Following on from Buenos Aires, we were well equipped for refuelling with our brand new rig, but the main recollection I have of this event was totally unconnected with racing. At one stage I went to observe the cars on one of the banked corners and whilst there got into conversation with a marshal. It transpired that he was the Chief Security Officer for NASA at the local Kennedy Space Centre and he suggested that I might like to look around the complex the following day, Monday. 1972 was towards the end of the Apollo Moon landing program, which of course we had all been watching on TV. Needless to say I presented myself at his door at crack of dawn (i.e. about 8.00am) on the appointed day. He detailed one of his female officers to escort me as a guide for practically the whole day. She took me everywhere including places that even now the general public cannot go to such as, the main control room, vehicle assembly building (VAB), and the actual launch pad. I remember that Apollo 16 was being assembled inside the VAB at the time and we went by lift right to the top of the building where clouds would form if the air-conditioning was not working. It is difficult to describe the excitement I felt being in the very place that had featured so prominently on our televisions. Remember this was at a time when entry to the Cape was almost forbidden - nothing like the commercial enterprise that it is today. At the end of the visit when I was taken back to the chief’s office, he asked me if I had any questions. I was so overwhelmed by the situation I could only think of “how do you choose your staff?” (all shapely females it appeared to me). He said he had an absolutely infallible method of selection - they had to line up, face the wall, put their hands together behind their heads with their elbows pointing forwards, walk towards the wall and if the first part of their anatomy to touch the wall was their elbows, they failed! What category of discrimination do you think that would fall under today?
Little did I know that some years later, after leaving the racing industry, I would be back at the Cape working as part of a satellite launch team, but that’s another story.
CanAm - T220 - Peter Revson 1970
The CanAm championship was always an exciting and interesting series to be involved in. The cars were big and brutal. If I remember correctly the engines ended up around 8.1 litre capacity with goodness knows how much horsepower. In those day’s the whole racing scene in North America was much more like the UK club scene and we didn’t have huge travelling transporters and massive portable workshops. Instead we tended to be “adopted” by local Chevrolet agents in the nearest town and given the run of their facilities. It was also the norm for them to put us in their showroom where a crowd invariably gathered outside to watch us working on the car. This was pay-back time for the proprietor of the agency in the way of free advertising, but suited us fine, working in such civilised conditions. Since we were obviously an English team (Union Jacks prominently displayed), we felt it incumbent upon us to live up to the typical North American image of the typical English Gentlemen. Consequently we made a point, when a sufficiently large crowd was present, to conduct the tea ceremony. This entailed me going out the back to brew up the tea, bringing in a tray with teapot, cups etc, then calling the crew over in terms of “I say chaps, time for tea” at which they would down tools, gather round and with a suitably serious look of concentration, drink their tea with little fingers extended in the requisite fashion. This would have the onlookers snapping away with their camera’s to provide evidence of the archetypical Englishman’s conduct when away from the homeland. At least it gave us a good laugh - and they were convinced it was genuine. My accomplices in these escapades were Jim Chapman (Crew Chief), George Pfaff (from Rhodesia as it was then), Davie Jones, and later George Woodward. I wonder where they all are now?
I remember on one occasion a private test-session at Elkhart Lake (Road America) with Peter Revson. We had a problem with the gear linkage and Peter suggested I accompany him in the T220 CanAm car for a drive around the circuit and see for myself what the problem was. This was fine in theory because CanAm cars are supposed to be two-seaters. However, the 2nd seat comprised of space only with no actual seat or seat belts in the car. Sitting on a pair of rolled up overalls and holding on tightly to the roll-over bar we set off. Down the back straight, touching perhaps 150mph, Peter was encouraging me to watch him try and get 6th gear. All I could see were the trees zapping by at a high rate of knots uncomfortably close and a sharp corner coming up. The “G” forces were incredible, especially since I was not strapped in. We made a couple of circuits like this but I never did get to see the problem - I was rather too interested in surviving. Still, it was one of those experiences that I was glad to have had, but also had no wish to repeat.