|What||South African Formula 1 History - Episode 6|
|Community||South Africa, International.|
Bulawayo Bullet on target as the 3-litres shift drags on
We left off just after John Love had wrapped up his first South African Driver’s Championship in 1964, but little did we know, that was just the beginning for the rugged, amiable Rhodesian.
It was all change for the new season however, as after four years of the 1.5 litre formula, which provided close and exciting racing, local race controllers opted to introduce the FIA’s planned 1966 3 litre regulations a year early for South Africa at the third race of the season at Killarney in January 1965.
1965 - NOT QUITE THREE LITRES
That move would prove quite controversial as it led to eliminate many of the ‘home built’ specials, while also enormously raising the cost of racing in local Formula 1. The 1500 rules however remained in place for the first two rounds to keep the locals compatible with the international rivals, for as ever, the 1965 South African season started at the end of the previous year with the Springbok Series that kicked off with the Rand Grand Prix at Kyalami on 12 December 1964, before the South African Grand Prix at East London on 3 January.
With the locals en main continuing as they were with the prospect of imminent change after, the Rand Grand Prix attracted six international entries including a surprise in a promising rookie by the name of Jackie Stewart taking the place of Jim Clark, who had hurt his back skiing in the Dolomites, alongside Mike Spence in Colin Chapman’s factory Lotus 33 Climax V8s.
They were joined by a late entry for Graham Hill in the Willment Brabham-BRM BT11 V8,
Bob Anderson’s Brabham BT11 V8 Climax and Paul Hawkins and David Prophet’s rapid Formula 2 Brabham BT10 Fords. Stewart beat Spence to pole with Hawkins third and Prophet among the locals as late arrival Hill started from the back.
Trevor Blokdyk was a surprise fourth quickest and best of the locals in his F2 Cooper T56 Ford, just 1.9 seconds off Stewart’s pace, with John Love’s Cooper T55 Climax and the ever-present Peter de Klerk’s evergreen Alfa Special next up. Brausch Niemann’s Lotus 22 Ford, Doug Serrurier in an LDS-Climax, a pair of Lotus 21 Climaxes for former SA champions Ernie Pieterse and Neville Lederle who returned from injury, Same Tingle’s LDS-Alfa, Clive Puzey’ Lotus-Climax 18 and the rest followed.
There was drama at the start as Stewart’s Lotus destroyed its drive shafts and went nowhere, Pieterse clouted the the pit wall in avoidance and there several near misses as the field filed past the stranded Lotus, leaving Spence to lead Hawkins and Anderson as Hill scythed through the field in a few laps, soon passed Spence and won the heat from Spence, Hawkins and Anderson. Love was best of the locals from de Klerk, Tingle, Serrurier, Niemann and Puzey.
Hill was on pole for race 2 in the order they finished heat 1, with Stewart at the back armed with a fresh pair of side shafts. The Scott went on to emulate Hill as he passed the entire field by lap six and went on to win from Hill, Hawkins and Anderson after Spence went off at Sunset and bent his suspension. Love and de Klerk also both retired, leaving Tingle, Niemann, Lederle and Puzey to lead the local charge as Tingle took local overall honours from Niemann, Serrurier and Puzey.
Moving on to East London, the South African Grand Prix was now the first round of the 1965 F1 World Championship, rather than the finale it was for ’63. The field was limited to 20 cars and dominated by the world championship regulars with Jim Clark fit enough to jump back in the Lotus 33 and put it on an easy pole from world champion John Surtees’ Ferrari, Jack Brabham’s Brabham BT7 Climax and Spence in the second Lotus. Only four South Africans qualified with Tony Maggs 13th in a Parnell-entered Lotus 25 BRM V8, de Klerk’s amazing Alfa Special 17th ahead of Love and Tingle 20th.
Clark celebrated Hogmanay with a dominant lights-to-flag race win as he smashed East London’s elusive 100 mph barrier to win by half a minute from Hill, Surtees, Spence, Bruce McLaren’s Cooper Climax and debutant Jackie Stewart’s BRM. Peter de Klerk emerged best of the locals in a most creditable 10th overall in his four-year old Alfa Special ahead of Maggs, with Tingle 13th as Love retried.
