F1 non-championship races – Part two: the ’60s

Clark, Brabham, Cosworth, Lotus… The Swinging Sixties was indeed a time of change, when F1’s non-championship races acted as both useful proving ground and talent nursery
By Paul Fearnley

Michael Johnson Parkes had the lot: a public school education at Haileybury (where he was a contemporary of Moss); a well-connected father (chairman of Alvis Cars, no less); a knack for engineering (he helped create the Hillman Imp); and from 1963 a job as development and reserve driver at Ferrari. Yet he had an itch he just had to scratch.

Whichever car 6ft 4in Mike poured himself into, he was quick. He’d kept Moss and Hill on their toes in Ferrari 250GT SWBs and GTOs, mixed it with the Jag pack, and won British FJ races in a Gemini and at Sebring, Spa (twice) and Monza (twice) in works Ferrari sports cars. He hadn’t been blessed like a Clark, but he was good enough to consider himself underrated and underused.

Enzo was keen to shield Parkes’ valuable mix of talents from Formula 1’s dangers – but the biggest barrier between Mike and his goal was another Englishman. There’s no question that John Surtees, incumbent number one, was the better, faster driver, or that Parkes had earned the right to call himself the engineer of the two – but each was sufficiently skilled in the other’s role for their relationship to clunk, not click.
But when Surtees strode away from Ferrari in mid-1966, Enzo had no option: a long-chassis 312 F1 was built to accommodate Parkes, and you’d have to say he made good use of it: second on his debut, at Reims, and second (battling with no-nonsense Hulme) at Monza, where Mike had claimed pole by three-tenths.

Ferrari, however, was rudderless without Surtees, and so Parkes, Lorenzo Bandini, Ludovico Scarfiotti and newcomer Chris Amon found themselves vying for F1 seats (two or three cars per GP) at the start of 1967. Lorenzo and Chris put themselves on ‘pole’ via their 330P4 sports car win at Daytona, and Parkes was left on the sidelines for the Race of Champions in March. The Bandini/Amon P4 won again, at Monza in April, and they were handed the Monaco GP gig, too.

Sandwiched between these races was the International Trophy. Parkes’ was the only Ferrari entered. It was his chance. And he took it. During practice Jackie Stewart had become the first to lap Silverstone at 120mph, but on a track slippery with oil, his twitchy BRM H16 was no match for the Ferrari, a 1966 chassis fitted with the latest 36-valve V12. Having matched Stewart’s qualifying time, Parkes coolly drove into the distance. It wasn’t the most competitive of fields, but it was a competent performance.

Bandini was killed at Monaco, but still Ferrari played its ‘games’, entering Amon, Parkes and Scarfiotti in Holland and Belgium. The latter pair had staged a dead heat at the lacklustre Syracuse GP (May 21), but Parkes was edging ahead of his friend in Ferrari’s F1 pecking order and was determined to prove this conclusively at Spa in June. A good start from the third row jumped him ahead of Amon into fourth – but also into the overflowing oil of Stewart’s BRM. Mike slid off at Blanchimont on the first lap, was thrown out, smashed a leg and suffered head injuries. His F1 career was over, and although he would recover, that itch, scratched briefly at Silverstone, would never go away.

1968 Race of Champions

Cosworth, Hewland, Goodyear: leitmotif of Formula 1 success. The ‘Kit Car Era’ was born in 1968 when Lotus lost its exclusive access to Keith Duckworth’s compact, impactful V8. Ford’s perspicacious Walter Hayes realised the engine would destroy F1 if it wasn’t shared around. His first grateful customers were Ken Tyrrell’s Matra (a wise ploy to keep Stewart on Ford’s books) and McLaren.

For two seasons Bruce’s team had battled against a lack of F1 grunt: Ford’s bulky, scream-the-house-down Indy four-cammer V8, Count Volpi’s sports car-derived Serenissima V8, and BRM’s stretched 2.1-litre Tasman V8 and 3-litre two-valve V12, an engine originally designated for sports car use, didn’t really cut the mustard.

