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Lance Macklin and the HWM - Part 2

Read Lance Macklin and the HWM - Part 1 

While I am on the subject, it might be interesting for readers to know what my views eventually were on Stirling Moss as a result of driving for two whole seasons in the same team, on dozens of different tracks, and in all sorts of conditions.

It boiled down to this: Stirling was much more dedicated than I was; as long as I made a practice time that assured me a good place on the starting grid I didn't worry too much about what Moss had done. Stirling on the other hand was always very anxious about his ‘image’. If I was faster, he would put his helmet on and go out to do another dozen laps until he finally got the faster time.

I found, in fact, that there was very little between us. The difference lay in the fact that during a race he had the ability to keep up a maximum effort all the time, whereas I could do it for an hour or so. After that, I would start to lose concentration and Stirling would pull away from me.

I am in no way ashamed to admit that I eventually conceded that he was better than me. I would add though that he was probably better than every other driver, with the possible exception of Fangio, and even then he was better in some ways.

1950 Bains with Heath

Above: Lance Macklin (left), Stirling Moss (seated) and girlfriend Sally Weston, and John Heath at Aix les Bains in late May 1950 

After Stirling left the HWM team, I became their Number One driver, and Peter Collins joined as Number Two. The situation with Peter was almost exactly the opposite; he would sometimes be as fast as me in practice, but during the race, if both our cars were running properly, I always managed to leave him behind. In fact, he’d usually come up to me before the start of a race and say, ‘Now look here Lancy-boy, don’t go rushing off like a lunatic, wait for Peter and we will go round together’. It seldom worked out however.

Back to the race at Reims. On this very fast circuit, consisting of three long straights joined by three slow bends, there was not much the HWMs could do against the much faster Ferraris, Maseratis and Gordinis. However, due to a fairly high proportion of breakdowns, Stirling finished third, and although I had trouble with a punctured float in the carburettor, I finished fifth.

Stirling Moss in 1950 works HWMAbove: Stirling Moss, in the third works HWM in 1950 at Reims. Despite being under-geared, Moss finished third, Macklin fifth.

What I am going to tell you now would probably astound the modern Grand Prix team but at the time it seemed normal to us. 

The race finished late on Sunday evening and the whole team was booked to race in Bari one thousand miles away in the southern tip of Italy the following weekend. In fact, the cars had to be there for scrutineering by Thursday afternoon. The main problem was that none of us had any money. Stirling and I were waiting for John Heath to collect the starting money the next day so that he could give us the £50 we were paid for each race. Not until then would we be in a position to pay our hotel bill and leave by car for Bari.

The mechanics were in the same trouble, but the following morning two of them were sent off in the converted bus which carried two cars, with instructions to drive non-stop to Aix-les-Bains. On arrival they were to take a room in a hotel they all knew, and get a good night's sleep.

Meanwhile Alf Francis, the chief mechanic, would wait around until Heath had the money to cover the expenses of the two trucks and mechanics to Bari. As usual, there were delays in getting the starting money and we hung around impatiently all day. Finally, about teatime, John got back to the hotel, gave a wad of notes to Alf who immediately set off with the second truck for Aix-les-Bains.

As it was about 300 miles, the plan was that he would drive through the night, arriving at Aix for breakfast, and the two trucks would then set off in convoy with the two mechanics, fresh from their night's sleep, each driving one truck. Alf would then get what sleep he could in the cab of one.

Unfortunately, the best laid plans have a habit of going wrong, and this was no exception. Alf hadn't been going more than an hour when the steering on his truck started to get stiff. It gradually worsened until it required all his strength to negotiate even a minor bend.

He struggled on through the night over the twisty road to Aix making only very slow and exhausting progress. Finally, just as dawn was lightening the sky, he rumbled into the outskirts of Aix. Suddenly he braked hard, rubbed his weary eyes, just to be sure that it was the HWM bus parked on the side of the road. Apparently they had also been plagued by troubles and had stopped for good just as they reached Aix.

The two weary mechanics decided to stay where they were until Alf arrived, as by that time it was far too late to book into the hotel. A situation such as this would have been grounds for even the most stout-hearted to abandon the seemingly impossible task of crossing the mountain pass into Switzerland, and then tackling the high Alpine passes down into Italy and all the way down the Adriatic coast, in order to reach Bari in two and a half days.

In fact I don't believe they ever considered abandoning.

To be continued...


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Eric Dunsdon - June 11, 2021

Great to read. A boyhood hero of mine. So pleased to have seen Lance win the 1952 International Trophy Race for HWM.. My first ever Silverstone meetng.

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