Last month saw the beginning of the season of long-distance races that are accepted as classics in their own right, without the need of a Championship prop. These are the Sebring 12 Hours, Targa Florio, 1,000 Kilometres of Nurburgring and the Le Mans 24 Hours, each one being a very individualistic event and which have in the past been used, with other events, to decide the Manufacturers' Sports-Car Championship, a Championship of makes of car rather than drivers. Last year the F.I.A. became very muddled over the question of Sports cars, G.T. cars and Prototype cars, and there were so many Championships surrounding the classic long-distance events that the situation became farcical. There was no out-and-out Championship, but a series of Cups and Trophies for all the numerous categories that took part, so that almost every make could claim a 1st, 2nd or 3rd in some Trophy contest of some sort.
Overlooking this complex system of acclaiming Champion Manufacturers the thing that stood out above all else was that Ferrari was supreme in long-distance racing, no matter what type of long-distance car the regulations demanded. Whether it was production G.T. cars, special G.T. cars, or sports cars called prototypes, Ferrari had the upper hand, and to me the car which covers the greatest distance in 12 hours or 24 hours is the winner of such a long-distance event.
While muddling around with regulations the F.I.A. and the long-distance race organisers became completely bewildered last year, so that Ferrari won races with a 2 1/2-litre V6-engined car that was virtually a 2-seater Grand Prix car of 1960, and he won Le Mans with a car that was a sports car in 1961 but in 1962 became a Prototype. This machine was rather fine because it was almost identical with the 1961 sports car, except that the engine was enlarged from 3-litres to 4-litres. Sports Cars were limited to 3-litres engine capacity in 1958, but last year Prototypes were allowed 4-litre engines, so by putting a Super America Ferrari V12 engine into the obsolete sports-car chassis Ferrari produced a splendid Prototype. The question was "Prototype of what?" but luckily no one really posed that question.
This year the situation is a bit clearer, and notably more free of restrictions. Prototypes are described as "voitures prototype G.T.," which should be self-explanatory even to Signor Ferrari and Colin Chapman, while engine capacity for these cars is unlimited. Another clause says that the car must be constructed in its entirety by the manufacturer concerned, but already it seems as if this clause is going to be overlooked, especially by the French at Le Mans, otherwise Rene Bonnet cars using Renault engines would be ruled out, and that would not do at all. The result of this Prototype class, which is really Sports-Car Formule Libre, is that some very exciting vehicles are emerging and Le Mans this year looks like being most interesting.
Ferrari has squeezed a V12 unit into the rear of a sports-car chassis and this will be his main weapon, while a fine supporting car will be the GTO model with 4-litre engine, which ran last year. Eric Broadley has built a fantastic Lola coupé, with a 4-litre Ford V8 engine behind the seats and a Colotti gearbox behind the rear axle. The first of these incredible machines in mock-up form was seen at the B.R.S.C.C. Racing Car Show, and two have been entered for Le Mans, which should cause the French scrutineers to suck their Gauloises. Previously Maserati held the crown for building "wild ones," but if this Lola-Ford V8 works then the crown must surely pass to Broadley.
Not to be left out of things, Cohn Chapman has built for two customers, two coupé versions of the Lotus 19, which is the rear-engined Lotus-Climax sports car, Ecurie Ecosse have installed V8 Buick engines in their coupé Tojeiro cars, and the new A.T.S. firm in Bologna have built a 2 1/2-litre V8 G.T. car with the engine behind the driver on the lines of the Lola-Ford V8. Alongside this lot the works Porsche 2-litre 8-cylinder coupé that ran last year will look pretty staid. The prospects for 1963 long-distance races and Le Mans in particular, look most exciting, and added to these hairy prototypes is the interesting Rover-B.R.M. project, which is to be a Rover gas-turbine engine mounted in a special chassis built by B.R.M. on the lines of their successful Grand Prix cars. If this turbine car project comes off it will undoubtedly prompt Daimler-Benz into serious thought about competing with a Wankel-engined car, and then the "future" we used to read about will have arrived.
On the more serious side of long-distance racing there are the production G.T. cars, such as the GTO Ferrari, DB4 Aston Martin, E-type Jaguar, 2-litre Porsche Carrera, Lotus Elite, Alfa Romeo Giulietta, and Abarth 1000. The GTO is unlikely to be changed for 1963 as last year's models proved sufficiently fast and reliable to stay in front of any opposition, but Alfa Romeo have produced a new Giulietta in 1,300 and 1,600-c.c. form, this having a tubular space-frame, all-round-independent suspension, disc brakes all round, with inboard mounting at the rear, and a typical sleek Zagato body. Known as the TZ model, this stands for Tubulare Zagato, and there should be some at the Targa Florio. Abarth are expanding rapidly and after the suceess of the 1,600-c.c. sports car that ran experimentally last season, they are entering the G.T. field with 1,600-c.c. and 2-litre coupés. The Lotus Elan will surely be ready for competition with a 1,600-c.c. version of the twin-cam Ford engine, and in hard-top form will stir things up.
Even though we shall not see the drivers in these low coupés in Prototype and G.T. racing, it will not matter much, for the cars are going to be interesting enough on their own.—D.S.J.
Results of recent events
Lakeside International (Feb. 17th)
Formule Libre—Brisbane—66 Laps—159 Kilometres
1st: J Surtees (Lola-Climax 2.7-litre) - 1 hr 19 min. 26.6 sec.
2nd: G. Hill (Ferguson-Climax 2.5-litre) - 1 hr 19 min. 56.7 sec.
3rd: B. Stillwell (Brabham-Climax 2.7-litre).
4th: C. Amon (Cooper-Climax 2.5-litre).
5th: D. McKay (Brabham-Climax 2.7-litre).
6th: J. Palmer (Cooper-Climax 2.7-litre).
Daytona 3 Hours (Feb. 17th)
G.T. Cars—Daytona, Florida—Combined Road and Track Circuit
1st: P. Rodriguez (Ferrari GTO) .. 82 laps—164.213 k.p.h.
2nd: R. Penske (Ferrari GTO).
3rd: R. Thompson (Chevrolet Corvette).
4th: D. McDonald (A.C.-Cobra).
5th: J. Bonnier (Porsche Carrera 2-litre).
6th: J. Allen (Chevrolet Corvette).
This was the first F.I.A. race for Homologated G.T. cars and counted towards one of the many manufacturers' championships that surround racing other than with single-seater cars. Pedro Rodriguez and Penske drove GTO Ferraris entered by the North American Racing Team, and the race was enlivened by the performances of the new Sting Ray models from Chevrolet and the Shelby-inspired A.C. Cobras, with 4.5-litre Ford V8 engines.
South Pacific Gold Star (Mar. 2nd)
Formule Libre—Longford, Australia
1st: B. McLaren (Cooper-Climax 2.7-litre) - 176.380 k.p.h.
2nd: B. Stillwell (Brabham-Climax 2.7-litre).
3rd: J. Youl (Brabham-Climax).
Sandown Park (Mar. 10th)
Formule Libre—Melbourne—60 Laps—183 Kilometers
1st: B. McLaren (Cooper-Climax 2.7-litre) .. 1 hr 10 min. 03.8 sec.
2nd: J. Brabham (Brabham-Climax 2.7-litre)
3rd: A. Maggs (Lola-Climax 2.7-litre)
"The Times" and Donald Campbell
The Times Weekly Supplement devoted most of one of its February issues to every conceivable aspect of Bluebird's forthcoming attempt to break the late John Cobb's Land Speed Record. Thus did The Times show its great faith in Campbell's project. The Editor of Motor Sport contributed an article on the Land Speed Record down the years.