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From Drawing Board to Chequered Flag Hardcover – 31 Mar 2010
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From Drawing Board to Chequered Flag with
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I had no idea that the man had had such a long career. My knowledge was pretty well all in the Lola and BRM period when he produced some of the most influential , successful and ,frankly, beautiful racing cars of all times. Back in the day when people went to racing car meetings rather than just watching the first 5 minutes of GPs on the box, Southgate worked with the best in both the makers and drivers.In the 60s and 70s you would see the best drivers in F1 GPs, F1 non championship races (4 or 5 inBritain alone), Group 7 sportscars, World Championship sports cars and Formula 2 which was the best racing of all; GP stars versus the up and coming. That is how Rindt was 'discovered' and how Petersen and Regga made their names. My favourites were the Lola T100s of Team Surtees not to mention the wonderful Lola T70s of the same team in Group 7. In those days you would get 40 or 50 thousand spectators at Crystal Palace , let alone Brands, Oulton or Silverstone. Any fule can see how you could map out a future for motor racing on this kind of formula but Bernie and his pals will not allow that at all. Here in the US you get to see(and actually talk to and irritate!) the best drivers in both Indy cars and sports cars at Daytona and Sebring, though the system does not work here, for other reasons, either.
Then , to turn back the clock again, in bleak mid winter, after Boxing Day Brands, everyone went to the Racing Car Show. Just remember the thrill of seeing the Lola T.6, T70 or Hills Indy winning car.They showed a proposed T70 road car which seemed to be only modified with a sort of gas cooker griddle on the bonnet top air intake... All so long ago and yet Southgate had a hand in them all before designing the last successful BRMs before their ownership sunk the team. Thanks to the wonders of Page and Moy coach tours (yes, I was that sad as a boy) I was privileged to see Rodriguez win at Spa and Siffert at the then wonderful Zeltweg track in Austria. It's modern incarnation tells you a little of what has gone wrong since. Anyhoos these were the greatest 2 drivers I ever saw , not least in the dreadful rain at Brands in 917s - a car I would not have driven in the dry on a straight road! So, at the time racing was appallingly dangerous and it is wonderful that some of the drivers Southgate worked with survived this mayhem; Brabham, Gurney, Stewart . It should have been possible to make racing safer while keeping its various attractions but Bernie wanted all the money and he got that and more.
Meanwhile ,far from disappearing, Mr Southgate designed winning Le Man Cars for Jaguar, had a go with Nissan and Toyota before hitting a final jackpot with Audi which, after Mr Southgate's time, led to the collapse of spectator numbers at every track except for Le Mans. So Mr Southgate worked right through the golden age to the period when F1 took over the world, NASCAR took over America and now both are in serious decline...
Read the book; Southgate does not have a mean or vengeful bone in his body- no serious barbs at even the meanest designers or ego inflated drivers. Bits of the story will be unknown to all except the most knowledgeable; the Eagle Indy cars or the Shadow Can-am cars for example.
A+++, highly enjoyable.
In conclusion, a consistently fine book for which the author – and his family – should surely feel justifiable pride. Highly recommended!
The book is an auto-biography and not just a tech-fest for nerds. As such is quite accessible for the more general motor racing enthusiast.
I haven't read the whole book yet, but it's so so interesting in the parts that I have skimmed over.
An absolute must have for a racing enthusiast.
in these years.......some great cars from a great designer and a really good re-collection of events and landmarks.
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