Continental notes, December 1956

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64

The end of October and throughout November saw a great deal of activity among Grand Prix teams, preparatory to the 1957 season, and most encouraging for the British followers of the Sport is the fact that Stirling Moss has joined the Vanwall team. The Vanwall has been tested at Silverstone and OuIton Park and while it still suffered from small troubles, connected with brakes, suspension and the fuel-injection system, it was very fast. Moss had little trouble in beating the existing lap record every time he went round, for it had been set up by him at that memorable little meeting at the end of 1955. It will be remembered that the Oulton Park organisers attracted an excellent factory entry for their Gold Cup meeting, including Lancia, Maseruti, Vanwall, Connaught and BRM, and on that occasion Moss set a lap record with a works Maserati. Naturally the Vanwall improved on that time with ease, but what is more important is that CAS Brooks also drove the Vanwall and improved on the best times that Moss had set up a few weeks earlier. At Silverstone the Vanwall was able to get well below the lap record, and a lot of this was due to replacing the rear transverse leaf-spring by coil-springs, a work with which Colin Chapman was connected.

At Monza the BRM was driven to destruction by Brooks, Flockhart and Salvadori on both the road circuit and the banked track, and the Owen team learnt a lot of useful things. This car has also had its rear suspension modified, the oleo-pneumatic struts being reinoved and in their place a transverse leaf-spring fitted, controlled by rather small vertical double-piston hydraulic shock-absorbers. One of the Monza cars also had a more aerodynamic cockpit cowling, which also scooped in air that was piped to the single rear brake on the back of the gearbox. The car showed an alarming degree of understeer and still had a tendency for the front end to wander under hard acceleration and for the rear end to wander under heavy braking. The acceleration was as impressive as ever, and comparing it with a Lancia-Ferrari that was on test at the same time, the BRM was far superior, though the Italian car was faster round the corners.

Ferrari was trying out some new steering-arms, to replace the ones that gave trouble at Monza during the Italian Grand Prix, and also trying Pirelli tyres in place of the normal Englebert. Castellotti drove the car a whole Grand Prix, namely 50 laps of the full circuit, but during that time he had to stop and check an oil leak at the back of the engine, and also get a mechanic to attack the body with a large hammer. After a few laps he had noticed that the left rear wheel was hitting the bodywork when on full bump on the banking; a few hefty welts with a copper hammer soon made sufficient clearance for the tyre on full fling. After this test run a few experimental laps were done on some Firestone racing tyres and they seemed very satisfactory. Back at the Ferrari factory the Grand Prix cars for next year are under construction, the V8 being fitted with a new chassis frame, while there is much activity on the new Formula II car. The V6 engine, with its four overhead camshafts, is well on its way on the test-bed, and though figures quoted for it sound very Italian, it should be giving about 150 bhp already. Unfortunately the Coventry-Climax FPF unit is being badly delayed in its development and they are not expected to be about the place until the spring of 1957; this could easily lose Britain the advantage she holds at the moment in the whole project of Formula II. Thanks to the foresight of the BRDC in running a Formula II race last July. Cooper is now well advanced in the running of his car, with single-cam sports engine, but if he and Chapman are going to he held up for proper racing engines it is not going to take Ferrari, Gordini, Osca, and any others starting on Formula II, very long to make up ground and get ahead.

At Goodwood recently I watched some cadet drivers training on DB3S Aston Martin and it was interesting to watch the rubber disappear off the rear Avon tyres. Goodwood is a notorious tyre killer, so it was no discredit to the Avons especially remembering that they won a nine-hour race there for Astons, mind also the TT in the Ulster. However. this tyre wear, together with tyre troubles experienced during the Grand Prix at Monza and those experienced during the Tour de France, have brought the tyre manufacturers into the limelight once more. When a tyre throws a tread people raise their hands in horror, say “but this must not happen,” and get hot under the collar at the tyre experts. During the Grand Prix monster-age of 1934-37 tyre changes during a race were frequent. Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union often making as many as three stops apiece for tyres during a full Grand Prix race. Then no one complained about the Continental tyre firm, it was. more a source of wonderment that tyres would stand up to the enormous strains of transmitting 600 bhp. During the 1947-51 era the Alfa-Romeo team made regular pit stops to change their Pirelli tyres when they wore out, and occasionally one would throw a tread and the driver would have to stop at the pits unexpectedly, with rubber and canvas flailing around the wheel. After that, racing settled into something of a doldrum, with the comparatively meek Formula II cars of 2 litres unblown capacity which were quite incapable of even wearing out tyres, let alone bursting them or throwing treads. Full-length Grand Prix events could be run on one set of tyres and at the end the treads still looked like new. and lots of people went around patting each other on the back for the remarkable progress that had been made in tyre construction. Agreed, progress had been made, in fact it was continuous, but the main reason the tyres lasted full-length races was that the cars of that period were easier on them. Then came the present Formula I in 1954 and tyres still gave no trouble, for the beginnings of the Formula were not far removed from the old Formula II but after three years of Grand Prix development and increased power output tyres are beginning to play an important part once more and the rubber experts are being made to cudgel their brains again.

While a tyre failure may be risky for the driver, as with Castellotti’s Monza trash, or infuriating for a manufacturer, such as Ferrari, it all makes for good competition among the tyre firms, and competition is sure to produce better tyres. Not long ago Pirelli had an almost complete monopoly on tyres for Grand Prix racing, but now there is much more activity for Continental are back in the racing game. Dunlop and Englebert are in it more than ever, and Avon are joining in while, as I mentioned earlier, Ferrari has been trying Firestone racing tyres. All this competition among the tyre manufacturers is a very good thing and will certainly result in better tyres for everyone, though perhaps not many people realise just what a vast difference tyres and treads can make to the handling of fast cars. Changing from one make of tyre to another can often transform an uncontrollable car into a reasonable one and make a good one even better, while concerns such as Connaught and BRM can design their suspension and handling characteristics around a given tyre. Connaught believe in Pirelli and find their car does not handle so well on Dunlops, while BRM have concentrated on Dunlops and their car is slower on Pirellis.—DSJ

Coupe du Salon, Montlhery

(Oct 7th)-150 Kilometres

Held over the combined road and track circuit at Montlhary in bad weather conditions, the race was marred by two accidents, Benoit Musy crashing over the banking when his steering failed, receiving fatal injuries, and Louis Rosier crashed his Monza Ferrari and subsequently died from his injuries.

 

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