Just keeping up…

I am going to do a quick round-up of the recent news but I’m afraid regular service will not resume until mid next week, as there are still things to be done, in relation to my sister.

I would like to say thank you to the many hundreds of people who have taken the trouble to send their wishes to me and to my family, and to those who have been kind enough to donate (some very generously) to the Jill Saward Fund, which is being administered for the moment by the Rape & Sexual Abuse Centre. In the last few days this has raised nearly £7,000, which we hope will continue to grow so that there can be some kind of permanent trust in the future, as a memorial to Jill and her work. The more money arrives, the more we can do, so write off some tax and help an important cause.

I haven’t had much time for the racing world in recent days but I remain sure that Valtteri Bottas will join Mercedes, Felipe Massa will return to Williams and Pascal Wehrlein will join Marcus Ericsson at Sauber. Esteban Gutierrez has announced a limited Formula E programme, but I doubt his F1 career is over if the Manor team can be saved. It would be crime if it is not, as the team is still in a very decent position if somone has some investment to put in. As I understand it, there are two nearly completed 2017 monocoques and a well-developed plan to be on the grid in Melbourne, but if that is going to happen, an investor is needed now and the investment needs to be considerable. If it does not happen, the team will have to be closed and the assets sold, which will not help anyone. One can hope that the administrator can find some sort of a deal with one of a number of group that were interested in the team, but were driven away by financial demands of the previous owners, which do not seem to have much base in reality. The word is that Ron dennis may be backing one of the bids, which would be very good for the team.

Elsewhere, it is confirmed that Paddy Lowe is leaving Mercedes and we expect that at some point in the not-too-distant future, he will be named to an important role at Williams, the title of the job will be interesting.

The director of racing at Renault Sport F1 Fred Vasseur is leaving. This is a loss to F1 as Fred is a racer from top to toe, but it seems that he was stuck in a situation where he had the responsibility but not the power to change things. Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul is now in charge and the F1 world is hoping that he will do a better job than he did in a similar role at Caterham. He ought to be able to, because this time he has some money behind him.

It is interesting to note the news that Jonathan Palmer’s MSV has bought a lease to run Donington Park for the next 21 years. This is interesting because it means it is unlikely that MSV will pursue its bid for Silverstone. He may have the funding to do that, but running all of the circuits that MSV now have would likely create questions of over competition, as there is not much else left in the UK. Silverstone’s future remains rather uncertain (as always) but the circuit will be fine if it can convince the Formula One group to reduce its fees. That would  be unlikely to happen with Bernie Ecclestone in charge, but when the Formula One group is taken over by Liberty Media, Ecclestone will have to answer to new bosses. That may not be a very comfortable situation…

The last clearances required are from Liberty’s shareholders, who meet in Colorado on January 17. No-one is expected to stand in the way of the deal. The FIA World Council will meet in an extraordinary session on January 18 and will presumably be asked to vote through whatever deal has been agreed by the FIA and the Formula One group. The FIA clubs are not expected to raise any objections to the deal, which will hopefully see the FIA take back some of its regulatory power. There are some last desperate attempts by interested parties to stir up troubel within the FIA clubs, but these will fail.

That’s about it for now.

Fascinating F1 Fact:36

At every FIA Prizegiving Gala, the Formula One Constructors’ Association Award is given to the best race promoter of the year. It is a little known fact that this was designed and made by one of Great Train Robbers.

Known in the criminal world as “The Weasel”, Roy James was a villain, best known as a getaway driver, but he had many other skills as well.

Born in Fulham in 1935, James grew up keen on sports. He excelled in waterskiing and was a top British contender in the late 1950s, while he also had a trial for the QPR football team. From quite early on, however, he used his athletic prowess as a cat burglar, who would scale buildings and break into apartments to steal jewellery and other valuable items. He was also a car thief and at one point nicked a Jaguar belonging to Mike Hawthorn. He used the car for a robbery and then left it parked near a celebrated racing club so that it would be returned to Hawthorn.

