peterwindsor.com

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

Archive for the tag “Dan Gurney”

Even in Solitude he was stunning

20583Solitude.  The name is enough to suggest that this was more than just another circuit – and indeed it was.  The Solitude Grand Prix, held on a sweeping, undulating and therefore very demanding road course under the shadow of the Schlosse Solitude, near Stuttgart, Germany, was in reality the Grand Prix of the German Motor Industry.  Massive crowds flocked to the circuit when it opened pre-war – and continued to do so in the 1950s and 1960s, when over 350,000 people attended the July F1 races.  It was bigger than the Nurburgring;  only Indianapolis, on a global scale, attracted a larger race crowd than Solitude.  Mercedes did their share of winning, as did Porsche. Bosch was based at Stuttgart, too.  Motor-cycle races were a huge success at Solitude; and the post-war F1 non-chamionship Grands Prix, and also Formula 2 races, held at a time when Porsche were on the ascendant, were no less spectacular.

The drivers and key team people stayed at the nearby Eis hotel;  it still exists today.  Legend has it that Innes Ireland once shot a loaded pistol there at a post-race party.  It’s probably true, because Innes in later years became quite irritated when anyone mentioned it.  Baron Fritz Huschke von Hanstein, the wonderful Porsche Team Manager, was the early 1960s Solitude Grand Prix in much the same way that Geoff Sykes would be Warwick Farm, or Mrs Topham ruled Aintree.  It was Huschke’s home race.  He hosted parties at both the Porsche factory and at his residence – often for 400 people at a time, including royalty.  He was everybody’s friend back then – and he was a friend to me, too, in the very early 1970s, when I was starting my F1 journalistic life.  I met Huschke through the indefatigable Bernard Cahier, who described Huschke thus in his magnificent two-volume autobiography (entitled, appropriately, F-Stops, Pit Stops, Laugher & Tears):  “Huschke had been a very talented driver before the war and as a result of his racing successes he’d become an honorary officer in the SS.  This was all well and good before the war but when conflict broke out his status became official.  Huschke wanted nothing to do with the war or the SS and for a time took refuge in Budapest, where he hobnobbed in high society while living with a beautiful Hungarian countess who was part-Jewish.  He was eventually caught and sent to prison in Spandau, where he found himself in real trouble.  Luckily, he had connections everwhere.  It didn’t take long for him to pull some strings and get himself released.  He contacted one of his old girl-friends whose father held an influential position in the German army, who in turn told the authorities that Huschke was going to marry his daughter!  He was very lucky because, a short time later, the plot to kill Hitler was uncovered and there were wholesale executions in which Huschke might very well have been swept up.

“When he was released from prison, Huschke was assigned the job of driving an armored vehicle to the Russian front.  He was happy to do this as it gave him the opportunity to meander around the country and visit all his friends.  He started working for Porsche in the early 1950s as a salesman and, being an avid racer, he was the person most responsible for pointing Porsche in the direction of motor racing.”1961 German Grand Prix.

Huschke operated from “Factory Two” within the Porsche Stuttgart compound and employed an attractive assistant named Evi Butz.  It was in 1962, by which time Dan Gurney had won Porsche’s first Grand Prix victory, that Huschke asked Dan if he would give Evi a lift home, after a long day in the office, in Dan’s “Unsafe At Any Speed” light blue Chevvy Corvair.  Dan naturally obliged and got to know young Evi in the course of a 45min traffic jam that clogged downtown Stuttgart.   For their 25th wedding anniversary, Evi gave Dan another Corvair…1961 Solitude Grand Prix

Dan won the Solitude Grand Prix that year, heading a Porsche one-two, and would never forget his victory lap, in an open Carrera, when thousands of caps and hats filled the air like leaves in an autumn wind;  in 1963, though, with Porsche out of it, he didn’t race.  Instead, he flew straight back to Indianapolis after the British GP in order to drive Frank Arciero’s Lotus 19 at the Hoosier Grand Prix at Indianapolis Raceway Park.  He won – and then flew to Germany for the next round of the Championship at the Nurburgring. Such were the schedules of F1’s front-runners in 1963.

