Posts Tagged ‘James Hunt’

James Hunt and Brendan McInerney looking confident before the start of the 1973 British F3 season with a brand new March 723, Bicester 1 March…

They were not newcomers to March having driven works 713M’s in 1971- Hunt’s was a paid drive, Brendan was paying his way, under the banner of ‘Rose Bearings-Team Baty Group’. In Autosport journalist Ian Phillips 1971 F3 season review, his pantheon of drivers of the season had Hunt at #5. Phillips wrote that he had been ‘ one of the disappointments of the year. The season started well enough but suddenly a run of accidents and mechanical problems struck. It seemed he was a victim of his own enthusiasm but he really suffered at the hands of those less experienced than himself who by the nature of F3 were able to mix it with the quicker drivers. When he was able to get clear he proved that he was capable of showing everybody the way round and hopefully things will turn out better next season.’

Phillips Top 3 for ’71 were David Walker, Jody Scheckter and Roger Williamson- all future F1 drivers of course. In fact Walker made his F1 debut in 1971, his potential victory aboard the 4WD, gas turbine powered Lotus 56B, in the wet at Zandvoort one of thousands of motor racing mighta-beens! McInerney finished 6th in the BRSCC / MCD North Central Lombard F3 Championship with Hunt 8th  and also 10th in the more prestigious BRSCC / MCD F3 Championship with Brendan 20th. So, the sad news for James was another year in F3- the good news was he still had his works drive…

image

This very famous shot of young James Hunt and a gorgeous leggy lady was taken at Brands on 17 August 1969. Despite the obvious distraction Hunt drove his Brabham BT23B to 3rd place in the Lombard F3 Championship round, Emerson Fittipaldi won it in a Jim Russell Lotus 59 Ford (unattributed)

1972 was to be rather a difficult season for them, despite high expectations, especially on Hunt’s part. The duos first race as members of the STP March Racing Team was at Brands on March 5, their last at Monaco on 13 May. In the ten meetings they raced the works 723, the best result was Hunt’s 3rd at Mallory Park amongst a swag of DNQ’s and DNF’s due to accidents.

A year later, on June 3 1973 Hunt ran as high as 6th in the main race at Monaco on the Sunday, the F1 Monaco Grand Prix that is, before the engine in his Hesketh Racing March 731 Ford failed. The stuff of movies really! Hunt was out of a job at March after Monaco ’72 and a front-runner upon his Championship Grand Prix debut at Monaco in a customer March 12 months later.

Its interesting to look at that year, ‘Monaco to Monaco’ as context and background to the charismatic, driven champions subsequent achievements. Only a ‘Hunt true believer’ would have thought it possible to get into F1, let alone win a World Championship in those difficult months of mid-1972 when motor racing oblivion seemed the most likely outcome for James.

The 1972 March F3 efforts of Hunt and McInerney need to be put into perspective, ‘The mechanical shortcomings, political manoeuvring, dissent and strife within the team caused Autosport to describe the 1972 works STP March effort as ‘shambolic’…The…723 cars were plagued by inconsistent handling characteristics and a shortage of straight line speed’ Gerard Donaldson’s James Hunt biography says.

March were in big trouble with their F1 program in 1972, Ronnie Peterson had been a consistent front-runner in 1971 in the wonderful, unconventional 711 Ford, much was expected of March in 1972.

The 721X Ford low polar moment, Alfa Romeo gearbox’d (Alfa gears and diff in a March case) design was a dismal failure, even Ronnie Peterson could not drive around its shortcomings. Designer, Robin Herd later put the problems of the car down to issues with the gearbox- its gearchange, lack of ratios, differential problems. Robin also acknowledged his failure to design the car around the needs of the customer Goodyear tyres. In essence too much load was on the front of the car which overheated the tyres and caused excessive understeer.

A quick fix, it took only 9 days to build the first one for Mike Beuttler!, was the March 721G, essentially a 722 F2 car to which was attached a Ford DFV, Hewland FG400 ‘box and additional fuel tankage. In fact, Herd points out, from then on that philosophy of the F2 car design of each year forming the basis of March’ simple and often competitive Grand Prix cars for the period of the original founders ownership of the company served them quite well given the budgetary constraints they always had.

The point is that Robin Herd’s and others time was sucked up in the F1 effort which meant the 723 F3 and 722 F2 cars did not get the development attention they needed. Both inherently were not as good cars as the 1971 F3/F2 713M and 712M were. In addition, in F3, the GRD 723 and Ensign LMN3 were very quick little cars, drivers like Roger Williamson, who could afford to do so, backed by Tom Wheatcroft as he was, decamped from their March cars to GRD’s. The running of the March F3 team had also been contracted out and the preparation of the cars was not up to snuff.

Hunts first race at Mallory yielded 3rd but he was excluded when his engine restrictor did not hold the required air pressure. His best efforts at Brands, the next meeting were a distant 4th and 5th. At Snetterton the car wandered alarmingly all over the road- he was 8th. He tangled with 2 other cars at Oulton Park but bounced back to 3rd at Mallory Park and thrilled the crowd , his duel with Roger Williamson the races highlight. The two following races at Silverstone yielded 7th and an accident when a spinning car punted his March hard off the circuit into an earth bank. Before he could drive it again he was fired by March.

The back story to this is that the two 723’s failed to front at Zandvoort in early May, ostensibly because new bodywork was being developed to give the car more straight line speed. But Hunt, at the circuit as a spectator, given his car had not arrived heard rumours that March, chronically short of funds, had been approached by Ford Germany with an offer to run their protégé, Jochen Mass. This was not good for James as Brendan was paying March whilst in James’ case March were paying him…

Brands BRSCC F3 C’ship R1 19 March 1972. Hunt’s works March from Colin Vandervell Ensign LNF3 Ford and Ian Ashley Royale RP11 Ford. Hunt was 5th in the race won by Tom Pryce Royale RP11 Ford (Getty)

Roll on Monaco.

