John Love: A Tribute
Rhodesian-born John Love was one of South Africa's greatest ever racing drivers. Love started racing at the age of 19 on a Zundapp motorcycle, but switched to single seaters and went to Europe where he did some races for Ken Tyrrell.
Unfortunately, a crash resulted in a badly broken arm, requiring a bone graft from a hip and he returned home. Ken Tyrrell wanted him to come back to Europe to drive for him but he didn't go, because he didn't think his arm was going to be good enough for a full season of racing. It was the end of the 1965 season and Bruce McLaren was racing a Cooper Climax, an ex works car, which Love obtained and brought out to Rhodesia and latterly raced in South Africa. Later he bought a Tasman Cooper, also from Bruce McLaren, in which he'd been competing in the Tasman series.
Love was a privateer entry for the 1967 SA Grand Prix in the old car which was painted black and white when he got it directly from New Zealand. He had the car painted in Cooper colours, as a throwback to the days with Ken Tyrrell when he ran the Cooper works team in Formula Junior. Love had been racing the Tasman Cooper in the Rhodesian Formula 1 series that year, but the rules were slightly different. The Grands Prix cars were heavier and they carried more fuel, so he had an extra side-tank fitted. At 43 years of age, Love was one of oldest driver on the grid (Sam Tingle was 3 years older). The rest is history. Leading for 25-laps and with only seven laps to go, Love dived into the pits for more fuel; despite having an extra fuel tank on the Tasman-spec car, the fuel pump wasn't working properly! Rodriguez took the lead, with Love emerging from the pits half a minute later. Although Love tried valiantly to catch Rodriguez again, setting his fastest lap of the race and third fastest overall, it was not enough. Rodriguez recorded Cooper's last Grand Prix victory by just over 20 seconds.
John Love, 1967 South African Grand Prix. 2nd place
In 1968 John Love and the Gunston cigarette company forged a long standing relationship. In addition to the South African National Championship, Gunston also backed some of the sports racing cars which used to come out to South Africa for the end of season Springbok Series, especially for the Rand Daily Mail 9-Hour endurance race. John Love paired with the likes of Paul Hawkins, Brian Redman, Richard Attwood, Helmut Marko and Peter Gethin, always acquitting himself well alongside the international stars.
The nine hours endurance race was first held in 1958 on the old Grand Central track and was won by Ian Fraser-Jones and Tony Ferguson, driving a Porsche Speedster Carrera. John Love and George Pfaff were second in Pfaff's Austin-Healey 100, despite losing a number plate! According to Autosport: "John Love of Rhodesia lost his number plate part way down the straight, halted, dashed across the track in font of an oncoming bunch to retrieve it, and proceeded to the pits to replace it" . (Marius Matthee, The Last Rhodesian Hero )
The 1959 race was won by Hugh Carrington and Chris Ferguson (Dart-Climax), with John Love and Dawie Gous winning in 1960 and 1961 with a Porsche 550 Spyder. He shared a Piper Ferrari GTO with Peter de Klerk in 1964, finishing second to Piper and Maggs, driving a Ferrari 275LM. In 1965 he co-drove Peter Sutcliffe's Ford P40 GT/112 in the 9-Hours, but failed to finish. For 1966, Love teamed-up with Mike Spence to drive Piper's Ferrari 250LM, finishing 6th.
John Love, Ford P40, 1965 (DNF)
Love finished the 1967 Kyalami 9-Hours in second place driving a Lola T70 Mk.III Chev with Paul Hawkins.
Paul Hawkins/John Love (Lola T70 Mk.3 Chev SL73/112), 1967
The newly- formed Team Gunston entered the 1968 Kyalami 9-Hours for the first time and Love again teamed up with Hawkins, finishing 3rd in the Ferrari 350P 'Can-Am'.
Paul Hawkins/John Love (Ferrari 350P 0858), 1968
In the 1969 event, John Love and Brian Redman drove the Team Gunston Lola T70 Mk.3B SL76/138 (DNF).
John Love, Lola T70 Mk.IIIB, 1969
For 1970 Team Gunston sponsored the mighty David Piper Porsche 917/010 for John Love and Richard Attwood (DNF).
John Love, Porsche 917, 1970
In 1971 he finished 5th with Helmut Marko (Lola T212) and again finished 5th in 1972 with Peter Gethin (Chevron B21 Ford).
John Love, Chevron B21, 1972
Having retired, John Love did not enter the 1973 nine hour event, which was won by Reinhold Jöst/Herbert Müller (Porsche 908/03). The fuel crisis ended the 1973 Springbok Series after just two rounds, the Kyalami 9-Hours and the Cape 3-Hours (Killarney). After a long struggle with cancer, at the age of 80, John Love, 6-times South African motor racing champion, passed away at his home in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, on the 25th of April, 2005.