Nigel Roebuck


  • Bernie’s happy; now what about Silverstone’s fans?
  • Alonso a hero – in González Ferrari and British GP
  • ‘Smokey’ Yunick’s Indy special graces Goodwood

When I got home from Silverstone late on Sunday night, I poured a stiff scotch and soda, and sat down to watch the IndyCar race from Toronto, which was eventually won — after endless ‘full-course yellows’ — by Dario Franchitti. He was pleased, he said in the post-race interview, to be back in the lead of the championship, and then he mentioned in passing that at Goodwood the previous weekend he had been suffering from a terrible cold.

On the Monday after the Festival of Speed I had come down with a similar affliction, and couldn’t for the life of me figure how I’d managed to pick up something like that during a sunny July weekend in Sussex. Now, although Dario had seemed fine when we chatted, I began to understand…

Men are hopeless with colds, as everyone knows, and when I set off for Silverstone on Thursday I was full to the gills of every medicament on the market, and perhaps, who knows, a little spaced out on some of the ingredients, which may have contributed to the sense of otherworldliness I felt when I arrived.

“Where are we?” a former British Grand Prix winner said to me on race day, and I knew what he meant. Clearly we were at a major race circuit for an important event, but much of the time over the weekend I must confess to having little sense of being at Silverstone.

No more than inevitable, probably. I was five years old when first I accompanied my parents to the old airfield in Northamptonshire, and my relationship with the place has been unbroken ever since. There was a big adjustment to be made 20 years ago, when they changed the hallowed layout of the 160mph circuit — stuck in new and unfamiliar corner names like Bridge and Priory and Luffield — and for many drivers that was a source of regret.

“I like the new track,” said Alain Prost at the time, “and if it were anywhere else I would like it a lot — the only problem is that it’s Silverstone! I wish they could have built this circuit somewhere else, and left the old one as it was, because I loved the old Silverstone — it wasn’t like anywhere else. Very quick, and very dangerous in places, I suppose — whenever I got here I used to think maybe we were a little bit crazy to drive round it — but if you got a corner like Stowe really right…”

In time, though, the drivers acclimatised to the revised track, a wonder — particularly the reprofiled Becketts — in itself. More changes, introduced primarily for the return of MotoGP (when the Formula 1 race appeared temporarily to have been lost to Donington), were in evidence last year. But if the drivers followed a slightly different path when they set out from the pitlane, still they left from where they always had, between Woodcote and Copse.

Actually, that isn’t strictly true — originally the start/finish area was between Abbey and Woodcote — but you get my gist. The paddock may have undergone updates and metamorphoses over the years, but still I could remember exactly where I asked Jimmy Clark to sign my programme at the Grand Prix in 1965, and where I’d stood, 10 years later, chatting after the International Trophy to Mark Donohue as he sluiced down his black 911 with a hose from a tap outside the gents’ loo which had been there since Job was a lad.

There was no point in trying to make a quick getaway that day, and we both knew it. While Tony Blair would struggle to make my list of heroes, it was on his watch that the road system around Silverstone was transformed, and subliminally I thank him — for that, if nothing else — every time I go there.

This time around the changes to the place were of course much more profound. In May I went to the opening of ‘The Wing’, and found myself nonplussed by the sudden appearance of an ultra-modern facility at this most venerable of circuits. It was akin to encountering a dowager duchess in a thong, and took a little getting used to, but there was no doubting the scale and ambition of the project. Not often, after all, do you come across a building all but a quarter of a mile long.

For years Bernie Ecclestone relentlessly castigated Silverstone for its lack of facilities, and if it seemed a touch obsessive, there was no getting away from the fact that, in comparison with most other World Championship circuits, particularly the ultra-modern ‘Tilkedromes’, the place did look a touch careworn.

For those of us who had known it forever, that familiar shabbiness — as in some of the world’s great hotels — was part of the attraction, of course. But it cut no ice with Mr E, and when the Donington fiasco was buried once and for all, and a new and very long-term deal done with Silverstone, outside investors finally had the confidence to plough money into wholesale change at the circuit. The Wing, we were told at the launch, had cost £27 million, and some sources put it rather higher than that.

It was unfortunate that the opening, while graced by virtually every British racing personality known to man, lacked the presence of two of the most prominent. Lewis Hamilton had more important things to do, and so, rather more significantly, did Ecclestone, for whom the whole thing had essentially been done.

