With the warm fuzzy feeling that is St Valentine’s Day (!?) still in the air, Maverick from the rather excellent site, VivaF1 sent me this nice little guest post.
For some rather ace Monday evening reading, kick back, turn on the kettle and have a hot cup of tea.
It’s hard to imagine in today’s professional era but until the eighties it was common practice in minor Formula One countries for local drivers to bring some local colour to the grid, joining the regulars for a one-off in their privately entered Coopers, March’s and Tyrrell’s, depending on the era.
If you think it’s strange having two teams named Lotus now, consider a time when almost half the grid would line-up in Lotus machinery. In Japan there was Kazuyoshi Hoshino, in Spain Emilio de Villota and André Testut at Monaco.
South Africa was no stranger to this practice, especially as the country developed its own burgeoning Formula One series, attracting drivers from across the border in Rhodesia as well. The result is that Rhodesia has been represented in the World Championship by no less than five drivers – that’s currently more than Mexico, a country that’s hosted 15 rounds of the World Championship. Undoubtedly the most successful of these five is one John Maxwell Lineham Love.
John Love was born on 7 December 1924 in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia – what is now known as Zimbabwe. His career as an electrical fitter was soon cut short when the Second World War broke out and he soon found himself called up for the Armour Car Division where he got his first taste for driving in a tank of all things.
It was during this time that his interest in racing was sparked while stationed near Monza where he and some comrades would take to the circuit on an old motorbike. After the war, he promptly took up motorcycle racing but it wasn’t long before he was looking to take to four wheels and in 1954 he was finally able to purchase a Cooper 500.
He quickly developed a reputation in his home country and was soon crossing over the border for meetings in South Africa too culminating in 1960 with a seventh-place at the non-championship South African Grand Prix – a remarkable achievement considering that by this time he was racing an ex-Le Mans Jaguar D-Type, an aged sports car amongst Formula Two machinery which included Sir Stirling Moss in Rob Walker’s Cooper-Borgward. By this time, however, the lure of the British and European racing scene was calling strongly.
After a meeting with Lola’s Eric Broadley in England, he was offered a place at the quasi-works Fitzwilliam Formula Junior team and 1960 saw Love racing the team’s Lola Mk2-Ford at Monza, Monte Carlo, Reims and the Nürburgring amongst other circuits. Victory eluded him but a series of podiums caught the attention of Ken Tyrrell who quickly asked him to drive for him. For the next two seasons, Love, along with South Africa’s Tony Maggs and Switzerland’s Jo Siffert dominated Formula Junior.
A crash near the end of the 1962 season was to have a huge consequences for his career. Going into the barriers while avoiding a spinning Tony Maggs, he fractured his arm.
“I broke my left arm and had to have a bone graft from my hip,” said Love. “Tyrrell wanted me to go back to Europe the following season and I also had test drives lined up with Cooper and Brabham, but I didn’t think that I was going to be good after that.”
From then on, Love had to adopt a new driving style, since he couldn’t bend his arm properly and his wrist was severely hampered. He got used to effectively steering one handed, only using his left-hand to check the movement but it clearly limited his potential. Deciding to return to Rhodesia, Love felt it was also time to move up to more powerful cars and headed back with a F1 Cooper T55-Climax.
Racing in the Southern African non-championship, Love was to make nine appearances in the championship-counting South African Grand Prix. He was also drafted into the Cooper-works team for the 1964 Italian Grand Prix at short notice. Unfortunately, a mechanical problem during practice prevented him from qualifying for Monza. Undoubtedly, his finest moment of glory came at the 1967 South African Grand Prix.
Now aged 42, and armed with an outdated Cooper-Climax T79, Love shocked the established order by qualifying fifth. Only Jack Brabham, Denny Hulme, Jimmy Clark and Pedro Rodríguez had gone faster – in his wake were John Surtees, Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt and Graham Hill amongst others. Unfortunately, a deed of generosity was to cost him dear. After Jo Siffert developed problems in the Rob Walker Cooper, Love lent him one of the two fuel pumps that he brought to the race.
After a slow start, dropping a couple of places on the opening lap, Love gradually began to climb up the order. A combination of excellent driving and some beneficial retirements soon found John in an incredible second place at the halfway mark, with only Denis Hulme ahead of him. Things got even better on lap 61 when Hulme was forced to pit – the Rhodesian was in the lead.
Then the engine began to misfire. Worried that he was running out of fuel, and with only seven laps remaining, the pits called him in to refuel. Not really prepared for this, refuelling took much too long and by the time Love rejoined the race, Pedro Rodriquez had gone through into the lead to clinch Cooper’s last victory. Love had to settle for second place.
In the post-race post-mortem, it turned out that the car had had plenty of fuel to complete the race – instead it was the fuel pump that had been the problem, leaving Love to wonder what might had been if he’d used his original choice of pump.
“Of course, if it was not for the misfire we could have completed the race without the pitstop, but those are the ifs and buts of motor racing,” said Love. “I suppose, in all fairness, you could say it was a bit of an inheritance because a lot of cars packed up in the race. I was bitterly disappointed that I couldn’t win, but for a South African or a Rhodesian to even get that high up… well, we didn’t believe it would happen.”
Respectable finishes in subsequent years never came close to matching the heights of the 1967 race. However, one other notable mark on his racing CV is often overlooked. Lotus is often credited with débuting the sponsorship livery when they arrived at the 1968 Monaco Grand Prix in Goldleaf colours however, several months earlier, Love and compatriot Sam Tingle beat them to it.
On the 1st January, 1968, taking advantage of Formula One’s new rules on liveries, the two Rhodesians raced in the colours of Gunston cigarettes. Tobacco branding had arrived in F1.
After racing Love retired to his garage business in Bulawayo where, after a long struggle with cancer and at the age of 80, he passed away at his home on the 25th of April, 2005.