BOB DANCE INTERVIEW
Bob Dance is well known in racing circles. He is known as a Lotus stalwart, having worked for them from 1960 to 1969, and then again from 1976 to their demise in 1994. In between he worked for March, STP and Brabham, so not a bad CV then. During his time he has worked with all the greats;Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Mario Andretti, Ronnie Peterson, Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen, to name just a a few!
I first met him at Silverstone in 1998. After that initial chat we kept in contact and late in 1999 I travelled to his home to interview him for a proposed magazine article I was planning. That didn't happen but I kept the tape recording of the conversation anyway. Listening to it again two years later I was reminded what a pleasant day I had spent in the company of one of the great un-sung heroes of motor racing. I decided to ask Bob during one of our frequent phone conversations if he would give me permission to use just part of the tape of the conversation on this website. Luckily, he has said 'yes', so here are the results.
Bob was made Chief Mechanic for Team Lotus on the F1 team at the end of the 1967 season, taking charge of the Lotus 49's of Jim Clark and Graham Hill at the non-championship Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama.
'We picked up the cars and spares from London Airport, as everything had come direct from the Mexican Grand Prix. They were all in wooden crates in those days, nothing like the special aluminium boxes we use nowadays. We just loaded everything into the transporter and went straight down to Dover to catch the ferry and then drove down to Jarama. Don't forget here that the cars had been away and had already done two races (Watkins Glen, USA and Mexico), and we were now taking them to Spain with no time to take them back to Hethel for servicing. But we always knew that when we arrived at the Spanish border we were in for a hold up. We drove through the night from the ferry, and would have arrived in the morning at the border post. The customs officers put us in a little compound and then the performance started! We would never be able to find out who was in charge or whatever. We would be held up for absolutely hours before the organising club rang from Madrid and asked why everyone was being delayed. As we were old hands at this, we would straight away, upon parking up, get the crates out and unpack the cars and then spend the rest of the day cleaning them as they hadn't been cleaned since Mexico. We knew that we wouldn't have any time to mess about when we got to the circuit in time for practice. Jarama at that time was the most modern track in the world, we even had sliding doors on the garages! But I do remember that we didn't get any sleep at that meeting, as we were so busy with the cars. But it was worth it, we had a good win there.'
'We got back from Spain in the middle of November, and the cars had to be ready for the Tasman Series in Australia and New Zealand AND the first Grand Prix of the New Year (South Africa) was early that year too, in January. So, you'll probably realise, we didn't have much of a Christmas holiday, in fact I think we managed Christmas Day off and that was it.'
'At that point we had two sets of cars being run. We had the Formula 1 cars in South Africa and the Tasman cars in New Zealand. In fact, I remember Jimmy leaving Johannesbourg STRAIGHT after the GP (another win!) to fly overnight to New Zealand for the first Tasman race. And then, in the middle of all that, we had to get the cars re-painted in their new Gold Leaf livery. So that year was a busy, tough year in all.'
This is just a brief snippet from our conversation that day, which on tape, runs for something like 90 minutes. With Bob's co-operation, I am aiming to release fifty minutes of that tape on CD very soon, so keep checking back. I'm sure that if you are a fan of 60's and 70's Formula 1, you'll be interested in what Bob has to say, 'from the horse's mouth'!