Continental Notes, February 1964

Elsewhere in this issue I have listed the results of the International races of 1963, and it is worthwhile noting the number of times that the name J. Clark appears in first position. Not only in the seven events counting for the World Championship, a feat in itself, but also in five other Formula One races and one track race, while it also appears in first place in sports-car races and saloon-car races, and I feel that no one can have cause to claim that Clark is not a true champion driver. While browsing through the results it is also notable that Ford have made an impact on all branches of motor racing except Formula One. The name Ford appears with Juniors, track cars, sports cars and saloon cars, and it will not be long before it appears in the results of Prototype G.T. car events. After that must surely follow Grand Prix racing. Another interesting point that emerges from the year’s results is the way the “bad Indy Guys,” as Indianapolis and American track drivers used to be known, have begun to appear in the results of road races with saloons and sports cars. Those of Loyd Ruby, Roger Ward and A. J. Foyt made themselves known last year, among many others. So far only three road-racing drivers have made a mark in American track racing, these being Jim Clark (yes, him again), Dan Gurney and Jack Brabham, but this increasing interchange of abilities is a good thing and I hope it continues.

Nineteen sixty-four will see the first season of three classes of single-seater racing under the Formulae One, Two and Three, the differences between them being fairly radical steps, so that a driver can anticipate graduating from Formula Three through Formula Two to Formula One. As long ago as June 1958 I advocated this sort of thing in MOTOR SPORT, suggesting there should be different classes of single-seater racing cars so that drivers could progress up the scale. I based my ideas on American track racing, where events are graded from 1/4-mile tracks with midget cars up to Indianapolis, all the types of cars haying similar characteristics so that they make a logical progression. Now, thanks to the much maligned F.I.A., we are about to start our first season of this logical system of classification, and I feel sure it will prove to be a good thing.

Something else which I suggested in these columns recently was a way of assisting manufacturers with the never-ending spiral of rising costs. My suggestion was that Grand Prix drivers should no longer receive 50% of the starting money as the total was increased, but should be reduced to 20 or 25%. Now the Grand Prix people have got together and decided on a system of payment for drivers that will benefit the builders and owner of Grand Prix cars; it will not affect good Grand Prix drivers, but it will affect the not-so-good ones, or those who don’t try too hard once they have qualified for their starting money. Last season I saw drivers netting £300 for a performance in a race that could have been bettered by any good Club driver, and it just did not seem reasonable. On the other hand I saw a lot of drivers really earning every penny of the £400 or £500 they got for driving in the rain at Spa, or fighting every inch of the way at Monza. This new payment scale will give all drivers a flat rate for starting the season, which will be a very nominal sum, and this will be increased in direct proportion to the results they achieve in Grand Prix races, the existing World Champion having a financial start over the rest of the drivers at the beginning, which is only fair. A good driver will be up to a very high standard of pay before the season is half over, while a mediocre driver will have increased his salary only slightly, and a bad driver will still be trying to exist on peanuts. Something of this sort just had to come, and it is satisfying that the people who are Grand Prix racing were able to decide this amongst themselves, and in principle it has been accepted by the Commission Sportive of the F.I.A.

Last month I illustrated the new Porsche GT car for racing, and mentioned that it would be seen in the hands of numerous private owners. Almost before the ink was dry the Porsche Press Department sent me a photograph of five of these cars under construction in the racing department at Zuffenhausen, and their assurances that the recent announcement of the new car was no publicity gimmick, but was in earnest, and that the first of the series should be competing at Daytona this month and Sebring next month. On the subject of exciting competition G.T. cars I also mentioned the Lola-Ford V8 and now news has come, from Ford of Dagenham, that “their ” G.T. Prototype is well under way and is expected to compete at Le Mans in June. I write “their,” because it is the Lola-Ford that Dagenham are writing about, but in the hand-out it is described as a Ford GT. The car is not advanced enough for photographs, but an artist’s impression shows the Lola GT painted in American racing colours and carrying the name Ford along the side. This matter of buying somebody else’s project and dropping their name from it is a tricky one and has often happened in the past. The Bristol firm did this with the B.M.W. 2-litre engine, so that young people have looked at my 1938 B.M.W. 328 sports car and said “the engine is like a Bristol, isn’t it” – no comment on that. Later Bristol bought the G-type E.R.A. chassis that was built for the old 2-litre Formula Two, and from it developed and built the super-aerodynamic Bristol 450 racing/sports coupés that competed at Le Mans and Reims, all acknowledgement of E.R.A. being dropped. When the Lancia firm was bought by Fiat and the racing department was disbanded, all the D50 Lancia Grand Prix cars were given to Ferrari, in the hope that he would use them to uphold the prestige of Italian motor racing. One of the first things Ferrari did was to remove the Lancia badges from the nose cowling and substitute Ferrari badges, and the cars were called V8 Ferraris. However, to me they were Lancia/Ferraris, and though Maranello did a lot of development work and a lot of redesigning, so that little of the original cars was left, the Lancia conception was always there, and in consequence I always made a point of referring to them as Lancia/Ferraris.

