Category Archives: The Focal Point

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Rebirth of the Cool

Motor Racing is an essentially circular activity, much like life, though in that particular case it eventually comes down to the ever-decreasing variety. On a July Saturday, almost 50 years ago, I travelled in a state of great excitement to Kent, Brands Hatch to be precise. I was going to my first motor race.

My heroes were going to be there; Seppi and Pedro, plus the greats such as Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt, Jack Brabham and Graham Hill, I could not believe my good fortune. The 1970 British Grand Prix was chock-full of legends like Dan Gurney, Mario Andretti and John Surtees – another future ace, Emerson Fittipaldi, was making his F1 début.

I had devoured Motor Sport and Autocar for the previous year or two in search of knowledge of this exciting and glamorous scene and was just getting into another publication, Autosport. I was properly hooked on motor racing, it was all downhill from there.

The race is remembered for the last lap victory of Jochen Rindt, taking advantage of Jack Brabham’s fuel starved car. From my perspective in the grandstand at Clearways it was downright robbery, the Aussie had earned the win. A few weeks later this thought was tempered with the news of the Austrian’s death at Monza. That season had already seen Bruce McLaren and Piers Courage killed while behind the wheel of a racing car, we would witness the first, and hopefully the last, posthumous World Champion.

Years passed and I was fortunate to have some small involvement with the sport, mainly in the endurance racing sector. A familiar name popped up in the mid-90s, that of Brabham, this time David rather than Jack, or Sir Jack as he was honoured.

David was one of the top drivers of his time, a Le Mans winner, but also a genuinely good bloke, clearly his father’s son. Recently he has relaunched the family name in the world of high performance cars, indeed I wrote about the launch of the car some time back. HERE

A week or so back the Brabham brand returned to Brands Hatch as David raced the Brabham BT62 in its début, scoring a memorable victory in the first Britcar endurance race of the weekend. The one hour event on Saturday evening was held in torrential conditions as competitors raced into the sodden night. Co-driver Will Power struggled with a windscreen that misted up during the opening stint but when he handed over the elegant racer to Brabs at the mandatory pitstop he had done enough to lay the foundations for success. The pair were justifiably chuffed with the result, perhaps the first step on the road to Les Vingt-Quatre Heures du Mans in 2022.

The team were brought back down to earth on the Sunday morning when they were forced out of the lead in the second race with alternator problems. A very promising start and hopefully the prologue to a motorsport legend in the making.

DDC had the services of Simon Hildrew to illustrate this piece, as ever he did a brilliant job, more to come from him during the coming weeks as we attend to clearing the backlog of pieces ready to post.

John Brooks November 2019

The Rites of Spring

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.

John Brooks, July 2019

Thameslink

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.

John Brooks, March 2019

A Celebration of Rob Walker

Dorking is a quiet market town located in a very attractive part of Surrey’s North Downs, local landmarks include Box Hill and Denbies Vineyard. For those of us with inclination to burn petrol at speed Dorking will forever be associated with R.R.C. Walker Racing that was located at the Pippbrook Garage in the heart of this community.

Robert Ramsay Campbell Walker was born on August 14th 1917, so staging the Rob Walker Centenary Festival  in October 2018 seems a little odd, perhaps too much time spent at Denbies…….but I digress and I must say that the organisers did a first class job in honouring this sometimes overlooked, but hugely influential, figure in post-War British motor sport.

The numerous spectators that witnessed the demonstration of old racers around the closed streets were given a raucous display. Robbie Walker was on hand to enjoy this fine tribute to his father.

Another son representing a famous father, was David Brabham, a top flight sportscar driver and Le Mans winner in his own right. Sir Jack Brabham was one of three Formula One World Champions who drove for Walker, the other pair were Jochen Rindt and Graham Hill.

However it is the relationship and deep friendship between Rob Walker and Sir Stirling Moss that the team is arguably most famous for. In the period from 1958 to 1961 Stirling scored seven Grand Prix wins for the team, most notably in 1961 at Monte Carlo and the Nürburgring, seeing off the more powerful Ferrari squad through sheer talent and determination. Regrettably Sir Stirling’s health is not up to public appearances at present so his absence left a big gap that the organisers filled admirably in a most appropriate fashion.

