James Howden Ganley was born in Hamilton, New Zealand, on December 24, 1941. As a boy, his great interest was in yachting, a sport in which he competed with some success — but everything changed when he attended the 1955 N Z International Grand Prix at Ardmore. Watching a pair of 1955 Ferrari 625 monopostos speeding around the airfield circuit, Howden was instantly hooked on motor racing. It wasn’t long before he was building his own go-kart.
Finished in 1956, his new creation was fitted with a 1.5kW (2hp) engine and named the Ganley MkI. Howden says the MkI could reach speeds of up to 50kph — but it had no brakes! From those early beginnings, by the late 1950s Howden was following his father’s interest in motor-sport club events, and occasionally he was able to score a drive in a variety of cars including his mother’s Morris Minor, a Buckler MkV sports, and a Ganley family-owned Ford 10 Special sports car. Then in 1960 he committed all the funds he had, as well as all he could borrow from his family, to buy a 1956 Lotus XI sports racing car [you can read about this car elsewhere in this month’s magazine]. With virtually no budget, Howden competed in it with some success throughout New Zealand for two years in 1961 and 1962. However, by this time Howden had a new goal — to gain a drive in Formula 1. With that goal in mind, he left New Zealand in 1962 to work in England, and thus gain the means to further his dream. He raced a Falcon Climax GT car in England in 1962, and in 1963 became a works mechanic, and later works driver with the Gemini Mk4 Formula Junior team.
In June 1964 Howden joined the Bruce McLaren Motor Racing team as a mechanic, and the following year he found himself working on the Ford GT40 X1 prototype that was being developed at McLaren, and driven by Chris Amon. In 1966 he was one of two mechanics for the McLaren M2B Ford F1 car at the Monaco Grand Prix — Bruce’s very first GP with his new McLaren team. Later in 1966, after pre-season testing in the USA with the works McLaren M1B Can-Am cars, Howden remained there as crew member for an American Can-Am team for the three-month six-race 1966 Can-Am season that ran from September until November. Howden returned to the UK in late 1966 to race a new Formula Three (F3) Brabham BT21-20 in the UK and Europe throughout 1967 and 1968. In 1969 he purchased a new Chevron B15-09 F3 single-seater car, and raced it very successfully to achieve third place in the 1969 F3 European Cup. Howden had wisely kept Bruce McLaren fully informed of his progress throughout his three years in F3 and, in late 1969, Bruce offered Howden a drive in a semi-works-sponsored McLaren M10B Formula 5000 racing car for the 1970 European F5000 Championship. Howden drove this Barry Newman–sponsored 1970 McLaren (M10B 400-05) with much consistency and speed throughout 1970, so much so that by the end of the final event of the 20-event season, he finished runner-up in the championship. Sadly, Bruce had earlier been killed — in June 1970 — when testing a McLaren Can-Am car, so Howden’s hopes of making the McLaren F1 team in 1971, as previously indicated to him by Bruce, were dashed. Instead of a place as a driver in the McLaren F1 team in 1971, Howden became a works driver for the Yardley BRM F1 team.
Into Formula One
The first of Howden’s 41 F1 World Championship Grand Prix drives (plus a further 16 F1 non-championship races) came at Kyalami, South Africa, in March 1971 in a year-old BRM P153 V12 3.0-litre car. The BRM P153 F1 cars that Howden drove for the first F1 races of 1971 were, at best, midfield runners, but in the newer BRM P160 V12, he was able to score a fifth place at Monza in September 1971 — where the first five cars to finish were within 0.62 seconds of each other. Howden also scored a fine fourth place at the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen in the last GP of the year, and he was named as the winner of the Wolfgang von Trips Memorial Trophy for the best performance by an F1 newcomer in 1971. Away from the grand prix circuits of Europe, in his only Can-Am race, Howden drove the BRM P167-01 Chev V8 Can-Am car to third place at the LA Times GP held at Riverside, California — a race won by Denny Hulme in his McLaren M8F from Peter Revson, also in a M8F. Howden drove in the Rand Daily Mail Nine Hour race at Kyalami, South Africa on November 6, 1971. With fellow drivers Mike Hailwood and Paddy Driver, Howden drove the Team Gunston Chevron B19 sports-racing car, and was delighted to finish in third place overall, as well as being the first 2.0-litre car to take the chequered flag behind two 3.0-litre Ferraris. In 1972 Howden continued as a works driver in the BRM team, now with Marlboro sponsorship. The 1972 BRM P160B was not a front-running car, so early GP results were modest. However, with the uprated BRM P160C he was able to pick up a good fourth place in the German GP at Nürburgring on July 30, and a sixth in the Austrian GP at Osterreichring on August 13. He also had a one-off drive of the new BRM P180-02 V12 at Monaco on May 14, 1972 (this car will be at the Gulf Oil Howden Ganley F5000 Festival to be held at Hampton Downs in January 2015). As a driver for the works Matra-Simca MS670 V12 sports-racing-car team, Howden completed three ‘practice’ 24-hour test sessions before racing to an excellent second place in the 1972 24 Hours of Le Mans race while sharing the drive with François Cevert. When he was not otherwise involved with F1 racing, Howden drove the BRM P167 Chevrolet sports prototype in most of the European Interserie races. He finished runner-up in the Interserie championship with some good results, including wins at Nürburgring (Germany) and Zeltweg (Austria,) and fifth in Finland.
F1 and Sports Cars
In 1973 Howden became a works Iso Marlboro Williams F1 driver. Using the previous season’s 1972 Williams-built Politoys FX3 (Howden refers to these cars as the Williams FW03) in the first three 1973 GP races brought only midfield placings. For the Spanish GP in April the new Williams FW04 —with a now-compliant deformable structure — was introduced, but such was the unreliable nature of the car he failed to finish in Spain, Belgium and Monaco. His best finish in the final seven GP races was to secure a sixth placing at the Canadian GP. Once again Howden tried his hand at another type of racing as well as F1, taking a drive in the 1973 Gulf Racing–sponsored Mirage M6 Cosworth DFV V8 cars in the World Sports Car Championship. Teamed with Derek Bell, he scored a fourth place at Watkins Glen, USA, and a fifth place at Zeltweg. In the Spa 1000km in Belgium, Howden was entered to co-drive, as he normally did, with Derek Bell in the No. 5 Mirage M6. However, Mike Hailwood suffered from fuel burns while driving the second, No. 6 Mirage M6, so Howden took over Mike’s driving duties in this car and, together with Vern Schuppan, finished second to the Bell/Hailwood Gulf Mirage. Ironically, if Howden had driven as planned in his regular place as co-driver with Derek Bell, he would have finished in first and second in this race! In 1974 Howden drove briefly for the March F1 team. He completed two GPs and one non-championship race in South America in the March 74 F1.
Rising and Setting Sun
After those brief interludes with March F1, Howden moved to the fledgling Japanese-owned Maki F1 team. While much was promised, the new Maki F1 was just not ready to be raced. Howden failed to qualify for the British GP at Brands Hatch in July, and then suffered severe ankle and leg injuries two weeks later when a rear suspension rose joint broke at Nürburgring on the first lap of qualifying for the German GP. A long period of convalescence followed, so there was no further racing for Howden in 1974.
