Posts Tagged ‘Buzz Buzaglo’

British gp support

(Buzaglo Collection)

Many a driver’s career has been inspired by films, the most iconic race film is surely ‘Grand Prix’, the 1966 John Frankenheimer epic. Australian John ‘Buzz’ Buzaglo worked on ‘Grand Prix’ and became a Formula Ford ace in the UK shortly thereafter…

The opening photograph was taken during the British GP Meeting, John Player British F3 Championship round in July 1973.

Fired up in his heat having been unable to fasten his Willans harness, Buzz’ March 733 Ford Novamotor passes John Sheldon’s Royale RP11A on the outside of Woodcote using all of the circuit and surrounds! He failed to finish but made the final as one of the fastest non-finishers coming seventh from the back of the grid against world class opposition including later F1 drivers Alan Jones, Brian Henton, Larry Perkins, Danny Sullivan and Roelof Wunderink.

Tony Rouff won in a GRD 373 Ford from Russell Woods’ March 733 Ford and Jones’ GRD 373 Ford.

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Brands Hatch 1971 paddock, Palliser WDF3, KVG Racing

 Billycarts with Jonesy…

Growing up in the Melbourne’s Balwyn, early ‘motoring’ exploits were shared with local lads including Alan Jones who took on THE billycart challenge of the eastern suburbs, the formidable drop from Belmore Road down Balwyn Road to Hyslop Park, enough to test the ‘gun suspension setup’ of pram wheels front and ball-bearings at the rear. How many of us developed a love of oversteer in such sophisticated ‘machinery’! Jones and Buzaglo were to meet again a couple of decades later in British F3 in 1973.

Kangaroo Valley and ‘Grand Prix’…

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Bored with his job Buzz set off  for Europe in 1965 to see the sights and soon set up digs in Earls Court, ‘Kangaroo Valley’. A succession of jobs followed including film extra work, whilst at Brands Hatch as an extra Buzz befriended one of the producers and was offered a job as a ‘Second Assistant Director’ on ‘Grand Prix’, at 150 pounds per week. It was too good to resist, off to Clermont Ferrand and Monza Buzaglo and best mate Jeff Morrow went.

Their task was to manage  the cars into position to allow the shoot of the day to take place, in the process they got to know both cast and the drivers  well including Jochen Rindt, Peter Revson, Bob Bondurant, Mike Spence, Chris Amon, Jackie Stewart and co-star James Garner.

Much fun was had driving the cars into position and into ‘parc ferme’ in the evenings. James Garner asked the boys to take his Mustang GT350 from Clermont to Monza ‘which took a week, we did it ever so carefully’. The most dangerous part of the job was an invitation  by Frankenheimer’s bored wife to visit her hotel suite, it was immediately clear Scrabble was not her game of choice, discretion was the better part of valour, and after one drink Buzz departed, job and hide intact!

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Buzaglo in James Garner’s Mustang GT350 enroute from Clermont Ferrand to Monza in the Swiss Alps

 

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On the ‘set’ of ‘Grand Prix’ at Monza. In front, James Garner, Bob Bondurant, Buzz. Mike Spence is holding the yellow helmet, beside him is Ken Costello (an F3 driver) Peter Revson is wearing the white helmet with the movie Director John Frankenheimer behind Revson and looking ‘sideways’

‘The Revolution Club’and Merlyn FF…

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Buzz on the Brands grid, Merlyn Mk11, June 11 1970, the day of his first win

Buzz’ competitive juices were fired by close proximity to ‘the scene’ and he was soon saving hard for a car, working in two clubs one of which, The Revolution Club was a haunt of racing people including Stewart, Rindt, Frank Williams, Bill Ivy, Mike Hailwood, Piers Courage, Emerson Fittipaldi, and many others.

Eventually he chose a Merlyn Mk 11 Formula Ford which was promptly loaded up for a  test session at Brands Hatch, Tim Schenken happened to be watching proceedings, having a quiet ale by the fire in bar. He soon appeared in overalls lapping in the Merlyn and made various changes to the set up- Schenken had won the first British FF Championship in a similar car in 1968 and was running an F3 Brabham that year, 1969.

He launched a campaign of club events commencing at Brands, finishing fifth, and  Castle Combe, third in late 69′ and soon established a reputation as a young man to watch from Oz- having wound his actual age back at the time by five years in the best traditions of the sport.

