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

Archive for the tag “Jack Brabham”

…And now for a bit of fun

21676.tifJim flew from Newark straight back to the UK…even though the USGP was to be run at Watkins Glen on October 6.  Jim’s 707 probably passed in the night the BOAC Canadair CL44 heading in the opposite flight path with 19 F1 cars on board – the largest single F1 airlift yet seen.  As tempting as it might have been to spend a few days in the States – perhaps even to test one or two of the sports cars he was now scheduled to drive  there in a month or so – Jim stood by his obligations.  He was entered to drive the Normand Lotus 23B in the Autosport-sponsored Snetterton Three Hours and also to have his first race in the works Cortina-Lotus on the same day (Saturday, September 28).

In today’s parlance, that roughly amounts to Sebastian Vettel flying back to Germany after the US GP in Austin to race a Mini and then re-joining the F1 circuit in Abu Dhabi.  The thing is, Seb would cause a sensation if he did that.  Jim Clark?  Even though he had just won the World Championship, and was setting records all over the world in a variety of different cars, an astonishingly small number of spectators actually travelled to Snetterton to see him drive.  And it wasn’t only Jim who drove up the A11 this weekend 50 years ago:  Jack Brabham, a double World Champion, would drive the Alan Brown Galaxie;  Jim’s team-mate, Trevor Taylor, would race a Team Elite Lotus Elan and Sir John Whitmore the Stirling Moss re-bodied Elan;  Denny Hulme was there in the works Brabham FJ and both Mike Parkes and Jack Sears were out in Ferrari GTOs.  Today, we can only drool at the line-up;  at the time, it appears as though the British fans were disappointed that the Three Hours would be run as a day race rather than as the traditional day-nighter.  One can understand this to some extent – but to boycott a race for which Jim Clark had flown all the way back from Trenton?  Fifty years on, it defies belief.

On the plus side, of course, there were few traffic jams and race day was free and easy, with Autosport organizing sumptuous hospitality courtesy of Martini and Rossi.

And it’s nice to record that Jim’s travels – and jet lag – were entirely worth it:  he sliced past Jack’s GTO on the opening lap, lost out to the superior power of the Tommy Atkins Cooper Monaco driven by Roy Salvadori but then took over a commanding lead when the Cooper blew its engine.  Jim then won as he chose, drifting the beautiful little 23B through Coram and Riches with fingertip precision.  Jim had won this event in 1959 at the wheel of Ian Scott-Watson’s Border Reivers Lotus Elite and now he had returned as World Champion in one of the nicest racing cars yet built by Lotus.  He loved every minute of it.

There was more to come, too:  Jack Brabham won the Slip-Molyslip Trophy race for saloon cars but Jim finished second overall, and won his class, with the new Lotus-Cortina.  Supported by new transporters and tow cars, the Ford-backed Lotus-Cortina programme set new standards in every department, not the least of which was pace: Jim was approx three seconds quicker than the fastest Jaguars.  He also introduced to the public for the first time the concept of three-wheeled cornering:“I again drove a saloon car,” he wrote in Jim Clark at the Wheel, “this time a racing Lotus Cortina at Snetterton towards the end of the 1963 season.  This proved to be a real laugh.  I kept finding the inside front wheel lifting off the ground.  This set me thinking, so I started going closer and closer to the semi-circular rubber tyres which mark the inside of one of the bends.  Eventually I found that I could tricycle the corner with the front wheel well over the tyres on the inside.  When I had practiced the car at Oulton in the gold Cup meeting I had had another odd experience.  I found that if I went into Cascades hard enough, both inside wheels would come off the ground but this was a very hairy thing, and not to be recommended if you wanted to stay on the road in one piece.”1963 British Saloon Car Championship.

How did Jim remember weekends like Snetterton?  “I had a lot of fun on these occasions.  It was a great relief to find that I could still enjoy light-hearted dicing after the tremendous strain of the Grand Prix battles which had won me the Championship.”

imageFor the record, Jim not only won the Martini and Rossi Trophy for his victory in the Three Hours but also the Daily Mirror Cup for being the best-placed driver of a British car in the saloon car event and the Autosport trophy for winning his class in that championship during the season overall. With his engine losing power in the closing stages of the saloon car event, Jim did try to stage another dead-heat with his Team Lotus F1 team-mate, Trevor Taylor (who drove the other factory Lotus-Cortina) but the verdict went to Jim by a couple of feet (reported the excellent Mike Kettlewell in Autosport).  Denny Hulme duly won the FJ race from the talented David Hobbs (MRP Lola), Alan Rees and Timmy Mayer; and Sid Taylor, featured recently in The Racer’s Edge (interviewed by Alain de Cadenet, Episode 28) drove his Elite home to second in class in the Three Hours.  Jack Sears, who had driven Willment’s Galaxy and Lotus-Cortina (finishing behind Jim and Trevor at Snet) also clinched the British Touring Car Championship at this meeting.

Racing over, Jim had time for a day in Scotland before leaving again for the US.  For this race, Team Lotus would be entering a third car for the winner of the recent Canadian GP (for sports cars) – Pedro Rodriguez.

