ACCIDENTS are never pleasant things at the best of times and are always to be avoided, but the law of averages in motor racing insists that accidents must happen sometime; so that when they do it is a good thing if we cm learn something from them. At the 1,000-kilometre sports-car race at Nürburgring recently there were two accidents that taught us a great deal. The first was in practice when Scarlatti set off on his first lap of the circuit in an RSK Porsche, the very fast and light one. He knew the way round the Nürburgring, but not in a Porsche and just as he accelerated away from the pits Schell went, by in another works Porsche so Scarlatti tucked in behind intent on letting his team mate show him the way round. Now Schell was on his second or third lap and was well wound up and when he saw Scarlatti in his mirror he was a little concerned, for the ultra-light Porsche can be quite a handful over the Nürburgring bumps until you become used to it. After a few kilometres of twists and turns Schell could still see the other Porsche in his mirror and he thought : “Take it easy Giorgio, you are going much too fast for your first time here with the RSK Porsche,” for Schell was conscious of how fast he was going himself. Down the steep descent to the Fuchsrohe Scarlatti lost control at over 120 m.p.h. and crashed heavily, writing-off the car and putting himself in hospital.
Now, two glaring mistakes had been made, first Scarlatti should not have tried to follow a faster driver before he had become accustomed to the car and the circuit, and certainly not on his first lap, and secondly, and much more important, whoever gave hint permission to start practising at the precise moment when Schell was passing by committed a grave error of team managing. On a circuit with a lap time of about 10 minutes it is not difficult to keep a track of the exact position of each of your cars, so that with three cars they need never be closer than a few minutes apart. To allow the situation of having two cars of the same team nose-to-tail is a gross error, especially when the second driver is inexperienced; had the second car been driven by Behra the situation would not have been so serious but it would have still been bad management. If Scarlatti had gone off on his own it is quite certain that he would not have crashed and Porsche would not have lost an RSK. This situation is often to be seen in Grand Prix racing, especially on short circuits where it is difficult to spread your team cars around, but it is still a mistake to allow it to happen. One often sees two Vanwalls running nose-to-tail in practice and it is unnecessarily risky, not because Moss or Brooks are going to make a mistake and crash, but because it exposes the team to the risk of a crash caused by somebody else. On a circuit such as Monaco where they were running in close company needlessly in practice it only wanted an inexperienced driver to spin round a blind corner and there would have been two bent Vanwalls instead of one. Close company is a risky business at any time and during the race it is part of the overall risk one must take, but to expose team cars to such dangers during practice is not good management, and in the case of Scarlatti at Nürburgring it was almost criminal negligence. I have seen a certain rotund team manager in the past leap into action with his “come-in” flag the moment he saw two of his drivers indulging in a bit of unnecessary close-company with each other. If two drivers from opposing tennis do it that is a different matter. Sometimes you will see two drivers of the same team go out together by mutual consent for one to teach the other, but that is another matter altogether.
The other Nürburgring accident I refer to took place at the end of the race. The driver of a comparatively slow saloon was taking a fast left-hand curve and was keeping close to the apex of the corner and on the left-hand side; in other words taking a normal line through the bend, when Brooks arrived in a DBR 1/300 Aston Martin going a lot faster. Seeing that there was no chance of passing on the left, as per the race rules, Brooks decided to pass on the right, going round the outside of the saloon car, for to try and brake down to the speed of the slower car would have been risky. Just as he was starting to go by a flag marshal saw him and waved his blue flag frantically at the driver of the saloon and he, much against, his will, moved over to the right, according to the rules. The result was that Brooks had no option but to go into the ditch, luckily without hurting himself, but he was out of the race.
Now from this incident there are a number of things to learn. Obviously to allow touring saloons and near-Grand Prix cars on the same circuit at the same time is inviting trouble, but if that is permitted then all right, but both drivers in this incident were officially at fault. Brooks should not have been overtaking on the right and the saloon should not have been on the left of the road according to the book of rules but it is here that the racing rules break down. Obviously the driver of the saloon must be allowed to take a normal racing-line through a bend and equally obviously Brooks had no option other than overtaking on the wrong side. Had the saloon kept to its original line Brooks would have gone round the outside and all would have been well, so we can blame the flag marshal for signalling to the driver of the saloon at this critical juncture of the manoeuvre and we can also blame the organisers who positioned the flag marshal in the middle of the bend instead of before it, and we can certainly blame the driver of the saloon for changing his line halfway through the bend. So it seems that everyone was to blame.