Brabham were thus represented in the 1963 Solitude Grand Prix only by Black Jack.  Team Lotus, by contrast, entered three cars, enticed no doubt by copious starting money.  Jim Clark was in his regular Lotus 25 (prior to racing it the following weekend at the Nurburgring);  Trevor Taylor drove the second car – and Peter Arundell, the FJ star, would finally be having his first race in a Lotus 25 (having briefly practiced at Reims.)  A full grid of 29 cars started this 13th Solitude Grand Prix, with Jim on the pole from Jack Brabham and Jo Bonnier (a former Solitude winner, now driving Rob Walker’s ageing Cooper-Climax).  The two other Lotus drivers filled the second row, Peter ahead.

As it happened – as it frequently happens in Championship Years – Jim went nowhere in this race that didn’t count.  Team Lotus tried a new drive-shaft design which promptly failed as Jim dropped the clutch at the start.  His race prospects may have been over; still there were over 300,000 spectators at Solitude, crammed into the natural grandstands around the circuit, all hoping to see the maestro at work.  Jim’s 25 was pushed back into the pits and re-fitted with the older-type drive-shafts.  Jim waited patiently, helping the mechanics with pit signals to Trevor and Peter (who were running second and third behind Brabham).  Then, donning his Les Leston gloves and lowering his goggles back around his peakless Bell, Jim climbed back into R4 for a few demonstration laps of high-speed precision motoring.

Amazing all who saw it, Jim smashed the lap record with a time of 3min 49.1sec – a full 1.1sec faster than even he had managed in qualifying.  Solitude was as dangerous as you could make it, with its exposed trees and walls;  it was very fast, particularly on the 3.5-mile serpentine return stretch;  and Jim was so far in arrears that he wasn’t even classified as a finisher.  And yet he drove those laps at 100 per cent.  Ten-tenths.  Flat out.  His fastest lap, when the tanks were at their lightest, was but one of 17 that were similarly on the limit.

Black Jack, who had had nothing but mechanical problems from the start of the year, meanwhile breezed home without a worry to win his first F1 race at the wheel of a car bearing his own name.  (Jack won the ’63 Australian Grand Prix in a similar car fitted with a 2.7 litre Climax engine).   Peter Arundell drove beautifully to finish second ahead of Innes Ireland (and also to win the Formula Junior race that morning from Denny Hulme and Frank Gardner); Trevor retired with a broken crown-wheel-and-pinion; and Lorenzo Bandini, the young Italian pushing hard for a genuine chance at Ferrari, finished a spectacular fourth in the two-year-old Centro Sud BRM.  I should also make mention of Chaparral founder, Jim Hall, who again drove well with his Lotus 24, qualifying on the fourth row and finishing sixth on Sunday.  Jo Bonnier won the big-bore support GT race with his Porsche; and Teddy Pilette, son of Andre and future F5000 winner, headed the smaller GT race with his Abarth.

From Solitude it was but a short autobahn blast to the Nurburgring, for the August 4 German GP.  Jim had never won at the ‘Ring but had been phenomenally quick there in 1962 (in both the Lotus 25 and the little Lotus 23 sports car).  An enjoyable, if frustrating, Solitude weekend now over, Jim’s thoughts turned to making it five World Championship Grand Prix wins in a row. 20560

Captions, from top: Lotus 25 re-fitted with standard drive-shafts, Jim Clark lights up Solitude with a lonely but record-breaking display of precision driving; Huschke von Hanstein in his element – organizing a group photograph at the 1961 German GP.  From left to right – Jim Clark, John Cooper, Innes Ireland, Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss, Graham Hill, Huschke (in glasses), Jo Bonnier, Dick Jeffrey (Dunlop), Prince Metternich, Bruce McLaren and Dan Gurney;  the 1961 von Hanstein-created “tractor pull” at Solitude – Jo Bonnier does the driving for Dan Gurney, Colin Chapman, Peter and Wolfgang Porsche (sons of Ferry), Huscke and Jim.  That’s Julius Weitmann, the excellent photographer, running up alongside with the long-lens Leica.  The “flag” was actually made from Huschke’s race passes and for years stood in his house as a form of welcome to guests;  Jim is all smiles after taking the pole at Solitude in 25/R4  Images: LAT Photographic

“Jim Clark, rhythmically poised…”

Perfectly balancing smaller diameter rear Dunlops on an oily Silverstone track surface, Jim Clark wins the British GP

20373.tifAfter a whirlwind start to the year Jim Clark was able to relax for a few days.   Three successive wins enabled him to enjoy the farm like never before; and, back in Balfour Place for a few days before the run up to Silverstone, Sir John Whitmore was full of Rob Slotemaker’s antics and all the recent racing news.  In between, however, there was the little matter of the Milwaukee test.  The Indy Lotus 29-Fords had basically been garaged at the Speedway since the race but, in the build-up to the Milwaukee 200 on August 18, rebuilds and further fettling took place at Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.  Jim flew to Chicago on July 10 and on July 12 completed a successful day at the one-mile Milwaukee oval, running through Dunlop tyre compounds and in the process raising the average lap speed – over one mile! – by nearly 5mph.

Dan Gurney, who also tested at Milwaukee, had meanwhile shared a Ford Galaxie with Jack Brabham in the Six-Hour Race at Brands Hatch on July 7.  A massive spin at Paddock in the rain (due to having to run Firestone wets on the front and Goodyear dries on the back) had cramped his style somewhat.  Mike Parkes had cleaned up at Silverstone in his GTO Ferrari but, worryingly, the day had been ruined by two fatal accidents – one (John Dunn) at Abbey in the Formula Junior race and another in the pit lane (Mark Fielden, whose stationary Lotus was hit by a car spinning its way out of Woodcote). The excellent Sheridan Thynne, who would later become Commerical Director of Williams F1, won his class and set fastest lap at Snetterton in a Mini and a few days later wrote poignantly to Autosport, suggesting that a Safety Committee be convened to look into all matters of motor racing safety “before they were underlined by fatal accidents”. Sadly, as ever, his words went unheeded: a third person (a pit lane scrutineer, Harald Cree) would be killed at Silverstone on British GP race day when the very talented Christabel Carlisle spun her Sprite into the Woodcote pit wall.  In another Woodcote incident, former driver and future Goldhawk Road car dealer, Cliff Davis, S2620005would exhibit immense bravery as he leapt onto the track to clear it of debris after an MGB rolled itself to destruction.  Davis was later deemed to have saved several lives. Lorenzo Bandini, who would finish an excellent fifth at Silverstone in his the old, red, Centro Sud BRM, had not only won for Ferrari in the big sports car race at Clermont-Ferrand but had also been a part of the first all-Italian win at Le Mans on June 15-16.  He co-drove a Ferrari 250P with Ludovico Scarfiotti; and, in the Formula Junior race at Clermont, Jo Schlesser had won from an amazing line-up of future stars – Mike Spence, Peter Arundell, Tim Mayer, Richard Attwood, David Hobbs, Alan Rees and Peter Revson.  John Whitmore himself had won the Mini race at Silverstone after a big dice with Paddy Hopkirk – and Tim Mayer, that FJ star and future McLaren driver – had even raced a Mini at Mallory Park, door-to-door with Paddy Hopkirk.  Whilst up in Scotland, Jim had been able to catch up with young Jackie Stewart, who had won at Charterhall in the Ecurie Ecosse Tojeiro on the same day as the French GP; and, finally, with the London premiere of Cleopatra set for July 31, Jim had thought it a good moment to ask Sally Stokes if she might be free for a night on the town…

The British Grand Prix was held on Saturday, July 20, (oh for a return to Saturday racing!) which meant that the big event of the weekend would undoubtedly be Graham Hill’s party at his Mill Hill house on the Sunday.  Prior to that, there was a little bit of business to which to attend.  Most of the F1 teams began testing on Tuesday, prior to practice on Thursday and Friday morning, and Jim was almost immediately on the pace.  I say “immediately”: a loose oil line lost him time on Thursday morning but he was quickest by a whole second from Graham Hill (spaceframe BRM) later that day and fractionally faster than his Indy team-mate, Dan Gurney (Brabham), on Friday.  Jim thus took the pole with a 1min 34.4sec lap of Silverstone, equaling Innes Ireland’s very fast practice times with the BRP Lotus 24-BRM at the International Trophy meeting on May 11.  (Years later, when I chatted to Jim Clark at some length, he re-iterated what he frequently said about the space-frame Lotus 24:  it was an easier car to drive than the 25 and in Jim’s view could just have capably have won races in both 1962 and 1963.  Indeed, Innes’ Goodwood-winning Lotus 24 was actually being advertised for sale by the time of the British GP, viewable at BRP’s headquarters in Duke’s Head Yard, Highgate High Street, London N6.  It wasn’t sold that year, as it turned out, and was raced again, in Austria and Oulton Park, by Innes. Jim Hall then drove it – for BRP – at Watkins Glen and Mexico.)