Captions, from top:  Surrounded by well-wishers, Jim sips a bottle of Perrier after his win in the Snetterton Autosport Three Hours with the Normand Lotus 23B. Neither of his team-mates – Mike Beckwith and Tony Hegbourne – finished the race but Jim enjoyed a trouble-free afternoon. Note the absence of seat belts. Amazing to think that Jim had only a few days before raced the Lotus 29-Ford at Trenton, fully strapped-in;  Jim’s first race with a Lotus-Cortina.  Sadly here, at Riches, there are no half-tyres over which to lift the inside front wheel, so Jim can only drift the car in his usual way. In the Cortina Jim did wear belts but there was no roll cage  Images: LAT Photographic 

En route to Monza…

21217.tifJim’s Trenton shunt wasn’t the only drama colouring that hectic August for Team Lotus.  While Jim and Dan Gurney were cleaning up at Milwaukee, Trevor Taylor was narrowly escaping death at Enna, where he was racing in the Mediterranean GP with Peter Arundell.  Just before half-distance, Trevor was knocked unconscious by a stone flicked up by Lorenzo Bandini’s Centro Sud BRM and thereafter crashed frighteningly on the pit straight, demolishing Lotus 25/R2 and causing minor injuries to bystanders.  Amazingly, Trevor was thrown clear of the wreck as it somersaulted down the track, narrowly missing Arundell’s car. Trevor rolled – and eventually slid – to a halt, still unconscious, his back raw, his overalls in tatters.  It was only later in the evening, when he was recovering in hospital, that Trevor was re-united with his Rolex watch (which also lived to tell the tale, or time, as it were): it had been picked up by a pit exit marshal several hundred yards from the initial impact point. Pieces of the car, meanwhile, had finished in the snake-infested Enna lake.  “The engine was very badly damaged,” wrote Team Lotus’ Andrew Ferguson in his excellent book, Team Lotus: The Indianapolis Years, “with its ancillary items stolen by spectators in the grandstand enclosure opposite the pits, where it had come to rest.  I told Colin over the phone in Milwaukee that the gearbox was in the lake.  ‘Well, then you had better get the lads to jump in and get it!’ he replied.  When I told Derek (Wilde) and Cedric (Selzer) they responded in unison: ‘You drive the truck back.  We’ll pay for our own fares home!’”  Mechanics being mechanics, however, the two of them eventually fashioned a ‘trawl’ from welding wire and fished every part of the broken transmission from the depths of the mud.”

More than anything, I think, this accident re-enforced in the minds of drivers like Jim Clark that it was always better to be hurled out of a car than to be strapped into it.  Trevor’s car did catch fire.  And Trevor did survive.

For the non-championship Austrian GP, therefore, Jim was asked to drive a brand new Lotus 25 – chassis number 6.  It featured strengthened suspension pick-up points and Hewland’s version of the VW-based gearbox that Jack Brabham had been developing since early 1962.  Lotus were still undecided about the merits of ZF (Clark), Colotti (Taylor) and now Hewland gearboxes – and Austria would do little to clear the air.  For more serious, championship, racing, Jim would still use the ZF.

21189.tifThe Austrian race was the first F1 event seen in the country and, like the Austrian sports car Grands Prix, was laid out on the heavily-armed and barbed-wired military airfield in Zeltweg, near Graz.  The circuit – basically L-shaped – was bumpy, flat and much-maligned, but Zeltweg, surrounded by breathtaking mountains, nonetheless held a certain charm.  More than that:  it provided a nice “break” for the boys on their way down to Monza.

It’s nice to report that Jack Brabham (that non-championship king!) made up for his Kanonloppet disappointment by scoring a walkaway win in Austria with his rock-solid BT3 (Colotti!).  That, however, tells only a part of the story.  Jim was easily quickest in practice (by 1.2 sec from Brabham and by 1.9 sec from an amazing Jim Hall) but was an early retirement in the race when an oil line broke.21188.tif  I don’t suppose that he or the mechanics were too fussed.  Jack then fought a titanic battle with Innes Ireland (back in his much-loved Lotus 24-BRM rather than the difficult BRP monocoque car) before settling for second place.  Innes looked to be heading for the win when he retired with a broken cam follower in the BRM engine.  Jack then took over from the American, Tony Settember, who, with Hugh Powell, had invested much time and money on the cute llittle Scirocco-BRMs (built in Goldhawk Road, London).  Hall also stopped with an engine problem in his BRP Lotus 24-BRM – as did the brilliant Chris Amon, who would have been second but for an oil pressure problem on his Reg Parnell Lola-Climax.  He waited in the car before the start-finish line and received the flag by turning the engine over on the starter motor and crawling forwards.  He was classified fourth. 21156.tif Other notes:  a young Jochen Rindt, still a year away from shaking the world at Crystal Palace, qualified two rows from the back in his Formula Junior Cooper (but retired with a blown engine);  and Peter Arundell, in the second Lotus 25, failed to start when an administrative error also allowed him to be entered for the FJ race at Zandvoort on the same day.  Caught between Ron Harris and Colin Chapman, Peter ended up not driving anywhere.

In all, the race had been a relative success, attracting 19 starters and a large paying audience.  A full World Championship event was thus planned for 1964.

After the usual post-race festivities, Jim and the team then headed for Monza, where all talk was of the banked circuit the organizers insisted on using (for the first time since 1961).   Jack Brabham said he wouldn’t race if the brutally bumpy banking was incorporated into the circuit layout;  Team Lotus, wary of any political dramas (following the Von Trips accident of 1961), stayed out of it.  One thing was certain:  Trevor would be unfit for Monza;  and, with Peter Arundell having yet another FJ commitment with Ron Harris, Jim Clark would have a new F1 team-mate.  His name was Mike Spence.

Captions (from top): Jim Clark sits on the pole next to Jack Brabham.  Just visible in the foreground is the nose of Jim Hall’s Lotus 24-BRM;  the flat expanse of the Zeltweg airfield was compensated by the surrounding vista; Jim leads Innes Ireland’s rapid Lotus 24-BRM between the Austrian straw bales; a disappointed Chris Amon (together with team owner Reg Parnell) think about the second place that might have been; below: the Team Lotus transporter prepares for the next leg of the journey – through the Alps, south-west to Monza  Images: LAT Photographic21160.tif

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


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