He had learned to be a silversmith, which was a useful talent for a cat burglar as he didnt need to pass on stolen goods and could simply melt down precious metals and create new products to sell, without fear of the object being recognised. Some of his work was sold by Harrods and he settled down to work, ostensibly, as an antique dealer, living in the chic Nell Gwynn House on Sloane Avenue in Chelsea.

He began racing karts in 1960 and quickly became a top star in the relatively new sport. On one occasion he discharged himself from hospital after a car crash to race for Britain against the French at Carpiquet, near Caen. He was then 25 and had dreams of being a Formula 1 driver. He used crime to fund his racing, notably with a couple of profitable robberies on the Cote d’Azur. He then began an association with a group known as the South West Gang, led by Bruce Reynolds, a talented heist organiser. In 1962 the gang stole the BOAC airline payroll in dramatic fashion at Comet House in Heathrow Airport. It was a violent attack with several security men being clubbed unconscious by the gang and then the money being put into a Jaguar driven by Micky Ball, with a second car, driven by James, running interference if they were chased. At one point a car tried to block a gateway and James used his Jaguar to knock it out of the way. Similarly, he blocked a junction when faced with a red light, allowing Ball to motor through. The police would later arrest both men but James got away with it as he was not picked out in an identity parade. Ball got five years.

James used his share of the money from that robbery to buy a Brabham BT6 Formula Junior, paying for the car with cash, and he raced in 1963 against the likes of Denny Hulme, Peter Arundell, Brian Hart, Frank Gardner and Alan Rees. He won one round of the national championship and a string of other events.

In August the South West gang, in league with another gang from the Brighton area, hit the Aberdeen-London mail train, using a rigged signal at Ledburn, south of Leighton Buzzard. James uncoupled the back carriages of the train, where mail sorters were working, and the front section of the train left them behind and stopped a few miles further down the line at a bridge over a country road near Cheddington. The gang smashed their way into the High Value Mail coach and, with military precision, transferred 20 mail bags to a truck and two Land Rovers. These were then driven to Leatherslade Farm, near Brill, not far from Bicester. The robbery netted an astonishing £2.6 million, about £38 million at modern prices.

The plan was to stay at the farm for two weeks, but the police guessed that the gang must have a hideaway and began searching the region. The gang dispersed rapidly, each robber taking £85,000, which is about £1.2 million at today’s value. James gave £12,500 of his share to Ball’s wife, and then returned to his normal activities in Chelsea.

The police went over the farm carefully and found James’s fingerprints on a Pyrex plate, a St Johns Ambulance first aid kit and on a page of an American movie magazine. He turned up at Goodwood, for the next race and completed practice but then failed to appear for the race itself because the police had issued wanted posters for some of the gang members.

For two months he disappeared but in December a woman informant told the police that James was hiding out in St John’s Wood and even gave them details of a planned escape route he had. The police raided the flat and James was arrested, after a chase across the rooftops. In April 1964 he was sentenced to 30 years in prison at Aylesbury Crown Court.

He served 11 years, being released in 1975. He was then 40 and the money from the robbery was gone, used it seems by his criminal friends. He went to see the new boss of Brabham, Bernie Ecclestone, who told him it was too late for a serious racing career, but gave him the job of creating a new trophy. Others helped him to get a Formula Ford car and he did well and was looking to move up to Formula Atlantic in 1976. That summer he was testing a Lola at Silverstone when he put a wheel on the grass and crashed heavily, breaking a leg.

That was the end of his racing dreams. He went back to making trophies and probably some less-than-legal activities. In 1984, at the age of 48, he married an 18-year-old, Anthea Wadlow, ironically the daughter of a bank manager, but soon afterwards he was arrested for allegedly importing gold, without paying duty. He was acquitted on that occasion, but in the years that followed his marriage broke down. He won custody of their two children but he failed to pay a £150,000 settlement to Anthea. This resulted in a confrontation between James and her father David Wadlow, and ended up with James shooting him several times and injuring his ex-wife as well. He turned himself in and was sent to jail for six years in 1994 for attempted murder.