Moss was rightly famous and revered as a Grand Prix star, indisputably the leader of the pack after Fangio retired. However his exploits in endurance racing are just as notable. The ’55 Mille Miglia triumph in the Mercedes-Benz is legendary as are the Nürburgring 1000kms wins in ’58 and ’59 for Aston Martin. In 1960 Moss won the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood driving a Ferrari 250 GT SWB #2119, an achievement in itself but staggering when one considers that it was two months and one day after his horrific accident at Spa in the Belgian Grand Prix. Doctors forecast a minimum recovery period of six months but Moss was able to recuperate way faster than that. It later emerged that he had tuned in the Ferrari’s radio to hear the commentary of Raymond Baxter as rattled off the laps. This beautiful Ferrari is now the proud possession of one Ross Brawn, a real enthusiast.

Almost exactly a year later and Moss was back at Goodwood in another 250 GT SWB, this time #2735. Frankly the opposition was not the strongest and consisted of another 250 GT SWB, driven by Mike Parkes and three Essex Racing Team Aston Martin DB4 GTs, two of which were Zagato-bodied and driven by Roy Salvadori and Jim Clark. The third was an ordinary DB4 GT in the hands of Innes Ireland. Moss won with ease in the end after a crash in practice, there was no word as to whether he turned on the radio………..

These Ferraris are amongst the most elegant of all GT cars…………and here there were a brace – Bellissimo!

The weather was kind and a great time was had by all who attended, let’s hope that this event becomes a tradition……………in the meantime enjoy another stunning portfolio of photos from Simon – Bellissimo indeed!

John Brooks November 2018

Escorting at Brands Hatch

The Ford Escort, star of track and rally stage, has hit half a century of competition. How appropriate then that Brands Hatch was the venue a month or two back for a celebration of this yeoman of the track and street.

Of course in a virtually dry summer there would be downpours during some of the action, but lurid angles and consummate car control are the bread and butter of the touring car brigade.

Back in 1968 I had just been following the sport for about a year, not been to a race, that came in 1970. However I would devour Motor Sport, Motor Racing and Autocar with the fervour of a new convert. There was an exciting world of speed brought to life by the likes of Eoin Young, Michael Cotton, Denis Jenkinson and Innes Ireland to name but a few. That year the BTCC title was taken by Frank Gardner in the Escort that is shown above and for the enthusiastic crowd that braved the rain the demonstration laps of XOO349F were a highlight of the HSCC meeting.

Our local star, Simon Hildrew, was on hand to capture the spirit of this episode of time travel to the ’70s, the land of The Sweeney, The Three-Day Week, Punk and some very dubious taste in fashion – Never Mind the Bollocks indeed.

John Brooks November 2018

The Farnham Flyer

The clocks have slipped back, dark afternoons are now in prospect as Autumn’s grip on 2018 slips and Winter arrives to conclude proceedings. For those of us with a motoring habit to fix, events are now heading indoors till the Spring. However, almost as a form of salute to what has been a remarkable Summer, there have been one or two last rays of automotive sunshine in the past few weeks.

Sixty years ago there were celebrations in Britain’s Motorsport community as Mike Hawthorn had secured the Formula One World Championship, the first driver’s title to won by a Briton. It is a strange paradox when we consider that Lewis Hamilton has now secured his fifth such title, an achievement that is almost commonplace or natural. Times have changed for sure.

Although Hawthorn was actually born in Yorkshire he is commonly associated with Farnham in Surrey. So a few weeks back the streets were closed off and there was a celebration of the “Farnham Flyer”.

Wreaths were laid at his grave, as he died in a car crash a few short months after he retired as Champion.

A fine selection of classic cars led the parade, many with a personal connection to Hawthorn.

The local police even got in on the act bringing out their own classics.

Typically after such a dry and hot summer, it tipped with rain all day, but that could not dampen the spirits, as illustrated here by Simon Hildrew’s wonderful imagery.

