Category Archives: Trumpet Blowing

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The Spa 24 Hours A History

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A new book has just been published, The Spa 24 Hours A History. Its author is David Blumlein, a regular on this website and an automotive historian of note. The subject matter is a comprehensive review of one of the world’s greatest endurance motor races, the Spa 24 Hours. It is the first such history written in English.

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This year marked the 90th anniversary of the classic race and the book traces the events down the decades and illustrates the changes that the Spa-Francorchamps has gone through from the earliest days.

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The chapters are arranged in a logical fashion to cover the races that were run to common regulations as the event has changed from Le Mans-type sports cars to Touring Car and now to GTs.

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Each chapter is enhanced by a selection of “Further Facts” which give detailed background information that might otherwise be missed. Similarly the photography seeks to show the more unusual aspects of the race such as the Ferrari Mondial of Keke Rosberg in 1989.

One of the successful Škodas at Eau Rouge in 1948. (Chpt 6)

There is a comprehensive set of Appendices detailing such subjects as those who lost their lives at the race, a profile of some of the more important Belgian drivers and, of course, the results. The author is candid about the conflicting records on the lower placed finishers and has attempted to use the most reliable sources.

Moskvitches lined up before the start in 1971 (Results)

There are forewords from François Cornélis (President of the RACB), Stéphane Ratel (CEO of SRO Motorsports Group) and Belgian drivers Pierre Dieudonné and Eric van de Poele who have eight victories in this great race between them.

Here is the Peugeot 806 People-Carrier!

There can be very little left to be discovered about the Spa 24 Hours that is not covered somewhere in this book.

2004 Spa 24 Hours

I must disclose a personal connection as I have supplied some of the photos used including the one above of Lilian Bryner at dawn on her way to victory in 2004 driving the BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello.

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Furthermore I assisted David in this enterprise in a capacity of Project Manager, so it would be fair to say that I am not objective about the book.

A view of the daunting Burnenville section on the old circuit. (Chpt?)

When David and I set out on this journey it was agreed between us that we should strive to produce something that we could be proud about and in my opinion we have done just that. It is a good read and will be a valuable reference work in the years to come.

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The design is clean and elegant, just what you would expect from Marcus Potts. There are many others who given significant assistance along the way and when you buy the book you will read of them.

The Publisher is Transport Bookman Limited and the book can be found at the link below.

Chaters Motoring Booksellers

26 Murrell Green Business Park,

Hook, Hampshire
RG27 9GR 

UK

T: +44 (0)1256 765 443
F: +44 (0)1256 767 992

E: books@chaters.co.uk

Price £39.99 or €52 plus postage

 

John Brooks, December 2014

 

I Can Carry a Toon

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I recently exchanged emails with the great Jim Bamber, who tells me that he has been under the weather recently. Very unfortunate as he is in a class of his own when it comes to illustrating motorsport and its shortcomings and absurdities. I have been lucky enough to feature in a small way in one or more Jim’s Toons. Here I am riding the bomb bound for Sebring in a reprise of the classic Major T.J. “King” Kong role, of course Morse gets to be the hero pilot. Ah well, Hollywood looks after its own.

John Brooks, August 2013

A Very Classic Car Show

To Birmingham’s NEC with The Special Correspondent for the 2012 Footman James Classic Car Show. The Show has expanded this year to fill even more halls and the extra space is very welcome.

Of course it being the NEC there are always a few issues………….the lighting in the exhibition halls remains sub-standard and arguably in breach of Health & Safety legislation, and the level of grumpiness shown by those unfortunate to travel to Birmingham by car was at an all time high. Tales of 45 minutes to get parked at the facility were common, not excusable at such a venue. On the other side of the ledger, those of us arriving by train were greeted by an enthusiastic bunch of staff, who cheerfully steered us all the way to the other side of the site. One could not fault that welcome, so credit where credit is due, more to the point the staff were still there and still cheerful we came to leave.

Once inside the Show there was a bewildering array of automobile heritage, the quality of the content certainly matches any other event of its kind, anywhere. There were so many jewels to see, such as the Aston Martin Atom, a prototype built in 1939. This was the only example of the marque that David Brown drove before acquiring the company in 1947, all of the glories that followed can be traced back to this advanced car and the impression it made on DB.

While in the fullness of time out Special Correspondent will produce one of his Rare and Interesting pieces I propose to have a quick look at what was on offer that caught my eye. A car that represented a significant step in the German Auto industry was to be found on the Audi stand. The work of Paul Jaray back in the ’20s inspired Ferdinand Porsche when designing the Wanderer Type 8.