Hunt had tried to contact the chiefs at Bicester but could not get hold of anybody to find out what was going on. Then the F3 cars did not arrive in time for Monaco first practice, critical on this tight demanding circuit for the most important F3 race of the year. Late that night the transporter arrived with two cars which had not been adequately prepared- the mechanic, tired from the trip driving the truck went to bed. Furious, Hunt consulted his former team manager Chris Marshall- who happened to have a spare car as one of his drivers had his licence suspended. They decided that if James’ works car was not ready in the morning James would drive the Marshall car- this is what occurred, Hunt then qualified it.

Whilst Hunt was aboard the Marshall 713M awaiting his heat a missive arrived from March Director, Max Mosely to the effect that Hunt drive the works car or leave the team. By that stage James was certain he was being manoeuvred out of the team or would be sacked anyway so he decided to race the 713M which he promptly stuffed into a barrier- partially at least given the lead up to the race none of which put the driver in the best frame of mind to excel!

Several days later March announced Hunt’s dismissal and Mass’ appointment with McInerney also departing given that he thought the car horrendous and the team terrible! Mosely, Donaldson writes, ‘admitted the fault at Monaco, the delay in preparing the car and the failure to communicate with Hunt, lay with the factory, but the March directors felt it was wrong for their sponsors that Hunt should race for another team. This, and the recent lack of results had brought about the firing. Besides Mosely offered, Hunt would probably go much better without the pressures of being in a works team’, no doubt said with all of the sincerity lawyers possess…

In reality, putting contractual obligations and morality to one side!, the decision was an easy one for Max Mosely to make as he had Ford Germany keen to pay him to put Jochen Mass into James car. March needed the cash desperately so it was a ‘no brainer’ for Max to tip James out of the ride. Russell Wood drove the other works car, with both drivers failing to impress much during the rest of the year.

The long and the short of it was that the ‘bright eyed and bushy tailed lads’ were out of a drive mid-season.

In the interim James raced a Chris Marshall ‘Equipe La Vie Claire International’ F3 March 713M  to 5th place at Chimay on 21 May, it was during that meeting the world changed for Hunt.

James popped the year old 713M 2nd on the grid with Hunt running 2nd with 3 laps to go when a tyre started to deflate but he still finished 5th. Amongst those who noticed the performance that weekend was ‘Bubbles’ Horsley.

Hesketh Racing was formed to run Anthony ‘Bubbles’ Horsley in F3, they had been running a Dastle Mk9 and were looking for another driver for the 2nd car. In addition ‘Bubbles’ was not really up to it- Steve Thomson was engaged to race the car at Monaco as Horsley was unlikely to qualify for this elite race. Hunt needed a drive, Hesketh wanted a driver, the Hesketh team, funded by the young English aristocrat, Lord Alexander Hesketh, at the time were regarded as a bit of a joke, it was not necessarily the opportunity which other drivers may have sought- but there was a happy alignment of the planets between the circumstances of Hunt, Horsley and Hesketh.

Hunt raced Marshall’s 713M at Mallory Park the following week on 29 May to 10th place- in 2nd place was Alan Jones in James’ STP March 723- the best result the Australian had for quite some while! The Melburnian was clearly sussing alternative chassis to the Brabham BT38 he had been running, he purchased a GRD 372 shortly thereafter mind you! An astute choice, it was with a GRD 373 that he did so well in F3 in 1973.

Team Hesketh Dastle Mk9 Ford’s, Hunt on the inside, Bubbles on the outside, Druids Hill, Brands Hatch, British GP meeting, July 1972. It’s early in qualifying, Horsley has not yet damaged his car, an even bigger accident awaits Hunt in the race- collision with Keele’s Lotus 69. Roger Williamson took the win in a GRD 372 Ford. Dastle were built by Geoff Rumble- orthodox monocoque, outboard suspension, Mk9 Hewland box- cars held back by budgets, insufficient testing and ordinary engines (Dent)

Hunt first raced a Hesketh Dastle at Silverstone on 11 June, it was memorable as Hesketh recounts in Donaldson’s book. ‘The first race I saw him drive for me was in the wet at Silverstone. He actually took the lead, which we had never done before, indeed we’d never even been near the front of the grid. But when he was leading it was backwards- because he’d spun. He must have travelled about 40 yards in this way- then crashed into the pitwall right in front of me, which I wasn’t impressed by’.

James raced the car at Thruxton on 18 June to 10th  and then had an even worse accident than at Silverstone which destroyed his car during the British GP support event at Brands Hatch on 14/15 July. Bubbles car was damaged in a qualifying prang with another racer and then Hunt had an accident which could have killed him. He was closely following another car which spun as a result of a suddenly deflating tyre, Hunt spun his car to avoid it, made contact with it and the Dastle was launched skywards, completing some mid-air aerobatics then landed, upside down astride the barrier on one side of the circuit- the engine and gearbox on the other side of the track.

Hunt was uninjured in the accident, the situation worsened when the Mini he was driving had a head on collision with a Volvo which was being driven on the wrong side of the road, on the way home from the circuit. ‘…bloodied but unbowed, James, who treated himself with emergency first aid in the form of a pint of beer from a nearby pub, was carted off to hospital…In an effort to cheer him up, some of his F3 mates procured a female ‘specialist’ to administer to the needs of the wounded driver in his hospital bed. When a shocked matron entered the room and discovered James, again with a pint of beer in his hand, and the lady engaged in a private therapy session he was sent packing for his flagrant misuse of visiting hour privileges’- I had forgotten just how amusing the Donaldson book is.

It was effectively the end of Hesketh’s F3 team. Hunt was 35th in his final race in a cobbled together Dastle at Mallory Park on 25 July.

