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Alex Blignaut


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#1 ry6

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Posted 18 January 2001 - 18:22

We heard the sad news today that Alex Blignaut, the man who for many years organised the South African Grands Prix, died.
Apparently he was electrocuted while repairing machinery on his small holding (little farm) near Johannesburg.
Alex started racing specials and sportscars (Austin Healey 100S) and MG based single seaters before graduating to a Cooper T45 Climax (F2-8-58) apparently an ex Jim Russel school car with a magnesium body. He raced this in the early 60's in the Springbok series events such as the Rand Grand Prix while at the same time organising the race!
He must have been in charge of about a dozen World Championship SAGP's at Kyalami and also used to run the Summer series long distance sportscar races so well patronised by overseas teams.
When SA ran its own 3 liter F1 series he ran cars like a Tyrell for Eddie Keizan and a Surtees for Nols Nieman, generally doing most of the preparation himself!
I had many dealings of a racing nature with him and he was strict and fair.
Rob Young







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#2 Boniver

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Posted 18 January 2001 - 19:19

XI South African Grand Prix
1 jan 1965

East London

entry list

#33 Alex Blignaut Cooper 56 Climax Team Valencia - forfet dna

#3 Boniver

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Posted 18 January 2001 - 19:41

Alex Blignaut Team - Car Tyrrell Ford 004

1976: ZA I Scheckter*
1975: ZA I Scheckter*
1974: ZA Keizan
1973: ZA Keizan**

* Lexington Racing
** Blignaut-Lucky Strike Racing




#4 Boniver

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Posted 18 January 2001 - 19:56

SUNDAY TIMES 5 december 1999Alex's big moment with V16 BRM


OUR recent report on the V16-engined BRM's visit to Kyalami in 1968 triggered some warm memories in the mind of Alex Blignaut, who was promoter of the SA Grand Prix at the time.

Graham Hill had been promised a drive in the legendary car after winning the world championship for BRM, but had moved on to join Lotus by the time they were able to provide a working V16.

Intent on keeping their promise, BRM negotiated with Blignaut to bring out the car for Hill to drive on the morning of the GP.

In those days, GP racing was a relaxed affair and the drivers had a fair amount of spare time. In fact, a highlight of the SA event was the opportunity of staying on Kyalami's doorstep (at the Kyalami Ranch) and soaking up the sun.

The BRM V16 was unpacked and prepared for its demonstration in just such a relaxed atmosphere. When the time came to send the car out for a shakedown run, the mechanics realised Hill was relaxing at the poolside in the nearby hotel.

They proposed that Blignaut find a helmet and goggles and take the car for a shakedown run (he did, after all, possess an intimate knowledge of the circuit, and had raced a little in his day).

Blignaut can still recall his excitement: "What an offer! Obviously it didn't take too long to conjure up a helmet, and after a short briefing I was sent on my way.

"The words 'don't bend it' didn't have to be said. They were ingrained in my mind. But still, the temptation to have some fun remained. I tiptoed around the corners and squirted it on the straight bits, mindful of the probable peak revs of 10 500. Unfortunately, the glorious sound of the V16 is muted for the driver, but the sensation was vintage GP car.

"It didn't take long for the little boy to come out in me. On my last lap I gave the car its head down the main straight. When I next looked down, the rev counter was off the scale. Later the mechanics told me this meant an engine speed of over 12 500rpm and a speed of well over 300km/h!"










#5 Allen Brown

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Posted 19 January 2001 - 09:40

That's sad news.

Blignaut was a name I knew well as two of my outstanding mysteries concern his cars - a Cooper T53 that might not have been a T53 and a Surtees TS9 that might not be the TS9 we think it was. Maybe now I'll never know.

It just shows that we have to talk to these sort of people while they are still here to be talked to. You never know what might happen - one freak accident and a chapter of history closes.

Allen

#6 ry6

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Posted 19 January 2001 - 15:01

Alex was 68 when he passed away.
He was secretary of SAMRAC (SA Motor Racing Club) for many years and was charged with oversseeing the construction of Kyalami.
A recent report on his passing desribed him as "forthright to the point of being blunt" and as a "benevolent dictator.

A little anecdote..

