Posts Tagged ‘Frank Gardner’

‘My signature shot, Jim Clark Lotus 49 Ford DFW and Chris Amon Ferrari Dino 246T. Two of the best drivers of their time. Taken early in my photography journey. Not only is it a record of the 1968 Surfers Tasman race, the pic is pretty well balanced and shows the scenic aspect of the old Surfers Paradise track. I describe in the Tasman book, the trauma experienced in getting to and from the race’ (R MacKenzie)

 

I finally bought the Tasman Cup bible at Sandown a while back, what a ripper book it is!…

 

There are some heavy dudes involved in it. Publisher Tony Loxley has assembled a swag of ‘in period’ talent- journalists, photographers and drivers to contribute, forty in all. I blew my tiny mind when I got it home and penetrated the thick plastic, protective cover to unveil content rich words and images. That Sunday afternoon was completely shot.

At $A95 it’s a snip, nearly 500 pages of beautifully printed and bound hardcover with about ninety percent of the (900’ish) images unfamiliar to me. Mucking around with primotipo I’ve seen plenty of shots in the last four years or so- it was awesome to view a vast array of unseen images, some from the archives of ‘snappers ‘I have met online’ who have kindly allowed me to use their work on my ‘masterpiece’.

Which brings me to Rod MacKenzie’s work.

I’ve used his images before but the material in the Tasman tome is sensational for its compositional artistry. So I gave him a yell and said you choose two photos (Clark and Muir) and I’ll choose two (Gardner and Walker) to showcase the work and support this article. The photo captions are Rod’s, his ‘artists notes’ if you will. We plan some occasional articles going forward, many thanks to Rod.

 

‘Frank Gardner, Brabham BT23D Alfa Romeo negotiates Newry Corner at Longford, Tasmania 1968. Perhaps one of the wettest races i have attended. At least i was taking photos, not driving! This pic has its own appeal, i just pressed the button. Frank’s skills were tested and you can see the race was on public roads with spectataors in the most unsafe areas. Fences were barbed wire, no run-off and badly cambered roadway.’ (R MacKenzie)

 

Rod writes about his work…

‘We all have favourites.

In over fifty years of motor racing photography some of my earlier photos remain dear to me.

However, the photos were not quite as important as the spectacle of close racing between highly skilled ‘pilotes’ in competition with their cotemporaries.

They at the time were the source of income to attend the many race circuits and were sold to magazines in Australia and overseas.

Now the photos have become most important.

These photos are now historical records of these men and some women whose exploits have been written about and add reality to reports and clarity to memories.

I also endeavoured to photograph many of the competitors ensuring not only ‘the stars’ were captured.

Without the photos, memories become clouded and distorted. Not by intent, but by the passage of years.

My photos of several Tasman Series spent some time in the proverbial shoebox during a period of having a new family to bring up.

They were revisted to be included in two books (so far) from Tony Loxley of ‘Full Throttle Publishing’ about Formula 5000 and The Tasman Cup and have been included in many other books now. I have released some of the photos on social media and they are still appreciated judging from some of the comments received.

I take pride in my photos as i try to add ‘something’ above and beyond a picture ‘of a car on asphalt somewhere’. A good black and white photo in my view is more difficult to produce than a colour photo and just suits the history of races.

My photos should convey the ‘atmosphere’ of motor sport- the drama, the commitment, the excitement, the humour, the unusual, and the extraordinary when that is possible.

Consequently my shots can be moody and dark, bright and clear, or show incidents capturing moments of drama.

They generally also have content to ensure recognition of the location of the subjects. The content may be from background, the cars, the weather or the occasion.

Together, Mark Bisset and i plan a small series of ‘favourites’ chosen between us from my vast collection.

These random photos will continue to appear as time and subject allow, and i also invite you to sample a few more from my http://www.rodmackenziecollection.com/ website and Facebook Group.

Until the next offering, enjoy the photos here’.

Rod MacKenzie

 

‘One of those shots that work even when most things are not right for composition. The car is too far away, the foreground is irrelevant, the background does not relate to much. BUT John Walker, Matich A50 Repco, in a 1973 wet Tasman race came undone at the Warwick Farm Causeway, and used the short circuit to recover. The pic shows how lost he seemed to be!’ (R MacKenzie)

 

This weighty addition to my shelves got me tangentially thinking about what ‘The Essential Library of Books on Australian Motor Racing History’ comprises. I reckon its these works, in no particular order…

.‘The Official 50 Race History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard (and others)

.‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley

.‘Lex Davison: Larger Than Life’ Graham Howard

.‘David McKays Scuderia Veloce’ David McKay

.‘John Snow: Classic Motor Racer’ John Medley

.‘As Long As It Has Wheels’ James Gullan

.‘Phil Irving: An Autobiography’

.‘Jack Brabham Story’ Brabham and Doug Nye

.‘Tasman Cup 1964-1975’ Tony Loxley (and others)

.‘History of The Australian Touring Car Championship’ Graham Howard and Stewart Wilson

.’Historic Racing Cars In Australia’ John Blanden

The above books don’t cover the Repco Racing story in anything remotely approaching full. Two that sorta do are Malcolm Preston’s ‘Maybach to Holden‘ and Frank Hallam’s ‘Mr Repco Brabham’ but both have warts. Malcolm’s is good, mind you, my Repco Brabham Engines buddies say it has quite a few errors. Hallam’s book is 70% insight and 30% arrant bullshit, but you need a fair bit of Repco knowledge to separate, page by page, the gold from the crap. I’ve stayed clear of marque specific books- Catford on Elfin and King on Bugatti for example, as I’m trying to get spread of topics from a small number of books not a long list of works…

I’m really interested to hear from you all on additions or deletions to the list.

The debate isn’t ‘my favourite books on Australian motor racing’ but rather the minimum number of books which most thoroughly tells the history of Australian motor racing. What books should a young enthusiast with limited funds buy is perhaps the filter to apply to your thinking?

Whilst the biographies listed may seem specific- they are, but they also cover heaps of related racing stuff over the period of the subjects life, so have great breadth.

Pre-war Oz racing books are thin on the ground, few were written- in that sense Medley’s and Gullan’s books are gold. So too are the relevant chapters of the ‘History of The AGP’ which provide lots of context in addition to the race reports themselves.

Howard, McKay and Medley were/are enthusiasts/racers who have wonderful historic perspective and deep insight that only masters of subject matter have. Bringing all of the threads about a topic together and drawing conclusions is hard, all have that ability.

All of the books listed are out of print except ‘John Snow’ (Medley still has copies) ‘History of the AGP’ and ‘Tasman Cup’, but all can be obtained with patience on eBay. The only one which is a bit on the exy side is Phil Irving’s book, the prices of which are high given huge global Vincent enthusiast demand in addition to us car guys.

In any event, all debate on the topic is invited, and yes, lets hear of your favourite books as well…

Credits…

Rod MacKenzie Collection

Tailpiece: Bob Muir, Lola T300 Chev, Warwick Farm 1972…

 

(R MacKenzie)

‘Action! Getting close to Bob Muir’s Lola T300 in the Esses at Warwick Farm in 1972. This remains my favourite Warwick Farm location although getting it right was really difficult. There were only a few places that were close enough to warrant an uninteresting background.

So we have the best location, best looking Lola, and a great photo that shows Muir’s speed and commitment at the most difficult section of the ‘Farm’.

Finito…

(AMR)

Bruce McLaren points his Ford F3L/P68 into Druids Hill Bend during the 1968 Brands Hatch 6 Hour on April 7…

I guess we all have our favourite racing eras, my own are the seventies and eighties but visually the ‘last front engined decade’, the fifties and the ‘first mid-engined decade’, the sixties have to be right up there.

In sportscar terms the latter is stunning- the bill of fare without limit from the Ferrari 250P early in the decade to the 512S at its end (1969 design and 1970 raced), Lola Mk6 to T70 Mk3B, Chaparral 2 to 2H, Porsche 904 to 908, Elfin Mallala to ME5 and Ford GT40 to F3L.

The F3L has to be a candidate for the hottest of hotties with its extravagant length, voluptuous but subtle compound curvature- it’s possibly the spunk-muffin of them all but sadly, as is so often the case with stunning chicks, the beauty was only skin deep.

On the face of it Fords 3 litre Group 6 challenger- the designation is an acronym for Prototype 1968 Ford 3 Litre had all it needed to succeed; the backing and funding of Ford UK, Castrol and Goodyear the most punchy, torquey and reliable F1 engine of the day- the Ford Cosworth DFV, it was designed by the very well credentialled Len Bailey- then on the payroll of Harley Copp, Ford Director of Engineering and built by Alan Mann Racing in Byfleet, Surrey. On top of that the roll call of drivers included the best GP and sportscar racers of the day. How could they fail? But tank they did, by early 1969 the project was dead. What went so terribly wrong?

No less than father of the Ford DFV program, Ford’s European Director of Public Affairs, Walter Hayes launched the F3L at a large function of motor racing’s great and good at the Hilton Hotel in early 1968.

The car blew the brains away of all present in terms of its looks, aerodynamics and advanced specification- it was indeed an amazingly compact, fully-enveloped two-seater Grand Prix car in its conception and execution.

(AMR)

Len Bailey was apprenticed at Austin and moved to the US in 1955 where he worked for American Motors and Ford in Dearborn. He was part of a team which worked on Fords racing efforts and then returned to the UK, still employed by Ford as Chief Draftsman on the Ford Advanced Vehicles GT40 project designed by Eric Broadley. The body shape of the GT40 in its successful form was designed by Bailey in the workshops of Specialised Mouldings with assistance from stylists from Ford UK and US. Bailey designed the Mirage adaptation of the GT40 raced by John Wyer in 1967 and the engineering of many of the Alan Mann Racing touring cars.

In Australia Bailey is best known for his late 1968 Alan Mann Racing built, monocoque Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ single-seater, which used some Brabham BT23 componentry (uprights, wheels, steering rack) and was raced very successfully by Frank Gardner, Kevin Bartlett, Bob Muir and Ray Winter way into 1974 powered by Alfa Tipo 33 2.5 V8 and Waggott 2 litre TC-4V engines in ANF1 and finally the Ford Hart 416B twin-cam ANF2 motor.

Frank Gardner in Len Bailey’s AMR built Mildren Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 2.5V8 Tasman Formula car in the Warwick Farm Esses during the sodden ‘WF 100’ won by Jochen Rindt’s Lotus 49 Ford DFW in a blinder of a wet weather drive, FG was third in this excellent car. It was a front three car, the absence of wings before the Australian leg meant the car didn’t realise its ultimate pace that summer- god knows why it was delivered from the UK sans wings, its not as tho Bailey or FG didn’t know they were needed?! Superb car which won races throughout Australasia and Asia thru till 1974. Still extant in the hands of the Ayers Family in Waggott engine form (B McInerney)

 

Superb Ford Cosworth DFV V8 cutaway by Vic Berris (Autocar)

Bailey was inspired to build the F3L by the Ford Cosworth DFV given its small size and light weight. Len decided it would make an ideal sprint engine but Keith Duckworth questioned the engines durability, it was designed for 200 mile Grands Prix events after all- so in the first year, 1968, it was not intended to contest Le Mans.

Despite the DFV being concepted by Colin Chapman and designed by Duckworth to be a stressed member of a car the aluminium monocoque Bailey laid down provided for the engine to be carried by traditional aluminium side booms, a choice which was both unnecessarily heavy and problematic in terms of utility. It took too long to remove and replace th engine and it was said heat problems were caused.

