“My dear fellow, it isn’t easy to be anything nowadays. There’s such a lot of beastly competition about.”
~Oscar Wilde – The Importance of Being Earnest~
Tony Rudd agitatedly paced up and down the pit wall swearing under his breath. What the hell did his drivers think they were doing? Had they completely lost their minds? The annual high-speed extravaganza was being battled out at Monza and Owen Racing Corporation (BRM) appeared to have the race all wrapped up. Jim Clark’s Lotus was parked forlornly on the far side of the track and Richie Ginther in his Brabham was over nine seconds in arrears. Despite this Rudd’s two drivers, Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart, persisted in racing nose to tail, stuck together as if by glue. Even worse they were going down the main straight side by side, inches apart. This was not the kind of behaviour expected of professional racers. The team came first. The driver’s job was to get a 1-2 finish with no possible danger to machine…or teammate!
Jackie Stewart had not arrived unnoticed in Formula One in 1965. Complete dominance of Formula 3 the previous season had resulted in multiple offers from teams great and small. Head hunted by both Lotus and BRM he was forced to choose between them. Jackie thought long and hard about the best environment to launch his Formula One career and chose BRM reasoning (correctly) that Colin Chapman and Lotus were focused completely on their star driver Jim Clark and that he would be more likely to get input and track time at BRM.
Tony Rudd had arrived at BRM in 1951 – a time when their dreams were still bigger than the reality of trying to compete against the might of the Europeans. Seconded from Rolls-Royce to assist in combing their supercharger with BRM’s ambitious and over-complicated V16 engine, he never went back. Instead he became ensconced in the BRM engine testing premises at the Folkingham Aerodrome, attempting to bring to fruition their dreams of dominating Formula One by pushing the boundaries of engine design.
For years the holy grail of engine reliability and race results eluded BRM, but their fortunes improved dramatically in 1960 when Tony Rudd was promoted to the role of technical director. He now had complete control over the direction of development of both chassis and engine. Two years later BRM drivers Graham Hill and Dan Gurney threatened to strike unless Rudd was given full executive authority and despite his reticence he was duly elevated to the top management position. As well as his superb engineering skills Rudd had been a test driver himself and knew the value of listening to those who were actually putting their lives on the line piloting the machinery.
The P56 would be BRM’s third engine and they had learned their lesson from their previous imaginative efforts. This time they fore-swore innovation and built a traditional 90 degree V8. BRM co-founder and long-time stalwart Peter Berthon had developed the original design but it was Tony Rudd who perfected it into its final state.
The engine may have been conventional but, as BRM were well aware, you couldn’t expect to dominate in Formula One if you were just copying the crowd. With engine capacity for the 1961 season downsized to a mere 1.5 litres it was essential to make efficient use of the meagre amount of combustible material available. Fuel injection now became a major player in the pursuit of peak power at high engine speeds. For fuel to burn at maximum efficiency it needs to be atomized into a cloud of minuscule droplets. Carburettors achieved this by blasting air through the incoming fuel but this was unsophisticated and inefficient compared to what could be realized by the more exact science of fuel injection.
Fuel injection in itself wasn’t a ground-breaking concept. It was first seen in its embryological state when Herbert Akroyd-Stuart developed his “hot-bulb” engine in 1891, while at the same time Rudolf Diesel was perfecting his system of injecting diesel fuel directly into hot compressed air resulting in combustion with no need for an ignition device. Diesel’s “air-blast” system was further refined by Robert Bosch and was widely used in aircraft engines during WW2 as it usefully protected the fuel flow from the vagaries of g-force that an in-combat aircraft was faced with on a regular basis. Mercedes then took advantage of Bosch’s fuel injection to increase the horsepower available to their Grand Prix cars during the 1950’s. The underlying mechanism of action was relatively crude as it consisted of injecting fuel directly into each cylinder, but the highly inflammable alcohol based fuels in use at the time were very forgiving of inexact air-fuel mixtures.
The change in fuel to Avgas in 1958 required a more precise fuel-air mix and British engineer Joseph Lucas continued to refine the process of fuel injection. His use of soft nylon tubes to transport the fuel to the inlet port of each cylinder meant that the malleable material was able to flex and so better withstand the engine vibrations that continually threatened to destroy them. Although expensive it was also compact, reliable and accurate, and would not be superseded for decades. The Lucas shuttle metering system first arrived in Formula One attached to the 1962 BRM V8 engine and it wasn’t long before they were ferrying the fuel to the engine of every Formula One car on the grid. They won 20 World Championships in 21 years and were only superseded when turbo power eventually made them obsolete in 1983.
The early races of the P56 in non-championship events showed that it was both powerful and reliable – a peculiar state of affairs previously unknown to BRM. It made its debut attached to a BRM P578 at the 1962 Dutch GP and Graham Hill took the chequered flag for the first of his fourteen total victories. It was only the second time that a BRM driver had stood on the top step of the podium. BRM employed their engine to good effect and won both the 1962 Driver’s and Constructor’s Championships.
By 1963 BRM were used to winning (it only took one year!) but Colin Chapman had another of his frequent ground breaking ideas and bought to fruition the monocoque chassis which left the rest of the field in its wake. The Lotus 25 had also debuted at the 1962 Dutch GP…the same race as BRM’s new engine. Clark’s Lotus unfortunately succumbed to engine failure but Autosport reporter Denis Jenkinson noticed that “This riveted monocoque structure, like an aircraft, makes for greater rigidity with less weight. It was riding the bumps beautifully.”
So it was that Project 61 came into being. Unwilling to be left behind by Lotus just as they were starting to get the knack of building a reliable and competitive car, Rudd rolled a duralumin sheet into a cylinder and cut a hole in the top for the driver to insert himself. Once again aircraft were proving the inspiration behind Formula One innovation. Duralumin, a soft and malleable aluminium alloy that would slowly harden over several days when left at room temperature, was widely used in the aircraft industry.
Unfortunately, the P61 didn’t yet have sufficient rigidity to combine with its lightness. Despite being superbly fast in a straight line, chassis flex while cornering caused major difficulties with its suspension and handling. Hill raced it twice (which did include a third place at the 1963 French Grand Prix) before returning to the old P578 chassis while Rudd went back to the drawing board. A bulkhead behind the cockpit provided more stiffness which was further improved when the engine was bolted onto it. A thicker duralumin shell was also extended on both sides to finish past the engine.
Rudd also pushed the boundaries with the use of computers in the development of the P261. This foreshadowed the situation today when nothing can be done or decided without data and drivers anxiously look at their own as well as their teammate’s telemetry to determine if they are able to squeeze another tenth of a second out of their machinery. BRM’s new chassis was tested and modified with the aid of a “black box”. Multiple accelerometers and transducers were taped all over the monocoque and then wired into a recorder. The input data was then printed out and analysed. Jackie Stewart put the information available to good use in decreasing his lap times but Graham Hill was less impressed. At one point while Rudd was trying to point out areas of the track where he could improve his time by altering his braking point Hill irritatedly said, “Well if your black box is so bloody clever let’s see it go flat-strap through Woodcote in the rain!”
Testing the new and improved P61 Mk II (named Project 261) at Silverstone Graham Hill must have thought that Rudd was cutting the available space in the cockpit a bit too fine because he proceeded to use a hammer to good effect to eke out a fracture more elbow room! Tony Rudd was not impressed with this wanton wreckage of his new pride and joy. The chassis continued to meet with destruction at the hands of Hill when he wrote it off at a water logged non-championship race at Snetterton, aquaplaning off the track into the barriers.
Dunlop then threw another spanner in the works when they changed the tyre diameter from 15 to 13 inches and the P261’s suspension had to be tinkered with and probably sworn at as the handling once again had to be fine-tuned to suit. The car in its sparkling green livery and eye-catching orange nose made its debut at the 1964 Monaco Grand Prix and the team mood was buoyant when Hill and Ginther achieved a 1-2 finish. By the end of the season Hill had the most points but only the top six counted…he lost the championship to Ferrari and John Surtees by one sole point.