He soon began to have heart problems which led to a triple bypass operation and early release from prison in 1997, but he died of a heart attack later that year, at the age of 62.

One wonders where he got the silver for the trophy…


Fascinating F1 Fact:35

For those who think that it will all be so much better when Brexit is done, perhaps one should take a wander back in time and examine the motorsport world before access to Europe was easy and without undue paperwork.

Back in 1956, a 30-year-old Jack Brabham was still struggling to establish himself in Grand Prix racing. He had not started racing until he was 22 and it was seven years after that before he headed to England. He had made his F1 debut the previous year in a Cooper which he had bought from the factory, but he decided that he needed a better car and so sold the Cooper in Australia and used the money to buy a Maserati 250F, which – oddly – had been owned by the Owen Racing Organisation, which manufactured and raced BRMs. The company was working on the new P25, but it was not ready in time for 1955 (in the finest BRM tradition) and so Sir Alfred Owen bought a Maserati in order to have a competitive car for Peter Collins to drive. This also gave his engineers the chance to examine the latest Italian technology… 

Collins used the car to win the BRDC International Trophy and the London Trophy and he was then hired by Ferrari.

Owen wanted to get rid of the 250F in early 1956 and Brabham agreed to buy it. Once it was delivered, Jack discovered that the paperwork was not as simple as he had imagined and that, to avoid Purchase Tax, (a sales tax imposed on all items deemed to be “luxury”, which was then running at a shocking 60 percent of the price), Owen had only temporarily imported the car and, as a result Brabham could not use the car unless it was exported and then re-imported with different paperwork.

The easiest way to do this was to put the Maserati on a ferry to Guernsey, the Crown Dependency which, officially, is not part of the United Kingdom. Leaving his Commer transporter in Newhaven, Brabham accompanied the 250F to St Peter Port. It had to be craned on and off the ship because there were no roll-on/roll-off vessels on the route. The ship arrived in the fog and Brabham saw nothing but a wharf, as the car was craned on to the dock and then wheeled across to be loaded on to a different boat, while rubber stamps were applied to paperwork.

They then sailed back to Newhaven where the Maserati slipped in its sling while being unloaded. A terrified Brabham watched in horror, fearing that the car would be dropped on to the dock. Later he wished it had been, because the car brought him nothing but pain. The engine needed to be rebuilt and so it was sent to Italy. Brabham, with his wife Betty and young son Geoffrey, drove to Modena in a Borgward Isabella Combi to pick it up. The rebuild cost a lot more than anticipated and so on the return journey they had to survive on bread and water, because getting money from abroad was complicated and time-consuming. They rushed back to Boulogne, their major fear being that they would run out of petrol before they got there. They just made it and boarded the ferry SS Lord Warden.

They had enough money left for a bowl of soup and had just finished that when the Lord Warden ploughed into a French ship called the Tamba, in fog off Cap Gris Nez. It was a big impact but the Lord Warden was in no danger of sinking and so the ferry continued, with Brabham worried about what he would find when the passengers were allowed back to their vehicles. The result was a Borgward Isabella smashed front and rear, but the Maserati engine undamaged.

Brabham never did race the 250F  after that because he never had the money to do so… and instead took a job with John Cooper instead. This led to back-to-back World Championships in 1959 and 1960, and a third title in 1966 in one of his own cars. In 1979 Jack would be knighted for services to motorsport.

This is a motor racing blog – at least, most of the time. Now and then, I decide that there Jill -The Times.jpgare things more important than Formula 1. Today is one of those days. Sadly, not all such days are happy ones, but I am going to tell the story nonetheless, because I want the international motor racing community to know about Jill Saward.

