VI GRAND PRIX ROUEN-LES-ESSARTS

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Denis Jenkinson

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92

An Easy Win for Behra and Porsche

Rouen FRANCE, June 8th.

ALTHOUGH the meeting at Rouen this year, on the magnificent circuit of Les Essarts, had the air of a Silverstone club meeting, it saw the first direct comparison in the 1,500-c.c. class this season between Porsche, Lotus and Osca, with a most convincing demonstration by the German firm.

The race was run over a period of three hours and there were classes for 1,500-c.c., 1,100-c.c. and 750-c.c. sports cars to the International Annexe C specification, or, in other words, in Le Mans trim. all the groups running collectively but in fact competing for three separate lists of prizes. Practice, in the early hours of the morning the two days before the race, was marred by accidents involving Ashdown (Lotus XI), Flockhart (Lotus Fifteen) and Burgraff (Porsche Spyder), all three drivers being injured and detained in hospital. There was a needle-match for the front row between Lotus, Porsche and Osca cars driven by Allison, Beira and de Tomaso, and the Lotus Fifteen of Flockhart. came out on top one-tenth of a second ahead of the works Lotus Fifteen of Allison and seven-tenths of a second ahead of the Porsche, which was a standard 1500 RS belonging to the Porsche Agent in Paris and loaned to Behra for the occasion, while the Oscar was nearly two seconds slower. In addition to the two works Lotus Fifteens of Allison and Hill, similar cars were driven by Frost and Berchem, and during practice Allison tried Frost’s car to see if it was going all right-it was, for he lapped only one-tenth second slower than Behra’ s Porsche so Frost found himself credited with fourth fastest time overall. Among the 1,100-c.c. cars Lotus had it all their own way and that neat little driver Alan Stacey, making his first appearance in a race outside Great Britain, was a full two seconds faster than Ireland and four seconds faster than Ashdown. In the 750-c.c. class the small French firms were trying out Le Mans prototypes. Monopole-Panhard having one car with overhead camshafts and D.B. having a new car with a cockpit and windscreen copied from Lotus and a new ignition system on the flat-twin Panhard-based engine. However, they were all a bit upset by Isabelle Haskell, the American girl, who was driving a 750-cc. Osca, for she was nearly two seconds faster than the works D.B.

With Flockhart. Ashdown and Burgraff being eliminated from the race, everyone moved up a bit on the crowded starting grid, and Allison took pole position on the right, with Behra alongside and then Frost, while behind were de Tomaso and Graham Hill, so it augured well for a three-cornered battle with the odds very much on Lotus. The third row saw Stacey, Ireland and Vidilles, all in Lotus Xls, so that the result of the 1,100-c.c. class was almost foregone so far as the make of car was concerned, the only opposition coming from a lone Elva, an early Osca and a modified Stanguellini, and two Tojeiro’s driven by Utley and Threlfall.

As the field disappeared down the hill on the opening lap the road looked dangerously crowded and there was a fair amount of elbowing going on, but all was well, and up the hill after the hairpin at Nouveau-Monde Behra led from de Tomaso and Allison. Along the back straight Allison sailed past the red Osca but then, when he started to brake for the following hairpin, the Lotus felt as if the front was going to fall off and he went up the escape road hardly daring to use the brakes. Meanwhile, another Lotus Fifteen was in trouble, for Berchem had had a rear radius-arm break and had subsided onto the grass; the works cars had already had this trouble in practice and had been modified. At the back of the field, Chancel, in the o.h.c. Monopole-Panhard, had gone off the road and the car had caught fire and at the end of the opening lap Behra came by way out on his own, followed by de Tomaso, equally lonely, and then Allison and the rest of the field. Stacey already had a commanding lead on the other 1,100,c.c. cars and Mrs. Haskell-Tomaso was way ahead of all the French 750-c.c. cars. As soon as Allison got the hang of not braking heavily he whipped past de Tomaso’s Oscar and took second place, but there was no hope of catching Behra, who was touring round serenely in front, lapping the tail of the field after only four laps. In spite of his difficulty, Allison set up fastest lap in 2 min. 40.4 sec. and gradually left the Osca and Hill in the other works Lotus Fifteen a long way behind. Hill was holding fourth place, but only just, for Stacey was in his mirror all the time and while the privately-tuned 1,100 was running perfectly and being driven immaculately. the works 1,500 was jumping out of gear, suffering front poor brakes and leaking gearbox oil. After a bare 10 minutes had passed Utley was in trouble with the steering on his pretty little Tojeiro, while Threlfall in the sister car was a bit worried by high water temperature.

