Continental Notes, January 1971
In 1969 the firm of Porsche were putting as much effort into sportscar racing, both as regards money and materials, as the rest of the racing scene put together. It was an all-out effort to establish Porsche technical superiority as well as race winning and the objective was undoubtedly achieved, culminating in the production of 25 of the incredible 4-litre, 12-cylinder 917 models. Throwing all their resources of technicians and engineering facilities into racing meant a severe strain for the production car side of the factory, especially as new laws were being made in America as regards constructional safety, exhaust emission and so on to which Porsche cars were going to have to conform if they were to continue to sell in great numbers in the USA. The decision was made to cut back on the racing programme as far as factory personnel were concerned, and this was done by making arrangements with certain customers to do the official Porsche sportscar racing during 1970.
Direction was divided between the JW Gulf team and the Porsche Salzburg team, both running their own races and organisation with full assistance from the factory, though it was noticeable that Porsche engineers spent more time in the Salzburg team’s pit than in the JW Gulf pits. This did not matter, in fact, for the JW team were well staffed and very capable, whereas the Salzburg team could be seen to need help in running their races. With 917 Porsches driven by Siffert/Redman and Rodriguez/Kinnunen for JW Gulf and by Elford/Ahrens and Attwood/Herrmann for Porsche Salzburg there were some memorable battles to be seen during 1970 and the outcome was almost 100% success for the Porsche 917 and the Manufacturers’ Championship went to Porsche, which was the basic idea behind the 1970 plans. The fact that the two teams often became locked in deadly rivalry did not concern the Porsche factory, all they wanted was a Porsche to finish first and they knew that while the two teams were racing against each other a Porsche was almost sure to win. The only risk was that they might blow each other to pieces in the process, but as the factory supplied all the cars they were pretty sure of their engineering abilities. No mechanical favouritism was shown, both teams getting the up-to-date developments as they were ready, including such things as the 5-litre engine, improved cooling fans, better bodywork, better brakes, and both teams were loaned the experimental 908/3 cars, with the gearbox between the engine and the rear axle, these cars being used in the Targa Florio and the Nurburgring 1,000-kilometre race.
For the Porsche factory the 1970 season was ideal and the results more than satisfactory but to the JW Gulf team it was the converse, for they were conscious all the season of the rival works-supported team giving them a hard time, especially with Elford in the number-one car. They had entered into contract with Porsche to take over the factory racing and at the end of the season they made it quite clear that they were not amused at having to race against Porsche Salzburg. Their prime object was to race against Ferrari, Matra, Alfa Romeo, Lola, Abarth or any other manufacturer who showed up in sports-car racing, not to race against their own factory. In consequence of this complaint it was agreed that Porsche Salzburg would be disbanded for 1971, and as it was to be the last year for 5-litre sports cars the factory were going to pull back on development work on the 917 and prepare for the 3-litre future. For the last big race of 1970 the Salzburg team took on Helmut Marko to replace Hans Herrmann, who had retired from racing, and the young doctor of law showed great promise with his handling of the 917 on his first drive.
While the battles between JW Gulf and Porsche Salzburg were taking place there was a private German team always not far behind, running 3-litre 908 spyders, and often when one of the 5-litre cars ran into trouble it was one of these 908 Porsches that moved up into its place. This was the Martini Racing Team operated by Hans-Dieter Dechent, a young man from Saarbrücken who had done a lot of Porsche racing himself. He enlisted the financial sponsorship of the Martini-Rossi aperitif firm and had Larrousse, Lins, Marko, Pankl and other semi-professionals to drive for him. Naturally most people’s attention was on the 917 teams, but throughout the season the manner in which Dechent operated his small private team was very impressive, and Porsche obviously thought so too, for they received quite a lot of assistance from the factory, with a factory engineer/mechanic always at their disposal.
When Dechent heard that the Salzburg team was to be disbanded he made a bid for the three 917 cars and got them, and also got Elford, Ahrens and Marko to come with them. The Martini-Rossi firm agreed to continue their support, and to increase their effort so that Dechent was able to set up an impressive programme for 1971, with the full support of the Porsche factory, and this got him continued support from Shell petrol and oil, Bosch electrics, Firestone tyres, Cibie lights, Bilstein shock-absorbers, and Rallye-Bitter clothing for the team personnel. All this was announced at a gathering in Germany by Count Gregorio Rossi di Montelera, where he and his brother Vittorio explained their enthusiasm for racing and many other sports which they support with their Martini International Club.
