The 1,000 Kilometre Race at Nurburgring

Adenau, May 27th.

This year the A.D.A.C. had their 1,000 kilometre race inscribed in the list of events counting for the Manufacturers’ Championship and as a result the greatest collection of sports cars and sports-car drivers ever seen on the Nurburgring were gathered together. With entries from all the leading factories it was a true championship event, the only doubtful point being the inclusion of rather a large number a unknown private drivers.

Practice times in a big sports-car event usually count for little, for when a Le Mans-type start is used, the organisers invariably line the cars up in order of engine size instead of performance. For the Nurburgring race the arrangement was still a Le Mans-type start, but with the cars in order of practice times, the only snag to this otherwise excellent arrangement was that no account was taken of who drove which car in practice. The Ferrari and Maserati teams were using more cars than drivers for practice, with a result that there was a lot of chopping and changing about, and times were only credited to the race number of the car, and a driver might make fastest lap and have to start fourth or fifth in the line, due to having practised on one of the other team cars.

There were three days’ practice and the first one saw quite a large amount of activity, though many of the works drivers were circulating in their private cars to learn the course, for the Nurburgring is not to be tackled lightheartedly. The regulations made a strong point that no passengers were to be carried during practice, having in mind two-seater sports cars, but when family saloons arrived on the line loaded to capacity with drivers, there was some anguish caused when the officials turfed them all out. For some reason best known to themselves the Nurburgring authorities had rebuilt two of the corners on the circuit, Aremberg and Schwalbenschwanz, completely altering the whole aspect of the second one and making it much faster than before. The Aston Martin team had been to the circuit earlier in the month and become pretty well acquainted with what was needed, though Jaguars arrived blindly and had to do some rapid rear axle changing, being much too over-geared. Both these teams had only two cars apiece, with no spare for training or in the event of trouble, while the Italian teams arrived with spare cars and engines, and on the second day there was gloom in the Jaguar team for Paul Frere looped-the-loop into the bushes with the second D-type and bent the chassis frame. A urgent phone call to Coventry energised the works and another car was driven out overnight, which was good proof of the roadworthiness of the D-type Jaguar. The Ferrari team was undecided about who should drive four-cylinder cars and who should drive 12-cylinder ones, but after a great deal of practice by all the drivers, and a reshuffle of the pairing of drivers, there was satisfaction all round. Maserati had only the 3-litre cars for their top drivers, so there was no problem, but there was a certain amount of re-arranging of the pairs of drivers. Throughout the whole of the second day of training it rained and as the weather did not look like breaking up almost everyone practised, in case the race had to be run in the wet. On the Saturday morning before the race there was a final practice period and at last the weather had cleared and the track was dry, so that there was plenty of activity, but with drivers trying different cars all the time it was impossible to keep track of everyone’s best laps. When the official timekeepers gave a very fast lap for car number six, the Maserati driven by Taruffi and Schell, it was quite obvious that it was during the time Moss or Behra were driving the car, and similarly with the Ferrari team.

Watching on the Sudkerve and later down the hill to Hatzenbach, it was possible to see which drivers were really trying and one of the most outstanding was Maglioli with the factory Porsche, his first experience with the rear-engined car. All the big boys, such as Fangio, Castellotti, Moss, Behra, Hawthorn and so on, were naturally fast, for they try all the time. After much changing the final pairing of drivers had been decided upon, and Ferraris had at last decided which cars to use. As follows, the first-named driver was the one to start the race, Fangio/Castellotti (Ferrari four-cylinder); de Portago/Gendebien (Ferrari fourr-cylinder); Musso/Trintignant (Ferrari 12-cylinder); Hill/Wharton (Ferrari 12-cylinder); Moss/Behra, Taruffi/Schell, Perdisa/Manzon, all on 3-litre Maseratis; Hawthorn/Titterington and Frere/Hamilton with Jaguars; Collins/Brooks, Walker/Salvadori with Aston Martins. Then in the smaller class, Herrman/Frankenberg, Trips/Maglioli with Porsches; Barth/Rosenhammer, Thiel/Binner with the renamed A.W-E. cars; Pilette/Giardini with the only factory Maserati 1 1/2-litre, the other having broken its front suspension and being replaced by a 3-litre; Chiron/Villoresi (Osca) and so on, down through all the private owners of Porsche Spyders, Mercedes-Benz, and Alfa-Romeo Giuliettas.

