One of the most significant red letter days coming down the track in 2011 is the 40th anniversary of the debut of Rondel Racing. The immaculate F2 operation was founded jointly by Ron Dennis and Neil Trundle and formed the basis of today’s multiple world championship winning McLaren operation that's become one of the sport’s defining forces over the decades which followed.
Ron Dennis stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Bernie Ecclestone as one of the men responsible for the development of the professional and immaculately well-scrubbed image which has been projected by the sport in the first decade of the 21st century.
Glance back at photographs of the cars and circuits of the mid-1970s. Careworn infrastructure, oil-streaked cars and a general lack of rigour. Not with Rondel, which brought new standards of turn-out to the sport’s most important second division category.
Motor racing may have been romantic in those distant days, although there was nothing in the slightest bit romantic about the vulnerability of the drivers in cars and on tracks that only measurably changed when Jackie Stewart focused the blowtorch of his unrelenting attention on them.
Jackie and Ron have always been very different personalities, but they are bound together by meticulous attention to detail. That has been the power house of their success.
Dennis always thought big, never allowing himself to be constrained by established boundaries of convention. His new team hit the ground running at the first Hockenheim F2 international of the ’71 season and a week later won the Easter Monday Thruxton F2 international with Graham Hill at the wheel.
This was probably the most prestigious F2 race on the international calendar and gave Rondel an impressive flying start to their own campaign. And they never looked back.
That said, Hill was lucky to win at Thruxton, only taking the lead with a couple of laps to go after longtime leader Ronnie Peterson’s works March ran wide onto the grass on a fast sweeping right hander while lapping a slower car.
I was watching the race on the bank at the chicane before the pits a few feet from Motor Sport magazine’s legendary editor Bill Boddy who remarked after the chequered flag had fallen: “Very clever of Hill to let that young man think he might have a chance of winning the race.”
I think he may have been joking...