Long Island View

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At DDC Towers we welcome another contributor, our old friend Andy Hartwell. Andy was one of the  regulars on the ALMS beat at the turn of the century. Here he gives an overview of what drew him to  this area of motor sport. Hopefully this will the first of many contributions from Long Island.

A Personal Journey Through A Golden Age
©Andrew S. Hartwell

It was 1995 and Major League Baseball (USA) decided to cancel the World Series over player/owner disputes.  For this lifelong fan, that action was enough to turn me off to the game we had so often played for hours in the streets where I grew up.  It was time to look to other interests and, as luck would have it, a man from Italy would persuade a famous car maker that the time had come to return to the world of sports car racing.  The man was Gianpiero Moretti and the car he championed Ferrari to build was the 333 SP.

Growing up, when I wasn’t playing ball – pretending to be any one of a number of my favorite New York Yankee players every time I stepped up to bat – the other thing that I was most interested in was sports car racing. I loved seeing the Jim Hall Chaparrals, the Lola T-70s, the McLaren Can-Am cars and all the modern open top racers featured in the racing magazines of the time. There was Road & Track, Sports Car Graphic, Car and Driver, Autoweek/Competition Press, and later, On Track and Auto Racing Digest. Money I earned from delivering papers, along with meager parental allowance monies, would often go towards buying the latest issues. (Along with a box of chocolates or two.) I couldn’t wait to see who was racing what and where. I was in awe of these champions of courage, and in love with the idea of going fast around corners in both directions, not just in a straight line or to the left over and over. 

When I finally was old enough to have a car of my own, Dad found a 1957 Chevy for me and I would tear that baby up and down twisty and narrow River Road thinking, as I had when playing baseball, that I was really Stirling Moss or Jim Hall or Mark Donohue and corners were to be cut, not driven around. I sometimes wished the Chevy was a Triumph or an MG but hey, I was driving and enjoying myself regardless.

In the mid-1960s, Dad and my Brother Steve and I went to a few races at our home track, Bridgehampton. We saw the USRRC, Trans-Am and Can-Am races at that under-developed, bare bones circuit, but the venues condition didn’t matter.  We were seeing my heroes in the flesh and not too far from home to boot.  This was the real thing, not a static image on a page.  It was a time when I came to feel I needed to have a future in this sport.  Not as a driver or mechanic, but as a journalist or photographer. I wanted to see, hear and feel more about what went on within this magical world.

The idea was further cemented in my mind when, at the 1968 Bridgehampton Can-Am race, I cheered on my favorite, Jim Hall when he took the lead from Bruce and Denny in their identical McLaren MK8As.  When the race ended, and the last car crossed the finish line, this 17 year old fan leaped over the fence, ran across the track, and stood in the pits as Hall pulled up right next to me! I reached in and was the first to shake his hand to congratulate him on his second place finish! He wore an open face helmet and I can still see the blood and marks on his face from all the sand that had been thrown up during the race.  Shaking his hand was a seminal moment for me. I knew then I had to have a place in this exciting world!

(Note: 40 years after that race I found a photo someone took of Jim at that moment. In the photo, I am the kid in the white T-Shirt and sunglasses on Jim’s right!  The photo also captured my Dad, in the crowd over Jim’s left shoulder.  And the elbow you see sticking out behind Jim’s left arm belongs to my brother, Steve!  What are the chances of every finding a photo of that magic moment?)

Well, sometimes what you feel you want is the very thing you have to wait the longest to receive. While working a full time job in retailing, I gave journalism a shot, writing short pieces for a Long Island weekly newspaper. I covered a few local club rallies, wrote about the world of racing at Bridgehampton, and submitted a piece or two on Lime Rock and Watkins Glen events. This early involvement came to a sudden halt when the paper’s interests waned in affording print space to a sport that was never really in the mainstream of public awareness.  My journalistic desires were put on hold. I then fell back on my other first love, baseball. I was a Yankee fan again. Moreover, I was reborn as a fan of the game.  Well, that is, until 1995.

Besides baseball, which you could watch on TV for free – an amount equal to my ability to pay,  the years of the mid 1970s through to 1995 were devoted to family, career and economic concerns that put the idea of a journalism or photography career on the back burner.  In fact, I tuned out of the whole racing scene for close to 20 years or so. When others talk of the GTP era, or the Ayrton Senna years, I feel no emotional attachment.  I simply didn’t follow the sport back then.

As the years passed, and our economic status improved, and baseball went stupid and shut down when it should have been celebrating a pair of champions, I decided to pick up a car magazine again. In the pages of Road & Track I saw a picture of the new Ferrari 333 SP.  I immediately had a flashback to the glory days of the Can-Am series and the beautiful prototypes built by Bruce McLaren and Lola and Chaparral. The spark was reignited.

I worked out getting credentials to Lime Rock and later other circuits, so I could be on the scene shooting photos and writing about this new era in racing.  Those early stories in the local paper helped pave the way for me.

In 1996, I had the opportunity to interview Wayne Taylor. This was the year he would go on to win both the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring, in his Riley & Scott MKIII with Oldsmobile power.  That blue and white and yellow paint scheme was often what the fans saw come across their line of sight first, provided a certain red Ferrari hadn’t stolen the lead.

That interview with Wayne – which he told me at the conclusion was, I quote, “The best interview I’ve ever had”- would lead to his setting me up with credentials to the inaugural Petit Le Mans (1998). 

When the internet became a thing, I found a website called Sportscarworld and reached out to its creator, Malcolm Cracknell, to see if he could use a little help with the content side of the business.  My first submission to Malcolm at Sportscarworld.com was a picture of the Porsche GT1-98 that would later go airborne, ending the race on a flatbed tow.  We connected well and Malcolm became a friend. I would go on to contribute for years to that first site and the many iterations that would follow. This was at a time when most folks only had slow dial up internet service so the pictures were small and I was ‘advised’ to abandon my thoughts of submitting short videos for posting.  (I think what Malcom said was ‘NO MORE $#%^ VIDEOS!)

I would also go on to become a contributor to TheRaceSite.com and many of my ‘Through The Esses’ columns appeared there, and are still accessible today. A short stint writing for AllRaceMagazine (defunct) happened as well but I’d rather not talk about that experience, thank you.

