On the New Grand Prix Formula

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76

The fact that the F.I.A. have announced a new Formula for Grand Prix racing is no longer news, for practically everyone, knowledgeable and unknowledgeable, has expressed an opinion on it; indeed, it has been bandied about in a fashion worthy of a Fleet Street news titbit. To those of us who are interested in motor racing it is still important and a vital item in our future. For the man in the street it was an overnight news item to be flogged loud and clear for a short spell and then forgotten. The majority seemed to condemn the findings of the F.I.A. out of hand, without giving a moment’s thought to the matter, but for the true enthusiast for motor racing, and I don’t mean those in the game because it is the thing, or because it is a get-rich-quick racket, it is worth while pondering on this new Formula and reading the official hand-out front the F.I.A. carefully and with a clear mind.

Firstly, the F.I.A. have seen fit to change the Formula, which in itself is no bad thing, for the existing rules will have been in force for seven years by the time 1961 arrives and since Grand Prix racing became organised a change every three or four years has been deemed reasonable, in the interests of preventing stagnation in design. Those people who do not like Indianapolis track racing or Speedway racing bring up the question of design stagnation, pointing out how many years the Offenhauser or J.A.P. engines have been undergoing development and refer to them as archaic. This year’s World Champion Car is the Vanwall and its engine was designed in 1953, so that by the time the new Formula comes into being it will be eight years old. The B.R.M. engine was designed a year later, to be seven years old, and neither engine has made any great change during that time which to me sounds like stagnation of design; or, conversely, steady development work like an Offenhauser or a J.A.P. The six-cylinder Maserati engine started its long period of development as long ago as 1952, and has been unchanged since 1954, and though it is now only the end of 1958, remember that people who do not want a new Formula are suggesting not only that these engines go on until 1961, but that they should be given a new lease of life for a further three years. I say that a change in the Formula is due, and that those who suggest it remains unchanged until 1964 are taking a selfish view.

Just how we should change the Formula is another matter altogether, but let us leave that for a moment and look at the other list of points in the F.I.A. findings which are to come into force on January 1st, 1961. Mark that, 1961, not next year but two whole years hence, and just reflect on the development work done in motor racing fields over the last two years. Point 1 says that an “arc of security” must be fitted, to quote the French text literally. Unfortunately, the Daily Press have fouled this up in their inimitable way by taking the R.A.C. translation, which described this as an anti-roll bar. This is 1958, and an anti-roll bar is a torsion-rod mounted across the front or rear suspension to minimise roll when cornering. What the French mean is a crash bar, which is a tubular metal framework to take the weight of the car off the driver’s shoulders should he be unfortunate enough to turn the car upside down. Let us get this clear here and now: an anti-roll bar does its best to eliminate roll, a crash bar does its best to be of assistance when roll has become more than 90 deg.; and it is not a bad suggestion on the part of the F.I.A. It is now up to the designers of racing cars to incorporate it into the basic layout of the new car, not stick it on as an afterthought like American sports-car racers, which makes the whole thing look rather absurd—like a scooter rider in sandals and bathing trunks wearing a crash hat.

Point 2 demands an automatic starter, though at the moment it does not specify whether this shall be operative by the driver front within the car or whether by a mechanic from outside. This is obviously meant to do away with the pandemonium and chaos seen at the start of most Grand Prix races, with people in the second or third row trying to push-start their cars when everyone else is in place with their engines running. I am all for Grand Prix cars, no matter of what design, being capable of being started without having to resort to pushing. I give Ferrari full marks in this respect, for his cars are invariably started by a mechanical starter, even during practice, which is an excellent thing.

Point 3 calls for a double system of braking, one working on the four wheels, the other working as an emergency on at least the two front wheels. Anyone who saw Behra’s crash at Goodwood due to no brakes, or Hawthorn go right across the infield at Aintree for the same reason, will applaud this sensible piece of legislation. How it is to be done is up to the designers, whether they use a great big hand lever, a compressed air cylinder, a hydraulic means, or even electrical, is not my worry at the moment, but the suggestion is sound enough.

