Two women and a pilot


At 10 o’clock of the morning of March 18, 1952, two women reached the 405th 7th hole at the Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Florida. They were good golfers. One of them, Bertha Johnson, had been Jacksonville City Champion in 1938 and, now aged in her early 50’s, was still good enough to compete in tournaments. She had been president of the Jacksonville Women’s Golf Association for two years after the end of World War 2. Bertha and her playing partner, 38 year old Mary Dempsey, drove off from the 7th tee and started walking towards their balls. They were oblivious of any danger – it was just another round of golf to be enjoyed.

The pilot was on a routine training flight from the Jacksonville Naval Air Station base that bordered the Timuquana Country Club.

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Photo of the Jackssonville Naval Air Station – the Timuquana Country Club course can be seen in the top-left corner.

He was worried – the oil pressure gauge on his Vought F4U Corsair fighter was registering a low reading and engine power was below normal. He called the base to request an emergency landing. The duty runway was cleared and prepared.

The pilot made his approach to the runway, but all was not right. The engine of the Corsair was behaving erratically, so the pilot didn’t have enough control to land the plane. He flew past the runway, turned right and hoped to make another approach with enough control to land. Suddenly, the Corsair’s engine died completely. The plane was now a glider – no power, no noise, and no chance of making it back to the runway. The pilot looked at what was available to land. Was there anywhere to land? He saw a strip of grass on the Timuquana Country Club – it was the 7th fairway.

 

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A flight of Vought F4U Corsairs from the Jacksonville NAS in flight.

A man driving a van was making a delivery from his fruit and vegetable stall on Roosevelt Boulevard to the Naval Air Station. He saw the Corsair come in low over the buildings with smoke pouring out of the engine cowling. “It’s going to crash”, he said to his wife. The Corsair pulled back up into the air a little, but no higher than the tree-tops. The man and his wife watched it disappear behind the trees.

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Layout of the 7th hole at the Timuquana Country Club. Changes to the tees have resulted in different yardage than was the case in 1952.

Johnson and Dempsey played their second shots about 220 yards from the 7th tee. They then strolled in a leisurely way down the centre of the fairway towards the green. Their caddie, 19 year old Theodore Rutledge, walked about 35 yards behind them, along the eastern side of the fairway. Rutledge looked up, and saw the Corsair. It was coming in silently against the wind, strangely unobtrusive, its long nose and black engine smoke obscuring the pilot’s forward vision. Rutledge yelled a warning to the Johnson and Dempsey, who didn’t hear him, and then ducked and ran.

The Corsair landed in the middle of the 7th fairway and hit the women from behind with the propellor. One body was thrown 35 feet, the other 65 feet. Johnson and Dempsey were killed instantly. The plane continued down the 7th fairway for another 155 yards, veering towards a clump of trees in the rough on the western side of the fairway. It crashed into the trees and the impact broke off the engine and the cowling. The pilot scrambled out of the wreckage and then watched the Corsair burst into flames. He was standing by the burning plane when the course superintendent arrived.

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Photo from the 7th fairway looking towards the green. The Corsair veered to the left and crashed into the trees.

“Are you hurt?”, asked the superintendent.
“No, thank God,” said the pilot. “I got out before the fire started”.
Rutledge rushed up and blurted out the news that two golfers had been killed.
The pilot went to pieces.

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Front page of the “Miami Daily News” of the 20th March 1952, with the fatal crash the top story.

Andrew Ward’s book “Golf’s Strangest Rounds” – Extraordinary but true stories from over a cenury of history”, Robson Books, London, 1999 p. 154-155 was the source for this blog post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hangers, speccies and screamers


One of the most, if not the most spectacular part of Australian rules football is the high mark, where players jump into the air to catch the ball, often jumping over or on opposition players to grab the ball.

Over the long history of the game, many of these great marks have been captured by photographers, who were in the right place and the right time to take a brilliant picture.

Here are some examples of the best hangers, speccies and screamers taken in Australian rules football history.

Edwards

Aaron Edwards (North Melbourne) versus Hawthorn (AFL – 2007)

Carlton

Unidentified Carlton player versus Melbourne (VFL – 1960’s)

Ryan

Bill Ryan (Geelong) versus St Kilda (VFL – 1968)

 

Gerovich

John Gerovich (South Fremantle) versus East Fremantle (WAFL – 1956)

 

Walker

Andrew Walker (Carlton) versus Essendon (AFL 2011)

 

Coleman

John Coleman (Essendon) versus North Melbourne (VFL 1950’s)

 

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Ashley Sampi (West Coast Eagles) versus Melbourne (AFL 2004)

 

Holst

David Holst (Glenelg) versus Norwood (SANFL 1979)

 

Knights

Peter Knights (Hawthorn) versus Collingwood (VFL 1973)

 

Roach

Michael Roach (Richmond) versus Hawthorn (VFL 1980)

 

Dugdale

John Dugdale (North Melbourne) versus St Kilda (VFL 1961)

March 721X Formula 1 car


March (formed by Max Mosley, Alan Rees, Graham Coaker and Robin Herd) was formed in October 1969, and had reasonable success in the 1970 and 1971 Formula 1 seasons with the 701 and 711 cars.

March started the 1972 season with the 721, which was an improvement of the 711, with over 50 changes and modifications. Herd then designed a totally new car, the 721X (72 for 1972, 1 for Formula 1 and X for experimental), which March hoped would place them amongst the top teams. While the car followed the majority of cars in using the Ford DFV 3-litre V8 engine and Hewland gearbox, there were a couple of innovations. One was the rear suspension, which featured high mounted rear springs operated by cranks and levers. Inspired by Porsche and Alfa Romeo sportscar design, the gearbox was mounted between the engine and the rear axle, instead of behind the rear axle, which was the ‘norm’ in Formula 1 at the time. In theory these two features would be very good for the car’s overall weight distribution, and lead to excellent handling.

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Left to right – designer Robin Herd, driver Ronnie Peterson and Max Mosley with the first 721X. Along with the rear suspension and placement of the gearbox, other interesting features include the full-width front nose, elaborate roll-cage and exposed DFV engine.

The 721X made its debut at the non-championship Race Of Champions at Brands Hatch in March, driven by Ronnie Peterson, with the car making its World Championship debut at the Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama in May, driven again by Peterson and Niki Lauda.

Unfortunately for March, the customer Goodyear tires that March were using were designed for a conventional chassis and suspension configuration. The front tires were completely overloaded and caused all kinds of trouble in corners from complete understeer to acute oversteer, resulting in an uncompetitive car.

 

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Niki Lauda in the 721X at the 1972 Monaco Grand Prix.

Both Lauda and Peterson retired in Spain, and were nowhere near the top cars in Monaco (Peterson 11th, Lauda 16th) and Belgium (Peterson 9th, Lauda 12th).

March realised that with the team locked in to using Goodyear tires, the only solution was to replace the 721X. This was done expediently by using the Formula Two chassis, modified to take the DFV engine, with the fuel capacity increased by side tanks. The 721G was more competitive, with Peterson finishing in the points at the French, German and United States Grand Prix.

Both 721Xs still survive, and the car driven by Ronnie Peterson competes in historic racing. Here is some great footage of that car lapping the Scandinavian Raceway in 2017, juxtaposed with Ronnie Peterson driving the same car at the same circuit 45 years earlier.

The following books were used as sources for this blog post:

Anthony Pritchard, “Directory of Formula One Cars: 1966-1986”, Aston Publications, England, 1986, p. 142

David Hodges, “A-Z of Formula Racing Cars”, Bay View Books, England, 1990, p. 160-161

The “Timeless” Test match


In the southern summer of 1938/39, the England cricket team toured South Africa, to play five Test matches as well as games against various provincial teams.

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The England party that toured South Africa during the summer of 1938/39.

The 1st Test in Johannesburg in late December was drawn, as was the 2nd Test in Cape Town in late December-early January. England won the 3rd Test at Durban in late January by an innings and 13 runs, while the 4th Test in Johannesburg in late February was drawn, leaving England 1-0 up in the series with one Test left to play. As there was a chance of South Africa winning the 5th Test and drawing the series 1-1, it was decided that the match would not be restricted to five days play, and instead would be played to a result, thus becoming a ‘Timeless” match.

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The South African team for the “Timeless” Test at Durban in March 1939.

The match started at the Kingsmead Ground at Durban on Friday, the 3rd of March. South Africa won the coin toss, and decided to bat first. At the end of the first day, they were 229 runs for the loss of two wickets. Peter van der Bijl was 105 not out, taking nearly all day to score his century, which included a 45 minute session where he didn’t score a run at all.

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Peter van der Bijl plays a rare attacking shot during his century in the first South African innings.

William Pollock, a writer for the “Daily Express”, wasn’t impressed by South Africa’s slow play:

“The South Africans have got this timeless Test all wrong. Evidently they think that the big idea is to stay in as long as you can and score as slowly as you like. They have not though enough about it. The thing is to get as many runs as possible, preferably as soon as possible. Runs count, not how long the team batted…..There is no reason why England should not make 1,000 runs….Anyhow the boat still sails on March 17.” We will hear more about the boat later in this post.

Only 17 runs were added in the first hour on day 2, and then van der Bijl was dismissed for 125 , which took over 7 hours. The scoring increased when Dalton and Nourse were at the wicket, and South Africa finished the day at 432 runs for the loss of six wickets.

Sunday was a rest day, and there was rain, which freshened the pitch and made it still perfect for batting. South Africa were dismissed late on day 3 for 530, and England had scored 35 runs for the loss of one wicket when play ended early due to rain and poor light. Daily Mail correspondent and former South African player Bob Crisp though that England at this early stage had no chance of winning, writing:

“England are still holding out, but their fall is imminent. Even allowing for all the traditional uncertainties of cricket it seems impossible that they can extricate themselves from their difficult position.”

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Ground staff prepare the Kingsmead pitch prior to the start of play.

On day 4, scoring was especially slow, with England ending at 268 runs scored for the loss of seven wickets. The England innings finished early on Day 5 for 316, giving South Africa a lead of 214. As they were over 200 hundred runs in front, they could have asked England to follow-on and bat again, but due to there being no time restrictions, instead they decided to build their lead and tire the England players out by having them field. South Africa finished the day scoring 193 runs for the loss of three wickets. Amazingly, in a match where batting conditions were perfect, all three South African wickets fell when the score was 191.

 

On the sixth day, South Africa took their score to 481 all out. By this stage, fatigue had started to take its toll on the England team. Wicketkeeper Les Ames was replaced behind the stumps by Paul Gibb for the final session, so that he could have a break from having to concentrate on every ball bowled. England finished the day having scored no runs and lost no wickets after facing only one ball of their 2nd innings, and the 4th of the match. England needed to score the huge figure of 696 runs to win the game. In normal circumstances this would have been impossible, but the pitch had played perfectly for the whole of the match, and there was no time limit on how long England could take to score those runs.

England went about their task with determination. Paul Gibb played the “anchor” at one end, scoring 78, while Len Hutton (55) and Bill Edrich (107 not out) also scored well. Edrich had never scored more than 29 runs before in an innings for England, and his previous scores in the series had been 4, 10, 0 & 6 batting down the order. England captain Wally Hammond promoted him up the order, and the move paid off, with England scoring 253 runs for the loss of just one wicket.

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Bill Edrich cuts a delivery through the slips cordon during his innings of 219.

On the eighth day, the 11th of March, rain washed out the entire day’s play. There were now signs that the England party could be pressed for time. William Pollock’s article mentioned that the boat would be leaving on the 17th of March. This was the SS Athlone Castle, which would return the England team back home. It was a two-day train trip from Durban to Cape Town, so England would need to catch a train on the evening of the 14th of March in order to make it back to catch the boat. The three England players who had not been chosen for the match had already left for Cape Town. If the England party missed the boat, then they would have to wait a fortnight for the next boat to arrive.

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The Athlone Castle, which played an unexpected part in the conclusion of the match.

The next day was a scheduled rest day, with the match recommencing on Monday, the 13th of March. Edrich and Gibb took their partnership to 280 runs before Gibb was dismissed for 120, scored in 9 hours and over 5 separate days. Edrich continued on until he was dismissed for 219, and now there was a distinct possibility that England could pull off a remarkable victory. At the end of the ninth day, England had scored 496 runs for the loss of only three wickets, needing a further 200 runs to win.

Wally Hammond, 58 not out overnight, played atttractively in the morning session of the tenth day. South Africa’s attempts to slow the scoring were not working – Jack Gage in the “Daily Tribune” said that “it was like a small boy trying frantically to stop the water from gushing out of a tap after he had mischievously unscrewed by the washer.”

Eddie Paynter scored (75) before being dismissed with the score at 611. A couple of brief rain delays interrupted Hammond’s concentration, and he was dismissed for 140, with the score at 650 –only 47 more runs required to win. At the tea break, England were only 42 runs short of their target, when it rained again- except this time the rain was prolonged and didn’t stop.

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The Kingsmead scoreboard, showing how close England were to an improbable victory before the match was abandoned.

The South African Board of Control meet with the two captains (Hammond and Alan Melville) and issued the following statement:

“The South African Cricket Association Control Board, in consultation with the captains, agreed that the match should be abandoned, the Board recognising that the England party would otherwise not have the requisite number of hours in Cape Town before sailing home.”

So the match that was designed to produce a result ended up producing no result, being abandoned as a draw. England were incredibly disappointed to have been so close to an improbable victory, but were unable to win due to circumstances that were not considered a possibility prior to the match starting. This was the last “Timeless” Test match played – since World War 2 all Test matches have a time limit of five days play.

Here is the full scorecard of this extraordinary match:

timelesstest

The following books were used for this blog post:

Andrew Ward, “Cricket’s Strangest Matches – Extraordinary but true stories from 150 years of cricket”, Robson Books, London, 2000, pp. 126-129

Peter Hayter, “Great Tests Recalled”, Bloomsbury Publishing, London, 1990, pp. 56-75.

Victoria pile on the runs


During the 1925-26 Sheffield Shield cricket competition in Australia, New South Wales won both their matches against Victoria by an innings, and scoring over 700 runs in an innings in both matches. The Victorian revenge the following season was brutally decisive, albeit shortlived.

New South Wales arrived in Melbourne in December 1926 for the first meeting of the teams in the season. The game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) started just before Christmas, took Christmas Day and Boxing Day off, and then continued to a finish. The NSW team was relatively inexperienced, with only four players having played on the MCG before. Of the nine NSW players who had been part of the Australian team that toured England earlier in 1926, only Tommy Andrews and Arthur Mailey were available. Despite this, the team were confident, as in their previous match against South Australia in Adelaide, they had won after scoring 6-446 in the fourth innings, which set a record for the highest fourth innings total in Australian first-class cricket history. They were led by Alan Kippax, an elegant, stylish batsman who had controversially been omitted from the 1926 tour of England. In 1925-26 Kippax had scored 271 against Victoria at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and in the first two Shield games of the 1926-27 season he had already scored three centuries. Another member of the side was the talented youngster Archie Jackson, who had just turned 17, but already the scorer of a Shield century.

Victoria was at full strength, and were an imposing form. Opening batsman Bill Ponsford had scored 214 against South Australia earlier in December, while Hunter “Stork” Hendry had also scored 177 in the same match. Both players then scored centuries against Queensland. The other opening batsman, Bill Woodfull, had topped the batting averages during the English tour in 1926.

On the 24th of December. Kippax won the toss, decided to bat on a perfect wicket, and would have been disappointed with a score of 221. Several players made starts – Norbert Phillips 52, Tommy Andrews 42 and Jim Hogg 40*, but none of them could convert their start into a century. The best of the Victorian bowlers was fast-medium bowler Arthur Liddicutt, who finished with the figures of 4-50 from 21 overs.

Victoria’s reply began on the 27th of December, and any idea New South Wales had that their hosts might be affected by too much Christmas cheer quickly disappeared. Woodfull and Ponsford scored quickly – the NSW total of 221 was overtaken in just under two and a half hours, with the 100 runs between 150 and 250 taking just 41 minutes. Both batsman survived chances, and took the chance to attack the NSW bowling unmercifully. As some of the NSW players wondered if they would ever take a wicket, Woodfull was out for 133, with he and Ponsford having created a new 1st-wicket Shield partnership record of 375.

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Bill Woodfull (L) and Bill Ponsford (R) shared a 375 run opening partnership.

Hendry came out to replace Woodfull, had a life early in his innings, and then slaughtered the NSW bowling. At the end of day, Victoria were an incredible 1-574, with Ponsford 334* and Hendry 86*. NSW leg spinner Arthur Mailey had taken most of the punishment, with figures of 0-148 off 28 overs.

Hendry raced to his hundred early on Day 3, before becoming Mailey’s first wicket. Ponsford was strangely subdued , and scored only 18 runs in 40 minutes, beforer playing a delivery from Gordon Morgan onto his stumps. Then amazingly there were two failures – “Hammy” Love and Stuart King being dismissed for 6 and 7 respectively. Victoria had “collapsed” from 3-614 to 5-657. After this brief lull, the onslaught was started again by Jack Ryder, who had come to the wicket after Hendry was dismissed. Scoring at 75 runs an hour, Ryder found an ally in Bert Hartkopf, a leg-spinning all-rounder who had scored 80 in his only Test Match, against England on the same ground two seasons previously. Hartkopf was dismissed for 61, with the total 6-834. Liddicutt joined Ryder, who at this stage was on his way to a double century. When the 900 was reached, Ryder was 195. He reached his 200 and then went berserk, smashing the bowling to all parts of the MCG. Ryder was swinging so consistently, that it looked like he would get out at any moment. Yet his dismissal seemed unlikely, with his hitting being so pure, finding gaps in the field, and the tiredness of the NSW fielders making it easy for him to score runs. Liddicutt was bowled for 36, with the score now 7-915. A few minutes later the record innings total for the Shield competition – 918 by NSW against South Australia at Sydney in 1900-01 – was passed, but Victoria continued on. Victorian wicketkeeper Jack Ellis had the honour of bringing up the 1,000th run, and celebrated by doing a little jig and shouting “Long Live Victoria!”.

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Jack Ryder hammered the NSW bowlers during his career high score of 295.

Ryder had hit Andrews for 4,6,4,6 in successive deliveries, and in trying to reach his 300 with another six, was caught by Kippax at mid-on for 295 (8-1043) . Frank Morton was run out without scoring (9-1046), but Ellis and Don Blackie continued on, before Ellis was run out, to finally end the Victorian innings at the end of the day for 1,107.

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Fromt page of the “Sun News-Pictorial”, showing the MCG scoreboard at the end of the Victorian innings.

All of the NSW bowlers had copped a hiding, with the “best” bowling figures belonging to Mailey, who finished with 4-362 off 64 overs, and not surprisingly a maiden over amongst those 64 overs. There were only 5 maidens bowled in the entire innings. Mailey was known for his sense of humour, and he showed it after the innings, claiming that it was a pity that the innings had ended, as he was just finding his length. He also said that a chap in the grandstand with a brown derby hat had dropped several sitters as well!

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Arthur Mailey finished the innings with 4 for 362 – still the most runs conceded by a bowler in a first-class innings.

As well as the gargantuan size of the Victorian score, the other amazing feature was how quickly the runs were scored. The innings took just 633 mins, so Victoria were averaging close to 100 runs an hour.  Despite being belted to every corner of the MCG, New South Wales kept up an extraordinary over rate, averaging 95 overs a day. This was back in the days of 8-ball overs instead of the current 6-ball overs, so there were less breaks between overs, but it is still an impressive performance.

The next day NSW batted again, needing to score a mere 886 to make Victoria bat again. The pounding they had taken in the field had knocked the stuffing out of them, and they only just improved on their first innings total, scoring 230 and losing by an incredible innings and 656 runs. As they left Melbourne on the train to travel back to Sydney, they had no idea that the tables would be turned so dramatically in a month’s time.

For the return match at the Sydney Cricket Ground in late January 1927, Victoria were without Love, Hartkopf, Woodfull, Ponsford and Ryder, who had scored 847 of that massive total. NSW welcomed back three of their Australian players, Charlie Macartney, Bert Oldfield and Johnny Taylor.

Whereas NSW has struggled in Melbourne after winning the toss, here they took command and at end of the first day’s play were 8-424. Kippax had made a glorious and stylish 187*, while Jackson had scored only 42, but scored them with such style and grace that commentators were already comparing him to the legendary Victor Trumper.

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Alan Kippax showed his elegance and class with 217* for NSW in the return fixture in January 1927.

Play started late the next day, and NSW made 469. Victoria were 2-15 when play ended early due to rain. Back in the 1920’s, pitches were not covered overnight, and thus rain was allowed to fall on them, which affected the way that the ball bounced off the pitch. Such a pitch is referred to as a “sticky wicket”, with the term entering the English language as a metaphor for someone who is in trouble, or in a difficult situation.

The people who were in trouble were the Victorian batsman, who lost 6 wickets for the addition of just 4 runs, leaving the scoreboard at an amazing 8-19, before being dismissed for just 35 runs. Ray McNamee, who had been belted all over the MCG in December and finished with the unflattering figures of 0-124, ran through the Victorian batting line-up, finishing with the incredible figures of 7-21 off just 8.4 overs. Charlie Macartney took the other 3 wickets, conceding only 10 runs off just 9 overs. The wicket was better, but not perfect, when Victoria followed on. They scored 181, and NSW had won by an innings and 253 runs – an astonishing reversal of the humiliation in Melbourne. Victoria’s 35 wasn’t their lowest score against NSW, but it stood in dazzling relief immediately after following the massive 1,107.

The contrast, even one so extreme, in many ways typifies cricket, especially back in the days before pitches were covered. If the pitch stayed hard and true, then the rungetters were remorseless, the boundary fieldsmen busy, the bowlers weary. But things could change swiftly, and occasionally the game was only as predictable as the next day’s weather forecast.

The following books were used as sources for this blog post:

“A Century of Summers – 100 Years of Sheffield Shield Cricket” – Geoff Armstrong, Ironbark Press, Randwick, NSW 1992

“First-Class Cricket in Australia – Volume 1 1850-1851 to 1941-42”, Ray Webster, Glen Waverly NSW 1991

Highest losing scores


Normally  when a team posts a huge score in any sporting event, the odds of them being beaten decrease markedly, but they cam still lose. Here are details of the highest losing scores recorded in various competitions, along with accompanying video footage.

Australian Football League

Hawthorn 26.15 (171) – GEELONG 25.13 (163) – May 6 1989

National Basketball Association

Detroit Pistons 186 – DENVER NUGGETS 184 – December 13 1983

American Football League

Oakland Raiders 52 – HOUSTON OILERS 49 – December 22 1963

National Football League

New York Giants 52 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 49

National Hockey League

Edmonton Oilers 12 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS 9 December 11 1985

Toronto Maple Leafs 11 EDMONTON OILERS 9   8 January 1986

Montreal Wanderers 10 TORONTO ARENAS 9 19 December 1917

Boston Bruins10 NY RANGERS 9 4 March 1944

Boston Bruins 10 DETROIT RED WINGS 9 16 March 1944.

