2014 is going to be a busy motor sport year for the small Henry Surtees Foundation team and myself. Fifty years seem to have flown by since that 1964 World Championship win with Ferrari. This anniversary year gives us the opportunity to do a lot of interesting and exciting fundraising activities.
For me it is turning the clock back, meeting with old friends and making new ones, coming together again with two- and four-wheeled machines that I have ridden or driven during my career. Autosport International at the NEC in Birmingham started it all off. We were able to show bikes and cars that had played a special part in my life. There were one or two I would have liked to have added, but the starting price was too high.
George Barber, an old friend with whom I have worked in helping to create his superb circuit and museum in Birmingham, Alabama, had called me at the end of last year and said, “John, next year is a special year. I am going to send you your World Championship 158 Ferrari. Have it for the year, enjoy it and let it help you raise funds for the Foundation.” Despite dramas with shipping and weather en route, it made it to the NEC.
Next stop will be to go on show in June, with a few of my other machines with both two and four wheels, at the superb Mercedes-Benz World situated at the historic Brooklands Circuit. Goodwood and the Festival of Speed comes next followed by a hasty return to Brooklands for the Henry Surtees Brooklands Team Challenge karting event on July 1 where we will run two or three of these cars in the interval. But it won’t stop there and other things are planned.
Sad news to start the year
I started the New Year with a holiday with family and friends in Switzerland and was shocked to hear of the terrible accident that Michael Schumacher had. Luck deserted him for a moment. Let’s hope and pray that he comes through this latest challenge. Unfortunately, the sadness didn’t end when we got home and two people who had played a part in my life have both reached the chequered flag.
When our small team at Edenbridge decided to enter Formula 2 for the 1972 season, we got Matchbox to sponsor us, but we didn’t have an engine and Cosworth were only making a limited number of their 2-litre Ford engines for existing customers. That brought us together with Brian Hart. Brian came up with a 1850cc iron-block Ford-based engine and we won the championship together with Mike Hailwood.
For the end of the season he then developed a full aluminium-block 2-litre unit and I fitted it into the TS10 that we had on show at the NEC, and went to the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji, which was for 2-litre cars at the time, and won. The engine was then put into our new 1973 prototype TS15 Formula 2 car and it was off to Brazil to race at the Interlagos Circuit and, with Carlos Pace driving, it won.
In 1973 Jochen Mass, with one of Brian’s engines again, finished second in the European Championship in a TS15 beaten only by the newly introduced works BMW. Brian was a great guy to work with, he had limited resources like most of us at that time, but if there was a way Brian would find it.
A call from a friend told me about the sudden death of John Button, Jenson’s dad. When Henry came back from testing a kart at Buckmore Park and said “Daddy, that’s what I want to do”, we spoke to the late Martin Hines of Zip Kart to get a Cadet chassis and were advised that the man to see about a Comer Cadet engine was John Button. So John looked after us from then onwards.
We stayed in touch and when he and Jenson were trying to make their mind up on how to get into Formula 1 he called me and asked my advice. I suggested the new Williams-BMW could be a good opportunity and I called Frank, who confirmed to me that they had been considering Jenson, and the rest is history. I commiserate with Jenson on his loss.
A new formula
When I entered four-wheeled motor sport in 1960 Colin Chapman said to me, after I had done one or two races: “Drive for me in Formula 1 when you’re not racing a motorcycle,” to which I was committed for the World Championship. It was the last year of the 2.5-litre formula and the Lotus 18 with the Coventry Climax engine in the back was one of the most competitive cars I ever drove.
The superb power characteristics of the engine aiding the driver greatly in setting the car up for a corner. After moving to a 1.5-litre formula the following year it was different. Ferrari had a head start with their V6 engine and largely dominated the season.
I don’t expect that to be the case in 2014. Ferrari will certainly be there and a major player, but Renault and Mercedes will have all been working their utmost to develop both engines and recovery systems. Listening to drivers at the Autosport show they said that they anticipated – with reduced downforce and the new regulations – higher maximum speeds than with the previous 2.4-litre V8 engines. It’s certainly something we didn’t have in 1961.
Drivers will also have to adjust themselves to the new technology and to making the maximum use of it. So it could be an exciting year for those that take an interest in the technical developments and which drivers put it to the best use. The first test will no doubt be of interest, but I don’t expect the teams that are taking part to really show their hand at that stage.
April 26-27 Classic Motorcycle Show at Stafford
May 4-5 Donington Historic Festival
May 26 Edenbridge Fun Day – display and run through High Street of cars from original Team Surtees factory site
June Surtees Display of bikes and cars at Mercedes-Benz World, Brooklands
June 27-29 Goodwood Festival of Speed
July 1 Henry Surtees Brooklands Team Challenge kart event at Mercedes-Benz World
October 8 Henry Surtees Challenge kart event at Buckmore Park
November 17-21 Beaujolais Run
Please visit our website for further details: www.henrysurteesfoundation.com
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