Point 4 is to me the most sensible new rule, having witnessed the result of such a rule on the Indianapolis cars. It is simply that no refuelling of lubricating oil shall he done during a race. How often have I seen a Grand Prix car stop and take on five gallons of oil, even stopping two or three times during the old 300-mile races. The simple question is, where did the five gallons go? And the answer is one gallon was burnt and four gallons went onto the track. I need not name the drivers who will be pleased to see this rule come into force, for all the fast boys have gone sideways or spun on somebody’s oil at some time during their career. It is difficult to think of a more dangerous hazard than oil on the track, and if it comes from a blown-up engine there is not much to be done, but when it comes from a split tank, a leaking pipe, bad oil-tank breathing, or some other piece of bad design it is intolerable. From 1961 onwards engines, tanks and gearboxes will have to be made oil tight. It can be done, for I have seen the polished and gleaming Offenhausers that have had to be built to this rule for many years now. I have also seen Grand Prix engines at the end of a race without a trace of oil on them, but I cannot say that of the oiling systems in general, especially breather systems. In 1961, if you have pumped most of your oil out of the breathers before the end of a race you just stop racing, and a good thing, too.

Point 5 demands safety-type fuel tanks, though as yet no definite specification is made, but one is to assume that something on the lines of aircraft rubber tanks is visualised. Absolutely reasonable in my view. I recall a works Jaguar being rammed in the tail by a Gordini at Reims one year, hut thanks to its rubber fuel tank it was able to go on racing. A steel or aluminium one would have split without any doubt. The recent tragic loss of Stuart Lewis-Evans, due to a fire after a crash, is too fresh in our minds to mention. further.

Point 6 says that the driver’s cockpit shall be open at the top and that the wheels of the car shall remain uncovered. On this point I differ with the F.I.A. very strongly. for aerodynamics applied to the racing car are an obvious line of development and have been the subject of numerous interesting, though not convincing, experiments by most of the leading Grand Prix designers. The new rule is plain enough, but I disagree with it, and no doubt will many other people. On the other hand, those people intent on making racing safe have good reason in demanding open cockpits, for I doubt whether Moss could have got out of the experimental Vanwall in a hurry during the Monza practice this year, and you never know when you might want to leave in a hurry. As far as enclosure of the wheels is concerned, the banning of this will ensure that the cars continue to look like racing cars as we know them traditionally, and there are many people who like a racing car to look like one, even if it is an unscientific design. For those who want to reduce the cost of Grand Prix racing this rule should appeal, for it cuts out the cost of aerodynamicist and the wind tunnel, to say nothing of the cost of building streamlined bodies.

Point 7 is the last one, and one which raised storms of protest on all sides. It states that cars shall weigh a minimum of 500 Kilogrammes (1,100 lb.) with oil and water, but without fuel. This is such an important point that I will deal with it, together with the main statement of the new Formula which defined the size of car to be used.

Excluding the previously discussed points, which are only details of design, we can now view the new Grand Prix Formula clearly and soberly as follows. Cars shall have a maximum cylinder capacity of 1,500 c.c. and a minimum capacity of 1,300 c.c., shall be unsupercharged and run on commercial fuel, and weigh a minimum, of 1,100 lb. including oil and water. Before we go any further, let me say that I do not like small-capacity engines and would have liked to have seen a 3,000-c.c. limit, but that is by the way. The new rules say 1,500 c.c., so let’s think about that.

During this past season a good 1,500-c.c. sports engine, such as the Porsche, has been developing 140 b.h.p., while it has given as much as 150 b.h.p.; the 1,500-c.c. Coventry-Climax engine can give 150 b.h.p. and the 1,500-c.c. Dino Ferrari V6 can be assumed to give 160 b.h.p. These figures apply to the middle of 1958, and already it is known that the Porsche engine, without a cooling fan and using an exhaust turbo cooler, has been giving good figures on the test bed. If it gives 150 b.h.p. like the ordinary Spyder engine, it has a gain of another 15 b.h.p. by not having to drive the cooling fan, so it can develop 165 b.h.p. I do not think it at all unreasonable to suppose that in two years’ time a 1,500-c.c, engine should be giving 200 b.h.p. running on what the F.I.A. call commercial fuel. One assumes that they mean by that 100 octane, or something like B.P. Super Plus, or Esso Golden Extra. A figure of 200 b.h.p. on this fuel represents 133 b.h.p./litre. In 1957 the V8 Moto-Guzzi 500-c.c. engine was developing 140 b.h.p./litre, and the Gilera Four about 125 b.h.p./ litre, all on 100 octane fuel, so some serious engine work should be capable of producing designs that will give 200 b.h.p. from 1,500 c.c. I do not suggest this will happen in 1959 or even in 1960, but by 1961 a progressive design and development team should not be far off this figure with a new engine. The average Grand Prix 2½-litre engine is developing about 115 b.h.p./litre as raced during the past season, though the V6 Ferrari probably gave quite a lot more. So, in 1961 our Formula Grand Prix engine could have 200 b.h.p. from its 1,500 c.c.