Still running a five-speed ZF gearbox (whilst team-mate Trevor Taylor persisted with the six-speed Colotti on carburettors), Jim’s trusty, fuel-injected Lotus 25/R4 had now blossomed into its ultimate, legendary 1963 form:  Colin Chapman had decided to run a wide yellow stripe down the car, front to rear, co-ordinating the yellow with the wheels and the “Team Lotus” lettering and pin-striping down the cockpit sides.  The car also ran the Zandvoort-spec aeroscreen.  Jim, as ever, wore his Dunlop blue overalls, his peakless Bell helmet, string-backed gloves, Westover boots and, for when he was out of the car, helping the mechanics or strolling over to the Esso caravan or the paddock cafe for a cuppa, his dark blue Indy Pure jacket.  The 25, meanwhile, finally wore a new set of Dunlops – around which revolved the usual number of discussion points.  On this occasion it was gear ratios:  as part of the compromise with the five-speed (but more reliable) gearbox, Jim and Colin decided to race smaller-diameter rear Dunlops.

Bruce McLaren, driving the beautiful, low-line works Cooper-Climax, stopped practice early on Friday to begin preparation for the race. 63GBMcLAREN1004cWhile John Cooper supervised the job list, Bruce, as was his style, took his new E-Type Jag down the infield runway to the apex of Club Corner, there to watch his peers.  At this point I can do no better than to record the words he later gave to Eoin Young for Bruce’s wonderful, regular, Autosport column, From the Cockpit:

“Dan Gurney had got down to a time equaling Jim’s best, and Jim was out to see if he could do better.  Graham was in danger of being knocked off the front row so he was out too, and for 15 minutes, while Jim, Graham and Dan pounded round, I was graphically reminded of the reason why people go to see motor racing.

“When you’re out in an F1 car you haven’t got time to think about the fact that you’re moving fast:  you’re concentrating on keeping the movement of the car as smooth and as graceful as possible, getting the throttle opened just that fraction quicker than last time and keeping it open all the way when you’ve got it there.

“At Silverstone you concentrate on shaving the brick walls on the inside, just an inch or two away, and you hold the car in a drift that, if it were any faster, would take you into a bank or onto the grass.  If you are any slower you know you are not going to be up with those first three or four.  You know perfectly well you are trying just as hard as you possibly can, and I know when I’ve done a few laps like this I come in and think to myself, well, if anyone tries harder than that, good luck to them.

“But you haven’t thought about the people who are watching.  At least I haven’t, anyway, but there at Club Corner the role was reversed and I was watching…

“Jim came in so fast and left his braking so late that I leapt back four feet, convinced that he wouldn’t make the corner, but when he went through, working and concentrating hard, I’m sure his front wheel just rubbed the wall.  I barely dared to watch him come out the other end.

“It struck me that Clark and Gurney’s experience at Indy this year may have had something to do with their first and second places on the grid.  Silverstone is just one fast corner after another, taken with all the power turned right on and the whole car in a pretty fair slide but, nevertheless, in the groove for that corner.  Something like Indy, I should imagine.

“I’ve seen a lot of motor racing and if I could get excited over this I can imagine how the crowd of 115,000 on Saturday must have felt.”

Saturday was one of those great sporting occasions in the United Kingdom.  One hundred and fifteen thousand people were crammed into Silverstone by 10:00am;  and by 2:00pm, by which time they’d seen Jose Canga two-wheeling a Simca up and down pit straight; Peter Arundell win the FJ race from “Sally’s MRP pair” (Richard Attwood and David Hobbs); Graham Hill demonstrating the Rover-BRM turbine Le Mans car; an aerobatic display and the traditional drivers’ briefing, everyone was ready for the big event.  Dan Gurney settled into his Brabham with Jim Clark to his right in the Lotus 25.  To Dan’s left, Graham Hill, the World Champion, lowered his goggles under the pit lane gaze of young Damon.  Making it four-up at the front, Dan’s team-mate, Jack Brabham, sat calmly in his BT7.  With but minutes to go, Jim asked for more rear tyre pressure:  Silverstone had felt decidedly oily on the formation lap.  The 25 had never been more oversteery.