Porsche would develop the aerodynamically efficient shape when producing one of his masterpieces, the Volkswagen. Jaray’s Ugly Duckling turned into a swan.

The Coventry Transport Museum’s collection provided another pioneering vehicle, the Ferguson R4 Prototype. Harry Ferguson designed a four wheel drive system back in the early ’50s, it featured independent suspension and Dunlop disk brakes and Maxaret anti locking device, all very advanced for the time.

The backbone of the Classic Car Show is the support provided by the car clubs. Stand after stand featured great cars backed up by real enthusiasm and deep knowledge of those manning the exhibition. Questions, no matter how basic, were generally answered with patience and good humour. So while virtually all the stands had something to interest there were some that I preferred to others. A tad Orwellian I suppose, all exhibits are equal but some are more equal than others…….Bugatti for instance had several fine cars, all promoting the scene at Prescott…………….from the early days to the present.

The Maserati stand also had a nice bunch of cars, I have always been a fan of the Trident, even more so since visiting the factory a few years back.

Strange, but Ferrari does not appeal to me in the same way, though who could resist this Dino?

This gorgeous Continental was the pride of the Bentley/Rolls Royce stand.

One strange trend that was more common than might have been expected was adorn a “barn find” with some straw…………..what this achieved was anyone’s guess.

And of course the trend was taken to the next level with a string of onions draped on a Citroën Traction Avant……………..no stereotypes here then, no none at all……………..what next we hesitate to enquire?

There were a few competition cars at the Show, mainly sportscars such as the Jaguar XJ220 that won its class at Le Mans in 1993 but was subsequently disqualified, a casualty in the long running conflict between TWR boss, Tom Walkinshaw, and Alain Bertaut of the ACO.

No such problems afflicted the Aston Martin DBR9 in 2007, with a convincing GT1 class win.

Less successful was this TVR, first retirement in the 1962 race.

Shows such as this always throw up a few oddities, who could resist a chance to sit in a truck used by the Great Train Robbers?

Try explaining Del Boy to an American, eh Rodders?

And this optional extra for all aspiring Bond villains would prove very tempting on the M25 morning commute.

Candidate for the worst colour scheme on display………this Lea Francis Lynx, representing the end of the line for the marque.

The 2012 Footman James Classic Car Show was another resounding success and if you have even a sniff of petrol in your veins you should seriously consider making the trip in 2013, I will be there certainly.

Here is a gallery of images, please excuse the weird colour in some shots, them pesky lights again.

John Brooks, November 2012

 

 

 

Eternal Caravan of Reincarnation

Even as I spotted the potential shot while driving round the perimeter road at Brno, my mind was chasing a link with something I had seen before. While reviewing the files later on the laptop I had my eureka moment, it was the album cover for Caravanserai, Santana’s 70’s masterpiece. The opening track was a musical expression of this other world where light bends and dazzles. Tom Rutley, Neal Schon and  Michael Shrieve’s composition still holds the attention absolutely some four decades down the road. Art that has stood the test of time.

My own effort is but a pale attempt to imitate and capture that sense of magic and wonder. One can but try…………….

John Brooks, August 2012

Four Ringed Circus

They Call Me Mellow Yellow, Quite Rightly

I sometimes moonlight at other websites, well a change is as good as a rest. Hell, sometimes there’s even money involved and a girl’s gotta eat.

So I was really pleased to take the M4 down to Castle Combe a month or so ago. The target was the 2011 Audi Driver International.

My scribbles can be see HERE

John Brooks, December 2011

911 Heaven

OK, before we get started I have a financial interest in this book. Showing rare taste and perspicacity the authors of this fine tome bought (and paid for!) some images from me. Of course the really good stuff comes from elsewhere but I am very pleased to be part of this book.

So my interests disclosed, I can now talk about this new volume. OK, the first question is do we need another Porsche history, another 911 book? Surprisingly the answer after reading this book is yes.

The authors, Michael Keyser and Bill Oursler (who also contributes on DDC) are Porsche experts of long standing. Michael raced a 911 with great success during the 70’s including a win at the Sebring 12 Hours. To most of the sportscar fans these days he is best known for his book “A French Kiss With Death”, the definitive story of Steve McQueen and his film “Le Mans”.

Bill Oursler is, well he is Bill. Anyone who has been receiving end one of his long phone calls knows about the passion, deep knowledge and understanding of all things Porsche. I doubt if he can even recall the number of books, let alone articles that he written over the past 40 years.

As to the subject matter, the competition history of the Porsche 911 in all its mutations and evolutions give a very broad canvas on which to paint a compelling picture.

