The Reims 12-Hour Race

Author

D.S.J

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A Nice French Event

Reims, France, June 24/25th

Coming only two weeks after the Le Mans 24-Hour Race, the Reims meeting could have suffered from a poor entry, but as it turned out it was a highly successful gathering of private owners and small factory entries that provided a most interesting race. The start was at midnight on Saturday, in the brightly lit pit area, with the 34 starters lined up in order of practice times, the drivers running across the track to their cars in true Le Mans style. Surveying the scene before the start it was anybody’s race, with three Lola-Chevrolet V8 coupés at the head of the line, a Mark II Ford, a Ferrari LM, another Lola-Chevrolet V8 coupé, a P2 Ferrari, two GT40 Fords and so on. A varied and interesting collection of fast long-distance machinery, with the white Lola coupé of Sid Taylor driven by Hulme/Gardner as hot favourite, though Hawkins and Surtees had been faster in practice.

The struggling traffic jam and maze of red lights as the 34 cars streamed away from the start under the Dunlop Bridge was a sight to see, only equalled by the speed with which the headlights could later be seen hurtling down the hill to the Thillois hairpin. The thunder of the Lolas as they went through the pit area at over 165 m.p.h., headlights ablaze, was awe-inspiring. Hawkins, driving Epstein’s Lola-Chevrolet, led from Surtees in the works Lola he had used at Le Mans, now with Chevrolet V8 engine, and Hulme in Sid Taylor’s car, followed by Attwood in Piper’s Ferrari LM which he was sharing with Bianchi, Piper himself being in his P2 Ferrari with Siffert as co-driver. Ford France had borrowed the light blue 7-litre Ford Mark II with which Bucknum had led the opening stages at Le Mans, and Schlesser and Ligier were sharing it, but the former had a brief stop to make the door shut properly, another one because the throttles stuck open, and a longer third stop because they would not close below 5,000 r.p.m., a trouble that was never really cured, forcing the French drivers to take the hairpins with the clutch out. The result was that the much fancied Ford was in 18th place at the end of the first hour! The three Lolas driven by Hawkins, Surtees and Hulme continued to thunder through the night, but de Udy’s pale green Lola-Chevrolet driven by Dibley was in and out of the pits with trouble in its lighting wiring. Already the three Lolas were two laps ahead of the next batch of runners, led by Attwood (Ferrari LM), followed by Maglioli (Ford GT40), Pike in de Udy’s Porsche Carrera Six, Piper (Ferrari P2), Pescarolo (Matra-B.R.M.), Pierpoint in Crabbe’s GT40 Ford, Herrmann in Buchet’s Porsche Carrera Six, Sutcliffe in his own Ford GT40, the remaining runners being already three laps behind.

By the end of the second hour the 7-litre Ford had charged up into fifth place and it was going well, but the Lolas were going even better, refuelling after about 1½ hours, the same drivers continuing while it was dark. Apart from the Dibley Lola being withdrawn due to its wiring troubles all went well with the Lolas until 3 a.m., and then it all happened. Surtees coasted into the pits with a broken crankshaft, so once more David Hobbs did not get his co-drive, and Hawkins came in for fuel and to hand over to Epstein, but the car never left the pits again; the housing between the engine and the Hewland gearbox was split. This left Gardner in the lead in the white Lola, followed by Attwood still driving the green Ferrari LM, with Ligier making up ground fast and now third. As dawn began to break the Matra-B.R.M. was in and out of the pits with a misfiring that was finally traced to a dying battery, but then the gearbox was reluctant to engage 5th gear, so the car was withdrawn. The Scuderia Brescia Corsa Ford GT40 was refuelled and Maglioli took over again from Vaccarella, and after he had gone someone remembered that they had not checked the oil level. There was a mild flap and the car did quite a few laps before Maglioli could be persuaded to return to the pits. Oil was added and away he went, but the damage had been done and 15 minutes later the red GT40 coasted by with a dead engine, a big-end having failed. Many cars fell by the wayside without even getting in the picture in their class, let alone the overall category.