For the next 20 +/- years I would go on to cover the Petit again for several more years, along with days spent covering racing at Sebring, Lime Rock, Mid-Ohio, Mosport, Watkins Glen and VIR.  Never made it to Road America but I just might someday. Along the way I met a lot of wonderful professionals who covered the races as photographers, journalists or public relations specialists.  I’m sure I am leaving some great names off this list, and for that I apologize in advance, but some of the names were Barbara Burns, Craig van Eaton, Sylvia Proudfoot, Regis Lefebure, John Brooks, Janos Wimpffen, Lyndon Fox, Gary Horrocks, Brian Mitchell, Richard Prince, Rick Dole, Chris and Rob Dyson and many more.  Each of them having played significant roles in the sport and in my development from novice to (nearly) professional status.

During my time of active involvement, I was able to talk with and write about many great people in the sport.  I am pleased to say my time – albeit as a part time journalist/photographer – found me watching the emergence of some incredibly talented drivers and teams.  People like Andy Lally, Spencer Pumpelly, Mike Borkowski, Guy Cosmo, Mark Wilkins, Jeff Segal and more were just making a name for themselves and I was there to talk with them early in their careers and write about their desires and ambitions to succeed in the sport.

It was also during this time that I found a great friend in Dennis Spencer. He and I would spend a lot of time talking in the paddock about almost anything. He was a great man who seemed – to me, anyway – to have no sense of what fear can do to a mind.  He was smart, intelligent, brave and a man with a big heart.  His sense of humor and his ability to mentor others were remarkable traits that I admired greatly. When he passed the sport lost a magnificent competitor and I lost a good friend.

Dissipating brain cells have led to gaps in memory over all that I enjoyed about the sport. In no particular order I do remember covering the NASAMAX team at Sebring; doing the race reports and press releases for Stevenson Motorsports for a little over seven years; covering the Red Bull Racing team at Daytona and, I think, Sebring;  Meeting and reporting on George Robinson’s 74 Ranch team when Jack Baldwin had the lead driving role; Sharing hotel rooms and rides with Janos Wimpffen and later, Lyndon Fox;  Sharing space at a private home in Sebring with several fellow enthusiasts;  Having a hotel or two on the beach at Daytona;  Staying in less than stellar accommodations for Sebring; Flight delays; Losing my dailysportscar jacket at the airport;  Staring down a pig/boar late at night on the way back to Sebring;  Dropping my camera bag into the only puddle within 50 feet of me at Watkins Glen.

Yes, it’s been a fun ride and I feel so very fortunate to have been there during what many folks consider a golden age of sports car racing.  Today, I find myself more attracted to Vintage Racing and seeing some of the cars of the past – both recent and ancient – doing what they were built to do.

Yes, 1995 was a seminal year for this journalist/photographer. But, I wonder if you can guess what my interests today include outside of racing?  Can you say, “Batter up!”?

Andrew S. Hartwell February 2019

Parisian Cat Walk

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The 2019 edition of the Rétromobile was well up to the high standards that we have come to expect from this French Classic. It has become something of a must attend event for those of us who ply our trade in this arena, being the first serious event of the year adds a taste of optimism to encourage us, no matter how misplaced this rush of blood ultimately turns out to be.

So to whet the appetite I am flagging up a few delights, some familiar, some less so. I will have a few other posts to produce in the next few days in between the doing the paying stuff…….

Arriving on Tuesday evening I barely made any progress past the Peter Auto stand, ambushed by various gangsters that I am acquainted with, all of us keen to catch up on gossip, rumour and the occasional fact……one of the cars on the Peter Auto stand was very familiar, on old friend from a couple of decades gone, McLaren F1 GTR, #24R. Originally a factory Schnitzer car for the 1997 Le Mans 24 Hours, it then turned up in the Gulf/Davidoff team for a few races in that year. It was driven by Thomas Bscher and John Nielsen till the Dane royally stuffed it in Practice at Suzuka at the end of summer. Once refettled Steve O’Rourke acquired it for his British GT campaign and then achieved a fantastic fourth place overall in the ’98 edition of the French classic……….the stuff of dreams.

More memories were to be found round the corner on Gergor Fisken’s stand, always a source of truly classic cars in every sense of the word. True to form Fiskens had on display a cornucopia of automotive goodness, including one gem that really struck a personal chord. My first attendance endurance race was the 1971 Brands Hatch 1000Kms, it proved to be a slippery slope, which is how and why you are reading this doggerel. So it was quite something to encounter the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33/3 that Henri Pescarolo and Andrea de Adamich drove to record a memorable victory that over the Gulf Porsche 917s, the first international success for the Italian marque for 20 years.

I reflected on the 1971 season, and its impact of my young self, some time ago HERE – while it has been largely downhill on the personal front since those heady days, the T33 still looks stunning.

Artcurial run the auction based at the Rétromobile and they always come up with much that is stunning, 2019 was no exception to this rule. The Serenissima Spyder was captivating, another treasure from Count Volpi’s outfit and, even more appealing, exactly as it ran at Le Mans in 1966.

The timing of its competition career was unfortunate as it was crushed along with the rest of the field by the Detroit bulldozer that was Ford’s GT effort at Le Mans that year featuring no less that 15 GT40s on the grid. No matter, the patina and graceful design are timeless, who ever acquired this exquisite car has won a motoring lottery.

Also at Artcurial was this headline grabbing Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring which went under the hammer for a pretty respectable €16.4 million, quite understandable when considering this beautiful creation.

One of just five examples built and with an almost complete history, it is a slice of motoring royalty……….one can dream…………

On a completely different scale in every sense of the word was this giant Berliet T100, at the time of its introduction the largest truck in the world……it dwarfed everything else at Rétromobile.


Even this Panzer MK IV had to yield to the Berliet………………….

Another French star on the boards was the WM P88, holder of the top speed record down the Mulsanne Straight, posting 407kph in 1988…………….


Back into the 21st Century is the Maserati MC12 Corsa that was to be found at Girado’s impressive stand. The Corsa was the track day version of the MC12 for those who wished to emulate the performance of the wildly successful GT1 racecar.

The Corsa had a claimed 745bhp from the V12 6.0 litre engine, shared with the Ferrari Enzo. Only 12 examples of the Corsa were built, making it ultra desirable as if it needed any further enhancement.

Another extremely stylish and rare Italian that was to be found in Paris was a concept car that appeared at the 1966 Turin Motor Show, the Lamborghini 400 GT Flying Star II.

This striking shooting-brake displays all the confidence of the mid-60s and was based on a 400 GT platform. Its other very significant attribute is being in the final wave of creativity from Carrozzeria Touring which was experiencing financial difficulties at that time. The stunning Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 Touring described above was also part of the history of that venerable styling house. As to the Flying Star, it is very much a case of what might have been……………..

The final initial glance at 2019’s excellence at the Rétromobile is another one off Italian, another Lamborghini, this time from the house of Bertone. It is hard to see how one might improve on the visual impact of the Miura but the P400 Roadster makes a convincing attempt. There are subtle differences to the ‘standard’ car, the angle of the windscreen was lowered, a spoiler was added at the rear and the exhaust was re-routed.