Oddly enough, the effect of the Wing was to me far greater over the Grand Prix weekend than it had been at the launch. For one thing, in May I’d been able to drive down there, and the new paddock was in service as a car park, whereas in July I was required to leave the car near the old paddock, then board a bus to get down to the new. “Two to Golders Green,” as someone said…

Once down there, the impression of change was overwhelming, for now the Wing was in full operation, the hub of the place, and the paddock was packed with transporters and those portable buildings we still refer to as ‘motorhomes’. What’s more, Messrs Ecclestone and Hamilton were both on the premises.

One felt as though one were at some new track somewhere, and that impression was amplified the following day when the cars went out. Housed in the new building is the infinitely more commodious and comfortable press room/media centre (delete to taste), but the fact that, curiously, it lacks any view of the circuit and almost completely quells the sound of screaming engines served to heighten the feeling of disorientation. Everything familiar — notably the blast down to Copse — seemed miles away. Which it was, of course.

Something that infuriated Ecclestone, in the course of his protracted battle with the Silverstone authorities over the future of the British Grand Prix, was the opening, a dozen years ago, of a new BRDC Clubhouse. While himself a Life Member, Bernie’s contempt for the British Racing Drivers’ Club was never very successfully disguised, and when the plush building was put up he raged that the club, while declining to fork out for the changes he wanted, was spending on something beneficial only to its own members.

In the same way, one could — if one wished — make a case for suggesting that the Wing — all £27m of it — is also of benefit only to a small minority of those on site at Silverstone on a given day. As Jackie Stewart puts it, “What’s been done is very impressive — but the whole thing is for the paddock and the Paddock Club. Essentially, it’s for the F1 fraternity.

“In my opinion, this is an area of the sport that’s been badly neglected — the spectators are the paying public, and we’ve done damn all for them. Of course TV is massively important, but if people are paying a lot of money actually to go to a race, they deserve first-class amenities…”

Imposing as the Wing undeniably is, over the race weekend plenty of people were questioning the need for it. No doubt about it, the old pits/paddock complex had been showing its age, but was it really necessary to build something as huge, lavish — and costly — as this?

Perhaps, in absolute terms, no, but in another way, yes, because that was what Bernie wanted, and what Bernie wants he tends to get. A prerequisite for a new 17-year British Grand Prix deal was that Silverstone be transformed, so that over time it came to fit the template for someone’s idea of a 21st-century F1 circuit. Whether, in the fullness of time, such demands are made of, say, Interlagos remains to be seen.

The 2011 British Grand Prix weekend marked the beginning of a settling in period for the new Silverstone. In time we shall get used to the revised layout of the place, and cease to wonder why the start-finish area is halfway round the lap. Yes, the paddock seemed soulless and anonymous, but new paddocks always feel that way and need time to acquire a patina of familiarity.

All that will surely come in time, but it seems to me that Stewart is right: now that Ecclestone’s immediate needs have been met, the focus should henceforth be on the spectator. At Silverstone they are well aware that the transformation of the place is very much a work in progress, that the Wing is only the start. Now should come the turn of he or she who ultimately pays the bills: the fan.

This year’s British Grand Prix was a superb race, happily, and a large chunk of the 122,000 sell-out crowd was allowed to venture onto the track afterwards, to feel part of what was going on as Alonso, Vettel and Webber showered the champagne.

This was sanctioned by outgoing BRDC president Damon Hill, and an inspired idea it was, but the thought occurred that it wasn’t yet three o’clock, and already the day — so far as action on the track was concerned — was done.

“How,” said Stewart, “are we going to make going to a Grand Prix a more appealing experience? There’s no one pushing for that, and there should be — but of course there’s only one man who allow it to happen. And, as we’ve said so often before, the problem is that all the money from F1 goes in only one direction…”

At the age of 88, José Froilán González is the oldest Grand Prix winner alive, and one who had a particular love affair with Silverstone. On July 14 1951 González won his — and Ferrari’s — first World Championship Grand Prix there, and three years later he was victorious again.

When we met a few years ago González told me he had the fondest memories of the place. “Compared with others at the time, Silverstone was quite a… small circuit, but it suited my driving style, and I was always fast there. I remember they used to mark the course with these big black and yellow 200-litre oil drums which were filled with sand — believe me, you didn’t want to hit one! Behind the drums were the straw bales — and behind the straw bales were the people…

“That day in 1951 it turns out that I signed an autograph for Jackie Stewart — I think he was 11 or 12 — and he told me he has always kept it. Of course there were no guard rails or anything then, and it was easy for spectators to see the drivers.”

