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29th November 1975


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#1 Barry Boor

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Posted 27 November 2002 - 20:19

On this, the eve of the 27th anniversary of Graham Hill's tragic accident, I thought I would post this image of the Old Man waving goodbye, on the occasion of his official retirement at the Silverstone Grand Prix meeting that July.

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Spare a thought also, for Tony Brise and the rest of the team on board the aircraft.

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#2 Gary C

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Posted 27 November 2002 - 21:49

my goodness, is it that long ago? I can remember that Sunday evening very well. I had been to a family party that night, while my father was driving home, I switched on the car radio and it was announced that Graham had perished in the plane crash along with some members of his team. It hit me quite hard as Graham was my first motor racing hero. God speed, Mr.Monaco!

#3 Vitesse2

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Posted 27 November 2002 - 22:15

Thanks Barry. Like Gary said, it doesn't seem like twenty-seven years. (Just a small correction though - it was a Saturday, not a Sunday).

I'd been working that day and was suffering from some sort of viral infection - a few years later they'd have called it ME :rolleyes: - and had gone to bed early, probably well before 10, so the first I knew was the following morning when my mother came into my room with a cup of coffee and said "I've got some very bad news for you ...."

A dreadful day :cry:

Graham was my first motor racing hero.



Mine too :up:

RIP Graham Hill, Tony Brise, Andy Smallman, Terry Richards, Ray Brimble and Tony Alcock.

#4 Doug Nye

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Posted 27 November 2002 - 22:40

Vivid memories for Valerie and myself also - the first radio report was along the lines of "a private aircraft has crashed in dense fog while attempting to land at Elstree Aerodrome, Hertfordshire. The aircraft came down on a golf course at Arkley, in North London. Emergency services are attending the scene...there is no word on possible casualties or survivors...".

Hearing that - and knowing that the teams had been testing at Ricard-Castellet - and that Graham flew from Elstree and would ALWAYS try to get back in there no matter what - I felt acutely uncomfortable and screwed-up and said to my wife "Oh no - that's Graham Hill. I bet that's Graham..."

And sadly it was....

Almost simultaneously, 'Road & Track' published a story on Graham's retirement by Rob Walker It was already in production I seem to recall at the time of the crash, and it was too late to change a word of it. If I remember rightly, in his story Rob wrote of Graham landing somewhere - I think at Southend (again from memory) - in complete clag, the thickest of thick fogs "...and he was the only pilot to get in there all day...".

Which was half the problem...

Poor Graham, and even poorer the lads who were flying back, so despondently, with him - for the new GH car had just proved to be very poor, Graham was wound-up tighter than a nine-day watch, ratty as hell, and his young designer Andy 'Pencil' Smallman must have been particularly stressed, dismayed and disappointed.... The atmosphere within that aircraft must have been thick enough to cut with a knife - even before that fatal approach.

And then in zero visibility Graham just kept boring in - and they hit the grasping branches of that tree...

DCN

#5 Barry Boor

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Posted 27 November 2002 - 22:55

for the new GH car had just proved to be very poor



This is the first time I have EVER heard this!

Do you have any details, Doug?

I had been out on that Saturday night and never learned the sad news until I opened the Sunday paper. One of those moments that leave an awful, empty space somewhere in your stomach.

#6 bill moffat

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Posted 27 November 2002 - 23:09

this is a thread that is obviously evoking strong memories. I was a young medical student struggling with a significant hangover that Sunday morning. Ever-hopeful of a cure I was taking a walk in Notting Hill Gate when the newsagent's banner hijacked me with the dreadful news.

The circumstances of the accident were a distillate of the man's character. He was a clever man, a professional, a charmer but also a risk-taker and, at times, bloody minded to an unusual degree. That Tony Brise and a talented team of engineers shared his fate added to the bitterness. So many times I had witnessed Brise's metronomic brilliance in the Modus, now this whole wonderful dream had literally exploded.

Damon provided the wonderful post script but his dad will always provide me with the fondest memories of F1 as it should be.

