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Archive for the tag “Graham Hill”

Santa Catalina is awaitin’ for me…

11-30-2013_112Australia Two 060I’ve talked quite a lot on the show, and on these pages, about the excellence that was Warwick Farm – about Jim Clark learning to fly over at Bankstown aerodrome, just up the road, and about how he and Graham Hill used to land their Cessnas on the Farm’s polo field before jumping into their Tasman Lotus.  The Farm was the epitome of those two simple words –  “motor racing”.  It was a case study in slick organization (courtesy of Geoffrey Sykes);  it was a circuit that combined fast corners with slow, rhythmic esses with a double-apexed, negative-cambered left-hander; and it was all about green grass, fluttering flags, a hot Australian sun and the smell of high-octane fuel.  Give me the Farm and you’ll give me my lifeblood. Read more…

The Glen ’63: “…he was given to understatement…”

21699.tifFrom Trenton back to London; from London to New York and then on to Elmira, the small airport local to Watkins Glen.  The 1963 US GP would be Jim Clark’s first as World Champion.

Jim loved his days at The Glen;  everyone did.  The leaves had by now turned red and brown; there was a mist in the mornings that lifted only as the sun broke through before noon.  And this was a Grand Prix run by good, racing people – men like Cameron Argetsinger, who had brought motor racing to Watkins Glen in 1948,  Media Director, Mal Currie, and Chief Steward, Bill Milliken.  All had rich racing and automotive histories.  Milliken had been a Boeing test engineer during World War II and had joined the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory (Calspan) in 1945.  As an avid Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) member and former driver/designer, Bill in 1960s and 1970s became the doyen of US automobile engineering research. He was, in short, the sort of Chief Steward in whose presence you doffed your cap. The drivers and key team people stayed nearby at the Glen Motor Inn, hard by the Seneca Lakes, where their hosts were Jo and Helen Franzese, the second-generation Italian couple who loved their F1.  Legends were born overnight at the Glen Motor Inn – and even at the old Jefferson hotel downtown. Lips, though, were always sealed.  Such was life that October week at The Glen.

Ford made a big splash, too, this year of the Lotus-Ford at Indy.  This was the US GP!  Sixty thousand fans were expected.  Cedric Selzer, hooking up with the Team Lotus “US guys” for this race, remembers the drive up from New York airport on the Tuesday before the race:  “We were given the keys of a saloon, a coupe and a convertible and made our way out of the city, heading for Watkins Glen.  When we stopped at traffic lights, people came over and asked us about the cars.  We told them we’d got them from the Ford Motor Company but it took us three days to realize that we’d all been given 1964 models than no-one had seen before.

“The following afternoon, Jim Endruweit hired a Cessna 180, with a pilot, and we flew over the Finger Lakes. It was autumn, and the seasonal colours were unbelievable.It seemed a shame when it was time to get back to the task of winning a motor race…”

Milliken remembers the pre-race party:  “High point of the festivities were the parties at the Argetsinger’s home in Burdette.  All drivers and officials were there in an atmosphere or pure fun and excitement, bolstered by great conversation, good food and dozens of magnums of champagne from the local vineyards.  The homespun hospitality led to permanent friendships and was never forgotten by the drivers or teams.”Watkins_Glen_Dec_2002_209.1

Practice took place over eight absorbing hours, split between two four-hour sessions on Friday (1pm-5pm) and again on Saturday (11am-3pm).  There was a bit of a fracas when, first, Peter Broeker’s Canadian-built four-cylinder Stebro-Ford began spewing – and continued to spew – oil around the circuit, and, second, when Lorenzo Bandini slowed down after a blind brow to talk to his sidelined Ferrari team-mate, John Surtees.  Richie Ginther and Jack Brabham narrowly missed the Number Two Ferrari, igniting a bit of finger-pointing back in the pits and plenty of  “I no-a speak-a di Eengleesh…”.

The Glen in 1963 featured the brand new Tech Centre on top of the hill behind the pits (which were then sited after today’s Turn One), allowing all the teams (except Ferrari, who continued to use Nick Fraboni’s Glen Chevrolet garage and therefore to truck their cars up from the town each morning), to work on their cars in situ, in communal spirit and to be energized by plenty of lighting and electric sockets. (The F1 teams were obliged to convert to the American standard 110volts. On the face of it, this didn’t seem to be a problem. As it turned out, it was.)  For a small incremental fee, race fans could also walk up and down the Kendall shed, looking at the cars at close hand.  GP2 could learn a thing or two from The Glen, 1963…

Jim, in relaxed mood, qualified second, 0.1 sec behind Graham Hill’s old space-frame BRM. Milliken also recalls in his excellent autobiography (Equations in Motion, with an introduction by Dan Gurney) that the timekeepers “always had problems with Colin Chapman. Colin timed his own entries and claimed his faster figures were correct, so Bill Close, one of our timers and a solid Scotsman, put two clocks on each Lotus…”

Trevor Taylor, whose car caught fire in the paddock on Saturday, qualified seventh; and Pedro Rodriguez, having his first F1 drive, and fresh from a win for Ferrari in the Canadian GP sports car event, was 13th in the carburettor-engined 25. This wasn’t a happy weekend for Trevor:  Chapman chose the US GP to tell him that he wouldn’t be retained for 1964. His place would be taken by Lotus’ FJ king, Peter Arundell.

Bruce McLaren lost most of the Saturday morning session when his Cooper-Climax lost oil pressure; and so – as at the British GP – he used his time to watch, learn and compare.  This from his notes in Autosport the following week:  “Graham Hill finished his braking relatively early and had the power on, and the BRM a bit sideways, well before the apex of the slow corner at which I was watching.  Jim Clark, on the other hand, braked hard right into the apex with the inside front wheel just on the point of locking as he started to turn.”

