New Zealand Classic Car - - Motorsport Flashback -

For Hamp­ton Downs reg­u­lars, or oc­ca­sional vis­i­tors, one of the won­der­ful con­stants is Bar­bara Man­ning in the of­fice. Short of stature but huge in per­son­al­ity, she never misses a trick — or, seem­ingly, a race meet­ing. Her late hus­band, Ge­off, was an­other enor­mous per­son­al­ity who was never short of sto­ries. I re­call him telling me, “If you want the good sto­ries Michael, talk to the me­chan­ics.” It is ad­vice I’ve never forgotten, and is why I just love soak­ing up the rem­i­nisces of guys like Cary Tay­lor, Jimmy Stone, Bruce Harre and Bruce Wil­son. They wit­nessed mo­tor rac­ing in a hands-on way that not even jour­nal­ists or spec­ta­tors could have ex­pe­ri­enced. This leads me to Max Ruther­ford, who has turned all his mem­o­ries into the highly en­joy­able self-pub­lished Pad­dock­topodium. Max left New Ply­mouth for the UK in the early ’60s, went to Brab­ham, and then worked his way from For­mula 3 span­ner-man to joint chief me­chanic on the Ma­tra that Jackie Ste­wart won the first of his three world cham­pi­onships in. [See our re­view of Pad­dockto Podium else­where in this is­sue.]

Where’s Wal?

The me­chanic that I’ve got to know the best, how­ever, is Wal Will­mott. Now domi­ciled in South­land fol­low­ing years of living in Australia af­ter leav­ing Mclaren in mid-1968, Wal def­i­nitely war­rants a book. He joined Christchurch-based his­toric For­mula Ford driv­ers Keith Cowan and Peter ‘Baldric’ Grant on the road trip to race at Taupo, and then the first week­end of the How­den Ganley Fes­ti­val. By the time I ar­rived at Taupo, his trav­el­ling com­pan­ions had al­ready had sev­eral days of sto­ries prompt­ing Baldric to pro­nounce, “He’s got to write a book!”

The sto­ries con­tin­ued — most are hi­lar­i­ous and, like Pad­dock topodium, they tell us what life was like on the road, the char­ac­ters, the an­tics, and just what they went through. Be­tween Taupo and Hamp­ton Downs, Wal stayed with us and bus­ied him­self on my old Crossle For­mula Ford. His magic touch worked a treat be­cause the car never missed a beat — but its driver still has to pinch him­self to think that Bruce Mclaren’s first me­chanic is bleed­ing the brakes and chang­ing the pads.

In this, Michael’s new ‘di­ary’ col­umn, he gives his tra­di­tional Mo­tor­sport Flash­back fea­ture a whole new spin

How­den Ganley takes a photo at the same lo­ca­tion at Ard­more aero­drome where he wit­nessed his first race meet­ing in 1955

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