Ruby’s lost trio
I very much enjoyed the Lloyd Ruby profile (May issue). Trivia question: who is the only driver other than Jim Clark to win a race in the vaunted Lotus 38? Answer: Ruby, Langhorne 100, in 1967. Earlier that year, Ruby gave the new turbocharged Offy its first win, at the Phoenix 150.
The author points out that in the 1968 Indy 500 Ruby “had the race in the bag with nine laps to go when the coil went dead.” Ruby also had the ’66 race in the bag until sidelined with mechanical failure. In ’69 he was battling for the lead with eventual race winner Mario Andretti until the final round of pitstops, when the fuel hose failed to disengage and ripped open his fuel tank as he pulled away.
With more luck Ruby might have won as many as three Indy 500s.
A hero and a mate
The news of Gerry Marshall’s death during a test at Silverstone reached us when we were on holiday in Scotland. While we were shocked (Gerry somehow seemed indestructible), Frances Mary and I had a sneaking suspicion that if Gerry had had any choice in his demise this would have been his preference.
I first saw Gerry in action at Lydden Hill in his TVR and Lotus Elan in 1966. I thought then that here was a driver who combined spectacular technique with devastating speed — a rare combination. People flocked to the best vantage points to watch Gerry. I know because I joined them on that day.
Fate decreed that Gerry tested my 850 lightweight Mini one day in late summer 1966 at Snetterton — he pronounced it the best-handling Mini he had driven. It was up for sale, so Gerry went halves with Ken Ayres and promptly won first time out. The following season was the first year of the 1258 Shaw & Kilburn Viva Special. It took us most of that season to make the engine run reliably at around 90bhp. I asked Gerry to test it at Snetterton in September. Again, he thought the handling first class.
We both had a hidden agenda that day. We knew that a 2-litre OHC Viva GT was due to appear at the end of that year. Having established that the HB Viva had a good chassis, we both realised that it was only a matter of time before a big-engined Viva was destined to become a dominant force in saloon car racing. We shook hands there and then and never looked back.
And the rest, as the saying goes, is history. Ex-Vauxhall Service man Gerry Johnstone joined our team part time in early summer, full time in October 1968. He was soon followed by Geoff Hall and Dick Waldock, plus many others to strengthen our team around Gerry. Our single purpose at our new Shepreth premises was to bulldoze development to provide Marshall with the means to win races outright. The first overall victory came at Lydden in July ’68 with the 2-litre S&K Viva GT.
The Viva slant engine was progressively increased via 2.2 to 2.3 to an ultimate 2.6 litres in 1971. The more grunt we fed Gerry’s right foot the more he obliged by stamping his authority on and over competing drivers in the Special Saloon category. A trickle soon increased to a flood as our team at Shepreth provided Gerry Marshall with race-winning cars, based on the Firenza, Ventora and Magnums of that era. Having already scored over 100 outright wins with the up to 2.6 fours, he monopolised the V8 brigade with our DTV 5.0 V8 Baby Bertha in the ultimate Super Saloons category. Come sun, rain, hail or snow Gerry’s car control bordered on the miraculous.
While a hard man on the tracks, Gerry could be generous, funny and exceedingly good company at all other times. His bar antics are well documented, he was always the centre of attraction wherever he went, instantly recognised by one and all. He had a perfect memory for people and their names, a fact that endeared him to all the staff at Shepreth, many of whom he met at Dick Waldock’s funeral at the end of January. Gerry Marshall was a good mate. He will be greatly missed.
The Editor’s cut
I found the ‘Wheel to Reel’ feature in Motor Sport (June issue) fascinating, but where were The Racers, Mask of Dust and The Green Helmet, the latter of which features Sir Jack Brabham and Sid James?
I would love to see The Young Racers released on DVD, as I would Grand Prix (laden with extras please, MGM). Could the BBC’s Whicker’s World — How They Filmed Grand Prix, shown on BBC1 and 2 in 1967, be considered too?
In closing, I would like to bring the recent DVD release of Ice Station Zebra to the attention of Motor Sport’s readers. There is a feature of about eight minutes on cameraman John Stephens, and almost one minute of this shows behind the scenes of Grand Prix at Monaco, Spa and Monza.
One of many letters on our movie feature. We never intended to include every racing film, only a selection of the best and worst. Glad to see it provoked a response — Ed
How wonderful it was to see Richard Heseltine’s story of Aston Martin RHAM1 (June issue). I well remember first seeing the car at the 1977 Silverstone Six Hours where, as a 12-year-old schoolboy, I donated my hard-saved pocket money (£5 as I recall) to the effort.
Imagine my surprise the following week when an advert appeared in my local paper, asking me to get in touch with Robin. He very generously invited me along to see the car at his workshop, presenting me with a team T-shirt as a memento (I still have it, unworn, although it is now somewhat small for me!).
Many years later I was the owner of one of the Nimrod Group C cars — the unfinished NRA C3, which had an incredible carbon-composite tub (including roof and pillars, years before Ford’s Probe GTP). The 200-plus drawings of the car were done by hand by future Panoz and Lister designer Andrew Thorby.
I can only agree with Robin’s comment that the story is “a book ready for the making” — a magnificent effort that took a British car to Le Mans and one that deserved far more support than it ever received.
I was lucky enough to win the Motor Sport competition visit with Club Volante to Italy for the Mille Miglia. It was a classic racing enthusiast’s week in heaven.
Club Volante was the perfect host, providing a number of cars for our use including a 1955 Austin Healey 100/4 and a 1979 Ferrari GT4 Dino. Italy provided the perfect roads and the Italians provided the food and wine when we could be persuaded out of the cars. The atmosphere was perfect for fellow enthusiasts to swap stories of the past and contemplate the future.
Save your pennies and visit Italy with Club Volante for the Mille Miglia — it could be the high point in your motoring life. Thank you again for this opportunity.
A sister’s response
Since my brother Cliff Allison died in April we have read with interest some very kind things written about him. Inevitably small errors creep in and are copied from one article to another. To keep the record straight, please may I point out one or two things in your article on page 14 of the June edition?
Firstly, thanks for the nice picture. Cliff told me that it was taken while he was waiting to start the TT at Goodwood in 1958. Also, well done to note the pole-winning time at the German Grand Prix at Avus — not a lot of people know that!
He was born and lived all his life in Westmorland, now Cumbria. He had no claims to Northumbria or the North East. However, his co-driver at Le Mans in 1957, Keith (not Ken) Hall does hail from there.
Cliff scored his and Lotus’s first points in 1958, but not at Monaco where he was sixth. According to my data book, points were only awarded to the first five in those days so he scored in Belgium with that historic fourth place. Also, his accident at Spa in 1961 was in practice, not the race itself.
On the subject of points, Cliff scored 11 World Championship points. I calculate that by today’s rules he would have had 26. I wonder on what basis you showed the points of the highest-scoring Britons on your Fact File box in the May magazine? Stirling Moss and Graham Hill were racing during the same era as Cliff so, by today’s system, they would have scored many more. Finally, I refer to the letter from Tony Brunskill in the June issue and would like to reinforce his request for material about my brother.
Thanks for setting those matters straight. The points in the Fact File were based on those awarded by the FIA, though we appreciate the system has changed — Ed
Life after FF1600
Simon Taylor asks whatever happened to Fritz Kreutzpointner (June issue). Well, he partnered one Michael Schumacher and Karl Wendlinger at the Le Mans 24 Hours with Mercedes in 1991, finishing fifth, and won the European Truck Racing Championship for MAN in the late 1990s.
So his star didn’t wane completely — it just left the single-seater orbit.