Jim’s race was defined on the dummy grid.  Due to what was later found to be a faulty fuel pump, his 25 wouldn’t start. And then, very quickly, the battery went flat. Selzer: “The truth is that the battery had not taken a proper charge overnight. We used a dry-cell aircraft battery made by Varley with six, white-capped cells. Somehow, we never got the hang of keeping them fully-charged. America was a special case as we had to borrow a 110 volt charger.  We used a ‘fast’ charger when actually what was required was a ‘trickle’ charger. As Jim was left way behind the grid proper, two of us ran over to him and changed the battery. This meant that Jim had to climb out whilst we removed the tail and nose sections of the car in order to get at the battery, which was under the seat.”

I recently bought an audio CD of the 1963 US GP and Stirling Moss provides an hilarious description of these moves whilst watching the start from the main control tower.

“I can see lots of people gathered around Jim Clark’s car.  Looks as though they’re trying to remove the bonnet…no…what is it that you Americans call it?  The hood? Yes, that’s right. The hood. They’re removing the hood. Meanwhile, I can see Graham Hill getting ready for the off….”

Jim eventually lit up the rear Dunlops just as the last-placed car completed its first flying lap. He would finish a brilliant third behind the two BRMs of Hill and Ginther (after Surtees’ V6 Ferrari broke a piston in the closing stages) – but it could have been even closer.  “That mishap on the grid was what I needed to put me back into a fighting mood,” remembers Clark in Jim Clark at the Wheel, “and so I set off after the field, knowing I was going to enjoy the race. I began to catch up the field, and to thread my way through, until I saw Graham Hill in front of me. I thought I was at least going to have a dice with my old rival, albeit with me being a whole lap behind him. This was not to be, for shortly afterwards the fuel pump started acting up and it became a struggle even to keep him in view. I ploughed on through the race, during which many cars dropped out, and finally finished third.”  Jim didn’t know it at the time but Graham, too, had been in major trouble:  a rear roll-bar mount had broken on the BRM. Even so, it is typical of Clark’s character that he should sum-up his US GP with the phrase “…and finally finished third.”  He was given to understatement; his mechanical sympathy in reality did the talking. 

21700.tifNeither of the other Lotus 25s finished, although Pedro showed the promise of things to come by slicing his way up to sixth before retiring with a major engine failure. Given the financial support the Rodriguez family were giving Team Lotus for The Glen and then the Mexican GP, the mechanics had to work very hard to rebuild that engine within the next few days. A new timing chain and valves were found after long “phone-arounds” and other broken valves were repaired at a local machine shop.  David Lazenby, the lead “American” Team Lotus mechanic, returned to Detroit to begin installation of the four-cam Ford engine in the Lotus 29 – and he would be joined, once the Rodriguez engine rebuild was finished, by the F1 boys.  Chapman was always one for keeping his lads amused…21754.tif

There was no podium at The Glen.  As in other races back in 1963, it was the winner alone who took the plaudits and the laurel wreath (and, in the case of the US GP, the kisses from the Race Queen.) The new World Champion, after yet another astonishing race, would have quietly donned his dark blue, turtle-necked sweater, had a soft drink or two, helped the boys in the garage and then repaired to the Glen Motor Inn for a bath and a good dinner.   The Mexican GP was three weeks away.  On the Monday, Jim would journey back to New York and then fly across the continent to Los Angeles.  Ahead, over the next two weekends, lay two sports car events for Frank and Phil Arciero, the wealthy (construction/wine-growing) enthusiasts from Montebello, California, who had already won many races with Dan Gurney. The first would be the LA Times Grand Prix at Riverside, where Jim’s “team-mate” would be his Indy sparring partner, Parnelli Jones.  Then, the following weekend, he would race in the Pacific Grand Prix at Laguna Seca.  On both occasions he would drive the Arciero’s new 2.7 Climax-engined Lotus 19….assuming it was ready.  On the radio in his room that night at The Glen, with the still, cool air from the Lakes reminding him that the European winter was  but a step away, Jim might have heard the Beach Boys chasing their Surfer Girl, or Peter, Paul and Mary Blowin’ In The Wind.

Captions, from top: Jim drifts the Lotus 25-Climax up through the Watkins Glen esses on his way to a fighting third place; less than a year after the loss of his brother, Ricardo, Pedro Rodriguez made his F1 debut at the Glen in a third works Lotus 25-Climax; classic pose: Jim displays the 25’s reclined driving position as he accelerates past an ABC TV tower Images: LAT Photographic 

Buy Cedric Selzer’s wonderful new autobiography, published in aid of Marie Curie Cancer CareS2740001

A Galaxie win for Clark

20791Monday, August 5, was a holiday in the UK in 1963, which meant that all eyes turned towards Brands Hatch for the Guards Trophy (as in Carreras Guards filter cigarettes).  This was a classic British international race meeting run by the British Racing and Sports Car Club (BRSCC) in front of a classically-large crowd. The feature race was for sports cars over 50 laps; support events were for saloon cars, smaller sports-racing cars and GT cars.  Consider that this meeting was staged exactly 24 hours after the German GP, and that the line-up of drivers at Brands included F1 stars like Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Lorenzo Bandini, Trevor Taylor, Innes Ireland and Tony Maggs, plus other names like Roy Salvadori Roger Penske, Jack Sears, Timmy Mayer, Paddy Hopkirk, Sir John Whitmore, Frank Gardner, Mike Salmon, David Piper, Lucien Bianchi, John Miles (the future Lotus F1 driver) and Ray Parsons, (Jim Clark’s part-time mechanic) and you have a picture of what motor racing in the 1960s was all about:  it was about the drivers – about star names having one-off races in interesting cars, regardless of their chances of winning.  Trevor Taylor, for instance, jumped from an F1 Lotus 25 at the Nurburgring into a Lotus Elite at Brands.  The World Champion, Graham Hill, swapped his works BRM for a Jaguar 3.8.  Le Mans winner, Lorenzo Bandini, went from his Centro Sud BRM to a big Ferrari 330LM.

