Around and about, November 1989

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Obituary: Richie Ginther

One of motor racing’s true free spirits, Richie Ginther, died in France of a heart attack, just before the Portuguese GP. He had been frail for some time, but despite this the 59 year-old Californian had only a fortnight earlier been helping at Donington with the production of a film on BRM.

It was with the British team that he scored the majority of his successes as an F1 driver, and he shared second place in the 1963 World Championship, behind Jim Clark, with team-mate Graham Hill. Ginther made his F1 debut at Monaco in 1960 when he drove the first rear-engined Ferrari, and a year later in the 156 he fought that stunning duel to finish second to Stirling Moss, as both smashed their own qualifying times such was the intensity of the contest.

His talents as a test driver were legendary. In his Ferrari days he developed what became known as the rear-end ‘spoiler’, which significantly reduced lift on sports prototypes, and was regarded with awe in Maranello after two particular incidents.

During a test at Monza in 1960 he pitted and told the team the engine wouldn’t last more than 12 laps. Willy Mairesse was hastily installed, and stopped with engine failure after … exactly 12 laps, Richie later revealed that he plucked the figure from his head … He was leading the French GP at Rheims the following year when again he pitted to advise the team the engine was about to expire. He was immediately sent back out, and it failed within a lap …

His sorting ability allied to such mechanical sympathy attracted the fledgling Honda team for the 1965 season, and culminated in him winning the final race of the 1.5 litre formula in Mexico. Up until then he had always seemed destined to be the bridesmaid, with eight seconds to his name, but at last it was his, Honda’s and Goodyear’s first triumph in a Grand Epreuve.

After a brief spell with Cooper in 1966 filling in time until Honda’s new challenger was ready for the 3 litre formula, he ran the bulky V12 at Monza, surviving an almighty accident with it at the Curva Grande during the Italian GP. When John Sorters came aboard for 1967 Richie moved to partner Dan Gurney in the latter’s Eagle Weslake team. He was running second to the boss at the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, but retired near the end, and then failed to qualify at Monaco. It was while awaiting his turn in official qualifying at Indianapolis that year, having been fast in testing, that he realised he no longer wanted to race, and took the immediate decision to quit. He ran a team of Porsches in IMSA for a while, before simply taking off in a motorhome in which the ticking of watches or clocks was never heard for the simple reason that he refused to let his life be ruled by timepieces. The free spirit went wherever a morning’s feelings led him, as he indulged in total freedom and pleased himself.

A gentle man whose sympathies made him a leading authority on the American Indian, he nevertheless knew full well how to have a good time and last appeared, briefly, on the F1 scene at Hockenheim in 1977 for Goodyear’s 100th GP celebrations. Thereafter, the maverick disappeared back to the remote countryside of America and France that he so loved, before remarrying and settling near San Diego. His freckled grin still beamed from beneath hippy locks which had replaced the crew cut that characterised him in the sixties and he remained, to the end, an individual who was his own man.

As we went to press it was confirmed that Ford had upped their share in Jaguar Cars. The odds remain, however, that General Motors will be the owner of the car company at the end of the day. Jaguar’s board have had highly confidential talks with a number of car companies during the past twelve months, including some in japan, but have been influenced by the hands-off approach of the American giant in the running of Lotus Cars.

As can be read in the ensuing pages, Nigel Mansell was involved in an acrimonious and heated incident in the Portuguese GP which saw him prohibited by FISA from participating in the Spanish GP. An appeal was lodged by the Ferrari team and by Nigel Mansell but the hearing was not convened until four days after the event from which the Englishman had been banned. Rather than make a pronouncement the judges decided to defer a decision until late October when civil proceedings initiated by the team in Portugal and Canada had concluded.

It took less than a week for FISA President Jean-Marie Balestre to launch a bitter attack on Ferrari, Mansell and the media for good measure in which he stated that there was no prospect whatever of the Spanish race being nullified. A joint decision by Ferrari and Mansell has seen both parties withdraw their appeals so as to get on with the business of motor racing.

It has recently been confirmed that JJ Lehto has been signed up for 1990 by the Moneytron Onyx team. He will partner Stefan Johansson who remains with the team for the second successive year.

It has been confirmed that 1989 Group N Rally Champion, Pentti Airikkala, will be running a Group A Mitsubishi VR4 in the RAC Rally alongside An Vatanen. With the car already having won the 1000 Lakes Rally this year, the prospects of a repeated success are quite high.

Following months of uncertainty, John Barnard has announced that he is leaving GTO, the Guildford-based technical centre, to set up an advanced technical department for Benetton Formula. Former journalist and Williams PR manager, Peter Windsor, has just been appointed by Ferrari to run the concern.

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