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A unique collection of behind-the-scenes stories and anecdotes from former Grand Prix mechanics – people who have worked at the top level of the sport during the past 50 years. Mixing with drivers and team bosses, they witnessed a side of the sport that is rarely seen, and even less heard about. The camaraderie felt between teams and mechanics is hard to imagine in today’s highly competitive Formula One environment, and the book charts the highs and lows of each mechanic’s career. Supplemented by many previously unpublished personal photographs, this is the fascinating story of motor racing from the pit lane.

Cover illustration by Jim Bamber

www.veloce.co.uk www.velocebooks.com

V4199 TalesToolbox Fulljkt 140901 1

MICHAEL OLIVER

“This book will break new ground, allowing its readers to fully understand and appreciate what those very special people who are called ‘mechanics’ are capable of which permits us prima donna racing drivers to achieve success. Without them, not only would we perhaps not be anything like as successful, we might also not be alive ...” – Sir Jackie Stewart OBE, Chairman, Grand Prix Mechanics Charitable Trust

Tales from the Toolbox

£12.99 UK • $24.95 USA

Tales

Toolbox from the

A collection of behind-the-scenes tales from Grand Prix mechanics

f all 40% o to ies royalt ix nd Pr a r G the s c ni Mecha Trust e l b a t i Char

Michael Oliver Foreword by Sir Jackie Stewart OBE

14/9/09 11:17:24


Contents

Acknowledgements .. ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . .4 Foreword by Sir Jackie Stewart OBE.. .... .... .... .... .... ..6 Introduction.. ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . .7 1 Getting there: travel trials and tribulations .. .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... ..8 2 Anything to declare? Customs capers.. . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . 26 3 The all-nighter: par for the course.. . ... . ... . ... . ... . 33 4 One big, happy family .. . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . 54 5 The mechanic’s gallon .. .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... 62 6 The team bosses and designers.. . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . 70 7 Letting off steam.. . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . 92 8 The Champions.. .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... ..103 9 The contenders.. .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... . 123 10 The highs, lows, risks and responsibilities.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 147 11 Nuts and bolts .. . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ... . ...158 Index .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 175


Taking a break to read the motor sport press in work time was frowned upon at Cooper, but here Mike Barney (l) and Michael ‘Noddy’ Grohmann manage to sneak a peek at Motor Racing to read all about Graham Hill’s 1962 Dutch Grand Prix victory. (Mike Barney)

did a little deal with one of the waitresses across there and she tripped along in all her uniform with a big silvery-coloured tray, a great big coffee pot on it and all the cups round, just for our crew, not for them. Because that’s part of the game, isn’t it? I had to grease her palm a little bit but that was alright, it was only money.” Just occasionally during all-nighters, inquisitiveness about their working environment would get the better of mechanics, as Roger Barsby explains. “We were at Monza with the old BRM P139 – that was a sod. Surtees was driving for us, and we always used to have the garages in the Parco Hotel Monza just on the entrance to the park. Surtees got in the car and said ‘That’s well down on power,’ so we put the spare engine in. He didn’t like that, so we put another one in and he didn’t like that either, so we went back to the original. That was four engine changes in three days, and, bearing in mind it took about six hours to change an engine, we got some all-nighters. One night one of the blokes said ‘I wonder what’s over that wall?’ So we stacked up some tyres and looked over the top: it was a wine cellar. We weren’t very popular the next morning, but there we go …” Probably the only thing worse than having to stay up all night and work, is having to stay up all night and sit around not working. Ben Casey remembers when this happened with the BRM team in 1971. “We went to Ontario Motor Speedway in California. It was Formula 1s versus their Formula As, and we had our P153s. At the back, in-between the gearbox and the engine, was a butterfly plate that the suspension used to hang on, and we found that these were all falling apart, cracking. We hadn’t had a good weekend; we were working until midnight or more the first two nights, and then this occurred. So we had to strip out all the cars. Aubrey [Woods, BRM engine designer] knew somebody who worked for Boeing or Lockheed, and he went off into Los Angeles with them, got these plates riveted and repaired, and then we had to refit them ready for the race in the morning. That was a long night because, once we’d got everything stripped out, we were sitting about waiting. If you are working, the time goes quicker. We couldn’t go anywhere, so just had to sit there and wait for him to come back. It was a bit of a shame really because we were 10 miles from Los Angeles but I never saw the bloody place.” Another cause of greater-than-average team workloads came when two drivers of


