That time at Sandown…

Here’s a little something that pops up every so often – the racy demonstration of Sir Jack Brabham in his Brabham-Repco and Juan Manuel Fangio in his 1955 Mercedes-Benz W196. Both cars had been recently restored by their owners in Australia, and as a support to the 1978 Australian Grand Prix at Sundown they were to be reunited with their original drivers.

All the hype and Fangio’s own insistence was that this was not a demonstration by two champions but a race. Perhaps it was, but it’s worth remembering that, in their heydays, there was a full minute’s difference between the two cars over a lap of Spa-Francorchamps and 13 seconds at Monaco.

Nevertheless, while Black Jack is the perfect gentleman and makes a show of it, it’s clear that Fangio is properly ‘on it’ for a recently-restored car that was worth a major sum of money even 40 years ago. And both men clearly wanted to be first past the chequered flag.

Incidentally, the Australian Grand Prix was a Formula 5000 race, won by Graham McRae in his self-built Chevrolet-engined car in a highly attritional race that saw two drivers hospitalised.

It’s thanks to this sort of enthusiasm for old cars, so clearly on show at Sandown that day, that the Silverstone Classic, the Goodwood Revival and the Nürburgring Old-timer exist as some of the best-attended motor sport events in the world. This is why…

Cheerio, Foub.

This blog would not exist were it not for the encouragement of Peter Foubister, who died suddenly and unexpectedly last week. ‘Foub’ was a constant in the world of motor sport as a journalist, publishing executive and latterly as the Motoring Secretary of the Royal Automobile Club. He was someone who knew virtually everyone and had a bad word for few.

Above all he was an enthusiast – and a contagious one at that.

Being one of the few who in our industry has never darkened the doors of Haymarket Publishing (in an official capacity at least), our paths did not truly converge until 2009. That was when the Foub was recruited by Martin Whitaker to assist with bringing the Bernie Ecclestone Collection of historic racing cars to the Bahrain Grand Prix.

ecclestone_collection-car2

The ex-Hunt, ex-Villeneuve McLaren M23 in Bahrain, 2009

Together we worked on turning this astonishing and seldom-seen collection into an informative attraction for fans and media, while also building notes on the cars that were provided by Doug Nye into a commemorative book with Interstate.

It was enormous fun and made all the more so by Foub’s very obvious delight at the role – not least when Bernie’s BRM V12 took to the circuit long after nightfall, with the Bahrain International Circuit’s safety car in front illuminating the way.

The following year saw Foub back in Bahrain – this time as anchorman for the official 60th anniversary celebrations of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship. An astonishing array of title-winning cars and drivers had been assembled, from the ‘father of the house’ Sir Jack Brabham through to the young pups still competing on the grid.

2010-196998-60th-anniversary-of-f1-world-championship-mario-andretti-usa-1978-f1-world-cha1

Mario Andretti leads Damon Hill around the Bahrain International Circuit in 2010

Only two living world champions failed to make their way to the ‘gem of the Gulf’: Nelson Piquet, who was persona non grata after blowing the whistle on ‘crashgate’, and Kimi Räikkönen, who couldn’t be bothered to come. All of the rest were coaxed and cajoled with alacrity by the Foub, who ensured that their every heart’s desire was met and every inducement found its mark.

This time all the writing fell upon yours truly to put together. The midnight oil was burnt in trying to piece together exactly which chassis were coming, in putting press material together with approved quotes from our retired champions and bullying people on the price of pictures – all of which was achieved in record time with the Foub’s assistance.

The memories of that weekend will last a lifetime. The Williams mechanics successfully wedging Keke Rosberg back into his car; the moment when John Surtees mashed the throttle on Bernie’s Ferrari 1512; helping Mario Andretti to locate a lost crash helmet when he was late for his flight; Nigel Mansell feeling a little aggrieved that his was the only Williams not present and correct – and Patrick Head’s response.

All that and so much more was possible because of Peter Foubister’s efforts in making it so. It was his attention to detail with what the drivers wanted or needed that helped ensure that Sir Jack Brabham rallied to make it to the grid on raceday. That was the moment when it all crystallised and, after that, all that was left was to write the book.

