Kirby's latest 'Boost!' showcases Roger Bailey's diverse 52-year racing career

Kirby's latest 'Boost!' showcases Roger Bailey's diverse 52-year racing career

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Kirby's latest 'Boost!' showcases Roger Bailey's diverse 52-year racing career

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Gordon Kirby and Racemaker Press have teamed up once again to encapsulate the life and extraordinary career of a motorsports legend—Roger Bailey.

Few in racing history have enjoyed a career of wider reach and diversity than the now 81-year-old American: Ace mechanic, engine builder, crew chief, IMSA technical inspector and, ultimately, co-founder and administrator of the Indy Lights series. Indeed, Bailey’s peerless 52-year (1959–2012) career culminated in 1986 when he co-founded the American Racing Series with team owner U.E. “Pat” Patrick. In 1991, the ARS became the Indy Lights series with Bailey at the helm of the category through its heydays until his retirement in 2012.

Now available in the RACER Store Boost! details Bailey’s life and career, author Gordon Kirby documenting the Michigan resident’s many and varied skills.

“Roger was such a great guy,” Roger Penske declared. “He worked with us in the Can-Am in 1967, and you could see that his passion for racing was as strong as anyone’s. He brought a lot of good ideas to us and was one of the hardest workers we ever had in our organization.

“You could see that when he took over running the Indy Lights series,” Penske continued. “He had a broad skill set and people genuinely appreciated him as their leader. If you can lead people the way [Bailey] has over the years, you build great momentum and, in that way, he was among the very best.”

Enjoy this excerpt

Chapter 7/ Success & disappointment with Ferrari

The 1969 season couldn’t have started any better for Amon and Bailey. Chris took the season-opening Tasman Championship, winning four of seven races—the New Zealand GP at Puekekohe, round two at Levin, the Australian GP at Lakeside and the series’ last race at Sandown Park. Jochen Rindt drove the second Lotus 49 beside Graham Hill replacing Jim Clark after the great Scotsman’s death in a Formula 2 race the spring of 1968. Rindt finished second in the Tasman Championship, winning at Wigram and Warwick Farm. Piers Courage, driving Frank William’s Brabham BT24, won at Teretonga.

“In New Zealand we had two cars from Ferrari but no mechanics,” Roger relates. “So Bruce Wilson hired as many people as he could and we ran the cars as Scuderia Veloce which was owned by David McKay who was Ferrari’s Australian importer. We had one car for Chris and the other for Derek Bell. Chris won four of the seven races and won the championship so we enjoyed a very successful Tasman series that year.”

Bailey and Amon discuss the situation at Ferrari. (Bailey collection)

Bruce Wilson came up with a simple, moveable wing for Amon’s Tasman Ferrari. “Enzo would not agree to mounting wings on uprights,” Roger says. “If you look at all the Formula 1 Ferraris from that era the wings were mounted on the frame, not on the uprights like Lotus and everyone else did. The Lotus F1 and Tasman cars had moveable wings mounted on the suspension uprights but ours was fixed to a frame on the engine. Bruce Wilson devised a system for the Tasman car where we mounted two Jaguar solenoids on the back of the wing. When the driver hit the brake pedal the wing tipped up and when he took his foot off the pedal the wing flattened out. It worked really well.”

Meanwhile, Mauro Forgheiri designed a different system for the F1 car. “On the Formula 1 car the wing angle was dependent on the oil flow,” Roger says. “So when you where at maximum flow the wing was flat and when you backed off the wing tipped up. That was Forgheiri’s idea and it worked beautifully.”

Following the last Tasman race Roger enjoyed a first class flight from Sydney to South Africa. “After the Tasman series I had to go to Kyalami for the South African GP and the start of the F1 World Championship. I went to the Sydney airport and bumped into Graham Hill. We chatted for a while and then got on the plane, me sitting in the back and Graham up front. Just before we took off the stewardess came back to me and said, ‘Mr. Bailey? Bring your bag and follow me.’ Graham had chatted up the stewardesses and got me a seat beside him in first-class. We flew to Madagascar and then onto South Africa.”

Amon qualified fifth in South Africa but dropped out of the race. “After the South African GP when I got back to Maranello, Vallerio came up and said, ‘Mr. Ferrari would like to have lunch with you today.’,” Roger says. “So again, I went across the road to the Cavalino and it was the same group: Vallerio, Gozzi, Piero Lardi, Chris and me. When you ate with Mr. Ferrari you never got to order your food. Mr. Ferrari ordered for everyone.

“So we had lunch and then Mr. Ferrari again made a speech that sounded to me just the same as the previous year. Once again, he called Chris up and gave him a hug and handshake before going to his drawer. This time he pulled out Volume 2 to the first book he had given Chris the year before. It was more of Enzo’s memoirs with some nice photos.

