- Post is under moderation/ #Dan-Gurney b.1931 / #F1 / #Formula-1
The death on 14 January of racer, engineer and team boss Dan Gurney at 86 has dwindled what remains of The Few – the pioneering freethinkers and out-smarters from another time. He was fast, clever, hungry and charming – in and out of the many cars he took to scores of victories in numerous disciplines.
Born on 13 April 1931, Daniel Sexton Gurney grew up in Long Island but moved to California in his late teens. He was soon quenching a new-found thirst for stripping, improving and torturing machinery, mostly Ford Coupes, and he duly fell under competition’s spell in 1955 with a Triumph TR2. It was an appropriate, if somewhat humble machine for a man excited by the breadth of possibilities offered in far-away Europe.
And it didn’t take this 6ft 4in, charismatic grafter with an eye for opportunity and detail long to get on that European radar, thanks to a 1959 Ferrari contract for Formula One and sports cars.
His first major endurance-racing scalp that season came in the Sebring 12 Hours aboard a 250 Testa Rossa. He would add victory in the 1960 Nürburgring 1000km alongside Stirling Moss in a ‘Birdcage’ Maserati and success in the Le Mans 24 Hours in ’1967 with fellow US all-rounder AJ Foyt and Ford to his long-distance CV.
Gurney’s decision that day in France to spray the crowd with his podium champagne rather than drink it began this messy ritual. His Formula One career could so easily have produced more than his four wins and quartet of fourth-placed championship finishes. As it was, he took maiden victories for Porsche in 1962 and Brabham in ’1964, both at Rouen. A third win came in the BT7 in Mexico later that year.
What if he’d still been at Ferrari for ’1961? Or at Brabham beyond 1965?
It was that pioneering spirit and self-belief that convinced Gurney to build his own car to contest F1 and US Indycar; he craved engineering not politicking. Thus his Anglo-American Racers squad and its Eagle hotshoes flew in for 1966. In F1, the underpowered and unreliable four-cylinder Climax motivation in the T1G made way for British-built Weslake V12 grunt for ’1967 and a famous win came Gurney’s way in the Belgian GP at Spa, a week after the Le Mans success.
The Eagle F1 outfit’s financial wings were clipped in ’1968 but the team continued winning in Indycar until the mid 1970s, its final tally a record 49 wins (seven for Dan), including three Indianapolis 500 triumphs. He raced at the Brickyard nine times, finishing second in 1968 and ’1969. Gurney saw out his top-flight career with McLaren until the end of 1970. He tackled six GPs with the British team and stepped into one of its Group 7 Can-Am monsters following founder Bruce’s death at Goodwood in June of that year – winning instantly and cheeringly.
The unparalleled breadth of Gurney’s ability meant he also won in NASCAR’s stock car premiership, Trans-Am and the British Saloon Car Championship – all in thumping V8s. Economics forced Gurney to resettle in the States, with a rebranding of his squad to All-American Racers. AAR later took Toyota-powered Eagle prototypes to IMSA sportscar glory, ncluding at Sebring where his international ambitions began.
Innovation and trendsetting were never far from the witty and charming Gurney’s thoughts, even well into his 80s. There was his ingenious rear-wing modification that improved downforce without compromising drag, universally known as the ‘Gurney flap’, and the pioneering use of a full-face crash helmet. Road & Track magazine ran a campaign in #1964 to have him installed in the White House as US president. He even advised Elon Musk on space-travel engineering. Dan Gurney was a leader on the racetrack, in the workshop and in the boardroom. Always modest yet steely, for him nothing was impossible.
Gurney finished his #F1 career with #McLaren , here leading Jack’s Brabham in the ’ #1968-Mexican-Grand-Prix . Inset: ‘Handsome Dan’, at Zandvoort in 1970.
Eagle-Weslake en route to its maiden victory in ’ #1967-Belgian-Grand-Prix at Spa.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationMARIO ANDRETTI
Born 28 February #1940
From Montona, Italy
Career highlights #F1-World-Champion-1978 ; winner of ’1967 Daytona 500, 1969 Indy 500 and 1972 Daytona 24 Hours
Italian-born Mario Andretti enjoyed a competition career that encompassed everything from stock cars to F1, and remains the most successful American driver of all time… #1978-Formula-1
/ #Mario-Andretti / #F1-World-Champion-1978 / #1978 / #Formula-1 / #F1 / #1940
This month, we have an exemplary tale of dedication and determination that came out of fearsome adversity to produce one of the world’s most accomplished drivers. Mario Andretti and his twin brother Aldo were born in 1940 in Montona, Istria – the peninsula that juts into the Adriatic south of Trieste (then part of Italy).
