The Eoin Young col­umn

Classic Driver - - FEATURES - Pho­tos from the Terry Mar­shall Ar­chive

Age isn’t ev­ery­thing

These days even the old­est Grand Prix driv­ers are get­ting younger. Aussie Mark Web­ber leaves For­mula One this sea­son as the old­est driver at 37 and his place as GP oldie is taken by se­cond-time-around Fer­rari driver, Kimi Raikko­nen at 35. Es­te­ban Gu­tier­rez is youngest at 22. Juan Manuel Fan­gio was the orig­i­nal GP Golden Oldie dom­i­nat­ing the world cham­pi­onship reg­u­larly in the 1950s driv­ing for Alfa-Romeo, Fer­rari, Mercedes and Maserati in his mid to late 40s. He died at 84 in 1995. Louis Ch­i­ron was the old­est ever to run in a GP when he fin­ished sixth in a Lan­cia at Monaco in 1955, aged 55 years and 292 days.

Talk­ing about old and fast, there was a ran­dom men­tion on Ra­dio Live that Burt Munro from In­ver­cargill had set speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats on a 1920 In­dian mo­tor­cy­cle he had mod­i­fied, up­ping top speed from 55mph (89 km/h) to a best run down the salt at 200mph (320 km/h)! He was 68 at the time.

Lat­est Golden Oldie to leave us at age 97, was Ge­orge Big­notti, the leg­endary Indy chief me­chanic who won seven In­di­anapo­lis 500s – with A.J. Foyt in 1961 and ’64, Gra­ham Hill in ’66, Al Unser in ’70 and ’71, Gor­don John­cock in ’73 and Tom Sneva a decade later in 1983.

Roly Le­vis passes

Roly was the Kiwi who raced at home, worked at his panel beat­ing work­shop in Pu­taruru and built a sparky lit­tle Ford Ten Spe­cial with an Elva over­head con­ver­sion and cy­cle guards so that he could drive with his wife to such races as there were around New Zealand in the late 1950s.

If Roly had a prob­lem, it was his age. He scored third place in the 1963 Wai­mate 50 but he was al­ready in his late 30s, still brim­ming with en­thu­si­asm and raw tal­ent, but older than the likes of Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Chris Amon. I rate Roly as the driver who trig­gered my en­thu­si­asm to leave the ANZ Bank in down­town Ti­maru, and set off on a ca­reer fol­low­ing rac­ing around the world, hook­ing up with Denny Hulme in 1961 and Bruce McLaren in 1962.

I clearly re­mem­ber com­ing out of the bank in 1959 to see this zippy lit­tle sports racer at the kerb with Roly’s wife and their lug­gage strapped on board. That was the in­stant when I aban­doned my ideas of a te­dious ex­is­tence in the bank.

Roly changed my life. Thanks mate. Roly was 88 when he died in Oc­to­ber.

Jackie’s age prob­lem

Sir John Young (Jackie) Ste­wart is a cou­ple of days younger than me and is still work­ing the world main­tain­ing his rep­u­ta­tion as a bril­liant Grand Prix driver with three world ti­tles, work­ing with top-drawer spon­sors like Rolex.

I was chastis­ing him by e-mail for work­ing too hard in his mid-70s, but he as­sures me that the prob­lem is his dyslexia (dif­fi­cul­ties with read­ing, writ­ing and spell­ing, caused by a neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der, ac­cord­ing to my Con­cise English Dic­tionary) but that never spoiled his im­mac­u­late run of 99 GPs. Jackie says his ‘prob­lem’ is that he’s 74 but thinks he’s 47… I won’t tell you how old I am.

Fran­cois Cev­ert fated

Jackie was se­cretly aim­ing to an­nounce his re­tire­ment af­ter his 100th GP and third world cham­pi­onship ti­tle, both to be achieved at Watkins Glen, the fi­nal race of the 1973 sea­son, and his dash­ing French team-mate Fan­cois Cev­ert would take over to lead the Tyrrell team.

Trag­i­cally it didn’t hap­pen that way. Fran­cois was killed in qual­i­fy­ing and Jackie re­tired im­me­di­ately. Adam Cooper re­mem­bers the quirk of Cev­ert fate, 40 years af­ter his death.

“Just be­fore qual­i­fy­ing at the Glen, Fran­cois pointed out to his me­chan­ics that it was Oc­to­ber 6th, he was driv­ing Tyrrell 006, his race num­ber was ‘6’, and he was sit­ting in front of Ford-Cos­worth DFV num­ber 066. It was, he said, his lucky day, a golden chance to get the first pole po­si­tion in his F1 ca­reer.” Sadly, fate in­ter­vened.

Chris Amon at 21!

Wal Will­mott was check­ing his archives and came across an in­vite to Chris Amon’s 21st birth­day that I had laid out all those years ago, not­ing that the birth­day boy was then ‘the youngest GP driver in the world’.

Fur­ther notes: ‘Driv­ers are re­quested to at­tend the brief­ing ses­sions and to re­frain from as­sault­ing the wait­resses dur­ing the course of their du­ties.’ At­tire: ‘Gen­tle­man, Ca­sual dress. Ladies, Top­less dresses tol­er­ated most en­thu­si­as­ti­cally.” A dif­fer­ent sort of party!