4

One big, happy family

I

Pit lane camaraderie

n today’s somewhat hostile environment of ‘arm’s length’ relations between the major Grand Prix teams, it is hard to imagine that there was a time when they would happily help out each other. Yet, forty or fifty years ago Formula 1 was one big, happy family, and within the individual teams many mechanics considered their fellow crew members akin to brothers, reflecting the amount of time they spent working and travelling together. Grand Prix mechanics: This wonderful shot, taken at the 1964 Mexican Grand Prix, captures all of the mechanics working in Formula 1 at the time. From left to right, back row: Ted de la Riviere (Parnell), Sergio Vezzali (Ferrari), Nick Garbett (Lotus), Orio Fossati (Ferrari), unknown (Cooper), Leo Wybrott (Lotus), Jean-Pierre Oberson (Rob Walker), Jimmy Potton (Brabham), John Collins (BRM). Middle row: Carlo Amadessi (Ferrari), J Tonks (Dunlop), W Mincey (Dunlop), Stan Collier (Parnell), Tony Cleverley (Rob Walker), Trevor Orchard (Cooper), Heine Mader (Rob Walker), Anselmo Menabue (Ferrari), Alan Challis (BRM), Willie Southcott (BRM). Front row: Dick Scammell (Lotus), Guilio Borsari (Ferrari), Cyril Atkins (BRM), Dennis Perkins (BRM), Bill Cowe (Lotus), unknown (Ferrari), Gianfranco Tugnoli (Ferrari), Bruno Solmi (Ferrari), Tim Wall (Brabham). A total of 26 mechanics, plus two tyre technicians for the whole grid. Nowadays, there are more than this on each team … (Dick Scammell)


90

Tales from the Toolbox

workshop was divided into two; a smaller section for the Formula 1 team and a bigger section for production. Jack never interfered with production, Tauranac wouldn’t have allowed that, it was very fiercely protected. Ron could be a little troublesome or excitable at times but he was alright.” Master and apprentice: Team boss Jack Brabham points out something to his pensive- and youthfullooking mechanics Ron Dennis (r) and Peter Hennessy in the Nürburgring pits at the 1969 German Grand Prix. (LAT)

Recalling his days as foreman at Brabham, Hones talks of the extraordinary output of the production side of the company during the late 1960s. “I went back to work for Brabham and Dennis Reid had taken over as manager. One day he said to me ‘You old bastard, you never told me you made 115 cars when you were foreman here.’ We used to do Formula 3s, 2s and 1s, a couple of Indy cars, and in the winter when there wasn’t much to do, we’d do hillclimb cars. I remember we did one for Sir Nicholas Williamson – another cracking bloke – but he used to have a terrible stutter. He came in one day and said ‘C-c-c-c-c-can I t-t-t-t-t-take the wheels?’ and I said ‘If you want, what do you want them for?’ and he said ‘I’ll get the ‘effin b-b-b-b-b-butler to polish them.’ When these wheels came back, they were magnificent. You could imagine this old butler, polishing the wheels in the kitchen at night …” Perhaps one of the reasons for the prodigious demand for production at Brabham – as well as the fact that the cars were extremely good – was the way in which Hones used to deliberately ‘leak’ details of upcoming test sessions for new models. “All the drivers would come in and ask ‘When are you testing?’ and I’d say ‘I can’t tell you that.’ They’d say ‘Go on, tell me, when are you testing at Goodwood?’ And I’d say ‘Friday.’ “Friday would come and I’d take the transporter down and Jack would arrive a bit later. All of a sudden, these young drivers would turn up. Jack would go out and do a few laps and his times were always bloody good. When he came in he said ‘How do these blokes know when we’re going to be here?’ and I’d say ‘I don’t know, they must have heard it from someone.’ Then he’d say to them ‘Of course, if you had your helmet and your gear, you could have a go and try it’ and they’d all say ‘Actually, we’ve got them with us.’ They’d go out and try to beat Jack’s time but couldn’t. Then it was a race back


