Sounds of the Sixties




I have just finished reading the Jim Clark memorial edition of Motor Sport which includes your excellent piece on the sounds of Grand Prix Racing.

I have a couple of comments to make. Being one of those people born and bred in the far-flung corners of the then Empire, I had to follow Grand Prix racing from a distance. As a teenager I joined the ORMA (Owen Racing Motors Association) for the princely sum of ten shillings. I was sent a lapel badge and some pamphlets which were read and re-read by a small group of enthusiasts as we waited for news of the BRM’s fortunes. We had only photographs and our imaginations to dream with.

In 1961 or ’62 a BRM Mark II was sent out to South Africa to do a demonstration run at the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami. I remember the great anticipation and excitement with which we waited to see the magnificent car. Around midday, Graham Hill appeared in his familiar helmet and the car was push started down the main straight bursting into what was probably the most wonderful noise I had ever heard from a racing car. I don’t think Hill ran more than a couple of laps, but the sound of that V16 rising and falling around the Kyalami circuit remains with me to this day. It was a culmination of many, many years of anticipation. To imagine a car like this running on a silencer is to try and explain Rembrandt to a blind man.

Another recollection I have of the early ’60s also takes place at Kyalami. It was practice and I was trudging through the late afternoon sunlight towards the “Esses” clutching a book by Louis T Stanley which I had hoped to have autographed by a number of the drivers. I suddenly saw a slight figure in light blue overalls running towards me and eventually the man drew up to stand next to me, his gaze fixed intently on other cars going through the turns. It was Jim Clark. He had just set fastest lap, and had run down from the pits, I presume to watch the lines taken by the others through that difficult section. I asked him if he would sign my book, and he graciously acceded. It was then I realised that Grand Prix drivers experience the same intense excitement and adrenalin as do we poor mortals. As he signed the photograph, Jimmy’s hand was shaking, and I still have it endorsed ”With best wishes, Jim Clark” in a very shaky style. Clearly the adrenalin arising from that fast lap was still coursing through his veins! What a great gentleman. He paused for a few minutes to chat, and then turned and jogged back to the pits.

Great memories of a great sport.

Andrew Embleton,
Pretoria, R S A.