Spotlight: Graham Hill – A Racing Legend Unlike Any Others (video)

October 16, 2012

It’s a bit of an old cliche to say that ‘things were different back in the old days of F1’, but in the case of top-level/F1 motorsport and, more particularily, the drivers themselves and the people directly involved, nothing could be further from the truth.

The 1960s (and to some extent, the early ’70s) are often regarded as the golden age of motorsport and Formula One for many unique reasons. Most companies and manufacturers involved at the time were small independents and some survived race-to-race in the hopes of winning some prize money to further their livelihood and passion over the coming season.

Jackie Stewart and his earliest mentor, Graham Hill, at Monza in ’67

Comraderie between drivers was commonplace – everyone hung out with one another and most drivers became the best of friends. They all shared a common passion that few people could relate to. It was family, pure and simple as that. Families vacationed together, the wives of the drivers and team-owners assisted by time-keeping and keeping various things in line… It was people helping people that also cared about one another.

Graham and his son, Damon, playing around with reigning F1 world-champion Jim Clark at his home in ’66. Bette Hill threw Graham a party to celebrate his homecoming from America where he won the Indianapolis 500 in a Ford-Lola.

Whether you drove for Ferrari or Tyrrell or Lotus or Brabham, it didn’t matter… You were family. You looked out for one another… and also grieved together whenever there was a loss of life from an accident which, sadly, happened all too often.

Graham in his Lotus 49B during the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort in ’69

One man from that era of Motorsport that seemed to shine in his own irrefutably unique way though, was Graham Hill. If there ever was a man to be labelled ‘a true gentleman’ of the sport, then Graham would easily claim that designation. He was a charismatic, charming, highly-knowledgeable, caring and incredibly talented driver that won the World Championship twice (in ’62 and ’68) and earned the unofficial title as ‘Mr. Monaco’ after winning that Grand Prix 5 times.

Graham ‘Mr. Monaco’ on the cover of Motor Racing magazine in ’68

Last night I was watching a documentary DVD called ‘Jackie Stewart: The Flying Scot’ and during a section of the interview, Jackie took a moment to talk about Graham, and how Graham was his earliest mentor during his formative F1 years in the early ’60s when Jackie was driving 2nd-string below Graham for the BRM team. What struck me was when Jackie said that in all of his years/decades of racing and being involved in Motorsport, never had he known a more intriguing, intelligent, handsome, witty, talented, ruthlessly skillful (he was also a phenomenal mechanic) and charming personality than Hill. He was one of a kind… And, as they say, they ‘broke the mould’ after Graham was born.

Graham, with his son Damon – the only father/son combo to be crowned F1 World Champions

It would be impossible for me to write about all of the amazing stories and various idiosyncrasies that made Graham Hill such a treasured, respected and sorely-missed man. It was such a sad and undeserving end for Graham when his private-plane crashed in ’75, killing himself and all his teammates onboard. Moreso, it saddens me that top-level Motorsport (especially F1) has gradually become the exact opposite of everything that Graham and the drivers/families/teams involved from that golden era represented and genuinely felt, experienced and discovered with one another…

Graham, enjoying one his several lifetime Grand Prix wins…

This well-made BBC Documentary on the life of Graham Hill offers a fine glimpse into the man himself – the sort of man that we’ll probably never see the likes of ever again. Enjoy…

-Blake J.
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Video: Evo Magazine’s Harry Metcalfe Shows Us His 1972 Lotus Elan Sprint

April 13, 2012

Brilliant new video here from Evo Magazine founder, Harry Metcalfe, detailing the rather  interesting engineering specs and idiosyncrasies of his 1972 Lotus Elan Sprint.

To see the massive, modern 20 inch Maserati wheel parked-up next to the Elan’s teeny 13 x 4 inch wheel is not only amusing but incredibly telling in mapping out the 40-year gap in automotive trends and the present day needs for harnessing power with monstrous levels of grip in these horsepower-obsessed times. I also love the fact that the Elan weighs a paltry 700 kg and easily out-performs most cars of this niche on any given day… and it’s a 50 year-old design…!

He even takes us for an onboard drive – what a noise…!

I’ve always loved and admired these cars. Now I want one more than ever before…

-Blake J.
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Turbos in F1: Documentary Highlights Its Birth

March 26, 2012

A fascinating 2-part period-era documentary here from the 1980s focusing on the emerging computerized presence in F1. As the narrator aptly puts it – “Gone are the oily rags and the flat-capped amateurs… Here, computers, rubber, metalogy, synthetics, electronics and aerodynamics consume fortunes…”

Many have sustained that it was this exact movement/moment in F1 when the heavy focus on decimal-obsessed, precisional accuracy replaced the ‘fun’ aspect of racing… Few would argue that it definitely signalled the end of an era and the beginning of a new one that resides to this day though.

