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Archive for the category “F1”

Reflections from Barcelona

Tighter F1 testing restrictions – both in the wind tunnel and on the track – have characterised the early phase of 2015.  In the very short break between the first and second winter tests, Craig Scarborough and I discuss some of the key F1 developments.

 

We loved you, Leo

Leo Geoghegan passed away on March 1, 2015Catalina_Leo

I first Leo Geoghegan at the 1963 Australian Formula Junior Championship meeting at Warwick Farm. I watched from the Creek Corner bank with my brother and my Dad. I was but a kid. I fell in love.

The black Lotus 22 was gorgeously low-slung. Its chromed suspension glistened in the spring sunshine. The downchanges, on every passing lap, were impeccable and identical. “Total Team Dvr: Leo Geoghegan” it said on its flanks. For his part, Leo was all straight, bare arms, black polo shirt, black helmet and split-lens goggles. Both the car and the driver, in living harmony, were immaculate.

Leo duly won the trophy, and the garland, and later, as the sun was fading over the Farm, we walked into the paddock, where the mechanics were packing up and the cars were being slowly pushed up their trailor ramps. I spied the Total Team flags. I ran to the tent, fearful that I would miss him.

The Lotus 22 was adorned by its garland. I peered down at the red bucket seat, the matching red steering wheel, the little gear lever on the right, complete with its Lotus badge. I drank it in. I was intoxicated. No-one could sit so low in the car, so reclined in the car; no-one could drive with so much elegance.   The whole was perfect and the details were better still. I had found my benchmark.

Then I saw Mr Geoghegan. He was drinking from a plastic cup. He was still wearing his polo shirt – complete, I now noticed, with Total badge. He was laughing with friends (his brother, Ian, I later realized, and David McKay). I nervously proffered my race programme. I could find only a blue Biro that I’d dropped during the excitement of the race. Leo asked me to hold his cup. I remember thinking how cold it was. He signed the cover, added “Lotus 22” below his name, and thanked me. The moment was captured forever in my autograph book.IMG

That summer, as a new member of the Total Racing Team Club, I received a Christmas card from Team Total, signed by Leo, Ian and Frank Matich. I still have it. And soon Dad’s Zephyr was resplendent with Total Team “racing stripes” – horizontal strips of blue, white and red. I was a part of the family. I was a Geoghegan fan of immense proportions.

His golden years, I think, came shortly afterwards. The Geoghegans were Lotus dealers, based in Liverpool. As such, they imported the latest editions of what was then the world’s best racing machinery and those of us who saw it knew that we were a part of something special. The 22 was replaced by Leo’s beautiful monocoque Lotus 27, the 27 by the 32 – now finished in equally-alluring white, with Total Team stripes, and then Castrol stripes, along the flanks. Nomex replaced the polo shirts, a Bell Star the Magnum. Still Leo was the svelte stylist – the fast racing driver who made it look gracefully but absurdly easy. I first saw the 32 up at Craven A corner at Catalina Park. I was struck by the contrast between the delicate beauty of the car and the harsh railway sleepers “protecting” the rock wall. Up against the F2 Brabhams of Greg Cusack and Bib Stillwell, Leo gave us some of the best single-seater racing (and driving) ever seen in Australia. You trembled with fear a few minutes before the flag-drop – and then they were upon you, darting through the Warwick Farm Esses, teasing the Armco barriers.

Next was the Jim Clark era: Jim’s Tasman cars were based at the Geoghegans’ garage over the Warwick Farm week – and Leo bought Jim’s 1966 race-winning Lotus 39. I’m usually appalled by drivers who butcher famous cars with new colours or engines or wings but nothing Leo did was bad. After a race or two with the Climax (below), he fitted a big Repco V8 into the back of it (top). The result was a gem of a car – the Lotus 39-Repco.

I could go on. Leo raced a Lotus 59 in Castrol white, also some touring cars, sports cars, single-seaters and even Lotus 7s. He was a major part of the Australian racing fabric. He set the bar in terms of preparation and presentation. He was a gentleman and he was a racer.

And he filled my still-young life with images that will never fade – with something that touched the centre of all that I love about motor racing but which, in later life, became impossible to reproduce.

Perhaps it was because I was a kid.

Perhaps it was because it was Leo.

