Continental notes, January 1964

Without doubt the most exciting piece of news to come from the Continent was the communication from the Commission Sportive Internationale of the F.I.A. in which they announced the next Formula for Grand Prix racing. Briefly it will be for unsupercharged 3-litre cars and supercharged 1 1/2-litre cars, using conventional piston engines, and for cars using engines that rotate, such as the Wankel, and also for gas-turbine driven cars. The normal piston-engine cars must use commercial fuel, which means the Avgas straight petrol as used at present, and they will be limited to a minimum weight of 500 kilogrammes with oil and water, but without fuel. Rotating-engine cars can have a completely free total volume, but there will be maximum and minimum weights, and they must use commercial fuel as the piston-engined cars, so that there will be no possibility of anyone using an enormous Wankel engine, or half-a-dozen small ones coupled together, unless such an arrangement can be kept under the maximum weight limit. Gas-turbine driven cars will have no restrictions on the size of the engine or the fuel used, but like the rotating-engined cars there will be minimum and maximum weight limits. For all three categories the existing requirements for Formula One cars will remain, these being such things as self-starters, anti-crash bars, exposed wheels and so on.

For the immediate future we can view the Grand Prix scene as being for unsupercharged 3-litre cars or 1 1/2-litre cars with superchargers, running on normal straight petrol, and my guess is that most designers will get interested in the revival of the supercharger, which will not only give increased horsepower to a given engine capacity, but will improve the torque and flexibility of the engine. Added to this will be the advantage of being able to design a supercharged 1 1/2-litre engine that will present the same bulk as the existing unsupercharged 1 1/2-litre engines, which will mean that the new Formula One cars can look just like a Lotus 25. This does away with the hoped-for “hairy monsters” that many people say they want to see, and I suppose that eventually these people will realise that progress cannot be stopped and the “hairy monster” is a thing of the past and can never be revived with any hope of success. You only have to consider the Lotus 29, the Ford V8-engined Indianapolis car, to realise this. With 400 b.h.p. and 4.2-litres the Lotus 29 is only 10% larger in all directions than a Lotus 25, and when it goes by at 180 m.p.h. it is not possible to appreciate that 10% greater size. Remembering that this new Grand Prix Formula does not come into effect until January 1st, 1966, it is quite likely that Colin Chapman will have found a way of getting 350 b.h.p. into a car the size of the current Formula Junior Lotus, so once more visions of “hairy monsters” diminish. What will be certain is the fact that these new Formula cars “won’t half go,” and lap speeds and records will be sent flying in all directions. We shall get back to some really high speeds, and with modern cornering abilities race speeds will soar, all of which should provide a magnificent spectacle. It is a great pity that the Ford Motor Company would not let Chapman bring one of the Indianapolis Lotus-Fords over to Europe for some demonstration runs, for with it Jim Clark could have set some pretty shattering lap records. You have only to imagine it accelerating out of Stavelot corner at Spa and really motoring up the long drag back to Francorchamps to appreciate how many seconds could be knocked off the existing record. Or to visualise it accelerating out of the hairpins at Reims with a subsequent reduction in lap time. The cars that will be developed for 1966 will certainly be exciting, and will almost certainly follow the present trends as regards general layout.

The other two branches of the new Formula can be covered by a big question mark, but it is to be hoped that interesting experiments will result. Daimler-Benz are not working on the development of the Wankel engine just for fun, and the Rover-B.R.M. turbine car at Le Mans was a step in the right direction. The C.S.I. have been very wise in not limiting the volume of Wankel-type engines, nor of putting any limit on turbines, but experiments with the Wankel-N.S.U. and the Le Mans B.R.M.-Rover have no doubt provided some data on which to form a comparison between these new types of propulsion and the conventional cars. It may be that the weight limits imposed for these two classes are wide of the mark and a Wankel-engined car will out-perform known standards of Grand Prix car, in which case the designers of conventional piston engines will have to try a bit harder – or give up, as in the aeronautical world! Anyway, full marks to the C.S.I. for this new Formula and let us hope it produces some technical strides forward; as I said recently, the F.I.A. are not such a lot of old fuddy-duddies as they sometimes appear to be. I said when the existing Formula was announced in 1958, we must not overlook the fact that it does not come into force for another two years, and the present cars will be pretty exciting after another two years of development, but I feel sure that 1965 will see some race organisers jumping-the-gun, for by then go-ahead firms will have new designs well on the way. The future of Grand Prix racing looks jolly good, but it will not be for beginners or layabouts, the Grand Prix driver of 1966 is going to have to work for his money like never before.

