PR exercises at Jaguar
From acting as a translator to following Moss on the Mille Miglia, Jaguar’s veteran PR man Bob Berry was never short of a job or two…
For some 30 years through the Jaguar car company’s heyday, Robert Emanuel ‘Bob’ Berry was the engaging head of the company’s publicity and promotions department. At weekends he also proved himself an extremely quick and capable racing driver — not least in Jack Broadhead’s privately entered D-type, although his competition career was punctuated by some quite sizeable accidents.
Bob had joined Jaguar via a quite unusual route. His mother was the French headmistress of a school at Bethune, Northern France, and Bob studied modern languages at Cambridge where he was an avid reader of motoring magazines, and read of Jaguar entering cars at Le Mans, 1951. That same month he was going on a holiday course at Grenoble, and he just took a chance and wrote to ‘Lofty’ England, Jaguar’s celebrated service and racing manager, and offered his services as an interpreter, fluent in French, happy to stop by at Le Mans en route to Grenoble.
Bob recalled: “To my astonishment Lofty replied, saying ‘Yes — report to the Hotel de Paris, Le Mans, where we will be staying. I am sure we could use you.’ So I reported there as potential go-for and from that instant forward doubt I saw a bed until the following Monday.
“I was sent to buy all the bits they had forgotten to take with them, and quickly realised that Jaguar were not just short-handed there, they were desperately short of help.
“They had three cars, one mechanic per car. I vividly remember Bill Heynes — the chief engineer — standing at a bench in a dingy Le Mans garage looking at a piece of aluminium sheet that he was about to form into a beautiful cowling for the back of a C-type headlamp. He later admitted he hadn’t touched a panel basher’s hammer since his apprenticeship at Humber, but to see the director of engineering tapping out a headlamp nacelle, while a new boy [me] was being sent around to buy the bits, it really shows how sparse the Jaguar presence at Le Mans was.”
Of course the two Peters, Whitehead and Walker, brought their C-type home to score Jaguar’s first Le Mans 24 Hours race win. That success highlighted the British industry’s dismal record elsewhere on the international racing scene, in which although Cooper dominated 500cc Formula 3, and HWM was punching above its weight on a shoestring budget in Formula 2, BRM’s V16s were an unraceworthy near-embarrassment in Formula 1.
So to be associated with such success as Jaguar’s win at Le Mans left Berry more or less entranced. Having completed two years’ national service he was also unimpressed by the notion of returning to university, and when Lofty England invited him to work at Jaguar for a couple of months, and then offered a full-time position, “I went to work with them as only the second management trainee they ever had… an experiment they never repeated. I worked in the sales department as translator of French documents, then gravitated to press and PR under Bill Rankin, and then took over PR while Bill did advertising.
“But everybody had two jobs — I did all the timekeeping at the races.” In fact Jaguar’s way of going racing was always peerlessly costconscious, and Le Mans could be really challenging in more ways than one: “Before the start each of us would be handed a white cardboard box containing something like an apple, an orange, three sandwiches, a piece of cake and a bottle of Fanta or Vichy water. And that was it for 24 hours!”
Another Bob Berry reminiscence throws more light upon the way Jaguar went racing, and upon Sir William Lyons’ management style. When contemporary works team leader Stirling Moss pressed for an entry in the 1952 Mille Miglia, Bob recalled: “He was very anxious to do it as a run-up to Le Mans and to measure our performance against the new Mercedes-Benz 300SLs.” So Jaguar was rather railroaded to enter a car in the Mille Miglia — and it was done in typical Jaguar style. The lone works C-type was driven out to Brescia by Norman Dewis, accompanied by a Mark VII saloon with Bob, mechanic Frank Rainbow and Harold Hodkinson of Dunlop — in charge of the C-type’s highly experimental disc brakes: “Moss flew out to Milan, and we all stayed at Count Maggi’s place in Brescia. I was sent out in effect as a very junior team manager. We had no time nor budget to do a full reconnaissance but Moss and Dewis did the first 250 or 300 miles in the Mark VII. I decided we’d set ourselves up in Rome with all the parts, on the basis that if the car got that far we might be able to get it back to Brescia.
