Friday, 20 September 2013

Portraits of F1

In 1967 the BRDC’s “May” Silverstone was on April 29th. A muddle on the international calendar had brought Monaco uncomfortably close, so there weren’t enough Formula 1 cars for a non-championship race at Silverstone. May was traditional for the Daily Express Trophy at a time when newspapers could afford to sponsor a Formula 1 race.
So there were no works Cooper-Maseratis or Anglo-American Eagles, and BRM, Lotus, and Ferrari could manage only one car apiece. The field was further depleted on the Wednesday before first practice, when the JA Pearce Racing Organisation transporter mysteriously caught fire. It had been parked infield on the Club Circuit with two Pearce-Martins and a Cooper-Ferrari aboard, all of which were destroyed. Tony Lanfranchi, Earl Jones and Robin Darlington were left without drives, however Pearce emerged almost unscathed. Apparently he had the lot insured for £100,000.
I was photographing drivers on the grid with my big Rollieflex, a twin lens reflex with beautiful optics. When you got everything right it took superb pictures but getting everything right meant an exposure meter and, well, it wasn’t handy. Heavy and clumsy, it used expensive 120 film, so if you weren’t getting paid a lot for pictures it was not very commercial.
Mike Parkes (above) was driving a 1966 long-chassis Ferrari, a stretched one that suited his 6ft 4in. Ferrari was trying out various cylinder heads on its V12 in 1966-1967, quad-cams, two-valve, three-valve and Parkes had a new one in which the inlet and exhaust arrangements were reversed, so instead of exhaust pipes draped over the sides like spaghetti in the slipstream, they were bundled up in the middle.
Son of Alvis’s chairman, Mike had joined Ferrari in 1963, more as a development engineer than a driver, working up the 330GTC road car, but he quickly became a leading member of the sports car team. In 1961 he had been second at Le Mans with Willy Mairesse in a 250 Testa Rossa, and was successful driving Maranello Concessionaires’ Ferraris. In 1964 he won the Sebring 12 Hours, in 1965 the Spa 500Km and the Monza 100Km, gaining his place in Formula 1 when John Surtees departed Ferrari in a huff.
Parkes drove in four grands prix in 1966, coming second at Rheims on his debut (and only his second grand prix), had two dnfs, and then was second again in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. It was an astonishing start to what looked like a promising career. At Silverstone BRM had one H16 for Jackie Stewart, who matched Parkes in practice, and two V8s for Mike Spence and Chris Irwin. Lotus had a 2litre BRM V8 in Graham Hill’s car, a token entry while it was developing the Ford-Cosworth V8, which would make its sensational debut for Clark and Hill at Zandvoort a month later.
Parkes led almost the entire 52 laps to win the International Trophy, pursued by Jack Brabham (Brabham-Repco) and Jo Siffert in Rob Walker’s Cooper-Maserati. Stewart had kept up with him in the early stages until the BRM’s universal joint bolts sheared.
TOP Mike Parkes (1931-1977) with Tommy Wisdom (1907-1972) motoring journalist and veteran driver in 11 Le Mans races, Mille Miglia, Targa Florio and multiple Alpine and Monte Carlo rallies. In June Parkes’ grand prix career was cut short on lap 1 of the Belgian Grand Prix, when he crashed breaking both legs. He returned to sports cars, engineered the Lancia Stratos, and died in a collision on the road.
RIGHT Bruce McLaren (1937-1970) at the wheel of his McLaren-BRM V8, in which he finished 5th in the Daily Express International Trophy. Founder of McLaren Racing, he died at Goodwood in a freak accident with a Can-Am car.
BELOW Mike Spence (1936-1968) Already a veteran of four seasons’ grand prix racing, likeable talented Spence finished 6th in his BRM at Silverstone. A month after Jim Clark’s fatal accident at Hockenheim a year later, Spence took over Clark’s entry at Indianapolis and was killed in a practice accident.

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