 Winning in Jochen’s overalls…

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A couple of happy chappies- Jochen Rindt, Buzz and Bob Bondurant during the filming of ‘Grand Prix’, Monza 1966

Into 1970 the car was raced frequently, picking up several wins at Brands Hatch. His first, on 11 June 1970 was wearing a pair of overalls given to him by Rindt. ‘Jochen came into the club one night and asked if i had bought a car yet, he immediately offered me a pair of overalls and delivered them the following week telling me to make sure i had some wins in them. They were beautiful plain light gold, triple layer nomex, he had hardly worn them’.

‘Emerson Fittipaldi offered to help me by talking to my sponsor after an enormous lose from bank to bank in the Snetterton Esses on some oil dropped by motorbikes in the previous practice session.’

‘I was sitting there in the middle of the track thinking WTF!?, and he shouted down to see if i was alright. He was towing his F3 Lotus 59 back to the pits over the bridge and saw the whole thing. He walked me down to the track to show me the oil which was there in the earlier car session. It was a wonderful gesture, he and his wife Maria came into the Revolution Club for a meal on me a few nights later. An amazing, genuine and ever so friendly bloke’.

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First win, Merlyn Mk11, Brands June 1970

At Oulton Park Buzz and another car touched, the Merlyn was rolled into oblivion, fellow Aussie Brian McGuire extricated him from the wreck with Buzaglo finally waking up in Cheshire and District Hospital on the following Wednesday. Buzz was out for three months- no racing and no income.

Buzz saw Rindt ‘steal’ a lucky 1970 Brands Hatch British GP win from Jack Brabham whose BT33 famously ran out of fuel on the last lap. Very late for work in London, good mate Mike Hailwood gave Buzz the ride of his life making it back to London in record time, ‘the Honda 750/4 was a stunning bit of kit’, he recalls.

Another memorable Brands day involved Buzz and his girlfriend being picked up by Frank Williams in London and schmoozed in the plush Grovewood Suite in the belief The Revolution Club could assist in Williams’ future campaigns. FW was not too miffed to learn Buzz was the manager- such was his work ethic, Williams figured he owned the place!

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 Palliser in 1971…

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Palliser WDF2

Upon recovery from the shunt he and Richard Knight (winner of the first Australian FF Championship in a Bib Stillwell Racing Team Elfin 600 in 1970) built up a pair of Palliser WDF3 Formula Fords to attack the 1971 season.

Buzz continued his run of success, a win in a championship round in front of Tony Brise and a BARC Silverstone round over Richard Knight in identical cars, both setting lap records were highlights.

KVG Racing and 1972 success in an Elden Mk10a…

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Victorius weekend in 1972 at Castle Combe, 2 wins and the lap record. Johnny Gerber between Buzz and the mechanics. Elden Mk10a

 

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In the KVG Elden Mk10a, Mallory Park hairpin, before the Falconer wide-body was fitted

Strong 1971 results attracted KVG Racing sponsorship in 1972 to support a two car team, a new Palliser WDF2 for Buzaglo and Buzz’ WDF3 for Ian Grob.

Early in the season it was decided to replace the Pallisers with a pair of Elden Mk10a’s, the ‘ducks guts’ in FF equipment at the time. Buzz was having a strong season and tipped to win the BOC Championship before a bad accident at Croft in March hospitalised him again, this time with a broken leg and ribs.

Ken Grob, KVG Racing, wanted to focus on sportscars for his son to drive so Mexican driver Johnny Gerber bought Grob’s car with the other given to Buzz. The cars were made more competitive by the purchase of two Dennis Falconer very slippery and contentious bodies- ‘they good for an extra 250rpm over the standard Elden body down a decent straight and a tad more downforce depending upon how the bodywork was supported’ according to Buzz. At this time  British businessmen, shipbroker Tony Vlassopoulo, of the Ippokampos Shipping, Johnny Gerber’s sponsor, provided financial support.

Johnny and Buzz won many races that year with Buzaglo taking the Castle Combe FF lap record, which stood for eight years, and the BRSCC South Western FF Championship.

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Buzaglo in the Elden Mk10a leads Rob Cooper and the rest of the pack for a Silverstone win, 1972.

There was a strong Australian contingent at Snetterton for the inaugural Formula Ford Festival on 5 November then as now the launchpad of many a Grand Prix career.

Larry Perkins took the very first Elfin 620 built to the UK- he had raced and pranged it at Amaroo Park before its shipment to England, John Leffler was in the Bowin P4A in which he finished second in the 1972 Australian ‘Driver to Europe’ FF Championship and the winner of that title, Bob Skelton took over the very latest, variable rate suspension Bowin P6F. Peter Finlay entered the Palliser WDF2 in which he would finish third in the EFDA/European FF Championship in 1973 before shipping the car home and doing so well in 1974/5- second in the 1975 DTE.