“So we drove overnight down to Rome and Moss duly appeared mid-race in a state of incoherent excitement, while Norman Dewis wandered around not feeling very well — he was being slowly poisoned with carbon monoxide because one of their several off-road excursions had split one of the flexible exhaust joints. The scene at the Rome control and service area was a bit like Christians being thrown to the lions. The whole square was surrounded by enormous stands packed with Italians who cheered the arrival of any Italian car fit to burst, while any British cars were greeted in virtual silence.
“We changed the C-type’s wheels and juryrigged its exhaust system and encouraged Moss to keep it going. I was in two minds about letting it go on. We could see its whole underside was fairly crinkled. We had a pass to follow the course while the race was on, so we piled into the Mark VII and asked at every checkpoint if they’d gone through. We got to within about a hundred miles of Brescia before we realised they hadn’t appeared.
“We couldn’t find them anywhere, so we finally returned to Brescia, at a loss. About four hours after we got back Moss and Dewis arrived in a taxi, for which — quite reasonably — they expected me to pay.
“Only then did we learn that they’d gone off the road again and broken the steering box away. But our car had been clearly slower than the Mercedes 300SLs on the fast bits down past Ancona, Ravenna and down to Pescara — and that discovery precipitated the aerodynamic redesign which triggered our Le Mans disaster a couple of months later. The irony is that if we’d used the 1951-shape cars with the ’52 engine mods they would certainly have been fast enough to win again. That taught Jaguar the lesson that we applied ever after, which was that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Yet Berry recalled another legacy of that Mille Miglia race day in Rome: “We were about to pack up when Leslie Johnson — driving a Nash-Healey — arrived looking totally lost and forlorn. There was nobody there to help him. He was obviously at a complete loss, so I beckoned him in and we refuelled him. We had a couple of tyres the same size as his, which I gave him, and sent him back into the race. He made it to the finish.
“Then on the way home in the Mark VII we ran out of money. I had to sell four tyres to Peignaux, our distributor in Lyons, for cash so I could buy the fuel to get us home. When I got back I was in some trouble. I had to account for why we returned with four tyres fewer than we’d used, and I explained I’d had to sell them to buy fuel because otherwise we were left with no money and 500 miles still to drive in a Mark VII with an empty tank. Norman had filled it up with 40 gallons to get us all the way back to Coventry — and up to the north of Scotland if needs be — without appreciating we were strapped for cash, so we had a bit of an altercation and the only answer was for me to go to Peignaux.
“Back home I duly made my report, and about a fortnight later I was talking to Sir William about something else when he suddenly said, ‘By the way, what’s your explanation for this?’ And he held up a letter headed ‘Donald Healey Motor Company’. He looked at me with a dead straight face. He had blue eyes, and he looked straight through me. And you knew you were in trouble if he didn’t blink. And he wasn’t blinking…
“So I read the letter, and it was about the Mille Miglia, and I admitted I had given them a couple of tyres and the wheels as well, and I had also given them our surplus fuel.
“He said ‘Wasn’t that a competing car?’ I said, ‘Well, yes, I suppose you could say that, but it wasn’t in the same league as the Moss/ Dewis car.’ He said, ‘Hmm — well, he made it back didn’t he?’
“Er, yes Sir William.’
“And on our tyres too?’
“Well… Yes, Sir William.’
“And using some of our fuel?’
“Oh — aah — yes, Sir William.”