After a number of decades of almost neglect this piece of automotive art was restored to its original very cool blue metallic livery. In Paris it graced the Kidston display, formed exclusively of Lamborghinis, mainly Miuras. What a fantastic collection…….

More from Rétromobile later this week………….

John Brooks February 2018

View from the Byfleet Banking

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The gathering of automobilists on New Years Day at Brooklands has established itself as the opening highlight of Britain’s classical motoring calendar. It being the first day of the year helps but the event has grown in popularity as the Brooklands site has been redeveloped to reflect some of the past glories. Our Special Correspondent braved the conditions and a few rather dull exhibits to bring us this first dispatch from the 2019 Motoring Front. 

The New Year’s Day gathering at Brooklands is the biggest such event and in 2019 the majority of cars were nothing special – too many MGBs, VW Golfs, Triumph Stags etc. – but the day was saved for your correspondent by the arrival of a few “gems”:

First in the line of small sports cars that quickly gave the company its international reputation, the “M” type M.G. Midget was based on the newly introduced (in 1928) Morris Minor and shared with it the excellent Wolseley-designed overhead camshaft engine.

This car is an early Oxford-built example (before the final move to Abingdon) and has the central throttle pedal and transmission brake. It has Brooklands racing history and is equipped like the two cars that ran at Le Mans and Spa in 1930.

The pioneering Lanchester company amalgamated with Daimler in 1931 and this co-incided with Daimler casting aside their sleeve-valve engines (which they had used since 1908) and resorting to the use of poppet valves. In 1931 an interim Lanchester model, the 15/18, was introduced using the Daimler fluid flywheel and an example won the first R.A.C. Rally in 1932.

In October 1932 a completely new design was announced with a 6-cylinder ohv engine and the Lanchester cars were increasingly “Daimlerised”, this example having a 1378 c.c. 6-cylinder driving through a fluid flywheel and bodywork by Mulliners of Birmingham.

For Britain’s first post-war Motor Show in 1948 the Nuffield Group introduced a completely new range of Morris and Wolseley cars, quite unlike anything to emerge from their factories before. The Issigonis-designed Morris Minor was one of the Earls Court stars but two new Wolseleys were there as well: the 4-cylinder 4/50 and the bigger 6-cylinder 6/80. These both had, in the best Wolseley tradition, overhead camshaft engines (the 6-cylinder shared with the new Morris Six) and they were the first Wolseleys to have independent front suspension, this being an adaption of the Issigonis wishbone and torsion bar design. And steering-column gear changes, all the fashion at the time, were also new for Nuffield.

They were not sporting cars, although some private owners turned up for the Monte Carlo Rally for a few years, and the Police chose them in quantity as Patrol cars.

The car shown is a typical 6/80 saloon.

In July 1937 Lord Austin introduced to the Press at Longbridge the Big Seven. This was a supplementary model to the famous Seven and had a longer chassis and an engine of 900 c.c. It was intended to bridge the gap between the Seven and the Ten. It turned out not to be a best seller and production stopped on 1939 when it was replaced by the Leonard Lord-inspired Eight which became a real success.

The Big Seven did compete on a small scale, four works cars, for example, taking premier awards in the 1939 Exeter Trial.

David Blumlein February 2019

Inside Job

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The role of Team Photographer with a endurance sportscar outfit is a delicate one requiring tact, patience and perseverance, as well as skills behind the lens. It is a strange kind of hybrid position, not one of the bosses or drivers or sponsors but also not really one of the guys………the photographer does not do all-nighters mending the damage caused by the latest hero’s antics on track……..nor do they pull the seemingly endless long days back at the workshop preparing the cars in the first place. If you believe some of the others in the team they just point and shoot.

One analogy that springs to mind, it is like the position of the governess in a Downtown Abbey-style house, not family nor servant, neither upstairs or downstairs……….. Most of us who try to chronicle the progress of a team round the clock are tolerated at best.

Like any rule there are exceptions that prove matters. One such example around the turn of the century was to found at Dyson Racing, a no bullshit outfit with all feet firmly on the ground. If you could win the approval of Pat Smith and the guys and gals from Poughkeepsie then you were the real deal. Dr. Brian Mitchell was their bard, their recorder of memories, and as the years pass these recollections become more and more precious to remind those involved of the good times and the good people.

Brian was without question one of the guys, his commitment to the task was clear and unambiguous, the team certainly recognised it. On the odd occasion when I would show up for a Dyson pit stop in the middle of the night at places such as Daytona he would be on hand, part of the process just as much as the man with the tyre or the stopwatch.

So it is illuminating to see his work, a couple of decades down the line, a reminder of a tough week that ended in triumph as Dyson Racing took their second Rolex 24 victory in three years. The times were a-changing with a new century and a new approach on the way, progress they called it………….

Enjoy the view from inside the winners’ tent and share their achievement or at least their pride and joy standing on the podium…………we all know in our hearts it is transitory at best but the view from the top compensates for all that.

John Brooks February 2019

Party Like it’s 1999

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Malcolm Cracknell was one of the pioneers of sports-car racing media on the internet as the World-Wide-Web was known in those innocent times. SportsCarWorld,TotalMotorSport and finally  DailySportsCar  were the introduction for most of us to the concept of paperless information in real  time rather than on a weekly cycle. I joined Crackers on this journey at the start and now as we head  for the winding down laps we spend time looking back as well as forward. 

1999 is the target this time round for the Tardis……….

John Brooks and I are quite proficient at nattering away on the telephone.  We call it “living in the past”, because we always return to discussing racing in a previous era.

For various reasons, I’ve been thinking about 1999 recently.  Conveniently that’s two decades ago, but with the state of my brain, I’ve inevitably forgotten things that I wish I could remember – so I’ve had to consult the reference books (and video highlights).

What I do remember is that in late ’98, I was planning a trip to the season-opening Rolex 24.  Presumably, finances dictated that it was either the Rolex or the Sebring 12 Hours (in early ’99). I have no idea why I chose the first of the two endurance classics): perhaps it was simply a desperate desire to escape the British winter for a few days?  I’m guessing that I hadn’t absorbed how the maiden Petit Le Mans in ‘98 was going to set the tone for US endurance racing in years to come.  Had I had any clue, I would have undoubtedly chosen Sebring.