And Jim Clark, if you please, stepped from his Lotus 25 into…a Holman-Moody-prepared, Alan Brown-run, 7-litre Ford Galaxie.  20793Featuring lightweight panels, blueprinted V8 and stripped interior, this two-door “fastback” Galaxie was one of three Ford-commissioned, Holman and Moody-prepared cars to colour the British touring car scene in 1963. One Galaxie, owned by John Willment (who knew Holman and Moody well from his interests in marine engines) immediately won races in the skilful hands of Jack Sears;  the Alan Brown car was effectively a “guest” Galaxie, driven by Dan Gurney, Jack Brabham and, at Brands, Jim Clark; and Sir Gawaine Bailey, the very rapid baronet, owned and drove the third car.  Lee Holman, son of John, was 18 when, in early 1963, he was asked to drive the Alan Brown Galaxie from the H-M headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, to the port of New York.  “We put some Brillo pads up the exhaust to try to dampen the sound,” remembers Lee, “but the biggest help were the $100 bills I took with me to pay off the traffic cops!  One of them stopped me somewhere in Virginia so I showed him the paperwork about the car being owned by the Ford Motor Company and being shipped to the UK for racing and he was so impressed that he let me go…”

It’s hard to picture it, now – Jim, Graham, Trevor, Tony Maggs, Lorenzo and Innes all rushing back to England to race their widely-different cars at this Brands International.  Jim wasn’t even in the big race!  Instead, he could relax down at the lower end of the paddock with Alan Brown and the mechanics, settle himself into the Galaxie’s spacious, padded “bucket” seat and apply some of the intel he’d been given by Dan. The left-hand-drive Galaxie had a “four-speed, on-the-floor (L-shaped) shifter”, a lap seat belt only, a deeply-dished plastic steering wheel and a lateral (ie, not longitudinally-braced) roll-bar.  Driving it was all about taming the power – ie, minimising the wheelspin and the oversteer….and allowing for brake fade.20787

Why was Jim racing that Monday in a car he’d never even tested?  As much as Jim loved to drive nimble sports cars on the road like the Lotus Elite, Lotus Elan and Porsche 356 he was also amused by the concept of big, comfortable American “slushmobiles” like the Galaxie.  And controlling the Galaxie on a race track appealed to Jim’s sense of curiosity.  Ask one of the current F1 drivers to compete in a Porsche Supercup race and their initial response – even before they considered the complication of contracts – would be to ensure that their image was not dented by the likes of a Sean Edwards; Jim had no such qualms.  He was intrigued by the concept of racing the Galaxie; he liked the Ford connection, in view of his plans to race more extensively in the US; he liked the Holman and Moody people, who were at that point doing great things with the Falcon Sprint rally cars in Europe; and he wasn’t afraid of being beaten by an ace like Jack Sears:  this was but a part of motor racing.

As it happened, Jim qualified second to Jack but seized the lead into Paddock Bend:  Jack’s start, on the lower side of the track, had suffered from the usual Brands Hatch wheelspin. Jim held the inside line up the hill into Druids, won the mid-corner barging match at the hairpin and headed the field into Bottom Bend, his right rear Firestone picking up the dirt as he power-slid the big Galaxie onto Bottom Straight. 20747Jack Sears had won on all types of circuit (from Silverstone to Crystal Palace) with the Willment Galaxie and was not about to fall away; it was Jim Clark, though, who emerged from the back of the circuit still in the lead.  One can hear the voice of Anthony Marsh now, as the lumbering V8s teetered into  Clearways:

“And it’s Jim Clark in front!  Clark leads from Sears and then come the three Jaguars – Graham Hill in the Coombs car, Roy Salvadori, Mike Salmon, who banged into Sir Gawaine Baillie’s slow-starting Galaxie off the line…”

Jack, for once, ran into trouble – a punctured Firestone, to be precise.  Jim was left to win from F1 arch-rival Hill – but not without incident.  David Haynes demolished his Cortina GT on Bottom Straight right in front of Paddy Hopkirk’s Mini.  Paddy took major avoiding action on the grass – but Jim, too, was forced to put two wheels out there on the turf to miss the melee.  Fortunately, Haynes escaped uninjured.20743

So Jim won the 20-lap Slip Molyslip Trophy for B-class Group 2 saloon cars. The race was considered at the time to be so minor that no pictures at all were published in Autosport of the F1 Championship leader in the Galaxie.  Instead, the headlines went to Roger Penske, who won the Guards Trophy with his Zerex Special (basically a Cooper-Climax F1 car with bodywork). Frank Gardner’s Brabham beat the Lotus 23s in the sports car event; Bob Olthoff, who on August 18 would, with Jack Sears, win a 12-hour race in Washington, USA, in a Willment Cortina GT, took the up-to-3-litre class of Jim’s race; and Sir John Whitmore again reigned supreme in his Mini-Cooper. (Sir John would also win the GT race with his Stirling Moss special-bodied Elan.)  Balfour Place was thus heaving that Monday night – particularly as Cleopatra was on the agenda for Jim and Sally.  Jim would head over to Cheshunt on Tuesday to see Andrew Ferguson (to sort out some accounts!) – and they would leave on Wednesday for Sweden, where Jim was due to race in the non-championship F1 event at Karlskoga, near Orebro, west of Stockholm. Jim had had the pole there in 1961 but had retired from the race with that old Lotus foible – broken front suspension. Here was a chance to redress the balance.

Also eagerly awaiting the appearance of F1 stars on his home track was an Orebro 19-year-old who had over the past 18 months been winning a string of kart races.  His name was Ronnie Peterson.

