Posts Tagged ‘Longford’

Max Stephens powers his 2 litre Cooper T40 Bristol up the Domain Hillclimb, Hobart, Tasmania probably late 1959…

Its not just a T40, it’s THE T40, Jack Brabham’s 1955 Australian Grand Prix winning car, Jack took a somewhat lucky win when the more powerful cars of Stan Jones and Reg Hunt fell by the wayside or were mortally wounded.

Colour isn’t so common in Australia in the period given its cost and the fact that professionals mainly shot in monochrome given printing constraints of the day ensured good ole black and white in magazines prevailed. This is a fantastic colour photograph from Lindsay Ross’, oldracephotos.com archive, I’m not sure who the ‘snapper is in this particular case but his/her composition took my eye.

The ’59 Australian Hillclimb Championship was held at the Queens Domain on Saturday 14 November 1959, in fact the weekend was a ‘double-banger’ with competitors over from the mainland able to compete at Baskerville on the Sunday. Perhaps this photo is of Max during the championship meeting, i’m intrigued to know.

The journalist Rob Saward, writing on The Nostalgia Forum had this to say about T40 ‘CB/1/55’ and Stephens: ‘The gearbox was always this cars weakness. …It was the usual Citroen based (ERSA modified) box Cooper were using in the early Bobtails and F2 cars, which worked ok with the FWA or FWB Climax, but 2 litres of Bristol power meant it had to be treated very gingerly. Longford was always hard on transmissions, even more so before the railway crossing was rebuilt prior to the 1960 meeting’.

‘Max Stephens never really had the chance to demonstrate his true potential in the car- he was a gifted motorcycle racer, Tasmania’s best in the 1950’s and there is no reason why he could not be good in a car also. I don’t know whether it was his (Max Stephens Motors in Moonah, a car sales, later accessories and motorcycles) business that stopped him getting more involved in car racing or whether money was the issue…he died a few years ago’. ‘The car was sold in about 1962/3 to Alan Robertson of Hobart who converted it from central seat to sportscar format and raced a few times before Bristol engine problems intervened…the car was purchased by Frank Cengia, who restored it in the original Brabham 1955 colours, but in the 1990’s it was unfortunately sold overseas…’when Pat Burke who owned the car fell upon hard times.

Cooper T40 ‘CB/1/55’ whilst in Stephen’s ownership at Longford in 1959 or 1960. It is the car that Jack built, literally, days before his championship F1 debut at Aintree in the 1955 British GP. The car was constructed on the T39 Bobtail sports jig, with modifications. Note the curved Cooper spaceframe chassis, Bristol 2 litre engine sitting tall in the chassis, alloy wheels…such a clever car (oldracephotos.com)

Talented engineer Geoff Smedley added that ‘the car was prepared (in Tasmania) by the late Eric O’Heaney, one of the old school motorcycle mechanics who gave Max a lot of success in his bike days…Eric himself was an avid bike racer until a serious accident…In my mind Eric was an earlier version of the great Phil Irving, both with the same demeanour in their thinking and dedication to the development of the sport…’

Scott Stephens describes his father Max‘…as a respected car and motorcycle racer. He was the only Australian, whilst riding a Manx Norton 500, who successfully passed Geoff Duke for the race lead whilst Geoff held the mantle of current World Champion, this was achieved during the Australian Grand Prix held at Longford…Observed motorcycle trials was his last competitive stance. He was the Kawasaki and Maserati distributor in Tasmania…In his Hobart store he was the approved reseller of Norton, BSA, Velocette, Triumph, Laverda, Maico, Cotton, AJS, CZ, Montesa, Bultaco, Ossa, Hodaka, Italjet and Suzuki’ makes down the decades. Scott himself was a successful professional racer who rode for Kawasaki Australia, Matich Pirelli Racing and Suzuki quips that Max ‘Loved and was amazed by anything driven by fuel!

Bibliography…

The Nostalgia Forum- contributions by Rob Saward and Geoff Smedley, scottstephens.com.au

Photo Credits…

oldracephotos.com

clark

Rod MacKenzie’s moody, foreboding, evocative image of Jim Clark’s Lotus 49 at Longford in 1968 is one of my favourites…

Clark is exiting Newry Corner on the run towards the ‘Flying Mile’. He started from pole, winning 100 bottles of champagne in the process and the Sunday race in beautiful weather but the clouds opened on Monday morning for the Tasman Championship event, ‘The South Pacific Trophy’.

Star of the show was Piers Courage who drove a gutsy, skilful race in the most challenging, treacherous conditions to win the event in his little F2 McLaren M4A FVA ahead of the big Tasman 2.5’s of his close competitors. Pier’s car was self run, his performances in it that summer reignited his career.

