Category Archives: The Blink of An Eye

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Top Dressing for the Lawn

The arrival of September signals the shift in the seasons here in England. It also heralds the final flourish in the automotive events’ calendar with the best left till last. I looked at Windsor Castle’s Councours of Elegance briefly and here is a similar overview of the Salon Privé, held in the magnificent shadow of Blenheim Palace. A more detailed appraisal will appear later this month.

John Brooks, September 2016

 

Elegance Was Expected

Now in it’s fifth incarnation the Concours of Elegance returns to its birthplace, Windsor Castle. More about this fabulous event in detail later this month………..but for now a gallery to illustrate a Friday well spent.

John Brooks, September 2016

Simply Red

2000 JB General

Sometime early in 2000 I got a call from the Stéphane Ratel Organisation requesting my attendance at a test session at Valencia, something special was going to be revealed and their regular ace snapper, Peter Fox, was off at a Grand Prix. So I got the chance to hang out of the back of a car and burned through a few rolls of film with the elegant 550 and the mighty Marcos LM600 with Cor Euser at the wheel (who else?) as my subject – happy days.

The new Ferrari 550 Millenio looked the bollocks but turned out to be bollocks in the performance stakes. Stéphane had invested in the new car through GT Racing Developments along with the driver Jean-Denis Délétraz but their efforts came to naught.

2000 JB General

Stéphane still regards the money lost on the project as well spent as it encouraged Ferrari and others to get involved in GT1 racing, thus cementing the recovery of the Championship that had nearly foundered in 1998 when AMG Mercedes whitewashed Porsche in an expensive, one-sided contest. The Ferrari 550 Maranello would have to wait a few years for its day in the sun when finally Prodrive got to grips with the project at the request of Frédéric Dor. Victories at Le Mans and Spa 24 plus an impressive list of other successes for the last of the racing front-engined V12 Ferraris all sprang from the unpromising beginning one day in Spain.

John Brooks, August 2016

Daytona Diversity

1999 Rolex 24 Hours

One of the many attractions of the Rolex 24 Hours around the turn of the century was eclectic nature of the entry list, you never could tell what would show up next. So here high up on NASCAR Four in 1999 we have the Intersport Lola leading the Spirit of Daytona Mitsubishi Eclipse, while a Ferrari 348 tours along presumably heading for the pit lane.

The Ferrari was the slowest of the trio, nearly 8 seconds off the local Japanese GT with the prototype a further 20 seconds up the road. Another difference to most other races was the driver line up, six for the 348, 3 in the Eclipse and four in the Lola. Only the Eclipse finished the race, 253 laps down on the winner, good enough for 39th place after posting 455 laps

John Brooks, August 2016

The Moment

I spend a lot of my working days looking at motor-sport photographs, both mine and those by others. To put it mildly there is a fair amount of dull dross around, and that’s just my archive. There are currently several “ace practitioners”, as they might witlessly describe themselves, who are nothing of the sort and whose output is embarrassing. The other side of the coin is to find an image that captures both the moment and the spirit of an event. I encountered the above while researching pictures for a book and it immediately grabbed my attention. It could only be Spa and the 24 Hours back in 2009……………of course it is the work of the great French agency DPPI who have been at the top rank of motor-sport photography for decades, the individual credit goes to Gregory Lenormand. So Monsieur Lenormand, Chapeau! Bravo! Respect!

 

John Brooks, August 2016

The Battle of Evermore

I have only a few rules in this house, not reposting stuff is one, but here I am breaking it. This piece deserves a second airing……..40 odd years gone and still burning brightly………….

All things considered I have been a lucky man, perhaps not in a financial sense, I have been too slow to really make more than a buck or two, but I have met many fine folks along the highway of life and I have been enriched by them in other ways. My old friend David Soares has brightened up my (and hopefully yours) day with this peek into that lost continent, the past. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Wealth is not only measured in monetary terms………….

