B/P3 on the challenging Southport road circuit (Cummins Archive)

 

Brabham, Cooper T40 Bristol (Cummins Archive)

Davo’s machine then burst an oil line, shortly thereafter he arrived at the pits splattered in BP lubricant, for the balance of the event Ames and Richardson fought a close race but in the end the pre-war Alfa Romeo prevailed over its younger equally aristocratic European competitor at an average speed of 80 mph. Rex Taylor was third in his Jaguar XK120 and Barry Griffiths Triumph TR2 fourth, other finishers were the Stan Mossetter MG TC and Noel Barnes MG Spl s/c.

Jack did the fastest lap at 3 minutes 53 seconds, an average of 88 mph this was a smidge outside the record set by Dick Cobden’s Ferrari 125 V12 s/c in 1954.

The ‘Wheels’ magazine report of the meeting mentions George Pearse crashing his Cooper-MG in a 25 mile race for racing cars and stripped sportscars whilst passing Alec Mildren’s Cooper Bristol on the narrow pit straight at over 100mph, he put two wheels onto the grass. Brabham won that encounter from Davison and Mildren. Rex Taylor’s Jag XK120 won the sportscar race and Jack Myers Holden the production car race.

(Cummins Archive)

Stunning shot of Rex Taylor’s Jaguar XK120 ahead of Barry Griffiths Triumph TR2 on the dangerous swoops of Southport. The typical perils of road racing tracks of the day are readily apparent.

Cessation of Southport as a race venue left Lowood, Leyburn, Strathpine and Middle Ridge, Toowoomba as Queensland’s racetracks until Lakeside became the states ‘home of motor racing’ circa 1962.

The Cars…

(Cummins Archive)

Steve Ames Alfa Romeo Tipo B/P3- the ex-Scuderia Ferrari/Davison chassis ‘50003’ in the Southport paddock.

I wonder if this was the last in period ‘big win’ for this 2.9 litre supercharged straight-eight- it was a state title after all? The car still looks beautifully prepared in the manner of previous fettlers, AF Hollins’ Allan Ashton and team, I wonder who looked after it in Queensland?

The shot below is of Davo in the same car on Mount Panorama during Easter 1951- down Conrod at a fair old clip between the trees, posts barbed wire and cattle on a rather narrow strip of bumpy bitumen.

(Cummins Archive)

 

(Wheels)

Rex Taylor, Jaguar XK120 from the Barry Griffiths and Bertram Triumph TR2s and the Stan Mossetter (I think) MG TC – a battle during the championship race above, and a superb portrait hunched over the wheel below- Paul Cummins advises the chassis number as #660226.

(Cummins Archive)

 

(Cummins Archive)

Brabham’s central seat, all enveloping Cooper T40 Bristol GP car was largely self built at Surbiton before Jack made his championship Grand Prix debut in it at Aintree in mid-July, DNF after 30 laps, Moss won the British Grand Prix that day in a W196 Mercedes. On 10 October Brabham won at Port Wakefield, an awfully good reason for Queenslanders to get a good look at ‘our boy’ in a current Grand Prix car.

Jack raced it in Australia that summer before selling it, read about the car here; https://primotipo.com/2015/07/16/60th-anniversary-of-jacks-first-f1-gp-today-british-gp-16-july-1955-cooper-t40-bristol-by-stephen-dalton/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2017/07/04/max-stephens-cooper-t40-bristol/

(Cummins Archive)

Superb shot of Rob Griffith’s Triumph TR2 on the limit and looking very racey sans windscreen but with cream tonneau.

(Cummins Archive)

The Wylie Javelin doesn’t get a mention in the race report I have so perhaps the little minx misbehaved that weekend and did not start the race? Paul Cummins tells me the amazing little bolide was raced by Arthur Griffiths with ‘wire mesh on the grille, probably to keep the cane toads out’ not that they were in plague proportions back then but one can’t be too careful. Rob Bailey points out the red #45 Harry Firth built MG Holden, now owned and almost restored by Ian Tate.

See Bruce Polain’s article about this incredible design here; https://primotipo.com/2018/09/14/the-wylies-javelin-special/

(Cummins Archive)

Not so much a Southport shot as an atmosphere one.

Paul suspects the owner of the MG TC may be the photographer of much of the material in this piece, ‘the N Rego of the Zephyr dates it as registered in 1955’- can anybody help with identification of the drivers?

Count Stephen Ouvaroff circa 1960 (unattributed)

Steve Ames/Count Stephen Peter Ouvaroff…

Fair-dinkum blue-bloods are fairly thin on the ground in Australia but Count Stephen Peter Ouvaroff was the real McCoy, he was of aristocratic Russian background.

