Not long ago it looked as though the new Formula for Grand Prix racing was going to get away to a slow start, but the last few weeks have seen a splendid upsurge in activity and preparation for the start of the 1966 season. A lot of gloomy people were going around saying that 1966 Grand Prix racing was going to be a farce, with drivers using tired old bodged up cars made from obsolete parts, such as the 2.7-litre Coventry-Climax 4-cylinder engine. This attitude was also prevalent among British organisers, who turned their backs on Formula 1 in their plans for 1966, saying that they were not going to organise races for a handful of “tired old bangers,” and, as mentioned last month, only the R.A.C. British Grand Prix is definitely to Formula One this year, with the B.R.D.C. wondering about their May meeting at Silverstone. It was just this sort of thinking that nearly ruined the 1961-65 Formula in its first year. The whole point of a new Formula is to encourage new thinking, and it should be thinking by progressive engineers, not back-yard “special” builders cobbling up cars from obsolete parts. People talked of fitting superchargers to the existing 1,500-c.c. Coventry-Climax V8 engine, seemingly ignoring the fact that good as it may have been it was approaching obsolescence as far as Grand Prix engines were concerned. The idea of supercharging the 16-cylinder Coventry-Climax engine is another matter altogether, for that is a new design with three or four years of development work available. The B.R.M. people probably have as clear an outlook on the true worth of Grand Prix racing as anyone, and started their double flat-eight “H” engine design with long-term development in mind.
Last October it seemed that B.R.M. were more advanced than anyone on their plans for the new Formula, but now it would seem that they are fifth in the race to the first starting grid next May. Cooper, Brabham, McLaren and Ferrari have all shown their hand and produced prototype cars doing circuit testing, and should be well developed by the time the first Grand Prix races occur (ignoring the South African Grand Prix on January 1st). Cooper have done many thousands of miles of circuit testing with an interim car comprising the 1965 chassis built to take the 16-cylinder Coventry-Climax engine that never appeared, into which they fitted a sports-car version of the V12-cylinder Maserati engine that is going to form the basis of their new car. The neat way in which this unit has fitted in the Cooper chassis disposes of any idea that a 3-litre Grand Prix car needs to be big. While they have been doing chassis testing, suspension and tyre testing, and generally getting used to lots of cylinders and lots of power, Maserati have been working on racing versions of the V12 unit, fuel injection replacing the carburetters, and transistorised ignition replacing the multiplicity of coils and contact breakers. The 1966 Cooper chassis will be of monocoque construction, and Tony Robinson is in charge of the project, using the knowledge he gained in building the two B.R.P. Indianapolis cars that qualified to start in the 1965 Memorial Day 500-Mile race.
McLaren has also been doing a lot of circuit testing, finding out about single-seaters in general, using a 4 1/2-litre Oldsmobile V8 engine for test purposes in his first experimental car, which is backed by Firestone Tyres and B.P. petrol. For the 1966 Grand Prix season he is using a 3-litre version of the Indianapolis four-camshaft Ford V8 engine, which he is developing as a private venture, Ford (America) not being interested in supplying Grand Prix engines, and McLaren is doing his engine development its association with “Traco” in California. Realising that he had to get on with things himself rather than wait for someone to give him an engine, he set his team to work early in 1965 and they acquired a quantity of 1964 Ford V8 Indianapolis 4.2-litre engines and started work on a research and development programme, to reduce them to 3-litres. Two versions are under way, one with a reduction in bore and stroke and the other with a reduction in stroke only and as yet no final decision has been made as to which will be used. At Indianapolis the Ford V8 engines use Hilborn fuel injection, but MeLaren will be using Weber carburetters in the beginning. While these engines are clearly too big and strong for a 350-b.h.p. 3-litre, they will mean that McLaren and Amon will have cars ready for the start of the season, and that any engine development work will not be hampered by a weak basic engine, the alcohol-burning 4.2-litre Indy engines being able to withstand nearly 500 b.h.p.
The McLaren single-seater has proved very encouraging during its testing, the basic design and construction obviously being right. The chassis frame is a monocoque, using a material called Mallite, which is a three-layer sandwich of sheet balsa wood compressed between two sheets of aluminium. Riveted and bonded together, this material is immensely strong and light and can be formed into leak-proof tanks, so that the side pontoons of the chassis are the fuel tanks, without the need for inserted rubber bags. Steel bulkheads are used at four points along the length of the chassis, carrying front suspension, instrument panel, engine compartment bulkhead and rear suspension.
The 1966 Brabham chassis follows the lines of the 1965 cars, being of tubular space-frame construction, and already Jack Brabham has been out on test with a 3-litre Repco-Brabham V8 engine installed. While this single-camshaft per bank of cylinders V8 engine, based on the aluminium Buick engine, is not an out-and-out racing design, and will not give vast power outputs, it should be reliable and provide Brabham and Hulme with competitive cars in the early days of the new Formula. The brief appearance that Brabham made at Goodwood indicated that the car is immediately competitive, its future depending on Repco development work.
Just before the end of 1965 Ferrari revealed his 1966 Grand Prix car, which is a logical development of knowledge gained with the 3.3-litre Le Mans Prototype 2-seater, coupled with chassis construction development from the 1 1/2-litre Grand Prix cars. The engine is a 60-degree V12-cylinder unit, with four overhead camshafts, using Lucas inlet-port fuel injection, and coil ignition, with an alternator charging the battery. The engine is coupled to a 5-speed gearbox, and the aggregate is mounted in a chassis frame comprised of a mixture of tubes and riveted sheet aluminium and sheet steel, making a cross between a monocoque and a space frame. The wheels are Ferrari-designed alloy 5-spoke of 14 in. diameter, and, as with Ferrari practice for some years now, the rear disc brakes are mounted inboard on each side of the gearbox/differential unit. The engine has done test work mounted in a prototype chassis and without doubt it will be a serious competitor from the moment the season begins.
As yet the new B.R.M. has not been completed. while Lotus look like being dependent on the Bourne firm, so that until the first B.R.M. is out on test we cannot expect to see a Lotus-B.R.M. on test, unless Colin Chapman has found another power unit, such as a Cosworth-modified Indianapolis Ford V8 engine. The B.A.R.C. were to he courageous and organise a Formula One race at Goodwood on Easter Monday, we can say at this early stage that the field might consist of Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon in McLaren V8, Jack Brabham and Denis Hulme in Brabham Repco V8, Jochen Rindt and Alan Rees (or A.N. Other ) in Cooper-Maserati V12, Lorenzo Bandini in Ferrari V12. and Graham Hill in B.R.M. H-16, with the possibility of further entries of John Surtees with a second Ferrari if he is fully recovered by then, Joseph Siffert with a Rob Walker Cooper-Maserati, if Cooper have given delivery by then. Jackie Stewart if B.R.M. have a second car finished, and Jim Clark in a Lotus-B.R.M. H-16, if the B.R.M. team was complete. I would say that such a field for an opening of a new Formula was not bad going, and would provide an interesting race.We must not expect the first races to be exciting, but they will certainly be interesting. As it is, it seems that Easter Monday Goodwood spectators are going to have to get their satisfaction from 1,000-c.c. Formula Two cars. Personally I cannot wait to see and hear an H-16-cylinder B.R.M. engine running, and if I were going to Goodwood as a paying spectator I would rather see and hear Graham Hill doing a few demonstration laps in a 3-litre B.R.M. 16-cylinder than watch a Formula Two race of tiny, droning 4-cylinder engines.
As at January 1st 1966, I feel that the new era of Grand Prix racing is showing great promise and gives good food for thought for what will be happening to 1968.–D.S.J.