Engraved Slip Case

 

The first thing that strikes you when you pick up the book is the quality of the production that oouzes out. The engraved slip case is typical of the high standards of reproduction that match the quality of the content.

Barth & Singer

 

The Forewords are written by two figures who have been central to the story of the 911 in competition, Jürgen Barth and Norbert Singer. This is supplemented by the story of Michael and his relationship with the Porsche 911, from 1966 to the present day.

Boost Control

 

The content follows on in a chronological order. I especially enjoyed the sections dealing with the early years. The opening double page spread showing Eberhard Mahle completely sideways on the Rossfield Hillclimb back in 1966 makes you imagine that you can hear the throttle, full on, no lifting. Another favourite is the chapter on the customer developments of the 935, which grew more radical with the evolutions of the “Moby Dick” concept.

Four Wheel Drive

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 959 programme is also covered with the various developments both on and off road as are the GT1 projects.

Wallpaper

The final chapters look at the recent 911 GT3-R Hybrid and another of my favourite pieces, 911 In Posters that are extremely evocative.

So if you are a 911 nut, this book is for you. Well written, well illustrated and well produced it has a place on any Porsche bookshelf.

Only 2,250 copies have been printed, so get your order in soon.

HERE

John Brooks, October 2011

A Trick Of The Light

Corkscrewed

The combination of Laguna Seca in the fall, Rennsport IV and David Lister is irresistible. This gallery of images from last weekend is inspirational, shows how the job should be done, from composition to post-processing.

A MasterWerk.

John Brooks, October 2011


The Long Exposure

Le Mans, two short words that for those of us who make the annual pilgrimage to France defines a very long week.

Heavy Metal

All of those who attend the annual festival of speed and endurance are participants, players on the great stage. It is, perhaps, one of the defining qualities that makes this event so special, the sense of inclusiveness; we are all part of the story. Robert Altman should have directed Steve McQueen’s “Le Mans”, what a movie that would have been, at least it would have a plot.

Uniform Image

This element of participation runs counter to my philosophy regarding reporting events. One website that I was associated with until recently, adopted a policy of the bloggers relaying breathlessly their own activities at the meetings that they cover. The results are, by and large, both tedious and banal. Airline food or whether you get an upgrade is not something to comment on, nor how many times your pass gets checked, that is just reminding the reader that you have a pass. Whines about how long and hard the days are, should also be verboten, it goes with the territory. To be a part of the story requires the writer to have something interesting to say. Also he, she or it, has to be able actually tap on a keyboard in a manner that provokes others to spend time reading the purple prose. There is a sound reason why Hunter S. Thompson was unique.

Nevertheless, like all rules this one was meant to be broken from time to time. Le Mans is a kaleidoscope of random events underpinned by the final  24 Hours of competition, so during my time in France I jotted down notes and hypocrite that I am, I will share them with you, I hope they pass the entertainment hurdle.

The First of Many

2011 saw me clock up thirty-one editions of the Le Mans 24 Hours, three as a Page and Moy spectator back in the 70’s and the balance as a disreputable part of the Media Corps, a disjointed rabble, that ranges from the few ultra professional to the majority who are for the most part completely clueless. Before heading to France I resolved to try some different approaches to the task of covering the event, in the end some of this plan worked, some did not.

Simply Red

The role I was to play was different this year as amongst my assignments I was assisting the Greaves Motorsport team with their press activities. Crossing over to the “dark side” I even got to wear the team shirt and stand in the team shot in the Place des Jacobins, though the abuse and catcalls from my “friends” on the photographers’ stand made me consider the wisdom of this course.

Being part of the team, in however small a way, did change my approach to the race, none of this impartial crap, I was partisan as hell when it came to MY team. It was also a good chance to use the negative karma on those who have pissed me off during the past few months, you know who you are, and you know where you finished, if you finished. Selah!

A Fine Line

Looking back on the 2011 race, the sharpest images will be those of the two Audis being destroyed in two huge crashes. Allan McNish tried to pull off an overtaking manoeuvre, similar to hundreds that he has managed in the past, this time it did not come off. Anthony Beltoise in the Ferrari did not see his R18 coming and the contact sent the Audi spearing off the track, to be launched at the Armco beyond the gravel trap. Allan survived his flight as one might have expected in a well built car such as the Audi, but the photographers in the firing line were the ones who really rode their luck. One of them, DSC’s Peter May aka Pedro, remained calm enough after the incident to snap away at the wreck, intestinal fortitude I believe it used to be called. Best comment on the aftermath came from Tom Kristensen, courtesy of Andrew Cotton. He opined that as a result of the impact that Allan’s balls would be bigger than when he started the stint and that they would be blue like the Scottish flag…………..there is no good comment possible on that frankly disturbing image.

