I have a thing for Grand Prix cars of the 1970s and in particular those from 1973 to 1975.
It’s not that I’m stuck in a time warp or necessarily believe that things were better back then, it’s just that those were my first years of going to Formula One races and as such I have a soft spot for the cars of that era. And there’s no denying that this period produced some of the sport’s most varied and finest looking cars, thanks to the trial-and error approach to aerodynamic efficiency – the Lotus 72, Brabham BT44 and Shadow DN5 to name a few — whilst being driven by some of the sport’s most celebrated names.
The 1974 and 1975 works Hesketh and Brabham cars were predominently white but there was no mistaking one from the other as they sped past on the race-track. If today’s Saubers or Ferraris were painted pink I would not be able to distinguish them from a Force India.
But for me it’s more than that. I was not particularly interested in photography back then, it is only something I got into during the 1976 season. I sometimes took my ‘Kodak Colorsnap 35’ camera which was okay for close-ups of things not moving and on occasion I borrowed a proper SLR with a 200 mm lens. Sometimes I didn’t bother with a camera at all.
I therefore have very few images of the cars I saw in my early days and some of those are not so good. But all is not lost. Over the years there has been a resurgence of interest in historic racing and fortunately many of the cars of that period have been impeccably restored, not just as museum pieces but to race again in the F1 Masters series or to appear in other retro events such as the Monaco Historique and Goodwood Festival of Speed. Frequently they turn up as a Grand Prix support race and all this has given me the opportunity to turn back the clock and get some decent photographs of them on track.
I am not a technophile. If I see and take a picture of Sebastian Vettel in a Ferrari at Silverstone in 2018, that’s all I need to know. However, to pinpoint a car out of period, where and when it originally raced, who drove it and was I actually there at the time, I need the chassis number to identify the exact car.
Many of these cars probably contain few of their original components and it is also a possibility that some chassis numbers have been re-allocated during restoration, but for my purposes I take it at face value. If a car is specified as chassis number (whatever), that will do for me. It is also a requirement of the Masters series that cars must be in original colour schemes including sponsors. So bearing in mind that some were used by several teams and drivers over their active life, the current owner’s preferred restored livery and markings may not give the full picture.
For example, the Lotus 77 (JPS 12) chassis number 2 racing in the F1 Masters series bears the name of the team’s lead driver of 1976, Mario Andretti, and his race number 5. But this car was never actually raced by Andretti, it was raced as number 6 and used only by the team’s second driver which throughout the season was Ronnie Peterson, Bob Evans and Gunnar Nilsson respectively.
Also the Iso-Marlboro Williams FW03 driven throughout 1974 by Arturo Merzario which I saw in that guise in the Masters support race for the US Grand Prix in 2016 was also entered for Grands Prix in 1975 by Tony Brise, Damien Magee, Ian Scheckter, François Migault, Ian Ashley, Jo Vanlanthen and Renzo Zorzi.
Surtees TS19/002 of 1976 which appeared in the same 2016 US Masters race bearing its infamous Durex sponsorship and the name of its most famous driver, Alan Jones, was also driven in that season by Brett Lunger, Conny Andersson and Noritake Takahara. In 1977 it was shared by Larry Perkins, Hans Binder, Patrick Tambay, Vern Schuppan and Lamberto Leoni, whilst also seeing active service in 1978, painted ‘Beta’ orange, in the hands of Rupert Keegan and Vittorio Brambilla.
All very interesting – well for me anyway.
Note: Many of these images are taken from original prints, negatives and slides that are nearly 40 years old and are therefore not reproduced to the same standard as current day digital images. All reasonable attempts have been made to ensure these images are reproduced to the best possible standard, however, in some instances colour casts and blemishes may be present.