In 1974 Howden, together with Australian driver Tim Schenken, formed TIGA Race Cars. Nearly 400 of them would be built before the company finally closed its doors in 1989. The type of cars built at TIGA varied, ranging from open wheelers, such as Formula Ford and Formula Atlantic, through to sports-racing cars including World Sports Car Championship vehicles, some of which took class wins in the Le Mans 24 Hour race. From the outset, Howden told Tim he would stay with the company for no longer than 10 years — and he stuck to his word. With a busy company to run, racing opportunities for Howden now became rare. In early June 1975 he drove a now privately-owned Mirage GR7 (née Mirage M6 and then Gulf GR7) belonging to George Loos of Germany in the Nürburgring 1000km. Teamed with his business partner, Tim Schenken, he finished in second place. Later in June 1975, Howden teamed with Tim again to run a Gelo Racing Porsche 911 RSR 3.0 at the 1975 24 Hours of Le Mans, but the car retired during the event, finally classified in 35th position out of the 55 cars entered. Howden’s private life took pole position on June 1975, when he was married to Judy (née Kondratieff ) — his new wife being a very accomplished lady in her own right, and a former US-based race driver. Howden rounded off 1975 with two further races in the Mirage GR7 — the Interserie Race 6 at Nürburgring in early September, where he was second, and Interserie round seven at Hockenheim in late September where he finished in third place. Gelo Racing entered its Porsche 911 RSR 3.0 for Howden to drive with Clemens Schickentanz in the 1976 24 Hours of Le Mans, but an early retirement resulted in the car being classified 47th of 55 cars entered. Following that, Howden became involved with testing the experimental March 741 six-wheeler F1 car in 1976, and then notched up his final race in mid 1978 driving a Mirage GR7 in a Can-Am race at Mid-Ohio, USA, where he finished fifth overall and the first 3.0-litre car. Howden’s racing career was over.
A Full Life
Howden’s boyhood dream to be a Formula 1 driver was achieved, albeit in F1 cars that never gave him a genuine opportunity to race competitively for the lead. But he ‘made it’ to Formula 1, while many others did not. With great consistency while driving very quickly he was runner-up in the 1970 European F5000 championship. He drove powerful sports racing cars with considerable skill, and successes that included runner-up in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. His three years of Formula 3 racing in the late 1960s in a highly competitive field of drivers to achieve an excellent third placing in the 1969 European F3 Championship proved to be instrumental to his later success. Having formally retired from racing, Howden was fully involved with his business at TIGA Race Cars until he retired in the mid-1980s. In 1993 he was asked to stand for the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC) Board, and was duly elected and served for the maximum-permissible nine years — being re-elected three times. He was also appointed to the boards of the two BRDC subsidiary companies — he was a director of Silverstone Circuits Ltd for many years, and was also a director of Silverstone Estates Ltd. In 1998 Howden was asked to take over the position of BRDC club secretary too, a position he accepted on condition that Judy’s health improved. However, after about eight months it was clear that she needed more of his attention, so he resigned the secretary’s position, just after the new BRDC Clubhouse at Woodcote corner was completed — a major project he had overseen. He remained on the various boards for some years afterwards, and when he finally retired he was accorded the honour of an appointment to be a vice president of BRDC, a position he still holds. Howden said one of his most enjoyable jobs was to redesign several of the corners on the Silverstone circuit, all but one of which are still in use today. Back in 1998 Judy was diagnosed with cancer and, as she’d been given only a short time to live, she and Howden moved from their UK home to their US home in Blackhawk in the San Francisco Bay area of California. Judy fought against her illness valiantly for eight years, but sadly passed away on April 27, 2007. Howden continues to reside in Blackhawk, making periodic trips to see family in New Zealand as well as visiting the UK, where he still has many ties. He is the president of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Club, formerly known as the Ancien Pilotes organization. He appears regularly at many historic motor-sport events, and these include taking the role of guest judge at Concours events in US, attending the biennial Monaco Historique event, driving period F1 cars at the annual Goodwood Festival and the Goodwood Revival — plus, of course, attending the annual NZ Festival of Motor Racing at Hampton Downs. As well as demonstrating some of the cars in which he once competed — including the 1972 BRM P180 V12 F1, 1974 Maki F101A and 1956 Lotus XI — Howden will also be on hand at 11am each day at the Bruce McLaren Trust marquee to sign copies of his new autobiography, entitled The Road to Monaco, which will be released for sale only a few days prior to the first weekend of the Gulf Oil Howden Ganley F5000 Festival. Howden and his many tales will be the theme for the casual dinner to be held after racing concludes at Hampton Downs on Saturday, January 17 — tickets at $40 each to cover food are available on nzfmr.co.nz. The theme for the second Saturday evening will be Formula F5000. The New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing, in conjunction with Gulf Oil New Zealand, celebrate the Gulf Oil Howden Ganley F5000 Festival to be held at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park over two weekends — January 16–18 and 23–25, 2015.