Hunt, March 712M Ford ahead of Lauda, works March 722 Ford at Oulton Park in the final round of the British F2 Championship on 16 September 1972. Hunt finished a splendid 3rd behind Peterson and Lauda in the works March 722’s- and having diced with Ronnie in the latter stages of the race. Impressive run in the Brian Hart tweaked 1790cc BDA engined year old March  (unattributed)

The year looks fairly shitful at this point does it not!? The ‘Hunt The Shunt’ epithet seemed an apt one.

Then Hunt and Hesketh doubled their bets, with a couple of damaged Dastles in his garage. Hunt had had enough of four years in F3, he decided it was time to go F2, but to do so there was the small matter of a car, engine and all the other bits and pieces necessary.

Hunt and Chris Marshall obtained the loan of an F2 March 712M for the rest of the year after threatening legal action against March for breach of Hunt’s contract. Max Mosely conceded the potential liability and was quick to offer a car Hunt knew was sitting in March’s Bicester factory. From Max’ perspective to give them a car for the balance of the season to mollify the pair of vexatious litigants was smart. And who knows, they may do well! The Ford BDA engine fitted to the car was Hesketh’s. Wisely, or luckily it was a 1790cc unit, those who ran the BDA at close to 2 litres that year had plenty of engine problems, their simply was not enough meat in Fords cast iron ‘711M’ block to run the bore size needed to get to the F2 class capacity limit. The plan was to contest the remaining rounds of the European F2 Championship, that year won by Mike Hailwood in a Surtees TS10 Ford BDA.

At that point Hunt showed what he could do- and in races of longer duration. It is almost as though James knew ‘It Was Now Or Never’- his reputation was shot and the chances of another Alexander Hesketh coming his way were Zero.

The first event contested was close to home, the ‘Rothmans 50000’ Formula Libre race at Brands Hatch. He was 5th , having qualified his March as the second quickest F2 car, in a great drive in his year old, down on power March amongst F1, F2 and F5000 cars. Emerson Fittipaldi won in a Lotus 72D Ford, the 2500 pounds of prize money was a valuable addition to the teams kitty.

Team Hesketh then headed off to the Salzburgring where he was 19th and non-classified, the team returned to the UK for a John Player round, the final of the British F2 Championship at Oulton Park where he was 3rd, from grid 2, the race won by Ronnie Peterson’s works March 722 with Niki Lauda’s similar car in 2nd. Again, a great performance.in a stellar field that included Hill, Surtees, Scheckter, Schenken, Roger Williamson all in works or very professional teams. Amongst the first to congratulate James were his erstwhile March teammates Peterson and Lauda who ‘…were not surprised at the gritty performance of their former F3 rival…’ Hunt having a great dice with Ronnie in the races final stages.

At the end of the season the team took the March to Brazil to contest the 3 races at Interlagos in October and November with Hunt again finishing strongly in 5th and 4th places, missing the second race having crashed in the pre-event warmup. The races were won by Emerson Fittipald’s Lotus 69 Ford BDF and Mike Hailwood’s Surtees TS10 Ford BDA.

For Hunt, the season started and ended with promise. The bit in the middle was rather ugly! He was lucky to meet Hesketh but did brilliantly, with Hesketh, Horsley when he adopted the team management role and the mechanics in knuckling down and delivering well in a good, albeit year old car. His ability to deliver consistent speed in the company of very talented racers, some of them ‘graded drivers’ over distances longer than 10 lap screamers was demonstrated between August and November 1972. One of the things great drivers have in common is towering self-belief. What Hunt achieved in that short space of time was wonderful mind management. He simply put all of the dramas of the year behind him and delivered. Not once, but continuously.

Donaldson wrote of Hunt’s determination ‘…he was so accustomed to setbacks he used them as inspiration. Indeed he thrived on adversarial situations to the point that if they didn’t exist it sometimes seemed he went out of his way to create them, then employed the Hunt theory of reverse psychology to turn negatives into positives’. Hunt responded ‘I’m a great fatalist. Whenever I think I’m going to achieve something, it turns out that I don’t. I always have to “negative think” to get the best out of myself.’ Sportsman’s mind management is all important. However he did it, Hunt’s ability to mentally apply himself in positions of extraordinary adversity and stress was exceptional.

image

Euro F2 Championship round 1 at Mallory Park on 11 March 1973. The Hesketh Surtees TS15 Ford at rest. Hunt 15th in the race won by Jarier, March 732 BMW (unattributed)

Given Hunt’s performances it was easy for Hesketh to decide to continue with him. Off the strength of the Surtees marque’s showing in 1972 Hesketh ordered a new F2 TS15 to mount a serious European F2 Championship campaign for 1973. It was a good car but the March 732 BMW M12 combination started a period of domination that year. As to Hunt’s early season performances; he raced the Surtees at Mallory, Hockenheim, Thruxton, the Nurburgring and the Pau GP for 15th, DNS with fuel metering unit problems, 10th, DNF tyres and wrote off the TS15 at Pau! All of the sudden its ‘hell in a hand basket’ again.

F1/F5000 Brands ‘Race of Champions’ 18 March 1973. Hunt in the leased Surtees TS9 Ford, 3rd from Q13. Peter Gethin Chevron B24 Chev F5000 won from Hulme, McLaren M23 Ford (unattributed)

So what does Hesketh do?, doubles up again of course and purchases a new F1 March 731 Ford off the back of Hunts performance in a 2 year old F1 Surtees TS9 Ford in the 18 March 1973 Brands ‘Race of Champions’, and that my friends is where the story really starts.

Just look at what happened between Hunt and McInerney posing out front of the Bicester factory on 1 March 1972, and Hunt finishing in front of most of the works teams in a 2 year old Surtees at Brands on 18 March 1973 only 12 months later.

