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Archive for the tag “Jackie Stewart”

A day of Firsts

Chris Amon (1)Silverstone. 1970. The Daily Express BRDC International Trophy in association with GKN.  A non-championship F1 race, true enough – but an F1 race nonetheless.  BRM and Ferrari stayed away but the field still included such names as the 1969 World Champion, Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt, Chris Amon, Jack Brabham, Piers Courage, Denny Hulme, Bruce McLaren and Graham Hill. Even more significantly, Jackie and Chris were both racing irascible March 701s, Jackie on Dunlops, Chris on Firestones. No driver felt comfortable with the handling of the new Robin Herd-designed March that year but there was no turning back: Ken Tyrrell had bought 701s for Jackie and Johnny Servoz-Gavin/Francois Cevert as stopgaps prior to the late-summer completion of Derek Gardner’s prototype Tyrrell; and Chris had left Ferrari for what he perceived to be the better reliability of the Ford Cosworth DFV. He signed for March long before he knew that Jo Siffert, Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson would also be racing 701s – and that was in addition to the two Tyrrell March drivers.

By any standards, then, the racing was going to be close.  No-one doubted Jackie Stewart’s talent; finally, though, we were going to see Chris Amon up there in direct competition with him, their difference in tyres notwithstanding. Chris had won big sports car races for McLaren in 1965/66, had won Le Mans for Ford in 1966 and had been a major front-runner at Ferrari from 1967-69.  Always, though, with an F1 victory in sight, a mechanical drama had intervened – particularly in 1968, when the Ferrari V12 had been truly quick.  Thus Chris’s desire to race in 1970 with the three-year-old (and very proven) DFV engine design.

It had been tense from the start.  In South Africa, on March 6, Chris and Jackie qualified second and third behind Jack Brabham’s rapid new Cosworth-powered BT33. The lap times of the two March drivers were identical but Chris took the honour because he had been out on track first.  Jackie then scored two wins in a row – at Brands Hatch on March 22 and then in the Spanish GP at Jarama on April 19. On both occasions, Jackie’s Dunlops had had the edge and Tyrrell’s preparation and organisation had proved vastly superior to the unwieldy factory March set-up. With the new Ferrari showing lots of promise in the hands of Jacky Ickx, Chris was wondering again if he was ever going to win an F1 race.

Then came Silverstone where, as at Brands, March entered just one works car for Chris Amon. Tyrrell did likewise with Jackie. It would be something of a showdown…

Thanks to the AP Archive, we now have a brief video taste of what happened next.  In its original form this hithertoo-unseen film had no sound and so I hope you enjoy the comments I’ve added, together with some freeze-frame analysis of Amon, Stewart, Rindt and Courage. I was also delighted to discover a little F3 footage in the opening sequence so I’ve included that, too.  F3 was brilliant back then and David Walker was on the threshold of a golden period that stretched through to the end of 1971.  I first saw Dave race at Catalina Park, Katoomba, Australia, in 1964 and quickly became a fan. I liked to think I was the only guy with a “Dave the Rave” Walker GLTL tee-shirt this side of Avalon Beach, NSW, and I spent many happy hours with Dave in 1972, when we were both experiencing a full season of F1 for the first time (he as Emerson’s team-mate at JPTL, I as a young journalist working for David Phipps).GLTL F3 team

Like Chris, Dave never achieved F1 results commensurate with his talent.

Both drivers, though, would not forget this day:

 

 

Goodwood 2015: a personal album

Ingliston Interlude

Jim Clark had been impressed by Jackie Stewart from the moment he saw him drive.  Jackie hailed from Glasgow, Jimmy from the Borders; Jackie’s family ran a garage, Jim’s ran a farm: the differences were pronounced. In common, though, was their love of driving nice racing cars on the absolute limit. Quite what defined that limit, in their respective minds, is still an open question: Sir Jackie today remembers Jim saying very little to him about how he actually drove. “You knew, with Jimmy, when to push and when not to push,” he says. “He always gave me the impression that he didn’t want to talk about the very precise details. They were private to him – and I respected that. Of course we talked about cars and racing in general and strategy and those sorts of things…but Jimmy always kept a little bit in reserve. That was his nature.”