With the Springbok series done, the third round Killarney Cape Southeaster a week later was of internationally historical Formula 1 significance as it was the first-ever 3-litre rules F1 race, over a year before the first world championship race to that specification.
There were however only three cars with engine capacities of over 1500cc, they being Aussie visitor Paul Hawkins and David Prophet’s 1.6 litre Ford F2 units in their Brabham BT10s, and John Love, who’d slipped a 2 litre Climax mill into his Cooper 55 in the week since the East London Grand Prix. Hawkins went on to dominate both heats from Love and Prophet, with de Klerk and Tingle’s outclassed 1500s fourth and fifth in both heats.
By the time Kyalami’s Rand Autumn Trophy came around on 6 March, John Love had scrounged a 2.7 litre four-cylinder Climax lump for his Cooper and romped away to win both heats from Tony Maggs’1660cc Brabham-Ford BT10 as all the pursuing de Klerk and Serrurier, who finished third and fourth in both heats, Charlton, Tingle and Niemann, et al could do, was watch the Rhodesian disappear into the distance.
In an interesting story, Dave Clapham’s Cooper Maserati jammed in gear and stopped at Clubhouse Corner, but Dave noticed a 10mm spanner he’d need to fix the malady lying on the track; he grabbed it, made the repair, jumped back in and went on to finish tenth!
Love was expected to dominate the slippery 19 April 1965 Pietermaritzburg Coronation 100 at Roy Hesketh and duly took an easy pole position with his 2.7-litre advantage over Brausch Niemann who had updated his Lotus 21 with a 2-litre Climax engine.
Nobody had however noticed Tony Maggs struggling with gearbox issues on his 1.7 litre Ford F2-powered Brabham BT10 in qualifying – a 1964 model versus Love and Niemann outdated ’61 machinery. Come race day however, Love's dominance was rudely interrupted, firstly by a slight misfire and then on lap six, when Maggs, who had started at the back, drew up, cruised past the ancient Cooper and disappeared into the distance to a 15 second win…
De Klerk had diced Niemann before Brausch spun off, leaving de Klerk to finish two minutes behind Maggs in third. Maggs had a poor second race start, but overhauled Love before spinning and losing a lap to let Love loose for a 47 second win over Maggs. So, Love took the day from Maggs, de Klerk and Jackie Pretorius and Dave Hume’s LDS Alfas, but the writing was on the wall – the end seemed nigh for most of the old school SA F1 grid.
With that in mind, Peter de Klerk and sponsor Jack Nucci jetted off to the UK and returned armed with a Brabham BT11 complete with Tasman 2.5 litre Climax power in time for the Kyalami Republic Trophy, while Doug Serrurier had replaced the trusty old Alfa Romeo 1500 in his LDS 07 with a two-litre Climax lump like that in Niemann's Lotus.
Love however dominated qualifying before obliterating the outright Kyalami lap record as he cruised to the first heat win from de Klerk, while Maggs drove his heart out to third ahead of Serrurier and Tingle.
De Klerk’s poor second race start made it even easier for Love to complete the double for the day, while Tingle came out on top of a great battle for third with Pretorius after Maggs hit gearbox issues late in the race. The top four ran out in that order ahead of a few lingering remnants of the specials that had once made up the SA F1 grid.
The likes of Dave Hume’s Heron Alfa, Ray Reed’s Realpha Alfa Romeo, Clapham’s Cooper Maserati, Des Hay’s Lotus 20 Ford, Rauten Hartmann’s Netuar Alfa Special 2, Alex Blignaut’s Cooper Climax, and Mellet’s LDS Alfa Romeo were sadly becoming thin on the ground.
There was also consternation in the de Klerk pit as it became apparent that Brabham had not exactly sold the team what they had expected – an alarmingly common dilemma that faced local teams that often acquired F1 cars from the GP 'greats’…
Back to Roy Hesketh for the 20 June Royal Show Trophy, organisers were forced to invite a couple sportscars in Dr Dawie Gous' Elva-Porsche and Keith Berrington-Smith's Lotus 23-Alfa Romeo to make up an eight-car grid as the recalcitrant older F1 machinery abstained, now faced with the additional hurdle of insufficient starting money too.
