Motor Sport Muse by Connie Ann Kirk

Connie Ann Kirk, Ph.D. is a writer living in upstate New York. She has been credentialed by the FIA to write about Formula 1, credentialed by NASCAR and IndyCar for its races, and by historic / vintage entities like SVRA and Goodwood to write about their events in the U.S. and U.K.. Connie is working on a book about racers and racing. She created, writes, and maintains Motor Sport Muse as a not-for-profit online column / blog and bulletin board for participants, fans, and enthusiasts in the motor sport community and other interested readers. Thank you for visiting!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Ken Fildes' Crosslé 19F in Action with Brian Cullen -- Links

The Crosslé 19F was one of the first historic racing cars that I looked at close up in a paddock and came to follow.  I wrote a blog post about the car on the "Poetry in Motion: Vintage Speed" NYFA project, here.  That post also talks about poetry I wrote about the car (for a poetry collection in progress).

In addition, I also wrote a magazine article that featured the little Irish car.  You can see the article here.

I dunno.  I just liked it!  It was small, low, and had character.  People stopped and asked about it, because it was unique -- the only one built by the Crosslé Car Company in Northern Ireland in 1970.  It is a Formula 2 / Formula Atlantic.

As mentioned in the "Poetry in Motion" post, the car was sold away from North America back to its roots in Ireland.

Recently, I found some links that show Brian Cullen in action in the car since it returned to Europe. Here are some of the links:


I don't know if I'll ever see the car in action again live myself, or have a chance to see it up close again, but I hope so!

It interests me that many historic owner/racers purchase one or more race cars, become longtime custodians of them, and race them for many years, but many are just the opposite -- they seem to buy and sell cars at whim, only holding on to them and racing them for a short time, seemingly not attached to them at all.  I'm not sure what the difference in personality is or the reasons why there is a difference in these owner/racers.  I've heard that professional racers really don't get emotionally attached to cars, and that surprises me, too.

I have gotten attached to a few, not all, of my road cars.  Memories are attached to them, you know?  You remember your first car, long vacation trips in a certain car with people you love or loved, babies brought home in them, etc.

How do you feel about favorite cars?  Do you have a sentimental attachment to any of them, or do you simply regard them as utilitarian or useful for certain kinds of racing for awhile, then time to move on to something else?

Let me know in the Comments section!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Formula 1: 65, Silverstone, and Suixtil

(Photo: Courtesy of Suixtil. All photos in this article used with permission).

(c) Copyright 2015 by Connie Ann Kirk. All rights reserved.

Formula 1: 65, Silverstone, and Suixtil

When the lights go out at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix on Sunday, July 5, 2015, Formula 1 (F1) will celebrate its 65th anniversary as an international championship motor racing series. While F1 races took place before Silverstone in 1950 and others were run that were not part of the official championship, the British Grand Prix held on May 13, 1950 marked the beginning of a series of seven races that would determine the first Formula 1 World Championship driver under rules governed by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). 

The other six races in the 1950 championship were:  the Monaco Grand Prix on the famed streets of the principality on May 21; the Indianapolis 500, on the oval speedway in the American Midwest on May 30 (which actually did not run specifically to FIA rules, so is somewhat of an outlier); the Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten on June 4; the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps on June 18; France’s Grand Prix at Reims-Gueux on July 2; and the Italian Grand Prix at Monza raced on September 3.

Of those seven races that first year, Argentinian racer Juan Manuel Fangio won three of them – Monaco, France, and Italy.  The Italian winner of the first race at Silverstone, Giuseppe “Nino” Farina, won another two races in the series – at Bremgarten and Spa.  American Johnnie Parsons took victory in the Indianapolis 500. The battle for the first F1 championship then was clearly between the Argentinian and Italian racers, both of whom drove Alfa Romeos at Silverstone. 

That most people today interested in Formula 1 have heard of Fangio but perhaps not as much of Farina is certainly not due to the end of Fangio’s race at Silverstone in 1950.  Engine problems forced him to retire, and Farina won the race. It is also not because of the result of that first season – Fangio lost the inaugural F1 championship to his Italian rival.  Instead, Fangio is remembered today due to his remarkable racing accomplishments during that inaugural season but also the next year and for several years afterwards. 

(Photo above: Fangio in the ACA Ferrari - 1952 (c) C. Vercelli. Courtesy of Suixtil).

(Photo above: Fangio wins Sao Paolo Grand 13 Dec, 1951 (c) C. Vercelli. Courtesy of Suixtil).

Fangio did not win the British Grand Prix the next year either (another Argentinian, Jose Froilan Gonzalez, scored Ferrari’s first F1 win in that race); however, he would go on to not only take the second Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship in 1951, but to also win it in 1954, 1955, 1956, and 1957 driving for five different manufacturers.  The Argentinian simply dominated the sport in the 1950s, the early days in F1 racing when safety was of so little concern that drivers did not even wear seatbelts. Fangio held the record for the most championship wins in Formula 1 for several decades until 2003 when Michael Schumacher surpassed him and raced on to garner a total of seven titles.

Because of the emphasis on the driver’s skill in those days when the cars were less sophisticated and because of the higher risk they undertook in a relatively new but dangerous sport with little to no regard for their safety yet in place, drivers of that era are regarded today as among the most admired in the sport.  Of the drivers from that era such as British ace Sir Stirling Moss and others, Fangio is frequently mentioned as the best racer of all, including by Moss himself.

