- Post is under moderation/ #Rolla-Vollstedt 1918-2017 / #Indy-500 / #1964 / #IndyCar
An unconventional star of racing, says Richard Heseltine
From street racing in the ’30s to upsetting the Indy establishment by installing a woman to drive his car at The Brickyard, Rolla Vollstedt did things his own way. He took on the US motor racing elite from his basement, gave a leg-up to a legion of future stars and even ran the sainted Jim Clark in his last-ever Champ Car outing.
As he told Octane when interviewed for issue 55 in 2007, Vollstedt was a racer to the core. Of German descent, he arrived in Portland, Oregon, aged two. As a teenager he terrorised the neighbourhood in a ’37 Buick while working at Frank Costanzo’s speed shop. Called up for WW2 and having landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day, he was awarded a Purple Heart after stopping a bullet.
In peacetime, he picked up from where he left off, racing a Lincoln-engined roadster on dirt ovals. Realising his talents lay elsewhere, he installed local man Len Sutton in his car in 1947 and the partnership led to countless honours on the Pacific Northwest before a first run in the Indy-500 in 1964 with a Vollstedt-made, mid-engined single-seater.
Sutton qualified eighth and was running fourth at the halfway mark when the fuel pump broke. Vollstedt would never win in 21 attempts, but gave early rides to Mario Andretti, George Follmer and the pioneering Janet Guthrie (above, on left, with Vollstedt). After entering a car for Emerson Fittipaldi for the 1984 Indy 500, Vollstedt turned his hand to restoring vintage oval racers.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderation/ #Leo-Kinnunen 1943-2017 Always genial Finnish driver who set the fastest-ever #Targa-Florio lap / #Porsche-917K / #Porsche / #Porsche-917
When Leo Kinnunen lined up on the grid for the start of the #1974-Swedish-Grand-Prix , he created a bit of history on the quiet: this permasmiling trailblazer became the first Finnish driver ever to participate in a round of the Formula 1 World Championship.
He retired from the race aboard his privateer Surtees TS16 and failed to make the cut in other points-paying rounds that season, but if his status as an F1 one-hit wonder in terms of starts gives the impression that Kinnunen was something of a tail-end Charlie, a gentleman driver who was in above his head, then nothing could be further from the truth. His sole GP outing was a mere downward blip in an otherwise glittering career.
Kinnunen, who died on 26 July aged 73, enjoyed a highly successful career that spanned almost 20 years, campaigning all manner of machines on two wheels and four. Nevertheless, he is best remembered for taming the mighty Porsche 917. After a few years racing motorcycles in the early 1960s, he rose to prominence in rallying, autocross and ice racing before switching to single-seaters in 1967. Kinnunen raced an outdated Brabham to a single victory in the national Formula 3 series, beating Ronnie Peterson in the process, before making the switch to sports cars. In 1969, he won the hotly contested Nordic Cup, which led to the invitation to test for the works Porsche team.
Kinnunen landed a full-time seat for 1970 and won first time out in the Daytona 24 Hours, sharing a Porsche-917K with Pedro Rodríguez. The Finnish-Mexican duo also claimed honours in subsequent International Championship of Makes rounds at Brands Hatch and Monza, and he shone in that year’s Targa Florio aboard the latest 908/03. Kinnunen drove much of the distance after Rodríguez was taken ill, finishing second behind the sister car of Brian Redman/Jo Siffert. Kinnunen somehow mustered a 33min 36sec lap of Circuito Piccolo delle Madonie on his final tour, and this blistering new record was never eclipsed. He finished third in the 1973 Targa, too, sharing a 911 RSR with Claude Haldi.
Kinnunen also excelled in the Interserie championship, the European equivalent of Can-Am, steering variants of 917 to consecutive titles in 1971-73. He claimed 18 outright wins and 11 heat victories over three seasons, and was still a factor in the World Endurance Championship up to 1977, when he retired from circuit racing. Despite staying away from track action, Kinnunen continued to dabble in other disciplines. He had dovetailed race and rally programmes for much of the 1970s, his third place on the 1973 1000 Lakes Rally behind Timo Makinen and Marku Alén being a stand-out performance. He continued to compete off-piste to the end of the decade, claiming outright honours on the 1979 Arctic Rally among others. Kinnunen remained a strong supporter of motor sport after hanging up his helmet, becoming a close friend and supporter of Valtteri Bottas among other fellow countrymen who followed in his wheeltracks. Sadly, Kinnunen was wheelchair-bound for the last ten years of his life after suffering a massive stroke, but he never lost his sunny disposition.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationFrom precocious F2 upstart to seasoned works driver and #Le-Mans legend, #Jacky-Ickx enjoyed a long and varied career at the very top level of motor sport.