Their friendship blossomed in 1965. Jackie also became a familiar face at Sir John Whitmore’s Balfour Place apartment and in so doing opened Jim’s perspectives to a very different way of life. Jackie, even then, was both fashion- and financially-sophisticated. Jim was less so. The interesting thing, looking back, is that Jackie had no doubt about how to solve the high-earner’s tax problems: he would move to Switzerland and operate as a pro racing driver from that one, central base. Jim, despite his friendship with Jackie, continued to do his own thing with his own, local advisers. He would take the complicated option of moving his “goods and chattels” to Bermuda while residing for a full racing season in Paris.

By the mid-1965, Jackie had also finished second to Jim at Spa, Clermont and Zandvoort: the magazines were calling it a “Highland Fling” and referring to “The Flying Scotsmen” in the plural. None of this troubled Jim.  On the contrary, he was delighted for Jackie – for that was his nature. Jim had persuaded Colin Chapman to give Jackie a quick F1 outing during practice for the 1964 British GP and Jackie had stood-in for Jim in the Rand GP later that year. With Jim’s Indy win paving the way for drivers like Jackie also to race in the States, motor racing north of the border had never looked healthier.

Thus the two friends attended a race meeting at the new Ingliston circuit in Edinburgh on July 25 – in the time between the Dutch and German GPs (at the vortex of what was already a breathlessly intense season). Already well-known to Jim as the site of the Royal Highland Showground, the new circuit was made up from in-field and perimeter roads. It wasn’t long or too demanding – but it was another motor racing circuit for Scotland.  In many ways it was a product of Jim’s success.

The race meeting itself, organised by the Scottish Motor Racing Club, was relatively low-key, as you would expect.  Jackie would have been interested in Bill Stein’s Ecurie Ecosse Tojeiro while Jim would have had a laugh with his old Normand team-mate and fellow F2 competitor, Mike Beckwith, who raced spectacularly at Ingliston in his Elan.  The Rover-BRM turbine “hoover” was on-hand, fresh from Le Mans, for Jackie to demonstrate with Jim alongside him (!) and Jim, ever the man of detail, performed the start-line duties for the Guards Trophy event, stop watch in hand, flag accurately poised. It’s also worth noting that both Graham and Gerry Birrell raced on this day at Ingliston – both were quick and destined for greater things – and that Jock Russell was much in evidence: the irascible Scot would later buy Jim’s 1966 US GP-winning Lotus 43-BRM.

Click on the first image to open this short gallery of the Ingliston Interlude.

 

Five in a row for Clark

30133 1965DutchGPZandvoort, Holland. July 18, 1965. Dutch GP  Jim Clark’s amazing 1965 season continued unabated. Following his victories in the Silverstone-Rouen double-header, Jim returned quickly to London for Wednesday’s British Racing Automobile Club (BARC) function at the Grosvenor House hotel.  Olympic Gold Medallist, Mary Rand, presented a special award to Jim for his Indy 500 win – but by this stage of the year it could just as well have been for his F1 success. He’d missed Monaco to win at Indy but he’d won every other GP of the season, plus the Tasman Series. Little was the time for relaxation, however, for the next day Jim flew to Zandvoort, Holland, for the Dutch GP.  Jim headed the times on Friday, when the winds blew, and qualified second on Saturday in perfect conditions.  Again, though, the new 32-valve Climax engine proved unreliable, obliging Clark to switch to the 16-valve spare car for the race. Thanks to British Pathe, we can now take a short look at the Dutch GP in the following video. Note a young Clive Chapman near the start, pensive in Mike Spence’s helmet and goggles. Win No 27

 

 

Clark in an orbit of his own

Note: with the exception of the Month of May at Indy, all of Jim Clark’s 1965 season – from East London, South Africa through to the Belgian GP at Spa – can be read on one post (entitled “Jim Clark’s epic 1965 season”). The four weeks at Indy have all been posted separately – and we will be doing so for the remainder of this year. All can be found under the category “Jim Clark’s 1965 season”. We take up the story as Jim prepares for the French Grand Prix…