Almost exactly 30 minutes after the start the 1,500 Osca was in trouble and retired at the pits with a broken gearbox, and this let Hill into third place, so the order was Behra (Porsche), Allison (Lotus Fifteen), Hill (Lotus Fifteen), Stacey (Lotus XI), Ireland (Lotus XI). Frost (Lotus Fifteen), Hicks (Lotus X1), Vidilles (Lotus XI), Veuillet (Porsche) and Hall (Elva), while the order in the 750 class was Haskell (Osca), Laureau (D.B.), Hemard (Monopole), so that the overall classification was a Lotus procession unfortunately headed by a Porsche ! The 1,500 Osca had hardly been wheeled off the track when Allison failed to appear, for the Lotus had broken a front wishbone and slid off the road, the driver escaping unhurt, thanks only to his own skill. This now put Hill in second place, nearly half a lap belhind the Porsche, and there was little incentive to try hard for not only was his car in difficulty with things already mentioned, but every time round he saw one Lotus Fifteen with a broken rear suspension and another with a broken front suspension. The 1,100-c.c. Lotus cars, however, were going beautifully, and Stacey, Ireland and Hicks were running in that order, a credit to private’ owners’ preparation and tuning. After 1¼ hours the 750-c.c. Osca suddenly fluffed and Mrs. Haskell-Tomaso stopped at the pits to have some dirt removed from the jets, and meanwhile Laureau went by and gained more than a lap lead. The 1,500-c.c. Osca having retired, Alessandro de Tomaso then took over his wife’s 750-c.c. Osca and set out to catch the French cars, but his engine was never really tuning on four cylinders. After the first hour had passed Behra had lapped second-place man Hill and was touring round in a depressingly reliable sort of way as far as the Hornsey boys were concerned, but fortunately the private Lotuseers in 1.100-c.c. cars were still going perfectly, both Stacey and Ireland more or less keeping op with Hill. However, not all the 1,100 Lotus cars were going well, for Piper’s was boiling merrily, as was Videilles’, both making frequent stops for water, while Threlfall had retired his Tojeiro long since, its Climax engine having blown its head gasket.

The race continued in a rather uninspiring procession, nobody really racing against anyone else and only de Tomaso having a very definite objective, which was to regain the lead in the 750-c.c. class. At 4.30 p.m. Frost came into the pits with his Lotus Fifteen seemingly with a broken gearbox, but on inspection it was found that the prop-shaft had come out of its spline at the front end, thus uncoupling the engine from the rear-mounted gearbox. He had been lying a steady third in the 1,500 class and fifth overall, but the delay while the Lotus was rebuilt put him way back. The 750 Osca was now second in its class behind the new works D.B. but then its task of winning was simplified as Laureau came limping into the pits on one cylinder with a broken piston. After 1hr. 50 min. Behra came into his pit and had a leisurely drink, the Porsche was refuelled, and he went on his way still more than a lap ahead of Hill. Ten minutes later, after the race had been going two hours, and lots of the bored spectators had gone home, the order was Behra, Hill, Stacey, Ireland, Hicks, Veuillet, Vidilles, Hall and Piper, while de Tomaso led the “babies.” Soon after the two-hour mark Behra’s pit, being operated by his brother, realised that Allison still held fastest lap, so they signalled their driver to do something about it, whereupon he did 2 min. 40.1 sec., and then 2 min. 37.9 sec., and when he saw this n his pit board he eased up and went back to his previous leisurely gait. Unfortunately he and his pit overlooked the fact that the lap record for the circuit with a 1,500-c.c. sports car hail been set up in 1957 by Flockhart with an old Lotus Single-cam 1,500–c.c. in 2 min. 37.3 sec., so that Behra just missed it. though he had fastest race lap for 1958. The Lotus pit signalled Hill that Behra now held fastest lap for the day, but their driver was not in a position to do anything about it, his car being in rather a secondhand condition.

