Sunday, February 10, 1963
The Australian Grand Prix at Warwick Farm, nr Sydney, Australia…
We drove to The Farm in our Morris Cowley, me in shorts, long socks and short-sleeved shirt, my Dad in his point-to-point attire, complete with cloth cap and shooting stick. White-coated marshals directed us to our car park, nodding approvingly at our “Reserved” label and at the little cardboard grandstand tickets that hung from strings tied through our buttonholes.
I jumped from the car, taking in the smell of crushed grass, barbeque and beer. I sprinted over to a programme seller.
“One please. How much?”
“Two and six.”
“Dad? Do you have two and six?”
The programme was printed on glossy, white paper. I was there. It was happening. It was the Australian Grand Prix. Warwick Farm. Sunday, February 10, 1963.
I scanned the entries:
Car No 1: RRC Walker Racing (Dvr Graham Hill) – Ferguson
Car No 2: Bowmaker Racing Team (Dvr John Surtees) – Lola
Car No 3: Bowmaker Racing Team (Dvr Tony Maggs) – Lola
Car No 4: Ecurie Vitesse (Dvr Jack Brabham) – Brabham
Car No 5: Scuderia Veloce (Dvr David McKay) – Brabham
Car No 6: BS Stillwell (Dvr Bib Stillwell) – Brabham
Car No 8: Ecurie Australie (Dvr Lex Davison) – Cooper
Car No 10: Bruce McLaren (Dvr Bruce McLaren) – Cooper
Car No 11: Alec Mildren Pty Ltd (Dvr Frank Gardner) – Cooper
Car No 12: Bowmaker Racing Team (Dvr Jim Palmer) – Cooper
Car No 14: Scuderia Veloce (Dvr Chris Amon) – Cooper
Car No 15: J Youl (Dvr John Youl) – Cooper
Car No 16: Independent Motors (Dvr Tony Shelly) – Lotus
Car No 17: Total Racing Team (Frank Matich) – Elfin
…and so on. I knew nothing about practice days back then, nothing about how the grid had been defined. From our seats, though, high up in the grandstands, a good 500 yards from the circuit, Dad’s old binoculars (actually my grandfather’s and therefore the pair that had seen service in Burma) allowed me to watch the new World Champion, Graham Hill, climb from his dark blue Ferguson even as the starting grid began to take shape. I was shocked by the dark patch of sweat that ran from top to bottom of his light-blue one-piece overalls. I was in the shade, munching my Mum’s sandwiches, dipping into our Esky for a quick gulp of iced water; the drivers were out there, under a torrid Sydney Sun, sweating and drinking water even as they sheltered beneath Les Leston umbrellas.
And there – on the left! – there is John Surtees, the driver on pole position. He seems to be putting ice or something inside his helmet. And next to him is Bruce McLaren! They appear to be laughing about something. They’re chatting and joking and pointing to something down at the other end of the grid. In car number 5, David McKay, our local hero, sits quietly in his Brabham. Amazingly, he is starting third, alongside Surtees and McLaren. And what’s that little red car – number 17? Ah yes. That’s another local. Frank Matich.
“It says here in the paper,” interjects my Dad, “that Matich was fast enough in practice to start fourth but will be moved further down the grid because he’s only driving a 1.5 litre car. Sounds as though he did a jolly good job.”
F. Matich. Total Team. I would remember the names.
It was a long race – 100 miles of non-stop heat, noise and action. The “something at the back of the grid” turned out to be Jack Brabham, starting his new turquoise-coloured car in amongst the also-rans after numerous problems in practice. It was Jack, though, who drove emphatically through the field, winning the AGP for the Dowidat Spanner Trophy. Surtees finished second after a late-race spin, ahead of Bruce, the excellent David McKay, the polished Bib Stillwell and the press-on Graham Hill in the Ferguson. I couldn’t undertstand, back then, why Graham’s car looked so different from the low-line Lolas, Coopers and Brabhams. I didn’t appreciate four-wheel-drive back then, even if front-engined cars seemed to fill most of the motor racing books I’d been lucky enough to read.
Afterwards, when the packed race-day schedule was over and the shadows were longer, we walked across the track to the paddock area. My exhilaration left me breathless. “There’s David McKay!” “And look Dad! Over there! There’s Bruce McLaren!”
“Be quick now, Pete. We must get home. Mum’ll be waiting for us.”
“Can’t I get an autograph? Do you think they’ll mind?”
“Of course, but remember to be polite. Don’t interrupt and remember to call him ‘Mr McLaren’.”
I was but a nine-year-old. The Beatles had yet to enter my field of perception, as had Jim Clark. I knew nothing of the F1 World Championship that would follow this short series of Australasian races; I read only the monthly Australian motoring magazines, for at Swains or at Angus and Robertson’s there was little else to study.