Growing up in a country at war, their home was absorbed into communist Yugoslavia, meaning that they lived in refugee camps in Tuscany for seven years with continual concern over where the next meal might come from. It gave the boys’ parents every excuse to emigrate. The USA proved to be the family’s saviour, and the trans-Atlantic crossing was undertaken in 1955, but a propitious event took place the year before.
A garagiste in Lucca, where the brothers learnt to drive and helped out with parking duties, took them to the 1954 Italian GP at Monza. Ascari’s noble efforts chasing eventual victor Fangio really got to Mario and Aldo, and they came away determined to somehow become racers. Once in the US, the family settled in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and the twins wasted no time trying to get themselves on track. Meanwhile, their father was also being successful and proudly showed up one day in his brand-new #1957-Chevy #Bel-Air . About as American as a car could get.
The acquisition of a junked Hudson Hornet was an excuse to prepare it for racing, while a stroke of genius was the purchase of copious set-up notes from a team that had successfully run a Hornet stock car. Fiddling their licences, the brothers started winning at the local Nazareth speedway and elsewhere. What they learnt early on is that preparation and having a car fine-tuned to the conditions of each track made up for lacking the mere grunt from a hot motor.
Aldo had a big one at the end of 1959, totalling the Hudson and almost himself. Maybe Mario was deterred, maybe not, but he soldiered on, picking up rides in stock cars and Midget racing on indoor cinder tracks. Tough stuff and I doubt that anyone took prisoners in either formula.
What Mario displayed was an innate ability to wring the most out of anything he drove. Mixt hat with his determination not to come second and you have a man who rose up the ladder, getting his first seat in a #USAC sprint car in 1963. Up against the best of the best, he won his first Championship race in ’ #1964 . When the successful Dean Van Lines team’s driver ran into the back of his Sprint car, Mario wound up taking his rival’s place in the équipe. It brought a decent salary with it, so he gave up his job and became professional. There was to be no stopping him. He was ‘rookie of the year’ at the Indy 500 in ’1965 and Champion by the end of the season.
With a voracious appetite for racing, he drove for #NART in sports-car events, kept up his Midget outings and put in Can-Am and #NASCAR appearances, including victory in the ’ #1967-Daytona-500 . He famously won the 1969 Indy 500 in a back-up car after his #Lotus was demolished in practice.
Mario’s schedule was incredible, racing in GPs for Lotus (he was World Champion in ’1978) as well as Champ car outings in the US every other weekend. If there was ever a gap, he filled it with whatever he could find.
His only drive for Scuderia Ferrari was at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in ’1982. As qualifying finished, he snatched pole in the turbo 126C2 (which he’d never raced before), sending the tifosi mad. A good day’s work for a 42 year old. If he had a dream when he went to Monza in ’1955, he more than fulfilled it. He was still winning in his 50s and remains the most successful American racer of all time. Just as important, he’s an object lesson in pursuing ambition.
Andretti heads for victory in the ’1969 Indy 500 in the Brawner-Hawk – his 4WD Lotus 64 was destroyed in practice after a hub failed.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationSID WATKINS OBE
Born 6 September #1928
Died 12 September #2012
From Liverpool / #Sid-Watkins / #F1 / #Formula-1
Career highlights Professor of neurosurgery, Formula One medical delegate 1978-2005, co-founder of the Brain and Spine Foundation.
Jackie Stewart may have started F1’s safety drive, but it was Sid Watkins who made it stick. He was also the only man to whom Bernie Ecclestone would always defer.
Motorsport has always attracted entrepreneurs anxious to derive as much benefit as can be expected. There have been exceptions, such as Count Vincenzo Florio, who merely wanted to have a great race in Sicily and hang the expense. And, dare I say it, the private entrants seeking joy, danger and glory in exchange for whatever financial contribution can be summoned.