The choice of the chassis design is intriguing- whether it was Bailey’s choice or one imposed on him ‘due to political problems within Ford’ is unclear. The latter seems odd- by the end of 1967 Chapman had agreed to Hayes request to make the engine more widely available in 1968 to other teams ‘so as not to destroy Grand Prix racing’, as Hayes was fearful the Lotus 49 Ford cars would do. So Chapman agreed to that, despite his contract providing Lotus with engine exclusivity for a period of time. The point in this chassis design context is that McLaren and Matra, in designing their 1968 M7A and MS10 GP cars located their engines exactly as Chapman did on the 49- they were bolted the the rear chassis bulkhead, that is used as stressed chassis members rather than supported as Bailey/Mann chose to do, or were forced to do, with their F3L sportscar.

Inperial College wind tunnel in 1967 (unattributed)

To finish this long treatise on the F3L chassis Autosport’s John Bolster in an article he penned about the car in March 1968 reported it ‘was a full monocoque with riveted and bonded aluminium panels; in fact the only unstressed panels are in the small removable nose section and the tail. The skin is of 0.03 inch malleable aircraft alloy throughout, and the shape of the body is intended to produce the lowest possible drag while keeping the small, light car on the ground. At 200 mph it is calculated that a downward force of 600 pounds will be generated’.

The compact size of the F3L is stunning in any picture of it, this is in part due to the cars wheelbase which was a short 7 feet 3 inches with a track of 4 ft 7 ins. The wheelbase was ‘considerably shorter than that of the grand prix single-seaters employing the same power unit’ Bolster wrote. He continued, ‘No doubt this short wheelbase can be used because of the stability conferred by the body shape, and in particular by the Ford-patented vortex generating tail. The overall length is 13 ft 10 ins, the width 5 ft 10 ins, the height 2 ft 11.5 ins and the frontal area 14 sq ft’. Whilst the car undoubtedly had the hands of stylists involved, the fundamental shape was developed with the aid of extensive testing in the Imperial College Wind Tunnel during 1967.

Suspension was GP car standard of the day- upper and lower wishbones with coil spring/damper units at the front and single top links, inverted lower wishbones, two radius rods and again coil spring/dampers at the rear. Roll bars were of course adjustable at both ends. Girling brakes of 11.5 inches diameter were carried inboard of the uprights in the interest of cooling with drive from the hubs provided by short live axles. Light alloy wheels used three-eared knock-on hubs, with peg drive and were 15 inches in diameter with rim widths of 8/9 inches at the front and 14/15 inches aft. Goodyear tyres were used which, given the tyre contracts of the day meant that only Goodyear contracted drivers could be used- not that in any way that limited the talent pool available! Uprights were cast magnesium, steering rack and pinion and the gearbox was a Hewland DG300, relatively understressed in this application.

The 3 litre Ford DFV developed around 420 bhp @ 9000 rpm at this stage of its development, the radiator was mounted at the front of the car with electrics and fuel injection the same as those used in the single-seaters mentioned above. The fuel filler was concealed in the scuttle, the fuel tank capacity was 26.5 gallons, the mandated spare wheel was carried flat behind the engine with compulsory luggage capacity also in the tail. The minimum weight for Group 6 cars was 1435 pounds, the F3L in its early form weighed in at a comparatively svelte 1480 pounds.

Breathtaking artistry of Theo Page- F3L P68

Bolster reported that ‘It is intended that 1968 be a development season for the car, and Alan Mann will enter it in five or six races. Most of the test driving will be performed by Denny Hulme and Frank Gardner, but Jim Clark/Graham Hill and Bruce McLaren/Denny Hulme are scheduled to drive the cars at the BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch on April 7, which will be the first public appearance’.

If only Jim Clark had raced the F3L that fateful weekend the course of motor racing history would have been quite different, instead the Lotus/Firestone contracted driver raced an F2 Lotus Ford FVA F2 car to his death at Hockenheim.

Bolster concluded his article with the observation that ‘This brilliant design will allow the Ford Cosworth V8, hitherto a Formula 1 unit, to appear in a new sphere. Though the enclosed two-seater is heavier than the single-seaters, its vastly better aerodynamic shape will enable it to reach higher speeds and over 200 mph will certainly be within its compass. This is yet another proof that when Fords go motor racing, they employ all the latest advances in technology and there are no half measures.’

All of Bolster’s observations held true with the exception of half-measures- it was only half-measures in terms of commitment to the cars development which precluded the success that was well within its performance reach…

Gardner’s Nurburgring crutch. The tall, lanky pilot had an extra one and a half inches added to the wheelbase of ‘the second chassis’ built to give him a bit more ‘wriggle room’ (Getty)

The legendary bearded scribbler, Denis Jenkinson, of course attended the cars launch and spoke extensively to Frank Gardner about the car during the function- he was keen for a ride in the new machine with Gardner happy to oblige, a Goodwood test date was soon sorted.

Jenkinson takes up the story in MotorSport ‘I spent a whole day at Goodwood watching Gardner drive the car and he didn’t like the way it steered, though he was unable to explain clearly why. The front end gave no hint of confidence on fast bends and seemed to want to step out sideways, but he could offer no technical suggestions and Bailey and Mann seemed out of their depth with a car they had conceived but were unable to suckle. Jack Brabham was there testing one of his F2 cars (BT23C Ford Cosworth) so Alan Mann asked him to try the Ford. On three laps Brabham approached the chicane and at the last moment thought the better of it and took the escape road. After about 5 laps he drew into the pits, opened the door, and before anyone could speak, he said, in that dead-pan voice that is so typical of Brabham, “How brave do you want me to get?” Without more ado he got on with his Formula Two car and left Gardner, Bailey and Mann scratching their heads, not knowing where to look for the root cause. The late Mike Spence tried the car and was more explicit, describing the movement of the car as being as if the steering rack was moving, making the car step sideways at the front when the torque was applied to the steering wheel. Some primitive, strong arm stuff with long levers indicated that the front structure was rigid enough, and Spence did wonder if the car was aerodynamically unstable, but this was out of the question, for the Ford publicity boys had written pages on the new secrets of the aerodynamics of the tail section which gave the car very special stability. Before the abortive day finished I suggested to Gardner that I’d still like a run around in the passenger seat, if only to be able to see at close quarters what they were complaining about. He was adamant; he said he was reluctantly prepared to risk his own life, but he was not prepared to risk somebody elses. It must have been bad, so I went away and got on with something else’ Jenkinson concluded.

Nonetheless the testing of the car continued, Gardner, Richard Attwood, Mike Spence and John Surtees all drove it and assisted in its development and by the time of the intial Brands outing the car was quick- if unreliable. This is of course not unexpected- the 917 was a pig in 1969, Gardner famously thought he and David Piper should have been awarded an Iron Cross for wrestling it around the Nurburgring 1000 km when none of Porsche’s contracted drivers would- won Le Mans in 1970.

Lets have a look at how the F3L fared at each of its competition appearances.

Alan Mann and Walter Hayes in suit, and the lads, Brands 1968. McLaren/Spence car (AMR)

1968 Season…

Brands Hatch 6 Hour (April 7)

The two-car Alan Mann transporter rumbled into the Brands paddock late for the first day of practice, the second P68 having been just completed. The cars were to be driven by Rindt/Spence and McLaren/Hulme (substitutinq for Clark/Hill, Clark having to take late Lotus 48 FVA F2 commitments at Hockenheim).

McLaren was second fastest in practice with the works Siffert/Hermann Porsche 907 on pole. The other F3L broke its engine and was withdrawn due to the lack of a spare. As a consequence the driver pairings were shuffled with McLaren/Spence teamed to race. McLaren drove a great race, the engine hesitated off the line with Bruce dropping to sixth, but he recovered to lead after 30 minutes. A great dice with Jo Siffert and Vic Elford in works Porsche 907’s saw some place-changing, but McLaren still led at the first pit stop. Spence resumed in third place, but within 20 mins coasted to retirement opposite the pits with a broken driveshaft coupling. The Ickx/Redman John Wyer Ford GT40 won from Q5 with the Porsche 907’s of Mitter/Scarfiotti and Elford/Neerpasch second and third.

Denis Jenkinson saw the race and observed ‘The lone race entry completed only 65 laps, but it held the lead at times, which was most impressive, and when it retired with a broken driveshaft joint everyone was genuinely sorry and we all thought “that car is a certain winner when they get it sorted out”. Oddly enough the strange handling experienced at Goodwood was an aerodynamic instability, and tail spoilers were claimed to have cured all the troubles, as simply as that. For a first attempt in an experimental year the BOAC outing was fair enough, for the car was clearly a winner.’

Gardner, Karrussell, Nurburgring 1968 (unattributed)

Nürburgring 1000 km (May 19)

In a shocker of a meeting for the F3Ls- two cars were entered for Pedro Rodriguez/Chris Irwin and Attwood/Gardner, Irwin crashed at Flugplatz during practice, receiving severe head injuries. The car landed badly on its tail, flipped end to end, the ferocity of the prang caused injuries which hospitalised him for some time.

Interestingly Irwin had done an 8:40.4 lap- quicker than Gardner’s 8:42.5 and good enough for fourth on the grid had be been able to start. On the ultimate test of handling the F3L’s were fast- off the pace of the fastest 907’s but they were very much on home turf and crewed by drivers who knew the place like the back of their hands.

Attwood started the race, but on lap 1 the retaining clip on the right front brake caliper disappeared and the brake pads fell out, Attwood limped back to the pits. On lap 2 the driver’s door came open and twisted itself out of shape, to compound a shocker of a weekend the right rear tyre punctured. On lap 3 Attwood got going again a lap and a half behind the leaders. After a few more laps the engine died due to a broken ignition transistor, the sleek coupe was retired out on the long circuit.

The Siffert/Elford 908 won from the Hermann/Stommelen 907 and then the Ickx/Hawkins Wyer GT40- just under four minutes covered the top 3 cars after 1000 Km of racing.

Chris Irwin about to saddle up for his last, fateful, motor racing laps, Nurburgring 1968, F3L P68 (unattributed)

In a June 2008 MotorSport interview Chris Irwin spoke of that fateful weekend which ended his incredibly promising motor racing career.

‘How the accident happened and why it happened don’t know. I have no memory of it whatsoever. All I can remember of the weekend is that the car I was driving went incredibly quickly and every time I came in I asked them to put a higher top gear in it. We were doing something like 240 mph on the straight. It really was the most lovely piece of equipment before I finished with it.’

Irwin’s completely wrecked F3L P68 ‘1002 or ’02’ after its Flugplatz landing. I wonder who the Ford fellow with the helmet is? (M Forster)

Irwin spent ten days on life support following the accident. ‘When I woke up they asked me how I felt and I said my right ankle hurt. I’d got a broken ankle and they didn’t know about it. I had to go back to hospital quite a few times for further surgery. I had some very good treatment; the finest that money could buy. I was left with epilepsy as a legacy of the accident, which is controlled by pills, and i’m still allowed to drive’ Irwin concluded.

It is ironic that the death of another F3L driver, Mike Spence at Indianapolis could have opened up a seat for Irwin, with ten GP starts behind him, at BRM for the balance of 1968. The ifs, buts, and maybe’s of motor racing fortunes…

Chris Irwin, BRM P261, Longford, The Viaduct, during the 1967 Tasman Series. Irwin raced this chassis when Richard Attwood returned to Europe- he contested the Warwick Farm, Sandown and Longford rounds for a DNF, 4th and 3rd (DKeep/oldracephotos)

 

Spa 1000 km (May 26)

The single surviving F3L was driven by Gardner and German racer Hubert Hahne.

High speed stability and predictability are all for driver confidence on the Ardennes Forest daunting road circuit as is the aerodynamic efficiency of the car.

The early handling developmental problems of the F3L seemed to be cured with Gardner taking pole at 145.8mph, with a huge 4 second margin from Jacky Ickx’s John Wyer Ford GT40-and this on a circuit Ickx knew like the back of his hand. The F3L achieved 211 mph on the Masta Straight.

The good work in practice was ruined in the race however. Ickx led Gardner through Eau Rouge, but the F3L slipped to 10th and pitted after the first lap. This was the car’s first run in the rain and cool air ducting funnelled water all over the electrics. Given there was no easy fix the team withdrew the car- again a developmental issue which should have been foreseen but was not difficult to put right with appropriate changes to the machine.

