Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler: BlackJack’sBriefs
As with my series on drivers, I started with the Wiki ‘List of Formula One Constructors’ and quickly reduced 136 to 43 eligible constructors by removing the Champions, and those hopefuls who failed to last beyond two or three seasons, and also those who only competed before 1958. [See Part-20 – Intro for details.]
“We rob banks.”
Heading into the second half of this series we reach the more successful teams, who did at least win a GP or two. Most of the twenty teams in this series have been founded by one man, without whom there is no doubt the team would not have existed but, with the Shadow team there is considerable doubt… much of which seems to have been deliberately, if light-heartedly, fostered by one man – Don Nichols. Or was he two… or even three men.
Google him and you’ll discover such a tangled web of past intrigue you’ll think you’ve died and gone to Conspiracy Heaven.
Rather than leave you in suspense let me say that the Don Nichols we have here appears to have been born in Missouri, in 1923… or maybe 1924… As a baby he was orphaned when the family car was hit by a tornado – the car was found three miles from the road, both parents were dead, but Don was discovered alive, in a carry-cot.
Growing up in the 30’s Don was addicted to a popular adventure radio show, The Shadow, its spin-off comics and several movies. During WWII Don had a reputation for fearless combat… and also collecting Luger pistols from German officers.
Other stories abound, which Don declines to deny, declaring his ‘attorney’ has instructed him not to discuss them…
After the War Don found himself in Japan, as a tyre representative for Firestone and (apparently) Goodyear… He was also involved in establishing the Fuji circuit and was a translator for Jim Clark, who was invited to inspect the circuit in 1966. Don is never more than a metre from Clark’s side, and even takes a ride with him in an E-type. The ever- modest Clark (referred to as, the ‘frying scot-to’) seems slightly overwhelmed by the whole thing… doing a major PR job entirely alone.
There are three parts to the following video…
By 1968 Don was back in the States where, in 1970 he created his Shadow Mk.1 – a very low-level CanAm car driven by George Folmer and, when Folmer’s IndyCar boss objected, by Vic Elford. The car was fast, if unreliable, and is highly prized today, often just for its stunning looks.
Shadow cars were always painted black, and sponsors had to fit in with that. In 1971 UOP (United Oil Products) were happy to oblige and the new car was driven by Jackie Oliver. By 1974, when the works teams of McLaren and Porsche had withdrawn, Shadow dominated the series…
George Folmer might need some introduction, he raced IndyCars in 1967-71, won the Can-Am championship in 1972 and entered F1 in 1973, at the age of 39 (the oldest debutant in F1 since the 50’s), before returning to Can-Am, NASCAR, and IndyCars. Ten years after ‘retiring’ George finished 3rd at Le Mans.
Vic Elford had a dozen F1 drives in 1968-69, and scored 8pts., after a successful rally, and sports-car career. In 1968 he won the Monte Carlo Rally (911) and the Daytona 24hrs (907) for Porsche. In the same year he won the Targa Florio, and finished 4th in his first GP.
In the 1972 Le Mans Vic stopped when he saw a burning car and rushed over to help the driver, opening the door to discover the driver had already escaped. But behind it lay the wreck of Jo Bonnier’s car, who died in the accident. For this action Vic was named Chevalier of the National Order of Merit by President Pompidou. His success record at his favourite circuit, Nurburgring, has been beaten only by Rudolf Caracciola and Stirling Moss.
Jackie Oliver has already been mentioned in this series – ‘15th Arrows’ – and, like a shadow, will appear again…
At the end of 1972 Don Nichols announced his intention to enter F1, with a car (DN1) designed by ex-BRM set- square shaker, Tony Southgate. Oliver went with them, along with Folmer, and even on their debut they were joined by their first customer, Graham Hill, who was awaiting his own car to be finished.
In their first race Oliver retired but Folmer went from 21st on the grid to 6th in the race and recorded Shadow’s first Championship point – in their first race…! In their second race Oliver again retired, while Folmer went from 14th on the grid to 3rd – taking Shadow’s first podium. As debut’s go, this was really impressive.
However, the following nine races were not… all three cars either retiring, or finishing no higher than 8th, and invariably qualifying in the rear third of the grid. At Monza all three cars finally finished a race, all, one lap down, but in Canada it was left to Oliver to get his car from 14th on the grid to another podium finish… although many claimed he had actually won… The lap-charts were confused by rain, multiple pitstops, and a ‘staggeringly inept deployment’ of the safety car, that allowed the eventual winner to un-lap himself.
Overall, Shadow finished 8th (out of 12 teams) in the Championship, ahead of the rear rank teams: Surtees, Iso, Tecno and Ensign. As first seasons go this was better than most others ever achieve.
Oliver and Folmer returned to America and Nichols hired Peter Revson (the Monza winner…) and Jean-Pierre Jarier (reigning F2 Champion). Southgate produced the DN3 but both drivers retired from the first two races, although Revson had put himself in 4th & 6th places on the two grids.
Tragically, in the third race, at Kyalami, Peter Revson crashed and was killed during practice and a very promising talent was lost before he barely got started. The Shadow team withdrew from the race.
Brian Redman was brought in to replace Revson. He had had a handful of GP starts over the previous handful of years but, apart from a podium in a Cooper-BRM in 1968, never had much success in F1, apparently preferring sports-cars. After three races he was replaced by Swede, Bertil Roos, for the Swedish GP – Roos’ only F1 appearance – who qualified 23rd and completed only two laps. In Holland Welshman, Tom Pryce, was taken onboard and was immediately up with Jarier who, after a very slow start to the season, had managed to get his car onto the podium at Monaco, having started from 6th.
Tom Pryce began racing F5000 cars in 1969, when he was 20, and moved through the usual FF, F3, FSuperV, FAtlantic, and F2 series until being offered an F1 drive with ‘Token’ in 1974. Token had acquired the bits of Ron Dennis’ stillborn Rondel/Motul F1 attempt in 1973. After four GP races in 1974 Token sold out to ‘Safir’, who failed to get it onto the GP grid at all.
At Monaco Pryce had been refused entry, being considered inexperienced, so he got himself a drive in the supporting F3 event, and won by over 20secs.
At Dijon Pryce qualified 3rd, in his third GP, behind Lauda and Peterson but collided with James Hunt at the start of the race. Tom tended to out-perform Jarier but only managed to convert this into 1pt., in Germany, while Jarier scored 6pts. to again put Shadow into 8th in the Championship, this time out of 20 teams, although eight of these didn’t complete the full season.
The inconsistent results were caused by unreliability, crashes and spins, and the fact that sometimes one car would perform well, and the other would not. Often the car that qualified highest would finish lower in the race. And both drivers were inexperienced in F1.
The disconsolate Ronnie Peterson, very unhappy at Lotus, signed to drive for Shadow, in a swap with Pryce, who was considered to be cheaper for the cash-strapped Lotus team, before Chapman lured Peterson back with further broken promises, so Jarier & Pryce stayed, Southgate produced DN5 (did someone at Shadow not like even- numbers… or consider them unlucky?), and Shadow seemed poised to challenge the big boys. In Argentina Jarier squarely planted his car on pole, with a new (unofficial) lap record but..,. on the warm-up lap his diff. went all cockeyed and he failed to start the race.
In Brazil Jarier again put his car on pole, again with a new record time (while Pryce was in the back half of both grids), but retired with fuel-feed problems, seven laps from the end, while in the lead, and having recorded the fastest lap.
In the fourth race, at Spain’s legendary and infamous Montjuich curcuit [see Carlo’s excellent review], Stommelen’s nasty crash brought the race, and all racing at Montjuich to an end. Jarier managed to finsh third but was deemed to have passed under yellow flags and relegated to 4th. Being stopped early, the race netted him just 11⁄2 points, which was all he amassed during the year.
Pryce, however, managed three 6th places, a 4th, and a 3rd, in Austria, his first podium. He had also warmed the cockles of British hearts, and Welsh harps, at Silverstone by taking pole. He then led for two laps, before crashing out. This was the first race with the unnecessary Woodcote chicane, and the first GP to start with lights, to dispense with human error when waving a flag – and, after thirty-nine years, they still have problems with electronic errors.
