The past winter has seen a surprising interest in Grand Prix cars and Grand Prix racing; this renewed interest has been most encouraging for those keen followers of Grand Prix racing and the month of April will give us plenty of opportunities to see the results of all the British Grand Prix activities. Although the 1957 Grand Prix season started in the Argentine it did not count for a great deal as only Ferrari and Maserati were present, but this month we should see all the contenders meeting at some time or other. On April 7th the Grand Prix at Syracuse takes place and apart from the Italian teams we should have two Vanwalls and three Connaughts, while the odd Gordini may yet appear on the entry list. The only absentees look like being B.R.M. and Bugatti, but in spite of this there should be a good battle between the various makes, especially as each of the top teams has a pair of top drivers. Ferrari have Collins and Musso, Hawthorn probably being allowed to give the race a miss in view of the unhappy associations he has with the Syracuse circuit. Maserati have Fangio and Behra, and Vanwall have Moss and Brooks; in addition Connaught have Fairman, Leston and Bueb.
After the Syracuse race comes Easter weekend with a Formula I event at Goodwood, which should see entries from all three British teams, and possibly an odd Maserati or two, while the same day will see a full-length Grand Prix at Pau, that is, providing the event it not cancelled at the last moment. Then the week after there is the full Grand Prix round the twisty street-circuit of Posillipo on the outskirts of Naples, and already Connaught are talking of entering, while Maserati and Ferrari are almost certain runners.
This is an excellent start to the season and I, for one, would be only too pleased to see a Grand Prix every weekend, and I only hope that the entrants do not bog up the calendar by putting too much effort into sports cars or demanding too high prices for starting money for the Grand Prix cars. In the past it has often happened that a club has planned to run a Grand Prix and tenders are put out to get the top drivers with works cars, but too much starting money is asked and the club get frightened financially and cancel the Formula I event, putting in its place a sports-car race for which little or no starting money is offered, an entry being made up of second-class drivers. At the last minute the “prima donnas” find they have no race on that particular weekend, so they crash in on the sports-car race and appear for a much smaller sum of money than they had demanded for a Formula I appearance. Last season got to such a state that outside the World Championship events there were only two other major Formula I races, and two minor ones of short duration. If Formula I exponents are not careful they will kill the goose that lays the golden eggs and no one will organise Grand Prix races. There are many clubs who used to run Grand Prix events that now run sports-car races, or nothing at all, and always the reason is that Formula I entrants demand too much money. Such circuits as Bari, Aix-Ies-Bains, Turin, Pescara, Caen, Chimay, Mettet and Avus would all like to organise full Formula I Grand Prix events, but cannot foot the enormous starting-money bill that is being demanded.
With the state of racing/sports cars as it is today, they are so akin to Grand Prix cars that the majority cost as much to build and run as a Grand Prix car, there seems little justification in accepting lower starting money for a sports car than for a Grand Prix car. Equally, if a firm can make an appearance with their star driver in their racing/sports car for “£X.” then I do not see why he cannot appear for the same sum in the Formula I car. This problem of rising prices for Grand Prix cars and drivers has more than reached the limit, and it seems that a firm stand is being made by some of the organisers, and if this means more Grand Prix races, then I shall be most pleased. I saw this vortex of prices against ability rise up in the motor-cycle world, until it burst with a resultant acute shortage of events, and Formula I is in a similar vortex. Let us hope it is being checked in time.
There are people who prefer to see sports-car racing, even though the sports cars are thinly disguised Graud Prix cars, but I think the majority of people appreciate that Grand Prix racing is the accepted highest form of motor racing. The Grand Prix car is a peculiar vehicle, at first a simple thing to drive and, after some sports cars, a sheer joy to handle, but to drive a Grand Prix car to the absolute limit round a circuit calls for such an extra reserve of skill that a mere handful of drivers can be considered to have approached the ultimate. Even a racing/sports car has a limit of handling that makes itself felt long before the critical point is reached, whereas normal sports cars reach this point quite early. A Grand Prix car reaches this limit with very little warning, so that it requires a great deal of anticipation on the part of the driver if he is going to keep pace with the changing conditions. Talking to new drivers after their first try in a good Grand Prix car is always interesting, for they invariably enthuse over the ease with which the car responds to their every wish, and how beautifully it answers all the controls, when compared with a sports car, yet they all add the very truthful remark that with its greater power/weight ratio, higher torque, higher cornering power and quicker response, it needs to be handled gently if it is not to fly off the handle without warning. The point being, that most sports cars give you warning of approaching limits, whereas most Grand Prix cars do not, or if they do, it is at a higher cornering power, which reduces the time for reflexes to work, so that this deficiency must be made up by anticipatory reflexes, and these are at their highest value in the Fangios and Moss’s of this world.
Returning to the practical side of the British Grand Prix cars for this season, the Vanwall has only had to undergo minor alterations and has done some pretty extensive testing, during which its reliability factor would seem to have improved; Connaught have not made any major alterations yet awhile, apart from perfecting a fuel injection system in conjunction with S.U., but seem to be pretty happy about all aspects of the design, while B.R.M. are still modifying their cars as a result of all the lessons they learnt during their testing at the end of last season. On the face of things I can see no reason at all why Moss should not win the Syracuse race with the Vanwall, but maybe that is expecting rather too much. However, it is difficult to see that the Vanwall lacks anything at all; the only snag will be if the opposition have made vast improvements over their last year’s performance figures.
Being now on the threshold of April and the European season I look forward to some thrilling Grand Prix racing, in fact, some real motor racing for 300 miles at a time, with everyone on equal terms and all the cars on the scratch mark. Grand Prix racing with no holds barred, and a front line of Fangio (Maserati), Moss (Vanwall), Salvadori (B.R.M.), Hawthorn (Lancia/Ferrari) and Scott-Brown (Connaught) with all the rest pushing along behind, should set the scene for motor racing the like of which we have not seen before — D.S.J.
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