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Archive for the month “September, 2013”

Victory at Monza

21343.tifThey drove, despite their misgivings, on the Friday. The steep Monza banking had long since established itself as the fastest race track in the world – some 30 mph faster even than Indianapolis. The British teams, wary of the damage caused by the bumps, had boycotted the Italian GP in 1960.  Phil Hill had that day won for Ferrari, thus becoming the last driver ever to secure a World Championship victory in a front-engined Grand Prix car.  Seat belts had appeared for the first time in Europe at the Races of Two Worlds in 1957-58 but not for the usual reasons – not because the drivers believed in not being thrown from their cars in the case of accident.  They were worn just to keep the drivers in the cars while they were running…  (That combined Indy-F1 race, incidentally, was run in heat form for the simple reason that the teams needed time to rebuild their cars after each segment.  Had the race been run non-stop it is unlikely there would have been any finishers.)  Ferrari’s Luigi Musso took the pole for the 1958 race at an average speed of nearly 170mph (281kph).1963 Italy .tif

No surprise, then, that Jack Brabham led the tentative, pre-Italian GP boycott in 1963.  The banking had not been used in 1962, so why revert to it now?  When push came to shove, however, Black Jack and Dan were out there on Friday morning, nosing around.

Jim Clark and Colin Chapman, already wary of Italian politics (following the Von Trips accident of 1961) stayed relatively neutral.  Jim had a World Championship to clinch.  Ferrari had new cars and engines to beat.  They settled into the Hotel de la Ville, opposite Monza’s Villa Real, with some trepidation.  Monza – Italy – is never easy.S2700006

And so onto the banking they ventured that Friday morning, ride heights raised, suspension stiffened…pick-up points stressed.  The combined road-course/oval shared the same pit straight, divided only by cones (the oval’s straight nearest the pits).  The oval was flat-out in top gear;  the road course was pretty much as we know it today, minus the first, second and Ascari chicanes.   Team Lotus initially sent out Mike Spence (in the carburettored car, standing-in for the injured Trevor Taylor).  His 2min 48.1 was beaten only by the BRMs of Richie Ginther and Graham Hill and Masten Gregory in his Parnell Lotus 24-BRM.  Brave stuff.

Then Bob Anderson crashed when his privately-entered Lola-Climax lost a wheel on the banking;  luckily he was uninjured.  The teams suddenly became adamant:  unless they raced only on the road course there would be no Italian Grand Prix.  The Automobile Club of Milan acquiesced only moments before the GPDA handed in its petition. The banking was shut off.  Although it would be used by sports cars through to 1969 (slowed by entrance chicanes from 1966 onwards), the Monza banking never again played host to F1.S2700007

Somewhat disrupted, therefore, but much happier, the teams set about their new challenge – an Italian GP on the familiar, 1962, layout.  For Jim, problems quickly arose.  He was hoping to race the new Hewland gearbox tried in Austria but quickly it failed.  Reverting to his regular ZF gearbox, Jim qualified only third, 1.7 sec slower than John Surtees in the new monocoque Ferrari V6.  Lorenzo Bandini, making his debut with the older, space-frame Ferrari, was behind Jim and alongside Dan Gurney on the third row.  With the monocoque BRM also performing well in the hands of Graham Hill, who qualified second,  Monza was looking as though it was going to be very different from the season’s previous high-speed race, at Reims.21383.tif

In the end, it was the usual, nail-biting slipstreamer. The lead changed no fewer than 25 times before it was finally settled in favour of Jim Clark. For Jim, though, his forehead protected by white masking tape, the better to stop his Bell Magnum from creeping up in the slipstream, the day was bittersweet, as he recounted in Jim Clark at the Wheel:  “Being so much slower than John in practice really sapped my confidence, and I felt dismal on Friday and Saturday.  It got so bad that, before the race started, I had fitted a new engine, gearbox, gear ratios, reverted to the standard windscreen and changed the tyre sizes.  This meant starting the race not fully knowing what the car would be like when it arrived at the first corner.  From the start, though, the car was better.  In Surtees’ tow I could gain an extra 500rpm and by the third lap I could relax a little and still maintain my position behind him while, behind me, Graham and Dan were having their own private battle.  On about the 17th lap I noticed a puff of smoke from the tailpipes of John’s Ferrari.  It was no surprise when he dived into the pits the following lap.21255.tif