At 4.30 a.m. it was light enough for competitors to be allowed to turn off their headlights, and still the Hulme/Gardner Lola went thundering on, followed by the Attwood/Bianchi Ferrari LM, the Schlesser/Ligier Ford Mark II, the Piper/Siffert Ferrari P2, and then the four private Porsches in the order Buchet/Herrmann, Steinemann/ Spoerry, Pike/Raeburn and Elford/Bradley. Just after 5 a.m. the Pike/Raeburn Porsche drew into the pits sounding rough and with smoke coming from the nearside front carburetter intake, indicative of valve trouble, and while this was being looked at there was a panic in the Sid Taylor pit for Gardner stopped the Lola and reported a vibration behind the seat. It was 5.35 a.m., not the best time for being bright, but Gardner was right enough for the crankshaft pulley that drives the water pump by vee belt had shattered its centre right out. The car was in the pits until 6.10 a.m., having another pulley fitted, and at the same time had the rear wheels changed and the front brake pads, as well as a general check-over. By the time Hulme got the Lola back into the race it had dropped to sixth place, and the 7-litre Ford was now comfortably in the lead, but not too happy as 3rd gear was inoperative. A small sprinkling of rain caused a flurry of rain tyres in front of the pits, but it did not rain hard enough to justify any changes and at 7 a.m. the big Ford was still leading, with the two Piper cars in second and third places, the LM leading the P2.

Down among the lesser runners there were all sorts of private problems taking place, the Sutcliffe/Bond Ford GT40 had a leaking head gasket and was keeping going on continuous doses of “leak stopper,” the Pierpoint/Crabbe Ford GT40 had no charge from its alternator and was being kept going on spare batteries, begged or borrowed from up and down the pits, and the Nelson/Liddell Ford GT40 was also suffering from head gasket trouble and was using water faster than petrol. The M.G.-B of Enever/Poole had spoilt its record by breaking its water pump, but was being got back into the running with a pump taken from their tow car, and the usually reliable 1,500-c.c. Alpine-Renaults had both broken their engines.

At 7.30 a.m. the Ferrari LM, which .seemed as if it might win as it was on the same lap as the leader, went out with a broken hub bearing at the rear, and then the Hulme/Gardner Lola stopped to take on water, which it did while keeping the engine running, which was ominous. Barely 30 minutes later it was back and this time there was a gusher of steam as the header tank cap was removed. Even more ominous. By 8.20 a.m. Gardner was back in the pits with the engine cooked, and that was that. Providing nothing happened to the 7-litre Ford it could not fail to win, as the Piper/Siffert Ferrari was two laps behind in second place at 9 a.m., and although it was running well it could not match the speed of the leading Ford, and at each pit stop there were anxious moments in restarting as the starter motor was playing up. The four private Porsches were putting on a show that would have done credit to the Zuffenhausen factory team, being 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th. By 10 a.m., with two hours still to run there were only 17 cars left on the circuit and a sick 911S Porsche in the pits, but of the runners many of them were going to have to struggle to finish, the stops for water by the two Ford GT40s were becoming more frequent and the privately-built Nomad, with twin-cam 1,600-c.c. Lotus engine, driven by the owner Konig and Fielding was smoking badly and going slower and slower with a slipping clutch. Siffert almost failed to restart the P2 Ferrari, needing the sleight hand of the owner on the starter button and ignition switch, and at 11 a.m. the 7-litre Ford made its last stop for fuel, Schlesser being at the wheel for the last phase. With barely 15 minutes left to go the green P2 Ferrari came free-wheeling into the pits, Siffert reporting a horrid noise from the engine. A quick look under the bonnet showed a hole in the side of the crankcase where a connecting-rod had broken. Keeping his fingers crossed Piper restarted the engine and Siffert told to try and nurse the car round for one more lap. While the light blue Ford Mark II lapped steadily on for the last few minutes before midday on Sunday, June 25th, the P2 Ferrari crept round and waited before the finishing line until the chequered flag came out, and thenclanked its way over the line, still in second place. The sick 911S Porsche with its broken gearbox managed to get one gear engaged and complete a final lap, but the unfortunate Nomad had crept away from the pits and had not returned. It was two very happy Frenchmen who received the winner’s laurels.

It had been very much a race of endurance and of speed as well, for during the third hour, while it was still dark, Hawkins had set a new all-time lap record in 2 rnin. 10.5 sec. ― 229.013-k.p.h. over 142 m.p.h.), the previous record being held by a Formula One Ferrari 3-litre. ― D. S. J.

The Reims 12-Hour Race ― Prototypes, Sportgs and GT ―  Warm

1st*: J. Schlesser/G. Ligier (Ford MkIIA) … 296 Laps    2,458.256 Kilometres   204.854 kph.
2nd: D. Piper/J. Siffert (Ferrari 375 P2)  … 289 Laps    2,407.361 Kilometres   20.613 kph.
3rd*: H. Herrmann/R. Buchet (Porsche Carrera Six)  … 284 Laps    2,361.381 Kilometres   196.781 kph.
4th*:D. Spoerry/G. Stienemann (Porsche 906)  … 281 Laps    2,336.419 Kilometres   194.701 kph. 
5th: A. Wicky/E. Bernay (Porsche Carrera Six)  … 277 Laps    2,303.981 Kilometres   191.998 kph.​ 
6th: V. Elford/W. Bradley (Porsche Carrera Six)  … 270 Laps    2,248.642 Kilometres   187.386 kph.​ 
7th*: P. Sutcliffe/R. Bond (Ford GT40)  … 267 Laps    2,219.085 Kilometres   184.923 kph.​ 
8th: R. Pierpoint/C. Crabbe (Ford GT40)  … 259 Laps    2,154.661 Kilometres   179.555 kph.​ 
9th*: R. Langeneste/A. Marnaut (Alpine Renault 1300)  … 258 Laps    2,143.532 Kilometres   178.627 kph.​ 
10th: A. Cortanze/A. Leguellec (Alpine Renault 1300)  … 256 Laps    2,128.500 Kilometres   177.375 kph.​ 
11th*: S. Trosh.T. Pilette (Alfa-Romeo GTZ2)  … 2526 Laps    2,097.510 Kilometres   174.792 kph.​ 
12th: E. Nelson/E. Lidell (Ford (GT40)  … 249 Laps    2,073.965 Kilometres   172.830 kph.​ 
13th: A. Bertaudt/A. Gilhaudin (C.D. Peugeot)  … 243 Laps    2,021.269 Kilometres   168.439 kph.​ 
14th*: S. Garant/J. Rey (Porsche 911S)  … 233 Laps    1,941.968 Kilometres   161.830 kph.​ 
15th*: G. Larrousse/J. Andruet (Alpine Renault 1300 GT)  … 232 Laps    1,927.882 Kilometres   160.656 kph.​ 
16th: R. Enever/A. Poole (M.G.-B) … 204 Laps    1,699.522 Kilometres   141.626 kph.​ 
17th: “Finkel”/J. P.Hanrioud (Porsche 911S)  … 197 Laps    1,643.208 Kilometres   136.934 kph.​ 

Fastest lap: P. Hawkins (Lola-Chevrolet V8), on lap 62 in 2 min. 10.5 sec, 229.013 kph (circuit record).

Class winners.

Retired: Greder/Giorgi (Ford GT 40), Dibley/de Udy (Lola-Chevrolet V8). Sutton/Hedges Lotus 47-Climax 2-litre), Rodriguez/Guichet (Ferrari Dino), Gaban/Pedro (Porsche 911S), Knight/Delautour (Lotus 47-Climax 2-litre), Konig/Feilding (Nomad 1600), Grandsire/Depailler (Alpine-Renault), Bianchi/Vinatier (Renault-Alpine), Prophet/Fitzpatrick (Ferrari LM). Jaussaud/Pescarolo (Matra-B.R.M. V8), Pike/Raeburn (Porsche Carrera Six). Maglioli/Vaccarella (Ford GT40), Hulme/Gardner (Lola-Chevrolet V8), Surtees/Hobbs (Lola-Chevrolet V8), Hawkins/Epstein (Lola-Chevrolut V8), Attwood/Bianchi (Ferrari LM).
34 starters 17 finishers.

Formula Two Race (3.15 p.m., Sunday, June 25th)

Alter the 12 hours of thundering Ford V8 and Chevrolet V8 engines, the scream of 12-cylinder Ferraris and the hard healthy notes of the flat-six Porsches, the drone of a multitude of 4-cylinder Cosworth engines and the identical performance of all the cars came as a bit of an anti-climax. Practice had been notable for the high speeds being attained with the 1,600-c.c. Cosworth engines, the fastest lap being accredited to Stewart (Matra-Cosworth) in 2 min. 13.8 sec. (223.363 k.p.h.), but as this was recorded while he was in the middle of a pack of cars all lapping at about 2 min. 14.5 sec., it would seem to have been “the luck of the draw.” The white Lola-B.M.W.s from the Munich factory reappeared again, driven by Siffert and Hahne, and apart from not being fast enough they had valve-gear troubles and could only produce one engine for the last day of practice, which Hahne used. As it was not really competitive they cut their losses and went home before the race, but the Surtees team persevered with their Lola-B.M.W. and Irwin started in the race. Matra were very busy with a brand new car, that Beltoise used for practice only, this being similar to the 1966 cars, but sleeker and more refined. He and Servoz-Gavin in the second works Matra tried some new racing Michelin tyres, which along with ELF petrol, the new French concern, made Matra more and more a French national team, though they still used Cosworth engines and Hewland gearboxes.

