Posts Tagged ‘Alfredo Costanzo’

(M Bishop)

Geoff Brabham gets the jump from Grace Bros Racing team-mate Andrew Miedecke and Alfie Costanzo at the Hume Weir, Australian National F2 round on 15 June 1975…

Birrana 274 Ford Hart, Rennmax BN7 Ford Hart and Birrana 274 again- Costanzo won that day but Geoff won the series.

In the black helmet at far right on the second row is Ray Winter in the Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ still a winner seven years after it first raced in Frank Gardner’s hands in the summer of ’69 Tasman Series.

The high water mark of Australian National Formula 2 racing (1.6 litre, DOHC, 2 valve- which effectively mandated the Lotus Ford twin-cam engine- the ducks guts version was the Hart 416B circa 205bhp injected variants) was in 1974 when an infusion of sponsorship dollars from shirt manufacturer Van Heusen resulted in an influx of drivers stepping up into the class and/or acquiring new cars.

Geoff Brabham during wet Oran Park practice in 1975. Birrana 274 Ford/Hart. No F2 championship round that year held at OP (oldracephotos.com.au)

Guys like Leo Geoghegan, Enno Buesselmann, Bruce Allison, Ken Shirvington, John Leffler, Chas Talbot, Wolfgang Prejawa with Sonny Rajah jetting in from Malaysia and Graeme Lawrence did a round or two from NZ. In some cases drivers ‘stepped down’ from F5000- Bob Muir, John Walker, Kevin Bartlett and Max Stewart to name a swag. For the sake of clarity Leo was an established ace- having finally won the Gold Star, the national drivers championship he deserved in 1970, he retired and then did a ‘Nellie Melba’ and returned to drive Malcolm Ramsay and Tony Alcock’s new Birrana 272 in mid-1972.

An absolute corker of a 1974 series was won by Leo in the ‘works’ Grace Bros sponsored Birrana 274 Ford-Hart in a closely fought battle with the Bob and Marj Brown owned Birrana 273 raced by Bob Muir and Leffler’s ‘tricky-dicky’, superb, variable rate suspension Bowin P8.

Sex on Wheels. John Leffler’s John Joyce designed Bowin P8 Ford-Hart at Sandown’s Dandy Road during the 1975 Tasman meeting, DNF suspension (B Keys)

Predictably in some ways the Van Heusen money ended up supporting ‘taxis’ in 1975 despite the great show put on by the F2’s in 1974. All the same, the 1975 championship was a good one given all the newish cars about.

Into late 1974 or early 1975 Costanzo bought Leo’s championship winning car- and in that ’75 season gave his career the shot in the arm it needed after running around in an old Elfin 100 Mono F2 for way too long. I think Alfie did travel to Italy seeking a drive in the late sixties, without success- imagine if he had popped his bum into the right car back then rather than a decade laterĀ at the end of theĀ seventies when Alan Hamilton’s Porsche Cars Australia finally gave him the drive he deserved- the ex-VDS/Brown Lola T430 Chev F5000 and subsequently the McLaren M26 Chev and Tiga Formula Pacifics into the early eighties.

Miedecke, Rennmax BN7 Ford/Hart in the Calder paddock 1975. It was a small, neat bit of kit- conventional but for the chassis as per text. Uncertain if this is the first or second of the two Calder rounds won by Miedecke and Costanzo respectively (oldracephotos.com.au)

Brabham and Miedecke stepped up from Formula Ford- a Bowin P6F and Birrana F73 respectively, retaining their Grace Bros support which helped fund far more sophisticated and expensive cars than their FF’s. Geoff took the obvious choice in acquiring a Birrana 274- a low mileage, late build car from Neil Rear in WA whilst Andrew sought the ‘unfair advantage’ with a new Rennmax- the BN7 from Bob Brittan’s Sydney workshop.

In fact it wasn’t that edgy a choice really as his car was a refinement of Doug Heasman’s BN6 which hit the track about 12 months before- the speed of which was proven by Bob Muir in one or two races in the car before he got the Brown’s Birrana ride at Enno Buesselmann’s expense.

This photograph shows clearly the middle monocoque and front spaceframe sections of the ex-Miedecke BN7 recently (via R Bell)

 

Apropos the above- chassis front section (via R Bell)

The BN7 design was different to the paradigm of the era in having a monocoque centre-cockpit section and spaceframes both front and rear- the more usual approach was an ally mono from the front ending in a bulkhead aft of the drivers shoulders with an ‘A-frame’ at the rear to carry the engine and suspension.

