Posts Tagged ‘Jenson Button’

(P Greenfield)

Niel Allen blasts 5 litres of fuel-injected Chevy off the line at Bathurst, Easter 1970- McLaren M10B Chev F5000…

Peter Greenfield has beautifully captured Niel at the start of the historic three lap ‘Captain Cook Trophy’ in which Allen set a lap record at Bathurst with a time of 2:9.7 seconds which stood for 32 years until it was taken by John Bowe in a Ford V8 AU Supercar with 2:8.3873 to take provisional pole in 2002. Brad Jones did a race lap of 2:9.5705 in the same AU Falcon.

Whilst the track changed in the interim period as to a much better surface it was slowed by the high speed ‘The Chase’ on Conrod. Not to mention the fact that the last Easter Meeting with outright open-wheelers took place in 1973- the track had simply become too dangerous for cars of that performance envelope as it then was.

The feature event on the program that Easter 1970 weekend was the second round of the Australian Touring Car Championship which was won by Norm Beechey’s Holden Monaro GTS350, click here to read about that race;

https://primotipo.com/2018/04/01/variety-is-the-spice/

Start of the lap record race with an obscured Niel Allen over against the Pit Counter. On this side is John Harvey, Brabham BT23E Repco and in white, Leo Geoghegan, Lotus 39 Repco- there was life in the old dog though, in beating Harves in the racing car 13 lapper Leo did a 2:12.1, the fastest ever time by a Tasman 2.5 car at Bathurst. This meeting must have been just about the last race for each of those cars before John and Leo jumped into the Bob Britton built Jane Repco V8 and Lotus 59B Waggott respectively for the balance of their 1970 Gold Star campaigns- a title won by Geoghegan (Rod MacKenzie)

 

Niel Allen collects one of his trophies for the weekend from Chris Davison (C Williams)

Allen did a qualifying lap of 2:11.2 with a trick flat-plane crank Chev engine fitted to one of the fastest F5000’s on the planet at the time. The 1970 NZ GP winner flew around the treacherous for ultra fast single-seaters, circuit to do his amazing time- 171.7 miles per hour down Conrod in the process, a much narrower strip of bitumen than it is now.

The current Bathurst lap records are held by McLarens.

Shane van Gisbergen did a 2:1.5670 in his McLaren 650S GT3 during the February 2016 Bathurst 12 Hour endurance race. Jenson Button did a 1:48.88 in his F1 McLaren MP4-23 Mercedes in the pre-event Vodaphone publicity session he did with Craig Lowndes and his V8 Supercar prior to the 2011 AGP at Albert Park- I do like the symmetry of ‘another’ McLaren single-seater holding the ‘lap record’ even though the time was not set in a race.

I wish.

(zimbio.com)

Credits…

Peter Greenfield, motorsport.com, Road & Track, Wikipedia, Rod MacKenzie, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, Craig Williams

Tailpiece: Shane Van Gisbergen, McLaren 650S 2016…

(Road and Track)

Finito…

(unattributed)

Craig Lowndes dropping into Mount Panorama’s Skyline/Esses, McLaren MP4/23 Mercedes V8, 22 March 2011…

Australian Formula Ford has been a factory for the creation of V8 Supercar Drivers for a couple of decades now. Every now and again one escapes to international racing success, Mark Webber, Will Power and Daniel Ricciardo spring to mind. I’ve not forgotten Larry Perkins I’m just referring to more recent times. But in the main V8 Supercars and to a lesser extent Porsche Cup racing has given local aces a place to ply their trade as well paid professionals.

The popularity and commercial success of Touring Car Racing in Australia relative to Single Seaters began circa 1960 and has continued unabated since. Even very popular single seater formulae such as the 2.5 Tasman and F5000 classes did not put a dent in the rise and rise of ‘Taxis’. Why? Its a topic for a whole series of articles but perhaps fundamentally the cars are easier for the average punter to understand and relate to, are spectacular to watch and have had a succession of ‘characters’ racing them. The absolute professionalism in the way V8 Supercars has been managed for so long now has widened the gulf further.