But I certainly didn’t regret going to Florida in January.  The first person I met after stumbling into the Speedway was Andy Wallace.  Oddly, I’d not yet met Andy: our paths simply hadn’t crossed.  But I was encouraged to find that he knew who I was and that he’d seen the last news item I’d posted, before dashing to Gatwick.  That was an image of the new BMW prototype, which would make its debut at… Sebring.  Andy and I were both a little perplexed by the BMW’s single, pointed roll hoop: the governing body was trying to mandate full width roll hoops, but BMW (and others, subsequently) had presumably found a way round the wording.

I loved Daytona!  It was relatively straightforward to cover the race, live and single-handed, on the internet – by dashing to the nearby pit-lane every hour or two to grab a pitstop photograph and, hopefully, a comment from a competitor, then rushing back to the media center, to pick up the threads of the race.

I was delighted when Dyson Racing took the overall win (AWOL, Butch Leitzinger and, appropriately, the way the season would evolve, EF-R) – and also with Brit David Warnock being part of the winning GTS crew in Roock’s Porsche.  This was the event that saw the debut of the Corvettes, and thanks to a fortuitous bit of timing, I managed to grab 15 minutes with Doug Fehan, before the track opened.  He talked me through the technical aspects of the car – and immediately planted a soft spot for the Corvettes in my brain.  They weren’t race winners yet, and anyway, I always liked to see privateers beat the factory cars, which is just what the Roock Porsche managed.

Years later, James Weaver told me what he thought of the power output of the (restricted) Ford V8s in the Dyson R&Ss.  ‘You can come past the pits (at Daytona) flat out, take your seat belts off, stand up, turn through 360 degrees, sit down, do your  belts up – and still have time to brake for Turn 1’, was the essence of his complaint!

170mph+ was nowhere near fast enough for James.  He wanted to reach at least 190.  My only conversation with James during that Rolex meeting was a snatched “Stu Hayner has binned it (the #16) at the chicane,” at some point during the night.

Right, I’m getting near to the point of this piece now: the 1999 ALMS season, and the influence of one (great) man.  I’m not about to review the whole ’99 season: I’m just going to refer to Sebring, the Road Atlanta sprint race and the finale at Las Vegas.

I think I’ve already told you that I finally ‘discovered’ youtube last year: I moved house, had to buy a new TV decoder thing, and really by accident, found that I could watch youtube on the TV (I can’t look at a laptop for any length of time, because of my illness).  And there on youtube are highlights of all the ALMS races!  Brilliant!

Sebring in ’99 was clearly an epic event, and I should have been there.  A huge crowd, a fantastic entry (58 cars) – including van de Poele / Enge / Saelens in that gorgeous Rafanelli R&S Judd, a car that Eric vdP described somewhere (at the time) as, paraphrasing here, ‘the best car I ever drove’.

The admirable Belgian leapt into the lead at the start, and kept the BMWs at bay for 11 laps, before pitting with a misfire (it eventually retired after 185 laps).   BMW tried to ‘shoot themselves in the foot’, which enabled the EF-R / Leitzinger Dyson R&S to stay in touch with the surviving factory entry of Lehto / Kristensen / Muller – which set up a great finale, with Weaver plonked in the R&S to try and chase down TK.  He came up short by about 17 seconds at the flag.  Great race!

Audi finished third and fifth with their original R8s – and a year later, the ultimate R8 would transform prototype racing.  Porsches took the GTS and GT classes – as Corvette Racing continued to develop the C-5Rs.

I’ve no recollection of how (as it was then) sportscarworld.co.uk covered that Sebring race, but for the Road Atlanta event in April, the site had the benefit of Philip XXXX’s reporting skills.  Alas, I can’t remember Philip’s surname, even though we have since been in touch on Facebook.  How frustrating!  Sorry Philip.  But what a classic race you saw that day!

Andy Wallace led from the start for Dyson (the BMWs were absent as they prepared to win Le Mans), but was called in during the first caution period, which turned out to be the wrong move. vdP and David Brabham (this was the debut of the mighty Panoz roadster) started well back, after some kind of ‘qualifying times withdrawn’ nonsense – and while the Panoz was a handful during its first run ever on full tanks, the Rafanelli entry was going like a dream.  vdP picked his way through virtually the whole field and took the lead, which set up a conclusion in which partner Mimmo Schiattarella saw off Didier Theys in the Doran Lista Ferrari, to win by 25 seconds.

The V12 Ferraris seemed handicapped by their restrictors in ’99, in ways that the V10 Judd-powered R&S wasn’t.  The commentators (rather unfairly) suggested that the V10 might fail in that last stint – but it was as simple as an over-filled oil tank blowing out the excess.

I wonder if Dyson Racing ever considered converting their cars to Judd power?  Kevin Doran eventually did just that with his 333 Ferrari, creating the famous ‘Fudd’.

EF-R / Leitzinger finished third, as their points tally grew steadily, while Don’s LMP Roadster S finished a fine fifth on its debut.

The Schumacher and Snow Porsches had a great race in GTS (the former just winning), while PTG won GT – with none other than Johannes van Overbeek partnering Brian Cunningham.  Is Johannes the longest serving driver in the series?

Don’s series.  That was a sad day, back in September last year, when we learned that Don had passed away.  The greatest benefactor that any series has ever had?  Did he ever get annoyed if his cars didn’t win?  To my knowledge, he never did.  He genuinely seemed to simply love a great event, his event, attended by huge numbers of fans.

I know how much he loved it when the orange, Lawrence Tomlinson, Panoz Esperante won its class at Le Mans: when his bellowing (prototype) monsters beat the Audis, he was clearly thrilled – but he didn’t seem to demand race wins, the way others might.

My Don Panoz story came a few years later, in the spring of 2004.  For the full story, you’ll have to wait until my book is launched (I think enough years have elapsed for the tale to be told), but in essence, Don was grateful for a story that I didn’t write.  Don and Scott Atherton approached me in the Monza press room (it was the ELMS race), and Don expressed his personal thanks to me.  I was touched!

Incidentally, I’m hoping the book will be launched at Brands Hatch on May 25.  Anyone who reads this is invited to attend – and I’m sure you’ll announce it on DDC nearer the time, once it’s confirmed.  Thanks in advance for that!

Right, back to 1999.  Don’s cars took a 1-2 at Mosport (Tom Kjos had taken over reporting duties – and what a great job he did over the years), won again at Portland, lucked into the win at the second Petit Le Mans (that man Wallace joined regulars Brabham and Bernard), lost out at Laguna Seca – and all the while, EF-R had been racking up the points.

The proposed San Diego race didn’t happen, replaced by a fanless Las Vegas – and I was determined to be there.  With the help of Brooksie, Kerry Morse and Cort Wagner, the trip was on.

