peterwindsor.com

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

Paying drivers: nothing new

You can’t have a boring conversation with Niki Lauda: his brain is too sharp for that, his perspectives too logical. It’s always a case, indeed, of “so much to say; so little time…” I chatted to him recently about having to borrow money from a bank in order to secure an F1 drive; the best and worst F1 cars he ever drove; sleeping on the floor of James Hunt’s apartment; the aftermath of “Rush”; the comparisons between the airline and F1 industries, taking holidays (or not!); and his sort of attention to detail. (And in case you’re wondering what Novomatic is all about on this year’s Lauda cap it is this: it’s an Austrian company and it’s one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of…yes…slot machines.) Here is my chat with Niki (recorded in a Bahrain hotel) in three parts:

Images: LAT Photographic and Peter Windsor Collection

Rob Wilson Picks Eight!

IMG_1817Regular readers of this site will be familiar with the GP Tours logo to your right.  It’s there because I’ve been a GP Tours fan for many years.  I like the people who run the business from Newport, California, and I like the tours they generate. They’re about race fans travelling with other race fans to some of the greatest circuits in the world – Monaco, Spa, Silverstone, Austin and many more.

What I’m particularly excited about this year is a new free-to-enter competition they’ve put together, the prize for which is a fully-catered trip for two to the 2015 Monaco GP. How to win? Choose your top eight finishers for each of the 2014 F1 races; points will be awarded when you select the right driver for the right finishing position, with bonus points if you make your choice prior to FP1 or Q1. Go to http://www.gptours.com/pick8 for more details – and where you’ll find the list of runners and riders and your entry form for the 2014 Rolex Australian Grand Prix.

Who to select for Melbourne?  On our YouTube Channel (www.youtube.com/peterwindsor) you will find recent interviews with three of Autosport’s top journalists – Edd Straw, Glenn Freeman and Ben Anderson.  I asked all three to predict their AGP winner, so that should be of help.

In addition, I asked Rob Wilson (above, with a disguised F1 Racing Editor, Anthony Rowlinson, pictured after a recent TRE filming session) for his top eight. Rob is not only one of the world’s leading driver coaches and regular guest on The Racer’s Edge but also a remarkably perceptive motor racing observer. His list is a little specialized, as you would expect with a guy who also plays bass for Grand Prairie, but he nonetheless diligently exercised his grey cells when we asked him for his selections. And don’t forget that Rob has worked closely with ten of the F1 drivers who will be starting the 2014 season in Melbourne. This is his top eight for the Australian GP:

1  Kimi Raikkonen

2 Sergio Perez

3 Valtteri Bottas

4 Jenson Button

5 Felipe Massa

6 Nico Rosberg

7 Esteban Gutierrez

8 Kevin Magnussen

Obviously Rob’s counting on a few of the fancied runners (Lewis, for example, and Fernando) having mechanical dramas and he’s also clearly discounting the Renault runners at this stage (although he did nominate Daniel Ricciardo to finish P9).

Anyway, that’s Rob’s list.  Now you have a go.  There are 20 races from which to accumulate points, so don’t be too discouraged if you don’t get it right first time. (Indeed, seeing as how I think Lewis is going to win in Melbourne, I guess this is something I should be saying to Rob!).

Disclaimer:  Although I’m a GPTours fan, I should make it clear that I work with the company at selected races on the F1 calendar, talking to the guests and interviewing drivers.

 

 

Timmy Mayer (and McLaren)…50 years on

64527He was an American in Europe, a racer to his fingertips. The previous fall he out-qualified Graham Hill at Laguna Seca. Both were in Lotus 23 sports cars; both were on the limit. In Europe, etching his name in Formula Junior and even in factory Minis, he was always there. He and Peter Revson. Two “East Coast crumple” American stars-in-the-making. It was his brother, Teddy, who first suggested it to Bruce McLaren.  Why not run Timmy Mayer in a second Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd Cooper-Climax in the inaugural (1964) Tasman Series, in New Zealand and then in Australia (January-February)? The Mayers would help with the finance and Timmy would bring with him his mechanic from the American sports car races – Tyler Alexander.

