New Zealand Classic Car - - MOTOR SPORT FLASHBACK -

y ac­qui­si­tion of old mo­tor rac­ing books has slowed dra­mat­i­cally since the earth­quake-en­forced clo­sure, and sub­se­quent de­mo­li­tion, of the ex­tra­or­di­nary Fazazz, “The mo­torist’s shop”, in Christchurch. A visit was sim­ply part of ev­ery trip to the Gar­den City, and not only books were pur­chased — I also bought mod­els, paint­ings, and the oc­ca­sional bit of mem­o­ra­bilia. It was an Aladdin’s cave, and if all of this wasn’t enough of a rea­son to try and fluke a park out­side 84 Lich­field Street, the cav­ernous show­room was al­ways filled with ex­otic or, at the very least, eclec­tic ma­chin­ery.

I am reg­u­larly re­minded of this much­missed em­po­rium be­cause of the num­ber of books I have with the lit­tle red-on-white ‘Fazazz’ sticker on the in­side. I’ll of­ten just blindly reach for a book from one of the shelves, and yes­ter­day’s re­dis­cov­ery has no dust cover, which ac­counts for the $15 price pen­cilled on the in­side page. The book, In­ter­na­tional Mo­tor Rac­ing Book No 2, proudly an­nounces “con­tri­bu­tions from Denny Hulme, Bruce Mclaren, Gra­ham Hill, Chris Amon, John Cooper et al.” that I ex­pect were all ghost writ­ten, but, as if we needed re­mind­ing, the Kiwi con­tri­bu­tion to the high­est ech­e­lons of the sport half a cen­tury ago was enor­mous. The book cov­ers 1967, and the chap­ter ‘penned’ by Denny, at the start, is headed “World Cham­pion”.

I noted a num­ber of gems in that first chap­ter, not least of which be­ing — “By tak­ing the ti­tle I had jus­ti­fied the faith put in me by the New Zealand In­ter­na­tional Grand Prix As­so­ci­a­tion, who had paid for me to come to Europe in 1960. But for that gen­er­ous ges­ture my am­bi­tion would have re­mained just a fond dream.” Gra­ham Hill con­trib­uted the fi­nal chap­ter, writ­ten af­ter the 1968 Tas­man Se­ries had con­cluded in early March. Hill had joined for the Aus­tralian half of the eight-race cham­pi­onship, team­ing with Jim Clark, who’d won once in New Zealand, against two wins for Chris Amon and one for Bruce Mclaren. Clark’s win had been the first for a works Lo­tus that wasn’t green, be­cause the deal for ‘ Team’ to be the first For­mula 1 (F1) team to be spon­sored — and there­fore not only carry an ad­ver­tiser’s

name and logo but also be painted in some­thing other than a tra­di­tional liv­ery — had been inked be­tween Levin and Wi­gram. A Lo­tus car­ry­ing to­bac­co­com­pany ad­ver­tis­ing won on de­but on the out­skirts of Christchurch, but Lo­tus did not in­tro­duce the con­cept of a rac­ing car painted up as a fag packet to F1 — that had hap­pened a few weeks ear­lier, at round one of the 1968 World Cham­pi­onship at Kyalami, near Jo­han­nes­burg.

That was a day of firsts — and lasts. John Love’s Repco Brab­ham ran in the liv­ery of Gun­ston, a South African tobacco com­pany, while De­nis Clive Hulme not only ran in a Grand Prix (GP) as reign­ing world cham­pion for the first time, but he was also mak­ing his F1 de­but for Mclaren. And, for the only time in his F1 ca­reer, he had a dozen cylin­ders be­hind him, with the ‘one­off’ M5A that Bruce had de­buted in late 1967. Bruce missed the race, and so Denny went along with the Brm-pow­ered Mclaren that had been red last time out but ran in its dis­tinc­tive pa­paya hue for the first time. The 1968 South African GP also marked the first time a Ma­tra ran as a fully-fledged GP car, while the other big mile­stone was that Jim Clark won his 25th GP, and thus be­came the win­ningest- ever F1 driver, sur­pass­ing the two dozen vic­to­ries of the great Ar­gen­tinian Juan Manuel Fan­gio.

