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
Paris in February is a cold and grey place but for those of us who appreciate the automobile there is a hot spot to be found at the Porte de Versailles, within the halls of the Paris Expo. I refer, of course, to the Rétromobile, a cornucopia of motoring excellence from all points of the compass. The Special Correspondent patrolled the aisles and uncovered these treasures for your appreciation.
In 1931 the
oil company Yacco was seeking to obtain publicity for its products and bought a
Citroën C6F with which to tackle long distance records at Montlhéry using its
oils. Re-clothed in an aerodynamic body in aluminium, this car, baptised
“Rosalie” after Sainte Rosalie, went on to attain 14 international records.
team returned to Montlhéry in 1933 with a special version of the 8CV model.
Known as the “Petite Rosalie”, this car covered 300,000 kilometres at an
average of 93 km/hr
This is the second prototype Bentley and the oldest surviving Bentley. Known as EXP2, it is the first Bentley to win a race, having crossed the line the winner of the Whitsun Junior Sprint Handicap at Brooklands on 16 May 1921 with F.C. Clement at the wheel.
It was eventually used as a practice car for the 1922 Tourist Trophy in the Isle of Man.
Very rare indeed is this Micron cyclecar, the nose of which seems to steer with the wheels! Made in Toulouse by Henri Jany, it had front wheel drive and used single –cylinder engines of either 350 or 500 c.c. Its claim to fame was that four of them were entered for and successfully completed the Bol d’Or, Europe’s very first 24 hour race.
In 1953 Lancia introduced their first proper sports racing car, the D20 Coupé. This scored a third place in the Mille Miglia and won the Targa Florio but persistent cockpit heat caused Lancia to make a spyder- bodied version, the D23.
Painted pale blue, this model first appeared at the Gran Premio dell’ Autodromo di Monza at the end of June. This was a race for sports cars of up to 3-litres capacity and Felice Bonetto finished 2nd to Villoresi’s Ferrari in this actual car, which is chassis 0002.
Pichon and André Parat formed in the late Forties a coach building company at
Sens. Initially they modified production cars, especially the Ford Vedette.
Having made a fixed head coupé on the Panhard Dyna Junior, they introduced a
more sporting “berlinette” based on the Dyna chassis, the first example being
shown on their stand at the 1953 Salon de Paris. Much lower and lighter, the
body was made of Duralinox and the model was known as the “ Dolomites”. Some
20-30 of these Panhard Pichot-Parat Dolomites were produced between 1953 and
1957 and sporting successes were achieved, for example, Bernand Consten and
Pichot came 5th in the 1956 Rallye des Routes du Nord.
shown is a 1954 model with the earlier split windscreen.
In the Spring of 1936 Panhard introduced a radically new model, the Dynamic. Although it still used a sleeve-valve engine, two six cylinder sizes being offered, it had torsion bar suspension, independent at the front, and a completely new Louis Bionier-designed aerodynamic body with enclosed wheels and, most unusual of all, a central driving position, albeit on the earlier cars.
The pictures above show the driving position of one such car dating from 1936; the complete car shown is a 1939 example with the later left-hand drive.
Two views of
the Serenissima V8 3-litre that ran at Le Mans in 1966, retiring with gearbox
Mauve, who created the Bol d’Or race in 1922,
built and raced the Elfe cyclecar from 1919 to 1921. This is a truthful
replica of the version he ran in the Gaillon hillclimb in 1921 – it has a V-twin
The work of Robert Bourbeau and Henri Devaux, the Paris-built Bédélia was considered the first successful French cyclecar. It was like a wooden coffin on wheels with tandem seating and the driver at the back! Power came from single cylinder or V-twin air-cooled engines at the front driving the rear wheels through enormously long belts.
It looked rather crude at first sight but these machines turned out to be surprisingly effective: one of them won the 1913 Cyclecar Grand Prix at Amiens and they were used by the French Army as field ambulances in the First World War.
Giant! This Berliet T100 is one of two survivors of the four originally made.
They were conceived for work in the Algerian desert and the 50 tonne machine
has a V12 Cummins diesel. It appeared at the commercial Salon in Paris in 1957
but for this year’s visit it had a journey from the Fondation Berliet (Lyon) of
four days on a low-loader trailer hauled by a Volvo FH 16 of 750 h.p.
Here at DDC Towers I get to see thousands and thousands of motor sport photos, almost exclusively they are cars on track. I suppose that’s what we are all focused on, the glamorous bit. So it is unusual to say the least to get an edit that is concerned in the main part with the unsung heroes. Twenty years ago the 12 Hours of Sebring was a hot, dusty affair as it frequently is. Dyson Racing pushed the factory BMW right to the limit with James Weaver finishing less than 20 seconds behind Tom Kristensen after half a day of competition.
James and his team-mates, Butch Leitzinger and Elliot Forbes-Robinson, got to stand on the podium and spray the Champagne and accept the applause. They were keenly aware that the result was built on the hard graft and skills of the Dyson Racing crew, a no Bull outfit. Their story that day was captured for posterity by Brian ‘Doc’ Mitchell and it is fitting that on Sebring race-day 2019 we get to salute a memorable performance.
