Continental Notes, December 1965
Last month mention was made of Porsche setting up International records in Class E (1,500-2,000 c.c.) over the standing-start 1/4mile, this distance now being officially recognised by the F.I.A. Being the first to do this their times also counted as World Records for this distance. Hardly had the dust settled at Hockenheim, than Carlo Abarth was out at Monza with a Formula Two car fitted with a 2-litre sports/GT engine, and he improved on the Porsche times, thereby taking the Class E records and at the same time annexing the World Record. Attacking International records tends to be a complicated and costly affair, with F.I.A. timekeepers, measurers, stewards and so on, and runs have to be made in two directions within an hour of each other, and then the engine has to be stripped for measurement, so that it is not a project that can be easily tackled by a private-owner. It must surely be a matter of time and convenience before an American Drag Racer has an official go, and then the World Record for the standing-start 1/4mile will be in its rightful place, with a time around 7.75 sec. The Abarth 2-litre times were :
Class E — s.s. 1/4mile 11.550sec 500metres 13.370sec
At the same time Abarth set up new records for the International Class G (750-1,100 c.c.) with a similar car fitted with a 1,000-c.c. twin-camshaft Abarth engine. The times were :
Class G — s.s. 1/4mile 13.62sec 500metres 15.38sec
Abarth drivers also broke s.s. kilometre records in Classes E. and G as follows
Class E – s.s. Kilometre … 22.21sec – C. Abarth
Class G – s.s. Kilometre … 25.02sec – K. Steinmetz
and, using the Pininfarina Abarth streamliner with a 750-c.c. engine, M. Poltronieri established 1/4-mile and 500-metre records as follows :
Class F — s.s. 1/4-mile .. 15.25 sec. s.s. 500metres 17.15sec
Before leaving the subject of acceleration records it is interesting to note that the World Record for the standing-start kilometre is still held by Mickey Thompson, with his supercharged Pontiac-engined streamlined Dragster, “Assault I ‘ with a time of 16.83 sec: It makes our top motorcycle times and the Brighton record look a bit sick, and he did this in 1960
This interest by small factories in the 1/4-mile records is good, and may well spark off some more serious attempts in the future.
One thing that I like about the Italian nation is its irresistible urge for competitions, and as long as I have been conscious of the Italian sporting world, as regards the internal combustion engine, they have been prepared to compete or race with anything on wheels. You can meet apparently staid Italians who show no interest in motor racing, but as soon as someone starts up a Ferrari, they are in the crowd of admirers who gather round to listen. This passion for racing was one of the fascinations of the Mille Miglia races, especially during practice, which had to be done on the open roads, amongst the everyday traffic. Anywhere round the course you could see Italians almost three feet off the ground with excitement as a racing 2-seater sport’s car (With two people in it, I might add!) took a corner in a full-lock slide with spinning wheels and snarling open exhausts. If you had occasion to stop at all then the car would disappear under a wildly enthusiastic mob.
A typical Italian is Ferruccio Lamborghini, the tractor manufacturer, whose car-building firm is now well under way and progressing in leaps and bounds. Lamborghini will tell you that he is not interested in motor racing and that he just likes good, fast cars, but you cannot go to Monza or Monte Carlo at Grand Prix time without meeting him. Consequently it comes as no surprise to hear that the Lamborghini firm have built a sports/GT racing Prototype, and by all accounts it is more than interesting. The design of the engine follows the principles of the production 350 GT, in being a V12-cylinder with four overhead camshafts and inlet ports down the centre of each cylinder head, but this prototype unit is arranged transversely in the back of the car, and is in unit with the gearbox and final drive. It has a bore and stroke of 82 x 62 mm., giving a capacity of 3,927 c.c., and aims to produce 420 b.h.p. at 8,000 r.p.m. Known as the 400 TP (4-litre, Transversale, Posteriore), this new Prototype looks most intriguing and should enliven the scene next season.
This type of transverse layout is not new, but this must be the biggest yet attempted, and it started in 1956, as far as I can recall, with the Type 251 Bugatti, that ill-fated 2.5-litre straighteight-cylinder car that Trintignant drove at Reims. Maserati followed the trend with their 1.5-litre V12 unit that never got further than the test-bed in Modem, and Honda continued the process into the Grand Prix world. Now Lamborghini has started the idea for sports-prototype racing, so it will be interesting to see how it works out. One big advantage that this layout has is that all rotating parts are going in the same direction, the crankshaft being across the chassis frame and straight gears can take the drive to the clutch, gearbox, and final drive gears, obviating any bevel drives or right-angle turns in the line of the power from crankshaft to road wheels.
While U.S.A.C. track racing has little connection with Grand Prix racing, or European-style racing, apart from our World Champion winning their major track event, the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, the U.S.A.C. scene has this year experienced a similar situation to the Grand Prix scene. Throughout the Grand Prix season the newcomer Jackie Stewart has made more than a name for himself, in Formula One races with a works B.R.M; he has upset a lot of standards and produced near-panic among many seasoned drivers. Over in America young Mario Andretti, an Italian immigrant living in Pennsylvania, has won the United States Auto Club Racing Championship, ahead of such great names as McElreath, Foyt, Branson, McCluskey, Unser, Parnelli-Jones and Ruby. At his first attempt at Indianapolis Andretti finished third, in the Dean Van Line Special, a Brabham-based rear-engined Ford V8-powered car, and from the beginning of practice he was setting a good pace, with a qualifying speed of 158.898 m.p.h., only Foyt, Clark and Gurney being ahead of him. After Indianapolis, Andretti competed in all the major U.S.A.C. races and scored one first, five seconds, two thirds, two fourths, and one sixth place, which together with his Indianapolis third place gave him an unbeatable championship win on points.
Andretti has been racing in America for a number of years, in midgets, stock-cars and suchlike, but 1965 was his first season of big-time American racing. His father moved from Trieste to America in 1955, when Mario was 15, and at the time it was European Grand Prix racing that fascinated him, principally because the cars were single-seaters, and when he first saw American track racing with really big and powerful single-seaters, his interest was caught immediately, and 1965 has been his great year.
The 1961-65 Formula One for Grand Prix racing certainly ended on a high note, with Richie Ginther winning the Mexican Grand Prix in a Honda (reported elsewhere in this issue), and while we have got used to the idea of American drivers winning Grand Prix races, for Phil Hill was the 1961 World Champion, the idea of a Japanese-designed and built Grand Prix car winning is something that is outstanding. It was no hollow victory, by all accounts, with Ginther being left in the lead because other drivers had retired, for he led from the first corner and would seem to have had command of the race no matter who challenged him. Had there been the usual three-two-three starting grid line-up, Ginther would have been on the front row, having made third fastest practice lap behind Clarke and Gurney—those two have just been mentioned as being on the front row of Indianapolis!
It was not the first time the Honda had taken the lead at the start of a race, but in the past it has never been able to keep up the pressure, due to engine maladies, but it would seem that they got over the problems in Mexico. This resounding victory should give them great encouragement for the new Formula One starting next month, and it should also keep alive the myth and mystic beloved by newshounds that the Honda Empire, with its myriad of technicians and workers is better than a group of bright lads at Bourne or Cheshunt. Honda have done remarkable things and to win a major Grand Prix event in their second season of racing must be some sort of record, especially when you recall how rimy years B.R.M.. Lotus and Cooper floundered about before getting into winning form, and how many years of competition they had before they were regarded seriously in Grand Prix racing. In only their second season Honda started to make their presence felt, and now at the end of that season they have achieved victory. This should make our British Grand Prix constructors try all the harder, and what must Enzo Ferrari be thinking about it all. D. S. J.