It wasn’t quite as we’ve known it…but it was glorious nonetheless. Here are some of my favourite cars and people, as seen on a golden Friday in Autumn.
On the eve of this year’s US Grand Prix in Austin, I thought it might be nice to have a look at some video cameos of the five American drivers who have to date won World Championship Grand Prix races (or a race). Thanks to Pathe and AP Movietone, I’ve put together a YouTube playlist of video content that to date has had very little airing; and, wherever possible, I’ve tried to steer clear of the obvious. Phil Hill, for example, is encapsulated by a charming (and I think very funny) video-documentary shot around his first GP win (at Monza, 1960). It features such advanced techniques as “sound recordings”; Phil reading a script, post-race; and the transfer of images, from Monza to Fleet Street, via “photo-electric cell”. Watch for the dispatch rider delivering said photos to the studios at Teddington – today’s home of F1 Racing, Autosport and Motor Sport News… For Mario Andretti, I’ve chosen some nice colour footage of the Lotus Cavalcade staged in Norwich in late 1978.
Where possible, I’ve left the original audio. The silent videos have been re-voiced.
So here they are (in the order in which they won their first race): Phil Hill, Dan Gurney, Richie Ginther, Peter Revson and Mario Andretti
As the official photographer to Team Lotus in the 1960s, Peter Darley, like the photo-journalist, David Phipps, was close to both Colin Chapman and the Team Lotus personnel. He was at Monza in 1968 when Mario Andretti (and Bobby Unser) were scheduled to make their F1 debuts for Gold Leaf Team Lotus and BRM. He recently sent us his recollections:
Colin asked me to collect Mario Andretti and Bobby Unser from the airport. No-one knew which one – Linate or Malpensa? Anyway, I researched which was used for transatlantic flights and rolled up. Bobby was driving for BRM, Mario for Lotus. I found them both and we piled into my Fiat 124 hire car. After a few kms, Mario decided he wanted to drive, although Bobby wasn’t so sure, muttering things about crazy Italians. It was thereafter a drive of a lifetime: Mario had the pedal to the metal for the entire journey. When we reached Monza, Mario and Bobby found they had no passes but a few words from Mario to the local police resulted in the gates opening and the crowds parting as if we were going through the Red Sea. We were there.
Unfortunately all this was in vain: since they had competed in the US the previous day, Monza’s Race Director, Snr Baccagalupi, refused to allow them to race in Italy under the 24 hr rule. We knew better, of course: with Mario a definite contender for the pole and a possible win – even though this would have been his first F1 race – it was in Ferrari’s interest to keep him away. He made up for it by taking the pole for what was his first race – the 1968 US GP at Watkins Glen.
The Italian Grand Prix at Monza is upon us. Enjoy it, for there may not be a million more, given the state of the F1 economy right now. As AJ Foyt memorably said to Nigel Roebuck recently, “Is that Monza place still going?”
I hope it survives; I love circuits that touch the past. We need them – just as we need the past in order to create the future.
That subject, though, is for another day. It’s time to celebrate Monza, 2015, and to start us on the path, courtesy of Movietone News, we’ve put together a collection of Monza Moments – well, almost Monza moments, because I couldn’t resist a bit of Tazio Nuvolari in Tunis or that amazing Ferrari dead-heat at Syracuse in 1967. Finally, the spirit of Monza is I think encapsulated by the enthusiasm of the starter in the last video (1968 1000km). By the time the back of the grid reaches him they’re travelling at well over 100mph… Avanti!
Nurburgring, August 1, 1965. German GP Very quickly, the F1 calendar brought an end to the Ingliston Interlude and the Scots R&R that came with it: the German GP was scheduled to take place at the Nurburgring the following weekend. The press billed it as a “Championship decider” but in truth it was Jim Clark’s first opportunity to clinch his second World Title. A win at the ‘Ring would secure it. Should he fail to do so, then there was always Monza, or Watkins Glen…
For Jim, this was a big race for another reason: he had never won at the ‘Ring. He’d always been quick, both in sports cars and F1, but always there had been problems. Now he had the almost-perfect car (the Lotus 33B, fitted with a larger-capacity oil tank in the wake of the Silverstone near-miss) and the almost-perfect engine (the 32-valve Climax V8, now running tapered valves to curb excessive oil consumption). All he needed was a trouble-free weekend.
This he had. It wasn’t easy, because he backed-off a fraction late when the car was airborne in the early laps, buzzing the Climax up to 11,200 rpm; and, late in the race, when light rain began to fall, the engine lost its sharpness due to a broken exhaust. Jackie Stewart, though, had problems with the BRM, leaving Graham Hill as Jim’s only real threat, while Dan Gurney’s 16-valve Brabham-Climax was very slow in a straight line.
So Jim secured the 1965 Championship on the world’s most demanding circuit. He started from the pole; he was never headed for two hours, 10min; and he set fastest lap. It was a fitting result, you might say. Afterwards, with the garland, he was joined for the long celebratory lap in an open sports car by a beaming Graham and Dan (in neat, light blue Goodyear jacket). Win No 28
Courtesy of AP, here are the Movietone News race highlights that hit the cinemas within a few days of Jim’s momentous win: