Grand Prix Grauniad

Jack Brabham “finished the race on half-pistons”, should have read “half-distance”, but phoning race reports to The Grauniad was always problematical. And copy-takers would laugh if you told them that Jack Brabham failed to finish because he had run out of petrol. The notion that the world’s best cars had not enough in the tank to see them through was jokey. If they had a puncture it was worse. Punctures were something that happened to ordinary people. Copy-takers never quite grasped the finer points of motor racing.

It would be just as bad now if you phoned on a crackly line from Monza that Lewis Hamilton’s tyres wore out after five laps. Decent tyres last 25,000 miles. Truly, racing has gone unrealistic, with regulations that have everybody diving into the pits and changing one tyre compound for another. Grands Prix were always something of a circus but what with DRS zones and obscure kinetic energy devices nowadays, they look bizarre.

Innocent lottery-winner interviewed the other day said he’d always fancied a drive in a Formula 1 car. Chances are he would never understand the game-station buttons on the steering wheel. The last kind of Formula 1 car that related to anything in his understanding would probably be something in the pre-wobbly wing era when drivers changed gear with a gear-lever and worked a clutch with the left foot. Back in Jack Brabham’s day.

(Top picture Brabham biplane, bottom Repco engine on the grid, Brabham golden helmet, Maxwell Boyd of The Sunday Times out of focus in the white jacket. Can’t tell which Hewland gearbox this is. Brabham began by upgrading a Formula 2 car with no more than an F2 Hewland, but had to change it for a Hewland DG. Gurney Eagle used to claim this meant Dan Gurney; Brabham said DG only meant Different Gearbox, so as not to confuse it with HD (Heavy Duty) and LG (Large Gearbox. They had simpler nomenclature then, like Cosworth FVA, which meant Four Valve type A, and DFV - Double Four Valve)).