Continental Notes, August 1957

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Without doubt the event of the year was the visit by a large contingent of Indianapolis cars and drivers to Monza, creating a meeting that was unique in the history of European motor-racing. Whether the meeting was a success, or whether track racing of that type should be encouraged, is quite beside the point. The Monza-Indianapolis event was something new to European racing eyes, and as such warranted an interest being taken if one is to claim to be an enthusiast for racing. Many people took one look and decided they were not interested, others found the whole affair refreshing and fascinating. It was entirely a matter of personal choice, but the people I can find little time for are those who condemned it out of hand without taking the trouble to have a look. To me, motor-racing and motoring competitions are those that involve the use of a motor vehicle, and due to the vast variety and the shortness of life I find that certain types of racing and competitions have to be put aside to allow full concentration on those types of event that interest me most. I think I can honestly say that I have made first-hand contact with every type of racing in Europe at one time or another, and the chance of making contact with Indianapolis without the complication of travelling to America was an opportunity not to be missed. I am not particularly enamoured of English Stock Car racing, or motor-cycle Speedway racing, but I did not rule them out until I had taken a look and seen what it was all about. Those people who condemned the Monza track racing without having investigated it bore me and do not convince use of their 100 per cent. enthusiasm for motor-racing.

It so happens that I was fascinated and intrigued by the track racing, the track cars and the track drivers, but then I am entitled to my own opinions, and nobody has to agree. I found the whole atmosphere of the track drivers and their set-up rather refreshing after some of the niggling and back-biting that goes on behind the scenes in present-day European racing. Racing in Europe is far from perfect; there are grizzles and gripes all the time, and a slow decay is setting in, and the change of atmosphere to be found at Monza made one realise just how deep the decay has penetrated. Some people have expressed the opinion that those in favour of the Monza track racing visualise replacing Grand Prix racing with this type of racing, but nothing could be farther from the truth. It was felt that we in Europe could give it a try and if we liked it then perhaps there could be found room for one or two, or even three meetings a year, purely as a speciality. Personally I would be happy to name a number of present-day sports-car races that could well be dispensed with in favour of a track race.

The more one thinks about the attitude of the Grand Prix drivers in general, along with certain other interested parties, to the whole Monza affair, the more it looks like a simple case of bad manners. It would have taken no effort at all to have had a look at the Indianapolis racers in action, there was no need to join in or even be polite about one’s feelings, but to boycott the whole thing and stay away was about as rude a gesture as one could imagine, and none of the Americans who came over deserved to be treated in such a rude and shabby manner. One thing I can guarantee and that is that had a Grand Prix driver been in the paddock during practice and expressed a desire to try an Indianapolis car, he would not have been short of offers. A number of the American drivers expressed the desire to try a Grand Prix car, say at Rouen or Reims, but the stony silence which greeted them was painful. Everybody’s opinions differ and many versions of the same reason are different, but I cannot help feeling that the underlying antagonism against the Indianapolis visit was a resentment to any suggestion that somebody else should try and muscle-in on the European racket that is motor-racing.

*

Last month I condemned European drivers for lack of guts in knowing their own mind, not the collective mind as appeared when they got together, but their own individual emotions and feelings. Many people have interpreted those remarks to mean that I doubted the bravery of our drivers from the point of view of driving. That, of course, is ridiculous, for I have sat beside Moss in some of his bravest moments, I have seen Hawthorn performing fantastic feats of bravery and skill at Dundrod with a Jaguar, or Fangio sliding a corner at 150 m.p.h., or Behra coming straight from an accident and driving faster than ever. These men are brave enough by any standards, but what they seem to lack is a pioneering and adventurous spirit that used to exist, and for that I blame the present idea of civilisation. In a “Welfare State” the tendency for the human being is to lead a safer and more secure life from the more obvious viewpoints. The fact that it is far less secure from a much higher level is overlooked; the spirit of adventure is abnost non-existent these days, mainly because there is no need for it, lands having been discovered, mountains climbed and the air nearly conquered; and the reaction of the present generation is: “Why should I risk my neck?” A perfect example of this was the recent campaign to recruit men for air-crew for supersonic research; the result was a virtual blank. People everywhere today show no desire to explore something new or different, and this attitude seems to have grown into our present race of road-racing drivers. Fortunately, there are the few who still have enough spirit left in them to have a go at anything, just as there are still men who will climb the highest mountain, or go to the South Pole, or attempt to fly higher or faster than anyone else. At one time motor-racing bred these sort of people, who, if you produced a car that was faster or more powerful than the previous one, would jump at the chance of trying it; or if you suggested that a new circuit was tougher than anything yet tried, they would try and find out. I should have thought that the challenge to try a race that was faster and possibly more dangerous than anything yet run would have appealed to racing drivers, but apparently not, or at least not to the professional ones. Today, racing is a comparatively easy matter, it is available to almost anyone, and because it is indulged in by the ordinary mortal it has developed into a pretty ordinary affair, apart from the rare occasion, and this, I feel sure, has a lot to do with this attitude of being disinterested in something out of the ordinary. Speaking personally, I know that had the Novi Special been a two-seater and I’d had the chance of being taken round the banking at 177 m.p.h. for the lap I would have jumped at the chance; to find out what it is really like more than anything else.