Incredible, unbelievable. Some fellows peak before F1, Hunt really only took it all seriously, the racing anyway, when he commenced in Grands Prix. What was priceless was how easy the Hesketh boys made it all look in 1973 with their off the peg car being carefully developed by Harvey Postlethwaite and driven within an inch of its life by Hunt J…

The Hesketh, Postlethwaite modified March 731 Ford during the 1973 British GP at Silverstone. Hunt 4th from grid 11- attacked Peterson for 2nd till his tyres faded- the grid was schredded by 10 cars due to Jody Scheckter’s famous end of lap 1 crash. Revson’s McLaren M23 Ford won  (Schlegelmilch)

Postcript: Brendan McInerney

What about Brendan though? Born in Dublin on 30 November 1945, he had his own team, the modestly named!, as he put it ‘Race Cars International’ which ran his, and customer cars. He raced in FF, F3, F2, F5000 and Sportscars where he achieved his best results.

Amidst the tough 1972 F3 season he linked up with good friend Trevor Thwaites racing an Intertech Steering Wheels backed 2 litre Chevron B19/21 to 8th in the Brands 1000Km, 9th at the Osterreichring and Spa 1000 Km events, great results in amongst the 3 litre factory entered missiles of Ferrari, Matra, Lola, Mirage et al. Finally they had a splendid 5th in the Jarama 2 Hours 2 litre championship round and non-qualified at the Nurburgring 1000Km.

Confidence intact, he upped the ante and raced in most of the 1973 European F2 Championship in a ‘GRS International’ GRD 273 Ford BDA. It was a tough year racing in a field of great depth. He DNQ at Hockenheim, Pau, and Mantorp Park and had DNF at Karlskoga and Albi. He was 20th at the Nurburgring, 10th at Rouen, 12th at Monza and 6th at the Norisring in a race of attrition, finally he was non-classified at Nivelles. A March 732 BMW was the car to have in 1973, none of the GRD drivers had strong results in 1973.

In ’73 the Thwaites/McInerney duo again contested some endurance championship events finishing 12th in a Chevron B21/23 at the Vallelunga 6 Hour and had a DNF at the Nurburgring 1000Km. Late in the year Brendan also had a steer of Thwaites Lola T330 Chev F5000 in some European Championship rounds at Brands/Snetterton/Brands without showing great competitiveness.

Into 1974, the last of his racing career,  McInerney contested some late season European F5000 championship rounds, again in the Thwaites T330 and getting more out of the year old car at Thruxton/Brands/Snetterton and Mallory Park for 16/12/11th and 9th placed finishes.

Brendan became a professional backgammon player after motor racing in between stints of helping with his family’s Dublin based contracting business, he also worked in real estate whilst living in England. He now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina

Bibliography…

‘The Story of March: Four Guys and a Telephone’ Mike Lawrence, ‘James Hunt: The Biography’ Gerard Donaldson, GP Encyclopaedia, F2 Index, oldracingcars.com

Photo Credits…

Getty Images, Stuart Dent, Rainer Schlegelmilch, Mirrorpix

Tailpiece: Its not as though the hot and cold running babes started in Hunt’s GP years but no doubt the thru-put went up a couple of gears then. Hunt was livin’ the life of every schoolboys dream in 1973. He was certainly living mine…

image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

image

James Hunt dives for the inside line in his March 713S Ford, AJ and his Brabham BT28 Ford has left a gap way bigger than he ever did when they slugged it out in GP racing…

It’s 1971, the BRSCC MCD Shell Super Oil British F3 Championship at Brands Hatch on 1 March 1971 and both drivers are trying hard to jump up to the next level, the road for Hunt would be easier than Jones, James a coming star with the Hesketh March 731 in 1973 and Jones an F1 ‘occasional’ from 1974.

The ‘facts’ are from the photo caption, the cars and drivers are correct but the date/Brands event don’t accord with the ‘F2 Register’ record of that event, my F3 race resource. It appears AJ didn’t race with #69, a number with obvious appeal to him at all during ’71.

One for the British F3 historians amongst you!

Credit…

Grand Prix Photos

image

The ever innovative Derek Gardner with an ‘aero-tweak’ being tested on Francois Cevert’s Tyrrell 002 Ford during Italian GP practice at Monza on 10 September 1972…

This huge sleeve over the exhausts is cowled from the oil coolers back, the idea being to harness the exhaust gas energy to entrain air through the sleeve and enhance airflow and hence better cooling thru the oil rads.

Francois hadn’t done too many laps when the ‘prophylactics’ parted company with the car at very high speed, bouncing their way into lightweight schrapnel around the famous autodrome, fortunately ‘002’ was well clear of any following cars at the time!

The shot below shows a standard ‘006’ rear end to give an idea of how the car appeared sans ducts. Ken Tyrrell and Jackie Stewart discuss the sublime weather before Francois is sent on his way. These cars evolved a lot throughout 1972/3, the Tyrrells arguably (Lotus 72 pace duly noted!) the quickest cars of the era from the time ‘001’ first raced at Oulton Park later in 1970 until Stewart’s retirement and Cevert’s death at Watkins Glen at the end of 1973.

tyr arse

Date and place unknown, 1973 Tyrrell 006 Ford, Cevert up (unattributed)

Monza ’72 wasn’t a good race for the ‘Boys in Blue’ at all though, JYS popped a clutch on the line and was lucky not to get ‘whacked up the clacker’ at a million miles an hour and Francois’ engine ‘popped’ on lap 14. Emerson Fittipaldi took the race and the ’72 title in his Lotus 72D Ford.

tyr franc

FC looking very ‘chillaxed’ prior to the ’73 British GP at Silverstone, Tyrrell 006 Ford (unattributed)

