August Bank Holiday at Brands Hatch

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All the Fun of the Fair

BRANDS HATCH, August, 30th.
The B.R.S.C.C. gathered together a first-class entry of cars and drivers for the series of races that they organised on August Bank Holiday Monday, over the long circuit at Brands Hatch, and more than 60,000 spectators turned up to see the day’s racing. When it was all over a great number stayed on to listen to a jazz session by Chris Barber and his band, and it was very appropriate that he should be asked to play, for he had entered two cars in the GT race earlier in the day, so he obviously is one of ” us ” and not just publicity-seeking.

The day started with a 20-lap race for GT cars, competing for the Redex Trophy, and it looked as though there was going to be a good battle between Bondurant, driving the Chequered Flag Team’s open Cobra, and Jack Sears, driving the Willment coupe Cobra, but the white open Cobra developed clutch slip. Although Bondurant was in the lead at the time he gradually fell back and just about everyone passed him as he struggled to keep going to the end. Sears was completely on his own, but the numerous Lotus Elans that were following had some good racing among themselves, outstanding being works-Lotus-man Ray Parsons, while Boley Pittard in the Walker-Day Racing Alfa Romeo GTZ managed to keep ahead of some of the Cheshunt cars.

Having got everyone into the swing of racing the first part of the big event of the day took place, this being Heat 1 of the Guards Trophy, a 30-lap race for Appendix ” C ” sports cars. The line-up represented a vast amount of brute force and talent, with Surtees, Stewart, Hobbs, Dibley, Hansgen, and Pierpoint in Lola 70 cars, McLaren, Coundley, Wintersteen, Graham Hill, Gurney and Prophet in McLaren-Elvas, Clark with a brand new Lotus 40, and Gardner, Ashmore, Dean, Trevor Taylor and de Lautour with Lotus 30 cars. From Italy were two Ferrari 365P/2 models, with 4.4-litre V12 engines, driven by Parkes and Piper, and to complete the field were the two privately built cars of Johnson and Nathan, the former having a Ford V8 engine in a Cooper-Monaco and the latter an Oldsmobile V8 engine in a Brabham BT8. As if this vast amount of power and noise was not sufficient for a starting grid, there were a number of 2-litre sports cars, among the faster being Hulme, Revson and Hitchcock with Brabham-Climax 4-cylinders, and Amon with an Elva B.M.W.

The start had Surtees, Graham Hill and McLaren on the front row, followed in row two by Gurney and Hobbs, with, respectively, Chevrolet 5.9-litre, 4.5-litre Oldsmobile, 4.5-litre Oldsmobile, 4.7-litre Ford, and 5.9-litre Chevrolet engines, so that there should have been enough horsepower to satisfy anyone. Somehow the start was not as impressive as expected, for though these Cars have a lot of power, they also have a lot of weight, while independent rear suspensions and very wide-tread Firestone, Goodyear or Dunlop tyres get the power down on the track, so that there was not the wheelspin, smoke, noise and general pandemonium that was expected. Surtees was in great form, driving a brand new Lola-Chevrolet, with almost paper-thin fibreglass bodywork, and he just ran away from all the opposition, the Lola holding the road beautifully and looking very stable compared with some of the other cars. McLaren tried hard to keep up, but it was very obvious that you cannot combat 5.9-litres of Chevrolet engine with only 4.5-litres of Oldsmobile engine, even if you had the equivalent road-holding. Hobbs was going well in third place, but Stewart, in the Lola-Chevrolet driven earlier this year by Surtees, was hounding him and eventually got by. Gurney had made a nonsense by starting off in third gear, and nearly everyone had passed him by the time he got to Paddock Bend, and try as he might he could not make up distance on the leaders, though he got as high as fourth. Clark had done a bare five minutes of official practice, due to the Lotus 40 being finished late, and, contrary to reports, this was its first race appearance, the car driven in Austria by Spence being a Lotus 30. Due to the lack of practice Clark was in the seventh row at the start, but the Lotus was barely raceworthy and gear-changing was not all that it might have been. Although Clark worked his way up to eighth place, he was having a poor race, and twice spun due to selecting neutral instead of a gear. Graham Hill had an even worse race,, for his Oldsmobile engine died on the opening lap, seemingly because of something electrical and though he got the car back to the pits and everything was changed or fiddled about with, it never functioned properly and he was right out of the running. Surtees won this first Heat with ease and efficiency, and the Lola day was completed by Stewart being third, these two cars being in effect works Lolas, administered to and prepared by Eric Broadley and his men, though entered by Team Surtees Ltd. It almost goes without saying that Dennis Hulme won the 2-litre class, driving the beautifully prepared Brabham-Climax of Sidney Taylor, and he was fifth overall. The two Ferraris were completely outclassed on the “acrobatic” Brands Hatch circuit, Parkes in the Maranello Concessionnaires car managing a rather unimpressive sixth place, while Piper was still learning to drive his green P2, having only collected it from the factory the day before practice.