Bruce liked the Mayers and he liked Tyler.  The deal was quickly done.

And Timmy was quickly on the pace in NZ that January, 1964 – right up there with Bruce, his mentor, Jack Brabham, Denny Hulme and the brilliant Australian local, Frank Matich. He led for a while at the opening Tasman round, at Levin. He almost dead-heated with Bruce for the win at Teretonga. And then on February 22, at Lakeside, Queensland, three days before his 26th birthday, Timmy qualified his Cooper on the front row. On Sunday he led the race easily once Matich had retired – and before he, too, was obliged to stop trackside with a blown engine.

I saw Timmy race at Warwick Farm, in mid-February, 1964. Tip-toed behind the spectator fence, neck craning, I was struck by Timmy’s almost-straight arms and by his light blue Dunlop overalls flapping in the slipstream. His helmet was white, with two vertical stripes and a white peak. He sat quite high in the cramped F2 Cooper cockpit. He qualified just behind Bruce, despite being a rookie at the Farm, and I clearly remember Timmy biffing the back of Bruce’s Cooper right in front of us on the opening lap at Creek Corner.  Team leader nudged by his Number Two!  Both raced on, though, and finished second and third, albeit with the second Cooper’s nose section all askew. I watched them all afternoon. Timmy always fast, always aggressive, punching the throttle out of Creek, applying the opposite lock with crisp precision. Bruce, by comparison, was only slightly more fluid.

Timmy, clearly, was fast.64533

I heard the news on a warm Friday afternoon in Sydney, crackling its way from my black transistor radio.  “….Practice at Longford today was marred by the accident involving the young American, Timmy Mayer.  He lost control of his Cooper when it became airborne at high speed and crashed into trees.  Mayer succumbed to his injuries…”

“Dad,” I said.  “What does ‘succumbed’ mean?”

Years later, in the company of Geoff Harris, I visited the site of Timmy’s accident.  It was a gorgeous Tasmanian day.  A light breeze teased the long grass by Timmy’s trees.  Down at the pub, on the corner, the beer was cold and the flies lazy.  I walked up towards the hump in the road that had triggered the Cooper’s flight.

It was benign.  This couldn’t be the place.

And yet it was.  It was the afternoon practice session and Timmy was eager for another front-row start. I pictured him chatting by the car in the grassy paddock, Ford Falcon pick-up trucks nearby, eating a sandwich in polo shirt, sunglasses and shorts.  He would have been helping Tyler wherever possible and Bruce would have been around every ten minutes or so, asking if everything was on schedule. Pat McLaren and Garrill Mayer, just 23, would have been wearing headscarves and RayBans, laughing with Bette Hill and Betty Brabham.  Then Timmy would have pulled on his Dunlops and helmet, climbed into the Cooper T62, fitted his goggles and set off for another run. Trees, telegraph poles and sharp gutters would have flashed past. The Cooper would have been touching 160 mph on the long straights. It would have flicked from side to side over the bumpy bridges. No seat belts and no monocoque chassis. Just a tube frame, a big fuel tank and a vibrating 2.5 litre Climax engine for company.

Down the pit straight.  Through the Viaduct.  Out over King’s bridge. The Union Street straight leads then down to Pub Corner, a 90deg right. The trees are plentiful now, either side of the track. Top gear.  Can he fly the hump without braking…..?

We’ll never know what really happened. Was it a gust of wind? Did he land less-than-square? Did he brake upon landing, at just the wrong moment? It was over in an instant, in the blink of an eye. The Cooper slewed sideways into a 15ft plane tree (recalls Barry Green in his excellent book, Longford: Fast Track Back). The car split into two; Timmy was thrown 50 yds to the other side of the road, instantly breaking his neck.Fifty years ago.  A shining light, suddenly extinguished. And yet Timmy would live on – through Teddy, who became a major player in the history of McLaren; and through Tyler, who was, and is, a similar force. Thus we’ll never forget Timmy Mayer – never forget what he would have been – nor the legacy he left to Bruce and, thus, to motor racing.