Captions, from top: Jack Sears sits on the pole with rear wheels spinning while Jim (middle of the front row) smokes away from the line.  On the right, Graham Hill is up-and-running in John Coombs’ 3.8 Jaguar;  lap one, and Jim leads Jack Sears along Bottom Straight. Amongst the Jags, Roy Salvadori has passed Graham…; rear view of the opening lap battle.  Characteristically, Jim has already begun an early, small, initial turn towards South Bank Bend (with brakes yet to be applied).  Jack, more traditionally, is beginning to brake to a wider turn-in point; within a couple of laps, Jim had begun to put a little air between his Alan Brown Galaxie and Jack’s Willment car.  Here, on the entrance to the uphill South Bank Corner, he balances an oversteer slide; Jim takes to the grass to avoid what remains of David Haynes’ Cortina GT. Images: LAT Photographic

“Jim Clark, rhythmically poised…”

Perfectly balancing smaller diameter rear Dunlops on an oily Silverstone track surface, Jim Clark wins the British GP

20373.tifAfter a whirlwind start to the year Jim Clark was able to relax for a few days.   Three successive wins enabled him to enjoy the farm like never before; and, back in Balfour Place for a few days before the run up to Silverstone, Sir John Whitmore was full of Rob Slotemaker’s antics and all the recent racing news.  In between, however, there was the little matter of the Milwaukee test.  The Indy Lotus 29-Fords had basically been garaged at the Speedway since the race but, in the build-up to the Milwaukee 200 on August 18, rebuilds and further fettling took place at Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.  Jim flew to Chicago on July 10 and on July 12 completed a successful day at the one-mile Milwaukee oval, running through Dunlop tyre compounds and in the process raising the average lap speed – over one mile! – by nearly 5mph.

Dan Gurney, who also tested at Milwaukee, had meanwhile shared a Ford Galaxie with Jack Brabham in the Six-Hour Race at Brands Hatch on July 7.  A massive spin at Paddock in the rain (due to having to run Firestone wets on the front and Goodyear dries on the back) had cramped his style somewhat.  Mike Parkes had cleaned up at Silverstone in his GTO Ferrari but, worryingly, the day had been ruined by two fatal accidents – one (John Dunn) at Abbey in the Formula Junior race and another in the pit lane (Mark Fielden, whose stationary Lotus was hit by a car spinning its way out of Woodcote). The excellent Sheridan Thynne, who would later become Commerical Director of Williams F1, won his class and set fastest lap at Snetterton in a Mini and a few days later wrote poignantly to Autosport, suggesting that a Safety Committee be convened to look into all matters of motor racing safety “before they were underlined by fatal accidents”. Sadly, as ever, his words went unheeded: a third person (a pit lane scrutineer, Harald Cree) would be killed at Silverstone on British GP race day when the very talented Christabel Carlisle spun her Sprite into the Woodcote pit wall.  In another Woodcote incident, former driver and future Goldhawk Road car dealer, Cliff Davis, S2620005would exhibit immense bravery as he leapt onto the track to clear it of debris after an MGB rolled itself to destruction.  Davis was later deemed to have saved several lives. Lorenzo Bandini, who would finish an excellent fifth at Silverstone in his the old, red, Centro Sud BRM, had not only won for Ferrari in the big sports car race at Clermont-Ferrand but had also been a part of the first all-Italian win at Le Mans on June 15-16.  He co-drove a Ferrari 250P with Ludovico Scarfiotti; and, in the Formula Junior race at Clermont, Jo Schlesser had won from an amazing line-up of future stars – Mike Spence, Peter Arundell, Tim Mayer, Richard Attwood, David Hobbs, Alan Rees and Peter Revson.  John Whitmore himself had won the Mini race at Silverstone after a big dice with Paddy Hopkirk – and Tim Mayer, that FJ star and future McLaren driver – had even raced a Mini at Mallory Park, door-to-door with Paddy Hopkirk.  Whilst up in Scotland, Jim had been able to catch up with young Jackie Stewart, who had won at Charterhall in the Ecurie Ecosse Tojeiro on the same day as the French GP; and, finally, with the London premiere of Cleopatra set for July 31, Jim had thought it a good moment to ask Sally Stokes if she might be free for a night on the town…

The British Grand Prix was held on Saturday, July 20, (oh for a return to Saturday racing!) which meant that the big event of the weekend would undoubtedly be Graham Hill’s party at his Mill Hill house on the Sunday.  Prior to that, there was a little bit of business to which to attend.  Most of the F1 teams began testing on Tuesday, prior to practice on Thursday and Friday morning, and Jim was almost immediately on the pace.  I say “immediately”: a loose oil line lost him time on Thursday morning but he was quickest by a whole second from Graham Hill (spaceframe BRM) later that day and fractionally faster than his Indy team-mate, Dan Gurney (Brabham), on Friday.  Jim thus took the pole with a 1min 34.4sec lap of Silverstone, equaling Innes Ireland’s very fast practice times with the BRP Lotus 24-BRM at the International Trophy meeting on May 11.  (Years later, when I chatted to Jim Clark at some length, he re-iterated what he frequently said about the space-frame Lotus 24:  it was an easier car to drive than the 25 and in Jim’s view could just have capably have won races in both 1962 and 1963.  Indeed, Innes’ Goodwood-winning Lotus 24 was actually being advertised for sale by the time of the British GP, viewable at BRP’s headquarters in Duke’s Head Yard, Highgate High Street, London N6.  It wasn’t sold that year, as it turned out, and was raced again, in Austria and Oulton Park, by Innes. Jim Hall then drove it – for BRP – at Watkins Glen and Mexico.)

Still running a five-speed ZF gearbox (whilst team-mate Trevor Taylor persisted with the six-speed Colotti on carburettors), Jim’s trusty, fuel-injected Lotus 25/R4 had now blossomed into its ultimate, legendary 1963 form:  Colin Chapman had decided to run a wide yellow stripe down the car, front to rear, co-ordinating the yellow with the wheels and the “Team Lotus” lettering and pin-striping down the cockpit sides.  The car also ran the Zandvoort-spec aeroscreen.  Jim, as ever, wore his Dunlop blue overalls, his peakless Bell helmet, string-backed gloves, Westover boots and, for when he was out of the car, helping the mechanics or strolling over to the Esso caravan or the paddock cafe for a cuppa, his dark blue Indy Pure jacket.  The 25, meanwhile, finally wore a new set of Dunlops – around which revolved the usual number of discussion points.  On this occasion it was gear ratios:  as part of the compromise with the five-speed (but more reliable) gearbox, Jim and Colin decided to race smaller-diameter rear Dunlops.

