Matters of Moment, December 1958

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76

The Storm over the 1961 Formula

The C.S.I.’s announcement of the 1961 Grand Prix formula, made at the R.A.C. on October 29th, sparked off an immediate storm which shows no sign of abating. Nearly every journalist, the leading British and Italian racing-car constructors. Mercedes-Benz in Germany and the B.R.D.C. have expressed their disapproval of a minimum-weight formula. Mr. David Brown has made it an excuse not to proceed with his ” hush-hush ” Grand Prix Aston Martin and, if newspaper reports are true, Hawthorn, the 1958 World Champion driver, has announced that the proposed formula will bring about his retirement from motor racing. Everywhere the pros and cons—chiefly the ” cons “!— of M. Perouse’s announcement remain a subject for vehement discussion.

Elsewhere in this issue Motor Sport’s Continental Correspondent reviews the matter, expressing the opinion that a change of formula is overdue and that, viewed calmly, the 1,500-c.c. formula may be no bad thing.

This matter requires careful thought and consideration and consequently we have refrained from publishing the mass of early correspondence which has flooded our office with attacks on the C.S.I.’s decision. A few thoughts merit consideration. In the first place, how can the C.S.I. genuinely state that they are deeply concerned to promote greater safety in racing when they have made no announcement concerning sports-car racing and when their own country. France, holds about the most accident-prone race of all, at Le Mans ? Why contemplate a special, possibly 3-litre, formula to encourage American cars ? There should be only one main formula—the G.P. Formula One—and others races should be run either to the junior Formula Two or under independent Formula Libre rules. And if 1,500 c.c. is the top limit for Grand Prix cars in 1961-63, what is to become of Formula Two ; does it sink to the status of 500-c.c. racing ?

These questions remain to be answered but one aspect of the storm which broke out in the august premises of the R.A.C. on that evening of October 29th can be held up to censure without further delay. We were invited there to congratulate Mike Hawthorn. Tony Vandervell and John Cooper on winning for Britain, respectively, the Drivers’ World Championship, The F1 Manufacturers’ Championship and the F2 Manufacturers’ Championship. This should have been a sincere, but happy and nostalgic occasion. Instead, the R.A.C. saw fit to introduce M. Perouse, Chairman of the C.S.I. and to announce the 1961 G. P. formula immediately following the presentations. As a result the party turned into an uproar, one tactless British journalist was nearly thrown out by an Italian delegate. and Hawthorn and Vandervell were left holding their trophies (won under the 2½-litre formula !) forgotten in an atmosphere of booing. shouting and frenzied discussion.

The R.A.C. could have avoided this undignified and unhappy ending to the championship celebrations by announcing the C.S.I.’s decision in another room, open only to the Press. Incidentally, Mr. Wilfred Andrews, in making the presentation to the World Champion. seemed to he under the impression that the R.A.C. was doing Hawthorn an honour. remarking that the type of plaque that he was to receive had previously been presented only to Founder Members of the R.A.C., by H.M. the Queen.

Don’t kid yourself. Mr. Andrews. Hawthorn honoured the R.A.C. with his attendance and if the R.A.C. plaque wasn’t presented to him by Her Majesty, the esteem which the Royal Family feels for the British World Champion was expressed by the invitation Hawthorn received subsequently to lunch privately with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace.

The S.M.M.T. and the Absent Vanwall

On the subject of the universal disappointment which was occasioned by the absence from the Earls Court Motor Show of a British Vanwall Grand Prix car, a reader wrote to the S.M.M.T., organisers of the Exhibition, expressing his disgust that no Vanwall was on show, lie received a reply from the S.M.M.T.’s Chief Executive stating that “all space at the Society’s Motor Show is allocated in May and it was not possible, therefore, and through no other cause whatsoever, to include the Vanwall at the last moment.” Further, our correspondent was advised “not to believe all you see in the newspapers.” From this the S.M.M.T. seems unwisely to be trying to antagonise the Press and no doubt it will hope that no one will believe us when we suggest that plenty of space was available in the Earls Court entrance halls for a Vanwall to have been displayed.

Could it be that the S.M.M.T. prefers to provide stands for hire and that to erect an additional one which would not produce revenue, but which would please the hundreds of thousands of visitors to Earls Court, was just too much trouble? If a British car wins the Manufacturers’ Championship next year let the S.M.M.T. provide a little space for it. And let us hope that Tony Vandervell, Mike Hawthorn and Donald Campbell will receive the recognition they so richly deserve when the New Year’s Honours List is announced.