The Racing Season Begins
As these words are being read cars are already practising for the first International races of the 1961 European season, for the Pau Grand Prix and the Easter Monday races at Goodwood. These two meetings will witness the first races to the new Grand Prix Formula, for although this new Formula took effect as from January 1st, 1961, the racing season in Europe is only just beginning. This Formula will remain in force until December 31st, 1964, and all Formula 1 Grand Prix races and World Championship events will be run to these new rules, which are as follows :—
1. Cars with engines over 1,300 c.c. but under 1,500 c.c.
2. No supercharging allowed.
3. Commercial pump fuel to be used, to be defined by the F.I.A. This will mean such fuels as Esso Golden Extra, B.P. Super-Plus, and Shell Super.
4. A minimum weight limit of 450 kilogrammes (approximately 990 lb. or 8.9 cwt.). This weight to be without the addition of ballast and in full running order complete with all oils and coolants, but with empty fuel tanks.
5. An automatic starter must be fitted, capable of being operated by the driver when seated at the steering wheel. The source of energy for this starter, either electric or otherwise, must be carried on the car.
6. As a fire precaution an electrical master-switch must be fitted, working either automatically or by the driver.
7. The driving seat must be constructed in such a way that one can get in or out without opening or removing any sort of panel.
8. Attachments for a seat belt must be fitted, but the wearing of the belt is optional.
9. A safety-crash bar must be fitted, which :
(a) must not project forward over the driver's head.
(b) must not be higher than his head when he is seated at the steering wheel.
(c) must be wider than the driver's shoulders when he is seated at the steering wheel.
10. All wheels must be exposed, and the bodywork must not cover them in any plane, even when they are on full lock.
11. A dual-braking system must be fitted so that should a pipe fracture or a brake fail there will always be braking on the front wheels, at least.
12. Fuel tanks fillers must not stick out of the body panels, and the diameter of the fillers must be such that there is plenty of space for air to escape when being filled by a pressure hose. Any tank breathers must be so constructed that it is impossible for fuel to come out with the air.
13. No oil may be added to the car once the race has started, and oil fillers and water fillers must be fitted with tags so that they may be officially sealed. These seals to remain unbroken until the end of the race.
Those are the rules to which new Formula 1 cars are being built, and the races to count for the World Championship must be of a minimum length of 300 kilometres and duration of at least two hours, while the maximum length is limited to 500 kilometres. There are nine races scheduled to count for the Drivers' Championship and in these points will be scored by the first six drivers to finish, at the rate of 9, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1. Of these nine races each driver counts his five best performances, the highest total to be acclaimed World Champion for 1961. Those races to count for this Championship are:
May 14th Monaco Grand Prix
May 22nd Dutch Grand Prix
June 18th Belgian Grand Prix
July 2nd French Grand Prix
July 15th British Grand Prix
Aug. 6th German Grand Prix
Sept.10th Italian Grand Prix
Oct. 29th Morocco Grand Prix
Nov. 26th United States Grand Prix
Any other race organised to the new Formula 1 rules may be of any length or duration the organisers may care to decide, and the coming season will see a great many events for Formula 1 cars, some being full-length Grand Prix events, others short sprint-type events, but all must comply to the regulations governing the cars if they are to be called Formula 1 events.
