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Archive for the tag “Lotus”

To Pau, for the first 1-litre F2 race…

Jim Clark’s 1964 season engendered a wide variety of nice – and sometimes not-so-nice – racing cars. The F2 Lotus 32 fell firmly in the former category. Jim’s first race with it was in the opening round of the French F2 series – itself the first race for the new F2 – around the familiar streets of Pau. Enter Ron Harris Team Lotus:  in this video we’ve tried to uncover a little more about the former motor-cyclist-cum-film distributor-cum Team Lotus entrant. We also chat with with the very rapid John Fenning, himself a Ron Harris Team Lotus driver, and for the bulk of 1964 a front-running F3 star.

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Jim and the Ron Harris Lotus 32-Cosworth were the class of the Pau, 1964, weekend

A record-breaking (seventh) win

ACBCIt seems strange now but in 1963 it was part of motor racing tradition: Christmas and New Year meant South African sunshine. Read more…

More hectic than racing

Continuing our year-long diary of Jim Clark’s epic 1963 season. When we last reported, Jim had flown straight to Indianapolis from Mexico in order to test the new four-cam Ford V8 Lotus 29B. Read more…

“I was dreaming one day….”

Emerson Fittipaldi stepped onto the F1 throne near the end of the reign of Jackie Stewart. And, for a while out there, he was every bit the JYS. Polished and classy at the wheel of Lotus 72s and McLaren M23s, Emerson also emerged as a major crusader for circuit and car safety. Many drivers  spoke the right words in Barcelona,1975, when the guardrails provided only casual protection…but it was Emerson (plus his brother, Wilson, and Arturo Merzario) who took the first flights home in protest. It was only when Emerson arrived at Geneva airport on Sunday afternoon that he heard that five bystanders had lost their lives in Rolf Stommelen’s horrendous accident. Emerson’s legacy therefore says it all:  Carlos Pace, Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna, Rubens Barrichello, Felipe Massa…plus 24 others. The Brazilian Grand Prix has been a firm fixture on the F1 calendar since the day Emerson almost-won that non-championship race at Interlagos, 1972. David Phipps’ race report in Autosport the following Thursday said it all:  “It was as if Pele had missed an open goal,” wrote David of the last-lap drama that robbed Emerson in front of his home crowd.  He would make up for that disappointment by going on to win three Grands Prix in his native country – two at Interlagos and one (non-championship) in Brazilia. On a frantic Thursday in Sao Paulo prior to this year’s edition, I spoke to Emerson in his downtown office. As is always the way with Emerson, his eyes did most of the talking. Call it infectious enthusiasm for a sport he has always loved.

Racing in America

Last week being  US GP week – one of the biggest events on the F1 calendar, with a history going back to Sebring, 1959 – we ran a decidedly American-themed edition of The Racer’s Edge.  It begins in the UK with Jim Clark’s 1966 US GP-winning Lotus 43-BRM and it continues on to Austin Texas, where we looked at some of the elements of the latest US GP venue, at the positioning of F1 in the USA – and where we caught up with a Hollywood actor with more than a passing interest in F1.  Here are all four segments.  The show begins up near Liverpool, not far from Aintree, as it happens.

 

The Elan

When I was a kid in Sydney, Australia, there were, for brief periods of time, very few grey areas.  You were either a “widgie” or a “bodgie” – although thankfully I was well into my early teens when that choice became null and void. You either played football (rugby union) or else you played soccer and were forever cast as a reject. You were either a “surfie” or a “bikie” – no explanation needed there – and, yes, you liked either Holdens or Fords (although the Chrysler Valiant was in there for a while, causing confusion).  Then the Jaguar E-type arrived and a whole new battle began. You could pick your opponent without fear of retribution. MGB? TR4? Sprite? Mini Cooper S? Healey 3000?  Many of my mates, believe it or not, preferred any of these five to the super-snooty E-type, and many a beach barbie was spent with detailed analysis of how the mighty E-type would be slain by any of the smaller, more nimble, opposition. Me? I became an avowed Lotus Elan man overnight. For one thing, Jim Clark drove one.  For another…I loved them. (I loved Honda S600s and S800s when they came out, too, plus Fiat 124 Coupes, but they comprise another story). I was pretty much alone amongst my mates, although Freddy Gibson and Niel Allen very quickly supported my claims with some brilliant drives at circuits like Warwick Farm and Catalina, where their lightweight Elans were every bit a match for Bob Jane’s lightweight E-type.

Anyway, in early 1967 I was lucky enough to join my parents on a three-month trip to Europe (“it will be good for his education,” my Mum said to my unamused Headmaster).  Their itinerary included things like the Parthenon in Athens, the Louvre in Paris and Westminster Cathedral.  Mine included Edington Mains farm in Scotland, Brands Hatch, Snetterton, Motor Books and Accessories in St Martin’s Lane, Charing Cross Road (sadly closed as recently as this month)…and the Lotus factory.  I mentioned all this, on a sunny Australian Sunday in late February, to our local vicar in Manly, the Rev Bryan King.

“We’re going to the Lotus factory,” I said, after a particularly uplifting Matins.  “Ah. In that case,” replied the Rev, “you’ll be wanting to meet my brother.  He works there.”

It was one of those moments with which you will always live.  I can still see the glint in his eye, the smile on his face as he saw my legs tremble in shock and surprise.

Indeed Warren King worked there. He welcomed us.  The Rev’s brother was one of the key accountants at Lotus, working under Fred Bushell. Even then, before Bill Gates, the world was very small.

So here’s a picture of my Mum talking to Warren outside the still very new Lotus factory in Norfolk in March, 1967. That’s a very early, Renault-engined Lotus Europa in the foreground – I always thought it would be mine, given its registration – and below that is a shot I took of what for me just about constituted my idea of heaven – a line-up of yet-to-be-finished Elans.  They were in S3 form then (soon to be S4) and had come a long way from the 1962 prototypes and then the big-production S2s of 1963-64.  I also took (with my new Fujica Half-frame) a shot of the new building and of my Mum standing by the new headquarters.  I was very impressed, of course, that Colin Chapman had built it in green and yellow. It made me treasure even more the green pullover with the yellow stripe down the middle that my Mum had knitted for me the previous winter. I never did get to buy a Europa – although I still might, because the attraction remains strong – but I did finally buy my Elan.  It was 1974, shortly after Nigel Roebuck so kindly hired me to write for Competition Car magazine in England.  I found it in the Classic Car classifieds and paid £750 for it. It was only when I opened the log book that I discovered that its first owner had been Jim Clark’s manager and mentor, Ian Scott-Watson – and that Jim had driven the car many times.  I’m chatting here in my Williams days to another great Jim Clark man from the Borders, Bernard Buss.

So here’s to the Elan. Still beautiful after all these years. And here’s to St Matthew’s, Manly. Thanks for making it happen.8-24-2010 17-50-32_16208-27-2010_48-6-2010 18-57-52_00608-27-2010_365 Elan S3

Postscript

Yes, I did persuade my Mum and Dad to drive all the way to the Borders.  Here’s one of the highland cattle I saw very near Edington Mains; below that is the view of the Clark farmhouse as we drove past; and finally I’m saying good-bye to God’s Own Country, with a tear in my eye, peering out the back of our rented Ford Cortina at the famous red barns.  Note our “Australian Visitors” roundel – UK drivers beware! – and my Clark-esque “Esso put’s a tiger in your tank” sticker8-24-2010 19-7-12_25408-26-2010_458-24-2010 18-17-47_191

 

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