8-24-2010 16-58-49_100My shot of Leo in the ex-Clark Lotus 39-Climax taken from my flag point at The Farm in 1967

Top: Leo in the gorgeous Lotus 39-Repco at Catalina.  Picture: Paul Hobson

 

 

 

The Jerez days

It’s a little while yet to the 2015 F1 World Championship…or maybe it isn’t. It depends upon your point of view. Mercedes’ Paddy Lowe, I know, would be quite happy for the racing to commence right now. Indeed, he’s even suggested as much to the powers-that-be. A quick test in Jerez and then let’s go racing. The costs are the same; and the public – in theory – much prefers the purity of the result. I’m sure that McLaren-Honda and Red Bull-Renault – to name but two – feel otherwise but then wouldn’t it be boring if we all thought the same way. Me? I love the idea of the “Flying Farewells” to which we refer in our Jim Clark 1965 narratives elsewhere on this site: a five-lap sprint race just to keep everyone awake. Wouldn’t that be a dazzling end to the upcoming Barcelona tests? Four o’clock? Right. Testing over. The grandstands are packed. The TV networks are ready. Line up on the grid according to the numbers you drew from a hat. Light fuel, soft tyres…

In the meantime, back in what amounts to the world of “Bleak House” – the aptly-named pub near the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, Surrey – here are some thoughts on what we actually saw at that first test. I’m joined in Joe Macari’s showroom – our regular base, for obvious reasons – by my friend and colleague, Craig Scarborough. I’m very fond of Scarbs. He’s a racer; he knows his stuff; and he’s a true, hard-working pro.

The series also includes more penwork from the hand of that very talented Argentine design engineer, Enrique Scalabroni.  I first met Enrique at Williams in 1985 – “Henry” designed the rear suspension of the FW10B-update that won the European, South African and Australian GPs that year – and have since been astonished by his creativity and depth of detailed knowledge.  In this instance, Enrique talks – draws – us through the lower front roll centre of the 2015 Ferrari and explains the benefits thereof.

Jim Clark’s Epic 1965 Season

S2640002There have been other great drivers and other great seasons; none, though, can match Jim Clark’s numbers of 1965. Fifty years ago the Scots sheep farmer not only won his second F1 World Championship but also the Indy 500, the Tasman Cup, the French F2 Championship and numerous saloon and sports car races. All in one year – a year of beautiful, 1.5 litre F1 cars, of gorgeous, outrageous Indy cars, of the first big Group 7 sports cars, of black Raybans, narrow lapels and headscarves for the girls. Jim Clark had won the Championship in 1963 and had come unbearably close to the title in 1962 and 1964.  He had almost won at Indy – and he had lost many friends along the way. We find him, on Jan 1, 1965, on the east coast of South Africa, preparing for the first round of the F1 World Championship. His back is hurting from a slipped disc. He hasn’t had a real break. And Colin Chapman is about to give him a hard time for flying first class on the two-day haul from South Africa to New Zealand. We find Jim Clark, OBE, No 1 driver for Team Lotus, about to begin his epic year.

Friday, Jan 1

South African GP, East London (where the drivers need both their 1964 and 1965 licences and medical certificates!) With the latest, uprated Coventry Climax V8 powering his Lotus 33, Jim is quickest in every session, starts from the pole, sets fastest race lap (the first at over 100mph) and leads from start to finish. Jim is worried about the slipped-disc injury he has recently incurred during a snowball fight in an Italian ski resort (at a Ford promotion in Cortina featuring Jim, Jack Sears, John Whitmore, etc) but on race day at East London, wearing a corset for back support, orange lenses fitted to his goggles because of the threat of rain, he belies his lack of recent fitness. It is only in the closing stages that he begins to feel the strain – first when it indeed begins to spit and subsequently as the grueling, 2hr, 6min race winds down. Jim waves his fist at the flagman as the chequer is shown a lap early…but it all ends happily. Jim’s friend and Balfour Place flatmate, Jackie Stewart, also makes his official F1 debut for BRM, finishing sixth. (Jackie had ably subbed for Jim in the non-championship Rand GP at Kyalami on December 12, 1964, starting the new Lotus 33B from the pole and winning heat two after a drive-shaft failed on the line in heat one.) Mike Spence might have been second in East London in the other works Lotus 33-Climax but spins needlessly near the end: in Jim’s view, Mike’s interest in the female side of the Maggs family over the preceding days might have been a factor…

Jim spends most of the Saturday after the race watching his mates water-skiing: he deems it best to rest his back…but then can’t resist a quick run in the late afternoon. Surprisingly, he feels the better for it. Win No 11965 South African Grand Prix.

