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Archive for the ‘F1 Drivers’ Category

Fascinating F1 Fact:46

Being in the right place at the right time is key to success in a Formula 1. One might complain that a driver did not deserve the success he had, but that’s the way it is, the way the cards are dealt, and the way the dice fall.

In motor racing many believe that you make your own luck by being in the right place, being prepared and always doing a good job. As we have seen in recent days, Valtteri Bottas was in the right place at the right time. Now he must deliver. The best example in F1 of being in the right place at the right time is probably Giancarlo Baghetti, who won the first three F1 races he entered.

Born on Christmas Day in 1934, Baghetti was both fortunate and unfortunate at birth. It meant that he would be given fewer presents throughout this lifetime, as everyone combine their Christmas and birthday gifts, but at the same time his family owned a foundry – Stabilimenti Metallurgici Accorsi e Baghetti – which was based in Lecco, in the beautiful lakeland to the north of Milan. This was a business big enough to have its own football team, and it meant that Giancarlo and his brother Marco did not struggle for money.

Giancarlo always wanted to be a racing driver, but he was worried about his father’s reaction to the idea and so raced secretly, borrowing his father’s car, which was tuned by night by Angelo Dagrada, a local garage owner and borrowed for weekends, ostensibly so the boys could spectate at events. His first race was the Coppa della Madunina at Monza in 1956 and his adventures expanded the following year with events such as the Trieste-Opicina and Coppa del Cimino hillclimbs and the Coppa Carri at Monza. There was a similar programme in 1958 with the primary exception being that the Baghetti brothers entered the Mille Miglia rally. The classic event had been banned the previous year, but there was a gruelling  32-hour 1,593 km trial through the mountain roads of northern Italy, with seven timed stages along the way. There were 111 entries and the Baghetti brothers were second in class and seventh overall.

This led to a friend, Mario Poltronieri, a racer who went on to become a celebrated TV commentator (and who died last week), mentioning Baghetti to Carlo Abarth as someone to look out for. Abarth signed Baghetti to race for him in 1959. This was quite successful and in 1960 Baghetti tried single seaters, driving a Formula Junior built by his friend Dagrada. This too was a great success.  At the end of the year Giancarlo received a phone call from Eugenio Dragoni, who ran Scuderia Ambroeus, and was also team manager at Ferrari. Dragoni took Baghetti to meet Enzo Ferrari and, much to Giancarlo’s surprise, he was offered a Ferrari contract. He tested a sports car  soon afterwards and was sufficiently fast for Ferrari to decide to enter him for the 1961 Sebring 12 Hours, as team-mate to Willy Mairesse. The car would be taken over by Wolfgang Von Trips and Ritchie Ginther in the course of the race, but they would all be listed as having finished second.

Ferrari was keen to promote an Italian in F1 and agreed to loan a Ferrari 156 to Scuderia Ambroeus for the Gran Premio di Siracusa on April 25 and the Gran Premio di Napoli at Posillipo on May 14. Despite strong opposition at Syracuse, Baghetti used the Ferrari horsepower to good effect and beat all the big names from Porsche, Cooper, Lotus and BRM. It was a stunning victory. Two weeks later, with most of the stars racing at Monaco, he won at Posillipo as well. Two F1 races. Two wins.

Ferrari had expanded to four cars for the Belgian GP with local hero Olivier Gendebien driving alongside the regular stars Wolfgang Von Trips, Phil Hill and Richie Ginther, and Enzo Ferrari decided to send a fourth car to Reims as well, to try Baghetti in a World Championship race. Hill, Von Trips and Ginther qualified 1-2-3, with Baghetti 12th, five seconds slower than pole position.

Hill led from the start with Ginther and Von Trips chasing as Baghetti worked his way up the order. Von Trips then stopped with engine trouble on the 18th lap, Hill led for 20 laps then spun and stalled and was a lap behind. Ginther led for three laps and then his engine failed. This left Gurney’s Porsche fighting Baghetti, they changed places a number of times but on the last lap Baghetti pulled out of Gurney’s slipstream and took the lead a couple of hundred yards before the finish line to become the first and, to date, only man to win on his F1 World Championship debut.

He raced twice more that year but failed to repeat his success and in 1962 Ferrari had lost its advantage. He raced four times and scored points three times but then decided to follow Hill and many of the Ferrari staff to join the ATS team. This was not a success and with the doors closed to him at Maranello, he could only find a two-year-old BRM entered by Scuderia Centro Sud in 1964. He enjoyed some success in other forms of racing and appeared at the Italian GP each year until 1967 but the machinery was never competitive.