John Brooks November 2018

The New Fifty

The sharp ones amongst you (that’s everyone who visits this site) who read the Festival of Speed piece  will have noticed a great gap in the words and pictures. No Porsche……….

1948 not only saw the arrival of Lotus and Land Rover, but also the powerhouse now know as Porsche AG came into existence. To celebrate 70 years of “Excellence was Expected”  Porsche pushed out the boat or more appropriately The Carrera at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and what a party there was!

As one might expect the centrepiece was the sculpture or should that be installation in front of Goodwood House, the work of Gerry Judah.

It is one of the signature displays at each Festival of Speed and this year’s effort did not disappoint. The 917 reminded me of a famous shot from the 1970 Le Mans 24, with Mike Hailwood’s Gulf 917 being hoisted by a crane from the track after ‘Mike the Bike’ lost control in the wet and crashed out of the race and the JW Automotive team………..no way to treat a 917.

 

Down to earth is how you would describe the 356 ‘No.1’ Roadster, that started the journey that we saluted some 70 years on. Porsche shows great respect for its heritage, not all automobile manufacturers are so clever.

I am not convinced that the term Mission Statement was popular back in 1948 but here we have the original thoughts from Ferry Porsche, pretty much sums up the company ever since.

Another giant step for Porsche was the introduction of the 911 and the oldest example that Porsche owns, 57th off the production line in 1964, was also on the Hill.

One Porsche that never saw the light of day was the LMP 2000 that was destined to succeed the 911 GT1 98 as Porsche’s challenger for further honours at Le Mans.

It ran but a few tests before the whole project was cancelled by the Board in favour of spending the budget developing the Cayenne. This was the first that LMP 2000 had ever appeared in public.

There were many familiar faces in the phalanx of Porsches on display. The 2003 911 GT3 RS that had beaten the top class cars to score an outright win at the 2003 Spa 24 Hours (how very Retro-Porsche!) was a welcome sight.

By any standards the Porsche at 70 event within an event at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed was rip-roaring success, here’s to another 70 years. In the meantime enjoy the sensations captured by Simon Hildrew.

John Brooks, September 2018

 

Over The Hill and Far Away

One of the disadvantages of being a one-man band is that things pile up in front of you and there is every chance of losing sight of what should be a priority.

Take the Festival of Speed for example, I received a mountain of great photos from our resident lens-meister, Simon Hildrew. These arrived in the middle of a deadline or three, all urgent, well aren’t they all?

I will deal with them later, says I. Bollocks you will, say others and, of course they were right. One urgent edit/picture request follows another as the struggle to keep afloat obscures other priorities.

So relaxing in a modest villa here in Menorca, I realised after a prompt from a very patient Simon that I had taken my eye off the ball and forgotten to post up the gallery and story that I had prepared from the Festival of Speed. Mea Culpa.

The time for a detailed analysis has clearly passed, the gallery is what matters but it is worth flagging up a few highlights. A brace of 70th birthdays for Lotus and Land Rover, quintessentially British but both foreign owned, a metaphor for our times.

Volswagen’s amazing record earlier in the year at Pikes Peak was celebrated by Romain Dumas as he took top spot on the Hill in the Volkswagen I. D. R. Pikes Peak. He certainly gave the crowds something to cheer with his enthusiastic performance.

Off-roading and kickin’ up a little dust was obviously the new black, Valtteri Bottas joined the gang in his 2016 F1 Mercedes……

Steve McQueen’s performance in “Bullitt”  has passed into cinematic legend particular the famous standard-setting car chase sequence. Recently one of the two Mustangs that were used in the film surfaced after many years. At Goodwood it made its first appearance outside the US…………iconic or what?

The lawn in front of the Stables gave us its usual cornucopia of goodies, my personal favourite was this exquisite 1954 Jaguar XK140 with styling by Pinin Farina.

As with every motoring event of any stature these days there was an auction, at Goodwood it was Bonhams, always special. Indeed a new record was set by legendary Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato ‘2 VEV’,  raising just over £10 million.