From the fall of the flag it was Moss who set the pace and by Quiddlebacher-Hohe on the opening lap he had outdistanced the rest of the field. In amongst the big cars was the Porsche Carrera of Nathan, which had made a good start, while Frere, Perdisa and Herrmann were all a long way back and both A.W.E. were farther back than they should have been. With a clear road in front of him Moss pressed on hard and got well out into the lead, followed by Fangio, Hawthorn, Collins, Musso, Hill, Taruffi and Trips.

In a race such as this, with every type of car from a 12-cylinder Ferrari to a 1,300-c.c. Porsche, it is possible to visualise the approximate order in which the cars will pass on the opening laps. Consequently when any particular one is going exceptionally well it stands out as being out of place. The little Porsche Spyder of Trips was one of these, as was the 300SL factory car of Riess, the Carrera of Nathan and the Giulietta of Bonnier. Equally a fast car being driven slowly becomes rather obvious, for it is surrounded by smaller and slower cars, but such cars should not be mentioned, and in fact they should not be racing.

On the opening lap Portage went off the road, after scratching past Collins, but he gathered together enough people to help him get back again and then stopped at the pits to have the damaged bodywork cut away. The long procession of cars soon spread out, with Moss way ahead, some 10 sec. in front of Fangio and after only two laps these two were an indecent distance in front of the rest of the runners. Hawthorn was doing wonders with the Jaguar, which was by no means easy to handle on the difficult Nurburgring, while Collins was sitting back and playing a waiting game, the Aston Martin not being powerful enough to make it worthwhile to attempt to attack. On the third lap Musso spun off as he left the Sudkerve and unfortunately the car rolled over on him and broke his arm. By the fourth lap the leaders were passing through the traffic at the end of the field and they had both settled down now to a distance of 8 1/2 sec. between them, well out of sight of the Jaguar that was lying third. Frere and Herrmann had been romping through the field after their bad starts, though the Porsche had again been delayed, at the pits, to mend a brake adjuster. Riess was comfortably leading the big Gran Turismo cars, Nathan the 1,500 c.c. group and Bonnier the little ones, while Trips was unchallenged in the small sports class, and was still running seventh overall, in spite of losing second gear during the fifth lap. With so many cars on the track the overtaking problem for the fast cars was acute, and one time Moss would get an unobstructed run and the next time Fangio would, but the result was that the gap between them began to widen, the young master’s dash and daring paying off better than the old master’s care and caution.

Although the leaders were still pressing on, others were falling by the wayside or stopping at the pits to cure troubles. Frere broke the gearbox of the works Jaguar and retired at the pits, so that Hamilton did not get a drive, Collins lost a whole lap while dirt was cleaned out of the carburetters and pipe lines, a trouble he had experienced during practice, and Seidel’s Porsche Spyder stopped with a broken steering arm. By 10 laps reports from observers round the course were beginning to get back to race control, and as a result of these “tell-tales” Hawthorn was flagged in and warned about passing on the wrong side, whereas all the other fast drivers were having to do the same thing, but no one “split” on them. Portago’s car was disqualified instantly when it was discovered that he had received assistance to get it back on the road, so Ferrari announced that they would put the team Portago/Gendebien into the car of Hill/Wharton, and as a result Wharton did not get a drive. In the meantime Herrmann set up a new class record with the factory Porsche, in 10 min. 23.1 sec., which compares well with the fastest lap of the day, by Fangio, in 10 min. 05.3 sec. About this time refuelling took place, and driver changes were made, but before this the order was still Moss, 25 sec. ahead of Fangio, then Hill, Taruffi, Hawthorn, and the others a long way back. The leaders of the other groups had not changed, and Bonnier was leading not only the 1,300 c.c. group but also the 1,500 c.c. and Porsche people were looking down their noses at the little red Sprint Veloce.

