The Top-20 #F1 Constructors who Failed to win a Championship – 3rd: Eagle

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.]

“Here’s Johnny!”

Gurney-02-W3rd

Eagle

Dan Gurney also appeared in my ‘Top-20 Drivers who did NOT win a Championship’ (15th) and thus much of what I wrote there is equally valid here… so I will try to make this article more about the machine than the man…

. . . who was born in 1931, in New York, USA and became one of the most successful, all round, racing drivers ever, and one of the most popular. He won in F1, IndyCar, NASCAR, Trans-Am and Sports-cars. He also built his own Eagle cars, run by his Anglo American Racers team. As a race-car engineer Gurney was the first to place a simple, upturned, extension to the upper trailing edge of the rear wing – to greatly increase downforce with little increase in drag – which is still known as a ‘Gurney Flap’.

By the time he was 19 Dan had built a ‘hot-rod’ that ran 138 mph (222 kph) at the Bonneville Salt Flats. He also competed in drag-racing and sports-cars. At the age of 26 he was offered a works Ferrari drive at Le Mans in 1958, which resulted in a F1 offer for 1959 and, in just four races, he stood on the podium twice, gaining him 7th place in the Championship.

After a poor year with BRM Dan joined Porsche for 1961, scored three podiums, and moved up to 4th in the Championship, but, by the time Porsche produced their first ‘proper’ F1 car, in 1962, the British teams had got themselves together and BRM, Lotus, Cooper, and Lola took the top four places in the Constructors Championship… leaving Porsche in fifth, pushing Ferrari down to sixth place.

Even so, Gurney gave Porsche their one and only win (in France) before moving on to the new Brabham team for 1963 where Dan also recorded Brabham’s first F1 GP victory.

After three years Gurney’s interest to produce his own car had been fully whetted by Black Jack and the first Eagle car was entered in the 1966 season by Anglo American Racers, an off-shoot of All American Racers, a team founded by Gurney and Carroll Shelby (Cobras, anyone…?) in 1964.

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1966

With a major shortage of suitable engines for the new 3.0L formula, AAR commissioned Harry Weslake’s specialist engine company to produce a ‘state of the art’ V12, in Rye, Sussex, a pretty and historic town on England’s south coast.

In 1965 Jim Clark had won the Indy-500 in the Len Terry designed Lotus 38. Born in 1923 Len Terry had been an engineer in the RAF and subsequently many other areas, until he built ‘specials’ for the 750 Motor Club, breeding ground in the 50’s of Colin Chapman, Eric Broadly and many others. Len’s Terriers were very successful and he received many commissions, before joining Lotus – and was then fired by Chapman, when his Terrier cars not only upstaged Chapman’s Lotus 7s, but also won the Chapman Trophy. [LOL]

After a stint at Gilby, Terry received a welcome back at Lotus, as his designs were allegedly better than Chapman’s own ideas… but the relationship seemed to amount to mutual disrespect and, after meeting with AAR at Indy, he penned the first Eagles… for both IndyCars and F1

Eagle-01

Len Terry died the day I was researching his story for this article, when I discovered the journalist who most vehemently criticizes the ‘new-age’, cut-&-paste web-sites, errantly stated that Terry had made FJunior cars in the mid-50’s, although this formula only started in 1959. I fear the words, ‘petard’ and ‘hoist’ came to mind… as his item was a clear copy of that on grandprix.com, and also echoed on Autosport.com. Ho ho ho.

Len Terry met Sid Greene (not the doctor) when Sid acquired a Lotus 17 sports-car, and was unimpressed but, as Len had just been fired, Sid grabbed him, to re-work the suspension, which soon resulted in the appearance of their own Gilby, a small and pretty car that had moderate success. Then, just one year later, the ambitious Greenes introduced their first F1 car… It was not only possible, but allowed, back then… Is the current world of F1 really better, just because we have to maintain TV Viewing figures….? I know we can’t go back but, isn’t it incumbent upon us that we go forward to a F1 that we can be proud to bequeath to the next generations…?

The F1 Gilby was first tested at Goodwood in 1961, by Sid’s son. Keith, while Cooper driver, Bruce McLaren, was also present and was coerced into giving it a try, and quickly bettered Keith’s time by 6secs., just a tenth off the lap record. The car seemed to have potential but Sid’s loyalty to his son, for whom he deliberately financed the venture, failed to make the most of it. Keith finished 15th at Aintree, and also ran in half a dozen non-Championship events, taking 6th place in the Danish GP, four minutes behind Moss. and finishing the year with a third place at Brands Hatch behind Tony Marsh and Mike Spence.