My little sister.

Blog readers who live in the UK will probably know the name already, given the coverage there has been about her in the last week. She was the lead item on most TV news bulletins last Thursday and on most of the newspaper front pages on Friday morning. There were two reasons for this: she was a remarkable person; and she died suddenly at the age of just 51. The family knew that there might be some media interest, but none of us imagined it would be front page news.

You may well ask, why is it? And for those who don’t know the story, I would suggest you read this link, but in very simple terms, Jill was “a rape campaigner”. It is not really the kind of job you want to have, because the primary qualification is to be someone who has been raped. Jill was. She was raped physically by a bunch of depraved thugs, but also metaphorically by the British media – although you won’t read that second part in many of this week’s news stories. You will read instead that she was the first rape victim ever to waive her right to anonymity. The reason she did that was because she wanted to make a difference, and because the media had already destroyed every shred of privacy. Headlines about “the vicar’s daughter” were simply too good for the loathsome creatures who sat on the news desks in Fleet Street, and for the low-lifes who chased the story.

At the time I was a young reporter at Autosport and I suddenly found myself in the middle of a terrible drama, at the hands of people who were supposed to be my colleagues. My sister was in hospital. Her then boyfriend was in intensive care, having been beaten unconscious with a cricket bat. My father was in a similar state. Ironically, he was a big fan of cricket and the cricket bat, signed by the great Donald Bradman, was one of his prize possessions. It was a surreal time, which has been described very well by my brother-in-law Chris Hudson in the recent days. It taught me a lot about what not to do as a journalist.

The case created fierce criticism about press coverage of rape cases because it was clear from the stories published who the victim had been. The Sun, edited by Kelvin MacKenzie, even published a photograph of Jill, with only her eyes blacked out. They were shameless. They argued, cynically, that media identification of victims was only banned after a defendant had been charged. As far as I am concerned, the name Murdoch will forever be tainted by that contemptible defence. The law was changed. The Press Council published new guidelines on how rape cases should be reported to prevent anonymity being breached.

The judicial process after the assailants were caught was utterly appalling: the ringleader, who was not one of the rapists and was there simply to steal, was sentenced to 14 years in prison. The two rapists were each given five years for burglary, one got another five years for rape, the other got three years. The message was clear: goods had more value than the female body. The judge, Mr Justice Leonard, made the extraordinary statement when he justified the light sentences saying that Jill had not suffered any great trauma because of her controlled and dignified demeanour in court. The truth was very different, as Jill would later reveal in a book she wrote in 1990.

There was uproar after that and the case would play an important role in changing the law so that today the prosecution in any case can ask the Attorney General to increase a sentence, if it is felt the judge has failed in his duties. Jill campaigned for changes to the law and over the time these would include making rape within marriage a criminal offence, getting other sexual acts classified as rape, tougher sentencing for rapists, a ban on alleged rapists being allowed to cross-examine victims in court and restrictions on the evidence that can be given about a victim’s sexual history.

Jill went on to campaign for the rights of sexual assault victims and to improve the support they receive. She became a sexual assault case worker, trained police forces all over the country and most recently launched a new campaign called JURIES, arguing in favour of mandatory briefings for juries about the myths and stereotypes of sexual violence in rape, sexual assault and abuse trials. She also spoke out against those who in recent times have been seeking to change the law so that people accused of sex crimes can claim anonymity.

Despite all her work, in 2013-2014 around 16,000 rapes were reported, only a third were sent to the Crown Prosecution Service and only 15 percent resulted in charges being made. Only around six percent resulted in a conviction. And none of this takes into account the fact that the rapes reported were probably only a fraction of the number actually committed. I know quite a few women who have told me about being raped but never reported it, because they feared what would happen. For them, Jill was a beacon of strength, someone who was fighting their fight, challenging judges, politicians and anyone else who needed educating on the subject.

