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Archive for the tag “John Surtees”

Homage to a Hero

S2830034Fifty years ago today – October 25, 1964, in Mexico City – John Surtees clinched the F1 World Championship in his North American Race Team (NART)-liveried factory Ferrari. The finale had been a three-way fight between John, Jim Clark and Graham Hill. Jim looked to have the title won before he was forced to stop his Lotus 33-Climax with a seized engine on the penultimate lap; Graham Hill was flicked out of contention by Lorenzo Bandini, John’s team-mate; and so, with Lorenzo dutifully slowing on the final lap, John finished second to Dan Gurney to secure the title by one point. Lucky? Of course not. John had won that year at both the Nurburgring and Monza; as in life, there were causes and effects for everything that happened both to him and to his rivals.

And so the flowers, and the champagne, were well-earned. Look closely at some of the photos in books and magazines, and on the net, from the Mexican GP celebrations and there in the background can be seen the Duke of Edinburgh. Amazingly, Prince Philip took time from a trade visit that week to attend the Mexican GP. There, amidst the vast crowds, he saw history in the making, for John became – and will no doubt remain – the only man ever to have won World Championships on both two wheels and four. He would go on to win further races for Ferrari, for Cooper-Maserati and for Honda and – in non-championship F1 guise – with his own, brilliant Surtees cars; nothing, though, would compare with that achievement of October 25, 1964.

I was fortunate enough to see John race in F1, Tasman (2.5 litre Lola-Climax) F5000 and F2. He was always a detailed artist and an engineer in the mould of Black Jack, Dan and Bruce – always immaculate with his car management, always prepared to work the all-nighter if circumstances so required. He’d drive – and then he’d invariably retire to the garage, there to fiddle with the engine or suspension bits, hustle the mechanics, get his hands dirty. Yes, he was demanding. No, he was not an autocrat. He just knew what he wanted and wouldn’t waste time with those who couldn’t deliver.

His departure from Ferrari early in 1966 said it all: he probably would have breezed the championship that year if he hadn’t stuck to his principles. He didn’t like the way the team was being run, however, and so that was that.  He just upped and left, jumping into an uncompetitive, overweight Cooper-Maserati. How quick was John? Remember only this: in the Cooper he immediately matched, and then exceeded, the pace of his team-mate, the very brave and very reflex Jochen Rindt. By season’s end he had transformed the Cooper into a race-winner. Mexico – again.

John survived it all, too. In recent years he has become a tireless campaigner for the charity named after his late son, Henry. He is an icon of our sport and an example to all – particularly in the way he has confronted his personal tragedy with so much dignity and with so much courage. Yet in the big picture he remains largely unheralded. He has been awarded the Office of the Order of the British Empire but we have campaigned endlessly on these pages, and on our YouTube Channel, for John also to be given a knighthood. Many others have done likewise. Yet, to date, nothing has happened. The omission is embarrassing.

I saw John yesterday, at the Memorial Service for Sir Jack Brabham at Silverstone.  He was as bubbly as ever, a passionate car and motor-cycle racer who couldn’t talk enough about the sports he loves. I asked him how he was going to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his win.

“With a nice bottle of champagne,” he said, eyes glistening.  “And I’ll be drinking it – not spraying it!”

The photograph above of John was taken yesterday at the Memorial – and the one below comes from the Henry Ford Archives.  It was taken at Watkins Glen, 1964, three weeks before Mexico, but it gives a true rendition of how the Ferrari looked in those gorgeous NART colours.

So: congratulations John Surtees. You are unique. You are a treasure. And may the sport do its utmost to ensure you are given the recognition you have so diligently earned.JS Glen 64 3

 

How good is Sebastian Vettel?

In Part Two of this week’s episode of The Racer’s Edge I wanted to chat to a few friends about Sebastian Vettel. Where does he sit amongst the all-time greats? What’s he like as a driver and as a person? How much more does he need to prove? And this provided me, of course, with an excellent opportunity to talk again to one of my heroes – to John Surtees, OBE.  A lovely man and an F1 icon, John (or “Sir John”, as he would be if there was any justice amongst politicians) spoke with all the humility, knowledge and enthusiasm that befits the only man ever to win both motor-cycle and F1 World Championships. I was lucky to catch Sir Jackie Stewart as he was walking his dogs near Lake Geneva; and the phone connection wasn’t bad to Italy, either, where I tracked down one of the wisest of all journalists – Giuseppe “Pino” Allievi.  A Ferrari expert – an F1 expert – Pino did not disappoint.  As well as some intelligent thought about Seb and his place in history, Pino also gives us his view of Ferrari’s driver line-up in the medium-term.

