Post 1945 Racers
Peter Gethin


SOME DRIVERS BURST INTO the top grade virtually overnight but others follow a long hard path to the top, sometimes getting near that coveted works drive only to slip back again. One of these is Peter Gethin, who has slogged away at his motor racing for many years without getting anywhere until Bruce McLaren took him under the McLaren wing, first with drives in Formula 5000 then occasional drives in Formula 1. Following Bruce's death he graduated to the CanAm team after Dan Gurney left and helped the team win the CanAm Championship yet again. For this season he has been given the numbet: two spot in the Formula 1 team and also does a lot of testing of the CanAm and Indianapolis cars, although he will not be racing them. Despite having the use of an older M14 Formula 1 car instead of the more revolutionary M19, which team leader Denny Hulme uses, Peter has put up some very good drives this season, finishing second in the Rothman's Oulton Park Fl race close behind Pedro Rodriguez's BRM and in the same position in the International Trophy at Silverstone. We talked to him at Brands Hatch when these successes were still to come.

CAR How do you see the season from the McLaren viewpoint?

GETHIN We had a promising start to the season when Denny led the South African Grand Prix in the M19 until he was put out with suspension trouble. Although the car looks good it would be too early to say that it's fantastic because they went well in South Africa last year and ran into problems later on. I won't be getting an M 19 until the team has finished building all the Indy and CanAm cars so it will probably be June before it is ready. Our prospects look quite good, but so much depends on what ennes we get for the new cars.

CAR It looks as if this year's Championship will be fought out between Jackie Stewart, the Ferrari drivers and possibly Denny Hulme and John Surtees as dark horses; do you see it that way?

GETHIN I haven't really thought about it too much. I've got my own problems!

CAR Do you think the Ferrari drivers will work as a team, with two drivers holding everyone else up, leaving one man to win?

GETHIN No, I don't! This could be their main problem as I think they will just go too quickly for themselves as Ickx, Regazzoni and Andretti all want to win and with a bit of luck they'll all bugger themselves up!

CAR Have you any strong views on Formula 1 racing at present whether it be safety, wet weather racing, accidents, etc?

GETHIN Yes. I'd like more money! CAR Seriously, though, do you think we have seen the end of the safety problems?

GETHINNo, I don't think you will ever see an end to it because cars, get lighter and faster each year, the tyres and drivers get nearer the limits so you can never stop looking for greater safety. Most circuits that I know are pretty reasonable but one or two are still not right even yet.

CAR You have been something of a bridesmaid in motor racing, always looking like getting to the top then just failing. But'in 1970 it all seemed to happen for you.

GETHIN Yes, I quite agree. I am driving no better now than I was in 1968 when I was getting nowhere. It just seems to be the luck of the draw. You just have to keep, plugging away until the break comes or give up hope.

CAR So the Formula 5000 drive was your big break?

GETHIN Yes, driving for McLaren was my big break because I've always had good equipment with McLaren.

CAR Why did you not continue with the CanAm series this season? GETHIN One of the things we found we were missing out on last year was that we were always flying backwards and forwards across the Atlantic for a race each weekend and we were losing development time on the Formula 1 cars. The CanAm cars needed little sorting because they have usually been superior to the opposition but

the F1 cars started off competitive and got less and less so as the season wore on because other people concentrated on develop­ment. So the idea is that I stay in Europe and do the development testing on Formula 1.

CAR Do you h'ave any particular forte as a driver or is there any type of driving that you don't like?

GETHIN I don't particularly like fast circuits, with long straights where slipstreaming is necessary. I prefer slow/medium circuits, such as Monaco but I've only driven F3 cars there. I don't know the Nur­burgring either so I must spend a couple of weeks learning it..I like the circuits where there's plenty of braking, gear changing, lots of corners. But going flat out through a bend in top gear I'm not too keen on. I suppose I'm a coward.

CAR What do you think about the young upstarts who are pushing their way into Formula 1, like Fittipaldi, Cevert, Wisell, etc?

GETHIN I think they're all good and it's just a matter ofluck which of them gets the equipment on the right day to make it to the top.

CAR Who do you think is the best driver in racing today?

GETHIN That little Scotsman, whose name I've forgotten! But in CanAm racing Denny Hulme is very good because he can handle the big bangers so well.

CAR Taking someone like Regazzoni, it is being said that he has only shone because he's had the fastest car in the flat 12 Ferrari. Is that an unfair comment?

GETHIN Yes, it's very unfair. You can have the best guitar in the world but if you can't play it you're going to get nowhere. It is necessary to have the best or equal equipment with other teams to win Grands Prix, but a bad driver won't win a GP. He used to have a reputation as a wild driver but from what I've seen of him, usually as he's passing me, he drives well!

CAR Finally, what will give you some satisfaction at the end of the season so that you can put your feet up and say 'You've done bloody well Gethin'?

GETHIN I have no particular ambitions this season-I: just want to drive as well as the equip­ment allows. It's difficult to gauge how well I have driven sometimes, because I come in after a race when I think I have driven badly and people come up to congratulate me, but on other occasions when I have felt that I have driven well they ignore me completely!

CAR Perhaps a few Championship points will convince you!          


Richie Ginther

Author: ArchitectPage