Future F1 drivers in a field of great depth included Danny Sullivan, Patrick Neve, Tiff Needell and Hans Binder as well as Perkins of course.

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Formula Ford Festival, Snetterton 1972. Doug Bassett goes straight on at the Hairpin, Larry Perkins, Elfin 620 leads Tiff Needell’s Lotus 69, Chris Smith’s Elden and Buzaglo in the Ippokampos Elden Mk10a and the rest

Buzz qualified well and finished second to Sullivan in his semi final but back in the pack of the final having initially run third off the front of the grid and moving forwards before the distributor moved causing a misfire which pushed him back down the field. The final was run over 25 laps, a long race by FF standards, with the cars refuelled after the warm-up lap! Ian Taylor in a Dulon LD9 won from Derek Lawrence in a Titan Mk6.

The best placed of the Aussies was Perkins who was third and at the start of what turned out to be a five year sojurn in Europe. Finlay was tenth in his Palliser, finishing one slot behind future GP driver Hans Binder’s Merlyn with whom he would have many a battle during the European Formula Ford Championship the following year- Binder won that title in his Merlyn Mk24 and the F3 prize car and drive for 1974 with Peter second in his Palliser. (Bengt Gilhorn who is usually listed as the winner in most references of the series was disqualified from the final Brands Hatch round ‘proof of the finishing positions of the 1973 Euro was that Binder won the F3 car…’Peter points out.

Finlay recalled ‘I was amazed that I was the best placed Aussie after Perkins…the car had been damaged in a prang (not my direct fault) at Oulton Park, when we assisted Leffo to run there and it took a while to get it sorted at the Festival’. The visiting Aussies all did the Oulton meeting to have a run on the tyres used in the UK before Snetterton.

Leffler was third in heat 1 and Skelton fourth in heat 4. Buzz recalls the guys as ‘great blokes with the cars creating huge interest and making a strong impression’ in what was the global Formula Ford Grand Final for 1972.

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The FF year finished with a meeting at Zolder in Belgium.

‘It was a two race format, in the first race Patrick Neve won, i was third , i won the second race and set the lap record winning overall’ recalled Buzz. 1972 had been a mixed year with the accident but a successful one despite the ‘might have beens’ particularly at the FF Festival.

 Lookin’ Good: F3 in 1973…

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In the Peter Bloore owned March 733 Novamotor , British GP meeting 1973, an amazing weekend and ‘tigerish’ drive

Ippokampos were happy with the results of both drivers and provided some support to Buzz’ mount for the last year of the 1.6 litre F3, a March 733 Novamotor (Ford Lotus Twin Cam) owned by Kiwi Peter Bloore. The car and engine were great choices in what would be a year of phenomenal F3 depth.

There were dozens of F3 races in England in 1973 with Alan Jones, Larry Perkins, Brian Henton, Richard Robarts, Tony Brise and Mike Wilds to name the future F1 drivers who ran in the 3 main championships. These fellows did the lot, Buzz did six selected rounds as funds permitted.  Jacques Laffite, Lella Lombardi, Conny Andersson, Jean Ragnotti, and Michele Leclere ran in occasional forays in the UK in the midst of their domestic European campaigns.

Buzz’ first F3 year was an impressive one particularly given he did no testing pre-season and the self run, self prepared nature of the car- the first time he sat in the thing was at its first race meeting.

Competing in six meetings, as noted, his best results in the BARC Championship were seventh, eighth and second at Silverstone, Brands and Castle Combe, also setting fastest lap and the lap record, behind winner Ian Taylor there at an average speed of 103mph- the lap record stands in perpetuity as the F3 1.6 litre record.

His best in the Northern Central Rounds was a ninth at Brands Buzz memorably ‘saving Perkins life in the tunnel under the circuit’ as Jones threatened to ‘effin knock those ice cubes (glasses) off your nose’ if his Cowangie driving habits were not altered! It would have been amusing to see that exchange between the three Victorians!

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Caught it! Sideways at Woodcote corner sans seatbelts in the heat. Scheckter lost his McLaren M23 in the British GP at the end of lap 1 the following day here taking out half the field

Contesting the British Grand Prix in the BRSCC F3 Championship round was a huge thrill with a strong seventh in a field which included six future F1 drivers, only two of them- in works cars, Jones and Henton finished in front of him in the leased March.