Bruce McLaren, driving the beautiful, low-line works Cooper-Climax, stopped practice early on Friday to begin preparation for the race. 63GBMcLAREN1004cWhile John Cooper supervised the job list, Bruce, as was his style, took his new E-Type Jag down the infield runway to the apex of Club Corner, there to watch his peers.  At this point I can do no better than to record the words he later gave to Eoin Young for Bruce’s wonderful, regular, Autosport column, From the Cockpit:

“Dan Gurney had got down to a time equaling Jim’s best, and Jim was out to see if he could do better.  Graham was in danger of being knocked off the front row so he was out too, and for 15 minutes, while Jim, Graham and Dan pounded round, I was graphically reminded of the reason why people go to see motor racing.

“When you’re out in an F1 car you haven’t got time to think about the fact that you’re moving fast:  you’re concentrating on keeping the movement of the car as smooth and as graceful as possible, getting the throttle opened just that fraction quicker than last time and keeping it open all the way when you’ve got it there.

“At Silverstone you concentrate on shaving the brick walls on the inside, just an inch or two away, and you hold the car in a drift that, if it were any faster, would take you into a bank or onto the grass.  If you are any slower you know you are not going to be up with those first three or four.  You know perfectly well you are trying just as hard as you possibly can, and I know when I’ve done a few laps like this I come in and think to myself, well, if anyone tries harder than that, good luck to them.

“But you haven’t thought about the people who are watching.  At least I haven’t, anyway, but there at Club Corner the role was reversed and I was watching…

“Jim came in so fast and left his braking so late that I leapt back four feet, convinced that he wouldn’t make the corner, but when he went through, working and concentrating hard, I’m sure his front wheel just rubbed the wall.  I barely dared to watch him come out the other end.

“It struck me that Clark and Gurney’s experience at Indy this year may have had something to do with their first and second places on the grid.  Silverstone is just one fast corner after another, taken with all the power turned right on and the whole car in a pretty fair slide but, nevertheless, in the groove for that corner.  Something like Indy, I should imagine.

“I’ve seen a lot of motor racing and if I could get excited over this I can imagine how the crowd of 115,000 on Saturday must have felt.”

Saturday was one of those great sporting occasions in the United Kingdom.  One hundred and fifteen thousand people were crammed into Silverstone by 10:00am;  and by 2:00pm, by which time they’d seen Jose Canga two-wheeling a Simca up and down pit straight; Peter Arundell win the FJ race from “Sally’s MRP pair” (Richard Attwood and David Hobbs); Graham Hill demonstrating the Rover-BRM turbine Le Mans car; an aerobatic display and the traditional drivers’ briefing, everyone was ready for the big event.  Dan Gurney settled into his Brabham with Jim Clark to his right in the Lotus 25.  To Dan’s left, Graham Hill, the World Champion, lowered his goggles under the pit lane gaze of young Damon.  Making it four-up at the front, Dan’s team-mate, Jack Brabham, sat calmly in his BT7.  With but minutes to go, Jim asked for more rear tyre pressure:  Silverstone had felt decidedly oily on the formation lap.  The 25 had never been more oversteery.

1963 British Grand Prix. Ref-20420. World © LAT PhotographicJim was slow away on this occasion:  wheelspin bogged him down.  He was swarmed by the lead pack as they headed out of Copse and then onwards to Maggotts and Becketts. The two Brabham drivers – showing how relatively closely-matched the top Climax teams were in 1963 – ran one-two;  then came Bruce McLaren in the svelte Cooper, then Hill and then Jim.  They were running nose-to-tail – and sometimes closer than that.  Gurney pitched the Brabham into oversteer at Club;  Jack, helmet leaning forwards, kicked up dirt at the exit of Woodcote.

The 25 was also tail-happy;  you could say that.  Jim felt the car to be little better than it had been before the start – particularly now, on full tanks.  Around him, though, everyone else seemed to sliding around.  Maybe it was just the circuit after all…

Jim began to dive deeper into the corners, to gain a tow – and then to pull out of that tow under braking.  By lap four he was in the lead and pulling away…whilst Bruce McLaren was pulling up on the entry to Becketts Corner, the Climax engine blown in his Cooper.   There was no quick rush back to the pits for Bruce, no beat-the-traffic early departure.  Instead, as on Friday, he stayed and watched, for that is what great athletes do.

Bruce:  “Jimmy came through with his mouth open and occasionally his tongue between his teeth.  The tyres were holding a tenuous grip on the road with the body and chassis leaning and pulling at the suspension like a lizard trying to avoid being prized off a rock by a small boy.  Then Dan arrived, really throwing the Brabham into the corner, understeering and flicking the car hard until he had it almost sideways, then sliding through with the rear wheels spinning and the inside front wheel just on the ground…”Formula One World ChampionshipIt was a demonstration of four-wheel-drifts;  it was Jim Clark rhythmically poised like never before in an F1 car, the small-diameter Dunlops combining with the surface oil to produce a slide-fest of classic proportions.  There was no need for a score of passing manoeuvres to make this British GP “work” for the crowds;  there was no need for forced pit stops or for overtaking aids.  It was enough, this day at Silverstone, for the fans, and for drivers of the quality of Bruce McLaren, merely to see a genius at work.

Archive00 37Jim won the British Grand Prix by 20sec from John Surtees’ Ferrari and Graham Hill’s BRM (for both Brabham drivers also lost their engines after excellent runs).  Graham, who, like Innes Ireland, was always fast at Silverstone, ran short of fuel on the final lap and was pipped by Big John, the lone Ferrari driver, on the exit from Woodcote.  The race was also notable for Mike Hailwood’s F1 debut – he finished an excellent eighth (or, in today’s parlance, “in the points”) with his Parnell Lotus 24, and for the seventh place of his exhausted team-mate, the 19-year-old Chris Amon. Chaparral creator/driver, Jim Hall, also drove well to finish sixth with his Lotus 24.  For this was a tough, hard race – 50 miles longer than the 2013 version and two and a quarter hours in duration.  Jim Clark waved to the ecstatic crowd on his slow-down lap (no raised digits from James Clark Jnr) and, to the sound of Scotland the Brave – a nice touch by the BRDC – and to the lucid commentary of Anthony Marsh, bashfully accepted the trophies on a mobile podium that also carried the 25. Colin Chapman wore a v-necked pullover and tie;  Jim looked exalted. He had won again at home.  He had won his fourth race in a row. He had the championship in sight.

