• RetroGP.com In The News

    Posted by Fiona Spena
    We at www.retrogp.com have been fortunate enough to feature in The guardian online, in the Sport/Christmas sports gift guide. The article was written by and featured some of our T shirts designs and Prints. Most notably the Hesketh Racing T shirt and its story.

    When ever anyone writes about Hesketh Racing, it is always done so with a warm, fuzzy glow! The name inspires people to think back to a team like no other, a team of mavericks with a Lord at their helm. Despite some setbacks, incredibly with James Hunt at the wheel, they became Grand Prix winners at Zandvoort in 1975.


    More significantly James felt that he’d now arrived as a driver.
    “I lacked experience leading races, which is why I cocked up a couple of times earlier that year. But for once I didn’t make any mistakes, and after that it became easier.”
    James Hunt became world champion the following year and often referred to the 1975 Dutch Grand Prix as the most important race of his career.


    We have worked hard at bringing Hesketh back and feel just as warm and fuzzy about it as everyone does.

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  • Embassy Hill

    Posted by Paul Landry

    Embassy Hill Fromula 1 Team
    Rarely does a team disappear in one fell swoop – especially one with such potential and in such an unfair and cruel manner. One team in particular, was Graham Hill’s outfit - Embassy Hill Racing.

    Now before we get all dewey eyed and rosy cheeked I need to point out first that as a Formula One team, Embassy Hill did not do particularly well in terms of results and were not seen as serious contender. However, they were just on the beginning of an upswing at the end of the 1975 season. It seemed apparent that they had the car, the driver and things were beginning to look positive.

    We need to throw our minds back to 1972. An unsatisfied Graham Hill announced that he was leaving the Brabham team after a very unbrilliant two-year stint. However, at 43, the fat lady was well and truly singing and whichever way you look at it, Graham was knocking on a bit. Team bosses were not particularly excited about hiring a relic from yesteryear but Graham wasn’t having any of it. As the old saying goes “if you want something done properly, do it yourself”.

    Graham announced that he was to start his own Grand Prix Team with himself as Owner, Team Manager and Driver. This all sounds very tally-ho and heroic but it was the only way that Graham could get a drive in 1973 and therefore stay in F1.

    Astonishingly, particularly by modern F1 standards, Graham secured title sponsorship from the cigarette brand, Embassy. Seriously though – for a completely new team with no guarantees on performance or future, managed by a driver who is ‘over the hill’ (no pun intended), securing a big title sponsor was, and still is, a huge achievement.

    Graham used his experience and contacts to great advantage, securing a supply of hearty Ford Cosworth V8 Engines but with the very average Shadow DN1 customer chassis. It all looked well on paper and he had trusted mechanics and engineers along for the ride.

    Although it was not a ride at all. 1973 was a long, hard slog for Embassy Hill and I wonder if Graham ever thought that he might have bitten off more than he could chew by juggling all these roles he had within the team, not forgetting being also a Husband and Father. Their 1973 results were uninspiring however to their credit, they didn’t have as many DNF’s as other teams so there was some reliability – but the speed hadn’t bothered to show up.

    Embassy Hill Fromula 1 Team

    But as I am sure you will agree, the Embassy Hill cars looked fantastic. A sleek, clean white/red livery encapsulating a brutish example of a 1970’s F1 car. A time where speed, looks and handling were at the forefront of the mind whilst safety and economics were simply forgotten about. Come to think of it, it’s probably the other way around nowadays….

    By their second season in 1974, Embassy Hill had hired a second driver in the form of Guy Edwards and commissioned Lola to build a new car for them after an unsuccessful run with Shadow’s customer chassis. Graham scored their first point during the 1974 Swedish Grand Prix but a number of DNQ’s and DNF’s started to affect the team. Times were hard and Graham was feeling the strain.

    Whilst using the same car in 1975, a 45-year-old Graham reached rock bottom in his career and failed to qualify for that year’s Monaco Grand Prix and thus retired as a driver. Mr Monaco had failed to qualify and finally realised that the game was up.