At Monaco the cars qualified 2nd & 3rd, but they needed to finish more races. Very often the drivers qualified in the top half dozen but… too often, when the cars weren’t breaking on their own, the drivers were breaking them against the barriers.
At the end of the year Southgate produced the DN7 fitted with the Matra V12 engine which didn’t justify its existence and was dropped after two races. Shadow finished in 6th place in the Championship, just ahead of Lotus, March, Williams, Parnelli, Hill, Penske, BRM and Fittipaldi.
Tony Southgate either ran out of ideas, or development money (UOP had withdrawn their sponsorship), and arrived at the first race with the DN5B, where Jarier nevertheless qualified 3rd, and was mixing it with Regazzoni, Lauda and Hunt, and reached 2nd place behind Lauda when he crashed out on an oil-slick. Depailler took over 2nd and Pryce moved up to the final podium position. Although Pryce managed two more 4th places Jarier was out of luck all year, and Shadow returned to 8th spot.
For the last few races Jarier drove a new DN8 (so, not entirely averse to even numbers, then…), penned by Southgate before he left to join Lotus, which was little better and, overall, he tended to be out-shone by Pryce, as a result of which he wasn’t retained by the team, and despite some very good subsequent performances his career failed to really recover. In 1979, with Tyrrell, he had two more podium places but only finished 11th in the Championship, his personal best.
By the end of his career he received considerable criticism for blocking other cars when he was a back-marker, and being lapped. After one dreadful exhibition James Hunt said: “He shouldn’t be allowed to drive in GP. For that he should receive a short suspension and, for being himself, with a mental age of 10, he should receive a permanent suspension.”
1976 was also the year of Roger Penske – in F1. Entering IndyCars in 1968, by 1971 they were one of the top teams, and Roger started to investigate F1, entering the last two events of 1974 with the PC1, for Mark Donohue, who had previously raced in a Penske-entered McLaren in 1971, and finished on the podium but, after winning the Indy-500 in 1972, and success in CanAm, he retired at the end of 1973… only to be lured back by Penske – to F1.
1975 wasn’t a great success, Mark scoring just one 5th place before the car was dropped in favour of a March 751, which gave him one more 5th place before a practice accident in Austria, which killed a marshall. The following day Mark complained of a headache, shortly afterwards lapsed into a coma, and died, from a cerebral hemorrhage.
Penske returned to the States, missing Monza, and brought out the PC1 at Watkins Glen, for John Watson, who qualified 12th, and finished 9th. Watson had had three years in F1, and was rising slower than the liquid in a Norwegian thermometer… but in 1976, with the PC3, and backing from First National City Bank, he was 3rd on the grid in South Africa, and 5th in the race, ironically just ahead of Mario Andretti, in the ‘other’ American team.
After six races the superior PC4 appeared and, at Paul Ricard, Watson put himself onto the podium, and repeated this in the next race at Brands Hatch, this time ironically just ahead of Tom Pryce. The car, or Watson, didn’t like the Nurburgring but in Austria, a year after Donohue’s demise, Watson put the car on the front row of the grid… and went on to win…! and Penske took 5th in the Championship.
It is 38 years since an American constructor won an F1 GP – will Gene Haas be able to end this hiatus…?
At the end of the year Penske decided he preferred IndyCars and sold the F1 car(s) to ATS, who scored one point, with Jarier driving, before pulling out before the end of the 1977 season.
Oddly, these three years (1974-76) saw another American team, from Vel’s Parnelli Jones, who started at the same time as Penske and, after success in IndyCars, also decided to mount an attack on F1, by bringing in Maurice Philippe from Lotus, and Mario Andretti. They did achieve a 4th and a 5th place in 1975 but ran out of steam after two races in 1976, and pulled out.
With Southgate gone Dave Wass took over the under-funded development of the DN8, and Pryce was joined by Renzo Zorzi, who brought big sacks of lira from Franco Ambrosio, signalling an end to the all-black livery. After one drive for Williams (Mk.1) in 1975, and one more in 1976, the fact Sir Frank didn’t retain him, and his money, should have been sufficient warning to Shadow… but sometimes ‘beggars can’t be choosers’.