Peter de Klerk and race engineer Eddie Pinto overcame a misfire in his Climax 2.5 to see the Brabham onto a close pole position from Love who also turned in a lap 1.5 seconds quicker than in his March Hesketh pole time. De Klerk however broke his differential at the start, leaving Love to romp away from the ever-charging Maggs.
Maggs’ Brabham however suffered a front suspension failure on the 190kmh Henry's Knee, spun for over 300metres, felled a few fence posts and somersaulted to rest in the public area. Concussed, cut and bruised, Maggs was dragged from the burning car with a dislocated shoulder, which had tragically struck an and killed an eight-year old lad. That left Love to win again and take the day from Serrurier and rising star Dave Charlton in his as always immaculately prepared Lotus 20 Ford 1.6.
Moving on to the Border 100 on 12 June, John Love shattered anyone else’s ambitions when he arrived at East London with a new Cooper T79 powered by a 2.7 litre Tasman Climax engine. Love had already debuted with walkover victories in both the non-championship Salisbury GP and the Natal Winter Trophy and there was a further blow for fans when de Klerk was forced to withdraw his Brabham before the start.
Half a minute behind Love, Serrurier also left Charlton in his wake to overcome veterans Tingle and Niemann in a thrilling battle for third place in the first heat. Heat 2 was much the same, except that Tingle powered LDS One to third over Niemann and Charlton, who had cracked his chassis and Serrurier had welded up between races. The top five ended in the same order overall ahead of Dawie Gous’ Elva Porsche.
Peter de Klerk was back in action as he put his Brabham on pole for Kyalami’s Round 9 Rand Winter Trophy by 0.7 seconds from John Love, before the two engaged in a titanic battle, taking turns to break the lap record several times through the race, before Love opened a gap to score a 13-second victory over de Klerk. Behind them Dave Charlton once again shone as he worked his way up from fifth to third over Serrurier, who despite a 400cc advantage. was well into his 40s at the time. Niemann and Tingle followed.
Next up was the Fairfield 100 that would go on to become known Roy Hesketh’s best-ever F1 race as Love and de Klerk repeatedly swapped the lead and continuously broke the lap record as they chopped two seconds off to lower it to 1:12.36 as both drivers set an identical quickest time on the same lap! Sadly, de Klerk had a puncture late in the race and retired, but he was back for heat 2 and despite starting at the back, passed Love to lead on lap 8 before a tumultuous battle was settled in de Klerk’s favour as Love took the day from Serrurier, Jack Holme’s Lotus 18 Ford, Leo von Popering’s LDS Alfa and de Klerk.
Round 11 was Killarney’s van Riebeek Trophy in Cape Town, where Love simply drove the big Cooper away to an easy first heat win over de Klerk, before putting in a show as he edged de Klerk to a 0.2 second heat 2 win to clinch his second South African driver's championship on the trot. Brausch Niemann came in third overall from Sam Tringle, Jackie Pretorius’ LDS Alfa and Charlton, who misjudged the number of laps stopped a lap too soon.
With Love’s championship sewn up, the cold and blustery 2 October Kyalami Rand Spring Trophy proved a dull formality as Love drew away from de Klerk up front and the two left the rest of the field to string out behind. Charlton came home third from Niemann, Serrurier and Pretorius.
The Bulawayo Bullet John Love dominated the 1965 South African championship with ten overall wins, a sixth and just one retirement, while Peter de Klerk struggled to get his car to match what Brabham had promised, to end second in the title race from Doug Serrurier, Sam Tingle, Brausch Niemann, the hapless Tony Maggs and rising stars Dave Charlton and Jackie Pretorius. And with several new cars lined up for the 1966 season, there was fresh hope that Love’s rivals would close the gap to the front in the coming season...
The problem however, was that with the world championship following SA to a 3-litre formula a year anon, the major F1 engine suppliers were struggling to complete the development of their new engines and meet their commitments to first supply the world championship teams, so the local scene continued much as it had in 1965 with a few more Tasman spec 2.7 litre Climax engines finding their way into de Klerk, Charlton and Tingle’s chassis, in what would once again prove to be an all four-cylinder championship.
