'Out' After A One Mile Push (Gearbox)
Porsche used its racing exploits around the globe not only to gain exposure and media coverage, but also to improve the performance and reliability of its road and race cars. Here we look into the second part of our two-part mini-series covering Porsche racing in Southern Africa.
The premier event in Angola, the Grand Prix of Angola was run over the Circuit Luanda on 19-20 September 1959, and attracted an entry to rival any European sports car event. In its line-up was a Ferrari Testa Rossa, Lotus 1100, Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing, Porsche RS and RSK, Aston Martin DB3S, a pair of D-type Jaguars and a Maserati 300S. “Luanda is an era in racing on the sub-continent all on its own. It is the greatest of all events, in fantastic settings, far better than Monaco,” Fraser-Jones recalled emotionally. In the early morning (05h30) Friday practice, Frones posted the fastest time through the streets of Luanda over the 2.85-mile circuit, however, in the race he suffered a broken gearbox in the Porsche RS Spyder while lying in fourth place. This was the only mechanical failure the car suffered in its illustrious career on the African sub-continent totalling 25 wins in 39 races, having covered over 2000 miles at racing speeds, during which time the Spyder engine did not so much as miss a beat.
South African doctor and racing enthusiast, Dawie Gous, remembers one of the more humorous moments in Angola, “Alex Blignaut (later to become a key figure in organising the SA Grand Prix) and I had to get Piper’s mechanic out of Angola because he apparently hit one of the organisers which landed him in jail. They didn’t want him in the country, they said they would kill him there, and so we had to get him out of jail and onto the first flight out of Luanda, and take him to the airport rather hurriedly.”
One motorsport enthusiast felt he was justified in writing to a large Johannesburg daily broadsheet complaining that Ian Fraser-Jones was in fact not helping the local motorsport scene by driving his imported Porsche Spyder from one victory to another against essentially home-built specials. The avalanche of responses that this letter initiated was so immense that after a few days the editor had to call an end to the heated dialogue in his newspaper, stating that no further correspondence would be printed on the matter.
In the lead-up to the second SA 9-Hour race, much was expected of the winners of the previous year’s race, Ian Fraser-Jones and Tony Fergusson, who were driving the #3 Porsche RS Spyder in the 1959 race. Dr. Dawie Gous/John Love were behind the wheel of the ivory-coloured #8 Porsche Carrera while Sarel van der Merwe/J. van Heerden drove the blue #13 Porsche Speedster.
Early brake trouble dogged the Spyder, which allowed the Carrera of Gous/Love to take the lead while the threat from the potent Maserati did not materialise. Dr. Dawie Gous recalls, “In 1959, Lindsay Saker Motors put a Carrera engine into my Speedster and I co-drove this with John Love. We won our class in ’59, even though I had an accident.” The Speedster of van der Merwe/van Heerden performed faultlessly and came home second overall and second on Index, with the Spyder of Fraser-Jones/Ferguson in fourth place. Together with the Carrera of Gous/Love, the three Porsches snatched third place in the team awards.
Gous recalls a discussion with John Love, “After our very first race in ’59 when we raced the Carrera Speedster, I was still a beginner as it was my first year of racing and I was completely inexperienced. I will never forget when John Love came to me after the race and said, ‘you will become a very good racing driver, I can see that’. Encouraging words indeed from a great racing driver!”
Building on its successful 1958 season, the Porsche Spyder went on to take further wins in Salisbury, East London, Cape Town, Roy Hesketh (Pietermaritzburg) as well as many other circuits around the sub-continent during the 1959 season.
The Sunday Express reported that Ian Fraser-Jones and Tony Ferguson had decided that as from March 1960 they would be spending six months racing in Europe under the aegis of Baron Huschke von Hanstein, Porsche’s racing manager. Although they would have to fund themselves, they would receive factory support for their new 1960 Porsche Spyder RSK that Frones and Klesse would collect from the factory in Stuttgart.
At the end of the 1959 season, and in preparation for his season in Europe, Ian Fraser-Jones sold his RS Spyder to Dr. Dawie Gous, which the doctor campaigned throughout the 1960 season. With the third 9-Hour looming later that year on 29 October, Gous entered the Spyder with John Love once again. Having returned from Europe by this time, Frones and Ferguson were in a Speedster, the pairing of Roux/Lennox drove a 356 Carrera, while a fourth Porsche, a 1600 Coupe, was piloted by Butcher/Engelbrecht. Following a very disappointing practice in which a piston broke in their Porsche Speedster, Fraser-Jones and Ferguson decided to change the engine of their car, and replace it with a Carrera engine. 16,000 spectators watched as the flag dropped at 14h00 and the Alfa Romeo Lotus of Gene Bosman/Ernest Pieterse went into the lead, but five laps later John Love thrust the ex-Frones Porsche Spyder to the front and built up a lead of a lap by the time he handed over to Dawie Gous at the two-and-a-half-hour mark.
