No country for
One of the sights that always amuses me when I race
with Mono is the post race parc ferme. We all come in, having usually
had a great time, we clamber out of our cars and most of us look
slim and lean. Not quite in the Coulthard/Webber league of things
but no porkers in Mono, the cockpits are just too small.
As we pull off our helmets and balaclavas we reveal our true selves-either
gray hair or in my case none at all. Many of us are of course in
the prime of our lives but there is no hiding it, some of us are
middle aged at best.
As readers of my previous missives will know Mrs Griffin is a
keen observer of the older racing driver. She asked me who the driver
was who looked like a “film star”, I suggested that
a visit to Specsavers might be in order but she persisted. Jim Timms,
I warn you, you have a fan.
All this made me think about some of the more chronologically challenged
racers of the past. Every year in Formula 1 we hear of ever younger
winners or competitors. This phenomenon is present at club level
as well. I was at a race at Croft earlier this year when (and I
kid you not,) a Child Protection Officer had to be employed as one
of the drivers was so young.
|Are they perhaps related?
|A typical British Club Racing Driver, yesterday
|A young professional racing driver, yesterday.
||Child protection officers as envisaged by a 21st
century marketing consultant (left) and as illustrated in film Chitty
Chitty Bang Bang (bizarrely played by ballet dancer Robert Helpmann)
||Stirling Moss, being distracted. Those whose first reaction
to this photo was "looks like a Maserati 250F" are probably
"amongst the more mature readers".
||PL Newman - Steve explains that PLN used his age as a race number.
The first two oldies that came to mind were Stirling Moss and Paul Newman.
Moss was a boy wonder in the 1950s but retired after his horrible Goodwood
accident. He returned to partner a young Martin Brundle in an Audi in
the 1981 British Saloon Car Championship. Since then he raced regularly
well into his 80s. Interestingly he has recently retired again suggesting
that he had found fear in a race car and admitted it was an unwanted novelty.
Astonishingly he wasn’t scared whilst averaging over 100 mph over
the back roads of the Mille Miglia with no more than Dennis Jenkinson’s
pace notes scrawled on a loo roll to guide him.
Paul Newman always had his age as his race number and was still competing
and winning into his 80s. He ran at the Daytona 24 Hours as an octogenarian.
Eventually he had the doors on his cars made bigger to facilitate entry
and egress as he became less supple and agile with his advanced years.
I have great memories of seeing Newman in the pit lane at Le Mans in 1977.
With his white hair and blue eyes he stood out like a beacon, he was every
inch the film star. His car was sponsored by Hawaiian Tropic, images of
their promotional literature are gratuitously displayed below.
||Politeness to our guest columnist forces us to display
this image of Hawaiian Tropic girls, though we thought long
and hard before doing so.
||Hans-Joachim Stuck, son of prewar legend, Auto Union driver
Hans Stuck. The latter became German Hillclimb Champion at age
|Louis Chiron. Sign behind says Lucas, the dependable electrical
||Fangio. At Flugplatz, Nurburgring?
Amongst the more recent racers Hans Stuck and Klaus Ludwig are still peddling
professionally in their 60s and both are fearsomely quick and brave
around the Nurburgring.
Mario Andretti is man who would race anything, anytime and anywhere.
At the age of 63 when he had no regular seat he was testing his
son’s team car at the Brickyard when he had an end-over-end
Dario Franchitti style crash. He walked away unharmed but up to
that point he was on the pace of all the younger men. He hasn’t
raced since. Perhaps Mrs Andretti had a word in his ear?
Louis Chiron qualified for the Monaco GP at the age of 55, according
to my research he is the oldest to do so but there have been few
others who raced at that level in their sixth decade. The best known
being Fagioli who was 53 in his last start and also the oldest ever
Fangio was 46 when he raced at the Argentine GP and Farina 47 when
he qualified for the final time. Fangio was a late starter, he didn’t
even come to Europe until he was in his 30s, the kind of age men
retire from professional racing nowadays. He was in his mid 40s
when he raced the race of his life to beat the Ferrari pair of Hawthorn
and Collins at the Nurburgring in 1955 and in so doing to win his
Jack Brabham, Graham Hill and ‘our Nige’ Mansell were
all in their 40s as winners. Mansell also joins Fangio, Farina,
Andretti and Brabham as pole sitters in their 40s.
The Americans, the nation that style forgot, seem to let their drivers
go on forever. Hershel McGriff, 81, became NASCAR's oldest driver
when he was placed 13th on the road course at Portland in 2009.
The great AJ Foyt was 57 when he raced last in Indycar. Gordon Johncock,
Mario Andretti, Danny Ongais and Lyn St James also raced into their
I don’t know the mean age of the competitors in Mono but I
know that I’m probably older than Hamilton and Vettel’s
mums. Last time out at Cadwell Jim Blockley and Geoff Fern won all
the races. I’m not sure if they get into swimming at a reduced
rate but I have a feeling that if they asked they wouldn’t
be turned down.*
||Lynn St James
|I know that all
clubs worry about attracting younger members and our club has made
good efforts to do so but most youngsters cannot afford our sport.
It tends to be the in the realm of those whose mortgages are nearly
paid off and whose offspring are (nearly) self funding. I like a club
for old farts, after all none of us are waiting for Luca to call to
offer us Massa’s place at the Scuderia. We all drive as fast
as we can even if in my case that isn’t very rapidly and we
all get huge pleasure from burning up the world’s natural resources
driving round in circles. I hope that I will be able to potter on
for a few more years yet.
Mrs Griffin has just read this, her only comment was along the lines
of 'so you won’t be taking up golf anytime soon then.’
Age 54 and three quarters
*Footnote to avoid legal action from messrs Blockley and Fern:
swimming seniors start at 50.