I remember one year of the SAGP. I was in SAMRAC's offices giving a story to Alex on why I should get some press tickets to complement my quota of entrant tickets for the supporting saloon car race and there was a chap behind me.

This guy was dressed in cordroy bell bottoms and his black shoes were scuffed and had seen better days. He was also trying to scrounge some extra tickets.
He had entered a couple of obsolete de Tomaso's in the GP.
I don't think the cars went too well in the race.
Years later this entrant was to win the world championship with his own cars.

(Oh yes, both the GP entrant and I were successful in our quest for tickets.)

Interesting item - by entering a supporting race you could buy additional GP tickets cheaper than at the gate.Us impecunious enthusiasts thought of everything.

How friendly and relaxed it was in those days...

PS .. Allen what T53 are you interested in. I can try to get some info.

Alex told me last year that t hemagnesium bodied Cooper was burned up so that it could be disposed of, by his mechanic!
They then buried the remains on his little farm. A number of people had been trying to buy the chassis number plate from him.

#7 ry6

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Posted 19 January 2001 - 16:43

Allen I am not an expert but the only local T53 seems to have been T53-F1/1/61 which was an ex Surtees Yeoman Credit car. Tony Maggs got the car and from there it seems to have gone to Mike Harris, who won the Rhodesian Championship with it.
Went last heard of this car was with Ivan Glasby in Australia.
I cannot find a link to Alex with this car.
Regards
Rob

#8 david_martin

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Posted 19 January 2001 - 17:06

Originally posted by ry6
This guy was dressed in cordroy bell bottoms and his black shoes were scuffed and had seen better days.


I have a hard time picturing Frank Williams in bell bottoms :)

#9 Allen Brown

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Posted 21 January 2001 - 16:29

Rob

That's the car I'm talking about. The F1 Register have it with Alex Blignaut in 1963 but I have noticed a picture in a very obscure book called 'Springbok Grand Prix' by some South African fellow whose name escapes me which seems to show him in a T51. It's on page 77 if you happen to have a copy to hand.

Which all makes the Harris car a bit of a mystery. If it was left in South Africa at the end of the 1961/62 international races, then why doesn't Harris appear in it until October? And then where did it go?

Any ideas?

Allen

#10 ry6

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Posted 21 January 2001 - 16:48

I have looked at the pic. Malcolm Kinsey was the photographer.
Is it a T53 or is it Alex's T45?
I think it's the T45.
If it has a T53 "nose" that may be because the SA drivers were quick to share glass fibre moulds etc and change the cars about a bit. But Alex told me his car was an ex Jim Russell school car with a magnesium body.
(The MacIntosh/Sheldon book has a lot of mistakes and misprints for instance it mentions Clive Trundell driving a T43 when it was a T45 and Trevor Blokdyk driving a T53 when I am sure he had only a T56.)
I will try to find out more about Harris and his Cooper though - somewhere I have a photo of it at the 1962 SAGP.
Regards
Rob

#11 David McKinney

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Posted 21 January 2001 - 16:58

Just to throw a cat among the pigeons, F2-8-58 was the number of Jim Russell’s personal 1958/59 car, later raced by Mike McKee. McKee advertised it for sale at the end of 1961, and it was for sale again in 1964 with an 1100 engine.
I’m sure this does not mean Blignaut’s car did not have an F2-8-58 plate, or even that his car was not the ex-Russell car. I have long believed that regular Cooper customers kept their old chassis-plates when buying new cars, and it is quite possible Russell (and his protégé McKee) used more than one car in the three seasons they raced in F2.



#12 ry6

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Posted 21 January 2001 - 18:47

Jack Brabham raced a Cooper T53 in the December 1960 SAGP at East London. It was, I believe, the first a "low line" Cooper and I am sure they had coil springs all round.
(The LDS-1 built by Doug Serrurier which Sam Tingle raced so successfully was apparently based on the T53 low line. I submitted a photo of this car to Classic Car Africa which they may use in the January 2001 issue.)
This nose and front bodyshape of the T53 is much different than that of Alex's car in the picture at Kyalami in the 1963 Rand GP as pictured in "Springbok Grand Prix".
I am almost sure that Alex is driving his old Cooper and that those who say it was a T53 are wrong.