Personally I have very little time for flag marshals, for they are so often badly positioned or incompetent that I often think racing would be better off without them and then the drivers would know they were really on their own and would drive more intelligently, but that is another matter. The real lesson to be learnt from this incident is the golden rule of the real racing men that does not appear in the rule books; once you have starred on a certain line through a corner, stick to it. I learnt this rule when motor-cycle racing and it made a great impression on me for I experienced it from both ends of the scale. When I was racing a solo machine I was invariably lapped by the fast boys and very early on I asked some of the top riders of that era what I should do, being a very new ” rabbit.” It was a very simple matter for me to anticipate the point at which the leaders were going to lap me so I asked if I should keep well over to the right until they had gone by. They were unanimous in their reply: “On the straights you must obviously keep to the right hut in the corners you just keep on your own normal line and get on with your race; we’ll find a way by you. When we see you entering a corner we can estimate your speed and the line you are going to follow and alter our own plant accordingly, but if you change your line halfway round we shall hit you for sure.” I bore this in mind and many times had first class demonstrations of what they meant. On one occasion I was banked over going round a right-band bend at my own personal limit, conscious that I was about to be lapped, when the leader nipped by on the inside of me and the second man went round the outside— and they both looked back and grinned at me as they accelerated away. Later on, when riding passenger to the World Sidecar Champion, I was able to appreciate this sort of thing from the point of view of the overtaker and it soon became very obvious what line my driver was going to take through a corner in order to pass a slower outfit and providing the man in front did not change direction suddenly there would be ample room for us all. It became quite surprising how easy it was to estimate the speed differential of the two outfits and to take into account the path of the one in front even if it was in a controlled slide through the bend.
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The day after the Belgian G.P. there was a small gathering at the Nürburgring about which I will not comment, merely record. The big blue and yellow Maserati transporter carrying three cars called in at Nürburgring on its way from Spa to Modena and two of the cars were the experimental ones that appeared briefly during practice for the Belgian G.P., the third being Godia’s private car. Team manager Ugolini and chief mechanic Bertocchi were in attendance and Stirling Moss first of all drove the new lightweight single seater 250 F. This car has a space frame made of even smaller diameter tubing than used on the 1957 cars, the wheelbase has been shortened by 1½ inches and weight saved wherever possible. The double wishbones of the front suspension are now fabricated from tube and sheet steel, in place of the previous forgings, and there are telescopic shock-absorbers mounted inside the coil springs, which themselves are of smaller gauge wire. At the rear the suspension is still de Dion to the normal Maserati pattern but weight has been paired wherever possible and telescopic shock-absorbers are used. A new 5-speed gearbox has been built to a similar pattern to the old one, but again, smaller and lighter, while a comparatively small fuel tank forms the tail, the line dropping away sharply from the small semblance of a head fairing, as used on the 1957 cars. A short gear-lever is mounted in an open gate attached to the chassis rails quite high up on the right of the cockpit, while this car had a right-mounted throttle pedal in place of the normal 250 F arrangement of a central throttle pedal. It is a known fact that Moss will not drive a racing car fitted with a central throttle pedal. The six-cylinder engine remains quite unchanged, apart from the new combustion chamber design for petrol and on this car the air from the radiator was ducted out through the top of the nose cowling. In view of the weight saving much thinner front brake drums were used, almost like the old original ones of 1954 and at a glance the car looked like one of the 1957 works ears as new owned by Gallia, Scarlatti or Kavanagh, but closer scrutiny revealed the multitude of detail changes made. The steering layout was similar to the last of the V12-eylinder cars used last year, having the steering box mounted up at the front near the top of the right suspension mountings and coupled to the steering wheel by a universally-jointed shaft running under the three double-choke Weber carburetters.
The second experimental car was the V12-cylinder 3-litre sports car, this having a power unit identical to the Grand Prix engine of last year, except for having coil ignition for the 24 plugs supplied by a pair of normal 12-cylinder distributors and two coils, instead of the special 12 contact-breaker units and 24 separate coils used on the G.P. engine. The reason for this being that this 3-litre unit is not intended to rev as high as the G.P. engine. It was mounted in a shortened 300S chassis, using the 300S-type suspension and gearbox.