Thinking back to the way that racing used to be in the 1960s and most of the ’70s, it is only now that I can fully appreciate how lucky mere club drivers were to be able to compete in events at which many of the star drivers of the time were entered. Back then, racers did as much as they could fit in, with Grand Prix folk showing up in sports cars, #F2 , saloons and whatever else might be on offer.
It was at the #1968 Nürburgring 1000kms that I first got to see and meet Jacky Ickx. He was driving a Gulf GT40 with Paul ‘Hawkeye’ Hawkins. Ickx had covered himself in glory at the German Grand Prix the previous year when he’d raced a Matra F2 car (with 1600cc Cosworth FVA engine) against the 3-litre F1 machinery. Despite setting the third-fastest time in practice –just behind Denny Hulme’s Brabham – Ickx had to start back in 18th spot with the other F2 runners, but got up to fifth before his suspension broke. That shows what a Ringmeister can do with his blood up.
Ickx won his first GP in 1968, for Ferrari at the very wet French round at Rouen. I must have said it before, but drivers who shine in the rain are very special. There’s something in their wiring that enables them to handle atrocious conditions better than us mere mortals. His F1 career had its ups and downs –Ferrari to Brabham and back to Ferrari, then on to Lotus with crashes, fire, hospital and back into action. I think he, along with the whole of F1, was very upset by Jochen Rindt’s demise at Monza in 1970. It is a measure of the man that Ickx publicly stated that he was glad he didn’t win that year’s #F1 World Championship because Rindt wasn’t around to protect his points lead.
His strolling across the track to slip into his GT40 and do up his belts at Le Mans in 1969 as a protest against the traditional ‘run and jump’ start caused a stir, but what a brave decision –and what an exceptional finish to the race, with him and Jackie Oliver winning by just 9 secs from Hans Herrmann and Gérard Larrousse.
Both Derek Bell and Jochen Mass have told me that partnering Ickx was special. The most important aspect of any co-driver is that you get the car back in at least as good nick as it was when you handed it over. It also helps if they’ve kept the lead or carved back a place or two. Ickx did all of that and more –perhaps never more so than during his amazing contribution to the Porsche effort at Le Mans in 1977. After his own 936 failed, he took over the Hurley Haywood/Jürgen Barth sister car and produced one of those charges that you had to witness to believe.
What a treat it was to be in that race, too, and see the man at work. Another time at Le Mans, it was pelting down and I was wondering what the hell I was doing trying to keep the De Cadenet on the road down the Mulsanne Straight. I was on full wets. Who comes up behind me and sails past? Ickx. I followed him into the pits –he’d come in for a set of wets. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you can’t control a sports car at well over 200mph in those conditions on slicks, can you?
Jacky came over to have a closer look at the De Cadenet one year. In his magnificent accent, he said: “You know Alain, when I drive for Porsche everything is just as it should be, with a wonderful warm, comfortable seat and the steering wheel and instruments just where I want them. The gearlever is perfect and the mechanics are in wonderful uniforms –it is like going to the Ritz. But when I look at your car, with the glassfibre shards in the seat and old instruments, the team and I think it must be like going to prison.” Definite hero.
Ickx holds off Herrmann in the closing stages of 1969 Le Mans. Inset: the young man as a Ferrari F1 driver.
Born 1945 From Brussels, Belgium
Career highlights Eight GP wins for Ferrari and Brabham; #1966 Spa 24 Hours winner; six victories at Le Mans and twice World Endurance Champion; 1979 Can-Am champion; 1983 Paris-Dakar Rally winnerStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationThe problem with attending most historic car events as an ancien pilote is that you are always on duty. By that, I mean sometimes it would be nice just to be able to stop and have a nose around; kick some tyres and actually chat to people for more than a picosecond before bidding them farewell. This was brought home to me in late September when I participated in the fifth Rennsport Reunion, at Laguna Seca. I have been to all five, the first staged at Lime Rock back in 2001, and this was the best yet. I loved the sense of informality and cannot wait for the next one.