 

Tuesday, Jan 5

IMG0007To Auckland, New Zealand, from Johannesburg via Mauritius, Perth and Sydney (Qantas Lockheed Electra). On the back of a menu Jim writes a letter to his girl-friend, Sally Stokes, taking advantage of the free air mail postage from Australia if given to a hostess before landing. After explaining that Colin Chapman (who was also on the flight) had “almost gone mad” when he discovered that Andrew Ferguson (back in Cheshunt) had booked Jim a first-class ticket to New Zealand, Jim starts his second paragraph with the immortal understatement, “Well, as you no doubt know, we won the race…”

 

Thursday, Jan 7

Auckland, New Zealand After a long, boring flight Jim and Colin check into the new Grafton Bridge Motel in Auckland. Jim’s Hertz rental car for the next four weeks in New Zealand: a grey Ford Zodiac Mk 111. There to meet them is Ray Parsons, the excellent (Australian) mechanic/driver who is to prepare Jim’s Lotus 32B-Climax for the eight-race Tasman Series. Jim has brought his own race kit from South Africa (two pairs of light blue Dunlop overalls, the dark blue Bell Magnum with white peak and two pairs of goggles) and is intrigued to see how the little 32B performs around Pukekohe. The car is based on the 1964 F2 Lotus 32, now fitted with a 2.5 litre Climax four-cylinder engine and a much larger, rounded engine cover to suit. It’s a one-off: any repairs will have to be effected locally (although a new Climax engine arrives by ship after first practice at Pukekohe); and, at a time when sponsorship on racing cars was still banned in Europe and Australia, it carries an Esso logo in liberal New Zealand.

 

Saturday, Jan 9

pukekohe65New Zealand Grand Prix, Pukekohe It’s the biggest motor racing day of the New Zealand year as huge crowds throng into the combined horse/motor racing circuit south of Auckland. Two heats will precede the New Zealand Grand Prix – with plenty of support races in between. Jim’s major opposition includes Graham Hill in David McKay’s new Brabham-Climax (ride heights set by Graham himself!), Bruce McLaren and Phil Hill in Bruce’s Cooper-Climaxes, Frank Gardner in the Mildren Brabham-Climax and some very quick locals (although Frank Matich’s Brabham-Climax is not yet ready). This Tasman is also a precursor to the tyre wars that would soon affect the world: Bruce has signed with Firestone, Mildren with Goodyear and Dunlop with Team Lotus and McKay’s Scuderia Veloce. Now with the additional support of Dunlop’s Vic Barlow (a recent arrival from London) Jim wins heat one after Bruce spins on oil and glances an ambulance attending another incident; he also takes an immediate lead of the Grand Prix later in the day. On lap two, however, flat out on the back straight, Bruce (now in Phil Hill’s older Cooper) flicks out of Jim’s slipstream and takes the inside line into the hairpin. Jim stays on the outside, is slightly ahead mid-corner – but then suddenly finds himself spinning into retirement: Bruce has run a little wide and has flicked the right-rear wheel of the Lotus. Jim returns to the pits on foot, saying “Bloody McLaren…!” under his breath as he strides towards Colin Chapman. Graham Hill goes on to win from Frank Gardner and the first local home – Jim Palmer. For more insight, watch the excellent YT video of the race (below). Watch for Spencer Martin working on the SV Brabham and future March/Shadow mechanic, Peter Kerr, chatting to Jim Palmer. The night ends in an Auckland night club where Jim gains his revenge in a bun-throwing fight with the McLaren team. Colin Chapman, due to return to England the next day (the Racing Car Show is on at Olympia and there are the F1, Indy, sports car, saloon and F2 race programmes to oversee) Australia 05 018is still smarting from Bruce’s top speed advantage that afternoon. He exhorts Ray to work as much as possible on fuel mixtures and resolves to buy Bruce’s engine (running Repco con-rods) for Jim’s 1966 Tasman campaign.

 Win No 2 (heat)

 

Sunday, Jan 10

Pukekohe Jim’s water-skiing with Bruce and Patty McLaren, Frank Gardner and local friends. Bruce is on one side of the wake, Jim the other. Suddenly it seems a good idea to try a scissor switch. Jim angles across but then suddenly realizes that Bruce hasn’t reacted. Jim’s heading not only for the big waves but also for his mate. He bales out, missing Bruce by inches before somersaulting heavily into the foam.

 

Tuesday, Jan 11

Somewhere between Auckland and Levin They’re in a convoy, Bruce, Patty McLaren and Phil Hill in their Morris 1100, Jim in the Zephyr. They stop in a lay-by to stretch their legs. Patty swaps places and slides in next to Jim. Bruce pulls away then stops at the edge of the lay-by to watch his race cars pass by, towed by a pick-up. Jim and Pat are chatting away, talking about this and that. Jim fails to notice the stationary Morris. He plows into the back of it.

The damage isn’t serious and so they continue on their way, Jim suitably admonished.