The Mike Rockenfeller crash later in the race looked much worse at first view, the unthinkable was on the team’s minds and the expressions on their faces revealed by the TV cameras showed that clearly. Rocky survived thanks once again to the engineering expertise of Audi and Dallara, God bless carbon fibre. Robert Kauffman, whose Ferrari drifted off line to initiate the disaster, got a public pummelling from the ACO who insisted that he sit out the rest of the race for causing the carambolage. In some form of mitigation, the GT drivers were complaining all week about the two big factory prototype teams. Their concerns centred on the rather desperate overtaking moves that the Werks cars were pulling, driven by the closeness of the opposition and the relatively torque-less 2011 engines. That and the blindness caused by the LED lighting, giving the GT drivers no idea of the proximity or closing speed of the diesels, that were about to pass. It is a problem that needs addressing, because if the likes of Marc Lieb and Jörg Bergmeister are making public statements, someone needs to listen and act.

The Last Lap

One decisive act during the week came from Sir Stirling Moss who announced his retirement from racing, at the tender age of 81. He declared that the prospect of racing the Porsche RS61 at Le Mans frightened him. Ever a man of principle and courage he said afterwards, “This afternoon I scared myself and I have always said that if I felt I was not up to it or that I was getting in the way of fellow competitors, then I would retire. I love racing, but it’s time to stop.” Knowing when take a bow and quit is perhaps not the most easy thing that faces us in life, most would fail to match Sir Stirling’s style. Motor Sport ran a feature recently on one his many day of days, defeating the Ferraris at Monaco 50 years ago. Now the last of the great drivers of the 50’s has hung up his crash hat, let’s hope that he enjoys his retirement.

Mazda Magic

Anniversaries pile up during the Le Mans event but can it really be twenty years since the garish Mazda 787B defeated the might of Peugeot, Mercedes Benz and Jaguar to win the race? Yes it is. So we had a chance to witness the victor again, to hear the unique siren call of the Quad Rotary engine. There were a couple of demo runs around the track with Johnny Herbert showing Patrick Dempsey how it should be done. During the Friday Drivers’ Parade, someone had the bright idea of letting Yojiro Terada and David Kennedy, both Mazda heroes of old, do a lap each of the city’s streets. At the conclusion of David’s run he gunned the engine as he rolled back into the Jacobins. A silly grin materialised on the faces of all who witnessed this sound, noise may be regarded as inefficient by some engineers but it very much part of motorsport’s appeal. The one piece of booty that I came back from France with was a copy of Pierre Dieudonne’s masterly tome, Never Stop Challenging, a history of Mazda in racing during the 70s, 80s and 90s. If you are at all interested in this period I urge you to get the book.

Friend of The Stars

Trying to do things differently this year, I shot the parade from the perspective of my team rather than waiting for all the drivers to go past one spot. It certainly was an eye opener; the crowds are, for the most part, completely bonkers. However it is an important part of the pageantry of the race, once again giving the paying public both proximity and participation to the stars, long may it continue. One trend that I saw this year was the use of water pistols by idiots in the crowd to douse the drivers in the parade as they went past sitting in the open cars. If that habit is not stamped out then I can see the drivers ditching the event, especially those who pay for the privilege of competing.  As ever a few morons will spoil the event for the rest, the forums are full of similar tales of selfish and ignorant behaviour in and around the campsites.

Y’All come back, now.

For the drivers who were making their Le Mans debuts, the whole Drivers’ Parade scene is a very strange happening, organised yet chaotic. Michael Waltrip had a bemused look on his face on the Friday afternoon. The double Daytona 500 winner must have imagined that he had seen everything in a 25 year NASCAR career but he was unprepared for the intensity of the Le Mans experience. His shock must have been total as he interviewed me for his personal blog, fortunately for the future of You Tube, the footage ended up on the cutting room floor, stardom missed again.

I read the News Today, Oh Boy…………….

Sunday morning I received a text from my old mate, John Dubrey, who was visiting the race after a gap of several years. Seen today’s Ouest France? You are in it!! A young French journalist had spoken to me at the Scrutineering on Monday and six days later I was in print, with a photo showing my attractive side, resplendent in Greaves Motorsport 2011 Le Mans team shirt and Turn Ten cap. Move over George Clooney………….yeah right. I had the piece checked out by a proper French speaker and I was as anodyne as one of my press releases, maybe a future in politics awaits.

