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Sunday, February 03, 2008

GORILLA DECADE

An extraordinary trove of 1970s Formula One shots from retired history and economics teacher Robert Murphy:

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Ronnie Peterson in the mutant-looking six-wheeled Tyrrell; an earlier version of this curious device actually won a Grand Prix, in 1976 (the cockpit portholes shown in the linked shot allowed drivers to check if one of the four front wheels had deflated).

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Stirling Moss (right, and still looking fit enough to race more than a decade after his crash-enforced retirement) chats with Graham Hill in 1974. As always, Hill’s helmet bears the colours of the London Rowing Club.

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Never slow, frequently airborne, occasionally destructive and sometimes three-wheeled, Canadian Gilles Villeneuve employs sublime snowmobile skills aboard his race-winning 1979 Ferrari 312T. One year later the Ferrari was so unwieldy and uncompetitive that engineers sometimes resorted to carving deep grooves in its tyres to help build track-gripping heat ...

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Not the most famous Grand Prix driver of all time, Vittorio Brambilla nevertheless rejoiced in the sport’s finest nickname: Monza Gorilla. After winning his only Grand Prix, in 1975, Brambilla threw his hands in the air with delight (note: Italian) and immediately slammed into trackside barriers. He completed a celebration lap with the car in a shortened state. That busted nosecone was later mounted above the entrance to Brambilla’s home garage.

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A few years ago, while covering the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, a polite old man gestured for me to join him for lunch in the crowded media dining area. It was French journalist Jabby Crombac, shown here with Francois Cevert (right) in 1972. Cevert would be killed in 1973.

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Niki Lauda waits contentedly as his 1974 Ferrari is assembled around him. Two years later a Ferrari violently disassembled around Lauda in Germany, permanently scarring and almost killing him; his burn wounds still raw, Lauda returned to racing within eight weeks.

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Jacques Laffite in 1979’s pretty little French-built, French-sponsored, French-driven Ligier. So efficient at this point were undercar ground-effects (outlawed in 1983) that no front wings were needed to generate downforce. Note, too, the shallow rear-wing angle - and the far-forward driving position, which contributed to so many leg injuries (Laffite himself retired after a leg-breaking 1986 crash). Modern F1 design laws require that the driver be set well back from the front wheels.

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A very young James Hunt, then driving for the eccentric British Hesketh F1 team - an outfit perfectly represented by its racing teddy logo.

There are many, many more stunning images, right up to 2006 (Robert promises yet more from the 1970s). Please do visit.

Posted by Tim B. on 02/03/2008 at 10:05 AM
(14) CommentsPermalink