The miracle of the TARDIS continues to surprise with more travels back in time. Brian ‘Doc’ Mitchell is scouring his archives from ’99 Sebring to give another flavour from that time, the dawn of the ALMS.
The emails come pinging in, more magic moments from the past courtesy of Brian ‘Doc’ Mitchell. Here he looks back to the birth of the American Le Mans Series in 1999…………a wondrous time. In an hour or so the gates will open and Sebring 2019 will get underway, doubtless in 20 years time those enjoying this amazing event will have similar rose-tinted memories, I hope so.
Here at DDC Towers we are firmly of the chips on both shoulders persuasion. So in the interests of balance we are running this excellent gallery from Simon Hildrew as a counterbalance to the previous polemic from Kensington Gore.
As Simon’s keen eye demonstrates there were motoring goodies to be found at the Excel last month. We should be grateful that such entertainment is still permitted in these enlightened times.
For some there was an opportunity to buy or sell……….one man’s treasure and all that stuff….
There were anniversaries to be celebrated with Citroën reaching a Ton this year………just look at that French artistry………..
And that quintessential ’60s epic, The Italian Job, was paid homage by Octane.
Not sure that the script would get past the arbiters of good taste these days……….no one would like to upset Italian drivers would they?
There were appearances from heroes of the past, like Gordon Spice.
Enough from me I suggest that you take a while to enjoy the stories that pop into life from Simon’s cameras……….more on the way soon.
Another new kid on the DDC block gives his tart views on the recent exhibition at the Excel. The tone will come as no surprise to those of us who have enjoyed Shaun’s company at any time. I first encountered him at Le Mans in 1995 while he was working on ‘Persuit of Perfection’ – the film he produced back then is still one of the greatest ever on our bit of the sport. For those who have missed it try this and especially marvel at the action on the opening lap – GoPros, who needs ’em? Find the video HERE
A trip down memory lane was what I was anticipating on my visit to London City Classic last week at the Excel.
I spent a fair amount of time in the ’80s working with some enthusiastic – and in a number of cases under-financed, over enthusiastic – World Endurance Championship race teams in various capacities. Then in the mid ’90s I had the dream commission to make a number of films about it, including ‘Pursuit Of Perfection’ The McLaren Le Mans Film. So I have always maintained a fondness for things Classic and Retro.
My initial spark of interest in this came as a teenager from listening to the 24 Hours of Le Mans on radio at night under the blankets at school in late 50s.
I was hooked.150mph down something called The Mulsanne Straight! To me it was simply unbelievable.
Our Family Car at the time was a Morris Minor 1000 Traveller, which probably could only hit a maximum of 80mph on a downhill straight with a following wind. Around that time, funnily enough, a friend of the family called Piers Courage won his first race in his Mother’s Traveller at Boreham in Essex, then the Ford test track. She didn’t know about it till afterwards!
God, I could have been a Grand Prix Driver – if only my Dad had happened to own a Brewery.
Anyway my first trip to a track was Snetterton, in Norfolk.
As we arrived I saw some chap called Jimmy Clark driving a Lotus Cortina totally out on his own without another car anywhere in sight.
It was his first of three drives that day. I think he won in the Lotus by a quarter of a lap. All I remember thinking was that everyone else appeared to be extremely bad at this lark. I was hooked. Hard not to be.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that 15-20 years in the future I would be going to Le Mans regularly. Or that 35 years or so later I would be making a film there following the winning – British – car.
So I have I suppose become something of an aficionado of things Classic: or in the words of the late great Charlie H a bit of a connoisseur.
It is probably a traditional lament from anyone over 30 years of age that “Fings Ain’t What They Used to Be”!.
I went to the Excel out of curiosity to see if I could conjure up some memories of the past. I was sadly rather disappointed at the frankly lacklustre range of ‘Classics’ on display there this time. I hate to say it, but it really wasn’t a a patch on the Show put on by our ancient enemy the Fr**** in Paris last week.
As my old Pal John Brooks rightly said ‘ not exactly Premier League. My own comment was that it was really only one up from Vanarama Southern – and a mate owns that Team.
At the twenty five sovs a pop which the punters paid I thought it was well steep.
The French, in spite of their youthful president’s political problems (or maybe because of them?), put on a stonking display at Rétromobile. One which I would gladly pay good very good Euros (if such things really exist) to attend next year in spite of the little local difficulty we appear to be having with the bureaucrats based in the country next door, whose only saving grace is as far as I can figure is a little place called Spa Francorchamps, that and the beer.
However I digress.
Wondering around on Friday I found that there really were just a smattering of vaguely interesting racing cars in what I can only describe as a fairly boring sterile shed.
On the non competition side there was plenty of ‘pretty little things’ to see. But even then, there was nothing that had that magic ‘WOW’ factor. Just row upon row of predictability
Joe Macari and Quentin Wilson added a bit of class banter, but that for me was about the only really interesting part of the day.
Ces’t la vie. Paris for me next year. Maybe the Entente can be a bit more Cordiale this time around?