For 1962 Sid ordered a BRM engine, for which Len produced a new chassis but the car retired early in Germany, and failed to qualify in Italy, when it was realised BRM were not supplying the same engines they had in their works cars, and Gilby reverted to the Climax engine. Keith took 4th in Brussels, plus the Lombank Trophy (behind Clark, Hill and Bonnier), and the Lavant Cup, 7th in the Glover Trophy, and the Sicilian, Mediterranean GP, 10th in the Aintree 200, and 15th in the International Trophy,,

The Gilby highlight this season was Keith’s 3rd place on the grid in the Naples GP, behind Mairesse and Bandini’s Ferraris, and fhe ollowed them home to take third spot on the podium.

By the end of the year Gilby Engineering, whose own success had been (over?)funding the racing operation, moved into other hands. Sid’s dreams were crushed, although they really didn’t do badly for such a small outfit, and Keith Greene moved into racing team management.

Gilby-Greene-compo-01-W

For the first races of 1966 a single Mk1 Eagle, considered by many to have been one of the most beautiful GP cars, powered by the six-year-old Climax engine bored out to 2.8L, was driven by Gurney whose first appearance at Spa netted him 15th and last on the grid. He was also the last car to finish, three laps down and unclassified (in 7th).
Held for the last time at the wonderfully unique Reims circuit (where the French GP had been born in 1906) Gurney qualified 14th (out of 18), and again finished three laps down, but now classified in 5th place, to claim Eagle’s first Championship points, in only its second race. A little-known tragedy is that 1950 World Champion, Nino Farina, died in a road accident on his way to spectate this race.

The race was won by 1959-1960 Champion, Jack Brabham, after a five-year win-less streak, since he left Cooper to establish his own team, and his first GP win in his own car, and the first driver to do so, en-route to his third Championship.

At Brands Hatch Gurney qualified 3rd, beaten only by the now, all-conquering Brabhams, but his engine spluttered to a halt after nine laps. In Holland Gurney was pushed back to 4th in qualifying by Jim Clark, still behind the two Brabhams… but again his engine died a death.

In Germany Gurney slipped back to 8th on the grid, as Ferrari, BRM and Cooper recovered – and retired on the penultimate lap with electrical problems.

Finally the Weslake engine appeared at Monza (alongside the new Honda V12, and the new BRM H16), and perhaps shouldn’t have bothered. It seemed to be grossly under-tested, Gurney was only able to qualify 19th (out of 20), and retired after seven laps.

In front of his home fans AAR qualified 14th, and the clutch gave out after just 13 laps so, for the final race in Mexico. Gurney reverted to the Climax-engined car – qualified 9th – and finished 5th, to take another 2pts… giving Eagle-Climax 7th in the Championship. Eagle-Weslake were unclassified.

Eagle-02

1967

Again the team started with the single Climax-engined car for Gurney, at Kyalami, where he qualified 11th, and suffered suspension failure at mid-distance but the Eagle-Weslake reappeared, and actually won the non- championship Race of Champions, held in two short heats and a longer final at Brands Hatch.

Starting from Pole Gurney won Heat I, in front of the increasingly irascible (allegedly) Surtees in the new Honda with, amazingly, Richie Ginther placed third – in a second Eagle-Weslake. Bruce McLaren took fourth, these four drivers finishing in their qualifying order…

Gurney also took Heat II, with Ginther getting the jump on Surtees for 2nd but, in the 40-lap Final, the Honda retired and Ginther slipped back, to finish 10th, four laps down. Gurney took the win (and the fastest lap), just half a second in front of Lorenzo Bandini’s Ferrari

But, sadly, at Monaco, the Eagle-Weslake was up to it’s tricks again, qualifying 7th, but retiring after just four laps… However, at Zandvoort, Gurney qualified 2nd, behind Hill’s brand new Lotus 49 DFV… but both cars retired very early on, leaving Clark to give the 49/DFV its first win, in its first race.

The rejuvenated Clark took Pole at Spa, with Gurney and Hill right behind him, but the new Lotus disappointed in the race, leaving Dan Gurney to come home for his first win in his own car – and the third ‘first-win’, for a new car. of his career. It was a resounding victory (and included the fastest lap), more than a minute ahead of Stewart/BRM, while Amon/Ferrari was a further 37sec. adrift.

In France Gurney had to accept 3rd on the grid, behind Hill and Brabham but, after Hill and Clark retired, Gurney hung on to Brabham… until a fuel leak ended his race at half distance.

At Silverstone Gurney was down to 5th on the grid, behind the Lotus’ and Brabhams… and again suffered engine maladies… while in Germany Bruce McLaren had the last of three mid-season appearances (and three retirements) in the second car, and started from 5th, to Gurney’s 4th.. but both retired.

