The future of Grand Prix Racing
Now races in the Argentine command factory entries, it means development and preparation has virtually no rest at all. At one time the season had at least six months in which to prepare for the next bout. Gradually this has been whittled down and with the Argentine races in January and February there are but two months to modify existing designs or prepare new ones. Now development and design must be coincidental with the racing programme and this inevitably entails extra workers in order to keep a full racing team on the go at the same time as design and production staff. This state of affairs is alright for a wealthy organisation, but becomes hard on semi-private concerns who are pushed to keep a full racing team going.
Events have turned full circle, for in the pre-war era, the main fixtures were a playground for the Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union teams, with Alfa-Romeo, Maserati and Delahaye struggling to keep pace with the developments of the efficient German organisations. The private owner considered himself lucky to get a start in a major Grand Prix, let alone have any hope of success. In addition to front-line Grand Prix racing there was “Voiturette”racing, in those days the 1H-litre class, in which the small man could have quite a good go. Today it is the Italians who dominate the Grand Prix world and one can foresee nothing to stop them during 1953 with only the French Gordini team hoping to compete. The rest of the runners, most of which are British, have little or no hope of keeping up. And now, with the season already under way, the outlook gets even worse, for only one new Cooper-Bristol was ready, and that outclassed by Ferrari and Maserati. With the new Formula One coming in 1954 it is understandable that our regular team, HWM, and the up-and-coming Connaught Syndicate, are retaining the same cars for this season, but it will mean that they cannot hope to put up much of a show against the Continentals. Whatever happens we are going to be losing a year’s racing experience, so one hopes that 1954 designs will be raced wherever possible during 1953, for it will be useless to wait until the first 1954 event is held. Ferrari has already tried one of his 1954 designs under race conditions and now that Colombo is working for Maserati we can expect rapid development from that factory. Mercedes-Benz have withdrawn from 1953 sports-car racing to concentrate on preparing their 1954 Grand Prix cars, which will undoubtedly appear under racing conditions on test during the coming season. So far none of the projected 1954 ideas from this country has made any appearance.
This urgency of progress in the development of racing cars is regrettable but inevitable. Grand Prix racing is no longer a sport for moneyed young men, but a technical battle between designers and factories, and this ever-increasing urgency is just one more factor in the game.
Returning to the Argentine races, we can foresee with little effort the form for 1953. Ferrari has regained his self-confidence with Ascari, Villoresi, Farina and Hawthorn as his team of drivers and can be considered in an almost unassailable position. The remaining first-line contender is Maserati, and one foresees truly immense battles between the Colombo-influenced cars and the Lampredi Ferraris. With Fangio, Gonzalez and Bonetto driving the Maseratis there can be no doubt that justice will be done to the car’s potential and Fangio has shown he has lost none of his form, while Gonzalez has never done anything other than “go like a rocket”.
One thing that’s possible in the coming season is teams will have to decide between competing all-out in Grand Prix events or in sports-car events, for there is so much activity it will be impossible to support both to the full. Already Mercedes-Benz have shown their appreciation of the situation by withdrawing from sports-car racing, and it is not difficult to foresee Gordini doing the same. Ferrari seems to have unlimited resources and will probably race teams of sports cars and Grand Prix cars longer than anyone, but the day is fast approaching when most people will have to make the same decision as Mercedes. Now that sports cars of the 300 SL, 4.1 Ferrari, Gordini, XK120C, DB3 and so on have nearly the same performance as the leading Formula Two Cars, and greater performance than many, one wonders whether the era of the early 1930s is not approaching. The way things are going the time seems to be ripe to consider a single class of racing for the leading lights. One cannot visualise such classics as the Mille Miglia or Le Mans being discontinued, neither can one see Grand Prix events being dropped, but there is a deal of duplication among competitors in both categories. Mercedes have found their saloon 300SL to be faster than the open version, Gordini’s sports car is faster than his single-seater Grand Prix car and the 4.1 Ferrari cannot be far off his Formula Two cars. Alfa-Romeo have been perfecting their Disco Volante sports car with a view to duplication in Grand Prix form, so it looks as though the 1954 Formula could happily constitute the sole form of first-line racing. While this would ease the lot of the factories already in the game, it would mean the gulf between the beginner or private owner and the top-liners would become impassable and little concerns like HWM, Ecurie Ferrari France, Scuderia Espadon, Scuderia Plate, Ecurie Richmond and so on would be ruled right out of the game.
With all scientific progress one wonders where it is going to lead, and Grand Prix racing has the same feeling; but somewhere there is the feeling that it cannot be controlled, and the old saying about the “survival of the fittest” would appear to be the true answer. Come what may, 1953 does not look like seeing any falling off in the battle for honours, and if that is so it will provide some excellent racing, but it will inevitably mean that the note of urgency will be raised to an even higher level. DSJ