His parents were Count Igor Ouvaroff and Aubretia Phyllis Ames, Stephen was born on 3 September 1935, his sister, Marina Violet was born in Sussex in 1931. Stephen died in England on 13 November 2017 having lived most of his adult life there.

MotorSport lists Stephen’s birthplace as Russia and nationality as Australian.

The pieces of the puzzle, i am keen to hear from those with some facts rather than ‘i reckons’, seem to be that Ouvaroff, his sister and and his mother moved to New Zealand when Stephen was about 10 years of age, which puts it at the end of the war, then later they moved on to Australia.

Count Igor died in Sussex on 25 July 1939, a reasonable assumption is that the boy grew up in the UK- his mother was English, an open question is whether Igor and Aubretia met in the UK or Russia- i have my money on the UK, as you all know, generally those ‘high born’, were not top of the pops with the crew running that vast country after the Russian Revolution.

So my theory is that Igor decamped to England in order to hang onto his head and met Aubretia, who had no shortage of Earls and a Marquess in her family tree at a lovely society ball- he was born in Russia in 1901, she in Paddington in 1909, in 1930 she was a vibrant 21 and he a dashing 29- a match made in heaven.

The family of three settled in Brisbane, Stephen’s motor racing career started with the ex-Ken Richardson Ford V8 Special, then the P3- perhaps simultaneously racing the Alfa Romeo and an Austin Healey 100S.

The use of the nom de guerre ‘Steve Ames’ was doubtless to avoid the ‘wanker’ tag which would have been applied to the young racer in Tall-Poppy Syndrome Australia.

Despite its age, the Grand Prix Alfa was a fast, formidable bit of kit the youngster seems to have driven very well although he sold it without too many recorded events to Rex Taylor. Whilst some reports have it he moved to the UK in 1956, Ouvaroff raced the Healey 100S in a hillclimb at Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast, that December.

The 100S, chassis ‘3701’, was the first imported into Australia arriving in August 1955 and had been through the hands of David Shmith and Stan Mossetter before Ames bought it in late 1956. John Blanden describes Stephen as a Toowoomba hotelier so perhaps his mother had acquired a pub along the way.

This shot of the P3 is at Strathpine, Queensland and dated circa September 1957- the pilot could be Ouvaroff, Rex Taylor or perhaps Keith Blicaski- if anyone can date the event and identify the driver that would be great (Cummins Archive)

It seems reasonable to presume Ouvaroff moved to the UK in 1957, Blanden does not date the sale of the Healey to its next owner, i can find no recorded events in the UK that year. In 1958 he acquired and raced an F2 Cooper T43 Climax, his best result was fourth in the 1958 Vanwall Trophy at Snetterton on 27 July behind Ian Burgess, Bruce McLaren and Henry Taylor.

Other events contested that season included the International Trophy at Silverstone where he finished well back in the 1760cc FPF engined T43. He was a DNQ in the F2 Crystal Palace Trophy, the chassis number of the T43, by then of course fitted with a 1.5 litre FPF, was cited as ‘F2-9-57’. Tenth place followed at Brands Hatch on June 8.

Much better was fifth in the Anerly Trophy at Crystal Palace on 5 July whilst noting the best bit of kit to have that season was a Cooper T45. Off the back of the fourth place at Snetterton a DNQ at Brands on 4 August was disappointing.

During that year he also tested the new Lotus 11 Climax chassis ‘538′ acquired by Charlie Whatmore for George Jamieson at Brands Hatch before its shipment to Australia and much local success here.

1959 seems to have been relatively quiet in terms of race outings, but he ran the Willment Climax 1.5 FWB sportscar to a win at the BARC Goodwood meeting on 6 June impressing Bill Boddy who wrote in his MotorSport report that ‘The fifth race was actually uneventful, Count Ouvaroff’s Willment-Climax leading unchallenged, but very fast for all of that, from Union Jack to chequered flag, as well it might, being the sole 1 1/2-litre amongst a field of 1100s in this five lap Scratch Race and with twin-cam engine at that. The Count won at 84.28 mph and set fastest lap, at 86.22mph.’

The mainstay of Stephen’s 1960 program was Formula Junior where the strategy seemed to be to step back in class from F2 to FJ and in this red-hot class attempt to do well enough to give his career some momentum- sound thinking indeed.

Amongst his best results was third place at the ADAC-Eifelrennen at the Nurburgring and the Solitude Grand Prix outside Stuttgart.