1966 LOVE THAT HAT TRICK!
The ’66 season commenced with Kyalami’s Rand Grand Prix on 4 December 1965, which included seven international entries, sadly none of which were the new 3-litres as the overseas competitors also had to make do with 2.7 fours or 2-litre versions of the old 1.5 V8s. That left John Love to deliver Kyalami’s first 100 mph lap in practice in his immaculately prepared Cooper T79 Climax.
Jack Brabham was overheard to mutter, “I just can’t let this bloke beat me,” before going on to pip the Rhodesian to pole with a lap 0.1 seconds quicker in his Goodyear shod Brabham powered by an identical 2.7-litre Climax engine. Another local hope, Peter de Klerk and visitor Bob Anderson’s Braham BT 11 Climax 2.7s occupied row 2 with Innes Ireland’s 2-litre Lotus 33 BRM 2-litre V8 and Jo Bonner’s 1.5-litre Lotus 25 Climax V8 next up from Paul Hawkins’ Lotus 25 Climax 2.7, Jo Siffert’s Brabham BT11-BRM 1.5 V8, Sam Tingle’s LDS 2.7 Climax and Doug Serrurier’s 2-litre version in the top ten
Love delighted the the crowd to lead for a lap before Brabham powered past down the main straight and gradually drew away, with de Klerk third from Ireland, Hawkins and Anderson in a bunch, Siffert and Tingle. De Klerk had opened a gap the group and began closing on Love, whose car’s handling was steadily deteriorating as his ‘new’ dampers proved quite used and he soon pitted to make an adjustment. So, Brabham cruised home to a half-minute win from de Klerk, Hawkins, Love Siffert and Ireland with Tingle seventh from fellow locals Serrurier, Puzey, Tony Jefferies and Jack Holme.
The second round of the 1966 South African Championship, the New Year’s Day South African Grand Prix at East London was also F1’s first ever 3-liter race, but it was not part of the of the World Championship as a result of delays many of the teams faced in completing their new machinery.
Jack Brabham however brought a brand-new Brabham BT 19/20 to the Border race, powered by Repco’s new 3-litre F1 engine. Based on a discarded Oldsmobile V8, the lightweight aluminium lump was re-engineered by Australian parts firm Repco to deliver an amazingly competitive, reliable and ultimately World Championship-winning F1 power solution.
Brabham had it easy in East London backed by teammate Denny Hulme in the Rand gP winning BT 11 Climax 2.7. Principal opposition came from Mike Spence and Peter Arundell’s competitive 2-litre Climax V8-powered Lotus 33s as Jim Clark took a sabbatical following his dominant ‘65 championship season. Richie Ginther also joined the rest of the Rand Grand Prix field in a 2-litre BRM P261 V8, while Charlton’s gleaming Brabham BT11 was now powered by a 2.7-litre Climax four.
Love was the quickest local in fourth on the grid, a second off Brabham with de Klerk seventh, Charlton 10th and Tingle, Jefferies, Serrurier, Pretorius and Puzey completing the grid. Spence led off the line from third on the grid on a drying track following an earlier squall and led a lap until Brabham’s extra litre capacity and 10km/h top end took him past down the straight.
The Australian led convincingly until his fuel injection drive sheared ten laps from the flag to allow Spence’s 2-litre Lotus to take an unlikely win from Siffert and Arundell. Dave Charlton emerged best of the locals in a fine fourth place, albeit benefiting Hulme, Ginther, Ireland, Bonnier and Anderson’s retirements and Love’s tyre trouble and subsequent pit stop. Tingle ended fifth from Love, Puzey, Jefferies, Pretorius and Serrurier, with de Klerk the only local retirement.
With the bulk of the international visitors back overseas and busy with their 3-litre plans, the South African Driver’s Championship resumed a week later at Killarney’s 8 January Cape Southeaster races with a pair of 25-lap heats at the Cape Town racetrack. Paul Hawkins and Bob Anderson extended their African safari, but despite both having similar 2.7 Climax power, neither could challenge John Love’s Cooper T79 as the Rhodesians cruised to a couple of heat wins.
