APRIL 1966 — THE POWER AND THE GLORY

New Zealand Classic Car - - MOTOR SPORT FLASHBACK - Pho­tos:

The de­ci­sion not to at­tend the 2016 Aus­tralian Grand Prix (GP) was a sim­ple one. For sev­eral years, we’d headed to Mel­bourne in even-num­bered years — a far cry, granted, from the days when I at­tended all 11 GPS at Ade­laide … but that was a dif­fer­ent era that marked the end of For­mula 1’s (F1) first ‘turbo phase’, which ended around the streets of South Aus­tralia’s cap­i­tal in Novem­ber 1988. En­gine ar­chi­tec­ture was open — there were both straight-fours and V8 tur­bocharged 1500cc units, and, al­though V6s ul­ti­mately proved the most ef­fec­tive de­sign, the fact is that en­gi­neers had op­tions. Even bet­ter, in 1989, you could stand at the se­cond-gear Stag Ho­tel cor­ner and get your ear­wax danc­ing with the nor­mally as­pi­rated glory from the 3.5-litre eights, 10s, and 12s.

Re­turn to power

To­day, there are no op­tions — F1 no longer has an en­gine but rather a ‘power unit’, which the rules stip­u­late must be a V6. Con­trast this with what was go­ing on in Eng­land, Italy, and Aus­tralia half a cen­tury ago this month. Af­ter five sea­sons of the ech­e­lon of world mo­tor rac­ing be­ing for nor­mally as­pi­rated en­gines of 1500cc, 1966 marked a re­turn to power. The de­ci­sion to in­crease F1’s max­i­mum en­gine ca­pac­ity to 3.0 litres was made in late 1964, and, just as it did in 1961 when the 1.5s were in­tro­duced, Fer­rari looked in great shape. Its Le Mans– dom­i­nat­ing cars were pow­ered by 3.3 V12s, and so, af­ter a wee bit of tin­ker­ing, it was ready.

Af­ter Fer­rari’s dom­i­na­tion of 1961 with its V6, the Bri­tish teams got into gear, and, in 1962, ev­ery GP was won by ei­ther the V8 from Coven­try Cli­max, or from BRM. Cli­max de­cided to pull out of F1 at the end of ’65, leav­ing Lotus, Brab­ham, and Cooper need­ing to make other ar­range­ments. BRM mated a cou­ple of its su­perb 1.5 V8s and came up with its H16. Lotus also signed up for those, while Cooper’s con­nec­tions mar­ried them to the Maserati V12 that had had a short com­pe­ti­tion life in the late ’50s. Brab­ham took an­other op­tion com­pletely and, to­gether with the Aus­tralian Repco com­pany, de-stroked the Oldsmo­bile V8, fig­ur­ing that light­ness and re­li­a­bil­ity might come in handy.

Honda pro­duced a lar­gish V12, while Wes­lake also built a ‘dou­ble-6’ for Dan Gur­ney’s new Ea­gle out­fit. And there was one other new team — af­ter spend­ing all of his F1 ca­reer to that point with Cooper, Bruce Mclaren had fol­lowed the lead of his men­tor, Brab­ham, and built his own GP car. It was pow­ered by a de-stroked ver­sion of the 4.2 Ford V8 Indy 500–win­ning power plant. As was once sug­gested to me by a Mclaren em­ployee at that time, “Af­ter all the time and cost of mak­ing that thing three litres, we should have left it as it was — it still would have been too big, still wouldn’t have won any­thing, but we would at least have been slightly more com­pet­i­tive.”

No bench­mark

The open­ing round of the 1966 world cham­pi­onship was not un­til late May — around the streets of Monaco — but there were three non-cham­pi­onship events prior to the trip to Monte Carlo. Brab­ham de­buted its new Repco V8 in South Africa on New Year’s Day, and, al­though it failed, it did start from pole. How­ever, it

was the only 3.0-litre car en­tered, so there was no bench­mark. On April 1, Fer­rari rolled up for the Gran Pre­mio di Sira­cusa in Si­cily. Lead driver John Sur­tees had the 3.0-litre, while Lorenzo Ban­dini had a 2.4-litre V6 mated to the pre­vi­ous year’s F1 chas­sis. The Fer­raris were fastest, fol­lowed by a trio of Cooper-maser­atis. Brab­ham didn’t set a qual­i­fy­ing time and was out af­ter two laps with an en­gine fail­ure. Italy had ev­ery rea­son to feel con­fi­dent — more so af­ter the red pair came in one-two.

If lau­rels were be­ing rested upon in Maranello, that most cer­tainly wasn’t the case for Brab­ham and Repco — 50 Aprils ago, it was all go for Jack and the boys, and so, by the time of the last race be­fore the cham­pi­onship kicked off, they were ready. The scene was Sil­ver­stone, and the Bri­tish Rac­ing Driv­ers’ Club (BRDC) In­ter­na­tional Tro­phy — Brab­ham took pole, two-tenths quicker than Sur­tees, but, in the race, he sent shock­waves straight back to North­ern Italy by win­ning by over seven sec­onds af­ter 35 laps. No­tice was served, and, al­though nei­ther Brab­ham nor team­mate Denny Hulme fin­ished in Monaco, once Brab­ham had thrashed the Fer­raris on the all-out speed cir­cuit of Reims, he was on his way to be­com­ing the first, and prob­a­bly only, man ever to win the ti­tle in a car with his name on the nose.

