A Dozen of Britain’s brighter hopes for F.1
Motor Racing is a fascinating combination of man and his machine and should continue so for many years to come although it now seems possible that one day our scientists will be able to programme a computer to drive a racing car. The popular press often seems to be preoccupied by the man and to show a complete disregard for the very interesting machine he is driving. Motor Sport tries to restore the balance a little, for we are sure that the great majority or our readers are mechanically minded and interested in the various facets of the design of the modern Grand Prix car.
This does not mean that we ignore the racing driver as a person although we are not prone prominently to feature long articles about drivers telling the world how many baths they have a week and other such trivia. However it is worthwhile to take stock occasionally and see just who the promising young men are. We all know the names of Brabham, Stewart, Hill for they have been with us for some time, but it is interesting to speculate who will replace them in three or four years’ time.
The road to success is constantly changing and the accepted way to the top three or four years ago, the kind of road along which Jackie Stewart rocketed, is now altered. Stewart for instance, started in club sports car racing, progressed to Formula Three, quickly took Formula Two in his stride and was soon in Formula One. The young British tyro with the ambition to race against Stewart and the other Formula One drivers will now almost certainly start in Formula Ford. He will then move up for a season of Formula Three but following this will have to make the choice of either Formula Two or the even more expensive Formula 5000. From there he will move into Formula One.
These days even some Formula Ford drivers are sponsored, most of the successful F.3 drivers receive backing and there are very few driver-owned Formula Two cars. With this wealth of sponsorship from private sources there has been a falling off in Britain of the number of “nursery” teams of Formulae Two and Three run by the various racing car manufacturers although this practice still continues in places like Italy and France. When an English team manager needs a new F.1 driver he simply has to look at the Formula Two (or in the coming season Formula 5000) results and pick his man. Lotus is one of the few teams left which signs up young drivers and trains them as they did with Jack Oliver. Other organisations like Brabham sometimes delegate the duty of running a works car in Formula Two or Three to a private team, perhaps making the loan of a chassis for the season. Cooper used to do this with Ken Tyrrell and Brabham at present has an arrangement to run an F.3 with Sports Motors (Manchester) and McLaren an arrangement with the Church Farm Racing Team to run a McLaren Formula 5000.
We receive scores of letters from young readers asking how they can break into motor racing; some even ask us how to get a Formula One drive. In this article we have selected a dozen of Britain’s most promising drivers and relate how they have reached their present position. Undoubtedly two or three of the dozen will make Formula One sooner or later. Some have already had test drives, others are waiting by their telephones. Some will never quite make the top, so wisely they will channel their racing activities along another direction and perhaps turn out to be leading long distance sports car drivers like David Piper or Paul Hawkins. But the young driver with aspirations for Formula One must tread the path of the lesser single-seater formulae before taking part in Grands Prix.
These twelve drivers are not necessarily the twelve most likely to succeed, for they have been chosen to show varying backgrounds and experience, but they are certainly a dozen of Britain’s brighter hopes.
Graham Birrell is the only Scottish driver who at present looks likely to have any chance of following in the footsteps of Clark and Stewart apart, that is, from his own younger brother, Gerry. The two Glasgow brothers started racing back in 1964 when they purchased a Lotus XI, Graham previously having taken in a few Sprints and terrorised local road users with a hotted-up A40. Even back in 1964 the Birrells made that old Lotus go quickly but it hardly finished a race and for the following year Graham purchased a Cortina. This proved slow but reliable and for the following year he obtained an Anglia into which a large capacity engine was fitted. With the opening of the Ingliston circuit near Edinburgh, Graham became the Scottish saloon champion and he retained the car for a second season. Then last year he obtained sponsorship from the Glasgow main Ford dealers and drove their Escort twin-cam. His continued success on Northern circuits did not go unnoticed but his occasional trips south usually finished with retirements. Meanwhile he had become involved with the famous team of Ecurie Ecosse who were running little Imp powered single-seaters of their own design, built specially for Ingliston. Graham did quite a lot of the test driving and obtained some reasonable race results in the cars and this hard work went well rewarded. For 1969 Ecurie Ecosse were determined to get back into International motor racing and after a lot of skimping and saving found enough money to buy the Formula Two Brabham BT23C raced previously by Jochen Rindt. They have chosen Graham to drive the car and it gives him the chance to really prove himself. He will be jumping in the deep end but if he can stay with the established names once he gets used to the car, then he has a really big future. Readers can see how he fares in his first race with the car at Thruxton on Easter Monday. He still finds time to run a business dealing not only in motor accessories but also in babies’ prams. Thoroughly professional in his approach, 27-year-old Graham could well make a lot of his big break.