After lapping in 9 min. 37 sec, with the new G.P. car Moss took out the V12 sports car but it was not at all happy, suffering front misfiring at high revs and over-steering badly. Meanwhile the G.P. car had the rear shock-absorbers changed and then Moss went out again and finally lapped in 9 min. 27 sec. without taking any chances. The lap record stands at 9 min. 17 sec. put up last year by Fangio with a 1957 Maserati, while, next fastest ever at Nürburgring was Hawthorn in 9 min. 23 sec, with a Lancia/Ferrari. Masten Gregory was also in attendance and did a few laps in the G.P. car and as there is a second one of this new type being built it seems likely that he may shortly be seen in races with it, which should stir things up. Maserati people then packed-up and went on their way to Modena to continue testing the 4.2-litre V8 single-seater they have built for the Monza 500-mile race. I never did believe those newspaper stories about Maserati giving up all racing activity!
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So often one hears of important events clashing and little being done to alleviate the difficulties that arise, but it is refreshing to hear from the organisers of the Tour de France that they have Overcome the clashing with the T.T. sports-car race. As planned the Tour de France Automobile, which is organised by the Automobile Clubs of Nice and L’Ovest in conjunction with the French Federation and the French newspaper L’ Equipe, was due to start in Nice on September 13th, the same Saturday that the T.T. is due to be run at Goodwood. As the Tour attracts many racing drivers this meant that a lot of potential runners would have to choose between one event or the other, so the organisers of the Tour de France have postponed the start by 24 hours, so that it now takes plate on Sunday, September 14th. L’Equipe have organised a special aeroplane to fly from England to Nice on Saturday evening after the T.T. so that drivers can be in bed before midnight. As the larger capacity classes in the Tour leave last, some time in the afternoon, such racing drivers who want to compete can be assured of adequate rest between events. Naturally L’Equipe would like to know as soon as possible how many drivers plan to do both events and use the aeroplane, so if you are driving in the T.T. and want to start in the Tour de France as well, get in touch with the organisers now. To refresh the memory. the Tour de France is a Rally that goes all round France, stopping at practically every circuit in the country for a speed test of some sort., usually short class races, Le Mans. Pau, Reims, Ste. Ettienne, Mont Venteux, Rouen and La Turbie are among the exciting venues. The Rally part is not very difficult but the racing is and the outright winner needs something like a Ferrari 250 G.T. and his name usually figures in the G.P. lists. It is quite a dice.
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Continental road construction is always a source of interest to me, especially as I spend most of the year driving on these roads to get from race to race. The latest development to be finished and which I used recently is the “throughway” across Brussels. This road, which starts in the north of the town. goes up onto a super-elevated three-lane road across the first part of the town, then descends to ground level for allowing cars to turn off into town, and the “throughway” or central lane then goes down into a tunnel under the centre of the city, re-appears for a moment to allow further exit or entrance lanes to join it, and continues through another long curving tunnel to reappear on the top of the hill which is the southern part of the town. It is the most complete answer to traversing a big city and must surely rank as one of the mid 20th-Century engineering wonders of the world. Belgium has always been a progressive little country and since the recent talks about re-numbering the roads of Europe to a uniformity, the road from Ostende to Brussels and on through Liége to the German frontier at Aachen has been re-numbered E S. During the International talks it was suggested that main European arteries be numbered E 1, E 2, E 3 and so on to facilitate trans-Continental travel, and the Ostende-Brussels- Liége road was envisaged as E 5 to carry on along the German autobahnen to Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich, Salzburg and into Austria. Without further ado, Belgium has set the ball in motion and every now and then you see a circular green sign with E5 in white; it denotes European Highway Number 5 and full marks to Belgium for getting on with what is so obviciusly an excellent idea. Continued on page 435
Since writing the previous paragraph I have had occasion to motor through Holland and Luxembourg and I noticed that the road from Amsterdam to Liege has been renumbered, all the kilometre stones now bearing the sign E9, in conformity with the Ostende-Liége road ES, while down in Luxembourg I came across E42 It was the Benelux countries that first abolished the fatuous Carnet de Passage for cars, which lead has now been followed, with the exception of England, Italy and Spain, by all European countries. Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg (Benelux) may be small countries but they are certainly progressive so let’s hope that the uniform numbering of roads the length and breadth of Europe will soon be an accomplished fact. The case with which one can motor across a frontier, from Germany to Luxembourg, or Austria to Switzerland, for example, merely showing a passport and an International Green Insurance paper, is one of the few real benefits to be experienced in international relationships over the past 10 years. – D.S.J.