One by one all the cars refuelled and changed drivers, but there was little change. Behra was keeping the leading car ahead of Castellotti, Gendebien was in the Hill/Wharton Ferrari and Titterington was going well in the lone Jaguar. As Behra was going round on his 18th lap nearly one minute ahead of Castellotti, there was an ominous grinding noise from the rear of the Maserati and at the end of the lap he pulled into the pits. There was nothing to do, for the rear transverse leaf spring had broken in the nearside and the car was out, but Maserati quickly nominated the team Moss/Behra to their second car, called in Schell who had only just taken over from Tarufli and was lying third, and gave the car to Behra. This was a severe blow to Maserati, for their third 3-litre had already retired just after Manzon took over from Perdisa, with a broken rear shock-absorber link, and their only 1 1/2-litre car had been withdrawn when one of the Weber carburetters sheared its mounting studs. The private 1 1/2-litre Maseratis were going terribly slowly and were no match for the two factory Porsches which were still going very fast in the hands of Maglioli and Frankenberg. All the Maserati hopes now rested on their second 3-litre car and it was fortunate that Taruffi had gone so well in the early stages and got the car into third place overall, for it gave the Moss/Behra pair a chance of victory.

At half-distance, or 22 laps, the order was Fangio/Castellotti, then Gendebien driving the Hill/Wharton car, Behra in the Taruffi/Schell Maserati, Hawthorn/Titterington Jaguar, Trips/Maglioli Porsche, and then Walker/Salvadori one lap behind in their Aston Martin, followed by the second factory Porsche and then the second factory Aston Martin. Riess had broken the gearbox of the works 300SL, but Bonnier’s second driver Mackay-Frazer was keeping the little Giulietta ahead of all its rivals. The two smooth-looking A.W.E. cars were still running well, in ninth and eleventh positions, but lacking top rank drivers, while those two old gentlemen, Villoresi and Chiron, were enjoying themselves with the 1 1/2-litre Osca in 10th place.

Lap after lap went by and Behra moved up into second place when Gendebien stopped for fuel and handed over to Portago, and then the Maserati closed up appreciably on the leading Ferrari when Castellotti did the same, and Fangio took over. The Maserati was going exceptionally well and Behra began to close on Fangio now, until he was only 10 seconds behind, but then he had to stop for fuel and Moss took over. The Maserati pit work was very good, for while two mechanics changed the rear wheels, Moss filled the fuel tank, using two gravity filler pipes, the oil was checked and the car was away again in 57 sec. This was at the end of lap 32 and, though Moss came by at the end of the next lap 66 sec. behind the leader, there was a sporting chance of him being able to catch Fangio, especially as it was not certain whether Fangio would have to stop again. For the next six laps all eyes were on the narrowing gap between the leading four-cylinder Ferrari and the hounding six-cylinder Maserati and yet all the time there were other things happening all around. The special 220a Mercedes-Benz of Bauer/ Heeks split its fuel tank and retired, the Carreras of Nathan/Kaiser and Schultze/Nogueira, the Portuguese driver, were only a few lengths apart from each other in their dice for 2-litre Gran Turismo class, and Bonnier put in a shattering lap in 11 min. 48 sec., a clear 20 sec. faster than any 1,300 Porsche has ever done.

Hawthorn was comfortably in fourth place, back in the Jaguar once more, but had a slight moment when he bumped the rear of a slower car, fortunately with only superficial damage to the Jaguar. At the end of lap 37 the Jaguar drew in to refuel, but it was found that the overload tank in the cockpit had sprung a leak. Unlike the main tank, which is rubber, the extra tank on this car was made of aluminium and vibration and the chassis-twisting nature of the course had caused a baffle to tear out a rivet. After a long delay, during which time both works Porsches, the two Aston Martins and one of the A.W.E. cars went by, a repair was effected and Titterington set off, now ninth and one lap behind the leaders. In spite of the tank repair holding out, the Jaguar settled things finally by breaking a half-shaft three laps later. Moss was now really pushing the Maserati, gaining as many as six sec. a lap on Fangio and each time he came through the starting area he received so much information from his team that he could have become muddled, had he not been well aware of the situation. The Maserati pit signalled him the gap between himself and Fangio, a bit farther on Schell had a private sign telling him Fangio was not stopping for fuel (actually false information), then there was Taruffi waving him to take things steadily and not blow up the engine, and finally Behra was urging him to go faster and catch Fangio. Moss realised that they all had an interest in how the car finished, but took no notice and continued to run his own race from the information the pit was giving him.

