Motor Racing, H:O Scale Slot Cars, Classic Cars, the building of my slot car circuit

Les courses automobiles francaises et voitures classiques

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Alpine Renault at Montlhéry-Linas - Coupes de Printemps 2015

The undoubted stars of the 2015 Coupes de Printemps at Montlhéry were the Alpine Renaults.  Although the three that were brought along were just out of period to have raced at the Autodrome in its heyday (which was until 1971), they were very welcome visitors.   Two of them made a short run on their own just after lunch and then had another run with one of the plateau later in the afternoon.  Their racing engines made a splendid sound and helped make a cold, damp spring day rather pleasant.   Thanks to Chapal for bringing them along.   Amongst the drivers was none other than ex-F1 driver Paul Belmondo.  Also attending and driving was the son of the Alpine Renault founder, Jean-Charles Redelè.

Renault Gordini engini in the back of the ex-Beaumont/Lombardi car
It was appropriate that Alpine Renault were at Montlhéry this year as they are celebrating their sixitieth birthday as a marque.  The most successful years for these sports racing cars were the seventies.  The marque had originally mounted an attack on Le Mans in the 1960s culminating with 8th place in 1968 with the A220.

After a successful interlude in rallying with the A110 including victory in the Monte Carlo, the attack on Le Mans resumed in the seventies.  For 1973 this 2 litre prototype the A440 was built.  This evolved into the A441 and then finally the turbo charged A442B which won Le Mans in 1978.
I didn't see this car run but it was a pretty addition to the paddock. It is an Alpine Renault A440 V6 from about 1973.  It normally sits in a museum.
At Montlhéry the record of the Alpine Renaults in the Paris 1,000 kms was as follows:

1964 -16th overall and 1st in the 1.15 litre class.
1966 - 4th overall
1967 - 7th overall and with another car 1st in the 1.3 litre sports class
1968 - 4th overall

However, none of these type cars were to be seen today.

Pushing the Alpine Renaults down the pit lane at Montlhéry to the start.
Starting the engine of the ex-Alain Serpaggi Alpine Renault A441 which won the European 2 litre Sports car championship in 1974
The A441 was a very successful 2 litre V6 sports car.

The ex-Beaumont/Lombardi Alpine Renault A441-3 leaving the pits at Montlhéry
Marie-Claude Beaumont and Leila Lombardi were successful sports car racing ladies.  1n 1975 they raced together in the 2 litre class in the World Manufacturers championship for Alpine Renault. Although they had an old A441-3 they were very competitive.

They finished 6th overall at Mugello and 2nd in the 2 litre Sports class.
The finished 4th overall at Monza and 1st in the 2 litre Sports class.
They were fastest in qualifying for the 2 litre class at Le Mans but run out of fuel in the race.

Great to see this car out on the circuit today.

Alpine A441-3 on the Montlhéry banking and almost the only bit of blue sky we saw all day!
Alpine Renault A441-3 entering the chicane before the banking
Alpine Renault A441-3 entering the Montlhéry pits
Alpine Renault A441-3 about to swallow up a Mini!
Montlhéry's huge high banking dwarfs the ex-Alain Serpaggi Alpine Renault A441
Alain Serpaggi played a key part in the Alpine Renault story by winning the 1974 European 2 litre Sports Car Championship for Alpine Renault in the A441.  This was a car that completely dominated the season taking 9 wins from 9 starts.  Serpaggi won at the Hockenheim championship round.  A very special car and thus really nice to see it at Montlhéry today.

Ex-Alain Serpaggi Alpine Renault A441 takes the chicane before the Montlhéry banking. 
Alpine Renault A441 overtakes an M.G. Midget at Montlhéry
Alpine Renault A441 passes the Montlhéry stands
Alpine Renault A441 at Montlhéry
Alpine Renault A441 on the Montlhéry banking
As well as these Alpine Renault racing sports cars on the circuit there was a very nicely turned out Alpine Renault A110 in the car park and paddock.

Alpine Renault A110 - Montlhéry 2015 Coupes de Printemps
The photographer, John Etherton, asserts his copyright to the photos on this blog.  However, you may republish them elsewhere on the web as long as you credit the photographer and this blog, and provide a link to this page.

I'll be publishing another post on this meeting at Montlhéry soon.

