Continental Notes, July 1977

It now looks as though there is more than meets the eye in the “manoeuvrings” to get the German GP away from the Nurburgring. One “ministry man” involved with the Constructors Associations is clutching on to a fading document said to be “signed by all the F1 drivers” in which they unanimously agreed not to race at the Nurburgring in 1977. This was signed by those in action at the time at Monaco in 1976. One or two, like Brambilla and Regazzoni (and you could name a few more as easily as I could), are saying that they never signed any agreement to boycott the Nurburgring. They admit to signing a paper that asked for various improvements to be made to the circuit and its facilities and for various things to be finished off correctly, but categorically refute the idea that they supported a boycott if these things were not done. I need hardly mention that the document was not written in Italian! or German for that matter. This is being used to support the Statement that “… none of the drivers want to race there.”

Much more serious is the suggestion that the drivers en bloc are being used as a scapegoat for some big-business deal that is being manipulated behind the scenes. It being in somebody’s financial interest to get the German Grand Prix away from the Nurburgring to the Hockenheim Ring. How anyone can view an event on the silly concrete autodrome that is Hockenheim, as a Grand Prix, let alone the “Grosser Preis von Deutschland”, is beyond me. And before any readers write and tell me the Hockenheim Ring is a “… great modern facility for Formula One …” I hope they will visit both Rings and compare them. If they still think the German GP should be at Hockenheim then Grand Prix it truly dead, and Formula One rules supreme.

The Automobile Club von Deutschland (A.v.D.) are the organisers of the German GP and they lease the track from the Nurburgring GMBH, or did until this year, and presumably both concerns made money out of the event, for if they didn’t they would not run the race. Presumably they will now lease the flat concrete Motodrom from Hockenheimring GMBH, or whoever owns it, and once more both parties will make a profit. The Formula One Constructors Association and its members will make a profit wherever the race is held, or at least the successful ones will. If there was no German GP at all there would be quite a furore, unless of course it was replaced on the crowded calendar by a new event in the Middle East or somewhere equally rich. As I said, there is more in this Nurburgring affair than meets the eye, and perhaps someone is making suckers out of the F1 drivers.


The impressive way in which the Lotus 78 outran all its rivals in Spain and Belgium suggests that Colin Chapman and his team of technicians have come up with something that the other teams haven’t got; and it is not simply the driving of Mario Andretti and Gunnar Nilsson, it has got to be more than that. Possibilities are touched upon in the Belgian race report, but whatever it is Chapman is unlikely to tell anyone, or Frank Williams and the rest of the world will try and copy it. The Lotus 25 “monocoque”, the Lotus 49 stressed-engine layout, the Lotus 72 chiselnose, side radiator layout were all copied. The unfortunate part of it all is that quite a few people at Team Lotus must know the real truth about how the Lotus 78 and its drivers have “come together with all systems go”. If any of them leave Team Lotus and join another team, they will obviously take the knowledge with them. Whether their new team will be able to translate the knowledge into reality is another matter. This business of drivers and engineers moving from one team to another has always been part of motor racing, since the beginning of Grands Prix in 1906, and even before. It is a fact of life that nothing can be done about, but it is still sad to see it happen.

On the question of whether a team can make good use of information I was talking with the other little man in motor racing, Bernie Ecclestone, and we agreed that success in racing could be something like 80% luck and 20% skill, whatever aspect you look at, and especially in an overall situation. We also agreed that some teams, given the 80% luck do not have the 20% skill, to turn it into success, while others can stand there holding the 80% luck and not realise it. As he went off to tend to his Brabham-Alfa Romeo team he said “We’re still waiting to get our hands on that 80%”. I always see eye-to-eye with Bernie Ecclestone, I can’t avoid that at our respective heights, but I do not always agree with him, though on this occasion I did.


