Thursday, April 17, 2014

Scooter Pilotes' (Part 2)

"Steady Eddie" Lawson at the 1990 Japanese GP. (Source: images)
And like the zillions 'O stories languishing away here in the fields of Nofendersville... This teeny-weeny story has mushroomed outta perportion, like many stories I begin scribblin'.

As arguably noted in Part 1, Messer Surtees is the most famous of the two-wheel warriors to cross over into the realm of four wheels, specifically single seaters, the only person to have won a world championship in both disciplines ever! Yet there's some other hugely successful knee draggers who've also been somewhat successful in the world 'O Carz.

Below is just a quick listing of various Scooter Pilotes' who've made the leap, (in no particular order) as this list by all means isn't complete, especially since it seems to grow constantly the more effort I put into researching I-T! (Having become Part Two of Three...)

Formula 1: Part 1
John Surtees, Mike Hailwood, The Rodriguez Brothers, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Francois Cevert, Johnny Cecatto, Damon Hill, Mark Blundell and Mark Webber.

IndyCar: Part 2
Joe Lenard, Danny Ongais, Swede Savage, Eddie Lawson and Jeff Ward.

(Years Denoted are for only the respective years raced in the Top categories)

Joe Lenard
Motorcycles: 1954-61
Championships: 3
AMA Grand National: 1954, 1956-57
Wins: 27
Cars: 1964-75
Championships: 2
USAC National Championship: 1971-72
Teams: AAR, Leader Card, Sheraton-Thompson, Vels Parnelli Jones, Granatelli, Smokey Yunick

Originally, I only knew of Joe Leonard's name due to being one of the three Granatelli drivers of those iconic Lotus 56's, with Leonard having won the Pole for the Indy 500 in 1968 and barely losing the race due to a mechanical failure while leading on lap-191 when his fuel shaft broke.

Yet Joe was unquestionably a 'BAD ARSE on  Scooters, where he began his racing career, winning the inaugural AMA Grand National title in 1954, then winning it twice more, (1956-57) along with runner-up finishes in 1958, 1960-61, third place in '55 and a lowly fifth place in '59! As Leonard also won the prestigious Daytona 200 twice between 1957-58 before turning his attention to four wheels after the completion of the '61 season.

And while his team-mates of Vels Parnelli Jones "Superteam" of 'BIG AL (Unser) and Mario Andretti overshadowed him, how many people know that Leonard beat both men to the USAC National championship twice in a Samsonite sponsored car. Yet with the highs came his ultimate low, when a tyre burst upon his VJP Eagle/Ford at Ontario sending him hard into the wall, resulting in a skull abrasion and serious feet and leg injuries to both appendages, effectively ending his racing career - although he made an abortive comeback attempt one year later at the same track...

Danny Ongais
Championships: 1
Hawaiian National: 1960
F1: 1977-78
Teams: Ensign, Non-Works Penske, Shadow
USAC/CART: 1975-87, 1996
Teams: Interscope, Penske, Menards
Drag Racing)
Championships: 3
AHRA AA Gas Dragster: 1963-64
NHRA Gas Dragster: 1965

Y'all can check out my monster story on Ongais's career in: The Flyin' Hawaiian

Swede Savage
Cars: 1967-73
Teams: AAR
Championships: 0
Wins: 1

Everyone probably knows the name Swede Savage due to his infamous wreck at the Speedway in 1973, where multiple factors contributed to his gruesome looking accident which sent a fireball into the air some sixty-feet high! As sadly, the San Bernadino, CA native would die from complications 33-days after the accident.

Yet Swede, like many began his career by racing motorcycles, having even been denied eligibility for High School football from accepting prize money while racing!

Reportedly his cool sounding name and ability to "Wheelie' his motorcycle for a mile at a Ford test at Riverside got him the push from marketing executives and he began his career running Stock Cars, then Sports Cars and extensive time in the Trans Am series alongside AAR team owner Dan Gurney before winning his lone IndyCar race at the Bobby Ball 100 at Phoenix Int'l Raceway in 1970.

Savage made two starts at Mother Speedway, earning his rookie stripes the year prior to his unfortunate death in one of Indy's darkest  years...

Eddie Lawson
Motorcycles: 1983-92
Teams: Yamaha, Honda, Cagiva
Championships: 4
500cc: 1984, 1986, 1988-89
Wins: 31
Poles: 18
(2) AMA 250cc champion: 1980-81
(2) AMA Superbike champion: 1981-82
Cars: 1996
Teams: Galles Racing
Championships: 0
Races: 11

"steady Eddie" Lawson was my favourite 500cc rider during the late-1980's, as he simply was one Bad Hombre! Winning four world championships by beating the likes of Kenny Roberts, Freddie Spenser and Wayne Gardner to name just a few; while my favourite memory of Eddie was his shock decision to leave Yamaha after his third world championship and then steadily motor onto a fourth title aboard his rebel Honda, as Eddie did things his own way...

Lawson made his name by winning multiple AMA titles and then spring boarding a la rival "Fast Freddy" Spenser, who'd moved up to international 500cc GP competition the year prior to Lawson's debut as "the King's" (Kenny Roberts) team-mate during 'KR's final season; as the rest  as they say is history!

After having given Italian manufacturer Cagiva its debutant 500cc GP victory, notching the Californian rider his 31st GP win, the third most overall at the time, Eddie walked away from Scooters' at the end of 1992, albeit riding twice more post-retirement in the following two years Daytona 200 - which he won for a second time in 1993 and finished third in '94 before focusing solely upon racing cars.

Unfortunately "Steady Eddie" joined the Galles Racing team during its swan-song, as Rick Galles feature driver 'lil Al (Unser Jr.) had since jumped ship to run for The Captain, aka Roger Penske years prior, and with the cash strapped Mercedes Benz team hurting for funding, Lawson decided to retire from motorsports altogether at the end of the '96 season and now scratches his need for speed by playing in Go Karts with his good friend Wayne Rainey...

Jeff Ward
Motorcycles: 1978-92
Teams: Kawasaki
Championships: 9
125cc: 1984
250cc: 1985, 1987-88
500cc: 1989-90
AMA Supercross: 1985
(AMA SuperMoto: 2004, 2006
Wins: 56
Cars: 1997-2002
Teams: Cheever, Ganassi
Championships: 0
Indy 500 Rookie Of the Year: 1997
Wins: 1

Had NO idea that Jeff Ward was actually from Glasgow, Scotland and nicknamed "the Flying Freckle." As Ward moved to California at the age of four and  immediately immersed himself in the SoCal' environment, including minibikes.

Ward took like a duck to Water en route to becoming one of the best of all time Motocross riders, becoming the first to win championships in all three categories, and added a  Supercross title to his burgeoning list, which includes seven Motocross des Nations victories.

Ward walked away from two wheels at the end of 1992 in order to pursue a four wheel career which saw him finish third in the controversial 1997 Indy 500 behind Arie Luyendyk and Scott "what Pacecar?" Goodyear en route to winning Rookie Of the Year honours.

Ward's best season followed a year later when he finished sixth overall in the '98 Indy Racing League standings, along with winning the 2002 Texas IRL race by just inches ahead of Al Unser Jr. in the No. 9 Target chip Ganassi Racing machine - which we all know now is Scott Dixon's number.

On a trivial note, Ward claimed that the Washougal track in Washington was his favourite, while also claiming his debutant AMA Supercross podium (3rd place) in 1980 and victory (1984) in the Kingdome at Seattle - the predecessor to Century Link Field, home of the reigning Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks...