1963 British Grand Prix. Ref-20420. World © LAT PhotographicJim was slow away on this occasion:  wheelspin bogged him down.  He was swarmed by the lead pack as they headed out of Copse and then onwards to Maggotts and Becketts. The two Brabham drivers – showing how relatively closely-matched the top Climax teams were in 1963 – ran one-two;  then came Bruce McLaren in the svelte Cooper, then Hill and then Jim.  They were running nose-to-tail – and sometimes closer than that.  Gurney pitched the Brabham into oversteer at Club;  Jack, helmet leaning forwards, kicked up dirt at the exit of Woodcote.

The 25 was also tail-happy;  you could say that.  Jim felt the car to be little better than it had been before the start – particularly now, on full tanks.  Around him, though, everyone else seemed to sliding around.  Maybe it was just the circuit after all…

Jim began to dive deeper into the corners, to gain a tow – and then to pull out of that tow under braking.  By lap four he was in the lead and pulling away…whilst Bruce McLaren was pulling up on the entry to Becketts Corner, the Climax engine blown in his Cooper.   There was no quick rush back to the pits for Bruce, no beat-the-traffic early departure.  Instead, as on Friday, he stayed and watched, for that is what great athletes do.

Bruce:  “Jimmy came through with his mouth open and occasionally his tongue between his teeth.  The tyres were holding a tenuous grip on the road with the body and chassis leaning and pulling at the suspension like a lizard trying to avoid being prized off a rock by a small boy.  Then Dan arrived, really throwing the Brabham into the corner, understeering and flicking the car hard until he had it almost sideways, then sliding through with the rear wheels spinning and the inside front wheel just on the ground…”Formula One World ChampionshipIt was a demonstration of four-wheel-drifts;  it was Jim Clark rhythmically poised like never before in an F1 car, the small-diameter Dunlops combining with the surface oil to produce a slide-fest of classic proportions.  There was no need for a score of passing manoeuvres to make this British GP “work” for the crowds;  there was no need for forced pit stops or for overtaking aids.  It was enough, this day at Silverstone, for the fans, and for drivers of the quality of Bruce McLaren, merely to see a genius at work.

Archive00 37Jim won the British Grand Prix by 20sec from John Surtees’ Ferrari and Graham Hill’s BRM (for both Brabham drivers also lost their engines after excellent runs).  Graham, who, like Innes Ireland, was always fast at Silverstone, ran short of fuel on the final lap and was pipped by Big John, the lone Ferrari driver, on the exit from Woodcote.  The race was also notable for Mike Hailwood’s F1 debut – he finished an excellent eighth (or, in today’s parlance, “in the points”) with his Parnell Lotus 24, and for the seventh place of his exhausted team-mate, the 19-year-old Chris Amon. Chaparral creator/driver, Jim Hall, also drove well to finish sixth with his Lotus 24.  For this was a tough, hard race – 50 miles longer than the 2013 version and two and a quarter hours in duration.  Jim Clark waved to the ecstatic crowd on his slow-down lap (no raised digits from James Clark Jnr) and, to the sound of Scotland the Brave – a nice touch by the BRDC – and to the lucid commentary of Anthony Marsh, bashfully accepted the trophies on a mobile podium that also carried the 25. Colin Chapman wore a v-necked pullover and tie;  Jim looked exalted. He had won again at home.  He had won his fourth race in a row. He had the championship in sight.