#7 Vitesse2

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Posted 28 November 2002 - 00:03

Originally posted by Doug Nye
... the new GH car had just proved to be very poor ....
DCN


I knew there had been some problems with it - you were a little less harsh in the Autocourse history though, Doug:

It reputedly had many problems ... some weeks of hard work to put it all right .....



and David Hodges said it was

apparently found wanting in several respects



Is "very poor" perhaps overstating the case a bit? Or am I clutching at straws?

#8 Ray Bell

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Posted 28 November 2002 - 09:42

There were many Australian motor racing people at Phillip Island that weekend... I know I was among them... it certainly did hit home, especially for those of us who had also known Tony Alcock so well.

A very personable man, ready to discuss his cars with anyone at any time, totally dedicated to his work.

I wonder what he could have achieved had this not happened?

#9 petefenelon

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Posted 28 November 2002 - 13:01

Originally posted by Vitesse2
Thanks Barry. Like Gary said, it doesn't seem like twenty-seven years. (Just a small correction though - it was a Saturday, not a Sunday).


It was the Saturday night, I guess most of us heard it on the Sunday morning - I remember hearing it on the radio news.

RIP Graham Hill, Tony Brise, Andy Smallman, Terry Richards, Ray Brimble and Tony Alcock.


pete

#10 BRG

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Posted 28 November 2002 - 13:55

A sad anniversary. I remember it well, as I was due to do a night-rally that evening. But my driver and I decided not to bother because the fog was so thick. I think I heard the news on the car radio on my way home. It was a horrible night, even without that news.

My thoughts are with Bette and Damon Hill and the families of all the victims today.

#11 Doug Nye

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Posted 28 November 2002 - 17:51

Pretty horrible business all round really - but as Graham himself often said, life goes on...

If I recall rightly the inquiry found that the root cause of the catastrophe was probably what is almost the simplest of distraction errors - Graham had left his aircraft's altimeter set to display QNH - altitude above sea level - instead of QFE - local altitude above ground. Elstree Aerodrome lies notionally at 354 feet above sea level, I believe, and at the point of impact one might expect an aircraft on approach to the aerodrome to be around that height above local ground...but absolutely not sea... level - and he hit the upper branches of the tree which commenced the break-up of the aircraft.

Richard (Vitesse) - you write as if you are a particular fan of the Hill GH cars??? No reason why you shouldn't be, but I feel on reflection the emphasis I applied (while casually clattering down the line about the new car's testing performance) is about right...

All racers want their latest to be right straight out of the box. A 10-item major job list would be pretty darned good - 25 items a severe disappointment - 50-75 (which I believe was the new Hill car's at minimum) pretty much a racing disaster...

DCN

#12 ian senior

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Posted 29 November 2002 - 12:43

Perhaps I didn't really want to be reminded of this anniversary. I have to say that my love affair with motor racing started to wane form that day forward. Graham was my first hero in the sport and things were just never quite the same after that. To me, he WAS Mr Motor Racing.

#13 Vitesse2

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Posted 29 November 2002 - 13:12

Originally posted by ian senior
Perhaps I didn't really want to be reminded of this anniversary. I have to say that my love affair with motor racing started to wane form that day forward. Graham was my first hero in the sport and things were just never quite the same after that. To me, he WAS Mr Motor Racing.


Amen.

A few months ago, I did an article for 8W on Graham, which awakened a lot of old memories and feelings and that "awful, empty space somewhere in your stomach". It was very difficult to find the right words to close it:

Graham Hill seemed to be the ultimate survivor – he had made it through a period in which many great and not-so-great drivers had lost their lives to the sport and come out comparatively unscathed – and British enthusiasts were looking forward to 1976 when it seemed that his team, led by the rapidly-improving Tony Brise, might be challenging for victories, but all that changed on the foggy night of November 29th 1975. I can still remember the terrible empty feeling I had when I heard that Graham Hill’s plane had crashed on Arkley golf course after apparently mistaking its lights for those of Elstree airfield. He had come down in some trees and Graham and all his passengers were killed instantly – the heart and soul was ripped out of the Embassy-Hill team as the owner, driver and designer all perished, along with three mechanics – Terry Richards, Ray Brimble and Tony Alcock.