He retired from racing in 1968, married Chichi Vianini and started a new career as an art photographer and later as a journalist. He became the editor of the weekly car magazine Auto Oggi in 1986, but died of cancer at the age of 60 in November 1995. His son Aaron is an art photographer now based in London.

 

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As I get back to my work in F1, it is nonetheless good to see that my late sister Jill’s work has been remembered by some of those marching today in London.

Jill Saward, who died a fortnight ago at 51, after a brain haemorrhage, was not a superwoman. She was a normal woman, who suffered an appalling experience, in a very high profile way. She nonetheless found the strength to try to make a difference and do something positive.

We want that work to continue and we are raising money to create a charitable trust of some sort to honour her memory and to continue her work to change attitudes towards rape, to encourage more women to report such crimes and, by doing so, to reduce sexual violence against women. At the moment only a small percentage of rape victims go to the police, because they are frightened and ashamed. Jill fought for better treatment for victims, to destroy the many myths about rape and to try to bring proper justice for all those who have been subjected to sexual crimes. Her campaigns changed the law and inspired thousands. The work is primarily education and we believe it is important.

In my experience, the F1 community is one in which everyone is treated equally, if they prove they have the ability to do the job properly. It is an open-minded world and thus I hope that many of you will donate to this cause. Some of you have already been very generous, but we need more. So, all you racing millionaires out there, get racing to see who can be the most generous. The biggest donation this far has been £1,000. A lot of you could do better than that.

At the same time, this blog has tens of thousands of readers, so you can imagine how much we could raise – and what can be done – if you each put a fiver into the pot.

Don’t just think about it, do it.

All you need to do is click here.

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Fascinating F1 Fact:45

Before Andretti, Phil Hill and Dan Gurney, American F1 drivers who raced in Europe tended to be wealthy young amateurs. They were adventurers who were often New England types, educated at Harvard, Princeton or Yale, or the kids of wealthy folk who lived in France. Most made little impression.

Herbert Mackay-Fraser was a little the same, but at the same time quite different.

He was a slightly mysterious figure. You can find different dates and places of birth for him and his name is odd because his father was simply Fraser and his mother was not a Mackay. So his name was not really his name. Government records are government records, so one can say with certainty that Herbert Fraser was born in Recife in Brazil in 1922 – not in Connecticut in 1927.

His father is often said to have been the owner of a coffee plantation, but in truth he was a bank manager – although he did acquire a plantation, which boosted the family coffers considerably. Herbert Cecil Fitzroy Fraser had been born a British citizen, on the island of Saint Vincent in the British West Indies. As the name suggests, he was the son of a Scottish emigrant. He moved to New York in 1904 and joined the National City Bank on Wall Street as a teller. He became a U.S. citizen in 1917 and after the war he married an American, seven years his junior. Soon afterwards the couple went to live in Buenos Aires, where the bank wanted him to go to manage its local interests. After that it was on to Recife, where Herbert Jr was born in 1922. Four years later, Herbert Sr switched to become the manager of the Royal Bank of Canada in Rio de Janeiro.

With the bank salary and a coffee plantation, money was not a problem, but Herbert Sr did not live to enjoy it. He died unexpectedly, at the age of just 46, in the middle of 1933. His widow Grace liked Brazil and stayed on, but Herbert Jr, who was then 11, was soon sent off to boarding school in New Hampshire. When the war came, he enlisted, but it was too late for him to see any active service. When peace returned, he tried his hand at ranching in Wyoming, spent a lot of time skiing in Idaho and then drifted into real estate.

He did not discover car racing until he was 31, when the West Coast sports car craze was just kicking off. He made his racing debut at the end of 1953, in a race in Reno, at the wheel of a Jaguar XK120. The following year he raced in both California and in Brazil, and by the summer of 1955 he had relocated to London, where he drove around in a Ferrari (a rare thing in those days) and hung out with Jo Bonnier.

He shared a Lotus at Le Mans with Colin Chapman and built a reputation as an able racer. He then moved to a small Italian village called Bonassola on the coast between Genoa and La Spezia, where he lived with his new wife Marga and their baby daughter. He had two other children, living in Idaho.