This Porsche-only event attracted close on 50,000 spectators over the three-day weekend, not to mention 1400 or so 911s, including the very latest model, which made its global debut before the marque faithful. Oh, and there were more than a few racing cars, too, ranging from smallcapacity air-cooled machines to Can-Am monsters.
Porsche has such a rich competition history in North America, not least in IMSA GTP, but this year’s central theme was Le Mans. I was one of 11 drivers on hand who have won the 24 Hours aboard a Porsche. Our ages ranged from this year’s co-winner Earl Bamber at just 25 years old, to Hans Hermann, who claimed the first win for the marque back in #1970 . The 87-year-old German was joined by Richard Attwood, with whom he shared the winning 917 all those years ago. Then there was my dear friend Jacky Ickx, Gijs van Lennep, Hurley Haywood, Jürgen Barth, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Vern Schuppan and… Well, you get the idea.
It wasn’t just drivers, either. It was a pleasure seeing #John-Horsman , who I knew from my JW / #Gulf days. John tends to get airbrushed out of the story behind the #Porsche-917 but, in many ways, he made the car work. John, and John alone, sorted the aerodynamic issues that blighted the 917 in the early days, and he did so without factory assistance. It was all down to brainpower and intuition.
It was great catching up with old friends from either side of the pitwall, but what I enjoyed most was meeting the young guns, not least fellow Brit Nick Tandy who, along with Bamber and Nico Hülkenberg, claimed outright honours in June aboard the factory 919 Hybrid. I had an opportunity to meet Nick in the run-up to the 24 Hours but, the thing is, I know what it’s like to be distracted when you’re preparing for a major race, so I left him alone. At Laguna Seca, there were no such constraints and Nick turned out to be a super chap as well as a supremely gifted driver. We had a long chat, and I was surprised and humbled by how much he knew about my career. Nick reached the big time via an odd route, starting out racing on short ovals as a kid when his contemporaries were battling it out in karts, but he went on to enjoy success in single-seaters before making the switch to GTs and sports cars. He told me he wants to win Le Mans at least another five times to eclipse my record. I wouldn’t put it past him.
A particular treat and a real eye-opener was being able to wander around the cars that were either on display or lined-up on the grid for the many – many – Porsche-only races. I have been to countless Porsche events, including those catering for the old stuff, but this was something else entirely. When you see every conceivable Porsche from late-1940s 356s – the jumping-off point, if you will – to the latest models via all manner of one-offs, small-series specials and heaven only knows what else besides, you really grasp just why Porsche matters. Even I was surprised by the diversity of the cars at the Rennsport Reunion.
And in what passed for a moment of introspection (as much as I do introspection), it made me realise just how important #Porsche has been to my career. To be honest, getting the JW/Gulf drive back in 1971 was a huge boost at a time when my #F1 prospects were a little shaky, while my 1981 victory alongside that man Ickx paved the way for a works drive in the 956/962 and two world titles.
I was lucky enough to drive the ’81 Jules-sponsored 936 over the weekend. That, and the DHL-livered RS Spyder that was the dominant player in LMP2 in 2008. There really was no point in trying to compare them, or today’s 919 Hybrid which I sat in and would one day love to test, but it made me further appreciate just how different sports car racing history would look had Porsche not made such a huge contribution, and in so many classes.
‘NICK TANDY TURNED OUT TO BE A SUPER CHAP. I WAS SURPRISED AND HUMBLED BY HOW MUCH HE KNEW ABOUT MY CAREER’Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationMcQueen and the making of #Le-Mans / New documentary features never-seen archive material and unheard interview tapes / All photography by Nigel Snowdon
‘Making movies is great fun. Being a movie star is a pain in the ass.’ It’s one of the most telling lines from new documentary film Steve McQueen: #The-Man-&-Le-Mans , which opens in the US on 13 November and in the UK on 20 November #2015 . The documentary uses archive footage and interviews with key people from the making of the #1970 movie Le Mans to tell the story of this troubled project, which began filming with no script and suffered a change of director after only six weeks, when John Sturges quit with the immortal words: ‘I’m too old and too rich to put up with this sheet.’ McQueen then fell out with executive producer and friend Bob-Relyea , saying: ‘You betrayed me, you stabbed me in the back. You and I will never speak again.’
