While most people in the racing world were at Monaco recently, for the Grand Prix, the Commission Sportive International of the F.I.A. convened a meeting of drivers, organisers and constructors to discuss the future of Grand Prix racing. The existing Formula One remains until the end of 1965 and the meeting was to discuss ideas as to what should happen in 1966, although a lot of the speakers did not seem to realise this and were talking about changes for next year.
There is no question of any change next year, or the year after, for the decision to extend the Formula from three years to five years was made a long while ago. General agreement seemed to be that Grand Prix cars should be more powerful, and therefore faster, but there was not agreement on the reasons for Grand Prix racing. The British wanted to turn Grand Prix racing into a money-spinning spectacle and the Continentals wanted to keep it as a research ground for technical development of automobile engineering. This being a discussion group, no decisions were made, but opinions were voiced and the British wanted to keep to 1 1/2-litres now that the Formula had proved reasonably successful, though they made it clear that they did not consider it the best Formula. The Italians were interested in a weight limitation Formula of some sort, and the Continentals were all agreed that any new Formula should be framed so that unconventional engines, in particular the Wankel and the turbine, could compete in Grand Prix racing. The British did not oppose this idea.
The Grand Prix drivers’ spokesman suggested putting the capacity up to 2-litres as present engines could easily be enlarged to this size, but Coventry-Climax considered their V8 was already at the limit. However, the drivers seemed to have overlooked the fact that in 1966 none of the present-day Grand Prix engines may be in existence, the V6 Ferrari engine, for example, already being obsolete. It was an interesting meeting, but not meant to prove or decide anything, and it did neither of those things.
Last year Eric Broadley, the designer behind Lola cars, branched out into Grand Prix racing with a V8 Coventry-Climax-engined design, inspired by John Surtees, organised by Reg Parnell, and paid for by the Bowmaker finance company. By Grand Prix racing standards the Lola had a very good first season, Surtees winning a small race and getting some very good second and third places in Grande Epreuves. Before the end of the season Surtees and Lola were a very competitive force against all-comers in Grand Prix racing, but it did not appear successful to the Bowmaker people who were paying the money. It appears they thought they ought to have won the World Championship in this first year, which shows how little they must have known about Grand Prix racing. Anyway, they withdrew their support at the end of the 1962 season and Surtees lost no time in signing up with the Scuderia Ferrari, but he left behind a collection of Lola cars and material of very promising potential and a small racing organisation, headed by Reg Parnell, that was beginning to feel its feet.
For this season Parnell took over the cars and equipment and decided to run his own team, bringing over a promising young New Zealand driver, Chris Amon, to be his number one driver. One of the earlier cars with V8 Coventry-Climax engine he sold to Bob Anderson, who races it privately, and the remaining cars he kept himself. To start with there was no promise of any development work on the cars from Lola Cars, as Broadley was too busy with his exciting new G.T. Prototype coupés, but there may be at a later date. Meanwhile Parnell is providing Amon with an excellent introduction into Grand Prix racing, and he lends a second car to various drivers, depending on the financial aspects. He retained most of the mechanics and kept the same workshops in West London as Bowmaker provided last year.
For a number of years now the name of Valerio Colotti has been known in Grand Prix circles for his designs of gearboxes for various British cars using proprietary engines. His partner in this business from the start was Alf Francis, the chief mechanic of Team Walker, and a friend of Colotti since 1954 when they met at Maserati. At that time Colotti was in charge of chassis and gearbox design for Maserati and Francis was chief mechanic for Stirling Moss, who was racing a 250F Maserati Grand Prix car. When Maserati withdrew from Grand Prix racing, Colotti and Francis got together and formed Studio Tec Mec, later changed to Gear Speed Developments, and today G.S.D. have a flourishing business doing design work for many other things besides Grand Prix cars, and recently they moved into a brand new factory at Maranello next door to Ferrari, where they intend to become independent of outside machine shops and foundries, for in the past many of their failures could be attributed to poor workmanship by contract firms. The most recent success of the Colotti-Francis G.S.D. gearbox activity was at Indianapolis, where their heavy-duty 4-speed gearbox/final-drive unit was used on the Lotus 29 cars that finished second and seventh.
At Le Mans this year the Automobile Club de l’Ouest did a remarkable amount of rule bending in order to assist the Lola team. The Lola was delayed on its way from London by bad weather on the Channel crossing and the scrutineers should have closed up at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, but they stayed on until 7 p.m. The Lola had still not arrived so they left a message to say they would be available on Thursday morning, an unprecedented thing at Le Mans, where rules and regulations are usually severely applied. When the Lola did arrive, having been driven from London, there were many things not acceptable to the scrutineers, notably the “chimney” behind the driver’s head containing the carburetter intakes, fed from a roof-top inlet. It obstructed rear vision so had to be cut down and intakes made in each side of the body.
Relationships between the Lola team and the scrutineers were most amicable at all times and a model for everyone to follow. Eric Broadley and his mechanics politely agreed to alter the car in any way the scrutineers wanted, and worked in the paddock with such calmness and precision of workmanship, that the French were most impressed and did their utmost to help. One feels that the name Lola is one that will be very welcome at Le Mans next year.—D. S. J.