Around and about: comment on the racing and club scene, January 1972

Aintree lives—just
The passing of the Aintree circuit near Liverpool from the International calendar seems to have evoked remarkably little comment yet it does not seem so long ago that the British Grand Prix was being contested over that exciting three-mile course which nestled alongside the Grand National horse-racing track. Despite the various proposals regarding the sale of Aintree by Mrs. Mirabelle Topham the club circuit has been used as recently as 1970 and there are now plans for racing there in 1972. If, and when, the Aintree circuit is sold by Mrs. Topham then it is probable that a housing development would be built along the Melling Road and the Grand Prix circuit would be gone for ever, although apparently the horse track would be re-routed. It is fairly safe to say that the Grand Prix circuit has seen its last ever race and it is only the tremendous enthusiasm of the members of the Aintree Circuit Club that has kept the club circuit in use.

The ACC still uses the club circuit every Tuesday evening from April to September for motor racing practice sessions and the Chevron factory often brings along cars for development or shakedown testing and such Internationally recognised drivers as Brian Redman and Chris Craft know every inch of the 1.64-mile club circuit because of this. These sessions are open to spectators free of charge, although there is a nominal 15p car parking fee. The club maintains its own pavilion besides the paddock area with drinks and food available.

Two full race meetings were held during 1970 and the one I attended was particularly enjoyable, exciting and well run but, unfortunately, the RAC refused to grant a track licence for 1971 on the grounds of track safety. The work necessary to bring Aintree into line involved filling in a 1,600-ft. ditch, making earth banking vertical for the same length and the erection of a fence for the complete length, plus the final landscaping of the perimeter after the work had been completed.

Because of the possible sale of the land, the owners of the circuit would not give the go ahead for the work on the estimate they obtained. Fortunately one of the club members came up with a much lower quote, as he was able to use voluntary labour, and work is now proceeding. Thus it is planned to run a three-race meeting programme next season with meetings provisionally on May 13th, July 8th and September 9th.

Had it not been for the dedication and spirit in the club, Aintree as a racing circuit would probably have died several years ago. At present there are 250-300 members, and readers in the Liverpool area not in the club are urged to add their support. Further details of the Aintree Circuit Club from the Secretary, Chas. Nairn, 2, Mounthouse Close, Formby, Lancs., L37 3LJ. (Tel.: Formby 76700.)

Silverstone thrives
While Aintree fights for survival, the circuit it used to share the British Grand Prix with, Silverstone, continues to thrive. An exciting season of racing is planned for the coming year and was announced at a Press conference in December.

With the British Grand Prix at (GPDA willing) Brands Hatch this year, Silverstone’s major meeting will be the GKN-Daily Express 24th International Trophy which will be expanded to a bigger festival of speed than ever before. For the first time the meeting will span two days, Saturday and Sunday, April 23rd-24th, and there will be a total of eight races, which will cater for Formula One and 5000, Formula Three, Formula Ford, Saloons and Historic cars. Obviously dates to mark in the diary.

A month later, on May 21st, there will be a new event called the Super Sports 200. This will be a full International on the Grand Prix circuit and the main race will be the British round of the 1972 Interserie which caters for Can-Am-type cars. As the Cam-Am itself will not have started by this date Silverstone hope that several new cars destined for the American series will make their debut at this race and predict that the Formula One and outright lap record may take a knocking. This and the International Trophy will be organised by the BRDC, who, of course, now own the circuit.

On June 17th the Aston Martin Owners’ Club will organise the Martini Trophy meeting which, as last year, will have a programme headed by the British round of the European 2-litre sports cars which provided particularly good entertainment last year. After a year’s absence the Tourist Trophy returns, now sponsored by Esso Uniflow, and again for Group 2 Touring cars. It is on September 23rd and will be the British round European Touring Car Championship, while completing the major meetings will be a Formula 5000 event on August 6th.

There will be several championships based at Silverstone, including, for the third year running, the Triplex Saloon Car Championship, but for the first time there will be Triplex rounds elsewhere. Also based on Silverstone are two completely new competitions. One is the Daily Express Formula Ford championship which will have 11 rounds, eight of them at Silverstone with four as supporting events at International meetings, so they should be hard fought. Then there is the Vandervell Award for Novice Drivers. Drivers who enter the competition must have novice status at the time and not have been racing for more than a year, but they may score in any Silverstone meeting even after they have been upgraded. However, to do so they must finish in the first four in their class irrespective of the experience of the other drivers.

Club racing will continue at Silverstone apace, although those meetings previously organised by the Notts Sports Car Club will now be run by the BRDC, including the three bank holiday dates. As well as other Championship club meetings, there will be two VSCC dates, plus eight other amateur meetings and again there will be an International motorcycle meeting in August.

Over the next few months the circuit will be concentrating their efforts on further improving circuit safety, in accordance with recommendations by the CSI; will construct an all-weather ring road around the outside of the Grand Prix circuit to aid traffic flow and further improve spectator banking. As Peter Clarke, Chairman of Silverstone Circuits Ltd., said, “Nobody grudges a penny of what we have to spend on circuit safety but it cannot be denied that the ever-increasing complex nature of the improvements required, and the high cost of them, put limits on what we can do in other directions”. Thus, although plans exist for a much-needed underpass into the paddock and technical centre they will obviously have to wait. Silverstone also has plans to develop further as a leisure centre for pastimes other than motor racing and there has also been talk of a Motel being built within the grounds. Obviously Silverstone is looking to the future while having an exciting season directly ahead.

