Continental notes, December 1964

I have never been a great enthusiast for the Drivers’ World Championship system of points chasing, for many reasons, and in the past it has been shown to give the Championship to the wrong man, or to the right man by reason of luck. This year’s win by John Surtees is a typical example, for with one lap to go in the Mexican Grand Prix he had no chance at all of being World Champion and then, suddenly, two things happened which gave him the Championship on the points system. Jim Clark had the race and the Championship, by points or merit, in the bag and then his Coventry-Climax engine went bang and he was out of the race. Bandini had let Surtees overtake into second position, and thus gain sufficient points to be acclaimed World Champion. I said that Clark was on his way to being Champion by points or merit; or had he won the Mexican Grand Prix it would have been his fourth major victory this season which should have made him World Champion, points or no points; only by the present points system is it possible for someone to win races and not be Champion, consistency and near-misses with second or third places being sufficient to make a man World Champion.

I do not begrudge Surtees his Championship, in fact it is the best thing that could have happened, for it also brought the Manufacturers’ Championship to Ferrari, and there is no more worthy Grand Prix constructor, for he really designs and builds his own cars, using very few proprietary parts. If Dan Gurney can be World Champion for 1965, either by winning race’s like Clark did in 1963, or by having other people not winning them, like Surtees has done this year, then everything will be nice and tidy and most satisfactory. At the moment there are only four top drivers in Grand Prix racing, and any One of them can win or lead a Grand Prix on any circuit. The small difference in their ability is negligible and if they were all on a-standard Grand Prix car the result would probably be a dead heat. Three of them have won the Championship so now it only remains for Gurney to win it in 1965 and the record and history books will be nice and neat for the finish of the present 1½-litre. Formula. In 1961 the outcome of the Grand Prix season was not too Satisfactory, for no team had an engine or car that could match the Ferrari V6, but in 1962, 1963 and 1964 the differences between the competing Cars have been remarkably small. So let’s hope that justice can be done and the final results will read: Graham Hill, Champion 1962; Jim Clark, Champion 1963; John Surtees, Champion 1964; Dan Gurney, Champion 1965. It is worth noting the results of this year’s Major Grand Prix races, Hill won two (Monaco, U.S.A.): Clark Won three (Dutch, Belgian, British), Suttees two .(German, Italian) and Gurney two (French. Mexican). Without question they are the four giants of Grand Prix racing and it is a. pity’ that they have to chase points all the time to prove to the lay public that they are the four best drivers,

There were other drivers collecting points throughout the season and Bandini and Ginther collected the same number, Ginther getting his in six races and Banditti in five. Bandini actually won a Grand Prix, whereas Ginther’s best effort was it second place, in fact, two second places and one of them was behind Bandini, but on paper they tied in their Grand Prix efforts throughout 1964. An equally unsatisfactory arrangement. This points-chasing was summed up very well near the end of the season when a driver finished 6th in a Grand Prix, mainly by reason of other people’s retirements, and thus scored one point. An “Eager-Beaver” came up, full of knowledge and said he’s got his first point,” to which someone replied “what’s he going to do with it?” Which is rather like the Chinese Pressman who interviewed the driver who had “just taken one-tenth of a second off the record for a hill-climb.” He asked “What is honourable driver going to do with the tenth of a second he has just taken off honourable record.” He was told, but not in Chinese.

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The last big race in the European season was the 1,000 kilometre race at Montlhéry for Prototype and GT cars and it had looked as though it was going to be a three-cornered battle between Ford GT, Ferrari and Cobra, but the American-engined cars did not enter and it became a Ferrari benefit, with only Porsche giving any opposition. The English Ferrari agent’s 330P car won, driven by G. Hill/Bonnier, but apart from this there were two interesting things about the race. The first was the reappearance at the wheel of Willy Mairesse, the fiery Belgian driver, who it will be remembered had a series of bad accidents that laid him low for a long while. Many people have asked what had happened to him since his bad crash in the German G.P. in 1963, and the answer is that he has been steadily and quietly mending and drove in the 1,000 kilometre race as co-driver to Beurlys in a Belgian-owned Ferrari 275LM/15. He made third fastest practice time but was forced to retire in the race with electrical trouble. However, Mairesse fans, and there are many of them, will have been pleased to see the wiry little Belgian back at the wheel.

