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Archive for the category “Circuits”

Jonny Williams’ Ten Favourite WilliamsF1 GPs

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:

Some classic John Surtees…at Suzuka!

Sifting through the AP Archive the other day I came across this collection of gems – Honda-made footage from 1967-68 featuring John Surtees at Monza, Suzuka and Rouen. It was all mute, so I hope you don’t mind that I’ve added a few thoughts and a bit of music; and it was originally edited all over the shop – ie, ’67 had been mixed with ’68, Suzuka with Monza, etc, etc. So here is the finished edit. I hope it does some justice to John’s staggering achievement at Monza in ’67…because it’s not every day that a driver convinces a manufacturer that he can produce a new car in 30 days…and then wins, first time out with it. Equally, we should never forget the race John drove at Rouen the following June: against John’s advice, Jo Schlesser started the French GP in the difficult Honda A302 – and was then fatally injured in a fiery accident.Through the rain, and the fire and the smoke and debris, John nonetheless battled on to finish second (despite having to stop in the pits for a new pair of goggles). The footage from Suzuka is in my view equally amazing. I’d never seen any colour action images from Suzuka prior to the 1980s – and it’s amazing to see that the track has changed very little over time. Anyway, enough of the words: here’s the vid:

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The amazing Walter Rohrl

I’ve been a massive Walter Rohrl fan since March, 1980, when in thick fog he pulled out a lead of 4min 59sec on the second Arganil stage to win the Rally of Portugal with his Fiat 131 Abarth. Walter was peering out the side window for most of that night, driving with total commitment, but also with touch and feel and phenomenal car control, as his navigator, Christian Geistdorfer, yelled out the pace notes. Carlos Reutemann, below, who met Walter that year through his Fiat connections, was so impressed with the feat that he later taped the word “Arganil” onto the steering wheel of his Williams FW07B-Cosworth.

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Fast-forward to August, 2017: Walter Rohrl, now a Porsche man, is taking us for a lap of the Nurburgring long circuit in a 1979 rally-spec 911 (minus any electronic gizmos, in other words – as per that historic, Arganil era). Walter, without gloves and wearing 1979 period overalls, is particularly impressive, I think, through the Wippermann section just before Pflantzgarten (approx 6:55-7:10) – a fast rise-and-fall combination that Reutemann, who won the 1975 German GP at the Nurburgring, always felt was the most demanding of the 15-mile lap.

The video comes to us courtesy of FIVA (Federation of Classic Vehicles) and Pirelli.

A day of Firsts

Chris Amon (1)Silverstone. 1970. The Daily Express BRDC International Trophy in association with GKN.  A non-championship F1 race, true enough – but an F1 race nonetheless.  BRM and Ferrari stayed away but the field still included such names as the 1969 World Champion, Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt, Chris Amon, Jack Brabham, Piers Courage, Denny Hulme, Bruce McLaren and Graham Hill. Even more significantly, Jackie and Chris were both racing irascible March 701s, Jackie on Dunlops, Chris on Firestones. No driver felt comfortable with the handling of the new Robin Herd-designed March that year but there was no turning back: Ken Tyrrell had bought 701s for Jackie and Johnny Servoz-Gavin/Francois Cevert as stopgaps prior to the late-summer completion of Derek Gardner’s prototype Tyrrell; and Chris had left Ferrari for what he perceived to be the better reliability of the Ford Cosworth DFV. He signed for March long before he knew that Jo Siffert, Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson would also be racing 701s – and that was in addition to the two Tyrrell March drivers.

By any standards, then, the racing was going to be close.  No-one doubted Jackie Stewart’s talent; finally, though, we were going to see Chris Amon up there in direct competition with him, their difference in tyres notwithstanding. Chris had won big sports car races for McLaren in 1965/66, had won Le Mans for Ford in 1966 and had been a major front-runner at Ferrari from 1967-69.  Always, though, with an F1 victory in sight, a mechanical drama had intervened – particularly in 1968, when the Ferrari V12 had been truly quick.  Thus Chris’s desire to race in 1970 with the three-year-old (and very proven) DFV engine design.

It had been tense from the start.  In South Africa, on March 6, Chris and Jackie qualified second and third behind Jack Brabham’s rapid new Cosworth-powered BT33. The lap times of the two March drivers were identical but Chris took the honour because he had been out on track first.  Jackie then scored two wins in a row – at Brands Hatch on March 22 and then in the Spanish GP at Jarama on April 19. On both occasions, Jackie’s Dunlops had had the edge and Tyrrell’s preparation and organisation had proved vastly superior to the unwieldy factory March set-up. With the new Ferrari showing lots of promise in the hands of Jacky Ickx, Chris was wondering again if he was ever going to win an F1 race.