104 Track record

Tales from the Toolbox Dick Salmon

I went to BRM to work on the maintenance of transport, which included three Austin Loadstars and the Commer workshop wagon. There was a Dodge lorry with a canopy, which we used to transport personnel, various vans and a motorbike and sidecar. I hung about the racing section a bit and visually familiarised myself with the cars. “Then, Peter Berthon overturned his Vanguard van and it was upside down all night. We rolled it upright but the engine wouldn’t turn. They were scratching their heads and I said I thought it was a hydraulic problem – oil that had drained into the cylinder heads. I don’t think they expected me to come up with this, especially when that was exactly what it did turn out to be. “Whether that had any effect, I don’t know but they asked me if I’d go to Monza, for the testing sessions with Moss and Wharton in March 1952. I didn’t have to be asked twice …” At BRM, Dick was privileged to work with names such as Juan-Manuel Fangio, Froilan Gonzalez, Ken Wharton, Ron Flockhart, Peter Collins, Harry Schell, Graham Hill, Richie Ginther and Jackie Stewart, until he left the team in 1968. Dick Salmon, shown second left with his hands on the tail of Harry Schell’s BRM, worked with greats such as Fangio, Gonzalez, Collins, Hill, and Stewart. Also in shot are (left) Phil Ayliff, Gordon Newman in hat, Maurice Dove and Pat Carvath (behind Dove with hands on hips). (Pat Carvath) Fangio used his strength to tame the BRM V16; here he is at Albi in 1952. (Pat Carvath)


The highs, lows, risks and responsibilities

153

for him, although one other does run it close. “My lowest point was the Lotus turbines at Indy in 1968. We had it completely and utterly sewn up and the two lead cars failed within a lap of each other. The 1964 Mexican Grand Prix also took me a long time to get over, when Jimmy was going to win the Championship and it broke on the last lap. I was thinking ‘I am going to wake up in a minute, this is not really happening.’ I remember Colin [Chapman] saying to me, as we were walking down the pit lane after the race ‘This is really character-building isn’t it?’ Actually, in a way he was pretty good at that. He could become very excitable when you made an error but if something happened that he thought was not particularly anybody’s fault, then he was fairly reasonable; he was as disappointed as we were.”

Their lives in our hands

Mechanics literally held the safety and lives of the drivers in their hands, and were often the very last people to talk to them before they went out onto the track. Tony Robinson encapsulates the attitude of many who lived through an era when a shockingly large number of drivers lost their lives in racing accidents. “Quite honestly, First time out: Nattily-dressed Lotus boss Colin Chapman looks on while Dick Scammell (kneeling) helps Graham Hill start the turbine engine on his 1968 four-wheel-drive Lotus 56 Indy car. He is being assisted by Pratt & Whitney engineer ‘Flameout’ Fred Cowley, while designer Maurice Phillippe (in suit and tie) looks on with the rest of the Team Lotus staff in the background. Scammell describes the failure of these cars in the closing laps of the Indy 500 as the lowest point of his career. (Dick Scammell)

I never thought about it at the time, although I did afterwards. When these accidents happen, you have things to do, so you have a sad moment but are so busy that you move on to the next race. It tends to affect you for a few weeks but, once they are buried, you tend to put it out of your mind, though you never truly forget. I remember them today, all of them, and it is sad. All the time it would run through your mind, wondering whether it was something you had or hadn’t done. At the end of the day I have never really come across an incident where I’ve thought that it was a mechanic’s fault. Maybe that’s good in a way. “With most of the accidents there has been a logical reason, other than a mechanical


A unique collection of behind-the-scenes stories and anecdotes from former Grand Prix mechanics – people who have worked at the top level of the sport during the past 50 years. Mixing with drivers and team bosses, they witnessed a side of the sport that is rarely seen, and even less heard about. The camaraderie felt between teams and mechanics is hard to imagine in today’s highly competitive Formula One environment, and the book charts the highs and lows of each mechanic’s career. Supplemented by many previously unpublished personal photographs, this is the fascinating story of motor racing from the pit lane.

Cover illustration by Jim Bamber

www.veloce.co.uk www.velocebooks.com

V4199 TalesToolbox Fulljkt 140901 1

MICHAEL OLIVER

“This book will break new ground, allowing its readers to fully understand and appreciate what those very special people who are called ‘mechanics’ are capable of which permits us prima donna racing drivers to achieve success. Without them, not only would we perhaps not be anything like as successful, we might also not be alive ...” – Sir Jackie Stewart OBE, Chairman, Grand Prix Mechanics Charitable Trust

Tales from the Toolbox

£12.99 UK • $24.95 USA

Tales

Toolbox from the

A collection of behind-the-scenes tales from Grand Prix mechanics

f all 40% o to ies royalt ix nd Pr a r G the s c ni Mecha Trust e l b a t i Char

Michael Oliver Foreword by Sir Jackie Stewart OBE

14/9/09 11:17:24


Tales from the Toolbox (Sample pages)