    But for Graham and the team, it was for the greater good as retirement from driving would allow him to focus on Management. I overheard an ex-F1 driver at Silverstone Classic say “Formula One is like a good buffet – it’s very difficult to know when to stop” and I think there is a lot of truth in that analogy and must have been very difficult for Graham.

    Embassy Hill Fromula 1 Team

    But like a lot of things, you have to take a step backwards to make a leap forwards. Graham immersed himself purely as a Team Manager, hired new staff to take over from his previous roles and also the young and promising British F3 driver, Tony Brise. Tony greatly impressed Graham and struck a chord with everyone after turning up to the garage saying “I’ve arrived, where’s my bloody car?”

    Tony Brise was coming off the back of a very impressive few years in Formula 3 and was ready to make the step up to Formula One – so he declined a long term contract with a small, little known team called ‘Frank Williams Racing Cars’ for an opportunity to be part of Embassy Hill and absorb the wealth of experience and knowledge Graham had.

    In only his ninth race, Brise qualified 6th ahead the likes of Messrs, Hunt, Reutemann, Peterson and Andretti – all 70’s F1 royalty. His engine would not last the race but his talent was definitely noticed. By this point, the team upgraded the Lola chassis, christened it the GH1 with the intention that Tony Brise could harass the frontrunners.

    Embassy Hill Fromula 1 Team

    Finally, Graham had the driver he wanted and could retire comfortably knowing that Tony could easily take up the lead driver role. Tony scored a point at the 1975 Swedish Grand Prix, Embassy threw more money into the mix and things were looking up for the 1976 season.

    Embassy Hill created their first scratch built, all-new chassis called the GH2 for the 1976 season. The car looked sleeker, less bulky and was much lighter. In the Autumn of 1975, Brise tested the GH2 car at Silverstone and later in Paul Ricard in France and was very encouraged by its performance. Everyone was optimistic about 1976.

    Brise telexed the factory saying “Car now brilliant, test ended, see you all Monday morning” and later boarded Embassy Hill’s 6 seater Piper Aztec piloted by Graham along with team manager Ray Brimble, designer Andy Smallman and mechanics Terry Richards and Tony Alcock to fly back to Elstree airfield in the UK.

    Embassy Hill Fromula 1 Team

    On that dark foggy night of 29th November 1975, the aircraft crashed on Arkley golf course after colliding with a line of trees, killing everybody on board.

    Because of that cruel and unfair twist of fate, Embassy Hill was no more. In an instant, Formula One lost one of its greatest ever in Graham Hill and one of its greatest prospects in Tony Brise. We were deprived of what was looking to be, a very positive year for Embassy Hill - This was well and truly the ‘Munich Air Disaster’ of Formula One. The team was then closed indefinitely and assets sold off as the team now only consisted of three individuals and was impossible to continue.

    Pole Positions? Race wins? Championships? Who knows - but it would have been nice if eventually a different white and red liveried team carved out a place for itself in the F1 record books.

    Next time you are at the Silverstone Classic or Goodwood Revival, make sure you pay special attention to the beautiful looking, red and white Embassy Hill GH2 car that is maintained and kept running. Sure, it never took part in a Grand Prix but the GH2 holds a certain level of mystery that not many other cars do.

    Embassy Hill Fromula 1 Team

  • A Brief History of Hesketh Racing

    Posted by Andrew Smith
    A BRIEF HISTORY OF HESKETH RACING
    1974 was not a happy year for us English.

    The year was marked by the Three Day Week, two General Elections, one change of national government, major company collapses and a Miners strike.



    Pay dropped, taxes rose, unemployment exploded...


    ...and to add insult to injury, we lost the Ashes to Australia.

    In these dismal times people hankered for frivolous distraction, a champion to brighten the dispiriting gloom.
    It came in quite an unexpected form.

    Enter The Lord Hesketh.


    There is no better example of an ‘Against all odds’ story than the 1974 Hesketh Racing Formula 1 team.