“This left me in the lead but with a problem on my hands.  It was not worthwhile stretching myself or the car so long as Graham and Dan were behind me, towing one another around.   I was basically a sitting duck and when they passed me I remember they whisked by so quickly that they almost caught me on the hop.  I then managed to get into their slipstream.  The three of us had a grand race of it before Graham retired. Dan and I then had a great set-to, for our cars were fairly equal in performance.  I remember at one stage coming up to lap Innes Ireland in the BRP-BRM.  He was much quicker than both Dan or I down the straights but we had him on the corners.  I first tried on one bend to get past on the inside but Innes blocked me off.  Then I tried again and the same thing happened.21417.tif

“The next time around I thought I would play it crafty, so I waited until Dan had come up close behind me and I made a pass at Innes. I eased off slightly and let Dan go through. Innes thought that Dan was me and moved over again – but no-one does this sort of thing to Dan. In the ensuing battle of wits Dan eased Innes out, and while he was doing that I passed both of them.” (Ireland, whose relationship with Jim had been strained ever since he had been dropped from Team Lotus at the end of 1961, would have finished third at Monza but for an engine failure on the last lap;  as it was he came home P4). “Dan had to retire shortly afterwards with fuel starvation and I was able to settle down at last to win the Italian Grand Prix and assure myself of the World Championship.21261.tif

“I couldn’t believe it when I arrived at the pits after my slowing-down lap. The place was crowded with photographers and Colin had a bit of a fight getting through to me. However, he managed it and he climbed on the back of the Lotus with the silver trophy and we covered a lap of honour, picking up Mike Spence, who had broken down on the back of the circuit while heading for sixth place.

“Colin and our wonderful team of mechanics were ecstatic.  It gave me great pleasure to share this victory with them.   To escape the mob afterwards we dived into the Dunlop enclosure, where someone came up and informed me that the Italian police wanted to see me immediately in race control. When I got there, I discovered they wanted me to sign a document written in Italian relating to the Von Trips accident of 1961. I naturally refused to sign it. Coming as it did on what should have been a night of celebration, this affair depressed me so much that all I wanted to do was get out of Italy. I didn’t care if I never returned to the place. Consequently, it was a very subdued victory party at the de la Ville, enlivened only by a bun fight between the Lotus and Cooper teams.”S2700004

Jim flew home early on Monday with Jack Brabham in the latter’s Cessna 180.  He headed straight for Balfour Place – and then to a press conference in Fleet Street, home of the British daily press.  Most of the questions, sadly, related to 1961, not 1963.

Captions (from top): although he feared the worst, Jim eventually won convincingly.  With five wins and a second place to his credit from seven starts, he clinches the 1963 World Championship; early on Friday morning, John Surtees tries both the Monza banking and the new Ferrari V6.  He was easily quickest in qualifying but retired with engine failure (broken tappet). Team Lotus, then, won the race of reliability!; the combined road course/banking layout as drawn by the excellent (but sadly now defunt) Italian weekly, Auto Italiana, in its preview to the 1963 Italian GP; Auto Italiana‘s explanation of how the complex Monza pit straight/pit lane system was going to work (with banking in use) for 1963, a new, higher pit wall was built; Jim’s 25 was extensively re-fitted and revised before the race;  Surtees leads Jim and then Graham Hill and Dan Gurney into the Parabolica in the early laps; Chris Amon (pictured here talking early on Friday to Eoin Young  (probably about the new Bruce McLaren Cooper team that would contest the 1964 Tasman Series!) was lucky to escape a big practice accident at the Lesmos with broken ribs; rearward view of the aforementioned lead group;  front cover of Auto Italiana in the week after the race. Two artists here – Jim Clark and Giovanni Bertone; below – to the backdrop of the Lotus truck, and before the drama with the Italian authorities, Jim McKay interviews Colin and Jim for ABC’s Wide World of Sports.   Images: LAT Photographic, Peter Windsor CollectionL63_282_36  

Seen in the Monza paddock

The sun shone; Mario’s bookshop continued to reveal gems; and the Monza crowd grew steadily as the day wore on.  Welcome to yet another Italian Grand Prix on the legendary, high-speed circuit.  John Surtees, in company with his daughter, was all smiles, despite a recent illness. “Working here for anyone, John?” “No.  No-one.  I’m just here because I love it. ”  IMG_0622