Lowndes, Van Dieman RF93 Formula Ford, Oran Park August 1993. Craig won 5 of the 8 ’93 rounds including OP (autopics)

Sponsors re-prioritised their spend over time away from the purer form of the sport to tourers. Drivers chase the dollars of course. So Taxis grew and grew. Its not that simple but its not much more complex either.

Back to the point of the article which is to discuss young talent and progression into the professional ranks.

It wasn’t always the case though, a career path into tourers. Often guys won the AFFC right into the nineties and none were picked up by professional touring car teams- the class was a bit of a closed shop with the young thrusters not especially welcome. Tomas Mezera is perhaps an exception but he ended up at HRT after he came back from his sojurn in Europe, so too did Russell Ingall make the transition after he returned from Europe.

Cameron McConville, the 1992 AFFC champ looked as though he may set a trend when Dick Johnson recruited him to race the second DJR machine at Bathurst in 1993 but then he boofed a fence and that was it for him, so it seemed. A 1996 win in the Australian GTP Championship in a Porsche 993 RS CS saw him brought back in from the cold- he beat Jim Richards in the Warwick Fabrics car that year, I remember being hugely impressed by his speed and professionalism.

None of yer poofhouse single seater stuff in here matey! Peter Brock was a great mentor to Lowndes early on , this shot of an HRT Commodore circa 1996. Brocky had an all too brief sojurn into ANF2 circa 1973 with a Birrana 272 Ford (unattributed)

Lowndes was the one who really paved the way for the guys who followed- most of the V8 Supercar champs have been Karting and Formula Ford graduates since Craig showed the way.

Out of Karts of course, initially he raced an old RF85 Van Diemen Formula Ford in 1991 and then won the AFFC title aboard an RF93 in 1993. Longtime openwheeler racer and enthusiast (and 1975 Bathurst 1000 winner with Peter Brock) Brian Sampson threw him a lifeline by giving him some drives in his Cheetah Mk9 Holden Formula Holden in 1994. It wasn’t the latest bit of kit by any stretch, in fact it was and IS the very first FH built. But Craig made the thing sing, I recall some very good drives in the car against Greg Murphy in a much more recent Reynard.

Lowndes, a motor mechanic by trade, didn’t have much money but he had ability, a likable and engaging personality and ability to communicate and some contacts via his Dad, Frank Lowndes who had been in and around motor racing forever as a car/engine builder and scrutineer.

Holden Racing Team tested him and he was immediately quick, consistent, and easy on the equipment getting a drive in the 1994 Sandown 500. Soon he was team-leader and won the V8 Supercar title in 1996. He hadn’t lost the fire in the belly for open-wheeler success, and even though he had the local scene at his feet he negotiated a year in the European F3000 Championship via Tom Walkinshaw who by then owned HRT.

Lowndes, Lola T96/50 Zytec Judd F3000, Silverstone 1997 (LAT)

Lowndes had a shocker of a year being comprehensively blown off by Juan Pablo Montoya, his teammate at RSM Marko aboard the mandated Lola T96/50 Zytec. To be fair, he was coming back into single-seaters after an absence of some years into a group of the best F1 aspirants in the world straight out of F3 or doing a second or third year in F3000. Lowndes did not get a fair crack of the whip in the team with minimal testing, Marko ran Lowndes to settle a debt owed to Walkinshaw- and focussed, not unnaturally on the fellow who was winning races- Montoya.

What Lowndes needed was another season, but back to V8 Supercars he came and a couple of other titles, six Bathurst 1000’s and all the rest. Of course he is still racing at the top level too. It would have been interesting to see how far he could have progressed with another season in Europe.

(B Moxon)

Jenson Button and Craig Lowndes, car a 2008 spec (champion that year in Lewis Hamilton’s hands) McLaren MP23/4 Mercedes 2.4 V8

Lowndes nipping a brake into Hell Corner (unattributed)

The opportunity to get to drive a contemporary F1 car was too good to be true and came about due to Vodaphones sponsorship of both McLaren and Triple Eight Racing who ran VE Holden Commodores that year. The day, just before the AGP at Albert Park involved closure of the Bathurst public roads- the circuit is just that, roads for most of the year with Lowndes and Jenson Button swapping seats between their respective F1 and V8 Supercar racers.