A few days before he died, Graham had been guest of honour at a dinner of the prestigious National Sporting Club in London to celebrate his life and career. It is somehow fitting that this is the last event recorded in his second autobiography, which was meant to end with this sentence:

While I had been a racing driver I had often said to audiences during speeches and talks: ‘You know the risks, you accept them. If a man can’t look at danger and still go on, man has stopped living. If the worst ever happens – then it means simply that I’ve been asked to pay the bill for the happiness of my life – without a moment’s regret.’

Sadly, that was not the last word and it was left to his widow Bette to write a postscript to the book, which even today I cannot read without being moved to tears. In it, she quotes the Bishop of St Albans at Graham’s funeral service:

‘Graham brought happiness to millions. Whether you knew him from a distance, or close to, he was for real’.



#14 ian senior

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Posted 29 November 2002 - 13:25

Thanks Vitesse2. I'm not ashamed to admit that I have a few tears in my eyes too. We all know the risks that drivers take and the possible consequences. It's just that Graham's death was a bit more than I could take.

#15 peetbee

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Posted 29 November 2002 - 13:37

:cry:

My thoughts are with Bette and Damon Hill and the families of all the victims today.



I echo these thoughts.
Graham's autobiography 'Life at the Limit' is one of the best books I've read as it really showed how he struggled to get started in racing and become 'Mr Monaco'. A great inspiration even if I was too young to see him race at his peak.

#16 David M. Kane

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Posted 29 November 2002 - 13:46

Ted Wentz, the American who was a test driver for Lola at the time, was offered a lift back on that flight but turned it down. I think he said he
was too tired and he would fly back in the morning.

What a mixture of feelings he must be having this time of year.

#17 dmj

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Posted 29 November 2002 - 14:29

I was certainly too young at the time to notice such news but it is interesting that nothing else but that particular accident through a strange twist of fate showed me the right way in my life some 20 years after it actually happened. I hadn't got any job; I slowly begin to understand that I'll never manage to graduate in art history... Most terrifying of all, I didn't have any idea what I would like to do in my life. Then I contested in a TV quiz show and did it pretty well. And, of course, I watched that show every week, to analyze my potential opponents... One week, there was a game where contestants had to know who of 20 mentioned people died in an airplane crash and who didn't. Graham Hill was included but marked as one of latter group! Obviously they wanted to include one famous driver and didn't check, thinking that F1 champions must die in a racing accident... A few weeks later, when it was my turn to contest, I mentioned mistake to author of the quiz (that quiz was usually, I have to mention, very good researched, with very few, if any, mistakes). He was impressed – wow, if this boy can find mistake in what 5 or 6 very knowledgeable people already checked, then he surely can help us! So he offered me to join the team and start making and checking questions for next season. Even today, I am still making questions for Croatian version of «Who wants to be a millionaire» and, even if it isn't my daily job anymore, this is something I really like to do. And that experience actually opened me a lot of doors later – that particular quiz show is still remembered fondly and highly regarded here. Of course it wasn't the only reason why they offered me that job, but I still feel that to certain extent I owe it to Graham Hill...

#18 Jim Thurman

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Posted 30 November 2002 - 02:09

I remember that I was getting ready to go to school, eating a bowl of cereal while looking through the sports section of the San Diego Union when I ran across the item on Graham Hill's plane crash.

It was Monday morning's paper.

I still remember a piece from AP wire that listed "the many racing drivers that died in crashes on the track" and included Graham Hill :rolleyes:

I imagine Ted Wentz feels much the same as Waylon Jennings did about giving up his seat on the ill fated plane flight that Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper were on, and the way many who missed, cancelled or were bumped from planes that ultimately crashed feel.