Not long afterwards they stop for fuel. They all pile into the kiosk for drinks and sandwiches. “Say, that 1100 sure takes an awful lot of gas,” says Phil, peering out at the Morris. “She’s still drinkin’ it in…”

“Or not,” replies Bruce, walking swiftly towards the bowsers. “Look at this, Clark! The fuel’s just pouring out the bottom of the tank! You smashed the fuel tank!”

 

Saturday, Jan 16

Levin, Gold Leaf International Trophy Jim wins this one with ease – wins both his heat, the final and “The Flying Farewell” sprint at the close of play. Livery touched up by local racer Kenny Smith, the immaculate 32B performs faultlessly on a day when both McLaren Coopers were off-song. Graham Hill has also returned to the UK and is not due to re-appear in the Tasman until mid-February in Sydney. Frank Gardner and Jim Palmer again take the minor placings, although Wellington’s Kerry Grant shows amazing pace with his Brabham before spinning down the field. Wins Nos 3, 4 and 5

 

Saturday, Jan 23

Lady Wigram Trophy, Wigram airfield Jim’s sixth and seventh wins of the year – another preliminary victory followed by his second Tasman feature win– are again runaways, although Bruce McLaren on this occasion is his nearest rival. Jim also faces falling oil pressure in the second half of the 64min race but nurses the Climax home with typical creativity, slipping the car into neutral before braking areas and flicking it through the gears conventionally by the pits, lest the McLaren team alert Bruce to the oil pressure problem. In this respect, Jim’s mechanical sympathy is a foretaste of what is to come at the 1965 British GP at Silverstone. Wins Nos 6 (heat) and 7

 

Saturday, Jan 30

Teretonga International Trophy Teretonga, on the tip of New Zealand’s south island, 100 miles from Dunedin, has long been Bruce McLaren territory. He finished second there in 1958; he won it in 1959; and he memorably beat Stirling Moss on the little 1.5 mile circuit in 1962 by removing the right-hand fuel tank from his Cooper and thus weighting it for left-handers (Teretonga has six lefts and two rights.) He repeated the victory in 1963; and then, in 1964, he almost dead-heated with his team-mate, Timmy Mayer. Bruce took that win by 0.1sec. Four wins and a second, in other words, in six years.

1965 ends the sequence. Jim Clark dominates both his preliminary heat and the International Trophy, beating Bruce by 14 sec. As at Wigram, however, Jim has to tend the health of the 32B: water temperatures begin to climb as the race progresses, obliging Jim to back-off with the revs and to give the car as much free air as possible. He does so, despite constantly lapping the back-markers, to make it three Tasman wins out of four. As at Levin, a short, sharp sprint race closes the day’s proceedings; and, despite the overheating worries, Jim duly lines up for this, too, such is his commitment to the fans’ enjoyment. Bruce on this occasion takes the lead into the first corner; Jim settles for second place behind his close friend. Wins Nos 8 (heat) and 9   

 

Friday, February 5

Geoff Sykes, General Secretary of the Australian Automobile Racing Club (AARC), S2290004organisers of the racing at Warwick Farm, has introduced Jim to Jim Hazleton, a flight instructor at Bankstown Airport.  Jim has been tutoring Jim for the past few days and feels he’s ready – after a mere 15 hours – to fly solo. Jim has no qualms. He circuit-and-bumps the Cessna 172 as if he’s been flying it all his life and celebrates afterwards with Geoff and Black Jack Brabham, whose been running around in an Aztec. As he steers his little Toyota (courtesy of Arnold Glass) back down the Hume Highway to Sydney, it strikes Jim that he’s never enjoyed a racing series more: the 32B has lots of oomph; he and Ray are having a ball; he’s winning races; and now he’s managed even to find the time he needs for flying. That would never have happened in Europe – or even in the States, where he always seems to be in a rush. He’s looking forward to The Farm, too. Looks like a nicely-balanced circuit. S2290005Geoff Sykes is a gem – a man to trust – and also a fellow flying enthusiast. It crosses Jim’s mind that he ought to consult Geoff about setting up an account with the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney. Australia’s going decimal in ’66 but it wouldn’t hurt to have an account ready for this time next year. Jim Banks

Sunday, February 14, 1965

Peter Windsor writes: my Dad arranges for a flag marshal friend to sneak me into the Warwick Farm paddock. It’s a carefully-planned operation – a bit like the army news we keep hearing on the radio these days from Vietnam. I’m to stand near the fence on the Hume Straight bank at 08:00 sharp. Mr Barker – a flag marshal – will drive by on the circuit in a cream-coloured Peugeot 403. I’m to wave him down, climb the fence and jump into the car’s boot. By the time I’m released – hopefully without anyone noticing – I should in theory be in the Warwick Farm paddock – the forbidden, untouchable place about which I had only dreamt.09-13-2010_22

