Posts Tagged ‘Lotus 32B Climax’

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Frank Matich, Brabham BT7A Climax tries to outbrake Bib Stillwell #6, Brabham BT4 Climax, December 1963…

Photographer John Ellacott upon posting this shot online described it as ‘the two great rivals on Hume Straight’…Matich braking down the outside on the run into the slow second gear ‘Creek Corner’. Frank’s car was brand new, just unpacked, it had only turned a wheel for the first time several days before the 1 December ‘Hordern Trophy’, the final round of that years Gold Star, the Australian Drivers Championship.

Frank’s car was fitted with 2.5 litre ‘Climax FPF, Bib’s older chassis had an ‘Indy’ 2.7- a fair duel, one guy with the edge in chassis perhaps and one with a bit more power?

Stillwell led from the start of the 34 lap race and then FM began to reel him in finally catching the Victorian on lap 20, the pair tangling in ‘The Esses’. The collision was enough to put Matich out of the race but Stillwell finished 4th, the race was won by John Youl in his Cooper T55 Climax 2.5 from David McKay’s ex-Brabham BT4.

frank and bib wf discussion

Frank left and Bib- looking very natty is his BRDC blazer and developing his listening and empathy skills by the look of it after the ‘Hordern Trophy’. Great rivals with a lot of respect for one anothers abilities (Sports Car World)

In the 1964 Tasman Series which followed the month after this race Youl was the most successful of the locals. Stillwell only contested three Australian races gaining a strong second in the AGP at Sandown whilst Matich was prodigiously fast but had woeful reliability, we shall pick up the Tasman shortly.

I described the rivalry between Frank and Bib in a post about the Stillwell Cooper Monaco.

https://primotipo.com/2015/03/10/bib-stillwell-cooper-t49-monaco-warwick-farm-sydney-december-1961/

It’s fair to say Stillwell, born 31 July 1927 took a while to mature as a driver. He started racing MG’s in the late 1940’s and as his motor dealerships became more successful throughout the 1950’s he acquired and raced some expensive, fast cars- D Type Jag and Maser 250F included. By the time he commenced racing Coopers he had well over 10 years of experience and was ready to take on anybody winning his first Gold Star in 1962 and the last in 1965- four on the trot.

Matich, born 25 January 1935 was a more precocious talent who first competed in an MG TC at Foley’s Hillclimb circa 1954 and raced seriously from later in the decade after selling his Austin Healey and purchasing the ex-Frank Gardner Jaguar XKC- he soon drove cars for Leaton Motors who employed him as Sales Manager. Bib was more the ‘silver spoon special’ born on the right side of the tracks and funded into his first dealership with family money. Mind you, whatever Bib started with he multiplied many times over, he was an extremely successful businessman in Australia and then became an executive of global calibre inclusive of being President of the Gates Learjet Corporation in the US.

Frank, the young pro, was cut from totally different cloth. He was educated at De La Salle College, Marrickville in Sydney’s inner west and was apprenticed as a fifteen year old Diesel Engineer at Sydney’s Kurnell Oil Refinery before progressing through Butlers Air Transport and in 1954 to Selected Sportscars where he first came into contact with the Englishman who owned the MG TC Frank prepared and both men raced.

FM’s ability and ‘gift of the gab’ attracted patrons and commercial support from very early on in his career, Matich too was shortly to do well out of the business of motor racing with Australian franchises for Firestone and later Goodyear racing tyres and Bell helmets apart from the sale of some of the Matich sports and F5000 cars he built.

Matich and Stillwell were intensely competitive, driven, successful men- they had far more in common i suspect than not, especially in terms of mindset and will to win.

The battles between the pair were absorbing, Matich very quickly got on the pace of the big 2.5 Climax Formula Libre cars (the 2.5 Tasman Formula started in 1964, Australia’s national F1 ‘ANF1’ was F Libre till then), having come out of powerful sportscars- Jags C and D Types, Lotus 15, 19, 19B and small bore single seaters- ‘works’ Elfin FJ Ford and Elfin Catalina Ford 1.5.