In the summer of 1957, BRM offered him a chance in F1 for the French GP at Rouen. Roy Salvadori had moved to Vanwall because Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks were both out of action: Moss with a sinus infection and Brooks as a result of a crash at Le Mans. Mackay-Fraser did a good job, running sixth behind the Maseratis and the Lancia-Ferraris until his transmission failed. It was a promising F1 debut and it seemed he was bound for a future in Grand  Prix racing.

A week later he was entered for the Grand Prix de Reims in a Maserati, and qualified well. He was also entered for the Coupe Internationale de Vitesse Formula 2 race in a factory Lotus 11 sports car, which had been stripped down for F2. He was going well until, for reasons unknown, he arrived far too fast in the first corner. The car ran out of road and went on to the grass for about 60 metres before it ran over a low earth bank and rolled. Drivers then preferred not to wear seat belts and so Mackay-Fraser was thrown out and suffered serious injuries on landing. A helicopter was on hand to fly him to hospital in Reims, but it was too late. He died during the flight. We will never know how good he might have been. He was buried a week later  in the local cemetery at Bezannes.

Although soon forgotten by the F1 world, he was the first Lotus driver to die in one of the factory cars. No great epitaph.

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Fascinating F1 Fact:44

If you mention the words Ted and Martin in relation to Formula 1 these days, most people will think about the Sky TV presenters Ted Kravitz and Martin Brundle.

Back in the 1970s, Ted Martin meant a Formula 1 V8 engine.

Edward C Martin was an RAF pilot during World War II and then became involved in the design of model engines with the Anchor Motor Company in Chester in the late 1940s. In 1952 he moved to Canada to work with GM and worked there for the next 17 years, although he also established a UK company called Alexander Engineering to tune Formula Junior engines. He then developed his own four cylinder 1500cc Martin FJ engine and when F1 changed to the 3-litre formula in 1966,it seemed logical to combine two of these to create a three-litre V8. The first such engines were run in a modified Lotus 35 chassis, prepared by John Pearce, a wheel manufacturer, who ran a garage specialising in racing conversions, in the west London suburb of Southall.

Pearce had started out as a welder at Peerless Cars Ltd in Slough, a small sports car company which duly went bust in the late 1950s. It was revived making a car called the Warwick, but this too went out of business and so Pearce moved on to the Cooper Car Company in Surbiton and then joined Chris Lawrence’s LawrenceTune in Acton. At the same time Pearce operated a spares business using an old double-decker bus, which was parked on old railway land in Staines. When he had sufficient money, in 1962, he bought the garage at 10-12 Western Road, Southall and began manufacturing magnesium alloy wheels, which were sold under the JAP Magna brand.

The Pearce-run Lotus-Martin was raced at the start of 1966 by Roy Pike and finished third in a race at Mallory Park, but the following year it proved to be very slow in practice for the Race of Champions, despite being driven by Piers Courage. He later crashed the car in testing at Snetterton and the project was abandoned. 

That season Pearce ran a Cooper-Ferrari for Chris Lawrence and he raced this to fifth in the Gold Cup at Oulton Park.

Martin commuted backwards and forwards between the UK and Canada, so development work on his V8 was slow, but Pearce pushed ahead with his own chassis, while the Cooper-Ferrari was raced again in the British and German GPs. The Pearce-Martin proper appeared in January 1967, at the Racing Car Show at Olympia. The first of the cars was tested at Brands Hatch but was destroyed by Lawrence, who was pushing hard to try to beat a time set by Tony Lanfranchi in the Cooper-Ferrari.

The team built another chassis and was scheduled to make its debut at the International Trophy at Silverstone at the end of April, with two Pearce-Martins entered for American Earl Jones and Lanfranchi, with Robin Darlington entered in the Cooper-Ferrari. On the night before practice began the team’s transporter caught fire and everything was destroyed.

Pearce and Martin went their separate ways after that with Pearce’s business shutting down in 1973, also apparently after a fire. Pearce turned to farming and settled near Maidenhead.

Martin designed engines for various projects, including the Monica sports car in 1973 before returning to his first love, model engineering in his retirement.

Dreams don’t always come true.

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Fascinating F1 Fact:43

Given all the recent kerfuffling about Russian influence in the United States, perhaps it is an apt moment to mention that the first Formula 1 United States Grand Prix was organised by a man who was born in Russia…

Alexander Edward Ulmann, known as Alec.