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Piers Courage in his McLaren M4A F2 car, Newry Corner, Longford 1968. Power was not all on this fast circuit in such wet conditions, but the plucky Brit was giving away at least 130bhp to his 2.5 litre V8 powered opponents. (Rod MacKenzie)

Pedro Rodriguez and Frank Gardner were second and third in BRM P261 2.1 V8 and Brabham BT23D Alfa 2.5 V8 respectively. Clark was fifth in his Ford Cosworth DFW engined Lotus 49, the 2.5 litre variant of the epochal 3 litre DFV GP engine.

The conditions were so bad various drivers with unsuitable tyres elected not to start having driven some ‘sighting laps’, Keven Bartlett recounted his experience in the Alec Mildren Racing Brabham BT11A Climax; ‘I did two exploratory laps and the old BT11 couldn’t find traction anywhere. I had an absolutely terrifying 4th gear 720 degree spin across the Short Bridge, the one after the Viaduct, missing all the obstacles at the tracks edge. After exiting Pub and in a straight line i did a 360 degree loop. She nearly escaped me over the rail line on the way to Long Bridge. Out of Newry and up the hill to the straight slithering along with no touch felt between me and the bitumen, so i suppose at that moment to do another lap at a very reduced speed then pit’.

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‘What are we going to do boys?!’ Drivers considering their options before the race, the pouring rain exacerabated by drains beside the track which couldn’t cope with the deluge; Clark facing us, Hill’s distinctive helmet clear. Courage with his back to us in helmet, Gardner’s lanky frame partly in shot to the right. Amon in the ‘Firestone’ suit, Harvey? at left with head down (oldracephotos.com)

‘Once back in the tent Alec, Frank (Gardner) Denny (Hulme Brabham BT23 FVA F2) and i had a talk about the tyres that Denny and i had and after trying to come up with a better tread pattern, such as the ones fitted to Franks car (Brabham BT23D Alfa) but with no result. It was agreed that Denny and i shouldn’t risk a start. I was happy with the call and Leo (Geoghegan Lotus 39 Repco) followed suit. Most of the top guys had the latest Firestone, Dunlop or Goodyear wets but none were available to suit the BT11’s. I consoled myself with the fact that if the new world champion (Hulme) didn’t like the risk i certainly shouldn’t!’

I’ll get around to writing about that weekend soon in full, in the meantime enjoy these images of that difficult race on the most dangerous and majestic of Australian circuits.

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A very happy but cold and soggy Piers Courage, with wife Sally after his Longford ’68 win. It was a might fine drive which is still remembered by those fortunate enough to see it. (oldracephotos.com)

Photo and Other Credits…

Roderick MacKenzie Collection;  http://www.racephotoaustralia.com/

oldracephotos.com;  http://www.oldracephotos.com/content/home/

The Nostalgia Forum/Ellis French/Rod MacKenzie and Kevin Bartlett

 

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Jack Brabham dipping under brakes as he approaches ‘Pub Corner’ in his Cooper T51 Climax on the first lap of the ‘Longford Trophy’ in  March 1960, wonderful Ellis French shot…

Jack returned to our Australian summer as the reigning World Champion, he didn’t disappoint the Tasmanian crowd winning the race from the similar MkIV T51’s of Alec Mildren and Bib Stillwell.

In those pre-Tasman 2.5 litre Formula days Australian National F1 was run to Formula Libre rules, by 1960 Coopers of various models and capacities were the dominant marque. There were still sports cars amongst the single-seaters though, including Doug Whitefords ex-works Maserati 300S, sold to Doug after the 1956 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park when five Masers made the long trip to Australia.

Longford 1960 grid shot

john Ellacott shot of the front 2 rows gridded up: Brabham #4, Stillwell #6, Miller in yellow, all Cooper T51 Climaxes, and Arnold Glass in the Maserati 250F…evocative!

Longford Trophy 1960 start

Stillwell gets the jump off the line, Glass at rear, Brabham on this side. (John Ellacott)

Allen Browns’ wonderful archive ‘oldracingcars.com’ states that the car Jack drove at Longford was probably the first of two cars he used in his succcessful 1959 F1 season, chassis ‘F2-4-59’. He drove it in the early part of the year, it then became a spare when ’27-59′ appeared at Zandvoort. When Jack returned to Europe the car was sold to Bib Stillwell who then had two T51’s to choose from, his Gold Star campaigns had started to become serious and ultimately were very successful.

