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When Denny was named to drive in the French Grand Prix on June 27, it was the first time that Bruce Mclaren, Chris Amon and Denny ever ap­peared to­gether in a For­mula 1 Grand Prix. Bruce did all 10 GPS that year, as Cooper’s team leader in what would be his fi­nal sea­son for the only team he’d raced for in For­mula 1. Chris, how­ever, only ap­peared in two GPS in 1965, and so there was a serendip­i­tous as­pect to the fact that one of them should co­in­cide with one of Denny’s ap­pear­ances.

Since the start of the world cham­pi­onship in 1950 the French Grand Prix had al­ter­nated be­tween Rouen and Reims, but for 1965 the race was awarded to Cler­mont-fer­rand — with 8.055 kilo­me­tres of tur­bu­lent down­hill sweeps and 51 bends un­du­lat­ing and wind­ing their way around the Puy de Cha­rade, an ex­tinct vol­cano. Opened in 1958, the chal­leng­ing cir­cuit re­sem­bled a roller coaster, and caused more than one driver to ex­pe­ri­ence nau­sea.

In 1964 a For­mula 2 race had been held there, and in­cluded in the en­try were two of the bright­est young prospects of the day — Jackie Ste­wart and Jochen Rindt, who fin­ished sec­ond and third re­spec­tively, be­hind Denny. It was the rugged Kiwi’s first win in For­mula 2 and, on a track that sorted men from boys, he very much an­nounced his ar­rival with a clear victory from pole po­si­tion.

Half a cen­tury ago this month Denny’s boss, Jack Brab­ham, elected to sit out the race and thus opened the way for the

Kiwi’s F1 de­but — and it looked a typ­i­cally canny de­ci­sion when Denny emerged quick­est of all af­ter the first ses­sion. This was 1965, very much the year of Jim Clark, and that year’s nor­mal or­der of things re­sumed af­ter qual­i­fy­ing with the Scot on pole, but Denny was quick­est of the Ki­wis in sixth from Chris (eighth), just ahead of Bruce.

Clark won, in his fi­nal race with the Lo­tus 25, from Ste­wart’s BRM and the Fer­rari of John Sur­tees, but Denny served no­tice of what he was ca­pa­ble of at the high­est ech­e­lon with a fine fourth on de­but.

Chris Amon and Fer­rari’s Flat 12

Speak­ing of Chris Amon, a num­ber of peo­ple have clearly been think­ing the same thing even be­fore the open­ing round of the 2015 world cham­pi­onship — has Fer­nando Alonso done what our Fer­rari driver did in 1969, and leave the Scud­e­ria with time left on the con­tract?

Af­ter five sea­sons com­pris­ing a mix­ture of ec­stasy, prom­ise, hope, frus­tra­tion and de­spair, Spain’s best-ever rac­ing driver split with mo­tor rac­ing’s most fa­mous team, and headed for the lat­est ver­sion of Mclaren-honda, so far a far cry from the last time those two fa­mous names com­bined in 1988 that re­sulted in pole po­si­tion for Ayr­ton Senna, and victory for Alain Prost. How­ever, de­spite what Alonso went through be­tween 2010 and 2014, at least there were vic­to­ries, and even a chance of tak­ing the ti­tle.

Chris too had vic­to­ries, but they came in the Tas­man Se­ries and in sports cars — in­clud­ing at his Fer­rari de­but in the Day­tona 24 hours — and in For­mula 1 there was lit­tle to smile about. In con­trast with the sem­i­nal ‘shark nose’ Fer­rari of 1961, with which Phil Hill and Wolf­gang von Trips fought out the world ti­tle, the F1 Fer­raris dur­ing the Amon era had, as he re­calls, “won­der­ful chas­sis, fan­tas­tic noise, no power.”

The Ford-funded Cos­worth DFV ar­rived on the scene in 1967 for the ex­clu­sive use of Lo­tus, but by 1969 it was widely avail­able — by then this com­pact, light, pow­er­ful and re­li­able jewel had al­ready started rewrit­ing his­tory. In fact, it was ev­ery­thing the V12 Fer­rari wasn’t.

Mind you, Enzo’s fa­mous scud­e­ria weren’t ex­actly stand­ing still, and by mid 1969 Chris was testing the new flat 12, but af­ter an­other fail­ure his mind was made up — he had to have a Cos­worth, and signed for March. The flat 12 came right at about the time the March reached the end of its short devel­op­ment phase. As Chris would later re­call, “To make mat­ters worse, Fer­rari re­ally came good. It was like I got a dou­ble dose.”

