WhatSouth African Formula 1 History - Episode 7
WhereSouth Africa
CommunitySouth Africa, International.

Part 7 - Love dominates as V8s arrive at last

The 1967 South African Formula 1 season started in spectacular fashion with the Grand Prix, which moved to Kyalami for the first time after seven years at East London. Once again, it counted towards the F1 World Championship as it commenced the season as usual on New Year’s Day.

It all started very well when South African champion John Love qualified his two-year-old four-cylinder 2.7-litre Tasman Cooper Climax a sensational fifth on the grid among the cream of the crop of the world championship 3-litres, just 1.2 seconds off pole man Jack Brabham's 1m 28.3s in his Brabham Repco V8, with Dave Charlton’s similarly Climax 2.7-powered Brabham BT11 in seventh.

Significantly, Love out-qualified John Surtees' V12 Honda and Jochen Rindt's Cooper Maserati V12, while Charlton sat ahead of Jackie Stewart's H16 BRM and the rest, including two more 2.7 Climax-powered locals, Sam Tingle's LDS 14th and Luki Botha’s Brabham BT11 17th on the 18-car grid.

Rhodesian Love’s immaculate dark green Cooper was in the thick of it from the get-go, initially fending Dan Gurney’s Eagle Climax 2.7 for sixth just behind the leading 3-litres – the two of them were never more than a car’s length apart for 44 laps until Gurney retired. Love's progress was even more remarkable considering he was suffering a slight misfire, but he kept going as the cars ahead one by one ran into trouble, slowed, pitted or retired.

Sensationally this attrition soon allowed Love to move into the lead to the huge approval of the partisan 80 000 crowd on lap 59 of the 80 lap Grand Prix, from where he maintained his 20-second advantage over second-placed Pedro Rodriguez’ 3-litre V12 Cooper Maserati.

It was the first time a Southern African driver had ever led a World Championship Grand Prix – the crowd was loving every second, spurned by both the moment and the ecstatic track commentators. “The huge crowd of went wild,” veteran SA motoring scribe Sy Symons reported. “The roar of cheering had to be heard to be believed, but the ears were also strained for any worsening of that misfire, while stopwatches clicked as the gap between Love and Rodrigues was checked lap-by-lap.”

Then came a great groan, as Love pulled into the pits, gesticulating wildly on the 72nd lap. The story had always been that there were fuel scavenging problems in the Tasman Cooper T79’s auxiliary fuel tank fitted to see the car to the longer Grand Prix distance and that Love’s team had no spare pump after loaning it to Jo Siffert.

John however admitted to us many years later and a few months prior to his passing, that they always knew the car could not go the distance and to be leading that day caught the team totally by surprise…

What ensued was a frantic struggle as John’s loyal mechanics, Gordon Jones and Keith Starling fumbled with a tank of race fuel that did not want to decant, and a funnel, before Love leapt out of the car to assist. Doug Serrurier arrived with a hammer and a screwdriver to punch a hole in the floor of the can and allow the fuel to flow smoothly, but by the time Love was back in his Cooper thick with cement and grime from the dusty track, Rodriguez was long gone.

Love chased him home to finish second, having lost nearly 30 seconds in that late, desperate splash-and-dash stop, but the little Bulawayo team had done Africa proud as John Love stole the world headlines the following Monday morning in a tale of David and Goliath tainted by a tricky twist of fate…

Surtees ended third in the Honda from Denny Hulme’s Brabham Repco 3-litres, Bob Anderson’s Brabham Climax 2.7 and Jack Brabham’s Repco V8 machine. South Africans Charlton and Botha suffered a litany of issues and while both were still running at the flag, neither was classified, while Rhodesian Tingle crashed his LDS 3 Climax out on lap 56.

Barely a week later, the 1967 South African Driver’s Championship got underway with a couple of 25-lap heats at the Cape South Easter races at Killarney in Cape Town, where five 2.7 Climax- powered cars topped the grid in the hands of Charlton, de Klerk, Botha, Love and popular visiting English former motorcycle grand prix racer Bob Anderson. 

Love quickly overcame his qualifying issues aided by Charlton shedding a wheel early in the first heat to win easily from Anderson and Tingle, before cruising to second behind Anderson's Brabham in heat 2 to take the day overall from Anderson and Tingle with Jackie Pretorius fourth in his six-year old ex-Team Lotus 21 then powered by a two-litre Climax motor.

