On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
INNES IRELAND was an extremely talented racecar driver—giving Team Lotus its first F1 victory in 1961—a wonderful raconteur and writer, and a dear friend. Stories galore come to mind. I offer here a song, a poem and a toast, all taught to wife Dottie and me by Innes.
Innes had already been writing for the British Autocar magazine when R&T took him on as a correspondent sharing Grand Prix coverage with Rob Walker (www.wp.me/p2ETap-jU). The first day Innes showed up at R&T’s Newport Beach, California, offices in the early 1980s, he charmed one and all with his larger-than-life personality and wonderful sense of humor.
Before long, he was teaching us all the outrageous lyrics of “Dear Mrs. Murphy,” which he sang in quite the presentable baritone.
“Dear Mrs. Murphy/And your five lovely daughters/Thank you for having me/And being oh so kind./I’ve got pains in my back/My knees have turned to jelly/My dork is getting shorter/And I think I’m going blind.”
Succinctly, Innes was a race driver—and intensely competitive. But he was decidedly of an era when race driving was an entertainment, not a business.
In his book, All Arms and Elbows, Innes describes the deal when he joined Lotus in 1959: “In the first year, I would receive 25 percent of the starting money, I think 33 1/3 percent of bonus money and 50 percent of prize money (actually, 45 percent, since one traditionally gave the mechanics 5 percent).”
There is no mention of anything resembling a salary. A team’s income in 1959 was negotiable with the race organizer. Starting, or “appearance,” money for each car might be ₤500 ($1400 back then). Mike Hawthorn, the 1958 World Champion, might command a bonus of an added ₤100 ($280). Other bonus money would come from being on pole or having the fastest race lap. A first-place finish in 1959 might be worth ₤600 ($1680).
Innes’s book certainly describes what it was like to be a top-ranked driver competing with the likes of Stirling Moss (Innes’s good friend), Graham Hill, Dan Gurney and Jim Clark. Innes’s heroic effort in 1960 pushing his Lotus up the hill at Monaco—and then through the tunnel and completing the rest of a lap—is memorable.
Both Arms and Elbows and Sideways to Sydney share Innes’s zany side. The latter describes his codrive of a Mercedes-Benz sedan in the 1968 London-to-Sydney Marathon sponsored by London’s Daily Express newspaper. Seven days—and 7500 miles—from London to Bombay (today’s Mumbai); getting stoned along the way by political agitators in Pakistan; spending a night in a Karachi jail; earning the Private Entrant Award in Bombay. Then on to Australia, and 3500 more miles in 3 1/2 days.
Innes recounted this adventure with a gleam in his eye, as he shared a whimsical bit of his own poetry, “Ode to a Karachi Jail.”
“Birds do it—and fly;/Bees do it—and die;/But I mustn’t do it/And I’ll tell you why./I’m betrothed, you see,/And I must be true./But I’ll tell you what I’ll do,/I’ll lie terribly still /And let you.”
Raised a good Scotsman (though, indeed, he was born in England), Innes liked his Scotch whisky (no “e,” you’ll note). Wife Dottie, he and I enjoyed plenty of Famous Grouse and occasionally celebrated with a single malt.
The phrase “Slàinte mhath!” is Gaelic for “Good health!” Its response, “Slàinte mhòr!,” means “Great health!” Phonetically, Innes taught us, it’s “Slange-e-va,” and “Slange-e-vor.”
Innes, rest his soul, enriched our lives in many ways. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013