Category Archives: Notes from the Cellar

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A Midsummers Night’s Dream

A day full of reflection and contemplation, my mind drifts back to the summer of ’96. On track at 04.58 and shooting, I must have been keen back then. Keen and lucky if this shot of a 911 GT1 accelerating past the pits in pursuit of the Joest TWR-Porsche is anything to go by. Maybe you make your own luck, maybe your luck makes you. I don’t see much of this in prospect in our Brave New World of batteries and robots.

John Brooks, January 2018

Living In The Past

The slide from one year to another encourages us to reflect and recall the past both recent and distant. I am on a scanning mission at present and this moment from the 1996 Pre-Qualifying at Le Mans caught my eye while plundering the archive. Not just the F40 GTE and the F1 GTR catapulting on to the Mulsanne Straight in pursuit of a distant 911 GT2 but the riot of emerald green.

Simpler, happier times, or am I just dreaming?

To the readers, may I wish you and yours a happy and healthy 2018, anything more would be a bonus.

John Brooks, January 2018

Putting on the Ritz…………

OK what’s the excuse this time? Why the radio silence for the past few months?

Well rather than answer that I think we should jump back behind the wheel for another triple stint………..the first laps should be about a recent event that I was lucky enough to be invited to, a celebration of 25 Years of GT Racing hosted by SRO at the Palais Brongnian Paris. 

The former French stock-exchange was a suitably imposing venue for such a celebration. The Great and the Good of GT racing turned out for an action packed evening in Paris.

 

Everywhere I turned there were stars and outside there were cars, from the Venturi Trophy and 1992 to the latest Blancpain racers, via BPR, FIA GT, GT3, GT1 World Championship and Lamborghini Super Trofeo.

Seeing some of the participants for the first time in many years was emotional for me, from Laurence Pearce to Michel Neugarten or Ray Bellm to Thomas Bscher, the memories came tumbling back.

We are all a little older, greyer but even faster than we were back in the day, at least that is what we told each other.

Stéphane Ratel was the star of the show, without his vision and hard work over the years none of us would have assembled on a chilly November night in the heart of Paris. He had saved endurance racing from oblivion in the early ’90s and his actions helped the ACO rebuild their Great Race. The following evening I was flicking through the channels when I stumbled upon “Stones in the Park”, some of Mick Jagger’s moves looked very familiar……..

Of course Stéphane has assembled a great crew of people over the quarter of a century, none more important to the cause than Patricia Kiefer, though she prefers to remain out of the limelight. No such modesty was permitted on this night when the achievements of SRO and its crew were saluted by the GT paddocks.

The others who have steered the SRO ship over the years were also present; Jürgen, Patrick, Olivier, Benjamin, Jean, Gustave, Lucette, Jacquie, Laurent, Claude, Sophie, Mike, Richard, Bernadette, Fiona, Valerie, Adelheid, Sébastien, Anthony and many others that I have not encountered in the SRO family, if I have missed someone out I apologise.

Speaking with Audi’s Dr Ullrich before the event I learnt that he is in the final few weeks of his stellar career with the German giant, time waits for no man, motor sport will miss him.

The 828 guests who sat down to dine and celebrate were treated to various entertainments from SRO’s Mike Scott’s excellent videos about the racing down the years to the undoubted charms of the ladies of the Moulin Rouge………….well it was Paris.

It was a night to remember……………….

John Brooks, December 2017

Essen Delight

A visit to the Techno Classica is always something to savour, 2017 did not prove an exception to this rule.

Almost too much to see and do, but virtually every aspect of the automobile is illustrated and there is something in every corner to excite.

Here is my take on the show.

John Brooks, July 2017

London is Calling…………….

A new concours is always a welcome addition to the season, especially one as well organised and curated as the inaugural City Concours held in the heart of the City of London.

The event was held in the spectacular Artillery Gardens of the Honourable Artillery Company, a Georgian grassy haven in the midst of the capital’s financial district.

By any standards the City Concours was an instant success, a decent crowd appreciating the selection of fine cars on display and for sale. Year two will be even better and the word will get round the City to increase interest, looking forward to June 2018.

John Brooks, June 2017

 

 

View from the Gasworks End

The 75th Goodwood Members’ Meeting was a perfect example of how to run a classic car event; speed with style, even the chilly weather did not soak us, rare for March down near Chichester.

Taking encouragement from others I broke out the Canon gear and shot for fun, I hope that the results are worth it.