Both the P8 Bowin and Rennmax were wedge nosed designs with side radiators whereas the Birranas and Elfins (works 622 as raced by Walker and 630) followed the ‘Tyrrell’ bluff nosed approach with a front radiator.

Amaroo Park 1975. Brabham Birrana 274, Winter Mildren Sub, Miedecke Rennmax BN7 and Hong Kong’s John McDonald Brabham BT40. Brabham won from McDonald and Winter (unattributed)

 

Paul King in the foreground beside his Birrana 374 Toyota F3, whilst Ray Winter strides across the track. His car is the famous Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ Ford-Hart ex-Gardner/Bartlett/Muir. The guys had a territorial dispute after Paul got a blinder of a start and Ray attempted to assert F2 superiority into the first corner. Hume Weir 1975 (M Bishop)

In a year of strong competition between Brabham, Costanzo and Miedecke Geoff took the title with three wins at Amaroo, Symmons and Phillip Island from Alfie with two wins- Hume Weir and Calder and Andrew, who won the first Calder round in May. Arguably the quickest of the trio was Costanzo but reliability was a little lacking on both his and Miedecke’s part.

With my new drivers licence I no longer had to rely on my reluctant dad to cart me around to race meetings- I saw the Calder, Sandown and Phillip Island rounds that season and well recall a chat with Geoff and Peter Nightingale, his mechanic/engine builder, after the final ‘Island round in late November which Brabs won in fine style.

He had his ‘tail up’ in his modest way and was looking forward to taking on the world in Europe.

Doug Heasman, Rennmax BN6 Ford from Peter Macrow, Cheetah Mk6 Toyota, Hume Weir, date uncertain (M Bishop)

Interest was added to the series with lady racer Sue Ransom doing some events in Leffo’s Bowin P8 Ford/Hart- I pissed myself with laughter watching him pop her Willans six-pointer on at Calder, he was far more judicious with the crutch straps than he would have been with a fella. In those days the two lady-quicks were Ransom and Christine Cole/Gibson, I always thought it a shame Sue didn’t race the Bowin for longer than she did. Leffler himself did a round or two in Paul England’s Brabham BT36/Dolphin in amongst his Bowin P8 Chev F5000 commitments- the Brabham/Dolphin was also raced a couple of times by Tony Stewart- a talent lost.

Other drivers who added colour were Ken Shirvington, Chris Farrell, Enno Buesselmann, Doug MacArthur in the Lola T360 Bartlett and Lawrence had ‘guested in’ the year before when it was imported and owned by Glenn Abbey- and Ray Winter still pluggin’ away in The Yellow Sub, albeit substantially modified by Mawer Engineering.

Brian Shead, Cheetah Mk5 Toyota ANF3- Mk5 the prettiest and one of the most successful Cheetahs of all- amazing what Shead produced from that little ‘shop in Mordialloc (M Bishop)

The quicker of the 135bhp ANF3 cars (1.3 litre, SOHC or pushrod engines on carbs) could always give an average driven 205bhp F2 a run for its money, dudes like the two Brians- Shead and Sampson, Paul King, Peter Macrow and Dean Hosking to name several who extracted all these little cars had to give.

(M Bishop)

I’ve no idea who the ace felling a ‘pine plantation’ at Hume Weir is, I’m intrigued to know? Ditto the car.

(M Bishop)

What about the career trajectory of the 1975 F2 protagonists you ask?

Miedecke did another F2 year in the BN7 in 1976, Costanzo acquired a Lola T332 F5000 and was immediately quick in it against the established 5 litre aces whilst Brabham headed off to Europe for a couple of Ralt RT1 Toyota F3 seasons before launching his pro-career in the US.

