It wasn’t quite as we’ve known it…but it was glorious nonetheless. Here are some of my favourite cars and people, as seen on a golden Friday in Autumn.
Nigel Roebuck, F1’s premiere journalist/ historian, became a Moss fan from the moment he saw him race at Oulton Park in the early 1950s. In this new four-part video series he recounts personal memories of Stirl – the driver he grew to know well and whom he considers to be the best that ever lived.
I’ve known Jonathan Williams for most of his life; indeed, here’s a pic I took of him with his Dad, sister and Ralt-Honda’s Dr Jonathan Palmer at the 1983 Thruxton Easter Monday F2 meeting. (What happened to THAT race? We used to LOVE Easter Monday Thruxton. What an atmosphere!) Jonny has always been, and is today, a rock-solid racer – by which I mean that he’s never been interested in the glamour or the glitz or the money or the status but instead has loved the sport and its people and its heritage with a genuine passion. That wonderful trait may have cost him a little in terms of family politics but for my money he is an expert who can talk motor racing 24/7 if he feels so inclined. Like his Dad, he’s a stickler for detail; like his Mum, he genuinely cares about people and about what is right. And, like all true racers, he isn’t swayed by #TRENDS or #TODAY’S STARS. He makes up his own mind; he forms his opinions on what he sees and what he knows – not on what social media tells him.
Thus his respect for Jacques Villeneuve and Pastor Maldonado; thus his friendship with Juan Pablo Montoya. Thus his perception of young driving talent and team priorities when he was working closely with iSport and Supernova. So what if he flies in the face of popular opinion? Jonny has his own mind – and he uses it well.
So we were chatting the other day, as we do, and we began to talk about some of the best of Williams days. I was stunned by Jonny’s eloquence and historical recollection. I was stunned by the word-pictures he was quickly able to draft.
I decided that we should schedule another chat about the same subject – and that I should film it for posterity. Not for instant clickbait but for the people out there who love racing and racing drivers and who live in awe of what is achievable.
A big thankyou to AP Archive for their wonderful footage from Watkins Glen, 1980, and to our friends Peder Coerts and Filmcollectief for the stunning Zandvoort, 1979, paddock video shots. Very little of this footage has been seen before – whichmakes me wonder how much more 8mm there might be out there, shot by enthusiasts at the time? If you have anything pre-1981, please let us know in the comments section below.
I’d also like to thank the outstanding Peter Nygaard (right), who took many of the photographs. I counsel you to visit his Grand Prix Photo website on the GP Photo widget here and to peruse his stunning body of work. I should add that Peter is also a major Jim Clark fan 🙂 The shot on the GP Photo widget, incidentally, is from Monza, 1963, and I think that’s Geki Russo in the background. Geki, sadly, would be one of the three drivers to lose his life at Caserta in that catastrophic F3 race in 1967. And that’s the very elegant Geoffrey Charles of The Times next to Jim in the sea-island cotton long-sleeved polo shirt. Note, too, how nicely-ironed are Jim’s blue Dunlop overalls.
Anyway, moving swiftly back to today, here is the WilliamsF1 list, from ten down to one, of the races selected by Jonny:
It’s always a pleasure to chat to Eddie Jordan, partly because he always makes me laugh, partly because he’s been there, done that and partly because he’s a Top Man (in the Frank Williams sense of the words). So I tracked him down during this lockdown on his yacht in the South of France. Everything was rushed, of course – it always is with Eddie – but we got there in the end. Enjoy.
Amidst all the turmoil of recent days it was stunning to watch the launch of the SpaceX Falcon9 mission. There was nothing particularly ground-breaking about it within the context of, say, Mercury, Gemini or Apollo….or was there? As a Tintin fan, I’ve always hankered after rockets that land vertically, thrusters down, but as a realist I just assumed that that would never happen.
Enter Stage 1, Falcon 9. Within minutes of the SpaceX launch, there it was, perfectly settling back onto its droneship as per the predictions of Prof. Calculus! And, if that wasn’t ‘t enough, look at which company played an integral part in the design and construction of that landing gear: Dan Gurney’s All American Racers (AAR)! This association has been a loosely-guarded NASA secret in recent years but now, I think, is the time to raise a glass to Dan, to his son Justin, who now runs AAR, and to everything for which Dan’s heritage now stands. As much as we might revere the applied technology of all the great F1 teams, what AAR have done with SpaceX literally places them in another world. And, for that, everyone in motor sport should be delighted. AAR might not build race cars any more – but they wouldn’t be the company they are if Dan Gurney hadn’t been the enquiring, imaginative, hard-working and very fast racing driver that he was. The Eagle has landed, I guess you could say….
That’s what this video is all about – that and Doug Hurley, one of the current SpaceX astronauts. Doug was at the USGP last year and loved every minute of it. He’s a Top aerospace/flying guy in the mould of a lot of other F1-loving NASA guys, including Dave Scott and Pete Conrad. So here’s to them all – to Dan and his family, to Doug and to the the team at AAR. Brilliant stuff.
Oliver ‘Oli’ Oakes today owns and runs one of the most successful race teams in Europe – and must be on any logical short-list of F1 team owners of the future. More than that, though, Oli is a former World Kart Champion and Red Bull Junior F3 driver, which means that there are not many drivers of this generation that he doesn’t know, or hasn’t raced against. He loves motor racing and winning and thinking ahead in the classic way of successful entrepreneurs – but, unusually, he’s also passionate about rewarding unsung but genuinely talented drivers. Hiring Luca Ghiotto to head-up Hitech’s new F2 team this year is a classic example of this; running Harrison Scott in a couple of Asian F3 races is another.
And so it’s always a pleasure – a laugh – to hang out with Oli, particularly if there’s an F1 practice session taking place on screen in the background and he is able to interrupt the flow of conversation with sudden comments like, “Gasly’s P3! This is big!” or “I know that engineer on screen now; he used to race Cadet Karts the year after me…”
Please enjoy, then, these three videos I shot recently with Oli. Chatting to him on-line via Skype isn’t quite the same as sitting with him in the F3/F2 hospitality area, but I hope they capture a little bit of the flavour of how it can be.