Down to the wire

Back to Hill’s chap­ter — I was ea­ger to read what he had to say about the Aus­tralian GP, held that year at Mel­bourne’s Sandown Park, and the penul­ti­mate round of a cham­pi­onship that looked like go­ing down to the wire be­tween his team-mate Clark and Chris Amon’s Fer­rari. I’d al­ways heard that this was a clas­sic ex­am­ple of only need­ing two cars to make a race — at least one Aus­tralian jour­nal­ist has been eu­lo­giz­ing about the race for the lead ever since. And I know Chris re­garded it as one of his finest per­for­mances in his For­mula 2– based car, but with the 1.6 re­placed by a 2.4 V6, against the F1-based Lo­tus with a 2.5-litre ver­sion of the Cos­worth DFV. This from Hill — “The main point of the race is quickly told. Clark and Amon ran away and hid. They went around locked to­gether for most of the race, and the gap be­tween them was rarely more than a sec­ond … The pair nearly lapped Frank Gard­ner and me by the end.”

Chris al­ways cursed the ‘For­mula 2 brakes’ when this race was dis­cussed — Clark pre­vailed by the nar­row­est of mar­gins, and, with one round to go, he led the ti­tle chase with 42 points to the Kiwi’s 36. In Tas­ma­nia’s monsoon con­di­tions, nei­ther had tyres that were up to the job, and Chris would have to wait a year for his Tas­man ti­tle. Hill con­tin­ues: “By the time you read this, 1968 will be well ad­vanced, but at the time I’m writ­ing, the prospects look good.” Sadly, Clark’s win at Sandown was the last of his il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer — and the South African GP was not only his record-break­ing one, but it was also his last World Cham­pi­onship event.

FIA’S Hall of Fame

The FIA hosted an event in Paris, on De­cem­ber 4, to in­duct all world cham­pi­ons into its newly cre­ated hall of fame. Nine cham­pi­ons were pre­sent — in the photo, from left, you can spot Se­bas­tian Vet­tel, Fer­nando Alonso, Jac­ques Vil­leneuve (in the snazzy pur­ple specs), Alain Prost, Mario An­dretti, Nico Ros­berg, Nigel Mansell, Jackie Ste­wart, and Da­mon Hill — but not Lewis Hamil­ton, who was at a clash­ing fash­ion show. Oth­ers were rep­re­sented by fam­ily mem­bers or friends, and look­ing ra­di­ant is Denny’s daugh­ter, Adele. In fact, three gen­er­a­tions of Hul­mes made the trip — Denny’s widow, Greeta, and her grand­daugh­ter, Is­abel.

When asked what his great­est achieve­ment was, the nearly 78-year-old An­dretti re­sponded that it was win­ning both the Ital­ian and US GPS in the same year. Mario was al­ready a teenager by the time his fam­ily ar­rived in Amer­ica, and so the sig­nif­i­cance of this achieve­ment takes on a very per­sonal rel­e­vance.

Da­mon Hill was there, rep­re­sent­ing both him­self and his dad Gra­ham, but, sadly, a week later, he tweeted that his mother Bette had passed away. She had never re­mar­ried af­ter the light plane crash in Novem­ber 1975 that killed her hus­band and key mem­bers of his fledg­ling

F1 team. What changes she’d have seen in her years of be­ing so close to the high­est lev­els of the sport. When Gra­ham Hill made his F1 de­but in 1958, it was in a front-en­gined car, and his choice of pro­fes­sion was eas­ily one of the most dan­ger­ous on the planet; by the time her son re­tired, in 1999, driver fa­tal­i­ties were vir­tu­ally non-ex­is­tent, but the money in­volved — in F1 es­pe­cially — was at a level that could never have been imag­ined even when Gra­ham Hill was at his height.

When he died, the fam­ily was left in a per­ilous fi­nan­cial state, and Da­mon’s as­ton­ish­ingly frank and ex­cel­lent au­to­bi­og­ra­phy Watch­ing the Wheels out­lines it all mag­nif­i­cently. I strongly rec­om­mend it. His mum rarely missed one of Gra­ham’s F1 races — like many of the wives, she was an ex­pert time­keeper, but she was also forced into a role of con­sol­ing the wife or girl­friend of a driver who’d been in­volved in a ‘ big one’. She was well known as a rock of the pad­dock that had been her sec­ond home across her hus­band’s ex­traor­di­nar­ily long ca­reer.

The FIA ad­vises that it in­tends in­duct­ing by cat­e­gory, and that sports car cham­pi­ons will be added in 2019 — which means Earl Bam­ber and Bren­don Hart­ley.