Chris Craft was, until a couple of years ago, just another saloon car driver, a fast if somewhat erratic one. Craft, who was born in Cornwall but has lived much of his life in Ilford, had been connected with racing Ford saloons for many years. He worked at Ford and his career started back in 1961 with an Anglia. The following year he painted the car bright orange, which was typical of his flamboyant attitude and started winning club races. He made progress and by 1966 was driving a works sponsored Ford, but it was still an Anglia.
Craft was in a saloon car rut so later in the year he purchased quite cheaply a somewhat uncompetitive Formula Three car and started to gain single-seater experience. The following year a friend who was racing in Italy for a F.3 team recommended Craft to the B.W.A. firm. Unfortunately they lacked finance but at least Craft benefited from the experience and also made regular visits back to Britain to drive Ford saloons. For 1968 he purchased, at a special rate, one of the very successful Formula Three Italian Tecnos, continued with the saloons—this time for the Broadspeed team—and also got a drive in a Chevron-B.M.W. After years, of struggling and being on the brink of success everything fell into place and though Craft stated that he was driving no better, good results came in all three cars and he finished the season with the second place Grovewood Award. He had hoped for a Formula Two drive in 1969: this seems to have fallen through, but heartened by his success in the Chevron, Techspeed Racing have provided him with a Lola T70 Group 4 car and there is also the chance of a Formula 5000 drive. Craft is not perhaps as dedicated to racing as some others, taking plenty of time off to do and talk things other than racing and cars but that does not mean that he lacks ambition. He retains his orange crash helmet from the Anglia days and it could yet be seen poking out of a Formula One.
Peter Gaydon suffered a big set back in 1968 for he had a somewhat unsuccessful year. Instead of progressing into Formula Two he will have to be content with a third year in F.3 but if determination is anything to go by it will not be an insurmountable problem.
Gaydon is the type of racing driver which the society columnists like—went to Harrow, father a diplomat with a title and that sort of thing. He started racing back in 1964 with one of Arthur Mallock’s little U.2 Clubman’s sports cars with the avowed aim that he was going to make the top. He kept the car, which was shared with a friend, for the following year and then in 1966 the pair bought a Lotus 23 sports racer. Gaydon did all the driving and a lot of winning so the obvious step was into Formula Three. In a Brabham which was a year out of date he put in some very good performances and also made his mark in a wet Mallory F.2 race with a very out of date car which had been lent him for the occasion. He finished the season with the third Grovewood Award and a contract in his pocket to drive the latest F.3 Titan backed by some wealthy ex-Harrovians. At the start of 1968 Gaydon was one of the men to beat on paper at least. Perhaps the handling of the Titan did not suit him for though he got a tremendous amount of experience racing on the Continent in a very professional way, major success eluded him. He was offered a late season F.2 drive with one of the less competitive teams and handled the car competently. But at the end of the year none of the major teams rushed an F.2 contract to him. His sponsors are continuing to back him in F.3, this time with a Tecno, and starting the season with fresh confidence should see him back on his self-planned path to the top.
Peter Gethin is the most likely of the dozen in this article to make Formula One. He has already had a test drive with B.R.M. and several other teams are also interested in him. Yet only nine months ago most people would have put Gethin in the “failed to make it” category. Aged 29 and a some-time car dealer, Gethin’s racing history goes way back to 1962. The son of Ken Gethin, the well-known Epsom jockey and trainer, Peter could have followed in his father’s footsteps but a friend, the late Tony Hegbourne, seemed to be having fun racing so Peter decided to follow suit. His early years in racing, first with a Lotus 7 and then with a Lotus 23, proved fruitful and he was definitely a man to watch. In 1965 he was signed up to drive a Formula Three Lotus 22 for the Charles Lucas team, as the third driver to Piers Courage and Jonathan Williams, who both had later Brabham F.3s. It was not a happy first season in single-seater racing for Gethin but he showed sufficient promise to be snapped up the following season by Rodney Bloor’s Sports Motors team. He drove a new Brabham F.3 for them in 1966, showing a good turn of speed and regularly he won club races. But somehow in the bigger meetings his engine always failed him or something else put him out of the running, and he started to wonder if it was all worth it.
In 1967 he continued for Moor again in a Brabham and again ill-luck dogged him whenever he looked like picking up a good result. Occasionally he drove an uncompetitive P.2 and continued to show his skill in sports cars. Despite his lack of major success, another Northern sponsor (Frank Lythgoe) signed him for 1968 to drive F.2 and F.3 Chevrons, both new cars. The season started dismally enough but then Lythgoe decided to swap the Chevrons for well sorted Brabhams.