Then came Silverstone where, as at Brands, March entered just one works car for Chris Amon. Tyrrell did likewise with Jackie. It would be something of a showdown…

Thanks to the AP Archive, we now have a brief video taste of what happened next.  In its original form this hithertoo-unseen film had no sound and so I hope you enjoy the comments I’ve added, together with some freeze-frame analysis of Amon, Stewart, Rindt and Courage. I was also delighted to discover a little F3 footage in the opening sequence so I’ve included that, too.  F3 was brilliant back then and David Walker was on the threshold of a golden period that stretched through to the end of 1971.  I first saw Dave race at Catalina Park, Katoomba, Australia, in 1964 and quickly became a fan. I liked to think I was the only guy with a “Dave the Rave” Walker GLTL tee-shirt this side of Avalon Beach, NSW, and I spent many happy hours with Dave in 1972, when we were both experiencing a full season of F1 for the first time (he as Emerson’s team-mate at JPTL, I as a young journalist working for David Phipps).GLTL F3 team

Like Chris, Dave never achieved F1 results commensurate with his talent.

Both drivers, though, would not forget this day:

 

 

Cruisin’ on a Sunday afternoon

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With the F1 season winding down with a decisive thud, I thought I’d approach the aftermath of the Brazilian GP a little differently.  To wit, I’d ring my mate Rob Wilson and chat to him while we drove through London for a late Sunday lunch.  Or brunch, as Rob likes to do it.

Of course, the Brazilian GP theme was just a ruse. As normal, the conversation quickly meandered a number of different ways, as often as not re-connecting as if by magic.  It’s always like that when I chat to Rob:  one minute we’re talking gentle-firm brake application;  the next we’re analysing the difference in style between, say, Roly Levis and Max Stewart.

Thus we happened-upon the Nota story. I grew up with Nota Formula Vees at Warwick Farm, in Sydney, Australia. Geoff Sykes introduced FVee racing in general; and his club, the AARC, bought three Notas for Club member use. As a school kid who spent his holidays working at the AARC offices, my job was to maintain and manage the “Nota programme”. In the pictures above and below, I’m there on the right with my mate Colin Piper, sprucing-up the Notas by the famous Steindl Homestead (on the inside of the quick Homestead right-hand kink at Warwick Farm). Rob and I got to Nota by driving through the Elephant and Castle roundabout in London. That reminded Rob of the lock-up he used to use to house his Ralt; Ralt led to Ron Tauranac; Tauranac led to Geoff Brabham – and Geoff, for me, let to Nota, because it was in one of those Nota Vees that Geoff had his first single-seater drive.

Which opens the door nicely to Guy Buckingham, the talented engineer behind Nota. As it happened, Guy passed away only recently, so I thought it would be nice to reproduce here the words used by his son, Chris, at the funeral:

“My father, Guy Buckingham, passed away yesterday after a brief Illness. A number of his friends, Nota owners and business associates suggested I write a brief description of his involvement with motor racing.

“Guy was born in 1921 in England. During World War II he spent time with the RAF where he was involved with aeronautical engineering. On leaving Guy utilised those skills to build lightweight sports racing cars. In 1955 he moved to Australia and set up Nota Engineering in the former Ice Works behind the David Jones store in Parramatta. From there, he and Michael Martin introduced a tubular-steel space-framed car with lightweight aluminium cladding.

“Initially they built Clubman-format cars but when Guy employed Jack Wiffen, a former Rolls Royce craftsman, Nota started to build a number of alloy streamliner cars which Guy drove very successfully plus KM200 Notas for drivers like Spencer Martin.

“Notas also won the NSW Hill Climb Championship on a number of occasions with drivers like Barry Garner and Ralph Sach.

“Nota then decided Formula Junior racing cars were the way to go and built the first of these in Australia. Initially these were front-engined but they evolved into mid-engined ones using Reno and Ford componentry. Max Stewart ran a mid-engined Nota very successfully in Tasmania and this car is now being raced In England at Goodwood and other historic events.

“Guy lent his hand to other creations as well, designing the Oran Park circuit by driving round the empty fields with George Murray following behind him, pegging out the initial design.

“Warwick Farm Racing Circuit and its manager, Geoff Sykes, convinced Nota to make Clubman-style cars and to have their own series with cars like Lotus, Elfins, Notas etc rather than run with the likes of MGs and other production sports cars. Nota excelled in Geoff’s Clubman series, winning the championship seven times through the years.

“Geoff Sykes then asked Guy to make Formula Vees for the new category.  Nota made three for the AARC and went on to build 38 in all, doing particularly well in the hands of Peter Finlay.

“Guy went on to build the very pretty Nota F3 and Formula Ford cars before returning to England. There he set up Teal engineering, producing Formula 3s, clubmans and Hillman Imp-based sports sedans. He then returned to his roots, getting involved with restoration of World War II aircraft – something he always loved.”

I’ve divided my chat with Rob into three videos; the reference to Nota is in the third. Enjoy.

 

 

Mexican Memories (2)

And so we say goodbye to Mexico City – to one of the most enjoyable F1 races of recent times. Here are my post-race thoughts and (below) some close-ups of as many of  Cesar Galindo’s paintings as I could find in the various paddock offices. Cesar has recently published a magnificent art book, details of which I shall be giving to my wife to ensure an early Christmas arrival…

 

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