Clermont-Ferrand, June 27, 1965. French GP (Grand Prix de l’ACF) After Spa, Jim was finally able to spend a week in Scotland. The changes were dramatic. On the back of Jim’s Indy win – and of his most recent success in the F1 car – the Border regions seemed to have gone motor sport-centric. And with Roger Clark – no relation! – also winning the Scottish Rally over the same weekend as Spa, the two Clarks were in much demand. Jim allowed TV cameras on the farm; Edington Mainsentertained the famous Indy commentator, Tom Carnegie, together with his American film cameras and cameramen; added a postscript with Graham Gauld to Jim Clark at the Wheel; and welcomed Colin up in the Borders, reminding him, as he always did, to look for the “red roofs” on the farm barns when lining up the grass runway near Edington. There was also an approach from Hollywood: with John Frankheimer well advanced with pre-production for MGM’s upcoming movie, Grand Prix, starring James Garner, Jim was approached by Warner Bros and Brookdale Films about lending his name to a rival F1 film starring Steve McQueen. Day of The Champion was to shot primarily at the 1966 German GP and possibly after that at Oulton Park. Jim agreed to the proposal.

Racing-wise, there were other details to finalise. There was talk about running the Indy Lotus at Reims, ostensibly as a demonstration but also in an attempt to break the lap record there; thankfully that fell through due to a lack of starting money. Then came an idea to run the 38 at Silverstone, before the British GP. Jim quite liked this idea but again it came to nought: Ford, the new legal owners of the car, decided it would be of more use at the New York World’s Fair. Eventually Chapman signed a relatively lucrative deal to run a 38 in two Swiss hill-climbs at the end of August. Jim liked the sound of that. He’d last competed up a hill at Rest-and-be-Thankful back in 1958.

Too soon, it was back down the A1 – to London in the Lotus Cortina – first to Cheshunt, to go through the accounts with Andrew (now more complicated than ever due to the Indy win), and then to nearby Panshangar Airport to fly with Colin, Sally and Mike Spence to Clermont Ferrand. The glorious mountain circuit – home of Michelin – had never before staged the French GP. Now it was to play its role in F1 history as the “mini-Nuburgring”.

Upon arrival at the low-key Clermont airport, Jim and Colin were drawn to a crowd outside in the car park. Cameraman and newspaper journalists were in abundance, all focused on one man.

And, for once, it was not Jim Clark.

“That’s Yuri Gagarin!” said Colin, fascinated. “Come on. Let’s go and say hello…”

The Russian cosmonaut, at that stage on a USSR-sponsored world tour in honour of his 1961 orbit of the earth and other exploits, quickly appreciated the stature of Clark and Chapman. He invited them, indeed, to a reception being held that night in Clermont’s civic centre. Colin and Jim looked at one another, worked out that they could easily drive to their hotel in Charade later than night, and agreed to attend.yuri-gagarin-timeS1420011

The evening sparkled. Jim and Yuri spoke through interpreters and quickly formed a bond: Jim was as fascinated by the space programme as Yuri was by the Lotus racing cars.

Then, later, the group of four set off in their rented Peugeot for the race hotel. Colin drove, with Sally him and Mike and Jim in the back.

Suddenly, in the middle of a slow, innocuous corner, the Peugeot swerved and lurched down a bank. “Is everyone all right?” gasped Colin as the car came to rest, windscreen shattered. “I think I’ve strained my thumb…”

Jim, uncoiling himself in the middle of the front seat, where he’d landed, replied in the affirmative. As did Mike, who had squashed up against the back of Colin’s seat.

“Sally?”

“I’m ok but I think I’ve cut my head or something,” she said, looking at the blood on her blouse and hands.

Jim looked across and began swaying from side to side. Then he fainted at the sight of the blood.

Eventually the Peugeot was pushed back onto the French road. The hotel was found; Sally was treated by a doctor in the dead of night; and Colin promised the medic a pit pass for the weekend in return for keeping the incident away from the media.

