erhaps, like me, you had high hopes for the second version of the collaboration between Mclaren and Honda last year. The first time around was stunningly successful — from 1988 to 1992, the Mclaren-hondas won 44 out of the 80 races they started (that’s 55 per cent), and four of the five driver and constructor championships. This time, not even the greatest PR spin merchant would have expected victories in 2015, despite the talents of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. I know I’m not alone in ranking the Spaniard in the same category as the likes of Fangio, Moss, and Clark, but the fact that ‘Jens’ was there, or thereabouts, puts paid to any suggestion that he was a lucky world champion (the concept of which is utter nonsense, anyway). In 2016, with two guys in their mid 30s, Mclaren arguably has as good a driver pairing
Denny stuck with the Cosworth — and he and others in Brabhams were either winning or running at the front, so there was clearly nothing wrong with the chassis. Jack suffered a number of did-not-finishes (DNFS), mostly due to engine-related issues, and returned to Cosworth power during the mid season but continued to work constructively with Honda to resolve the problems. In late September, he was back with an improved Honda and finished just behind the winning LotusCosworth of Jim Clark and well ahead of Hulme. If that gave the Anglo-japanese combo some hope for an improved time of it in 1966, their expectation ultimately proved to be modestly wide of the mark. By then, the Cosworth was producing about 104kw (140bhp), but the Honda was delivering a reliable 111kw (150bhp). British Racing Motors (BRM) had also produced a 1.0-litre version of its wonderful 1500cc F1 motor, but it never seemed quite as strong as a Cossie. At the first F2 race of ’66 at Goodwood, it was a Brabham-honda one-two — Jack ahead of Denny. It was to become the story of the season, but there was more to it — in third and fourth came the Cosworth-powered Brabhams of future world champion Jochen Rindt and his teammate Alan Rees — more often than not, they were the closest opposition to the Honda-powered pair, but the Japanese had cracked it — win followed win.
Fifty years ago this month, Denny got his first Honda-powered win on the tricky Rouen circuit, about 140km north-west of Paris. He won again two months later on the Le Mans ‘Bugatti’ circuit to cement the runner-up position in the French championship behind ‘the guvnor’ to finish a complete about-face for the Honda
When looking back into the archives to see what things Kiwis were achieving on the world stage in previous decades, I turned to July 1946 and the exploits of Colin Strang. It’s been over a decade now since I first started investigating and writing about a New Zealander who was at the very forefront of post-war open-wheeler motor racing — his 500cc motorcycle-powered rear-engined device, the ‘Strang’, provided a concept that was widely copied — most successfully by the father-and-son outfit from Surrey with the surname of Cooper. When my research into Colin Strang began, I turned to the walking encyclopaedia himself — the late David Mckinney. Not one to have any time for people with a superficial concept of due diligence on matters motor racing, David, for once, was unable to help. It seems that he’d been there before, trying to discover if Strang was a Brit who’d somehow happened to be born here but returned to England at a young age, or if he had been a Kiwi through and through who’d headed off to the UK, never to return.
Perhaps someone reading this will enlighten us, but what I can tell you is that, 70 years ago this month, Colin, in his Strang, was victorious at Prescott ahead of the ‘TigerKitten’ of Clive Lowes and one John Cooper in the car he’d knocked up with his old man Charlie. For our hero, it was yet another win. He’d already won the season — and category — opener in May, and then the next in early June, followed by another four from seven over the rest of the season. Perhaps one day we’ll solve his ancestry!
Reynard, and the British American Racing (BAR) F1 team. Phil, who only passed away last August, was, of course, a director at Mclaren from 1968 until his return to New Zealand after the 1975 season, but, prior to that, he’d worked for Jack Brabham from 1959 to 1967, which covered the Australian’s two titles for Cooper and then the two under his own name — the first in 1966 for himself, and the second a year later for our own Denny Hulme. Phil had very much been a champion of Denny’s skills to an initially dubious Jack Brabham. As a driver, he’d been talented enough to be one of the three finalists in the inaugural Driver to Europe programme.
Bill died in April 2012 after a battle with cancer, just short of his 73rd birthday. He was a very determined and competitive driver both here and in Europe, before focusing on building racing cars rather than racing them. He never lost the urge to race, though, and his performances in his lovingly restored Mallock U2 (he married the founder’s daughter, Susanne!) showed he’d lost none of his old skill, but it is the memory of his command performance at a sodden Hampton Downs in a Lotus FF that will always linger the longest.
Dennis Marwood held a competition licence for over half a century. Originally a farmer from Morrinsville, he made his name in a Humber 80, but it was the Rothmans Cooper-climax that allowed him to best display his talent — culminating with a fine fourth in the 1966 Grand Prix. Later that year, he won the Renwick 50 with a great drive.
He raced the Eisert- Chev when Formula 5000 was first introduced here