Etcetera…

Geoff Brabham Birrana 274 leads a group of cars up the Calder return to the paddock road- remember that setup? Peter Macrow’s Mk5 Cheetah and Paul King’s Birrana 374 behind. Geoff’s chassis, ex-Neil Rear was ‘274-018’, it was then bought by Ray Winter to replace the Sub but if memory serves he had a huge accident in it, Lakeside maybe? Now in the Holmes family collection (oldracephotos.com.au)

 

Ray Winter in the Mildren Ford Hart ‘Yellow Submarine’ at Oran Park circa 1975 (B Williamson)

 

 

 

 

Photo Credits…

Mark Bishop, oldracephotos.com.au, Bruce Keys, Ray Bell on The Nostalgia Forum, Bob Williamson

Tailpiece: Graeme Crawford, Birrana 273 Ford F2- he won the national title in this car in 1976- from Brian Shead’s self built Cheetah Mk5 Toyota F3, Hume Weir 1975…

(M Bishop)

Finito…

 

 

Wesley

Alfa Club of Victoria Concorso…300 Alfa Romeos’ dropping olio onto the Wesley First XI Turf…

The Alfa Romeo Owners Club of Victorias’ annual Concourse and preceding dinner… has become ‘Bigger Than Ben Hur’ in terms of quality of organisation, cars, location, attendance and guest speakers.

This years concourse was held at Wesley College, St Kilda Road, Melbourne on 30 November, the guest speakers at the nearby Parkview Hotel dinner the evening before were former Australian Racing Champions Kevin Bartlett and Alfredo Costanzo.

The ‘dialogue’ with the drivers was ably conducted by Melbourne longtime Alfista and racer John Emery, it wasn’t ‘hard core’ given the audience, too many road car types present for that sadly!, but the following are a few snippets from their comments or quick chats with each of them separately.

Parkview Hotel St Kilda Road

Crappy iPhone shot of Kevin Bartlett left, and Alf Costanzo, right being ‘interviewed’ by John Emery, Parkview Hotel 29 November

I covered KB’s early history in the Alfa GTA article of last week, see https://primotipo.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1037&action=edit …he spoke fondly of his mentor Alec Mildren and the way Alec extracted the best from him which was around advice and encouragement, not actually how to drive, Mildren himself was the Australian Gold Star winner in 1960.

‘I was really lucky he gave me the chance to test, Glenn Abbey gave me the call, I don’t even remember the circuit but there were three or four other guys who also had similar credentials. But I guess they saw potential and a willingness to work hard and learn’.

Bartlett spoke of the evolution of the Lola F5000 cars from the T240 F2 based, twitchy, torsionally floppy T300 through to the T400 and ultimate variant of the T332, the 332C and what a competitive car it was. Costanzo chipped in about that cars understeer and said he, having also owned a T332, preferred the ‘twitchy and slightly more nervous’ T430, the ex-VDS/Brown car Alfie raced for Alan Hamilton so successfully in 1979/80.

Both noted that Warwick Brown happily went back to a T332 after the 430’s were sold despite his success in that model. (Rothmans Series 1977).

Bartlett related a funny anecdote about building a twin-turbo Jaguar XJS for Australian media magnate, the late Kerry Packer.

Kerry wanted to drive the ‘weapon’ from Sydney to Canberra, KB confessed that the gearbox whilst up for sprint meetings wouldn’t survive that journey…so Packer had his ‘chopper shadow the car on the trip, as you do!

Inevitably the car ‘cacked itself’ near Bowral, the chopper scooping up the legendary KP and delivering him to the capital on time. KB organising for his most wealthy clients car to be returned to Sydney…the silver lining in this relationship the very successful ‘Nine Network’ sponsorship of Bartlett’s Camaro in Touring Car Racing after his second F5000 ‘Big One’ when his Brabham BT43’s rear wheel failed at Sandown in 1979 made continued single seater racing not such a good idea.

Bartlett Sandown 1979 Brabham BT43 Chev

Bartlett in the Sandown pitlane 8 September 1979. Saturday practice, the following day KB had a rear wheel failure cause another big accident going thru ‘The Causeway’ breaking his legs, hospitalising him, destroying the car and ending his cherished single seater career…there were, however, touring cars to conquer. Car now has rear/side, rather than front mounted water rads’, Lola airbox, a variant of the nosecone used on KB’s T400 Lola and later rear wing. Jim Hardman in black anorak listening to KB’s issues and together working out the necessary tweaks! (Mark Bisset)

I asked KB whether Alec considered commercial sponsorship of his team to assist with the budget, as an alternative to ‘Alec Mildren Racing’ withdrawal from the sport but ‘it simply wasn’t his style’ so KB and Max Stewart were ‘on their own’ from 1971 both continuing to be successful but clearly the ‘Mildren Family Team’ was special in every way not least it’s competitiveness and influence on the professional teams which followed its lead.