It was sug­gested to Da­mon Hill, when re­ceiv­ing his fa­ther’s award on the night, that his­tory tended to re­gard Gra­ham Hill as a man lack­ing nat­u­ral abil­ity who got the job done by be­ing the ul­ti­mate grafter. I must say, I’d been read­ing that since the ’60s, and it’s like ur­ban myths — if you say or hear one of­ten enough, well, it must be true — right? Da­mon beau­ti­fully de­flected the story by sug­gest­ing that ‘the old man’ did rather well for a guy with­out sup­posed nat­u­ral abil­ity. Not hav­ing Fan­gio/moss/clark lev­els of nat­u­ral abil­ity doesn’t mean that you don’t have any; only that you might not have quite their quota. There have been all sorts of sta­tis­tics kick­ing around in re­cent times in the wake of Lewis Hamil­ton’s fourth world ti­tle. By all ac­counts, he now sur­passes three­time cham­pion Sir Jackie Ste­wart as Bri­tain’s great­est driver, and, if all of th­ese things are judged purely on num­bers, then there’s no ar­gu­ment.

On this ba­sis, Michael Schu­macher is the great­est of all time on ac­count of hav­ing won the most GPS and the most ti­tles, with seven. Fan­gio baf­fles th­ese nu­mer­i­cal ex­perts be­cause, de­spite hav­ing five ti­tles, he only won 24 GPS — a mere quar­ter, give or take, of the num­ber won by ‘Schumi’, but, as far as the sta­tis­ti­cal ge­niuses are con­cerned, Hamil­ton is not only top Brit; he’s now sec­ond only to Michael. There’s no pos­si­bil­ity of dis­cus­sion when faced with such num­bers — opin­ion, com­bined with the lit­tle mat­ter of his­tor­i­cal con­text, go out the door. I’m tak­ing noth­ing away from the phe­nom­e­nal abil­i­ties of Hamil­ton, but I’m sim­ply not pre­pared to en­ter into the dis­cus­sion with some­one who can’t even con­ceive of the pos­si­bil­ity of Stir­ling Moss be­ing one of the best 10 driv­ers to ever race in F1, be­cause he never won a world ti­tle.

Sta­tis­tics are in­ter­est­ing and can be use­ful — but they don’t cre­ate the con­clu­sions or form the opin­ions. For that you need a wee bit more than bald num­bers — well, in my opin­ion, at least. My other reser­va­tion is judg­ing a sports­man be­fore the end of his ca­reer — I like to see the whole pic­ture, not a snapshot.

Alfa’s back

Alfa Romeo, the com­pany from which Fer­rari orig­i­nally broke away, is re­turn­ing to F1 as a spon­sor of tra­di­tional back­marker Sauber in 2018 — whereby the Fer­rari en­gines will be badged ‘Alfa Romeo’. This is un­likely to be purely a mar­ket­ing ex­er­cise but po­ten­tially a ploy to strengthen the Fer­rari power­base. I see Fer­rari is threat­en­ing to leave F1 again, some­thing the com­pany founder would wheel out pe­ri­od­i­cally when he saw a chance to test the fi­nan­cial wa­ters. No threat was ever car­ried through — in the mid ’80s, Fer­rari went as far as at­tempt­ing to con­vince the sort of peo­ple who’ll judge the worth of a driver based on their wins-tostarts ra­tio that it was aban­don­ing F1 for the Indycar se­ries.

In case you missed it, we can cover the Scud­e­ria’s record in the Indy 500 over the past 40 years fairly quickly — it never hap­pened, so noth­ing for the statis­ti­cians here. That ‘threat’ had all the cred­i­bil­ity of ev­ery other one. Fer­rari has one of the most pow­er­ful and rec­og­nized brands in the world, yet it never ad­ver­tises — it has F1 for that. Does bring­ing Alfa Romeo into the fold re­in­force its com­mit­ment to F1, or pre­serve a place should it de­cide to take a sab­bat­i­cal and re-en­ter sports car rac­ing? A Fer­rari hasn’t won Le Mans since 1965, and that is for sports cars, which is what Fer­rari builds, but its ab­sence from the win­ner’s cir­cle in the most pres­ti­gious en­durance race has hardly dam­aged the de­sire for a high per­cent­age of ‘car peo­ple’ — and I sus­pect a mas­sive per­cent­age of non-car peo­ple — to own one.

Af­ter the Alfa ar­range­ment with Sauber was an­nounced, I was jok­ing with some mates over a beer — “What next,” said one, “HaasMaserati …?” Two days later I read it on­line. Fake news? Time will tell.

Left: Ki­wis fea­tur­ing at the Bri­tish Rac­ing Driv­ers’ Club Awards — How­den Gan­ley, Earl Bam­ber, Bren­don Hart­ley, and Dick Ben­netts (photo: Jakob Ebrey Pho­tog­ra­phy)

Above: An­other of my mod­els pur­chased from Fazazz Right: The FIA cel­e­brates F1’s cham­pi­ons, open­ing the new FIA Hall of Fame

Sauber Alfa Romeo 2018 liv­ery con­cept

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