Add in the ongoing tension between McQueen and his wife Neile, who had an affair as a protest against her husband’s legendary infidelity, and you can see that the omens were not good. To their credit, the documentary makers have not whitewashed McQueen’s character flaws and they have unearthed some fascinating stories – for example, an interview with McQueen’s personal assistant, Mario Iscovich, in which he relates how he was obliged to cover-up a crash in a road car being driven by McQueen, who was trying to engineer an affair with leading lady Louise Edlind.
Iscovich, who was a passenger in the car, suffered a broken arm but took the rap for McQueen, agreeing to state that he’d been driving instead – despite having tried to persuade the star to slow down.
The film opens and closes with McQueen’s own voice, recorded by his doctor just six weeks before McQueen’s death from cancer at the age of 50, talking about his life and the pressures that might have contributed to his illness. It’s an intensely moving monologue, never heard before, and it’s beautifully matched to the photography – a combination of new footage and archive material. This material came from a variety of sources but the most striking discovery was several hundred boxes of rushes from the original movie, which had been believed lost. In addition, the producers found film from a 1970 Swiss ‘making of’ documentary as well as behind-the-scenes footage that had been shot by a crew member and one of the stunt drivers.
They also scoured the world for old audio recordings of McQueen, some of which were found by following up leads from contemporary interviews in magazines – and, bizarrely, a recording McQueen made for Anglia TV in Norwich, UK, in #1962 .
Intercut with the original footage are ‘talking head’ reminiscences by people who were on set in 1970: drivers such as #David-Piper and #Derek-Bell , McQueen’s would-be conquest #Louise-Edlind , his on-screen nemesis Siegfried Rauch, and many of the crew. They are riveting accounts, and the use of a portable studio adds to the feel that this project has been put together with real attention to detail. Such is the hype that has built up around the McQueen cult in recent years, we approached this documentary with a healthy cynicism – but were pleasantly surprised at just how good it is. Even if you’re not a #Steve-McQueen fan, go and see it: you will find it an absorbing and rewarding experience.
Below and bottom #Steve-McQueen , actress #Elga-Andersen and director #Lee-Katzin during a script discussion; McQueen with production exec #Bob-Rosen – who is interviewed for the documentary.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationFamous British firm puts motorsport return in its sights #2017 / #TVR / #TVR-2017 / #Le-Mans / #TVR-Le-Mans
The new owners of iconic British sportscar firm TVR have pledged to take the name back to Le Mans. Businessmen Les Edgar and John Chasey are behind the company’s rebirth and have put motorsport, and specifically a bid for glory at Le Mans, at the heart of their philosophy. Gordon Murray Design is helping to build the chassis.
Alongside the GT attack, Edgar says that a one-make series, along the lines of the TVR Tuscan Challenge which ran from 1989 until 2004, will be another core part of their motorsport campaign.
“It will be mission critical for TVR to appear at Le Mans,” said Edgar. “A true sportscar company should be in motorsport of some sort. That is particularly true of TVR with the heritage it has with previous assaults on Le Mans and the Tuscan Challenge.
“We started off on this journey knowing there was a slight credibility gap with TVR where they were perceived to be less reliable than other niche car manufacturers. The approach that we took was that this was the way to show that you have got a reliable car and Le Mans is the ultimate test.” TVR last raced at Le Mans as a factory team with the DeWaltbacked TVR T400R in 2003, but privateer examples entered the race until 2005. Its previous attempt on the French classic had been in the 1960s.
New car coming
Edgar and Chasey announced the rebirth of the company in 2013, and plans are already well underway for the first road car – which has yet to be given a name. The road car will be launched in the latter half of 2017 and the race car, which will be on show at Le Mans that season, could appear in rounds of the World Endurance Championship late in 2017 as part of the development programme for Le Mans in 2018.
“Joining the World Endurance Championship in the latter half of the year would be the target – we would aim to join from the Nurburgring round in the autumn if we can,” said computer games mogul Edgar.
“We have already been to meet with the [Le Mans organisers] Automobile Club de l’Ouest and we have seen the draft regulations. There is a very strong relationship between the ACO and Gordon Murray Design and that has helped us move things along. This programme will be at the forefront of what we want to achieve.” Edgar says he was in liaison with the ACO over rules changes for the GT classes at Le Mans, which is due to boost power of the GTE Pro section and introduce updated aerodynamics.