And then the blue-eyed Jaguar chief said: “Hmm — I thought that was extremely generous of you Berry, but I’m not sure I’d like to see you do it again…”
Signs of Ferrari promise that the frustrated Amon missed
Chris Amon must hate being described as one of the most unlucky Formula 1 drivers of all time particularly since he has survived to tell his tale, and so many of his contemporaries did not. But it’s a fact. Luck did not smile upon him very often, though he still shared Ford’s first Le Mans win, in 1966, and the Daytona 24 Hours and Monza 1000Kms for Ferrari in ’67, followed by the BRDC International Trophy and non-championship Argentine Grand Prix in March 701 and Matra respectively.
This record certainly does not reflect the stature he achieved in period, nor the numerous races which he led, and indeed sometimes utterly dominated, only for something to spoil his day. He once told me how when his Matra MS120D began to swerve and wobble around on a deflating tyre when dominating the 1972 French Grand Prix at Clermont-Ferrand he finally concluded, “That’s it I’m never going to be allowed to win one…”
He evidently came to much the same conclusion at the end of his typically luckless period as Ferrari’s team leader in 1968-69. The team’s ageing 3-litre V12-engined cars simply fell off the tightrope. Engine failures in South Africa, Spain and France, transmission in Monaco and at Silverstone, and entry withdrawn pre-race in Germany added no gloss to his only Grand Prix finish that year third place in Holland.
And then late that year he began testing a replacement flat-12-engined car that became the superb Ferrari 312B. Looking back today, Chris recalls: “During the 1968 season we had been pretty competitive as a team and individually. In fact with a little luck we could have been competing for the championship. The car was very good even without the benefit of the big suspensionmounted wings that Lotus produced and which Ferrari himself wouldn’t countenance on safety grounds. On the other hand the engine was very average compared to the DFV and comparatively thirsty.
“One of the real strengths of the team was Mauro Forghieri, a great engineer very experienced and a realist, which wasn’t always the case there. At the end of the ’68 season he was appointed head of a new design group to come up with a completely new chassis and engine. They worked in an office in Modena and so were completely divorced from the ’69 Fl team. Mauro’s absence was one of the reasons the season became such a disaster. The car became increasingly uncompetitive and unreliable to the point that after Silverstone I suggested we miss the next races and wait for the new car, which would hopefully be ready for Monza.
“The new 312B did, from memory, share a few components with the V12 I believe the cylinder head and valve design was the same and maybe the piston and rod as well. However Forghieri and some others there had by then realised that the DFV engine’s success was partly due to its lower power losses from internal crankcase pressures and oil scavenging which were less than the V12’s. They put great emphasis on reducing those losses, so the new flat-12 had things like four-main needle-roller bearing crankshaft and an oil/ air separator pump…
“I first drove it at Modena in early August, I think, but couldn’t form much of an opinion because it broke its crankshaft on the second or third lap. I think I then drove it again at Modena later in August with a similar result, and then in a critical test to decide if it would go to Monza for the Italian GP. I seem to recall completing a few more laps than before, but it still all ended in another broken crankshaft.
“That day probably was to a degree the final straw. Not too long after, I chose to join March, a decision I soon came to regret. Looking back, I have often thought, why did I not have more faith in Forghieri’s ability to turn things around? Probably I did, but maybe I doubted he would be able to overcome Ferrari’s contemporary system. I was also extremely frustrated with the lack of results and thought I couldn’t stand another season like the last.
“Technically, two things I remember well which should have influenced my thinking at the time: one was that the oil temperature ran around 85deg C against the old V12 which within two laps at Modena was normally close to 110deg C, meaning the new engine really was scavenging properly; and secondly the flat-12 was something like 15km/h quicker on the straight than the V12, probably for the same reason.”
Within a year of Chris’s decision to join March, Jacky lckx and Clay Regazzoni in Ferrari 312Bs won four of the last five GPs of 1970, with three 1-2 finishes. Philosophically, the great Kiwi recalls: “I guess it will always be very much a case of what might have been, but looking on the positive side if I had made a different decision I would have missed all those wonderful conversations I had with Max the following year…”
Always look on the bright side…