International racing

Some time ago the International racing season was fairly cut and dried, starting in March or April and ending in September, leaving the winter months for design and development work. This was when International racing was almost entirely limited to European countries, but that state of affairs has long since finished, and racing is now truly International, events taking place throughout the Americas, South Africa, and Australasia. Due to climatic conditions International racing can be roughly divided into two groups, the European season between March and October and the World Wide season between October and March, and while this leaves no completely free time for the racing teams to get down to development work it has meant benefits in other directions. Motor racing enthusiasts in countries far from Europe can now see the top Grand Prix drivers in action and the current Grand Prix cars, and for many of the active ones it has improved the opportunities for buying fairly up to date racing cars. With the European season still as the most important part of racing, new models invariably make their first appearance in Europe so that by the time they are seen in World Wide racing they arc becoming a bit obsolete and teams are only too pleased to take them to far off lands on a one-way ticket, while the locals have not yet started to show signs of not wanting to buy obsolete racing cars.

This change from the old order has been brought about by a number of things, amongst them the natural growth of countries throughout the world, the advent of the long-distance high-speed airliner and in part by the gradual diminution of the Grand Prix car, for this has facilitated transport immeasurably. One can visualise packaging a Lotus 25 onto an airliner, but in the days of 4 1/2-litre Lago-Talbots it was unthinkable. Equally, the modern racing car can be handled in and out of ships, taking less space, more easily than the large heavy Grand Prix cars of the past.

The professional racing driver benefits more than anyone from the new order of things, for it means he can work all the year round and earn good money in the European winter months as well as the summer months. In the past the professional racing driver had to earn enough money during the European racing season to keep himself during the winter months, or else he was faced with the prospect of taking a mundane job to keep the wolf from the door. Fortunately, in those days most of the drivers were young men with private means who came from wealthy families with large business interests behind them, but today the average racing driver is a working class chap who has to live on what he can earn as a professional driver, so that the World Wide season is most welcome. Another important feature of this all-theyear-round racing is the effect it has on the Grand Prix driver as a racing driver, and this is not really appreciated until they race against drivers who restrict their activities to the European season. There is no doubt that a driver who races every week is going to be better than one who races every month, apart from drivers with exceptional ability, and I saw a good example of this a few years ago. An English driver of top class was leading his first Grand Prix of the season until he began to lap the tail-enders, whereupon his rivals caught and passed him. Afterwards he explained that it was his first race for six months, having ended his season at Monza, whereas his rivals had hardly stopped racing and had only recently returned from the Argentine races and Sebring, and while he was a match for them on a clear track he had to get back into the swing of things before he could nip through the traffic.

Today the Grand Prix drivers need hardly pass a single month without racing and in consequence they are bound to get better at a much higher rate and equally they cannot hope to have such a long span of years at the top of the tree. If Stirling Moss ever races again, and I say “if,” whereas I used to say “when, this is a problem he is going to be up against, for he has lost not only the 1962 European season but the World Wide season as well, and his rivals are getting better all the time, though naturally few will ever reach his standards, but there are some, and one in particular who I will not mention by name for fear of upsetting the B.R.M. supporters. The present situation amongst the top Grand Prix drivers is very similar to that of a few years ago when the club-room arguments raged over Moss versus Hawthorn and before that it was Fangio versus Ascari, or long ago Nuvolari versus Varzi. In all cases each driver had his special merits and in the Moss versus Hawthorn arguments I always maintained that if they achieved the same result, then Hawthorn was working hard at the job, and it was coming naturally and with ease to Moss. Today’s pair of top drivers are very similar, one is an honest hard worker, the other is inspired, and they achieve the same results.

The present World Wide season is a very busy one, the more so as the South African G.P. on December 29th is a World Championship race, and already there has been quite a lot of travelling and racing going on. The European season wound up with the 1,000 km. race at Montlhery, where Ferrari 250GTO cars waged battle, it seeming impossible for anyone to beat them. The Rodriguez brothers beat Surtees and Parkes, and G.T. ears battled all the way down the kale, the race being open to all groups of G.T. car. During practice the French driver Paul Armagnac crashed and subsequently died from his injuries.

On the other side of the Atlantic in Western America, there were two sports-car events that attracted a good entry of Europeans, and both events were won by Roger Penske in an American-built Cooper special that was sailing close to the wind of regulations in the way British cars used to do a few years ago until things were tidied up. Penske’s car was a Formula One Cooper with 2.7-litre Climax engine and carrying the bare essentials of sports car equipment. It was fitted with an all-enveloping streamlined body and the driver was seated in the middle; it having a Formula One chassis frame, he had no other option. This race followed on the weekend after the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen where Team Lotus more then made up for their debacle SE Monza. It was held on the Riverside track, a specially built circuit in California, ad the weekend after this saw the Pacific Grand Prix being hid on the Laguna Seca circuit, also in California. In typisal American defiance Of what everyone else knows is right, both these races in California were entitled ” Grand Prix” even though they were restricted to sports cars. Two weeks later a real Grand Prix was held in Mexico and was for Formula One cars, and many of the cars that had run at Watkins Glen stayed on the Other side of the Atlantic, to take part in this event. It was marred by the death of Ricardo Rodriguez when he crashed in practice, while driving one of Rob Walker’s Lotus-Climax V8 cars. This was his first try at the wheel of a small light and sensitive Grand Prix car having previously only raced Grand Prix Ferraris, which are much heavier and less sensitive. After a nonsense at the start when his Lotus-Climax would not go on the starter, Clark had a push-start and was blackflagged after at laps and disqualified. His team-mate Trevor Taylor was called in and Clark took over his Lotus 25 and in spite of the delay put up a terrific display of driving and recaptured the lead. This exciting situation of a number one team driver taking over another car and having a real go is something we do not see nowadays, since the World Driver Championship ruling put a stop to it for scoring points, which seems more important to some people than winning races. In most cases ” the good old days” are seldom as good as today, except in misty memories, but Team action such as Lotus employed in Mexico recalled shades of Moss on Vanwalls, and Maserati, Fangio on Ferraris and Alfa Romeos, and Ascari on Ferraris, days when a team number-one driver was really used.