‘I started my heat on the second row behind Jones. Before the start, for the life of me i couldn’t get the belts done up. While trying to do them up, in a panic i missed the drop of the flag and just about the whole field passed me. I drove like the clappers and passed John Sheldon on the outside of Woodcote putting three wheels into the dirt. A stone went through the fuel filter a lap later so i DNF but i had one of the fastest non-qualifier laps so made the final.

‘From the back row i worked myself up to seventh getting a European F3 Championship point- I remember AJ saying to me later you really had your eyes on this weekend.’

It had been a very promising first F3 season, his sponsor was happy, things were looking good, and on the rise. Australia’s ‘Sports Car World’ Magazine ran an article about Australian drivers doing well in Europe, Buzaglo was in the best of company being featured along with Tim Schenken, Alan Jones, Larry Perkins, Vern Schuppan, Dave Walker and the late Brian McGuire. Roll on 1974.

A year which seemed full of promise: March 743 Ford Holbay in 1974…

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Buzaglo in the Ippokampos March 743, following Luis Correia Moraes GRD 374 at Bottom Bend , Brands Hatch in a test session

Ippokampos provided a 150 thousand pound budget to run a 2 car team in 1974. Unlike today, when control classes largely hold sway throughout the open-wheeler world, the choice of chassis and engine was critical.

1974 was the first year of the 2 litre F3 Formula, the choice of a March 743 was a good one, the Holbay engine, based on the Ford Cortina SOHC unit, was not. The good ole Lotus Ford Twin cam, suitably bored and stroked and prepped by Novamotor in Italy would have been the better choice and therein lay the problems of the season.

Buzz blames himself as the budget was adequate to purchase Novamotors, he knew them well and they offered their engines at a favourable price, but Holbay offered a ‘works deal’ with engines free ‘it made sense at the time.’

Some good qualifying results were ruined in races where the engine lacked competitive power and torque. Poor car preparation also let the team down with a bad run of results for both drivers early in the season, Buzz’ best results sixth, seventh and eighth at Oulton Park, Silverstone and Snetterton respectively. The next race was the most prestigious of the season, the ‘XVI Grand Prix de Monaco Formule 3’…

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Buzz Ippokampos March 743 Holbay Ford in the Oulton Park paddock- he finished 6th, April 1974.

Monaco, or not…

Buzz was excited, he was entered for Monaco, and picked up a ‘special engine’ from Holbay’s John Reed . ‘We have given you a special engine you can rev to 9000 rpm, you have had so much bad luck’, which was fitted to the car the week before the event.

Whilst helping the mechanics fit the engine, Ron Dennis and Neil Trundle called into the workshop suggesting removal of the rear bodywork due to the expected heat in the principality and fitting a bigger rear wing- great blokes Buzz thought!

On the Monday before the event Buzz was summoned to Tony Vlassopoulo’s (Ippokampos) office to be told his seat was being taken by Tom Pryce- who duly won the race.

Rondel Racing (Ron Dennis and Neil Trundle) ran Pryce in their Motul M1 F2 car in 1973, the Token was to be their Motul F1 car for 1974 but Motul’s (French oil company) withdrawal of funds meant the F1 project was sold by Rondel to Tony Vlassopoulo and Ken Grob, they re-naming it Token, an acronym of their names.

The car was a dog, Pryce’s Monaco F1 entry was refused as a consequence of poor results in preceding Grands Prix, the F3 ride was a calculated way of re-launching Tom’s career- Buzz, further down the ‘team totem pole’ was pushed aside.

Pryce won his heat by 16 seconds from Tony Brise and the final by 20 seconds, again from Brise, unheard of margins at Monaco given the driver depth, and Brise another star of that generation was no slouch to say the least. Buzz wishes he had been in the car such was its pace. Unbeknown to Buzaglo, the engine was ‘a cheater’ with a device which allowed air past the restrictor, then as now mandated by the class, allowing more revs and power.

He feels no ill will to Pryce, whom he knew and believes had no knowledge of the ‘special engine’ either. As Buzz put it ‘it was the one and only 2 litre F3 race Pryce ever did, he had no point of reference to the performance of a ‘normal Holbay’. No other Holbay engined car was in the top 15 finishers. By the end of the year Holbay’s ruse was known and Novamotor were dominating with their variant of the Toyota 2TG DOHC, four valve engine.

What was memorable was Buzz and his girlfriend being flown from Luton to Nice in Ken Grob’s Learjet and living it up for the Monaco weekend. If only! For Buzz it was all over though, Tony V was focussed on Grand Prix racing not on his Formula 3 team, no further 1974 F3 appearances were made.