There had been some Grand Prix races in the US in the early years of the sport, notably the American Grand Prize on a road course near Savannah, Georgia, in 1908, but Ulmann was the first promoter to bring the F1 World Championship to US shores.

Born in St Petersburg in 1903, Ulmann was the son of a wealthy industrialist, while his mother was a member of the aristocratic Volgensky family. When Alexander was five he became enthralled with automobiles when he saw cars taking part in the St Petersburg-Moscow road race.

In 1917, when he was 13, Russia erupted into revolution and the Ulmann family fled the Bolsheviks and settled in Switzerland, where Alexander was sent to school. He was soon fluent in Russian, French, German and English. He was still fascinated by machines and in 1921 won a place at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, Massachusetts (read Boston), where he earned a Master’s degree in aeronautical engineering.

He became a naturalised American citizen in the same era  – and developed a taste for high-powered American cars. Graduating in 1928, he went to work for Goodyear, his language skills getting him transferred back to Europe, where he soon gained a pilot’s licence and flew from country to country in a Kinner-engined Brunner-Winkle Bird biplane, which had been designed for barnstormers. He would become the European agent for the firm.

While in England he met Mary Foote, who was a rather glamorous assistant to Lieutenant Commander Harold Perrin, the director of the Royal Aero Club In London. This organisation issued all UK flying licences. Foote was a well-spoken young beauty, who lived in Weybridge, had attended finishing schools in Switzerland, France and Germany and spoke three languages. They married soon afterwards and Ulmann whisked her away to New York, where he quickly became a leading light in the Automobile Racing Club of America, which later became the SCCA, and she became a celebrated member of the New York social scene.

When the war came, Ulmann was named president of the Dowty Equipment Corporation, a U.S subsidiary of the listed British engineering company which manufactured landing gear and hydraulic systems for aircraft. The company produced more than a million hydraulic units and tens of thousands of undercarriage structures for a range of aircraft. Ulmann realised that after the war there would be huge opportunities in aviation and so he established AE Ulmann Associates Ltd, in order to acquire surplus military aircraft to convert or upgrade them for civilian use. He became the purchasing agent for Lufthansa and Alitalia in the U.S and represented American aviation firms in Europe. The parts business he developed was akin to printing money and it grew rapidly. In 1960 it was merged with Allied International, which did similar work in Asia, creating a global business with Ulmann as its president and key shareholder.

Motor racing remained his passion and hobby. He wrote books about automotive history and his articles appeared in various magazine. He collected Bugattis and Hispano Suizas. He served as chief steward for early road racing events at Watkins Glen, Bridgehampton, Floyd Bennett Field  and Westhampton and went to Le Mans in 1950, managing the Briggs Cunningham racing team. He decided on that visit that America ought to have its own international endurance race.

One of his parts warehouses, and his workshops, were located at a Florida airfield called Hendricks Field, which had previously been the main training base for B-17 bomber crews during the wartime years. This had been turned over to the local authorities in Sebring to be used as a civilian airport. Ulmann concluded that Hendricks Field had endless possibilities as a racing circuit, thanks to its intersecting runways and taxiways. He talked the local government into agreeing to the idea and at the end of December 1950 he organised a six hour race, which was won by Fred Wacker and Frank Burrell in a Cadillac-powered Allard. In the course of the event, Ulmann took Florida Governor Fuller Warren for a lap around the track – while the race was in progress.

His European connections enabled him to lobby the necessary authorities and in 1952 the Sebring 12 Hours was launched, as a full scale FIA-sanctioned event and a round of the World Sports Car Championship. This would be held each year with a string of associated social events, which attracted not only Europe’s top racers, but also wealthy Americans, who liked to winter in Florida. It wasn’t quite Monaco, but there were good parties…

The Ulmanns lived a jet-set life, with an apartment on Park Avenue in New York, a home in the Hamptons and regular trips to big European races, notably Monaco and Le Mans, but also the Targa Florio in Sicily.

The success is the Sebring 12 Hours – which took a few years and some hefty losses – led Ulmann to decide that America was ready for F1 and he did a five-year deal for Sebring to host the United States Grand Prix in 1959, the first F1 race in the U.S. 

Fortunately Senator Joe McCarthy was dead by then and so there were never any paranoid claims of Ulmann being involved Communist subversion.