Vancouver Canucks 10 MINNESOTA NORTH STARS 9 October 7 1983

Major League Baseball

Chicago Cubs 26 PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES 23 – August 25 1922

Bleacher Report article

English Football League

Charlton Athletic 7 HUDDERSFIELD TOWN 6 – December 21 1957

Wikipedia article

Australian Super League

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 48 HUNTER MARINERS 36 36 12 May 1997

Australian National Rugby League

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 37 WESTS TIGERS 36   27 March 2005

Newcastle Knights 38 GOLD COAST TITANS 36 9 May 2010

 

Connew – the last of the Grand Prix “privateers”


Formula 1 in the modern era is almost a business rather a sport, due to the huge amounts of money required to build, test and maintain highly technologically advanced cars, as well as paying for all of the personnel required to run a team, along with the transportation costs as the teams travel around the world from race to race.

However, there was a time when the spending required was not as astronomical, and teams could enter Formula 1 racing at a reasonable cost. One of these teams, and arguably the last of the true “privateer” entries in Formula 1, was Connew. Here is their story.

The Connew story starts with Peter Connew, who in 1969 was an apprentice draughtsman. A friend asked him if he would like to go with him to watch the 1969 Italian Grand Prix at Monza. When Connew asked his employer for time off for the trip, and they refused, Connew resigned on the spot. He attended the Grand Prix, and while the actual racing didn’t interest him, the sound of the engines and the design of the cars certainly did. Upon returning to England, Connew needed a job, and through a contact landed a job at the Surtees Formula 1 team. Team manager John Surtees won the 1964 Formula 1 World Championship, and after having driven cars for Lotus, Cooper, Lola, Ferrari, Honda, BRM, as well as driving a privately entered McLaren, had decided to build his own Formula 1 car, which was due to compete in the 1970 Formula 1 season. After seeing a Formula 1 car at such close quarters, Connew decided that he wanted to have a go at designing his own Formula 1 car. He resigned from Surtees and with a blank piece of paper, started work.

A lock-up garage in East London was hired as the team’s workshop, and work began in earnest making Connew’s drawings a reality, with the deadline being the opening round of the 1972 Formula 1 season, the South African Grand Prix. Connew were lucky in one respect – they were right in the middle of the “kit car” era of Grand Prix racing. Key components, such as a Ford Cosworth DFV V8 engine and a Hewland gearbox, could be bought “off-the-shelf”. The overwhelming majority of teams that competed in Formula 1 at this time used the DFV engine and Hewland gearbox, as they were reliable and could be easily fixed or replaced if there were breakages. The tub of the car could be machined out of aluminium, and other mechanical parts could either be machined or bought. As well as Connew, his cousin Barry Boor and friend Roger Doran built the car, which was named the PC1. Several benefactors and friends also gave financial support.

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Connew PC1 outside the workshop in East London, 1971.

 

One unusual design feature was the radiator setting, which offered an ingenious solution to cooling problems. It was front-mounted at a very slight angle of five degrees, enabling air to pass through upwards and come out through a vent on the top. This also prevented turbulence underneath the car. The thin chisel nose was also similar to the Surtees TS7, possibly due to observations made by Connew when he was working for Surtees.

Despite everyone putting in long hours to get the car ready in time, the team realised that they wouldn’t be ready for South Africa, and instead decided that the 4th round of the Championship, the Monaco Grand Prix, would be the debut of the PC1.  The small team then received a setback – due to a change in regulations, the team would have build a new tub, which they did, and which was not surprisingly called the PC2.