Charlton and former motorcycle champion Anderson both spun in the first heat, but Anderson worked his way back to finish second from Hawkins, Tingle, Puzey and Serrurier. Both visitors retired in the second heat, leaving de Klerk, who had partially exorcised a first heat gremlin in his misfiring big-bore Climax four, to trail Love home 30 some seconds adrift in second, ahead of Jefferies, Serrurier, Tingle and Puzey with four Rhodesians in the top six.
Kyalami’s Rand Autumn Trophy was next up on the first Saturday of March with the twelve-car field bolstered by 1.5-litre gang Dave Hume’s Heron Alfa, Leo Dave’s ex-de Klerk Alfa Special, von Popering’s LDS Ford 1.5 and Hartmann’s Neutar Peugeot. Dave Charlton had acquired the Brabham BT11 Climax 2.7 that Brabham and Hulme had both driven in the Springbok series, which quickly proved quicker than de Klerk’s allegedly identical car.
Charlton and de Klerk chased Love as hard as they could, but the Rhodesian’s car was clearly easier to drive and gradually pulled away up front, before first de Klerk suffered a gearbox failure and then Charlton picked up an engine problem, leaving Love to lap the rest of the field on his way to another easy win. The highlight of the race was the scrap for what turned out to be third behind Love and Tingle between Puzey’s six-year old Lotus 18 with 2.5 litre Climax propulsion and veteran Serrurier’s ever-evolving LDS with a 2-litre Climax mill as the pair swapped places throughout as Puzey emerged just half a meter clear at the line.
Moving on to for Roy Hesketh’s for Pietermaritzburg’s popular traditional Easter weekend race festival with the sixth-hour endurance race Saturday and two 33-lap Coronation 100 heats on Monday, the Formula 1s proved the race of the weekend despite John Love taking another easy win and a further step towards his hat-trick of South African Driver’s championships.
Love was forced to start from the back of the grid after electrical issues in qualifying, but the Rhodesian charged through the 15-car field and was up to third behind the Charlton and de Klerk’s Brabhams by the end of the first lap! Love demolished the lap record by two seconds as he chased Charlton down, catching and passing him after 8 laps, as de Klerk suffered another broken gearbox to leave Puzey to take third from Pretorius, Jefferies and Tingle. De Klerk did not start heat 2 and Charlton fluffed his start, leaving Love to win at ease from Charlton, Tingle, Jefferies, Hartmann, van Popering and newcomer Barry Neunborn’s Volsona Alfa.
John Love’s experience, meticulous preparation and splendid driving was starting to tell by the end-May round 6 Kyalami Republic Trophy amid suggestions of adopting a two-litre formula to liven things up.
The Bulawayo Bullet did little to ease the situation with another dominant win ahead of his regular pursuers Charlton and de Klerk. A brilliant midfield 2 litre race between Jefferies, Pretorius and Serrurier however added to the aggie, joined by Puzey and Tingle’s 2.5-litre machines, which dice had race commentators ignoring the top three. Puzey retired and Serrurier out braked himself, leaving Pretorius to fourth from Jeffries, Doug and Tingle.
Back at the ever-slippery Roy Hesketh for the midwinter Natal Winter Trophy, de Klerk was in Europe to race the Le Mans 24-hour and a few World Sportscar rounds and Charlton struggled with a misfire, leaving Love to cruise to the first heat win from Tingle and Pretorius after Jefferies was penalised for jumping the start. It was much the same in heat 2, only this time Jefferies slid off to benefit Pretorius third again, behind Tingle.
Love’s domination was starting to tell by East London’s Border 100, where a meagre ten car field attracted one of the smallest crowds on record at the iconic seaside racetrack. There were no surprises as Love won race 1 from Charlton, Tingle and the regular entertaining dice settled in Pretorius’ favour from Serrurier, Jefferies and Puzey.