David is very right about chassis plates and numbers. I am quite sceptical about this. In times before these cars became so valuable/desireable was as much attention paid to chassis numbers?

Regards
Rob


#13 Allen Brown

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Posted 22 January 2001 - 14:13

Rob

I quite agree that the picture shows Blignaut driving a much earlier type of Cooper. I assumed T51 but I would quite believe T45 - that is way beyond my period and those old things all look the same to me!

The Brabham 1960 car was the one David and I now believe to be F2-17-60, a fourth 1960 T53 built for Brabham's private use. His Motor Racing column in March 1961 says he shipped "his" T53 from South Africa to Australia for the Internationals in February. After that, other references in the magazines imply this was the same T53 Brabham used in Intercontinental in 1961. After that, we can't be sure, but it is known he had a spare frame with him in Australia in February 1962 and I would suggest that was the same car. David's not so sure but we keep putting the peices together and one day it may all make sense.

Rob - I need to ask you straight out and stop being coy. Are you the same Rob Young that wrote 'Springbok Grand Prix' 30-odd years ago? If you are, I should tell you I'm now on my second copy - the first one fell apart through overuse. It's an excellent piece of work.

There are many outstanding South African Cooper questions. Would you be willing to help David and me sort through some of them?

Allen

#14 ry6

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Posted 22 January 2001 - 17:54

A Cooper T53 was raced in New Zealand by Jack Brabham F2-8-60, according to the Vercoe book.

I don't know if this is the "lowline" he raced in the Dec 1960 SAGP.

Yes, I am the obsure chap who wrote Springbok Grand Prix all that time ago. I was very young when I did it and it has a few mistakes in it. But at the time I relied on the best information possible and of course there was the inevitable typo error.

I will try to help as best possible with your Cooper research.

I am not trying to promote our hobby quarterly magazine unfairly thru this forum, but a subscription will help a) us who put it together and b) be a valuable source of reference material for you.

If you are interested please phone Isebel at 27 11 396 2012.


Regards
Robert Young



#15 Don Capps

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Posted 22 January 2001 - 19:24

I am sadden to hear about the death of Alex Blignaut. The stories I heard about him seemed to indicate that he was a member of that wonderful club, A Character with Character.

I have long believed that regular Cooper customers kept their old chassis-plates when buying new cars, and it is quite possible Russell (and his protégé McKee) used more than one car in the three seasons they raced in F2.


...and...

David is very right about chassis plates and numbers. I am quite sceptical about this. In times before these cars became so valuable/desireable was as much attention paid to chassis numbers?


I mentioned some time ago how I became interested in such arcane data when there were several museums and teams all with claims to having the Fangio Nurburgring 250F. This was 1959. As a Lad fully coversant with aircraft designation systems and serials -- the value of being a Lad in those days is that people didn't think this odd in the least -- I wondered about if there was something like that for cars. Being a Lad, I naturally asked Someone and lo & behold there was! I was informed that in some cases -- as I believe a Cooper was being pointed to -- don't take it too literally since customs forms are more important than the cars....and Maseratis were the worst of the lot with Cooper a close second.

Starting at that time I took an interest and tried to track such information when possible. Keep in mind that at that time -- & later -- few even knew Coopers had 'type' numbers much less what they were! Naturally , as a Lads, we knew this sort of thing....

Just the other day, at an auction -- its initials are "B-J" not that I would be give anytthing away -- the 'star' of the show, an Alfa Romeo 8C with an expected price of $2.5M, was pulled since its identity was challenged; another 8C apparently having the same telaio number interestingly enough. Naturally the Gordon Gekko Gang professed shock & dismay at this news....

Oh, the Someone I asked was about my 12-year old height and had a beard and wrote for some English magazine and signed his articles "DSJ".... Again, one of the advantages of being a Lad...

#16 Allen Brown

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Posted 23 January 2001 - 18:52

Rob

If you are aware of typo errors in Springbok, why not post them here. It is one of the best books on that period and is likely to be quoted far and wide.

I have referred to it constantly while putting together my LDS histories - I believe your account of what engine was in each car far more than other accounts I could mention.