On Easter Monday the Automobile Club Basco-Bearnais have the honour of holding the first full-length Grand Prix to the new Formula, the annual Pau Grand Prix round the streets of the town being over 100 laps of the circuit, a distance of 276 kilometres. On the same day the B.A.R.C. are holding a shorter race for Formula 1 cars at their mixed race meeting at Goodwood, this race being over a distance of 160 kilometres. The following weekend another Formula 1 event takes place, on April 9th, on the new circuit just north of Bruxelles, right alongside the 1959 World Exhibition grounds, the giant Atomium still casting its baleful gaze over the circuit. This event will he held in three heats of 22 laps each, the addition of the placings finding the ultimate winner. Anyone who completes all three heats will have covered approximately 300 kilometres, so that the events can count as a full-length Grand Prix, but it will not be so arduous as a race such as the Pau Grand Prix, which is run without a break. Two weeks later, on April 22nd, the B.A.R.C. are once more organising a mixed race meeting, this time at Aintree, and in the programme is yet another Formula 1 race, this time over 240 kilometres. Three days later, and many hundreds of miles away, at the southern end of Sicily, the annual Siracusa Grand Prix takes place, this being a full-length Grand Prix race of 308 kilometres, run as a single event like the Pau Grand Prix. This race is being held on the unusual day of Tuesday because April 25th is the anniversary of the first landings by the Americans in Sicily during the last war, and it forms an annual National Holiday in Sicily. In order to attract the biggest crowd possible, the Automobile Club of Siracusa run their race on this day. Less than two weeks later, on May 6th, it is the turn of the B.R.D.C. to run a race to the new Formula 1, this time at Silverstone during the traditional fiesta of speed and sport known as the International Trophy Meeting. The following Sunday sees the first World Championship take place, at Monaco on May 14th, by which time all the factory teams should be more than ready to do battle in this first serious event of the season.
Undoubtedly new Grand Prix cars will be tried out at one or another of the races prior to Monaco, and occasionally there will be interesting clashes between factory teams at some events, but Monaco will see the first full-scale battle. This year will see more factory teams in Grand Prix racing than we have seen for some time, while in addition will be some powerful private teams, so that entries are not going to be come by easily for the more important Formula 1 races, and the World Championship events are certainly going to be over-subscribed and will produce some problems over selection. Last year the Cooper team set a good example by running only two works cars, illustrating that it was better to do as much as you were certain of achieving, than trying to do too much. They estimated that running two Grand Prix cars would be their limit and they did this to perfection, their drivers Brabham and McLaren finishing first and second in the World Championship, while the car won the Manufacturers' Championship. For 1961 their team remains the same, the Australian and the New Zealander making a first-class pair to run as a team. Other teams are now following Coopers' lead, and Lotus are running two cars this year, with Ireland and Clark as leading drivers, though Trevor Taylor will make a third Team Lotus entry on occasions. The B.R.M. team have Brooks and Graham Hill as their drivers, and other two-man teams from Great Britain are the two Finance Company teams, the United Dominions Trust team with Cliff Allison and Henry Taylor, and the Yeoman Credit team with Salvadori and Surtees.
In Italy Ferrari has also followed Coopers' lead and his Grand Prix team will consist of Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips, though Ritchie Ginther and Willy Mairesse may be given Formula 1 drives on occasion. Other teams to be prominent in Formula 1 racing this year are the Equipe National Belge, with Gendebien, Mairesse and Lucien Bianchi, and from Italy the Scuderia Serinissima with Maurice Trintignant as its number one driver. The Scuderia Centro-Sud and the Scuderia Castellotti, both active last year, will also be in the picture on occasions. Last, but by no means least, of the private teams is the Walker team, with its driver Stirling Moss, the combination of R. R. C. Walker's money and organisation and the driving skill of Moss needing no justification for an entry in any race anywhere in the world. Finally there is the opposition from Germany in the form of the factory Porsche team, comprising Bonnier, Dan Gurney, Hans Herrmann and Barth, and the strength of this set-up was seen a number of times last year in Formula 2 racing, but now they come right out into the open and challenge all-comers in full Grand Prix form.
Of the cars that these teams and drivers will use during the coming races the position is not so clear, and in Great Britain a strange state of affairs has come about whereby every Grand Prix contender is relying on Coventry-Climax selling them an engine. The Climax firm can only offer a modified four-cylinder engine which is a cross between thc old 2½-litre engine and last year's 1,500-c.c. engine, this new Mark II giving barely 150 b.h.p. The Cooper, Lotus and B.R.M. factory teams are all using these engines, and the private teams of U.D.T., Yeoman Credit and Walker are all using Cooper or Lotus cars so are also relying on Coventry-Climax for engines. If the Climax firm closed down overnight Britain's Grand Prix hopes would be gone, which is a solemn thought. B.R.M. have been forced to use Climax engines as their own designs for a vee-8 are not very far advanced. Climax themselves are working on a new vee-8 Grand Prix engine, but it will not be ready before the end of the season.