It works! I blink in the early morning Sydney sunshine, then peer around me. There’s the dark green of Jim Clark’s Lotus! And there’s Jim, hands on hips, shirt off, chatting to officials! I walk tentatively over to the tented area, clutching my rucksack. Inside: my copy of Jim Clark At The Wheel, purchased from Dymocks only four months before; a packed lunch prepared by my Mum; and my Kodak Box Brownie camera, hopefully with the black-and-white film correctly loaded. Has anyone noticed my sudden arrival? I turn around. The Peugeot has already gone. I seem to be in the clear. WF 1965 1

I stand and watch for a while. They are apparently talking about the Esso badge on Jim’s Lotus. The officials keep walking over to it, measuring it, pondering it. Jim seems quite relaxed. I notice Ray Parsons, in white t-shirt, waving his hands a little. I put down the rucksack and pull out the camera. These are the photos I take:

Warwick Farm 65_0006

Warwick Farm 65_0003

Note the Esso badge now taped over! That’s Jim, hand on hip, to the centre-right of the 32B’s rear Dunlop.

Jim and the car are wheeled over to the Esso tent. I follow at a distance, fearful that I will be ejected from the paddock. Suddenly, to my left, I see Bruce McLaren sitting in his white Cooper. Again I pull out the pen and the Brownie:

Bruce

I stand and watch, shaking with excitement. Time stands still – probably for two hours, maybe more. I’m watching Jim as he chats to friends, talks to Ray Parsons, looks at the car from every angle imaginable. I even see him helping Ray with a wheel change. He sits down on a canvas chair, laughing with Ray. I summon the courage to move. I hunt for my book, searching for the right page. I fumble for my red Biro – my one and only pen.

“Excuse me Mr Clark,” – my Mum had been emphatic about calling him Mr Clark should I ever meet him face-to-face – “would you please sign your book?”

“Of course.Thanks for reading it. Did you enjoy it?”

“Very much,” I stammer. “I bought it last year and read it right through!”

Then suddenly my Dad, who also shares a love of flying with Geoff Sykes, is standing with me, hand on my shoulder. He’s working today as a start-line judge. He thinks it’s probably time for me to cross the track and join my brother in the spectator area down at Creek Corner. Even as engines burst into life and drivers begin to fidget by their cars, I walk slowly towards the paddock exit. In the marshalling area I see Jim, now in blue Dunlop overalls, preparing to pull on his helmet and climb into the Lotus. The dark blue helmet. The famous dark blue helmet with the white peak.

S1420029

That’s Ray, just to Jim’s left – and the photographer to Ray’s right is the legendary Nigel Snowdon, who took the photo at Bankstown a few days before

Down at Creek the crowd is buzzing. Frank Matich, the brilliant local – and another hero of mine – is on the pole in his gorgeous Team Total light blue Brabham. Graham Hill, back from Europe after missing the previous three races in New Zealand, is second in David McKay’s Brabham; Jim is third and Jack Brabham fourth, ahead of Bruce McLaren and Frank Gardner. Could Frank actually beat the unbeatable? Keith Reagan, on the PA, builds the moment to a frenzy. A group of spectators nearby pile their Eskies on top of one another and jump the fence as the drivers begin their parade laps on the back of open sports cars. My brother and I join the throng, he with the colour film, I with eyes as big as saucers. Marshals in white coats try to hassle us back to the teeming compound.

Then they’re with us. Hill. Frank Matich. And now Jim on the back of a white Sprite…with Mike Spence next to him. Mike Spence! “What’s Mike Spence doing here?” I ask Richard. “Not sure.  Was it Mike? Are you really sure it was Mike?”Clark Sprite

As sure as any 12-year-old who’d only seen foggy black-and-whites in old magazines could ever be.  We look at our watches, my brother and I. “They’re running late,” says Richard. “It’s all these people on the track. Let’s go.”WF 1965 2

We wait.  It is hot and humid – but then suddenly the PA is shouting: “And they’re off…….!  It’s Matich – Frank Matich leads into Paddock….!” We haven’t seen them prior to this start; there have been no “out-laps” apart from the drivers’ parade.  We have no idea about what the cars will actually look like, what the sound will be, what the perspectives of speed will be. Now, in seconds, they will be upon us. We can hear a steadily-rising roar. I’m squeezed as near to the track as I can be, pushing the fence wires into a bow almost until they touch the black wooden sleeper fence.

“It’s Matich in front…..!”  says the voice of Keith Reagan. The crowd screams. Girls yelp. It’s baking hot. Much bigger people are pushing me from both sides and into my back. I’m actually finding it hard to breathe but I don’t know if it’s from the crush or from the explosion of the moment.