Jim Thurman

#19 Gary C

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Posted 30 November 2002 - 02:16

and indeed, Eric Clapton, on the helicopter that was carrying Stevie Ray Vaughn

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#20 Ralliart

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Posted 30 November 2002 - 04:56

It is my understanding that Wolfgang von Trips was booked as a passenger on a flight that left Italy the day after the '61 Italian GP. The airliner crashed that Monday with many dead. Seems von Trips was destined not to get out of Italy alive, one way or the other.

#21 rdrcr

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Posted 30 November 2002 - 06:56

Barry, Thanks for posting that great picture and thoughts... If there was any great driver that suffered the most tragic demise after surviving what I would call one of, if not the most, dangerous eras in Grand Prix racing, it would be Graham Hill. From what I've read, his memory lives on with great distinction as a champion in manner, character and deed. And as Barry so aptly mentions, also to be remembered, are the lives of Tony Brice and the other members of the crew.

Doug, If what you state is correct about his failure to set the altimeter - then it is a case of pilot error and a grievous one at that. I've read various reports, including his getting lost & dioriented. An elementary and routine function is to continue to set one's altimeter. Especially prior to a landing approach and moreover, in IFR conditions... Alas, no FMS equipment existed in those days to remind the pilot should he forget.

Originally posted by Jim Thurman
"....I imagine Ted Wentz feels much the same as Waylon Jennings did about giving up his seat on the ill fated plane flight that Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper were on, and the way many who missed, cancelled or were bumped from planes that ultimately crashed feel...."

I understand that Jennings fate was decided by a coin toss with The Big Bopper...

#22 Eric McLoughlin

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Posted 30 November 2002 - 10:20

Failure to set altimeters correctly is a common error and certainly a Piper Aztec of those days would not have had any sort of ground proximity warning device fitted. In fact, not many aircraft in that category today would have one fitted either. Some pilots actually use QNH (air pressure at sea level) settings all the time but those that do need to remember the altitude above sea level of the airfield they are using. I don't know what Graham Hill's normal setting would have been but landing an aircraft in the confditions that prevailed that night would have been extremely stressful. In addition, I'm sure they were all very tired that evening and perhaps the atmosphere in the 'plane was not condusive to clear thinking.

The fact that the team 'plane was a humble Aztec shows how "poor" F1 teams were in those days compared to todays executive jet outfits.

#23 Vitesse2

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 22:52

Thirty years. :cry:

November 29th and April 7th are two dates I dread.

Once more: RIP Graham Hill, Tony Brise, Andy Smallman, Terry Richards, Ray Brimble and Tony Alcock. Thanks for the memories.

At least the GH2 still lives and is finally up and running. :up:

#24 Gary Davies

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 23:04

Thanks for the memories, NGH. As a pimply schoolboy in the sixties I, too, 'adopted' Graham Hill after Stirling's enforced retirement.

November 1975 was a dark time for me. I'd just returned to Oz after 6 difficult months in the UK and hearing of the tragedy hit hard. It still does. Thoughts to Bette, Damon, Brigitte and Samantha.

#25 AAA-Eagle

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 23:53

:( yes, guys, it's very sad day in motorsport history...................................

#26 Gokart Mozart

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 01:20

I just updated my Ebay item...I didn't realize that the photo I put on Ebay last week of Tony Brise was set to end on the 29th.....very weird...

In all respect,

Jacques N. Dresang

#27 AAA-Eagle

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 19:55

It was 31 years ago... :cry:

#28 flat-16

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 20:17

From the photos I've seen, it would appear that GH was the king of Monaco on and off the circuit.

Definitely one of the most photogenic drivers of any era; the likes of Goddard and Cooper seemed to capture his personality very well.


Justin

#29 sterling49

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 20:43

Bless him, one of Motor Racing's real gentlemen, I always watched his progress with more than a passing interest, Graham opened our school bank in 1965, between practice sessions for the Race of Champions, he was always so eloquent and quotable also.

