THE SUM­MER OF ’65

Michael receives some in­ter­est­ing pho­to­graphs that were taken 50 years af­ter the pho­tog­ra­pher, Jochen Maus, was in­vited to at­tend a day at the Nür­bur­gring

New Zealand Classic Car - - Motor Sport Flashback -

It never fails to amaze me what turns up out of the blue. These pho­to­graphs came from Stir­ling Moss’s PA with a note to say, “Stir­ling thought these may be of in­ter­est to you and Chris”, along with a hand­writ­ten let­ter from the pho­tog­ra­pher, Jochen Maus. Herr Maus had for­warded the pho­to­graphs to Sir Stir­ling just over 50 years af­ter he’d taken them, dur­ing a day at the Nür­bur­gring to which he was seem­ingly in­vited by the mo­tor rac­ing great along with our own great — Chris Amon.

There are sev­eral lay­ers to this story, which is why I con­sider the ‘find’ so in­ter­est­ing. The pho­to­graphs were taken in 1965, straight af­ter the Ger­man Grand Prix (GP), and, there­fore, nearly four years af­ter Moss had last raced in a GP. Since the fi­nal race of the 1961 sea­son, he’d been to New Zealand, won the last GP at a sod­den Ard­more in early Jan­uary, and spent a chunk of 1962 in a coma fol­low­ing his For­mula 1 ca­reer– end­ing ac­ci­dent at Good­wood at Easter. A year af­ter that, he’d re­turned to Good­wood to test a Lo­tus sports car, and, at the com­ple­tion of the ses­sion, an­nounced his re­tire­ment. Years later, he told me, “the speed was there, boy, but it wasn’t nat­u­ral, you see. I de­cided to stop — per­haps it would have bet­ter if I’d waited a while longer”.

The car he’d been driv­ing at the Nür­bur­gring that day, in the sum­mer of 1965, was a Brab­ham be­ing run by Stir­ling’s old en­trant, Rob Walker. In­deed, it was in the Walker team colours of navy blue with the white ring at the nose with which Moss had won the New Zealand GP, as well as some of his other more fa­mous vic­to­ries. Moss, with his plain white hel­met with white straps, a navy blue car, and num­ber seven is an en­dur­ing im­age of the times, and so it is ob­vi­ous why the film­mak­ers wanted him in the movie. Movie? What movie, I hear you ask? Be­fore we go there, let me in­dulge in a quick tan­gent …

English gen­tle­man

At the Ger­man GP, in ei­ther 1961 or ’62, an over-zeal­ous of­fi­cial had ad­vised Walker that his car would be thrown out of the event for fail­ing to ap­pear in the of­fi­cial colour for Bri­tish teams — namely, the var­i­ous shades of green col­lec­tively known as ‘Bri­tish Rac­ing’ … Although Walker’s for­tune came cour­tesy of the fam­ily’s Scot­tish dis­tillery, he was very much the epit­ome of the un­flap­pable English gen­tle­man and en­quired what prob­lem could pos­si­bly have arisen that would threaten ex­pul­sion from the meet­ing. He was ad­vised his car was blue and not green and, there­fore, con­tra­vened the rules. Walker pointed out that the Porsches were sil­ver not white, the ac­tual Ger­man rac­ing colour, and pon­dered whether they, too, would be ex­cluded from the meet­ing.

There was never any fur­ther dis­cus­sion about ejec­tion af­ter that. As a fur­ther tan­gent be­fore we get back to the movie: Walker’s claim that his cars ran in ‘Scot­tish Rac­ing Blue’ seems to have more to do with dark blue be­ing his favourite colour rather

than na­tional pride — there was never a Scot­tish Rac­ing Blue! Not of­fi­cially, at least.