You Make Me Feel Like Drinking

Memory Lane was a familiar destination during the week. Long time top F1 snapper, John Townsend, was on hand to shoot for BMW with the mighty David Lister. On seeing me in the press room he laughed and said he something for me on his Mac, dating back to 1983 and Monaco. It was as ominous as it sounded. Sadly, Leo’s career has been on the slide since this unfortunate encounter, you can judge the horror of the situation yourselves from the shot. As I recall Frank Bough was also outside the Tip Top that night, he even got a round in, thanking the TV Licence payers for their largess and we all know how that story went.

Arnage BMW

Even being out on track I was not safe from my criminal past. Back in 1995 I had misjudged a left turn outside the circuit and was hit by a speeding Donkervoort, totally my fault I have to admit. The two Dutch guys in the car were not happy with me but showed much more grace under pressure than I would have managed. During the race this year I was shooting at Arnage and there were two marshals also snapping away, they were between shifts. One came up and said, “You don’t remember us do you, Mr Brooks?” Their identities were revealed and a fresh sense of shame washed over me, I was once again mortified by my careless driving, that fortunately had no lasting consequences. They did cheer me up as they said how much they liked the retrospective pieces I write these days for a Dutch magazine, RTL GP. My head swelled momentarily but it soon passed as I struggled to get my Mojo working track side. Mojo was short supply in my case this year, the camera does not lie.

Motel Blues

Mojo is usually associated with music and the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours had, like every other year, its own soundtrack that followed me round as I commuted to the track and the places to shoot. Cool as you like is the Richard Earnshaw tune “Rise” but perhaps the pride of place should be given to the late, great Gil Scott-Heron. His catchy “Racetrack in France” seemed truly appropriate even it was in reality about Le Castellet. This stuff helps while trundling around in the traffic.

Come the Hour, Come the Man

Back in the race there was an amazing struggle between the Peugeot trio and the surviving Audi. I, and a few others, had to eat our words regarding André Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoît Tréluyer. There had been doubts expressed regarding their position as factory drivers. Well they well and truly put those questions away with blindingly fast and error free stints. It is also worth remembering that they had to witness the utter destruction of their two sister cars in massive impacts, yet were able to strap themselves in and do battle with the French. If there were a tipping point when it became clear that they were going to win, it was after the safety car period following the Magnussen/Felbermayr accident. Tréluyer, in a mega quintuple stint held off the trio of 908s that were hunting as a pack, it was a race winning performance and I raise a glass to the Audi trio. Salut!

Mulsanne Straight

The changeable conditions and unseasonably low temperatures played havoc with both Audi and Peugeot at times, such outside factors making a big difference to how the cars performed. Both teams ran flat out and there was nothing to choose between the pit crews. When the Chequered Flag was waved by Daniel Poissenot on Sunday afternoon, #2 had a winning margin of exactly 13.854 seconds over the leading Peugeot, this equates to 763 meters. The victorious Audi R18 TDI covered 4,838.295 kilometres, at an average speed was 201.266 km/h. This is close competition by any standards.

Hens’ Teeth

For the third factory team in LM P1, 2011 cannot end soon enough. The Aston Martin AMR-One pair only managed six laps between them in the race, a disaster that all the excuses and post rationalising in the world cannot mitigate. Aston Martin Racing has built up a solid reputation over the last decade for extracting the maximum performance from their relatively small budgets, that reputation is now in tatters. The only comfort is that things cannot get any worse, the only way is up. The distraction of fire-fighting the LM P1 project has led to the V8 Vantage being left behind in the GTE wars, which are every bit as keenly contested as the prototypes.

Focussed

Greaves Motorsport had a trouble free race, winning the LM P2 class by a country mile and to be even a very small part of that success was great. The expressions on the faces of the crew, drivers and supporters, as Olivier Lombard crossed the line for the final time will stay with me for a long time. The whole team did a fantastic job and deserved the win, achieved on a combination of performance and reliability, no matter what some have said subsequently.

Another year done and dusted, Audi triumphant but at a high cost, the price was nearly too high. Peugeot, so close but no cigar, next year it could easily go the other way.

La Route est Dure, we would have it no other way. The Roads to Freedom are not easy.

 

John Brooks, June 2011

 

Heat Haze On The Runway

So that was Sebring, first blood in 2011 to Peugeot. Not, however, the new finned factory cars; ORECA, genuine sportscar folk, scored a memorable win in 2010 spec car in the 12 Hours run around Hendricks’ Field last week.

While I was kicking my heels over here, watching Ireland beat the bejesus out Grand Slam hopefuls, England, David Lister had his Nikons set to stun.

His first visit to the Florida Classic turned up the usual bag of gold. He has graciously agreed to share some of this treasure with us.

Enjoy!

John Brooks, March 2011