Despite a few light-hearted jibes from Jim about his suit being ruined, Sally recovered well enough to perform regular timing duties in the pits at Clermont. Colin’s thumb, however, remained a race weekend talking-point…

Jim showed no signs of the incident when practice began on Friday. Of far more import was the failure of his 32-valve Climax engine out on the circuit: Jim hitched a ride back to the pits, straddling the engine cover of John Surtees’ V8 Ferrari. As a result, Chapman decided to concentrate on the 1962-built R6 two-valve chassis (still in Lotus 25 form) rather than the 1964-built Lotus 33B R11.

29578 1965FrenchGP Jim qualified the old car on the pole, his 3min 18.3sec lap shading Jackie Stewart’s best for BRM by a mere half-second. Ferrari qualified three and four, with Lorenzo Bandini again controversially racing the faster flat-12 car and leaving the V8 for Surtees; and Denny Hulme, who had subbed for Dan Gurney in the International Trophy and at Monaco, celebrated his second Championship GP start by qualifying an excellent sixth for Brabham (and quickest on Friday). His compatriot, Chris Amon, would dominate (until a puncture intervened) the 1972 French GP at Clermont with the Matra V12, but gave clear indication seven years earlier of what was to come by qualifying a brilliant eighth in the evergreen Reg Parnell Lotus 25-BRM.

As he had done on several occasions since 1964, Jim wore a white handkerchief over his face for this race: stones and rubble lay trackside. The Dunlops and Goodyears of the time were stiff enough and strong enough not to be hugely puncture-prone but there was a real risk of being injured by the local flint. Best place to be, of course, was out in front….

A brass band and a shower of Michelin balloons lit up the grid as heavy clouds assembled on the horizon. Morning rain gave everyone déjà-vu but then out came the sun over the Auvergne as the 2:00pm start time appraoched. Jim anticipated the Toto Roche twitch but Lorenzo nearly lost the Ferrari as he floored the flat-12 in first. With clear air behind him, Jim Clark thus set off for the first of 40, daunting Clermont laps – a potential race time, in the dry, of some 2hrs 10min.

29579 1965FrenchGPJim’s lead over Lorenzo at the end of his opening lap was 3.5 sec; by lap two, with Jackie now in second place, he was ahead by six seconds. And so it went on. Perfect poetry in motion. Twin high-level chrome exhausts (rather than the 33B’s low, wide-spaced exhausts) distinguished Jim’s car on this occasion; otherwise, it was 1965 at its Jim Clark best: by half-distance, with Jackie still second, Jim was leading by 14 sec; by the end, heading another one-two for the Scots, Jim’s winning margin was nearly half a minute. John Surtees finished third after a quick pit stop (and after Lorenzo shunted in the closing laps!), and the brilliant Hulme was fourth after dropping as low as 14th on lap one. Overall, though, it was another consummate Clark performance. Pole position. Led from start to finish. Fastest lap.

And with not the hint of a whisper about what had transpired on the Thursday…Win No24; images: LAT Archives

Here are two short videos from the race, courtesy of British Pathe and British Movietone News. Apologies for the way the Pathe video has obviously been speeded-up. That’s also Jochen Rindt shunting the works Cooper-Climax (not Lorenzo in the Ferrari); and you can see Chris Amon briefly in the Parnell Lotus 25 after being lapped by Jackie Stewart’s BRM. The second video, the Movietone News film, has only recently been uploaded to YouTube and contains some excellent footage from the race

29705 1965FrenchGP

 

Weekend of a Champion: F1 in the raw

S2550025There have been very few F1 films like Weekend of a Champion – films in which one of the world’s best directors has been invited inside our sport to do with it what he wills.  Roman Polanski played the role of that director at Monaco, 1971.  He met Jackie Stewart socially, he became captivated by the man’s aura…and so he made a film about him.  At Monaco.  Over a race weekend.