On another level, Jill made a huge impact by expressing her belief that forgiveness provides victims with the freedom to move on, without being trapped by the past. The concept that one could forgive such awful acts sent out a powerful message about her Christianity.

In short, Jill’s life and her campaigns touched tens of thousands of people and made significant impacts in British legislation. At the same time she spent a large amount of time meeting, talking to or texting with rape victims, trying to help them come to terms with what has happened on a personal basis.

As a family, we have received thousands of messages in recent days, and I’d like to quote a couple of the ones that came to me, just to help you understand the kind of impact.

“The fact that the passing of Jill was the main item on last night’s BBC news speaks so clearly of the significant difference she made in the lives of so many,” one person wrote.

Another, from the motor racing world, wrote: “Jill was an incredible woman. Her support got me through an utterly terrible time and helped me to define myself, without reference to the wickedness that touched my life. Without wishing to sound trite, the difference between seeing oneself as a victim and defining oneself as a survivor is profound and without Jill I don’t think I could have made the step from one to another… I hope that the knowledge that there are people like me in the world for who Jill helped from the darkness back into the light offers a tiny bit of comfort to you all. I suspect her devotion to her cause means that she has touched 100s of lives and has left the world in a better place than she found it.”

And is there a better epitaph than that?

The Saward children were taught and shared the belief that we could – and indeed should – strive to make the world a better place. Motor racing may seem an odd place to do that, but while it is a ruthless but efficient money-making machine, it is also a place where normal people go to escape; a world of dreams that make life more bearable for many people. I’ve sometimes described myself as “a dream salesman” and I have always felt that in this way I could make a difference. This blog is all about inviting people into the sport and letting them understand.

Twins 1969.jpgWhen we were young, the family was not complicated. We had one “big sister”, then “the only boy” and finally the two “little sisters”. The latter were identical twins (left). I’m not really sure why but the only boy and the little sisters formed a little gang, in the Swallows and Amazons sense of the word. We did kid stuff. We had adventures. Our parents always seemed to be too busy to tell stories and the twins wanted them and so I, the scruffy schoolboy, became the family storyteller. I remember only too well those two, almost identical, little faces spellbound by some daft story about elephants with tail lights or whatever else came to mind. They were my first audience – and ultimately the way I learned how to tell stories and transport people to exciting places.

And then, all of a sudden, we were adults and our paths went off in different directions. We were outward-looking and independent, but bound together by this thing called love. We were never held back by the family and that meant that we could have big dreams and wide horizons. Often we got lost from one another in the forests of life, but then we would be together again, for weddings and funerals, and we would remember that families can draw strength from one another.

Motor racing took me into a world in which there are some amazing intellects and an Jill Aquileia 1973.jpegunderlying requirement for constant improvement. If you do not move forward in racing, you fall behind. No-one is ever cruising along. And brilliant minds create fantastic ways in which to apply racing technology to the real world. Yes, there are safer and more efficient cars as a result of the sport, but there is so much else as well, including such things as medical telemetry, more efficient trauma teams (based on pit stop techniques) and many other things. I am proud to be part of Formula 1 and to sing its praises.

Formula 1 is really only a village which moves from place to place. One of the things which one learns about during a career as a journalist in F1 is the science of brain injury. We’ve seen a lot of it. My sister suffered a devastating subarachnoid haemorrhage, caused by an aneurysm. My first reaction when I heard the news was to ring Gary Hartstein, who was F1’s village doctor after the great Sid Watkins. Gary knows an amazing amount about trauma medicine and I knew he would help me understand. I told him all I knew, and he answered all my questions, explained the procedures and things which I should look out for, which would signal how things were. He didn’t sugar-coat anything – and added that he was available 24/7. He went the extra mile, as so many F1 people do. Gary was also brave enough to raise the subject of the worst case scenario and how we should be prepared to allow organ donation, in order to save other people. People who die young from brain injuries are among the best sources of healthy organs, which can transform the lives of others.

