We’ve had the 1937 Mercedes-Benz W125’s winning debut in that year’s Tripoli Grand Prix, and the 1947 Ferrari 125 V12’s troubled debut. Everything seemed to happen at once through 1957 with Maserati producing not only their ultimate ‘high-tide’ Maserati 450S V8-engined sports-racing car, but also the definitive ‘Lightweight’ 250F Grand Prix machine, and Fangio breathlessly taking true Drivers’ Championship title in his legendary German GP win. Vanwall, Cooper and more turned 1957 into a very special year. The same in 1967 with the high-tide 7-litre Ford and Chaparral endurance-racing Coupes confronting Ferrari’s 36-valve 4-cam P4s in sportscar competition, while the epochal Lotus 49 with its Cosworth-Ford V8 engine was launched in Formula 1.
And this is where I’d pause to think more about that remarkable year, which we will celebrate at Festival and Revival 2017. One of my favourite drivers of the time was Denny Hulme. The New Zealander was burly, self-contained and publicly enigmatic. He didn’t say much, to anyone. That’s right, to almost anyone he didn’t know – or didn’t take to – he was very much a Kimi Raikkonen of his day. His take it or leave it approach – if it doesn’t help with what we’re doing, I’m not going to spend any time on it – did not sit well with some of the more excitable press. This – ahem – ‘difficult’ relationship would progress in later years. Denny became known as Denny the Bear. He was not only a big bear of a man, he could certainly be bearish if sweat what he regarded as time wasters pestered him. But you have to remember that this was a man who, when working as a teenager in his Victoria Cross-winning father Clive’s truck workshop seemed unaware of rising wisps of smoke, and an awful smell of burning meat. Hulme Sr came in to find Denny welding, barefoot, bare-chested and wearing only shorts as any sun-soaked Kiwi would at the time – while standing on a welding ember. His case-hardened habitually bare feet had felt no pain. You get the picture?
But just to get another picture – of the way top-class racing was back in ’67, consider Denny’s racing programme. He was Jack Brabham’s second driver in the Brabham Racing Organisation team. For example their 1967 season that Spring took in the Formula 2 Pau GP – in which Denny finished second. I was on ‘Motor Racing’ magazine at the time, in which Denny had a monthly column which Jack Brabham had formerly provided, but which he’d passed on to Denny “to bring him out”.