This in­vite was made out to Jim Clark and I couldn’t re­mem­ber whether he had joined the team at our favourite Con­tented Plaice fish restau­rant on the Thames at Kingston in Sur­rey.

Chris re­mem­bers that Jimmy was def­i­nitely there “Along with Colin Chap­man (Lo­tus chief) and amongst oth­ers were Gra­ham (Hill), Innes (Ire­land), Jo Bon­nier, Texan Cha­parral man Jim Hall…and all the usual Sur­biton sus­pects’. It gets bet­ter. BP of­fered to spon­sor the big birth­day din­ner in re­turn for the rights to a movie on the way GP driv­ers en­joyed them­selves.

Prob­lem was the film crew en­joyed them­selves a bit too much, couldn’t man­age the movie mak­ing… and BP spon­sored a re-run of the din­ner a fort­night later! So Christo­pher had two 21sts! That was a long time ago. He was 70 the other day…

Chris Amon’s 21st birth­day in­vi­ta­tion. Christo­pher is now 70.

An­tiques Road­show

I was idly watch­ing the wil­lowy Fiona Bruce in­tro­duce an episode of the An­tiques Road Show from Lord Burgh­ley’s stately home when she men­tioned that David Burgh­ley had been an Olympic gold medal win­ner in 1928 and 1932 but in the late 1940s he suf­fered a hip col­lapse and re­ceived the world’s first ti­ta­nium hip-joint.

A few years later the joint had to be re­placed but what gath­ered my to­tal at­ten­tion was Fiona point­ing to a pho­to­graph of his Lord­ship’s Rolls-Royce with the tri­an­gu­lar hip-joint re­plac­ing the Fly­ing Lady as ra­di­a­tor mas­cot. “The sad thing was that, on the death of his Lord­ship, some­one stole the unique mas­cot.”

Sud­denly I was wide awake, re­mem­ber­ing a Sun­day morn­ing at the Dork­ing auto-jum­ble 30-odd years ago, gaz­ing idly at a big col­lec­tion of mas­cots on a dealer’s stand and won­der­ing what the odd-look­ing tri­an­gu­lar metal mas­cot was sup­posed to be. Sud­denly a deep voice be­side me said, “You could sell that…” That was in the days when I was an ea­ger book and mem­o­ra­bilia dealer, but not with mas­cots. A tall chap in a blue suit was stand­ing be­side me. I told him I didn’t even know what it was. He told me it was a ti­ta­nium hip-joint. I asked him how on earth he knew that. He said he was a sur­geon.

Oh… and now here was the mas­cot once again, surely the very one that was stolen all those years be­fore!

Dario Fran­chitti su­per-en­thu­si­ast

The Scots driver with the Ital­ian name (say it Fran-keety) who lives in the States and raced Indy­cars, en­joyed his role as an ex­pan­sive en­thu­si­ast but in­juries from a mas­sive crash has led to the re­tire­ment of the pop­u­lar 3-time Indy win­ner.

Dario suf­fered spinal frac­tures, broke his right an­kle and suf­fered se­ri­ous head in­juries in the crash in the clos­ing laps of the race at Hous­ton.

He will now re­luc­tantly have time to revel in his road cars with a Fer­rari F40 he’s had for 14 years, plus a 355, a Mini Cooper and a va­ri­ety of Porsches.

He has kept all his hel­mets, over­alls and pa­per­work and he has bought back his orig­i­nal For­mula Vaux­hall Ju­nior, a Rey­nard Cham­p­car and the Corvette pace cars from his two Indy wins.

Be­ing a proud Scot he has an im­pres­sive col­lec­tion of Jim Clark mem­o­ra­bilia in a mu­seum room at his home in Scot­land.

He told Si­mon Tay­lor in a Mo­tor Sport in­ter­view “I’ve got the ac­tual chalk pit-board that was used when Jimmy won at Indy in 1965 and I’ve got the en­try forms for his first race, Cri­mond, June 16, 1956, in Ian Scot­tWat­son’s DKW.

“A real thrill was driv­ing Jimmy’s win­ning Lo­tus 38 around Indy af­ter Clas­sic Team Lo­tus had re­stored it for the Ford Mu­seum. It’s hard to put into words what that meant to me.

“I had a replica set of Jimmy’s over­alls made for that day, and a hel­met – we got a spe­cial paint sam­ple made up so the blue was pre­cisely right – and the cor­rect gog­gles. And I had the pit-board sent over from my Clark room…”

Burt Munro, 68, with his 1920 In­dian mo­tor­cy­cle ready for a 200mph record-break­ing run.

Sir Jackie Ste­wart still work­ing the pres­tige world, try­ing the cock­pit of a W196 Mercedes GP car for size at Good­wood.

Fiona Bruce, pre­sen­ter of the An­tiques Road Show. Be­low A ti­ta­nium hip joint. An early one served as a Rolls-Royce mas­cot.

Dario Fran­chitti

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