To continue reading, see; Scooter Pilotes' (Part 3)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Scooter Pilotes'

John Surtees, Mexican GP 1964. (Image source: The Cahier Archive;
Like the zillions 'O stories languishing away here in the fields of Nofendersville... This story has failed to escape the gravitational pull of that all fearing No Fenders Wormhole Vortex and hence I've just finally managed to pull I-T free!

The story was jogged back to thee top 'O my memory box when recently reading about John Surtees 80th birthday, which I announced briefly in;

As arguably Messer Surtees is the most famous of the two-wheel warriors to cross over into the realm of four wheels, specifically single seaters, since after all this is the supposed home of No Fenders, Ja Volt!

Below is just a quick listing of various Scooter Pilotes' who've made the leap, (in no particular order) as this list by all means isn't complete, especially since it seems to grow constantly the more effort I put into researching I-T! (As in having grown into a Three-part Trilogy...)

John Surtees, Mike Hailwood, The Rodriguez Brothers, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Francois Cevert, Johnny Cecatto, Damon Hill, Mark Blundell and Mark Webber.

As here's the story from Grizzled Journo' Joe Saward that I believe got me started upon this topic 'Wayback a  long, long, time ago - like at least four years ago; YIKES!

(Years Denoted are for only the respective years raced in the Top categories)

John Surtees
Motorcycles: 1952-60
Teams: Norton, MV Augusta
Championships: 7
500cc: 1956, 1958-60
350cc: 1958-60
Wins: 38
Poles: N/A
Cars: 1960-72
Teams: Lotus, Cooper, Lola, Ferrari, Honda, BRM, McLaren, Surtees
Championships: 1
F1: 1964
Wins: 6
Poles: 8

John Surtees is the only  person to have won a world championship in both disciplines, having won multiple Motorcycle titles along with capturing the Formula 1 world championship for la Scuderia (Ferrari) in 1964.

Surtees who won a staggering 32-of39 motorcycle races between 1958-60 left for single seaters at the age of 26. (Same age as Casey Stoner, I believe...) Winning multiple Grand Prix's - along with giving Honda its last win as a Constructor in the late 1960's before their eventual return to Grand Prix racing in the 1980's, first as an engine supplier and then ultimately a Constructor before quitting F1 in 2008.

Surtees also went onto create his own F1 Team Surtees Racing Organisation which also constructed chassis for F2 & F5000. Sadly, John's son Henry, an aspiring Open Wheel Racing driver was killed at the age of 18 in a freak F2 accident in 2009...

Mike “The Bike” Hailwood
Motorcycles: 1958-67
Teams: Honda, MV Augusta
Championships: 9
500cc: 1962-65
350cc: 1966-67
250cc: 1961, 1966-67
Wins: 76
Poles: N/A
Cars: 1963-65; 1971-74
Teams: Lotus, Lola, Surtees, McLaren
Championships: 0
Wins: 0
Poles: 0

The rider was so naturally gifted that he was bestowed the nickname "Mike-the-Bike," winning an astounding nine motorcycle world championships plus 76-victories before switching over to racing cars, where his results never matched his prowess upon two wheels.

Hailwood was awarded the George medal for gallantry for helping save Clay 'regga Regazzoni escape from his burning F1 car! And he also won the European F2 title in 1972, along with an astounding 14 Isle of Man TT trophies, winning his final two events 1978-79 after having been retired from motorcycle racing for eleven years. Sadly Mike and his daughter Michelle were killed in a roadside traffic accident of which Mike's son David survived, with his father perishing at the age of 41...

Damon Hill
Cars: 1992-99
Teams: Brabham, Williams, Arrows, Jordan
Championships: 1
F1: 1996
Wins: 22
Poles: 20

According to Joe Saward's long ago feature story, Damon took up motorbikes 'cause he wanted to be different than his father. (Two-time F1 world champion Graham) Damon pursued his Scooters career in 1981 with modest success, but as Messer Saward points out, Damon was encouraged to go racing upon four-wheels by his Mum' who thought it would be safer!