At the first ever Canadian GP Clark & Hill started in front of Hulme, Amon, and Gurney. Clark retired, while Hill and Amon slipped back, leaving Hulme and Gurney at the front, until the ‘maestro’, Jack. passed them both for victory. Gurney scored his and Eagle’s second, and last podium.

Eagle-03

Back in Europe, for Monza (and I can’t think of a much better reason to return from Canada – other than to visit Spa to see if Bruznic has been born yet…), Gurney offered the second car to Scarfiotti, who has an unusual history…

Born in Torino in 1933, Ludovico Scarfiotti was the grandson of a founder, and the first president, of FIAT. His early days are not well recorded (though he took a class win in the 1957 Mille Miglia) but by 1962 he was European Hillclimb Champion and, in 1963, was part of the Ferrari F1 team, as well as winning at Le Mans. His first GP was in Holland, where he started 11th, and scored his first point, in 6th place… but blotted his copy-book in France by crashing in practice.

Although busy in sports-cars his F1 services were not used again until Monza the following year, in a third car, where Ferrari have often tried to improve their chances. Surtees and Bandini finished 1st & 3rd but Ludo finished 9th, a lap down.

In the 1965, non-Championship Syracuse GP, in a Scuderia Centro Sud BRM, Ludovico started from 9th and came home in 5th, two laps down. At the end of the season he was entered by Ferrari in the Mexican GP but was obliged to relinquish his car to Rodriguez during practice.

Still as a part-time Ferrari pilot for 1966 Ludo was given a third car for Germany and rather amazed everyone by qualifying in 4th place, behind Clark, Surtees and Stewart… but electrical problems side-lined him early on. However, his pace went neither unnoticed nor unrewarded and in Italy Ludovico was granted the latest V12 car which he qualified 2nd, behind Mike Parkes’ sister car, with Bandini 5th.

After a very tight ‘Monza slip-streamer’ Scarfiotti recorded the fastest lap, and crossed the line 6secs. ahead of Parkes, who had Hulme on his gearbox. Ludo was the first Italian to win for Ferrari at Monza since Ascari in 1952… and the last, to date… but it didn’t seem to be enough to gain a full-time F1 seat and, in 1967, Ludovico was entered only in Holland, where he finished 6th… and in Belgium, to finish 11th, but officially unclassified.

So, at Monza, Scarfiotti was entrusted with the second Eagle-Weslake, and qualified 10th, to Gurney’s 5th… but both cars retired after a handful of laps – with Weslake Worries.

Back across the pond for America and Mexico, Gurney qualified 3rd in both races, and retired from both… to finish 7th in the Championship.

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1968

For two years AAR had raced with very little sponsorship, to the detriment of Dan’s own purse and, as much of the money went to Weslake with, it has to be said, little return, the actual Mk1 Eagle remained little changed from 1966 to 1968, with mainly just lighter materials (titanium and magnesium) being used to bring down the weight. Len Terry, not wanting to spoil his friendship with Gurney, had moved on, and the team were stretched to compete at all.

A Mk6 was designed (the Mk2, 3, & 4 were IndyCars), but not completed, and Gurney went into the opening, New Year’s Day, race in SAfrica starting from 12th place, 4secs. behind Clark’s pole time… and retired after three- quarters distance, with an oil leak. Jim Clark went on to win, trouncing teammate, Hill, but was sadly killed in a F2 race at the Hockenheimring before the Championship got under way again, at Jarama.

Only thirteen cars started, and only five finished, but Gurney sat this one out, returning at Monaco, though he might as well have not bothered. Also missing Spa and Rouen Gurney had a one-off, for-old-times-sake, drive for Brabham in Holland, but retired again, along with Rindt and Brabham.

The Belgian race is claimed to be the first F1 GP where separate ‘wings’ were used – by Ferrari, enabling Amon to take Pole, 4secs. ahead of Stewart’s Matra. Jack Brabham’s car had something similar, plus dive-planes on the nose, but was less immediately effective.

The Eagle-Weslake returned at Brands Hatch, reassuringly qualified 6th, and suffered a fuel-pump failure after eight laps. In Germany Gurney could only achieve 10th on the grid (considering Gurney’s record at Nurburgring this is presumably a slant on the car), but the car kept going to the end, and took 9th place.

Eagle-04-W

There was a little light relief (for some) at Monza when newcomers, Mario Andretti and Bobby Unser, arrived for their first F1 race (for Lotus and BRM respectively), and immediately set the pace in qualifying… Instead of
‘dialing themselves in’, in regular IndyCar fashion, both drivers hit the rev. limiters from the get go, but there was a reason… indeed, an ulterior motive. Both drivers wanted to fly back to Indiana, for the Hoosier Hundred… as both were inline to win the American Championship… with the intention of flying back to Milan on Saturday night.

