WE DELVE INTO MICHAEL’ S DIARY, AND DISCOVER SOME AMAZING FACTS
Cosworth’s amazing four valves
Given that even the most modest micro car these days will be powered by an engine with four valves per cylinder, it seems extraordinary to think that, half a century ago, such a layout was considered to be ‘pushing the envelope’ in Formula 1. In 1967, the rules for Formula 2, that fantastic feeder category, were increased to a maximum of 1600cc. Cosworth, having had Ford provide the seed money for a new 3.0-litre Formula 1 engine, produced what was essentially ‘half’ an F1 engine for Formula 2.
The first round for the new 1.6-litre cars was at Snetterton in Norfolk on Good Friday, and of the 22 cars that turned up 50 years ago, three were powered by the Lotus-ford twin-cam, two had BMWS complex Apfelbeck unit, while the balance were motivated by Cosworth’s little jewel — the FVA or ‘Four Valve — Series A’. They powered Brabhams, Lotuses, Matras, Lolas, a couple of Mclarens, and a Cooper — and, not surprisingly, they cleaned up. They continued cleaning up — Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth had clearly come up with a winner, but as dominant as the FVA was in F2 that year, that was nothing compared to the main game they had coming.
Round three of the 1967 Formula 1 world championship on June 4 was around the track set in the Dutch sand dunes. Zandvoort was such a great circuit it is hard to believe such abominations have been built across the planet, many in the last quarter of a century, when the Netherlands had the blueprint of near perfection just sitting there. Round one had been in South Africa back on New Year’s Day, and resulted in a surprise victory for Pedro Rodriguez — his first, but the last for two of motor racing’s most famous names — Cooper, and Maserati that powered it. It was over five months before round two, where Denny Hulme scored his maiden win around the famous streets of Monaco, as recorded in last month’s issue.
During May, Graham Hill — who had returned to Lotus after seven years driving for BRM — had put mileage on the latest Lotus powered by the Ford-financed Cosworth DFV (the Double Four Valve). Hill’s teammate, Jim Clark, was a tax exile and therefore unable to spend much time in the nation of his birth — he would therefore sample this new weapon for the first time in north-western Holland. It took some getting used to the V8’s abrupt power delivery, even for Clark, and while Hill put his Lotus 49 on pole, the Scotsman was back in eighth. Between the two teammate were the Repco V8-powered Brabhams of Denny Hulme and Jack, Dan Gurney’s exquisite and rapidly improving V12 Eagle-weslake, the V12 Cooper-maseratis of Jochen Rindt and Rodriguez, and the Honda of John Surtees — also a V12. Behind Clark came Chris Amon, in the quickest of the three Ferraris, while Bruce Mclaren was still in the 2.1-litre F2-based Mclaren-brm back in 14th.
Hill underlined the advantage of the new car and shot off into a lead, while Clark, getting increasingly comfortable, started picking off cars. As happened so often that year, Hill’s car broke and Brabham took over — Jimmy initially had trouble shaking off Denny, but once clear he set his sights on Jack, known as just about the hardest man to pass — but the Repco
was giving away a lot of power to the Cosworth and, ultimately, Clark powered on to record a famous debut victory, ahead of the two Brabhams and Chris leading a trio of Ferraris. The Lotus-fords remained the class of the field for the rest of the year but Denny prevailed in the championship.
Cosworth’s amazing engine was soon widely available, and powered every champion from 1968 to 1974. It took Ferrari’s flat 12 to break the run, but the DFV kept getting better and more powerful. The last title came with Keke Rosberg in 1982, and the final win was in 1983 — 16 years and one day after the first. The remarkable engine scored 155 Formula 1 wins, but the first of them came half a century ago this month.
Fun with numbers
The recent Russian Formula 1 Grand Prix saw a debut victory for the Finnish driver, Valtteri Bottas. In terms of achievements in motor racing per capita, Finland, Scotland, and New Zealand stand head and shoulders over whatever nation might be fourth. The Finns would edge out everyone based on the results of their race and rally drivers, but we well know that it takes engineers and mechanics, too, and our contribution in those fields, as well as behind the wheel, means we always punch above our weight.
So get this — Bottas won his first Grand Prix and was joined on the rostrum by a pair of world champions — Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. It was the 22nd time Vettel had finished second, and the 33rd time Kimi had finished third. Before we move on from such nonsense, Lewis Hamilton was fourth — in car 44 …
Mentioned in passing
Sadly, in recent months a number of notable Kiwis with motor-racing connections have passed away. In the April issue, we carried a tribute to Allan Mccall — Jim Clark’s mechanic on the Lotus 49 that won the 1967 Dutch Grand Prix referred to above — but I would be remiss not to also mention historic racer Ivan Selak and engine guru Murray Bunn — the wizard behind the ‘Sidchrome Mustang’ of Jim Richards and Des Radonich. Then, in early May came news of another man who was closely involved in the early days of ‘JR’ — Bob Mcmillan, who also had huge influence in assisting other drivers, including the unrelated Dave Mcmillan.
Probably less well known was Dennis Lyon, a Southlander who worked with George Begg during the Formula 5000 era of the early ’70s. Dennis’ mate Lindsay Kerr told me, “Dennis began as the odd-job person, but his responsibilities grew as his knowledge grew. He built his own Formula Ford (the Lyon 1), and raced it with some success at a national and local level during the late 1970s.