The quoting of a minimum capacity of 1,300 c.c. is pretty obvious: we want Grand Prix racing to be for Grand Prix cars, and not have the leaders cluttered up with smaller capacity machines as we have seen on more than one occasion this season, such as 1,500-c.c. Formula 2 cars running in a Grande Epreuve as at Monza, to quote but one example.

Now to the question of the 1,100-lb. minimum weight, which caused many rude words to be spoken and written, and some pretty wild statements to be made by people who should have known better. Statements that compared this weight limit with existing cars. b.h.p./ton figures that were sheer nonsense, suggestions that the cars would be so heavy that they would hardly drag themselves along, and so on. Before making any decisions on this weight question I borrowed a friend’s 1958 Formula 2 Cooper-Climax, drained out all the fuel, left the oil and water in, and took it to a weighbridge. The answer was 970 lb., a mere 130 lb. under the 1961 Formula weight. This representative Formula 2 car developed approximately 140 b.h.p. from its 1,500-c.c. Coventry-Climax engine, but imagine the same car with a 200-b.h.p. engine installed. Firstly the rear tyre size would have to be increased to cope with the extra 60 b.h.p., and more than likely the half-shafts and universal joints would have to go up in size, and weight. Then the two-plate clutch would have to be changed for a three-plate, and most probably the gears in the gearbox would need to be stronger and heavier. With a power output of 200 b.h.p. the cooling system would undoubtedly need to be bigger and an oil cooler and pipes and unions would be required, while the extra speed would certainly need pretty hefty disc brakes to stop it. I need not go any further, for I am quite convinced we have added our 130 lb. already, if not more. Take the weight of the most powerful Cooper as half a ton and just assume that the Coventry-Climax engine gives 160 b.h.p., and you still have a mere 320 b.h.p./ton. Stretch a point and guess at the weight of a Lotus single-seater and you will not reach a figure of 400 b.h.p./ton. In 1961 our new Formula car is going to have to start the season with 400 b.h.p./ton, and that to me spells an exciting device, even if it will be a bit small in stature.

If Grand Prix racing is to provide progress in the design and development of the racing car then we must have a change, and this new set of rules is a fair challenge to any team of designers, especially as they have two whole years in which to start work. Through the ages Grand Prix racing has been a source of continuous development of the racing car, so I really do not see why we should stagnate now by retaining the already-out-of-date Formula of today for a further three years beyond 1961.

If the racing-car constructors and the organisers do not like the new Formula then let them do what everyone did in 1928, and again in 1929 and 1930, which was to ignore the Formula for the major Grandes Epreuves and run to Formule Libre. In those days Grand Prix racing subsided into a doldrum and then went beserk in 1931, only to come to some semblance of reasonableness in 1932, so that by 1934 we had a workable Formula once again.

It is my contention that most of the people who cried aloud on hearing the proposed new rules were visualising them as coming into being on January 1st of next year. Or, if not, they did not conceive of any development taking place over the next two years. In order to get a sense of proportion just recall the Lancia D50 at the end of 1954—it was then the last word in design. By the end of 1957, after only two whole seasons of development, it was hopelessly outclassed running as the Lancia/Ferrari. Look at the Dino Ferrari, now almost the equal of the Vanwall, and after only 18 months of development. I maintain that we in England have not yet got a real grasp on Grand Prix car design, our most successful car, the Vanwall, is already years out of date. We seem very good at developing a sound design to a high pitch, but we are hesitant in bringing out fresh designs, so I say now, on the threshold of 1959, let us look ahead and start on the designs for 1961. There are two whole years ahead, so go to it and let’s hope we can stay at the top of the tree, for 1958 has been a wonderful year for Britain in Grand Prix racing. — D. S. J.

Footnote — From all the quotes from “men who matter in the Grand Prix world” I liked Behra’s best of all. He said: “For me, the main thing is to race…”

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