Can Am 1972 Start

The title of Thomas Wolfe’s novel You Can’t Go Home Again has launched a thousand journalistic ruminations about the futility of searches for times lost but perhaps, like other ruminants, they’re simply contributing to climate change.  In opposition to this popular view, the Romans saw history as man’s long downfall from a past Golden Age and they aspired to restore the past, not to dismiss it.  This month I saw two tributes to our own past, which served to remind me that maybe we ought to stop re-inventing the wheel and just maybe aspire to revive our own Golden Age.

Paddock Pair Morning

The first was the recent Kennedy Center Honors for the boys who recorded at Bron-Y-Aur cottage forty years back.  After a pathetically American introduction by Jack Black, the now gray-haired Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and John Paul Jones nodded politely at a few lame attempts at impossible covers.  It seemed as if the ghost of Keith Moon was in the room and that things were going over like the lead gas-bag he famously predicted.  Then Ann and Nancy Wilson (who long ago performed as a Led Zeppelin cover band before calling themselves Heart) took the stage accompanied by an orchestra and full chorus, along with the only man who can truly lay down a Bonzo percussion line, his son Jason Bonham.  From Ann Wilson’s first notes, their rendition of “Stairway to Heaven” was better than perfect.  By the climax of Shayne Fontaine’s note-perfect tribute to Stairway’s soaring solo, Jimmy Page was mouthing the cord changes and smiling beatifically while Robert Plant openly wept.  You can go home.  (See their performance here: http://youtu.be/JK_DOJa99oo)

Can-Am Rev 4

Ten days after, I went home to 1972 once again.  The proprietor of this website, Mr. Brooks, has been after me for years to purchase a decent scanner to digitize my trays of Kodachromes from the amazing early-‘70’s Laguna Seca Can-Am races that I’ve been carrying around since my boyhood.  There is no sight or sound like a field of thundering Group 7 cars taking the green on the front straight at Laguna, driven by the likes of Revson, Hulme, Donohue, Follmer, Siffert, Stewart, Andretti, Oliver, Cevert, Scheckter, Elford, and Redman.  I freely admit to having been warped for life by the experience by a monkey that I will never get off my back.

Can-Am Rev 5

My neighbor down the road, Bruce Canepa, recently began fettling George Follmer’s 1972 Can-Am championship-winning Porsche 917/10, chassis -003, for the new owner after handling the $5.5M sale this past August at Mecum’s Monterey auction.  The crew of his state-of-the art facility in Scotts Valley, California is handling several cars for the same enthusiast owner, including Peter Revson’s 1970 L&M Lola, Denny Hulme’s 1970 Can-Am championship McLaren M8D, and the ex-Jackie Oliver 1974 champion Shadow DN4 recently purchased from Don Nichols.  Bruce is no stranger to the mighty 1000-horsepower 917/10, having owned and raced the ex-Georg Loos chassis -017 for the past decade.  The car was to be rolled-out shortly after New Year’s at a private track day at Laguna Seca, where I had seen the car raced over 40 years ago.

Mark in 9 1972

Much has changed at what is now known as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the four decades since the original Can-Am, but in many ways the start-finish straight is like it was when I was a teenager with hair hanging down below my shoulders and a borrowed range-finder camera.  The day began wet, just as the weekend did back in ’72, but in the afternoon the clouds parted and the track dried.  Mr. Canepa took -003 out for a few laps to warm the fluids and conduct a final systems check before turning the car over to its new owner.  Bruce came around for his final lap and I stood at the pit wall as he properly opened-up the throttles the way George Follmer did back in the day.  Suddenly, I was transported back in time by the whoosh of 12 air-cooled and turbocharged cylinders making a big chunk of their Metzger-designed 1000 horses.  The sight and sound of a 917/10 returned to its stunning white, red, and black L&M tobacco livery literally made me weak in the knees.