“His enthusiasm for motor sport never left him, and one of his last jobs was a rebuild of the engine of a 1980s F1 car owned by Tony Quinn at his Highlands Motorsport Park. He rated this as honour to have been involved, but in his last days quipped that he ‘felt sorry for the poor person who was going to have to sort the gearbox out’. Fittingly, his last lap was at this same venue, but at a much more sedate speed than he would ever have wished his engines to produce.”
For many Kiwis who include motor racing in a trip to Europe, a visit to the jawdropping Mclaren HQ is a treat worthy of all the anticipation you could imagine. The ‘visitor experience ambassador’ is a familiar face in the form of Stephen Donnell — husband of Bruce and Patty’s daughter, Amanda. Amanda and Stephen took up their roles in 2014, and it is Stephen’s encyclopaedic knowledge of all things Mclaren that visitors are treated to as they stroll past the line-up of cars on display. Not surprisingly, the collection
includes Formula 1 cars, Can-am monsters, Indycars and sports cars — all Mclarens, except one.
If the car in the photographs looks familiar, then it is because two of the most famous drivers we’ve ever produced raced it — the Austin Ulster was Bruce Mclaren’s first racing car, and then a few years after he had used it as a springboard to bigger and better things, it was purchased by a young fellow who went to the same school as Bruce, and idolized him while they were still both teenagers — and his name was Kenny Smith!
The significance of that car to the Mclaren legacy was not lost on Mclaren’s longtime supremo Ron Dennis, and in 1991 the car left New Zealand to take up residence in Surrey as part of the Mclaren collection — except it was missing one minor detail …
The story is taken up by Brian Rice. Brian’s not inconsiderable achievements in motor racing include working for both Ross Jensen and Jim Boyd. He recalls helping to clear out a workshop in Newmarket many years ago, when he found an old Auckland Car Club badge — it was “… as rough as guts” but he hung onto it for safekeeping. Fast forward many years, and Brian, by now a life member of the Auckland Car Club, is showing Stephen around the club rooms.
“He was taking photos and then spotted a badge, and I said ‘I’ve got one of those — it would go well on Bruce’s old Austin at Mclaren’ — and that’s where it is, exactly as it was when it was found on the floor many decades ago!” Brian recalls.
The Triple Crown
In mentioning Mclaren, it is timely to talk about ‘the triple crown’ in light of the announcement by Mclaren-honda that it would return to Indianapolis with Fernando Alonso in 2017. Only one driver has ever won the triple crown — winning Le Mans, the Monaco Grand Prix, and the Indy 500 — and that was Graham Hill. Alonso, who has won Monaco twice, would very much like to give it a shot, and, while he has never been shy about mentioning it, the logistics have always been compromised by the fact that, in recent years, Monaco has always clashed with Indy. That was not always the case, but in recent decades it hasn’t been possible for a Formula 1 driver even to contemplate ‘Indy’.
When news first broke, I felt certain I’d been sent a hoax email, or ‘fake news’ — comments such as “This would never have happened under Ron Dennis” were quickly followed with “or under the rule of Bernie Eccelstone”, but not only is it happening; Alonso is doing it in a proper papaya-coloured Mclaren — not that hue masquerading as ‘Mclaren returning to its roots’ orange on this year’s Grand Prix cars. Still, if the Honda-powered Mclarens were even remotely competitive, no one would even care about the colour, but into the third year of their reunion, they are further off the pace that even at this point in 2016.
After the first day’s testing at ‘the Brickyard’, Mario Andretti stated that Alonso looked like he’d been racing there for 20 years. Alonso, meanwhile, thought that the massively wide straights “… when I watch on the TV …” became unbelievably narrow at 360kph. Alonso will drive for the team run by Mario’s son, Michael, arguably the best driver never to win the 500.
That was a time when Formula 1 (and Nascar) drivers regularly ran in the Indy 500 — a time when it really was the biggest race in the world. A breakaway series in the 1990s left an open goal that Nascar gladly marched straight through, and the shine has never returned — perhaps until now. Alonso is one of the greatest drivers of all time, and he will give Indy a focus it could never have imagined only a month or so ago.
By the way, among the handful of men to have won two of the ‘big three’ is Bruce Mclaren, who won Monaco in ’62 and Le Mans in ’66. Interestingly, however, only one manufacturer has won all three. Mercedes, Ferrari, Matra, Lotus, Bugatti, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Renault, and Peugeot have won two of the three, but only Mclaren has the triple. Offenhauser-powered Mclarens won Indy in 1972, ’74, and ’76, while a Mclaren F1 GTR won Le Mans in 1995, and Mclarens have won at Monaco 15 times. The next ‘winningest’ is Ferrari, with nine. The last time a Mclaren won at Monaco was in 2008, and it is fair to say that if Alonso believed there was any chance this year, he wouldn’t be at Indy!
Below: Cutaway drawing of the Ford Cosworth FVA
Above: Jim Clark giving the Cosworthpowered Lotus 49 a debut victory
Right: Johnny Rutherford on his way to winning the 1976 Indy 500
The badge on the Austin Ulster at Mclaren — photos by Stephen Donnell
Right: Fernando Alonso in his papaya Indy 500 ride
Below right: Bruce’s legacy — only Mclarens have won the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Photo courtesy Bruce Mclaren Trust – Jack Inwood Collection