Flashback: Jenks talks pistons with BMW

For two decades Maurice Hamilton reported from the F1 paddock with pen, notebook and Canon Sure Shot camera. This month we’re in BMW’s Munich racing department, with an ever-inquisitive Jenks asking about F1 pistons


Maurice Hamilton

It’s 25 years this month since Motor Sport’s continental correspondent Denis Jenkinson (DSJ) went off to roam the celestial paddock and meet his old motoring mates. I took this shot in August 1982 during a visit to BMW’s racing department in Munich. Jenks is discussing a piston from the M12/13 F1 engine with an engineer as competitions manager Dieter Stappert looks on. Even though I had commissioned DSJ to write a piece on F1 turbocharging for Autocourse, my main interest lay not with technical talk, but in events before and after the visit.

With the German and Austrian grands prix a week apart, we had followed a familiar pattern by taking a gentle road trip between Hockenheim and the Österreichring. Jenks always insisted I drove (“You’ve got younger eyes than me”) while he provided loose directions which often amounted to jabbing a chubby finger at the windscreen and saying: “Straight on, you can’t miss it!” Or, pointing to a side road and musing: “Wonder where that goes? Let’s go and have a look.”

On this occasion we had more of a sense of purpose. Our itinerary also included an automotive collection in Sinsheim and the NSU museum in Heilbronn, Jenks providing explanations and priceless anecdotes, many garnered from years spent as a sidecar rider racing around Europe. His experience of two- and four-wheel competition came into play when we then went west of Stuttgart and completed a couple of laps of Solitude.

The road circuit had hosted motorbike racing and non-championship F1 events before being deemed too dangerous. It was easy to see why. Running through a forest, the roughly triangular layout was very fast in places. The uphill return section to the start-finish had a relentless series of sweeping bends which, as DSJ pointed out, were difficult to distinguish one from the other. Jenks thoroughly approved of Solitude. It seemed appropriate to him that the final F1 race in 1964 had been won – in pouring rain – by Jim Clark.

DSJ’s race report is worth reading via our online archive. For a writer who avoided exaggeration, his description of track conditions as “a veritable holocaust” leaves little to the imagination. You realise the current F1 fraternity would no more consider racing in similar weather than allowing open engine shop access to a couple of journalists – even if one of them wouldn’t have known a camshaft if he fell down one.

Read the race report