Trial footage

As soon as Chris saw the pho­tos, the story emerged. At that time, early Au­gust 1965, it seems that both MGM and Warner Broth­ers were vy­ing to do a movie us­ing For­mula 1 as the back­drop, as Chris re­called all these years later, hav­ing never be­fore seen these pho­tos. “Stir­ling and I were there to do some trial footage for Warner Broth­ers with John Sturges — it was ob­vi­ous why they wanted Stir­ling; he hadn’t raced since the ac­ci­dent in ’62, but he was still one of the big­gest names in mo­tor rac­ing.”

So, what ex­actly was in­volved? “We were cer­tainly lap­ping pretty quickly, and it was ob­vi­ous [that] Stir­ling hadn’t lost the art of be­ing a rac­ing driver. For me, it was a great hon­our, be­cause I’d been in that race at Ard­more in the wet in the [Maserati] 250F — I was only 18 and try­ing to make sure I stayed well out his way when he went past. At least once, I was so in­tent on not be­ing an ob­sta­cle that I got into a big slide, which I think Stir­ling mis­took for fan­tas­tic car con­trol”.

It is ob­vi­ous that Chris also has fond mem­o­ries of meet­ing the fa­mous di­rec­tor. “Sturges was a hard man, but he had no short­age of sto­ries — he’d al­ready made The Great Es­cape and Gun­fight at the OK Cor­ral by then, but, in the end, there was only ever go­ing to be room for one For­mula 1 movie, and one of them had to pull the plug”. And it was Warner Broth­ers that dropped out, leav­ing MGM to march on and make Grand Prix. round in the movie. Much of the work Chris did on that film was driv­ing a Ford GT40, which had a cam­era fit­ted to the back and a tow­ing ar­range­ment, so it could be dragged along for ‘film­ing at speed’ to oc­cur. It took un­til the re­lease of Rush a cou­ple of years ago for any­thing to come close to Grand Prix, which, half a cen­tury later, re­mains both ad­mired and ma­ligned in about equal mea­sure.

Act of brav­ery

Speak­ing of Rush — it was based on the ex­tra­or­di­nary events of the 1976 For­mula 1 sea­son and the down-to-the-wire fi­nal round of the world cham­pi­onship, but it was at Monza, 40 years ago this month, that Niki Lauda made his un­be­liev­able come­back. It is not only the most amaz­ing act of brav­ery (apart from those at­tempt­ing to save the life of an­other per­son) in the en­tire his­tory of mo­tor rac­ing, I have never heard any­one ever come up with any­thing to match it in any other sport.

Quick re­cap — six weeks ear­lier, Lauda had not just crashed badly in the open­ing laps of the very last Ger­man GP to be held on the old Nür­bur­gring; his burns were so bad that a priest had been sum­moned to is­sue the last rites. No one reck­oned with the Aus­trian’s su­per-hu­man lev­els of de­ter­mi­na­tion — against the wishes of ev­ery­one, the still-healing burns on his head ban­daged so heav­ily that he couldn’t even get his hel­met on, he went to try to qual­ify his Fer­rari.

The scud­e­ria was so con­vinced he wouldn’t be back — not in a hurry, at least — that it signed a re­place­ment driver. This meant that when the buck-toothed Lauda de­fied all or­ders — and re­sulted in a bloody mess ev­ery time his hel­met was taken off — they had to turn out a third red car. He qual­i­fied fifth, quicker than both his reg­u­lar team-mate Clay Regaz­zoni and his re­place­ment, new­comer Car­los Reute­mann. That was im­pres­sive, but it was noth­ing com­pared with what he did in the race: af­ter 52 gru­elling laps, he was within 20 sec­onds of the win­ner, fin­ish­ing an as­ton­ish­ing fourth.