Fer­rari won four of the fi­nal five races of 1970 — a works March never won a full For­mula 1 Grand Prix.

En­durance Rac­ing

June is Le Mans month, and this year marks half a cen­tury since a Fer­rari last won the French clas­sic. There had been a time, in the early ’60s in par­tic­u­lar, when the scar­let cars were un­beat­able — win­ning the lot and cap­ping it off with the first six po­si­tions in 1963. To be fair they were some­what un­chal­lenged un­til the might of the Ford Mo­tor Com­pany turned up. Peeved at Enzo Fer­rari’s de­ci­sion not to sell when the Detroit gi­ant be­lieved it had a deal, the ‘ blue oval’ set out to beat the Ital­ian marque at Le Mans. This quest led to the Ford GT40, a most wor­thy by-prod­uct, and af­ter de­ter­min­ing that a 4.7-litre V8 wouldn’t be enough to beat the race-bred Ital­ian 3.3-litre V12s, Ford re­turned in 1965 with a pair of 7.0-litre ver­sions. There were Ki­wis in both — Mclaren shared one with Ken Miles, with Amon/phil Hill in the other. The Ki­wis were both cho­sen to start.

“We were told to take it easy at the start be­cause the gear­box was frag­ile, but later I was shown some pho­to­graphs just af­ter the start and here are th­ese two black lines — so much for go­ing easy — we were way, way quicker than any­thing,” Chris re­called.

Nei­ther big Ford fin­ished, and nor did any of three works Fer­raris, but it was still a one-two-three for the prod­ucts of Maranello, with victory to ar­guably the most un­likely duo ever to win the 24 Heures du Mans. The win­ning car was the pri­vate NART (North Amer­i­can Rac­ing Team) en­try han­dled by a pair of out-and-out rac­ers, nei­ther of whom was noted for pac­ing them­selves. Mas­ten Gre­gory was a slow-talk­ing Kansan who’d been at Cooper in For­mula 1 with Brab­ham and Mclaren in 1959. He was known for his spec­tac­u­lar crashes, in­clud­ing one in which he lit­er­ally stepped from his car sec­onds be­fore im­pact. He was teamed with 23-year-old Aus­trian

acro­bat Jochen Rindt, who drove as if to­mor­row hadn’t yet been in­vented — but the pair won … or was it a pair?

In those days it was very much two to a car, not the three­driver ar­range­ment that has been preva­lent since the early ’80s, how­ever, in more re­cent years the name Ed Hu­gus emerged as per­haps be­ing the guy who an­chored the ear­ly­morn­ing stint of the win­ning Fer­rari 275LM. The Amer­i­can was no rookie, hav­ing first started at Sarthe in 1956, and in 1965 was down as a re­serve driver, but no record of him com­pet­ing ever ex­isted.

Years later Hu­gus claimed he’d driven for two hours when the nom­i­nated driv­ers were ex­hausted. Had any­one no­ticed, the car would have been dis­qual­i­fied, so not sur­pris­ingly it was kept very quiet — as­sum­ing of course it hap­pened.

Le Mans Triple

And on the sub­ject of Le Mans, 2015 marks 20 years since a re­mark­able triple was achieved — the only time it hap­pened. Fer­rari, of course, has won nu­mer­ous Le Mans 24 hour races plus For­mula 1 world cham­pi­onships, and Lo­tus won world cham­pi­onships and the In­di­anapo­lis 500, but only one man­u­fac­turer has won all three — Mclaren.

The first of the three Indy 500 wins came in 1972, while the first world cham­pion in a Mclaren was Emer­son Fit­ti­paldi in 1974, but in 1995 their first mass pro­duc­tion ‘su­per­car’ was be­ing sized up as a po­ten­tial Le Mans con­tender. At a time when the F1 team had just started its long part­ner­ship with Mercedes-benz, the sports car — des­ig­nated F1 GTR — was pow­ered by Ger­man ri­val BMW’S 6.1-litre V12. Seven started and there were four in the top five — in­clud­ing the most im­por­tant place. The win­ning driv­ers were France’s Yan­nick Dal­mas, Masanori Sekiya from Ja­pan, and the Finn JJ Le­hto. In achiev­ing the unique triple, they caused Mario An­dretti to miss out on the only big prize in mo­tor rac­ing he hadn’t won. The 1978 world cham­pion had won the Indy 500 in 1969 and the Day­tona 500 in 1967, but Le Mans al­ways eluded him — his Courage-porsche was a lap be­hind the win­ning Mclaren, and that’s the clos­est he ever got.

