NEW ZEALAND CLASSIC CAR MOTORSPORT FLASHBACK
Roly Levis was very much a Brabham man — he imported a BT6 for the 1964/’65 season then followed it with his highly successful BT18, which not only helped him on his way to another National Formula title but also the 1966/’67 Gold Star as well. Roly’s second Gold Star came with his one full season in a BT23C — a pukka Formula 2 car with the mellifluous 1.6-litre four-valve Cosworth. That was 1968/’69, and Roly was back the following season — but only briefly, because, after crashing at Bay Park in the October, he quietly called it quits.
Prior to the Brabhams, Levis spent the 1963/’64 season in a Lotus 22 in which he’d scored a solitary point, but, long before the season had ended, he was already planning how to get himself into a Brabham. The ‘22’ went to Len Southward for his highly promising protégé Kerry Grant.
Saloon car maestro Bryan Innes was aboard the Lotus in 1965/’66, and it drifted through various other hands before ending up in the garage of a young Christchurch aircraft engineer called Kerry Rout. It remained in Kerry’s care for over four decades until being acquired recently by Auckland racer Noel Woodford.
The restoration of this Lotus back into the black-withred-nose-and-wheels livery run by Roly is nearly complete and will be the subject of a full feature in an upcoming issue. Before then, there are some dots still needing to be joined.
My wife derives great enjoyment from the ancestory. com website — I think she’s back into the early 1700s, and, just when she thinks the end of the road has been reached, more information seems to come through. What Noel has being trying to do is complete the ancestry of his Lotus; in comparison to building a family tree, the task should be dead easy — after all, the car has been here
The ex–roly Levis Lotus 22 when owned by Jonathan Williams
since December 1963 and all owners while in New Zealand can be accounted for.
But the stumbling block, that Noel is confident is solvable, is the history of the car prior to future– Ferrari F1 driver Jonathan Williams first racing it in July 1963, by which time it was a year old. Noel believes he knows the story, but before the dots can finally, and conclusively, be connected, he needs a mini breakthrough. He’s on the trail, and by the time his baby is the subject of a full NZ Classic Car feature, Noel’s confident he’ll have completed his racing- car version of an archaeological dig. The key to the mini breakthrough may just come from F1 — not F1 ‘ back in the day’, but F1 2015-style.
You’ll have to wait for the full exposé — although I can’t help but wonder if Roly, on that day in December 1963 at Auckland Wharf when he watched his pride and joy being offloaded, could have ever imagined how much research time would be spent trying to unravel the first 12 or so months of the car’s life.