The TV highlights of that race don’t match my memories in one, significant respect… Having qualified eighth and ninth, the Dyson entries experienced very different fortunes.  AWOL and Butch in #20 were out after just 22 laps with gearbox trouble, but James was EF-R’s ‘wingman’ in #16.  In the opening exchanges, my memory is James really going for it – but the highlights on youtube don’t really show that.  I can still picture the Riley & Scott on a charge, its driver all ‘elbows out’ as he battled to give Elliott a chance of the title later on.  Jean-Marc Gounon was almost as boisterous in the DAMS Lola: it was fantastic entertainment.

But #16 then suffered with a fuel pressure problem, and it looked as though the Panoz drivers (B & B) would be title winners – until their engine failed with 17 laps left. BMW finished 1-2, but EF-R limped home sixth and he was the drivers’ champion.

I surprised James Weaver by appearing in the pit-lane wearing his old, ’96, BPR Gulf overalls (lent to me by Kerry Morse – I’ve no idea how he got hold of them).

“You’re wearing my overalls!” said an otherwise speechless James.

Oh, the Rafanelli R&S was first retirement, unfortunately, with overheating.  Was it the right move to park that car and race a Lola in 2000?

Cort Wagner was the champ in GT, while Olivier Beretta took the honours in GTS, in an ORECA Viper, a car that I haven’t mentioned in this tale (Le Mans was the initial priority).  Wagner and Muller won their class at Las Vegas, with the red and white Vipers 1-2 in GTS.

My last thought here is connected to youtube, again.  Something I’ve been getting interested in is the whole 9/11 thing.  I’m not going to ram my thoughts down your throat – but I would like to suggest that you look up Rebekah Roth, Christopher Bollyn, Barbara Honegger and / or Richard Gage, and listen to some of their views on what really happened in September 2001.  The more you find out, the more extraordinary that tale becomes.  If you find that lot interesting, you might also consider looking up ‘Operation Mockingbird’.

Now, I’ve got to go and look up my favourite ALMS race on youtube: Laguna Seca in 2005.  I think that was the one when John Hindhaugh ‘did his nut’ when the overall leaders came up to lap the scrapping Corvettes and Aston Martins.  Great memories (or just plain “living in the past”).

Crackers out.

Reunion Dues

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 A new year, a new beginning – we kick off 2019 with a fresh approach and a new contributor to our site, Martin Raffauf. Martin has been a familiar figure in the IMSA paddocks for well over 30 years working in a variety of teams. At the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1998 Martin was part of the Moretti Racing crew honoured by the ACO, being awarded the prestigious ESCRA Trophy. So a big welcome to Martin who brings us the behind the scenes story of the winning team from the 2002 Rolex 24 Hours. In a neat postscript to that tale he returned with the same guys and the sister car some 15 years later to Daytona International Speedway………..so enjoy the first of hopefully many pieces to enjoy.

Perseverance pays off – 2002 Daytona 24 hours > Replay 2017 (The reunion of car and team at the 2017 Daytona 24 Historics race)

2002 was a transition year for the 24 Hours of Daytona. It would be be the last season for the open cockpit sports prototype cars that had basically run in IMSA, USRRC and Grand-Am since 1994. In 2003 Grand-Am was switching to the new Daytona Prototype, a closed cockpit car built to a completely different rule set.

Doran-Lista Racing entered one car at this race, a Dallara SP1-Judd. The team was basically a partnership between Fredy Lienhard, the Swiss Industrialist, and Kevin Doran, who ran a race team out of his shops near Cincinnati, Ohio. The team was sponsored by Lista, Fredy’s company in Switzerland (with a US manufacturing plant). Lista was and is involved in the production of industrial cabinets, work shop equipment and office furniture. Fredy had started racing in IMSA in 1995 running a Ferrari 333 SP. For the 2002 season he purchased two Dallara SP1 LMP Chassis (#001 & #005). These were the cars built for the French Viper Team Oreca outfit with Chrysler and PlayStation sponsorship to compete at Le Mans in 2001. The SP1 was a descendant of the all conquering Audi R8, which was also built by Dallara. The engines used were the 4.0 liter Judd GV4 V10, which was a derivative of their earlier 3.5 liter F1 engine. Subsequently the GV5 evolution was also used. The engines ran under the ACO/FIA restrictor formula and horsepower in this restricted form was probably in the range of 610 hp, maybe a little more in sprint trim. Most of the cars we would run against were older designs, like the Riley & Scott Mk III, and Risi Competizione’s Ferrari 333 SP. In addition Riley & Scott had developed a new Mk III C, and would run this as a factory entry for Jim Matthews.   Most of these cars were well sorted and a known quantity to those running them. The Dallara was almost brand new to our team, and though we had raced it at the Daytona Finale in November 2001, the team was still learning the car and sorting out the setup.

The Major competition to us at this race would come from the Riley & Scott Fords entered by Dyson Racing, the Risi Competizione Ferrari, the Champion Racing Lola Porsche, Jon Field’s Lola Judd and the Factory Riley & Scott Mk III C.

The driver lineups were very good. We had Fredy, Didier Theys, Mauro Baldi and Max Papis. The Dyson cars would be led by James Weaver supported by Rob and Chris Dyson, Butch Leitzinger, Elliot Forbes-Robinson, Dorsey Shroeder, and Oliver Gavin. Jim Matthews’ team consisted of himself, Scott Sharp, and Robbie Gordon. The Champion Porsche was driven by Andy Wallace, Hurley Haywood, Sascha Maasen and Lucas Luhr.  The Risi car had Stefan Johannson, Eric van de Poele, David Brabham and Ralf Kelleners.  So the driving competition would be stout, plenty of winners and champions in that group.

The Dallara was very quick in Practice and Qualifying. Didier Theys duly took Pole Position, so we felt good about the car’s potential. However, we had no idea if it would run for 24 hours. It was nice to see the fax on the Doran Racing truck blackboard the next day, from the Dallara Factory in Italy, congratulating us on the Pole and wishing us success in the race.

That night Kevin (Doran) called a team meeting in our food tent which was behind the pits, down near pit exit. He thanked us all for the work so far, and remarked that we had a fast car, but he was not sure if we had a reliable car, as we had no experience with it over this distance.  He asked us to not lose hope or focus, as strange things had happened in the past in the various Daytona 24-hour races. I mentioned that I had seen several as I had been coming to this race since 1971. I witnessed things such as Pedro Rodríguez’ 917 losing a lead of over one hour in 1971 while his mechanics rebuilt his gearbox. He went on to win anyway. In 1992 the attrition rate had been very high, and a Dan Gurney entered Toyota won the race after spending more than two hours in the pits rebuilding the gearbox. So anything could, and usually did, happen, at Daytona.

