Charlie Whiting – Formula 1 Race Director – 1952 – 2019

The formula 1 paddock in Melbourne has been totally overshadowed by the sudden death of the ever popular Race Director Charlie Whiting. He had been performing his usual role on Wednesday and the news that he succumbed overnight to pulmonary embolism has shocked everyone in the tight knit Grand Prix community as well as enthusiasts everywhere as shown by message after message on Twitter. I can do no better than refer everyone to the obituary on the Autosport.com website by Adam Cooper, and accompanying articles, which shows how important Charlie Whiting was to the world of Grand Prix racing and how difficult it will be to replace him. However, I might just mention an involvement he had with Alfa Romeo after he had joined the Brabham team in 1978 to work on the Brabham-Alfa T car. The following year he became Niki Lauda’s chief engineer on the BT48 before the team switched to Cosworth power at the end of the year. The last Brabham-Alfa was incredibly unreliable in all the GP races but it did win a non championship race at Imola. He followed this by overseeing Nelson Piquet’s championship years in 1981 and 1983 and when Bernie sold the Brabham team in 1987, it was to Charlie Whiting he turned to help him develop and run Formula 1, a role he held with consummate skill for over 30 years. The arrival of Liberty Media didn’t change his position although inevitably there had been the odd talk of retirement but he seemed happy to shrug it off to another day. He will be acutely missed.

Alfa Romeo F1 ready for the “off”

The second week of pre-season testing at Barcelona was not perhaps as productive for the Alfa Romeo team as week one had been, the C38 not responding to various changes as hoped. This left the Raikkonen and Giovanazzi not knowing quite where they stood in the pecking order but then, as Kimi explained, that was probably true for everyone and only the first sessions in Melbourne will give a better indication.

Practice 1 this morning saw Hamilton (Mercedes), Vettel and Leclerc (Ferrari), Verstappen (Red Bull-Honda) and Bottas (Mercedes) in the top 5 position followed by Kimi Raikkonen heading the midfield pack in the quickest Alfa Romeo. Giovanazzi ended 11th fastest, 0.350” slower than his team mate. Practice 2 was generally a faster session in which Kimi ended up 6th again but with the gap to Hamilton slashed to 0.972”. Giovanazzi managed a better time but with others also improving, he dropped down to 15th.

Generally, however, the prospects for Alfa looked good and certainly Raikkonen should be able to reach Q3. Giovanazzi may have more of a problem with the field so tightly bunched.

What are you going to do to follow F1 races this year?

I know that there are a lot of people who are reluctant to subscribe to Sky to watch Grand Prix races live but somehow, we all want to keep in touch with what is going on. In the days when there was no TV coverage and radio reports were spasmodic here, I used to spend waking hours on race days trying to tune into foreign radio stations with mixed results. The best reception was always from France or Monaco and I was able to follow many races – often in 10 minute snatches – including Le Mans where “a vous Le Mans” became the moment to concentrate and celebrate perhaps another Jaguar win.

Since Sky came on the scene and Channel 4’s live coverage was only for 50% of the races, I have reverted to the radio. This year, with no live free TV coverage, apart from the British GP, I shall be listening avidly on Radio 5 Live/Sports Extra to the extremely well informed and entertaining Jennie Gow, Jack Nicholls and Jolyon Palmer even if it means setting the alarm for 6 o’clock this coming Sunday morning to catch the start in Melbourne. Qualifying is at the same time on Saturday. For much of the rest of the year it will be the same story, although the European races will be in the early afternoon. If there are some scheduling problems because of other major events, then the commentary will be on the BBC Sports Website. Then after all that, if I need the pictures, there are the Channel 4 highlights which will continue, I am sure, to do a good job.

Fathers and Sons – Peter and Jean-Pierre Dalley

In his latest “Paddock Bulletin”, Andy Robinson referred to the arrival of father and son duo, Mervyn and Gary Miller, in the Championship for 2019 – Mervyn in the 156 3 litre that he raced with us an Anglesey last year and Gary with a Fiat Punto Abarth. A while ago, Matt Daly and I had discussed having some “Friday Fix” articles about fathers and sons, or in the case of Chris Healey and Mel Freeman, fathers and daughters. This set me, thinking, who were the first to fit into this category. I think the answer is Peter and Jean-Pierre Dalley who raced a modified class turbocharged 75 Twin Spark in 1991 and 1993.

Peter built the car originally to race in both Italian Intermarque and BRSCC Alfa Championship rounds that were usually held on the same weekend. This meant, that he could share it with his 18 year old son, Jean-Pierre, as and when he had the necessary licence. J.P’s first race was round 13 of the Alfa Championship at Mallory Park on October 6th 1991 when he qualified next to last but, then, in the race came through to a fine 6th, ahead of both Tim Lewis (Alfasud Sprint) and Keith Waite GTV6). I wrote at the time “A major surprise was the progress of Jean-Pierre Dalley in the turbo 75, moving up steadily” to win Class A and show the potential of the car. Sadly, he was only to have one more outing – at Snetterton in that year’s final round. After qualifying well on a damp greasy track, he spun in the race and had to be content with 15th place but with a faster eventual lap time than class winner Vic Woods (GTV6). Why he never appeared again is a mystery.

The car didn’t race in 1992 but Peter Dalley re-appeared the following year, making eight appearances, and taking wins at Pembrey and Snetterton where he outpaced the supercharged 33 of Mark Riddle. Mark would get his own back at the same track at the end of year where he outpaced Peter, as did Nick Humphrey and Andy Steavenson in their modified Suds. On another occasion, Peter came up against Chris Snowdon’s GTV6 at Castle Combe. Both drivers had already been impressed about how quick the other’s car was and at Combe lapped within 0.19” of each other. “Anyone looking at the lap chart would have thought that Chris had dominated the A to E race but this was certainly not the case as Peter Dalley pushed him very hard indeed for 6 laps until a fuel leak brought his race to an end”. I think that Peter intended to continue racing the car in 1994 but the engine blew at the first round and that was the last we saw of it. Rumour had it later that it ended its days in Peter’s emptied swimming pool! Unless anyone knows different……….what a waste!