Damon's glory years in Formula 1 were with Williams, where he began as its test driver before replacing the departed Nigel Mansell - ultimately winning the 1996 F1 world championship after having finished runner-up to his protagonist Michael Schumacher in '94.

Hill was summarily booted from Team Willy in '97 and struggled on with lesser teams such as Tom Walkinshaw's Arrows outfit and 'EJ's (Eddie Jordan) Jordan Grand Prix, where he scored the team's maiden F1 victory in 1998 before retiring from racing at the end of the '99 season...

Mark Webber
Cars: 2002-13
Teams: Minardi, Jaguar, Williams, Red Bull
Championships: 0
Wins: 9
Poles: 13
Races: 215

Mark 'Handlebarz Webber  grew up around motorcycles, as his father Alan owned a local dealership. Webber began by racing motorcycles before working his way up the Open Wheel ladder, with a stint as a tintop' driver for Mercedes, before pirouetting twice down the Mulsanne straight in the Aero-deficient Mercedes CLK GTR!

Webber finally reached his goal of F1; as I still remember that incredible fifth place  finish at Melbourne upon his debut Grand Prix for fellow countryman Paul Stoddart, Minardi's team owner.

Webber's best years as a Gran Primo Piloto ultimately came during his tenure with Red Bull, albeit incredibly strained with his junior 'Punk team-mate Seb' Vettel, as Webber's best quip ever after crossing the finish line first was: "Not Bad for a No. 2!"

As the 'Aussie retired from Formula 1 at the end of 2013 and now competes for Porsche's LMP1 squad in the FIA World Endurance Championship...

Pedro Rodriguez
Cars: 1963-71
Teams: Ferrari, Lotus, Cooper, BRM
Championships: 0
Wins: 2
Poles: 0

Pedro, two year's Ricardo's elder, saw the brothers gravitating to motorcycles due to the influence of their father being chief of the Mexican Motorcycle Police. After being initially denied entry in Sports Car racing, Pedro (Age 20) & Ricardo are claimed to have put the fear of God into their competitors during a staggering drive aboard the N.A.R.T Ferrari at Le Mans in '60, and would have won if the car had held together!

Pedro graduated to F1 machinery in 1963, and scored the first of his two Grand Prix victories four years later - before sadly being killed in a "minor" Sports Car race at the Nurburgring in '71...

Ricardo Rodriguez
Cars: 1961-62
Teams: Ferrari
Championships: 0
Wins: 0
Poles: 0

The younger of the two Rodriguez brothers was apparently more successful upon motorbikes, having won a national championship before setting his sights upon racing cars, where he and his older brother Pedro were highly successful behind the wheel - most notably of Ferrari's, with 'Il Commendatore, nee Enzo Ferrari signing Ricardo to a Formula 1 drive in 1961.

Unfortunately Ricardo was killed trying to best Surtees time in his inaugural home Grand Prix in Mexico City in 1962 in a non-Works chassis...

Jean-Pierre Beltoise
Motorcycles: 1962-64
Teams: Kreidler
Championships: 0
Cars: 1967-74
Teams: Matra, BRM
Championships: 0
Wins: 1
Poles: 0

Jean-Pierre was a phenom on bikes, having won eleven national titles before turning his attention to international motorcycle racing, contesting the 50, 125 and 250cc classes.

Beltoise then shifted his attention to four wheels, ultimately being drafted by "Uncle Chopper" (Ken Tyrrell) for his Matra F1 squad whose lead pilot was somebody named Sir Jackie. (Stewart) 'and although his Formula 1 career was less than stellar, he later did much of the testing for another French team named Ligier before focusing his attentions on Tintops, winning two Touring Car titles for BMW and  the French Rallycross championship aboard an Alpine-Renault before ultimately retiring...