And then they are suddenly there, engines crackling on over-run, drivers flicking down the gears, car noses dipped and bobbing under brakes. It’s the red SV Brabham of Graham Hill in front! Jim is nearest to me, with the light blue Matich Brabham down the inside. Dust, smoke and noise fill the air. The leaders are accelerating out of the hairpin; still the rest of the field is diving into the corner. I can hear the PA voice above the now-fading engine notes: “And Graham Hill leads the field into the Esses.  It’s  Clark up to second and Matich has slotted into third…” I’m jumping up and down, up and down, up and down…

It is an afternoon of neck-craning and heat, of tip-toes and thirst. I’m hoarse from screaming. Jim Clark is following Hill and I’m willing him on as I’ve never wished for anything in my 12-year-old life. I notice, as they leave Creek Corner, a piece of paper caught in the nose of the Lotus. I note too, for the first time, that Jim is wearing a white handkerchief over his nose and mouth. He sits back and low in the Lotus, perfectly in harmony with the car. Hill’s Brabham seems to move with an abruptness; everything about Jim is fluid. I see flashes of red as he fingertips the Lotus steering wheel mid-corner; the sun catches the car’s chrome exhaust.

Richard is keeping a lap chart in his race programme. No 1 – Hill. No 9 – Clark. No 4 – Brabham. No 3 – Matich.  The race – the day – thunders on. Will Jim pass Hill? The crowd still yells loudly for Frank Matich. I join them. My perfect result? Clark first, Matich second, McLaren third.

Lap 35. Ten to go. I’m as nervous as a calf on branding day. Jim is right behind Graham. I’m fearful there’ll be an accident – just like the one I’d seen at Bathurst in Easter, ’64. essesMy brother thinks Hill’s in trouble. The Brabham sounds ok where we are. Then, almost as if in slow motion, Jim is now moving to the inside and out-braking Graham into Creek. Right in front of us! Jim Clark takes the lead! Graham falls away and then spins. Jack Brabham inherits second place after a strong drive in his new car; and the fabulous Matich retains third place.

I am aware only the heat and the dust and the sweat and the tension as the last lap approaches. Bang! The Howard Brothers’ fireworks announce Charles Brittlebank’s waving of the chequered flag. The crowd begins to surge ever-forward. I’m caught in the mayhem. They’re jumping the fences, running the track. I’m fearful but I won’t miss it: I won’t miss the sight of Jim Clark on his Lap of Honour. I wave to him and I think he waves right back. His dark-lensed goggles are down, the face mask is down. I can see his smile and the crest on his tan, kangaroo-skin gloves.scan0001

We listen on the PA to the prize giving.  Dan MacFarlane of the Australian Jockey Club (AJC), owners of Warwick Farm, hands out the trophies under the auspices of Geoff Sykes. We’re all milling around down at Creek. There are still more races to be run.  Yet we’re on track, chatting to the flag marshals, asking them about the race. Did you see Clark’s pass? What happened to Hill? He spun and stalled? Where? No-one knew.

What I did subsequently discover, after reading Sports Car World a couple of months later, was that Jim, if you please, lost third gear on lap 2 of the 1965 Warwick Farm International 100.

SCW cover (march 65)All the time he was behind Hill he had been learning how to drive the 32B minus third. He avoided second for fear of never finding a way out of it. He took fourth gear out of Creek and held it there, balancing the 32B on the torque of the Climax 2.5 litre 4, all the way to the pit straight, where he could take fifth.  This he held until Creek…  It was, by any standards, one of Jim Clark’s greatest drives.

And I saw it. I saw him on the day it happened. Win No 10.

PW in 32B jpegPost-script: years later I finally managed to sit in the famous 32B.  It still wore its original steering wheel – the one I saw Jim massaging through Creek Corner as he played with the torque of the Climax 2.5. With thanks to Colin Piper and the Nigel Snowdon Collection (Sutton Images) for additional photographs  

 

Sunday, February 21, 1965: Melbourne

Although Jim today clinched the 1965 Tasman Series this wasn’t a great weekend, for on Saturday we lost Lex Davison, that most gentlemanly of gentleman drivers. He ran wide in his new, red Brabham in the esses prior to the penultimate straight but seemed to have it all under control as he bumped over the grass near the horse-track railings. Then, suddenly, launched by a dangerously-sited slab of concrete in a dip, the car flicked sideways into the white fencing. With little cockpit protection – Lex had only recently switched from a “shorty” helmet to an Everoak and still wore polo shirts matched with a colourful bandana – it was over very quickly. An institution in Australian motor racing, Lex was a father-figure to many and a standard-bearer for all. A cloud descended over Sandown Park.IMG0004

