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

Archive for the tag “AGP”

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’.”S2270028

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.09-13-2010_22


Alan Jones and the Maybach: celebrating Albert Park’s 60th

I was very taken by the events in Melbourne yesterday, when the Australian Grand Prix organizers began the 60th birthday celebrations of the race in Albert Park. On hand – and looking gorgeous in the spring sunshine – were the Maybach and Alan Jones.  Stan Jones, father of Alan, bought the brutishly-powerful Maybach from former Repco engineer/constructor, Charlie Dean, in 1951:  he finished second in the 1952 AGP at Bathurst (where tyre-wear problems robbed him of victory) and he dominated the opposition on home soil at the inaugural Albert Park AGP in 1953, “displaying,” as Wheels magazine put it, “the most fiery exhibition of driving witnessed for a long time.”  A long stop for fuel (during which a copious amount of methanol was spilt over the driver!) and a new water pump drive belt ended his chance of victory but Stan made up for that with a big win in the 1954 New Zealand GP at Ardmore.  It all came to an end at the brand new Southport track near Surfers’ Paradise, Queensland, scene of the AGP in November, 1954.   Stan took an early lead from Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar and was leading by 40 seconds or so when the Maybach’s chassis virtually split in two:  the car left the road at over 100mph and came to rest on its side amidst trees and scrub.  Stan Jones emerged uninjured (no seat belts; Herbert Johnson helmet!) and, post-race, was even given a ride back to the pits on the back of Davison’s winning HWM, Mansell/Senna-style.

The Maybach, which was originally powered by a 3.8 litre, six-cylinder German Maybach engine taken from a Bussing NAG scout car, was subsequently re-invented around Mercedes W196  F1 bodywork, de Dion rear end and Chevrolet engine.  The brilliant Jones briefly led the 1955 AGP at Port Wakefield with the Maybach, heading none other than Jack Brabham (Cooper Bobtail), but further mechanical gremlins (broken clutch release) intervened.  Jones won a 1959 Australian Gold Star event with the revised car (again at Port Wakefield) and also raced it in the 1960 AGP at Lowood.  Stan’s talent and determination were finally rewarded in 1959, when he won the AGP at the classic Longford road circuit in Tasmania at the wheel of his Maserati 250F.  A 12-year-old Alan Jones was on site to see the victory – and to ignite his burning desire to race at the sports’ highest levels.

The video below was recorded yesterday, at Albert Park, in Melbourne.  Alan, the 1980 F1 World Champion, can be seen in reflective mood as he sits in his father’s Maybach, teeing-up a 2013 AGP that will mark 60 years since that first race in Albert Park.  The 1953 AGP was held on November 21 that year – so, strictly speaking, next March’s AGP will fall nine months short of 60 years – but who’s worrying about that?  It’s a perfect time to remember the exploits of drivers like Stan Jones, Doug Whiteford (the winner of that 1953 race with his Lago Talbot), Reg Hunt , Bib Stillwell and many others.

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