…chance doesn't exist; there's always a cause and a reason for everything – Elahi

Archive for the category “Days Past”

Sir Stirling Moss by Nigel Roebuck

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.

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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Jack Brabham’s last-corner heartbreak

At Monaco, Jack Brabham seemed to have his second win of the 1970 season fully gift-wrapped. With Jochen Rindt closing fast, however, the slower car in front of Jack before the last corner of the last lap suddenly posed a problem. Jack couldn’t afford NOT to pass Piers Courage’s DeTomaso, so close was Rindt – but on which side, going into the last hairpin, should he do so? Piers, uncharacteristically, was giving no indication, which left Jack facing two invidious choices: either he should do so down the inside – risking a brake drama on the marbles; or maybe he should take the outside – where Piers Courage, in the slower car, might run him wide and Rindt might slip down the inside. Jack chose the inside…and instantly locked an inside front. Suddenly he was on ice, sliding into the straw bales. And into the lead, on that last corner, thus sliced an awesome Jochen Rindt, whose previous lap had been nearly a second faster than Jackie Stewart’s pole time. In association with AP Archive’s little-seen footage, re-live the awesome 1970 Monaco GP with Peter Windsor.

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Chatting with Gordon Murray

It was, of course, a lot of fun to chat to the brazenly-creative Gordon Murray, the South African who came to Europe to design and build racing cars – and who went on to dominate the world. Gordon was working in a small office at Brabham, under Ron Tauranac, when Bernie Ecclestone bought that team in 1971 – and Ron’s advice at the time was to “sack Gordon”. Bernie’s natural instincts suggested otherwise. He gave the young engineer full control of the design office at Brabham – and two years later the team was winning Grands Prix with the ground-breaking, triangular-shaped Brabham BT42. With multi-world championships behind him at Brabham and McLaren, plus hundreds of other scintillating road cars and road car designs, not the least of which was the McLaren F1, Gordon today runs his highly-successful Gordon Murray Design studio in Shalford, Surrey, England – adjacent to the site where John Barnard designed and produced the Ferrari F189-640 F1 car and to where the race-winning, Enrique Scalabroni-developed, F641s were built.

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F1’s unlikeliest winner

All bets were off by the time they arrived at The Glen in ’66. Jack Brabham and his fabulous Brabham-Repcos had secured the world championship; John Surtees had switched mid-season from Ferrari to Cooper-Maserati, thus ending Maranello’s realistic title challenge (despite producing a car that could have won it). Dan Gurney had debuted his gorgeous Eagle, albeit still with 2.7 litre Climax engines. BRM had tried unsuccessfully to make their big 3-litre H16-engined cars serious runners. And Lotus, in the wake of that BRM disaster, vacillated between the 2-litre Climax-engined Lotus 33 and the Lotus 43-H16. As the field prepared for F1’s richest race to date, the US GP at Watkins Glen, Lotus’ Colin Chapman was unsure of whether to follow his head (race the 33) or his heart (delight the fans with the temperamental but throaty-sounding Lotus 43-H16). Aware of the recent success of big sports car racing in North America, he chose the latter course. And the rest is history.

This video includes little-seen footage of the 1966 USGP and a start-up, in more recent times, of the winning car.

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