After three hours of racing, the Roux/Lennox Carrera was up into fifth place ahead of the Frones/Ferguson Speedster. With two hours to go the Gous/Love Porsche holed the diff when it bottomed on a bump losing them the lead, but following a repair, Love retook the lead and the Porsche ran out the winner by a lap in the last endurance race to be held at the Grand Central circuit. The Porsche Carrera of Roux/Lennox finished in third place while the Porsche Speedster of Fraser-Jones/Fergusson, which had suffered brake and gear change problems, finished in fourth place. Partnered with John Love again in 1961, Dawie Gous won the first 9-Hour race at the newly constructed Kyalami circuit driving the ex-Frones Spyder, still with the same engine!
Al Klesse remembers how reliable the Carrera engine was, “We only had it stripped halfway down on one occasion, but mostly it was just a valve grind or carburettor cleaning. Of course, we did the wheel bearings and brakes, remember we didn’t have disc brakes at that time, we had drum brakes so they needed cleaning and care. We kept spares like filters and extra brake shoes, but otherwise we never had a breakdown and if we needed something you could get it in two weeks, you just flew it in, so there was no problem.”
When Fraser-Jones sold the Spyder to Dr. Dawie Gous at the start of the 1960 season, both Al Klesse and Hermann Schmidt stayed with the car and continued to service it. But eventually the specialist Johannesburg engineering firm, A.H. Pillman, took over the maintenance. By this time, the car was becoming expensive for LSM to keep on the road and as Pillman had both the appetite and the resources to do this, they took it on. Hermann Schmidt recalls, “Gous wasn’t a fantastic driver, I mean Fraser-Jones had very few accidents, but Dawie Gous had an incident in nearly every race. Eventually he realised that he had bad eyesight, but he got that sorted out in the end. With Fraser-Jones, we used to do his car in our spare time, in the evenings and over the weekends, but there was so much work with Dawie Gous, we couldn’t keep up.”
Perhaps sparked by the fact that Gous had so many ‘offs’, Pillman decided to install a reverse gear in the Spyder’s gearbox. Believing it to be the only Spyder to be fitted with a reverse gear, Schmidt picks up the story, “In racing it can happen that you have a spin, and so they put a reverse gear into the Spyder. Porsche actually said at the time that it was impossible because there was insufficient space in the gearbox, but Pillman did it.”
For the start of the 1961 season, Frones revealed his next surprise when he announced the arrival of his 1587cc 356 B Carrera Abarth. A local newspaper reported, “The shark-like snout of Ian Fraser-Jones GT Porsche Carrera deluxe has attracted considerable attention and is the closest thing to an E-type Jaguar they were likely to see for some time.” The Carrera Abarth’s first outing was at the 9th Krugersdorp Hill Climb on 29 April 1961. The event was a short climb of less than 1000 metres from start to finish, but as one journalist put it, if you weren’t careful on the sharp bends, the driver could be in for a ‘free flight’ back to the start. The Krugersdorp Hill Climb was well known for a few things, not all of them pleasant, the most abiding memory being from the local sewerage plant located next to the start line. The second was that the hill was located in a very rocky part of the Transvaal, and the promotional strap line invited all motorsport enthusiasts to ‘find a soft rock and watch the best racing in the country for free’. It was hoped that the excitement of the action would dull any numbness felt by sitting on the rocks all day. On this occasion though, Frones would not take home the laurels, as his Carrera Abarth did not have the right gearing for the hill climb.
The following week Ian Fraser-Jones and Tony Ferguson took the Carrera Abarth out to Grand Central to test the car under race conditions, but it was agreed that the lap times would be kept secret. However, unbeknown to them, close rival Ernest Pieterse had sent out a group of his friends to do some covert timekeeping in the bushes alongside the track, and so it wasn’t long before the ‘secret’ lap times were known by many in the paddock.
By the time the Lourenco Marques race came around on 22/23 July 1961, Frones had got the measure of the Carrera Abarth taking an easy win in the grand touring car race. He then also took the Junior GP title in the Carrera Abarth in the Rhodesian Grand Prix at the Belvedere Airport circuit that year in Salisbury, while Dawie Gous gave a good account of himself in the ex-Fraser-Jones Porsche Spyder.