*

Before leaving the subject of Monza and its track race it is worth recording the impression made by the Indianapolis teams and organisation. The most outstanding was the serious manner in which the racing was attacked, the lavishness of the equipment and the soundness of the knowledge possessed by those concerned with the preparation of the cars. One intriguing piece of equipment was a wheel alignment and castor-angle adjustment machine on which the whole car was placed and adjustments made to the various determining angles of the front suspension and steering geometry until the handling of the car suited the track. Naturally, all the American cars were provided with adjustment in their design. In European racing, a car is set up when it is built and if it does not steer too well under certain conditions there is little that can be done about it, the driver just has to suffer with an inferior machine. This equipment was operated by the Bear Equipment Company, who specialise in heavy garage materials and supply this service at race meetings free of charge, also having wheel-balancing machines and similar things available for anyone to use, without question of being under contract or any other hindrance with which European motor-racing is tied.

The supply of tyres brought over by Firestone was of truly gigantic proportions, as were some of the tyres, but it is a tribute to the firm that a large quantity went back to America unused, for tyre trouble was non-existent, and there were certainly no limitations put on the speed of the cars by the tyre company. After their tests earlier in the year they gathered much knowledge of the conditions to be expected at Monza, and designed and built tyres specially for the job, so that the technicians concerned were more than satisfied with the results.

Altogether one felt that these people all knew an awful lot about high-speed motoring, and the whole system by which it is organised is efficient and it is sound business. It appeared honest, open and straight-forward, as distinct front the hole-in-the-corner type of business methods on which European racing is only just surviving.

*

After complaining last month about the lack of Grand Prix racing we have now had three major Grand Prix races its a row on successive weekends, and it has been wonderful, but the surprising thing was mechanical mortality in the first event. There was a month and a half between the Monaco Grand Prix and the French Grand Prix yet all the teams at Rouen suffered some sort of mechanical bother. The Ferrari team seemed to have lost speed apart from anything else, while one of their cars went out with a faulty magneto. Two of the Maseratis broke engines and the 12-cylinder engine was not going well enough to justify racing it. The Vanwall team suffered a seized steering-column bush and one of the engines showed signs of overheating, while a B.R.M. had universal-joint trouble that should have been eradicated long ago. One would have thought that with six weeks to prepare cars for the French Grand Prix they would all have been faultless, but it was not so, and, apart from all the teams being ready for first practice, the mechanical reliability showed no great advancement over races that follow one week after another.

With this mechanical unreliability and the frequency of events, the racing departments have been strained to the limit, and cars that have not been used for many months had to be brought back into service. One of the best organised teams now is the Vanwall, having the advantage of a stable design and a building programme that has now reached its objective. With eight Vanwall cars now completed, Mr. Vandervell feels justified in ceasing to make any more of the present model, and in the racing department at Acton there exists probably the best-equipped racing team in Grand Prix racing today. The time must surely be near when they sweep all before them, as Mercedes-Benz did, by sheer weight of numbers and excellence of equipment, for they can now produce freshly prepared cars for every meeting, giving ample time for after-race overhauls.

It is rather ironical that after the starting-money troubles between the manufacturers and the Belgian organisers of the Grand Prix at Spa, it is proposed to hold a sports-car race at the end of August. It is quite on the cards that Ferrari and Maserati will compete, taking part for virtually no starting money, as it is not usual to pay much money for sports cars. It is equally amusing that some drivers will probably go for no money at all, whereas they would cry for the earth if it were a Grand Prix. The classic example of this absurd situation is Le Mans, where factory teams and factory drivers take part with virtual Grand Prix cars, certainly as expensive to build and operate, for no starting money at all, in the vain hope of winning some large prize money. At Aintree it was suggested that the drivers should race for big prize money and have no starting money, and there were cries of dismay. It would seem that Grand Prix organisers are being exploited to support the sports-car organisers, yet a race like Le Mans nets more money than any other in Europe. The whole system of organising motor-racing in Europe is in a very unhappy, unbalanced and unbusiness-like state, but the question is, who is to put it right? The F.I.A. are probably sitting contentedly in Paris thinking everything is all right, whereas in fact there is a lot wrong, but as nobody in racing seems to trust any of their competitors it is unlikely that the mess will be straightened out by those concerned in the mess. — D. S. J.

Mont Ventoux Hill-Climb

As first round in the European Mountain Hill-Climb Championship, the Mont Ventoux event took place on June 30th on the very difficult course from Bedoin to the observatory on the top of the mountain. The Porsche factory team called in on their way back to Stuttgart from Le Mans, using the works 1,500RS models.

Results:

21.6 Kilometres — Very Hot

1st: W. Daetwyler (Maserati 200S) 12 min. 39.5 sec.

2nd: U Maglioli (Porsche 1,500) 12 min. 51.0 sec.

3rd: E. Barth (Porsche 1,500) 12 min. 53.0 sec.

4th: A. Buffa (Maserati 200S) 13 min. 25.0 sec.

5th: G. Cabianca (Osca 1,500) 13 min. 28.0 sec.

6th: C. Luglio (Ferrari 250GT) 13 min. 34.0 sec.

Prix De Paris

Run on the combined road and track circuit of 6.3 kilometres the Prix de Paris combined an entry of Formula II cars, sports cars and Gran Turisrno cars all racing together, and from this mixture the Formula II Coopers had little trouble in dominating the event.

Results:

Montlhery — 24 Laps — 151 Kilometres

1st: J. Brabbam (Cooper-Climax F2) 1 hr. 2 min. 45.7 sec. — 144.317 k.p.h.

2nd: M. McDowell (Cooper-Climax F2). 

3rd: A. Marsh (Cooper-Climax F2).

4th: I. Bueb (Cooper-Climax F2).

Fastest lap: J. Brabham (Cooper), on third lap — 148.194 k.p.h.

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