Thereafter, back in the UK, Foub and self became a bit of a double act at the Royal Automobile Club for a time. If something needed writing on behalf of the Club, the phone would ring and there would be the lilting request that a website be rehashed, the bon mots for the Segrave Trophy be jotted, the description for the latest car to be shown off in the Rotunda or some stories about the Future Car Challenge be put about the place.

vet1_2049642i

Nigel Mansell made the London to Brighton Run an experience to savour.

My favourite mission from Foub was to cover Nigel Mansell’s appearance on the London to Brighton Run, driving a Mercedes. Your scribe was dispatched in a brand new Peugeot 207 GTI to chase after the 1992 world champion and his jovial co-driver, transport minister Mike Penning, to capture the story of their Run for the Club magazine and website.

Despite giving away more than a century in technology and a hat full of horsepower, it was I who reached each checkpoint with the metaphorical tongue hanging out as Mansell set a blistering pace at the helm of his veteran machine.

In fact he reached Brighton nearly two hours ahead of time, so we decamped to the nearest hostelry for something restorative. Nigel, unbidden, took out a packet of playing cards and proceeded to entertain not only our table but all of the lightly stunned families and drinkers with an hour-long improvised magic show. The minister could do little else but go with the flow (and say something about abolishing the MOT).

It was while writing about the first Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy that the Scarf & Goggles came into being. I’d written a story for Foub about the first race in 1905 to support the return of the TT to the FIA World Sportscar Championship calendar. Eventually that story ended up on the cutting room floor but I felt it deserved resuscitation. Foub suggested that I should start a blog for such pieces. So I did… and for a while stories to be found on here often coincided with work undertaken on behalf of the Club.

Eventually Foub and his brilliant PA-cum-manager Jemma were joined by a permanent member of staff to help with the workload and Haymarket moved in to produce the ‘assets’ for RAC events. Our little production company became redundant, although there were still occasional and enjoyable calls. There will be no more, and that is a very sad prospect. Thanks for so much fun, Foub. My thoughts to all your nearest and dearest.

pictured-left-to-right-peter-foubister-peter-read

Peter Foubister (left): an enthusiast and a good man

Scarves and Goggles in the desert

It was remiss of me not to have had a camera about my person when 14 of the 16 world champions who walk the earth congregated in Bahrain a couple of years back – together with 20 of their cars. You can probably find the TV footage on Sky’s F1 channel at most hours of the day and night. However m’colleague Ben Nicholson very thoughtfully took an excellent record of events.

Sir Stirling was due to come too, after all few such gatherings should be without him, but unfortunately he had an altercation with his lift shaft and was therefore U/S. This left Sir Jack Brabham as the sole representative of Scarf & Goggles-era racing, and he was on good form, especially when being interviewed for TV.

TV girlie: Sir Jack, how does the modern sport compare with your day?

Sir Jack: What?

(TV girlie repeats the question louder, and Sir Jack considers it for a moment…)

Sir Jack: Too easy! And too much money!

And with that, here are some pictures of the more venerable of the collection:

An insurance man's dream come true

An insurance man’s dream come true

All unpacked and ready to go...

All unpacked and ready to go…

Nigel Mansell hustles the Thin Wall Special around Sakhir

Nigel Mansell hustles the Thin Wall Special around Sakhir

David Coulthard lets rip with the Mercedes-Benz W196

David Coulthard lets rip with the Mercedes-Benz W196

Juan Fangio II at the wheel of ex-Horace Gould 250F

Juan Fangio II at the wheel of ex-Horace Gould 250F

Donington Collection's glorious Ferrari 500 F2 - arguably the most successful chassis on earth

Donington Collection’s glorious Ferrari 500 F2 – arguably the most successful chassis on earth

The 1959 Cooper-Climax T53

The 1960 Cooper-Climax T53

Rob Dean giving plenty in the big Ferrari 375

Rob Dean giving plenty in the big Ferrari 375

Mario Andretti gets a feel for the W196

Mario Andretti gets a feel for the W196

Ron Dennis in a Ferrari - smiling!

Ron Dennis in a Ferrari – smiling!

Sir Jack Brabham on the grid with his old steed

Sir Jack Brabham on the grid with his old steed

Magnificent effort from John Surtees in Ferrari 1512 (yes it's post-S&G but you don't see that every day, do you?

Magnificent effort from John Surtees in Ferrari 1512 (yes it’s post-S&G but you don’t see that every day, do you?

Nigel - still going strong in the Thin Wall

Nigel – still going strong in the Thin Wall