Attitudes to safety were a little different, too: “We never talked about it,” said González firmly. “Today, if a driver dies, it’s a big tragedy, but in those days you had about a 50 per cent chance of surviving. At circuits like the Nürburgring and Spa there was no safety whatsoever. It was at the Nürburgring that my friend Onofre Marimon got killed — he went off, hit the trees, and that was it.

“In 1952 helmets were made compulsory, and that was a very big advance for safety, but I had already started to wear one. It was English — a Herbert Johnson — copied from polo helmets. I thought it was better: a linen cap was not much help in an accident…”

For the 1951 race, González travelled to England with Fangio, his fellow countryman, friend and rival, in Juan Manuel’s Alfa Romeo company car. It was only the fifth Grande Epreuve of his career, and González took pole position in the Ferrari 375, a clear second faster than Fangio.

“I was very surprised! I think it was the first time anyone had lapped Silverstone at over 100mph. There were four cars on the front row — myself, Fangio, Farina and Ascari — and at the drivers’ meeting Charles Faroux, the French guy who brought the flag down to start the race, said that anyone who jumped the start would get a one-minute penalty. We were all frightened of that, so the four of us on the front row didn’t move — and all three cars on the second row went straight past us! At the first corner I was back in fifth place, but I passed Bonetto for the lead on the second lap, and Fangio got into second place. It was a fight with him all the way — I think by lap 40 we were a lap in front of everyone else…

“Juan had to stop before me — I had a lot of fuel on board, but his Alfa had much higher consumption than my Ferrari. I was 40 seconds in front, and I just kept on going. The Ferrari people were desperate — signalling every lap — for me to come in. I knew I was OK, because I still had the reserve tank and I hadn’t used it — but there was no way I could tell the team! About 15 laps from the end I came in and said, ‘Just put a little fuel in’. Didn’t even change the tyres — they were OK, and I didn’t want to do anything that could go wrong.”

After two hours and 42 minutes of racing, González took the flag. “I was on Engleberts, and this was their first win in Formula 1. Two of the Ferraris were on Engleberts — because of the money — and two were on Pirellis — also because of the money! But we didn’t get any of that, of course — it all went to Enzo! That was a day to remember — my first win.

“I went to see Ferrari in Maranello and he gave me a gold watch, engraved with the ‘Prancing Horse’. Then, at the end of the season he gave me a car — a Superleggera coupé! He said, ‘Pepe, I haven’t any money, so go down to the factory and choose a car you like and take it home…”

González wasn’t at Silverstone this year, unfortunately, but an immaculate Ferrari 375 was. Owned by Bernie Ecclestone, it was driven by Michael Schumacher before the 2001 British Grand Prix to mark the 50th anniversary of Ferrari’s first victory, and this time around — in commemoration of the 60th — Fernando Alonso took the wheel.

I remember being somewhat disappointed by Michael, who simply tooled around and seemed to be going through the motions more than anything else, but if Fernando’s helmet — with temporarily useless HANS device still attached — looked similarly incongruous as he climbed aboard, it was a very different matter when he got on his way.

Alonso really entered into the spirit of the thing, and drove the 375 — surely more immaculate now than ever in its racing days — in a manner which would have delighted González. Apparently, back in Argentina, González sat in a TV studio, watching as the car hammered down the Hangar Straight, met by whoops of delight from the spectators as it drifted beautifully through Stowe…

Fernando clearly relished the experience: “I’m amazed,” he said, “by the amount of power the car has relative to its grip in the corners.” Had he felt, as did Schumacher, very exposed and vulnerable, sitting up high in the cockpit, without belts or rollover bar? “No, honestly, I didn’t think about it — the main thing was to remember that the middle pedal was the throttle!”

He looked elated as he chatted to Bernie about the experience afterwards, and two and a half hours later more elated still, for by now he had won the British Grand Prix, and the bookends of Ferrari’s 60 years at Silverstone were in place.

The weekend had been dominated, of course, by endless debate of the ‘off-throttle blown diffuser’ rules, which the FIA had absurdly seen fit to change at mid-season, rather than wait until the end of the year.