Thanks to Gary, I had no illusions. It may be comforting to think that people with cataclysmic brain injuries are “fighting”, but the reality is often very different. Most are quickly gone and they know nothing of what has happened. In Jill’s case, she was kept alive simply to allow surgical teams and organ recipients to be gathered. That in itself is quite a process. And then, when all was ready, the machines were turned off.

There are always positives, even at the worst moments, and the knowledge that others were going to benefit from Jill’s organs provided something. It was good too that our parents (both already gone) were not there to endure the loss of one of their children. After that, the flood of messages began, highlighting Jill’s achievements. The experience drew the family together and healed rifts and it reminded us all that we should never take people for granted. If you feel something important, you should say it, because you never know.

This blog post is not about raising money. It is about me saying what I want to say, but at the same time, I am well aware that the motor racing world is filled with wealthy people, who have enough money to buy expensive toys. Perhaps this story will convince them to donate to the “Remembering Jill Saward Fund”, which has been set up by the charity Rape & Sexual Abuse (RASA) Centre Limited. This will help to make sure that her work for survivors of sexual violence will continue. If you would like to help then please click here.

Fascinating F1 Fact:34

In 1903 a Frenchman called René Hanriot, a merchant from Châlons-sur-Marne, aged 35, drove a Clément automobile in the infamous Paris-Madrid road race, which was stopped in Bordeaux after a series of fatal accidents. Hanriot made little impression that day, but in the years that followed he won various big races and finished second in the prestigious Circuit des Ardennes. For a few years he was a regular on the Grand Prix scene, but then aviation came along and he discovered a new passion. He set up his own company to manufacture aeroplanes, based at the Aérodrome de la Champagne at Bétheny, alongside the main road north out of the city of Reims. He also opened a flying school and in 1912 one of the pupils to pass through the school was a 24-year-old Italian by the name of Francesco Baracca. He was a cavalry officer in the 2nd Reggimento Piemonte Cavalleria, one of the most famous units in the Italian army.

Once he had his licence, Baracca went back to Italy and was transferred to the new Battaglione Aviatori. Italy did not enter World War I until April 1915 and at that point Baracca was sent back to Paris, to be trained to fly the new French-built Nieuport 10, a two-seater reconnaissance aircraft. This was not much use as a fighter aircraft and it was not until the Italians received the Nieuport 11 a year later that they could begin to engage with enemy aircraft on the Italian Front.

Baracca was the first Italian to shoot down an enemy plane – a Hansa-Brandenburg flown by an Austrian pilot. More and more victories followed and after his fifth triumph he officially became an ace. The tradition at the time was for the aces to decorate their planes with a crest or an emblem and Baracca chose a black prancing horse on a white background. There are various stories as to why he chose it: the first is that it was the regimental badge of the 2nd Reggimento Piemonte Cavalleria, which makes sense; but there is a second argument that he picked the symbol because he had shot down a German plane, which carried the coat of arms of the city of Stuttgart, a black prancing horse on a yellow background. Perhaps it was both. In May 1917 Baracca took command of the 91st Squadron, which was equipped with new SPAD VIIs. All the planes carried his prancing horse and in the months that followed he became a national hero. By September his total of confirmed victories had risen to 19 and by the start of 1918 it was at 30. It seemed that Baracca was invincible, but then in June 1918 he failed to return from a mission. His body was recovered a few days later when an Italian advance revealed his downed plane. When the war ended, a few months later, he was still Italy’s highest-scoring ace of the war with 34 victories.

