Monday, June 23, 2008

Australin Grand Prix

On and off I have been a bit of a fan of the Australian GrandPrix. I mentioned before that my first visit to an AGP was when I was 9 or 10 at Port Wakefield. I wasn't born when the Lobethal event occurred but I'm looking forward to the re-enactment later this year neverthless. I have to admit that my memories of Port Wakefield are a bit dim. I remember the wind and the dust and I remember that the back of the field for the main event seemed to be a bit of a mottley crew although I do recall there being at least a couple of TR2s which didn't make it to the start and a couple of 100/4s which did. One of the 100/4s was driven by Clem Smith. When I was a big boy I managed to have an example of each of these sports cars. Anyway, I would like to have been able to say that I remember Jack Brabham's win from third on the grid and former BCCA member, Keith Rilstone's fine 6th in the Rilstone Special but I don't. The next time the AGP came to SA was in 1961 at Mallala but it wasn't until 1964 that a girlfriend's father introduced me to the delights of that place.

In the sixties, the many and varied cars that made up the field of an AGP settled down to mainly Tasman Cup cars which were re-engined previous year F1 cars where the Australian drivers were joined by international F1 drivers who had come to Oz and NZ to compete in a series after a hectic season in Europe. The seventies was the time of the big-banger F5000s but by the end of that decade people seemed to be getting a bit tired of that formula and there was a growing interest in the little Formula Pacifics. Bob Jane gathered up the AGP making it quite a spectacle at Calder for 5 years until the real stuff happened in Adelaide in 1985. It is the first of these 5 events that I wanted to talk about. To make the transmission from F5000 to Formula Pacific easier Jane opened up the event to both categories but, to add even more interest, he also opened it up to F1 cars and managed to secure two, Alan Jones in the Williams FW07 he had just taken to the World Championship and Bruno Giacomelli ("Jack O'Malley") in the Alfa Romeo 179 (not to be confused with the Holden 179 that Norm Beechey drove years before). I did hear that Guy Edwards was to have brought a Fittipaldi F5A but that didn't eventuate. The F1 cars were there to bring the crowds in and they did just that, and they sounded fantastic. Alan Jones was keen to win as his father, Stan, was a former AGP winner and the only other father and son to have won their home GPs were the As.caris. Antonio won the Italian GP in 1924 and Alberto in 1951 and 1952. Anyway, win it he did with Jack O'Malley coming in second and another international, Didier Pironi third in the Elfin MR8 Chev. The first Aussie was Alfredo Costanzo in 4th in the Lola T430. Incidentally, 6th place was taken by Bolwell Mk.7 builder, Rob Butcher, in another Lola. He was actually third the previous year. Now have a look at the above picture of the Williams in the Calder pits. It's parked in the open alongside a Falcon ute, the surface is rolled quarry rubble. This must have been a far cry from what those blokes were used to in Europe. It is also a distinct contrast to the pit area in 1985 and onwards in Adelaide and then Melbourne. If I can think of a reason, I'll show you some photos of the inside of the Williams, Ferrari , Lotus etc. pits in 1985 sometime. That unsealed surface in the Calder pits brings me to another matter. That year, I had a hand in the manufacture and printing of a batch of jackets for a fruit juice company promotion at the GP. They were fairly big jackets and I imagined they were to be worn by pit crew members. I got to see them at the event and was a bit surprised. They were worn by a group of young women with extremely long legs which just disappeared into the base of the jackets. The jackets just covered their Khyber Passes. It looked pretty crazy but the crazy bit didn't end there. They were also wearing stiletto heels. They must have really earned their free admission struggling around that rocky ground on the old high heels. You still see that sort of thing today. It's not uncommon at Mallala and elsewhere to see the cool dudes strolling around the pits showing off the "bling" and the newly developed biceps, but that's not all they are showing off. Also on their arm is the dolly-bird they met at the nightclub the night before, still in the stilettos. These blokes must be sadists. Wouldn't you think they would say "wear your sneakers". I don't know if these young women are always taller than the blokes or whether it's the heels that does it.

1 comment:

John L said...

Gee you people are quick off the mark. Thanks for letting me know, I can't spell "Australian". I think I'll leave it that way.