Lost and Found

You never know what lurks in garages, work­shops and sheds in New Zealand. Forty years ago For­mula 5000 started show­ing the first signs of weak­en­ing in the three parts of the world where it was preva­lent, and 1975, in fact, turned out to be the cat­e­gory’s penul­ti­mate year in the US, where it was launched in 1968, and also the fi­nal year it ran — on a stand­alone ba­sis — in the UK.

In this part of the world, the last Tas­man se­ries for 5000s (or any­thing for that mat­ter) was in 1975, although New Zealand and Australia had sep­a­rate F5000 cham­pi­onships in 1976. The UK rules were re­laxed in ’ 75, and in came a hand­ful of cars pow­ered by the 3.4-litre V6 ‘Cologne Capri’ en­gine. We’d seen, and heard, th­ese gems in the Capris of Paul Fa­hey and Don Hal­l­i­day, and although not as pow­er­ful as the ubiq­ui­tous small-block Chev, they were lighter and could be mated to a smaller chas­sis. If there had ever been any hopes of a Ford ver­sus GM battle in F5000, then it was quickly quashed as the Chevs, and Repco V8s were soon dom­i­nant, de­spite the great suc­cess of Boss Mus­tangs in Trans-am. Per­haps the Cos­worth-built V6 could add some spice?

Fu­ture world cham­pion Alan Jones drove a V6-pow­ered March F1 car while Tom Walkin­shaw also got his hands

on one, but the ul­ti­mately the most suc­cess­ful of the Cos­worth Gaa–pow­ered cars was the one-off Chevron B30 of English­man David Pur­ley. It was es­sen­tially a mod­i­fied ver­sion of the For­mula 2 car that Brian Red­man raced against the F5000s here in 1976. Pur­ley and the Chevron had two wins in 1975 and even­tu­ally fin­ished fifth in the cham­pi­onship, but af­ter a full win­ter rebuild and re­con­fig­u­ra­tion, it emerged as a much-mod­i­fied weapon for 1976. The Brits con­tin­ued to re­fer to the se­ries as ‘F5000’ in 1976, but es­sen­tially it had be­come a high-level For­mula Li­bre, with F1 and F2 cars mix­ing it with 5000s. The mod­i­fied Chevron with the Cos­worth V6 proved just the ticket, Pur­ley was crowned cham­pion, and with that the cur­tain came down on F5000 in Bri­tain as well.

Who knew that car now re­sides in New Zealand? It is un­der­go­ing a full rebuild, and is sched­uled to mix it with more con­ven­tional V8-pow­ered 5000s at the 2016 NZ Fes­ti­val of Mo­tor Rac­ing at Hamp­ton Downs.

Bolton Bolides

On the sub­ject of Chevron, this year marks half a cen­tury since the Bolton-based marque first hit the track. The ini­tial cars were ‘Club­man’ sports rac­ers, and then came GT cars be­fore the first open-wheeler (an F3) in 1967. How­den Ganley cred­its the B15 F3 car he raced in 1969 as trig­ger­ing the turn­ing point in his ca­reer. He later raced Chevron sports cars like the ones that sell for huge money th­ese days com­pared with, say, an F2 car of the same vin­tage with an iden­ti­cal pow­er­plant. The ear­li­est-model Chevron we ever saw rac­ing here in pe­riod was a 1972 For­mula 2 B20 driven by Steve Millen. Peter Gethin won the 1974 Tas­man Cup us­ing a Chevron B24, while Keke Ros­berg used Chevrons in 1977 and ’ 78 to take the first two For­mula Pa­cific cham­pi­onships in New Zealand.

Chevron’s founder was Derek Bennett — a clever en­gi­neer and a good driver who was proudly Lan­cas­trian. He was killed in a hang-glid­ing ac­ci­dent in March 1978, and hav­ing lost its spir­i­tual leader, the com­pany went into liq­ui­da­tion two years later.

Le Mans 1966 – Amon and Mclaren dis­cuss team tac­tics with Car­roll Shelby

Chris and Bruce on the win­ners’ podium at Le Mans in 1966

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