At the time these 2.5/2.7 litre F Libre/Tasman cars were the fastest road racing cars in the world, F1 having changed from a 2.5 to 1.5 litre formula from 1 January 1961. Given his experience it was not a surprise when Frank was on the pace straight away as he jumped out of his Lotus 19B sporty and into the new Brabham acquired with the French Oil Company, Total’s, support.

Well before the Tasman Series commenced in 1964, we had a strong International Series of races in Australasia in January/February, with enough of the best in the world to test the locals in equal cars Matich was more than a match for any of them. So was Bib on his day.

matich wf private practice brabham

Matich mounted up and ready for his first test of the naked BT7A, devoid of all signwriting and in ‘civvies’ at Warwick Farm the week before the ‘Hordern Trophy’ above. Brian Darby, at the rear, picked the car up from the Port Melbourne wharves the week before, Bruce Richardson is the other mechanic in shot. Note reinforced wide based top front wishbone and rubber mounted ball joint, inverted wishbone at the top and single lower link in the rear suspension. The later BT11A had the opposite rear set up- single top link and inverted lower wishbone (John Ellacott)

Matich was very quick in the Brabham throughout that ’64 Tasman Series and the short period in which he raced the BT7A, its interesting to look back at his time in the car.

The late 1963 pre-international events in New Zealand are covered in this article here;

https://primotipo.com/2017/09/08/bay-of-plenty-road-race-and-the-frank-matich-lotus-19s/

The first 1964 international was at Levin, which Frank missed, at Pukekohe, the NZ GP on 11 January, he ran strongly behind Brabham, McLaren, Tim Mayer and Hulme- he passed Mayer for third only to pop his engine on lap 26, McLaren won the race in a Cooper T70. After Puke he shipped the car home to Australia and re-joined the circus at Sandown on February 9. There he ran ahead of the locals before suffering crown wheel and pinion failure on lap 4.

At the Farm, Matich’s home turf, he started from pole, followed Jack away, then passed him but muffed his braking at Creek and ran off the road. Off to Queensland, at Lakeside, he was driving away from everybody before the engine let go- a Weber ingested a stone and the expensive motor went ka-boom on lap 8. After the long tow to Tasmania he finished third in the race won by Graham Hill’s BT4 and was first of the locals despite a misfire and a revolution amongst his mechanics who pushed the car onto the grid but left his employ after the race.

Ray Bell wrote that ‘He had a mixed bag of results in shorter races during the middle part of the year, taking a number of outright lap records, then came the Gold Star closing events. Lakeside…pole and the lead before an oil line came adrift; Mallala he didn’t turn up (Stillwell basically could not be beaten for the Gold Star by this stage) and he led the Hordern Trophy till half distance before yet another engine failure’.

The 1965 Tasman Series was won by Jim Clark’s Lotus 32B Climax, despite not contesting the four Kiwi rounds Matich was right on the pace at Warwick Farm, the first Australian round, starting from pole and leading to Creek corner, he then raced with Brabham behind Hill and Clark up front. ‘Both Hill and Matich had troubles in this race with cement dust getting into the steering, Hill spinning on the last lap because of it and failing to finish. Matich was third behind Clark and Brabham’s BT11A, Stillwell (BT11A) was thirty seconds behind him’ wrote Bell.

matich bt7a lakeside 1964

Matich in his ‘semi-nude’ BT7A in the hot 1964 Lakeside summer sun, puddle notwithstanding! He is trying to stay cool in the searing Queensland summer heat, lower side panels removed…shot shows the proximity of the aluminium side fuel tanks containing lots of Avgas…no rubber bag tanks prior to circa 1970 (Peter Mellor)

Down south at Sandown he ran just behind the internationals ahead of Stillwell only to retire with ignition failure- a rotor button on lap 10. During the AGP at Longford he pitted with suspension problems on lap 5 whilst best of the locals having run in sixth place. At Lakeside he contested the non-championship ‘Lakeside 99’ and made it a real race dicing with Clark on this high speed, demanding circuit for most of the race. ‘They traded places many times, but Matich did have a pitstop and lost some laps before rejoining the battle’. It was a race FM rated as one of his best.

