“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul-
And sings the tune without the words-
And never stops – at all –
The 1970’s were a time of innocence: a time when enthusiasm, imagination and a relatively minuscule amount of money (at least compared to what is required today) could give you the chance to pit yourself against the professionals in the Formula One paddock. You could enter merely for the thrill and adventure of competing. To create your own team all you needed was to purchase a Ford Cosworth DFV engine, either design or buy a chassis depending on your level of innocence (or denial), hire a driver, and enter a couple of races. In actuality, just qualifying for a race gave many of these entrants due cause for celebration.
Maki was a Japanese team with a young, idealistic designer and a team of equally young engineers who had set their sights on participating in Formula One. They were well aware of their complete novice state and so they went in pursuit of Howden Ganley, both to drive their car and to help them develop it. Ganley not only had Formula One driving experience but a long background in engineering who also had his own garage in Surrey. It was only when twelve taxis turned up at his home containing the whole Maki design and engineering team requesting to use his garage to build their Formula One car that he believed they were serious. Ganley was a New Zealand driver who had followed the tried and trusted method of Australasian’s breaking into F1 racing by turning up in the United Kingdom with 50 dollars in his pocket and getting a job as an engineer to support himself. He worked as an engineer for McLaren and after being engaged as Crew Chief for Skip Scott and Peter Revson in the 1966 Can Am series he was able to finance a Brabham to compete in Formula 3. In 1970 he drove a private McLaren M10B in the European Formula 5000 Championship where he finished second to Peter Gethin (driving the works McLaren) which then bought him to the notice of BRM who offered him a position as junior driver for the 1971 season.
He scored points in two races, as well as a second place in the non-championship Oulton Park Gold Cup which earned him the Wolfgang Von Tripp’s Memorial Trophy for the best performance by a newcomer to Grand Prix racing. Unfortunately for the next three years struggled with inferior machinery in which he was unable to demonstrate his skills. With no better offer for the 1974 season he accepted the job as driver and developer for Maki.
Their first race was at the 1974 British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch where the hopelessly overweight car (possibly up to 150 kg heavier than the competition) struggled to keep up with the rest of the field. Ganley’s qualifying attempt put him 32nd out of 35 entrants with only the top 25 starting the race. His qualifying time of 1:23.700 was only four seconds off the pole position time and was 105% of pole which doesn’t actually sound that bad… but it was not enough. Maybe they were just unlucky that there were so many entrants at the time…
At the following race at the Nurburgring Ganley was on his first full practice lap when the car suffered a major suspension failure and crashed into the armco, ripping off the nose section of the car and causing severe injury to Ganley’s ankles. It would be his final race. He retired to form Tiga Race Cars with Australian F1 driver Tim Schenken. They constructed and sold almost 400 customer chassis for open wheel racing and sports cars. Their cars won multiple races and championships, including class wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 24 Hours of Daytona.
Maki continued to struggle with speed and multiple mechanical failures throughout their time in Formula One. Their car was over engineered and heavy but also fragile, the combination of the two making it almost un-drivable. They entered eight Formula One races but their best (and only) finish would be 13th (and last) at the 1975 non-championship Swiss GP where they were guaranteed entry due to there being only 16 entrants. They did have to stop to change their spark plugs mid-race but managed to finish only six laps down from the winner Clay Regazzoni in his Ferrari. It was also their only ever race start.
At their final race at the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix their gearbox broke after one practice lap. The car also only managed one qualifying lap before mechanical failure once again beset it. Driver Tony Trimmer said, “It was so bad that the other F1 team managers came around to look at it and wouldn’t allow me to run. They decided it was so flawed in design it would be dangerous to drive. The whole of the front end was held on by a small bracket would looked as though it would cave in as soon as you got going and you’d run over the front of your car.”
Howden Ganley’s Maki F101 at Goodwood 2014