The FIA felt uneasy about being treated almost as second cousins and petulantly invoked a ruling that said: No driver could drive in an F1 GP if he had driven in another race during the preceding 24 hours. Andretti and Unser metaphorically put up two fingers (or, it might have been just one…), flew back to the States – and didn’t bother to return. History shows Mario started from Pole in Indiana but was pipped to victory by A.J.Foyt. Bobby finished just 19th but took the Championship with 4,330pts – Mario was 2nd, with 4,319…

Both drivers were ‘forgiven’ by their teams and provided with another entry in the subsequent American GP… where Mario took Pole, and Bobby managed 19th… and both retired with mechanical issues… allegedly caused by trying to change gear with still-erect fingers…

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Meanwhile, back at Monza, Gurney started from 12th, and retired with over-heating… and that was the last appearance of the Anglo American Racers Eagle Weslake in F1.

“After that the budget did not allow us to continue our F1 effort anymore. I closed down our facility in England with a heavy heart, but with the knowledge that we had put the Europeans on notice and that we had put an American Grand Prix victory in the history books for all time.

Dan Gurney acquired a McLaren M7A for the last three races, finishing 4th at Watkins Glen, before pulling his outfit back to Santa Ana – and IndyCars, where Eagles won 51 races, including the Indy-500 in 1968, 1973, & 1975.

At Jim Clark’s funeral Jim’s father took Gurney to one side and said Jim had claimed Gurney was the only driver he ever feared. What a shame Lotus, etc., did not come to equally fear the Eagles.

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In the wonderful world of ‘what-if’… What if Gurney had postponed his arrival as a constructor, and stayed at Brabham…? – he could have been a World Champion. What if Gurney, with his much respected Brabham connection, had acquired Repco engines…? – he could have been a Champion in his own Championship-winning car. What if he had been less loyal to Weslake, and adopted the Ford DFV – for just £7,500 each, when the winnings for the American GP were £8,300…?

What if… What if…

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Previously:

4th Honda

5th Mercedes

6th Hesketh

7th Porsche

8th March

9th Jordan

10th Shadow

11th Toleman

12th Toyota

13th Alfa Romeo

14th Sauber

15th Arrows

16th Stewart

17th BAR

18th – Surtees

19th – Lola

20th – Dallara

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16 responses to “The Top-20 #F1 Constructors who Failed to win a Championship – 3rd: Eagle

  1. Great read, as ever, but my favourite line has to be “Back in Europe, for Monza (and I can’t think of a much better reason to return from Canada – other than to visit Spa to see if Bruznic has been born yet…)”. – It’s the personal touch and sense of fun that make TJ13 what it is!

    • Agreed. Always fun to be in an article, even if I’m the smallest part in it 😉 my ego couldn’t been happier 🙂

        • I’ve mist the whole article to be honest. Strange. And yes I have tried rizla. Even been to the old factory in antwerp. They used to provide every packet of rolling tabac with their rolling papers here in belgium.

  2. Not only a great article (as always) but awesome pictures in this one. Happy to read it. Less happy that we’ve entered the top three. Meaning it all be over soon 🙁

    • I agree about the photos (not immodest as none of them are mine…) – the Eagle car was a stunner but also you just can’t take photos like these on tilkydromes…!
      With only two left I’m surprised nobody has been bold enough to forecast the winner… 😉

          • My guess for top spot has a history of great/quirky colour schemes, in the80s. Does second have a Canadian connection for their short life?

          • Hi Cassius
            Hahaha… nicely vague… 🙂
            2nd was one of the sport’s longest-running teams so you’re definitely wrong there…
            No.1 certainly had a distinctive colour scheme but I wouldn’t call it quirky so… you might be right – you might not.
            On the other hand… No.1 did have a Canadian connection… 😉

            So near and yet so far,,, or at least, not so near… You get one out of two, in the reverse order.
            You still have a few days to try again for No.2

            Many thanks for the comment. BJF.

          • Maybe I have them the wrong way round, not considered the length of time in F1

  3. Great article. Loved the man ever since I saw him racing in NZ at Ardmore in a F1 BRM and followed him was lucky enough to see him win at Brands Hatch. You know he won a race at Ballarat in the BRM no armco, no run off areas, just trees and banks and paddocks……….
    Proudly own a model M8C with wings signed by him arranged by Jan McLaren .

    • Many thanks for this contribution…
      I can smell a full article here, about your experiences…
      How about it…? 😉

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