Fortunately, there have also been gentlemen such as this month’s Hero, miraculously appearing on the scene dispensing much-needed services purely because they could, and wanting to improve a disastrous state of play for drivers unfortunate enough to need instant medical care. These are contributions donated for the love of the sport and care beyond pecuniary reason. Hippocratic oath-takers preferred.
Born in 1928, the son of a Welsh coal miner, Eric Sidney Watkins soon found himself gainfully employed in his father’s new business when the family moved to Liverpool. Repairing cycles – then motor vehicles – gave Sid a grounding in hard work that stood him in good stead when he decided to attend medical school at Liverpool University. An MD by 1952, he spent four years in the Royal Army Medical Corps in Africa.
His one and only competition appearance seems to have been in the 1955 West African Rally, which ended shortly after it began. Whether or not this whetted his appetite for motorsport is unknown, but by 1958 he was studying neurosurgery at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford – finding time to act as a race doctor at Silverstone and elsewhere.
By 1962, he was Professor of Neurosurgery at the State University of New York, helping out at Watkins Glen for the US Grand Prix until he returned to the UK to become the Head of Neurosurgery at the London Hospital (now the Royal London) in 1970. That same year he was appointed to the RAC Medical Council to pronounce on suggestions for improvement at British race tracks. Sir Jackie Stewart’s fraught efforts to introduce higher levels of safety had begun to bite, not only with improvements to circuits but also the introduction of things such as Louis Stanley’s mobile medical unit, which was seen at European races from 1967.
The Prof’s influence flourished in 1978, however, when Bernard Ecclestone asked him to head the F1 medical team. Ronnie Peterson’s first-lap accident in the Italian GP that year needed three drivers to pull him out of the flaming wreck, but as Sid arrived he was denied access to Ronnie by nervous police. Sid was monumentally upset and insisted Ecclestone provide a safety car and a Medivac helicopter on the spot.
Thereafter, the Prof more or less dedicated himself to providing the very best service that he and his team, aided by Ecclestone, could provide. It didn’t take too long for FISA (alias the FIA) to realise that it needed a Medical Commission and the Prof became its first president in 1981.
Sid had the daunting task of attending to Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994. The two of them had formed a special relationship and Senna, ever dancing on the thinnest ice, counted on the Prof for philosophical advice. In 1995, after Mika Häkkinen’s accident at Adelaide, Sid had to perform, on site, a tricky windpipe cricothyroidotomy to keep the Finn alive.
Among his myriad achievements is the fact that he refused to take no for an answer. With true Churchillian stubbornness, he KBO’d (Keep Buggering On) 24/7 to get the improvements he yearned for. His very presence at race tracks gave drivers a comforting assurance that, if anything horrible happened, at least they had the best man and his team on hand.
Watkins was a reassuring presence in the paddock. His motorsport work was done alongside his day job as a neurosurgeon.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderation/ #Chris-Amon #1943 – #2016 . Well-liked, supremely talented and famously unlucky #Formula-1 driver has died, aged 73. Words Maurice Hamilton. GP Library Limited / Alamy Stock Photo.
In the same way that Sir Stirling Moss is acknowledged as one of the greatest drivers never to win the Formula 1 world title, Chris Amon, who died aged 73 on 3 August, will be recalled as never having won a championship Grand Prix despite his outstanding talent. The two drivers are comparable because they had the total respect of their peers: Moss in the 1950s and 1960s, Amon in the 1960s and 1970s.
Amon is one of the few drivers to have beaten Jim Clark in a straight fight. The fact that this happened in the Tasman Series in the Antipodes and was not part of the F1 championship summed up Amon’s career – not that he cared unduly about the absence of global kudos. For Amon, a modest and kindly man, the fun was in racing and in possessing car control verging on the sublime. It could hardly have been otherwise when, as a teenager, he cut his teeth racing a Maserati 250F – often in the wet – in his native New Zealand.
His throttle control was so obvious that Amon was invited by Reg Parnell to join his small team in the 1963 World Championship. At the age of 19, Amon arrived in Europe to race against drivers he considered heroes, but with whom he was instantly at home due to his speed and impeccable manners on the track, and his easygoing demeanour at a time when socialising was an essential part of the F1 fabric.
Amon formed a natural alliance with Bruce McLaren, not only thanks to their Kiwi origins but also due to Amon’s ability as an exceptionally gifted test driver. The pair made a natural fit for Ford in the on-track fight with Ferrari for sports car supremacy, McLaren and Amon taking a GT40 MkIII to victory at Le Mans in 1966.