The problem of more cars on the circuit for Formula One practice than are desirable, is getting worse every year. The “prima donnas” are complaining about being baulked and the “rabbits” can’t get on with their job for fear of getting run over. Everyone has been hoping that the problem would solve itself, or just go away, but the RAC and the BRDC have come up with a sensible idea for the British Grand Prix. It is not perfect, but is a good start. They are planning to have a practice day on the Wednesday before the first Grand Prix practice, for all those non-Formula One Association members who want to try and qualify for the limited starting grid. On Wednesday July 13th there will be two 1 1/2-hour practice sessions and the fastest cars from these two sessions will be allowed to join the elite on Thursday for the start of official practice (provided they haven’t worn their cars out!) The grid for the Grand Prix on Saturday July 16th will take the fastest 26 cars from the two days of official practice, on Thursday and Friday. If the F1 Association field 20 cars then the best 10 from Wednesday will join them, if they field 24 cars then the best six from Wednesday will join in. It is noted that any lap time recorded on Wednesday cannot be carried forward to the two official days of practice. This sounds like a good idea and must mean that we all take another day off from work, for Wednesday should be quite a pleasant day, and the F1 Renault-turbo might be there.

Some years ago spare cars in a team carried the letter T alongside their racing number, to indicate “training car”, for in those days you had to race with the car you practised with and your position on the grid was determined by what time you did in which car. The Formula One Association put a stop to all that and now you can drive any car in the race, provided it is of the same make. This has resulted in drivers starting in a race in a car they have never sat in before, but business before safety is the unwritten rule in Formula One. Nowadays a team will have two cars identical in all respects, both carrying number 21, for example. Although the team know which is the car for the race and which is the spare car, no-one else does, and certainly not the organisers or the time-keepers. They merely record the passing of car number 21 and give the lap times to the nominated driver. In consequence you often get a team, with two drivers and three cars, in which both drivers record their best times in the spare car. As it carries the number of the driver in it at the time, it matters little to the time-keepers. You could get the situation of two drivers of the same team on the front of the grid with very fast lap-times made in the spare car, which neither of them are using for the race. It’s much more complicated than it was, when you had to use ingenuity to cheat. Nowadays it is not cheating, it is legal. At the time the RAC came up with the good idea of allocating a separate number to each spare car, that was way out of context with the regular numbers, like 52 or 54, to confound teams who did not display a T, or had a very obscure one. There was no doubt about a driver being in his race car or the team spare, and the time-keepers knew exactly where they stood. No other Grand Prix organiser followed the lead of the RAC. I hope they don’t ignore the qualifying day idea in the same manner. – D.S. J.

BMRMC Grand Prix Forum

The British Motor Racing Marshals Club is organising a Grand Prix Forum at Silverstone on Tuesday July 12th starting at 7.30 p.m. The Forum, which will take place in a marquee behind the Dunlop Tower, is open to all marshals, not just BMRMC members, and it is hoped that the panel will include: Bernie Ecclestone, Emerson Fittipaldi, Brian Henton, Lord Alexander Hesketh, James Hunt, Rupert Keegan, Robin Langford, Jochen Mass, Peter Macintosh, Gunnar Nilsson, Jody Scheckter and Ken Tyrrell. The Chairman will be Keith Douglas and admission is absolutely free, but marshals must produce their appropriate club membership card.

The John Player British Grand Prix

Motor Sport readers are unlikely to need reminding about the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on Saturday, July 16th. For details of the Grand Prix week timetable, please refer to the advertisement on page 803 of this issue and to D.S.J.’s comments above.

For perhaps the first time in these pages, we make mention of the Grand Prix sponsor of several years in the sub-heading to note that at last they have had the common-sense to acknowledge our premier race meeting’s national title. This Jubilee Year’s event is fittingly the Grand Prix d’Europe too.


Jimmy Brown’s forecast of noise restrictions in motor racing in C.R.’s article about the BRDC and Silverstone in the April issue seems to have been accurate. The RAC Motorsport Division Race Committee has recommended that the Division carries out tests at race meetings to ascertain exhaust system noise levels on single-seater racing cars as well as saloon and sports cars.

The Committee felt that: “It will be necessary to introduce restrictions on exhaust noise at race meetings in the near future. The Committee is particularly anxious about noise levels of saloon and sports cars. Once the findings of the noise checks are available, a decision will be taken as to what silencing restrictions should be applied.” What do readers feel about the subject?

New Secretary for Porsche Club

Mike Cotton, formerly Editor of Motoring News and a past Assistant Editor of Motor Sport, has been appointed Executive Secretary of the Porsche Club Great Britain. Mike, who is currently PRO for Porsche Cars GB, can be contacted at Porsche Club Great Britain, Richfield Avenue, Reading, Berkshire RGI 5AG.