…chance doesn't exist; there's always a cause and a reason for everything – Elahi

Archive for the category “Circuits”

Cruisin’ on a Sunday afternoon

8-6-2010 18-47-33_025
With the F1 season winding down with a decisive thud, I thought I’d approach the aftermath of the Brazilian GP a little differently.  To wit, I’d ring my mate Rob Wilson and chat to him while we drove through London for a late Sunday lunch.  Or brunch, as Rob likes to do it.

Of course, the Brazilian GP theme was just a ruse. As normal, the conversation quickly meandered a number of different ways, as often as not re-connecting as if by magic.  It’s always like that when I chat to Rob:  one minute we’re talking gentle-firm brake application;  the next we’re analysing the difference in style between, say, Roly Levis and Max Stewart.

Thus we happened-upon the Nota story. I grew up with Nota Formula Vees at Warwick Farm, in Sydney, Australia. Geoff Sykes introduced FVee racing in general; and his club, the AARC, bought three Notas for Club member use. As a school kid who spent his holidays working at the AARC offices, my job was to maintain and manage the “Nota programme”. In the pictures above and below, I’m there on the right with my mate Colin Piper, sprucing-up the Notas by the famous Steindl Homestead (on the inside of the quick Homestead right-hand kink at Warwick Farm). Rob and I got to Nota by driving through the Elephant and Castle roundabout in London. That reminded Rob of the lock-up he used to use to house his Ralt; Ralt led to Ron Tauranac; Tauranac led to Geoff Brabham – and Geoff, for me, let to Nota, because it was in one of those Nota Vees that Geoff had his first single-seater drive.

Which opens the door nicely to Guy Buckingham, the talented engineer behind Nota. As it happened, Guy passed away only recently, so I thought it would be nice to reproduce here the words used by his son, Chris, at the funeral:

“My father, Guy Buckingham, passed away yesterday after a brief Illness. A number of his friends, Nota owners and business associates suggested I write a brief description of his involvement with motor racing.

“Guy was born in 1921 in England. During World War II he spent time with the RAF where he was involved with aeronautical engineering. On leaving Guy utilised those skills to build lightweight sports racing cars. In 1955 he moved to Australia and set up Nota Engineering in the former Ice Works behind the David Jones store in Parramatta. From there, he and Michael Martin introduced a tubular-steel space-framed car with lightweight aluminium cladding.

“Initially they built Clubman-format cars but when Guy employed Jack Wiffen, a former Rolls Royce craftsman, Nota started to build a number of alloy streamliner cars which Guy drove very successfully plus KM200 Notas for drivers like Spencer Martin.

“Notas also won the NSW Hill Climb Championship on a number of occasions with drivers like Barry Garner and Ralph Sach.

“Nota then decided Formula Junior racing cars were the way to go and built the first of these in Australia. Initially these were front-engined but they evolved into mid-engined ones using Reno and Ford componentry. Max Stewart ran a mid-engined Nota very successfully in Tasmania and this car is now being raced In England at Goodwood and other historic events.

“Guy lent his hand to other creations as well, designing the Oran Park circuit by driving round the empty fields with George Murray following behind him, pegging out the initial design.

“Warwick Farm Racing Circuit and its manager, Geoff Sykes, convinced Nota to make Clubman-style cars and to have their own series with cars like Lotus, Elfins, Notas etc rather than run with the likes of MGs and other production sports cars. Nota excelled in Geoff’s Clubman series, winning the championship seven times through the years.

“Geoff Sykes then asked Guy to make Formula Vees for the new category.  Nota made three for the AARC and went on to build 38 in all, doing particularly well in the hands of Peter Finlay.

“Guy went on to build the very pretty Nota F3 and Formula Ford cars before returning to England. There he set up Teal engineering, producing Formula 3s, clubmans and Hillman Imp-based sports sedans. He then returned to his roots, getting involved with restoration of World War II aircraft – something he always loved.”

I’ve divided my chat with Rob into three videos; the reference to Nota is in the third. Enjoy.



Mexican Memories (2)

And so we say goodbye to Mexico City – to one of the most enjoyable F1 races of recent times. Here are my post-race thoughts and (below) some close-ups of as many of  Cesar Galindo’s paintings as I could find in the various paddock offices. Cesar has recently published a magnificent art book, details of which I shall be giving to my wife to ensure an early Christmas arrival…


Mexican Memories

I can’t recall any other occasion in F1 history when the delineations have been so clear: the three lives of the Circuit Hermanos Rodriguez (1962-1970; 1986-1992; 2015-) encapsulate F1 eras so visually different, so technically diverse, that it’s as if…as if they each belong to their own lifetimes. So it was that I met my old friend, Rudy Alcocer, upon arrival in Mexico City. I first met him in 1986, when I was Sponsorship Manager for Williams, but he was truly “my man in Mexico” when I was managing the team in 1991 and 1992. We won both of those races, with our one-two in 1992 remaining one of the best days of my racing life. (Highlights of that race can be seen on

And so, a few days ago, it was time to meet Rudy again – and to re-live those times.