Trevor Blokdyk’s Cooper T56 Lotus and Leo Dave in the ex de Klerk Alfa Special were next up, while Killarney saw the first appearance of a new name in local F1 as John McNicol, son of race car builder, tuner and a most handy driver, Jack retired from his debut in a Lotus 20.

Charlton would however have his day a month later, when the Springs driver delivered ‘the race of his life’ to defeat champion Love by nearly six seconds at Kyalami’s 4 March Rand Autumn Trophy. He did so by installing one of the SA championship’s first two 3-litre Repco V8 to his Brabham BT11 in the weeks after the Killarney race, a trick that Luki Botha also pulled on his similar machine, to allow the two to top the grid.

Yet in spite of Charlton and Botha’s newfound extra power, Love used his experience, skill and his Cooper T79 Climax’s fine-tuned balance to push Charlton all the way. Both men broke Denny Hulme's Kyalami lap record set at the January Grand Prix several times through the race, as they drove home the fine quality of the sharp end of the local field.

Love indeed led for a lap after Charlton was baulked when lapping a straggler, but Dave had no trouble in using his new V8 to best effect to breeze by down the Kyalami main straight, before Love lost his tow later on and slipped back to finish six seconds adrift in second. 

Botha followed 20 seconds adrift as he suffered misfire in his Repco V8 from the start, but pushed on to finish third ahead of Tingle, Jackie Pretorius, Clive Puzey's LDS Ford 1.6, Chris Ward’s LDS 1 Alfa, Rauten Hartmann Netaur 2 Alfa and the struggling Blokdyk Cooper.

Significantly, Charlton had finally broken John Love’s iron grip on the SA championship, but it had taken stepping up to Repco V8 power to pull it off. That SA F1 V8 blue touch paper was however finally lit…

Moving on to Pietermaritzburg for round 4 and the Coronation 100 at Roy Hesketh, Charlton once again put his Repco V8-powered Brabham on pole position and led from the start as he broke Love's lap record by over a second early on. Was that a sign indicating an end to the Rhodesian’s reign aboard his Cooper-Climax reign? 

But Charlton’s car broke a u-joint and he was out, Luki Botha spun off and damaged his Repco-powered Brabham that qualified third at mid distance and Love went through to win by less than a couple of seconds from compatriot Sam Tingle, Jackie Pretorius and Tony Jefferies’ Cooper Climax, Leo Dave’s Alfa Special and Rauten Hartmann in the Netuar. 

Moving on to the Cape for Killarney’s Autumn Trophy, Charlton had trouble firing his Repco up and had to be push-started, before Love burned his clutch to let Jackie Pretorius take an unexpected lead as Love pitted.Tingle however took advantage of his Climax’s extra 700cc to blast his LDS into the lead as a recovered Charlton charged through the field to second, five seconds off Tingle and ahead of Pretorius, Jefferies and Puzey and a struggling Love in sixth.
Love, Charlton, Botha and Pretorius all needed push starts in heat 2, but Charlton still took the lead from Tingle before the leading Repco stopped without oil pressure and Love was out with transmission failure. Tingle then led at ease until he spun to let an excited Luki Botha through, only for his Brabham Repco to run dry on the last tour. 

So Tingle took the win from Pretorius, Jefferies, Puzey, Dave and Chris Ward’s 1.5-litre LDS Alfa as Botha pushed his car to the line, but was excluded for crossing the pit lane dividing line.  

Faced with the unlikely prospect of proving that old adage that there is no substitute for cubic capacity wrong and his faithful Tasman Cooper proving ever more fragile, John Love and his team made hay while the sun shone to return to Roy Hesketh for July’s Coronation 100 armed with one of the shiny new three-litre Repco V8-powered Brabham BT20s that Jack had raced to win the 1966 World F1 Championship nand promptly planted it on pole with a stunning 1 minute 9.9 second lap.

But Charlton was having none of it as he gridded at just a tenth slower to set up a stunning prospect for Natal’s racing faithful, before the two went on to deliver just that. Their cars seemed glued together as they diced wheel to wheel until six laps from the end when the tight circuit got the better and they touched wheels as Love made a move for the lead.

Charlton was out with a broken steering, but he had done enough to be classified third behind the ever-reliable Tingle, with Pretorius fourth from John McNicol’s Lotus 20 Ford and Rauten Hartman’s Netuar.

Neither Charlton or Luki Botha started the van Riebeeck trophy in Cape Town, which left Love to go unchallenged in his new Brabham Repco. He once again led Tingle home as Tony Jefferies, who beat Jochen Rindt to the World Formula Vee Championship, popped up in third aboard his 2-litre Cooper T55 Climax, ahead of McNicol, Dave and Ward.

