Continental Notes, December 1967

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In France there has been-something of a revolution in the administration sphere of motor racing, which could well have far-reaching effects, though at the moment the full repercussions have yet to take place. Briefly, a young and virile organisation has obtained Government permission to take over control of French motor racing, and have said they will overthrow the F.I.A. However, it is not as simple as that for the French are at the very roots of the control of world-wide motor racing. When the International governing body of motor racing was formed at the turn of the century, comprised of clubs from various countries, France was represented by the Automobile Club of France (A.C.F.), it being the leading club at the time, just as Great Britain was represented by the Royal Automobile Club (R.A.C.). The International body, known as the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (F.I.A.) had its headquarters in Paris, along with the A.C.F. and over the years certain key positions on the F.I.A. and the A.C.F. have been held by the same people. Naturally, various sub-committees were formed as motor racing became more complex, the most important of these being the Commission Sportive Internationale (C.S.I.) whose job it is to look after motor racing in detail, while the F.I.A. looks alter motoring in all its facets. In our country a similar system applies, whereby the R.A.C. is the Government recognised club to look after motoring in the overall scene and the R.A.C. have delegated power to the Competitions Committee, controlled by Dean Delamont, to look after all sporting aspects, both at home and internationally on the C.S.I.

Some years ago in France the active competitors, organisers and manufacturers became tired of the antiquated thinking of the A.C.F. and quite justifiably formed a new organisation called the Federation Francaise Sport Automobile (F.F.S.A.) and anyone who was actively interested in any form of competition joined the F.F.S.A. This was rather akin to the British situation today where you join the B.R.S.C.C. if you are interested in the sport; you do not join. the R.A.C. Although the B.R.S.C.C. did not come into being for the same reasons as the F.F.S.A. the parallel exists. The F.F.S.A. was obviously a sound movement and they got Government permission to look after the sport, issuing licences, permits, sanctioning races and so on, and the old gentlemen in the A.C.F. were sensible enough to agree to let the younger element get on with the sporting side as far as France was concerned. Gradually the F.F.S.A. became far more powerful than the A.C.F. and this year they applied to the F.I.A. to represent France in place of the A.C.F. which had become out-of-touch with modern times and modern racing. With there being a close tie-up between the old gentlemen of the A.C.F. and the F.I.A. this request was politely thrown out, but the F.F.S.A. were too strong to be rejected without reason, especially as they are recognised by the Ministry of Sport and similar Government departments in France as the official body in France for motor racing.

When the Le Mans club, who are close friends with the A.C.F. and hence with the F.I.A., pulled their trickery over reducing Group 6 engine capacity to 3 litres, without open discussion, the F.F.S.A. got really mad and now the whole thing has blown sky high. Behind the scenes at Le Mans this year there was a vast political intrigue taking place and a battle going on between the A.C.F. and the F.F.S.A. which resulted in a moral victory for the F.F.S.A. Because the French Government has recognised the F.F.S.A. as controllers of French motor racing, their President, M. Claude Bourillot was able to exert his right to be present on the Le Mans track as the number one official, while the man from the A.C.F. had no right to be there and had to keep in the background, as the A.C.F. had no licence to be involved in the race. All this was taking place behind the scenes of the Le Mans race, unknown to the spectators, but to those of us on the inside and au fait with French motoring politics it was all very interesting. Last month the F.F.S.A. announced that they no longer accepted or recognised the authority of the F.I.A. At Le Mans they made it very clear that they no longer recognised the Automobile Club of France (A.C.F.) as the French governing body, and as the A.C.F. and F.I.A. are closely tied, they have now taken the final step and renounced the F.I.A. Naturally the F.I.A. have made a stand and have said that the A.C.F. will continue to have overall control of French motor racing, but they can only do this with the co-operation of the F.F.S.A., who are recognised by the government to issue licences, permits, sanctions etc., and the F.F.S.A. are refusing to co-operate with the A.C.F. and by that token have renounced the F.I.A. The recent discontent over the Le Mans 3-litre limit affair has made the F.I.A. a lot of enemies so that the F.F.S.A. have the support of most of the really influential people in European motor racing, the manufacturers, the entrants, the drivers and the trade.