If you were a competitor, be it team principal, engineer or driver, trying to win a race it was a matter of the greatest consequence, of course, as borne out by a polite but undeniably tense exchange of views between McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh and Red Bull’s Christian Homer at a press conference on Friday afternoon.

We could go into the ins and outs of the dispute, but I want you to keep reading. Suffice it to say that every team using the device — (forgive me, hot or cold blown) — seemed to have its own opinion as to what the rule should be, and every team, too, gave the impression of being hard done by.

Come qualifying, as ever the Red Bulls were the cars to beat, and Mark Webber narrowly beat Sebastian Vettel to pole position. The Ferraris of Alonso and Felipe Massa were next up, and there was no particular surprise about that, for Fernando had lately been Red Bull’s main opposition, and in Valencia had succeeded in splitting Seb and Mark.

What was a surprise, though, was his pure speed at Silverstone. For some time Ferrari’s pace had been appreciably better in the race than in qualifying, but now Alonso was only a tenth away on Saturday afternoon, suggesting that perhaps he had a real shot the following day.

And so he did. When Vettel, pitting immediately in front of him, was delayed by a faulty jack, Alonso took the lead and stayed there. It’s a fact that Vettel was then delayed by Hamilton, who fought ferociously to keep his second place, but up front Alonso was setting new fastest laps, and his best was more than half a second quicker than Vettel’s.

Inevitably some ascribed this upturn in Maranello fortunes to the fact that at this race the ‘blown diffuser’ rules had been changed, to Ferrari’s advantage, and while this may — who knows — have played a part, there was much more to it than that, namely a major upgrade package introduced at Silverstone including floor, rear suspension and bodywork. In revised form, both drivers said, the car had significantly more downforce than before.

But as Ferrari flourished, McLaren floundered. F1 really is that way these days — hero one weekend, zero the next — and drivers are to a great extent at the mercy of what their boffins come up with, race to race. Having talked up their chances at Silverstone, murmured about a dream 1-2 finish, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton were understandably both downcast at qualifying fifth and 10th respectively.

I went to the McLaren post-qualifying conference, on the top floor of the team’s edifice, and felt immediate sympathy for Whitmarsh, who looked beleaguered as he sat there flanked by his drivers. Anticipating some of the questions he assumed would be coming his way, Martin spoke for six or seven minutes, going through recent events in the life of his team. “Obviously,” he began, “this team — and these great drivers sitting either side of me — cannot be content. We are disappointed — that is a fact.

“We can bore everyone silly with discussion of diffusers, exhaust gases and so on, but over the last 18 months everyone’s been working hard to develop exhaust-blown diffusers, and we’ve had lots of twists and turns and changes along the way. The fact is that during the course of this weekend there have been some changes to the rules, and we did not put on a competitive showing in qualifying.”

Whitmarsh went on to say that McLaren had let Hamilton down that day, sending him out on used tyres at the beginning of Q3, reasoning that it was best to save a new set for the very end of the session, when conditions would be at their quickest. All fine and well — except that it rained towards the end of the session, and Lewis was stuck with the time he had.

“That doesn’t mean the weekend is a ‘give up’ for us,” Martin went on. “We’ve two great racing drivers who are going to try their very best tomorrow. We are a great race team, we’re not resting on our laurels, we’ve got a fantastic heritage and we’re used to winning races. We’re not quick enough, but we — will — regroup. There’s not a team in the world that can recover a situation as quickly and as strongly as McLaren, as we’ve proved before, and that’s what we’re aiming to do in the course of the next few weeks.”

Whitmarsh, impassioned, said much more than that, and when he finished Button joked that it had been like a Churchillian speech. Hamilton, for his part, said he thought Martin “courageous” to come out and admit that the car wasn’t quick enough. “The most important thing he said,” Lewis added, “is that we are a team, and we’ll pull through it — we’re the only team that’s been able to bounce back from situations like this.”

True enough, but I wasn’t alone in sensing mixed messages in the room that afternoon. Having been through all those seasons with Honda, Button can perhaps cope better with a temporarily uncompetitive car than his team-mate, who has never driven anything but a McLaren and arrived in F1 with the quickest car. At one point in the conference, while Whitmarsh and Button were speaking, Hamilton fiddled with his iPhone, and whether this was simply bad manners or an attempt to convey distance between himself and the management, it was difficult to know.

Whatever, it remains plain that the relationship is… strained, let’s say, and later in the weekend Lewis threw in that, oh by the way, he wouldn’t be signing any new McLaren contract unless the PR demands upon him were reduced.