Can-Am had been a different story. Readily available Chevy V8s meant power wasn’t an issue and McLaren had risen serenely to the top thanks to its exquisite build, excellent preparation and driving expertise: McLaren and Hulme. With a DFV slung from the rear bulkhead of designer Robin Herd’s bathtub-monocoque M7A, Bruce was sure his team’s magic could be worked in F1, too.

Despite prioritising the factors thus – DFV, then Denny, then chassis – it was Bruce who led the charge. He hadn’t won a major single-seater race since 1962, or any UK single-seater race since 1958. In truth he seemed happier in burly two-seaters. His performance at Brands Hatch’s Race of Champions, however, gave lie to these facts. He took pole position by four-tenths (1.2sec ahead of Hulme), made a perfect start, set a lap record on lap three, and led all 50 laps. Pedro Rodriguez, Hulme, Amon, Brian Redman and Stewart trailed in his wake.

One month later everything was in its ‘rightful’ place when Denny led home Bruce in a McLaren 1-2 at Silverstone’s International Trophy. As predicted, F1 had a new contender.

Herd was (sort of) delighted: “I thought, ‘Shit, what have I done? Have I done the right thing?’ The answer was no.” He’d agreed to move to Cosworth, you see, to learn engineering at Duckworth’s right hand. The deal, however, allowed Robin to initially split his time between the companies, overseeing the M7A’s build three days a week and attending its first two races.

“I was pleased that the M7A was quick out of the box, but such was the quality of people at McLaren – they were all absolute stars – I’d have been disappointed if it hadn’t won. The team had such confidence, without being arrogant. To be honest, I felt I was its weak link. That’s why I was leaving. Cosworth were great, but they weren’t racers like McLaren, and I’d have learned just as much if I’d stayed with Bruce.”

But on the night after the International Trophy, Herd ran smack into an oak tree while navigating on a road rally, stepped out and moved on with the rest of his career.

1964 International Trophy

Jack Brabham created a new template for constructors: he used his talent, experience, nous, contacts and contracts to create a structure beneath his proactive, protective umbrella. And by making greater use of Britain’s burgeoning network of specialist subcontractors, customer engines and gearboxes – no team did more to promote Hewland’s wares – his team’s gestation was short. There were still growing pains to be endured, but by the start of its second full season of F1, 1964, it was a frontrunner.

No, make that pacesetter. Jack’s BT7 was on pole at Goodwood in March. And the following month he diced for the lead with Clark’s brand-new Lotus 33 at the Aintree 200. With 20 of the 67 laps remaining, and keen not to let Brabham get away, Clark took a gamble with backmarkers at the notorious Melling Crossing. The 33 was badly smashed in the subsequent misunderstanding.

In May, despite it being the weekend before Monaco, the International Trophy drew a full GP field. And Brabham did for it again, in a thriller. Team-mate Gurney put his BT7 on pole – Jack qualified second – and moved into the lead when Clark’s Lotus hit engine bothers after five laps. The American, chased by his boss, thereafter led for 20 laps, until his brake fluid leaked away. Three laps later Graham Hill’s BRM made its move and passed Jack for the lead. As at Aintree, when Clark had first caught and passed Brabham, many assumed this to be game over. But on lap 48, with four to go, Jack set a lap record and passed the BRM – around the outside at Woodcote. He’d compromised his exit speed, however, and Hill immediately repassed at Copse. But had this been a dummy run? Certainly Jack was playing mind games.

“It was one of my better-planned races,” says Brabham. “I just followed Graham for the next few laps. In fact I eased back a bit on the penultimate lap. It was a ploy. I sensed he thought I’d shot my bolt. I left it until the last lap, slipstreamed him down the straight and into Woodcote…” As Brabham had anticipated, Hill held a tight, defensive line, leaving the Aussie room to again “kamikaze” around the outside. It paid off, and Brabham was able to celebrate – once he’d collected the resultant grassy moment. “I was lucky to get away with it. I nearly lost it. But because it was the last lap there was no chance this time for Graham to retake the lead.”

