Matters of moment, April 1967

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Britain and Formula One

Before racing commenced at the well-organized Daily Mail “Race-of-Champions” Meeting at Brands Hatch last month (report on page 263) a few minutes silence was observed in memory of the late Tony Vandervell, who died of a heart-attack, aged 68, on March 10th. Not only the big assembly of spectators at Brands Hatch but the entire world of British motor-racing and associated industries should remember with deep respect this determined Industrialist. Mr. Vandervell really put green Grand Prix cars on the front rank of the starting grid in important races and soon had them beating the Italians. He carried on effectively what B.R.M. and Connaught had sought to do with more slender resources.

Apart from rather unconvincing victories by Napier in the 1902 G.P. and Sunbeam in a between-wars G.P., the “wearing of the green” in true racing car contests was better forgotten until Vandervell (as he modestly said as a substitute for golf, which he could no longer play) built and developed his team of Vanwall G.P. cars. To do this he had to be ruthless, and very determined. He had to employ the best brains in the business, build his own engines, sign on the finest drivers available. All this he did, concentrating on top-rank races only for the pleasure of showing Ferrari and Maserati the way to the chequered flag. Britain, for years subservient to France, then to Italy and Germany in International G.P. racing, had climbed to the front-rank by 1958, when Vanwall took the World Manufacturers’ Championship (although, measure of the tough opposition, Hawthorn won the Drivers’ Championship while driving for Ferrari). Since then British cars have been at the very forefront of this exacting technical/sporting field of endeavour. Cooper pioneered the rear-engined layout of racing cars that is now universal, B.R.M. went into racing with their own engines as well as cars, Lotus were at the forefront of “chassis” technique. British cars have held the Manufacturers’ Championship every year since Vanwall moved in so convincingly, except in 1961 and 1964, when it went to Ferrari. And British drivers have held the Drivers’ Championship every season since Hawthorn led the way in 1958, apart from the intervention of Phil Hill in 1961.

This should have given great satisfaction to those who recalled the days when British cars were but a pathetic backcloth to the victorious Italians and the all-conquering German Mercedes-Benz, should have inspired those who remembered how motor-racing successes reflect National engineering prestige, how sales of costly Italian and German cars were undoubtedly assisted by race-winning publicity, how the demand for the little D.K.W.s rose in S. Africa after Auto-Union had raced there successfully in pre-war days.

Britain’s leadership of G.P. racing was promoted by Tony Vandervell’s drive to bring it about. Last season the New World moved in, with Brabham the popular World Champion, driving Repco-Brabham cars.

The Brands Hatch “Race-of-Champions” was but a curtain-raiser to the 1967 G.P. season. But two American drivers in Eagle-Gurney-Weslake Anglo-American Racers’ cars (admittedly using British engines) finished first and second in the heats. The Final was won by Gurney’s Eagle from a Ferrari, two Maserati-engined Coopers and another Ferrari. Lotus and B.R.M. were absent and nearly twice as many foreign-entered cylinders as British contributed to the delightful cacophony on the starting grid. British cars and drivers have in recent years cracked the opposition in the Indianapolis 500—but with American engines. Let us hope that “the green” is not about to suffer an eclipse, that British domination of single-seater racing is not about to meet a challenge, from new engines, cars, and tyres, that it will be unable to overcome…. According to the National Institute for Economic Research, a higher standard of living is enjoyed in the U.S.A., Canada, Sweden, Norway, W. Germany, France and Holland than in Britain, although Italy and Japan, fastest movers in the race for higher living standards, are below us. Six years ago Britain was fourth, now she ranks as eighth. So more than ever we need an uplift for our engineering products and it will be tragic, and a snub to Mr. Vandervell’s fine endeavours, if we lose our supremacy in G.P. racing.

The writing on the wall, within the context, of 60 laps’ racing over a tight circuit, was plain to see at Brands Hatch on March 12th, and all credit to Dan Gurney, Harry Weslake and Len Terry that it was so. Incidentally, the paying public had no reason to complain of the exciting racing presented to them and we have no criticism of the venue, apart from the time it took to get out of the car parks. The police had abandoned traffic control on the main road by 7 p.m.; all praise to those civilians who helped to sort out the resultant tangle in spite of a teeming snowstorm….

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The Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy Contest

Last year Bernard Kain, driving his 1926 Type 35B Bugatti, won this Trophy, with Carmichael’s 328 B.M.W. and Jardine’s Brescia Bugatti the runners-up, Carmichael sportingly giving his share of the prize money to Jardine, whose engine “blew-up.” This year it will again be awarded on a points basis at V.S.C.C. Race Meetings (see page 273) at Silverstone (two), Oulton Park and Castle Combe, and will carry prize money totalling £150. The rules are unchanged; only races which do not have post 1939 cars amongst the entry will count, so that whatever the outcome the winning cars will be of a type that could have competed at the famous Brooklands Motor Course.

The restoration and preparation of pre-war cars for racing is a warmly-supported aspect of the English competition scene. So we are delighted to announce the continuation of this Contest, which perpetuates the memory of racing at the Weybridge Track and which is now in the capable and enthusiastic hands of the V.S.C.C., whose race meetings contrive to capture something of the atmosphere, enthusiasm and individuality of those that took place on bank holidays at Brooklands more than a quarter of a century ago.

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Want a coat ?

Castrol Ltd. are offering a dark blue Italian-styled Pakamac car coat, normally priced at £6 19s. 6d. for £3 19s. 6d. to anyone who purchases a sealed tin of any grade of Castrol motor oil and forwards an order form, obtainable from the retailer who supplies the oil, to the Castrol Advisory Motoring Service, 78-100, Cromer Street, London, WC1. The offer remains open until June 30th and the coats are available in three sizes.

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Disappointing

We have always endeavoured to give publicity to the smaller, specialist car manufacturers and had hoped to include in this issue impressions of a visit to Alvis Ltd. However, they inform us that as some 90% of their production is concerned with items having no connection with the 3-litre Series IV private-car they are unable to allow us in their factory. We hope sincerely that this does not foretell the end of Alvis as a manufacturer of motor cars.

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B.M.C. and Ford up, Fiat down

While B.M.C. and Ford were announcing price increases for some of their models, Fiat were knocking over £94 off the price in this country of their excellent little 850 coupé. Motor Sport published road-impressions of this Fiat in February 1965.

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“Hell Drivers”

The Avon Rubber Company’s spectacular film of the U.K. tour of the “Canadian Hell Drivers” car stunt team is now available to motor clubs. It runs for 15 minutes, a useful programme spacing length, and is obtainable on free loan from: Sound-Services Film Library, Wilton Crescent, Merton Park, London, SW19.