After initial testing in 2017, there is a plan for TVR to tackle an expanded programme in the World Endurance Championship, which would pitch the firm up against the likes of Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin.
“We will certainly be taking part in a significant number of the more challenging races. That is our target,” said Edgar. “We would like to be in a position where we have privateer entries, maybe in the amateur class as well, but we are planning a two-car works assault in 2018. If we are far enough along the road then we will be able to provide customer cars too.”
Edgar said that the entire rebirth of the company has been built around the Le Mans programme, starting from the initial designs. “We have actually approached the design of this new car slightly differently to what others might do,” he said. “We have the ability to start with the Le Mans-spec race car and work backwards, which is what we have done. That benefits the entire programme, including the road car too.”
The national scene
TVR ran the hugely popular Tuscan Challenge when the firm was under the control of Peter Wheeler, and it reached its zenith in the 1990s with packed-out grids and events featuring a heat and a final to accommodate all the entries. It operated from 1989 until 2004 and featured the 4.5-litre, 450bhp V8-powered Tuscan model that weighed only 850kg.
Edgar said that recreating that type of racing would be another ambition for the firm and, alongside a trackday version of the new car, there would be a racebred one to form the backbone of a one-make contest too.
“That is a critical ambition too,” he explained. “It was so successful beforehand and I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be as successful this time around. Other manufacturers do championships and there is the chance to turn it in to something that will make some money and make a return for the company, which is always good. Everybody can have a lot of fun in the process and it will give the firm and the car a real identity to modern fans.”
An artist’s impression of what the new racer could look like.
TVR last raced at Le Mans in 2005.
Tuscan Challenge was a big UK hit.
Le Mans return was a special moment.
Edgar says that the reaction to TVR’s rebirth has been impressive, and he thinks the groundswell of popularity will spread into the sporting sphere.
“Having seen the support behind the relaunch of TVR, we have expanded the project more than we had originally planned,” he admitted. “We sold out of the first year’s production already-admittedly, that is only a part-year, but it is still several hundred cars. We are beyond 300 cars now, I think. TVR deserves to be there and we are very proud of the fact that we have been able to re ignite that passion that the fans feel. It was in the doldrums and, all of a sudden, people are fired up again. We want to fly the flag once more.'’
The new car has yet to be given an official name, but Edgar says that issue should be resolved soon: “That is a surprise we are keeping at the moment We are still working on it internally and externally. We have sheets of A4 with lists of names, all kinds of various mythical beasts. But we also have a list of some very strong historical names for TVR so we are battling between what we do: do we go for a new name or an historical one?”
Something for British fans to get behind
I am proud to say I was there second time around. After a costly and ultimately disastrous attempt at Le Mans in 1962 with the Grantura, which lasted a grand total of three laps, the firm went back to La Sarthe in 2003 and I was there.
It wasn’t a complete success but one of the T400R cars made it to the end of the race – although it wasn’t classified, that was a triumph in itself and TVR had proved its point. On the driving front, successful competitors who had come up through the ranks in the one-make #TVR-Tuscan-Challenge populated the cockpit. That made it even more special.
The #TVR-Tuscan Challenge was, to my mind, the best championship I have covered. Big brutish difficult to- control cars, massive grids, gorgeous-sounding engines, a superb paddock atmosphere and a phalanx of talented drivers made it irresistible. And they knew how to party afterwards, too…
So there was a huge sense of pride as the yellow-and-black cars rolled out on to the hallowed French Tarmac for the first time in June 12 years ago.
The effort of everyone based in Blackpool and the vision of Peter Wheeler came to fruition that weekend. Seeing the ranks of Union flags waving constantly for 24 hours on the spectator banking opposite the garage showed those involved just how much it meant to the fans as well. The feel-good factor was huge, and there is already that groundswell of enthusiasm surrounding the reborn firm as well.
Speaking to new owner Les Edgar, it is clear that he shares this passion too. He has been to Le Mans for the last 30 years in his role as a team member, a sponsor and a spectator. He has seen the race from all sides, and his passion for motorsport is evident when he speaks. This is something for British fans to truly get behind.
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