Allen

#17 Allen Brown

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Posted 23 January 2001 - 18:54

Rob

... and yes, I will subscribe. That sort of advertising can't be a problem here as it is exactly the sort of resource many of us are looking for.

Allen

#18 Ray Bell

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Posted 23 January 2001 - 22:55

Being away and limited with access to the forum, I refrained from looking at this thread earler.
My comment is not of the nature of those previously made, but of my shame in not doing so...
When Mike began posting several months ago I instantly recognised his name and his family's position in relation to GP racing, but this one didn't strike a chord.
Perhaps not so well-used in the American magazines?

But the name was in the background and, as I say, I am ashamed that I didn't recognise it. And it seems that the background is bigger than I ever imagined.

A couple of points:
I can contact Ivan Glasby if this would help...
But I thought he only played with Bristol-engined cars. I know he likes sneaking stuff out of Africa.
I don't think it would have taken me till the last lap to floor the BRM, but who knows? Opportunities to try available anywhere? What an experience to have out of the blue!
This man was a part of South African racing for its most important decades, a vital part. His passing is indeed sad.

Rob, any value in exchanging Newsletters? The one I produce is the National HRR Newsletter here in Australia. PM me, please...

#19 ry6

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Posted 24 January 2001 - 17:58

Dear Allen
When I started writing Springbok Grand Prix I was VERY young - still at school. I had to rely on newpaper cuttings, visits to the races with my dad or friends, talking to mechanics, programmes - making my own lap charts etc.
I could not afford motoring magazines to supllement the research at the time. You used the best information available at the time.

This is not a SOB story but all those years ago I just did not have the experience to double check things. 99% of the book is accurate though.
Just a few errors that come to mind -

Pg 26 : the Cooper T51 that Jo Eckhoff bought was not ex-Wolfgang Seidel, it was ex Moss. It's engine was alledgedly ex-Brabham.

Pg 57 - Read Ivan Glasby, not Eric.

Pg 119 caption - should be T79
Pg 133 caption - should be T79

My LDS information I believe is accurate.

Regards
Rob

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#20 Allen Brown

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Posted 26 January 2001 - 10:58

Rob

I've just realised you are referring to Classic Car Africa.

I am already a subscriber!

Allen

PS Not that I've had a copy recently - I must check I've told you about my change of address! :blush:

#21 Marcor

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Posted 27 January 2001 - 04:40

Rob,

Where (and how) can I find "Springbook" and how much does it cost ?

The same question for Classic Car Africa (it seems to be very interesting)... A telephon number can't help me, but an e-mail adress can interest me...



#22 ry6

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Posted 27 January 2001 - 10:58

Dear Marcor
You can contact me at ry6@pixie.co.za on how to obtain Springbok Grand Prix.
You can contact Isebel van der Westhuizen at benvdw@mweb.co.za for subscription to the quarterly Classic Car Africa
See also website http://www.classic-car.co.za
Regards
Rob

#23 KzKiwi

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Posted 27 January 2001 - 19:33

Rob,

Can you please give us your unbiased views on the main differences between your book, "Springbok Grand Prix", and the 2 other books about South African motoring and motorsport, "Early Motoring In South Africa" and "Sun on the Grid" (are there more?).

From comments in your earlier postings on this thread, the LDS Mk1 was based on the 1960 Cooper T53. With reference to Doug Nyes book "Autocourse History of the Grand Prix Car 1945/65" he mentions that the first LDS was a front engined device that appeared in 1956. In Hodges "A to Z of Formula Racing Cars" he comments that the Mk1 was based on the 1957 Cooper F1/F2 chassis. So we have differences in configuration and the year of manufacture. Can you give us your opinion on these irregularities? Do any of the issues of Classic Car Africa have articles on these and other similar specials?

Regards,

Kirk

#24 Allen Brown

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Posted 27 January 2001 - 22:54

Kirk

It depends on what you see as the first LDS. Remember that Serrurier didn't number them so anything you see in the reference books is just historians attempting to make sense of it all.

What Doug is referring to is the front-engined 'Speedy Engineering Special' which gave Serrurier a couple of years of cheap and cheerful racing in the late 1950’s. He followed that with an ex-Alan Brown Cooper T45, fitted with a 1470cc Alfa Romeo engine, for 1960. His 1961 car, to be called the LDS, would be the first of nine or ten cars to bear the name.