Brabham, BRM and Lotus – you couldn’t get a fag paper between them in 1964. Yet somehow John Surtees would ultimately squeeze his Ferrari ahead. Racing’s old redprint still held some currency, it seemed.

1969 Madrid GP

Jarama in Madrid had lost its nation’s GP, on a yearly rotation basis, to Barcelona’s Montjuich Park, so its owners rashly decided to run their own F1 race one month before the ‘Big One’. Lotus, Ken Tyrrell and Frank Williams said they’d attend, but the organisers appended a class for the new F5000 category, just in case. And a good job, too. The big names backed out and the eventual entry (of eight) was a motley crew of F5000s, old F1s, Max Mosley’s F2 Lotus 59B and an F3 Brabham fitted with an 1800cc Ford ‘Twink’.

Among them, aboard fellow historic racer Colin Crabbe’s F1 Cooper T86-Maser, was Neil Corner: “Vic Elford, its usual driver, was unavailable [he was finishing second for Porsche at Brands Hatch’s BOAC 500] and so Colin asked if I could fit in the Cooper. I could, and so away to Spain we went. I’d never driven a rear-engined single-seater before, but after a couple of laps I came in and said, ‘Hey, this is fun.’ Motor Sport’s Denis Jenkinson was there and he said, ‘Fun? You’re not supposed to say things like that.’ The Cooper was nice to drive, it just needed another 30/40bhp.”

The F5000 contingent, meanwhile, had been shredded by back-to-back UK races over the Easter weekend: double winner Peter Gethin’s Church Farm Racing McLaren M10A was joined by Keith Holland’s Alan Fraser Racing Lola T142 and two Lotus 43s modded to carry Ford lumps instead of their original BRM H16 units. And once Tony Dean, returning to single-seaters aboard a BRM P261 fitted with a 3-litre V12, had frightened everyone with a fishtailing start and wild spin at the first corner, Gethin and Holland set to at the front.

“The McLaren was by far the better car [Gethin had put it on pole by 3.3sec],” says Holland. “It had a monocoque whereas my Lola was a spaceframe; it was stiffer and handled better – although I did put one in the lake at Mallory Park! I was dumped in the Lola because Tony Lanfranchi was unavailable. I’d been driving Imps for Alan Fraser, so it was a big change. Gethin probably was going to win, but there were no orders to make a race of it. It was a genuine dice as far as I was concerned.”

Gethin moved smoothly ahead as the 40 laps wound down – only for his Chevy to throw a rod as he crossed the line for the penultimate time. This allowed Holland, once he’d recovered from a spin, to win. “I don’t remember spinning!”

Corner was two laps down in fourth: “I should have finished third, really. I had some minor gearbox problems but the car was running well at the finish. Anyway, we went to the prize ceremony and I was called up and handed a huge wodge (sic) of pesetas. Back at our table Colin put an arm around me to say ‘Well done, old boy’, while his other hand extracted the money from my pocket. But he did treat me – he paid my motel bill.” And he’s also recently presented Corner with the Cooper’s rear wing by way of a 70th birthday present.

1961 Moss vs Clark

Stirling Moss was the best. His stupendous wins in Monaco and at the ’Ring had put him head and shoulders above. Everyone knew it – none more so than he. But Stirl wasn’t blind. His radar was always sweeping. And that blip turned out to be Jim Clark.

The Lotus 21, sleek with inboard front springs, made its debut at Monaco, where Clark put it on the front row. A week later he finished third and set fastest lap at the Dutch GP; Moss was fourth. A week later Clark led Moss for 48 of the Silver City Trophy’s 76 laps of Brands; Moss eventually beat him by 10sec. These weren’t straight fights, of course. Esso-backed Lotus had been prohibited from selling a 21 to BP-backed Moss, and so The Best was in year-old Lotus 18s of Rob Walker or UDT-Laystall stock. This, clearly, was not insuperable. In fact it was an inspiration.