Brabham Cooper T51 Longford 1960

Brabham in his Cooper T51 Climax at Longford in 1960. I think the gent in braces at the rear is Jacks’ father, this chassis 1 of 2 he used in his successful 1959 GP season (oldracephotos)

Brabham returned to Europe to successfully defend his World Title, the domestic Gold Star series was won that year by Mildren in his Maserati 250S, 2.5 litre DOHC engined Cooper T51.

Longford scene 1960

Kevin Drages’ panoramic view of part of the Longford paddock in March 1960, looking across to Mountford corner with the Pit Straight on the right. Cars are green Derek Jollys’ Lotus XV Climax and the ‘Kenley Vincent Spl’.

Brabham Longford media interview 1960

‘Modern media scrum’, Jack tells the press how it was post race. JB’s British Racing Drivers Club badge proudly worn on his overalls. Car is a Humber ‘Super Snipe’, in those days British prestige cars were very popular in Australia, the Germans steadily whittling them back by the early 70’s…(Kevin Drage)

Bill Patterson Cooper T51 Longford 1960

Bill Pattersons’ Coopers T51 x 2… Patterson went on to win the Gold Star in 1961, retired from driving but supported others for decades via his Ringwood, Melbourne, Holden Dealership. (Ellis French)

Jack Brabham and BIb Stillwell, Longford 1960

Jack Brabham and Bib Stillwell swapping Cooper set-up notes…or Bib is buying Jacks car!? Stillwell was a good Brabham customer over the years acquiring many Coopers including the car Jack drove at Longford that weekend and, later Brabham’s. Both men very successful drivers and businessmen (Kevin Drage)

Bib Stillwell Cooper T51 Climax Longford paddock 1960

Bib Stillwells’ Climax engine being fettled in the Longford paddock. Cooper T51 (Ellis French)

Jack Brabham Cooper T51 Climax on the approach to Pub Corner Longford 1960

Lets finish on the same note as we started, an Ellis French shot of Brabham, this time ‘panned’ into the braking area on the entry to ‘Pub Corner’, Longford 1960…

For International readers Tasmania is a wonderful place to visit. The scenery is stunning on all of its coasts, the mountains in the middle worth climbing, the ‘Overland Trail’ in the Cradle Mountain- Lake St Clair National Park worth walking. Hobart is a centre of culture and ‘Foodie Stuff’ is worth a stop for ‘Mona’ alone, a gallery of contemporary art…and you can still see a lot of the Longford circuit including the ‘Country Club Hotel’ with heaps of racing memorabilia.

Photo & Source Credits…

Ellis French, John Ellacott, oldracephotos.com, Kevin Drage

oldracingcars.com

1962 Longford touring cars

Start of the 1962 Championship race held during the Longford Tasman Series meeting, an all Jaguar  front row. Bob Jane Mk 2, Bill Pitt and Bill Burns in Mk 1’s from left to right…

The race was close fought with Jane winning from Pitt and Burns. Jaguar dominated the early years of the ATCC, winning the championship in its first four years. In those far away days the event was decided in one race!, a huge difference to the contemporary ‘V8 Supercars’ title which is decided over fourteen rounds, using three different race formats in Australia and New Zealand.

longford

Fantastic and unusual shot of Bob Jane in the winning Jag Mk2 entering ‘The Viaduct’ at Longford. Hay bales and the ‘stout’ (its still there) brick structure encouraging purity of line and application of power on entry! (Geoff Smedley)

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Bob Jane Mk2 ahead of Pete Geoghegan Mk1, 3.8 and 3.4 respectively in the Monday, Longford touring car race, Mountford Corner. Jane won, Pete DNF after leaving the road near The Viaduct. (Keverell Thomson Collection)

The inaugural championship was held at Gnoo Blas, Orange NSW, with victory going to David McKay’s Mk1, Bill Pitt prevailed at Lowood, Qld in 1961, similarly mounted and Bob Jane at Longford and Mallala, SA Mk2 in 1962/3.

1969 was the first year the title was decided over multiple rounds in five states, ‘Pete’ Geoghegan winning in his famous, second Ford Mustang.

Touring cars are not my thing, but these shots well and truly capture the ‘fun of the fair’ and a sense of Longford which is spoken about in reverential terms, if also in awe of its danger and technical difficulty by those lucky enough to have been or raced there.

As a postcript, Bill Burns very luckily survived a high speed multiple rollover in those pre-seat belt and rollbar days, two years later, 1964 at the end of the ‘Flying Mile’ just before Mountford Corner.

Burns Jag Longford 1964

Longford map

Photo Credits…

Unattributed shots via Ellis French, Geoff Smedley, Keverell Thomson Collection