In my histories, I have followed the numbering system used by Jannie van Aswegen and Peter de Toit in their wonderful LDS article in Classic Car Africa in December 1994 (with just one modification - I am not convinced Gene Bosman had a new car, I suspect it was the ex-Pillman/Love car). Jannie's system is itself only a minor modification to the system used by the Formula 1 Register in Thompson’s The Formula One Record Book in 1974. The numbering system used in the late 1980s by Mike Lawrence in his book Grand Prix Cars 1961-65 is probably erroneous.

I have always understood the first car to be based on George Mennie's Cooper T45, as driven in 1960 by Dave Wright. I thought it was the 1962 car that was based on the lowline. However, I could well be wrong - it wouldn't be the first time!

Allen

#25 ry6

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Posted 28 January 2001 - 07:59

First the books -
"Early Motoring in SA" is an excellent book on "motoring" but has about 3 pages on racing, most of that pre-war racing. If you are looking for racing this is not for you but I have a cpy or two and think it's great.
My book "Springbok Grand Prix" covers the International races, eg SAGP, Rands GP, Natal GP's and Cape GPs from Jan 1960 to the 1969 SAGP. It has 159 pgs and plenty of photos, both colour and b&w. It has results, grids as well. It is written in report form - race by race.
"Sun on the Grid" by Ken Stewart and Norman Reich covers the pre-war races, the post war International events from 1950ish to 1959 and then the International races from 1960 to 1967. It also has a section on endurance racing in SA.
It also has numerous photos both colour and b&w. It is also a valuable reference work and great effort by Ken. It was reprinted recently I believe in just b&w.

The LDS -
Doug had an interesting car called the "Climax Spl" with front engined 1100 climax in the mid fifties. It had a tailfin too! See old issues of Classic Car Africa (CCA).

I think this became the Speedy Engineering spl.

Doug first imported a Cooper T45 - we think F2/22/57, but the story goes that he was struggling financially to race and was waiting for somebody to buy his Speedy Engineering Spl to help finance the Brown Cooper and sold it to Syd van der Vyver who won the SA Championship in it in 1960.

Doug then bought F2/2/58 and fitted an Alfa engine and raced this very successfully.

Peter du Toit and Jan v Aswegen wrote a story on the LDS cars in issue 1 of CCA about the LDS's.
I agree that it is unlikely that a man like Doug would ever have put "numbers" to the cars (eg LDS1 etc same as I dont believe that Cooper and many others bothered)

The first LDS was according to my info the "lowline" Cooper T53 copy which ran in 1961.
From my info the Gene Bosman LDS (5) was an all new car.
The Pillman LDS, which ran with a Porsche motor, seems to have been sold to Dave Hume, who fitted it with a Climax and later an Alfa.

In due course I will contact Doug and a few others involved at the time and try to find out more.
Regards
Rob





#26 KzKiwi

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Posted 30 January 2001 - 06:55

Alan and Rob,

Thanks for your very informative comments. They were much appreciated.

Regards,

Kirk

#27 macoran

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Posted 24 June 2006 - 19:51

posting for ry6

Posted Image
Alex Blignaut races his T45 in the 1964 Rand Winter trophy at Kyalami.


Another photo of Alex Blignaut.
Posted Image
Racing an LDS in the 1964 Rand GP.

#28 axlex

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Posted 24 June 2006 - 22:31

Very beautiful pictures !

I will enjoy to see come pics of this wonderful series ! :up:

Thanks :kiss:

#29 macoran

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Posted 24 June 2006 - 23:14

Originally posted by axlex
Very beautiful pictures !

I will enjoy to see come pics of this wonderful series ! :up:

Thanks :kiss:


I've posted more pics for ry6 on the Doug Serrurier thread.

#30 ry6

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Posted 25 June 2006 - 14:45

Thanks Marc for you postings.

Helmut I can't get thru your spam blocker to reply to your query about Alex and Chris.

#31 macoran

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 20:08

posting for ry6

Posted Image

Alex in his Cooper racing in the 1964 Rand Winter Trophy