Matters of moment, July 1975

Bravo Ferrari!

Without intending to belittle the very effective position Britain now holds in motor racing, we feel it opportune to remark on how nice it is that Ferrari is again in the ascendant. Essentially this make is the personification of the racing car and the most exciting form of sports car, inspired by the devout enthusiasm of Enzo Ferrari. Ferrari has had a remarkably long innings in motor racing and it is with these thoughts in mind that we applaud the present success of the Ferrari flat-12 Formula One cars. For all too long British green racing cars were a pathetic joke, with a few Napier and Sunbeam exceptions, until the advent of the HWM, the Connaught, and particularly the Vanwall, which pointed the way to eventual British domination of racing in its highest form. Then it all happened, and our successes were so continual that they seemed to be taken almost for granted and we perhaps did not blow our trumpet as other countries would have done, in a similar happy position. That is nice to look back on, and to enjoy in the present. But this is no reason for not congratulating Ferrari on its recent comeback and its splitting of Cosworth-Ford F1 domination. Apart from the fact that Ferrari is motor racing and that a twelve-cylinder engine makes such a nice noise, variety is important to the virility of motor racing. Those who can recall the staleness (even if linked with admiration) of racing when it was being dominated by the Invincible Talbot-Darracqs (which were so afraid of their great reputation being broken that they shirked a confrontation with the newly-supercharged Fiats in 1923, unable to foresee the dismal first-appearance failure of those Italian cars) or when the magnificent 1½-litre GP Delage team had things all its own way, will see common sense in being pleased over the Ferrari successes of the past few months with their 312T cars.

A morbid subject

The Jim Clark Foundation has at last issued its ambitious book, “Grand Prix Accident Survey”. A great deal of work has gone into this report, which consists of an investigation into the apparent causes of 224 motor-racing accidents during races and practice sessions over the seven-year period 1966 to 1972. An Editorial research team of five motoring writers compiled this 64-page report. The Ford Motor Company computers analysed the material at the Operational Research Department in the Systems Office at Warley and when money for publishing the book ran out Nigel Moores, of JCB Championship fame, generously organised the necessary finance. So what is the result ? A book which because it deals with a macabre subject is compulsive reading. It goes season by season, driver by driver, into the unscheduled racing incidents and tragedies, with some chilling photographs. A book that provides the first breakdown of statistics about the cause of crashes on the circuits. Yet it is, of course, already out of date, and it does not analyse sufficiently fully the reason for, and types of, mechanical failures, where these are deemed responsible for an accident. For those who respond to statistics, though, it is interesting to quote the Foundation’s findings. These show that “cockpit error” is a greater cause for alarm than the breakage of some part of the car, in as much as in the 224 accidents investigated, of which 122 happened during races, 91 in practice and 11 while testing, only 24.7% were caused by mechanical failure, of which the most common, in this 1966 to 1972 period, was suspension breakage. Other aspects highlighted by this report are that in those investigated accidents 85.8% were devoid of driver injury, 25% happened during the first two laps of a race, 59.4% of these crashes took place either then or during the practice sessions, and that apparently bad weather had an insignificant effect on the number of accidents or how a driver fared in them. It is brave of the Foundation to tell us that Italian drivers (of three to nine years ago) were “significantly more prone to have accidents than the average entry” and gratifying, if now of no importance other than historical, that Brabham and Eagle cars fared in that period “significantly better than average”. By its very nature this must he an inconclusive book, yet it sheds fresh light on one aspect of motor racing, will interest those who like all the available details even about the more morbid aspects of the sport, and it will be essential to those who collect every published work on motor racing.

Price increase

For the first time in 50 years, we have been forced to increase the price of MOTOR SPORT without prior warning. Printer and service wage increases, back-dated to April, rapidly rising material and maintenance costs, and incredible increases in home and foreign travel, necessary to obtain the news and present MOTOR SPORT to the standard our readers expect, have left us no other alternative. We still believe MOTOR SPORT to be the best value for money in its class and it still costs less than a packet of 20 cigarettes.

The August issue will celebrate our Golden Jubilee and is planned as 160 pages including a 32-page colour section.

Silverstone Chicanery

AS we go to Press we hear that Silverstone Circuit seem likely to install a chicane before Woodcote Corner for the British Grand Prix on July 19th. Fear of cars or debris launching themselves into the Grandstand is the quoted reason. Britain’s fastest circuit is thus in jeopardy and one of the fastest and most difficult Grand Prix circuit corners in the World threatened. Carried to a logical conclusion we shall see spectators moved back 500 yds. from the circuit and Grand Prix cars driven be remote control. Oh well, back to the Scalectrix.