Doug Mockett was only too happy to
join Historic GP at its inception -- when he started racing his 3 liter
Penske PC-3 in the mid-90's, quite often it was the only Formula One car
on the grid. "I guess my biggest dubious achievement would be winning
the 1998 VARA Formula One class championship where I entered the VARA
event at Thunder Hill," says Mockett. "I was the only Formula One car
there. I won the event. And nobody ever entered a Formula One car in any
VARA event all year long. So I've got this very nice trophy that's kind
of a dubious achievement."
Now he enjoys running with 30-car
grids. "The Historic GP is a grass roots organization of lovers of
Formula One cars and owners of them who enjoy spirited gentlemanly
competition with them. I think the organization is off to a great start.
And I think Steve and Phil and James and Becky have really taken the
bull by the horns and have done a great job of organizing and getting it
forward in a year. We had a meeting here in my offices a week or so ago
with a bunch of the guys and got some really good direction to help find
sponsors and a lot of really good input. We're underway and in a really
good positive way. The show's exciting and the cars are exciting. It's a
Raised in Short Hills, New Jersey
(25 miles west of New York City), Mockett's first racing hero was Fangio.
Doug attended his first race at nine years old, when his father took him
to a race at a board track. "I couldn't believe it, it was just out of
sight. It was unreal. They were racing midgets and what you would call
jalopies." In his teens and twenties, Mockett helped out local amateur
racers, one of whom was Mark Donohue. "Mark Donohue grew up in the town
next to mine. I crewed for him over a couple of seasons in SCCA
and really got into it. We had a great time, obviously. He was just a
real character. Really great. Just a good guy."
Mockett obtained his BA in
English from Hobart College in Geneva, New York --
conveniently on the other side of Lake Seneca from Watkins Glen. Hitchhiking
down Route 14, Mockett saw his first race at the legendary track in the
Fall of 1958. "Joe Bonnier won in a Maserati 250F and I thought I'd died
and gone to heaven. It was just unbelievable. It was a Formula Libre
race, so mainly, it was a run what you brung. I remember he had a big
dice with Peter Ryan from Canada, who was driving a sports car of some
sort. But Bonnier was clearly the class of the field."
Growing restless in the Spring of
1968, while he was
finishing up his MBA at N.Y.U. and doing advertising and public relations for a
brokerage house on Wall Street, Mockett decided to take time off. His
two choices were sailing the Caribbean or attending all the Grand Prix
races that season. "One night after a few beers, I flipped a coin and
the Grand Prix races came up. I've often looked back and wondered what
would have happened if the sailing had come up."
Serendipitously, soon after the
decision of the coin, Mockett landed a racing enthusiast's ultimate job
(outside of driving, of course) -- broadcasting Formula One races from
Europe for WINS, Group W's (Westinghouse Broadcasting) local affiliate
in New York City. An adman from Group W noticed the racing photos and
memorabilia in Doug's office and said they were looking for someone to
cover racing in Europe that summer. Mockett instantly replied, "I'm your
"I went up to WINS a couple weeks
later and talked to the guy and he told me to write a two minute script
and come back and he'd give me an audition. So I wrote a two minute
script, went back, had an audition and got the job. It paid $50 a race."
No expenses, nothing else, but that was fine with Mockett since he was
going to the races anyway. He spent that summer of 1968 in Europe
attending all the Formula One events, calling in reports on significant
races. "That was kind of cool. I also covered the races in the U.S. --
CanAm, NASCAR and the Formula One races in Canada and Mexico." The
equipment was not very high tech. "Just picked up a phone and called
them collect," recalls Mockett. "I'd just call in a report. They'd
record it and play it back during the sports."
His first impressions of Monaco,
Monza, and Nurburgring stick in his mind the most. "Monza didn't have
those silly chicanes then -- it was just an unbelievably fast circuit.
And Monaco is obviously a classic race circuit, much as Monza is. It was
Of course, the racers he
interviewed also made an impression. "I knew them all. Many of them
became good friends. Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme were very good
friends of mine. Denny remained a good friend during all those years.
And Bruce as well; Bruce was really a neat guy. There are a couple of
great lines from Denny, who was such a low key guy. I was with him after
he'd won the world championship (for Brabham) in 1967 and he could have
cared less. (He said,) 'Well, my wife's more impressed with it than I
am,'" laughs Mockett. "I always thought that was a great line." Mockett
describes Jimmy Clark as "a very polite, very shy and quiet guy, just
like everybody says."