To Mill Hill, then, they repaired – and then, for a change in pace, to the following weekend’s non-championship race at Solitude, near Stuttgart.British GP

Captions, from top: Jim Clark drifts the Lotus 25 on the greasy Silverstone surface; racing driver/flag marshal, Cliff Davis, whose selfless action at Silverstone saved several lives; Bruce McLaren finds slight understeer on the Cooper at Stowe; the two Brabham drivers, Gurney and Jack, together with McLaren and Hill, crowd Jim’s 25 at the start; classic four-wheel-drift from Jim Clark. The low apex walls were always a test at 1960s Silverstone; Scotland the Brave heralds the winner of a long, fast British Grand Prix.  Two hours, 14 min of brilliant motor racing  Images:  LAT Photographic. Our thanks to AP and Movietone News for the following superb, colour, video highlights:

High Fives for Clark at Silverstone

moremsportshistoryFirst, though, the build-up to that May 11, 1963, 15th International Trophy Race:

Indianapolis became a steep learning-curve as the month of May gathered pace.  As well as embracing the ways of the idiosyncratic Speedway, and all that comes with it, Team Lotus faced the additional problems of being newcomers amongst the old guard, of initiating the winds of profound technical change and of trying many all-new components thus related.  Like big, aluminium, 4.2 litre Ford Fairlane V8 engines.  And Firestone tyres.  And Halibrand wheels.  And asymmetric suspension.  And seat belts.  And, yes, Bell Magnum helmets.

For most of the month of May, Jim, Colin Chapman and David Phipps, the talented photo-journalist, stayed in the house of Rodger Ward, the 1959 and 1962 Indy winner.   The days were relaxed by European racing standards, beginning with early morning tests, lunch work, more afternoon laps and then late-ish nights with the mechanics after early evening meals.   The issues were many:  the Dunlop D12s were quicker (Dan Gurney had lapped his Lotus 29 at 150mph while Jim was racing in Europe) but the Firestones were more durable.  With one pit stop to the roadsters’ two or three, Lotus could enjoy a big advantage even before the race was underway.  To achieve that, however, they needed to run the less grippy Firestones.

This, in turn, caused a furore.  Firestone built special tyres for Lotus around 15in wheels but then quickly found themselves under pressure from the Americans, who also expected the same, larger, footprint tyres for their roadsters (which normally ran 18in wheels).  AJ Foyt in particular took umbrage.  Expecting Firestone to be swamped, he approached Goodyear about using their stock car (NASCAR) tyres.  They agreed.  And, with that, the great Akron company began its single-seater racing history.

The switch to Firestones had additional implications for Jim.  Until now, he had worn at Indy his regular, light blue, two-piece Dunlop overalls, complete with Esso and BRDC badges.  With Ford’s engine supply now requiring the Lotus 29s to use Pure fuel and lubricants, those overalls were obviously redundant.  What to do?  Dan introduced Jim to Lew Hinchman, the local owner of a large garment and uniform factory.  Lew, whose father, JB,  built fire-retardant overalls for many of the American drivers, was in the process of making a dark blue, Ford-logo’d one-piece suit for Dan.  Why not make one for Jim, too?  Jim was measured up in the sweaty Team Lotus garage one lunch break (air-conditioning units were forbidden by the Speedway Safety Police due to the WWII-spec wiring in the garages!) and Jim was told that the overalls would be ready for the first week of qualifying.  Dan also pointed Jim in the direction of the Bell Helmets race rep.  Dan had been using a leather-edged McHal for a couple of years, and loved it.  Even so, he was impressed with the new Magnum. And so here was a chance for Jim to put his trusty Everoak out to pasture.  Jim examined the new silver helmet and decided to try it in the build-up to qualifying.  For Silverstone, next weekend, he would nonetheless race with the Everoak – for the last time, as it turned out.

Between runs in this leisurely week at Indy, Jim also had time to shape-up his travel schedule for the following weeks.  It would go something like this:

Tue, May 7: return to England (via Chicago). Pick up Lotus-Cortina at Heathrow. Drive to Silverstone. Check in to Green Man hotel. Thur-Fri-Sat: International Trophy F1 race, Silverstone. Sat, May 11: immediately after the race, fly with Colin and Dan Gurney to Heathrow in Colin’s Miles Messenger. Take flight to Chicago via New York. Change at Chicago for Indy. Check in to Speedway Motel. Begin testing Monday morning. Sat, May 18: Indy qualifying.  Leave Sunday, May 19, for London. Stay with Sir John Whitmore in Belgravia. Two days at the factory at Cheshunt. Wed, May 22 : fly to Nice from Heathrow. Check in to La Bananerie at Eze sur Mer. Thur, May 23-Sun May 26:  Monaco GP. Mon, May 27:  leave at 4:00am for London. Take flight to Chicago and then on to Indy. Thur, May 30: Indy 500. Fri, May 31: fly to Toronto and then drive on to Mosport. Sat, June 1: Players’ 200 sports car race (with Al Pease’s Lotus 23). Drive afterwards to Toronto. Take evening flight to London. Mon, June 3: Whitmonday Crystal Palace sports car race (Normand Lotus 23B). Wed, June 5: Leave London with Colin for Spa (Belgian GP).

