Chaps Number 5

Chaps tracks! Avus, Langhorne the Widow maker, Longford and the Gavea Circuit nicknamed The Devil's Trampoline


AVUS in Berlin: No crap about run-offs here!

As originally conceived, AVUS consisted of two nine kilometre long straights with a hairpin at one end and this huge banking at the other.

Even back in the 1930s, the Mercedesis and Auto Unionsis were able to achieve speeds of well over 200mph on those horizon piercing straights.

Post-war, it became significantly shortened by the intrusion of the Berlin Wall, and a new hairpin was put in about half-way down the length of the straights to compensate for the loss. But the banking survived and was used until the 1960s, when it was eventually pulled down as unsafe.

Not because it was thought to be too dangerous for racing. But because they thought it might fall on somebody! In it’s final form, AVUS became just two straights, with a hairpin at each end. Boring almost beyond belief, but it survived like this right up until the mid-eighties.

The two straights now form part of an autobahn. But all that can be found of the rest, is the site of the post-war hairpin and the old control tower that stood alongside the famous banking. This srvives today as a Best Western hotel.

image coutesy of


LANGHORNE the most notoriously dangerous Indy car track ever used

Located near Philadelphia, it was known by the drivers as the “Widowmaker” .

The speedway closed in 1971 to become the site of the vast Langhorne Shopping Mall. Where the widows it made can reminisce happily about the old times while simultaneously acquiring their weekly groceries.


LONGFORD in Tasmania IN THE YEAR 1964

Here we see Graham Hill chase Jim Clark through one of the safer sections of the track.

Other legendary features of the Longford circuit included the level crossing, a narrow brick-built railway bridge on a 90 degree left-hander, the town centre and of course being Australia, the pub.

The river bridge wasn’t actually as dangerous as it looked. It was only a 20ft drop down into the creek, and the organizers had thoughtfully provided a boat (no joking!) to rescue the more adventurous motorists from the attentions of the local wildfowl.

In 1964, Teddy Mayer’s very promising younger brother Tim, had an almighty accident on one of the faster sections of the track. Teddy rushed to the hospital with Tim’s girlfriend and the rest the Cooper crew, unaware at this time, of his brother’s condition. “Is he going to be OK?”, they breathlessly asked a nurse on their arrival. “Nah”, she (an Australian) replied, “He’s still dead”.


Trampolim do Diabo - The Gavea Circuit in the Rio district of Leblon

Gávea is the rock that rises 842 meters almost from the beach between the Rio Cachoeira and the Ponta do Marisco, that makes up part of the Maciço da Tijuca. The name was given by the Portuguese because from the sea it looked like the topsail (Gávea is Portugese for topsail) of a boat.

The circuit was known as the 'Trampolim do Diabo' (The Devil's Trampoline) because at one point it ran along the top of the cliffs before turning inland into the hills to return to Leblon via a series of hairpins. With over 100 corners and different surfaces (asphalt, cement, gravel and dirt, the racing was a true challenge to the skill and bravery of the drivers. And, as it was located at the end of the local tram line beyond Ipanema where the cars had to cross the slippery tracks, this further increased the level of danger.


Friday Chaps was started by the late Chris Bowen. Over the past few years we worked with Chris to add and contribute to the Friday Chaps stories.

Chris started in F1 with Brabham in 1984 before moving on to Benetton, McLaren, Ligier, Arrows, Toyota, Red Bull, Honda, Brawn GP and in 2010 to Mercedes AMG Petronas.

Sadly Chris passed away suddenly in 2020. His knowledge and story telling ability were of the highest order and we have decided to continue his theme of Friday Chaps in his memory. We will republish some of his stories and observations and add to them hopefully doing justice to the standards he set!