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Yet another 'who is it?'


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#1 TonyKaye

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Posted 05 November 2000 - 23:41

I came across this snippet in a magazine in an automobile flea market yesterday. The magazine cost me all of 8 cents. OK, I know, last of the big spenders.......

In mid-1955 he was seriously negotiating with Ferrari for a works drive. Ugolini in particular was keen to get him. He drove in the 1955 Le Mans race and witnessed the Levegh crash from the pits. He was so appalled by the experience that he decided to retire from the sport. After the race he called Ferrari and told them of his decision. As a result he never drove for Scuderia Ferrari.


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#2 Ray Bell

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Posted 06 November 2000 - 00:25

Here we have rationalised our coin circulation, so anything that's 8 cents costs 10, 'rounded up' they call it, while 7c would be 'rounded down' to 5c and we don't any longer have a pocket full of 1c and 2c coins.
But I guess that's only a side issue... and I can't think of which driver it might be. Jean Behra, Harry Schell, Masten Gregory are candidates, and your wording gives the impression he changed his mind about retirement.

#3 Catch 22

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Posted 06 November 2000 - 01:09

The answer to your question is Phil Walters. Details may be found in Tim Considine's fine book on American Grand Prix drivers.

#4 Catch 22

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Posted 06 November 2000 - 01:31

And by the way, Walters never again drove a race car.

#5 TonyKaye

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Posted 06 November 2000 - 02:57

Wrong Catch 22.
It wasn't Phil Walters, it was Ted Tappet!
Seriously, when he told Ferrari of his decision to retire, Enzo didn't believe him and thought it was just a ruse to improve his negotiating position. Nowadays he'd probably be right.
Just think. If the Le Mans accident hadn't happened, in 1961 Phil Walters might have been the first American World champion.

#6 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 06 November 2000 - 06:00

Originally posted by TonyKaye
Wrong Catch 22.
It wasn't Phil Walters, it was Ted Tappet!

Tony, I know that the Walters/Spear duo drove a D-Type Jag at the 1955 Le Mans 24 Hrs. and retired but I cannot find Ted Tappet on the entry list of the same race. Can you please reveal with whom he was paired, what car he was driving and where he ended up in the race?

#7 Ray Bell

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Posted 06 November 2000 - 07:19

I think I know the Ted Tappet name from R & T or something, a cartoon character or a humorous writer using a pseudonym. I think, Hans, what's happening here is that Phil Walters is being said to be Ted Tappet, or Tony is simply having a joke, but I'll await the result of further posts before taking either for granted.

#8 Catch 22

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Posted 06 November 2000 - 14:54

I'm not positive about this and I certainly welcome corrections, but I think that "Ted Tappet" was a pseudonym that Phil Walters actually used when he began racing, probably to conceal his activities from disapproving parental units.

#9 TonyKaye

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Posted 06 November 2000 - 18:09

Once again you've got it right Catch 22.
Phil Walters was a very successful midget driver, in fact he won a lot more races in midgets than in sports cars. As you say he drove the midgets as Ted Tappet, but when he started to drive sports cars he reverted to his real name.
I suggested that if the Le Mans disaster had not occurred, and he had become a member of Scuderia Ferrari, he might have been World Champion in the 1961 Ferrari, rather than Phil Hill. One can take this a stage further and ponder that he might have clinched it at Bremgarten at the 1961 Swiss Grand Prix!


#10 Catch 22

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Posted 07 November 2000 - 03:34

Nice touch, Tony! Insert "Twilight Zone" theme music... (I hope that makes sense to those of you who aren't Yanks!)

#11 Barry Lake

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Posted 07 November 2000 - 07:36

This might just be the result of a short circuit in my brain somewhere, but I can't stop myself from linking Phil Hill to the Ted Tappet name.
Did Hill at some time also use the name on the speedway, or did he once stand in for Walters in a midget speedcar, using that name?
Or am I just losing my mind?

#12 Don Capps

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Posted 07 November 2000 - 17:33

Phil Hill knew "Ted Tappett" when the latter was campaigning midgets. As did another American driver -- Dan Gurney who used to root for "Tappett" after his family moved to California.

Walters/"Tappett" was an outstanding driver and simply superb at the wheel of a Cunningham. Like Tony, I have often wondered what fate would have had in store for Walters had he been picked up by the Scuderia. However, I will say that one of the feelings I have always had about this was that it prevented Phil Hill from getting into a GP car much earlier than he did. In 1956, Hill was far faster, consistent, and an all around better driver than von Trips. Yet, von Trips got the nod and almost ended his GP career before it got started. Perhaps Hill took the backlash from Ferrari that resulted when Walters quit.

This is not all that far-fetched. Recall that Moss nurtured hard feelings about Ferrari for almost a decade before finally deciding to work a deal for 1962. And Ferrari did nurse grudges for ages and ages. Whether you were guilty or not was often irrelevant.

Decisions have been made using stranger criteria as far as racing goes...

No science here, just gut instinct based of what I know of the era and how things were often done. Not everything in racing can be quantified and reduced to statistics. Often the story of a lowly placing or a retirement is far, far more than than of the winning effort. Or the stories surrounding the race far more interesting and significant than that of the race itself.

And that, Dear Readers, is where y'all come into the picture...