Today We have a similar state of affairs with the Ford Cortina that Colin Chapman has transformed into a very exciting car. At Cheshunt, and where I am concerned, this car is referred to as a Lotus-Cortina, but at Dagenham and other places it is referred to as the Cortina-Lotus. In such cases I maintain that the first name should be that of the more inspired member of the partnership, and whereas I consider the ordinary Cortina a heap of rubbish, I think the Lotus-Cortina is terrific. Chapman said that he had “made the best of a bad job” when this twin-cam saloon was introduced, and having recently had a really good drive in one I consider he has made a very good “best.” It was somewhat the same with Ferrari and Lancia, the Turin design being an excellent basis for the Ferrari development engineers to have a go at, but in contrast to Ford and Lotus, Ferrari did not have to make the best of a bad job, the job was very good to start with, so that Ferrari merely had to go on with the good work. For that reason I always put Lancia before Ferrari in the name link-up. This same reasoning will apply, as far as I am concerned, with Lola and Ford, and I shall always refer to the car as the Lola-Ford V8. The conception of the Lola GT car came from Eric Broadley, who is Lola Cars, and it was pure chance or good business that he put a Ford V8 engine in the back, and was eventually bought up by Ford. He could just as easily have put a Pontiac or Chevrolet engine in the original car, or even a Daimler V8. So far the Lola-Ford V8 circuit testing has proved highly satisfactory and it is to be hoped that it will appear in races as soon as the season starts, for there is no better test-bed than open competition.

In America the Ford Engine Division are pressing on at very high speed, and their latest experimental racing engine for Indianapolis, and other things, is a most interesting new departure. Last autumn a Lotus 29 was tried out at Indianapolis fitted with a V8 engine having two overhead camshafts to each bank of cylinders, the block being based on the normal push-rod Fairlane engine. This resulted in a fine conglomeration of “gasworks” in the centre of the vee, but made exhaust piping difficult, as the manifolding got mixed up with the suspension and came very near to the ground. The latest racing Ford V8 engine has overcome this problem by designing the cylinder heads with the inlet tracts running down between-the-inlet and exhaust valves and amongst the plugs. This is a layout that was used by B.M.W. (yes, the 325 again) in 1936, by Daimler-Benz on the Mercedes-Benz W196 in 1954, and by Maserati on their V12 Grand Prix engine of 1957. Ford have taken this layout a step further, due to having a wide-angle vee, and have brought the exhaust pipes out in the centre of the vee and then straight up. This leaves the sides of the engine completely clear and groups the eight exhaust pipes together, which makes it easy to continue on to tuned lengths, megaphones, silencers, or what you will. The only drawback might be the intense heat caused by the grouping of the pipes for one exhaust pipe can generate a lot of embarrassing heat, so that eight could become a problem. This engine, or further developments of it, is destined for the Indianapolis Lotus cars, but is also to be made available to other teams, and no doubt to Lola for the G.T. car. When o.h.v. American V8 engines were first used by people such as Reventlow, Cunningham, Allard and so on, I could not work up much enthusiasm for them, for their push-rod valve layout did not impress me, and by no stretch of imagination could I regard them as proper racing engines, comparable with a Ferrari or Maserati engine. This latest Ford V8 is another matter altogether, and is a pure racing engine by any standards, well able to stand alongside Grand Prix engines, and, what is more, it is 4.2-litres!

This month will see the beginning of serious International racing, with the speed week at the Daytona track. Although the New Zealand and Australian season is well under way, it does not have any bearing on the overall racing scene, as the events are run to an obsolete Formula, though it gives drivers a chance to stay in work during the winter months, and to keep their hand in. This year at Daytona there is to be a 2,000-kilometre race for Homologated G.T. cars of Groups 2 and 3, which means Porsches, Ferraris, Jaguars, Chevrolets, Cobras, etc., while on the same weekend there will be a 250-mile race for Prototype G.T. cars and sports cars, which means that almost anything can take part, such as Cooper-Chevrolets, Cooper-Fords, Lotus-Fords, Scarab-Pontiacs and the new 2-litre Brabham-Climax. Also there will be the fantastic 500-mile race for “stock” saloon cars, in which Fords, Chevrolets, Pontiacs and so on will whistle round the banked Daytona track at averages of over 160 m.p.h. Last year in the 25-mile preliminary races before the 500-mile event the winners averaged over 160 m.p.h., with fastest laps at more than 165 m.p.h. In the 500-mile race the winner averaged 151.566 m.p.h., including stops for fuel and tyres, and this year they should be going even faster. It was this sort of racing that developed the big Ford Galaxies that came over to England last season and blew all the 3.8-litre Jaguars into the middle distance on our twisty little circuits. There is no arguing the fact that “Speed” is the accent of the Daytona Speed Week from February 16th to February 23rd.

At Le Mans, which takes place on June 20th/21st this year, the regulations permit gas-turbine cars to compete on equal footing with normal piston-engined cars, and also have a category for “rotating engines.” Last year the Rover-B.R.M. (not B.R.M.Rover, for reasons explained previously) had to run as a demonstration as there was no class for it, but this year it can compete for an outright win, as also could a Wankel-engined N.S.U. This arrangement is very much in keeping with the aims and objects of the organisers of the 24-Hour race, who have persistently tried to look into the future. They have dropped clangers in the past, as have most people, but since its inception the Le Mans 24-Hour Endurance Race has endeavoured to assist the development of cars of the future. The only regret is that Charles Faroux, one of the founders of the race, is no longer alive to witness this change in the regulations, for it is surely a moment of history in the overall world of motor racing. Faroux was one of the leaders of the idea that motor racing should improve the breed, and throughout his long life he always adhered to this policy in his direction of French motor racing, as well as in International motor racing. – D.S.J.