John Brooks, April 2017

The French Class

Driver shoots, don’t ya just love ’em? Herding cats would be easier and nothing has much changed in the 49-odd years since this scene at Le Mans. Even the scrum around local favourites still continues, the only thing missing is a selfie-stick………….but this bunch of drivers from the 1968 Alpine Le Mans team is also a bit special.

L to R as far as I can tell: Bob Wollek, Jean-Pierre Nicolas, Alain Serpaggi, Christian Ethuin, André de Cortanze, Jean-Luc Thérier, Jean Vinatier, François Castaing, Alain le Guellec, Jean Rédélé, Bernard Tramont, Jean Guichet, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Henri Grandsire and Gérard Larrousse.

They would win Grand Prix, Le Mans (driving and designing), rallies and many, many races, a very select bunch.

John Brooks, February 2017

 

Docklands Delights

February arrives and brings with it the promise of a new auto season, both on and off the race tracks and concours halls. The Rétromobile in Paris is an annual high point but now here in London we have a show worthy of comparison, if one accepts that it is still in a developmental stage. I am, of course, referring to the London Classic Car Show, now in its third year and double the size of the original.

Right from the start the show had some good ideas, taking advantage of the space available they created the Grand Avenue so that the attendees could see the exotic collection of cars actually in motion and experience the physicality and noise of racing engines, we’re all kids at heart, especially when encountering a V12 Matra……….

Another feature that is very popular with attendees is Car Club Square. I am firmly of the opinion that any classic show should encourage the car clubs who are the foundation of our thriving classic scene.

Where there are classic cars to be found, there will be dealers and they too provide an important element of the show, bringing their stock for out appreciation and hopefully, for them, our custom.

 

There are some enhancements for 2017, notably the addition of the Historic Motorsport International, backed by the Historic Sports Car Club. This gives a new dimension to the show and will greatly broaden the range and variety of cars on hand.

Celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2017 is the Beaulieu Autojumble and there will be a pop-up version at the LCCS on the Saturday and Sunday to give those of us less well heeled folk something to afford.

 

2017 will see a number of features specially aimed at enthusiasts. 70 years of Ferrari will be celebrated with a display reflecting the glory of the brand specially put together by Joe Macari, former Le Mans racer and one of London’s leading specialists on high performance cars.

Half a century has passed since the introduction of the Cosworth DFV, the engine that changed Formula One out of all recognition. At Zandvoort in June 1967 Jim Clark took a dominant victory in his Lotus 49, the first of 155 Grand Prix in the following 17 seasons. So a tribute to Keith Duckworth and Mike Costin’s stroke of genius is most appropriate and to illustrate the scope of the engine’s career there will be a display of cars at HMI, it is bound to be a highlight.

The opening day, Thursday 23rd February will feature a salute to one of the greatest racing drivers of them all, Jacky Ickx, who will be present as the show’s Guest of Honour.

Not only that but two of his co-drivers from his six wins at the Le Mans 24 Hours, Jürgen Barth and Derek Bell will also be present. Completing the circle of Le Mans’ giants will be five-time winner Emanuele Pirro, so if La Sarthe is your thing head on down to Docklands.

The London Classic Car Show and HMI will be held at ExCeL London, on 23-26 February, with access to both shows included in the entry price. Historic Motorsport International will open its doors at 12.00pm on Thursday 23 February, while the London Classic Car Show will burst into life at 3pm that afternoon.

Tickets to the 2017 London Classic Car Show/HMI are now available from the show website – thelondonclassiccarshow.co.uk – and start at £24 for single adult entry (£27 on the door on the day). Gala evening standard entry costs £42 or for access to the Grand Avenue Club, where the interviews take place, tickets cost £70.

 

To get a flavour of the event have a scan through Simon Hildrew’s stylish photopgraphy from 2016; go along, you will not regret it.

John Brooks, February 2017

 

 

ASI 2017 and all that

The endurance season has kicked off, Dubai 24 a few weeks back and yesterday the Rolex 24, both preceded by the Autosport International at the charmless Birmingham NEC. ASI is under new owners and that can only be a good thing, the format is tired and dull, and frankly it is difficult to get any enthusiasm for the event. That being said, the display of Lotus 49s and the history line provided by Williams Grand Prix were worthy of attention, so I will be generous and hope that the show can get back to its former glories.

One constant is the excellent work of Simon Hildrew…………long may he continue.