Bartlett and Alfie are 3 years apart in age, KB born in 1940, Alf 1943. Their careers have ‘reverse parallels’ in some ways, KB a paid professional at 25, and on his own at 30, Alf on his own until 1979, when at 36 he became a paid professional…Unsurprisingly the ‘sweet spots’ in their careers were as paid professionals able to focus on just the driving rather than the more difficult commercial and organisational elements necessary in running your own team.

KB had an opportunity to test F1 for Brabham in 1970, ‘yes we should give him a run’ Ron Tauranac said but the fee was $60000 even then, as KB said, ‘I didn’t have $6k let alone $60k back then’ it’s a shame as the BT33 was a rocket in 1970 and still ok in 1971.

Bartlett Oran Park 1978

Bartlett in the one of a kind Brabham BT43 Chev ahead of Alf and John Walker at Oran Park , Rothmans Series 1978, both in Lola T332’s, Walker in KB’s old car. Warwick Brown won in another T332C, or rather a T333 Single-Seat CanAm car converted to F5000 for our Series before returning to the US whence it was converted back. See this shot of the Brabham in its original form here, mind you the nose had already been changed at this point…with the car in its final form above. (Glenn Moulds)

Two blokes who took to F5000 in Australia, having come out of smaller single-seaters like ‘ducks to water’ were Alf and Bruce Allison, immediately competitive…and both in Lola T332’s, Allison in the car KB sold to buy his T400, ‘HU22’. (KB’s T330 ‘HU22′ rebuilt after its Pukekohe early ’74 shunt around a 332 tub)

Not everybody who drove these animals of cars, mastered them…’it always focussed my mind the day before wherever I raced these cars because they could always bite you’, said KB.

One wag at the Parkview Hotel after listening to Alf speak, very amusing he was too, and who watched many of his early racing efforts said that ‘he bounced that Mono (Elfin Mono) off every fence in Victoria, he didn’t even book overnight accommodation at the country circuits as he never expected to race on Sunday!’

By 1975 he had the car in which to strut his stuff finishing second in the AF2 Championship that year in the Birrana 274 Ford Leo Geoghegan drove to the series win in 1974. Geoff Brabham won the title in a similar 274.

‘At the end of the year I sold the car and bought the ex-Bob Evans 1974 European F5000 Championship winning T332 ‘HU36′ for a lot less than I sold the Birrana! Brian McGuire had a good season in it in the UK in 1975 and was to race it again and then the Brits admitted F1 cars to their series so he bought one of those and sold the Lola cheap, all race prepared and ready to go. I even won a couple of KLM tickets late in the season so got a trip to the UK as well’

In a sad ending for Aussie McGuire, he died in the Williams FW04 he bought instead due to a component failure at Brands in 1977.

‘The T332 was a great car, I did well in it but I preferred the T430 which was a bit more nervous, the turn in was better. The McLaren was better again, no quicker than the Lola in a straight line but it put its power down much better, it was quicker through the corners.’

Costanzo, McLaren M26 Chev Sandown 1981

Costanzo at the old Sandown pit counter 1981. Mclaren M26 Chev, Jim Hardman in the white top. A talented engineer, his self designed and built Hardman JH1 Ford victorious in the 1980 AF2 Championship in Richard Davisons’ hands. Car @ rear is the Bryan Thomson owned Mercedes Fowler/Chev sports sedan then driven by John Bowe.

The McLaren Costanzo spoke of was the M26 F1 car converted to ground effect F5000 specification by Tiga Cars and raced by Alan Hamiltons’ Porsche Cars Australia Team in the dying days of F5000 in Australia.

These are a few vignettes in two phenomenal careers, it was a pleasure to meet them both and watch them work an audience in the same way they used to work the spectators on race day!

Racers both and great blokes to boot…

TZ1 and 6C 1750

All the fun of the fair..big crowds, this is early in the day. Alfa TZ1 Replica beside 6C 1750 Zagato. ‘Lola Limper’ Bartlett checking out the cars in brown shirt and cap.

Lawson and Little Alfa

John Lawsons’ Alfa 6C 2300 Spl left, with the ex-Lex Davison ‘Little Alfa’, shortened 6C1750 ‘Normale’ chassis’ , supercharged. Successful and famous Aussie special raced by Davo from circa 1946 to 1952. car originally Davisons’ fathers road car.

St Kilda Road

Giuliettas’, St Kilda Road buildings at rear

Park scene Wesley

Swag of ‘105’s…a very pleasant Concourse location, Wesley College, Melbourne…

Photo Credits…

oldracephotos.com, Glenn Moulds