Mockett continued to cover some
races sporadically in 1969, and his last race was the 1970 Daytona 500.
By then, Mockett says, "My sabbatical was over. Time to go back to work.
It was a Walter Mitty thing. I mean, wow, here am I in with all these
guys at these big events. How cool is this?"
In 1970, Mockett moved from New
York to Los Angeles and got a job with Yamaha's ad agency, handling
their motorcycle and snowmobile business. "The next thing I knew, I was
on a plane to New York to put on a motorcycle race in Madison Square
Garden with instructions from the higher ups at Yamaha to 'fill the
Garden.'" It kicked off a very successful series of Yamaha sponsored
flat track motorcycle races. Mockett continued promotion for Yamaha for
a few years, expanding the program to a whole series of races around the
United States. Eventually, the ad agency lost the Yamaha account and
Mockett was let go, but he landed on his feet, signing on with Yamaha
promoting motorcycle and auto racing throughout the 70's. He also
freelanced during the off-season, doing occasional races such as the
Super Bowl of Motocross at the L.A. Coliseum and the Indycar races at
Ontario Motor Speedway.
From 1977 to mid 1978, Mockett
took a year off from the promotion business to become the czar of the
American Motorcycle Association. "I was kind of a dictator, hired to run
it with an iron fist. I brought in a bunch of outside sponsors, a bunch
of new television deals, and a bunch of new safety stuff. But it was a
difficult year. Nobody wanted the improvements, so to speak."
Although Mockett had had some hot
laps around Sebring courtesy of Peter Gregg's 935 and had ridden bikes
around motorcycle tracks, it wasn't until he retired from racing in 1980
(prompted by marriage to wife Sonia and the birth of twin sons) that he
actually thought about getting into the cockpit himself. "In all
candor, when I was doing all of that motorcycle and car racing stuff, I
never really thought of it. I was too busy doing the promotion to think
about driving. Then I developed this business (designing and marketing
office furniture components) and realized I needed some outlets. Racing
was one of the outlets I decided to pursue." In 1987, Mockett did a
Bondurant school, bought a Lotus 18 Formula Jr., and started vintage
racing. He won his first race -- a VARA race at Riverside in the Spring
"I'll never forget it. I had no
practice in the car and started on the last row of an open wheel race
alongside some guy in a Formula 5000 car. 'Oh my God - what am I doing
here?' Then a month later, the newsletter comes out and I guess I was
the only Formula Jr. -- I ended up winning."
He went on to race a variety of
other cars, including a Lotus 22, an ex-Paul Newman Ferrari 308, a GRD
Formula Atlantic, a Cooper T56 Formula Junior, and an ex-Masten Gregory
Cooper T53 Formula One. The Ferrari 308 was the first in the country and
a cover car for Road & Track. Newman first started racing it in
SCCA in the late 70's for a celebrity team (which included Clint
Eastwood and Gene Hackman) put together by San Francisco Ferrari dealer
Ray Ramsey. "Newman drove it for a couple of years with varying success.
He got a couple of poles, but it didn't have a very good finishing
Of the Cooper Formula Jr. T56,
Mockett says, "It's my favorite car in the whole world." One reason
could be that none other than Denny Hulme, ex-Cooper mechanic and
driver, helped set it up when he drove it for Doug at the 1991 Monterey
Historics. "He came in after practice and qualifying, I'll never forget
it, and sat in it for about 20 minutes and didn't move and was just sort
of looking straight ahead. I was wondering if he was okay and what
exactly was going on here, but he then got the mechanic, Carlo, and gave
Carlo about three days' worth of work to do in 24 hours. Basically what
he was doing, which was kind of cool, was downloading and processing the
entire practice session and figuring out what he needed to do with the
car to make it work for him."
Denny's first comment when he got
out of the car was that all the corner weights were off. Then he
proceeded to prove it by lifting the front wheels one by one, exhorting,
"Go ahead, lift them. You'll feel the left front weighs about 50 lbs.
more than the right. You can feel the weight is transferred over
Recalls Mockett, "So we're all
looking, going, 'Omigod, uh, uh, yeah, okay.' I mean, I didn't know you
could lift the front of the car, side by side, and feel the difference
in the weight. It never occurred to me, but yeah, you sure could. You
just lift up the car wheel by wheel and you can feel it. Of course, I
could hardly lift it and he could do it with one hand. It was an
Mockett says once they made
Denny's changes, they never touched the Cooper after that. "I couldn't
believe what a wonderfully handling car it just became. It was real
interesting because it showed the difference between us amateur racers
and a professional who knows how to set up a car, which I had not a clue
how to do. In fact, I really started coming to grips with it after
that." Denny finished second to Steve Froines in the event, "Which I
felt was neat."