John Brooks, January 2017

Thirty Year Itch

The Daytona 24 Hours in 1987 was an almost exclusively Porsche affair in the leading GTP class, no less than nine 962s chased victory. Five of these were powered by a 2.8 litre flat six and the other four a 3.0 litre version of the classic Porsche unit, power was traded off for less fuel stops, a bit of a leap of faith at Daytona.

Leading the charge was Jochen Mass in Bruce Leven’s 962 posting a pole lap of 1:41.005. The German star shared the car with the owner and Klaus Ludwig. They led the first four hours or so of the race but contact while passing a back marker on the banking led to a big shunt and retirement.

Also in the wars early in the race was the other front row Porsche of Jim Busby sharing with Bob Wollek and Darin Brassfield. Valve failure after 89 laps put the BFGoodrich 962 out.

Three 962s were left at the top contesting victory. The American road-racing royalty of Rob Dyson, A.J. Foyt and Al Holbert each had a car capable of winning. Dyson shared with his regular co-driver Price Cobb and they were supported by Vern Schuppan.

Holbert, running the same #103 chassis that had been the winner in the 1986 race, was on a roll, chasing a third consecutive 24 hour win with co-driver Derek Bell, having triumphed at Le Mans the previous June. Initially Holbert did not plan to drive leaving that to Al Unser Jr., Chip Robinson and Mr Bell. The demands of the race would change that strategy

The legendary A. J. Foyt, twice a winner at the Daytona 24 Hours was looking for his third win, running with Danny Sullivan and Al Unser Sr. The race would come down a dog fight between the #1 and #14.

Best of the non-Porsches was the Chevrolet Corvette GTP-T710 of Sarel van der Merwe and Doc Bundy but they went out in the night with engine failure after running in the leading pack.

Another car that succumbed in the darkness to engine problems following a fire was the Jaguar XJR-7 of Bob Tullius, Hurley Haywood and John Morton after running as high as second.

Less impressive in the GTP ranks was the Zakspeed Ford Probe GTP of David Hobbs, Whitney Ganz and Momo Moretti. Not really competitive, they also disappeared in the night with engine maladies.

IMSA GTP Lights were the property of the factory entered Spice-Pontiac Fiero.

Bob Earl, Don Bell and Jeff Kline overcame electrical issues in the night to run out winners.

IMSA GTO class was hotly contested. The Roush Ford Mustang was chasing a hat trick of wins at Daytona. NASCAR star Bill Elliott ran with Scott Pruett, Lyn St. James and Tom Gloy.

More NASCAR talent was on show in the Protofab Chevrolet Camaro of Darrell Waltrip, Terry Labonte and Greg Pickett. They led the class at the halfway point but lost a wheel out on track and that was that.

Another strong Camaro was the Rick Hendrick-entered Peerless version for Jack Baldwin and Eppie Wietzes but they were another victim of engine issues.

Dan Gurney had a pair of Toyota Celicas, #98 for Chris Cord and Steve Millen, #99 had Ricky Rudd, Jerrill Rice and Juan Manuel Fangio ll on driving duties.

Problems late in the race struck both All American Racing cars with #99 retiring  and #98 clinging on to second spot despite rear suspension issues.

All of which propelled #11 to the top step of the podium. A sweet victory for the Roush Ford outfit.

Back at the head of the field things appeared to be going the way of Foyt’s 962 but there was not much margin in it. The Unsers engaged in an early morning Father and Son duel after which they had breakfast together. There were epic battles between the two teams and any advantage gained was soon pulled back.

Al Holbert had to change his strategy as both Al Unser Jr. and Chip Robinson were exhausted and Derek Bell needed time to recover for the final stint. Al jumped into the Porsche to take the fight to rival 962.

The race was decided in the final hour when the normally bullet-proof Porsche motor in the #1 car let go with 50 minutes left to run. Victory for the Holbert car, huge disappointment for Foyt’s outfit.

Second place fell to the Brun Motorsport 962 that had lost 14 laps in the first hour with a faulty weld on a pipe. Once that was fixed they began the long climb back from 54th place. They were the quickest car on track during the night, sometimes as much as five seconds a lap! Once the Foyt car stopped they were elevated to the podium just ahead of the Dyson 962 with the unfortunate Texan effort classified as fourth. It was a just reward for Walter’s team of Oscar Larrauri, Massimo Sigala and Gianfranco Brancatelli.

Messrs Holbert, Bell, Robinson and Unser Jr. celebrated a famous victory, a really tough race for them. The race was flat out from the start and the winning crew covered 753 laps breaking the previous record set in 1986 by 41 laps or 146 miles. The race average speed was 111.6mph, a champion performance by any standards.