To see pictures of a Renault F1 car on the Montlhéry banking and pictures of real racing here back in 2002 click here.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

My Top Ten B.R.M. Drivers

B.R.M. F1 cars parade at the 2010 Goodwood Revival including a
1968 P126 followed by the Yardley era cars P153 and P160.
I was always a bit of a fan of the B.R.M. Formula One team and many of my favourite drivers raced
for them at some time in their careers as you can read below.   It is always fun coming up with Top Tens, so why not a Top Ten of B.R.M. drivers.  See if you agree with my list below

No. 10    Reg Parnell
Reg has to appear on the list somewhere because he scored the first World Championship points for B.R.M. (fifth in the 1951 British G.P.) and scored their first ever win (the non-championship Goodwood Cup 12 lap race in September 1950).  On the same day as the Goodwood Cup he took another win in the longer Goodwood Trophy. These successes were all achieved in the unreliable and difficult to drive V16 P15.  At his second meeting in the BRM at Barcelona he started at the back of the grid but overtook 17 cars on the opening lap to show the BRMs potential but the BRM as usual retired.  The next year at the British GP he survived bad fumes and burnt legs from the heat in the BRM to take fifth place ahead of one of the works Alfa Romeos.  At last after two years BRM had a good result after a really brave drive by Reg.

Reg scored third place in the very first ever F1 World Championship race driving for Alfa Romeo and had a successful sports car career including fifth place in the 1953 Mille Miglia for Aston Martin. In my view a somewhat under-rated driver.

No. 9      Dickie Attwood
A relatively early Motor Racing memory was reading about Dickie Attwood's chase of Graham Hill in the 1968 Monaco G.P.  After 80 laps he finished less than three seconds behind the Monaco maestro in the Lotus to take second place and fastest lap.    Thus this drive gets Dickie 9th place in my Top Ten BRM drivers list.  The rest of the year wasn't so good as the B.R.M. P126 was not a competitive car.

However, it must be said that Dickie was a winning B.R.M driver as he finished first in the 1966 Tasman Series race at Levin.   I also cheered him on to victory in a BRM at Goodwood in 2010 - see picture below.

Something of a Monaco specialist he won the Formula Junior race there in 1963 and as well as his great drive in 1968, scored points there again for Lotus in his last F1 race in 1969 when he finished fourth.   He of course won Porsche's first Le Man victory in 1969 partnering Hans Hermann in the 917.
Dickie Attwood's BRM P261 winning at the Goodwood Revival in 2010 in the Glover Trophy 1.5 litre F1 race from Frank Sytner's Lotus Climax 24.

No. 8     Jean Behra
Living in France, I cannot miss the great Jean Behra off the list of top B.R.M drivers.   He won two non-championship races for them in 1957 (Caen and the International Trophy at Silverstone) as well as coming 3rd in the 1958 Dutch G.P.

Jean never was quite in the right place at the right time and his Latin temperament didn't help so he never won the Championship G.P. that his talent deserved.  He did have success in Sport Cars, notably the 1957 Sebring 12 hours.

1950s B.R.M. P25s at the 2010 Goodwood Revival
No. 7     Peter Gethin
A winnng member of the successful 1971 B.R.M. team, Peter Gethin came first in that year's Italian G.P. slipstreamer at an amazing 151 M.P.H.   Although he had been only 11th fastest in practice he kept with the leading group and made a great move on the last lap to beat Ronnie Peterson, Francois Cevert, Mike Hailwood and team mate Howden Ganley in an incredibly close finish.  Peter also won the sad end of season non-championship Victory Race at Brands in which Jo Siffert died and was thus stopped after just 15 laps.

Peter Gethin is most remembered as one of the most successful Formula 5000 drivers winning the 1969 and 1970 championships plus the 1974 Tasman Championship.    Not forgetting of course, that he won the 1973 Race of Champions in a F5000 car, beating all of the F1 cars.

No. 6    Joakim Bonnier
Jo Bonnier had a long Formula One career (1956 to 1971) but never really achieved that much despite winning B.R.M.'s first ever World Championship victory in the Dutch G.P. at Zandvoort in 1959.  He was a BRM driver for the 1957, 1958 and 1960 seasons. His win came in the unreliable P25 but following this he never did better than fifth place in a World Championship GP.  However, apart from a stint with Porsche he drove mainly for privateer teams.  Bonnier's win was not an inherited one as he took pole position, overtook Gregory and Moss and beat Jack Brabham to take victory.

Jo did have a number of important sports car successes including the Targa Florio, Sebring 12 hours, and Nurburgring 1000kms.