Le Mans

Back in the days when GP driv­ers drove things other than F1 cars, most of them were com­mit­ted to Le Mans in mid June; how­ever, in or­der for the teams to have a run, the Le Mans test week­end was held in April. This year marks half a cen­tury since the black Ford GT40 of Bruce Mclaren and Chris Amon nar­rowly beat the pale blue sis­ter car of Ken Miles and Denny Hulme, but, for the test week­end, the youngest mem­ber of the ‘trio at the top’ was en­trusted with the ul­ti­mate de­vel­op­ment of the GT40 — the J-car. It was even­tu­ally held back from rac­ing that year while it un­der­went fur­ther de­vel­op­ment — which clearly worked, be­cause one won in 1967 with Dan Gur­ney and AJ Foyt.

In late 2010, while we were work­ing on

I pointed out to Chris that he was fastest … “Was I? I think the J-car was some­thing I saw as hav­ing a lot of po­ten­tial. It was def­i­nitely go­ing to be a step for­ward from the MKII, but bear in mind this was all hap­pen­ing in April, and there was still a bit of time to de­velop it.”

A mere 50 years ago, and Ki­wis were well to the fore of the in­ter­na­tional mo­tor rac­ing stage. In ad­di­tion to Le Mans and F1, Denny was at the sharp end of For­mula 2 with the Brab­hamHonda, while, if Bruce didn’t al­ready have enough on his plate, the first Can-am se­ries was due to start in Septem­ber.

NZ Fes­ti­val of Mo­tor Rac­ing

Jim Bar­clay, the tire­less man be­hind the New Zealand Fes­ti­val of Mo­tor Rac­ing, says that plan­ning for the next one starts al­most straight away — I can con­firm this to be true. On the Mon­day morn­ing fol­low­ing the se­cond week­end of the highly suc­cess­ful 2016 it­er­a­tion, the Porsche Fes­ti­val, I was in at­ten­dance at a meet­ing with Jim and the honouree for the 2017 fes­ti­val in the diminu­tive form of Kenny Smith. The terms ‘ leg­end’ and ‘ icon’ do not sit com­fort­ably on his shoul­ders, yet he re­mains a phe­nom­e­non — over the first week­end, aboard his Lola T332, he was never beaten, and started ev­ery race from pole. The se­cond week­end fea­tured For­mula Li­bre — cov­er­ing ev­ery­thing from a Can-am car to Club­man sports cars. Kenny rolled out his Swift For­mula At­lantic, and, de­spite some For­mula 5000s be­ing present, won four out of four — and in Au­gust of this year, he will turn 75 …

As I said — phe­nom­e­non — and not just on a New Zealand or Aus­tralian stage. No one else, in the his­tory of the planet, can match this record — to put this in per­spec­tive, in Jan­uary 1976, he won both the New Zealand GP and the Lady Wi­gram Tro­phy in a red Lola T332.

With a bit of sub­tle per­sua­sion from his fam­ily — and Jim Bar­clay — Kenny has agreed that a book be put to­gether to ac­knowl­edge this ex­tra­or­di­nary life, and, if the guy com­mis­sioned with the re­spon­si­bil­ity to bring it to­gether can get his head down, it will be out by the end of the year.

Kenny Smith wasn’t the only septuagenarian rac­ing at the Porsche Fes­ti­val — Vic Clarke is even older, and for him, just get­ting there was a vic­tory. In Jan­uary 2014, Vic’s For­mula Ford tan­gled with an­other car, and Vic was se­ri­ously in­jured. At one point, there was a con­cern that he might lose his right arm, but a com­bi­na­tion of nat­u­ral fit­ness and dogged de­ter­mi­na­tion for the lit­tle guy who has, for years, been the Targa rally chap­lain, meant he re­mained in­tact. The car was a real mess, but, with the as­sis­tance of fel­low mem­bers of the His­toric For­mula Ford group, Vic set to in get­ting it back to­gether. He prob­a­bly told his de­voted wife June that this was to get the car in a saleable con­di­tion — but Vic still hoped … June gave her con­sent for ‘ just some prac­tice laps’ at the His­toric Rac­ing and Sports Car Club Pic­nic meet­ing we re­ferred to in the Fe­bru­ary is­sue. I took the photo as he re­moved his hel­met for the first time af­ter be­ing back out there. Hav­ing suc­cess­fully nav­i­gated his Pal­liser through that event, the green light was granted for him to en­ter the fes­ti­val. He steadily went quicker and quicker, and it was highly ap­pro­pri­ate that he — and June — were awarded the group’s ‘spirit’ award at the fes­ti­val prize­giv­ing: ‘the Kid’ is back!

Bruce Traco: Bruce Mclaren had lim­ited choices when it came to what would power his new GP car ( Wally Will­mott Col­lec­tion)

1966: The mass of the Ford Indy en­gine is high­lighted here as me­chanic How­den Gan­ley and Bruce him­self work on it in Monaco’s pits ( Wally Will­mott Col­lec­tion)

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