The second interesting thing was the appearance of a Porsche 906 GTS, this being a 904 GTS with a 6-cylinder engine replacing the original 4-cylinder Carrera engine. Outwardly this new car was basically a production 904 fibreglass coupe, and the engine was of the type being fitted to the new production touring Porsche, the 901. This explains why the 904 GTS was originally designed with so much room in the engine compartment, for when you hinge up the tail of a 904 the 4-cylinder Carrera engine looks a bit lost in a fore-and-aft direction. The air-cooled flat-six-cylinder engine fits in very nicely.

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In the October Motor Sport I had quite a bit to say about the situation in GT rating in regards homologated cars, which all boiled up over the 250 LM, and 275 LM Ferraris. The Commission Sportive International of the F.I.A. did some reasonable thinking about the problems and came up with the suggestion that there should be three categories of GT cars: Production GT, Competition GT and Prototype GT, with requirements of 100, 50 and 1, respectively, so that the LM Ferrari would be homologated as a Competition GT when 50 had been made. However, this does not came into effect until January 1st, 1966, so the coming season of GT racing will still have the existing problem. Another car that will be affected by the situation is the exciting new Elva-B.M.W, that appeared at the recent Motor Show, for if it wants to take part in GT racing in 1965 then Elva will have to build and sell 100 examples, whereas if they are content to build 50 next season it can be homologated for 1966. The development of this Elva-B.M.W. has been through sports-car racing, the chassis and engine having been raced throughout 1964 in National sports car events. I would have thought that a year of racing a GT Prototype before going into production would be a good thing, for it is one thing to race a sports car which is a thinly disguised racing car, and another thing altogether to race a GT coupe in long-distance events, while to sell them as road-going cars to the public is a very different matter, for the shun items that a racing driver will tolerate become impossible to an everyday user. This refers to such details as water and dust exclusion, durability, practical usage and so on.

It is nice to see a firm turning its racing knowledge into a product for sale on the open market, and the performances of the Elva-B.M.W. sports car this past season suggests that this new competition GT coupe should be quite an exciting road performer. Like the sports car, it has the engine in front of the rear axle line, and behind the cockpit and its compactness is truly impressive, the roof being only 3 ft. 4 in. from the ground. While this makes an impressive competition car it is questionable whether this type of layout can ever produce a very practical road going GT car, in which to do 600 miles a day, with passenger and luggage. The Porsche goa, the Ferrari 275 LM and the proposed Ford GT are all built on the same lines, with mid-engine position, and in all cases the result is a very tight-fitting 2-seater coupe. It is possible to use this type of car on the road, and Porsches ran in the Tour de France among other long-distance road events, but they were driven by competition-minded people who will suffer the cramped quarters and lack of luggage space, for the joy of driving such a splendid car, just as none of us would quibble if we got the chance to drive 3 Ferrari 275 LM from England to Modena. If these manufacturers intend to produce such models for the open marker, then I feel they will be in trouble, for the average “sportyboy” will not put up with such a layout, and if the models do not sell then the old-fashioned GT layout, such as the Ferrari GTO or Jaguar E-type will remain with us. In this case it seems questionable as to whether it is worthwhile developing a GT car through racing, if you are not going to put the knowledge gained into production, for want of customers. It rather looks as, though GT racing has out-smarted itself and will bring about its own doom, for while mid-engined coupes are racing it is unlikely that the old-fashioned GT coupe will ever win, yet the mid-engined coupe would appear to have no future other than for racing for prestige and advertising purposes, and not many manufacturers will want to go on doing that. Personally I do not see a way out at the moment, which is a pity, for racing has developed this splendid competition vehicle, personified by the Lola-Ford GT coupe; and it looks as though it has gone up a blind alley as far as its usefulness is concerned.

