MOTOR RACING PROSPECTS FOR 1927. By E. K. H. KARSLAKE.
THIS year there will be five races which count for the Championship of the World, all of which, as last year, will be for cars up to 1,500 c.c. capacity. These are the Indianapolis “500,” and the French, Spanish, Italian and British Grands Prix.
As will be seen from the calendar, the British Grand Prix is the last of the series, which is a very substantial advantage, as it will thus constitute the final for the Championship. This should secure a very good entry for the race at Brooklands, as any firm who is still in the running will be sure to enter for it. Last year our own race was undoubtedly the most successful of the series, but there is every reason to hope that the second British Grand Prix will be even more interesting than its predecessor. After Reims, Deauville and Trouville, Lille, Bordeaux, St. Gaudens and even the Bois de Boulogne had been suggested as a venue for the French Grand Prix, the A.C.F. have finally decided to hold their race on the road circuit at Montlhery. It seems rather a pity that in France, which of all countries in the world has the greatest facilities for running motor races on the public roads, the great event of the year should be relegated to an artificial road track. The most interesting suggestion of all was undoubtedly that the race should be run in the Bois de Boulogne. Although the idea of a Grand Prix round Hyde Park might seem somewhat Utopian to English motorists, the difficulties in the way of gaining permission for the race to be held in the French capital would not seem to have been insuperable. Certainly the race in the centre of Paris would have done much to popularize the sport of motor racing, and its publicity would have been so great, that it is not improbable that some of the biggest firms in the French industry, who have long regarded racing with indifference, would have
returned to the arena. The road circuit at Montlhery, while providing a good test of brakes acceleration, roadholding qualities, etc., lacks the glamour of a course over the public roads, and indeed, after the ” revolution ” in the A.C.F. last year, the new sporting commission came in on a sort of” back to the road” policy. The race, however, is nowadays provided with 150,000 francs of prize money, with the result that it is probably found impossible to make two ends meet, without the assistance of gate fees.
If the French Grand Prix is run at Montlhery, the Spanish Grand Prix at San Sebastian will be the only one of the Championship races to be run on the public roads, as indeed was the case last year. It is satisfactory to have at any rate one great road race, and the Spanish circuit, with its splendid scenery of rocks, mountains and torrents, and complete with its tramline, certainly constitutes a most wonderful course.
When it was founded in 1923, the European Grand Prix was supposed to be going to be run for the first time in Italy and then in the country whose cars had won it in the previous year. Although Fiat won in 1923, however, the French, afraid that the race would supersede their own Grand Prix, as the most important event of the year, insisted on holding it in Prance in 1924. Thence it went to Belgium in 1925 and to Spain in 1926, where it was at last won by a French car, the Bugatti. This year it will return to Italy, although 1926 was the first year she did not will the race, Alfa-Romeo having proved victorious in 1924 and 1925. The race will be held at Monza on September 6th. As last year amply proved, the best calendar of races can easily be marred by a lack of support by competitors. A reassuring feature of the situation this year, however, is that, although the racing rules for 1928 have not yet
been definitely agreed upon, it is highly improbable that the great races will be for 1500 c.c. cars. For this reason, manufacturers who have cars of this type bu it must use them this year if they want to run them successfully in the big events. There are indeed plenty of possibilities. In France there are the Bugattis, so often victorious last year; it is possible of course, that Ettore Bugatti may be content to rest on his laurels, but the sporting nature of the Molsheim manufacturer, as well as his well-known policy of “We race what we sell and we sell what we race,” makes this improbable. Then there are the Delages which showed their worth by their handsome victory in the British Grand Prix, and whose minor difficulties such as cooking their drivers should have been overcome by next season. The new 8-cylinder Talbots only found their form at the very end of last season, and have never yet had a chance of showing what they can do in one of the important Grands Prix. Next year, however, they should give a good account of themselves. As well as these there are the very interesting 2-stroke Sima-Violets, which so far have only appeared in the Grand Prix des Voiturettes at the Boulogne meeting ; it is to be expected that more will be seen of them in the future.
In Italy, O.M. of Brescia have a set of straight eight 1,500 c.c. racers which were entered for the European and Italian Grands Prix as well as the 200 Miles Race last year, but which have not yet made their appearance. The very attractive 12-cylinder front-wheel driven Italas should also be ready by next year, while there are reports that Diatto is producing some 1,500 c.c. racers and rumours that Isotta Fraschini is doing likewise. The intentions of Fiat are as usual obscure. Last year they had some racers built with the very interesting 6-cylinder opposed-piston 2-stroke engines, and in the hands of Pietro Bordino appeared for practice at Monza. The results were said to be very satisfactory, but the cars were not entered for any races last season, and finally it became known that they had built new engines to replace the 2-strokes. No details of these new engines have, however, been allowed to become known.