(unnatributed)

For misty eyed open-wheeler fans it was also an amazing ‘if only’, for Bathurst is indeed, in the words of Australian motor-racing historian John Medley ‘The Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ and is where the Australian Grand Prix should be held. What a spectacle that would be! For that to occur the circuit would be destroyed to meet F1’s safety requirements, so of course it will never happen.

But for one day it was a reminder of what could be for enthusiasts and what might have been for Craig Lowndes had the racing cards been dealt or fallen a different way…

Comparo- F1 McLaren MP4/23 Mercedes Benz (2008) and V8 Supercar Holden ‘VE’ Commodore (2011)…

(Motor)

YouTube footage…

Credits…

Vue Images, LAT, Bruce Moxon, Motor

Tailpiece: Imagine 26 of them zipping past…

Finito…

 

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Jenson Button and David Richards, BAR Honda 005 and friends on the beach at St Kilda, close to Albert Park and the 2003 Australian Grand Prix…

Joint in the background is the Stokehouse Restaurant which burned to the ground a few years back, somewhat of a local icon but i’ve never had a decent feed there.

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Button was 9th in the race won by David Coulthard’s McLaren MP4/17D Mercedes, Jacques Villeneuve 8th in the other BAR. It was a tough season for the cars, Button the best placed of the two drivers, 9th in the championship won by Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari.

Credits…

Robert Cianflone

 

bar honda

Honda finished fourth in the 2006 F1 Constructors Championship, behind Renault, Ferrari and McLaren Mercedes but ahead of the other Japanese Teams; Toyota 6th, MF1 Toyota 10th and Super Aguri Honda 11th. Honda broke through for an F1 victory in the ‘modern era’ when Jenson Button won the Hungarian GP in the teams new for 2006, mandated 2.4 litre V8 engined RA106 chassis.

But there is more than one way to ‘skin the public relations cat’. Setting a new Formula 1 car land speed record over the Bonneville flying mile with an average speed of 400 kph was Honda’s PR mission they called the ‘Bonneville 400’.

The racer used for the attempt was its 2005 F1, 3 litre V10-powered BAR-Honda 007. For the runs out on the salt, the car was fitted with an upright rear fin instead of the standard wing and used a parachute to help slow down at the end of each run.

Driver Alan van der Merwe, the team and the car broke F1 class records three times.

honda side

During the final attempts, the Honda set two LSR’s  for GP cars. Over the flying mile, the car achieved an average speed of 397.360kph (246.908mph). The second record was over the flying kilometer, an average of 397.481kph (246.983mph).

The magic 400 kph average remained outta reach, though earlier in the  week the car hit 400.454 kph on one pass of the measured mile. ‘007’ wasn’t able to match the feat on the return trip.

17th July 2006 Bonneville 400. Day 1. Formula 1 land speed record attempt on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. USA Images copyright free.

17 July 2006 ‘Bonneville 400’
Day 1. F1 land speed record attempt, Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. USA (Honda)

While disappointed that they didn’t set the record at 400, Honda were pleased with the success achieved but not as happy as they were with their first F1 win since the 1967 Italian GP victory by John Surtees! Button took that win, his first in F1 racing 3 weeks later on 6 August 2006.

Jenson won in changeable greasy conditions from Pedro de la Rosa’s McLaren MP4/21 Mercedes and Nick Heidfeld’s BMW Sauber F1.06. It was a well deserved win for both team and driver.

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Button, Honda RA106, victorious in Hungary 2006 (Clive Mason)

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Button, Hungary 2006, intricacies of modern F1 cars aerodynamics clear in this shot (Clive Mason)

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Button, Hungary 2006 (Mark Thompson)

Photo Credits…Honda Corp, Clive Mason, Mark Thompson

Tailpiece: I bet ‘007’ Sounded Sensational on the Bonneville Salt!…

Listen and see the YouTube footage;

17th July 2006 Bonneville 400. Day 1. Formula 1 land speed record attempt on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. USA Images copyright free.

17 July 2006 ‘Bonneville 400’, BAR-Honda 007, Alan van der Merwe (Honda)