The race was won by the Ickx/Redman Wyer GT40 from the Porsche 907 of Mitter/Schlesser and Hermann/Stommelen 908.

These two front and rear shots are of the Gardner/Hahne F3L at Spa 1968- the car an absolute (unattributed)

 

RAC TT, Oulton Park (June 3)

A single car was entered for Attwood who took pole at 1:36.0. The F3L led for 10 laps but retired with a Hewland differential failure.

Lacking confidence in the ability of the car to finish the race, Attwood had also been nominated as co-driver in David Piper’s Ferrari 412P- they drove superbly to second place just 9.4 secs behind Hulme’s winning Lola T70 Chev after three hours’ of racing. Paul Hawkins was third in his GT40.

Martini Trophy, Silverstone (July 27)

Another good performance was spoiled by fragility.

Frank Gardner qualified second behind Hulme’s Lola T70 Mk3 Chev, but led from the off staying there for 41 of the 65 laps, causing Denny to spin in his spirited pursuit of the red Alan Mann car. With 16 seconds in hand the DFV engine lost oil pressure, FG retired the car after 41 laps rather than pop the expensive motor. During the race Gardner proved the cars speed setting a new lap record of 1:28.6.

The race was won by Hulme’s Lola from the GT40’s of Paul Hawkins and Ed Nelson.

Later in the year the car was entered in the (sportscar) Austrian Grand Prix at Zeltweg in late August but was withdrawn, Jenkinson said because of ‘political strife at Ford’.

The 1968 Manufacturers Championship was won by Ford with 45 points from Porsche on 42 and Alfa Romeo on 15.5.

Gardner testing the new P69 at Goodwood. Poor quality shot shows front wing between the two guards and fully enveloping nature of the body  (D Phipps)

 

 

Due to changes in the Group 6 regulations made by the CSI in relation to windscreen heights amongst other changes Bailey designed a new car for 1969, it was essentially an open version of the P68 but much more revolutionary in its aerodynamic specifications.

When announced to the press on 7 April the P69 was described by Ford as ‘a research vehicle…designed as an integral airfoil study…the P69 continues the (F1) study to the sports prototype field. The P69 integral airfoil utilizes a system of interconnected adjustable airfoil wings mounted at front and rear. Action of the two wings is controlled both mechanically and hydraulically with the pitch angle being governed directly by air pressure bearing on the wing surfaces when the car is in motion’.

‘The front airfoil is mounted low down between the extended front fenders. The rear airfoil is attached by its leading edge to the upper surface of the car. The prototype has a maximum speed in excess of 200 mph and is 15 inches shorter, 5 inches lower, and 2.5 incjes wider than the P68 prototype- a closed car- which first raced last year’.

Len Bailey is quoted as saying ‘We have set out to promote positive downward lift forces with a minimum of drag. Later it is envisaged the rear flap will serve as an air brake which will be directly controlled by the driver’. The engine was of course the Ford Cosworth DFV as used the year before ‘with the water radiator in a special duct at the rear of the car while ducts are cut into the side and underside of the car for the engine and transmission oil cooler as well as the rear brakes and engine trumpets’.

The chassis, suspension and brakes are similar to the P68. At the time of the public announcement wind tunnel tests had been completed at at the MIRA facility at Nuneaton and Gardner had completed a ‘comprehensive test at Goodwood. Drivers announced for the 1969 Brands Hatch BOAC 500 on 13 April were the Australian duo of Gardner and Brabham.

Gardner on the move at Goodwood, shots of car rare, especially in its original form, rear wing/spoiler clear (D Phipps)

Talk about Mann and Bailey doubling their bets!?

You might think the safe move, the winning one would have been to make reliable what was clearly the fastest sportscar of 1968 and win in 1969. But instead the AMR crew added more complexity. One can’t help but wonder if the car wasn’t some type of publicity stunt- the press release said the car had moveable aerodynamic devices which were illegal under the rules then and now. Predictably, the FIA acted swiftly, before the P69 had even raced!

With its moving aerofoil flap between the front headlights and enclosed ‘single-seat’ cockpit there was no way the car could be made compliant without spending a great deal of money. The cars rear mounted radiator was said to be 30% more efficient than the one in the front of the F3L coupe, but if the cars central body section was altered the performance advantages would be lost.

In order to race the car at Brands the car was fitted with a pair of conventional free-standing wings mounted to the front and rear uprights…

Gardner in Ford jacket, Alan Mann a couple of blokes away to his left. Wings added clear, Brands Hatch (unattributed)

 

Ditto above (unattributed)

1969 Season…

Brands Hatch 6 Hour (April 13)

The new open-bodied P69 ran its bearings in practice, yet again this problem had ruined a race weekend.

Various reports have Brabham not wanting to have anything to do with the car at all having initially driven it but even in the limited practice laps at Brands completed the car recorded a 1:33.0 lap- way off Siffert/Redman Porsche pole of 1:28.8 but again, limited laps were completed and it was the cars first race run.

Hulme?Gardner F3L on the 1969 Brands 6 Hour grid (unattributed)

In any event, that now left the P68 coupé- with a suspension-mounted rear wing, in the hands of Hulme/Gardner to start the race without its younger sibling . The car qualified 3 seconds adrift of pole with tired engines a continuing problem, the car, driven by Denny Hulme retired with low oil pressure on lap 14, he held 5th position at the time.

Porsche 908/2’s took the placings- the Siffert/Redman crew won from Elford/Attwood and Mitter/Schutz.

P69 at Druids Hill, Brands 1969, probably Frank Gardner at the wheel (unattributed)

The ongoing engine failures were odd, the motors were not racing beyond GP distances but were failing consistently with atypical bottom end problems.

Richard Thwaites, who acquired the 1968 BOAC chassis #1000 in the nineties identified the cause of the engine problems.

‘When I bought the car ‘chassis No 1000′ was dynotaped to the dashboard, I belive this was original as it was exactly the same faded dynotape as the labelling for all the switches. I had the car restored by Hall & Fowler 1994-96…with regard to the engine problems in 1968 which were mainly bearings, when we restored the car we found a major design fault with the oil tank. Whilst the oil was collected from the bottom of the tank, the outlet pipe came out of the top of the tank and over the monocoque before going down to the oil pump. The oil had to be sucked up about 18 inches and I believe that with the thick oils that were used at the time, it caused cavitation in the oil pump which led to bearing failure. We changed the oil tank so the pipe came out of the bottom of the tank and did not have any problems’ Thwaites wrote.

By this stage faith in the project was well and truly disappearing.

Alan Mann had wanted to gain experience from racing the cars whilst Ford had not wanted to race them until they were race-worthy so there was a certain amount of deadlock. From Ford’s perspectine the good old reliable GT40 had won at Le Mans in 1968 and of course the same John Wyer run chassis ‘1075’ took victory again in 1969- they hardly needed Alan Mann’s cars, as it turned out

Gardner’s F3L P68 in the Silverstone paddock, Martini Trophy meeting 1969 (unattributed)

Martini Trophy, Silverstone (May 17)

Frank Gardner repeated the  previous year’s pace, by taking pole with 1:28.0. There was very heavy rain on race day, so the team removed the rear wing because speeds would be lower. The engine badly misfired with wet electrics on the warm-up lap, Bailey recalled ‘…suitable rain shields were available , but they were not fitted when the car set off on its warming up laps. The engine popped and banged over the deep Silverstone puddles and there was nothing Gardner could do when seven or eight cylinders all chimed in together at an unexpected moment and put the car off the track.’

Chris Craft won the race from Brian Redman, David Piper and Paul Hawkins, all four raced Lola T70 Mk3B Chevs.

The F3L’s were put to one side in a corner of Mann’s workshop, the final ignominy was for them to be raided as a suspension parts source for AMR’s second Can Am car- the ‘Ford Open Sports’- has there ever been a more sexless name for a spectacular racing car?

But let’s come back to that tangent in a moment, a Ford Cosworth DFV engined car did win an endurance event in 1969- the Imola 500 Km in September.

Ickx at the wheel of the Mirage M3/200 Ford Coupe, Nurburgring 1000 Km 1969 (unattributed)

Mirage M2-300 and M3-300 Fords…

When legendary team boss/manager John Wyer considered his JWA Automotive options for the new sportscar rules of 1968 he was keen to get hold of the DFV too- he planned to build a ‘sprint’ car like Alan Mann to supplement his GT40’s which he suspected may struggle with ultimate speed. That option wasn’t available to him as the supply of the motors was limited and AMR got the sports-racer gig.

Undeterred, Wyer briefed Len Terry to design a 3 litre Coupe powered by the BRM ‘sports car’ V12 which Bruce McLaren first used in his McLaren M5 in late 1967 GP events. Whilst quick, the BRM engined cars were not fast enough with Wyer finally getting his hands on the DFV in 1969.

The team quickly modified their existing chassis to accept the smaller, punchier DFV with the M2-300 Coupe having its first race start in the hands of Jackie Ickx/Jackie Oliver in the 1 June Nurburgring 1000 km, why not start with one of the toughest of all events, after all the chassis was well sorted?! The coupe qualified fifth and retired with rear suspension failure.

Bonnier/Muller Lola T70 Mk3B Chev alongside the Ickx/Oliver Mirage M3/300 Ford, further back is the Matra MS650 of Servoz-Gavin/Rodriguez (unattributed)

 

Jackie Oliver in the Mirage M3/300 Ford, Osterreichring 1969 (LAT)

At Watkins Glen the same pair raced an M3-300 Spyder- JWA made some minor changes to the racers spec and hacked off most of the heavy body. Q5 and DNF with camshaft failure on lap 112 was the result. Off to the Osterreichring in August Ickx popped it on pole but steering failure stopped the pair short on lap 199- at this stage the Mirage appears to have a ‘touch of the P3L’s- lotsa speed but no endurance!

But Ickx and the little racer redeemed themselves at Imola on 14 September winning the 500 km race in a classy field which included works Alfa Romeo T33/3’s driven by Ignazio Giunti, Nanni Galli and Andrea De Adamich as well as works Porsche Salzburg 908/02’s piloted by Kurt Ahrens, Rudy Lins, Vic Elford and Hans Herrmann.

Giunti’s 2nd placed Alfa T33/3 alongside Ickx in the Mirage M3/300 Ford 1st and Art Merzario’s Fiat-Abarth 3000 behind DNF. Imola 500 Km start 1969 (unattributed)

To rub salt into his F3L wounds Frank Gardner co-drove Mike De Udy’s Lola T70 Mk3B in the race and had a front row seat to view the Mirage’s pace as it lapped his troubled Lola several times…

Ickx won from the Giunti T33/3 and Van Lennep/Ortner Fiat Abarth 2000. What Alan Mann and Len Bailey made of this win when they read about it in that weeks Autosport is unrecorded, but if it had been me I would have said- ‘There ya go, you should have stuck with us Walter, we would have got there eventually!’ Perhaps Walters polite response would have been ‘Well Alan, waiting till hell freezes over was longer than acceptable’.

Ickx, Giunti and Merzario from the off, Imola majesty (unattributed)

Where were we?

The F3L’s had been cast to one side in AMR’s workshop as Len Bailey embarked on the design and construction of their last car, the ‘Ford Open Sports’ Can Am racer.

This aluminium monocoque machine was built during early 1969 and tested by Frank Gardner and Can Am ace Denny Hulme before delivery to the ‘States where it was raced in the final two rounds of the 1969 Championship- at Riverside, DNF halfshaft failure by Frank Gardner and at Texas International where Jack Brabham raced it.

Jack qualified the experimental Holman Moody prepped alloy 494cid injected Boss V8 engined car seventh and worked his way up to second late in the race before being slowed by an oil leak which dropped him to third behind Bruce McLaren’s dominant McLaren M8B Chev and George Eaton’s McLaren M12 Chev.