You might find this story about Cevert’s early career of interest if you haven’t already seen it;

https://primotipo.com/2014/11/07/francois-cevert-formative-years/

I wrote an article a while back about Team Tyrrell and innovation, have a read of it if you haven’t. Its amazing just how ‘edgy’ Ken’s boys were over the years given their resources relative to bigger, better funded teams;

https://primotipo.com/2014/09/16/tyrrell-019-ford-1990-and-tyrrell-innovation/

tyr fran silvers

Roll on into mid-1973 and Derek was considering his overall design and aero alternatives for his 1974 car…

Here Francois is testing ‘005’ during British GP practice at Silverstone in mid July, JYS did a few laps in the same car carrying #42. It looks remarkably cohesive for a car designed originally with a totally different bluff nose aerodynamic concept!

tyr brit

Compare and contrast the ‘normal’ bluff nose Tyrrell ‘006’ Cevert races here in front of James Hunt’s March 731 Ford at the British GP, Silverstone in 1973, with the ‘005’ chisel nose he tested in practice above. Hunt was a splendid 4th, Cevert 5th, Revson took his first GP win in a McLaren M23 Ford (unattributed)

It was a good year until the USGP, JYS took his third title in the ‘low polar moment of inertia’, short wheelbase, twitchy but very quick in both Stewart and Cevert’s hands, Tyrrell 005/006 cars.

Click on this link for a short story about those cars;

https://primotipo.com/2014/08/25/jackie-stewart-monaco-gp-1973-tyrrell-006-ford/

Gardner had a pretty handy additional test pilot in Chris Amon who was contracted the drive the spare Tyrrell 005 in the end of season North American GP’s at Mosport and Watkins Glen. Chris was always rated as a test-driver by all he raced with from Ferrari’s Mauro Forghieri ‘down’.

Amon raced 005 in side radiator/chisel nose spec in Canada, he didn’t race it at Watkins Glen after Francois’ fatal accident on the Saturday resulted in Ken Tyrrell withdrawing the teams cars for the race, which would have been the retiring Stewart’s 100th GP.

tyr amon

Chris Amon 10th in Tyrrell 005 Ford in the Canadian GP, Chris has ‘modified’ the cars nose during the race. JYS was 5th in 006, Cevert DNF after a collision with Scheckter, Peter Revson won the race in a McLaren M23 Ford (unattributed)

Derek Gardner tested the ‘chisel nose, side radiator’ aerodynamic approach pioneered by the Lotus 56 at Indianapolis in 1968.

After the history making changes at the 1973 seasons end Derek Gardner threw out the conceptual approach he had decided upon for 1974. The car was to be a ‘highly strung thoroughbred’ from which maestro’s Stewart and Cevert could extract every ounce of performance. His change was to a much more forgiving chassis attuned to the developmental needs of ‘cub drivers’ Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler for 1974, his ‘007’ design the very effective result.

tyr 007

Tyrrell 007 Ford cutaway; aluminium monocoque chassis, Ford Cosworth 3 litre DFV V8, Hewland FG400 5 speed transaxle, disc brakes inboard front and rear, wishbone front suspension with coil spring dampers, rear suspension by single upper link, lower parallel links, radius rods and coil spring/damper units, adjustable roll bars (unattributed)

Tailpiece: The ’74 Tyrrell 007 Ford in Depailler’s hands, Swedish GP in which he was 2nd and Scheckter’s 1st, winning the South African’s  first GP. Evolution of Derek Gardner’s aero thinking clear from ’73-’74, mind you he went back to a bluff nose for his outrageous P34 6 wheeler for 1976…

tyr pt

(unattributed)

Credits…

Rainer Schlegelmilch, Doug Nye ‘History of The GP Car’

image

Barry Sheene laps Brands Hatch in a 1976/7 Surtees TS19 Ford in his first F1 drive on 25 April 1978…

It would have been interesting if Bazz gave cars a ‘red-hot’ go from about then, born in 1950 he was 28 and had already won the 1973 Formula 750 and 1976/7 500cc World Titles for Suzuki.

Not too many motor-cyclists have made the transition from bikes to cars successfully at elite level. Three spring to mind; John Surtees, Mike Hailwood and less obviously Johnny Cecotto. His speed and race wins on bikes flowed into F2 drives, badly broken legs in his Toleman Hart during 1984 British GP practice, he had already banged himself about on bikes, ended an F1 career of great promise.

image

Buckle up. At the time the Surtees TS19’s were being raced in the British F1 Series, so were ‘still current’

Sheene still had unfinished business on bikes though; always a threat when on a decent machine, he raced on in 500’s, his battles against Kenny Roberts the stuff of legend, his last win the 1981 Swedish GP.

An accident at Silverstone during 1982 British GP practice was one too many. He hit a fallen competitors obscured bike at around 160mph, slid for 150 metres, breaking both legs again, and an arm. Undimished, Sheene had enormous courage and resilience, he raced on into 1983 on a semi-works Suzuki even finishing 8th in the British GP 12 months after the awful accident. Unsurprisingly, his ultimate edge was dulled, he retired from bikes in 1984.

image

Place, date and bike unknown (unattributed)

Barry did race touring Cars and trucks prior to emigrating from the UK to Oz in the late 1980’s, he left his beloved Britain in search of sun to help ease arthritis partially caused by his many race prangs down the years.

An immensely likable character, he was soon as popular here as in Europe mixing property development, motorsport TV coverage and commentary with product endorsements. He and Oz Touring Car Legend Dick Johnson did a series of TV ads for Shell for years which both polished its brand and were iconic in terms of their laconic humor. Sadly lost to cancer at the all-too-young age of 53 in 2003.

image

Isle of Man 1971, Barry Sheene at Quarter Bridge after crashing out of the race in apalling conditions whilst 2nd in the 125cc race on his Suzuki. His only IOM TT race. 21, how young does he look!? (Bob Thomas)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

image

‘you missed the apex by that much!’ Sheene, George Harrison and John Surtees, Brands during the test

image

Barry, George and those Linea Sport overalls so period!