On lap 40 Castellotti was standing at the Ferrari pit ready to take over from Fangio, and the car drew in; a quick squirt of fuel into the tank and Fangio leapt back in the car and roared off again, leaving Castellotti by the roadside still wearing his crash hat. The stop had taken only 25 sec., but it was too long and Moss had gone by into the lead and at the end of the next lap he was 26 sec. ahead of Fangio. It was now just a question of not breaking the car for the remaining three laps, for Fangio could not make up time. Meanwhile the rest of the runners were circulating, some merely hoping to finish, others still racing hard, especially the two Carrera Porsches of Nathan/Kaiser and Schultze/Nogueira, who were still only a few lengths apart and came into the pits for their final refuel together. Gendebien was comfortably third, but was a bit shaken when Brooks sat on his tail for three laps with the Aston Martin and then passed him, though he was a lap behind. The other Aston Martin had worked itself into fourth place by consistent running and Salvadori seemed all set to bring it through to the finish, when only 2 1/2 laps before the end, and 1 1/2 for him as he was a lap behind the leader, the de Dion tube broke and a rear wheel and brake tore itself away from the chassis leaving the car skating to rest on three wheels, fortunately on a straight part of the course. The two factory Porsches were still running well, though devoid of brakes and were nicely placed fourth and sixth. Much to the relief of Taruffi, Schell and Behra, the leading Maserati kept going and Moss came over the line to record his name once more on a list of winners, though this time having been helped by his team-mates. After 7 3/4 hours of racing Fangio arrived second only 26 sec. after the winning car, which gives some idea of the equality between the two Italian teams driver/car combinations. As each class winner completed the 41 laps, or 1,003 kms., the rest of the class were flagged in, so that for some while after the winning Maserati had arrived and the four drivers had received their laurels, the smaller cars went on circulating until the leaders covered the full distance.

Natters From Nurburg

Before returning to England the Jaguar team had to fit a new half-shaft to one car, and a new gearbox to the other, all three cars, including the bent one, having to be driven back to Coventry. Someone should buy them a transporter.

The Italians threw all their wreckage into vans and trucks and sent it home after the race.

Neubauer and Kling were looking after the 220a and 300SL models. For four-seater family saloons the 220a models were outstanding and showed remarkable roadholding properties.

Random timing of most of the drivers through a series or ess-bends showed Tony Brooks by far the fastest, not to say the smoothest.

The vast Ford Thunderbird, in the hands of two German drivers, took up a lot of space, but eventually amused the crowds at Hatzenbach by spinning like a top and disappearing into the bushes. With graceful ease it gradually sank out of sight down an embankment as the bushes gave way under its weight.

Full marks to Aston Martin for providing a contact man between the pits and the Press, at least some information was correct.

The tank repair on the Jaguar was effected by opening up the hole until it would take a rubber blanking grommet, the contact of petrol causing this to swell and seal itself. It was still leaking next morning.

The reliability and speed of the Sprint Veloce Alfa-Romeo was outstanding and, after winning his class, Bonnier set off over-night to drive to Sweden to compete in a rally two days later:

The sight of Hawthorn and Frere with the D-types broadside on in the wet during practice was most inspiring. Two very brave men. Bueb did an enormous number of laps in his 2.4-litre saloon, as reserve driver, but he was not needed.

Notes On The Cars At Nurburgring

The Ferrari team were still undecided about the most suitable type of engine for their sports cars and brought along three 12-cylinder cars and two four-cylinders. These were virtually identical externally and in chassis layout, and were similar to those used in the Mille Miglia. During practice it was a question of deciding on which engine characteristics suited the circuit and also the drivers, for some preferred the high-revving 12-cylinder and others the low-revving “lumpy” four-cylinder. In performance there was little to choose, both types being 3 1/2-litres, and though the 12-cylinder had more power, the four-cylinder had greater torque. Maserati were providing the major opposition and entered two 3-litre cars, identical to those used in other sports-car races this season, and they had another one as spare. They also had two entries in the 1,500-c.c. class and had a pair of works 150s cars, more or less as sold to the public, but with the modified cylinder heads with inclined carburetters as practised on the G.P. engines.

