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We present here, with thanks to Sir Stirling, who generously welcomed us into his Shepherd’s Market home, a selection of ‘definitive’ GP Library images. Doug Nye and Paul Vestey joined Stirling in conversation as he recalled many amusing insights and anecdotes, a small selection of which we present here to accompany his choice of images from our collection.
Throughout my 50 years-plus as motor racing journalist and author I have worked with photographs almost every day. Soon after I joined ‘Motor Racing’ magazine at Brands Hatch as an office boy and general go-for in 1963 I was despatched to collect some Grand Prix racing prints from their favoured photographer, Geoffrey Goddard. I was warned he could be ‘difficult’ and irascible, so he was to be treated with care. In fact his door in Ealing was answered by his lovely - long suffering wife - Betty who asked immediately if I’d like a cup oftea and something to eat, and then Geoff emerged from his darkroom beneath the stairs, cracks a joke, and hey presto, we all got on famously.Geoff eventually became the firmest of firm friends and very much a mentor to me. He introduced me to photographic processing, and then to purchasing old prints and negatives and colour slides taken by others. He built his own huge collection of motor racing magazines, books and photography and his habit - I must confess - deeply infected me too (as my own long-suffering Mrs Nye will attest).Today The GP Library preserves the motor racing photography not only of Geoffrey Goddard, but also of the great Italian racing photo-journalist Franco Lini, and of the lamented Zooom Photographic motor sports agency, and of pre-war Chula/‘Bira’-equipe personality Alexander Shura Rahm…and more.
Choosing 12 images from over a million is daunting! I liked the contrast of the exotic and charming Siamese Prince Bira in Home Guard battledress and then, at last, on the grid again in Geneva after six long years of war. The shots of Dr Farina and Fangio speak for themselves. Then the Jaguars of Duncan Hamilton and Mike Hawthorn, as British as could be. Jim Clark in the Lotus making it all look so effortless and the happy picture at Monza with Jackie Stewart eating ices - not something one would see in the modern era! American Bob Bondurant’s Cobra in a glorious Swiss mountain setting a long way from home, then the Sicilian Nino Vaccarella in the big Ferrari wowing his home crowd in brilliant sunshine. Jack Brabham giving the photographers a thrill back home in Australia, and finally Pedro Rodriguez and Jo Siffert fighting it out as only good teamates can. These I think begin to give an idea of the many treasures which lie within the extraordinary collection the GP Library holds!
I am aware I may have viewed the magnificent GPL collection through a slightly unusual lens; not knowing an enormous about motor racing my selection reflects my own background in social anthropology and photo-journalism.It has been an enormous privilege to dig deep into this extensive collection and hear so many of the remarkable stories from Paul and Doug, each time though doing this edit I found my loupe hovering back to images that portray what was happening behind the scenes, rather than on the track! Clues to the social and cultural moments of the time visible in the clothing, the passion and commitment to the sport reflected in the relationships reflecting the team endeavour to keep the drivers and cars out on the track during these golden moments of motorsport.