The Waite Family 33

The picture of Keith Waite’s 75 on the registrations pages of the website didn’t immediately alert me that something was different! A look at the entry list showed that his entry for Brands was actually in a 33 which, for someone I thought of irrevocably wedded to the V6 engine, appeared strange. However, an e-mail to Keith produced an interesting reply which I append below –

“The story started last December when I was looking on the classic auction sites for a 1750 Duetto for a customer which I found in Warwick. But in the January classic car auction site in Kings Lynn was a very pretty bright green 33. I showed it to Waite Jnr (Tom) and we both thought it would be a good way for him to start competing, so we planned a day trip to Norfolk. Just to look or that’s what we told Lynn, who came with us, but we didn’t mention the trade plates, tools or tow rope in the boot or the bidding number we had acquired (but I underestimated Lynn of course!). So when lot 40 drove in, Tom and I were already convinced the 33 was coming home with us. The bidding started and we were up against some friends of Paul Plant but the car was soon ours and Tom was able to drive it all the way home to London on trade plates.

Since then, Tom has carried out the re-commissioning and the best part is that the registration number ends in AFC (we are Arsenal fans) , so if you don’t know, Arsenal’s mascot is a bright green dinosaur called “Gunnersaurs”, so no prizes guessing what we called the car. Because it is like me, an old dinosaur” that likes the V6 12v although it looks as though the 75 is going to end up with a 3.2 24v like everything else! That’s not started yet, so I suggested to Tom that for a day out at Brands I should carry out the daddy safety checks and a shakedown as he is not quite ready to compete yet (or rather I entered and then told him!) So the MSA have given me a new licence, I have entered the slowest car on the grid in the brightest green possible for a day of fun splashing around in the puddles, freezing cold on 5 year old control tyres. And as I am not spending time and money going to a rolling road with either car, I have entered both in the Modified class”.

Keith later learned from Graham Heels that the last time “Gunnersaurs” raced was in the hands of Dean Hamilton at Donington in 2012 – a “one off” outing as he hadn’t raced since 1998. The photograph shows Dean, not at the back, soon after the start although he eventually finished next to last. But the interesting thing is that in the days when 1500 33s were numerous, his lap time would have left him much further up the field although it is hard to judge as the circuit had changed a little by 2012

How the Fates Conspire 1…….

As you go through life, there are pivotal moments that determine your future direction, whether it be work, relationships, car ownership and much else besides. As far as work was concerned, my decision to join the family import/export business was taken in a black cab outside Victoria station! My first car, after passing the crucial driving test was a Fiat 600D and from there I went on to own a couple of Sunbeam Rapiers (a Mark 2 and a Mark 3A). both excellent and relatively simple to run.

The Mark 2 even had a starting handle in case of problems, which I actually used in the hard winter of 1963! But after the arrival of son Simon in 1964. I was never too happy with the Rapiers two door specification and started to look for something different. Given the family’s Humber tradition, I looked at the four door Humber Sceptre but it seemed a little dull. Now it just happened that an old school friend of mine, Richard Riley, had ended up working for the first postwar incarnation of Alfa Romeo GB at 164 Sloane Street. He subsequently moved to an Alfa dealer in Notting Hill and I decided to ask him if he knew of any secondhand Giulia Ti’s for sale. “As it happens” he replied “we have just had a car traded in from Edinburgh and it’s just arrived. Come and give it a drive”.

Well the streets of Notting Hill are not the best test track but a deal was quickly done and I had my first Alfa Romeo. Richard and I kept in touch and I might well have bought later Alfas from him but he then defected to BMW. Sadly he was killed with 346 others in the 1974 Paris Air Crash, on a Turkish Airlines DC10 that he was only switched to after his original flight had been cancelled. I often wonder if he would have persuaded me to change my allegiance (with a good deal, of course!) but when I asked Diana, she doubted it, and so I have been a happy Alfa Romeo owner ever since.

How the Fates Conspire 2…….

Regular “Friday Fix” devotees will have read my piece about the new history of the BTCC written by Motorsports News editor, Matt James. The page dealing with the 1981 season failed to give the correct winner of the 1300cc class as Jon Dooley’s Napolina Alfa Romeo Dealer Team Alfasud Ti, saying instead that the victory had gone to Richard Longman’s Metro. Bit of an insult, really, after all the effort that had gone into getting that result for Jon, the team and Alfa Romeo. Happily, the detailed results page had it correct. Contact between Jon and the publishers Evro, resulted in many apologies and the printing of an erratum to be included with every possible copy. In addition, as a further gesture of goodwill, we would be sent several free copies of the book to distribute to team members and friends. As Jon was coming in this direction last Tuesday, we decided to meet up at a local pub to pass on some of them on and would be joined by Rob Kirby, his sister Carol – who was with us much of the time in Napolina, “Salmon Can” and John West Days, plus Tiny Coston who, with Rob, prepared Jon’s Sud and Alfetta in the team’s early years. It was an opportunity to catch up and I think we all agreed that we should do it again particularly in view of the number of Napolina liveried cars that are now racing, or being prepared, and also the John West GTV6 that Rob’s son Harry is building at Premier Garage in Newport (Essex) where the original “Salmon Can” car was put together in 1984. The photograph shows an early Dealer Team pit stop at the Tourist Trophy in 1977.

So, it is already March 15th, and just one week to go before the opening rounds of the 2019 Championship.

Michael Lindsay