The Glen ’63: “…he was given to understatement…”

21699.tifFrom Trenton back to London; from London to New York and then on to Elmira, the small airport local to Watkins Glen.  The 1963 US GP would be Jim Clark’s first as World Champion.

Jim loved his days at The Glen;  everyone did.  The leaves had by now turned red and brown; there was a mist in the mornings that lifted only as the sun broke through before noon.  And this was a Grand Prix run by good, racing people – men like Cameron Argetsinger, who had brought motor racing to Watkins Glen in 1948,  Media Director, Mal Currie, and Chief Steward, Bill Milliken.  All had rich racing and automotive histories.  Milliken had been a Boeing test engineer during World War II and had joined the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory (Calspan) in 1945.  As an avid Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) member and former driver/designer, Bill in 1960s and 1970s became the doyen of US automobile engineering research. He was, in short, the sort of Chief Steward in whose presence you doffed your cap. The drivers and key team people stayed nearby at the Glen Motor Inn, hard by the Seneca Lakes, where their hosts were Jo and Helen Franzese, the second-generation Italian couple who loved their F1.  Legends were born overnight at the Glen Motor Inn – and even at the old Jefferson hotel downtown. Lips, though, were always sealed.  Such was life that October week at The Glen.

Ford made a big splash, too, this year of the Lotus-Ford at Indy.  This was the US GP!  Sixty thousand fans were expected.  Cedric Selzer, hooking up with the Team Lotus “US guys” for this race, remembers the drive up from New York airport on the Tuesday before the race:  “We were given the keys of a saloon, a coupe and a convertible and made our way out of the city, heading for Watkins Glen.  When we stopped at traffic lights, people came over and asked us about the cars.  We told them we’d got them from the Ford Motor Company but it took us three days to realize that we’d all been given 1964 models than no-one had seen before.

“The following afternoon, Jim Endruweit hired a Cessna 180, with a pilot, and we flew over the Finger Lakes. It was autumn, and the seasonal colours were unbelievable.It seemed a shame when it was time to get back to the task of winning a motor race…”

Milliken remembers the pre-race party:  “High point of the festivities were the parties at the Argetsinger’s home in Burdette.  All drivers and officials were there in an atmosphere or pure fun and excitement, bolstered by great conversation, good food and dozens of magnums of champagne from the local vineyards.  The homespun hospitality led to permanent friendships and was never forgotten by the drivers or teams.”Watkins_Glen_Dec_2002_209.1

Practice took place over eight absorbing hours, split between two four-hour sessions on Friday (1pm-5pm) and again on Saturday (11am-3pm).  There was a bit of a fracas when, first, Peter Broeker’s Canadian-built four-cylinder Stebro-Ford began spewing – and continued to spew – oil around the circuit, and, second, when Lorenzo Bandini slowed down after a blind brow to talk to his sidelined Ferrari team-mate, John Surtees.  Richie Ginther and Jack Brabham narrowly missed the Number Two Ferrari, igniting a bit of finger-pointing back in the pits and plenty of  “I no-a speak-a di Eengleesh…”.

The Glen in 1963 featured the brand new Tech Centre on top of the hill behind the pits (which were then sited after today’s Turn One), allowing all the teams (except Ferrari, who continued to use Nick Fraboni’s Glen Chevrolet garage and therefore to truck their cars up from the town each morning), to work on their cars in situ, in communal spirit and to be energized by plenty of lighting and electric sockets. (The F1 teams were obliged to convert to the American standard 110volts. On the face of it, this didn’t seem to be a problem. As it turned out, it was.)  For a small incremental fee, race fans could also walk up and down the Kendall shed, looking at the cars at close hand.  GP2 could learn a thing or two from The Glen, 1963…

Jim, in relaxed mood, qualified second, 0.1 sec behind Graham Hill’s old space-frame BRM. Milliken also recalls in his excellent autobiography (Equations in Motion, with an introduction by Dan Gurney) that the timekeepers “always had problems with Colin Chapman. Colin timed his own entries and claimed his faster figures were correct, so Bill Close, one of our timers and a solid Scotsman, put two clocks on each Lotus…”

Trevor Taylor, whose car caught fire in the paddock on Saturday, qualified seventh; and Pedro Rodriguez, having his first F1 drive, and fresh from a win for Ferrari in the Canadian GP sports car event, was 13th in the carburettor-engined 25. This wasn’t a happy weekend for Trevor:  Chapman chose the US GP to tell him that he wouldn’t be retained for 1964. His place would be taken by Lotus’ FJ king, Peter Arundell.

