THE 50,000-Mile experiences of MOTOR SPORT’S now three year-old Porsche 911 are related elsewhere in this issue, so it is pleasant to report that the latest 911 is, if anything, an advance on its predecessor. We were able to borrow a 911T for a few days early in December and driving it made winter travel—even in thick fog at one stage—a pleasure rather than the usual trial, and a long motorway trip to Lancashire was an exciting prospect despite almost constant rain.
This latest Porsche differs in several significant respects from the model with which we are already familiar. The 911T is the lowest form of Porsche six-cylinder life, yet with the new 2.2-litre engine it offers more torque even than the previous 911S. The wheelbase was increased at the same time as the engine size grew and the traction of this torsion-bar suspended sports car from Germany has to be experienced to be believed. First gear (of the five forward speeds available) is engaged, the engine gunned and the clutch released, whereupon the car surges forward with the rear wheels spinning slightly and the back end sitting down to hold the car on an even keel. It’s a sensation which is only available to Porsche owners and would make an excuse on its own for spending the best part of £3,700, which is what the importers ask for it.
This Porsche makes a mockery of speed limits, coming as it does from a country which ended its speed-limit experiment with the honest admission that the restrictions simply did not work. Cruising at 110 m.p.h. in the dry is an utterly natural thing to do and this is one of those rare cars in which you actually have to accept the advice of the road signs when the recommendation to “Reduce Speed Now” comes up before roundabouts. Braking normally presents no problems, the ventilated discs offering reassuringly strong stopping power, although the fronts do tend to lock up without warning on slimy surfaces.
We shortly hope to have a fuel-injected 911S available for road test and can only say that we await its arrival with ill-concealed excitement.
A powerful promotion
Whatever one thinks about Formula 5000, the American-engined formula promoted so cleverly by Motor Circuit Developments Ltd., there is no doubt that club-racing drivers can’t wait to get their hands on the cars. The thought of stewing out of a Formula Ford or Formula Three machine into something which duplicates Formula One power (albeit in a rather unsubtle way) is naturally attractive, and there is a common belief that success in F5000 will automatically lead to a safe seat with a Grand Prix team.
At present the manufacturers of the cars are cashing in on the boom, which includes the sale of cars to the USA for the SCCA’s similar Formula A. There will be a new Lola, a revised McLaren, a Monocoque car called the Leda from the drawing-board of former Lotus, Eagle and BRM chassis designer Len Terry, and a Lotus, the latter two at a price (less engine) not far short of £5,000, which is cheap for the formula. An investment on this scale requires a sponsor with a liberal attitude towards racing, especially in times like these when money is scarce, but the backers are apparently stepping forward. The major drawback of the formula is that it is not really promoted on an international scale like Formula Two; nevertheless, the MCD people are expecting a successful year and will occasionally send the cars abroad. One of their more ambitious promotions is the idea of mixing F5000 in with the Grand Prix cars at the Daily Express Trophy race at Silverstone on April 26th. The massed grid of powerful single-seaters cannot fail to make a soul-stirring sound as they leave the line.
When there is little or no racing to watch, the next best thing is said to be spectating from an armchair as a colour film is unreeled before you. Motor Clubs have a huge variety of films available to them from the libraries of such organisations as Castrol, Shell, Ford and several others. One film which is out of the ordinary, yet available to Clubs, is a 16 mm. 25-minute “short” produced for Overseas National Airways, the American Airline which sponsored Mario Andretti’s private racing team in 1968. The film, which is called simply Andretti, traces the Italo-American’s unsuccessful Championship bid from the ballyhoo of Indianapolis to the heights of the Pike’s Peak hill-climb. Also seen are the dirt-track oval races: recently banned from the USAC Championship, run around short ovals on smooth but non-metalled surfaces which encourage tail-out slides to he indulged in by the drivers of those uniquely American and very upright midget cars. But it is Pike’s Peak which presents the most daunting challenge of all with its dust surface and sheer drops. Andretti himself wryly comments that “if you make a mistake, the birds will have built a nest on the car by the time it hits bottom!”.
The film is available from Overseas at 1, Dover Street, London, W1. Another professionally-produced film was presented at the end of December by Fram Filters Ltd., the American company which has a factory in South Wales. They sponsored the international Welsh Rally in 1968 and although the event was soaked by rain almost from the start, the film makes an interesting study for layman and rally man alike. The commentary tends towards the obvious and the accompanying “harp” music grates heavily, but it’s worth sending to Fram for a copy. The address is the Fram Film Library, Fram Filters Ltd., Llantrisant, Glamorgan.