written in 67
He has a rough-hewn look about him and his accent is so broad you can almost walk on it. Curses and compliments mingle with such a steady flow of good sense disguised in Stryne (the language spoken by Australians) that you are left with no doubt that Robert Paul Hawkins is a self-made man. You might wonder momentarily when you learn that his father is a minister but you soon discover that the unexpected is the norm with Hawkins. He has a dislike of lazy people, the English weather, the Royal Automobile Club, warm beer, the safety standards at French races and people who don't back words with deeds. He likes self employment, water skiing, self advancement, swimming, Fosters beer, and frequent use of the Great Australian Adjective.
Hawkins is a sturdy 13 stone (182 lb) and is 5 ft 11 in. tall. He served his apprenticeship as a mechanic in a Melbourne garage and tried his hand at racing in an Austin-Healey 100 M, but his big chance came indirectly as a result of borrowing one of the Australian army's vehicles to teach a young Italian to drive while both were doing their military training. A chance meeting with the youth later led to Paul being invited around to his home to see his brother who owned an Austin-Healey 100 S-one of four in the country. Paul drove the Italian around the block in the 100 Sand when they returned to the front door, the brother offered the car to Paul to race. "He seemed most impressed-but then he was probably frightened to death!"
One of his first races with this car was at the 1956 Australian Grand Prix meeting at Albert Park in Melbourne when he took fourth place in the sports car race behind Moss and Behra in Maseratis and Bib Stilwell in a D-type Jaguar. He drove the 100 Sat -several other meetings in Australia, pleased at racing a car sponsored by a licensed grocery!
But these early races made Hawkins anxious for greener pastures and he announced plans for a trip to England with the inference that he might have a crack at the racing game when he got there. His friends were skeptical, telling him he'd be lucky to get a job, let alone a drive! On Feb. 4, 1960, Paul Hawkins and England met for the first time and the introduction was distinctly chilly from both sides.
"Nobody talked to you and nobody seemed to smile. I wasn't impressed, I can tell you. I wondered what sort of bloody place it was. There was a hurricane blowing, it was raining and freezing cold."
With a couple of mates he hammered a rented Standard Ten from Lands End to John O'Groats returning it with 2200 miles on the clock and no tread on the tires after a hard-worked tour of England compressed into a hectic week. Then he disappeared into Earls Court, the suburb of London crammed with colonials who live in a home-away-from-home parochial atmosphere insulated from London and the Poms in a sort of antipodean ghetto.
Money and morale were running low one hungover morning when a newspaper advertisement suggested that Robert Paul Hawkins might be just the man the Healey Motor Co. was looking for as works manager. The point that Donald Healey might not have wanted a 23-year-old Australian as a works manager wasn't allowed to impede the Hawkins' prospects. He walked into the office at Healey's and found, he says, "a tall, skinny bloke lounging back with his feet on the desk." It was rally driver John Sprinzel. Hawkins and Sprinzel discussed the former's prospects with the firm, a discussion which ended with Hawkins informing Sprinzel that since they appeared to be wasting each other's time, perhaps he should leave. He was taken on as works manager and so began an association with Healey that was to stand both the company and Hawkins in good stead.
Paul managed the section of the Healey Motor Co. that handled speed equipment for all models of Healeys. The Sebring Sprite resulted from the joint efforts of Hawkins and Sprinzel. While Sprinzel concentrated on rallying the neat little GT Sebring Sprites, Hawkins went racing them with conspicuous success that started with his first outing.
He knew his first race was at Aintree and he knew that Aintree was in England but from there his geographical knowledge was lacking. He set out from London at 6 A.M. on the morning of practice and eventually arrived at the Liverpool circuit just as practice was starting. Without time to remove his luggage from the car he practiced with his suitcase bouncing about in the trunk! In the race he was so consumed with his efforts to pass a stubborn GSM-Delta that he lost track of the laps and finally carved inside his opponent on the corner entering the pit straight. The man had the checkered flag out and a surprised Hawkins had won his first race in England! Paul stayed with Healey for two years driving a Sebring Sprite owned by a friend, Cyril Simpson, who was happy to supply the capital if Paul was willing to prepare the car: an arrangement which also suited Hawkins. He raced Sprites at Sebring, Le Mans and the Nurburgring, scoring occasional class placings and fastest laps.