Bruce McLaren lost most of the Saturday morning session when his Cooper-Climax lost oil pressure; and so – as at the British GP – he used his time to watch, learn and compare.  This from his notes in Autosport the following week:  “Graham Hill finished his braking relatively early and had the power on, and the BRM a bit sideways, well before the apex of the slow corner at which I was watching.  Jim Clark, on the other hand, braked hard right into the apex with the inside front wheel just on the point of locking as he started to turn.”

Jim’s race was defined on the dummy grid.  Due to what was later found to be a faulty fuel pump, his 25 wouldn’t start. And then, very quickly, the battery went flat. Selzer: “The truth is that the battery had not taken a proper charge overnight. We used a dry-cell aircraft battery made by Varley with six, white-capped cells. Somehow, we never got the hang of keeping them fully-charged. America was a special case as we had to borrow a 110 volt charger.  We used a ‘fast’ charger when actually what was required was a ‘trickle’ charger. As Jim was left way behind the grid proper, two of us ran over to him and changed the battery. This meant that Jim had to climb out whilst we removed the tail and nose sections of the car in order to get at the battery, which was under the seat.”

I recently bought an audio CD of the 1963 US GP and Stirling Moss provides an hilarious description of these moves whilst watching the start from the main control tower.

“I can see lots of people gathered around Jim Clark’s car.  Looks as though they’re trying to remove the bonnet…no…what is it that you Americans call it?  The hood? Yes, that’s right. The hood. They’re removing the hood. Meanwhile, I can see Graham Hill getting ready for the off….”

Jim eventually lit up the rear Dunlops just as the last-placed car completed its first flying lap. He would finish a brilliant third behind the two BRMs of Hill and Ginther (after Surtees’ V6 Ferrari broke a piston in the closing stages) – but it could have been even closer.  “That mishap on the grid was what I needed to put me back into a fighting mood,” remembers Clark in Jim Clark at the Wheel, “and so I set off after the field, knowing I was going to enjoy the race. I began to catch up the field, and to thread my way through, until I saw Graham Hill in front of me. I thought I was at least going to have a dice with my old rival, albeit with me being a whole lap behind him. This was not to be, for shortly afterwards the fuel pump started acting up and it became a struggle even to keep him in view. I ploughed on through the race, during which many cars dropped out, and finally finished third.”  Jim didn’t know it at the time but Graham, too, had been in major trouble:  a rear roll-bar mount had broken on the BRM. Even so, it is typical of Clark’s character that he should sum-up his US GP with the phrase “…and finally finished third.”  He was given to understatement; his mechanical sympathy in reality did the talking. 

21700.tifNeither of the other Lotus 25s finished, although Pedro showed the promise of things to come by slicing his way up to sixth before retiring with a major engine failure. Given the financial support the Rodriguez family were giving Team Lotus for The Glen and then the Mexican GP, the mechanics had to work very hard to rebuild that engine within the next few days. A new timing chain and valves were found after long “phone-arounds” and other broken valves were repaired at a local machine shop.  David Lazenby, the lead “American” Team Lotus mechanic, returned to Detroit to begin installation of the four-cam Ford engine in the Lotus 29 – and he would be joined, once the Rodriguez engine rebuild was finished, by the F1 boys.  Chapman was always one for keeping his lads amused…21754.tif

There was no podium at The Glen.  As in other races back in 1963, it was the winner alone who took the plaudits and the laurel wreath (and, in the case of the US GP, the kisses from the Race Queen.) The new World Champion, after yet another astonishing race, would have quietly donned his dark blue, turtle-necked sweater, had a soft drink or two, helped the boys in the garage and then repaired to the Glen Motor Inn for a bath and a good dinner.   The Mexican GP was three weeks away.  On the Monday, Jim would journey back to New York and then fly across the continent to Los Angeles.  Ahead, over the next two weekends, lay two sports car events for Frank and Phil Arciero, the wealthy (construction/wine-growing) enthusiasts from Montebello, California, who had already won many races with Dan Gurney. The first would be the LA Times Grand Prix at Riverside, where Jim’s “team-mate” would be his Indy sparring partner, Parnelli Jones.  Then, the following weekend, he would race in the Pacific Grand Prix at Laguna Seca.  On both occasions he would drive the Arciero’s new 2.7 Climax-engined Lotus 19….assuming it was ready.  On the radio in his room that night at The Glen, with the still, cool air from the Lakes reminding him that the European winter was  but a step away, Jim might have heard the Beach Boys chasing their Surfer Girl, or Peter, Paul and Mary Blowin’ In The Wind.

Captions, from top: Jim drifts the Lotus 25-Climax up through the Watkins Glen esses on his way to a fighting third place; less than a year after the loss of his brother, Ricardo, Pedro Rodriguez made his F1 debut at the Glen in a third works Lotus 25-Climax; classic pose: Jim displays the 25’s reclined driving position as he accelerates past an ABC TV tower Images: LAT Photographic 

Buy Cedric Selzer’s wonderful new autobiography, published in aid of Marie Curie Cancer CareS2740001

Uniquely, Jim finished second

As Jim Clark’s 1963 season continues, we head to the NurburgringSCE

Bruce McLaren journeyed to the Nurburgring, for the German GP, in a Sunbeam Rapier road test car (arranged and co-driven by his secretary, Eoin Young).  In the days when standards, and tastes, were more in tune with real life, Bruce described the Rapier as “surprisingly fast” and “very comfortable”.  He would have cause to repeat his descriptions, post-race, in ways that he could never have imagined.S2620006

As in 1961 and 1962, when they had raced as team-mates in John Ogier’s Essex Racing Team, Bruce McLaren and Jim Clark stayed at the Lochmuhle hotel in Altenahr for the 1963 F1 race.  There’s no record of exactly what they specifically ate that weekend, but Bruce had said this about their stay the previous year:  “They serve some of the best food in Europe at the Lochmuhle and, as Essex were paying the bill, most of us stuck to four large courses, such as lobster or that delicious oxtail soup, followed by a quick chicken and mushroom entrée or pate, then an exotic steak, grilled with oranges and tomatoes or a wine sauce.  Jim generally managed to fit in a grilled trout, probably caught an hour earlier in the river by the hotel.  For a small man, it was amazing how much he could stow away!”S2620002

Jim, Peter Arundell and Trevor Taylor attended Huschke’s Sunday night party in Solitude and thus Jim and Trevor left at a leisurely hour for the autobahn thrash up to the Eifel hills on Monday.  Jim was thirsty for a win on the circuit that for him represented the greatest of all tests of drivers’ skill.  He had first raced there in 1961, in that Essex Aston with Bruce, and had quickly learned the circuit in Bruce’s 3.8 Jag.  Then, two months later, he had finished fourth in the German GP in the Lotus 21.  That race will forever be remembered as one of the finest hours (or two and a half hours!) in the career of Stirling Moss – but Jim’s fourth place, in his first full season, nursing a brake problem in the spare car (after a big practice accident), should never be under-rated.  From then on, Jim had a Monaco-like relationship with the 15-mile circuit:  he was always quick, always its master – but the circuit, in turn, always found a way of throwing him a joker.  Whilst leading the 1962 1000km race easily in the Lotus 23, Jim became nauseated by an exhaust gas leak from a loose manifold.  And at the ’62 German GP, whilst focussed on de-misting his goggles, he forgot to switch on the fuel pump just before the start.  He recovered to finish a brilliant fourth.

Now, with four World Championship victories behind him, and that new lap record at Solitude, Jim was returning to the Ring with the Lotus 25 in its latest, delectable, form.  Of course he could be worried about suspension failures and the like over the switchbacks of the ‘Ring; he knew that Cedric Selzer and the boys were, too. He trusted them, though; and, ultimately, he had to trust Colin Chapman.

Jim began Friday practice with his race Climax engine from Solitude;  and, continuing that Solitude connection, a driveshaft broke (again) as Jim was preparing for a quick lap. He thus finished the session third-quickest behind John Surtees in the works Ferrari and Lorenzo Bandini’s old Centro Sud BRM. Cedric Selzer and the boys fitted new driveshafts during the lunch break in the Team Lotus lock-up garage in the paddock quadrangle. Bratworst anyone?

Then, in the afternoon, it rained on the main part of the circuit (but not in the pit area). In a nice counterpoint to 2013, all the drivers nonetheless ventured out. Jim was quickest, slicing his 25 through the mist and standing water in 9m 44.0sec. Surtees was second and Ritchie Ginther third in the factory BRM. Overnight, Jim asked for an engine and gearbox change.  Oh yes, and how about leaving reverse out of the ZF ‘box on this occasion, just as a safeguard against any further selection issues?  It’s one thing to hold the car in gear through the Masta kink;  it’s another to do so over a blind brow at the Nurburgring…

It was dry, but overcast, on Saturday, which meant that now was the moment for The Lap.  The 25 felt taut on exploratory looks around the North and South Curve loops; the new engine, mated to the new ZF, seemed strong. Jim lowered himself in.Peakless Bell, Dunlop blue overalls, Leston string-backed gloves, Westover shoes. No seat belts.

The new engine faltered.  It coughed, irritatingly, as Jim left Pflantzgarten for the long roller-coaster straight at the finish. And it wasn’t just a question of losing a second or two:  the baulk killed his acceleration run through third, fourth and fifth gears.  There was no telling how much time he had lost.

Still, though, he was on the pole: that was the quality of the lap. 8min 46.7sec – the fastest ever recorded at the Nurburgring. 20645Without that mis-fire (or whatever it was), he could easily have been in the 43s. Surtees, looking consistently quick, was second-fastest; and third – amazingly – was Lorenzo in the old BRM. It was at about this time that Jim’s long-lasting friendship with Lorenzo was born. Graham Hill, always a threat at the ‘Ring, rounded out the four-car front row; and Bruce was on the inside of the second row in the Cooper, ahead of Ritchie and Jack Brabham. Dan, again wearing a white, Clark-like, peak on his Bell for this race, had nothing but engine trouble with his Brabham. Was Solitude but a dream, he must have been asking?

Wally Hassan, of Coventry Climax, was present at the ‘Ring (on the third anniversary of the V8’s appearance) and suggested the usual remedies:  plug changes, fuel injection clean-outs.  In the quadrangle, as they all sat and stood around, and as the mechanics worked flat out, Jim’s engine sounded perfect.  Fingers were crossed for tomorrow.20737

The start I encourage you to watch on the German TV video below.  Drivers shuffle in their cockpits;  officials wave hands and twitch flags.  Some of the slower cars begin to creep.  Not Clark. The 25 stays rock-solid still.  And then – bang!  Jim releases the clutch against revs, the rear tyres smoke and he is gone, soaring into an immediate lead…

His start, indeed, was exactly as he planned it:  “I decided that a fast start was absolutely vital,” he would say later to Graham Gauld, “because, with all its twists and turns, the ‘Ring can be tricky for anyone trying to overtake, particularly in a Grand Prix car.  So when the flag dropped I departed as quickly as possible…”

It wasn’t to last.  As Jim selected third gear – and this can just be seen on the video – his engine hesitates again, just as it had on his pole lap.  “Surely I haven’t oiled a plug on the line?” he thought, fearing the worst.  Jim had specifically started the engine only a few minutes before the off to prevent just such a problem.  Now, as he focused on the first left- and right-handers and then on the run down back behind the pits, he could see the pack surging nearer in his mirrors. All around the lap he lived with the problem.  Ritchie Ginther went past in the BRM – then Surtees.  The engine would feel as if it was on seven cylinders – and then suddenly it would go onto eight, mid-corner.

In time, of course, Jim began to maximise what he had – “but my progress was erratic, to say the least,” he would say later.  “I developed a whole new system for going around the Nurburgring on seven cylinders.  This was completely spoiled on occasion because I would arrive at a corner I knew was flat-out on seven cylinders and set the car up.  Then the eighth cylinder would come in with a bang and there would follow an exciting second or two as I sorted the car out.  What a difference that one cylinder makes when you have committed yourself to a line with what you thought was a seven-cylinder motor car!”

For the most part of the race Jim was able to keep the Ferrari of John Surtees in sight; indeed, as can be seen in the videos, he was on some parts of the circuit able to re-take the lead – for John, too, was fighting a mis-fire of his own. Usually the Ferrari ran on six clear cylinders;  occasionally it ran on five.  Surtees was up there with Clark, allowing for the intrusions, fighting with the car.20799

And, towards the end, he was able to pull away, for Jim began to feel his gearbox tighten.  On this occasion Jim would settle for second place – the first and only second place he would ever record in a World Championship Grand Prix.  It wasn’t a question of “driving for points” because of “the championship”. It was simply a question of “bringing the car to the finish”.  He did so – 1min 20sec behind John.  Afterwards, the engine problem was traced to yet another dud spark plug.