In the important Monaco F.3 race Gethin finished an excellent second in a Brabham. By mid-season the F.2 Brabham had arrived and although it was prone to retirement, mechanical reliability was achieved for the last three races. Gethin finished the season in grand style. First an International F.3 win at Brands Hatch, followed by three world class F.2 drives. Gethin was right back in the running and, not surprisingly, he landed a good contract for 1969. He will drive for the Church Farm Racing Team both in Formula 5000 with a works-backed McLaren and in F.2 with the latest Brabham.
Tony Lanfranchi has been around longer than any of the other drivers in this article; in fact, his career dates back as far as 1958, but he shows a tremendous amount of talent and skill which could yet land him a plum drive. Strictly he is not British for he holds a Swiss passport, being born of a Swiss father. They are in the confectionery business in Yorkshire and Tony’s own accent smacks strongly of that area despite the fact that he has lived in London for several years.
In his early racing days in Huddersfield he raced sports cars, including a Healey Silverstone, Austin-Healey and then an Elva Courier, in which he was quite successful in 1961. Nationally, he first made his mark in 1963 with an Elva-Ford Mk. VI. He continued to drive Elva sports cars through 1964 and 1965 and in the latter year also got to drive an ex-Formula One Lotus-Climax 24 in club events. Though it was his first single-seater drive he put in some good performances with the car. In 1966 he drove an F.3 Brabham for the racing drivers’ school, where he was, and still is, chief instructor and was also offered plenty of drives in other types of racing machinery. But he did have a rather bad reputation for being a kind of Northern playboy and this worked against him when the important drives were going. He continued in Formula Three saloon and sports-car racing in 1967 and 1968, all with good results, particularly at Brands Hatch, where he became a local favourite. After first driving Hillman Imps for the Alan Fraser team he later drove Formula Three for the same team. In both years Lanfranchi drove Brabham and Merlyn examples, putting the smaller Colchester firm pretty well on the map in Formula Three. At the end of 1968 he was given a non-Championship Formula One drive in a hired B.R.M., although this was a 2-litre, three-year-old example.
His future seems to lie with the Fraser organisation for they are providing him with a Formula 5000 Lola and a Formula Three Merlyn in 1969, and there will also be plenty of other drives in various other machinery. If Lanfranchi can win regularly in the F.5000 he could still make Formula One.
John Miles’ racing career started in V.S.C.C. events with an Austin Nippy back in 1962 when he was in his teens. But the son of Bernard Miles, the actor, soon decided that, though this was fun, he was interested in a more serious form of racing. In 1964 he built up a little Diva GT car and raced it with phenomenal success, and with a similar but larger engine model and the help of Willment, continued the story in 1965. The following year Willment offered him an engine for a new racing Lotus Elan and yet again he was winning regularly and at a higher level than before. Lotus started to show interest and after a successful test session in the winter he was signed up to drive for the Lotus Components team in their latest F.3 and Lotus 47 GT car in 1967.
He took to single-seater racing much more easily than most people would have thought and by the end of the year was really mixing it with the big names. In the GT his success continued with regularity. For last season he was offered a similar deal which became more attractive by mid-season when Gold Leaf Cigarettes decided to back the Formula Three project as well as the GT. Again Milts fulfilled the faith put in him by Lotus, regularly winning in both cars.
He is retained by Colin Chapman for 1969 and, though he may have to continue with F.3 for a while, there will be the occasional F.2 drive when Hill and Rindt are otherwise engaged and the probability of a Formula 5000 by mid-season as well as Lotus’ new Group 6 car. Miles is the only driver of the 12 who wears spectacles, though they are pretty weak. Obviously he would like to drive in Formula One but says the tremendous power of a 7-litre Can-Am car excites him more.
Max Mosley is accustomed to being in the news for he is the 28 year-old son of Sir Oswald. Once Secretary of the Oxford Union and now a barrister, he must be the most eloquent of all racing drivers. Race driving is something fairly new to Mosley for his career only dates back to 1966.
He bought a second-hand U.2 Clubman’s sports car and spent most of the season finding out that motor racing was not nearly as easy as it looked. However, he learnt all the right lessons and for 1967 he turned up with an immaculate brand new U.2. In Clubman’s racing he and another driver dominated the scene that year, with Mosley picking up 12 wins, but his rival the Clubman’s Championship.