Ford competition plans In 1972
Ford is now the only one of the big four British motor Companies to run a fully-fledged competition programme, so when they throw a Press party to announce their 1972 plans it is obviously an important occasion. Very much in charge of the proceedings was the company’s Director of Motorsports, Stuart Turner, who was as erudite as ever. Possibly his most important pronouncement was regarding a super Ford Cosworth DFV Formula One, which has long been rumoured. Turner confirmed that a design for such an engine had been completed by Keith Duckworth but these special engines would only be produced for selected drivers “if they became necessary”. In other words, if the BRM V12 and Ferrari flat 12 engines prove too much for the production Cosworth V8s (now, incidentally, reduced in price to £6,500) then the new Mk. 2 versions will be installed in the back of the cars of those selected by Cosworth rather than Ford.

On the saloon car front the competition department at Boreham will enter an Escort RS1600 in the European Touring Car Championship to be driven by Gerry Birrell, of whom Turner had considerable praise, and the Belgian Claude Bourgoignie. Capris will also be entered in the Championship but by Ford of Germany. In Britain there will be a works Ford Capri RS2600 but this will be run by Malcolm Gartlan Racing for their regular driver Brian Muir, who previously has driven a Chevrolet Camaro for the team. For the third year Gartlan will enjoy sponsorship from the go ahead Wiggins Teape paper firm, who will also be sponsoring the British Saloon Car Championship and renaming it the Wiggins Teape Paper Chase. This news had been announced at an earlier function.

Ford is also considering plans to enter a GT70 and possibly even Capris in selected long-distance sports-cars races and, particularly, have their eye on the Targa Florio and Le Mans, although a final decision on this has yet to be taken. On the club scene the company will continue to back the Escort Mexico Challenge and there will be much stricter scrutineering and will also assist the brave and skilful lady driver Gillian Fortescue-Thomas in this category. Mrs. F.-T. will also drive a Don Moore-prepared full-house racing Escort in Club events and possibly also race a Ford at International level.

Ford are also running an excellent bonus scheme which, for the first time, embraces single-seater racing, including Formula Two, Formula Three and Formula Ford and further details of that are available from Boreham. Turner said that he is only interested in Rallycross if it is being televised and spoke compulsively about rallying although Ford will have a reduced programme.

DAF, too
Holland’s only motor car manufacturer, DAF, has also announced competition plans, the firm having actively supported motoring sport for several years. For 1972 the programme will centre on Rallycross and Hill-Climbs events. For Rallycross there will be two DAF 555 coupés which will be powered by Ford BDA engines, but driving through Variomatic transmission to all four wheels. The two works cars will be driven by brothers, Jan and Harry de Rooy, the former having already been seen many times in England, and their programme takes in Rallycross events all over Europe. As the 1971 season came to an end Jan de Rooy was proving the man to beat with a victory at Croft and then on the televised Cadwell Park meeting where he trounced the works Capri 4-w-d.

In Belgium, DAF will be giving technical assistance to a Huron Group 6 car which will also be powered by a BDA Ford engine through Variomatic transmission. The driver will be Jean Louis Haxhe, who has driven for DAF in rallying, and he will aim primarily at hill-climbs. DAF will participate occasionally in International rallies.

Tyrrell wins Ferodo Award
At a recent function at the Dorchester Hotel Ken Tyrrell received the Ferodo Trophy, generally considered to be the most prestigious award in British motor racing for someone other than the drivers. Tyrrell was selected by an independent panel and received the award from Prince Paul-Alfons von Metternich-Winneburg, who is President of the CSI and of the Automobile Club von Deutschland. Ken Tyrrell, not normally noted for being loquacious, made an excellent speech, during which he paid homage to his two drivers, Jackie Stewart and Francois Cevert, who were both present, his designer Derek Gardner and his team of mechanics led by Roland Law and Roger Hill. He also thanked the British motor component industry in general and Ferodo in particular, for the support thy had given him since he turned a constructor in his own right.

• Winner of the first prize in a photographic competition sponsored jointly by Gulf Oil (GB) Ltd. and Motoring News is Mr. J. J. Dryden, of Hexham, Northumberland, who recently received a cheque for £200. In total there were prizes of £700 and members of the panel selecting the winners included Derek Bell, Tony Brooks and R. H. Mason, the President of the Royal Photographic Society.

• Owners of Daimler SP250 models will be pleased to learn that there is a special section for their cars in the Daimler & Lanchester Owners’ Club. B. T. R. Thorne is the Secretary and he tells us that since the section was formed just over a year ago some 150 members have been recruited. At present he is trying to compile a record of the whereabouts of every SP250 that was produced and requests all owners, regardless of whether they wish to be members, to inform him if they own such a car. However, it would seem worthwhile joining with a monthly magazine, technical advice, a library and spares service available as well as social functions. Contact Mr. Thorne at 57, Northcote Road, London, SW11. (Tel.: 01-228 4522.)

• Having recently driven the staff car, a BMW 1600, fitted with the Torino Wide Oval tyres I can offer some constructive criticism as promised. Undoubtedly the tyres offer really phenomenal grip on the road but their main fault seems to be an alarming tendency to “white line”. So much so that we could not really recommend them, although so far the wear seems to be better than expected. For Formula Ford competitors Firestone continue to offer the tyres at 50% discount.

—A. R. M.