H.D. Dechent’s Martini Racing Team has its three 917 Porsches painted silver/grey with the Martini International Club colours over the top and large insignias on each side and in front. They will run two cars in most events with Elford, Larrousse, Ahrens and Dr. Marko, and when one or another is not available, Larrousse doing some rallies for Porsche for example, then the Dutch driver van Lennep and the Austrian Lins will join the team. The Porsche factory made it clear that they viewed the Martini Racing Team as a serious client, on a par with the JW Gulf team, and that they would receive any new developments on the 917 cars and would be loaned special 3-litre cars for the Targa Florio if the factory thought it necessary. Mention was also made of the projected 12-cylinder-engined 908/3, which if successful would also be loaned to the Martini Racing Team, as it would be to JW Gulf.
Only a few days before the Martini Racing Team announcement the JW Gulf Team had organised a gathering in London to announce that they would be continuing their association with Porsche and running their 917 cars in all the Sports-Car Championship events. With Redman retiring from European racing, his place in the team has been filled by Derek Bell, partnering Siffert, and with Kinnunen being dropped from the team Jack Oliver has been recruited to partner Rodriguez. Whereas the Martini Racing Team’s cars will be prepared in the factory service department by Dechent’s mechanics, with the help of Porsche mechanics, the JW Gulf cars are prepared in the Slough factory of JW Automotive, though the facilities of the factory are always at their disposal.
At both of these gatherings Dr. Porsche’s representative said loud and clear that they do not intend to go into Formula One Grand Prix racing. The JW Gulf people also said that Formula One did not interest them as it had become too much tied up with the individual driver and a victory got little or no credit for the car or the team. One of the reasons Gulf support racing is to get the name of Gulf Oil and Petrol before the public, and Porsche race for similar reasons, so when there is a victory by a Gulf-Porsche everyone is happy. They both feel, and rightly so in my opinion, that a victory in Formula One gives too much credit to the driver and not enough to the rest of the team who are involved, particularly the car.
So, with the 1971 season beginning on January 10th at the 1,000-kilometre race of Buenos Aires, we can look forward to some more great battles between Elford and Siffert in 917 Porsches, which will please the spectators enormously but will not please the JW Gulf organisation. As long as a Porsche wins all the races Dr. Porsche is going to be pleased, and the Sports Car scene in 1971 looks as though it is going to be every bit as good as that of 1970.
Plans for racing on the other side of Stuttgart are quite simple, there are none. Research and development is continuing with the C 111 Wankel-engined car, the four-rotor Wankel engine giving good results, while the problem of the acrid exhaust gases from the Wankel engine are being solved by the use of an after-burner. In all branches of automotive engineering the Daimler-Benz engineers are very busy and the results are incorporated in the ever-improved Mercedes-Benz cars and commercial vehicles. The latest development to be announced is a system that prevents brakes locking on in an emergency stop. The Dunlop company started work on these lines many years ago with their Maxaret unit which was developed for aircraft and is now universally used on large aircraft. Briefly the Maxaret is a mechanical device fitted to a wheel and coupled to the hydraulic brake pressure line, that controls the pressure to the brake irrespective of the driver’s pedal pressure. It is so arranged that the moment a wheel starts to stop rotating brake pressure is reduced and the locking of the wheel is prevented, immediately the braking power falls off the Maxaret increases brake pressure up to the locking point again. The wheel is always on the point of locking, but never actually does so. This is invaluable in wet and slippery conditions, but the mechanical operation of the Maxaret limits the number of changes per second attainable and this limits the braking distance.
Daimler-Benz have been working on this problem since 1966 in close co-operation with the research firm of Teldix of Heidelberg, a newly formed company combining the resources of Telefunken and The Bendix Corporation. The result of this co-operation is now shown in the Anti-Bloc System (anti-brake-locking system) or ABS for short, which achieves its results like the Dunlop Maxaret but the system is electro-hydraulic instead of mechanical-hydraulic. By using electronic sensors at the wheel hubs, and controlling the hydraulic pressure by means of an electronic unit the reaction frequency is greatly increased, to fifteen cycles per second, giving a much more sensitive control and reducing the braking distance on dry roads as well as on slippery surfaces. While the idea of anti-locking brakes is not new, for the Maxaret system has been standard on the Jensen FF for some years now, the Daimler-Benz-Teldix system is a major step forward.
I first experimented with the Dunlop Maxaret on a Mark VII Jaguar more than 10 years ago, when I was immediately sold on the whole principle, and later had the opportunity of watching the Ferguson P99 single-seater undergoing experimental tests with the Maxaret system. As far as manufacture was concerned cost was the problem and though it was offered to the British Industry only Jensen was to take it up. Meanwhile I was able to watch tests on Aston Martin cars and, most impressive of all, on a solo Royal Enfield motorcycle. Since the time when I drove the Mark VII Jaguar through a slippery 70-m.p.h. ess-bend with the brakes hard on, without losing steering or braking control, I was converted, and subsequent driving of the Jensen FF on greasy, muddy roads deliberately trying to provoke it under heavy braking and failing to do so, enhanced my belief in the Maxaret system.