In other words:  phew!  There was of course no internet back then; transatlantic phone calls were both a novelty and expensive.  Communications with the UK were via telexes and telegrams. Flight bookings were handled by Andrew Ferguson’s office in Cheshunt but re-arranged in the US by David Phipps.  And the tickets, of course, were big, carbon-copied wads of coupons. Jim’s black leather briefcase was literally jammed to the hilt.

There was little time, though, as one Indy issue followed another, to wonder if it would all be feasible.  If Jim didn’t qualify on the first weekend, for example – what would happen?  Would he miss Monaco or would he foresake Indy?  Given the powers behind the Indy effort – Ford, Firestone, etc – probably it would be Monaco.  For now, though, it was heads-down:  there was not a moment to spare – or even to think about the bigger problem.

In the midst of all this, Silverstone turned out to be a golden Saturday to be forever savoured. Thursday and Friday, by contrast, were best forgotten.  Dunlop were pushing R6 development to new frontiers;  Jim, as at Snetterton, found the Lotus 25 to be all over the place on the new tyres.  On a cold and windy Thursday, jet lag or no, he couldn’t find anything approaching a sweet spot with the car – and this was with exactly the chassis (R5) in which he’d been so quick at Aintree (on R5s).  He was only fifth that Thursday, focusing as he was on trying to make the car work just through Stowe and Club.   If he could find a balance there, he reasoned, then he could probably make up for deficiencies over the rest of the lap.

The mechanics – Jim Endruweit, Cedric Selzer Dick Scammell, Derek Wilde and the boys – worked through to six o’clock on Friday morning, rebuilding Jim’s car with yet another set-up change.   Perhaps, in addition, the rebuild might uncover a more fundamental chassis fault…

To no avail.  Saturday was cold and wet;  as all-weather as the new Dunlops undoubtedly were, little could be learned about a dry-weather balance.  The grid therefore being defined by Thursday’s times, Jim tried team-mate Trevor Taylor’s car for a few laps.  A spin at Copse capped an unremarkable day.  Innes Ireland, what’s more, would start from the pole in the BRP Lotus 24-BRM – a chassis that Jim had always liked.  Graham Hill was second in his trusty 1961/62 BRM, Bruce McLaren third in the new works Cooper and Jack Brabham fourth in his BT3, his engine down on power after a rushed rebuild.  Poor Dan Gurney had flown over with Jim from Indy but for him there would be no F1 debut with Brabham:  there was a dire shortage of Climax engines in this build up to the season proper, highlighted by Jack’s frequent runs up and down to Coventry.  Jack was more than ready to let Dan race the one and only BT3 at Silverstone but a short test at Goodwood confirmed that Dan was much too tall for Jack’s cockpit.  He would have to wait until Monaco to drive his tailor-made car.

This race was also notable for the appearance of the new 1963 Ferraris driven by John Surtees and Willy Mairesse.  Powered by regular V6 engines (with V8s rumoured to be on the way), the new cars showed glimpses of promise amidst predictable teething troubles.  This would be Surtees’ first F1 race for the Scuderia (and his first F1 race of the season;  the beautiful Lola GT, a forerunner of the 1964 Ford GT and a car with which Surtees had been closely involved form the outset, also had its maiden appearance this Silverstone weekend.  In a portent of the drama that was to explode three years later, Big John practiced the Lola on Thursday but was then forbidden by Ferrari from racing it on Saturday, even though the Sports Car Race was the last event of the day.  John appointed Tony Maggs in his place;  the South African started from the back of the grid and finished an excellent ninth.)

