Legends

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

It is true what they say about time accelerating as you get older. When I go to Barcelona for this season’s Spanish Grand Prix, it will be 30 years, almost to the day, since I first covered a motor race, and it seems to have gone by in a beat. It was the April of 1971 when I started, and the venue was also Barcelona — albeit at the magnificent parkland circuit at Montjuich, rather than the bland Autodromo de Catalunya.

Perhaps I should make it clear right away that this was not the end of along, hard struggle. Very far from it, in fact. At the time I was without. a job, having escaped the shackles of industry a few months earlier. It had long been my airy resolution to become a racing journalist, and eventually I concluded I had to resign, thereby obligating myself to do something about it.

That said, things were looking decidedly shaky as 1971 loomed. Some time before, I had written to Simon Taylor, then the editor of Autosport, and received from him a charming letter inviting me to do club reports from such as Castle Combe. Taylor had missed the point, I felt; had he not understood I was talking about Formula One? My dismay was no rival for my naivety.

By early spring, the situation was getting serious. The Labour Exchange was on the horizon, and I rather doubted there was much demand for grand prix reporters, no previous experience necessary. Almost as a last resort, I dropped a line to Car and Driver in New York; it was the best thing I ever did.

At that time, the magazine was without a racing journalist in Europe, which was fortuitous. More than that, though, my letter found its way to Caroline Hadley, the managing editor. She was originally from England, and that was good, but what was better was that she didn’t bin my note. If you want to take a chance, she said, go to Barcelona — on your own coin — and write a story for us; if we like it, we’ll run it — and if we run it, we’ll pay you for it.

After the euphoria had subsided, I panicked. Where to begin? I had no contacts in motor racing, didn’t even know how to set about getting a press pass. At the Oulton Park nonchampionship race on Good Friday, I approached Rob Walker for advice.

He was delightful — of course — and endlessly patient, suggesting hotels in Barcelona, giving me the address of the organising club, and counselling me about the right approach: “They tend to get a bit excitable down there, but you’ll be all right if you don’t argue with them.”

The roads being rather less dogged in those days, I decided it would be the work of a moment to drive from Regents Park Road to Barcelona. At the time I had a Lotus Elan, red with gold bumpers, subdued as a Mafia wedding, and about as capricious. Like all Elans, it went when it felt like it, which was not always. Hardly the ideal vehicle for a trip to Spain, but I never gave that a thought. All day I pounded through France, and through the evening kept putting off the idea of looking for an hotel. Narbonne. Perpignan. And finally, late in the evening, the Spanish border.

There was a café there — and parked outside was the Ferrari transporter. It was as if I’d scripted the trip. I went in, for coffee and armagnac, and somehow got into conversation with Giulio Borsari, chief mechanic of legend. “Right colours, wrong make,” he said on seeing my Lotus, and then he went to the truck, dug out a Ferrari Yearbook from 1970, and presented it to me.

Back on the road, I now felt I could drive for ever, and at three in the morning arrived in Barcelona, parked on the only available spot — a building site — and slept in the car. Next morning I followed Rob Walker’s instructions, collected a pass without too much difficulty, then drove up to Montjuich Park, which sits on a hillside overlooking the city. That day will stay with me always. In dazzling sunlight I wandered about among my gods, too shy at first to speak to Ickx or Siffert, Stewart, Regazzoni or Rodriguez. It was enough simply to be there.

In a side street by the track, I came upon the Ferrari transporter again, and there were three gorgeous 312Bs parked at the kerb. While I gazed, feeling all was right with the world, I realised someone was sitting in the last of them, number six. Andretti! There was no-one else around, and I felt almost like a voyeur as he shuffled in the cockpit, gripped the wheel, played with the gear lever, adjusted the mirrors. Never try persuading me there was ever a driver who loved racing cars more than Mario.

In the paddock I thanked Rob for his help. He proceeded to introduce me to every member of the team, and I felt as though a mountain had been climbed.

Next morning I got a similar response from Chris Amon. These two, the first people in the business to befriend me, have not unnaturally remained high in my affections.

Thirty years ago, the age of uniformity had still to arrive in Formula One, and the three practice sessions — all timed — were run in early evening; under a low sun they came out finally to take on this most spectacular and daunting of all street circuits. At more than 150mph they turned slightly left past the pits, immediately launching themselves over a crest, then plummeting downhill to a left-hand hairpin.

It was here, in 1969, that the tall, flimsy rear wings on the Lotus 49s had failed, causing huge accidents to both Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt And it was at this point, too, in 1975, that Rolf Stommelen’s rear wing fluttered away, his car then somersaulting over the barriers. Several marshals were killed, and with them died their magnificent circuit.

There were no disasters in 1971, however, despite the air of manana which hung over the place. The race started half an hour an late, which these days would have meant a massive fine from the FIA, but TV schedules were not a consideration then, and no-one seemed to mind. On the front row the Ferraris of Ickx and Regazzoni were joined by Amon’s screaming Matra, but by the first corner Stewart’s Tyrrell had already come cleanly through to second place behind Ickx. They were not friends, these two, but their fight was clean, Stewart eventually taking the lead before the hairpin on lap six, the two cars for an unforgettable second side by side and airborne.

By now, too, Amon had got by Regazzoni under braking, and for a time was able to stay with Stewart and Ickx. “Bloody engine not only doesn’t have any horsepower,” Chris says, on my tape from the day, “but also uses gas like it’s going out of style. I had to start with 220 litres — so bloody heavy we got left behind at the start.

“Because of the weight thing, too, the car tends to eat tyres and dampers in the early part of a race. Once I’d got up to third, everything looked fine for a while, but then, after about a dozen laps, the handling suddenly got mushy. Another damper.”

Hobbled or not, Amon and the Matra maintained third place to the end, well clear of Pedro Rodriguez’s BRM and Denny Hulme’s McLaren, but almost a minute behind the two front runners.

Ten seconds behind at one point, Ickx really got the hammer down in the late stages, running no fewer than 10 laps inside his own pole position time, the best of them a full 0.8sec faster. At the flag, though, Jacky was still three seconds behind the implacable JYS, who thus scored the very first victory for Tyrrell.

They didn’t have press conferences in 1971, nor press releases, for that matter. But neither, it seems to me now, did they have many press men. Afterwards, it was easily possible to talk to the drivers, and five weeks later, in Monte Carlo, it was easier still, for now I was an old hand.

Stewart won there, too, and at Ricard, Silverstone, the Niirburgring, pretty well everywhere I seemed to o that first summer. It didn’t matter too much that one man dominated, for there was plenty of racing and passing down the field, and so much pleasure to be had in watching the cars being steered on the throttle, tail always trying to come around. Even with less than 500bhp, the drivers had more power than their chassis could comfortably handle, and there lay the eternal secret of motor racing, as Tony Brooks has always maintained.

Downforce, happily, they knew little about in 1971.

You may also like

Related products