A short while ago I published a photograph of the new Ferrari 250GT Le Mans and suggested that it was the beginning of a new era of G.T. racing coupés. Now Porsche have released details of their new competition coupe for G.T. racing, and it is as exciting as the Ferrari. Porsche have always mounted their engines at the back of the car, but in their G.T. cars it has been mounted behind the rear axle line, which is a true rear-engine position. The Ferrari has adopted the much better mid-engine position, which is in front of the rear axle, but behind the driving compartment. This is standard Grand Prix layout, and while Porsche did this with their experimental G.T. coupé using the 8-cylinder engine, the production G.T. cars were full rear-engine layout. The new Porsche is designated the Type 904, not to be confused with Type 901, which is the touring 6-cylinder that appeared recently at all the Motor Shows. The new 904 is a complete break from Porsche tradition in its construction, for it has a chassis frame comprised of two deep-section box members, suitably cross-braced, whereas previous Porsche coupés have been of monocoque construction, made from thin sheet steel or sheet aluminium. The 904 chassis has double wishbone and coil-spring front suspension, rack-and-pinion steering, double-wishbone and coil-spring rear suspension, all of which is directly descended from the Grand Prix Porsche 8-cylinders. The air-cooled 2-litre Carrera 4-cylinder engine is mounted ahead of the rear axle and drives to a 5-speed Porsche gearbox, and the drive is taken to the independently-sprung rear wheels through one-piece drive-shafts having very clever inboard universal joints that not only swivel in all planes, but also extend in and out on short links, giving friction-free movement to the rear end. These new universal joints achieve by mechanical means exactly the same effect as Lotus arrive at with their rubber-ring “doughnut” universal joints used on their racing cars.

The very sleek coupé body for this new car is made from fibreglass and is bonded to the chassis frame, the whole tail hinging upwards to give access to the engine and gearbox. The accompanying photograph speaks for itself as regards the shape of the Porsche 904. The 4-cylinder engine has 92 x 74 mm bore and stroke, giving 1,966 c.c., and develops 180 b.h.p. (DIN) at 7,000 r.p.m. using Weber carburetters and a 9.8-to-1 compression ratio. This new car is in production, will be sold for racing, and will be homologated as soon as possible, and Porsche insist that it is not an “airport-racer” but an all-round G.T. car that can run in the Targa Florio, on smooth circuits, or in rallies of the Tour de France type. It is 150 kilogrammes (330 lb.) lighter than the previous 2-litre G.T. and has vastly improved road-holding and traction, equal to the RSK sports Porsches of past seasons.

Also announced recently, but not yet built, in contrast to Ferrari and Porsche, is the new Lotus 30. At the moment this is to be a production sports/racing car of new conception, using design knowledge gained from the Lotus 25 and the Elan, and it will have a Ford V8 engine of 4.7-litres, giving 350 b.h.p., mounted in the mid-position behind the driving compartment, and coupled to a 5-speed gearbox. What is more important and interesting is the fact that it is intended to produce G.T. versions of the Lotus 30, with the same mechanical components, and this car will be in direct competition with the Ferrari and Porsche G.T. cars.

The start of all this interesting activity in progressive G.T. cars was undoubtedly that Lola-Ford V8 that appeared just one year ago at the B.R.S.C.C. Racing Car Show at Olympia, when the wonderful low silver coupe sent everyone into ecstasies of joy that took away the cold of the winter for some while. Unfortunately the Lola-Ford hung fire for most of the season, due to one thing and another, but it showed promise of things to come, and it looks as though 1964 is going to see the arrival of these “things.” The Lola-Ford V8 is now progressing rapidly and it would be nice to be able to feature it in the February Motor Sport, as I have just done with Ferrari and Porsche. The first Lola G.T. coupé to go to a private customer recently won a race in the Nassau Party Week, ironically using a Chevrolet engine in place of the Ford unit, which must have made Detroit wince a bit, especially as they are now financing Lola cars, the works cars for 1964 using Ford V8 engines.

The 1964 season of G.T. racing with Ferrari, Porsche, Lotus and Lola coupés of truly modern appearance and construction should be highly exciting. People who cry for “the good old days” should take their dark glasses off and have a look at 1964, it might be well worth while. For some time I have had a distinctly apathetic interest in G.T. racing, and little or no interest in sports-car racing. When sports-car racing developed into thinly-disguised Grand Prix cars I felt it would be better to scrap them and race racing cars, and when G.T. cars were nothing more than old-fashioned vintage-type cars with bulbous bodywork I could work up little enthusiasm. This new breed of G.T. car, started by the Lola, is something different and it really intrigues me, for apart from the look of the cars they are certainly going to develop a most exciting breed for our modern motor roads. Just imagine a Lola-Ford on full noise down the right-hand lane of the M 1. What is more, these works teams of super coupés develop such things as windscreen cleaning, brake cooling, cockpit cooling, heating and water tightness, all of which can be of direct use to production road-going G.T. cars, whereas the sports/racer develops little or nothing that is not covered by Grand Prix cars, and at all times I like to see some return for real motor racing, otherwise one might as well join in stock-car (English) racing or Go-Kart racing.

One final word on racing, and that is that Coventry-Climax are to continue the production of the 1 1/2-litre V8 Grand Prix engine, for supply to Lotus and Brabham and other selected British Grand Prix car constructors. In other words the 1964 scene will be little changed from 1963 as regards the battles between Coventry-Climax, B.R.M. and Ferrari for engine supremacy, which is, after all, the most important part of a racing car. Whether you surround your Coventry-Climax V8 by Lotus, Cooper, Brabham or anything else, Coventry-Climax will be in at the winning, unless beaten by B.R.M. or Ferrari. As Coventry-Climax are in business in mechanical handling, which means fork-lift trucks, transporters, etc., they get little direct return for their efforts in Grand Prix racing, but the fact that British engines win races can only do good for all British products. – D. S. J.