Notes from the Singapore paddock

  • The Romain Grosjean-Felipe Nasr first-lap shunt at Monza (Romain’s right-front hit Felipe’s left-rear) was indeed a “racing accident”.  It turns out that when Grosjean’s Lotus was hit from behind by Nasr’s team-mate, Marcus Ericsson, the resultant impact/deceleration was enough to activate the anti-stall on the Grosjean car.  That’s why he then had no control and collected Nasr. I asked Romain if this anti-stall-kicking-in-mid-corner thing was something he’d experienced before and he said he had: it’s become an integral part of this current era of technology and I’m not sure if it’s a good thing.  I can see why the cars need anti-stall but Romain agreed with me that in the pre-anti-stall days the incident at Monza would have resulted in all three cars continuing relatively undamaged.  As it was, we had a “racing accident” – 2015-style.
  • Speaking of Nasr, he’s been having a lot of trouble with his Brembo brakes recently – specifically with managing the temperature windows.  With Ericsson racing Carbon Industries on the other Sauber, Felipe is also switching to CI for Singapore. Daniil Kvyat, meanwhile, was surprised to hear this, bearing in mind how quick he has been on the Brembos. More than anything, I think, it shows how difficult it is for a team to run two different  brake types within the same garage. Nick Chester of Lotus was saying that “finding brake temperature windows” is primarily all about brake ducts  – “which sounds simple until you remember that ducts not only play a massive role in aerodynamics but are also very expensive and time-consuming to make, given all the aero research that goes into them.”  Is this a good thing, I ask?  I  don’t mind getting excited about a new wing or something but  brakes to my  mind should be about stopping power. Ducts? Difficult to get massively excited about their inner workings but it explains why low-budget teams like Sauber find it so hard to get the cars to stop.
  • It’s official: Ferrari have confirmed that Kimi’s poor start in Monza was indeed “finger trouble”.  Having said that, Kimi replicated the start sequence a hundred times in the simulator a few days later – and was perfect every time. He would have hated that, too, because he likes working in a simulator about as much as he does wearing a tie. He’s still unsure of what happened but it all points to him not releasing the first clutch paddle…and initiating the anti-stall. Sergio Perez owned up to having made the same mistake in practice – and Romain Grosjean said that he still spends a lot of time thinking through the start procedure the night before a race. It’s still that complicated.
  • I said on video after the Italian GP ( that Kimi’s re-booting process seemed to be pretty quick but the word from the Singapore paddock is that it was actually surprisingly slow: all that’s required is a quick flick of the clutch lever and you’re away. I guess in Kimi’s case he also spent a few seconds wondering whether the nightmare could really be true…
  • Valtteri Bottas has confirmed that he “just happened” to leave the garage ahead of Felipe Massa in that final qualifying run at Monza. Bottas gave the tow to his team-mate – and the rest is history.  My bet is that Valtteri will be a bit more selective about who he has running five seconds behind him come Monza, 2016, but this is really something he should have thought about before the race week. No honest race engineer is ever going to prevent one of the team cars helping the other (in qualifying) but the driver has a different set of priorities – ie, he wants to beat his team-mate more than any other driver on the grid.  Most of today’s F1 drivers have managers for their contractual and financial affairs but, to me, this sort of issue should also fall under the remit of “management”.  If a personal manager isn’t going to remind the driver about something like this, who is?
  • Daniel Ricciardo told me that “getting the brakes to work at the correct temperature” has been a major factor in the recent, improved  performance at Red Bull-Renault. I say this because so much of the chat these days is about the Renault engine and very little of it is about Brembo. Singapore is going to be a big test for the brakes – but then Monza was, too, and they worked well there on the RB11. Daniel has been preparing for Singapore by cycling in a controlled-temperature environment (stationary bike!) and is of course looking forward to the weekend: “I sweat so much here it’s ridiculous.  When I got out of the car a couple of years ago there was so much fluid in the seat that boys thought I’d had an unfortunate accident or something.  I wouldn’t resort to Nico Rosberg’s extremes but I need to make sure that the front of the balaclava acts as a sweat-soak..”  Nico’s extremes?  Apparently he’s tried sanitary pads on his forehead…
  • Sergio Perez reports that the Mexican GP is a sell-out and that the temperature is definitely rising.  (A lot of the tickets were bought by touts, but then it was forever thus in Mexico City.)  No pressure on him, then? “I love it,” he chortled.  “The place has gone crazy. I never imagined that F1 could be so big in my country.”

Goodwood 2015: a personal album

With Mario at Monza ’68

65610012As the official photographer to Team Lotus in the 1960s, Peter Darley, like the photo-journalist, David Phipps, was close to both Colin Chapman and the Team Lotus personnel.  He was at Monza in 1968 when Mario Andretti (and Bobby Unser) were scheduled to make their F1 debuts for Gold Leaf Team Lotus and BRM. He recently sent us his recollections:

Colin asked me to collect Mario Andretti and Bobby Unser from the airport. No-one knew which one – Linate or Malpensa? Anyway, I researched which was used for transatlantic flights and rolled up. Bobby was driving for BRM, Mario for Lotus. I found them both and we piled into my Fiat 124 hire car. After a few kms, Mario decided he wanted to drive, although Bobby wasn’t so sure, muttering things about crazy Italians. It was thereafter a drive of a lifetime: Mario had the pedal to the metal for the entire journey. When we reached Monza, Mario and Bobby found they had no passes but a few words from Mario to the local police resulted in the gates opening and the crowds parting as if we were going through the Red Sea. We were there.

Unfortunately all this was in vain: since they had competed in the US the previous day, Monza’s Race Director, Snr Baccagalupi, refused to allow them to race in Italy under the 24 hr rule. We knew better, of course: with Mario a definite contender for the pole and a possible win – even though this would have been his first F1 race – it was in Ferrari’s interest to keep him away. He made up for it by taking the pole for what was his first race – the 1968 US GP at Watkins Glen.

I took these photos of Mario at Monza that year – (above) with his team-mate for practice (Graham Hill); and in the high-wing Lotus 49B with Colin Chapman.  (Photos copyright Peter Darley)57970014_257970001_2


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