With 30 minutes still to run both Stacey and Ireland stopped for fuel, for they had plenty of time in hand and it avoided any risk of running dry in the last few minutes of the race. Behra toured in to the finish and with the three hours now completed the rest of the runners were flagged off, HiII running out of fuel just as he approached the finishing line.—D.S.J.

Results :
THREE HOURS OF ROUEN-LES-ESSARTS – Sports Cars – Warm and Dry
1,500 c.c. :

1st: J. Behra (Porsche 1500 RS) … 432.168 kilometres – 144.062 k.p.h.
2nd: G. Hill (Lotus Fifteen) … 416.597 kilometres
3rd: A. Veuillet (Porsche Spyder) … 384.858 kilometres
4th: P. Fiami (Osca) … 356.121 kilometres
5th: W. Frost (Lotus Fifteen) … 321.025 kilometres

Fastest lap: J. Behra (Porsche) , 2 min. 37.9 sec. – 149.153 k.p.h.
Retired: A. de Tomaso (Osca), A. Miani (Osca), P. Berchem (Lotus Fifteen), de Ruyter (Osca), C. Allison (Lotus Fifteen), F. Pignard (Osca).
Non-starters: R. Flockhart (Lotus Fifteen), A. Testut (Porsche), G. Burgraff (Porsche).

1,100 c.c.:
1st: A. Stacey (Lotus XI) … 411.018 kilometres – 137.005 k.p.h.
2nd: I. Ireland (Lotus XI) … 408.370 kilometres
3rd: R. Hicks (Lotus XI) … 398.713 kilometres
4th: J. P. Vidilies (Lotus XI) … 383.705 kilometres
5th: E. Hall (Elva III) … 377.184 kilometres
6th: D. Piper (Lotus XI) … 374.720 kilometres
7th: R. Utley (Tojeiro) … 362.000 kilometres
8th: R. Sigrand (Stanguellini) … 346.925 kilometres

Fastest lap: A. Stacey (Lotus), 2 min. 46.1 sec. – 141.789 k.p.h.
Retired: C. Threlfall (Tojeiro), F. Leroy (Stanguellini), M. Binachon (Osca).
Non-starters: P. Ashdown (Lotus), M. Wayne (Elva), J. Campbell-Jones (Lotus).

750 c.c. :
1st: Mr and Mrs. de Tomaso (Osca) … 377.515 kilometres – 125.838 k.p.h.
2nd: J. Laroche (Osca) … 369.492 kilometres
3rd: P. Faure (Stanguellini) … 351.714 kilometres
4th: B. Deviterne (D.B.) … 332.092 kilometres
5th: P. Foury (Stanguellini) … 331.097 kilometres

Fastest lap: A. de Tomaso (Osca), 2 min. 57.3 sec. – 132.832 k.p.h. (new record).
Retirements: G. Laureau (D.B.), P. Hemord (Monopole-Panhard), P. Chancel (Monpole-Panhard).
Non-starters: None.

General Classification:
1st: J. Behra (Porsche)
2nd: G. Hill (Lotus Fifteen)
3rd: A. Stacey (Lotus XI)
4th: I. Ireland (Lotus XI)
5th: R. Hicks (Lotus XI)
6th: A. Veuillet (Porsche).

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