At nearly 2 hours in length (in 2 parts), it’s a bit of a long-haul, but I cannot stress how interesting this documentary is in exposing the newfound troubles, clashes and endless headaches that permeated throughout the sport in the ’80s when these technologies were new and fresh yet bewilderingly complicated for their creators…

Jean-Pierre Jabouille in the Renault of 1977 - the first-ever (yet highly problematic) Turbo F1 car

Enjoy..!

-Blake J.
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Le Mans 1961: A Short Film By Triumph

March 20, 2012

One for the Vintage Racing/Le Mans enthusiasts – A fantastically intimate and detailed 34-min short-film of the 1961 race as captured by a film crew commissioned by the British Triumph Works team… Amazing to be reminded of how only 2 drivers per team split the entire 24 hours of driving between them back then.

Brilliant stuff…. enjoy..!

-Blake J.
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Unveiled: Lotus Evora GTE by ‘Swizz Beatz’

December 6, 2011

The time has arrived… The moment we’ve been waiting for is here… The man specifically hired by Lotus CEO, Dany Bahar, to take Lotus deeper into the urban realms of cool has collaborated with the Hethel sportscar concern to produce, in his own words, ‘the first colour-chrome car in the world..!’… Rrrright then.

And that, ladies and gents, is exactly what the ‘Swizz Beatz Special Edition’ Evora GTE is… a Lotus with some flashy paint (which might even be a wrap).

Now, on the face of it you wouldn’t be too far into the wrong by declaring all of this a bit daft, but when you consider that the GTE emits a healthy 444bhp from its V6 and has a sequential gearbox amongst other lightweight goodies, you almost sigh a bit of relief for Lotus’s most-powerful road-going production car ever built – The real important bits are still there and remain unchanged.

So yeah, Swizz, we don’t mind your… um, hard-work… one bit. We’re actually quite a-ok with just a bumper sticker and some pimpin’ paint…

-Blake J.
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If You’re Not Winning, You’re Not Trying – When Lotus dominated F1 in the 70’s

September 14, 2011

VP of Creative Design and Global Marketing - that's right. He's going to make Lotus 'cool'... great

Unless you’ve been in a coma or living in your car over the past 10 months, you’ll undoubtedly be aware of the dramatic evolutionary changes (in every sense of the word) currently being conducted over at Lotus. Ex-Ferrari man, Dany Bahar, has fully armed himself with an ever-expanding team of highly notable individuals from the Automotive world that boast impressive track records of ‘Getting sh!t done’… amongst other questionable/cringeworthy forrays in the often face-palmed world of Automotive Marketing (Best to not get me started on the ridiculous Rapper Swizz Beatz ‘hiring’ and the recent ‘Freddie Mercury’ Special Edition)

But it’s a broad (and rather amusing) subject that’s been talked and discussed to death, so therefore I’ll keep my personal views and rational opinions up on the shelf for the time being… Let’s just see what happens when the new models actually start rolling out of Hethel over the forthcoming years instead.

Graham Hill winning Monaco in the Gold Leaf-liveried Lotus 49

As far as Marketing goes though, it should be remembered that Lotus was the first F1 team to initiate private sponsorship within the sport. Their 1968 Monaco Grand Prix debut of the Gold Leaf liveried Lotus 49 set about a trend that never let up and remains a domineering (and essential) aspect in motorsport to this day. But it was the beautifully iconic Lotus 72 introduced in 1970 that dropped jaws and won races. Lots of them.

Winning - more impressively than Charlie Sheen...

Emerson Fittipaldi, Jochen Rindt, Ronnie Peterson and Jacky Ickx all enjoyed numerous wins and World Champion titles (World Champion titles for Rindt in ’70, Fittipaldi in ’72).

The move towards a John Players Special-liveried Lotus 72 donned in its commanding Black ‘n Gold paint scheme, complemented by that striking anvil-intake atop the Cosworth DFV engine, became legendary and a symbol for power, poise and presence… Not least, a pin-up that remains drool-inducing to this very day.

A few years back, I picked up an unofficial DVD copy of this excellent film documenting the Lotus JPS 1973 F1 season (sadly, NLA) that still warrants repeated viewings…

Cooler than Swizz Beatz, sorry Dany...

A fantastically intimate portrait of Chapman, his talented team and drivers. I was surprised to find it in its entirety on YouTube. Granted, not something to quickly watch while at work, but worth your viewing pleasure nonetheless… Enjoy.

-Blake J.

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