Race 2 was however all change as Love broke his gearbox off the line and was clobbered from behind by Jefferies, who’s car flew some 100 meters before crashing down. Charlton led the way from there until he suffered gearbox trouble, to leave Sam Tingle to take a popular win from the duelling Pretorius and Serrurier split by half a second, Puzey, Jeffries and Rauten Hartman a delighted sixth.
Fourteen thousand race fans turned up at Kyalami’s chilly ninth round Rand Winter Trophy to witness John Love put in another dominant performance in his Cooper-Climax, win and secure an unprecedented hat trick of South African Driver’s Championships as he matched Bill Jennings record total of three titles.
Qualifying on pole with a best-ever 1m 30.3s Kyalami lap, Love initially tailed Charlton through the cement dust before moving ahead on lap 2 and driving away to an even sweeter victory than usual. Charlton had another gearbox failure and Puzey and Serrurier, who had diced hard with Jeffries also stopped, leaving Sam Tingle to second from Tony Jefferies and Leo Dave, who was the only other classified finisher in the Alfa Special.
Roy Hesketh’s tenth round Fairfield 100 turned out to be a sad tale of breakdowns and more breakdowns put down to the strains of a long and hard season of racing taking a toll on the machinery. Charlton did not enter, and practice was chaotic as Love’s Climax broke its rings, Tingle's developed an oil leak, Serrurier bent his LDS front end in a shunt and Pretorius broke his gearbox.
The opening race was not much better as Tingle led three laps before a Climax conrod punched a hole in his engine block and Pretorius stopped on lap two, leaving Love to come from the back of the grid to win by a lap from Puzey, Serrurier and the surprising Brian Raubenheimer's nimble 1.5 litre Lotus Ford, which had run in third for some distance before Serrurier found a way by. Tingle loaned Pretorius his gearbox for race 2 and Jefferies was back too, but Love cruised to that win too, as he took the day from Puzey, Serrurier and Leo Dave.
Killarney had a surprise in store for the van Riebeeck Trophy season finale with a reprofiled banked Cape Town corner at the end of the straight challenging drivers to find the optimal racing line. Ten drivers came under starter’s orders before John Love led the way until his Cooper suffered gearbox trouble to leave Sam Tingle to fight the combatant Tony Jefferies' 2-litre Cooper Climax off for the win, with impressive Leo Dave and Rauten Hartmann’s 1.5-litre cars just four seconds further back. Charlton was excluded for a push start after a spin.
The filler cap was not fastened on Clive Puzey’s Lotus-Climax, causing fuel to spill into the cockpit and ignite on the warm-up lap for the second heat. The car left the track at low speed, jumped a bank, and nosedived to earth as Clive leapt out on fire. Love and Serrurier stopped and rushed to his aid, rolling Clive on the ground to extinguish the flames before Puzey was rushed to hospital with burns to his back, from which he fortunately recovered.
Love and Charlton then duelled fiercely through the second heat until Charlton's engine blew, leaving Love to take another inevitable 30 second victory, complete with a new 1m 21.8s lap record over Tingle, Jefferies pushing hard as ever in third, Leo Dave, Serrurier and Frank Maritz. Tingle took the day from Jeffries and the delighted trio of Dave, Maritz and Hartmann.
That concluded the 1966 South African Driver’s Championship with John Love taking his third consecutive crown from ever-competitive veteran Sam Tingle, Dave Charlton, Doug Serrurier, Clive Puzey, Doug Serrurier and Leo Dave. Love won seven, races, five of them consecutively, Tingle and Charlton two each and de Klerk one in season littered with mechanical breakdowns and engine failures as teams and drivers struggled to meet the continually soaring budgets required to compete at the front.
It was not going to get any easier with pukka 3-litre V8 engines soon to become available and drive the pace and budgets required to remain competitive even higher. But the leading South African (and Rhodesian) racers were a resourceful bunch and a lack of funding was simply not enough to stop them…
Come back next time for the next incredible story in the history of the South African Formula 1 Driver’s Championship, which kicks off with one of the biggest days in the local sport’s history…
Part 4: South Africa Leads the World
This series will continue regularly until complete
The History of South African Single Seater Racing will be published in more comprehensive form in a new book anon…
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