Now that the car was complete, the team needed to find a driver, which they did in the form of Frenchman François Migault, who had some promising results in the French Formula 3 and Formula 2 championships in the early 1970’s. Migault was signed up for 5 races – Monaco, France, Great Britain, Germany and Austria. As well as providing his driving talent, Migault also brought something else to the team – a Ford truck. In the rush to complete the car, Connew and his friends had given no thought as to how they would get the car to the races! Migault’s Ford was converted into a transporter, though by this time they had missed the Monaco Grand Prix.  They then travelled by ferry across the English Channel to Clermont-Ferrand, the site of the French Grand Prix, but 60 miles outside of Le Mans the transporter broke down. Unable to make the Grand Prix, the team decided to do some testing at Le Mans, but it was discovered that part of the rear suspension had been damaged in the trip across France.

The Connew finally got onto the track at the British Grand Prix, but suffered suspension problems during Thursday practice. Upon closer examination at the team’s garage, one of the rear uprights was found to be badly damaged, so Connew withdrew to fix the problem. As to be expected from such a small team with limited testing funds and testing time, the Connew recorded the slowest time in qualifying – 1 minute 30 seconds, 3 seconds slower than the second slowest car in the field.

Despite not filing an official entry, the small team arrived at the German Grand Prix, but the organisers refused their entry – claiming that the fearsome Nurburgring circuit was not the most suitable circuit for a new car with teething problems and an inexperienced driver to be competing on.

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The Connew PC2 in the pits at the 1972 German Grand Prix prior to its exclusion from the meeting by race officials.

 

After all of these disappointments, other people might have thrown in the towel, but the Connew team were determined that they would start a Formula 1 Grand Prix. At the Austrian Grand Prix they finally achieved their goal – Migault was the 25th and slowest qualifier, but he was going to start the race! By steady driving, Migault had picked up 4 places, but on lap 22 the rear suspension failed on the main straight, with Migault being able to bring the car to a safe halt on the side of the track.

Here is a video of the 1972 Austrian Grand Prix, with a couple of fleeting glimpses of the Connew in the opening laps:

The car’s final appearance for 1972 was in the World Championship Victory Race at Brands Hatch, with David Purley behind the wheel. Another example of the misfortune or bad luck which plagued the team now occurred. Purley had requested that an engine “kill switch” be fitted to the steering wheel, but on the warm-up lap the switch was pulled out, thus stopping the engine. There was insufficient time before the start to fix the problem, so the Connew failed to start its final race.

And that was it – the car was modified to accept a 5 litre V8 engine to enable it to compete in Formula 5000 in 1973, but results were poor, and at the final meeting of the season, Tony Trimmer crashed the car, damaging the chassis beyond repair.

For many years the two chassis (PC1 and PC2) sat covered in weeds in Connew’s garden, but in 2015 Barry Boor and several friends started the ardous task of restoring one of them to either a rolling chassis or even a fully running car.

Migault raced Formula 1 in 1974 and 1975 for BRM, Hill and Williams but with very little success. He continued to race in sports cars up to the early 2000’s, before retiring, and passing away in January 2012 of cancer.

Connew retired with his wife to the Essex countryside in 1976, where for the past 30 or so years he has been a foster carer for hundreds of displaced children.

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, the team were probably very naive in thinking that they could successfully compete with the major teams in one of, if not the biggest and most competitive motor racing series of the time. The persistent problems with the rear suspension would suggest that the team lacked the finances to build parts properly, as well as being able to extensively test them.

On the other hand, they achieved their goal, taking part in a Formula 1 World Championship Grand Prix, and probably had a lot of fun along the way, which is what life is supposed to be about. It is just a shame that the Connew adventure will never again be repeated in Formula 1.

The following sources were used for this blog post:

Mattijs Diepraam, Felix Muelas DIY heroes, Forix.com

Anthony Pritchard, “Directory of Formula One Cars 1966 – 1986”, Aston Publications, Bourne End, England 1986

Steve Small, “The Guinness Complete Grand Prix Who’s Who”, Guinness Publishing, London, 1994