No. 5    Jo Siffert
Jo Siffert has the unlucky distinction to be the only F.1. driver to be killed in a B.R.M.   This was at Brands Hatch at the end of the 1971 season and was only shortly after he had won the 1971 Austrian G.P. for B.R.M. that helped them get 2nd place in that year's constructor's championship.  In Austria in 1971 Jo took pole on the great Osterreichring circuit and led from start to finish despite pressure from Stewart and Fittipaldi.  He had another B.R.M. powered victory, that nowadays many forget, driving a Brabham-B.R.M. in the 1964 Gran Premio del Mediterraneo at Enna beating none other than Jim Clark.

Jo also of course won the 1968 British G.P. for Rob Walker's privateer Lotus team and was one of the all time sports car "greats".

No. 4     Jean-Pierre Beltoise
Although much more associated with Matra rather than with B.R.M., Jean-Pierre did spend a few seasons with them from 1972 and scored B.R.M.'s last ever World Championship victory and his first and only GP victory.  This was in the rain soaked 1972 Monaco G.P. where in his B.R.M. P160B he scored a flag to flag victory leading all of the 80 laps around this torturous circuit and beating renowned wet weather driver Jacky Ickx in the Ferrari and other great drivers such as Emerson Fittipaldi and Jackie Stewart.   A truly great victory.  In his last F1 season, JPB finished in second place for Motul BRM in the South African GP after driving through the field from 11th on the grid and holding off a challenge from Hailwood's McLaren.

Jean-Pierre had won at Monaco previously, winning the prestigious F3 race there in 1966.  He went on to become European F2 champion in 1968.   Driving for Matra in F1 his best results were two second places.

No. 3     Pedro Rodriguez
I was always a Pedro Rodriguez fan so he had to be in my top three.  In 1968 he took their top finish with a second place in the Belgian Grand Prix at the old long Spa Franchorchamps circuit and then beat that with a victory for B.R.M. at the same race and same circuit in 1970.  A second B.R.M. victory was in 1971 in the non-championship Oulton Park Spring Trophy race.   1971 could have been Pedro's year in F1 and he was high in the championship when he was killed in a sports car race at the Norisring.  Both his team mates were to win races later in the year.

Pedro had a long and successful career in Sports Cars and although he is best remembered for his Porsche 917 drives, he won the 1968 Le Mans 24 hours in a Ford GT40 and had many success in NART Ferraris.  His only other GP win had been in South Africa in 1967 in the last victory for the Cooper-Maserati after local John Love had had to pit for fuel.

No.2      Jackie Stewart
Only two men scored more than one World Championship Grand Prix victory in a B.R.M. and Jackie Stewart was one of them.   Jackie spent his first three seasons driving for the team and scored the first of his two B.R.M. championship victories at the 1965 Italian G.P. in his debut season.   Another victory came in the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix.  The 1967 season was much more difficult due to the uncompetitive nature of the car but he did get a second place at Spa.

Jackie won the 1966 Tasman Series for B.R.M. with four victories.   His other B.R.M.victory was his first ever F.1. win the 1965 International Trophy at Silverstone.

After his stint at B.R.M.,  Jackie joined Ken Tyrrell's new F1 team and went onto win three World Championships before retiring at the end of 1973.

No. 1     Graham Hill
As he scored ten of their seventeen World Championship victories and was the only driver to win a World Championship in a B.R.M., there is no doubt as to who is in the number one spot.  It has to be Graham Hill.   He took the championship for B.R.M in 1962 with victories in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and South Africa.  In 1963, 1964 and 1965 he finished second in the championship after a hat trick of wins over the three years in both the Monaco G.P. and the United States G.P.

Graham also scored a number of non-championship victories for B.R.M.

After leaving B.R.M. following a non-competitive 1966 season he won a second World Championship driving for Lotus in 1968.   He is also the only F1 World Champion to have also won both the Indianapolis 500 (for Lola in 1966) and the Le Mans 24 hours (for Matra in 1972).

BRM P578 1962 F1 car at the 2010 Goodwood Revival
Honourable mentions:

Perhaps rather sad that I couldn't find a place for Jackie Oliver who I saw put in a number of stirring
drives for B.R.M. in 1970 but he hardly ever finished a
race for them.    I'd also have liked to have added Clay Regazzoni to the list if only for his pole position in the 1973 Argentine G.P.

Probably the biggest omission from this list is Riche Ginther who finished 3rd in the World Championship driving a B.R.M. in 1963 with second places in Monaco, Italy and the USA. However, he never managed a win for B.R.M. After leaving them he did at least score a victory for Honda in the last race of 1.5 litre era in the 1965 Mexican G.P.

Probably the greatest driver ever to drive for B.R.M. was Juan-Manuel Fangio who had a stirring drive for them in 1953 at Albi including winning the first heat but he never finished a race in the unreliable V16.