To Mill Hill, then, they repaired – and then, for a change in pace, to the following weekend’s non-championship race at Solitude, near Stuttgart.British GP

Captions, from top: Jim Clark drifts the Lotus 25 on the greasy Silverstone surface; racing driver/flag marshal, Cliff Davis, whose selfless action at Silverstone saved several lives; Bruce McLaren finds slight understeer on the Cooper at Stowe; the two Brabham drivers, Gurney and Jack, together with McLaren and Hill, crowd Jim’s 25 at the start; classic four-wheel-drift from Jim Clark. The low apex walls were always a test at 1960s Silverstone; Scotland the Brave heralds the winner of a long, fast British Grand Prix.  Two hours, 14 min of brilliant motor racing  Images:  LAT Photographic 

Working for the win

_F6E1456 In an article originally published in the Summer, 2013, edition of the BRDC Bulletin, let’s re-visit the British GP at Silverstone, 1965.  And you thought today’s drivers alone were technical… 

MARY Quant sculpted her mini-skirts in 1965; and Colin Chapman gave us the Lotus 33B-Climax.  Along with its distant cousins – the Ferraris with the blue wheels, the polychromatic green and fluorescent orange-nosed BRMs, the green-and-gold Brabhams and the Bruce McLaren Coopers – the 33B was the nicest-looking thing you’d see this side of, I don’t know, Julie Christie.  One-and-a-half litres those F1 cars may have been; eternal were their looks and lines.

At Silverstone in 1965, at the British Grand Prix, Jim Clark strolled to the grid wearing a fawn jumper over his blue Dunlop overalls.  As with all the drivers on all the cars that day, his name was big on the side of the car: “Clark”.  In the red-upholstered seat of the 33B sat his dark blue Bell Magnum with its trim, white peak. For this race he chose tan kangaroo skin “Jim Clark” driving gloves (from a range that also included red and black).  Already in 1965 he had recovered from a slipped disc and had won the South African, Dutch and French Grands Prix – plus the Indianapolis 500.  No-one in the Silverstone crowd denied they were about to see an absolute master again at work.  It wouldn’t matter if the race was another Jim Clark walkover, for that was as it should be.  The spectators accepted Clark for what he was – a quiet genius who was also a sheep farmer from the Borders.  There were no complaints back then about the “lack of overtaking” or the “one or two place-changes” that would invariably characterise the race;  in 1965, when the Beatles had yet to grow their hair long and Mini Coopers were genuinely mini – like the Mary Quant skirts – and the girls wore headscarves when they rode in open-topped MG Midgets, life was there to be touched, not consumed in ever-larger forkfuls.

For much of the distance the race indeed belonged to Clark and the Team Lotus 33B.  Graham Hill, in the BRM – absolutely a part of the BRM, with his graceful opposite-lock slides and his London Rowing Club Everoak helmet looking as though they were the two key fixtures around which Tony Rudd had designed the car – pushed Jim the hardest;_F6E1477  by three-quarter distance, however, the race seemed clearly to be another one for Clark.  By lap 64, with 16 to run, Hill was some 35 seconds away in second place.

Then Jim’s Climax V8 began to lose oil pressure – first at Stowe, momentarily, and then at Club and Woodcote.  On the straights the needle would flicker back to centre.  With every passing lap, though, the plunges grew ever-worse;  a blow-up – a rare blow-up in this final year for Coventry Climax in Formula One – seemed inevitable.  What to do?  What to do?

Jim had no help from the pit wall.  With no radio communication, Colin Chapman was oblivious to the problem.   They could hear reports of what seemed to be a mis-fire but on the pit straight the Climax engine sounded strong. Jim needed to think it out for himself – think it out with all his brainpower and with the experience of those days as a part-time mechanic in the Jock McBain garage, and the time spent in many a track- and roadside moment, trying to mend a broken Lotus.  Even in 1965 Jim could often be seen helping with wheel changes or plug checks or obscure mis-fire diagnoses at major races throughout the world.

And so he decided on a cure: he decided to kill the engine through all the fast corners, thus minimising the piston or main bearing damage when the surge was at its greatest and the lubricant at its thinnest._F6E1453

He would think it through and then he would do it:  he would approach Stowe in top, brake and change down to fourth – and then find neutral at probably 140 mph before switching off the engine.  He would have no throttle to help him balance a slide; he would not be able to apply any power until the 33B was straight.  Instead, Jim realized that he was going to have to attempt an even earlier-than-normal approach to the corner – an approach based around exactly the right moment and speed at which to rotate the car and then, when it was more or less straight, to declutch it back into life.  All this without losing too much time to Graham Hill.  Prior to the problem, Jim had been lapping comfortably in the mid-1min 33s/34s.  Now, in switch-off mode, his lap times were up in the 1min 35/36s.

Stowe, Club, Woodcote…Jim focussed his de-clutching remedy on these three (long, fast) corners.  At Copse and at Becketts he kept the engine running but again tried extending the straights as much as possible.  This was in any event his style, his approach to the art of driving.  Only the year before, when he had been giving Colin Chapman a ride around Silverstone in a Cortina-Lotus, his boss had been surprised by what he perceived to be Jim’s “very early” approach to the corners.  Jim had replied that this was the way he always drove, regardless of whether he was in the F1 car, the Lotus 30, the Cortina or the F3 Lotus 35.