Francois Cevert
Cars: 1970-73
Teams: Tyrrell
Championships: 0
Wins: 1
Poles: 0

Have already briefly chronicled Monsieur Cevert's career, who interestingly was the Brother-in-Law of Monsieur Beltoise...

Johnny Cecotto
Motorcycles: 1975-80
Teams: Yamaha
Championships: 2
350cc: 1975
Formula 750: 1978
Wins: 14
Poles: 22
Cars: 1983-84
Teams: Theodore, Toleman
Championships: 0
Wins: 0
Poles: 0

I've had a soft spot for this Venezuelan racer ever since seeing a bevy of his BMW Touring Cars on display in a little town called Nurburgring, Ja Volt! But I'm getting ahead of myself.

After winning the Venezuelan National Road Racing championship twice between 1973-74, Johnny captured global attention by first taking Pole position and then coming from dead last to finish third in the '75 Daytona 200 aboard a "mystery" Yamaha, before returning the following year with full factory support and defeating some Dude called "The King," aka Kenny Roberts for the victory!

Ultimately, due to numerous bad racing injuries, Cecotto shifted his attention to four wheels by beginning in F2 in 1980 before tying for the title with Corrado Fabi, (Teo Fabi's younger brother) who won the title via tiebreaker.

Cecotto graduated to Formula 1 the following year, but is mostly known for being the late Ayrton Senna's team-mate at Toleman in 1984 before breaking both of his legs at the British Grand Prix, effectively ending his F1 career. Cecotto would recover from his injuries and go onto further prominence as a championship winning Touring Car driver...

Mark Blundell
F1: 1991, 1993-95
Teams: Brabham, Ligier, Tyrrell, McLaren
Championships: 0
Wins: 0
Poles: 0
CART: 1996-2000
Teams: Pacwest Racing
Championships: 0
Wins: 3
Poles: 0

At the tender age of 14, Blundell took up Motorcross riding and progressed into a blossoming talent - winning championships before switching over to four wheels at 17. Mark showed prodigious talent with multiple FF1600 & FF2000 championship crowns before going international by jumping straight into F3000 along with driving Sports Cars.

Blundell struck deals as a Williams and McLaren test driver while having largely unsuccessful results with Mid-pack runners due to his lack of budget.

Yet I mostly remember this Englishman for two reasons. Firstly he replaced Bloody 'Nige at McLaren after Mansell's backside couldn't fit into the MP4/10!

Then Blundell, out of a Formula 1 ride came Stateside and joined my local IndyCar Pacwest Racing team, alongside another ex-F1 Piloto named Mauricio Gugelmin, with the team's and Blundell's best season being 1997 when Blundell scored three victories en route to sixth place in the CART/PPG championship...

Although the majority of today's top F1 Starz don't participate in extra-curricular activities such as Sports Car endurance racing, nevertheless many of the drivers above have tried their hand at le Circuit de la Sarthe, better known as Le Mans - to varying degrees of success.

John Surtees and Mike Hailwood both stood upon the Le Mans podium, each scoring a third place finish - Surtees for Scuderia Ferrari in 1964, while Hailwood co-drove to third place in the 1969 classic aboard a John Wyer Ford GT40 with some chap known affectionately as 'Hobbo, aka David Hobbs.

Mark Webber's pursuits at Le Mans haven't been exactly encouraging to date, best known for somersaulting a Mercedes CLK GTR twice! Along with his high flying pirouette in Formula 1, perhaps he'll wish to become a "Wing Walker" in his next career? Preferably after his stint with Porsche in WEC.

Pedro & Ricardo made waves during the 1960 24 Heurs du Mans before Ricardo finished second for Ferrari and Pedro won co-driving with Jacky Ickx in the epic '69 event behind the wheel of those iconic J.W. Wyer-Gulf Ford GT-40's.

Johnny Cecotto raced multiple times at Le Mans while Mark Blundell won the race in 1992 with Peugeot...

To continue reading, see; Scooter Pilotes' (Part 2)