33rd R.A.C. Tourist Trophy

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Oulton Park, June 3rd

The chequered career of the R.A.C. Tourist Trophy took a turn for the better on Whit Monday, when it was run as a 110-lap 303.6-mile race for Groups 4 and 6 sports and prototype cars at Oulton Park. After last year’s abysmal saloon car race, this was well on the way back to being a Tourist Trophy in the old sense of the word, a major International non-stop long-distance sports car event.

But the entry was not what it should have been, or would have been in the old days, attracting only one “International” entry, that of Bonnier’s 5-litre Lola-Chevrolet GT. “Home” entries were headed by Hulme in Sid Taylor’s 5½-litre Lola, Attwood in the Alan Mann 3-litre Ford prototype, Piper’s private 4-litre Ferrari P3/4 coupé, and Paul Hawkins’ two GT40s, a lightweight version for himself and a standard vehicle for the Scot, Eric Liddell. Since the race was not a qualifying event for any F.I.A. Championship, Group 6 cars of any capacity were eligible, allowing the Taylor Lola to arrive with a 5.5-litre V8 engine and the other over-3-litre entry, Piper’s Ferrari, to start.

In practice Attwood returned 1 min. 36.0 sec. to take pole position in the Ford from Bonnier with 1 min. 36.4 sec. and Piper with 1 min. 37.4 sec. Taylor had qualified his own Lola while Hulme was flying back from Indianapolis, and the New Zealander was to start from the third row of the grid with a 5-litre engine installed, putting the car back in Group 4 for the race. Hawkins’ GT40, with 1 min. 39.0 sec., and Dean’s splendidly driven 18-valve 2-litre Dino 206S, with 1 min. 40.6 sec., occupied the second row.

From the start Attwood, in the red and gold Ford prototype, took an immediate lead from Hawkins, Dean, Bonnier, Piper, Liddell and Hulme and held the place for 10 laps until the differential broke up. It seems that the driver had not had much confidence in his car before the start, for he had been nominated as co-driver to Piper in the green Ferrari, and with the Ford now out he stood by to take over.

Hawkins had inherited the lead in his GT40, leading narrowly from Bonnier’s Lola, but Hulme was creeping up slowly, while Dean was leading the 2-litre class by miles. But Bonnier was forced out on lap 17 when a fuel tank split, and then Hulme scraped past the Ferrari. He closed inexorably on the red GT40, and after a wheel-to-wheel battle lasting several laps he was past and into the lead on lap 36.

The white Lola drew away from the field as Piper closed on Hawkins in second place, and when the GT40 stopped on lap 58 the Ferrari was by. As Hulme stopped on lap 65 Piper led the race briefly. But two laps later Piper stopped to refuel, Attwood took over and rushed back into the pursuit of Hulme, who had now regained his lead. Attwood, fresh from his great drive into second place at Monaco, closed the gap steadily, but the Taylor pit were keeping an eye on the green car’s progress and kept Hulme informed and he held the gap steady at around 45 sec.

The 33rd T.T. now looked all over, but with just 10 laps to go Attwood began to close the gap noticeably, with Hulme slowing and in gear selection difficulties. Attwood was scattering dust from the verges and brushing the track-side banks in a final effort to close on the Lola, but time was too short, and Hulme took the flag to win his third consecutive “sports car” Tourist Trophy for Sid Taylor, the Piper/Attwood Ferrari finishing 9.4 sec. behind after 303 miles of hard racing. Hawkins was third, one lap back in his GT40, while Dean, whose huge maintained lead in the 2-litre class with his Dino had been a feature of the race, was classified fourth and winner of his class, although he had spun off and damaged the car at Island Bend after 104 laps.

The Chevrons and Lotus 47s in the 2-litre Group 4 class had suffered a miscellany of troubles and left the reliable Porsche Carrera Six of Bradley to take the class from Edmonds’ similar car, while fastest lap overall went to Attwood who, during his final chase of the Lola, had set a time of 1 min. 36.6sec.165.58 k.p.h. (102 89 m.p.h.).

Incidentally, it seems that the T.T. regulations said non-Championship Groups 4 and 6, and this meant unlimited Group 6 as the 3-litre limit is only for Championship events. So the Taylor Lola and Piper’s Ferrari turned up with over 3-litre engines installed, and some people ran to the organisers to complain. They in turn added a special £500 prize for the first Group 4 car home, supplementing the £1,000 for the overall winner, which was rather optimistically expected to be a Group 6 car. So Sid Taylor changed his entry to Group 4 by fitting a 5-litre engine and Hulme cleaned up, winning both the overall and class cash prizes!

This had been a marked improvement for the R.A.C., but where can they go from here? The B.R.S.C.C. have stolen all the former glory of the Tourist Trophy with their F.I.A. Championship-qualifying B.O.A.C. 500, and there isn’t room for two such race, in this country. The Isle of Man circuit is barred to cars at the moment, and since the race must then be held on the mainland, the T.T. is at the right circuit in Oulton Park. But should the governing body allow the B.R.S.C.C. to adopt the title and the trophy for their true “T.T.”, or try to better it with their own event; a task which would now seem impossible? A lot of people would love to see the B.O.A.C. 500 at Oulton!—D. C. N.