Back upcountry for the freshly widened Kyalami’s 40-lap October ‘67 Rand Spring Trophy, a full grid promised a spectacular race, enough for the 18 000 crowd to be considered disappointing! Lap times were consequently quicker as Charlton and his Brabham BT11 Repco took pole, albeit just a tenth quicker than Love’s newly re-liveried red and yellow Shell Oil BT20 carrying sponsor’s logos for the first time. 
It was however Sam Tingle who made the holeshot to arrive at Crowthorne first with Puzey in the mix, only to be passed by the V8s by Barbecue. Charlton set a stunning new 1m 27.6s Kyalami lap record as he fended Love off early on, but Love was soon in the pits to have his Repco throttle unstuck. 

He returned to put on a fine display as he missed displacing Tingle for second by all of three seconds, although Sam certainly put on a tenacious display to keep ahead. Jeffries and Puzey fought home fourth and fifth, the only of the 15 starters to be classified as finishers. 

Back at Roy Hesketh for the Pat Fairfield Trophy, Charlton and Jackie Pretorius both failed to start following practice issues, but the race still proved entertaining for the 7000 crowd that turned up in spite of in soaking rain. Pole man Love was slow away in the dry opening heat as Tingle led from Jefferies and Puzey, but John was soon chasing Tingle down, when Sam spun, hit the earth bank side-on and the impact ripped right side wheels and suspension from his Cooper.

Happily, Sam emerged unscathed from the wreckage as Love cruised home to another easy win ahead of Jefferies’ six-year-old 2-litre Cooper, who fought off Puzey and McNicols’ superior-handling 1600cc Lotuses. In that wet second heat, Love drove away but played it safe ahead of a fierce battle between Puzey and Jefferies, resolved in Jeffries’ favour, with  George van Straaten’s Cooper Ford, van Popering’s LDS-Alfa and Mackenzie’s Lotus-Ford coming in ahead of McNicol, as Love beat Jefferies and Puzey overall.

If the 1967 season started with a bang with John Love’s incredible South African Grand Prix performance, it ended just as sensationally, but  for a different reason altogether at Love’s home Rhodesian Grand Prix at Kumalo in Bulawayo. 

John pulled off a world first that would become an international standard in that December 1967 race, when he and countryman Sam Tingle arrived with their cars fully branded in sponsor’s colours for the first time ever on a Formula 1 car. Love’s Brabham BT20 Repco and Tingle’s LDS now sporting a Repco V8 mill, were both presented in Rembrandt cigarettes’ delightful orange and brown Gunston colours in response to the longstanding ban on sports advertising finally being lifted.

Gunston’s coup came almost six months before Lotus arrived at the ’68 Monaco Grand Prix in their Gold Leaf colours, in what was in reality the first tobacco sponsorship – a phenomenon that would go on to prove the mainstay of F1 sponsorship for almost 30 years, and which also made SA's F1 championship as viable as it was.

The 1968 Rhodesian Grand Prix also proved a cracking affair on track as Charlton exactly matched Love's qualifying pace ahead of Jackie Pretorius’ Climax 2.7 litre Brabham BT7 and Australian visitor Paul Hawkins Love's old Cooper T79 Climax 2.7. 

Charlton kept the local fans on the edge of their seats as he led home favourite Love for 48 of the 50 laps, before a misfire allowed Love to make the move for the win. Charlton was just a tenth adrift at the flag though, with Pretorius third from Puzey, Trevor Blokdyk’s Cooper-Ford, Leo Dave’s Alfa Special, Joe Domingo in an LDS-Climax and Peter Parnell’s Brabham-Ford after Tingle and Hawkins retired.

John Love ultimately took a convincing fourth South African championship on the trot with seven 1967 wins out of ten races. Only Dave Charlton beat him twice and Sam Tingle once, as Tony Jefferies overcame fierce opposition from nimbler, newer cars to take the title fourth in his faithful Cooper.

It was however once again all change as race officials announced that similarly powerful 500 bhp 680kg Yankee V8-powered Formula 5000 cars, which were proving highly popular in the US and Europe, would be added alongside 500kg F1 cars for the 1968 South African Driver’s Championship.

Come back next time to follow the next chapter in the quite wonderful saga of the South African Driver’s Championship.

South African Formula 1 History Index
Part 1: The Beginning
Part 2: Special Times
This series will continue regularly until complete

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