The irony was that good fortune played its part here – as it always does in the 24-hour classic – and yet Amon will be remembered for the appalling luck that accompanied him everywhere else. The F1 records show that Amon finished second three times and managed eight third places during 96 Grands Prix before his retirement part-way through 1976. But the results will not gave an indication of how Amon would have won more than a dozen Grands Prix but for an agonising catalogue of misfortune. Enzo Ferrari had been quick to spot Amon’s potential despite patchy F1 results, Chris joining the Scuderia as a fourth driver in 1967. By the end of the season, he was the sole entry (Lorenzo Bandini having perished at Monaco, Ludovico Scarfiotti falling from favour and Mike Parkes injured).
Amon carried the responsibility with such ease that he should have been champion in 1968. He retired seven times from 11 races. At Spa-Francorchamps, he had been on pole by four clear seconds; at St Jovite (another ‘driver’s circuit’) he led easily despite having no clutch, the gearbox giving out after 73 of the 90 laps.
Amon’s ability to exploit superb handling made up for the shortfall from the glorioussounding V12. Ferrari’s chief engineer Mauro Forghieri described Amon’s skills: ‘As far as I’m concerned, he was as good as Clark. As a test driver, he was the best I have known and it’s a fact that we never gave him a car worthy of him.’
Top and above Chris Amon in the #Ferrari-312 68 #V12 at the 1968 French GP at Rouen; Amon’s 1966 Le Mans victory in the GT40 MkIII came about, ironically, through rare good luck. That applied even more in 1969 when six mechanical failures, often while leading, prompted Amon to go after reliability with the Ford-Cosworth V8, albeit one in the back of a March. It was a classic Amon move at the wrong time, Ferrari switching in 1970 to the flat-12 that would power more than 20 wins and a couple of championships.
Even when Amon had had enough of March after just one season, a switch to Matra meant more wonderful 12-cylinder harmony but little else. And yet, when the driver could compensate on the twisting road circuit at Clermont Ferrand in 1972, a truly dominant drive was foiled by a puncture. At Monza, he slipstreamed his way to the front and seemed in command until an attempt to remove a tear-off resulted in the entire visor coming away. As Mario Andretti once joked of Amon’s luck: ‘If Chris was an undertaker, no-one would die.’
Amon’s poor decision-making was highlighted towards the end of his career by an uncompetitive and over-complicated car built under his own name. He retired to New Zealand and returned to working the family farm while maintaining a key role as development driver for Toyota’s road cars. Looking back on a #F1 career that, on paper, only boasts a handful of non-championship wins, Amon said: ‘It’s true that things didn’t go my way but I don’t look back with any sense of frustration. It was such a dangerous era that I’m eternally grateful I survived.’
‘FOR AMON, A MODEST AND KINDLY MAN, THE FUN WAS IN RACING AND IN POSSESSING CAR CONTROL VERGING ON THE SUBLIME’Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationIn a driving career spanning three decades, the hugely adaptable #David-Hobbs competed in everything from #F1 to #NASCAR , and later became a gifted TV commentator / #Formula-1 /
This month’s hero is someone I’m always delighted to bump into. I first encountered David Hobbs at Silverstone way back in ’1967: he was having a monumental struggle with the Chequered Flag’s AC Cobra at the Martini International on the GP circuit. The car interested me because it was the logical step up from the Ace I’d been racing with my mate Anthony Mackay. It was a brute, though; it was probably only David’s humour that got him through the weekend.
Born just before WW2, Hobbs had a healthy introduction to cars and motorsport from his father, who was a creative engineer. No need for me to go into the whys and wherefores of the Mechamatic gearbox (designed and built by Hobbs Snr) other than to say that it served well. In 1961, David won 14 races using one in his Lotus Elite, including a class win in the Nürburgring 1000km. That encouraged a Lotus works entry at Le Mans in ’1962, where David and Frank Gardner finished eighth overall and won the 1600cc class (with a 1200cc Climax engine, having been penalised a class for having an automatic ’box). What a step up from racing his mum’s Morris Oxford and his dad’s Jaguar XK140.
After finishing third in the Formula Junior championship in ’1963, David went professional in ’1964. Obviously you can do that only if you’re being offered paid drives, which he was. His first race in the USA was at Road America in Wisconsin, which must have made an impression on him because that’s where he’s still to be found today.