After Thursday’s all-nighter, and given the slight repairs that needed to be made to Trevor’s car after Jim’s spin, Colin decreed late on Friday afternoon that the boys should not overdo it.  “Just put everything back to standard on both cars.  Try to finish by nine. Get an early night.”

This they attempted.  After packing the 25s back into the transporter and driving it to their regular garage on the outskirts of Towcester, they race-prepared the cars to standard spec before repairing to their hotel, the Brave Old Oak, in time for a half-past-nine drink at the bar.   A “quick drink” then evolved into an all-nighter of a different kind – the liquid kind.  Come Saturday morning, as the bleary-eyed Team Lotus crew hustled their transporter through the early-race traffic, all the talk was of the blonde girl who worked behind the bar…Princess Margaret and Lord Snowden attended the 1963 International Trophy;  and the weather doffed its cap. A warm spring sun quickly replaced early cloud.  One hundred thousand spectators poured through Silverstone’s gates, filling the grandstands and the grass banks right around the circuit.  The British Grand Prix may have been but a couple of months in the future – here, at Silverstone – but the fans could not get enough.  A clear example of how less is definitely not more – providing the product is right. In the Team Lotus transporter, between laughs, Jim Clark reflected on the good news:  today they would forget the R6s.  They’d race R5s.  Dunlop wouldn’t like it but there you go.  A race is a race.A masterpiece of a race.  Jim started on the second row but was quickly up to second place, trailing his friend Bruce McLaren for a couple of laps before slicing past and pulling away.   Suddenly he had a Lotus 25 around him.  Suddenly he had balance and feel when on Thursday he been obliged to drive mainly on reflex, dumbing the understeer with induced flick oversteer.  Now he was four-wheel-drifting the 25 through Copse, Becketts, Stowe and Club.  Now he was using every inch of road through Woodcote and again past the pits, making the art of ten-tenths driving look sublimely simple.

18609.tifHe won it – and he won it with ease.  It was a Clark Classic on the old R5s in Lotus 25/R5.  Bruce finished second and Trevor drove well to make it a Team Lotus one-three.  Innes, quick all weekend, finished fourth – but not before recovering from a big spin at Woodcote, the thick tyre smoke of which effectively ushered-in a new era – the era of the soft-compound Dunlop R6.  Never before had rubber been so burnable – or so sticky.   Innes revolved the 24 at high speed – probably on oil dropped by the Surtees Ferrari, which eventually retired – but kept the car on the Ireland.  A few years before, the odds of that happening would have been too small even to contemplate.   Now, if we can combine those new grip levels with more compliant sidewalls, thought Jim and Colin, then we’ll definitely have a race tyre

It was a fun day, too.  Sir John Whitmore was again magnificent in the Cooper S;  Mike Beckwith won his class with the Normand Lotus 23B;  Jack Sears scored the first of his many wins with the big Ford Galaxie – a car that Jim had driven over at Indy, when he was filling in some time one quiet day at the Speedway; Jim in Galaxy '62Graham Hill won the GT race in John Coombs’ lightweight E-Type; and Denny Hulme again won the Formula Junior race in the factory Brabham, just beating David Hobbs and Paul Hawkins.  Earlier that week, Jack himself had driven the FJ car, helping Denny with set-up and with a few circuit pointers.  Then there was the business with the Miles Messenger.  Racing over, Jim and Dan piled into the cramped four-seat cockpit; bags were stuffed into the small luggage compartment (no room for the trophy!); Colin fired up the DeHaviland Gipsy engine, opened the throttle…and nothing happened.  The old four-seater remained bogged in the Stowe mud, its wheels intransigent.   Out jumped an amused Silverstone winner and his buddy, Dan  – and off, in a lighter Miles, set Colin.  Even as the little aeroplane was gathering speed, Jim and Dan were scambling aboard.

Four connections and 4,000 miles later, the two Team Lotus friends were at Indy, ready to test on a warm Monday morning.

Captions from top:  Dan Gurney, in new Hinchmans, Colin Chapman and Jim Clark, still in Dunlop blues, talk wheels and tyres early in the Indy month of May;  Jim fingertips 25/R5 out of Becketts en route to victory; late in ’62 Jim had fun at the Speedway with a road-going Mercury Monterey.  Images: LAT Photographic, Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For more on Hinchman overalls: http://hinchmanracewear.com

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: