One of the many pleasures of running things at DDC is how old friends pop in and contribute. Gary Horrocks will be a familiar name to anyone who has followed IMSA since Doctor Don revived the show at the turn of the century. Gary was of the stars in the world of DailySportsCar.com – his reporting of the American Le Mans Series was top notch, keeping absentees like myself informed and entertained in full measure. When he offered to give us a flavour of the scene around Monterey earlier this month, I jumped at the chance.
Laguna Seca under any name has always been a favorite track of mine. I’ve been going there on an off and on again basis since 1984.
Even after covering the ALMS and Grand Am series from 1999 thru 2016 and being at so many different tracks, any trip to Laguna almost felt like going home.
When it was
announced the featured “make” at the Monterey Historics was to be IMSA, I knew one
way or another it was to be on my schedule. 50 years of IMSA sounded awesome. Well, it wasn’t pretty, but I did manage to
take in the sights and sounds for a day at least…
First of all, I opted to not apply for credentials – I didn’t expect to be “working” although eventually I did accomplish some work. That brought on sticker shock – $90 for a Friday only ticket. It was an additional $120 for Saturday.
I’m sure there were packages available and such, but with prices like this, well yikes. Then on top of that you have the business principle of supply and demand shining thru in regards to hotel rooms. I saw a particular room I’ve used for the IMSA races at $170 a night up to a staggering $499 per night for this event. As if the area isn’t expensive enough. I’ve heard of many that are much better off than I that are staying away simply because of the expense. This week isn’t for the common folk anymore…
Any trip to
Laguna typically includes stops at In-n-Out Burger (a double-double will do
just fine) as well as a stop at Canepa Motorsports. During the week of the historics, their restoration
shop is open for viewing and as always, their showroom and museum are open for
your drooling pleasure…
This place is staggering. Again, not a place that I really belong in, especially now being retired, but a great place to see some unique and special cars. Thru the years that I’ve been visiting I’ve seen the inventory in both the showroom and museum change, but it seems that you can always count on the core being present.
Gulf 917? Check. Mass/Ickx 962? Check. Audi R15 plus? Check…
What was of most interest to me was the appearance of the John Paul Greenwood Corvette. This was the last of the line for Greenwood, but this Bob Riley car was the most extreme of a long line of extreme Corvettes. I’d seen the car in the shop in 2016, stripped to the bare frame and to see it complete now was a sight to behold. What a fantastic beast.
Anyway, on to the main event the Monterey Historics. Before arriving I’d stayed away from the entry lists on purpose – I simply wanted to be surprised. I guess the car I most wanted to see (and hear) again was a Panoz. Just one more time to see the beast in action. While it wasn’t the coupe as I’d witnessed at Laguna in ’97 and 98, it was none other than the full on wacked out roadster I feel fortunate to have witnessed in 1999 and later. Mags and Brabs could always be counted on to give it their all in the beast. Even though it was typically an Audi show back then, the Panoz was still something to behold. Good times…
Another highlight was Tommy Kendall’s RX-7. If my feeble mind remembers correctly, this car was originally constructed by Jim Downing, raced by Jack Baldwin to two championships and served as Tommy’s entrance into IMSA racing. All told, the car won 5 championships (Downing 1, Baldwin 2 and Kendall 2) in the IMSA GTU category. None other than Dan Binks was Tommy’s crew chief back then and thru much of his career. It was also Dan that was responsible for getting the car back in running order. Tommy said, “we just wanted to get it running. Mechanically it is great – Dan did a great job with it. Cosmetically we didn’t do much to it. It is as it last ran. We did vacuum up the cat fur out of the car though. My cat loved to sleep in the drivers seat when I was recuperating from my injuries. It was sort of my therapy buddy…” Dan added that the car is “quite slow when compared to today’s racing, even to a current street car. We only got a bit over 300 hp in it. That’s not much anymore.”
Even though there is a featured make, there are also other stunning cars in the paddock. In this case it wasn’t just IMSA. There are always an interesting assembly of F-1 cars, from back when the cars were unique and different. Even if the featured make isn’t your thing, it is still worth the effort. Just make sure you’ve the funds to make it work.
Anyway, what I was able to do didn’t disappoint. Sure, I’d have loved to have had more time at the track, but it just didn’t work out this time. At least I got one day at the track. Poor Brian Mitchell – he and his lovely wife Linda made the trip, only for her to take a tumble on a pedestrian bridge. The result of the fall was a wickedly messed up leg with multiple breaks. He spent more time in the hospital with her than he was able to be at the track. She faces a long recovery time – sadly she had just retired from many years of teaching. Keep them in your thoughts…
It may be the dog days of summer but here at DDC Towers we are beavering away, playing catch up with material that has taken time to get posted. Here are the Special Correspondent’s reflections on the Techno Classica.
It was Clément Ader who made the first V8 engines and he entered three V8–engined cars for the tragic Paris–Madrid race in 1903. The race was stopped at Bordeaux because of the fatal accidents but all three of these cars successfully reached Bordeaux safely.
However it was de Dion who gave us the first production V8 car which was introduced at the 1910 Paris Show. This de Dion V8 dates from 1913 and its engine is of 4.6-litres.
In 1930 the
Mille Miglia organisers introduced a Touring (Turismo) class for four-seater
saloons to attract more entrants. In 1931 Alfa Romeo entered three 6C 1750 Gran
Turismos with special “Aerodynamic” coupé bodies built by Touring – these can
be considered the true ancestors of the modern GT.
Gazzabini/Guatta came 8th and 1st in class; in 1932
Touring prepared new aerodynamic bodies and Minoia/Balestrieri came 4th
and 1st in class.
This is a Talbot Grand Sport, chassis 110105. It ran at Le Mans three times but was never a works car. In 1951 it finished 17th; in 1952 André Chambas and André Morel raced it with two Roots-type superchargers fitted and brought it home 9th, the only Talbot to finish.
1953 was the car’s last race and Chambas had Charles de Cortanze (of Peugeot fame) as his co-driver – alas, Chambas spun after just 25 laps, damaging the gearbox and causing retirement; poor de Cortanze never got to drive!
John Wyer, the Aston Martin racing manager, was hoping the new sports racing
DB3 would be ready but , when it became
obvious that it would not be available until the end of the season, he decided
to build two “lightweight” DB2 cars, registered XMC 76 and XMC 77. They had extensively drilled
chassis, bodies in lighter 18-gauge alloy, Perspex side and rear windows and a
power output of 128 bhp.
first appeared in the Production Sports Car Race at Silverstone in May and Parnell
won the 3-litre class with seventh overall. At Le Mans Parnell shared with
Hampshire to finish in 7th place and then Shawe-Taylor took another
7th in the Tourist Trophy at Dundrod.
In the 1952 Mille Miglia Parnell and Serboli finished 13th overall and in Switzerland’s Prix de Berne at Bremgarten in May Parnell came 5th, lacking the speed to challenge the Mercedes-Benz 300SL opposition.
A little Rovin microcar, made after World War 2 in the former Delaunay-Belleville factory at St Denis, Paris. One of these splendid machines won its class in the 1950 Bol d’Or at Montlhéry.
A few weeks back a bunch of scoundrels gathered in the metropolis otherwise known as West Kingsdown, the Mercure at the entrance to Brands Hatch to be precise. The purpose was to celebrate Malcolm Cracknell’s début as a novelist with the launch of his cracking yarn “Taking the World by Storm”. Michael Cotton, a celebrated author himself was amongst the guest list, and has provided us with a book review that you can see HERE
The guests were drawn from Malcolm’s friends and family and also his extended family in the motor sport fraternity. We were fed and watered in some style courtesy of Crackers. But before that we had the high point of a very convivial luncheon date, Crackers presenting his creation. The performance was given without notes and he was well supported through the 45 minutes by his attentive carer, Maria.
During that address we learned some interesting facts that had remained largely unknown till that point. One of the disguised stars of the book’s narrative, Laurence Pearce, was there with his better half, Fiona. Crackers asked him about a few things relating to the book then mentioned the Le Mans Pre-Qualifying in 1998.
Those of you who are not familiar with this unhappy episode will be shocked to learn the Lister Storm was refused even access to the track, let alone the chance to get into the Big Race. The officials maintained that the modifications made since the ’97 event had changed the car so much that it was no longer in compliance with the homologation papers as submitted to support its status as a GT. In addition the rerouted exhaust system, now through the cockpit, was also declared illegal. No doubt this bad news would have been delivered in the usual sympathetic and sensitive manner that the French in general, and the ACO in particular, are rightly famous for.
Laurence told the assembled throng that he suspected that the ACO had been tipped off about the exhaust by none other than Tom Walkinshaw who was running three Nissan R390s for the Japanese manufacturer. The two outfits had tested at the same time at Le Castellet with the Lister struggling to put whole laps together but showing flashes of real pace. Walkinshaw and TWR must have realised that their policy of developing their ’97 car had led to them falling behind in terms of speed compared to their rivals such as Toyota, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, all of whom had new racers for ’98. From the original entry list it looked as if up to eight or nine GT1 entries would be eliminated in the Pre-Qualifying sessions in early May, so grassing on a potential competitor for one of the starting slots would not have been given a second thought by TWR. As Laurence declared, it was not sand-bagging that dictated their behaviour at Paul Ricard but that the car had a problem with the new clutch actuation system and struggled to get a clear lap…………..
Crackers then asked if it were true that Laurence had grabbed the Chief Scrutineer, Daniel Perdrix, by the throat when informed of the ACO’s position. No came the answer, though I did kick down the door to the office of Technical Director, Alain Bertaut…………….I was trying to explain my views on the situation.
The topic of gambling came up and once again Laurence confirmed that this actually happened in the 1999 British GT Championship, but the sum won was actually £1,000,000………I am still not sure quite how all this was possible but it must have been completely above board if it involved upstanding citizens such as Julian Bailey, Jamie Campbell-Walter and Laurence. Life in Portugal must agree with the Pearces, as both looked in top form.
It was also good to see James Weaver once more and looking well. He came a long way to attend and I know that Crackers really appreciated this. In real life as in the book James is an absolute star. Other stalwarts of the sportscar scene put in appearances such as Mike Youles, Peter Snowdon, Tommy Erdos, Jock Simpson, Shaun Redmayne, Alan Lis, Martin Little, Graham Goodwin and all the way from the Pacific Coast, historian Janos Wimpffen. Special mention should be made of Ian Smith, the engineer who “narrates” the tale……..he managed to show up despite working in the Far East for McLaren. One person who was missed, having to deal with a domestic crisis that suddenly sprung up, was Deborah Stephens. The book is dedicated to her brother aka The Captain and others who also have gone way too soon, Allan, Damo and Jack.
It was one of the good days………………brilliantly organised and put together by Marcus Potts and his son Josh.
For those interested or those considering purchasing the book there is a web page HERE
“She was tall, thin and tarty and she drove a Maserati, faster than sound, I was heaven bound…..”. Rod Stewart’s non-PC song from 1972 is a reminder of that land that we can never revisit, The Past.
Except sometimes the rules get a little bent, distorted almost. I had not been to the Goodwood Festival of Speed for a few years, a matter of regret but other things would get in the way. Nearly did not make it this year when the brakes failed on the car……………as good a definition of living in interesting times as you can get. A good egg, Andrew Cotton, took pity on me and picked me up at cock-crow on the Saturday and we headed for the South Downs.
Once on site I made my way to the Concours in front of the Stables, Cartier’s Style et Luxe. This has always been one of the highlights of the past Festivals of Speed and 2019 did not disappoint. The usual suspects had been rounded up and it was a collection of automotive grace and beauty. Then my attention was drawn to one side where there was a stand with that rarest of beasts these days, a modern car with style and elegance, it turned out to be the De Tomaso P72.
OK the beauty was not from Modena, except perhaps in spirit, but it would surely have inspired Rod the Mod to sing. This interest and appreciation was shared by a wide number of car guys and gals thronging the grounds of Goodwood House. In particular one observer caught my eye , sporting a trade mark Marlboro stetson. Who else, but the great Arturo Merzario? He gave the curvaceous Italian the once over, nodded approval and toddled off possibly muttering “Bella Signorina”. His verdict was shared by all I spoke to there………
A young American asked me who was this cat in the hat that everyone was staring at? I answered that Art was a legend on track, a Ferrari Grand Prix driver and double winner of the Targa Florio and had played a prominent role in the rescue of Niki Lauda from the flames at Nürburgring in 1976. This explanation appeared to mean little to him, though he was trying his best to be polite to an old guy just rambling on. He soon returned to admiring and filming the P72 with his phone and doing all manner of social media things…………some days you feel your age.
The voluptuous coupé had me fascinated, it had the siren-song of a V12 when fired up for its trip off the pedestal and up the Hill. I needed to know more.
One motive in heading to Goodwood in general and to De Tomaso in particular was the chance to meet up with old friends, Gayle and Pete Brock. Was it really 20 years ago that Doctor Don created the American Le Mans Series? My travels following that circus around the turn of the century led me to getting to know the legend that is Pete. More time available for conviviality during the treks across North America than on his annual pilgrimages to La Sarthe or Monza.
Gayle and Pete were in Goodwood courtesy De Tomaso Automobili, apparently he had provided inspiration for the relaunch of the brand and the P72. But how or why?
A consortium had acquired the De Tomaso name back in 2014 and had taken a deep breath considering what to do next. They then acquired the assets of Gumpert Apollo and developed the Apollo IE, a hypercar that almost defies description. The carbon fibre chassis set the group thinking, perhaps something could created and the 60th anniversary of De Tomaso’s founding in 2019 gave the team a target. But what inspiration should this resurrection take?
Going back into the history of De Tomaso there was a collaboration in late 1964 between Alejandro de Tomaso and Carroll Shelby to produce a prototype known as the P70. Big powerful racers such as this proposed project were very much coming into their own in the mid-’60s, this would lead to the fabulous Can-Am era still regarded by many as one of the high points of motorsport history.
Peter Brock had enjoyed great success as a designer and stylist, in particular with the legendary Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupé that had comprehensively defeated Ferrari in the GT arena. He was called upon to design that new car that would be built in Modena, this would be known as the P70.
De Tomaso would build the car, actually the job would be farmed out to Carrozzeria Fantuzzi, one of the many excellent motor shops in the Modena region. It was to be powered by a 7-litre V8, Ford-derived.
The resulting design was a combination of elegance and function, it had to perform on the track but it should also a thing of beauty, it was the spirit of the times.
Despite the best efforts of the designer the project eventually foundered on the clashing personalities of Shelby and de Tomaso, that and Shelby being offered the opportunity to take on the GT40 campaign for Ford, winning the lottery in motor racing terms.
The story of the P70 is fascinating, Peter and Gayle have produced a fine book on the topic. Rather than me rehash the tale here do yourself a favour and purchase a copy, you can get it autographed if bought from this website
Back to the future and the P72. The new group had a chassis courtesy of the Apollo. For the prototype they would use their V12, a development of a Ferrari engine and entirely in keeping with the retro ethos of the project. For the proposed 72 production cars the powertrain has yet to be announced, I would not be surprised if it bears more than a passing resemblance to sonorous unit in the prototype on show at Goodwood.
The styling has been compared to a Ferrari P3 or P4 and certainly there are elements in common, but one could say that about the Glickenhaus SCG 003 or Ferrari’s own P80C. Bill Warner, the guiding light behind the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, was quoted recently about the work of the great Sergio Scaglietti. “They’re the kind of voluptuous shapes boys are trying to draw when they sketch racing cars during study hall . . . instead of doing their homework.” From my perspective that sentiment could be applied equally to the P72.
The interior finish and styling was on a different level to virtually anything outside the Rolls-Royce/Bentley/Pagani/Bugatti level, it reflects the values of Style et Luxe. The budget has been spent in those areas rather than on electronics, old school one might say.
Value is an interesting thought, the proposed price is €750,000, a comparative bargain when compared with most other cars in this class. 72 people are going to be very happy when they take delivery, the likes of me can just dream…………….
John Brooks, August 2019
Photography courtesy of Gary Harman and De Tomaso Automobili
I wrote this retrospective a while back, intending it to be used for another purpose. Perhaps it should have seen the light of day last weekend when the attention of the GT Universe was focused on Francorchamps. It matters not, like the 2019 edition the 2009 Spa 24 Hours was action packed, this part of Belgium rarely disappoints. So take a few minutes to look back to the time of GT1………….
Change was in the air for those anticipating the 2009
edition of the Spa 24 Hours. In early July that year the FIA had given approval
for SRO’s next big step, the FIA GT1 World Championship, a brave venture to
launch in the face of the financial storms that were raging at the time. This
bold move also spelled the end of the road for the FIA GT Championship which
had graced tracks around the globe since 1997, taking GT racing to new heights.
The 2009 Spa 24 Hours would therefore be the last contested
by the GT1 cars that had pretty much ruled the roost since 2001 when SRO took
over as promoters of the Belgian endurance classic. That fact combined with the
economic challenges of the time faced by all the competitors meant that the
field in the leading class was smaller than in previous years. However, the
quality of the competitors more than made up for any shortfall in quantity.
Hot pre-race favourites were the trio of Maserati MC12 GT1s
entered by Vitaphone Racing, as winners in three of the previous four years at
Spa, they looked on course to add to their trophy cabinet. The German team’s
driver line ups were first class too. In #1 were the reigning FIA GT Champions,
Andrea Bertolini and Michael Bartels with Stéphane Sarrazin and Alexandre
Negrão completing the quartet. #2 MC12 had regulars Alex Müller and Miguel
Ramos supported by Pedro Lamy and Eric van de Poele, a record five-time winner
at the Spa 24 Hours. The final Vitaphone entry had Belgians Vincent Vosse and Stéphane
Léméret leading the charge with Carl Rosenblad and Alessandro Pier Guidi also
in the team.
The opposition to the Italian supercars came in the shape
of three Corvette C6.Rs. Local favourites Peka Racing Team gave the crowds
something to shout about and did not lack in speed and experience in the driver
department with a line-up of Mike Hezemans, Anthony Kumpen, Jos Menten and Kurt
Mollekens. Race day would be Mike’s 40th birthday, what better
present than a second triumph at the Spa 24 Hours?
Bringing a touch of the exotic to the grid was the C6.R of
Sangari Team Brazil. The car, formerly run under the DKR banner, was crewed by
ex-F1 driver Enrique Bernoldi and his fellow Brazilian Roberto Streit, with
Xavier Maassen the third driver.
The final Corvette on the grid was entered by Selleslagh
Racing Team, long-time supporters of the Championship. Leading their challenge
was Vette factory driver and all-round good egg, Oliver Gavin. His teammates
were James Ruffier, Bert Longin and Maxime Soulet.
The brave new world of the future GT1 class was also
represented on the grid with the Marc VDS Ford GT and a factory backed Nissan
GT-R. While these novelties attracted much attention, they were considered too
new to challenge for outright victory.
The Qualifying sessions were struck by rainstorms of
biblical proportions and there was virtually no running in the dry. The grid
lined up with the Vitaphone Maseratis at the head with the Sangari and
Selleslagh C6.R pair up next. Then it was the Marc VDS Ford, the final Vette of
Peka Racing and the GT1 field was rounded out by the Nissan.
The Maserati phalanx immediately grabbed the lead on the
run down to Eau Rouge and headed the field on the climb up the Kemmel Straight
to Les Combes. If the MC12s thought that they would dominate the race they soon
disabused of that notion. Within seven laps it was a Corvette 1-2, with
Bernoldi heading Gavin, while Hezemans was also on the way up the leader board.
However, the weather gods decided to get in on the act and soon heavy rain was
falling and that seemed to favour the Maseratis.
For the first two hours the race swung between the leading
six cars, then Streit’s Corvette crashed heavily at Raidillon and was out of
the race. The rain returned with a vengeance after that with the contest potentially
being won and lost in the pits as much as on track. Getting the right tyre
strategy was vital to keeping up the pace, the engineers were as stressed as
the drivers. The lead continued to change until just after Midnight when
Bertolini lost control of his MC12 after encountering oil all over the track at
Pouhon. He managed to get the heavily damaged car back to the pits but the
repairs would take three hours and cost 67 laps. It later emerged that Hezemans
was following the Maserati closely and also spun on the oil but without making
contact with anything, that really was a late birthday present.
The problems at Vitaphone piled up when Pier Guidi was hit
by a backmarker not long after the Bertolini incident. The subsequent repairs took
ten laps and banished any realistic prospect of victory. Meanwhile out on track
a fantastic battle raged in the darkness between Gavin, Hezemans and Lamy. This
contest continued when Soulet, Kumpen and Müller took over their respective
mounts at the next set of pitstops.
The rain gradually disappeared and as dawn broke the
remaining Maserati began to slowly edge away from the chasing Corvette pair,
although a mighty stint from Gavin yielded the fastest lap of the race,
2:15.423, and kept his Vette in contention. Then just after 10.00am disaster
struck Müller in the MC12 when the Maserati’s rear right wheel collapsed approaching
Fagnes, damaging the suspension. Despite his best efforts Müller could not get
the three-wheeler back to the pits and was forced to retire on the spot.
The race had one more act of motoring cruelty to inflict,
this time on the Selleslagh Corvette. A breather pipe worked loose, the loss of
oil damaged the engine and the team parked the car in anticipation of
completing one slow lap at the finish, being classified and scoring points
would be scant reward for their efforts battling for the lead.
The final three hours of the race played out without drama
at the head of the field till Kurt Mollekens crossed the line to score a
popular and famous victory. The Peka Racing Corvette hardly missed a beat, the
only one of the leading contenders to do so. Eleven laps down, and in second
place, was the recovering #33 Maserati, but bitter disappointment would be all
that Vitaphone Racing would take away from Spa.
The final step of the podium was taken by Phoenix Racing’s
Audi R8 LMS which was running in the G2 class. The crew, Marcel Fässler, Marc
Basseng, Alex Margaritis and Henri Moser had a largely trouble free run. The
performance of the Audi gave a clue as to the future direction of the Belgian
classic. The Audi was essentially a GT3 car, the race would prosper under that
formula when it was adopted for the 2011 event. The fantastic entry for this
year’s race is proof of that.
GT1 has signed off at the Spa 24 Hours in the most dramatic fashion, now there was a World Championship to chase.
The endurance racing paddocks and media centres have been graced by a few during my time in the game, and disgraced by many as well. On the right side of the ledger is Michael Cotton who had been one the leaders of the pack till he took a well earned retirement. Another in that gang of the righteous is Malcolm Cracknell, one of the pioneers of reporting on the internet as it was known some twenty years ago. ‘Crackers’ has also been forced to take a step back out of the limelightbut maintains a keen interest in the sportscar world. A few years back he decided to write a book, finally he has managed to publish it. The launch was last week, Mr Cotton was in attendance and now gives us his verdict. Go on buy it, you won’t regret it.
Fact or fiction? It’s called faction, and Malcolm Cracknell has served us a cracking blend of faction based on Laurence Pearce’s Lister Storm GT cars which challenged the might of Porsche, McLaren, BMW, Nissan and Toyota at Le Mans in the mid-1990s. Pearce becomes Larry Payne, his Paddock Princess wife Fiona is Frances, engine builder Ian Smith, who relates the story to Malcolm, is Smithy throughout, and the Jaguar V12 powered cars are Laser Strikes. You get the idea.
James Weaver and Andy Wallace (who did not drive the Storm, they were in a Panoz) became James Wheeler and Arnie Wallis, joined by rookie Dane Allan Stevensen. The story has an authentic ring on almost every page. I can hear Laurence giving Smithy near impossible tasks to perform, targets to meet, insurmountable obstacles to be overcome, driving and cajoling the entire team through testing, qualifying and to the starting grid. Yes, he ran out of money, asked the crew to forego their wages until the end of June, but scraped through with sponsorship, though without the mythical wager that was said to put £4 million into the coffers,if the Laser Strike could finish in the top ten. I swallowed bits of the story hook, line and sinker. It was more than 20 years ago, I remembered episodes as though they happened the day before yesterday, but had to pinch myself to remember that Tom Kristensen was part of Joest Racing’s Porsche prototype team, and he damned well did win the race. Neither of the Storms, yes there were two in the race, even got to nightfall on Saturday, but let that not spoil a jolly good yarn.
Facts were plucked from the history of Le Mans, the Porsche’s seizing engine that just tottered over the line in 1983, Nissan’s missing luggage boxes, the works Porsche 911 GT1 catching fire in the closing stages, and the extraordinary shenanigans of the March-Nissan team, hell-bent on not winning Le Mans in 1986 (“a bun-fight of truly biblical proportions” said James Weaver, who was the target of several obstacles posed by the Japanese).
A few Sundays back I toddled up to London, my destination was Belgrave Square with the intention of attending the Belgravia Classic Car Show.
I was not sure what to expect, cities these days are largely anti-car despite the many freedoms we have enjoyed since the horseless carriage arrived……perhaps that is it. Can’t have the peasants making decision for themselves, can we? Who knows where it might end? They will be asking for the vote next…….
Well I am certainly glad I made the effort as the show was small but perfectly formed, I even bumped into a few old friends and made the odd new one.
Several of the cars on show caught my eye like this Bristol 405 Drophead Coupé, idiosyncratic motoring from the 50’s.
This Smart which had clearly been beefed up and made Tifosi-friendly was interesting but the BRDC badge made me wonder about the owner.
He turned out to a gentleman with real bunch of stories to tell. Colin Hyams raced in Formula 5000 around the world in the early ’70s, hence the BRDC connection. A few years earlier he also was part of the gang of drivers at the Tasman Series mixing with Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart when they were in the Antipodes. I could have listened to him all day.
This Costin Amigo was a contender for car of the show, at least in my eyes, I suspect the judges would have reached a different conclusion.
Maybe this mouth-watering Dino could bring out the inner Danny Wilde in anyone, though Belgravia is much more Brett Sinclair territory…………..
At the other end of the scale is this Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost originally sent out to Bombay and nicknamed “Taj Mahal”. It exudes class and craftsmanship, a wonderful centenarian.
So here is a brief look back at a very agreeable event.
It does not take long in this business to spot those who are on the pace, on track or off, with or without a stopwatch. Thirty plus years ago I first met Alan Lis, a writer who was, and is, definitely in the “on the pace” camp. A while back Alan conducted interviews with some of those involved at the heart of the dramatic 1969 Le Mans 24 Hours. 50 years have passed since that famous race but those who witnessed it either on track or via the television or media still recall the excitement of the finish. A once in a lifetime experience. Alan has generously shared his work with us here, Merci beaucoup!
The 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans marks the fiftieth anniversary of the most
famous finish in the history of the Grand Prix d’Endurance. Against the odds,
the JW Automotive Engineering team Ford GT40 driven by Jacky Ickx and Jackie
Oliver won by a narrow margin of just over 100 metres (or 1.5 seconds). Ickx having
fought out a frenetic duel for victory with the sole surviving works entered
Porsche 908 driven by Hans Herrmann for the final three hours of the race.
John Horsman – Chief Engineer – JWA Automotive
“The GT40s started thirteenth and fourteenth on the grid, which was a very lowly position for us. The times were set in the first practice on the Wednesday and we did not go to Thursday’s practice; there was no point. The car was not going to go any faster and there was no interest in improving our grid position. The car knew its own way around the circuit, so we had two days to prepare, we were nicely rested and ready for the race on Saturday.”
“Of course, Jacky Ickx made his famous walk across the road, which he hadn’t told us about so that was a surprise. Hobbs got away to a very good start and got through the John Woolfe accident before it happened, Jacky was at the back of the field and had to thread his way through but had plenty of warning. So, both our cars got through that first lap problem unscathed.“
“The Hobbs/Hailwood car led the Ickx/Oliver car for at least half the race until they had a problem with a brake caliper. A wheel weight had been improperly placed, hit the bridge pipe on the caliper and broke it. Unfortunately, we didn’t find the problem at the first stop so the car had to stop again when the problem was fixed but that dropped number 7 back behind number 6. Otherwise Hobbs and Hailwood would have almost certainly have won the race. They should have won because they were about half a lap ahead at that time.”
“Early in the race the Porsches were dominant but as time progressed, we found ourselves in better and better positions eventually third and fourth. The 917s fell out and two 908s collided on the straight, which was very convenient for us. At the end there was just the Larrousse/Herrmann 908, which had been delayed by a wheel bearing failure early on, and was catching us fairly quickly.”
“In fact, they caught us a little quicker than expected but our team manager David Yorke was very calm and collected and made a very good move at our second to last pit stop when we were still in the lead. He instructed the mechanics to lift the tail, go over everything, check the oil, check the water; we put new brake pads in even though they were not actually required at that time.”
see a big battle coming up and wanted to give the drivers the best tool they
could have for the oncoming battle. Normally we got through a pit stop as fast
as possible to save time but David decided to take an extra thirty seconds to
have good look over the car and check everything, do a ‘fifteen-thousand-mile
service’ on it and off we went again. By which time of course the Porsche was
much closer. But then the race was won on brakes and we had the equipment to do
it. The Porsche had a warning light coming on but it proved to be a false
warning. Of course, there’s a difference in hurtling down to Mulsanne corner
with a warning light on not knowing whether you are going to have brakes or
not. That was very definitely our finest hour with the GT40.”
David Hobbs – Driver JWA Automotive Engineering Ford
GT 40 Car number 7
“Le Mans 1969 was the most unfortunate and biggest near miss of my career. I made a terrific start and Ickx did his famous slow walk. I rocketed off and got through White House before the accident. That put me an instant lap up on Ickx and Oliver and that was how we stayed until about five o’clock the next morning.”
“In fact, neither of us were doing terribly well, we had qualified well down and we were all running along at about the same speed. With David Yorke managing the team we were stuck on a fixed lap time. The Porsches were well ahead of us but in the middle of the night – at about 3am – two 908s overtook me on the straight and pulled away. It was pitch dark and I saw these four tail lights disappear around the kink followed by an immediate flash of white headlight and almost instantly after that a huge glow of gold and red fire. Obviously, I put the brakes on but by then I was right in the kink myself. As I went through I found the road completely blocked with flames and smoke and dust and crap everywhere. There was no point in swerving, where the hell are you going to swerve to? I burst through this lot and out the other side and there’s half a Porsche tumbling end over end down the middle of the track. Then out of the Porsche pops the driver and he tumbles down the road. I didn’t know whether to run over the driver or the car but in fact I didn’t touch either in the end.”
“It happened to be my in lap, so I came into the pits and said to Mike, “Jesus there’s been a shunt, the road’s all f**ked up and some bloke’s been killed …” What had happened was that Udo Schutz and Larrousse had touched, Schutz car had spun into the inside of the kink, hit the guard rail and broken in half, leaving the engine and gearbox blazing attached to the rail as him and the cockpit had bounced down the road also on fire and had finally come to rest about two or three hundred yards further down the road. He apparently bounced out and was absolutely fine. He always was a bit overweight which had perhaps made it easier for him to bounce down the road.”
“On my next stint came the real killer for our hopes, we were still leading our sister car and as I approached Mulsanne corner the brake pedal went to the floor. I did some rapid pumping but it was all too late and I shot down the escape road. I had do a three-point turn and drive slowly back to the pits. When the door was opened, David Yorke was there and I said “The brakes have gone completely”. He said, “It’s the pads. You’re about due for a change so it must be the pads”. I said, ” No, it’s more than pads” but he wasn’t having it. “No, its the pads. You drive I’ll team manage…”. So, they changed all the pads put the fuel in and sent me off. When I got to the end of the pit, I nearly ran over the marshal with the flag because the car wouldn’t stop. So now I’m committed to an 8½ mile slow lap… When I came back in, they took the bodywork off and all the wheels off. On those Girling calipers there was a bridge pipe from one side of the caliper to the other and the Firestone tyre fitters had put wheel weights on the inside of the rims as opposed to the outside. The JW people knew there was very little clearance between the wheel and the caliper and the Firestone engineers had been warned about it but it had happened anyway. One of the wheel weights had chipped a little hole in this brake pipe and the fluid had drained away. The pipe was changed the pipe, the system was bled and everything was put back together and off we went again but now of course it’s the other way around and Ickx is ahead.”
“Towards the end of the race of
course it comes down to him and Hans Herrmann who are having this incredible
duke out for first and second and Mike and I are bowling along in third. If it
hadn’t been for that bloody wheel weight, we would have been rolling along in
first and these two blokes would have still have had their titanic battle but
it would have been for second.”
Jacky Ickx – Driver JWA
Automotive Engineering Ford GT 40 Car number 6
“As far as the spectators were concerned the 1969 Le Mans 24 Hours was the most famous race. The race was very exciting, especially the last three hours. Just by luck the two leading cars were running exactly the same speed at the same time for the last three hours. We were making pitstops for fuel and tyres more or less on the same lap. So, we were able to run close together for three hours. One a little bit in front, but neither able to pull away from the other. The more that time passed the more we knew that the race was going to be decided either by a mechanical problem or on the last lap.”
“It was at a time when drivers were realising that it was nice to go motor racing but also that you needed to survive. Life is too short to die in a racing car. In the fifties and sixties there were so many bad accidents, fatal accidents, that it appeared that we were doing things sometimes that were completely stupid. For many years in the sixties we drove without seatbelts. They only began to appear around that time. It only became mandatory later. There was still a legend saying that it was better to be thrown out rather than trapped in the car. If you say that today you would get a giant laugh because everybody knows that it’s not the case. The problem of Le Mans in those days was that you had to run and jump into the car. To be the first one into the first corner you had to forget about the seatbelts until you got to the straight and then you had to try to put the belts on while you were accelerating on the Mulsanne. That was why I started the race by walking to my car but for the last few metres I had to hurry up because the other cars were starting and so I had to run a little bit.”
“At the end of the race Porsche
chose to put Herrmann in for the last stint because he had more experience but I
think he was maybe too cautious. I have always thought that maybe it would have
been more difficult if Larrousse had stayed in the car.
“There was a lot of strategy, I remember, especially on the last two laps. We knew that the flag came down at four o’clock, so on what we thought was going to be the last lap he started down the straight first and I over took him by slipstreaming by as late as I could going into Mulsanne corner and I knew that he could not overtake me after that. But unfortunately, when we reached the clock at the finish line there was still thirty seconds to go so, we had to do another lap. The extra lap was pushing both me and him to the limit of fuel so we had no guarantee to finish.”
“Of course, having done the trick on Mulsanne on the previous lap he knew that he didn’t want to start the straight in front of me. So, I was first and he wouldn’t pass of course. I had to slow down and down until I was going at maybe only one hundred kilometres an hour before we got to the restaurant. I think I got so slow that maybe he felt that I was running out of fuel. As we got to the restaurant he must have thought “That’s it now I go”. I was watching in the mirror and suddenly he went past me. I jumped into his slipstream and stayed there. We both increased speed and after the kink I used the slipstream and passed him on the inside.”
“It was a time when fairness when you were driving a racing car meant something. He wouldn’t have done anything like the things you see today. That didn’t exist. It was very important for me to pass at the end of the straight because he was faster down the straight but slower on braking. On lap times we were equal but I knew from the experience of the last three hours that I had to be in front of him at that point because he could not overtake anymore after Mulsanne corner.”
“When we reached the finish, I was
very happy and the team were frantic, Oliver and everyone in the pit was very, very
excited, it was unbelievable. The race was very well covered on TV and people
were able to see the last three hours and especially the last hour live. I
think maybe it was one of the first years that they used aeroplane with a TV
camera onboard. It was a transport plane and they opened the rear door and
pointed the camera down at the track. That plane was following the cars round
the circuit and it was the first time that people watching the TV were able to
see the race so completely. I think that is why so many people remember it so
JWA team principal John Wyer was unable to attend to race, in the evening Ickx received a telegram from him bearing a single word: “Manifique!”
In life circumstances change constantly, sometimes to our benefit, sometimes not. The trick is to keep going and not let adversity overwhelm you. This collective has been a bit quiet in recent times, for many different reasons. However I am now resolved to kick start things once more as the height of summer approaches.
The more observant of you will have noticed that our star photographer, Simon Hildrew, has not been furnishing us with his usual top class material drawn for the historic racing scene here in the UK.
Whatever the reasons for the omission we are lucky to have him drop us a rich bundle of imagery from the Goodwood Members’ Meeting. The weather was pretty fair in sharp contrast to 2018 snow drifts.
There have also been a few issues with this site, probably due to the incompetence of the author, you can’t get the staff……………for the moment these have been resolved.
So by way of restitution for those kept waiting here is a wonderful gallery from a few months back. Goodwood at its very best.
There can be no doubt that one of the truly great racers that emerged from Maranello in the ]ast two decades is the Ferrari 333 SP. Elegant proportions and a V12 wail, it has everything that a classic Ferrari mustpossess. One of the leaders of this exclusive pack is #012 – here is the legend as seen from the inside.Follow this tale of redemption and rebirth……..
John Brooks, May 2019
In April 1995, Fredy Lienhard came down south to Georgia to race his new Ferrari 333 SP in the IMSA race at Road Atlanta.
Fredy had purchased a new car, chassis #012 and had raced the vehicle the month before in March, at a Swiss championship round at Hockenheim in Germany, and won with it. Fredy was a Swiss Industrialist, who loved racing, and race cars as an adjunct to his business, using the platform as a promotion for his customers, and as advertising for his company LISTA, which made industrial storage equipment, tool boxes, and office furniture.
This was basically the second season of the Ferrari 333 SP and the World Sports Car (WSC) formula in IMSA. There were four 333 SPs entered with their main opposition coming from Dyson’s Riley & Scott pair, plus several other WSC cars, as well as a full field of GT cars. The race did not start well. After 14 laps there was a huge accident on the main straight right in front of the pits, involving ex-F1/Indycar driver Fabrizio Barbazza in the Euromotorsport Racing Ferrari 333 SP, Jeremy Dale in a Spice and several GT cars. The race was red flagged for 90 minutes to allow rescue helicopters to land on the track and take Barbazza and Dale directly to the hospital as they were both badly injured. To stand and watch this from the pits was disconcerting to say the least. Wayne Taylor who was driving our car (Moretti/ Doran 333 SP) was pretty upset about the accident. After the race was restarted, Gianpiero Moretti got in our car to continue, leaving the final stint for Wayne.
After 42 laps there was again a red flag stoppage due to another massive accident, this time on the back straight involving Fredy Lienhard, Steve Millen’s Nissan 300ZX and some other GT cars. The race was called “done” at that point, as it was going to get dark and take too long to clean up and repair the circuit.
Moretti came into the pit and said, “I am glad this is over, let’s get out of here. It’s not fun racing when I see my friend Fredy up against the guardrail, and my friend Steve Millen being taken away on a gurney”.
In the ensuing confusion, Fredy, who was unhurt (except for what was probably a concussion, although he did not realize it at the time), walked back to the pits, got in his rental car, and drove to the Atlanta Airport. He said later, he did not even remember doing this. In any case, he got on a plane and flew to Zurich that night. The next day he says he felt terrible, experiencing dizziness and headaches. By this time IMSA was looking for all the drivers involved in the second accident and were somewhat perplexed that Fredy was nowhere to be found. The next morning, they tracked him down in Switzerland and called to make sure he was ok, and ask what had happened.
Ferrari 333 SP #012 was deemed a complete write off. The remains of the car were packed up and the chassis sent to Ferrari and Michelotto in Italy for analysis.
A new chassis was ordered from Ferrari. They provided a “replacement” chassis for #012, ostensibly keeping the serial number the same as the first one was “destroyed” (#012b). This was delivered to Hotz Racing AG, c/o Gaston Andrey in Massachusetts.
There, a new car was built up by HORAG (Hotz Racing AG) for the IMSA Lime Rock round held at the end of May.
The car then ran the majority of the remaining 1995 IMSA schedule finishing all races in the top ten, then was shipped back to Europe.
There it ran one race in 1996, and most of the ISRS (International Sports Racing Series) over in Europe in 1997 and 1998. In early 1999 the car was sold to Ted Conrad. Fredy had meanwhile, bought new chassis (first #016, then #025) to run in IMSA in 1996, 1997 and 1998.
At the beginning of 2000 it became clear that the 4.0-liter Ferrari V12 would not be competitive under the latest rules package with power output controlled by air restrictors on the engine. The IMSA open rules under which the car had been designed and built, had morphed into the new FIA/ACO regulations. Ferrari refused to modify the engine for the new circumstances, saying this engine was not designed to run with such limitations. Ferrari teams, as early as 1999, had started to struggle against other cars with 6.0-liter engines, as, of course, a restricted 6.0-liter engine was better than a restricted 4.0-liter engine. The BOP (Balance of Performance) back then was just a varied restrictor on the air intake, nothing as sophisticated as today. Hence the 6.0-liter engines always had more torque, and the 4.0-liter lost horsepower due to the air restriction.
Ferrari, never on the best of terms with the ACO or FIA in sportscar racing, refused to modify the engines or do the testing to make the engines run more effectively with the new restrictors. Teams started looking elsewhere at other cars or for other solutions in anticipation of the 2000 season.
After Daytona 2000, where the Lista Doran team ran the Ferrari V12, Kevin Doran got the idea to put a Judd V10 GV4 in the Ferrari 333 SP chassis. Judd had been doing a lot of development on their engine for the teams using it and it was certainly quick. Getting a 4.0-liter engine to be competitive in the ACO/ FIA regulations required a lot of dyno and electronics work and testing, which Judd had done. This engine was to be installed in chassis #025 which the team had been running since the beginning of 1999.
However, this was not an easy conversion as the V12 engine was longer than the V10 as it had two more cylinders. A bell housing spacer and a few other pieces were needed to make it all fit with the standard Ferrari gearbox and suspension. Hence the “FUDD” (Ferrari- Judd) was born. The Doran team, led by Kevin Doran and Jeff Graves, completed the conversion between Daytona and Sebring in 2000. The team showed up for the 12 Hours of Sebring with chassis #025 now powered by a Judd engine. Renzo Setti, the Ferrari factory engine rep who supported us at the races in the US, came, took one look, and said, “Ok, that’s it, I am on vacation now”. The car at Sebring, driven by Fredy Lienhard, Didier Theys and Mauro Baldi finished an excellent 5th place, the first privateer, behind the two factory Audis and the two factory BMWs but ahead of the surviving factory-run Cadillac. After that great start the team ran the “FUDD” for the rest of the Grand-Am season. The results were good, with victories at Miami and Elkhart Lake, and finishing 2nd four times. At the conclusion of the 2000 season, chassis #025 was sold to Dennis Black and then converted back to a Ferrari V12 engine.
At this time, during 1999 and 2000, the original Chassis #012 from Atlanta in 1995 was sitting in a corner at Kevin Doran’s shops in Ohio. Fredy had retrieved it from Michelotto and wanted it repaired if possible as a show car for his collection in Switzerland. Crawford Composites in North Carolina repaired the tub, and Doran Racing rebuilt the car with all Ferrari components and returned it to Switzerland at the end of 2000 for display in Fredy’s collection.
In preparation for the 2001 Grand-Am season, Fredy had bought a new Crawford- Judd. However, finding optimal setup and handling proved elusive in the first 3 races of the season.