Had the swoopy, curvaceous car been built and tested earlier in the season who knows what the 740 bhp, Hewland LG600 5 speed equipped racer could have achieved?

‘Certainly the potential was there. And yet the Open Sports Ford vanished as quickly as it appeared. Perhaps a victim of Ford Motor Companies lack of commitment to the Can Am, or its drastic budget slash for 1970, or Alan Mann Racing closing its doors at the end of the 1969 season, but the Open Sports Ford never raced again’ wrote Steve Holmes. Click here for more about this interesting car, rather than me getting lost in this tangent- the car still exists too, on Steve’s ‘The Roaring Season’ website; http://www.theroaringseason.com/showthread.php?53-The-Open-Sports-Ford

Gardner testing the Ford Open Sports at Goodwood in mid-1969 (AMR)

FOS- 494 cid ally Holman Moody prepped Ford V8, circa 740 bhp (TRS)

Jack Brabham, Ford Open Sports with Chuck Parson’s Lola T163 Chev at Texas International (unattributed)

After the closure of Alan Mann Racing the two remaining Fords ‘languish under dust covers in a hangar on an aerodrome in Surrey… neither of the surviving cars has suspension, gearbox or engine installed. The suspension was robbed to be put on the Ford Open Sports…In view of the poor results obtained the top brass at Ford were probably happy to see the project at an end. But they had provided one of the most exciting looking sports cars ever seen. Furthermore it was an All-Ford effort which is praiseworthy, and a contrast to other Ford-financed racing ventures’ MotorSport wrote.

One of these Ford financed racing ventures MotorSport referred to was the Ford Cosworth DFV mind you! They go on ‘Bailey is obviously sorry that his baby should have been spurned by its godparents, and indeed thinks it could still be competitive (in April 1970). Weight could come down by replacing the metal nose and tail sections with glass-fibre parts and he still thinks the car would give a Porsche 917 a good run down the Mulsanne Straight’.

Doug Nye picks up the story of the F3L’s in the late 1970’s ‘…I was telephoned by Harry Carlton who was head of Ford’s press department at Warley, Essex’.

‘Knowing of my connection with Tom Wheatcroft and the Donington Collection he told me that Ford’s management had just concluded that the progressively deteriorating pair of Ford P68’s they owned were simply a waste of space. “Unless we can find a home for them, they’re going to be cut up- d’you think Tom might be prepared to house them?”.

‘I told Harry I was sure he would, to guard the P68’s with his life and I’d get straight back to him. I called Wheatie “Ooh aye lad, bootiful, bootiful, get ’em to send ’em oop ‘ere all right”. I called Harry back and put him in direct contact with Wheatie. I think the cars were removed to Donington’s store the next day. One was quite sad and sorry, the other a little less damaged. One of them had a door come open while being trailed back from a motor show…and the airstream on the motorway had then ripped the door clean off…Like so many Len Bailey designs it looked terrific but was somewhat deficient in many areas, not least its nervous SWB handling and-I was told-its structural strength was inadequate to contain the DFV’s devastating vibration’.

‘Tom subsequently, as I recall, part-exchanged one of the cars with Gavin Bain in New Zealand in return for the remains of the Alfa-Aitken Bimotore. The other went to David Piper, and he subsequently built a replica with a slightly longer (more congenial) wheelbase…or something like that.’

‘Richard Attwood recalls one of his greatest disappointments as being in the P68 in the Oulton Park TT. It was so immensely superior to anything else in the field around Oulton, that he was absolutely confident of success- only to be sidelined by some pettifogging fault…I’m quite proud that in small part I contributed to the car’s survival’ Nye concluded on The Nostalgia Forum.

F3L, Brands 1968, McLaren/Spence (AMR)

So, what do we make of the F3L program and why it failed? What would it have taken to succeed? Why did Ford get the jitters?…

 Whatever the design shortcomings of the car, the F3L P68 was an incredibly fast car on medium/quick Brands Hatch, the blinding speed of Spa and the tremendous, unique test of chassis the Nurburgring represents. The speed of the thing is not in doubt.

 The ability of AMR to respond to the necessary developmental changes and preparation is though.

In 1968 AMR built and prepared the Lotus Cortina and Ford Escort twin-cam in which Frank Gardner retained his British Touring Car Championship crown won the year before in an AMR Ford Falcon Sprint. So, its not as though the team ‘lost their touch’, and to be fair the only problems with the P3L which were repeat ones rather than one-offs or learnings were engine ones- which they really should have solved.

Maybe the perfect combination in 1968 was Alan Mann built cars raced by JW Engineering who did know a thing or two about sports-prototype preparation and development!

FG and Peter Arundell play follow my AMR twin-cam leader during the Silverstone BTCC round on 27 July 1968 (unattributed)

The P69, unless there were political reasons for doing it was bonkers. The ‘68/9 winter would have been far better spent sorting what they already had- a very fast but unreliable P68. Had Alan Mann Racing done that and raced the cars perhaps Ford would have won the 1969 manufacturers championship with points gained by its 3 litre P3L and the 5 litre GT40- a win at Brands in early 1969 possibly would have breathed life into a program which was from that moment ‘dead in the water’.

 Its said money was tight and that Ford equivocated in their support. What certainly changed or continued in 1968 was that the GT40 was still a reliable car and a race winner- the venerable Mk1 may have had its sad moments early on in its racing life but it paid back bigtime in 1968/9! Wins at Monza, Spa, Watkins Glen and Le Mans in 1968 and Sebring and Le Mans in 1969 apart from secondary level events fell to the 5 litre beastie. From Ford’s point of view, as 1968 unfolded, they didn’t need the P3L as they thought they did when the car was mooted in mid-1967.

Denny Hulme, McLaren M7A Ford- 2nd behind Graham Hill’s Lotus 49 Ford, 1968 Mexican GP Jarama (unattributed)

Whilst the Ford DFV delivered bigtime in F1 from its debut win at Zandvoort in 1967 it was a sprint not an endurance design, the 3.9 litre endurance DFL Le Mans winner came much later. As the roster of GP teams and privateers formed a queue at Duckworth’s Northhampton door he was up to his armpits in conrods keeping up with the manufacture of engines, rebuilds and ongoing development of the 90 degree V8 to keep ahead of the Matra, BRM and Ferrari twelves. He didn’t have time to mess about with the changes necessary to evolve the DFV into an endurance motor and may well have expressed to Hayes his reservations about the engines being used in an unintended application, with resultant failures- and the risk to Ford’s reputation in relation thereto!

 In addition ‘Going Ford Is The Going Thing’; Ford were winning Grands Prix and World Titles, the Escort was winning rallies, the Ford Indy engine won its share in the US, the Boss 302 Mustang was a winner on three continents- ‘who needs a sportscar program when we have winning global programs and local ones?’ such as that in Australia where Ford GTHO’s were dominant/competitive in touring car racing- may well have been the views of FoMoCo’s top brass.

 On 12 March 1969 a Porsche 917 was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show- the ante was being upped by the 4.5 litre Porsche, and soon too Ferrari with their 5 litre V12 512S, the P3L was destined to be a bit player in this company even if they were reliable.

‘And so there was no further P3L publicity from the prolific Ford writers, no explanations, no excuses as to why they hadn’t swept the 1969 board: in fact nothing more than a deathly hush’ wrote Jenkinson…whilst the remains of the P68’s left over from the Ford Open Sports build were moved, interred really, to a hangar at Fair Oaks aerodrome, near Chobham, Surrey not too far from Byfleet where they were born little more than eighteen months before.

 Sad really for such stunning, fast, under-developed and prepared cars- the P3L’s were on the cusp of delivering all their looks promised but for the application of some race and developmental basics for a professional team like Ford/AMR…

Designers original intent- Ford press shot (Ford)

Chassis Numbers et al…

Treat this as being indicative rather than definitive, none of my usual online sources have neato, fully debated and therefore resolved  summaries of which P68 is which. I have relied mainly on the opinion of Richard Thwaites who owned ‘1001’ for years- but provided the information on the P68’s after he had sold his car and therefore he had no vested interest in the outcome of his particular version of events.

Owners claims always need to be treated with a degree of circumspection during the period in which they own cars in my experience. In most cases the connection between bullshit and the upward trajectory of the fiscal sale implications of the bucket of bolts in question seems way too often to be a temptation even the most devout Catholic of owners fall prey to.

McLaren F3L P68 with one of the works Porsche 907’s behind, Brands 6 Hour 1968 (AMR)

F3L P68 #’1000′ or ’01’

The #34 McLaren/Spence Brands 1968 car Richard Thwaites believes is the car he acquired from Australian Ian Cummins who in turn bought it from Kiwi Gavin Bain who had part-exchanged it in a deal with Tom Wheatcroft.

‘..I am sure it is the one that raced in the BOAC 500 in 1968 as the bodywork is identical to race pictures and the car came with solid discs. I believe David Piper’s original car is the one that was built after Irwin’s crash and subsequently raced in the 1969 BOAC 500. My car did not have the holes in the alloy bodywork for the wing supports, nor were there any signs of welded patches. When I bought the car chassis ‘No 1000′ was dynotaped on the dashboard…the car was later sold by Gregor Fisken’

Rare shot of Jochen Rindt in an F3L P68 before the engine popped, Brands 6 Hour practice 1968 (LAT)

F3L P68 #’1001′ or ’02’

Rindt/Spence car at Brands 1968-unraced. Destroyed in Irwin’s 1968 Nurburgring crash.

One version of events is that the car was progressively stripped of useful parts and the remains scrapped- this is the theory to which I subscribe.

The other (David Pipers) is that the remains were retained by Len Bailey after AMR closed and were rebuilt by ex-AMR chief mechanic Brian Lewis in modern times. Raced by Piper and others and later bought by Alan Mann.

Richard Thwaites ‘The Piper continuation car has nothing to do with F3L history. No part of the car is original and it only looks like an F3L because it has a fibreglass replica body with about 10 inches added on the engine cover to cover the extended wheelbase’.

Car has a modern AMR chassis plate ‘P67-F3L-002’ (P67 is not a typo

1969 Brands 6 Hour vista behind Amon’s Ferrari 312P. 55 Elford/Attwood and 54 Mitter/Schutz Porsche 908/02’s, 58 Denny Hulme aborad the F3L P68 he shared with Frank Gardner, 908/02 alongside is Herrmann/Stommelen, blue T70 Mk3B Lola is Taylor/Dibley, red Lola T70 3B is Hawkins/Williams and the white one Sid Taylor’s car driven by Revson/Axelsson…and the rest! (unattributed)

F3L P68 #’1002′ or ’03’

New car built up after the Irwin crash. Raced in the 1969 BOAC 500 by Hulme/Gardner. Eventually to Tom Wheatcroft and then to David Piper

Gardner, F3L P69, Brands 1969- pretty as a picture without the wings! (unattributed)

F3L P69

The car was cut up by AMR after the BOAC 500 debacle in 1969- tested and practiced but did not race.

No doubt the chassis number mystery is ‘resolved’ in the Ed Heuvink book ‘Alan Mann Racing F3L/P68’- if anybody has a copy fill us all in. The jist of the above is right even if the precise minutae is not- noting the veracity and precision of the minutae is critical in these matters of historic accuracy.

Talented craftsmen at AMR Byfleet during the first F3L build. Alan Mann in suit (AMR)

Arcane Irrelevance…

After his first lap in the early, unwieldy, recalcitrant Porsche 917 during the ’69 Nurburgring 1000 km, I’m sure Frank Gardner wished he was in his nifty, nimble, small, responsive, fast…if somewhat unreliable P3L- he qualified the P3L fifth in 1968 and tenth in the Panzer-Wagen in 1969. Mind you, the pace of change, particularly in tyre technology back then is such that his time in the 917 was 4.7 seconds quicker than in the F3L the year before. Gardner and David Piper were 8th in the race won by the Jo Siffert/Brian Redman Porsche 908/2.

