Hooked on mo­tor rac­ing

New Zealand Classic Car - - Readers’ Writes -

Like Donn An­der­son, I was around 12 years old when I first went to the New Zealand Grand Prix [GP], mine be­ing Stir­ling Moss’s win at Ard­more in ’62. Like Donn, I was hooked. I was at the first GP at Pukekohe on the bank at the left­hander after the grand­stand also. An­other great day.

I be­came in­volved with rac­ing when I started help­ing Rob­bie Booth with his For­mula Ford [FF] Lo­tus 22, then the Aus­tralian half of the Tas­man Se­ries with Alan Rollinson in his Mcrae GM2 007. On re­turn to New Zealand, I re­joined Rob with his Begg FM3, then I went to Van­cou­ver, BC, where I met and got in­volved with Graeme Cameron and his Ti­tan FF. Our main ri­val was an ADF, the car he cam­paigns to­day.

I went to the UK in ’75 and ap­plied for a job at Penske’s in Poole. I lost out to a fel­low Kiwi, so I joined Frank Wil­liams Rac­ing in the same week as one Patrick Head (we called him ‘Headache’, but he wasn’t!). The Hes­keth 308C cars turned up about two weeks later, and I thought they were pretty good, so I asked Patrick what he thought, and he said that he didn’t re­ally like them.

We took a Wil­liams FW04 to Good­wood test­ing with Richard Scot driv­ing, my first taste of a DFV Cos­worth. The sound im­pressed me — far sharper than the For­mula 5000s that I knew, but I was told “wait to you hear the flat-12 Fer­raris and es­pe­cially the Ma­tra V12”.

First time was on the pit wall at In­ter­la­gos ’76 and yes ‘they’ were right — just an awe­some high­pitched howl, es­pe­cially the Ma­tra. The Fer­rari had a deeper, more hol­low sound, and back then there was no left-right-left kink at the end of the straight but a sweeper that the best driv­ers took flat with­out lift­ing, so it was like a stereo ef­fect as they rock­eted down the back straight.

The best race I saw was at the Dutch GP at Zand­voort [in] 1977. [ James] Hunt and [Mario] An­dretti took each other out early, and it be­came a bat­tle of the 12s, with front-row man [ Jac­ques] Laf­fite in his Ligier and [Niki] Lauda in his Fer­rari. Laf­fite had qual­i­fied his long-wheel­base car but had blown his en­gine in the morn­ing warm-up, so he had to race his short-wheel­base car, one suited for Monaco. The pit wall is quite close to the ap­pro­pri­ately named Tarzan Bend, so I had a bird’s eye view of the race.

Laf­fite was har­ried by Lauda as he weaved to pro­tect, and Niki feinted left and right try­ing to out­brake into the cor­ner. The sight and es­pe­cially the sound as they went past at 300kph and only 20m away were un­real. When Niki fi­nally got past, he dum­mied and sent Jac­ques to the left, then shot to his right and came so close to the pit wall that we were haul­ing our pit boards over the fence. Jody Scheck­ter in Wolf WR2 (my car) came third, but we were a lap down, such was the pace of the 12s.

At Kyalami in South Africa, the Alfa Romeo flat-12 ran Cas­trol R, so not only did it sound good but [it] smelt great too! If you were lean­ing on the pit-wall Armco, it buzzed un­til the Alfa driver lifted off over 300m away. Res­o­nance.

Just a note: the Kiwi who got the Penske job ended up at Wil­liams three weeks later! Ian Gilling­ham Thanks for shar­ing, Ian. You’ve cer­tainly mixed with a few of the great names in mo­tor rac­ing, and I bet you have a few more won­der­ful sto­ries to tell. AFW

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