    With the maverick James Hunt at the wheel of the fabled Hesketh 308 F1 car and the extravagant, 23 year old Lord Hesketh at the helm, ‘The biggest little racing team in the world’, captured the public’s imagination.

    JAMES HUNT

    Scorned by the established teams who considered them a bunch of public school boy amateurs with no place in the sport, Hesketh Racing audaciously challenged the big boys in their own back yard.

    Team Hesketh

    The team arrived by Rolls-Royce, hired yachts for Monaco.....

    Lord Hesketh Le Patron

    .....and had a Grand Piano in the back of Pit-lane for sing songs with friends and celebrities. They partied as hard as they raced.

    Champagne flowed in abundance

    James Hunt Hesketh Racing Party

    Lord Hesketh's long tme friend, Anthony 'Bubbles' Horsley had become a competent, efficient team manager. Under his guidance and with promising results in 1973, the team started to be taken seriously.

    Hesketh Racing Workshop

    The stables at Lord Hesketh's country house 'Easton Neston', built in 1702, were converted into workshops. It was here that genious designer Harvey 'Doc' Postlethwaite, who claimed he only agreed to join the team during a moment of weakness after...

    'THEY GOT ME DRUNK'

    ...created what is now regarded as one of the most iconic Formula 1 cars of all time. The Hesketh 308.

    Hesketh 308

    The 308 made it's debut at the Race of Champions, Brands Hatch, 1974.
    Hunt put the car on Pole but spun out in wet conditions on Lap 4.

    At the Silverstone International Trophy a few weeks later, Hunt again stuck the 308 at the front of the grid and also set the fastest lap in the race. The hat trick was completed with a resounding victory, beating 2nd place Jochen Mass by 37 seconds. The 308 was quick but fragile. Three 3rds but 8 retirements during the Grand Prix season.

    1975
    The 308 was upgraded to the 308B. It was stronger, it was faster and Hunt was hungry for Victory.

    The Dutch Grand Prix
    That marvelous day at Zandvoort

    Hesketh Racing win at Zandvoort

    'For once, I didn't make any mistakes' reported Hunt after holding off Niki Lauda for the last 32 laps. The crowd's favourite crossed the line a mere 1 second ahead of the rampaging Ferrari to take Hunt's first and Hesketh Racing's only victory.

    But trouble was brewing

     

    As the saying goes, ‘A candle that burns twice as bright burns for half as long’. Potential sponsors were nervous about an association with the rock ‘n’ roll, glamour team and hell-raising, pin-up driver. With finances dwindling, Lord Hesketh had no choice but to shut the operation down with immediate effect.

    Lord Hesketh and Margaret Thatcher

    The Lord Hesketh went into politics and held a number of offices under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, during his Parliamentary career

    James Hunt Brands Hatch

    James Hunt moved to McLaren and won the Formula 1 Driver's World Championship in 1976

    Hesketh 308

    ...and the fabulous Hesketh 308 was mothballed.

    The team that offered hope and cheer, faded almost as quickly as they had arrived.


    Until now! MORE COMING
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  • Yellow Five: Jordan & Mansell

    Posted by Paul Landry



    The year was 1996, I was 8 years old and I was in a McDonalds tucking into a happy meal whilst my Dad was reading a newspaper. I remember he turned the paper around and showed me an article which reported that Nigel Mansell had completed a test with Jordan team and was contemplating an F1 comeback. To this day, I can still remember how excited this made me feel – considering that I had missed the majority of Mansell’s career due to the disadvantage of not existing or being a baby, I was still captivated from what I had seen on VHS and in various books. So the prospect of seeing Nige’ back in F1 and experiencing his driving first hand was massively exciting and was something that caught my imagination.