Five years later, in June 1923, Count Enrico Baracca, Francesco’s father, was guest of honour for a motor race on the Savio circuit, near Ravenna. This was a fast triangle of public roads south of the city and it was won by a 25-year-old called Enzo Ferrari, driving a factory Alfa Romeo. Baracca presented Ferrari with the trophy and later Enzo visited the family and met Baracca’s mother, Contessa Paolina. She suggested that he use the prancing horse logo on his racing cars. Ferrari was an Alfa Romeo driver at the time and the company had its famous Quadrifoglio – the four-leaf clover badge – on its cars. Scuderia Ferrari was not established until the end of 1930, seven years later, but it was still the Alfa Romeo factory team and it was not until July 1932 that Ferrari put his own version of Baracca’s badge, with a yellow background, on his cars for the Spa 24 Hours. The two Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 MMs were driven to a 1-2 victory by Antonio Brivio/Eugenio Siena and Piero Taruffi/Guido d’Ippolito.

Oddly, the Prancing Horse also features in the Porsche logo, along with the word Stuttgart. It is a little known fact that the Ducati motorcycle company also used the Prancing Horse in the late 1950s and early 1960s because the company’s chief designer Fabio Taglioni came from the village of Lugo, where Baracca was born.

Fascinating F1 Fact:33

It would be incorrect to refer to Nobuhiko Kawamoto as Sir Nobuhiko, because as a Japanese citizen he does not have the right to use the title Sir – despite the fact that he is a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire – and is allowed to put the letters KBE after his name.

Kawamoto was born in Tokyo, early in 1936. One of his first memories was watching Japanese warplanes taking off for a bombing raids in China. He became fascinated by machines. The war ended with Japan’s defeat when Kawamoto was nine, and his teenage years were spent with Japan occupied by U.S. forces. As Japan recovered, he studied engineering at Tōhoku University in Sendai and, while there, he won a scholarship, using the money to race a second-hand motorcycle, while his family continued to send him funds for tuition and to live. Later, when he had a good job, he repaid his father. At the same time, he was the leader of a club which was founded to rebuild the cars the Americans had left behind when they departed in 1952.

After completing his Masters, he joined Honda’s research and development division in 1963, having become a big fan of the company when Soichiro Honda decided to take on the world in motorcycle racing, trying to win the Isle of Man TT. Kawamoto was soon sent to Europe as a designer and development engineer for the  Honda F1 programme, writing long technical reports about each race and mailing them home to Japan. The team learned quickly and started to winning, but withdrew from the sport in 1968 after Jo Schlesser was killed driving one of the Honda F1 cars at Rouen.

Kawamoto moved over to production vehicles in Japan, working on the design of the Civic, which appeared in 1972, and the advanced CVCC engine. He became head of Honda R&D in 1981. This led to the company returning to racing with a successful Formula 2 engine programme with Ralt, which resulted in three European F2 titles between 1982 and 1984. In 1983 the Honda board decided to return to F1 as an engine supplier and over the next nine seasons won a string of F1 titles with Williams and then McLaren, the company enjoying unprecedented success.

The company tradition had always been have to racers at the head of the firm: Soichiro Honda was followed in 1973 by Kiyoshi Kawashima, who had led the Isle of Man TT team. When he retired in 1983, Tadashi Kume, who had designed engines for the TT and F1 programmes, took over. And in 1990 Kawamoto became the fourth president of Honda. The company was then facing a hostile takeover by Mitsubishi, had an ageing product range and was not paying enough attention to what the market wanted. Unpalatable though it was to him, Kawamoto ended Honda’s F1 programme in 1992. In the years that followed he focussed the company on its technology and products and turned the business around, restructuring and increasing profits from $540 million in 1990 to $1.78 billion six years later.

Kawamoto the racer remained. He quietly oversaw the development of a Honda-Honda F1 test car in Japan. He even drove it. He was keen to have Honda back in F1 and in 1998 moves began to have a Honda team, with a prototype designed by Harvey Postlethwaite and built by Dallara, but Kawamoto was then pushed out by other factions at Honda and the project died. Honda engines would return to F1 with BAR in 2000 and the firm would later take over the team and run a factory programme from 2006 to 2008, but without Kawamoto, the ethos – and the level of success – were different.

