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.