The logical step was into Formula Three, but Mosley reckoned that time for him was short and thanks to the help of a relation he had the finance available for a Formula Two. He decided to take the gamble of missing out Formula Three altogether and bought a brand-new Brabham and teamed up with another driver with a similar car. Sometimes Mosley’s results were good, other times his lack of single-seater experience showed, but it looks as if the gamble is beginning to pay off.
For 1969 he has the backing of the large London Lotus dealer, Len Street (Engineering) Ltd., who are providing him with one of the new Lotus F.2s. It will be a make or break season for Mosley, but in most walks of life he seems to get what he wants.
Morris Nunn does not really look like a racing driver and his balding head belies the fact that he is only 29. This one-time garage owner from Walsall is the latest recruit to the Lotus team, having supported the Chapman marque as a private entrant for several years.
After briefly racing motorcycles he purchased an out-of-date Cooper single-seater in 1963 and though he had never been to a car race meeting was soon in the fray, though near the back. But for the following season he received some backing from the Walpres driving mirror people and obtained a very competitive Lotus 23B. Still short in experience, his results were not staggering, but he certainly progressed. The following year he returned to a single-seater and tried to break into F.2 racing by fitting a Cosworth SCA engine into a Lotus R3 chassis. There were various setbacks, so he sold the F.2 engine. and replaced it with a Formula Three. His sponsor, now a boiler manufacturer, continued to back Nunn in 1966, this time with a brand new F.3 Lotus 41. Consistent performances kept him at the forefront of the hotly contested class, but at the end of the season he lost his sponsorship. However, he kept the chassis and provided his own engine and as he is also an excellent mechanic, was able to maintain the car himself.
Through 1967 and 1968 he retained the car and ran it privately, regularly putting up first-rate performances at home and abroad. Midway through the 1967 season he thought his big chance had come when he was asked to drive a Brabham for Tommy Hitchcock, the American. He took part in two Continental races with the car, but fell out with the mechanic (who was the co-owner of the car) after an argument about the preparation of the machine. It was back to the faithful Lotus again. However, during 1968 Lotus took an interest in him, allowing him one drive in the works car when Miles was not available.
He retired, but for 1969 he achieved his racing ambition by being signed by Lotus. He will drive in Formula Three for them and is hoping for an occasional sports-car or F.2 drive.
Alan Rollinson is a close neighbour and friend of Nunn’s and, though he comes from a rather more wealthy background, his career has also had its ups and downs. His first experience of racing was garnered at a racing drivers’ school in 1962 at the early age of 18 and from then on he was convinced that he wanted to be a racing driver. By 1963 he was racing regularly in a Formule Libre Cooper and to such good effect that he was spotted by Cheshire farmer Frank Lythgoe and signed up for 1964. He drove both a Lotus and Brabham, mainly in club events, with much success, although the team suffered a setback when Rollinson’s team mate, Adam Wyllie, was killed in Ireland in 1965. There was another setback in 1966 when an eye injury put Alan in hospital for the early part of the season, but once recovered he continued to drive for Lythgoe and started to re-find his form in the competitive world of F.2.
With the change of Formula Two in 1967 Lythgoe decided to run an F.3 car instead and Rollinson won several of the early races and also had a competitive Formule Libre car from the Lythgoe stable, in which he won several club races. He also drove occasionally in F.2 in an uncompetitive Cooper, again with promise. An accident in the F.3 Brabham, in which he received burns, also set his career back, but at the end of the year the Grovewood Award panel recognised his potential and he won the premier award. But though he won the Grovewood he lost his sponsor and had to look around for another drive
This was not too much of a problem for he was signed to drive the works F.3 Chevron in 1968. Unfortunately the car took a lot of sorting and, though he won one race in East Germany, generally it was a rather unhappy season apart from some good results in a Chevron GT. Right at the end of the season he surprised everyone with an excellent drive in a Merlyn F.2, but rather shortsightedly the team did not contract him for 1969. So he has had to go out and buy himself an F.3 Brabham for this year, although there are some pretty good offers in the wind and he has some good sports-car drives lined up. There is still a lot of potential in Alan Rollinson.
Tim Schenken is the man everyone is talking about as the new Jackie Stewart, for his rise to fame during 1968 has certainly been mercurial. Schenken is an Australian, though his parents now live in England: he actually arrived here in 1966 before they did.
In Australia, this 25-year-old had dabbled in saloon racing, then in 1965 bought a Lotus 18. He hill-climbed and raced it with considerable local success, and when he arrived bright-eyed in England in 1966 he lost no time in offering his services to various teams. They didn’t want to know, but at least the Chequered Flag offered him a job selling cars and helping in their racing team. After a lot of persuasion managing director, Graham Warner, helped him build up an Anglia twin-cam, with which Schenken was moderately successful. Warner also gave him one drive in the team’s very successful Brabham F.3.s at a Silverstone club meeting. In good company he finished eighth, but didn’t exactly shine and never got another go. If he had, Schenken might already be in Formula One.