Into the domestic season Stillwell won the Victorian Road Racing Championship Gold Star round in April after a couple of Matich spins, albeit FM was second despite a failing engine- and started from pole a half-second clear of Bib.

That was all the racing he ever did in that car. At Lakeside’s Gold Star round in late July, he crashed his Lotus 19B Climax- he took the sportscar to the meeting to test it in advance of the Australian Tourist Trophy which was held at the circuit later in the year, was burned and hospitalised and in the aftermath Total took the decision to cease their racing program and sold the cars and parts.

The story of the next phase of Frank Matich’s career in sportscars, initially with the Elfin 400 aka ‘Traco Olds’ is told in links within this article.

Frank Matich was one of Australia’s many F1 mighta-beens, to me the most likely to succeed of all, but with a young family and business ties in Oz it never happened despite offers being made to him on more than one occasion to go to Europe.

As noted, Matich didn’t race single seaters for long at this stage of his career- from 1963 to 1965, racing sports cars very successfully until 1969 when he came back to open wheelers with the advent of F5000- where he was a star as both a driver and constructor. Click here for an article on this phase of his career;

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

It’s a shame he didn’t drive Tasman 2.5 cars throughout this golden-era of single-seater racing in Australasia, his battles against the internationals as well as the local hotshots in both Tasman races and domestic Gold Star competition would have been sensational, Matich mixing it with Bartlett, Martin, Geoghegan, Harvey and the rest would have added depth to Gold Star fields which were increasingly  ‘skinny’ as the decade wore on.

Stillwell retired at the end of 1965, he was certainly as quick as anybody on his day and arguably had not quite peaked when he did retire. No less an observer of the local scene than journalist/racer/Scuderia Veloce owner David Mckay believed that by 1965 Stillwell had reached F1 standard, not least for his ability to drive fast without mistakes or destroy the equipment.

brabhams longford 1965

Intercontinental Brabhams at Longford, AGP 1965. Stillwell’s dark blue #6 BT11A (6th), Matich BT7A (DNF) and Frank Gardner in Alec Mildrens yellow BT11A (8th), the race won by Bruce McLarens’ Cooper T79 from Brabhams’ BT11A (Kevin Drage)

The Intercontinental Brabhams…

brabham caversham bt4

The first of the Intercontinental Brabhams. Jack in BT4 ‘IC-1-62’ on its debut at the Australian Grand Prix, Caversham, WA on 18 November 1962. He retired after colliding with another car whilst lapping him, Bruce McLaren won in a Cooper T62 Climax (Milton McCutcheon)

When Jack started his climb to the top in Europe he returned and raced in Australia each summer, bringing a Cooper with him and racing it successfully, then selling the car to one of the locals before returning to Europe. It was a nice little earner and helped fund his way in Europe as he fought to gain a toehold in international competition.

Cooper sold a lot of cars in Australia, Jacks business brain was as sharp as his cockpit skills so it was natural that some of the earliest Brabham production racing cars were for Australasian Formula Libre and from 1964, the 2.5 Tasman Formula- which in effect meant cars built for Coventry Climax FPF ex-F1 engines- 2.5 litres but increasingly 2.7’s after Jacks successful Indy 500 run in 1961 in the Cooper T54 with its 2751cc FPF engine. The Tasman Formula mandated 2.5’s of course.