The Nurburgring was wet on that 10 July weekend, quite a challenge for a relative novice on this most daunting of circuits. There he finished behind Dennis Taylor’s Lola Mk2 BMC and John Love’s Lola Mk2 Fiat in a thirty-two car grid, the event held over 20 laps, 155 km – total race duration one hour twenty-two minutes! It amazes me that the highly tuned modified production engines, which more generally raced over ‘Brands 10 lappers’ lasted that long!

Two weeks later his little ‘Inter Auto Course’ equipe travelled to Stuttgart to contest the Tenth Internationales Solituderennen-Formel Junior- the Grosser Preis der Solitude on 24 July.

Another long race, 12 laps, 138 km of the very fast, dangerous, swooping, tree lined road course yielded the young racer second place behind Jim Clark’s works 18 and ahead of Trevor Taylor and Peter Arundell in the other two Team Lotus entries, Gerhard Mietter, Kurt Ahrens and many others in a huge 35 car grid.

Both these German races were significant international meetings, to finish so well up the field in a privately entered car on two long road circuits new to him showed he was no slouch- read about the perils of Solitude here; https://primotipo.com/2018/05/10/surtees-in-solitude/

Solitude FJ GP grid July 1960. Keith Ballisat Cooper T52 BMC, #1 Jim Clark, Lotus 18 Ford and #9 Juan-Manuel-Bordeu, Lola Mk2 Ford, #2 Trevor Taylor, Lotus 18 Ford and car #3 Peter Arundell similarly mounted (unattributed)

 

JM Fangio keeps a paternal eye on Steve’s #18 Lotus 18 Ford at the start of the rather soggy 1960 Eifelrennen FJ. #2 is the second placed Lola Mk2 Fiat (Getty)

Closer to home he was second in the Anerly Trophy in June behind Trevor Taylor’s works 18 Cosworth, in August he had a DNF at Aintree with gearbox problems- there is then quite a gap to Oulton Park in late September where he was way back in nineteenth.

Mixing things up a bit, Steve entered the 18 April Lavant Cup at Goodwood in an F2 Cooper T51 Climax qualifying eleventh of nineteen cars but DNS.

There were 63 Formula Junior meetings in England and 75 in Europe in 1960- a driver needed to be in the car a lot to run with the best, a works seat being optimal of course, i think we can deduce that Count Stephen had talent- he finished two seconds behind Jim Clark at Solitude after 56 minutes of racing in a privately entered car, but it was not to be fulfilled without decent support or a much better seat.

Into 1961 Ouvaroff raced one of the Tom Hawkes and Adrian Gundlach built Ausper T3 Ford FJs.

Dick Willis notes that ‘he was a real “presseronner” in the Ausper. Although he did have some success, the works Lotuses were dominant with topline drivers on their team and the very latest engine tweaks…’

The Competition Cars Australia ‘works drivers’ season seems to have been split into two, whilst noting that half the results tables for the British FJ Championship have disappeared from the F2 Index site- which is a bummer. The first half of the season was devoted to European events, the second was spent closer to home in the UK.

The team entered Monaco but Steve failed to qualify his Ausper T3 Ford, missing the cut by six cars- Peter Arundell’s Lotus 20 Ford won from the Tyrrell Racing duo of John Love and Tony Maggs in Cooper T56 BMCs. Off to Rouen for the GP de Rouen on 4 June he finished well back with mechanical dramas, just in front of him was Denny Hulme in the New Zealand Grand Prix Racing Team Cooper T56 BMC- the Kiwi’s first European season.

He was out of the money again at Reims a month later and at Solitude, Stuttgart on 23 July where he had done so well the year before.

Back in England things were tough too- at Aintree on 7 August he was twenty-fifth where Peter Procter won in year old Lotus 18 Ford, at Goodwood a fortnight later the run of poor showings continued with a DNF due to overheating.

That BARC Formula Junior Championship meeting did have an Australian flavour though, Gavin Youl in the MRD Ford was on pole for the first heat in a great run for the Brabham marque and Jon Leighton’s Lotus 20 Ford was on pole for the second heat. Alan Rees Lotus 20 Ford won from Youl and Dennis Taylor, Lola Mk3 Ford.

Eighth in the September Trophy at Crystal Place was at least a finish on 2 September, and fourth at Oulton Park in the International Gold Cup meeting was more like 1960 form- Tony Maggs was up front that weekend in the Tyrrell Cooper T56 BMC proving, as they did many times that season that a Lotus Cosworth was not essential for FJ success in 1961.