The first race, won by Bruce McLaren, attracted only a small crowd and was a financial disaster. Ulmann decided to move the race to Riverside in California in 1960, but this fared little better and so in 1961 he took up the offer to run the race at Watkins Glen in upstate New York…

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FIA approves Liberty deal

The FIA World Motor Sport Council has approved the sale of Delta Topco and the Commercial Rights of the FIA Formula One World Championship to Liberty Media Corporation. The deal was agreed unanimously. The transaction will mean that 100 percent of the shares in Delta Topco will be owned by the Liberty Media Group.

Liberty made a detailed presentation of its strategy and members of the World Motor Sport Council had the chance to ask questions about the how the deal would work. The meeting was constructive and the aim seems to be to keep the relationship in that way in the longer term, rather than wasting energy fighting. The FIA share in Delta Topco, as agreed, will be sold under the same conditions as CVC and the other shareholders, in line with the drag-along agreements associated with the share, which was acquired by the FIA in 2013.

The FIA did not announce any agreements relating to the governance of the sport, but it is expected that these will follow later.

This was the last of the required clearances, following on from the various government agreements announced in December and yesterday’s vote by Liberty shareholders to push ahead with the planned takeover. This means that the deal is close to completion and thus the clock will soon start ticking on the three-year deal to keep Bernie Ecclestone in place as the CEO. It remains to be seen whether this will go full term.

Liberty is not expected to make any dramatic changes, but we do expect to see considerable change in the months ahead.

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Fascinating F1 fact:42

The first man to die at the wheel of a Formula 1 car was a little-known 29-year-old Anglo-American called Cameron Earl. He was an engineer and the team manager of Bob Gerard Racing. Earl had taken a pre-war ERA, updated to F1 spec, to the old Lindley aerodrome, better known today as the home of the Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA), for a test run one evening in June 1952. The car flipped at high speed and Earl was crushed. He survived until the following morning.

Earl is, however, rather more than a sad footnote in motor racing history and is seen by many as one of the key figures in the history of the British motorsport industry, thanks to a 141-page technical analysis he wrote of the 1930s German Grand Prix teams. This included a huge amount of detail, revealing the secrets of the Mercedes and Auto Union Grand Prix cars.

How did an unknown 25-year-old Army officer get to be the author of such an important document?

Well, like many great stories, it began in Scarborough. This is a Yorkshire seaside resort where an American soldier decided to settle with a Yorkshire girl after World War I. They had a child and when the young Cameron was 17, World War II broke out. He was called up and assigned to the Royal Armoured Corps. His technical abilities were soon spotted, however, and he so he was posted to the Department of Tank Design (DTD) in Chobham, Surrey, where he joined the School of Tank Technology. This analysed foreign machinery (allied and enemy) and wrote reports about the innovations, so that they could be used in future British tank designs. Earl was later sent on attachment to the Admiralty Research Laboratory in Teddington, where he met a young engineer called John Cooper, who was working on the secret design of a one-man submarine.

After the Normandy landings in 1944, Allied intelligence began to produce reports on the German military and industrial information that emerged. These were written by teams of scientists, working for the Combined Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee (CIOS). Once Germany was defeated, the British created their own British Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee (BIOS) and continued the same work, creating 2,000 reports on German technology. Earl co-authored a report on German infra-red technology and this led to him being given a hurried commission as a Second Lieutenant in July 1945 in order to give him officer status so that he could acquire more information from captured Germans.

He was keen on motorsport and proposed that BIOS look into Germany’s automobile industry – and the pre-war Grand Prix teams. He went to Germany for a month in April 1947, obtained access to all the required files and blueprints and even interviewed old engineers. He submitted his report in March 1948 and it was published by His Majesty’s Stationery Office six months later. It was entitled “An Investigation into the Development of German Grand Prix Cars 1934-1939”.

By the time the report came out, he had left the Army and was studying mechanical engineering. He would then set up his own consulting business – Earl Automotive Patents Ltd. He found time to take part in the 1950 Monte Carlo Rally, with a Standard Vanguard. The consulting business was slow and do he went to work with Gerard, developing a hydrostatic infinitely-variable transmission for the ERA.

Information is power, so they say, and Earl’s insights played an important role in shaping the thinking of a whole generation of young engineers who flooded into the sport after the war, looking for excitement. These included his pal John Cooper, who would lead the revolution that created Britain’s motorsport industry of today with his rear-engined cars.

A concept that the Germans had looked at in depth…

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