Instead he scraped together his pennies, bought an old Lotus 22 and modernised it. Considering the age of the car, his results in club F.3 events were really quite staggering, although few people took much notice. Formula Three became too expensive so during the winter of 1967/8 he decided to convert the car for the then new Formula Ford. He never got the chance to drive the car in that trim for he was offered a drive in the very latest Formula Ford Merlyn. He grabbed at that chance and embarked at the start of 1968 on a programme of some 30 odd Formula Ford races. As is very recent history, he was only beaten in three of them. By mid-season there were plenty of offers and he plumped for an F.3 drive in a Chevron with Rodney Bloor, of Sports Motors, and also managed to fit in several drives for Lotus in a GT. He soon found his feet in F.3 again and by the end of the season had swept the board in club F.3, clinched the Lombank F.3 Championship and won the last F.3 International of the year against the best in Europe. Of course he had also won the Formula Ford Championship and took the premier Grovewood Award for 1968.
In 1969 the Bloor team has the blessing of Brabham, in F.3 and it seems highly probable that a Formula Two car will be added to the stable for Schenken in a month or two. Jack Brabham will have to retire some time and Schenken is Australian after all.
Mike Walker at 24 is the youngest of the likely lads, dresses smartly and, as some of his rivals have remarked, looks as if he has just stepped out of an after-shave advertisement. But Walker is one of those people who falls on his feet and, despite a rather dismal year in 1968, has good programme lined up for the coming year, including a sponsored drive in a competitive Formula 5000 car.
His competition career started in 1965 when he hill-climbed a Kieft. He finished the season at the top of some hill, but under the car. Undeterred, he turned to racing in 1965 with an elderly Cooper fitted with a pushrod 1,650-c.c, engine, an ideal beginner’s car in Formule Libre. His performances attracted little attention, but he obviously learnt enough to stand him in good stead for Formula Three in 1966. He started the season with a new Brabham rather slowly, but by mid-season everything had clicked and he finished up with some very good results. In 1967 another Brabham was obtained and he turned further very promising performances without being really outstanding.
However, he had impressed Graham Warner, of the Chequered Flag, who signed him to drive for the works-blessed McLaren F.3 team, which was receiving sponsorship from Scalextric. The season started on a high note with a heat win at Barcelona and then an important victory at Oulton Park on Good Friday. But that was the last time the McLaren went well and three accidents didn’t help either.
Team morale fell as the F.2 cars were also faring badly, but Walker got to drive one towards the end of the season, which was useful experience. Fortunately for Walker, Gloucestershire racing enthusiast and sponsor Alan McKechnie feels there is still a lot of untapped talent and has signed Walker for 1969. As well as the Lola F.5000 car, the team have also built their own monocoque Formula Three car which Mike will race. A dedicated young man, he may well reward his new sponsor.
Peter Westbury, like Walker, started his competition career in hillclimbing, but he reached the top in this form of motoring sport, winning the R.A.C. Hill-Climb Championship in both 1963 and again in 1964. He started hill-climbing six years before and had built his own cars (called Feldays). In 1966 he built a 4-w-d sports car called the Felday 4. Westbury drove the car in a few races and soon got the taste for circuit work as opposed to dashing up hills. The end of Group 7 racing in Britain really put an end to this project and a similar one with a huge 7-litre engine. So for 1967 Westbury decided to have a go in F.3. He formed a team with Mac Daghorn, who had also driven the Felday, and Derek Bell, who is now a Ferrari works driver. Their three Brabhams were-well maintained and well run and scored a great deal of success, Westbury proving an expert on the fast slipstreaming circuits.
For 1968 he had a new Brabham, this time with some sponsorship from Ian Walker, and, though in F.3 racing a Brabham seemed a little outdated, Westbury was their leading protagonist and again was successful at home and abroad. His one drive in an F.2 ended in the Monza multiple accident, but whetted his appetite for this higher class. For 1969 he has bought himself a new F.2 Brabham and you can be sure that this canny, bearded driver will have plenty of good results to show at the end of the year. A little old at 32 for Formula One possibilities, maybe—time will tell.
So there we have 12 British drivers who show plenty of potential for the future, and it is a healthy reflection of racing in this country that one has little trouble in selecting so many promising drivers.
A. R. M