Now Daimler-Benz are to produce their ABS as an optional extra for all their range of cars and for commercial vehicles as well, and recent experience with ABS on the Stuttgart factory test track consolidated my opinion that this must surely become as standard on all motor vehicles as are pneumatic tyres and independent suspension. Like the system on the Jensen, there is a certain amount of “kick-back” in the brake pedal, but far less than with the Maxaret and it is not at all disturbing. Among the variety of vehicles available on the test track were two Mercedes-Benz motor coaches, one with hydraulic brakes, the other with air brakes, and the latter was truly impressive in a crash-stop from 50 m.p.h., much more so than the Mercedes-Benz saloons from 80 m.p.h., for you were very conscious of a large weight mass coming to rest as if geared to the road surface through a rack-and-pinion, and on a wet and greasy surface on which even light braking without ABS would result in one or more wheels locking on. Over and above the safety factor in emergencies the ABS has improved the braking of a normal production saloon by 16%, reducing a normal stopping distance from 60 m.p.h. from 160 feet to 138 feet. With ABS a Mercedes-Benz saloon can now really come to the classic “juddering halt” in a perfect straight line.
It has taken Daimler-Benz AG and Teldix GMBH many years and much money and effort to perfect this new system of braking, but they are now ready to put it into production as an optional, and fairly costly, extra at the moment. But a year or two may see it as standard on the expensive cars in their range such as the 600 limousine and the 300SEL 6.3 V8 saloon, and one day it must become standard on all their cars, just like four-wheel-brakes.
The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, which controls and guides all motoring matters from its headquarters in Paris, and has done so since the inception of motoring at the turn of the century, delegates all motor sporting matters to a sub-committee known as the Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI). It is the CSI that is responsible for all racing and rally matters and they in turn are responsible to the FIA. For the past nine years the President of the CSI has been Maurice Baumgartner, from Switzerland, and last month he ended his term of office and Prince Paul-Alfons von Metternich of Germany took his place as head of the CSI and the ultimate responsibility for all sporting matters, from Karts to Grand Prix cars. Naturally, one man, or even one committee, cannot look after everything, so von Metternich has three new Vice-Presidents in Martin Pfunder of Austria, whose main concern will be manufacturers and the industry, Charles Moran of America, who will be mainly concerned with organisation and finance, and Pierre Ugeux of Belgium, who will be concerned principally with circuits, organisers and drivers. The CSI Bureau is completed by Sture Agvald (Scandinavia), Lord Camden (Great Britain), Bernard Cousten (France) and Alberto Rogano (Italy). Branching out from this main Bureau are numerous sub-committees dealing with specialised items from circuit safety to homologation.
Prince von Metternich, who is 52 years old, has been in German motoring sport all his life, racing Porsches in the mid-fifties and later being very strong in the organisation of motoring sport in Germany. There are those people who think that International Motoring Sport should have a young and vigorous leader, like Nick Syrett, of the BRSCC, or a Grand Prix driver like Graham Hill or Jack Brabham. This view is all very well on a national basis such as we have in Great Britain, but is hopelessly wrong in the International world, where a diplomat is often needed rather than a business man. While everything is flowing smoothly a good business man at the head may be a good thing, but when International problems arise, as they often do behind the scenes, and the CSI have to deal with Governments and even Heads of States, then somebody of Prince von Metternich’s standing is invaluable. in times of stress (and newsmongers in Fleet Street often unwittingly cause this) it may be politic to have discussions directly with Prime Ministers, Dictators, even our own Queen. It is then that your shrewd business man or hero would find difficulty in getting the necessary invitation to the high places where ultimate decisions are made. In Prince von Metternich I feel the CSI has a very worthy President.
At a recent Press Conference the CSI indicated some of the problems confronting them, among which were the awareness of the growing strength of motoring sport on other continents besides Europe and the Americas, and the need to co-ordinate all the activities; the difficulty of formatting rules and regulations in times of great change such as we are in at the moment; the realisation that motoring sport is rapidly dividing into two categories, professional and non-professional, and the need for new methods of control and organisation. (This was never more true than in Great Britain, where the BRSCC should look after professional sport and the RAC look after amateur sport, but that is our own domestic affair.) The CSI is very conscious of the crowded state of the International Calendar, and as regards any regulations involving the construction of racing cars they intend to change them only after consultation with the manufacturers. (This I will believe when I see it happen.) Mention was made that Can-Am racing has now been officially recognised in Paris (pause for laughter!), and 1971 will see an official FIA Championship for Can-Am.
The meeting being over, a shambles of a prize-giving for the 1970 FIA Championships took place and then we were handed a copy of the FIA Calendar for 1971, which omitted completely any mention of Can-Am in its list of approved Championships!—D. S. J.