It was now 1965. They had the car. They had the engine. They also had world champion driver Graham Hill as well as the star rookie Jackie Stewart. Unfortunately they were up against the even faster and (at the beginning of the season at least) more reliable Jimmy Clark and his Lotus 25. By the seventh round of the season Clark had won every race he had attended (missing Monaco to compete at the Indy 500…which he won) and had wrapped up the Driver’s Championship for himself and the Constructor’s Championship for Lotus. Jackie Stewart had demonstrated that his skills had not been underestimated by thrice finishing second to Jimmy Clark.
The weather in Monza for the Italian Grand Prix on September 12, 1965 was warm and sunny. The cars of Jim Clark, John Surtees and Jackie Stewart filled the front row of the grid, but as the Italian flag went down Graham Hill maneuvered his car between Clark and Surtees and grabbed the lead from the second row. By the end of the first lap Stewart and Clark were neck and neck with Hill tucked in right behind them. Surtees had dropped back to 14th at the start with clutch difficulties which continued to plague him throughout the race, eventually resulting in his retirement on lap 34. Similar battles continued all the way down the field with various challenges for multiple lower places. At Monza slower cars were able to keep up with their faster competitors though the benefit of slip-streaming and everyone was hell bent on using it to its full advantage.
Clark, Stewart and Hill swapped the lead a total of 41 times during the race, at least as recorded while going over the start-finish line. This was probably only the tip of the iceberg as the drivers sat nose to tail with constant challenges for the lead. At half race distance there was a slim 1.5 seconds between the top six cars and the battle was far from being decided. Mechanical breakdowns now proceeded to thin out the field. One by one the Ferraris dropped out until only Lorenzo Bandini was left…eventually finishing in fourth. Clark and the BRM’s continued to dominate the lead position until the Lotus could no longer carry on and stopped by the side of the track on Lap 63 with a broken fuel pump.
Stewart was in the lead (at least while going over the start-finish line) on lap 69. The main straight was so long at Monza that the lead could change several times as slip-streaming cars eased themselves past their competitors. The following lap Hill was in the lead again and held it for two laps. Then it was Jackie’s turn in front but he held it for only a single lap before being passed by Hill once again.
It was assumed by everyone…or at least by Rudd and Hill…that Stewart knew he was to give the win to Hill. It was becoming clear however that Stewart was going to make him fight for it. As the teammates came down the main straight for the penultimate time the spectators could see that Stewart was again in front. Not only had he seized the lead position but there was also a gap between him and Hill. A significant gap. A bigger gap than had been seen for the entire race. Several seconds of clear air now lay between the teammates. With only one more lap to go it was like a chasm – insurmountable.
Unseen by the onlookers Hill’s car had gone slightly wide on the approach to the Parabolica, his rear wheels touching the slippery verge. The back of his car had responded with a savage twist. He had skilfully prevented the spin but was unable to close the distance lost and Stewart crossed the finish line for his first win, a brilliant victory at the fast and furious Monza circuit. It was the perfect finish to a spectacular rookie year that had commenced with a 6th place in his first race, followed by multiple podiums and now culminating in the win that was always going to happen…eventually.
Post-race Stewart was bemused, Hill annoyed but Rudd was livid. Having teammates fighting over first place was no way to conduct a business. The team was more important and Jackie should have followed Graham home in staid subservience. And that was how, fifty years ago today, Jackie Stewart won his first Grand Prix. He would go on to cross the finish line in front of the rest of the field 27 times, breaking the previous record of 25 career wins earlier set by fellow Scotsman Jim Clark.
Tony Rudd is considered by many to have been the last engineer to design a complete Formula One car, including both the engine and chassis. Rudd however did not agree, though he did have a major part to play in all parts of the P261’s design and construction. He stated that “I realized that I had missed the chance of ever achieving one of my boyhood ambitions. I would never ever design a World Championship racing car from stem to stern. The 1.5 Litre had been my last chance, the new 3 litre cars were going to be so much more complicated that it would take three or four designers.”