At the moment this appears to be a French domestic affair, but it is far more serious than that and it could affect the future of motor racing on the International level. Apart from the possibility of a burst blood vessel in the A.C.F. it would seem that a bloodless revolution has taken place in Paris, but it will be some time before the effects are felt in London, Brussels, Milan, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Berne.

To give a clearer idea of what it is all about, to those who do not follow the International or the French scene closely, it is as if Mrs. Castle and the Ministry of Transport said to Nick Syrett and the B.R.S.C.C., “You have our blessing to control motor racing in Great Britain,” which would leave Dean Delamont and the R.A.C. to look after road-signs, touring, insurance, motorists’ service and so on. If after some years the B.R.S.C.C. proved to everyone that they were doing an efficient and popular job of work, they would apply for affiliation to the F.I.A. with Syrett replacing Delamont at the Paris meetings, but if the F.I.A., under pressure from the R.A.C. because of “the old chum’s act,” threw the application out, the B.R.S.C.C. would then renounce the R.A.C. and refuse Delmont or any of the R.A.C. officials permission to attend any British race meeting, or issue them a permit to run the T.T. or the British G.P. ! It would cause quite a furore, which is just what has happened in France. I await developments with more than passing interest.

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From the foregoing it would appear that International motor racing is in a difficult period and added to this is the withdrawal by various practical and financial interests. Quite apart from any 3-litre capacity limits at Le Mans or anything like that, the Ford Motor Company of America are not returning to Europe, having achieved their objects, and are concentrating their racing activities on American events. This was announced last July and occasioned no surprise, for unlike Ferrari, Ford was not racing for fun or because of a passion for racing. It was purely business, and what they did they did well, but Europe would have been more impressed if they had won some other races besides Le Mans. Since that withdrawal there have been others of a much more serious nature, not serious to the sport, but serious to individuals. The Firestone tyre company suddenly woke up to the fact that they were spending far too much money on racing and getting no real returns. One could say they backed the wrong teams, whereas Goodyear backed the right ones, for Goodyear kept smiling and saying “We win all the big ones ” which needled Firestone, because it was true, even though Firestone won more races than Goodyear. After winning Le Mans, Indianapolis, the Grand Prix Manufacturers Championship and the Drivers’ Championship, with respectively Gurney/Foyt (Ford), Foyt (Coyote-Ford), Brabham-Repco V8 and Hulme (Brabham), Goodyear certainly did ” win all the big ones ” as far as publicity is concerned, and even Clark’s five G.P. wins on Firestone tyres to Hulme’s two on Goodyears did nothing to alleviate the Firestone suffering in the overall picture. So it was no surprise when Firestone shut their cheque book and stopped giving away money and tyres. It does not mean a complete shut-down on racing, just a more cautious approach, and they will be out to win Indianapolis, Le Mans, and Grand Prix racing, but on slightly different terms, especially with anyone who is unlikely to produce an outright victory. Goodyear have been a lot more selective in distributing their money and tyres, and show no signs of changing.

In the September Motor Sport there was an advertisement by BP that said “Once you are hooked on racing you are hooked on racing. BP are hooked on racing.” Yet before the printing ink was dry BP announced their withdrawal from racing. Like Firestone they had been backing the wrong ones for a long time, getting no real returns for their outlay. This year they have been backing the Cooper team and the various projects of John Surtees. none of which has been conspicuous in the winning lists. However, if BP cannot afford to finance the losers any more it is understandable and their withdrawal is their affair. Their keen rivals, Esso, have been smiling for sonic time, having got Clark, Brabham and Hulme signed up, as well as Lotus, and the Brabham team, and like Goodyear, Esso have been “winning all the big ones,” so when BP withdrew the Esso people looked happy and said “that is their concern, we are all right and will carry on.” These words had hardly floated across the paddock before Esso announced that they were withdrawing from motor racing. It seems that among many things they discovered that it cost them £2x to win races and £4x to advertise the fact, which does not sound like good business.