Soon Repco were making Climax parts and eventually building the engines in totality under licence in Australia. The bits were plentiful which was just as well as the level of competition was such that the long stroke donks were being pushed well beyond their limits with spectacular blow-ups fairly common.

stillwell lakeside 1963

Bib Stillwell in his BT4 Climax ‘Lakeside International’ 1963, 2.7 FPF powered. 3rd in the race won by John Surtees Lola Mk4A Climax 2.7 (Bruce Wells/The Roaring Season)

The first Intercontinental Brabham, i use that descriptor as that was the chassis prefix for each car (‘IC’), the design intended for the shortlived Intercontinental Formula created in response to the new 1.5 litre F1- was the BT4 based on the first Brabham GP machine, the 1.5 litre Coventry Climax FWMV V8 powered BT3.

The first Brabham, retrospectively referred to as ‘Brabham BT1’, was the MRD, an FJ machine first raced by Gavin Youl with the BT2 an evolution of the MRD/BT1. The Intercontinental cars which followed the BT4 were the BT7A in 1963 and BT11A in 1964, both F1 cars adapted for Climax FPF engines.

Some incredibly talented guys raced the ‘IC’ Brabhams- Internationals such as Brabham, Hulme, Gardner, Hill and Stewart as well as Australian champions including David McKay, Lex Davison, Stillwell, Matich, Spencer Martin, Kevin Bartlett, John Harvey, John McCormack and other drivers in New Zealand and South Africa.

hill and stillwell longford brabhams

Graham Hill ahead of Bib Stillwell, BT4 Climaxes, 1st and 4th. ‘South Pacific Trophy’, Longford March 1964. (Rod MacKenzie)

Jack Brabham won Australian Grands’ Prix in a BT4 and BT7A in 1963 and 1964 respectively. The cars won the Australian Drivers Championship, the ‘Gold Star’ for Stillwell in 1963 and 1964 aboard his BT4, in 1965 with a BT11A and for Spencer Martin, again BT11A mounted in 1966 and 1967.

bib stillwell wf 1965 bt11

Bib Stillwell in his final and successful Gold Star year 1965. BT11A at Warwick Farm. His final year of racing, he had a top year in the car at WF, finishing 4th in the Tasman race albeit behind Matichs’ BT7A in 3rd and 1st in the Hordern Trophy at the end of the year (John Partridge Collection)

The ‘Brabham IC Australian party’ ended in 1968 when Kevin Bartlett won the Gold Star in BT23D/1, a one off car built for Alec Mildren’s Team around Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 2.5 V8’s he secured to add a bit of Italian flavour to the local scene, Mildren was an Alfa Romeo dealer.

The Intercontinental cars were typically fast Tauranac designs of the period. They had rugged spaceframe chassis, suspension by upper and lower wishbones at the front with Armstrong shocks and coil springs. At the rear there was a single upper link, inverted lower wishbone, twin radius rods and coil spring damper units with adjustable sway bars fitted front and rear. With Jack doing all of the initial chassis setup work the cars were quick and chuckable ‘straight out of the box’.

Hewland HD5 gearboxes were used in the main (Colotti in the BT4) and rack and pinion steering completed the package with the cars clad in a slippery fibreglass body.

brabham bt 4 from rear

Bib Stillwells’ Brabham BT4 Lakeside February 1963. 2.7 litre ‘Indy’ 2751cc Coventry Climax FPF engine, 58mm Webers, Colotti T32 5 speed ‘box. Rear of the spaceframe chassis apparent. Suspension- inverted upper wishbone, single lower link and twin radius rods for location, coil spring damper units, no rear roll bar here. Stillwell’s cars famously immaculate in preparation and presentation (Peter Mellor/The Roaring Season)

After Repco’s 2.5 litre Tasman V8 engine made its debut in BT19, Jacks victorious 1966 F1 winning chassis, in 1966 the Tasman Brabhams were variants of the BT23 frame (BT23A and BT23E) with the exception of the very last BT31 for the 1969 series. See Rodway Wolfe’s article about BT31 which he owned for many years; https://primotipo.com/?s=brabham+bt31

Once the 1.5 litre F1 ended in 1965 BRM quickly realised a stretched variant of their P56 V8 in a P261 chassis would be a Tasman winner and ‘their endeth the locals’ in Climax engined cars taking on the Internationals similarly mounted on more or less equal terms.

