Wednesday, June 17, 2015

F1: Flag Waving Four Decades later...




Mark Donohue's beautiful Sunoco blue 1972 Indianapolis 500 winning McLaren-Offenhauser at the IMS Hall of Fame museum in 2010. (The Tomaso Collection)

Not sure if any mention will be made on thee Telie' over the weekend in regards to this being the Fortieth Anniversary of Mark Donohue's death at the Österreichring during the Austrian Grand Prix weekend, albeit Donohue didn't perish until August 19, 1975...


I'll confess that the  fanfare over Lella Lombardi's 40th anniversary of being the lone female to ever score points in Formula 1 during this year's Spanish Grand Prix got me thinking about what else  happened during the 1975 F1 season? For which I know American  Mark Donohue lost his life that year during the Austrian GP weekend...

As ironically, I began scribblin' this on the 70th Anniversary of VE Day, which I believe was more celebrated abroad then here Stateside? Since after all, we were simply awash in the dazzling glitter of the second Indy Grand Prix instead...

Yet, I've managed  to  completely overlook the fortieth anniversary of another promising 'Yank Grand Prix driver, amazingly the last American born  driver to win a Grand Prix, being named Peter Revson who died during  a testing incident at South Africa's Kyalami circuit 'Wayback on March 22, 1974.

Yeah, know we're splittin' Hairs here, but; Mario Andretti who became only the second driver ever in history to win the Formula 1 title for the "Stars 'N Stripes" in 1978 was a naturalized citizen, having immigrated from Italy, whilst both Revson and Donohue were  born on the East Coast, and for Mwah, are forever intertwined...

As it was certainly a different era then, when "B-I-G' NAME" Drivers could and did race a variety of machinery, whatever they could get their mitts upon, as both "Revvie" (Revson) and Donohue successfully raced Sports Cars in endurance racing, i.e.;  le 24 Heurs du Mans, Rolex 24, Mobil 1 12hrs of Sebring, etc. The overtly brutish Group 7 "NO HOLDS BARRED!" Can Am cars, Trans Am, SCCA, IndyCar and oh yeah, Formula 1!

And I say intertwined literally, as recall that Revvie' snatched Pole away from Donohue at the 1971 Indianapolis 500 when Revson was driving for McLaren Cars in the "Works" entry with Donohue and team leader El 'Capitano, nee Roger Penske campaigning a customer McLaren  M16. Although Roger, Mark and Team Penske would turn the tables the following year when Donohue won the Indy 500!

As ironically, although Revson finished a fine fifth place in his rookie  outing at Mother Speedway, he was beaten out for  that year's (1969) Rookie Of the Year (ROY) honours by Donohue who finished seventh.


Strangely, Donohue started fourth while Revson was "Stone last!" (33rd) Which makes it odd that he wasn't voted Rookie Of the Year; while finishing 27th was another Rookie named George Follmer...


While the founder of McLaren Cars, aka Bruce McLaren, winner of Le Mans, Formula 1, Can Am and Indy 500 competitor himself also perished 45yrs ago behind the wheel of a racecar in what was a much more dangerous era...


Mark Donohue was born March 18, 1937 in Haddon Township, New Jersey and graduated from Brown University with a  degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Peter Jeffrey Revson was born Feb 27, 1939 in New York City, NY, the son of Martin Revson and nephew of Revlon cosmetics founder Charles Revson.

Revvie's' aristocratic background allowed him to travel the world at his leisure and pursue a lifestyle of the Rich 'N Famous, along with the intoxicating pursuit of speed on land and water, ultimately becoming a professional  racing driver after having been bitten by the "Bug" in 1960 while  attending Hawaii University.

Revson raced in the Indianapolis 500 five-times; 1969-73 with a  best  finish of runner-up in 1971 as a McLaren "Factory" Driver, along with winning the British and Canadian Grand Prix's in 1973 for the McLaren F1 Team.

As I know I scribbled 'bout I-T somewheres' on these No Fenders pages; of Revvie' being a BAD ARSE in the SPEED Documentary "The Quick and The Dead" which Tacoma Bureau Chief Mary Ellen taped for Mwah. Noting how odd it was hearing the Star Spangled banner being played at a Formula 1 race...

Peter joined American Motors Corporation's (AMC) newly formed Trans Am team in 1968 alongside Skip Scott before joining Shelby American for the '69 season as  Rufus  Parnelli Jones team-mate. Then for 1970, Revvie' and Donohue were team-mates for the AMC Javelin Trans Am  concern; as I've previously seen Revson's Shelby TA Mustang and various Donohue Penske Camaro Zed-28's and Javelin participating in various vintage Trans Am races over the years in Seattle, Portland and California, i.e.;  Laguna Seca and Sears Point.

Both won the Can Am title, with Revson scoring McLaren's last title in 1971 aboard the NASTY 'Kiwi orange McLaren M8F-Chevrolet! the anthesis of McLaren's Can Am Dynasty, as Bruce McLaren and team-mate Denny Hulme ran the table  in what  was affectionately known as "The Bruce & Denny Show!" Winning the Can Am championship four years on-the-trot, with the drivers alternating each year, i.e.; Bruce (1967, 1969) and Denny (1968, 1970) as series champions.

Meanwhile Donohue would have to wait a year's time to secure his crown in Penske's Ferrociously silent Sunoco blue Porsche 917/30 Panzerwagon in 1973 after breaking his leg in a '72 testing accident, when George Follmer substituted for Donohue and became that year's Can Am and Trans Am  series champion; the only Driver to  ever win both titles in the same year!

A-L-L of this Yank Jingoism has me thinking 'bout  having previously listened to another aspiring American F1 hopeful now doing "One-off's" at Mother Speedway, having enjoyed Townsend Bell's brief guest co-hosting of Trackside with Kevin & Cavin on May 7th.

As Townsend, whom I tend to forget actually raced one season in Formula 3000 International, predecessor to today's GP2 championship, drove as 2003 series champion Bjorn Wirdheim's team-mate and stood atop the podium with a best finish of third at the Hungaroring, although I do recall watching him fill-in for 'Ol Hobbo, aka David Hobbs back then on SPEED's F1 broadcasts...

Symbiotically,  Bell, who was the 2001 Indy Lights champion and briefly raced in CART, whilst ex-team-mate Wirdheim went onto become a Jaguar F1 Test Driver and briefly contest Champ Car will cross paths at this year's 24 Heurs du Mans, albeit competing in different classes.

As the 40yr old Californian briefly talked about his short list of potential American Formula 1 Gran Primo Pilotos' for the American Haas F1 concern set to take the grid in 2016 on Trackside.

Bell noted there's Alexander Rossi who's currently contesting GP2, for which he hasn't exactly lit UP so far, albeit Townsend noted he knew personally how difficult that was, ergo his past F3000 days.

As Rossi's been so close to making his F1 debut multiple times now, having been both Caterham and Marussia's Test Driver, along with winning in GP2.

And there's also Conor Daly and Joseph Newgarden, the latter Bell supposedly causing a stir by mentioning during Newgarden's maiden IndyCar win in Alabama, speculating the Nashvillian was possibly in the frame for Formula 1...

Townsend also noted that Daly's now focused upon becoming a fulltime IndyCar driver but surely wouldn't dismiss F1 if the right offer came along, ditto for Newgarden, as recall both drove for Team USA in Formula Ford several years ago.

Alas, the list of possible American F1 drivers is long and forgotten, not to mention Grand Prix teams themselves, as Bell carefully sidestepped mentioning thy "House 'O Windsor's" (Peter Windsor) and Kenny Anderson's ill-fated USF1 concern. With then widely mentioned Jonathan Bomarito, now plying his trade in American Sports Cars instead.

Whilst it just struck Mwah during scribblin' this, that Townsend's a bit of a "Throwback" Driver himself, as how kOOL is it for him to have won both the Rolex 24 and 12 Hours of Sebring,  along with the North American Endurance Cup... Plus getting to race both at Mother Speedway, where he contested his ninth Indy 500 race this May aboard the No. 24 "tribute" Robert Graham Special Dallara-Chevrolet, in honour of Jeffry "Pretty Boy" Gordon and his iconic #24. While having missed the memo that Jeff would lead the way at Indianapolis this May. Although I think Mario (Andretti) will be ahead of him in the Two-seater; Hooah!


Then Bell zipped across the Atlantic a Fortnight later to contest le Mans in a Ferrari 458 Italia; SWEET! Before returning to his "Day Job" of "Talking Smart" with 'PT (Paul Tracy) and Leigh Diffey on NBC Sports IndyCar broadcasts.

As I have NO idea how he and regular co-driver Bill Sweedler did at Circuit de la Sarthe since I was busy traipsing 'round Sand Dunes in Oregon...

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