Credits…

Roger Lings, Bob Thomas, Patrick Litchfield, Keystone France

Tailpiece: You can be certain the one thing, ‘the two amigos’ aren’t talking about is Texaco…

image

22 May 1978 (Litchfield)

 

 

 

hunt wintoin 2

Ian Smiths’ wonderful shot shows James Hunt balancing his Elfin MR8B Chev on the turn into the Winton Esses, 29 October 1978, his final race win. Winton ‘Rose City 10000’. (Ian Smith/ autopics.com.au)

James Hunt wins the ‘Rose City 1000’ at Winton Raceway, Benalla, Victoria, Australia in October 1978…

hunt and friends

James Hunt was a hit with the spectators, media, and the Elfin Team, a professional in every respect. ‘Kojak’, McLaren mechanic Ray Grant to Hunts’ right. Winton paddock. (oldracephotos.com)

Racing in Australia…

Hunt enjoyed his interlude in Australia, he was frustrated with his McLaren M26 in F1, McLaren having lost their ‘design mojo’, the Colin Chapman/Peter Wright ground effects Lotus 78 and 79 dominating the 1977 and 1978 seasons. Mario Andretti easily won the World Drivers Championship in 1978, Hunt finished thirteenth, and failed to complete races on nine occasions.

spanish gp

In search of grip, downforce…the ground effect Lotus 79 got something for nothing whilst everybody else played catch-up in 1977-8. Hunt in his bi-winged McLaren M26 Ford, Spanish GP 1978. Andrettis’ Lotus 79 won from pole, James a lap down in 6th place (pinterest)

James joined Wolf for 1979, optimistic that his old mate and designer from the Hesketh days, Harvey Postlethwaite could ‘produce the good’s, but frustrated with the nature of ground effect cars generally, and the lack of competitiveness of the Wolf WR9 specifically, retired from racing at Monaco.

So, we were lucky to see the first recent World Champion in Australia at all, his late 1978 Winton victory, in fact his last race win of any kind!

The whole exercise was bizarre really, the Winton event an annual stand alone race outside the ‘Gold Star’ the then prestigious series to decide Australia’s Champion Driver, the Australian National Championship Formula at the time was Formula 5000, for single seaters powered by 500BHP production based V8’s.

‘Kenlaw Promotions’ Ken Campbell, together with the Benalla Auto Club, the Winton promoter, secured Hunt for $30000, half paid up front and half after he raced plus expenses, a lot of money at the time. Elfin were to be paid $10000 for supply of the car ‘end to end’, that is prepared and maintained at the circuit.

A huge amount of publicity was generated by Hunts presence in Australia, attendances at the circuit on the weekend, of around 15000 people on raceday reflective of interest in both his driving talent and flamboyant tabloid lifestyle. He arrived ‘pissed’ but still handled the media upon arrival with aplomb! Hunts’ entourage included his brother Peter, his McLaren mechanic Ray Grant, and a friend.

The car was entirely prepared by the Elfin crew, lead by Peter Fowler, based at racer Bryan Thomsons’ workshop in nearby Shepparton…Hunt arrived in Australia after the season ending Canadian GP, no doubt the experience in country Victoria was a reminder of his English Club Racing roots!

John Lanyon in the ‘Elfin Bible’ (‘Australia’s Elfin Sports And Racing Cars’ by John Blanden & Barry Catford) outlines in detail how professional and easy Hunt was to deal with, treating the car, team and Garrie Cooper with a great deal of respect..

Elfin MR8 Chev…

cooper race debut

Garrie Cooper debuting the brand new Elfin MR8 Chev # ‘8761’ at the Sandown round of the ‘Rothmans Series’, February 1976. Chisel nose and relative size of the car a contrast to the smaller MR5/6. No airbox at this stage, side deformable structure nicely integrated into side, rearward mounted radiators. Car beautifully finished and detailed, suspension all nickel plated and gleaming in the Summer sun…

Elfin were Australia’s foremost manufacturer of racing cars, Garrie Coopers small concern in Edwardstown, South Australia producing well over 250 cars and over 20 different models from the late 1950’s, until the late 1980’s after his death. The company still produces road sports cars.

The MR8 incorporated all of the knowledge Cooper accumulated in building ‘big bangers’ ; the 400, ME5, and MS7 V8 Sports Racers and particularly the MR5 and MR6 F5000 cars.

Elfin built 4 MR5 Repco Holden engined cars; ‘works cars’ for Cooper and John McCormack and customer cars for Max Stewart and John Walker. The MR6 was bespoke for McCormack, and designed around the light, aluminium Repco Leyland ‘P76′ V8.

Consistent and dogged development of McCormacks MR5 and MR6, by both Elfin and McCormacks’ own team based ‘around the corner’ from the Elfin factory, the MR6 once fitted with a Repco Holden engine, produced race and championship winning cars.

But the bar was raised with the Lola T330/332, so Cooper needed to produce something special for 1976.

Garrie considered using Repco Holdens again but Repco had long withdrawn from racing so the cost and ongoing development of the small block Chev made that the sensible choice, his first car powered by an ex-Bob Muir Peter Molloy ‘prepped Chev.

The chassis was a conventional aluminium monocoque made of 16 and 18 gauge aluminium, with tubular steel sub frames used front and rear and a roll bar braced fore and aft.

Familiar Elfin rear suspension practice was followed with twin radius rods, twin parallel lower links, single top link, and coil spring dampers. Front suspension was by wishbones top and bottom, again using coil spring damper units, alloy Konis front and rear, and adjustable roll bars front and rear.

rear end

MR8 # ‘8761’  rear suspension. Complex fabrications supports conventional set up of single top link, twin parallel lower links, twin radius rods , and combined coil spring damper (Koni) units, stood up vertically as was the trend of the day. Battery mounted at rear in ‘single post’ rear wing support (Peter Brennan Collection)

Front and rear track was 1625mm, similar to the T330/2, and the wheelbase 2640mm, 30mm longer than the MR5.