(unattributed)

Bibliography…

Autosport 22 March 1968 article by John Bolster, ‘The Nostalgia Forum Ford P68’ thread in particular the contributions of Doug Nye and Richard Thwaites, ‘Classic and Sportscar’ February 1996, MotorSport April 1970 article by Denis Jenkinson and June 2008 article by Paul Lawrence, Darren Galpin’s International Race Report

Photo Credits…

Alan Mann Racing, Getty Images, Vic Berris, Brendan McInerney, David Keep/oldracephotos.com.au, Manfred Forster, David Phipps, LAT, The Roaring Season

Tailpiece: Ain’t she sweet…

(AMR)

Finito…

(Telegraph)

The highest paid Dunlop tyre fitter in the world attends to the needs of his Lotus 32B Climax, Warwick Farm, 1965…

Its practice prior to the ‘Warwick Farm 100’ so Jim Clark assists Ray Parsons in between on-circuit sessions on the Friday or Saturday before the race.

Its Frank Matich zipping by in his Brabham BT7A Climax, he was quick too, off pole and led Clark and Graham Hill for much of the first lap. He was 3rd, five seconds behind Brabham in 2nd with Jim a minute up the road from Jack in an emphatic victory.

Roy Billington, Brabham’s chief mechanic is the black clad dude to the left of Jim. In the white helmet is the tall, lanky frame of Frank Gardner and beside him his Alec Mildren Racing Brabham BT11A Climax. A DNF for Frank that weekend with Coventry Climax engine dramas on lap 25.

(Telegraph)

In the photo above Roy Billington is tending Jack’s BT11A, its Jim’s Lotus behind. The tall fellow to the right, in the cloth cap is, I think Lex Davison- Lex retired on lap 3 with a busted steering wheel in his Brabham BT4, an odd failure for a driver of considerable deftness and touch.

‘Topless’ behind Lex is Jim Clark talking to Warwick Farm boss, Geoff Sykes- to the left near the pit counter is again Frank Gardner.

Its all happening, as I say…the first six home were Clark, Brabham and Matich, then Bib Stillwell, Brabham BT11A, Graham Hill similarly mounted in the Scuderia Veloce entered machine and then Kiwi Jim Palmer in his BT7A.

Credits…

Daily Telegraph, oldracingcars.com, Bruce Wells on The Roaring Season

Tailpiece: Jim and Lotus 32B Climax on the hop…

(Bruce Wells/TRS)

He is entering The Esses and has clearly given someone or something a ‘tap’, the nose of the Lotus is slightly bruised. I’ve written about this car, click here for the link; https://primotipo.com/2017/11/02/levin-international-new-zealand-1965/

Finito…

(Fistonic)

Jim Clark takes in a few rays and a touring car race from his grandstand atop a Ford Zodiac, Levin, New Zealand Tasman, January 1965. In the distance are the Tararua Ranges, alongside the Team Lotus mechanics are fettling Jim’s Lotus 32B Climax.

The champions relaxed nature and the scene itself epitomises all that was great about the Tasman Series. We had the best drivers on the planet visit us every summer and whilst the racing was ‘take no prisoners’ the atmosphere off track was relaxed- the parties, water skiing, golf and annual cricket matches at the Amon family beachhouse are stories told many times over.

Jim Clark cruising through the Lakeside paddock during the 7 March 1965 weekend. The ‘Lakeside 99’ wasn’t a Tasman Round in 1965 but Internationals Clark, Gardner and Grant contested the event- Jim won from Gardner and Spencer Martin in the Scuderia Veloce Brabham BT11A just vacated by Graham Hill’s return to Europe (Mellor)

Few racing drivers have had a season like Jim Clark did in 1965, surely?

He started the year in Australasia and took the Tasman series with four wins in a Lotus 32B Climax FPF, won the F1 Drivers Championship in a Lotus 33 Climax with 6 wins and topped it all off with victory at Indy aboard a Lotus 38 Ford. In between times he contested the usual sprinkling of F2 events and some Touring Car races in a Lotus Cortina. Lets not forget a few longer sportscar races in the Lotus 40 Ford Group 7 car in the US. Not to mention other races as well. Amazing really.

 We were lucky enough to have the immensely likable Scot in the Southern Hemisphere at the seasons commencement though.

Colin Chapman had the Lotus Components lads build up a Tasman Special for Clark which was a mix of an F2 Lotus 32 chassis, 2.5 litre Coventry Climax 4 cylinder FPF engine and ZF gearbox. The combination was very successful taking race wins at Wigram, Teretonga, Warwick Farm and here at Levin on 16 January 1965. 

Kiwi international journalist and early member of Bruce McLaren Motor Racing, Eoin Young providing direction to the Lotus mechanics looking after Clark’s Lotus 32B. Technical specs as per text but note rocker/inboard front suspension and filler for twin tanks contained in each side of the monocoque chassis pontoons.Lola Mk1 Climax in the distance? (Fistonic)

Twelve Lotus 32 chassis were built plus Clark’s Tasman one-off car which was built around chassis or tub number 32/7. Unlike the 1 litre Cosworth SCA powered F2’s which used a full-monocoque chassis the 32B used a monocoque front section with the rear section removed and replaced by a tubular steel subframe to which the 235bhp, 2495cc, 4 cylinder Coventry Climax FPF engine was mounted. Otherwise the cars suspension, inboard at the front by top rocker and lower wishbone and outboard at the rear was the same as the F2 32. The gearbox was a ZF rather than the Hewland Mk6 of the F2 car. The car chassis plate was tagged ’32-FL-8′ where ‘FL’ was Formula Libre.

This car still exists and is owned and raced by Classic Team Lotus, a shame really as its entire racing history was in Australasia.

Clark won the Tasman in it, the car was then bought by the Palmer family, Jim raced it to NZ Gold Star victory and very competitively in the ’66 Tasman before selling it to Australian Greg Cusack. The car was also raced by South Australian Mel McEwin in period, albeit it was becoming uncompetitive amongst the multi-cylinder Repco’s and the like by then.

Eventually it passed into the very best of Lotus hands- the late John Dawson-Damer acquired it and restored it, eventually doing a part exchange with CTL to allow them to have a Clark Tasman car in their collection. John received a Lotus 79 Ford DFV as part of the deal, he already had Clark’s ’66 Tasman car in his wonderful collection, the Lotus 39 Climax, so it was a good mutual exchange.

Local boy McLaren surrounded by admirers in the Levin paddock. Cooper T79, alongside is the green and yellow of Clark’s Lotus 32B (Fistonic)

Clark won the ’65 Tasman title 9 points clear of 1964 champion Bruce McLaren aboard his self constructed Cooper T79 Climax and Jack Brabham’s BT11A Climax. Given the speed of the BT11A, it was a pity Jack contested only the three Australian Tasman rounds. Frank Gardner also BT11A mounted and Phil Hill were equal fourth with Phil aboard McLarens updated ’64 Tasman car, a Cooper T70 Climax.

Graham Hill was 7th in David McKay’s Brabham BT11A Climax with other strong contenders Frank Matich Brabham BT7A Climax, Kiwi Jim Palmer similarly mounted, Bib Stillwell in a BT11A, Lex Davison in a BT4 Brabham. In addition there were a host of 1.5 litre Lotus Ford twin-cam powered cars snapping at the heels of the 2.5 FPF’s and set to pounce as the bigger cars failed.

In this article I focus on one round, the Levin event held on 14-16 January 1965.

Kiwi enthusiast Milan Fistonic took some marvellous photos at the event which are posted on Steve Holmes ‘The Roaring Season’ website, check it out if you have not, it’s a favourite of mine. They are paddock shots which ooze atmosphere- Milan focuses mainly on local boy Bruce McLaren and Clark, they are magic shots which I hope you enjoy. This account of the weekend draws heavily on the sergent.com race report. It is another ripper site I always use as my Kiwi reference source.

Start of the 1965 NZ GP at Pukekohe, winner Hill on the outside, Clark in the middle and Lex Davison on the inside- Brabham BT11A, Lotus 32B and Brabham BT4 all Coventry Climax FPF powered (unattributed)

The 1965 Tasman series commenced the week before Levin with the New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe. Graham Hill took a great win in David McKay’s new BT11A, straight out of the box, from the equally new Alec Mildren BT11A driven by Frank Gardner and Jim Palmer’s year old BT7A. How about that, Brabham Intercontinental cars from first to third places, with Jack not driving any of them!

Ron Tauranac’s first in a series of three very successful Coventry Climax engined cars, Tauranac tagged them as ‘IC’ for ‘Intercontinental’, was the 1962 BT4, based on that years BT3 F1 FWMV Coventry Climax 1.5 litre V8 engined car.

Jack raced the first of these in the 1962 Australian Grand Prix at Caversham, Western Australia, having a great dice with Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T62 until a back-marker took him out late in the race. This was followed by the 1964 BT7A and the 1965 BT11A.

Frank Gardner’s Mildren Brabham BT11A Climax being pushed onto the grid. The lanky chap at the back is Glenn Abbey, long time Mildren and Kevin Bartlett mechanic (Fistonic)

The BT11A’s were phenomenally successful in both Australasia and South Africa, winning lots of races and championships not least the 1966/7 Australian Gold Star Championship for Spencer Martin in the very same chassis raced by Graham Hill to victory at Pukekohe.

The cars were utterly conventional, simple and oh-so-fast spaceframe chassis cars with outboard wishbone suspension out the front and outboard multi-link at the rear- single top link, inverted lower wishbone, twin radius rods and coil springs with Armstrong shocks. Like all customer Brabhams they went like the clappers straight out of the box as the base suspension setup was done on circuit by Jack’s ‘highly tuned arse’. Many championships were won by Brabham customers not straying too far from factory suspension settings!

After the NZ GP the Tasman circus upped sticks from Pukekohe and drove the 500 km from the North of New Zealand’s North Island to its South, not too far from Wellington. Levin is now a town of about 20,000 people, then it would have been less than half that, and services the local rural and light manufacturing sectors.

Bruce, Ray Stone in blue and Wally Willmott? Cooper T79 (Fistonic)

Jim Clark quickly got dialled in to his new Lotus 32B and down to business, opening his Tasman account by winning the Levin Motor Racing Club’s 30.8-mile ‘Gold Leaf International Trophy’ at fractionally more than 76.6 mph.

The Flying Scotsman cut out the twenty-eight laps in fine style in 24 min. 5.9 sec and put in his seventh lap in 49.9 sec. In 1964 Denny Hulme (2.5 Brabham-Climax) had set records of 24 min 36.8 sec and 50.3 sec in this event. Repeating their NZGP form, Brabham-Climax conductors Frank Gardner and Jim Palmer, filled second and third spots, while next in line were the Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Team 2.5 Cooper-Climaxes of Phil Hill, T70 and McLaren, T79.

Graham Hill, Lex Davison and Arnold Glass shipped their cars to Australia after the NZ Grand Prix. Wanganui driver, and later multiple Kiwi Champion, 1970 Tasman Champion and winner of many Asian Grands Prix, Graeme Lawrence had at last got hold of his Brabham BT6 which was making its first appearance at Levin. As noted above Brabham was having a Christmas break and did not join the series until the first Australian round at Sydney’s Warwick Farm in mid-February.

Levin is a tight, twisty and bumpy circuit. Newcomers Clark and Hill quickly had the 1.1-mile track sorted. Clark’s qualifying lap was a 49.4 whilst Phil Hill managed 50 sec, the same time as his team leader McLaren.

Phil Hill aboard the updated Cooper T70 Climax raced by Tim Mayer and Bruce McLaren in 1964. Compare and contrast with the ’65 model T79 below (Fistonic)

Bruce had a bitter-sweet 1964 Tasman Series. He won the championship in one of two Cooper T70’s he and his Kiwi mechanic Wally Willmott built at the Cooper Surbiton works.

These cars, raced by Bruce McLaren Motor Racing, are generally acknowledged as the first McLarens, built as they were in a corner of the Cooper factory to McLaren’s design. The second car was raced by American ‘coming man’ Tim Mayer with great speed and skill until he made a mistake on the daunting, fast, unforgiving Longford road circuit in Tasmania which took the young drivers life.

The undamaged T70 was updated during the winter to be raced by 1961 F1 World Champion Phil Hill with Bruce racing a new chassis, an evolved T70 designated T79, a spaceframe chassis was again used. The main difference between the cars were inboard front suspension on the T79 whereas the older T70 was outboard. The T79 used a nice, reliable but then new Hewland gearbox whereas the T70’s used a Colotti in one chassis and a Cooper/Citroen CS5 in the other. I wrote an article about Tim Mayer a while back, read it by following the link at the bottom of the page for details of the T70 design rather than repeat it all again here.

Hill P had a terrific Tasman which was a tonic for him as his single-seater career had stalled somewhat since his F1 title winning year. 1962 was a shocker for him with Ferrari who had failed to develop the 156,1963 in an ATS was far worse and his drives for Cooper reflected the fact that design wise, their cars were becoming outdated. If there was any doubt about Hills single-seater speed, he proved he ‘cut the mustard’ aboard a competitive year old car in the ’65 Tasman.

Bruce McLaren aboard his Cooper T79 Climax in the Levin paddock (Fistonic)

The Mayer/McLaren/Hill Cooper T70 Climax raced by all three drivers, originally carrying chassis plate ‘FL-1-64’, re-plated by McLaren prior to the ’65 Tasman to ‘FL-2-64’ passed through the hands of Bill Patterson for driver John McDonald, Don O’Sullivan and others before being acquired by Richard Berryman in 1974. The car was eventually beautifully restored by his son Adam in Melbourne, who retains and races it. The T79 was sold after the Tasman to John Love in South Africa who won many races in it before it later returned to the UK, it too still exists.

Back to Levin practice and qualifying…

Levis with the 1.5 Brabham BT6 Ford was in the groove with a brilliant 51.1 sec, his time put all the 2.5 drivers to shame. Palmer could only manage 51.7 sec in his Brabham BT7A, Grant 51.9 sec in his BT4, Abernethy did 52.2 in his Cooper T66 and Gardner was credited with 53.5 sec in Alec Mildren’s BT11A. Grant was a late arrival. His Brabham-Climax had undergone a major engine rebuild since the discovery of a cracked crankshaft on the eve of the Grand Prix. Second quickest 1.5 was Buchanan’s Brabham BT6 Ford with 52.0 sec. Qualifying times were academic in the sense that grid positions for the feature race were decided on heat results.

Jim Clark again chillin at Levin ’65 (Fistonic)

The eight-lap heat on raceday morning contained all overseas drivers and favoured locals.

‘Clark, sharing the front row with McLaren and Hill, jumped into the lead from the start and remained there to the finish. Hill, McLaren, Palmer and Grant settled into the next four spots after Gardner had dropped out with distributor trouble. The contest was enlivened a little by Palmer catching Grant napping on the seventh lap and assuming fourth place. Clark won in 6 min 49.8 sec and set a new lap record of 49.9 sec’ sergent.com reports.

Council of war- Phil Hill in the pristine white race suit with Bruce front and centre, his allegiance to Firestone clear. Who are the other dudes? (Fistonic)

Levis had things all his own way in the second heat, winning in 7 min 13.5 sec, with Andy Buchanan, also in a 1.5 Brabham BT6 Ford, next. Third and fourth were Red Dawson Cooper T53 Climax 2.5 and John Riley in a Lotus 18/21 Climax 2.5. The situation was confused by Gardner who, anxious to make sure all was well with his car, was permitted to use the heat as a test run and took the lead in the last two laps.

Before the title race there was some feverish work in the Palmer pit to replace a cracked universal joint in his Brabham BT7A Climax. In a drama filled day for the team, an hour before the race was due to start, another close inspection revealed a hairline crack in a half-shaft. A replacement was found and fitted minutes before the cars were gridded.

Dummy grid or form up area prior to the Levin International- Clark on pole then McLaren and Hill, the yellow of Gardner on row 2 (Fistonic)

Clark, Lotus 32B had pole position in the main event with Hill, Cooper T70 and McLaren, Cooper T79 outside him.

In rows of three, the rest of the field comprised Palmer, Brabham BT7A, Grant, Brabham BT4, Gardner, Brabham BT11A; Levis, Brabham BT6 Ford 1.5, Buchanan, Brabham BT6 Ford 1.5, Abernethy  Cooper T66; Dawson, Cooper T53, Thomasen, Brabham BT4, Brabham BT4 Riley; Flowers, Lola Mk4A, Smith, Lotus 22 Ford 1.5 Lawrence, Brabham BT6 Ford 1.5; and at the back Hollier, Lotus 20B Ford 1.5. As the cars were forming on the grid, Abernethy could not select a gear and he had to abort the start’.

‘Clark made a good start with Grant, Hill and McLaren right with him. To the elation of the partisan crowd, Grant proceeded to take McLaren and Hill on braking into the hairpin. When they came round the first time the leaders were Clark, Grant, Phil Hill, McLaren, Palmer, Gardner and Levis

A 51.6 sec second lap gave Clark a 3 sec lead over Grant. In his fourth lap Palmer took McLaren and in another two laps had moved to third place ahead of Hill. Clark held on to his lead over Grant. There was then a gap of 3 sec to Palmer, with Hill and Gardner next in line. McLaren, probably to his embarrassment, had the 1.5 drivers Levis and Buchanan looming large in his mirrors.

Clark on the way to Levin International victory 1965, Lotus 32B Climax (sergent.com)

The pattern changed dramatically during the tenth lap. Grant tried to correct a slide at Cabbage-Tree Bend, dropped a rear wheel into the rough and spun off the course to lose all chance in such a short race. Palmer took second spot, but not for long. Gardner in the next three laps bridged the gap to take over second place just 5 sec behind Clark. Next in line were Hill, McLaren and Levis. Flowers was out with transmission failure in the troublesome Lola on lap 14.

Those opening laps had been fast and furious. In their sixth lap Grant and Gardner had returned 50.6 sec in the midst of heavy traffic. A lap later Clark equaled his morning record of 49.9 sec.

As the race reached the last stages, Clark continued to circulate in a steady 51 sec. Gardner in two laps reduced Clark’s advantage from 11 sec to 9 sec while Palmer closed up to be 2 sec behind the Australian, but Clark was given the ‘hurry’ signal and moved out again with effortless ease to come home 11.3 sec ahead of Gardner with Palmer 4.7 sec further back. Thomasen retired with only a handful of laps remaining.’

BP all the way, Bruce and Ray Stone in blue fuelling up the T79. Front on shot shows the top rocker/inboard front suspension of the car (Fistonic)

Bibliography…

sergent.com, oldracingcars.com

Cooper T70/Tim Mayer Article Link…

https://primotipo.com/?s=tim+mayer

Photo Credits…

Milan Fistonic, Peter Mellor, The Roaring Season

Tailpiece: Winners are grinners, the first of many such occasions for Jim Clark in 1965 at Levin…

(Fistonic)

Finito…

 

 

(Feisst)

Max Stewart looks pretty happy aboard his pristine, new Elfin MR5 Repco, New Zealand Grand Prix, Pukekohe 1972…

He is talking to Elfin works mechanic Dale Koenneke, well known in Australia for his work with Elfins, John McCormack and later K&A Engineering, an enduring partnership in Adelaide he formed with Harry Aust.

Max took to F5000 like a duck to water. His speed in 2 litre cars- he won the 1971 Australian Gold Star series in his trusty Mildren Waggott 2 litre was immediately transferred across to the more demanding 5 litre, 480bhp MR5. The Elfin wasn’t the ‘ducks guts’ of cars albeit John McCormack developed his car to a fine race, and championship winning pitch. But in 1972 Max was the fastest guy aboard an MR5- a quicker driver than Garrie Cooper, McCormack and John Walker. Very soon McCormack and Walker developed ultimate speed whereas Garrie- quick in a Tasman 2.5 car was never more than a journeyman in 5 litre single-seaters.

Stewart booting the MR5 around Warwick Farm during the 1972 ‘Hordern Trophy’ Gold Star round- 3rd behind Frank Matich’s Matich A50 Repco and Kevin Bartlett’s Lola T300 Chev (Aust Motor Racing Annual)

The MR5 looked superb. Even though Alec Mildren abandoned his race team at the end of 1970 Max kept the Mildren yellow team colour on his own cars- both the Mildren Waggott in 1971 and MR5 in 1972. He retained the Seiko and BP sponsorships too. What a sad day for Australian motor-racing it was when Alec finally pulled the pin. He was such a wonderful benefactor/entrant of Frank Gardner, Kevin Bartlett and Max Stewart and others, but those fellas in particular.

The MR5 wasn’t the ‘Silver Hammer’ at all for Max though. That car was undoubtedly the racer which followed, his ex-works Frank Gardner driven development prototype Lola T330 Chev ‘HU1’. It was the very first of that ‘category destroying’! series of dominant T330/332 Lolas. Max made HU1 sing for years and was always competitive with the T332’s. Both the T330 and MR5 ’5722’ are still in Australia, restored and exercised regularly.

Photo Credits…

Mike Feisst Collection on The Roaring Season, Neil Stratton, Australian Motor Racing Annual 1973, Tony Glenn

Tailpiece: Stewart swallowed by his Lola’s schnorkel, Pukekohe paddock 1973…

(Feisst)

Whilst Frank Gardner ‘retired’ from single-seater racing towards the end of the 1972 Tasman Series he continued to test openwheelers in his capacity as Lola’s development engineer/tester. He also raced this chassis, T330 ‘HU1’ once or twice in some end of season European F5000 Championship rounds in 1972 as he developed the production spec 1973 T330 for Eric Broadley.

HU1 was then sold to Max to run in the ’73 Tasman with Gardner on hand to advise the lanky Aussie on how to extract the best from the car, which he most certainly did. Here the car is in the Pukekohe paddock twelve months after the shot at this articles outset, both photos taken by the same photographer, Mike Feisst.

Max 5th aboard T330 HU1 during the final, sodden Warwick Farm Tasman in 1973. Steve Thompson won in a Chevron B24 Chev (Tony Glenn)

Postscript: The choice of Elfin/Repco/Lola/Chev…

Stewart didn’t have great reliability from the MR5 in either the ’72 Tasman or the Gold Star- his best results were a 5th and 4th at Pukekohe and Levin in the Tasman and two 3rd places in the Gold Star at his home NSW tracks of Oran Park and Warwick Farm.

The decision to go with Lola was an easy one. He had witnessed at first hand the speed of the T300’s driven by his mate Kevin Bartlett, Bob Muir and others and no doubt Frank Gardner was able to impress upon him the speed of the coming T330. Frank Matich was at the front of the Repco queue- FM was their works driver after all, with perhaps McCormack and Cooper getting the next best customer engines.

Lola Chev was an eminently sensible move which paid off in spades for Max albeit not initially! The story of Stewarts’ success in his Lola’s is one for another time, suffice it to say aboard T330 ‘HU1’ he won the 1974 Teretonga and Oran Park Tasman rounds, the Australian Gold Star Series winning five of the six rounds including the Australian Grand Prix at Oran Park. Quite a season for the popular boy from Orange.

