A Mixed Meeting
Rouen, June 12th
As originally planned, the Grand Prix of Rouen was intended to be a full-length race for Formula 2 cars, with a Formula Junior event as make-weight, but quite late in the season this idea was cancelled and a sports-car and G.T. event was substituted. With such a wonderful circuit as that at Rouen-les-Essarts, it is a pity that the A.G. of Normandy could not use it for real racing cars. However, this change of character did mean that a lot of people had a chance to experience a real Grand Prix road circuit who otherwise would not get the opportunity.
Divided into capacity classes, the event was open to sports cars and G.T. cars and run in the form of two heats, each of two hours’ duration, and the total distance covered during the two separate races decided the overall winners in the various classes. Between the two races there was a long break for lunch and a National motor-cycle race, during which time cars could be repaired, providing everything was done in the closed park behind the pits.
Due to the changing of the character of the meeting there was some confusion and the resulting entry was decidedly poor, there being but five sports cars that appeared, the rest being G.T. cars. As a result both types were grouped together under capacity limits, so that the outcome was rather ludicrous. The over 2,000 c.c. class saw Fairman driving Graham Whitehead’s DBR1/300 Aston Martin against Loustel, Seidel, Schlesser, Mauro Bianchi and Mounier with 250GT Ferraris and Seiff with a DB4/GT Aston Martin, the last car now being officially homologated as a G.T. car. In the 1,301-2,000 c.c. class Koch, Stoop, Runte and Martel with Porsche Carreras had little hope against Ugonet with a 200SI Maserati and Goethals with an RSK Porsche, while the 1,001-1,300 c.c. class was absurd with only two runners, Whitehead with his 1,100-c.c. Lola and Hacquin with an Alfa-Romeo Giulietta Sprint Veloce. The 701-1,000 c.c. class was, however, much more interesting, for a gaggle of Austin Healey Sprites, led by Graham Hill in Venner-Pack’s Speedwell G.T. coupe, opposed a similar gaggle of D.B.s led by Vinatier in a works Le Mans two-seater and Laureau with a works Le Mans coupe, and added to this lot was Poltronieri with a works-supported Abarth-Fiat 850-c.c. coupe.
Naturally enough, all Fairman had to do was to tour round in the sports Aston Martin, dodging in and out of the traffic, and not break anything or fall asleep. This he did for the first two-hour race, in spite of drizzling rain and a slippery track, and he had no trouble at all in winning his class and overall. With the G.T. Aston Martin making its first official racing appearance there was interest to see how it compared with the G.T. Ferraris, in spite of having a 3.7-litre engine and disc brakes, whereas Schlesser, Bianchi and Mounier had the old long-chassis Ferraris with drum brakes. Seidel and Loustel had the 1960 models, with disc brakes, which are shorter and lighter. All hopes of a match-race between the Aston and the Ferrari disappeared at the Le Mans start when Sieff made a mess of things and got left behind. Stoop also muffed his start, forgetting the handbrake on his nice new Porsche Carrera, and as Goethals broke the engine of his RSK on the first lap. Koch had a runaway win in his Abarth-Carrera. Also left at the start was Graham Hill, the Speedwell Austin Healey, with circulatory weir-system fuel teed to its Amal carburetters, refusing to start. It took the B.R.M. works driver but one lap to catch up the rest of the Sprites, but the faster D.B.s and the Abarth were way ahead and he had to drive the little green coupe really hard, using 7,000 r.p.m. in order to get up to third place. Meanwhile, Laureau was well ahead until he burst his engine, and then a slipping clutch on Vinatier’s car allowed Hill to take the lead, but his own clutch was giving out by the end of the two hours. Whitehead finished three laps ahead of his only rival, and probably had a more boring race than Fairman.
The lunch hour saw the D.B. mechanics take the clutch from Laureau’s crippled car and fit if to Vinatier’s; Speedwell managed to get some grip on their clutch, while Harris, who had broken a piston on his Sprite and ruined the head, fitted a new piston and borrowed the head off Simpson’s Sprite, and when all was repaired Hawkins was elected to drive the car in Heat 2, these three all running together as a team. Runte’s Carrera was completely devoid of front brake linings and a (pick trip into Rouen found some replacements, and the G.T. Aston Martin, which had gone well and got up to sixth place overall, but no match for the healthier Ferraris, had its brake pads changed, just in case. After two hours of hard going the engine looked as though it had come out of the showroom.
The first Le Mans start had been lined up according to practice times, and the second one, for Heat 2, was in order of finishing Heat a, so once again Fairman was at the head. This two hours of racing was run in glorious sunshine and Fairman had another easy tour, though behind him Schlesser, Seidel, Bianchi and Loustel were battling away for second place, the four Ferraris going round in close company, making a wonderful noise as the V12-cylinder engines screamed away at 7,000 r.p.m. Once again the Aston Martin failed to get away promptly, and this time had as company the Lola, the Speedwell Sprite once more, and Spellman’s yellow Sprite, which had to judder away by starting in gear, the clutch being inoperative.
This second Heat was almost a repeat of the first one, only this time the sports D.B. made no mistakes and won the small category, and Graham Hill worked his way through the traffic and finished second. The Abarth-Carrera was quite uncatchable and Runte and Stoop were having a good race until the German driver ran out of brakes again, the standard replacements he had found being unable to stand the strain. Seidel lost all hopes in the G.T. battle by running low on fuel and having to make a pit-stop, and the Sprites could not go the full two hours without refuelling, now that the roads were dry and they were being driven on fullthrottle most of the way round. In spite of the length of the race there were very few mechanical casualties, and the only people who really enjoyed the day’s racing were the drivers who were competing, which is not such a bad thingafter all.
To see Graham Hill carve his way through a gaggle of small cars with the Speedwell Sprite was CO see a Grand Prix driver in action.
Fairman did not have an enjoyable drive in the Aston Martin as there was some pretty untidy traffic about, through which he had to find a way.
When drizzling rain fell during the first Heat, Mauro Bianchi, brother of the well-known Lucien bent his borrowed Ferrari, but not seriously enough to stop him racing. This was his second race.
Spellman’s cornering with his yellow Sprite was hair-raising and fast, while Elwes’ handling of his red one was most skilful and nice to watch.
Koch was racing his Abarth-Carrera on the same German Dunlop Si’ tyres he used at the Nurburgring t,000 km. and the Spa races, which says a lot for the wearing properties of these German ” X. “-type tyres.
Schlesser’s driving of his old G.T. Ferrari was Most spirited and in spite of drum brakes he was not really challenged by the other Ferraris. in practice he had gone nff the road in a big way and dropped down into some trees well below the road. The only damage was to bodywork, which was soon beaten out.
Ugonet’s old four-cylinder Maserati had been fitted with disc brakes on the front, but the engine did not last long.
The works-supported Abarth-Fiat was using a front-mounted radiator and Sprite disc brakes on the front wheels.
The Speedwell Sprite VP7 surprised everyone by its speed. but it was probably due to Graham 1E11 having an extra to b.h.p. in his feet and t 5 b.h.p, in his hands—or don’t drivers count for anything ? Best misprint we have seen this year. Diekit Stoop appeared in the results as “Sport”! – D.S.J.