Heartbroken at the time, but racing on at Longford 50 years ago, because that was what you did, Bruce in his Autosport column, with Eoin Young’s support, wrote about Timmy with timeless poise and eloquence:

“Intelligent and charming, Timmy had made dozens of friends during his career.  As often occurs, to look at him you wouldn’t take him for a racing driver.  You had to know him, to realize his desire to compete, to do things better than the next man, be it swimming, water-skiing or racing.

“So when, during second practice at Longford, he crashed at high speed and we knew immediately that it was bad, in our hearts we felt that he had been enjoying himself and ‘having a go’.

“The news that he died instantly was a terrible shock to all of us.  But who is to say that he had not seen more, done more and learned more in his 26 years than many people do in a lifetime?

“It is tragic, particularly for those left.  Plans half-made must now be forgotten and the hopes must be rekindled.  Without men like Tim, plans and hopes mean nothing.

“To do something well is so worthwhile that to die trying to do it better cannot be foolhardy.  I can’t say these things well, but I know this is what I feel to be true.  It would be a waste of life to do nothing with one’s ability.  Life is measured in terms of achievement, not in years alone.”

Bruce clinched the Tasman Championship, the first title for Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd, at Longford, March 3, 1964.  He missed the two preliminary races because of Timmy’s accident but in the feature he drove brilliantly from the back of the grid to finish second behind Graham Hill’s Scuderia Veloce Brabham.  It was enough to give him the title by six points from Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme.

Timothy Andrew Mayer: February 22, 1938-February 28, 1964

Images:  www.autopics.com

 

 

 

 

 

Drawing as he speaks as he thinks…

…the very talented Enrique Scalabroni details the curiously-shaped deflectors on the rear suspension of the 2014 F1 McLaren MP4-29.  A four-video series


Chatting with Paddy

It’s always a pleasure to sit down and talk motor racing with Patrick “Paddy” Lowe. We first met at Williams in about 1990 and I’ve been a fan ever since….ever since the day he pointed to the much-moaned-about cooling towers hard by the Williams Didcot factory and said, “I have a lot of respect for those towers. Did you know that they are a part of the most efficient coal-to-electricity station in England? I find them very inspiring…”  Anyone who is that grounded deserves to win F1 races, let alone run a major engineering team – and so it proved with Paddy. First that brilliant FW14B-Renault at Williams, then wins and championships at McLaren.  Now, if you please, he starts 2014 as the new Executive Director (Technical) of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team. We chatted recently between test days at Jerez.

 

The day he changed the world

IV_MDM_0914140114-PaddyPaddy Hopkirk’s win in the Monte-Carlo Rally 50 years ago was more than just another stat for the history books.  It was a ground-breaker, a medium for cultural change. For one thing, the Monte back then was really big – the biggest rally of the year and one of the most widely-covered international sporting events of western Europe’s new year. For another, he won in a Mini – in a Morris Cooper S, to be precise – and minis, at the point, were the thing, whether you were talking Mary Quant or Sir Alec Issigonis. The talk, before the Monte, was of the big Ford Falcon Sprints prepared by Holman and Moody in Charlotte, North Carolina (two of which were to be driven by Graham Hill and Bo Ljungfeldt) – and of the other rally-tuned classics:  the Ford (Dagenham) Cortina GTs of Vic Elford and Henry Taylor and of course Eric Carlsson’s Saab. It was Paddy, though, who on on handicap. He didn’t know he was close until he got to Monte-Carlo, where Bernard Cahier gave him the nod.  Then it was a matter of completing that final stage without incident. He did, complete with white shirt and tie – and thus he changed the world.  He received telegrams from the Prime Minister and from the Beatles.  His name would live on for longer than anyone could imagine.

I spoke to Paddy recently about that Monte win and what it meant to him – then and now.

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