Marcus Simmons - Off the line

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The 100 club

Just imagine the political storm in this parallel universe: the Williams FW27 is showing disappointing form in the first half of the 2005 season, just as McLaren runs into financial trouble (perhaps after a Mercedes pull-out?). McLaren shifts the whole team — MP4-20 chassis, Merc engines, design genius Adrian Newey, maybe even Raikkonen and Montoya — to Frank’s boys, and by the end of ’05 the Williams-McLarens are up and running, ready to steamroller the ’06 season.

Sounds far-fetched, but that’s pretty much what happened in 1955, when the lire-strapped Lancia squad was effectively gifted to Enzo Ferrari, who went on to a dominant ’56 with the iconic D50.

So here we are, almost in 2006 and ready to celebrate 100 years since the first race to bear the name ‘grand prix’, the Grand Prix de l’ACF of 1906. It’s been a century of some thrilling racing, great drivers and weird off-track goings-on — encapsulated perfectly in the story of the Lancia-Ferrari D50.

We’ll be running features during the coming year under the theme of 100 Years of Grand Prix Racing, and the first of those, as you’ve probably already gathered, is Simon Taylor’s story of the D50 and the Vanwall VIV7, both of which he was lucky enough to drive at Donington Park and which represent the midway point of the GP centenary. These two cars are likely to star as part of the 100 Years of GP Racing display at the Autosport International show at the Birmingham NEC on January 12-15. Nearly all the cars in this priceless group, including those Simon drove, will be from Tom Wheatcroft’s amazing Donington Grand Prix Collection.

Of course, although it bears some original parts and is a beautiful creation, there are some who argue that the D50 is not quite the original article. Stretching this point further, in all probability Lola’s decision to build a run of brand-new T70s (also featured in this issue) will create some heated debate.

As far as I’m concerned the more T70s that exist — whether new or old — the better. But if I owned a 1969 model I’d probably be a tad miffed that my car might be about to be blown off by 2006 machines — and potentially lose its value. Is there scope to create a separate series of races for new versions of old models, running within the framework of the big historic meetings?

Please keep your votes rolling in for our ‘Greatest Grand Prix’ poll, to our postal address or email to: [email protected] Don’t forget, the closing date is January 6.