Now Shell have started an advertisement which reads “Next year, Shell will be all systems go for the Grand Slam” referring to having had the first 14 finishers out of 16 at Le Mans on Shell this year. Is this the prelude to a withdrawal, like BP and Esso? In France the ELF petrol company are pressing on with a joint compaign with Matra and the French missile firm are working hard on their Grand Prix car, So there must be some quiet smiling going on overthere, and meanwhile the Gulf-sponsored ”Mirage” team have chalked up a win in the Kylarni 9-hour race, having previously won the Paris 1,000-kilometer race.

To a lot of people all this withdrawing by the petrol and tyre companies will spell financial hardship and it has knocked on the head a lot of ”pie-in-sky” racing projects that were going to be a good living for those involved, but not very serious projects in the overall International racing scene. I cannot really believe that the Honda Motor Company of Tokyo are very worried about the loss of BP money, but I can imagine that it is serious to John Surtees and his Honda Racing firm. Equally I cannot believe that if Mercedes-Benz return to racing they will worry about a subsidy from Esso or BV-Aral or anyone else, and that goes for Alfa Romeo, Renault, Porsche or Ford. The individual drivers who got advertising contracts will suffer, for they will now have to drive for what they earn from their teams, and some of them will have to go back to Single-engined private aeroplanes while others may even have to go back to using a motor car or even a train to get to work.

Where International racing could feel the pinch is in the combustion chamber, for firms like BP and Esso obviously provided a lot of technical knowledge on fuels and combustion chamber design, being able to do some very basic research work from which they could pass on the results to engine designers, but no doubt this sort of technical assistance will continue. Small firms like Lotus, Cooper, Brabham and Lola are in a different position to the industrial giants and the bag full of pound notes that Esso and BP gave away were very helpful indeed, but if Ford and Repco do not profit from the situation I shall be very surprised.

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Next Month (January 1968) will see the new racing season starting on the first day of the month with the South African G.P., a Formula One event counting as the first round in the 1968 Championship series. Although the old Manufacturers’ Championship is no longer valid; there will be a Championship for Makes—by “make” it is meant an individual designation, such as McLaren-B.R.M., which neatly solves the dual-role problem where more than one firm is involved in building a racing car, as distinct from manufacturing it. The 1968 list of Grand Prix events of major status will be : Spanish G.P.—May 15th (Madrid); Monaco G.P.—May 26th; Belgium G.P.—June 9th (Spa); Dutch G.P.—June 23rd (Zandvoort); French G.P.—July 7th (Rouen); British G.P.—July 21st (Brands Hatch); German G.P.—Aug. 4th (Nurburgring); Italian G.P.—Sept. 8th (Monza); Canadian G.P. Sept.—22nd (Mosport); U.S.A. G.P.—Oct. 6th (Watkins Glen); Mexican G.P.—Nov. 3rd (Mexico City). Among other interesting and classic events next year are Daytona 24-hour race—Feb. 3/4th; Sebring 12 hrs;.—March 23rd; B.O,A.C. 500-mile race—April 7th (Brands Hatch); Monza 1,000 kilometres—April 25th ; Targa Florio—May 5th; Nurburgring 1,000 kilometres—May 19th; Spa 1,000 kilometres—May 26th; Indianapolis 500 miles—May 30th; Le Mans 24-hour race—June 15716th ; Reims 12 hours—June 29/30th; Spa 24-hour race—July 20/21st: Mugello—July 28th; Austrian G.P.—Aug. 25th; Nurburgring 500 kilometres—Sept. 1st; Imola 500 kilometres—Sept. 15th; Montlhery 1,000 kilometres—Oct. 13th ; Kylami 9 hours—Nov. 2nd.