I had discovered, though, a world that stretched my imagination to new heights, to new limits. That world seemed untouchable – but somehow I had to follow it. From Sunday, February 10, 1963 onwards, school-bound though I was, I could think of little else.
Peter: When you get ’round to writing your memoirs, “Racing For Life” would be an apt title. The only thing I wish for is that you would post daily reports through the season!
Thanks very much – I’ll definitely bookmark that title! Once the new show is up and running we’ll be able to look at all aspects of F1 on a weekly basis. Daily? Sounds as though we should start a radio station. Now that would be fun….:)
Peter I must admit that this is one of the best reads I´ve had in a VERY LONG time. Thanks for sharing this IMPORTANT moment of your life, using a language that make us feel as we was with you that day! Cheers & bring on The Flying Lap.;)
Pingback: This is a GREAT story by the also GREAT journalist Peter Windsor from one of his early encounters with F1! | F1 SuperSwede
Brings back great memories. As the recently minted but still pretty naïve Autosport correspondent, I had the luck to be in the pits and then on the top of the timing box juggling a lap chart, note book and two stopwatches. Met assorted heroes of mine as well – Stirling was there, sadly no longer racing. For me then he was the greatest. I must go dig into those boxes in the garage and find my program, notes and photos.
A radio station would be fantastic. Would that be doable as a complement to the show!? You along with Scarbs and maybe SomersF1 would be a great radio team. 🙂
This is the very same Peter Bakalor who went on to become one of my journalistic idols. Peter – your attention to detail was supreme. Wish I’d known you back in ’63. Can you imagine a newly-crowned World Champion today agreeing to drive a car as – let’s say – different as the Ferguson? I think this is what I miss sometimes today – seeing the big names out of context, unafraid of being beaten by locals or in-class experts, racing, just for the sake of it.
Ha! Let’s get it going….
Thanks – too kind. I find it amazing, actually, that the calendar for 2013 is identical to that of 1963. Makes re-living the year even more meaningful.
So true! 1963 was a bit before I was born, I didn’t see the light of the sun until 1971. But I can’t wait for the first race. Until then I’m fully enjoying the preseason tests.
Cheers and roll out The Flying Lap!;-)
Reblogged this on The F1 Poet – Ernie Black and commented:
Great Motorsport memories, we all have ours, here is a brilliant account from Peter Windsor.
Thanks for the compliment – coming from you that’s very nice. Though I was more of a facts and info writer rather than the great story teller that you are. I grew up worshipping Jenks, and it seemed as though knowing chassis serial numbers and whether engines had been changed and all that sort of thing was super important. Was to me at the time I guess.
I too lament the loss of the days when the key drivers would leap from saloon to sports car to single-seater all on the same day. I seem to remember days when one of the Geoghegans (or the pair of them anyway) would win most of the races on the program. Good fun.
Pingback: Sunday, February 10, 1963 « peterwindsor.com » Speedys
Would be nice to have that article on Senna’s 1st win in Estoril posted here too, since the old website is no longer online – was gonna reread it the other day only to have a slight shocker, I miss that post!
Wonderful memories, thanks for jolting mine.
I was likely there, sitting in the same Horse Racing Stand, being a few years older than you, until I was old enough to have a car / Driver’s Licence, the old ‘Red Rattler’ train was my mode of transport, remember it used to stop at the rear of the Grand Stands. A thirteen year old catching a couple of trains from Epping to Warwick Farm and back, would parents be so trusting today?
Attending WF from this time was the lead up to me joining the AARC and all that brought during the mid / late 1960’s.
I think I have some old programmes at home from those glory WF days, must look them up and scan / forward to you.
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Hi Denys – yes, I remember the old train (and train lines!). Wonderful stuff. Would love to see those old programmes. I worked at the AARC during my school holidays from about 1965-68 and then joined the club full-time in 1969. As it happens, I’m just writing a piece on Geoff Sykes for the Australian Dictionary of Biographies.
Hi Peter – Always playing catch up here in California!! I so enjoyed this particular posting. I really feel I have missed out on so much! Caught my first live race in Austin and am planning on returning this year.
It is also so marvelous to have you back writing for F1 Racing! Great articles on Lewis and Dan Gurney, two of my faves. Keep it coming!
Thanks Deborah. Lots of motor racing friends in Ca – great part of the world. Latest edition of F1 Racing on sale in the UK today – I hope you have it by April/May? 🙂
Hi Peter – Is isn’t that bad of a turnaround. I will probably have it by the middle of March, if I am lucky and the weather cooperates. (Never did get December and had to have it sent from GB). I take you all to lunch at least once a week to get my dose of racing reading.