There is every probability also that next year we shall see some American entries for the big European events. In the past a considerable amount of complication has arisen owing to the fact that the Automobile Club of America was the body represented in the International Association of Recognized Automobile Clubs, while the entire control of racing on the other side of the Atlantic was in the hands of the American Automobile Association. This November, however, an agreement was reached in Paris, by which the A.A.A. is recognized as the controlling body in America, while the A.C.A. is its representative in Europe. American manufacturers and drivers will now be able to compete in European races without fear of having their competition licences suspended by the Association for taking part in unauthorized competitions. As well as this, the European authorities have agreed to drop their rule excluding cars with central steering, which of course is a feature of the narrow single-seater America track racers, and one which it is not easy to alter. The Americans are at present showing some reluctance to agreeing to the European minimum width of 80 centimetres (31 inches), but it is to be hoped that an agreement may be reached on this point also, while in any case it is not a very difficult matter for the American cars to fit wide dummy bodies for the European races, as was proved by the Duesenbergs which ran at Monza in 1925. It is unfortunate that among the cars likely to take part in the classic events of the year, there are no English racers, for all the green paint in the world will not disguise the fact that the Talbots were built at Suresnes, except perhaps to spectators of a similar colour scheme ! (Incidentally also these cars are painted blue when appearing on the continent.) The International Association is likely to give a definite ruling on what constitutes the country of origin in a racing car, before the beginning of the season. There are, however, the very interesting 8-cylinder front-wheeldrive Alvises, which proved much the most formidable rivals of the Talbots in the last 200 Miles Race, and
which it is sincerely to be hoped will be entered in the big continental events. It is often stated by English manufacturers that racing in France is not a profitable proposition, as the French market is almost closed to British cars by the depression of the franc and high protective duties. But against this it must be remembered that such an event as a successful French Grand Prix has much more than a national publicity, and profitable markets such as Spain and Switzerland for example, may well be influenced by participation in the event.
As well as the products of the larger manufacturers there are a number of 11 litre racers belonging to smaller firms or amateurs which may be seen in next year’s races. Examples of these are the Eldridges, Thomases and Halford in England, the Guyots in France, and the Maserattis in Italy.
On the day preceding the 1,500 c.c. race, the A.C.F. will hold another Grand Prix, which will be run on a limited fuel consumption basis. 18 litres of fuel and oil per hundred kilometres will be allowed each competitor, which will mean that the cars will have to average about 20 m.p.g. of petrol and 250 m.p.g. of oil. The French club hopes to secure entries for this race, from the many firms who do not favour the present 1,500 c.c. capacity regulation. The race is of especial interest owing to the fact that the racing rules for 1928 have not yet been definitely agreed upon ; while at present they are supposed to be going to” free-for-all” events, it is not improbable that a fuel consumption limit will be introduced. This year’s race is provided with 100,000 francs worth of prizes, which should attract a considerable entry. As will be seen from the calendar, this year’s 200 Miles Race at Brooklands is separated from the British Grand
Prix by only a week, and it is probable, therefore, that the continental manufacturers will leave their racers in England after the big race and take. part in the J.C.C. event. This should make this race, which has always been very successful, even more interesting than those of former years.
The greatest road race of the season is undoubtedly the Targa Florio which this year will be run on the traditional Sicilian circuit on April 24th. Competitors will have to cover 5 laps of the difficult Madoine circuit, which is 67 miles round and varies from sea-level to 3,000ft. altitude, and contains some 1,400 corners. Prizes amount to 290,000 lire, and entries have already been received from Peugeot, Bugatti, Alfa-Romeo, O.M. and Ricart, while negotiations are in progress for Count Maggi, who last year won the Grand Prix de Rome on a Bugatti, to drive one of the 8-cylinder 1,500 c.c. Talbots. The Ricart is a Spanish car, built at Barcelona, whose standard model is a 6-cylinder car of 1,500 c.c. capacity with two overhead camshafts, and in the case of the supersports, a supercharger. The Targa Florio incidentally represents the final of the 1926-7 Cup of the Latin Countries, for which the French, Spanish and Italian Grands Prix also count. The scoring at present is : Costa.ntini and Goux, 6 points ; Benoist 9; and Sabipa (Charavel) and Minora 10, the driver with the smallest number of points after the four races have been run, being the winner. The Florio Cup is, this year, quite distinct from the Targa. It will be remembered that, in the original rules of the cup, it was to be competed for 7 times, and then to go definitely to the firm, which had won the greatest number of times. After the seventh race; in 1924, how
ever, no one had won it more than once, and an eighth race was accordingly run in 1925 for which only previous winners were eligible. That year a Peugeot won, and the cup thus became the absolute property of the great French firm. They decided, however, in a very sporting spirit, to put the cup up for competition again, the only stipulation being that it should be run alternately in Italy and France, and always on the public roads. Last year it was run in Sicily in conjunction with the Targa Florio and was won by Bugatti ; this year, therefore, it will be run in France, and a road circuit has been chosen near St. Briene in Brittany, where the race will be organized with the help of the newspaper ” l’OuestEclair.” It will be over a course of 312i miles probably on July 17th, and any car will be eligible if it has 2 seats and weighs 800 kilogrammes or more. Fuel will be limited at the rate of 16 litres for 100 kilometres, necessitating an average consumption of about 17.5 m.p.g., but there will be no restriction on oil. A new event of considerable interest is projected for this year under the name of the Grand Prix de Nice. The idea is to run a race on a course composed of the Upper and Middle Corniche roads and various secondary roads joining them at either end, which are being enlarged for the purpose. This course would be very difficult, but certainly no more so than the Madoine circuit. It is proposed to hold the race at the beginning of
April, and there are rumours of 500,000 francs of prize money, but the precise rules are not as yet known.