HAS RACING CEASED TO BENEFIT THE UTILITY MOTORIST?
IS THE RACING-CAR OF TO-DAY STILL THE TOURING CAR OF TO-MORROW P
(Continued from the January issue.)
As readers may express surprise that MOTOR SPORT should publish this article, we hasten to assure them that we do not associate ourselves with the view-point upheld herein by our contributor. But we believe that there are two sides to every question and our pages are open to those who wish to advance counter arguments.—Ed.
Since 1934 the capacity restriction has given way to the maximum weight limit of 750 k.g. But it is not evident that building racing-cars under this ruling has conferred a revival of beneficial development to the utility car. In spite Of considerably increased cylinder capacity, the leading Grand Prix cars of the past three seasons have, without exception, had supercharged multi-cylinder powerunits as far removed from normal practice as those built for the restricted capacity ruling. The tremendous battle that has been fought to enable the biggest possible motors to be installed without overstepping the weight-limit ‘ might be supposed to have contributed valuable lessons in connection with lowweight construction and light alloys. Yet at Olympia this year I saw no evidence of great pains having been taken to reduce the weight of our cars structurally. And certainly there is no widespread adoption of -electron, R.R. alloy and ceraltimin for the construction of production chassis. Siddeley-Special and I,ancia alone seem interested in light-weight engine construction. In any case, it seems probable that nowadays the racing-car designer spurs on the metallurgist to a far lesser degree than the aeronautical engineer, for the latter can at least hold out sonic promise of absorbing large quantities of special alloys. Airflow body lines have caught the public’s imagination, but by no flight of fancy can I suggest that the enclosed Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union record-breakers have influenced this forth of coach building.
With the exception of Bugatti all the designers of modern Grand Prix cars have adopted independent suspension, and it might be conceded that useful knowledge must accrue from this move. Yet one of our foremost racing drivers has expressed the opinion that it is doubtful if any of the lessons learned in this connection have any bearing on the improvement of touring car springing. Hydraulic braking figures on 1936 road-racing cars, yet the cockpit Control over this system has yet to be presented to the ordinary driver, and may, in fact, not be necessary at touring speeds with modern brake linings and this form of shoe actuation.
When the self-changing gearbox was first used in racing, chassis, back-axle, and transmission failures were common, and consequently attention was drawn to the need for allowing for stresses that a careless driver could impose with such a gearbox in ordinary driving. Even so, one Marque in particular reaped most of the benefit of this piece of racing research.
I am reluctantly compelled to declare that racing does not seem to have handed on Very Much of value to ordinary car users in the past ten years. Indeed, certain retrograde developments may be set upon the shoulders of the racing enthusiast. Before the War Robert Brewer, author of “The Economics of Carburetting and Manifolding,” went to much trouble to demonstrate that, properly hot-spotted, a single carburetter could feed a multi-cylinder engine economically, efficiently, and without serious power-loss. I cannot see that the new formula to come into effect in 1939.’. can result in a return to the old state of affairs, when the racing-car of to-day was within reason the touring car of to-morrow. The cancellation of the maximum weightlimit destroys any hope that continued striving to make racing-cars faster without increase of weight might culminate in lighter cars for normal motoring—and production cars are far too heavy. The capacity restriction increases the need for high rates of crankshaft revolution and
high-pressure supercharging, and nil :supercharged rac.ng-engines appear to be insufficiently .encouraged. My person al opinion is that only by limiting the racingcar designer to No. 1 petrol–excluding even the commercial leaded, alcohol and benzoic fuels, which are now extremely efficient—can races be staged to once again confer direct benefits on the ordinary car user. Deprived of high-output engines, racing designers would be forced to think in terms of ultra-light construction, big engines, long piston strokes, extreme volumetric efficiency, etc., and no limitations should burden them. The recent specialisation of the road-racing car has served to focus attention on sports-car contests, which were at one time regarded only as a means of confirming the soundness Of new ideas that Grand Prix racing had already presented to the sports-car.
The general excellence of our presentday sports-cars is very largely the result of lessons learnt in contests of this kind, which have been popular for the past nine vears. Unfortunately, these lessons apply chiefly to individual instances, and progress is therefore less rapid than in the days when Grand Prix road-racing was productive of knowledge which could be applied even by designers who had no personal connection with racing.
[N.B.—Fred W. Dixon has emphasised that the fitting of Multi-carburetters, properly carried opt, .does not entail using more fuel, rather the reverse. But it must be remembered that Dixon’s system is not in general use. Rudolf Caracciola has stated that while a 12-cylinder engine is considered essential for the latest racing Mercedes-Benz, in mass-production cars it is nowadays quite often the other way round, the 4-cylinder sometimes showing a better performance than earlier 6-cylinders of the same size. This bears out points made in my article. Segraves views are quoted with seine justification, because he expressed them at a period when limited capacity racing was coining to a close. St.rave was one English driver whose place among the greatest drivers :of all time none will deny.]