Although the race involved a solid pack of Cosworth-engined cars, the lone B.M.W. engine of Irwin blowing a lot of its valves and parts out through the exhaust pipes, it was noticeable that Rindt dominated the pack, frequently backed up by Rees. For a couple of laps Beltoise got in front, but then it was the “Winky Winkelmann” boys again; Hulme had a go in front, and then everyone seemed to be in front. Then it was Surtees in front for a couple of laps; then Graham Hill, then Rindt and Surtees alongside each other, then everyone in line astern behind Rindt, then Rindt and Surtees again, and so it went on, the order changing as fast as you could write down the numbers. How the official timekeepers and lap scorers were dealing with it was a mystery. What had started off as a solid bunch of twenty cars, gradually broke up into groups, some of the likely runners such as McLaren, Clark, Brabham and Ickx losing contact with the leaders, but Clark was given the fastest lap.

The pace of the leading bunch was five or six seconds slower per lap than they had been doing in practice, and rather like a Formula Three race where all the cars have the same performance; they were getting in each other’s way. Gradually the leading bunch was reduced as Beltoise, Rees and Servoz-Gavin dropped out, and the remaining five cars finished in a group, headed by Rindt.

Results:
Reims Formual Two ― 37 laps ― 307 kilometres ― Very warm

1st: J. Rindt (Brabham-Cosworth FVA) (Entrant: Winkelmann Racing) … 1 hr. 25 min. 25.4 sec. ― 215.747 k.p.h.
2nd: G. Hill (Lotus-Cosworth) (Entrant: Team Lotus) … 1 hr. 25 min. 25.6 sec.
3rd: J. Surtees (Lola-Cosworth FVA) (Entrant: Team Lola) … 1 hr. 25 min. 25.8sec.
4th: J. Stewart (Matra-Cosworth FVA) (Entrant: Ken Tyrell Racing) … 1 hr. 25 min. 26.0 sec.
5th: D. Hulme (Brabham-Cosworth FVA) (Entrant: Brabham Racing Developments) …  1 hr. 25 min. 26.1 sec.
6th: J. Ickx (Matra-Cosworth FVA) (Entrant: Ken Tyrell Racing) … 1 hr. 27 min. 08.5 sec.
7th: J. Oliver (Lotus-Cosworth FVA).(Entrant: Team Lotus) 1 hr. 27 min. 08.7 sec.
8th: R. Widdows (Brabham-Cosworth FVA) (Entrant: Witley Racing) … 1 hr. 27 min. 08.8 sec.
Fastest lap J. Clark (Lotus-Cosworth FVA), on lap 2 in 2 min. 16.1 sec .― 219.590 k.p.h.

Retired: G. Mitter (Brabham-Cosworth FVA), Offenstadt (Protos-Cosworth FVA). J. Servoz-Gavin (Matra-Cosworth FVA). C. Irwin (Lola-B.M.W.), J. Brabham (Brabham-Cosworth FVA), J. P. Beltoise (Matra-Cosworth FVA), J. Schlesser (Matra-Cosworth FVA), P. Courage (McLaren-Cosworth FVA), J. Clark (Lotus-Cosworth FVA), A. Rees (Brabham-Cosworth FVA). B. McLaren (McLaren-Cosworth FVA). B. Hart (Protos-Cosworth FVA).

Non-starters: J. Siffert (Lola-B.M.W.), H. Hahne (Lola-B.M.W.). C. Lambert (Brabham-Cosworth FVA). B. Redman (Brabham-Cosworth FVA).

20 starters 8 finishers.

Formula Three Final

To complete the week-end of speed the Formula Three entry had its final at the end of the day, having sorted themselves out in two heats the previous evening. This was a wheel-to-wheel tussle even closer than the Formula Two race and it was decided in the last hundred yards of the twenty laps when a new French driver popped out of the pack to win by an official one-tenth of a second.

Photo Caption: Routine Sunday-morning stop for Colin Crabbe’s GT40 shared with Roy Pierpoint. The burly driver dwarfs his car which has a domed roof to accommodate him.

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