From England there were two Jaguar entries, and the Coventry firm had two cars, one fitted with Lucas fuel-injection, the other with Weber carburetters and in all other respects these were normal works D-types. The new de Dion-axled car, which would have been a great help on the Nurburgring, could not be brought, as it was a virtual write-off after the Silverstone crash. Aston Martin had two completely unchanged “works DB3S models, with disc brakes, Weber carburetters, 12-plug cylinder heads and identical in specification to those raced at Sebring earlier in the season, and, in fact, last season.

These comprised the over-2,000-c.c. racing/sport class, and it was interesting that mechanically the total entry contained nothing knew, giving the impression that design in the big sports car world has reached saturation point for a while.

In the 1,500-c.c. racing/sports class there were the two factory 150S Maseratis, already mentioned, and three privately-owned models. Porsche had two entries, both being brand new cars and developments of the Spyder. They had multi-tube space frames of good technical conception, the normal Porsche trailing-arm and torsion bar front suspension, but a new swing-axle rear-end. This was modelled on the G.P. Mercedes-Benz, having two swinging arms carrying the wheel hubs, these arms pivoting about a common point below the differential unit. Single radius plates running forwards controlled the fore and aft movement of the wheels and the normal system of transverse torsion bars were coupled to the pivot points of the radius arms. The engine and gearbox were the normal Spyder layout, with drive shafts containing two universals each taking the power to the wheels. The gearbox was the factory four-speed with “under-drive” starting gear. The engine was still the well-tried air-cooled flat-four, with a camshaft to each set of valves, and the only major modification was the fitting of the two distributors for the coil ignition on a housing bolted to the nose of the crankcase, whereas before they were mounted on the ends of the inlet camshafts.

From the East Zone of Germany came two of the well-known six-cylinder cars from Eisenach, formerly known as E.M.W., but now renamed A.W.E. – Automobile Werke Eisenach. The only modification these cars contained since last year was the fitting of a five-speed gearbox, though experimental work is progressing at the factory on fuel-injection and desmodromic valves. To complete this class there was a single private Osca and a home-made special using a Porsche Super engine and gearbox and Cooper-like rear suspension.

In view of the factory opposition in the 1,500-c.c. class a second group was formed for production sports cars, and this contained five private Porsche Spyders and a lone M.G.A. from England. Among the Spyders was one owned by two Swiss drivers and they were experimenting with an inverted aero-foil mounted above the cockpit and acting on the C.G. of the car. This “upside down wing” was controlled by the driver through a lever and cable system, and could be turned about its horizontal axis from -3 degrees to +17 degrees to give no lift or a negative lift, thereby increasing the pressure on the tyres when cornering and improving the cornering power of the tyres. It was calculated to be effective at speeds up to 200 k.p.h., the Spyder’s maximum, and by trial and error the drivers found it possible to increase their speed round a given corner by as much as 500 r.p.m. Although acceptable to the scrutineers, it was turned down by the non-technical members of the race organisation on the grounds of danger to other competitors and the public, for they imagined it might part company from the car. Rather like an aeroplane being accepted for the King’s Cup Air Race and then told it could start providing the aerilons and rudder were removed!

The over-2,000-c.c. Gran Turismo and Special Touring class contained one works 300SL and some private ones, two special factory-prepared 220a Mercedes-Benz and a Ford Thunderbird (ahem!). The 1,300-2,000-c.c. group of this category consisted solely of Porsches, 1,500 Supers, 1,600 Supers and Carreras, and finally the 1,001-1,300-c.c. group contained equal numbers of Porsche Super and Alfa-Romeo Sprint Veloce cars, the little Italian cars hot from their success in the Mille Miglia, most of them with factory attention.