If it sounds as if I’ve gone fish­ing in the ad­jec­tive pond, I can’t say enough about what it took to even think about get­ting back into a rac­ing car in the con­di­tion he was in, let alone what he achieved. I was never any great Lauda fan, so I’m not writ­ing this as a card-car­ry­ing mem­ber of his sup­port­ers club, but I can say no more than if you dreamed this up and took it to a film stu­dio, it would be laughed off as a way-too-im­plau­si­ble yarn …

The man to beat

… about as im­plau­si­ble as a tale about a tiny bloke who is born dur­ing the World War II, grows up in a state house in Auck­land, gets into mo­tor rac­ing as a teenager, and not only never stops but also con­tin­ues be­ing the man to beat in big hairy-chested things called For­mula 5000s in his mid 70s — and not with mod­est op­po­si­tion; in fact, with a dozen or more blokes who have beat­ing him as their goal in life: this is the tale of Kenny Smith.

This is an­other story in which the truth is less be­liev­able than fic­tion, and, at long last, it’s been told. Kenny and I started the process of writ­ing a book ear­lier this year, with in­ter­views hav­ing taken place prior to my trip to the States in late May / early June. Once back, we got to­gether more fre­quently, and the sto­ries started flow­ing — and Kenny has some won­der­ful ones, as do his mates. I con­tacted Graeme Lawrence early in the process. Kenny calls ‘Shag’ his blood brother — Lawrence, in re­turn, refers to his old buddy as ‘Short-arse’. Given that Shag is hardly of lofty pro­por­tions him­self, he could only en­dear­ingly ever be re­fer­ring to one per­son …

I asked Graeme if he would write the fore­word — “I’d be hon­oured — ab­so­lutely hon­oured … How many words and when do you need it by?” I told him the word num­ber was en­tirely over to him, and that if I could have had it the day be­fore yes­ter­day, that would have been good. “You’ll have it by lunchtime to­mor­row.” When it got to four in the af­ter­noon, I started to won­der what time they did lunch in Hamil­ton these days — the manuscript had been sent that morn­ing with a note to say the Lawrence fore­word was com­ing.

I have to say that it was worth the wait. Lawrence proved that he can spin out verbs as well as he used to han­dle an open-wheeler. In ad­di­tion to my words as the au­thor, with, of course, am­ple as­sis­tance from the star of the book, there are con­tri­bu­tions from Donn An­der­son, cov­er­ing the early days; Greg Broughton, on the suc­cesses both Kenny and Graeme had up in South East Asia; Ross Mckay, on the re­turn to For­mula 5000; and my good mate Bob Mcmur­ray, who is present for all of Kenny’s Toy­ota Rac­ing Se­ries races. The book will go on sale in Novem­ber.

On the sub­ject of books, Rua­puna: The First 50 is a scrap­book-style pub­li­ca­tion that has been com­piled by well-known Can­ter­bury mo­tor rac­ing per­son­al­ity Lind­say Kerr, and, frankly, I can’t think of a bet­ter per­son to have co­or­di­nated it. Kerr traces the ori­gins of the lo­cal track at Templeton back to its in­cep­tion in 1963 then takes the reader through nine chap­ters cov­er­ing the five decades, in­clud­ing the suc­cess of clas­sic car rac­ing, and chats with some of the peo­ple who have helped carve Rua­puna into the in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­cepted venue that it is to­day. There are over 150 pho­tos from the five decades, along with a col­lec­tion of pro­gramme cov­ers, mag­a­zine items, news­pa­per cut­tings, event ad­ver­tis­ing, and writ­ten ma­te­rial from the Can­ter­bury Car Club’s own bul­letin.

Among the driv­ers Kerr spoke to for the book are Can­ter­bury mo­tor rac­ing le­gends Trevor Crowe, Avon Hyde, John Craw­ford, and the late John Os­borne. In ad­di­tion, there is a chat with Barry and Nola Brown — now in their 80s, the Browns were in­volved with the vol­un­teer force that built the track and also raced on it.

The book is avail­able from the Can­ter­bury Car Club of­fice (phone 03 349 6003). The re­tail price is $50, plus $10 postage and pack­ag­ing. It is a credit to Lind­say for mak­ing it hap­pen — with­out good club men like him, such pub­li­ca­tions would never see the light of day.

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