So in April of that year, the decision was reached to recall chassis #012 from the “museum”, install a Judd GV4 V10 and continue with a known quantity, being what we had run the year before, a “FUDD”. Judd had continued development of their engine, so the GV4 V10 made good power (about 625hp) and almost as important, improved fuel economy.
This became readily apparent at the Grand Am Elkhart Lake event in 2001. This was a 500-mile race on a 4.0- mile circuit. Therefore, would be run over the distance of 125 laps. It was a nip and tuck battle over the first part of the race between us, various Riley & Scott cars, and the Risi Ferrari, who were still running the V12 Ferrari engine. At lap 75 we pitted and Fredy Lienhard turned the car over to Mauro Baldi. We knew if Mauro could make it to Lap 100, he would turn the car over to Didier Theys, and that would be the last pit stop. Soon, as the race passed 90 laps, all the other cars pitted, out of fuel, so would have to make another stop before the end. I heard a report later, that in the Grand – Am Race Control Tower, someone said, If Baldi makes it to lap 100, the race is over. He drove superbly and made 101 laps and pitted almost out of fuel. Theys took over and ran to the end and victory while everyone else stopped to top up their tanks once more. The Judd work on the engine had paid off. We had made one pit stop over the last 50 laps (200 miles), while everyone else made two.
We ran the “museum car” for 7 races till the end of the season, winning twice, finishing 2nd once and 3rd four times. At the end of the season, the car was converted back to a V12 Ferrari and returned to the Autobau in Switzerland, where it still resides today. It usually still stretches its legs at track days in Europe, at least once per year.
Postscript – Riding in a Ferrari 333 SP
Fredy Lienhard still owns 333 SP #012, it sits on display at the Autobau in Romanshorn Switzerland. From time to time, he takes the car out to “track days” for his friends and business associates. I worked on his race teams for Kevin Doran for many years, so was fortunate to be invited to one of these events in early 2018 (and 2019) at Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello in Italy.
Weather permitting, I would get the opportunity to go for a “ride”, as a second seat has been mounted in the car for passengers. Although I had worked on these cars for many years, changing engines, gearboxes, installing and removing suspension and brakes, I had never actually been driven in one. The only real race cars I had ridden in were a Porsche 935 in the late ’70s, and a BMW 235-i cup car. Having had quite a bit of history with this Ferrari, it was with some anticipation that I looked forward to seeing what it was like to actually sit in it at speed.
Mugello in March can be cold. In fact, the days we were in house at the circuit, there was snow on the hillsides around the track which sits in a valley. So, it was unclear if this was going to work or not. The 333 SP has to be warmed up with a water heater, especially during cold weather, as there is a danger of the radiators splitting. The minimum recommended water temperature to start the car is 50C.
Despite the cold temperatures, we got the car warmed up, and Didier Theys took a few laps to make sure all was in good order. I suited up, and prepared to get in. The immediate sensation is that this is a tight fit. The second seat, if you want to call it that, is just some padding and some belts next to the driver. Getting in and buckling up, the sensation is that you are sitting on the pavement. Very different from a road car or race car based on a road car such as a 935 Porsche. The Ferrari is a 680 HP go kart! Acceleration is massive, the car just leaps forward. The noise of the engine without earplugs is deafening. As you exit the Mugello pits, you are on a long straight, the longest on the course, you go over a rise, then descend slightly downhill to the first corner which is a long radius 180- degree right hand corner. At the end of the straight in this 333 SP, the speed is in the neighborhood of 185 mph. Braking here is very, very impressive in this car and this car has steel not carbon brakes. The first impression of a non-driver is that there is no way the car will stop, however it of course does (Didier later told me he was braking 50 meters early, only running at about 80% capacity). I am convinced the G force under deceleration would throw you out of the car if you were not strapped in tight.
Due to the “passenger” seat configuration, I found my head was sticking up into the airflow more than Didier. Also, there is a small windscreen in front of the driver about ½ inch tall which helps deflect air which of course is not on the passenger side. The force of the air tended to want to rip my helmet off. So, I had to hang on with one hand and hold the front of the helmet down with the other to see where we were going. All the while, I had to be careful with the spare hand, as right in front of me was the switch panel, with all the ignition and fuel switches. I had to be careful not to hit one of these by mistake!
We were on track with other racers. Most of them were GT based such as Porsche GT3 Cup cars and the like. So, we overtook a lot of people in the few laps we did. Passing was kind of disconcerting, as again the 333 SP is so low, I found myself looking up at the door handles of the cars we were passing! A strange sensation for the uninitiated. As we zipped through the traffic, the car just leapt from one corner to the next. While the car looks smooth and composed when you are watching it go by, the ride was a lot more brutal and jerkier when on board. The power allowed the 333 SP to just cover a lot of distance very quickly compared to the other cars. I tried to imagine driving this car at the Daytona 24 hours at night, trying to cope with the slower traffic. A mind- boggling thing to comprehend. As we progressed, I tried to put myself in the driver’s seat. I thought, ok, would I stick my nose in this corner to pass this GT car? Most often the answer was NO! I asked Didier later how he knew these guys would not come over on us in the corner. His response, “My nose tells me, after many years of experience!” But I guess that is why he is the driver and I am the mechanic!
Riding in close proximity to the others, in an open cockpit car you notice quickly the exhaust smell of those in front of you. No doubt this was due to my head sticking up in the airflow higher than the driver. Didier said it did not bother him, as the air goes over the driver’s head due to the shape of the front windscreen.
Too soon, it was over, and we returned to
the pits. I was left with the feeling, that every race mechanic should take a
few laps as passenger in the cars they are working on. Very quickly, you begin
to understand what is at stake here, and how fast you are going, what could
potentially go wrong and what the consequences might be.
All in all, an incredible experience to ride in this historic sports racing car, at the famous Italian track which is owned by Scuderia Ferrari. In the USA, we call this a definite “E-ride” (referring to Disney World’s rides ranging from A, the lowest and easiest to E, the most impressive). It was a short glimpse of what is “possible”, and what most of us never encounter. After providing a day to remember for all in attendance, chassis #012 returned to its place on display at the Autobau, where it still sits today.
Martin Raffauf, May 2019.
Photos copyright and courtesy of Fredy Lienhard, Kevin Doran, Martin Raffauf and Dino Sbrissa