Max Stewart ahead of great friend and rival Kevin Bartlett during the 1974 Gold Star round at Oran Park won by Max. Lola T330 from T332 . KB DNF, Max won from the T332’s of Warwick Brown and Graeme Lawrence (Stratton)

Finito…

 

Robin Pare, Pete Geoghegan in Ford Mustangs, Bruno Carosi Jag Mk2, Frank Gardner Alfa GTA and Robin Bessant Lotus Cortina on the downhill plunge towards The Viaduct, Longford Improved Production Touring Car race 1967 (oldracephotos.com)

Pete Geoghegan did so many times too! The Sydneysider is here doing his stuff aboard the first of his two Ford Mustangs at Longford during the Tasman round in February 1967…

The Brothers Geoghegan, Leo and Ian or ‘Pete’ were stars of Australian Motor Racing from the late-fifties into the mid-seventies, Leo in single-seaters and Pete in ‘taxis’, touring cars of all pursuations. When he was a youth Pete was quick in a brief career in single seaters and a Lotus 23 Ford but he became a ‘big unit’ so his girth meant he was best suited to cars with a roof.

Geoghegan , Gardner and Carosi off the front row, no sign of Pare- perhaps not the same race grid as above ? (oldracephotos.com)

A supreme natural, Geoghegan made a car sing with flair and feel blessed to some from above. Every car he drove. His band-width extended from GT’s to Sports Cars, Production Tourers and very highly modified Sports Sedans- sedans of considerable power and performance.

His CV included some of the most iconic cars raced in Australia over the decades above including a Lotus 7 , 22, 23, the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM, Holden ‘Humpy’, Jaguar 3.4, Morris 850, the two Mustangs, Cortinas- both GT and Lotus variants, Falcon GT’s, Falcon GTHO’s, Valiant Charger E49, highly modified Porsche 911’s, his iconic, Ford factory built and later Bowin Cars modified Ford Falcon GTHO ‘Super Falcon’ and the superb John Sheppard built Holden Monaro GTS350 Sports Sedan.

That car was as conceptually clever, beautifully built and presented sedan racer as any ever constructed in Oz. Lets not forget his late career drives in Laurie O’Neill’s Porsche 935, a notoriously tricky device to master. Much earlier on he drove O’Neills Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato, every bit as exotic as the 935.

Big Pete finesses the Mustang into The Viaduct (oldracephotos.com)

Geoghegan, five times Australian Touring Car Champion 1965-69 was an immensely popular racer with the fans, his bulk, manner and ‘stutter’ part of his appeal. He was not without his issues mind you. Touring Car racing is a religion in Australia, our sedan racing has been the equal of the best in the world for decades and arguably for the last 20 years our V8 Supercar category has been consistently one of the Top 5 sedan racing contests on the planet.

A touch of the opposites on the exit to Newry (oldracephotos.com)

So, the pantheon of talented touring car aces is large, and membership of the Top 10 a subject of much informed pub chatter, tough. Most knowledgeable touring car observers would have Geoghegan in their Top 10, if not Top 5, along with the likes of Norm Beechey, Peter Brock, Allan Moffat, Dick Johnson, Jim Richards (a Kiwi but we take him as our own) Mark Skaife, Glenn Seton, Craig Lowndes, Garth Tander, Jamie Whincup and others.

(oldracephotos.com)

Photo Credits…

Oldracephotos.com- Harrison and David Keep

Tailpiece: Came, Saw, Conquered and then returned to Sydney…

Other Reading…

Pete Geoghegan and his Falcon GTHO ‘Super Falcon’

https://primotipo.com/2015/10/15/greatest-ever-australian-touring-car-championship-race-bathurst-easter-1972/

Pete’s 1965 Mustang notchback

http://www.bowdensown.com.au/collection/ian-pete-geoghegans-1965-mustang

Finito…

image

Gavin Youl in the new MRD Ford making a sensational championship debut in Ron Tauranac and Jack Brabham’s Formula Junior at Goodwood on 19 August 1961…

The young Taswegian arrived in England with sportscar and touring car experience in Australia and made a huge impact in finishing 4th in his heat, and 2nd in the final of the BARC FJ Championship in what was only his fourth outing in single-seaters.

Alan Rees won the race in a Lotus 20 Ford. To give perspective on the level of competition, there were 19 non-qualifiers and a field of 24 which included future champions Mike Spence, Richard Attwood, David Piper, John Rhodes, Frank Gardner and Hugh Dibley.

Gavin made a huge splash, and so too did the nascent ‘Brabham’ marque, the MRD was their first car, the established production racing car paradigm was given a shake that day. Arguably Brabham were the most consistent, competitive, cost-effective customer proposition for  most of the sixties and early seventies in FJ, F3, F2 and F1.

The story of Jack Brabham and Ron Tauranac’s partnership in forming Motor Racing Developments Ltd in England, the company which built Brabham cars is well known. So too is the decision by the two partners to change the name of the cars from ‘MRD’ to Brabham upon the advice of prominent Paris based Swiss journalist Jabby Crombac. He told Jack that MRD was pronounced ‘merde’ in French the literal translation of which is ‘shit’! And Brabham’s were very rarely, if ever, shit cars!

The MRD was retrospectively given the model name BT1, there was only one built, thankfully the car is still in Australia where it has raced all of its life other than the seven race meetings in England Youl contested between late July and late September 1961.

It’s intriguing to contemplate the look on Frank Gardner’s face at the speed of the MRD at Goodwood as the multi-talented Aussie- who raced a Jim Russell Race Drivers School Lotus 20 that year, was one of a small team who built Tauranac’s new car being peddled so quickly by novice Youl!

Gavin was sold the car by Ron during a Brabham plane trip. Jack took several friends to see the Tourist Trophy bike races at the Isle of Man. It appears there was no great process of choosing the driver of their first car, the commercial imperative was someone who could pay for it! Mind you, no doubt Gavin was aboard the plane with that commercial end in mind as well as his potential as a driver.

image

Ron Tauranac’s MRD Ford Holbay was a pretty, effective, competitive car. RT had built numerous Ralts in Australia prior to the design and build of the MRD which was his first ‘water cooled engine’ design! The ‘Brabham’ was competitive from the start, here at Goodwood in Youl’s hands, very much indicative of the amazing run of strong, reliable, fast cars built through until Ron’s sale of the MRD business to Bernie Ecclestone at the end of the 1971 F1 season (Getty)

In the MRD’s initial outings (see listing below) not much notice had been taken of it, their were plenty of specials in FJ at the time. But at Goodwood, a circuit on which he had not raced before Youl caused a sensation by popping the car on pole for his heat, 0.8 second under the lap record. Tauranac recalls things were looking good but then the car caught fire, RT rebuilt it in time for the race on the Bank Holiday Monday. Youl was 4th in his heat, it may have been higher but he overcooked it on a corner, but in the final kept it all together to finish 2nd to Rees, then very much a rising star.

Jack’s connection to the car had been kept very secret. The MRD was built in a room at the back of a garage on the Esher bypass with all of the specialist purchases needed to construct the car being made very discretely. The Goodwood meeting was a national event, the FJ events were supports to the RAC Tourist Trophy sportscar race with plenty of press presence. ‘The paddock buzzed with speculation and some people were adding two and two to make four’ wrote Mike Lawrence in ‘The Ron Tauranac Story’. Soon of course the connection was known as were Jack’s plans to leave Cooper at the years end.

Tauranac arrived in the UK in April 1960, whilst he occupied himself with Climax engined Triumph Heralds and other projects for Jack Brabham Motors in Chessington, his main task was to design the MRD in the bedroom of the flat the Tauranac’s rented above a shop in Surbiton.

Sensibly, the car was a conventional multi-tubular spaceframe chassis design fitted with an attractive, fully enveloping aluminium body. Suspension at the front comprised a single upper link and Y-shaped radius rods and lower wishbone with coil spring/Armstrong dampers. At the rear broad based upper wishbones, lower links and twin radius rods were used again with coil spring/dampers. The car was reputedly the first to be fitted with adjustable roll bars.

Alford and Alder uprights were fitted at the front to which were attached 13 inch Brabham alloy wheels, unique to BT1,  front and rear. Rear uprights were cast magnesium. The car used 9inch drum brakes at the front and inboard mounted 8 inch drums at the rear.

The gearbox was a modified VW Beetle 4 speed with Jack Knight cutting gears to give RT the ratios he wanted. The steering rack was also made by Jack Knight to a pattern and drawings RT brought to England from Australia. A Morris Oxford pinion was used with a specially cut rack. Initially a 1000cc Ford engine was fitted with an 1100cc Holbay Ford used from the Goodwood meeting.

Jack was still racing for Cooper as noted above but he found time to help build the car together with Ron, Frank and Peter Wilkins who had assisted Tauranac build the chassis frames of his ‘first series’ Ralts in Australia and was asked to come over to the UK to help build the MRD.

Gavin Youl contesting the FJ race in the MRD at the Warwick Farm international meeting on February 4 1962. He was 3rd behind Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 22 Ford and Glynn Scott’s Lotus 20 Ford (John Ellacott)

In October 1961 the MRD was shipped to Australia where Gavin raced it to some success. He contested some of the support events for that years international meetings in the summer finishing 2nd at Lakeside, 3rd at Warwick Farm and then winning the FJ race at the 1962 Longford international meeting. There, the little car was timed at 132mph on the ‘Flying Mile’. He took a win at Calder in late February and then made the long trip to New South Wales in March- he won the NSW FJ Championship at Catalina Park beating Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 20 Ford. Gavin then returned to the UK to race a new BT2 FJ in selected British and European events.

Victorian Wally Mitchell was the lucky purchaser of the MRD which over the years passed through many owners hands. The car is a much admired part of the local historic scene and together with Jack’s 1966 F1 championship winning BT19 Repco would be the most significant Brabham in Oz.

Works Brabham FJ Campaign in 1962…

The factory assisted drivers in 1962 were Gardner and Youl with Frank initially racing BT2 ‘FJ-3-62’, a car he built. When Gavin arrived in the UK he raced this car with Frank racing ‘FJ-8-62’, both of these cars went to Australia after the initial season of racing in the UK/Europe.

Gavin’s campaign was set back from the start after a testing accident at Brands Hatch made a mess of both the car and his collar bone which was broken. He recovered whilst the car was repaired.

The BT2’s differed from MRD ‘FJ-1-61’ in that outboard disc bakes were used front and rear and Specialised Mouldings built fibreglass bodies replaced the one-off ally body of MRD. A Hewland Mk5 gearbox replaced Ron’s modified VW unit whilst noting the Maidenhead built ‘box also used a VW case.

11 BT2’s were built, the first 2 or 3 by Gardner and Wilkins, the balance by Buckler Cars. Buckler are credited in the Tauranac and Brabham biographies as the constructor of the sole MRD frame, to Tauranac’s drawings, a claim denied by Frank Gardner. In conversations with Australian Brabham owner/historian Denis Lupton, Gardner said the MRD frame was built by Gardner, Wilkins, Tauranac and Brabham.

Buckler built at least 5 BT2 chassis. Of course Arch Motors, the unsung engineering concern, were soon thereafter to become the builder of both Brabham and Ralt ‘production chassis’, in addition to their many other clients!

Peter Arundell’s works Lotus 22 Ford leads Youl’s Brabham BT2 Ford and Denny Hulme’s Cooper T59 BMC through the Nouveau Monde hairpin during the 8 July 1962 Rouen GP for FJ. They were 1st, 12th and 10th overall with Youl crashing in the first heat, he was 9th in the second heat (Sutton)

The BT2 proved to be a competitive car but the FJ combination to beat in 1962 was Peter Arundell in his works Lotus 22 Ford Cosworth. BMC engines were not prominent and the Holbays used by Brabhams were not the ‘ducks guts’ either. When Gardner and Youl’s cars finished they were often the best of the Holbays, that is, best of the non-Cosworth engined cars.

Youl’s results are in the table below, his first meeting after recovery from his injuries was at Silverstone in May, his last at Albi in September. His best results were a pair of 5ths at Albi and Goodwood, the latter event was the BARC Express and Star British Championship, where he was the best placed Holbay car.