However, with several cars out of Brazil from accidents Zorzi managed to finish 6th, to score the only Championship point of his brief career
In the following race in South Africa a dark shadow settled over the race when Zorzi pulled over at the start of the main straight with engine failure, which caused a small fire. Although the onboard extinguishers had dealt with it two marshals dashed from the pit-wall across the track with a larger extinguisher, as Stuck, Pryce, Lafitte and Nilsson arrived. As Stuck moved over to avoid the marshals the ‘unsighted’ Pryce pulled out, and hit one of the marshals, who was killed instantly. The extinguisher hit Pryce’s head and bounced off the rollbar with such force it was thrown over the main grandstand and landed in the carpark behind.
Tom Pryce also probably died instantly but the car careered along the main straight until colliding with Laffite just before the first turn, putting both cars into the barrier. Tom was the third young rising F1 star to be tragically killed at this time – following Roger Williamson (1973) and Tony Brise (1975) – which left a large gap in British F1.
A sombre circus arrived at Long Beach, with the news that Carlos Pace had been killed in a plane crash. Shadow had signed up Alan Jones, who had been dropped by Surtees at the end of 1976, despite showing promise (!? With those two, I suspect neither got on with the other…) but, he and Zorzi had a bad time, and in Spain as well, and Zorzi was dropped, in favour of Ricardo Patrese who joined Jones at Monaco and, in his first F1 GP, qualified 15th and finished 9th, while Jones finished 6th, behind Reutemann, Mass and Andretti, these four cars covered by four seconds after two hours’ racing.
Patrese came from virtually nowhere, and stayed longer than anyone (17 yrs. – beaten by Rubens’ 19yrs. – 2010). In karting he won a Championship in 1974 which gave him a tryout in F.Italia in May, 1975, which had been expected to be a bit of fun, in between his university studies. In May, 1977 he was, rather surprisingly, in F1.
In the next race Jones managed to rise to 5th while, in Sweden, Jackie Oliver returned to the circuit and showed he could still do it. Ricardo had three more races, with little success, and Arturo Merzario was given a try, with no greater success… The race had started on a wet track and Gunnar Nilsson had taken his Lotus from 16th on the grid to 2nd in the race, while Jones went from 14th to 5th… and then 2nd, behind James Hunt, until his engine died, and Jones finally scored Shadow’s (and his own) first GP victory.
Tony Southgate returned, mid-season, from Lotus, as Ricardo drove another two races, stood down yet again for Jean-Pierre Jarier to have a go, and returned for the last two races, finally making it all worthwhile by taking his first championship point with 6th place in Japan. Jones had recorded another podium, in Italy, and two 4th places in the last two races. With 23pts., and 7th place in the Championship, it all seemed to be finally coming good for Shadow…
Or did it…?
Well . . . those of you who read Part 15 – Arrows, will know the answer because, during the winter of 1977-78 there was a seismic occurrence at Shadow that perhaps only the Judge might have forecast. A huge rift was created between Don Nichols and his key personel and the team suffered a walkout. With backing from Shadow’s sponsor, Ambrosio, team managers, Oliver and Alan Rees, plus designers Southgate and Wass, and their ‘No,1’ driver, Patrese (Jones had already been lured to the new Williams team), all marched into the night to form Arrows Grand Prix International. Nobody ever seems to have explained quite why.
From necessity the ageing DN8 was pressed into service for a third year, to be driven by Hans Stuck and Clay Regazzoni – Stuck had been in F1 for four years, with occasional success, including two podiums with Brabham in 1977 – Clay had enjoyed six good years (with a break in the middle at BRM) with Ferrari, finishing 2nd in the World Championship in 1974, but was now mouldering away after a year with Ensign. Nevertheless he managed 5th in Brazil… but both drivers failed to qualify in South Africa.
At Long Beach the DN9 put in an appearance but, throughout the year both cars qualified near the back of the grid, if they qualified at all, and it was perhaps luck that got them to 11th place, with just 6pts.
