In Memoriam: 2016’s Fallen Heroes

As we reach the end of another historic year for Formula One, we take this opportunity to look back upon the events of the 2016 season, but, just as new names like Rio Haryanto and Pascal Wehrlein have joined us as underdogs or genuine stars of the future to root for, we have been forced to say our tearful goodbyes to names from F1’s past who have, like so many legends in other fields, passed away over the course of the year. Our tributes below.

Maria Teresa de Filippis (1926-2016)

A woman racing in Formula One is an exceedingly rare thing; indeed, only five have competed in world championship events. Of these five, only two made it as far as the start of a race. Of these two, possibly only one – Maria Teresa de Filippis – had any hint of a natural ability to achieve good results.

Born in Naples on the 11th November 1926, Maria came from a racing family, her older brother Luigi already having several years of hillclimbing experience when she first sat behind the wheel of a competitive machine at the age of 22. She won her first race, a 10 km run in a Fiat Topolino between Salerno and Cava de’ Tirreni. In 1954, she would go on to finish 2nd in the national sports car championship, attracting the interest of Maserati, who hired her as part of their works programme. She achieved some strong results with the A6GCS, including 2nd place at the Pergusa Grand Prix of 1955 and in the Naples Grand Prix sports car support race in 1956. Maria’s Maserati days would be numbered, though, as they grappled with financial difficulties in 1957, ultimately leading to their withdrawal from motorsport.

But Maserati still had their old machinery lying around and they continued to race in the hands of privateers, de Filippis among them. She thus made her Grand Prix début at Syracuse in April 1958, where the field was made up almost entirely of Maserati 250Fs, the only exceptions being the Ferrari of Luigi Musso and the OSCA of Giulio Cabianca. Maria finished 5th, a good first effort. Then it was on to Monaco for her first world championship appearance, but even qualifying was a tall order, as she was close to six seconds off the pace. She next appeared in Belgium, qualifying last, 44 seconds off the pace of polesitter Tony Brooks; she also finished last. Maria was prevented from racing in France as the organisers refused to let a woman take part, a reminder of the difficult times she was forced to live through. In her last two races of the year Maria suffered an engine failure early in the Portuguese Grand Prix and another one in the latter stages of the Italian, where she had been running 5th. All throughout the 1958 season Maria had had the best possible tutor in the recently retired Juan Manuel Fangio, who allegedly told her “You go too fast, you take too many risks.”

Maria was back for 1959 and qualified at the back of the grid for the BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone, where the transmission of her ancient Maserati failed nearing the finish. She returned to Monaco, but this time she was driving a Formula Two Porsche that had been lent to her by Jean Behra. She displayed great improvement and set a time good enough to qualify, but unfortunately the organisers decided to promote Ferrari’s Cliff Allison at her expense. This was Maria’s last appearance in a Formula 1 event; she decided to retire from driving after the fatal accident of Behra in a support event for the German Grand Prix on top of having lost another friend in Luigi Musso, another man who was keen to help Maria improve her skills behind the wheel in any way he could, before he was killed in the 1958 French Grand Prix.

After F1, Maria Teresa de Filippis married the Austrian Theo Huscheck in 1960. Theo was a proud husband, often introducing himself as “Mr. de Filippis”. Maria returned to the racing world in 1979 when she joined the Club International des Anciens Pilotes de Grand Prix F1, of which she became Vice President in 1997 and in recent years she appeared in advertisements for the Maserati brand. Maria died on the 8th January at the age of 89, the last living Italian Grand Prix driver of the 1950s and a pioneer for female racing drivers. She left behind her husband, daughter and two grandchildren.