Moss beat Clark at Karlskoga, Roskilde (where Jim drove an 18) and Modena. And when a works Lotus did avenge Moss – at Solitude and the US GP – it was driven by Ireland, Clark’s experienced team-mate.

But things were very different by December: forthright Ireland had been sacked. Colin Chapman’s radar was as sensitive as Moss’s, and he’d realised that Clark was the man to be moulded for the future. So avuncular Yorkie Trevor Taylor was Jim’s roomie for the end-of-year South African trip.

The works 21s dominated the Rand GP at Kyalami – Clark first, Taylor second – before flitting to Westmead for the Natal GP, which is where Moss joined in. Starting from the back of the grid – he’d missed practice in order to receive the Sportsman of the Year Award in London – his Lotus 18/21 was second by lap 24 (of 89). But thereafter progress was problematic on a track that was breaking up. Indeed Clark was pulling away by a second a lap. The Scot eventually eased off – and still beat Moss by 34sec. The night before the race Moss had said he thought Clark one of the best, and certainly most underrated, drivers in the world… Suspicions now confirmed: Jim’s quick.

At East London for the Boxing Day South African GP, an early spin forced Clark into a Moss-like charge. He passed Stirling, who was feeling crook and whose Lotus was on 1960 rear suspension, at half-distance and immediately broke his slipstream, if not his spirit, to win by 16sec. More food for thought: Moss was sure he could beat Clark but now knew that he could only do so regularly given equal machinery.

He was still mulling over his 1962 F1 options – a Lotus 24 or a ‘Sharknose’ Ferrari, run by Walker, prepped by Alf Francis – when he clobbered that Goodwood bank… So we’ll never know. We can, however, make an educated guess: Moss, just 32, remember, would have made a difference to either car. But would that have been enough to regularly upstage Clark, increasingly confident at 25, aboard Chapman’s Next Big Thing: the top-secret monocoque 25?

Deep breath. No.

1961 Syracuse GP

Unknown, bewildered, fastest. True, the Brit pack had yet to arrive – direct from the Aintree 200 aboard a Webbair Bristol Freighter – but his had been an encouraging first day in a Formula 1 car.

He’d been a surprise choice. The teams had united behind a good cause – to usher through Italy’s next wave of GP drivers – but the federation was unsurprisingly split over who should drive the on-loan Ferrari: the updated rear-engined F2 prototipo of 1960. Giancarlo Baghetti, the 26-year-old son of a Milanese businessman, had been competing with some success since 1956 in tuned Alfas and Abarths, and in 1960 had scored three outright wins at Monza in a Lancia-engined Dagrada Formula Junior. But he’d finished only fourth-equal in the Italian FJ Championship and second in the parallel Prova Addestrativa series. He was no shoo-in. He was, though, top of Eugenio Dragoni’s list, and the soon-to-be Ferrari team manager was an arch politician: a graduate of his Scuderia Sant’Ambroeus outfit would get first dibs.

With understandable trepidation, Baghetti made his way to Syracuse, a feverish outpost that was a cultural divide away from Italy’s industrial north. Yes, he’d been afforded a fantastic opportunity – but it was one that could go either way. And this pressure was ramped up when Ferrari withdrew its new ‘Sharknose’ – fitted with its new 120-degree V6 and entered for Richie Ginther – because of oil-scavenge problems. Baghetti’s, with the older 65-degree motor, was now the only Ferrari in the race.

The somewhat tired Lotuses, Coopers and BRMs got down to work on the Monday – the race was on a Tuesday to commemorate the island’s WWII liberation – while Baghetti circulated circumspectly, nudging the 2min benchmark. But then, on a day when gusts felled nearby trees, he pulled up a stump: 1min 57sec. Only Dan Gurney’s flat-four Porsche – a stupendous effort just before rain fell – could beat it. The race, though, surely would be different…

It nearly was. Jostled and hassled, Baghetti overcooked it at the first hairpin, half-spun and dropped to seventh. By lap six, however, he was leading, having disposed of Graham Hill, Jack Brabham, Innes Ireland, Jo Bonnier, John Surtees and Gurney. None of these stars could live with the acceleration of a Ferrari driven by an increasingly confident and rhythmical novice. The inspired Gurney stayed with him, though, and led for a lap at mid-distance. Baghetti, however, was controlling matters, pulling out 5sec leads whenever the American hauled him in. But even with his car advantage, this was a severe test – almost two hours, almost 200 miles – that eventually got to Baghetti. His concentration snapped and he shot up an escape road – after the chequer had fluttered.