According to Fraser-Jones, the SA 9-Hour had become almost a family affair as families would camp out at the track the night before the race, and it had been the one event on the calendar that would fill up the race organiser’s coffers for the year. When the organisers allowed the international drivers to enter the race in 1962, the event began to lose money as there was now starting money to pay and the general expenses associated with hosting an international event. When the entrance money at the gate was increased to help cover the starting money of the top drivers, race attendance unfortunately did not increase as expected even with the participation of the top overseas drivers.
An exceptionally heavy storm on the morning of the Fifth Rand Daily Mail 9-Hour endurance race at Kyalami on 3 November 1962, brought with it a couple of headaches for the organisers. So powerful was the storm, that it seemed impossible for the race to start on time but by midday the Transvaal Marshals Association had in-spanned every marshal for the Herculean task of clearing away the standing water. A subway allowed traffic under the track and into the in-field area, but flooding had caused a jam as vehicles came to a standstill in two feet of water.
As a result, much of the race was held in miserable weather and drivers were forced to drive cautiously. After 45 minutes, Dawie Gous passed the Austin Healey of Tony Maggs/Bobby Olthoff and the Piper/Johnstone Ferrari, to take up second place behind the Lotus Alfa 23 of Serrurier/de Klerk. All chances that the Porsche Spyder might have had of pulling off a hat-trick of 9-Hour victories disappeared when Gous left the track at Clubhouse Corner, ripping off the exhaust box in the process.
Klesse, who was co-driving with Gous in this race, picks up the story, “He came in and I repaired the exhaust because without it we would have no performance, so we lost about 30 minutes.” When Klesse got behind the wheel, he proceeded to unleash the full performance of the Spyder lapping the Piper Ferrari three times. Klesse again, “I passed him in front of the grandstands and apparently, the public went mad. I was definitely faster but we had lost 30 minutes which was impossible to make up.” The Gous/Klesse Porsche eventually finished in a gallant third place.
The following year’s 9-Hour attracted the likes of Piper and his Ferrari 250 GTO, together with a brace of potent Fords in the form of a Galaxie, Lotus Cortina and the flying Cobra. Gous was teamed in the RS Spyder with Peter Engelbrecht who had just bought the car from Gous, but the 1963 endurance race was to be the Spyder’s last as the car was comprehensively stuffed into the bank by Engelbrecht in the fading light of dusk. The car burst into flames and was completely destroyed, bringing to an end a remarkable line of victories over several years for what many regard as the most successful RS Spyder of all time.
As the saying goes, ‘one man’s scrap is another man’s gold’, and the remains of the car were sold to a young aspirational 21-year old racer who rebuilt the car once more. Unfortunately, this youngster, Richard, died when he smashed the car into a pole in his first race at Kyalami. Gous continues, “And his dad was so upset that he buried the car in a plot in Randburg (Johannesburg North). Then Nestlé (the food and beverage company) bought the land and built their South Africa head office on the plot. Fortunately, they found the car remains in time and removed the engine, gearbox and brakes, which they sold to a local Porsche enthusiast.
“Then in 1963, I bought a Porsche RS61 from Hermann Muller of Switzerland. I won the South African Championship with that car, winning the 6-Hour with Peter de Klerk and Clive van Buuren. That was a wonderful car, fantastic,” Gous told the author. After Gous had acquired the car, the first SA 9-Hour that it raced in was the 1965 race, as Gous could not get the correct brake drums in time for the ’64 race. The RS61 was in fact the European Hillclimb Championship-winning car that Gous had bought from Muller when in Angola, but he cleverly imported the race car into South Africa as ‘spares’ to avoid the crippling import duty. For the Eighth 9-Hour, Gous teamed up with van Buuren but the 1700cc RS61 crashed in practice and was a non-starter.
1965 saw the first of the Porsche 904 GTS racers competing on the SA racing scene, signalling the demise of the RS Spyder there. Although South Africa is a long way from the action in Europe, England and America, the 356 Speedster Carrera and RS Spyder models left their mark on the racing scene on the southern tip of the continent. It was a time of glorious battles staged on the track mostly by amateurs who exercised much social grace off the track during a period in racing history where reputations were built on honour and fair play. Hats off to those motorsport gladiators…those magnificent men and their racing machines.
Driver and team interviews:
Numerous interviews were conducted with Ian Fraser-Jones in South Africa during the 1990s while the author still lived in Johannesburg. These were held at his home, in his office and also in his Ferrari F355, en route to the Midvaal race track. In the early- to mid-2000s the author, living in the UK by that time, held numerous telephonic interviews with Dr. Dawie Gous who took time out of his busy medical practice to talk racing…that is, until his wife gently reminded him that the waiting room was filling up, and could he now please see some of his patients! Further interviews have been held with Mrs. Jeanette Fraser-Jones, Alois Klesse and Hermann Schmidt.
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