Tom’s little secret
Tom Walkinshaw had a reputation for stretching the regulations – sometimes to breaking point
A friend of mine used to own an ex-TWR team Jaguar XJS. Tom Walkinshaw had launched his TWR concern by modifying BMW 3.0 CSL touring cars, but soon won a contract to campaign Mazdas in the British Touring Car Championship. With Win Percy driving, the TWR Mazda RX-7 won both the 1980 and ’81 titles. Walkinshaw then forged a tie with British Leyland using the Jaguar XJS and the Rover 3500 Vitesse for the BTCC and European Touring Car Championship series. European success, plus the French Championship title, provided the foundation upon which TWR then took prime responsibility for Jaguar’s return to FIA Sports Car World Championship racing in the later 1980s.
Of course the TWR Jaguar XJRs then won the WSCC title outright in 1987-88 and 1991 and won both the Le Mans and Daytona 24-hour races in 1988 and 1990.
The team’s hard-bitten, battle-hardened Scottish commander had always seemed even more prepared than most of his rivals to stretch racing regulations to the extreme. Evidence of this was perhaps overlooked when the XJS my pal acquired was prepared for sale. Why so? He described how his restorers had found under the driver’s seat a rubber bulb connected by pipe to a bladder within the car’s fuel tank. Pump on the bulb and the bladder would inflate, reducing the tank’s capacity when scrutineered to within the maximum allowed. Popping a valve on the bulb would relieve the pressure, the bladder would deflate, and the tank’s over-capacity would return – saving a pit stop in some of the longer races as the big V12 wowed observers with its fuel-mileage capability.
Well, that’s how the story went. One can seldom be absolutely confident that anecdotes one hears in the pub are really well founded. However, when Tom Walkinshaw became a shareholder in the Benetton Formula 1 team in 1991, he sought rapidly to establish himself as a new-found F1 mover and shaker. But no matter how big the beast in the jungle might be, there is often an even bigger beast lying in wait.
At perhaps Tom’s very first Formula 1 constructors’ meeting, Bernie Ecclestone, no less, apparently button-holed him just as the meeting was breaking up and the various team execs were heading for the door. “By the way,” Mr E is alleged to have said: “Don’t try it on too much in Formula 1. We know your cars have had more tanks than Rommel…”
TWR’s chief designer, responsible for the Jaguar XJR series of endurance racing Group C Coupés 1984-91, was the great Tony Southgate. After his departure from the Walkinshaw team he joined Toyota to create for them the TS010 using a new 3.5-litre V10 engine. Tony introduced an entirely new aerodynamic configuration for Japan’s new hope, introducing the tiny bubble canopy roof that later became so familiar. The new car made its debut at Autopolis, Japan, late in 1991, and finished sixth co-driven by Andy Wallace and Geoff Lees.
Through 1992 Toyota and Peugeot slugged it out for the world championship, Toyota being soundly beaten into second place. For 1993, both the World Sports Car Championship and Toyota’s home All-Japan Sports Prototype Championships were cancelled, leaving the TS010s with nowhere to race except Le Mans that year, deploying the biggest budget (by far) in the entire field, but failing yet again. After that race the TS010 was officially retired and Toyota concentrated on IMSA racing in the USA… in which it was rather easier to excel.
Tony Southgate had been staggered by Toyota’s way of racing. When he asked upon his arrival about engine rebuild routines his question was greeted by puzzled frowns. “We do not rebuild engines,” he was told. “We use new ones, once only…”
He also found that the Toyota way was the corporate way, with decisions made big industry-style by committee. While this might – more or less – have worked in rallying’s world championship from 1990-99, amidst the white heat of a world championship endurance racing calendar this was simply a passport to perpetual defeat – and so in effect it proved.
When Toyota then tried to flex its vast industrial and financial muscle in Formula 1 during 2002-2009 its approach and practices became even more of a public embarrassment; for a brand of its prominence and global stature the failure to win at all over such a period was pretty shameful. The stark contrast between tiny little Mazda having won Le Mans in 1991, on something like a $400,000 budget, and Toyota scoring a Le Mans duck despite investment of $20-million plus must certainly have given the Japanese board real pause for thought.
Against this background Toyota deserves considerable credit for trying again with the current TS030/040 Hybrid Coupés, introduced at Le Mans 2012 as the first petrol/electric-engined hybrid design in the World Endurance Championship. This season has seen them overcome rival factory programmes by Porsche and Audi, winning at Silverstone, Spa, Fuji, Shanghai and Bahrain to clinch that long-elusive world championship title, while team-mates Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi became the current world champion drivers. Very well done.
Longford’s risk-ridden Tasman track served up one of the 1960s’ finest single-seater contests
At this time of year the leading Grand Prix drivers used to race down under in the wonderfully evocative Tasman series in New Zealand and Australia. From 1964-69 it catered for Formula 1-style cars with reduced fuel tankage powered by engines limited to no more than 2∞⁄∏ litres.