It’s a fact, and not a new one, that McLaren drivers are required to do more of this sort of work than most others, and understandable that much of it they find onerous, but I thought of something Mario Andretti said to me long ago: “When you sign a contract, some of those zeroes have nothing to do with driving, and you know it. If they’re paying you telephone numbers, when they call, you answer…”

In the race, of course, Lewis was Lewis, superbly at the limit in front of a home crowd — and then understandably mortified, a dozen laps from the end, when his team informed him that he needed to save fuel if he were to make the finish. Earlier in the race Button had pulled off at the exit of pitlane, his right front wheel about to depart after a botched stop.

It was all very unlike McLaren, and unquestionably these are unsettling times. But, as I say, in contemporary F1 nothing stands still, and in the space of a fortnight you can be a hero again, as Ferrari showed at Silverstone.

What they perhaps admire most of all about Alonso is that never — not even when a disastrous strategy call costs him a World Championship — does he publicly criticise the team, or anyone within it. Come to think of it, González was like that, too.

The Goodwood Festival of Speed, it goes without saying, was as wonderful as ever, and for me it was especially so this time around, for a feature of the weekend was a celebration of 100 years of the Indianapolis 500. Part of the paddock had been designated ‘Gasoline Alley’, and I spent hours there, drooling over the many cars culled from the history of the 500, and vainly attempting to take photographs of them devoid of feet and legs and paraphernalia. Used to be that Friday was the time to get this done, but such is the popularity of the Festival that there is no longer such a thing as a relatively quiet day.

Front-engined roadsters, long a particular passion of mine, were there in plenty, and there were novelties too, including the Lotus turbine car — driven at Goodwood by its owner, Parnelli Jones — with which Joe Leonard so nearly won the 500 in 1968.

Strangest of all, though, was surely the Hurst Floor Shifter Special of 1964, which was making its second appearance at Goodwood. First time around the car was accompanied by its creator, the late Henry ‘Smokey’ Yunick, NASCAR car builder of legend, and a man who liked occasionally to dabble in Indycars, too.

Pennsylvania-born, but based all his racing life in Daytona Beach, he didn’t suffer fools, Smokey, and he didn’t care to be pushed around, either. At Goodwood he sat there by the car, I remember, with his pipe going, and if he was affability itself as he signed autographs, wasn’t nobody gonna tell him the paddock was ‘No Smoking’. Nobody did.

Yunick was famous for thinking outside the box. At a time when ‘cheatin’ was in the very DNA of stock car racing, he had his own definition of the word: it wasn’t cheating, he argued, unless the rule book said you couldn’t do it. In 1968, for example, NASCAR specified the maximum size of a fuel tank, but Smokey noted there was no rule as to how big the fuel line could be. To that end, he created a two-inch fuel line that was 11 feet long — and held five gallons. Worked a treat.

NASCAR officials, though, were suspicious that the car was apparently getting such good gas mileage, and pulled out the tank to check it. No doubt about it, the tank was of legal size, but then Smokey rather blew it by losing his temper, firing up the engine and driving the car — still without its tank — away…

It was Yunick, always regarded as an aerodynamics genius, who hit on the idea in 1962 of fitting an enormous wing to a roadster, this the Simoniz Special of Jim Rathmann. Not surprisingly, the car couldn’t get out of its own way in a straight line, but it achieved cornering speeds unheard of for a roadster, and in its way swung a lamp over the future.

Even for a radical thinker, though, Smokey’s creation for the 1964 Indy 500 was something else again. When you see the Hurst Floor Shifter Special in the metal, it looks for all the world as though he built a car — and then realised he had forgotten to make provision for a driver. Yunick liked to call it ‘the capsule car’, but when astonished onlookers saw it at the Speedway it quickly became known as ‘the sidecar’. There being no space for a driver in the main body of the vehicle, a ‘capsule’ or ‘sidecar’ was bolted on to its left side, and the whole creation indeed resembles a motorbike-and-sidecar on steroids. 

The original plan had been to use a turbine engine, but that was ruled out on grounds of cost, and instead the ubiquitous four-cylinder Offenhauser was installed.

Soon after Yunick’s death, in 2001, his memoirs — three volumes, no less — were published, and when you read them you swiftly begin to understand why they never appeared in his lifetime. They constitute, believe me, the saltiest, most indiscreet and politically incorrect writings on the sport ever to come my way. I devoured them.