For once, Jim didn’t need to learn a Tasman circuit, for he had made a low-key, one-off appearance at Sandown in 1962, ostensibly  to secure for Colin Chapman a buyer for the Springbok-winning Lotus 21.   In 1965 Jim finished second after racing Jack Brabham hard for most of the distance. Jack’s new compound Goodyears, flown in by Fred Gamble directly from Akron, for the first time appeared to be quicker – and more resilient – than Jim’s Dunlops; and, besides, Jim’s well-used Climax began to lose oil pressure as the race unwound. Even so, he finished only five seconds behind Jack on this fast circuit, with Phil Hill and Bruce McLaren taking third and fourth places in their Firestone-shod Coopers. Frank Matich was again right on the pace with the light blue Team Total/Laurie O’Neill Brabham, qualifying third behind Jack and Jim, but was an early retirement with a broken distributor. Jim’s 33 points were enough to clinch the Tasman Cup with one race still to run (Longford on March 1-3) before the non-championship race at Lakeside on March 7.

With grateful thanks to Graham Howard, whose biography of Lex Davison remains an industry standard, and to Peter Bakalor, who was, and still is, way ahead of his time.

Sunday, March 3, 1965: Longford

Jim Clark didn’t score many fighting fifth places in his career, let alone in 1965 – but that was the story of the Longford Tasman round in early March. This was a three-day race meeting on the fast and dangerous Tasmanian road course, beginning with practice on Friday, a sprint race on Saturday and the Australian Grand Prix on Monday. And, for most of it, Jim struggled to stay competitive. On the long Mountford Straight, with its Flying (measured) Mile, the Lotus 32B’s long-stroke Climax was hardly a match for the short-stroke (Repco-developed) Climax in Jack Brabham’s new car – or for the McLaren Cooper short-strokers; and that was when Jim’s Climax was running well. When it wasn’t, which was the case for most of Friday, despite Jim quickly adapting to yet another circuit new to him, the engine was virtually a waste of time. Ray Parsons fitted the spare Team Lotus Climax for the Saturday race but Jim was out-powered by all his nearest opposition, even though he of course pushed the 32B to the limit all the way, passing and then re-passing the rapid 1964 Cooper of Phil Hill. He had to be resigned, though, to finishing only fifth. Bruce McLaren won his second AGP – and his first and only Tasman race of 1965 – after a dominant performance from the pole (and despite a slipping clutch in the closing stages); Jack was a strong second after losing time lapping the 1.5 litre cars of Roly Levis and the Queenslander, Glynn Scott; Phil Hill was an excellent third in the white McLaren Cooper, delighting Bruce, who had remained convinced of Phil’s ability despite his three lean seasons in F1; and Graham Hill was fourth in the Scuderia Veloce Brabham. About the only consolation for Jim was the thought that he would be using Bruce’s engine in 1966 and that the Tasman Cup was now officially his.

There was more tragedy, however – more of the type of accidents that typified racing in the 1960s. Rocky Tresise, Lex Davison’s young neighbour and protege, had at first decided not to race at Longford, so distraught were he and the family after Lex’s passing. At the last minute, though,

Rocky was persuaded to race the old Davison Cooper – “as a tribute to Lex”.

Rocky, a cool, good-looking young Victorian in the mould of Daniel Ricciardo, didn’t qualify well. The mood in his camp was down; the circuit was daunting. I spoke about this not so long ago with John Youl, the rapid Tasmanian who was a bystander on the grid that year. “I looked across at Rocky and his eyes were as big as saucers,” said John. He looked like a lad who was just scared out of his wits.”

As he began lap two of the AGP Rocky pulled left to pass the battling 1.5 litre cars of Roly Levis, Bob Jane and Glynn Scott. He mis-judged the move slightly, dangling a left-rear wheel over the track verge, kicking up stones and dust as he did so. Then, almost as this was a bad B-movie, his red Cooper flicked itself sideways and barrell-rolled down the grass beside the pit straight. By the time it came to rest Rocky was dying from severe neck cuts – and the very talented photographer, Robin D’Arbrera, was dead. The 25-year-old cameraman had hitched a ride to Longford with Frank’s Total Team rig and only a few minutes before had been helping to push the light blue Brabham onto the grid. His friend, the equally-talented Ray Simpson, was also standing in the path of Rocky’s Cooper. He dived backwards in miraculous avoidance; Robin, said Ray later, seemed transfixed by the scene, unable to move.