 Brands Hatch 1000 Km…

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John McDonald’s Chevron B19/23 Ford shared with Buzaglo, Brands 1000Km 1974

Buzz no money, his career was over but for a one off drive in fellow F3 driver John McDonald’s 2 litre Chevron B19/23 Ford 2 litre sports car in the 1974 Brands Hatch 1000 Km race.

Mc Donald was struggling with the car in practice but eventually gave the Australian a few laps qualifying the car around fifteenth ,’i was black flagged after 19 laps for dropping oil so that finished the race, i was really pissed off as i was in my element driving this great handling car, from memory i was up to seventeenth at the time i was stopped’ Outright victors were the the two Jean-Pierres- Beltoise and Jarier in a Matra MS670C, its banshee like 3 litre V12 wail ‘enough to blow smaller cars sideways’, Buzz recalls.

Not forgotten by March, who had a high regard for his skills, he test drove the prototype March 75S 2 litre sports car in late 1974, giving his feedback about a car which ‘was not much chop’, subsequent results proving this analysis pretty correct.

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John McDonald in the Chevron B19/23 he shared with Buzaglo, Brands Hatch 1000Km ‘ 74

Post racing and home…

And that was it, Buzz had run out of money and ideas.

He had a reasonable run being partially supported by sponsors along the way but did not have the chance to hone his skills and put aside a bad trot and maintain enough support to go forward in the way Perkins and Jones did. It took them four and three years respectively to jump out of F3, incredibly competitive then as now, Buzaglo represents one of Australia’s ‘might have beens’.

He started his career late, won his first race within six months in a second hand, self run car and was beating future grand prix drivers with extensive karting experience by 1971. Buzz achieved fourteen FF wins at a time the category was at its most competitive anywhere in the world. He also set four lap records, three in FF- Silverstone in 1971, Castle Combe and Zolder in 1972 and the Castle Combe F3 lap record in 1973.

You wonder what he may have achieved with a little more luck, or funds, or a mentor/patron? Buzz never raced in Australia other than a few Grand Prix Rallies, these fun events a contrast with the International races contested a couple of decades before.

Wanting to stay in the UK, good friend and future F1 entrant/entrepreneur John (RAM Racing) McDonald organised a job at his Datsun outlet. From 1975 he worked for well known dealer/entrant ‘The Chequered Flag’ selling Lancias building it to be the number one Lancia dealership in Europe, before joining old mate, Richard Knight’s then fledgling Mazda dealership finally returning to Australia in 1982/3. He joined Allan Johnstone’s Penfolds Dealership group selling Mazda’s in Melbourne’s Burwood before retiring to Albert Park and walking distance to the track.

Buzz keeps in touch with many of his UK racing friends, meeting the journalists Joe Saward and Mike Doodson each year at the AGP. Good friend Jo Ramirez, the well known ex Eagle/ McLaren Team manager gave Buzz his most prized possession, the empty Moet Magnum sprayed by Senna and personally signed and marked Adelaide 1993, by him, after his last GP win.

Sadly ‘those overalls’, along with many other items were lost in a container which never arrived home from the UK .

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Ramirez with the Moet Magnum sprayed by Ayrton Senna after his last Grand Prix victory in Adelaide in 1993..one of Buzz’ most prized possessions

So many Aussies have taken the European racing plunge over the years. Then as now success is difficult for even the well funded- ‘it was a blast, magic’ as Buzz puts it, and a great ‘might have been’ at the same time all fired by ‘Grand Prix’ and the enthusiasm of his Revolution Club racer mates.

Photo and other Credits…

Alan Cox, Mike Dixon, Buzz Buzaglo, Peter Finlay, F2 Index

 


Etcetera…

 

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Buzz with Jo Ramirez in recent years, a regular visitor to Australia for the AG Prix

 

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Buzz in the KVG Elden Mk10a, Druids’ Brands Hatch 1972

 

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Castel Combe 1972…last lap thrash to the flag, Buzz leading Roger Orgee, Gerber and Rob Cooper. Victory by 0.8 of a second and the lap record held for around 8 years. Buzz observed the Falconer wide-bodied Eldens pulled an extra 250 revs at places like the ‘Combe but were banned as contravening the FF regs in relation to aerodynamics the following year

 

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FF Festival Snetterton 1972. Buzaglo’s Elden leads Aussie John Leffler’s Bowin P4a and Tiff Needell in his Lotus 69

 

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Nerve settling drag on the fag…11 June 1970…just before ‘the off’ and a race win. Merlyn Mk 11

Finito…