A special Elfin casting replaced the standard Hewland DG300 gearbox item and incorporated mounts for both the rear wing and attachment points for the rear suspension subframe.

Brakes were Lockheed and steering Elfins own rack & pinion.

The aerodynamics of the great looking car were a departure from the full-width ‘Tyrrell Nose’ of the MR5/6 to the chisel nose setup Cooper had experimented with on his MR5B.

Three MR8’s were built, one each  in 1976, 77′ and ’78 the cars raced by  champion drivers including Vern Schuppan, John Bowe, Larry Perkins, Bruce Allison, Didier Pironi, and of course Hunt…

Garrie Cooper also raced the cars, his unique contribution as designer/builder/driver critical in keeping the cars competitive throughout this long period.

Hunts car was the Reg Orr owned MR8B Chev, chassis # 8783, the last of the MR8’s built.

The very last Elfin F5000, the only bespoke ground effect Fornula 5000 car built in the world, perhaps the very last F5000 car built in the world, the MR9 Chev is a story for another time…

front suspensin 2

Front suspension conventional unequal length upper and lower wishbones, coil spring/ damper unit and adjustable roll bar. Cast magnesium Elfin uprights front and rear. Car built by the same team but to my mind the MR8 was built to a higher standard of finish than MR5/6 (Peter Brennan Collection)

The 1978 ‘Rose City 10000’…

On the Wednesday and Thursday prior to the meeting the car was adjusted to suit Hunt; seat, pedals, steering, gear shift and a small lever added to the belts to aid exit.

He covered six laps on Thursday but the circuit was dirty and wet Friday, so Hunts first serious drive of the car was on Saturday.

Garrie Coopers diary records as follows ‘ James was very impressive right from the start being very smooth and precise and getting the power on noticeably earlier than the others. Right throughout practice fine adjustments were made to the car to balance it as required. He was always adamant when he pulled into the pits that he see the times he recorded and those of his nearest rivals . After making an adjustment he would go out and improve on his time. This continued through the practice sessions until he finished up putting a string of low 55 second laps…however he seemed to pace himself to the opposition and could have gone quicker again. At no time did he appear ragged or put a wheel off the bitumen…’

Hunt told the local media the Elfin was ‘ A lot better than the Eagle I drove. (He raced an eagle for Dan Gurney in 1974) It seems a good car, it is very forgiving and drives a lot easier. It’s good to have a competitive car for a change. It’s a nice feeling!’ referring to his hapless 1978 season.

Hunt was on pole with a 55 second lap, John McCormack next on 55.7, the race was easily won by Hunt with Alfie Costanzo second around 40 seconds behind in his Lola T332. Mac was credited with the fastest lap, Hunt pacing himself and taking it easy on the car. John Lanyon recalls ‘There was no wear and tear on the car at all. Nothing at all. You would think he hadn’t taken it off the truck. That’s both after practice and the race. he brought the car back in beautiful condition.’

Whilst Hunt was paid, the race was a financial disaster for the Benalla Auto Club and Elfin who were only paid $1000 of the $10000 contracted…still, Barry Catford observed in his book that the win was the fillip the team needed for 1979 after a tough season including Garrie Coopers horrible, but lucky escape from the accident caused by his wing mount failure at Sandown shortly before Hunts’ visit.

hunt close up

How Good Was the Elfin MR8 ?…

Its interesting to speculate about how good the MR8 was in relation to its ‘competitor set’ ; the Lola T332 (first model 1974), Lola T400 (1975), Chevron B37 (1976) , Lola T430(1976), Matich A53 (1974) etc.

Two drivers raced the Elfin and other F5000’s, Vern Schuppan and Bruce Allison.

There are various quotes in the ‘Elfin Bible’ of Schuppan comparing the MR8 favourably with the Lola T332 but later in life he seems to have changed his view.

Despite buying an MR8 to use as a Single-Seater Can Am car, having raced both the Lola T332 and MR8, Schuppan rated the Lola T332 the better car, which begs the question, why buy the Elfin if you thought the Lola the better car?

In any event Vern observes’…The Lola T332 was certainly significantly better than the Elfin MR8, Gurneys Eagle, the Trojan T101 0r the Chevron B28’s. The Chevron I raced was quite tired and also a bit flexible but not in a good way’ Schuppan wrote in Wolfgang Klopfers book, ‘Formula 5000 in NZ & Australia Race by Race’.

He continued, ‘The Lola T332 was a wonderful car, it was quick everywhere, I believe it handled well because it was rather flexible…It was a bit like a big go-kart, and although the flex wasn’t designed into it, it, coupled with quite long rear suspension travel , helped to soak up the weight of the Chevrolet engine. This seemed to give the car an advantage in both slow and fast corners. It didn’t always look quick in slow corners…it just put the power down so well without a lot of sliding around or oversteer. It was excellent too, in the wet.’

image

Vern Schuppan in his MR8, chassis # ‘8772’ in Single-Seat Can Am configuration, Road America, Wisconsin 1979. Vern was 5th in the race won by Jacky Ickx Lola T333CS (Glenn Snyder)

Bruce Allison’s F5000 CV started with his ex-Bartlett T332 straight out of  an ANF2 Birrana 274, he took to the 5 litre cars like a ‘duck to water’ and instantly became the ‘enfant terrible’ of the F5000 grid in Australia in 1975, guided, prepared and advised by the great Peter Molloy, as Warwick Brown and Niel Allen had been before him.