From the bellowing of big capacity push-rod V8 engines the scene turned to the high-pitched drone of overhead camshaft 4-cylinder 1,000 c.c. engines, as nearly every well-known racing driver took part in a Formula Two race for the British Eagle Trophy, over 20 laps. Mixed up with this lot was a nearly equal number of Formula Three cars, so that the Formula Two leaders had the added hazard of lapping much slower cars. Jim Clark made up for his debacle in the Lotus 40 by driving a Ron Harris Lotus-Cosworth F.2 car to a very convincing victory, even though he was chased relentlessly by Hulme and Brabham in Brabham-Cosworth cars, and Surtees in a Midland Racing Partnership Lola-Cosworth. This race for Surtees was the complete antithesis of his sports-car race, for after dropping back to mid-field due to a spin, he caught up again only to crash on the last lap, writing off the nose of the Lola. In the Formula Three section Roy Pike was outstanding with the Chequered Flag Brabham-Ford, but there was a close race for second place between Gethin in a Lucas Engineering Brabham-Ford and Cardwell in a Ron Harris works Lotus-Ford.

The racing continued without a break and no sooner were the midgets cleared from the track than the big sports cars were out again for Heat 2 of the Guards Trophy. Those that survived the first Heat lined up on the grid in order of finishing, so this time the front row comprised Surtees (Lola), McLaren (McLaren) and Stewart (Lola), with Gurney (McLaren) and Hulme (Brabham 2-litre) in row two. Stewart jumped into an early lead, but Surtees soon took charge, and for a time Stewart held up Gurney, who had made no mistakes this time, and was badly wanting to get after Surtees. Eventually he got by the number two Team Suttees Lola, but the number one car was too far ahead to be caught. After holding second place for a number of laps Gurney finally parked smartly on the grass after Clearways Bend when bolt came out of the rear suspension and let a rear wheel subside. The performance by Surtees was another immaculate repetition of Heat 1, the sort of performance that was expected once Broadley had got the Lola 70 really sorted out. McLaren was again second, with Stewart in third place, followed by Hansgen in the Mecom Team Lola-Ford V8. Clark was still in trouble, though he did get as high as fifth place, but was having trouble with a violently locking front brake, and finally spun into the ditch at Clearways Bend, rather thankful to be out of a car that was not really raceworthy. The quiet and unassuming Hulme moved up into fifth place, the mechanic who prepares the Sidney Taylor car deserving a medal, and Hulme’s driving being the sort that is a joy to watch. John Coundley got into sixth place, having had a poor run in the first Heat due to a puncture from a nail picked up on the track. An overall result was obtained by adding the times recorded in each Heat, though it did not need much in the way of mathematics to obtain the first three places. Due to the strange way of recording the event as two races, up to two litres and over two litres, Hulme officially got no credit for finishing fourth overall, merely being classed as winner of the under-2-litre class.

The busy day was still not done, for there was now a 20-lap race for saloon cars, competing for the Ilford Films Trophy. This was actually four races in one, with classes for Ford Mustang, Ford Lotus-Cortina, B.M.C. Minis of 1,275 c.c. (and the odd Anglia), and B.M.C. Minis of 970 cc. (and the odd Abarth). The bumping and boring, flat tyres, broken wheels, blown up engines, spins, and excursions onto the grass made one realise that “Motor Racing is Dangerous,” if this is motor racing! Jack Brabham, smiling quietly to himself, cantered home the overall winner in Alan Brown’s orange Ford Mustang in saloon form, followed by Pierpoint in another Mustang, and then the Cortinas. Jim Clark really joined in the Bank Holiday spirit, his performance would have got him at the head of the queue on the main A20 road into London! After driving across the infield to get a flat tyre changed, and having help with the ignition out on the circuit, the steering finally went wrong on the works Lotus-Cortina and he was ultimately excluded. While he was going he did the most fantastic “balancing act” by cornering on three wheels, then on two wheels, and eventually on one rear wheel.

Eventually Bank Holiday was over and the eager ones rushed for their cars, only to sit in a traffic jam that stretched nearly to London. A good proportion of the crowd stayed on to drink to their successes, drown their sorrows, or mass around the grandstand to listen to Chris Barber and his band until darkness. A pleasant and fitting end to a crowded, busy and happy August Bank Holiday — D. S. J.