Starting on January 6th in New Zealand is the 1968 Tasman series of races, to which quite a number of Europeans are going, including Clark and Hill with Lotus 49 cars with 2½-litre versions of’ the well-known Cosworth V8, and an entry from B.R.M. with a new car using the V12-cylinder type of engine that McLaren has been racing, reduced to 2½-litres naturally, and Amon with a Ferrari. There are four races in New Zealand, followed by five in Australia, though not all of them count tor the Tasman Championship. Hardly has this “down-under” winter racing ended, with Longford on March 3rd. than Europe wakes up from winter slumbers with the Race of Champions for Formula One cars at Brands Hatch and a Formula Two race at Siracusa on March 17th, and then we are off to another busy International season.—D. S. J.

Kyalami Nine Hours—South Africa (November 4th)

Every year this race grows in status and an excellent entry of non-factory cars and drivers took part, making it the best event seen in South Africa. The Gulf-sponsored Ford “Mirage” team had yet another victory, their number-one driver Ickx being ably supported by Brian Redman, haying his first outing in a really competitive car. The numerous Lola-Chevrolet V8 cars that were entered showed again that these cars are not yet serious long-distance competitors, the Hawkins/Love car finishing second a long way behind the leader and running badly. The Piper/Attwood Ferrari 330P3/4, ex-Maranello Concessionaires, was well placed when Atwood collided with a driver in the pit area, the human body making an awful mess of the Ferrari bodywork, which lost them all hope of a win. Alpine entered their 3-litre V8 Le Mans car, but at the last minute it was withdrawn and a 4-cylinder car was substituted. The ”Mirage” victory was the third major one this season, following the Spa 1,000 kilometres, and the Paris 1,000 kilometres, and young Jackie Ickx has been the numberone driver on each ‘occasion.

Results :

Paris 1,000 Kilometres—Montlhery (October 15th)

A J.W. Automotive Engineering Ford “Mirage,” sponsored by Gulf petrol and driven by Ickx/Hawkins, won a rather cold and wet race on the combined road and banked track Montlhery circuit. The race saw the first appearance of the 3-litre V8 Renault-Gordini-engined Alpine, which finished the race after delays with minor bothers unconnected with the new engine. With the manufacturers’ season being over the race was a benefit for the smaller teams and private owners.

Results PARIS 1,000 KILOMETRES—Montlhery—Sports and GT—Gold and Wet

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Comprehensive Model Catalogue

Serious collectors of motor-car models and miniatures will want the “Catalogue of Model Cars of the World” by Jacques Greilsamer and Bertrand Azema, edited by Lausanne and handled in the English edition by P.S.L., Brooks House, Upper Thames Street. London, E.C.4, at 84s. It contains history, tabulated lists of 87 different makes of miniatures, die-cast and plastic, numbering over 4,000, from 1917 to 1967, and 85 makes of construction-kits, covering 3,000 models up to 1967. With over 500 pictures and 16 plates in full colour, this remarkable book weighs nearly 3 lb. and contains 306 pages, measuring 10 in. X 8½ in. There are articles on collecting, and pictures of exotic one-off model cars, while the British makes listed run from Airfix to Tri-ang-Minic.. Even the early lin-plate toy’s are covered, like those Citroens and Delages of the mid-Twenties, although I was a bit disappointed not to find anything on the very simple but so effective Model-T Ford tinplate clockwork toys of this period, which came in Tudor, Fordor and coupe versions, to brighten my childhood. Does no one remember them? This is a great work, which will have the avid collectors browsing and arguing for months. . . .

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No. 2 of the duplicated “Model Car Collector” is out, dealing with much the same subject as the book reviewed above. It costs 5s.—W. B.

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