Gardner’s 7th on the Monaco FJ grid was indicative of his place (that is fast!) in the pantheon of FJ drivers that year, a race he failed to finish with clutch failure. Arundell won still the most prestigious international junior event from Mike Spence and Bob Anderson, all three aboard Lotus 22 Ford Cosworths. It would have been very interesting to have seen how the Gardner/Youl combo would have gone with Cosworths behind their shoulders in ’62. Right up there for sure.

Gavin shipped his car to Oz after the European races he had competed in with Gardner’s ‘FJ-8-62’ accompanying Frank back to Australia at the end of the year. The lanky Sydneysider raced the car in two of the Formula Libre Australian Internationals in early 1963- Lakeside and Longford with the car being sold to Len Deaton later in 1963.

The history of the 11 BT2 chassis built for those interested can be seen, in all of its intricate glory, on oldracingcars.com and Ten Tenths, just Google away.

image

John Youl, with his engineer, Geoff Smedley beside their ex-works/Jack Brabham F1 Cooper T55 Coventry Climax FPF on the Longford grid prior to the ‘South Pacific Trophy’ on 2 March 1964. He was 5th in the race behind Graham Hill, Bruce McLaren, Frank Matich and Bib Stillwell in his 3 year old car (Smedley)

The Youl Family Story…

The story of Gavin and his older brother John, a racer of Cooper T51/55 Coventry Climax engined cars (second in the 1962 AGP to Bruce McLaren at Caversham and twice second in the Gold Star, the Australian Drivers Championship) is an interesting one for another time. So too is the history of the family, the patriarch of which was an early clergyman in Tasmania and with a land grant made on the South Esk River in 1818 commenced a very successful grazing concern which continues to this day.

Unfortunately Gavin’s promise, his raw speed, was never realised. He raced the BT2 at a few meetings at home, including the 1962 Australian FJ Championship, at Catalina Park in late October. He was 2nd to Frank Matich’s works Elfin Ford with Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 22 Ford 3rd, but decided to retire to focus on the family grazing properties and his other interests which included aviation, both he and John were talented pilots.

The apocryphal Youl/Brabham aviation story involves Gavin being asked by Jack to deliver his single engined Cessna 180 from the UK to a farmer in Tasmania to make way for the Cessna 310 twin to which he was upgrading. Youl needed to get home for Christmas 1961/2, so too did Eoin Young the renowned Kiwi racing journalist and key figure in Bruce McLaren Racing in its early days, as well as Roger Tregaskis, a mate of Youls.

Gavin was the pilot, Roger was in the co-pilots seat and could steer if necessary and Young sat in the back ‘with maps, the five man liferaft and forty pounds of emergency rations. To eliminate customs difficulties we were given the honorary ranks of co-pilot and navigator.’ So off they set with Gavin’s intention to fly over as much land as possible keeping sea crossings to a minimum. ‘The Timor Sea between Indonesia and Australia was our biggest worry. We comforted ourselves in the fact that, as a high winged tail-dragger the Cessna could be landed on the Ocean without tipping over’ Young wrote.

Eoin was later to admit that he was better not to know that the plane was not a new one as he thought, but rather a ’54 model which Jack bought from Lance Reventlow of Scarab fame. All was well on this adventure though, the 7.7 litre, 225bhp, 4 cylinder Continental engined aircraft didn’t miss a beat on the month long trip- 98 flying hours, 30 stops in 18 countries, 13000 miles in total at an average speed of 151 mph chewing through 950 gallons of Shell fuel to do so. What an amazing experience- last word to Eoin Young.

‘It wasn’t until we delivered the plane to its eager new owner that we discovered it had been refused a Certificate of Airworthiness because there was so much corrosion in the fuselage that the wings were about to fall off!’ Boys Own Adventures and exploits indeed.

The Youls were never far from the sport, indeed they were major supporters, Symmons Plains circuit is built on land they owned. Very sadly, Gavin, an important figure in the earliest Motor Racing Developments years died in 1992 at 45, way too young, after a brief battle with a very aggressive cancer.

1962 Australian FJ Championship grid before the off at catalina park, Katoomba on 28 October 1962. #8 Leo Geoghegan Lotus 22 Ford, #2 Youl Brabham BT2 Ford and #4 Frank Matich Elfin FJ Ford. #16 is Clive Nolan Lotus 20 Ford. Matich won from Youl and Geoghegan, Nolan was 5th (Ed Holly)

Etcetera: G Youl European Race Results…

1961 British FJ Results: Gavin Youl MRD Holbay/ Brabham BT1. I have also listed the winner of each race

23/7/61 Mallory 2nd. Jack Pearce won in a Lotus 20 Ford

29/7/61 Silverstone 5th , holed fuel tank, pitted to top up with fuel. Mike Spence Emeryson Mk2 Ford

7/8/61 Aintree 17th, forced out of final with blown head gasket. Peter Proctor Lotus 18 Ford

19/8/61 Goodwood 2nd, great effort of 4th in the heat, team had a pit fire during practice. Ian Rees Lotus 20 Ford

2/9/61 Crystal Palace DNQ. Trevor Taylor Lotus 20 Ford

23/9/61 Oulton Park 13th. Tony Maggs Cooper T56 BMC

30/9/61 Snetterton 31st. Mike Parkes Gemini Mk3A Ford

1962 British and European FJ Results: Gavin Youl  Brabham BT2 Holbay

12/5/62 Silverstone  DNF oil pressure. Peter Arundell Lotus 22 Ford

1/7/62 Reims DNF lap 1. Arundell  as above

8/7/62 Rouen 12th. Arundell as above

14/7/62 Silverstone 12th. John Fenning Lotus 20 Ford

6/8/62 Brands 7th. Tony Maggs Cooper T59 BMC

18/8/62 Goodwood 5th. Arundell as above

21/9/62 Zandvoort DNF. Arundell as above

9/9/62 Albi 5th. Arundell as above

Random but sorta sixties related; Aussies Abroad in Europe…

I was flicking through the ‘F2 Index’ database to research the FJ/F3 race results of David Walker (article coming together very slowly) and Gavin Youl and it occurred to me just how many Australian’s ‘had a crack’ in England/Europe in the 1960’s.

It was a long way away then, 12000 miles- it still is the same distance I expect! but the cost and means of making the journey, then mainly by ship, as flying was so expensive, made it seem further and harder than now. What follows is a quickie list of guys, tracking them through the Junior Formulae. I don’t pretend its complete, do let me know if there are fellows I have missed. The period researched is 1960-1970 in the UK- where the racing was outside the UK I have clearly stated so.

1960 FJ

Steve Ouvaroff Lotus 18 Ford, Frank Gardner Cooper Ford

1961 FJ

Frank Gardner JRRDS Lotus 18 Ford- FG famously straightened cars at the Jim Russell School and was allowed to race them on weekends! Gavin Youl works MRD Ford

1962 FJ

Frank Gardner and Gavin Youl works Brabham BT2 Ford, Steve Ouvaroff Alexis Mk4 Ford, John Ampt Ausper T4 Ford- now there is a story to be written- about Geelong racer, Tom Hawkes’ Ausper project

1963 FJ

Paul Hawkins and Frank Gardner Brabham BT6 Ford- both guys careers took off into F1 within 12 months, Gardner raced big ‘Tasman’ 2.5 litre cars in the ’63 Australian summer as well as BT2, a go home and race summer trend he continued until his permanent return to Australia during 1974. John Ampt Alexis Mk5 Ford, Martin Davies Lotus 20 Ford

1964 F3

Martin Davies Lotus 20 Ford (running top 10)

1965 F3

Jim Sullivan Brabham BT15 Ford (he won some kind of Driver to Europe award didn’t he?) (ran top 10)

1966 F3

Jim Sullivan and Wal Donnelly Brabham BT18 Ford, Dave Walker Brabham BT10 Ford- all 3 ran under the ‘Team Promecom’ banner racing in Europe

1967 F3

Tim Schenken Lotus 22 Ford- made an immediate splash in this self prepared ‘ole clunker, having learned many of the Pommie circuits in 1966 aboard a Ford Anglia twin-cam.

David Walker Merlyn Mk10 Ford with his racing the on the road ‘gypsy existence’ in Europe going from race to race living on start and prize money. Kurt Keller, Barry Collerson and Wal Donnelly all raced Merlyn Mk10 Fords (Donnelly occasionally his BT18) throughout Europe that summer no doubt offering each other lots of support. All four were Sydneysiders, mind you they did not all do the same meetings by the look of it

1968 FF&F3

Tim Schenken won both the British FF and F3 championships in the same year, a feat never achieved before or since, and took the Grovewood Award. He raced a Merlyn and Chevron B9 Ford respectively.

Walker also ‘stepped back’ to FF that season to successfully re-launch his career. John Gillmeister Lotus 32 Ford- F3, Wal Donnelly Brabham BT18 & BT21 Ford F3 in Europe

1969 FF&F3

Tim Schenken Brabham BT28 Ford F3, John Gillmeister Lotus 35 Ford.

Dave Walker won the Les Leston FF C’ship in a Lotus 61 and joined the works Lotus F3 Team later in the season- Lotus 59 Ford and was immediately in the leading group (with his dominant Lotus 69 F3 season in 1971, the same year he made his F1 debut)

Jim Hardman raced a Brabham BT21B Ford in F3. He returned to Oz in 1975, after a stint running the Bob Jane/Frank Gardner Racing Drivers School at Calder he prepared cars for others, designed and built 3 ANF2 cars- one of these Hardman JH2 Fords won the ANF2 title in Richard Davison’s hands. He prepared championship winning cars for several drivers/team owners and is still in the business in outer Melbourne.

Buzz Buzaglo Merlyn Mk11 FF, I wrote a feature about Buzz a while back, click on the links at the end of the article to read it.

Vern Schuppan Makon MR7 FF

1970 FF&F3

Tim Schenken broke into F1 in sad circumstances- he joined Frank Williams and raced the De Tomaso after Piers Courage death.

Dave Walker GLT Lotus Lotus 59 Ford- 2nd in BRSCC F3 C’ship, John Gillmeister Brabham BT28 Ford.

Alan Jones, a couple of races in a Lotus 41 Ford and then late in the season in a Brabham BT28 Ford running down the back at this early stage (Jones F3 breakthrough and breakout of F3 season was in 1973)

Buzz Buzaglo Merlyn Mk11 FF (Buzaglo raced in F3 in 1973/4) Vern Schuppan works Palliser FF (Vern’s ascension was in ’71 when he won the first British F Atlantic series in a Palliser and was picked up by BRM in F1)

As to others, Aussie touring car ace Brian Muir carved a great career for himself in the sixties and seventies racing tourers and occasionally sports-racers in the UK and Europe.

Speaking of ‘Taxis’, Shepparton’s Bryan Thomson sold his truck business and took his ex-Beechey Mustang to the UK and raced it for 2 seasons in the mid-sixties before coming back to Oz and being a force in racing as either a driver or entrant for a couple of decades.

John Raeburn raced a Ford GT40 and a Porsche in endurance events in 1966-8 with Tim Schenken an occasional co-driver in the longer events.

As I say, it’s a quickie list- let me know who I have forgotten in that 1960-1970 period, it would be great to assemble a complete list. I’ll attack other decades another time after the going ‘cross-eyed’ exercise in creating the list above abates.

I’m also interested in what became of each of these guys and am keen to hear from any of you who can help flesh out the stories other than for the ‘stars’ of course, the histories of whom are well known.

Bibliography…

Ten Tenths Forum especially Denis Lupton, Ron Tauranac website, F2 Index, ‘Brabham, Ralt, Honda: The Ron Tauranac Story’ Mike Lawrence, ‘The Jack Brabham Story’ Jack Brabham with Doug Nye, Eoin Young article in MotorSport August 2011

Photo Credits…

Getty Images, John Ellacott, Sutton Photographics, Ed Holly Collection

Tailpiece: Beautiful portrait of  25 year old works Brabham FJ pilot, Gavin Youl at Rouen on 8 July 1962…

(Sutton)