Continental Notes, April 1971

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One of the most popular clichés these days is “the rising cost of motor racing”, usually uttered by people who are not spending money on racing or by people who are trying to justify the many thousands of pounds they have conned out of someone on the pretext of sponsorship. Some people are really spending big money on racing and I don’t mean a businessman buying a £15,000 racing car for a budding youth. I refer to firms like Porsche, who spend untold money on research and development which is closely tied to their racing programme.

The Porsche firm probably spend more time, manpower and money on one research problem than all the small racing car manufacturers spend together on total racing research. The Stuttgart firm have just released some information about a new 16-cylinder engine that was destined for sports-car racing but looks like now being put on one side on the shelf marked “interesting experiments”. This engine is a 5-litre designed around the layout of the successful 2.2-litre flat-8-cylinder, being, in effect, two 8-cylinder units one behind the other. It is such a compact engine that it will fit into the 917 Porsche chassis, in place of the existing flat-12-cylinder engine, and it develops 690 DIN horsepower at 9,200 r.p.m., which is a lot of very honest horsepower.

As 1971 is to be the last season for 5-litre sports cars, the 1972 FIA rules imposing a limit of 3-litres, and as the opposition to the existing 917 Porsches does not look very strong, Porsche engineering have stopped development work on this new 16-cylinder engine, regarding it now as merely something of “high technical interest”. They publish a specification of the engine under the delightful heading “Technical data for Enthusiasts”:

Sixteen cylinders, V 180 degrees, air-cooled, 80 x 62 mm. bore and stroke, 4,982 c.c., two valves per cylinder, 690 DIN h.p. at 9,200 r.p.m., maximum torque 405 ft./lb. at 7,600 r.p.m., dual ignition by two independent Bosch 16-cylinder distributors and ignition circuits, 16-cylinder Bosch fuel injection.

***
In a lighter vein comes a ruling from the CSI that all Formula One Grand Prix cars must be fitted with a red rear-light of 15-watts power. The racing car constructors get together every now and then and discuss racing-car design and construction, with a view to agreeing on certain safety items and many of their decisions are very reasonable. Everyone was in agreement on the size and capacity of fire extinguisher systems, and recently they agreed to a limit of 16 swg minimum for the outer skins of monocoque chassis. The latest safety regulation of a rear lamp does not come from the constructors, but from the drivers, through the GPDA and its President, Joakim Bonnier. He put the idea of a red rear lamp up to the CSI as a safety precaution for use in bad visibility, due to rain and spray or mist or fog.

The CSI agreed to it, but I feel they had their tongues in their cheeks, for an awful lot of details were left undecided. Such things as who decides when the lights should be switched on, who switches them on, does a car whose light is not working get the black flag, is a driver mis hors course if he switches his light off, if a bulb fails must the car make a pit stop and have the bulb replaced, and so on and so on. One sensible idea did come from this, from Hulme I believe, who suggested that such a red light could be useful if switched on when a car breaks down and retires on the edge of the circuit, providing it has not retired due to a flat battery, that is. It was suggested that the drivers switched their lights on at their own discretion, but somehow that was not popular. I can think of at least six Grand Prix drivers who would press on into the gloom and not bother to switch their rear lights on. “If you are behind, mate, that’s your bad luck” or words to that effect in a variety of languages other than English.

In English race reporting we are fairly polite and say “Bonnier was bringing up the rear”, meaning he was dead last. The French race reporters say “Bonnier was the red lamp”, meaning he was at the end of the train or procession. Very apt is the French language. I can hardly wait for the end of the British Grand Prix this year, when the cars are scrutineered and the chief RAC scrutineer finds that the winner’s car has a 12-watt bulb in its rear lamp instead of a 15-watt bulb. Oh my!

***
For some years now the French have carefully arranged a practice weekend at Le Mans, in readiness for the June 24-hour event, on the same weekend in April as our own BOAC long-distance sports-car race. This year they have avoided this tiresome clashing of dates, but have gone one better, by clashing with the Spanish GP on April 18th. No doubt there will be quite a lot of private flying between Barcelona and Le Mans, one advantage being that the aerodrome at Le Mans is walking distance from the pits, for quite a lot of Grand Prix drivers have sports-car commitments. Rodriguez, Siffert, Stommelen, Pescarolo, Beltoise, Amon and Ickx are among those who could be needed in two places at once. In addition, there is a 2-litre sports-car Championship meeting at the Paul Ricard circuit on the same weekend. If anyone is thinking of hiring a racing driver for a film on that weekend they had better forget it, for spare racing drivers are going to be in short supply.

***
The victory by Andretti in the South African GP, driving one of last year’s Ferraris, must have caused great rejoicing in Modena and Maranello. The nice thing about a Ferrari victory is that the Italians see it as a victory for Italy and they sing and wave their Italian flags with great enthusiasm—there is nothing quite like it. If a March, Lotus, Brabham, McLaren, Surtees, BRM or Tyrrell wins a race we just stand around and say “well done” or something equally trite; there is no national enthusiasm for we are never quite sure who owns what and where the money has come from.

A Ferrari victory is clear cut; a red car has won and red cars are Italian, a victory for Italy, hurrah! The Italian enthusiasts naturally want to see Italian drivers winning in Italian cars, and recall Campari, Nuvolari, Varza, Ascari, Farina, Bandini, Scarfiotti. They are very tolerant of “foreigners” joining the Ferrari team and loved John Surtees, and never got to know Phil Hill and Amon, but have taken to Ickx and fondly call him “Pierrino” after the small Italian boy who features in so many Italian jokes.

Regazzoni was a natural favourite, with a name like that, a face like that and living just over the border he was accepted as an Italian, even though he is pure Ticinese Swiss. And now Andretti, born in Trieste, and now a naturalised American; who cares about that, Andretti is Italian, and has won a Grand Prix for Ferrari, hurrah! If you’ve ever talked to Andretti away from newspapermen, cameras and publicity people you find that he is still Italian at heart, with an Italian’s passion for racing and racing engines, just like the Granatelli brothers; all three of them and Andretti are no more American than I am; they love motor racing and they love all that Italy stands for, but are quite honest and tell you America offers their abilities more scope than Italy.

I shall never forget the scenes of enthusiasm after the Ferrari 1-2 in the Austrian GP last year, nor after Regazzoni’s victory at Monza. Late in the evening, after the Austrian race, the first Ferrari victory for a long while, there were Italian-registered cars heading for the border with Italian flags flying from the windows and joyful singing coming from within.

***
Motor Sport often prints “things they say”. The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association recently published a communique signed by their President which said: “The Grand Prix Medical Service and the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association are two entirely separate organisations and are not to be confounded.”—Eh!—D. S. J.