Abroad, Ferrari is more advanced than anyone, having already built a new 1½-litre engine, as well as having last year's Dino 156 engine which was raced last year in preparation for the new Formula. The latest Ferrari engine is still a V6 but with an angle of 120 degrees between the cylinder banks, giving better balance and the possibility of higher r.p.m. than with the 60 degrees vee-engine. We shall almost certainly see both engines in use this season, until one or other proves more desirable. The Equipe National Belge are using Emeryson cars fitted with Maserati engines and Colotti gearboxes, the four-cylinder Maserati engines being developed by the Modena firm especially for the new Formula 1. For most of the season the Porsche team will be using their old and trusty flat-four air-cooled engine, though they are at work on a new design, and my guess is that it may appear experimentally for the German Grand Prix in August. One thing that is certain about the forthcoming Grand Prix season is that all Grand Prix cars will have their engines mounted behind the driver and all four wheels will be independently sprung. When the previous Formula 1 began in 1954 all Grand Prix cars had the engine in front of the driver, and the majority of them had de Dion rear suspension, so that any complaints that the new Formula cars will all look alike must be tempered with the thought that seven years ago Grand Prix cars were equally all alike.
In addition to the Grand Prix Formula there it another class of single-seater racing, which is to the new Inter-Continental Formula. This allows cars with engines up to 3-litres, and the F.I.A. thought this one up on two rather vague accounts. Firstly it was to quieten noisy groups of English who did not want the new Formula 1 (they have got it anyway, in spite of the yelling and shouting), and, secondly, it is yet another vain hope of combining European racing with American professional track racing. The idea of this 3-litre racing was to encourage racing on high-speed tracks, the Italians wanting to use their Monza banking, and threatening to build a new banked track in Turin. The English saw in this Formula a way of going on racing with last year's successful cars on the same circuits, so between the two factions there is some muddled thinking. The professional American racing world is so self-contained and successful that it has shown little or no interest in the Inter-Continental Formula, while in Great Britain it has received a setback due to Coventry Climax dropping all interest in 2½-litre engines already in existence, and quite justifiably refusing to enlarge any engines up to 3-litres, or take any part or responsibility for Climax engines in Inter-Continental Formula racing. The only person to do anything about this Formula is Mr. Vandervell, who has enlarged one of his Vanwall engines to 2.86-litres and fitted it in the Lotus chassis he tried out at Snetterton last year.
At the moment it looks as though Inter-Continental Formula racing will be an all-British affair using obsolete machinery, though Ferrari has threatened to take part with last year's Dino 246 cars fitted with 3-litre V12 engines, one such car already having been built for the New Zealander Pat Hoare. The situation is rather like that in 1952 and 1953, when the existing Formula 1 of that time was dropped by European organisers in favour of the 2-litre Formula 2 but England went on racing to the old Formula, using the supercharged B.R.M.s and the 4½-litre Thinwall Special, as well as old E.R.A.s, Talbots and suchlike. If nobody is going to build new 3-litre engines then Inter-Continental Formula will die and any races that are held will inevitably be for obsolete machinery.
On the Formula Junior front activity is fantastic and almost every little workshop or garage seems to be building a Formula Junior car or tuning a Ford 105E or B.M.C. engine for this Formula. Some of these little cars are very fine miniature Grand Prix cars, while others are too horrible to contemplate, and the whole set-up is very much like Formula 3 used to be when it was rising to its heyday. One hopes that Formula Junior will not develop into the sordid rat-race that Formula 3 ultimately became, ending in open fisticuffs on the track. It is almost safe to say that somewhere in Europe there will be a race for Formula Junior cars every week-end throughout the season.—D. S. J.