Mike MacDowel (1932-2016)

Mike MacDowel is not a name as easily recognisable as de Filippis’, but he was nevertheless quite active in motorsport and most certainly possessed no shortage of love for it. He first gained recognition with a number of wins in Lotuses in 1954-55, going on to dominate the 750 Motor Club’s 1172 Formula Championship and taking a class win with Le Mans winner Ivor Bueb in the Dundrod TT. The Coopers saw MacDowel’s talents and were honoured to give a tilt at F2. This F2 foray included his first continental experience at Montlhéry, where he finished 2nd in the Prix de Paris behind future world champion Jack Brabham. It was in the 1957 French Grand Prix that MacDowel was given his first, and regrettably only, start in F1, where he joined Brabham as part of Cooper’s line-up for that race. Mike’s time as a Grand Prix driver was sadly cut short after just 17 laps when he was told to hand his T43 over to his Australian teammate after the latter had damaged his own car; Brabham finished 7th in MacDowel’s Cooper.

But still, life went on for Mike and he continued to race in sports cars until 1964, when he retired from the circuit to work in John Coombs’ car dealership in Guidford. But Mike did not rest on his laurels. In 1968, he made his return to the driving seat, this time in hill climbing. It was here that MacDowel began to truly make a name for himself, setting a new record at Shelsley Walsh in 1973 and winning the British Hill Climb Championship in that same year, going on to successfully defend that title in 1974. He won both of these in a car bearing the name of his former teammate: A Brabham BT36X. Mike retired from full-time driving again in 1979, though he continued to do the odd run right up until the late 1990s when he was in his sixties. Even in retirement, Mike remained active as a director of the BRDC and has made many appearances at historic racing events. Mike MacDowel, the last living competitor of the 1957 French Grand Prix, succumbed to cancer at the age of 83 years on the 18th January. A pleasant man by all accounts, he is surely missed by those who knew him.

Bertil Roos (1943-2016)

Born in Gothenburg in 1943, Bertil Roos was a fearless driver from what could be called the Golden Era of Swedish circuit motorsport. He began racing in Sweden in the late 1960s, branching out to other countries as the 1960s became the 1970s. Roos emigrated to and indeed would spend most of his life in the United States; it was there in 1973 that he won the SCCA Super Vee title. At this point he was racing whatever he could get himself into on both sides of the Atlantic, including F2, Formula Vee and indeed Formula Atlantic. His F1 break came with the Shadow team in his home country of Sweden in 1974. Shadow were still recovering from the loss of Peter Revson, their lead driver who had been killed at Kyalami earlier in the season, and they had already dismissed a previous replacement in Brian Redman. Unfortunately, Roos did not get on well with the team, the reasons why being rather unclear. Perhaps it was due to the car not suiting his spectacular driving style, and it is alleged that he at some point during the weekend said “If you’d give me a decent car, I could win this thing!” In any case Don Nichols was not impressed and Roos’ Grand Prix career lasted only two laps due to a broken gearbox.

Roos returned to the United States and there in 1975 he set up his eponymous racing driver’s school in Pocono. He continued to race in Formula Atlantic, where he gave the likes of Gilles Villeneuve a difficult time and was indeed a strong contender for the 1975 Canadian title by winning the opening two races, only to lose out in the end to Bill Brack. He also raced in Can-Am into the 1980s after a false dawn in Indycars, winning two titles in the 2000cc class. Even in retirement, Bertil remained active as the president of his racing school, which will continue as his lasting legacy, hopefully for generations after his death, which came after a long illness on the 31st March. He was 72. As a racing driver, Bertil Roos is best remembered by his contemporaries for a thrillingly aggressive driving style tempered by tremendous car control, for which he coined the term “slideways”, a technique he passed on to would-be stars that enrolled in his racing school.

Eddie Keizan (1944-2016)

Eddie Keizan was a member of a now-dwindling generation of South African drivers who had the privilege of being able to compete in their own national F1 series, as well as making an appearance in the country’s own world championship Grand Prix that was held each January. Many outside observers would hand-wave such local entrants that were so common in pre-Bernie F1 as simply making up the numbers and were best left forgotten, conveniently forgetting that quite a few of these were or would be hailed as legends in the motorsport community of their own country. Eddie Keizan is no exception.