The race started well for us, with Didier taking an immediate lead and we ran strongly for the first 10 hours. The Champion Lola Porsche came to the pits on the warm-up lap to replace a spark plug, and spent most of the first hour in the pits. The Risi Ferrari challenged for the lead during the first five hours but eventually dropped out with a broken transmission. Both Dyson Fords were out of contention early on and retired mid-race with engine failures. The race soon settled into one between us, the R&S factory car of Jim Matthews, the Ascari and the Field Lola B2K/10. After 10 hours the Ascari’s engine went bang and then we started having electrical problems, and the battery needed to be changed. This was an awful job on this car, as the smallish, lightweight battery was stuck in the bottom of the right front side of the cockpit underneath an electrical panel, so was hard to get at. The Matthews’ Riley & Scott then took the lead but was soon in trouble with its own electrical issues resulting in no headlights. This took a while to fix, as they could not figure out what the problem was. We watched each other closely, as we were in adjacent pits separated only by a break in the wall. This meant that through the night we would leapfrog each other for second place, depending on the timing of the various problems.

Meanwhile the Jon Field Lola was circulating at a slower pace, but had pulled out a lead of a few laps.  Around 4 am, the Matthews’ car pitted with a broken exhaust which had to be changed.  That was a messy job on a 6.0 liter Elan (Ford) engine while it was hot. We thought we had finally left them behind, when we had to change another battery. So, at daybreak we were about 7 laps behind the Field Lola-Judd and about 15 laps ahead of the Matthews’ car. Max Papis was driving and pushing hard to try and close the gap to the Lola. At around 8.30am, the Lola broke a drive shaft and was towed back to the pits as it was in a dangerous place on the track.  

After some work, it went out again, but stopped almost immediately with a broken input shaft in the transmission.  Max then took the lead as he made up the laps on the stationary car.  Tatiana Fittipaldi (Emerson’s daughter) was in our pit, as she and Max were dating at the time. So, we were giving her a blow by blow account of the race progress, as Kevin and Max discussed the race situation over the radio, and the rest of the crew listened in on our headsets.  At this time we were trying to slow Max down, as we had a large lead over the second placed Riley & Scott.  And since the Dallara was an unknown car at this distance, we did not want to push any harder than we had to.

At about this time with 6 hours to go, I asked John Judd Jr., our engine man, “Well the engine ran for 24 hours on the dyno right?”.  He said, “Actually no, we never got one to run for more than 20 hours on a dyno”. Great, I thought to myself.  I’d hate to come this far and have it blow up now. He said, “We just keep going and see what happens.”  Most of the other teams were surprised it was still running now after 18 hours. Jim Matthews told me later, he fully expected us to drop out with engine failure. In 2000 he had run a Reynard-Judd (the same engine we had) and finished the race, but he had spent some 5 hours in the garage changing gearboxes, so it was not a full 24 hours of racing.

Since about the 12-hour mark, Kevin had been having us check the rear wheel bearings on each pit stop. As again, we had not run this car for that long, and didn’t know what to expect. The right rear had started getting loose. If we were racing for the lead, we would have left it, but since we had a cushion, Kevin decided we would change it.  We just changed the whole upright, which caused us to lose about half our lead.  Luckily the car had no other issues as the clock ticked on. With about 20 minutes to go, we called Mauro Baldi in, to put Fredy in for the finish. It was his car and his team, so it seemed fitting, and the crew wanted him to finish the race. He took the Checkers and became the second Swiss to win Daytona after Jo Siffert some 34 years prior. It made front page news in Switzerland, so we were all happy for him. I had been fortunate to be on a team that won Daytona for the 3rd time (1981, 1998, 2002).

Fredy was a master at matching business to racing. He used racing as a marketing tool for his business and was very good at it. I asked him once how he related the two. He explained how business could learn a lot from racing.  Teamwork, preparation, determination, organization, and planning. Fredy was successful at both, and we were proud to be associated with him.

Fredy still owns the winning car. Today It sits in his museum/ automotive learning center, Autobau, in Romanshorn, Switzerland.

2017

Fast Forward to 2017, 15 years later. The winning Dallara from 2001 has been part of the collection in Fredy’s Autobau for years, while the backup car, #005, has sat in Kevin Doran’s workshop on display in Lebanon, Ohio since 2002. For 2017 Fredy Lienhard decided we should run the car at the HSR Daytona 24- hour historic races. It would be a reunion of sorts, 15 years later. Chassis #005 would be prepared and entered.

The HSR (Historic Sportscar Racing) sanctions various vintage races in the USA, one of which is run every  year at the famed Daytona International Speedway in Florida. It is a format very similar to the Le Mans Classic in France.  Groups of cars (6 groups) basically run four times for a little less than one hour.  For example, the Dallara, in group D (Sports cars from 1994-2003) would run at 4pm, 10pm, 4am and 10am over the course of the 24 hours.  Cumulative time would determine the finishing order. Although, this is not really a race per se, as a lot of the cars are not driven too hard, as they are of course, old.

Some of the old team were still around.  Fredy, his son Fredy Jr., and Didier Theys would do the driving, (Fredy and Didier were two of the race winning drivers in 2002, while Fredy Jr, did drive in some of the IMSA races he did not drive at the 24 hours that year) Kevin Doran’s organization would prepare the car.  A few of the old crew from 2002 were available including myself, Dave Doran, Don Caesar, Glenn Smith, Dee Drook and Russ Faber, and of course, Kevin Doran, the team leader.

The car was prepared, and gone thru, as it had been sitting for some years. A five-liter Judd V10 was installed (the engine we ran in late 2002, not at the 24 hours, which was the 4-liter version) A paddle shift system was installed to assist the drivers. This was a modification that was not used in 2002, as then the car had a regular manual transmission shifting system. The team had tested the car some weeks before, and all had worked perfectly. Didier had done a 1:42 lap at Daytona, a few tenths slower than his pole time of 15 years before.

We unloaded the car with high hopes on Tuesday of the race week. It looked pristine sitting in the garage.

Wednesday practice started, and so did the problems. Didier completed a few laps, turned it over to Fredy and then Fredy Jr.  Fredy Jr, noted there were some issues with gear shifting that just did not seem quite right. He attributed it to his lack of recent experience in the car, and not having driven the paddle shift system in 2002. We all agreed. Actually we should have paid attention to what he was saying. Usually when a driver tells you something is not “quite right”, it isn’t. The issues got worse, the car would get stuck in gear, jump from 4th to 2nd, that kind of thing. We returned to the garage and removed the gearbox internals, which on the Dallara is a side removal on the right, not a rear removal.  None of us really remembered the process for this, so the first time was a bit ragged, but we would get much better at it as the week went along!