The ironies – the losses – were too great to contemplate. The only response was to race on, to race on…Rocky2

For the Longford weekend of speed was a festival – a motor racing party for Tasmanians young and old. Local holiday-makers danced in the streets on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights; the racers annoyed restaurant managers with napkin fights and other, more complicated, frolics. The local council paid for an extension to the race control tower, for re-surfacing on many parts of the circuit and even for some run-off area on some corners. Even so, people died and were injured. As well as Rocky and Robin, a young motor-cyclist, Dennis Wing, was killed on Saturday in an accident just after the Viaduct. Wing had been given his bike – a 350 Norton – for his birthday a few days before. And Robin Pare suffered serious injuries when he rolled his Lotus-Cortina. Such was road racing in the 1960s.

Longford’s support races were always good: in 1965, Spencer Martin (Mark Webber’s guest at the 2013 USGP) won two of them in David McKay’s gorgeous 250LM Ferrari, recording 184mph on the straight (approx 10mph faster than the Tasman cars) as he did so. Bob Jane was also a star in his Lotus Cortina – the car owned today by Alex Lynn’s father. Bob, a fast and prolific racer, had been disqualified at Sandown but at Longford ran a close second to Sir Gawaine Baillie’s much more powerful 7-litre Galaxy. A young Alan Moffatt won the last race of the three-day festival with his recently-acquired ex-works Lotus Cortina and would return to the States in May to help Jim win the Indy 500.

With grateful thanks to Barry Green, whose labour of love, “Longford: Fast Track Back” continues to occupy pride of place on my bookshelf.

We will continue to update Jim Clark’s 1965 season as it happens.  Next race – the Lakeside 99, Queensland, (Tasman non-championship). March 10, 1965.

 

Remembering JPB

8-24-2010 17-21-4_127I was actually thinking about Jean-Pierre Beltoise the day before he passed away. There I was, sitting in the car in King’s Road, stuck in traffic, when suddenly I was smiling inwardly at the thought of Jean-Pierre and all that he had triggered. I don’t think it was co-incidence: I happened to be stationary right by the spot where I once threw a Gauloises non-filter into the garbage bin, thus marking the end of my very brief smoking career. I’d been so intoxicated by the French Revolution – by the whole Gauloises/Gitanes thing, married as it was to Jean-Pierre, Matra, Elf, BP France, Ford France, Antar, Motul, Stand 21, Francois Cevert, Patrick Depailler, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, Johnny Servoz-Gavin, Pierre-Francois Rousselot, Patrick Tambay, Bernard Beguin, Didier Pironi, Jean-Luc Salamon, Jacques-Henri Lafitte, Jean-Pierre Jarier, Henri Pescarolo, Johnny Rives, Manu Zurini, Bernard Asset, Eric Bhat, Jose Rosinski, Jabby Crombac, Ligier, Gerard Flocon, Un homme et une femme, Francois Hardy and Francois Guiter –  so romanticised was I by it all – that I felt I owed it to them at least to try a Gauloises. The experiment lasted three puffs…but I never forgot the time nor the place.

JPB passed away on January 5, 2014. As quick on two wheels as he was on four, he survived several major accidents before he and Matra’s Jean-Luc Lagardere set about changing the world. If Jackie Stewart’s 1968-69 Tyrrell Matras were works of art – and I think they were – much of the credit must go to the French creative geniuses of the time. The elegant white signwriting on the French-blue riveted chassis. That head-turning Elf logo. The colour-coding with the drivers’ helmets – something that mesmerised me when I first saw JPB at Monaco in 1967. (I took the picture above from the chicane on the Saturday as he drove the F2 car round to the pits.)

Then there were the loves of JPB.  He lost his first wife while he was recuperating from his big shunt at Rheims: she died in a Matra road car, driving south out of Paris. Then he married Francois Cevert’s sister, Jacqueline. He helped her through the dark days of Francois’ death. They remained forever close.

I’m not a great believer in obituaries. If there’s something worth saying about someone, I think we should say it when they’re with us, not the day after they’ve left us. And so I decided to chat about Jean-Pierre with one of my friends (and mentors), Mike Doodson. MGD, as he was known in the great days of Motoring News, saw JPB race in his prime; and, speaking passable French (!) he also got to know him pretty well. Thus we remembered him:

2014 ReWind – P8 to P1…with a little bit more besides

As we continue our look back at the 2014 F1 season, here’s the remainder of our driver ratings, starting from P8 at the top of the page through to P1 and some closing thoughts.  Controversial – yes;  but then, as I said before, the points system is what really counts.  These are just some of my feelings about a turbulent year just past.

May I also take this opportunity of wishing all of you a safe and prosperous 2015.

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