“Mr. Ferrari then beckoned me to come up and again he gave me a short speech and a big hug and a handshake. This time he didn’t go to one of his drawers and I thought, ‘I must have pissed him off last year by asking him to sign the book he gave me.’ I started to walk away and I was about ten steps away when he said, ‘Roger, uno momento.’ And he gave me another hug and then reached into his pocket and pulled out a gold watch which he gave to me. It was very touching.

“Now of course, Chris had won six races for Ferrari and Enzo gave him two books that he couldn’t read, and I got a signed memoir and a gold watch. I wouldn’t sell either of them for anything. But it pissed Chris off through the rest of his life ’til the day he died.”

Amon on opposite lock aboard the F1 Ferrari in 1968. (Bailey collection)

There was a two-month break between South Africa and the second F1 race of the year in Spain, but Amon and Bailey were fully occupied at all times. “Chris and I did multiple programs in 1969. We did the Tasman Series and won it, plus all of the Formula 1 races, some sports car races, and a Can-Am race at the end of the year.”

Meanwhile, in Formula 1, Amon was beginning to tire of the many engine problems and DNFs. He qualified second in both Spain and Monaco, fourth in Holland and France, and fifth at the British GP, but ran into trouble in all but one of these races.

“At that time Ferrari was just beginning to develop the 3 liter flat 12 to replace the V12,” Roger relates. “I think we blew up the first seven flat 12 engines on the dyno. We were also having a lot of strange problems at the races with the V12. At Barcelona Chris qualified second and had the race won by a country mile before he lost oil pressure. There was no way to check the oil level in that year’s Ferrari and I don’t think we started the race with enough oil. That was the race where the rear wings fell off Hill and Rindt’s Lotuses, which was the beginning of the end for high wings. At Spa, Chris was leading by a long way again and a fuse blew in the fuel pump.[check ’68]

“People talk about Chris Amon being the most unlucky driver in the history of Formula 1 and he was very unlucky. But a lot of the shit that happened during our time at Ferrari could have been avoided. I don’t want to blame Ferrari for all the problems but there were times, like Barcelona for instance, where we just didn’t have enough oil in the tank. Anyway, Chris was getting a bit edgy with Ferrari and he said to me, ‘I’m out of here.’.”

Amon quit Ferrari’s F1 team in disgust after the British GP in July. He was replaced for the rest of the year by Pedro Rodriguez who drove a second 312 at Silverstone and a lone Ferrari in the last four races. Tino Brambilla drove a second Ferrari at Monza but qualified fifteenth and did not start the race.

Amon in action aboard the 612 Can-Am car in 1969. (Pete Lyons)

For the rest of the 1969 season Amon and Bailey centered their attentions on racing a Ferrari 612P in the Can-Am series. This was a quasi-works entry, bankrolled by Amon and Reno casino owner Bill Harrah. “For the Can-Am in 1969, Ferrari built the largest engine they had ever built,” Roger says. “It was a seven liter V-12. Initially we had two Italian mechanics with us but they didn’t stay long so it was just me and a guy named Doane Spencer running the car for most of the Can-Am season. By then I had a pretty good handle on the car but we had a problem with an oil cooler they had added to the car that they hadn’t properly flowed. Ferrari built an oil cooler kit for the left side of the car with a little ram to jam air in there. But it ran very hot and at maximum rpm we kept having a pressure drop and the thing would blow up. We couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

“Doane was an excellent mechanic and engine man and he couldn’t figure it out either. It was a bloody nightmare. I don’t know how many times we rebuilt that engine. When we got back to Italy at the end of the ’69 Can-Am season they found out that the oil cooler wasn’t working correctly causing the pressure drop which bugged us all season.”

As it turned out, Amon raced the giant 712 V-12 only in two races at the end of the year. He started the Can-Am season pretty well with the 612, qualifying and finishing third at Watkins Glen behind Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme. At the next race, Edmonton, he qualified third and finished second to Hulme which proved to be his best result of the Can-Am season. At Mid-Ohio, Amon started twelfth and finished third behind Hulme and McLaren.

Amon commissioned well-known aerodynamicist Paul Lamar to design a high wing for the Ferrari which first appeared at Elkhart Lake where he qualified seventh but dropped out of race with a failed fuel pump. At Bridgehampton, he qualified third again behind McLaren and Hulme in the dominant factory McLaren M8Bs, but broke an oil pump shaft in the race. There was more engine trouble in practice at Laguna Seca resulting in Amon driving a third factory McLaren in the race only to suffer a broken differential.

At Riverside, Amon finally raced the 712. He qualified third but had trouble starting the car for the race. After a push start he was disqualified after five laps. At the final Can-Am race of ’69 in Texas, Amon qualified the 712 fourth but his engine blew after just sixteen laps. He thus finished sixth in Can-Am points behind McLaren, Hulme, Chuck Parsons, Jo Siffert and George Eaton.

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