#30 33 route d'orleans

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 20:54

These are some photos provided by Jean-Claude Arnold, Marcel Arnold's son (famous french sponsor in the 70 's), about this sad date : http://memoiresdesta...ude-arnold.html

#31 Barry Boor

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 23:40

I have just sent The Administrator a message with a new URL for the photo in the first post of this thread, as I cannot edit the message myself.

#32 Vitesse2

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Posted 30 November 2006 - 00:31

I think it was something like this, Barry:

Posted Image

#33 swede917

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Posted 30 November 2006 - 00:45

It does not seem 27 years ago I was reading of this tragedy in the LA Times, being 17 at the time and a big F1 fan. Years later I would have the privilege of working with Alan Turner who was Team Manager for Graham in those days, he told of riding back in the truck rather than flying with Graham after the test, as one could expect it was not the easiest thing to discuss with the loss of so many close friends and colleagues, 2 of them being very talented drivers one a World Champion, the other with the talent to be.

They are always in our thoughts.


Posted Image

#34 Terry Walker

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Posted 30 November 2006 - 01:52

Can I lob in this previously unpublished pic of Graham Hill and Bruce McLaren at Longford? The guy in the brown sweater in the next car is Bob Jane. Photo taken by Peter Longley.

Posted Image

#35 Ralliart

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Posted 30 November 2006 - 08:54

Does any one else wonder what the weather was like when the plane took off? In other words, if the weather was fine at takeoff, but the party knew that approaching England it deteriorated, when did it deteriorate and why not, then, divert and land somewher in good conditions? Stay overnight and fly out the next morning. If the conditions were bad at takeoff, that's another question but being as they were cleared for takeoff, presumably the conditions were satisfactory. Also, it seems Ted Wentz begged off due to tiredness, not because of the conditions. All so very unfortunate and I do remember seeing the feature in Road & Track that was cited. I wonder, too, if there are any details of that testing session? A private test or other teams (as a benchmark for how bad the '76 car was). Was just the '76 car run? Was the '75 car there (benchmark/mule)? If so, was the '76 car slower? If not, why not? Brise had gone well in the '75 car. Had they wrung out of it all they could? Was their contract with Lola so binding that they couldn't at least buy a year-old chasis from someone until a proper '76 or '76 1/2 car was designed?

#36 Vitesse2

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Posted 30 November 2006 - 12:30

Much of what you're asking is covered in "Lost Generation". Interestingly, Tremayne contradicts what Doug said above re the GH2, quoting a telex sent to Ian Flux saying that the GH2 was now faster than the GH1. In fact, Tremayne calls it a GH1.5, since they'd grafted the back end of the old car onto the new one, improving its performance.

Weather at take-off is really immaterial, since it was a four hour flight across the prevailing wind. Graham stopped to refuel at Marseilles, where he checked the met reports, but he was still three hours from Elstree. Elstree had no qualified met observers, so Graham had to rely on third party reports from London Air Traffic Control, whose info would have come from the Met Office at Heathrow (and/or perhaps London Weather Centre).

Cutting a long story short, it appears that Graham's altimeter settings were wrong, leading him to think he was actually higher than he was when he descended into the fog. Had he acceded to the suggestion that he divert to Luton, which was fog-free, that error would have been obvious. But he didn't ....

#37 Barry Boor

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Posted 30 November 2006 - 19:15

Seeing that my request to the Administrator seems not to have had the desired effect - here is my photo again:

Posted Image

#38 cosworth bdg

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Posted 01 December 2006 - 02:40

Originally posted by Vitesse2
Thirty years. :cry:

November 29th and April 7th are two dates I dread.

Once more: RIP Graham Hill, Tony Brise, Andy Smallman, Terry Richards, Ray Brimble and Tony Alcock. Thanks for the memories.

At least the GH2 still lives and is finally up and running. :up:

Yes, thanks once again for all the great memories, RIP to all , the late Tony Alcock was the designer several years before for Birrana Cars of Adelaide Australia...........................