(Photo above: Fangio, Moss at Sebring 1957 ©Gene Bussian. Courtesy of Suixtil).

Meanwhile, far away from Europe in Fangio’s home country in South America, an unlikely Russian immigrant by the name of Salomon Rudman was a key figure in Fangio’s career.  He also would make a first and lasting contribution to Formula 1 from its first race at Silverstone onward, a contribution that continues to this day. 

Rudman ran a clothier business called Suixtil (pronounced SWIX-til), named after Swiss textiles, fabrics he thought of top quality at the time. Rudman was a car and racing fan. By the 1940s, he was sponsoring drivers in races, and the star of these by far was Fangio. Rudman sponsored Fangio’s racing in Argentina and continued that support when the talented driver took his skills across the ocean to test them in Europe. 

In 1948, the Argentinean Automovil Club fielded a national team of racers called the “Armada” or the “Escuderia Suixtil” that went to Europe to compete in Formula 2 and Formula 1. Rudman not only sponsored the team, but he also provided them with clothing to present the team to Europe with a unified look. 

When Fangio and other racers such as Benedicto Campos, Gonzalez, and Onofre Marimon arrived at the tracks of Europe, their skills were not the only thing the other drivers there noticed.

At a time when drivers wore street clothes or mechanics’ overalls when they jumped into the cockpit to compete, a team arriving in matching clothing got attention.  Rudman had designed shirts and pants in the colors of the Argentinian flag -- light blue pants and pale yellow polo shirts, all sporting the distinctive, red embroidered Suixtil logo spelling out the company name in stylized, script lettering.  However, it was the special features of the clothing that drew even more notice.  With the racers’ input, Rudman had made shirts and pants especially suited to the needs of the race car driver for the first time ever. 

The pants, for example, were gathered at the ankles.  This was to prevent the bottoms of them catching on the pedals of the car during gear-shifting. They were also made of light cotton twill to help keep the driver cool in the hot cockpit. They had deep pockets to store wrenches and other tools needed for the driver who also sometimes had to serve as his or her own on-the-spot mechanic, and they had elastic waistbands that eliminated the need for a cumbersome belt that sometimes affected circulation or comfort in the tight quarters of the car.

These first racing outfits were designed more for function and uniformity than for the safety that is regulated in racing suits today, of course.  According to Taylor Smith, Account Executive and Marketing Specialist for Suixtil-USA, “The Suixtil pants were dipped in Borax to give them six seconds of fire protection.”  However, she said, according to research conducted by current Suixtil Owner and Managing Partner, Vincent Metais, “The product was horribly itchy on the skin and would wash-off with every wash, so that most racers were confronted before every race with a choice between ‘safety’ and comfort that would normally see the latter win.” 

It wasn’t long before other racers approached the Argentinians about the useful clothing.  Fangio willingly gave Suixtil race pants away, and the logo began to appear in many podium pictures of the era as racers from different countries took the brand as their racing garb of choice.  The list of Suixtil racers includes Sir Stirling Moss, Benedicto Campos, Jose Froilan Gonzalez, Onofre Marimon, Roberto Mieres, Robert Manzon, Jean Behra, Jo Bonnier, Maurice Trintignant, Wolfgang Von Trips, Hans Herrmann, Paul Frere, Olivier Gendebien, Harry Schell, Karl Kling, Peter Collins, Andre Simon, and Pinhero Pires.

(Photo above:  Kling, Fangio, Moss - Sweden 55 - (c) Corsa research. Courtesy of Suixtil).

(Photo above: Sebring 1957 Moss, Duntov autographed by SM; courtesy of Suixtil).

(Photo above:  Monaco 1958 - Moss, Bonnier, Brooks, & Trintignant. Courtesy of Suixtil).

(Photo above:  Moss, Kling, Fangio, GP Sweden 1956, R Bruzelius. Courtesy of Suixtil).

(Photo above: Le Mans 1958 - Hawthorn, Behra, Von Trips, Moss. Courtesy of Suixtil).

The company disbanded when its founder died in the mid-1960s; however, it has come back to life recently under the efforts of Metais, to offer vintage-inspired clothing to motor racing enthusiasts and others who appreciate the history and look of the 1950s to early 60s era. Attention is paid to details in the products offered that honor the storied heritage of the brand and its close connection to motor racing in its early days.

When Formula 1 looks back at its 65-year history this weekend, it is interesting to consider that history in context with other aspects of racing at the time. It was the time of the first clothing designed specifically for racing, for one example, and the Suixtil Company holds the distinction of dressing some of the first racers in Formula 1. 

Proud of its heritage, Suixtil shares an enthusiasm for the early days of racing and its common history with the sport. A line on its website offering vintage clothing, accessories, and travel items to discriminating historic/vintage racing enthusiasts and others seems to offer current advice in vintage language, “While exerting oneself, style should not be forgotten or omitted.” 

The tradition of speed and style continues to this day with several Formula One drivers posing as models for clothing companies, luxury watch companies, etc.

The 2015 British Grand Prix (Sunday, July 5, 2015) will air live in the U.S. on CNBC starting at 7:30 a.m. Eastern and will re-air at noon on NBCSN.  For more information about Suixtil's history or its products, see the company's website.

Happy Birthday, Formula 1!

(Photo above: Trintingnant - 1961 - Watkins Glen - (c) BARC Boys-com. Courtesy of Suixtil).

(Photo above: Mt Ventoux 1958 - Behra, Barth, About, Von Trips, von Haustein. Courtesy of Suixtil).