Mockett's 1.5 liter Cooper T-53 Formula
One had been run by Lucky Kasner under the Camoredi banner. "I was
fortunate to find it and it's special to me because it's the only car
racing in Europe in American racing colors -- which are white with a
dark blue stripe down the center -- the way it raced initially." In
1994, Mockett moved up to the Penske PC-3. The thing that most attracted
him to it was the fact that his 6'1" frame could fit in it. "I looked at
a number of Formula One cars and the only two that I fit in were the
Shadow and the Penske. Mainly it's the legs, getting my legs to fit.
Because I could fit in my shoulders, many of them I could fit in, but
the legs wouldn't fit. It was too tight. A friend of mine in England
owned the Penske and it seemed like the right thing to buy from him."
Though it was running, there were
handling problems which took years to sort out. "Fortunately, I found
Phil Reilly and he manages any number of F1 cars and really knew how to
set them up. He'd driven a bunch of them and he knew what needed to be
done. He was instrumental in getting me comfortable with the car."
Mockett says it was a big jump to
go from the Formula Jr. to the BDA engined Formula Atlantic, but an even
bigger jump to go from that to the Penske PC-3 with the DFV motor. "I
thought, 'I can't imagine driving something this size with twice the
power, which is basically what the DFV motor was -- two BDAs put
together. That was a kick, so I really enjoyed it."
"It was hard to believe how
quickly things happen and how fast. For example, I tested it when I
first got it at Willow Springs and I just couldn't believe how quickly
the front straight got gobbled up. It was unreal."
When it ran originally, the Penske
qualified for the 1974 U.S. Grand Prix, the last race of the season, but
mechanical problems kept it out of the race. It ran the first five races
-- through Monaco -- of 1976, scoring a fifth place in South Africa.
"So, it's a points scoring car. Essentially, it was pretty much a
mid-pack runner." Interestingly, Mockett's old racing pal Mark Donohue
drove a Penske PC-1, finishing 11th in the Canadian GP.
Designed by Geoff Ferris and built
by the Penske Team in England, the car has a uniquely Anglo/American
heritage -- much like Mockett himself. "My parents were from England and
they emigrated here. I'm an American citizen; I was born here. I thought
it would be kind of nice to have a helmet that combines both." Mockett
designed the helmet himself, with the British Union Jack on the top and
American stars and stripes gracing the sides.
A resident of Rancho Palos Verdes,
Mockett has raced all over the world over the past ten years, including
New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, England, Belgium, Italy, Czech Republic,
Germany, and South Africa. In 1997, he finished fourth in the Cooper
Formula Jr. in a historic race in Monaco, the track that impressed him
so much nearly 30 years before. Last year, he finished first in class
there (eleventh overall) in the Cooper Formula One. "I got a very nice
trophy from Prince Ranier."
The last two winters, Mockett has
combined races in South Africa with photo safaris in game preserves at
Kenya and Kruger National Park in Northern South Africa. "The wild life
is spectacular, it's just absolutely incredible. It's not like a zoo. A
million animals." Described as "civilized camping," they were surrounded
by wild giraffes, lions, zebras, antelopes, and elephants -- and
round-the-clock armed guards to chase them away. "The first night we got
there, we came back from dinner with this armed guard and right next to
our tent there was this elephant munching away on the tree leaves. We
got to bed and I'm thinking, 'Oh my God, if this guy has a heart attack
and falls the wrong way, we're dead.' You could hear him crunching away
right outside, I mean, three feet away. They have the grazers and the
predators and they all act out their own roles. We saw a baby wildebeest
get born, wobble around on its legs, and then get eaten by a pack of
hyenas, all in eight minutes. It was really unreal."
But nothing matches the excitement
of racing his Penske Formula One. "From a personal point of view, when I
watched them race, I could really appreciate the talent required to
drive the car. But then when you get in it and actually do it yourself,
you can really appreciate the talent required to drive it. The
cars are just so awesome to drive. They're clearly, in my mind, beyond
the ability of the large number of us driving them, with a few
exceptions. I mean, they're unbelievable to drive. They do everything so
well and they are so sophisticated. They're awesome."