#39 JB Miltonian

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 22:50

I thought some of you might enjoy this picture of Graham, from Quattroruote, August 1969. I don't see a photo credit given in the magazine.
Posted Image

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#40 Scuderia SSS

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 12:51

I do remember the news on the radio, but only very vaguely, but as an admiring enthusiast, also find myself saddened by the reminder.
GH had that look about him. A sort of chiselled image of what a driver should look like. Both on and off the track, had a stance that one could only percieve as a true gentleman, thoughtful yet calculative.
One of the true greats and always fondly thought of.
Here is my favourite picture of him from the 1971 GP. Copyright belongs to D.P.P.I
Posted Image

#41 Twin Window

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 13:57

Originally posted by Barry Boor

I have just sent The Administrator a message with a new URL for the photo in the first post of this thread, as I cannot edit the message myself.

Originally posted by Barry Boor

Seeing that my request to the Administrator seems not to have had the desired effect...

I've only just read this thread in its entirety, and thus your posts Barry.

Having now checked my email folders, I can assure you I didn't receive any form of message from you!

Anyway, it's now sorted.

#42 cosworth bdg

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Posted 07 December 2006 - 02:22

Originally posted by Ray Bell
There were many Australian motor racing people at Phillip Island that weekend... I know I was among them... it certainly did hit home, especially for those of us who had also known Tony Alcock so well.

A very personable man, ready to discuss his cars with anyone at any time, totally dedicated to his work.

I wonder what he could have achieved had this not happened?

Ray, a lot of us wonder what Tony might have achieved , Cheers P.N.

#43 Vitesse2

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 13:37

Is it really 35 years ago?

Posted Image

#44 Tim Murray

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 14:23

It was nice that the BBC remembered him this morning in their 'On this day in years past' slot on Radio 4. Amazing to think that he would now be approaching 82.

#45 P0wderf1nger

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Posted 02 December 2010 - 14:16

Incorrect setting of the altimeter is often cited as the reason for the crash, but the Aircraft Investigation Branch's official report is less clear as to the cause.

Indeed, it seems to suggest Hill may have misjudged his distance from Elstree, rather than his height.

You can download the report at http://www.aaib.gov......76 N6645Y.pdf.

Rgds

Paul

Edited by P0wderf1nger, 02 December 2010 - 14:55.


#46 West3

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 23:01

37 years on...

Posted Image


In a perfect universe, one would hope that Rob and Graham, not to mention Seppi Siffert, Jo Bonnier, Maurice Trintignant, Alf Francis, etc. will have had ample opportunity to fully enjoy each other's company and regale one another with tales from another time.




#47 Gary C

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 02:24

Hear, hear.

#48 RonPohl

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 04:13

Several years ago I saw a Lola/Embassy parked in the paddock at Fontana Ca. It didn't race, and I am not sure it even had an engine in it. I had the impression it was being transported somewhere. Anyone know the whereabouts of any surviving cars? They are beautiful examples of the British Kit Car.

#49 john aston

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 07:22

Crikey this brings back the memories; my first job, 23 and the dreadful news on Radio 4. I remember getting Autosport which had a picture of Hill on the cover. I don't mind admitting I cried rather a lot- but have often wondered why- no dead racing driver before or since had this effect . Probably because my real interest in racing started in 67 and GH's championship in 68 was a huge thing for me.I am glad I saw him race- glad that he stopped before it got even more embarasssing but often wondered what trajectory his career would have taken. He seemed an old man-what was he 46 ? -(so I can give him 14 years now) and as a team owner he was just finding his feet . But with that car and Tony Brise... who knows?

#50 Phil Rainford

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 11:44

As a 15 year old at the time of the crash .......I remember the loss of Tony Brise hit me extremely hard.

I was two years away from attending my first Grand Prix; so was yet to appreciated the full impact of the tragic loss of Graham Hill and his team

I had however devoured all aspects of British Club Racing at Oulton Park during 1974 and 75 and Tony Brise was my first motor racing hero.

Potential World Champion?

Of course: but he joins a long list of drivers who are on that list.

37 years on: but I can see as clear as day Tony Brise in his orange Formula Atlantic Modus leaving the opposition in his wake :cry:


PAR