The Repco Tasman V8’s provided a supply of competitive customer engines for locals so the Tasman Formula continued into 1970 with engines capable of matching the internationals when the ever expanding F1 season and more restrictive driver contracts made eight weeks in January/February in Australasia no longer a proposition for the best in the world. With it went a wonderful decade or so of intense but sporting summer global competition in our backyard.

Those Intercontinental Brabhams were gems though and gave both the international aces and local hot-shots very effective tools with which to strut their stuff, not least Messrs Stillwell and Matich…

matich longford grid 1964

The Matich BT7A being pushed onto the Tasman grid, Longford 1964. Steering is Graham Matich, looking down at the rear is Geoff Smedley. Matich finished 3rd, just in front of Stillwell, Graham Hill won the race in a BT4 (oldracephotos.com)

Tailpiece: Wanna buy a car matey, or a plane?…

bib and jack and bedford

Stillwell and Brabham, rivals and friends in the Longford paddock 1965. They are sitting on Bibs’ Bedford truck, BT11A up above…i doubt Jack sold anyone more cars over the years than he did Bib?! Bib put them to very good use mind you (Kevin Drage)

Frank Matich on dealing with ‘Wily’ Jack Brabham…

http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/halloffame/jack-brabham/frank-matich-on-jack-brabham/

Etcetera…

matich hordern trophy 1964

Matich in his BT7A contesting the ‘Hordern Trophy’ at Warwick Farm in 1964. DNF in the race won by Leo Geoghegan in a Lotus 32 Ford 1.5, a great win for Leo, he and his brother Sydney Lotus dealers, Leo graduated to the ex-Clark Lotus 39 Climax at the end of the 1966 Tasman series (John Ellacott)

matich bt7 longford 1965

The Matich BT7A sitting in the Longford paddock in 1965. DNF with suspension failure in the race won by McLarens’ Cooper T79 Climax. Rear suspension by this stage to BT11A spec (Kevin Drage)

matich magazine

Front page spread in ‘Australian Motor Sports’, no advertising allowed on racing cars in Australia in those days but the colors on the nose of Franks’ Brabham (Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus alongside) are those of ‘Total’ the French oil company who were prominent in Australia at the time, the spread no doubt a ‘cross promotion’ as the modern marketers would call it!

stillwell rcn

‘Racing Car News’ and Stillwell’s Gold Star win in 1964. Brabham BT4 Climax.

Photo and Other Credits…

John Ellacott, Milton McCutcheon, The Roaring Season/Peter Mellor/Bruce Wells, Kevin Drage, Rod MacKenzie, The Nostalgia Forum, Australian Motor Sports, Racing Car News

theroaringseason.com, oldracephotos.com, Ray Bell on The Nostalgia Forum

Tailpiece: Matich, Brabham BT7A, and Graham Hill, red BT11A and Clark, Lotus 32B, ‘Warwick Farm 100’ 1965…

(J Ellacott)

Finito…

 

 

 

 

(Jack Inwood)

Three-time Kiwi Gold Star champion Jim Palmer leads John Riley during the 1964 running of the ‘Renwick 50’ held each November in the township of Renwick…

Palmer’s car is the ex-Jack Brabham works 1964 Tasman Series  Brabham BT7A Climax FPF ‘IC-2-63’, Riley’s the ex-Tony Shelly Lotus 18/21 Climax FPF.

When I initially saw this shot I imagined the cars were returning to the paddock but in fact they are entering what was in effect a single car at a time part of the track, a right-hander, the course was essentially rectangular in layout through the roads of Renwick.

The Marlborough region is a stunning part of New Zealand, its the countries largest wine growing area, in the far north of the South Island and famous the world over for some marvellous Sauvignon Blanc whites.