Now, in these excruciatingly long and dramatic closing minutes, he was turning in to all the corners even earlier.  He could hear the Dunlop tyres scrubbing off speed in the bland silence of the cut engine, mid-Stowe – but only in the distance, as if he was vaguely aware of aircraft flying overhead.  His mind, his concentration, was a tunnel.  Feel the moment.  Apply the steering lock…now…engage third…de-clutch…now.

1965 British Grand Prix.Dick Scammell’s pit signals narrated a story he didn’t want to read.  Once before  – at the ’62 International Trophy – Graham had passed him on the line at Silverstone.  Literally on the line.  (Bruce McLaren had also pipped him the same way in a Mini race – but that was another story.) Today it was different. Today it was Jim Clark versus the failing engine.  It was the Lotus 33B, with all its grip and balance and driveability, suddenly racing within itself.  And he was the man in the middle.

Three laps to go. Two. He had consistently managed to keep his lap times about two and a half seconds adrift of par.  Once or twice the engine had sputtered before screaming back to life.  He could see Graham in his mirrors as he reached top gear on Hangar Straight.  Concentrate.  One more time around Stowe.  Once more around Club. The crowd, in his peripheral vision, was a waving sea of arms.  Graham was with him now, catching him assuredly.  Jim re-lit the Climax one more time.  Third.  Fourth.  Abbey Curve.  Fifth.  Down to Woodcote.  Fourth.  Extend the straight.  Delay the lateral load.  Power on.

Chequered Flag.  Last lap: 1min 36.8sec.  Enough to win by the margin of 3.2 sec.

Afterwards, in the style of the day, the newspapers would report that “Jim Clark was forced to nurse his engine in the closing laps due to a mechancial problem”, with emphasis on Graham’s fighting finish. Nothing more. Easy reading. Something about which to talk – a little.  No-one suggested – as I do now – that not a single other driver in the history of our sport, with the possible exception of Stirling Moss – could have won that race, that day, in the way that Jim Clark won at Silverstone – PDW1965 British Grand Prix.

Captions, from top: Jim’s post-race smile says it all.  This was a win.  Note Les Leston on Jim’s immediate right.  The following year, Jim would switch to Leston’s helmets and Nomex overalls; Graham Hill perfectly complements his BRM; Jim balances the car sans power, mid-corner; Jim accelerates past the pits in the 33B; a group that includes Jim’s girl-friend, Sally Stokes, Bob Dance, Dick Scammell, Jim Endruweit, Leo Wybrott, Mike Spence and Colin Chapman, celebrates on the victory lap. Images: LAT Photographic  

The Battle of Reims

20172.tifJim Clark makes it three-in-a-row

The drive down to Reims was the usual cavalcade.  They left Zandvoort, after a celebratory dinner/cabaret at the Bouwes Hotel, early on Monday morning.  First practice for the French GP would commence on Wednesday afternoon (or just one clear working day from the Dutch GP.  As with Monaco now, there was a “free” day within the French GP schedule back then.  At Reims, this was on the Saturday, following three successive afternoons of official practice.  No thought, apparently, was given to the ‘double-header’ pressures facing the mechanics.)  At some point in the road trip Ian Scott-Watson joined Jim and Colin in their rental car and allowed Trevor Taylor behind the wheel of his yellow Elan.   Ian would thereafter spend much time telling the French police that, no, it wasn’t he who had been driving the English sports car at the time in question and that his friend, the culprit, had since flown to Canada…or anywhere…

This wasn’t the usual sun-baked French Grand Prix.  Showers muddied the paddock on Thursday, leaving the Wednesday and Friday sessions for grid-shaping;  Taylor, indeed, set his fastest lap on that Wednesday – and on Thursday, in the rain, neither Lotus driver completed a lap.  (One significant casualty that day was Ludovico Scarfiotti, who crashed heavily in the works Ferrari.  He was for the most part uninjured but shortly afterwards would announce his retirement from racing.  Rescinding this a few months later, he went on to win the 1966 Italian GP for Ferrari at Monza.  He would sadly lose his life in 1968, in a hill-climbing accident.  He was a good friend of Jim’s.)

Wet or dry, flying stones were always an issue at Reims, inducing Lotus to revert to standard windscreens for this race.  With the aeroscreen, it was thought, there was always a risk of debris finding its way into the “jet”.  Slipstreaming on the long, ultra-fast (160mph) French public roads could gain you seconds per lap;  the trick in practice, if you were searching for the pole, was to keep your mirrors free.  Despite a considerable straight-line speed deficiency to the BRMs (including Innes Ireland’s BRP-BRM) and also to the Ferraris, Jim took the pole – and the local champagne that came with it.   In the 25, running the same set of Dunlop R6s he had raced at Monaco, Spa and Zandvoort, Jim found a sweetness in the balance on high-speed corners that he had not felt before – or would feel again in 1963.  “I could set the car up in a whacking great drift around the back, keep my foot it it and achieve cornering speeds that I wouldn’t have thought possible,” he would say later.  Very few photographers – if any – seemed to venture out to these corners in those days (they focussed on the “long” shots on the pit straight and the 90 deg right hander leading on to it) so we are left only to imagine what Jim describes as that “whacking great drift”.  To my mind, given the understeer with which he lived at the International Trophy race at May, the 25 at Reims was now far more neutral – neutral leading to oversteer.  I think it’s also probably significant that by this race Team Lotus seemed to have found some sort of fix for their gearbox drams.  Jim, at last, was able to drive the 25 with both hands on his red leather-rimmed wheel.1963 French Grand Prix. Ref-20133. World © LAT Photographic

Saturday was support-race day, which meant big sports cars and Formula Junior.  Jim was at the track, of course, primarily supporting the Normand Lotus 23Bs (Mike Beckwith and Tony Hegbourne) and Peter Arundell in the FJ race.  There had even been talk of Peter racing the third (spare) 25 in the Grand Prix but ultimately it was felt (when balancing prize money against running expenses!) that Peter should race the works (“mini-25”) 27 FJ.  Denny Hulme again won the FJ battle in the works Brabham, pulling away definitively from the second-place slipstreaming group and finally finishing ahead of Peter, Richard Attwood (MRP Lola), fellow Lotus drivers, Mike Spence and John Fenning, and David Hobbs (MRP Lola).  (As the 50th anniversary of the formation of Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd approaches, it’s also worth noting that the talented American, Tim Mayer, finished eighth in this Reims FJ race in one of Ken Tyrrell’s Cooper-BMWs.  Tim and his brother, Teddy, would in the months that follow become an integral part of the new McLaren team.)