The ragged shifting had destroyed several gear dogs and dog rings, and there were a few pieces broken in the paddle system. All this was replaced, and we went out again. A little better, but still the same issue, out came the gearbox again. More destroyed dogs, this time a bad sensor was found on the box, which may have contributed to the original problems. In the meantime the engine had started acting up. Didier reported that upon shifting into 6th gear in the Daytona east banking, the engine would seem to lose about half the cylinders. The Judd support guys, along with Kevin and Noah Bailey (team data engineer) pored over the data, and the determination was that one of the ECU boxes might have gone bad. This was replaced.

The new ECU fixed the engine issues, but the gearbox was still acting up. At this point it was Friday, and the race was starting on Saturday. We had already missed qualifying and would be starting in the back, so Kevin decided to just put the manual linkage back on, rebuild the internals once again, and we would go with that. Saturday morning in a warm up, all worked perfectly, engine and transmission. The team was very relieved. 

The race got underwayand we maintained competitive speeds.  Our main opposition was another Dallara, a later Oreca one, A Riley and Scott MK III C with a large engine, and some Generation 2 Grand AM DP (Daytona Prototype) cars.  There were of course many GT cars from that era running also.

In the first night session, Didier Theys had a scare when the right rear Avon tire disintegrated in the east banking in 6th gear.  Luckily, he got it back to the pits without major damage.  In the last stage at 10 am Sunday, Didier started, passed all 5 cars in front of him, and set the fastest race lap at 1:40.7. He came in for the mandatory 3-minute pit stop, and turned the car over to Fredy Lienhard Jr.  We looked like we may get a podium finish, but it was not to be as another Avon tire disintegrated. Fredy was able to get the car back to the pits without damage, but the loss of time due to extra stops and tire failures cost us and we ended up 4th overall, and 2nd in D-1 category behind the other Dallara of Flourent Moulin who won the D group race.

It had been a grand event. The team’s other car, a 2006 FIA GT3 Ford GT had won its class and finished 10th overall in Group E. It was driven by Brad Jaeger, Lyn St. James and Memo Gidley.

What would become of the grand old Dallara? The future is undecided. But for now, it was back to the showroom! It had been a great journey back in time bringing back all the memories of the Rolex 24 in 2002.

Martin Raffauf, January 2019

The Land that Time Forgot

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For over a quarter of a century Patrick Peter has been one of most successful promoters in motor sport, rivalling his former partner in crime at BPR, Stéphane Ratel.

The Le Mans Classic, Tour Auto and Chantilly Arts & Elegance are all world class motoring events that Peter has created but even he had to admit defeat some 20 years ago when he attempted to get the GTR Euroseries off the ground.

The wildly successful BPR-run Global Endurance Series for GTs splintered in late 1996 under pressure from the FIA aka Bernie and Max on the topic of TV rights. It also suffered from conflicts of opinion that the ruling trio had with each other on the future direction of their partnership, I tried to document that turbulence back at the time. http://www.doubledeclutch.com/?p=10162

The net result in 1997 was the FIA GT Championship, a partnership between Stéphane Ratel and Bernie Ecclestone. It was wildly successful in its first season but under the surface it had already laid the ingredients for its own destruction by allowing Mercedes-Benz to drive a coach and horses through the homologation protocols as understood by the other manufacturers. The GT1 class of the Championship collapsed at the end of 1998. The FIA GT Championship only just survived to run the GT2 cars again for the following season without the factory teams, Chrysler Viper excepted. It was a lesson that Stéphane never forgot, keep the manufacturers under control, support the gentlemen drivers.

Patrick Peter launched the French GT Series in 1997 and that was taken over the following year by the Stéphane Ratel Organisation. So Peter then attempted to promote a European GT contest in the spirit and style of the early BPR days, the GTR Euroseries. In the end five rounds were held; Jarama, Paul Ricard, Misano, Nürburgring and Spa. The grids were considerably smaller than expected and Peter admitted defeat after the Belgian event held in late July.

There were quite a number of positive aspects to the series, the conviviality of the paddock was in contrast to the “korporate kulture” that AMG-Mercedes in particular brought to the FIA GT Championship, I know which one I preferred. The GTR grids were largely a collection of Porsches of varying vintages and performance, GT2, Cup Cars etc. The first round in Spain was won by the McLaren F1 GTR of Thomas Bscher and Geoff Lees, it would prove to be the penultimate international victory for the F1 GTR.

The following race held at Le Castellet would also be a landmark for one of those ascending the top step of the podium. This being the final international victory for the irrepressible Barrie ‘Whizzo’ Williams, one of the most popular figures in British motor sport for over half a century. He shared the win with Maxwell Beaverbrook and Geoff Lister in the former’s Porsche 911 GT2 EVO.

A proposed double header with John Mangoletsi’s ISRS to be run at Brno foundered when the Czech circuit’s pit and paddock facilities were not rebuilt in time. Mango’s Barmy Army went anyway, GTR Euroseries headed for the Adriatic and Misano. The contest would be shared with the anaemic Italian GT series and for reasons that were not clear then or now the Enzo Calderari/Lilian Bryner Ferrari 333 SP was also allowed to race….six seconds a lap faster than the GTs…..it looked and sounded great till the oil pump failed early in the proceedings.

The contest had two elements, the four hours GTR event (Silver Cup) and the Italian GT round at six hours (Gold Cup). Only 15 GTs joined the yellow Ferrari on the grid for a 18.00 start, it would prove to be a long evening. On the positive front Nigel Smith (a good bloke) won the race with Michel Ligonnet (another good guy) and Ruggero Grassi (no idea) in the Seikel 911 GT2.

Next outing, at Nürburgring, was a low point for the season, only 10 entries showed up. The spoils going to the Freisinger 911 GT2 (what else?) of Wolfgang Kaufmann and Michel Ligonnet.

GTR Euroseries was not only contested by Porsches, other exotica ran such as the Maserati Ghibli with none other than Arturo Merzario behind the wheel with co-drivers Simone Manzini and Luca Polmonari . However Art was the one in the stetson puffing on a Marlboro, plus ça change………….

Adding colour and a good old V8 rumble to proceedings at all of the races was Cor Euser’s Marcos LM600 that he generally shared with Herman Buurman.

At the next round, held at Francorchamps as a support race to the 25 hour VW Fun Cup (!), the Ford GT40 impostor aka the VBM 4000 GTC made a welcome appearance. The race was won by the same pair that had triumphed in Germany, which made it three wins out of five for Ligonnet. Perhaps the indignity of ceding numero uno status to dozens of imitation Beetles was the final straw but round five at was the end of the road for the GTR Euroseries. Why had this concept not worked as expected?