He deservedly piloted some fantastic machinery in more than 30 years of competition, sharing Lola T70s with John Surtees and GT40s with Mike Hailwood, and winning the US F5000 championship in ’1971 in a McLaren M10B. There were outings at the Indy 500, coming fourth in ’1974, plus a successful IMSA career with BMW, Porsche and Jaguar from 1977-’1987. Add F1 and NASCAR, plus 20 appearances at Le Mans and you have one of the most versatile drivers ever.
I particularly remember his pairing with Mark Donohue in the Penske Ferrari 512M in ’1971. One sight of that at the Daytona 24 Hours Convinced me that it was about the best-prepared and best-looking racing car I’d ever seen. Everything on it was checked and double checked.
The motor had been gone over by Traco and was putting out 650bhp. Add in the hotshoe drivers, and the Gulf 917s could have been in for a hard time. In the end, pole and third was the best it did after being clouted by a 911.
At Sebring the 512M tangled with Pedro Rodríguez in his 917, producing a sixth, then at Le Mans it was fourth on the grid and in with a chance until its Ferrari-built engine blew up. The shame was that Penske had insisted that the Traco motor be taken out and lent to the NART team, which finished third with it. Most of the other 512s had clutch or gearbox failures. Its final outing was at Watkins Glen. It was on pole again, but went out with a broken upright before David even got in. So sad, really, it could have been one of endurance racing’s most auspicious exploits. If ever a man loved his motorsport, Hobbs would qualify easily. Getting paid to do what you love isn’t easy, but to keep doing it for three decades is no mean feat either.
There’s obviously something about living in the USA that appeals to British endurance drivers. David is no exception and has made a great success of his Honda agency, but has also become a brilliant TV talent. The most difficult job in sports commentating is making F1 entertaining, and while current knowledge is essential, what Hobbs brings is a wealth of experience that he can summon up with instant vigour and a special brand of levity. It’s a fine art, and much welcomed by everybody who works with him.
The Penske-prepared #Ferrari-512M of Hobbs and Donohue leads the #Porsche-917K of Siffert and van Lennep at Watkins Glen in 1971.
Born 9 June 1939
From Leamington Spa
Career highlights Winner of 1971 US Formula 5000 championship and 1983 Trans-Am series; 20 drives at Le Mans, including two thirds in 1969 and 1984; TV motorsport commentatorStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationCelebrations of Hunt anniversary / UK events to mark 40 years since World Championship win
/ Words David Lillywhite / #F1 / #James-Hunt / #1976
On 24 October 1976, at the #1976-Japanese-Grand-Prix , James Hunt won the Formula 1 World Championship after an epic season-long battle with Niki Lauda. Now, 40 years on, his achievement will be marked at several UK events, with sons Freddie and Tom closely involved. The biggest are expected to be at the Silverstone Classic and the Goodwood Festival of Speed, with further celebrations at the British Grand Prix and the Masters Historic Festival at Brands Hatch.
For the Festival of Speed on 23-26 June, Goodwood is promising examples of every significant car of Hunt’s career, including the Surtees, Hesketh, McLaren and Wolf, as well as his beloved Austin A35 van. Freddie and Tom will be joined by Hunt’s family, friends, team members and mechanics.
At Silverstone Classic on 29-31 July – Silverstone being where Hunt won his first F1 race – there will be a display of Hunt’s cars plus his race suit, helmet and trophies from 1976, including the third-place pot from Japan. Once again, both Freddie and Tom will be attending, and Freddie is expected to be racing a Hesketh-liveried Mini in the Masters Touring Car races. There will be similar tributes to Hunt at the Masters Historic Festival on 28-30 May at Brands Hatch – where Hunt raced a Mini in 1967 and had his last ever race, in an Escort XR3i in 1984 – with demonstrations of his cars, as well as racesuit, kit and trophies on display. At the British Grand Prix, again at Silverstone, on 8-10 July, it’s expected that Hunt’s McLaren M23 will be demonstrated, and the BRDC will be hosting a members-and-guests-only 1976-themed James Hunt and Barry Sheene party.
The Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, London, is also planning a 40th anniversary dinner in June, and artist Jeremy Houghton has been commissioned to produce paintings of every 1976 season victory.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
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