Across the way, MarieAngela and her daughter, Claudia, were delighted already with Thursday’s takings in their merchandise store.  “Did I ever tell you how I helped Emerson Fittipaldi win his first World Championship?” asked MA with a smile.  “It was like this.  The JPS Lotus truck had a terrible accident on the way to Monza and I received a frantic phone call in the middle of the night from Peter Warr, asking me to help with doctors, rescue people and so on.  Of course this was no problem for me. I know everyone in Monza.  IMG_0620Before  the race, the JPS man came to me with a big box and said, ‘MarieAngela.  Thankyou for your help’.  I told him it was nothing but he said that he wanted me to have this box but not to open it unless Emerson clinched the title in the race.  So, after Emerson did that, I opened the box and it was FULL of black and gold JPS stickers, naming Emerson as the 1972 World Champion.  If you look closely at some of the podium pictures, you can see me in the background, throwing the stickers into the sky!”

IMG_0623Before lunch, it was time to catch up with John Hogan (ex-Marlboro, now with JMI), Nigel Roebuck (journalist extraordinaire) and Force India’s Neil Dickie.  John was still trying to work why the actor who plays him in “Rush” doesn’t look like Brad Pitt; Nigel was laden with books from Mario’s store (“The History of American Sprint Car Racing, 1952-56” – you know the sort of thing); and Neil can’t wait to wear his self-designed tee-shirt on Sunday, reminding everyone in the pit lane about a certain Superswede who so sadly lost his life at Monza in 1978.

And there was a touching moment later in the day when Lewis Hamilton was re-united with an old friend – his former karting team-mate, Stefano Fabi.  Stefano, who now has MS, was overcome with emotion when he met Lewis again but the two then relaxed and chatted for a good 25min.  It wasn’t long before they were talking about the hire-car in Albacete which finished its lap minus hub-caps, bumper, brakes, tyres, etc, etc.  The usual thing.  All the while, Stefano’s father, Teo, an F1 and IndyCar driver of great repute, sat quietly in the background, just as he used to when he was racing. IMG_0629

From Modena to Monza

 I hope the show we’ve put together this week gives a little bit of a taste of what we’ve been up to over the past few days on our Italian roadtrip. I’d like to say a very big thankyou to Jonathan Giacobazzi, who achieved the almost-impossible with his laps of Brisighella in the Ferrari 312T4; to the organizers of the Trofeo Bandini; to Alpinestars, who are celebrating their 50th birthday this weekend; to Renault, for building the amazing Captur (the perfect family touring wagon even for the likes of Jack Windsor);  to Cory Pesaturo, who wrote music and then performed it, especially for this show;  and to Diego Merino and Rodrigo Camacho, both of whom helped with the photography.  

En route to Monza…

21217.tifJim’s Trenton shunt wasn’t the only drama colouring that hectic August for Team Lotus.  While Jim and Dan Gurney were cleaning up at Milwaukee, Trevor Taylor was narrowly escaping death at Enna, where he was racing in the Mediterranean GP with Peter Arundell.  Just before half-distance, Trevor was knocked unconscious by a stone flicked up by Lorenzo Bandini’s Centro Sud BRM and thereafter crashed frighteningly on the pit straight, demolishing Lotus 25/R2 and causing minor injuries to bystanders.  Amazingly, Trevor was thrown clear of the wreck as it somersaulted down the track, narrowly missing Arundell’s car. Trevor rolled – and eventually slid – to a halt, still unconscious, his back raw, his overalls in tatters.  It was only later in the evening, when he was recovering in hospital, that Trevor was re-united with his Rolex watch (which also lived to tell the tale, or time, as it were): it had been picked up by a pit exit marshal several hundred yards from the initial impact point. Pieces of the car, meanwhile, had finished in the snake-infested Enna lake.  “The engine was very badly damaged,” wrote Team Lotus’ Andrew Ferguson in his excellent book, Team Lotus: The Indianapolis Years, “with its ancillary items stolen by spectators in the grandstand enclosure opposite the pits, where it had come to rest.  I told Colin over the phone in Milwaukee that the gearbox was in the lake.  ‘Well, then you had better get the lads to jump in and get it!’ he replied.  When I told Derek (Wilde) and Cedric (Selzer) they responded in unison: ‘You drive the truck back.  We’ll pay for our own fares home!’”  Mechanics being mechanics, however, the two of them eventually fashioned a ‘trawl’ from welding wire and fished every part of the broken transmission from the depths of the mud.”