Palmer’s ex-Clark Lotus 32B Climax during the January 1966 Levin Tasman round, he was 5th in the race won by Richard Attwood’s BRM P261. Jim Clark won the ’65 Tasman in this car, chassis ’32-FL-8′ with 4 wins and then sold it to the Palmer family. Superbly prepared and driven, Palmer won the 1965/6 NZ Gold Star in it and then finished 4th in the ’66 Tasman with a mix of speed and reliability- only Stewart, Hill and Clark were in front of the plucky Kiwi. The car then raced in Oz in the hands of Greg Cusack and Mel McEwin. Ultimately restored by John Dawson-Damer in Sydney and sold/part exchanged for a Lotus 79 to Classic Team Lotus 20 years ago. 2.5 CC FPF and ZF 5 speed box clear in shot as is very beefy rear chassis diaphragm (TRS)

Click here for an article about the Lotus 32B and the Levin International won by Jim Clark in 1965;

https://primotipo.com/2017/11/02/levin-international-new-zealand-1965/

The Renwick event was run from 1961 to 1967 with Palmer having a bit of a mortgage on it- he won in 1964, 1965 and 1966 in Cooper T53, Brabham BT7A and Lotus 32B, the latter the car Jim Clark won the Tasman Series with in 1965. All of these cars were powered by the venerable 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF 4 cylinder engine- the World Championship winning engine of 1959-60. Palmer won the New Zealand Gold Star, the NZ drivers championship in 1964/5, 1965/6 and 1967/8 in the Brabham, Lotus and a McLaren M4A Ford FVA F2 respectively.

Jim Palmer aboard the Scuderia Veloce Brabham BT11A Climax, not so long before vacated by Spencer Martin, at Bathurst, Easter 1966. The shot is taken near the crest at Reid Park Gate. Palmer drove well, albeit against no other 2.5 litre competition, to win the racing car feature ‘Mt Panorama Gold Cup’. It was about this time he failed his CAMS licence due to some vision issues, a great shame as the speedy Kiwi would have been a welcome addition to our Gold Star grids, skinny as they were (John Ellacott)

A top driver he retired too early in my book, partially due to being unable to get an Australian CAMS racing licence, he was ‘long sighted’ in one eye. He also married and decided to focus on his business interests in the retail motor trade and commercial property, which centred on Hamilton where he still lives.

Jim Palmer in the ex-Clark Lotus 32B Climax on the way to 6th place in the 1966 Warwick Farm 100 on 13 February. Clark won from Hill and Gardner (Bruce Wells)

The 1964 Renwick 50 was run over 20 laps of the 2.414 km course (three variants of Renwick roads were used over the years) on 14 November, a smidge under 50 km in total. Palmer won and took the lap record at 1: 17.0 with Morrie Stanton, Stanton Corvette 2nd and Red Dawson in a Cooper T53 Climax 3rd.

Check out this YouTube footage which shows the undulating, narrow nature of the circuit. Whilst the caption says 1965, the footage is from several of the Renwick meetings including 1964.

Bibliography…

sergent.com, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, oldracingcars.com

Photo Credits…

Jack Inwood/The Roaring Season, John Ellacott, Bruce Wells, Marlborough Car Club

Tailpiece: Chris Amon, Maser 250F, Renwick 50 November 1962…

Chris Amon, Maser 250F just ahead of Bob Eade’s similar car with John Histed’s Lola Mk2 Ford behind. Angus Hyslop Cooper T53 Climax won from Amon and Barry Cottle, Lola Mk1 Climax. This race on 10 November 1962 was Chris’ last race in the Maser (Marlborough Car Club)

Postscript: Next stage of Chris Amon’s career…

Click here for an article on the next critical months in Amon’s career after the Maserati was put to one side and Chris drove David McKay’s Cooper T53 Climax in the 1963 Australasian Internationals; https://primotipo.com/2017/09/06/chris-amon-cooper-t53-and-the-australian-grand-prix-1963/

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…