Tall and talented Mike Parkes should have won the sports car event with his formidable 4-litre Ferrari but a clutch problem early in the one-hour event effectively handed victory to Carlo Abate (also of powerboat fame) and his 3-litre Ferrari.  Lucien Bianchi (great uncle of Jules) placed third behind Dick Protheroe – and the tough Australian, Paul Hawkins, finished fifth overall with his Ian Walker Lotus 23.  Mike Beckwith had been right up there in third place in the early phase, when Jo Schlesser was leading with his 4-litre Aston, but he fell back a little after a slight “off”.  The small-car class was won by Jose Rosinski, who would go on to become one of the greatest of all French motor racing journalists.

On Sunday – another overcast day – Jim prepared for a torrid French GP as a fighter prepares for a bout, applying white masking tape across his face for extra protection.  Even in the dry, this race would run for well over two hours.

The start, as they say, was the usual shambles.  A fuel vapour lock killed the engine in Graham Hill’s BRM.  Push-starts were forbidden by the regulations…but “Toto Roche”, the autocratic leader of French motor sport and official starter, instructed the BRM mechanics to push Hill’s car nonetheless.  The V8 now revving purely, Roche then quickly stepped away and dropped the flag – except that he dropped a red flag rather than the French national tricolor.   No-one was exactly sure what to do – but they went for it nonetheless.

Jim Clark accelerated hard through the gears to 9,600 (with a max set at 9,800) and then focused on driving the perfect lap:  “Before the race,” he would say later, “I had said to Colin that if I could make the fast corners in front I felt I could open a gap and break the tow.  If I wasn’t in front we agreed that it would be better if I just sat back for a while and let them get on with it…”

Jim was in the lead by the time he reached the first, quick right-hander.  And the second.  And the third.  Full tanks or not, he four-wheel-drifted the 25 with fluid inputs and pin-sharp judgement.  By the time he reached Muizon, the right-hand hairpin, he had free air behind him.  He could forget about his mirrors.ACT

Jim’s standing lap was completed in 2min 31.0sec;  his Indy team-mate and friend, Dan Gurney, lay second a full 2.7sec behind.  Richie Ginther, powered by probably the best engine on the circuit that day, catapulted his BRM up to second place on lap two.  Even so, Jim was leading by nearly four seconds as he passed the Team Lotus signalling board, the 25 sitting on 9,600rpm.

And so it went on.  John Surtees (Ferrari), Dan and Jack (working together in the Brabhams), Bruce McLaren (Cooper), Trevor and Graham Hill scrapped over second place, swapping track space either in top gear, in the tow – or under braking.  At the front, Jim continued to pull away.   By lap 12 of the 53-lap race, he was 19 seconds ahead of Brabham.

Then, for Jim, it all seemed to go wrong.  His Climax engine began to mis-fire at 9,600rpm.  Jim immediately throttled back to 8,000 rpm, where he found a “sweet spot” around which the engine seemed to be half-ok.   He then concentrated even harder on those fast corners but was forced to sit back helplessly on the straights, waiting for the engine to blow – and/or for the next round of bad news on the pit board, for  Brabham was now catching him.  All around the circuit, what’s more, Jim could see parked cars.  Reims was forever tough on all mechanical components – so why was this circuit, on this day, going to be any different for him?

Because on this day – as it had been all week – it would rain.  Jim felt the grease on the track even before his goggles went smeary, for the grooves of the R6s were now worn virtually to slicks.  He was dancing on ice – focussing once again on those fast, very drifty corners where still the 25 felt perfect.  His lap times climbed by ten, 15 seconds;  Graham Hill’s ballooned by 20 seconds.  Maximum revs became irrelevant;  it was all about delicacy.

And so, maintaining that lead, Jim Clark crossed the line, acknowledging Toto Roche’s chequered flag with a raised left arm.  In the grandstands, umbrellas dominated the visage.  On the rev-counter of Jim’s 25, the tell-tale needle sat resolutely at 9,600rpm.  On the work bench later, back in Coventry, Jim’s engine was found to have two broken valve springs.  Trevor (who for this high-speed race, like Jim, raced without a peak on his helmet) might well have finished second had the crown-wheel-and-pinion not failed.  As it was, Graham Hill’s second place was subsequently disallowed due to that push start (subsequently, as in “by the time they got to Monza”.)  Tony Maggs therefore finished an excellent second for Cooper, catching and passing Hill in the closing stages when the monocoque BRM ran into both clutch and brake issues.  Jack took Graham’s third place, with Dan finishing fourth.

Post-race, there was more pandemonium:  a policeman suffered an epileptic fit as he was attempted to clear the crowds from the pit area.  Through the melee, though, Jim and Colin found their way opposite to “the press box”, where they chatted to journalists like Gregor Grant (Autosport), Philip Turner (Motor), Peter Garnier (Autocar) and several of the Fleet Street types.

Thus it was done.  A new era had begun.  Jim Clark and Team Lotus had won three in a row – Spa, Zandvoort and Reims – and had changed the face of Formula One.  The driver lay low in his monocoque car.  The speed, and the suppleness of that speed, was extraordinary.

Next:  the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.FH000006

Captions from top: face taped to provide at least some protection from flying stones, Jim Clark readies for battle at Reims;  Reims practice shot of Jim in the aeroscreened 25; for the race, the conventional screen was used.  This was also the last race for a 25 sans yellow stripe; Jim and his friend, Ludovico Scarfiotti, photographed at the Rockingham NASCAR race in 1967  Images: LAT Photographic; Peter Nygaard Collection; Peter Windsor Collection

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