As with most enterprises timing is all important and 1998 was not the year to launch such a series, however appealing it might be to the gentlemen drivers seeking sanctuary from getting knocked around by the GT1 factory-pro brigade in the FIA GT. In ’94 and ’95 BPR rode the crest of a wave, the re-birth of GT Racing, after the destruction of Group C and the impracticalities of Group B regulations. There was a genuine enthusiasm for the competition which was underpinned by the realisation that how the game was played mattered as much as the result. Friday night dinners at the circuits for competitors and media reinforced this camaraderie. Barth, Peter and Ratel were pioneers in many respects, for example taking their merry band to Zhuhai in late 1994 for the first ever motor race in The People’s Republic of China. The fact was that there was no alternative to BPR on this side of the Atlantic, outside of the Le Mans 24 Hours, if endurance motor sport tickled your fancy.

Four years on and the landscape in endurance sportscar racing in Europe had changed out of all recognition. For their second season FIA GT Championship retained most of its supporters in the GT2 class from 1997. Those like Ray Bellm, Rocky Agusta, Alfonso de Orléans-Borbón, and the aforementioned husband and wife team of Enzo Calderari and Lilian Bryner, who had chosen to jump ship headed to prototype racing in the ISRS rather than buy a dated GT2 Porsche.

The new French GT series that Peter had created had up to 40 cars on the grid, a fair number of which he might have expected to follow him around Europe. Instead the French teams enjoyed the comforts of racing at home, here supporting the Dijon round of the FIA GT Championship.

Porsche and Ferrari were also a problem. Neither had a new GT racer available. At that point in time that would be a serious obstacle to the success of a GT race series. Porsche Motorsport were still chasing the head of the field in their 911 GT1 98 and their plan was to build a prototype to continue their astonishing run of successes at La Sarthe. Wendelin Wiedeking had different ideas and as CEO the boss always has the last say. He spent the money on developing the Cayenne, highly profitable but……. let’s leave it at that. Porsche would build the wildly successful 911 GT3 R, based on the 996 model, but it would not be until the 2000 season that 64 examples would be sold.

Ferrari only had eyes for Formula One at the turn of the century and had yet to realise that a handy profit could be accrued by getting Michelotto to develop and build Ferrari GTs, that programme would also begin in 2000 with the 360 Modena. For many of those who can afford such a hobby only driving a Ferrari will do, Maranello Madness you might say…….

The basic soundness of the GTR Euroseries concept has been validated later by the success of the International GT Open. Devised by ex- endurance racer Jesús Pareja it took advantage of the plentiful supply of GT2 and, later, GT3 cars to ensure a healthy grid. The timing was right.

One benefit that came as a result of the end of GTR adventure was it gave Patrick Peter the time for the eventual creation of the Le Mans Classic, without any doubt one of the greatest celebrations of motoring competition and car culture on the planet. Clouds and Silver Linings come to mind………

Finally may I wish the loyal readers of this site a happy and healthy 2019.

John Brooks, December 2018

Investigations in Essen

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The sharper blades amongst you will have noticed the absence of the Special Correspondent for most of 2018. There were several reasons for this unfortunate state of affairs, time spent finishing off his next book, then some health issues, all conspired to deprive us of his wisdom. The good news is that he is fighting fit once again and that the book is now in the production stage, more on that exciting prospect later. Even better news is that he has a series of pieces stored up to carry us through this season of short days and miserable weather. Earlier this year we hopped on the train and made our way to Essen for Techno Classica, here are some of the delights that he found in the halls……….

Often overlooked is the Lamborghini Islero, a replacement for the 350GT/400GT and made from 1968 to 1970. It had a body by Marazzi who founded his Carrozziera in 1967 outside Milan, employing some workers from the bankrupt Touring concern – Marazzi is remembered especially for his production of the beautiful Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale.

The Islero was the first Lamborghini to appear at Le Mans: a private Islero 400GT, painted a gorgeous red, practised in 1975 but it was too heavy and failed to qualify.

This Type 640 Skoda was the first of their cars to be given the name Superb. It had a 6-cylinder side-valve engine of 2,492 c.c. and was built from 1934 to 1936. This was also the first Skoda to have hydraulic brakes.

Porsche built 44 of their 365/2 coupés in their original home in Gmϋnd, Austria. They proved ideal for competitions with their aluminium body, high torsional stiffness and aerodynamic efficiency.

The rally-plate on this example recalls the outright win by Polensky and Linge in 1954 on the Liège-Rome-Liège, always one of Europe’s toughest events.

Once in power the Nazi Party was both quick and keen to promote German motorsport and one of the important events of the mid-Thirties was the 2000 km durch Deutschland Trial, a demanding run around this big country.

The major German motor manufacturers built special cars for the event, not least Mercedes and the Auto Union combine, and this Horch 830 Coupé was one of a team which took part in July 1933. A 3-litre V8 supplied the power.

This is a DB-Renault, one of three built for Le Mans in 1954. They were unusual in several ways: they were the first cars to come from Charles Deutsch and René Bonnet with a mid-mounted engine, they used Renault motors whereas all DBs from 1950 had used exclusively the flat-twin Panhard engines and they had central driving positions. This car is chassis 2003 and, like its team-mates, failed at Le Mans It also retired in the Reims 12-hour race but Jean Lucas won his class at Amiens and finished 5th at La Baule.

DB did not repeat the experiment and stuck with Panhard power till the end but when Bonnet split with Deutsch for 1962 he turned completely to Renault power and mounted the 4-cylinder engine amidships in the Djet.

Veritas was one of the main small companies instrumental in the revival of German motorsport in the immediate years after the Second World War. They used the chassis and engine of the pre-war BMW 328 as the basis of their initial production and created modern streamlined bodywork, the tuned machines being successful in domestic sports car races.

The company went on to make some attractive road-going coupés and as the supply of BMW engines dried up, a 2-litre 6-cylinder overhead cam engine made by Heinkel was used. Eventually one of the founders, Ernst Loof, set up on his own at the Nϋrburgring this is one of four Nϋrburgring Coupés of 1957.

TAILPIECE

This microcar, the Zϋndapp Janus, was the only car made by the German motorcycle manufacturer. Powered by a single-cylinder two-stroke 245 c.c. engine giving just 14 h.p., the car with opening front and rear doors was named after the Roman god Janus who had two faces.

 

David Blumlein November 2018

 

 

A Celebration of Rob Walker

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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

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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