It was in many ways a momentous race, marked for eternity by highs and lows. John Surtees, the former mult-World Motor Cycle Champion, had now won his first Grand Prix; for their part, Ferrari had scored their first victory since that dark day at Monza, in 1961. Ferrari’s other driver, Willy Mairesse, had meanwhile been seriously injured when he lost his car at Flugplatz; 20687Bruce McLaren had crashed heavily when his Cooper broke a rear wishbone (as distinct from the front suspension that had cracked in practice!);  Bruce had been thrown out and knocked unconscious but further, serious, head injuries had been prevented by his new Bell Magnum.  Chris Amon had broken a couple of ribs when the suspension also failed on his Parnell Lola.  Lorenzo was out early after a shunt with Innes Ireland’s BRP but had still done enough to earn himself a works Ferrari drive at Monza (in place of Mairesse).  Amon, Jo Siffert and Jo Bonnier could all have finished fourth but for mechanical dramas. (Dan Gurney, who also retired his Brabham, can be seen briefly in the German TV feed, standing by the Rob Walker Cooper after it retired with a “broken chassis”); at the end, fourth position had been taken by a German (Gerhard Mitter) and his old Porsche (shown on the video near the podium); Jim Hall had again driven extremely well to finish fifth; and third, after leading and spending most of the race holding his BRM in gear, was another American, Ritchie Ginther.  Over 350,000 paying spectators attended this German GP – even though a Gerhard Mitter-type result was about their greatest expectation;  for these were the days when people watched because it was their national Grand Prix and because these were the best drivers in the world, regardless of nationality.20684S2630002

20666All the drivers – or those who weren’t in hospital – attended the Sunday night celebrations at the Sport Hotel. Jim visited Bruce in Adenau, where he was relieved to find him in reasonably good spirits, and left the victory proceedings early, for he was racing at Brands Hatch the following day in Alan Brown’s Ford Galaxie. Bruce regained consciousness in his hospital bed, completely unaware of how he had got there.  “I was a bit shocked at first,” he said later, “because all around me in the same ward there seemed to be people with bashed heads and banged-up legs.  I had this awful suspicion that I had caused all the carnage…”  He hadn’t – but he had been very lucky. While Bruce’s wife, Pat, drove back to the UK with the Australian driver, Frank Matich (who was staying with the McLarens in Surbiton whilst building up his new Brabham for the 1964 Tasman series) Bruce, resting comfortably in the rear seat of the Rapier, his leg in a precautionary plaster, was chauffeured back to the coast by Eoin Young. It was then but a short hop across the channel in a BUA (British United Airways) Bristol Freighter, with Bruce staying on board the Rapier while Eoin re-fuelled in the cabin. Eoin then drove Bruce all the way to Kingston hospital, where his plaster was quickly removed.  “After that crash at the Nurburgring I thought hard about my future,” Bruce would later say.  “I had once promised myself to give up racing after my first big shunt.  I realize now that that would have been the worst possible thing I could have done.  If you are ever going to look yourself in the eye again, it’s essential to go straight out again and have a go…”

Even though Bruce would lose his life in another accident, at Goodwood, in 1970, I think these words would have been fully-endorsed by his friend, Jim Clark.

Captions, from top: John Surtees in the “V5” Ferrari leads Jim’s “V7” Lotus 25 around the Nurburgring; Sunbeam Rapiers were all the rage in ’63!; the Lochmuhle Hotel – still there today and still trout-worthy; despite yet another engine mis-fire, Jim Clark took the pole with a brilliant lap in the Lotus 25; in the days when former champions were regularly welcomed at races, former Mercedes F1 team-mates, Stirling Moss and Juan Fangio, had fun in a 230SL convertible.  That’s  Jim Hall’s fifth-placed BRP Lotus 24 on the right of the paddock quadrangle;  Surtees glides the Ferrari around the Karussel; Willy Mairesse is stretchered to an ambulance after his Flugplatz shunt.  This sort of scene was all-too-regular at the Nurburgring;  Bruce McLaren was running his Cooper right up with the leaders before his big accident.  And then there was that awful moment:  Bruce’s team-mate, Tony Maggs, draws on a cigarette while journalists and team people hover nervously around the Cooper transporter, awaiting post-race news on Bruce’s condition.  Note the Team Lotus truck on the right. Images: Grand Prix Photo; LAT Photographic; Peter Windsor Collection

“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:

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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