Once I knew that the May edition of Motor Sport was to contain an article on the Brabham-Repcos, I looked forward to the issue with greater than usual anticipation.
However, the real treat was the article by Mike Scarlett about the early Brabham team, and the photographs brought back many memories. Having worked at Brabham during the summer of 1963 I managed to persuade my father that my public school education would be better spent as a full-time employee at Brabham. Jack was at that time my schoolboy hero but my father reluctantly consented only when Ron Tauranac had agreed to give me an ‘apprenticeship’, and so I started work with Brabham in December 1963.
My harsh boarding school education prepared me for the very tough environment where an ex-public schoolboy was considered to be a waste of space (and I was), but thanks to the tolerance of Peter Wilkins, the pity of Mike Scarlett and David Mills and the many thick ears from Denny Hulme, Frank Gardner, Paul Hawkins et al, I developed a means of survival, and ultimately was allowed to attend many races as ‘the boy’.
Although very austere compared to the luxury expected today, it was the best schooling a young man could have received, and my memories of the ’60s, the great drivers and all the characters, together with the intense hard work, made that the best period in my 42 years in motorsport.
The other wonderful memory you provided came from the article about Tom Sneva. Having finally left Brabham in 1974 to join Penske, I was a mechanic on Tom’s car for most of the time he drove for us. In those days we only had two mechanics per car and we built the machine too, so when Tom hit the wall the night before qualifying Derrick Walker and I were the ones who worked all night to rebuild the chassis. It really was a complete reconstruction of the front frame, and Indianapolis Gasoline Alley was an eerie place during the early hours with no-one else about.
Tom had been the first person to record 200mph at Indy, so there was a huge expectation and over 300,000 turned up for the occasion. We finally finished the repair just prior to pre-qualifying practice, and with blue tape all over the front of the tub Tom recorded another 200mph lap within a few laps and the crowd went wild. After he qualified on pole, in a record time, a spectator ran out of the crowd and poured 200 silver dollars into the cockpit, and the engraved money clip Tom had made for the crew remains one of my most precious possessions.
I had to smile at several of Tom’s comments about racing for Team Penske as it demonstrated, clearly, that team members and drivers often have different recollections about the same events. Ever thus!
Wonderful news about the return to the green cover. Never mess with quality.
Nick Goozée, Penske Cars, Poole