‘So you’re thinking,’ Smokey writes at one point, ‘where in the hell did you get the plan to build such a goofy car? Over Regensburg, Germany, in 1944 I was driving a B17 when I see a twin-engine very skinny fuselage plane hauling ass with a small capsule on one side, with a pilot in it. Turns out two small shapes with the same total frontal area as one single shape has less drag…

‘Got to have a driver. I need a smaller-size hero. Bobby Johns. Right size, brave, pretty damn good driver, never really got a shot in first-class equipment, not a wall banger. Maybe not goofy enough to want it, but you never know if you don’t ask, right? Answer is: “Hell, yes, I’ve been wanting to go to Indy my whole racing life”. Fine. Come on over to the shop, so we can fit you in the capsule.’

Johns was at the time a prominent NASCAR driver, used to a solid rollcage and plenty of sheet metal around him. As such, his first impressions of the Hurst Floor Shifter Special can only be imagined.

‘He ain’t got a clue,’ Yunick writes. ‘Never sat in an open-wheel car, and when he sees how tiny this car is — and where he sits in it — I’m sure it dampened his enthusiasm some.’

When Johns began driving the car, he did indeed find it a strange experience. ‘The gearshift puzzled him,’ Smokey acknowledges, and no real surprise there, for there was no foot clutch and the device was operated by pressure on the gear lever, as I remember on the NSU Ro80. It took some getting used to on this extraordinary Indycar, but Johns eventually came to terms with it.

Such could not be said, however, of the ‘combination brake-throttle pedal’ — yes, you read that right. ‘Brake and throttle,’ Smokey matter-of-factly observes, ‘are combined in one dual function control’. Once Johns had experienced it at the Speedway, however, it was swiftly discarded: ‘It became a two pedal car…’

Before it actually took to the track, however, the Hurst Floor Shifter Special was given an official unveiling, which, according to Smokey, put half those present into a state of shock. ‘I heard it whispered, “That f***** is nuts — this proves it”. But there was one very important person who loved it. His name was Tony Hulman. Not a bad ally. He owned the farm. And a pretty fair racer from Europe named Colin Chapman just stared at it for hours.

‘We had garages pretty close to each other, and I got to know him quite well in the next three weeks. I respected and admired his talent, but not his game of cut ‘er close on “safe”. He was probably one of the five best in the world, but he had an ego the size of an elephant…’

Told you the memoirs don’t pull any punches: this little titbit is mild indeed.

In a way, it’s ironic that Yunick should criticise Chapman for cutting it close on safety, for although he was a consummate engineer who pioneered many safety improvements on his stock cars, one’s first impression of the Hurst Floor Shifter Special is that a driver would need to be brave to sit in it in the pitlane, let alone out on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Smokey got very angry with other drivers, saying they were trying to unsettle Johns by calling the car ‘a death trap’, but there was no escaping the fact that, in the event of an accident, there was but a sliver of glass-fibre between the driver and the wall.

In the course of that month of May, Indy veteran Duane Carter also tried the car, returning to the pits so visibly shaken by its… unusual handling that he apparently suggested to Yunick that the car be parked forthwith, and perhaps — with modifications — be brought back a year hence.

Johns was clearly made of stern stuff, though, and he stuck with the car, eventually getting it up to a speed in practice which looked as though it might be good enough to make the race. On the final Sunday of qualifying — ‘Bump Day’, as it was traditionally known — he took to the track, ran a quick enough first lap, but then got too deep into turn one, hit the brakes (which Smokey admitted were ‘erratic’) and went backwards into the wall, mercifully hitting with the right — driverless — side of the car first.

Happily Johns was uninjured, but that was the end of the Hurst Floor Shifter Special. Smokey repaired the damage, but the car was never seen at a race track again, and when he returned to Indianapolis three years later, it was with an Eagle — the City of Daytona Special — which he had modified and which Denny Hulme drove to fourth place.

As for Bobby Johns, he too got to know Colin Chapman during May of 1964 and clearly he made an impression of sorts, for at Indy the following year, as Jimmy Clark piloted Lotus number 82 to victory, Johns drove a sister car — number 83 — and finished seventh.

There was a pleasing symmetry, I thought, in the fact that that car, too, was at Goodwood in July, driven — in perfect ‘period’ Hinchman overalls — by Dario Franchitti. Which is where we came in.