The category was tailored to accommodate the large number of Coventry Climax four-cylinder FPF engines that had been sold to Antipodean owners of predominantly Cooper chassis, with a sprinkling of new Brabham frames also finding eager custom. The engines were being reproduced by Climax licensee Repco of Melbourne. Team Lotus and BRM both supported the Tasman Championship and even Ferrari had a successful dabble come 1968-69.
But of all the Tasman Championship races ever run, perhaps the greatest was the 1965 Australian GP at Longford, Tasmania. Not only was the island’s 4∞⁄∏-mile farmland circuit laid out on public country roads, including two corners over timber-fenced bridges and a tricky ess-bend beneath a brick-built railway viaduct, but it was also blindingly fast – ‘The Reims of the Pacific’ indeed.
And the 1965 Australian GP there featured no fewer than four F1 world champion drivers: Jimmy Clark (Lotus 32B), Jack Brabham and Graham Hill in Brabham BT11As, and Phil Hill in the Bruce McLaren Motor Racing team’s second-string (McLaren-concept) Cooper – all with four-cylinder Climax engines.
Bruce himself led Jack Brabham (just) in the opening laps, being timed at 272kph – 169mph – on the flying mile straight. Graham Hill in David McKay’s red-liveried Scuderia Veloce Brabham lay third with Clark’s Lotus and Phil Hill’s Cooper swapping fourth place to and fro between them. Jack took the lead, Bruce retook it, Brabham (above) broke the lap record, McLaren lapped a half-second faster.
Graham Hill latched onto Jack’s tail, and the pair sailed into Mountford Corner to find Roly Levis’s little Brabham BT6 in their path. Jack took the outside line to pass, only for Levis to lock up and slither straight into the BT11A’s flank, bundling them both down the escape road. Jack swept into the pits where his mechanics found a wheel-rim chip missing, complete with balance weight.
Jack rejoined fifth behind Clark, and put in a series of simply shatteringly rapid laps to recover. Up front, McLaren was faster. Phil was also flying, grabbing third from Clark, but both were being caught by Brabham who displaced the Lotus and latched onto Phil’s tail. At Tannery Corner Brabham overtook after lapping in 2min 18.7sec, but on the Tannery Straight Phil repassed, setting a new record at 2min 18.2sec. Jack regrouped, took the deepest of breaths, and responded with a 2min 18.0sec – over 117mph average – to set another new Longford lap record.
Up front, Bruce McLaren’s clutch was beginning to slip. Phil was signalled to defend his team leader, retook Brabham, then outbraked Graham Hill into Mountford. The two Firestone-shod white Coopers were first and second. With three laps to run Brabham displaced Phil on the flying mile and closed on the slowing McLaren. Phil Hill came back at Jack Brabham, but at the flag Bruce just won, by 3.3 seconds from Jack, Phil and Graham Hill, with Jim Clark fifth.
Too often forgotten today, this 1965 Tasman classic had been one of the greatest single-seater races of the 1960s, bar none. What price Formula 1?
Two photographs from DSJ’s collection raise more questions than they answer
At the end of Maserati’s centenary year, so memorably celebrated at the Goodwood Revival Meeting, I was hunting for something in Denis Jenkinson’s archive when a tiny little photographic print slipped from a buff envelope. It recorded a line-up of four big pre-war Maserati GP cars, and had ‘Torino 1947’ scribbled inkily onto its face. I flipped it over and on the back found the following: “This is not the start of a race but all the property of one owner in Torino, Italy, & are for sale at the present time. These 3-litre cars are only used for hill climbs nowadays. The car marked X is the same as the one in the accompanying photograph (sadly no longer attached). 23-9-47 L.J.F.”.
Well, I know that the initials are those of ‘Jock’ Finlayson, the very highly rated British racing mechanic of the period, who had been with Dick Seaman and later Hans Ruesch pre-war. Not all of the cars look like 3-litre models, but never mind close scrutiny. We have no way of knowing whether he sent the print to a potential buyer here at home, or indeed to this magazine for publication. But the 1947 line-up of modified body Maseratis that he captured is indeed fascinating.
I believe they came probably from Piero Dusio’s Scuderia Torino team which was in jeopardy at that time as the flamboyant entrepreneur’s hyper-ambitious Cisitalia empire was stumbling towards collapse. He needed all the customer interest he could generate, and Jock was probably just one of those spreading the news…
And accompanying this tiny print in that buff envelope was a larger shot taken by Jenks himself and captioned on the reverse ‘French oddity c.1956’. This would disqualify the car in question from being the freshly rebodied Ian Metcalfe Barnato-Hassan Bentley ‘Whale’ – which it resembles – but I wonder if any of our readers can identify what it really might be?