Some drivers who did score minor wins for the works B.R.M. team included Froilan Gonzales (2 wins at Goodwood in 1952) , Ron Flockhart (1959 Lady Wigram Trophy and Silver City Trophy) Ken Wharton (1953 Goodwood).  In 1955 Peter Collins won a couple of Formula Libre races for BRM in the P30.

Tony Marsh scored a minor non-championship win in his privateer Climax engined B.R.M. P48 at Brands Hatch in 1961 winning the Lewis-Evans Trophy.  He went on to drive BRMs in British Hillclimbs but was more successful in his own car. A driver who scored some great hillclimb successes with a B.R.M. was Maurice Trintignant, including winning the great Mont Ventoux Hillclimb in 1964 in his own BRM P57.   Another hillclimber, Peter Lawson, won the 1968 British Hillclimb Championship in the 4WD BRM P67.

Jim Clark never drove for B.R.M. but he did score the only Championship win for the B.R.M. H16 engine in 1966 when it powered his Lotus to victory in the 1966 U.S. G.P.

Stirling Moss drove the BRP entered B.R.M P25 to second place in the 1959 British G.P. and also tried out the V16 car which he detested.

Niki Lauda drove the 1973 season for B.R.M. but despite later becoming a multiple World Champion his best result was a fifth place in Belgium.   Other great drivers who drove for B.R.M. without much success included John Surtees, Mike Hawthorn and Dan Gurney.

If you enjoyed reading this post click on the "1965" button at the top of this page to read how BRM drivers such as Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart fared during the 1965 season.

All of the photos accompanying this blog post are my own and I assert my copyright.  However, I am happy for you to post them elsewhere on the web as long as you accredit me, John Etherton, as photographer and as the source and provide a link to this web page.

Please feel free to tell me who your favourite B.R.M. driver was and who I should have given a mention to.  Add it to the comments below.

Monday, 9 March 2015

March A.C. doodlings

I suppose it is not often that you get overtaken on the motorway by a car that has a racing history
dating back to the nineteen fifties and probably less often that you recognise it.   It is probably true to say that I am not the greatest fan of the AC Cobra but I prefer the earlier AC Aces to some of the beefed up Shelby Cobras of later years.  Yesterday I was having a good day car spotting and having been followed for a few miles by an Aston Martin Vanquish and then having been passed by a rather nice Triumph TR6 it made by morning to see a fifties AC Ace Bristol.  I believe this car raced in the late fifties and early sixties in the north west of America driven by Jim Parsons and has been racing in historic events in the UK in more recent years.

Amazing to think that this car was racing in the year that Mike Hawthorn won the F1 championship and is still being driven on the road to this day. Probably, won't be true that we will be seeing today's track cars on the road in fifty seven years time!

A.C. is one of the oldest British marques and Auto Carriers, as they were known then, started making three wheeled delivery vans in 1904 and three wheeled passenger cars from 1907.  Based in Thames Ditton, Surrey, they made their first four wheeled car in 1913 and their first sports car in 1918.  A 1,500cc A.C. set a half mile record at 105.41mph in 1921.  Their cars were relatively familiar at Brooklands prior to the war and after the war they started producing a range of relatively reasonably priced sports cars that eventually evolved into the famous AC Cobra.
Another LHD A.C. at Dunsfold 2010

1n September 1961 an AC Ace Bristol would have cost you £1,550 before Purchase Tax.  This meant that it was slightly more expensive than a Jaguar E-type at £1,480 but cheaper than a Alfa Romeo 2000 Spider at £2,108 or a Frazer Nash Sebring at £2,300 or a Ferrari 250GT Cabriolet at £4,675.

A.C. Cobra racing at the Goodwood Revival meeting 2010
The AC Ace had independent suspension to all wheels which was still relatively rare in the UK at the time and had a reputation for good finish and workmanship.  It had a 6 cylinder Bristol D2 engine of 1,971cc that produced 128 b.h.p.   Top speed was slightly shy of 120mph and it had good acceleration for the time.   There were disc brakes on the front and drums on the back.  Weight was about 15 c.w.t.   Its wheelbase was 7ft 6 ins and it has a height of 4ft 1 inch with its hood up. (Source - my excellent old book "Sports Cars Today" by Rodney Walkerley published in1962 a great little period reference work).

An AC Ace Bristol won the 2 litre GT class at Le Mans in 1961.   The same year, Bristol stopped producing their 6 cylinder engine and Carroll Shelby introduced Ford to A.C and the Cobra was born.

A.C. Cobra at the Magny Cours Classic Days 2014