Giancarlo was spent. His works mechanics knew what to expect and packed the car away pronto, but their hapless driver was swept out on a shoulder-ride sea. His most famous F1 day – slingshooting past Gurney to win the French GP on his World Championship debut – was just over two months away, but Syracuse was the greatest day of his top-heavy, soon-to-topple career.

1969 Gold cup

Four-wheel drive has never got to grips with Formula 1. Moss proved its potential by winning the 1961 Gold Cup in the Ferguson P99 – but Denis Jenkinson, though impressed by the technology, urged caution: Ferrari was absent and Moss was unbeatable at Oulton. There was no guarantee that a 4WD car would win another F1 race.

He was right. The P99 never raced again and momentum was lost. Ferguson offered the system to any British team that wanted it, and BRM, that avid collector of white elephants, spent a fortune convincing itself it wasn’t the way to go – even when F1’s (normally aspirated) capacity limit doubled in 1966. But that surge of power and torque did again turn designers’ minds to it. Chapman leapt first, followed by McLaren and Matra.

But the timing was bad. The soon-to-come advent of wings and aerodynamic grip and improving tyre technology harnessed power in a more efficient, Chapman-esque way. Lotus’s 1969 number one, Jochen Rindt, spokesman for the anti-wing lobby, could see this even if Chapman, blinded by the tech, couldn’t. Rindt refused to sit in the cumbersome 63. Chapman, incensed, threatened to sell the conventional – and competitive – 49Bs from under his works drivers. It hadn’t been like this with Clark.

But then, lo and behold, Rindt plonked himself in the 63 for August’s Gold Cup. Here was an olive branch. He and Chapman had cleared the air after the German GP: the Austrian pointed out that the 49B was quicker; Chapman reminded him that he’d been very keen on the 4WD concept when he’d signed for Lotus. It was as close to a compromise as these pugnacious men could reach.

Prior to this rapprochement it had been left to John Miles to test, develop and race the 63: “I enjoyed it because I was left alone. When Chapman got involved things broke more regularly. The car was very good if you got your line exactly right, and the faster the circuit the better it was. It wasn’t so good on give-and-take circuits. The biggest problem with it was that we didn’t have sufficient technology in terms of differentials. You couldn’t adjust its balance on the throttle or the brakes. Chapman kept pushing more power to the rear wheels – by the end I think we had an 80:20 rearward bias – but the car had been designed with four small tyres.

“Jochen didn’t like testing, but the 63 took a lot of learning and nannying; I had to be careful otherwise its transmission would fall to bits. But he was very short-tempered. I wasn’t part of the political inner sanctum… I was surprised when he agreed to race it.”

Rindt said nice things about the 63’s driveability, while expressing concern about its lack of speed: he qualified fourth, 3.2sec off Stewart’s pole in the Matra MS80, and, more worryingly, two-tenths slower than Jo Bonnier’s privateer 49B. Stewart and Jacky Ickx’s Brabham BT26A rushed away in the race, leaving Jochen to an unusually subdued third, which became second when a battery terminal on the Matra came adrift. Chapman and his overworked mechanics seemed delighted by this distant (32sec) runner-up slot. And that was the point: morale had been restored. Rindt still hated the car, and told the team so on the Monday during a private test at Oulton, but at least Chapman, some honour restored, was starting to see the light. If rocket Jochen, a front-row regular in the 49B, couldn’t make the 63 go quickly…

Four-wheel drive in F1 – must be a Cheshire thing.