More than anything, I think, this accident re-enforced in the minds of drivers like Jim Clark that it was always better to be hurled out of a car than to be strapped into it.  Trevor’s car did catch fire.  And Trevor did survive.

For the non-championship Austrian GP, therefore, Jim was asked to drive a brand new Lotus 25 – chassis number 6.  It featured strengthened suspension pick-up points and Hewland’s version of the VW-based gearbox that Jack Brabham had been developing since early 1962.  Lotus were still undecided about the merits of ZF (Clark), Colotti (Taylor) and now Hewland gearboxes – and Austria would do little to clear the air.  For more serious, championship, racing, Jim would still use the ZF.

21189.tifThe Austrian race was the first F1 event seen in the country and, like the Austrian sports car Grands Prix, was laid out on the heavily-armed and barbed-wired military airfield in Zeltweg, near Graz.  The circuit – basically L-shaped – was bumpy, flat and much-maligned, but Zeltweg, surrounded by breathtaking mountains, nonetheless held a certain charm.  More than that:  it provided a nice “break” for the boys on their way down to Monza.

It’s nice to report that Jack Brabham (that non-championship king!) made up for his Kanonloppet disappointment by scoring a walkaway win in Austria with his rock-solid BT3 (Colotti!).  That, however, tells only a part of the story.  Jim was easily quickest in practice (by 1.2 sec from Brabham and by 1.9 sec from an amazing Jim Hall) but was an early retirement in the race when an oil line broke.21188.tif  I don’t suppose that he or the mechanics were too fussed.  Jack then fought a titanic battle with Innes Ireland (back in his much-loved Lotus 24-BRM rather than the difficult BRP monocoque car) before settling for second place.  Innes looked to be heading for the win when he retired with a broken cam follower in the BRM engine.  Jack then took over from the American, Tony Settember, who, with Hugh Powell, had invested much time and money on the cute llittle Scirocco-BRMs (built in Goldhawk Road, London).  Hall also stopped with an engine problem in his BRP Lotus 24-BRM – as did the brilliant Chris Amon, who would have been second but for an oil pressure problem on his Reg Parnell Lola-Climax.  He waited in the car before the start-finish line and received the flag by turning the engine over on the starter motor and crawling forwards.  He was classified fourth. 21156.tif Other notes:  a young Jochen Rindt, still a year away from shaking the world at Crystal Palace, qualified two rows from the back in his Formula Junior Cooper (but retired with a blown engine);  and Peter Arundell, in the second Lotus 25, failed to start when an administrative error also allowed him to be entered for the FJ race at Zandvoort on the same day.  Caught between Ron Harris and Colin Chapman, Peter ended up not driving anywhere.

In all, the race had been a relative success, attracting 19 starters and a large paying audience.  A full World Championship event was thus planned for 1964.

After the usual post-race festivities, Jim and the team then headed for Monza, where all talk was of the banked circuit the organizers insisted on using (for the first time since 1961).   Jack Brabham said he wouldn’t race if the brutally bumpy banking was incorporated into the circuit layout;  Team Lotus, wary of any political dramas (following the Von Trips accident of 1961), stayed out of it.  One thing was certain:  Trevor would be unfit for Monza;  and, with Peter Arundell having yet another FJ commitment with Ron Harris, Jim Clark would have a new F1 team-mate.  His name was Mike Spence.

Captions (from top): Jim Clark sits on the pole next to Jack Brabham.  Just visible in the foreground is the nose of Jim Hall’s Lotus 24-BRM;  the flat expanse of the Zeltweg airfield was compensated by the surrounding vista; Jim leads Innes Ireland’s rapid Lotus 24-BRM between the Austrian straw bales; a disappointed Chris Amon (together with team owner Reg Parnell) think about the second place that might have been; below: the Team Lotus transporter prepares for the next leg of the journey – through the Alps, south-west to Monza  Images: LAT Photographic21160.tif

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