On 30 September he was fifth in the Vanwall Trophy at Snetterton amongst a strong field in number and depth, Mike Parkes was up front in a Gemini Mk3A Ford. Off to Silverstone on 1 October where the strong run home at the seasons end yielded another fourth place, this time in the BARC FJ race one place behind Frank Gardner’s Jim Russell Lotus 20, the winner was Bill Moss in another Gemini Mk3A Ford.

It was a shame to end the season, and seemingly his race career, with a DNF at Snetterton on 8 October.

In a film obscurity Stephen crashed the Lister Jaguar chassis ‘BHL126’ on the set of MGM’s 1961 ‘The Green Helmet’, the car, registered ‘WTM446’ of course lived to fight another day.

Outside the cockpit Stephen married Aprille E Brighton in a society wedding at Brompton Oratory during December 1961 and settled in Drumhouse River Lane, Petersham, Surrey.

Ouvaroff established and operated the American Carriage Company in London for over 35 years, latterly with two of his sons, it specialised in the importation and sale of RHD converted American Cars. Paul Newby advises the business imported a dozen Holden Suburbans and Commodore Wagons from Suttons in Sydney via French domiciled ex-racer, uber-wealthy Arnold Glass at the turn of the century.

He remained proud and supportive of his Russian ancestry being involved in the annual Russian Summer Ball which was held to raise funds for a Russian charity and The London Cossack Association. Upon his death in 2017 he left his wife and six children.

For sure there is an interesting life to chronicle here in full- with six Ouvaroffs from his marriage there is no shortage of folks to find and interview in relation thereto- a project for another time!

Some of you Queenslanders must recall ‘Steve Ames’? I’d love to hear from you and similarly anybody in the UK familiar with Count Stephen Ouvaroff’s racing and business career.

Steve Ouvaroff, Lotus 18 Ford FJ, Silverstone 1960 (BRDC)

Etcetera…

‘Wheels’ January 1956

Photo and other Credits…

Many thanks to Paul Cummins and the Cummins Archive- sensational photographs, colour is so rare in Australia in this period. Paul hijacked my weekend I got so lost in the Count Stephen Ouvaroff research adventure!

Wheels magazine January 1956 via the Stephen Dalton Collection, British Racing Drivers Club, ‘The Ausper Story’ Dick Willis, F2 Index, David McKinney on The Nostalgia Forum, MotorSport July 1959, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, Paul Newby, Les Hughes

Tailpiece…

(Cummins Archive)

Let’s finish where we started, with Lago-Talbot T26C ‘110007’ the first of Doug Whiteford’s two such cars- the machine he used to win the 1952 and 1953 AGPs at Mount Panorama and Albert Park but not before the great Louis Chiron won the 1949 French Grand Prix in it at Reims.

Whiteford sold the car to Rex Taylor in 1954- here at Southport of course driven by Ken Richardson, the car then passed to Owen Bailey in late 1956 and then to Barry Collerson in late 1958. He raced it very skilfully in its dotage into 1961 before moving into more nimble mid-engined single-seaters and then spent a year or so racing F3 cars in Europe in the mid-sixties. Graham Thompson bought the Lago as club car in 1963 from Arnold Glass/Capitol Motors, the car passed through another owner or two before leaving Australia to be scooped up as an historic racer for the growing UK scene in the late sixties.

Finito…

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Amazing Reims background as Nuvolari blasts his Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Tipo B/P3 to French GP victory on 14 July 1932…

What an endurance test, the race 5 hours in duration! Grands Prix have been 200 miles for so long its easy to forget what the ‘titans’ coped with nearly 100 years ago. Maserati didn’t race so it was a straight fight between Bugatti and Alfa Romeo with the Milan brigade winning comprehensively in their new 2.65 litre straight- 8 Vittorio Jano designed machines.

It was Nuvolari from Baconin Borzacchini and Rudy Caracciola in Alfa Corse entered cars, the best placed Bugatti T51 that of Louis Chiron in 4th.

This article is some words around some great shots of  Nuvolari from the Getty Images archives, treat it as the first in an occasional ‘at random’ series.

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Tazio, Bremgarten, Swiss GP, Bern 21 August 1938 (Klemantaski Collection)

 Swiss GP, Bern 21 August 1938…

Tazio during the race held in awfully wet conditions. Seaman’s Mercedes lead from pole from teammates Stuck and Caracciola, he opened up a good lead but lost it after being boxed in by backmarkers allowing Rudy to sneak through.

Muller’s Auto Union raced well, Stuck spun and Tazio had undisclosed mechanical dramas in their mid-engined Type D’s. Mercedes 1-3 result was Caratch from Seaman and Manfred von Brauchitsch, all in W154’s.