In 1962 he switched to Ian Walker's Racing Team to drive a Lotus 23 sports car and this move proved so successful that Walker also bought him a Formula Junior Lotus 22. But the following season Walker went big-time racing hiring the top Formula 1 drivers, so Hawkins moved on to the Willment Team late in the season where he drove a varietyof cars that Jeff Uren kept in their competition stable. In 1964 he won the Rhodesian GP in their F-Jr Brabham fitted with a twincam 1500 Ford engine and also won the saloon race at the same meeting with the team's Galaxie. He finished second to Graham Hill in the Rand GP and once again won the saloon race in the Galaxie and took fastest lap. He followed this by winning the Cape GP in the Brabham on Jan. 9, 1965. Among the impressed spectators in South Africa was British sometime Porsche racer Dick Stoop who offered to buy Hawkins a Formula 1 car for the 1965 season if Paul would manage the team affairs and finance. Again, this was an arrangement that suited the Hawkins' sense of do-it-yourself but while Paul wanted a Brabham, Stoop wanted a Lotus and since he was wielding the wallet Paul finished up with a Formula 1 ex-works Lotus monocoque with a l.5-liter Coventry-Climax V-8.
His race at Monaco finished in the harbor when Paul misjudged the chicane and whistled over the bales into the sea. A rescue boat fished him out swimming strongly. His sheet of press notes merely records; "Retired in the sea" for this GP. With the Lotus salvaged and rebuilt, more dramas followed at Silverstone when Paul's mechanic spun off into a bank re-wrecking the car when he was supposed to be running it in.
While the races listed have been feature events, Paul was also placing well in GT and sports car races driving Healeys, Galaxies, Lotuses, Porsches, Ferraris, works Ford GTs, Lolas and everything that seemed competitive. Iri 1966 he switched to Group 7 running a "big banger" Lola-Chev (owned by a good friend Jackie; Epstein) with a lot of enthusiasm for the brute power and minor successes. When the Group 7 cars were legislated out in England, Hawkins was back at the beginning for the '67 season. However his many and varied racing successes spoke as loudly as his dominating Australian twang and financial help was forthcoming from Firestone and Castrol. He bought a GT-40 Ford, prepared it himself and set out to take most of the Group 4 honors in British races armed with the simple logic that if he drove his own car he could modify it as he pleased without having to waste time impressing a team manager first.
He ordered one of the sleek new Lola Chev GTs and then the RAC rang down the curtain on these cars just as they were getting successful. While Paul's pet hate, the do-nothing Englishmen, tut-tutted the RAC's unheralded agreement with the CSI to set as 3-liter limit on Group 6 racing in Europe, Paul ranted in letters to motor magazines that it was time the body organizing motor racing in England was taken to task. And a rueful Eric Broadley at Lola Cars surveyed an assembly line of the new racers that had been made obsolete and stillborn without official murmur from the people who purported to support British interests in international racing.
Having aired his views Hawkins went back to work on his GT-40 which he prepares himself in a North London garage.
His future plans? Paul would go Formula 1 racing if someone offered him a works ride.
The Hawkins bluff exterior looks as though it was hacked from an uncompromising block of granite and it has changed little since I first met him: one night in 1961 at a party in London. A blood-curdling shriek of tires three floors below announced that Hawkins had arrived, his Austin-Healey describing a tire black are at the intersection as he handbrake-turned through 180 degrees to park outside the party. There weren't enough glasses to go round, so Paul borrowed a traveling bag and a towel, walked to the nearest hotel, put the towel over one arm and went through the bar quietly scooping all the glasses into the traveling bag with the polished aplomb of a Hilton barman-then brought them back'to the party!
At 29, Hawkins has a hard-earned reputation that he is planning to use to good effect. "If you sit on your backside all day, nobody will come along and give you a hundred thousand quid 1 This year he won the Targa Florio in a factory Porsche and would have won the 1000 km race at the nurburgring for Porsche too if his co-driver hadn't let their opposition get by three-quarters of the way round the last lap of the mountain circuit. They placed second a couple of tenths behind. He fore casts sweeping Porsche victories in Group 6 racing next year under the newly imposed and hotly opposed 3-liter limit.
The Hawkins motto, "It's better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all," sounds a rather incongruous literary gem coming from such a rough diamond, but it sums up the stormily successful background of this rugged Australian and augurs for his future.