Follmer 72

What was special about those Canadian-American Challenge Cup races?  The races were, after all, just races.  The reason that we turned up every year was to see what was going to come off the trailers.  The fields of Group 7 were incredibly diverse.  Jim Hall introduced wings and sucker-cars for Hill and Elford; Gordon Coppuck’s papaya-orange Big Macs driven by Bruce, Denny, and Revvie were different every season and always better than the Trojan customer cars; Don Nichols’ AVS Shadows were truly innovative; Eric Broadly’s Lolas gave drivers like Surtees, Stewart, and Donohue something new and different; and Hans Metzger and Helmut Flegl changed the game with their 917 variants for Siffert, Donohue, and Follmer.  The amazing cars were reason enough to turn up, and in those days before Led Zeppelin performed at Bill Graham’s first stadium show, thousands did.

Mark D 1972

Most pundits have wanted to place blame for the demise of the Can-Am at the feet of Roger Penske and Mark Donohue, who with Metzger and Flegl developed 1972’s 917/10 into the amazing 1200-horsepower 917/30, but I will have none of it.  The year 1973 was the beginning of a long global economic crisis linked to oil.  Nobody had the budget to go racing in the unlimited class, and gas-hog 8-liter Chevy’s and 5.4 turbo Panzer’s were far from politically correct when most Americans were lining-up for hours to simply pump gas into their Pintos.  The result has been decades of spec and consumption-based sportscar formulae which lack the pizzaz and diversity of the Golden Age of the Can-Am.

Papaya Orange

Today, with the takeover of the ALMS by NASCAR’s Grand-Am subsidiary, we are again being fed more spec-formula pablum.  Close racing is promised, between the same cars and teams year after year.  No diversity.  No anticipation of seeing something new, different, and better.  The racing will be good, but if I want to see good racing I can watch the shit-boxes of the WTCC.  This is why Rich Guys lined-up transporters at Laguna to run a bunch of old cars rather than invest in spec-racers.

Can-Am Rev 2

As Robert Plant crooned 40 years ago in Stairway to Heaven, “Ooooh, it makes me wonder.”  Why can’t we go back?

Paddock Pair Left 1972

Kremer

LMB

Howmet

 

Follmer in 9

David Soares, January, 2013

 

Riding Along On The Crest Of A Wave

06_FIAGTMugell_jb__0938

Some days things go to plan, not often I’ll grant, but some days……….

Mid-September 2006, Saturday late afternoon at Mugello, I had committed to cover the FIA European GT3 race, not normally an event that would fill me with enthusiasm. I stood out in the gloom as the rain came down cats and dogs and I noticed a small lake of water along the pit straight. The cars struggled to cope, even when they were aware of its presence.

Fast forward a day to the main event, the FIA GT Supercar 500,  I knew, I just knew that the first car through would surf along in a spectacular style. The other gaggle of photographers who had not been dumb enough to endure the GT3 race were conventionally placed much further up in the braking zone.

When Andrea Bertolini hove into view I seized my chance and felt pretty pleased with myself, dps in Sport Auto and large print to Andrea, job done. Makes up for all the other screw ups.

We can be heroes, just for one day.

John Brooks, December 2014

Yellow Streak

2014 JB General

Delving into the archives on another project I stumbled across this attempt at ‘art’ in the bygone era of film…………such shots were almost always a leap in the dark with no idea till later as to how they would turn out, if they worked you were a genius, if not quietly slip the slide into the bin and say no more. All you could do is check the light meter, the aperture, the shutter speed and take a deep breath.

This 333 is headed for the back stretch chicane at Daytona International Speedway on route to 4th place in the 1999 Rolex 24.

2014 JB General

It was driven by the non pro crew of Lilian Bryner, Enzo Calderari, Carl Rosenblad and Angelo Zadra, a pretty good result for the Europeans in this tough race.

John Brooks, November 2014

Rage Into the Night

2010 Petit Le Mans

Another shot from the McNish era, this time from 2010 Petit Le Mans, vainly chasing the Peugeot pair a lap ahead up the road. Why? Dindo Capello made an unexpected pit stop after a slow lap because his balaclava slipped over his eyes while behind the wheel. That was one excuse I had not heard before, it happened when a piece of protective foam within the helmet became detached as I recall. Races are won and lost on such tiny margins.

John Brooks, February 2014