Fascinating F1 Fact:32

Paul Greifzu never took part in a Formula 1 Grand Prix, but one of his cars did. It was, in fact, the very same car in which Greifzu had been killed 15 months earlier. The Greifzu was one of the small group of post-war BMW Eigenbau Formula 2 cars, the work “eigenbau” translating literally as “home-made”. They were all based on the pre-war BMW 328 sports car, using Rudolf Schleicher’s potent 2-litre straight six engine, which also served as the base for the Bristol engines in the early 1950s, notably in the Cooper-Bristols.

Greifzu was not an engineer, but rather a practical amateur, who did what he could with the equipment available to him. His father owned a garage in the town of Suhl, not far from Erfurt, in Thuringia. When he was 18, after an apprenticeship as a toolmaker, Paul started working in the family garage. He soon started racing, initially with a Dixi, a German-built version of the Austin Seven. He won his first victory at Saalfeld in 1925 and then moved on to a Mercedes and a BMW motorcycle. For three years he raced with much success until a serious accident convinced him to stop. He married, worked in the family garage and started a family.

Seven years later, when the BMW 328 appeared, he decided to return to racing at the age of 33. He was one of BMW’s first customers and quickly showed his abilities, notably by winning the sports car race supporting the 1938 German GP, in which he beat the factory 328s. The war then interrupted his revived career, he hid his BMW and continued to run the garage with his brother Fritz. In the course of the war the garage used forced labourers from Ukraine and when the Americans liberated Suhl in April 1945, the two brothers faced trouble, until all 12 of the workers involved protested and explained that the Greifzus had taken them from the work camp in order to save their lives and had treated them with great care and respect.

The Soviets took over the region in July that year and there was no racing for four years. Most of the car factories in the east had been destroyed or the production lines had been moved to Russia, but the BMW plant at Eisenach was revived and it began producing pre-war models under the Eisenacher Motorenwerk (EMW) banner. In July 1949, a few weeks before the Russians withdrew and the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR) came into being, the first motorcycle races were held at Stralsund and Wittenberg and in September the first car race in the east place at Dessau, on a circuit which included a section of autobahn. Greifzu dusted down his 328, but it was clear that this was not competitive and so the brothers set about building their own version. This was based on a BMW 315 chassis, which was lighter than the 328. This was lowered and fitted with a 326 engine block, which EMW engineer Erich Kock mated with the light alloy cylinder heads from the 328. The bodywork was designed with the help of former Auto Union aerodynamicist Georg Hufnagel. The new car was fast and beat the other BMW Eigenbaus and the state-funded DAMWs. After a number of victories he was allowed to race in the West. The car showed promise but was destroyed when he crashed at the Nürburgring. After spending five weeks in hospital in Adenau, he returned home and built a revised version of the car. After initial wins the East Germany in 1951, he returned to the West and finished fourth at the Nürburgring. There were then further wins in the East before an international Formula 2 race at the revived Avus. The opposition was strong, with Veritas, AFM, Ferrari, Cooper and HWM (with Stirling Moss and Lance Macklin). Greifzu had prepared well. He had a special high-revving engine and gearing designed for Avus. The Greifzu was fastest in practice and after a battle with the Veritas of Toni Ulmen, Paul emerged the winner. An East German amateur had beaten the Western teams. Greifzu ended the year with another victory at the Sachsenring against a number of the Western visitors.

Greifzu turned 50 in April 1952 but was keen to go on racing. A few weeks later the racers gathered at Dessau and Greifzu was setting the pace in practice when his engine seized as he accelerated on the autobahn. It was such a violent failure that it split the engine block and the car spun out of control into a wooden fence and rolled. Greifzu was thrown out and killed. Amazingly, the damage to the car was relatively light and his widow Dora had the car rebuilt and it was entered for the German GP in 1953 with Rudolf Krause driving.

Greifzu remains the only driver to have won a major international single-seater race in a home-built special.