In 1967, Eddie began his motorsport career, like so many others of his generation, with a Mini, which he modified for racing. Just a few years later in 1969 he won his first production car championship, a success he would repeat three more times in the 1970s. His single seater story begins in 1971 in Formula Ford, graduating to the national drivers’ championship in Alex Blignaut’s F5000 Surtees; he swept the F5000 class in 1972. 1973 was when Eddie stepped up to F1 and he raced in the South African Grand Prix in 1973, 1974 and 1975, the first two in an ex-Jackie Stewart Tyrrell for Blignaut, the latter in an ex-Fittipaldi Lotus for top South African team Gunston. He also made rare appearances outside of his home country in British F5000 rounds for Embassy Racing in 1975.

The South African Drivers’ Championship was downgraded to Formula Atlantic for 1976, at which time Eddie shifted his focus back to tintops, the highlight of this stage of his career undoubtedly being his win in the 1979 Kyalami 1000km, in which he drove solo for much of proceedings against world-class talent like John Watson, Jochen Mass and Hans Stuck. After this he quit racing to focus on his management of Tiger Wheels, which he bought into with the prize money from his 1972 F5000 successes. Eddie never remained too far away from the track, though, making the odd appearance as recently as 2012, when he won the Border 100 with Greg Mills, a man worthy of mention here for his own, touching and more detailed article on Eddie (link: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2016-06-02-eddie-keizan-the-tale-of-a-motorsport-tiger/). Eddie Keizan died after a long illness on the 21st May at the age of 71. He is survived by his wife Hilary and his two children Natasha and Gary.

A Few Words Also For…

The following figures did not fit the cold, mathematical criteria we use to define “rejectdom”, but they did nevertheless have an association with Formula One and in their own ways embodied the reject spirit. They too sadly passed away in 2016.

André Guelfi (1919-2016)

One of those rare examples of a driver who raced in a world championship Grand Prix, but not in an F1 car and not even eligible to score points. The 1958 Moroccan Grand Prix ran concurrent F1 and F2 races, of which Guelfi competed in the latter with a privately obtained Cooper T45; he was 4th in class. From money laundering schemes to marrying the French president’s niece, even outside the cockpit André lived an exciting and scandalous life, which he chronicled in his late 1990s autobiography L’Original: D’un Village marocain aux secrets de l’affaire Elf. His eventful life was a long one too, clocking in at 97 years at the time of his passing in Saint Barthélemy on the 28th June.

Carl Haas (1929-2016)

A motorsport giant in the United States, Carl Haas is best known for the hugely successful Newman/Haas Indycar venture and other efforts in just about any other American category you can think of, including F5000, Can-Am, Formula Vee and NASCAR. F1 fans will know him best as the owner of the Haas Lola F1 team from 1985-86, a team which failed to match his then-ongoing American open-wheel success. Haas Lola is probably best known for bringing Alan Jones out of retirement for the second and final time, but he was unable to recapture the former glory of his Williams days. Initially poor results began to improve before main sponsor Beatrice pulled their funding and the team went bust. Carl concentrated once more on his stateside commitments, his Indycar outfit exiting the sport in 2011 with 8 championship victories. Carl Haas passed away this year on the 29th June, one day after Guelfi, having spent the last of his 87 years battling Alzheimer’s.

Chris Amon (1943-2016)

“The Greatest Driver Never to Win a Grand Prix” is surely worthy of mention. Chris Amon is already a legend and has had many tributes from just about every distinguished motorsport figure and publication you can name. He’s getting another one here. His CV is one most drivers would would envy: Le Mans winner, Daytona 24 winner, Tasman Series champion and two-time NZGP winner, with two non-championship F1 wins as well. But he never won a Grande Épreuve in spite of his best efforts which included 11 podiums, 5 poles and 3 fastest laps. Long-time readers of F1 Rejects will also remember him for his courageous, if ill-fated, effort at emulating his compatriot Bruce McLaren in becoming an F1 constructor. Chris Amon was truly one of the sport’s great underdogs. He was, is and will continue to be sorely missed by the F1 community since he succumbed to cancer on the 3rd August, aged 73.