Bruce raced the ex-VDS Chevron B37 in both the UK, winning the prestigious Grovewood Award in 1977, and in Australia. He raced an F5000 March for Theodore Racing as teammate to Alan Jones, and also the MR8, once, after he had retired for the first time!

‘I hadn’t raced since my last race in the UK, I got a call from John Lanyon, of Elfins’ to bolster the numbers at Calder in early 1982. I duly practiced on the Friday and raced the car on the weekend finishing in the top 5, I don’t remember exactly where. (Looking at the Elfin book, Bruce finished second to John Wrights’ LolaT400, just in front of Garrie Cooper in the Elfin MR9 and took the fastest race lap) It was such a long time, five years, since I had raced a 5 litre car, I raced a March 781 F1 car in the Shellsport Championship in the UK, that I can’t really make comparisons of the MR8 to the other cars.’

‘I had a lot of success with the Lola, but in the UK the B37 was the quickest of the F5000 and F1 cars running the Shellsport Series that year, and I didn’t finish the season. The Chevron was quicker I believe, through the faster corners, the T332 quicker both through the slower stuff and in a straight line. Overall the Lola had the edge.’

‘In the Theodore Team in the US in 1976 i was number two to AJ (Alan Jones), so AJ got the T332, the March 76A allocated to me, it was a shocker of a car, although it was good in the wet, AJ won a race in it late in the season in wet conditions, when he raced it having boofed the Lola. With the benefit of hindsight I would have been better taking my T332 to the US, it was such a well-sorted car, Molloy Chev and all, I would have been far more competitive…’

Bruce was generous with his time and anecdotes but I’ll save those for an article on the one off, gorgeous Chevron B37 itself.

Peter Brennan has raced and restored an Elfin MR5, MR8, Matich A50, and recently the Lola T330 we have covered in ‘Racers Retreat’. I asked him about the construction of the MR8 relative to the other cars…’The tub on the MR8 is much stronger than the T330/332. It has a good forward roll-hoop, the Lola got that only when it was mandated. The Lola is weak from the drivers knees forward’.

‘The T330 was light, mine is 620Kg, my MR8 was 684 Kg, the T332 will be closer to the MR8 in weight with its deformable side structures, oil lines forward, bigger radiators and heavier bodywork, which in some cars is all-enveloping’.

‘The Lola was much better built than the Elfin in the driveline, spindles, uprights, radius rods etc’.

Race-winner though the MR8 was, their is little doubt, no revelation here!, that the Lola T330/332 was the F5000 of the era, the greatest F5000 car ever, as well as one of the most successful single-seaters of any class in any era of racing history.

image

Bruce Allison in the Reg Orr owned Elfin MR8, chassis # ‘8783’ at Calder , February 1982, nose of the Cooper ground effect Elfin MR9 Chev alongside…This is the same car James Hunt drove to victory at Winton in 1976 and in which John Bowe had  much success. (Velocity Retro)

Wolf WR9 and Hunts short 1979 Season…

Hunt started 1979 with plenty of optimism and hope but ground effects was a ‘black-art’, designers and engineers learning what aerodynamic shapes of sidepod worked and coping with the sorts of loads the aluminium monocoques of the day struggled with.

Narrow chassis’ to accomodate ground effect tunnels created torsional rigidity problems not encountered by designers to that point. Even Colin Chapman lost his way…the wingless Lotus 80 was a flop, the class of the 1979 field the Williams FW07, the best ‘refined Lotus 79 copy’ of the year, albeit Ferrari won the title as a consequence of the FW07’s late arrival…

Postlethwaites Wolf WR9 was unsuccessful. James ‘pulled the pin’ on a short but stellar GP career in Monaco, opening the door to Keke Rosbergs’ first ‘good drive’, one door closes and another opens…In Hunts case his wonderful partnership with Murray Walker as broadcasters of the BBC GP coverage commenced.

Few of us will forget the Hunt magic and charisma on display at Wonderful Winton all those years ago, and yes, by all accounts the Hunt Touring Group partied hard at the end of the meeting!

wolf

James Hunts’ Wolf WR9 Ford in his last Grand Prix, Monaco 1979. DNF with transmission failure on lap 4, the car was not Harvey Postlethwaites’ most successful design. (pinterest)

Etcetera…

front

MR8 ‘8761’ : cars used chisel nose unlike the earlier MR5/6. Roll hoop provides driver protection and chassis bracing, mandated from 1975 season. Car alongside is the ex Brown/ Costanzo Lola T430 then owned by Bob Minogue (Peter Brennan Collection)

side profile

MR8 pictured is the Ex-Cooper chassis # ‘8761’ then owned by Peter Brennan. Nice profile shot shows beautifully integrated body, deformable structure, the MR8 equal if not faster than any of its imported contemporaries from 1976 to the classes end in Australia in 1982…(Peter Brennan Collection)

motor

‘Motor’ Magazine Australia track test of the MR8 in early 1979. Racer Sue Ransom tested the car with Vern Schuppan doing the timed runs; 0-100kmh 2.9 sec, 0-160 4.9 sec, 0-240 10 sec. Standing 400 metres 9.75 sec. Top speed geared for Adelaide International Raceway 275kmh.     (Peter Brennan Collection)

rose city 10000 poster

Credits…

Ian Smith, autopics.com.au, oldracephotos.com, Glenn Snyder RJS Collection, Pinterest, Peter Brennan Collection

‘Australias Elfin Sports and Racing Cars’ John Blanden & Barry Catford

‘Formula 5000 in NZ and Australia Race by Race’ Wolfgang Klopfer

Many thanks to both Peter Brennan and Bruce Allison for their contributions to this article

Other F5000 Articles…

Frank Matich and his cars.

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

Shadow DN6B Dodge.

https://primotipo.com/2015/10/07/shadow-dn6b-dodge-road-america-f5000-1976/

Finito…