While mentioning the Lola-Ford GT coupe, it is interesting that Eric Broadley is no longer connected with the project, and has returned to his own Lola Cars business, so that the Ford GT is now going-it alone, ruled over by John Wyer in collaboration with Carroll Shelby, and though it keeps being tested it has not raced again since the Reims 12-hour, where it really made the Ferraris perspire. Broadley is continuing with his original conception of a mid-engined coupe, which was smaller and lighter than the Ford version turned out, so next year we should see Lola GT coupes and Ford GT coupes., both from the same parent, but running as rivals; the Lola with a V8 engine other than Ford no doubt.

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Another matter that has recently been sorted out by the C.S.I., but not very satisfactorily, is the question of high-speed runs over the kilometre and mile by special vehicles. These cars are attacking a mythical “Land Speed Record,” which does not exist in any record books, but merely in the minds of the popular press and the lay public. Originally, the attempts were on the World records for the kilometre and mile from a flying start, and for many years these were held by the late John Cobb and the Railton-Mobil Special and, in fact, the equivalent International Class A records are still held by him. A sub-division of Class A, called “Turbine” was created so that Donald Campbell’s abortive efforts with Bluebird would not be meaningless. This subdivision is for vehicles propelled by turbines, all the other requirements being as the normal class A, which is to say, having no less than four wheels, being driven by at least two of its wheels and steered by two of them. When Campbell did 403 m.p.h. he set up a new record in this Class A-Turbine category, and Cobb’s record remained in the book under Class A.

Craig Breedlove’s first attempt with his three-wheeled pure jet-propelled vehicle was an embarrassment to the F.I.A. for they had no category for it and anyway it had only three wheels. The motorcycle people at the F.I.M. stepped smartly in and made a special class for “Three-wheeled vehicles” which embraced Breedlove’s device, and claimed his speed as a record in the motorcycle hook. Recently there was a spate of high-speed runs that made Cobb and Campbell look like Go-Kart drivers, for the Arfons brothers each fielded a jet-propelled four-wheeler and Breedlove was out again with his three-wheeler and these three jet-engines on wheels really settled all the arguments about going fast on land, for they took the fastest recorded speed up in leaps and bounds to well over Sob m.p.h. The F.I.M. were delighted, for they claimed Breedlove’s speed for their record hook, and the F.I.A. did some quick thinking and made a special class for “International Records for vehicles not propelled by their wheels” and Art and Walt Arfons both recorded times and speeds in this category which could be written down in the books in Paris. In actual fact there have long been a number of Americans who have said all along “We are not interested in records or classes, we just want to go fast,” Breedlove being one of these, and he did not care whether the F.I.M., the F.I.A. or Fanny Adams recognised his speeds or not.

Now we have four categories in which to put contenders for the honour of being the fastest man to travel across the ground in a vehicle controlled and steered by the driver (which rules out rocket sleds or rocket rail-cars). Class A is the good old-fashioned piston-engined motor car, Class A-Turbine, an old-fashioned type car but powered by a turbine engine, the F.I.M. Special Three-wheeler category, for jet-propelled tricycles, and the Special vehicles not propelled by their wheels under F.I.A. four-wheeler definitions. It only wants someone to build a jet-propelled or rocket-propelled single-track vehicle with four wheels in line and we shall have to start all over again. My feeling is that it is time the F.I.A. and the got together and concocted a single category for any type of vehicle that is going to go faster than anyone has travelled before. Normally the popular press and the lay public produce clichés and near-truths that are unpalatable, but in this instance that have done the right thing, so let us have an International Land Speed Record. We can then say that the holder has THE Land Speed Record, where there is no argument about being in any particular category or sub-division, but it is the pure and simple fact that he has the outright speed record. —D, S. J.