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Donington GP 1938

’38 Donington GP…

The winds  of change were blowing in Europe, the race date was changed due to the Munich crisis by three weeks, the race held on 22 October 1938. Nuvolari’s exciting weekend started in practice when his Auto Union Type D 3 litre V12 ran into a deer! But he lead the race from the start then ceded the lead to Herman Lang, pitting an additional time. The engine of Hansons Alta blew with Hasse spinning and crashing on the oil and Dick Seaman losing a lap. Tazio sneaked past Muller back into 2nd, then Herman slowed with a broken windscreen giving the plucky Mantuan the lead which he held to the end of the race. Lang was 2nd and Seaman 3rd both in 3 litre V12 Mercedes Benz W154

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Tazio with some Nazi flunkies, ‘International Automobile and Motor Cycle Show’ 18 February 1939 Berlin. Hard to avoid these pricks racing for a German team at the time i guess (Popperfoto)

International Automobile & Mototcycle Show, 18 February 1939…

The first German automotive show was held in Berlin in 1897 with 8 cars, visitor numbers grew exponentially together with the growth of motoring itself, by 1939 825,000 people attended to see the new VW and other more sporting exhibits.

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TN Jaguar XK 120, Intl Trophy Meeting, Silverstone 26 August 1950 (J Wilds)

Silverstone International Trophy Meeting 26 August 1950…

Tazio was entered in a red, standard, ex-demo factory XK120 Jaguar in the production sportscar race during this famous annual meeting.

The MotorSport report of the meeting records ‘It was splendid to see Nuvolari go round at 75.91 mph in a hard-used Jaguar demonstrator, using his gearbox where others trod on their brakes, but on Friday he was said to be ill from methanol fumes – odd, for the production cars were on petrol – and Whitehead drove for him’.

Nuvolari was quite ill by this stage and struggled, he did three slow laps on the first day of practice then Jaguar team manager Lofty England had the task of telling Tazio that he was too slow as a consequence of his fitness.

Doug Nye made this observation of the genius on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’; ‘In his final years Nuvolari was a variably sick man, varying from being in frail shape to being in terrible shape. I have been told by many who met the great man at that Silverstone meeting that he was, indeed, in terrible shape that weekend…and they were all greatly concerned for him…some even wondering if he might not survive the journey home…

Nuvolari had at least as a high a proportion of admirers amongst British racing enthusiasts as he had in his native Italy, and possibly higher, and for many it was like seeing a retired old thoroughbred racehorse, attemping one last gallop on grass, arthritic, blown, sway-backed, and broken down … for many present that weekend it was remembered as a terribly sad sight… particularly for those who recalled the sight of Nuvolari in his pomp at Donington Park, 1938’.

Nuvolari died on 11 August 1953 having suffered a stroke which partially paralysed him the year before, a second one killed him.

Credit…

Imagno, J Wilds, Getty Images

Tailpiece: Moss and Nuvolari at the International Trophy meeting, Silverstone 1950. Shot is symbolic of generational change but it’s also clear just how fragile the great man had become…

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Tazio Nuvolari in his Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo P3/Tipo B after winning the ’35 Pau Grand Prix…

Nuvolari and Rene Dreyfus dominated the 25 February 80 lap, 137 mile race in their Scuderia Ferrari P3’s finishing 1st and 2nd, Rene 26 seconds adrift of his team leader. Tazio was so happy, he did not one but two victory laps, the shot above is the end of the celebration!

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Credits…

Keystone France

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Dreyfus ahead of Nuvolari, Pau 1935. Alfa P3, 3.2 litre straight 8 (Keystone)

 

lex davo

Who What Where and When?…its Lex Davison in his Alfa Romeo P3 ‘50003’…the where is a little more interesting?…

My writer/historian friend Stephen Dalton thinks its Fishermans Bend, Victoria at the 13 March 1949 meeting…the background looks bucolic to me so it may be Ballarat Airfield in 1950? All correspondence will be entered into.

The shot itself is by George Thomas, i tripped over it…ripper shot which catches the essence of these airfield circuits.

I will get around to writing about this wonderful Alfa in due course, on the basis that it is Fishermans Bend Davo won the 12 lap, 25 mile scratch race from Charlie Dean in Maybach 1, those of you who have read my Stan Jones article will be familiar with this car, Arthur Wylie in a Ford V8 Spl was 3rd.

Credits…

George Thomas, Stephen Dalton, ‘Australian Motor Sports’ 14 April 1949