 

The Festival of Speed was also celebrating; 25 years of motoring excellence since the first show back in 1993. In the midst of all the excitement and reminiscing  there were a few clouds on the horizon as some of the manufacturers normally present were missing. The FoS organisers will have to work doubly hard to keep up the level of their show in this time of budget cuts. If anyone can manage that challenging task it will be them as the evidence of a quarter of a century can attest.

In the meantime let’s enjoy another stupendous wall of imagery from Simon Hildrew.

John Brooks, September 2018

A Last Lap at The Revival

The nights are drawing in, winter is on the way, a hard one after this year’s tropical summer say the usual prophets of doom. Well in that case we will need all the warmth of our memories to get us through to 2019 and Spring.

The Goodwood Revival is one of the signs that this part of the journey through the year is heading to the close. The 2018 edition was of the highest standard, both on and off the track, so much to see and experience.

The tribute to Rob Walker and his team, Rob Walker Racing, was a particular treat. The Goodwood Revival is an ideal platform for such expressions of respect, the audience has a strong element who will understand the significance of the cars they are seeing and will appreciate the efforts expended in assembling such a collection. Incidentally I came across this news the other day. “The Rob Walker Centenary Festival, organised by the Dorking Town Partnership, takes place on Sunday 21st October, 10am-4pm, with a parade of historic Rob Walker racing cars around the town.”  More information can be found HERE

 

Another salute at the Revival was to one of motorsport’s greats, Dan Gurney, who passed away in January. The 1967 Belgian Grand Prix winning Eagle-Westlake that Gurney drove was given an outing by Sir Jackie Stewart and Derek Bell, the former seen here chewing the fat with Jo Ramirez.

The Eagle-Westlake is surely the leading contender for the most handsome F1 car ever built, perhaps a little too advanced for its time, still stunning though.

While the cars are the stars the drivers do not feel completely in the shade, they are part of the show too. Here we have no fewer than 15 Le Mans victories lined up in this quartet. Andre Lotterer is still attempting to add to his hat-trick of wins, while Emanuele Pirro and Derek Bell will have to settle for five apiece. Odd man out Nic Minassian managed second in 2008 when his dominant Peugeot should have won comfortably.  He was a victim of monsoon rains and the performance of a lifetime from Audi’s Tom Kristensen, Dindo Capello and Allan McNish.

The ability of the public to interact with these stars of the track is one of the enduring attractions at Goodwood. Whether they would want to so in the case of this dodgy trio comprising of Steve Soper, Martin Donnelly and Dario Franchitti remains open to question.

There were the usual thespian antics on hand at the Revival, a modern day end of the pier show, well it takes all sorts.

 

RAF Westhampnett was on the front line during the Second World War and after the end of hostilities became the Goodwood circuit. So it is absolutely appropriate that the service to Britain that the men and women gave in that perilous time is honoured.

Away from the track and paddock there are many attractions and diversions, it would take more than three days of the event to sample them all.

 

It is a cliche, but rooted in truth as many cliches are, the Goodwood Revival is a must-do celebration of post-war motoring and motorsport. Looking forward to September 2019 let’s be inspired by this fabulous gallery from Simon Hildrew. Every picture tells a story.

John Brooks, September 2018

Horse Power at The Revival

Love it or loathe it the Prancing Horse of Ferrari casts a spell over all of  us motoring speed freaks. The Goodwood Revival is no exception to this rule, featuring some of the most desirable (and expensive!) cars to have been born in the stables of Maranello.

The “Breadvan” out on a delivery as the sun sets…………for many this is automotive heaven………and who could dispute that assertion? Five-time Le Mans’ winner, Emanuele Pirro, and Niklas Halusa  drove this unique creation to victory in the Kinrara Trophy race

A personal favourite? The 330 GTO………before my time but still breath taking.

Forget the stratospheric value of such cars and just admire their beauty while appreciating their performance, soon enough they will be too valuable to race in this fashion. All things must pass………in the meantime enjoy the fabulous collection of images from Simon Hildrew.

John Brooks, September 2018