During the year Shadow sued Arrows, saying their FA1 was a copy of Shadow’s DN9, won the case, and apparently all FA1s were handed over to Shadow, as part of the settlement… Arrows are remembered for expecting the verdict to go against them and having built a replacement (A1) in 53 days – although nobody seems to have actually verified this legend… Regardless, the A1 was a disaster, recording two finishes in the final ten starts though, sadly, the DN9 was no better.
Stuck went off to ATS, for his final F1 season, and Clay was rescued by Williams, where he added another victory, and four more podiums to his personal record book.
With their backs against the wall Shadow had pulled back as far as they could go, and made a desperate effort to regroup, technically splitting the team in half, with different sponsorship deals and different names: the Samson Shadow, for Jan Lammers, and the Interscope Shadow, for Elio de Angelis, making his F1 debut, after winning the Italian F3 Championship in 1977, and racing in F2 in 1978. Lammers had won the European F3 Championship in 1978… The mid-70’s appear to have been an easy time for drivers with limited experience to leap into F1. Super- Licences seemed to be available at any local Farmers’ Market.
During a four-year career in F1 (plus a brief, and bizarre return ten years later) Lammers was unable to score a single point, but was subsequently more successful in sports-cars. De Angelis had a lot more going for him and, although his first year only netted him a 4th place in the final race, he went on to enjoy mixed fortunes at Lotus, eventually taking 3rd in the Championship in 1984.
With just these 3pts. Shadow finished 10th in the Championship, again one place behind Arrows, who amassed a less-than-earth-shattering, 5pts.
With even less sponsorship, and a very limited race team, Nichols could have easily been forgiven for pulling out but… as with so many of these ‘driven’ guys, he went for one more. With a new car, the DN11, the team signed up Stefan Johansson, and David Kennedy, who had taken Championships in FF, and wins in F3, and British F1 (anybody remember that…?), with the Theodore team, and now moved to (‘real’) F1. Stefan was still racing in F3 but was also given his F1 chance but, after also failing to qualify for the first two races, went back to take the British F3 Championship in 1980.
Geoff Lees also came from nowhere to replace him – after one F1 appearance in 1978, and another in 1979, he arrived at Shadow ill-equipped to shine and, after five races, and four failures to qualify, followed Shadow into the gloom… but went on to convincingly take the European F2 Championship in 1981 for Ralt, before moving to Japan where he enjoyed considerable success.
Meanwhile Shadow had ‘got into bed’ with Teddy Yip’s Theodore team but it wasn’t enough to save them and, after a couple more races, Yip ‘pulled the plug’. Yip formed another team for 1981, ironically with Southgate as designer, but that didn’t work well either. Again he tried a merger, this time with Ensign, which also failed. Yip wound that one up as well while a probably grateful Mo Nunn scooted off to the States, where he subsequently enjoyed the best of times, and not too many of the worst of times, in IndyCars.
In eight years Shadow, who came from almost nowhere, scored 3 Poles, 1 Win, and 2 Fastest Laps, in 112 races, with a highest place of 6th in the Constructor’s Championship, in 1975.
As for the previously mentioned intrigue around Don Nichols’ background… Despite what others have written, as usual just perpetuating the myth, but without commenting on it… my view is there were two ex-military chaps, one of whom is the Shadow owner who appears here. The other chap might have established a special ops unit during the Korean War. And perhaps worked covertly for the CIA in Vietnam. And won medals for feats of bravery and espionage, rescuing the surviving crew from a downed B-29 bomber. And retrieved technical data from downed Russian MiG-15s, more than 100 miles behind enemy lines. And once brought back the entire jet.
This ‘other’ Donald Nichols retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1962, due to failing health, and died in 1992 in the Veterans Affairs hospital in Alabama, but… to this day, ‘our’ Don Nichols can still be found at vintage racing events in the U.S, alongside examples of Shadow cars, almost always in black – svelte and mysterious. This Don Nichols is said to have stored all his original cars, and has been selling them off, one a year, for the past fifteen years.