    Fast forward twenty years to 2016 and it seems that on the surface, Mansell’s test with Jordan was nothing more than a PR stunt to appease their almighty title sponsors and bankrollers Benson & Hedges. But I think there is slightly more to it, as a fan.
    As Jordan were on the back of a disappointing 1996 campaign they really had to engage in some marketing foreplay with B&H to excite them about the upcoming 1997 season and secure their long term commitment. Benson & Hedges wanted a big driver, a famous name, a World Champion – problem was that there were none available. Schumacher had an iron clad contract with Ferrari, Hill had already gone to Arrows on the promise of a competitive car from TWR’s involvement and the rest were ruled out because of retirement or tragedy……apart from one moustached man from Birmingham.

    Nigel Mansell had retired from F1 after just two races with Mclaren back in 1995 and walked out of the sport with his tail firmly between his legs. Interestingly enough, that relationship was brought together by Mclaren’s then sponsors, Marlboro - an arranged marriage that both driver and team were very happy to end.

    Despite all this, Eddie Jordan made the call, invited the 43-year-old Mansell for a tour of the factory and talked him into a test drive. Mansell was apparently very impressed with the Jordan factory and liked the sound of all this. One can’t really blame him for doing this, he was a big name with a big ego and probably saw this initially as a bit of a jolly and a chance to clear his name after that dreadful spell with Mclaren. Mansell was still adamant that he was in good shape physically and still had the ability and motivation to be competitive – Rocky Balboa anyone?? So he dusted off the legendary red, white and blue helmet and jetted down to Barcelona where the test was taking place.



    Surprisingly, over the day and a half test he actually did a pretty good job with his best lap falling just three tenths behind a young and keen Ralf Schumacher.

    Jordan designer Gary Anderson has mentioned that on Nigel’s last lap he came on the radio and said “my hands are cold – I’m coming in for a cup of tea”. Whether he could stay competitive over a full race distance was unknown at this stage but both parties seemed satisfied with the performance. However, Ralf was quoted saying “At his age, I would be doing something different”.

    Jordan designer Gary Anderson has mentioned that on Nigel’s last lap he came on the radio and said “my hands are cold – I’m coming in for a cup of tea”. Whether he could stay competitive over a full race distance was unknown at this stage but both parties seemed satisfied with the performance. However, Ralf was quoted saying “At his age, I would be doing something different”.
    Shortly after the Barcelona test, conversations started to swing towards the business of money and contractual negotiations. Although Mansell was very much an unknown quantity at this stage, he was asking for a £5m contract – a substantial amount by 1996 standards. Eddie Jordan, with the financial security of his team as paramount, knew that paying out £5m might not be the wisest move in the world and sought assistance from the likes of Bernie Ecclestone and ITV, all of which turned him down.

    In a similar situation 6 years prior, Benetton signed Nelson Piquet on a ‘pay for points’ basis and had Jordan made a such an agreement with Mansell, he might have done alright out of it considering how their 1997 car turned out. After much thought, Mansell decided against making a return with Jordan and his F1 career was finally at an end. Although he had been retiring on a regular basis since 1990, he still had loyal fans all over the world and I reckon he enjoyed a well-deserved rest. Jordan signed Giancarlo Fisichella to partner Ralf Schumacher in the 1997 season and the rest is history.

    At the end of the day, it probably was just a PR stunt that got a tad out of hand but it certainly had its effects. It got Jordan and Mansell in the headlines which appeased Benson & Hedges and created excitement and support for the 1997 season. On a wider scale, this caused a delay with a possible Martin Brundle/Jordan contract extension which pushed him into commentating and it also gave us the delight of watching a young Giancarlo Fisichella sometimes hassling the frontrunners in his bright yellow, snake nosed Jordan.

    This wasn’t the end for Mansell and Jordan though. In 2004, he drove that year’s Jordan at an F1 publicity event in London, where no doubt, this whole thing must have been mentioned.



    Despite all the what if’s there have been in F1, this remains one of the more fascinating stories because of exactly where Jordan were at the time and where Mansell were at the time. Sometimes with F1 it’s the things that don’t happen which are the most memorable.

     

    Jordan Grand Prix

     

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