The result, in my view, was brilliant.  We see Jackie and Helen Stewart in their hotel suite, chatting about Jackie’s shaving or his lack of appetite.  We see the always-cool Editor of l’Equipe, Edouard Seidler, walking down the famous Monaco hill with Jackie and Helen, pulling at his ever-present Gitanes.  We see Francois Cevert, wide-eyed and barritone, asking Jackie about gear-change points and ratios.  We see Yardley BRM stickers on the toolboxes of the Tyrrell mechanics.  We see Jackie talking about that famous gear lever knob with the ever-dour Roger Hill.  We see all the details that the TV feeds then – as now – never show(ed).

Weekend of a Champion was this week re-screened at Cannes (where it won an award in 1972) because it has been re-mastered and added-to.  We reach what we think is the end…but instead we see Jackie (now Sir Jackie) and Roman, in the same Hotel de Paris suite, 42 years on.  They talk about Jackie’s sideburns in the film, and about Jackie’s fear, that day back in 1971, that race day would be wet.  “The Goodyears were just so much slower than the Firestones in the wet around there,” says Sir Jackie, reminding you that not once in the original film does he speak badly of Goodyear, despite the frustrations.  They talk about the terrible death-rates of the time and Roman, quite rightly, highlights the “success” of Stewart’s campaign for safety.

Mostly, though, they have a laugh.  And this is what is so memorable about Weekend of a Champion.  Stewart, in what he now looks back as a “very trendy” time, comes over in situ as the lithe, nimble, athlete-superstar that he was.  “That is why I made that film,” Polanski told me last night.  “I made it because Jackie was this amazing driver who was also so articulate, so lucid.  He is the film.”

And so you watched the reactions of some of the guests.  I sat behind Damon Hill, who was seeing the extensive footage of his father for the first time.   “It was a bit scary seeing my Dad in that form but I loved the film.  Just loved it,” he said afterwards.  Alain Prost, too, was captivated.  “Just amazing.  It reminded me of my early days in F1, when things were also changing so quickly.”  Allan McNish, too:  “You can see why Jackie is who he is.  Even then, he was so much more than just a racing driver…”

I cornered Jackie afterwards and pursued some details:

“Nice to see that NAZA race suit again.  And the lovely Westover shoes…”

“Och no.  They weren’t Westovers.  Everyone thought they were.  You know what they were?  Hush Puppies.  I needed a bit of extra sole support because I always walked on my toes and I was beginning to have problems.  Everyone at the time said you had to have very thin-soled shoes for maximum feel but it was like the gloves:  I started to wear gauntlet gloves with much thicker palms with flame resistance.  Didn’t change my feel at all….”

“Why were you so on edge that weekend?” asked McNish at the star-bedecked post-film party.

“I didn’t know it at the time, but I had a blood imbalance that would become a duodenal ulcer in 1972.  I wasn’t sleeping well.  I was tetchy.  You can see it when I get annoyed with that photographer before the start.  That shouldn’t have happened. It was a sign that things weren’t right.”

We had a laugh about the famous scene in which Jackie and Roman, on the inside of the entry to Casino Square, watch F3 practice.  “Now he’s got it all wrong,” says Jackie, pointing to John Bisignano (who sportingly would say a few years later, “that was the end of my racing career!”).  “But he’s ok.  And so is heHe knows doing…”

“Do you remember who that was?” I asked.

“No.  Who?”

“ Looked like James Hunt.”

This is the film’s most prominent feature – its exposure of the warts as well as the laughs.  It is a reminder that F1 was, and is, a never-ending movie, a 24-hour, 365-day TV show in which all the players must, and should, co-operate.  Certainly this was Stewart’s philosophy of the time.  I loved, too, the post-race Gala.  Jackie and Helen are there with Princess Grace (looking much more like Grace Kelly than the podium photos ever allowed), with the Prince, with Ringo Starr and others – but so, too, are many of the other drivers of the day – the guys who hadn’t won in the afternoon.  Pedro Rodriguez.  Jo Siffert.  Graham Hill.  Jacky Ickx.  Ronnie Peterson.

“When I see that film, I just think of the romance of it all,” said Allan McNish, walking back in a late-night drizzle to fetch his car.  “They were all at the post-race party.  That was lovely to see.”

Weekend of a Champion will be re-released soon in France by Pathe and in other regions thereafter.  This latest version was Co-Produced by Mark Stewart Productions. 

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