Changing the Formula




The 1-1/2-litre Formula, if it survives the execration which has been heaped upon it from almost every side, is likely to encourage a high-revving, complicated and temperamental type of engine. It is not likely to “improve the breed” in a way which is of interest to anyone except racing specialists. But is the sensible line of action just to stick to the 2-1/2-litre Formula? Might we not do better to look in another direction altogether, instead of staying in “so-many-litre” blinkers?

Any capacity formula tends to lead to wasteful use of fuel in order to get artificially high power from a given type of engine, and so to produce a rather unnatural design. Although some lessons are learnt in the process, it is probably not the best way of encouraging the design and development of good engines.

Maximum weight limitations tend to produce extremely expensive designs from stables which can afford them, and flimsy “hope for the best” construction from the others. The “heroic period” of the. 750 Kg. Formula was only made possible by heavy governmental support for prestige reasons; it is hardly likely to recur. Minimum weight can only work in conjunction with other limitations, and tend to reduce the opportunities for intelligent design.

The most sensible limitation would appear to be some form of limit on the quantity of fuel a car can use; a concentration of effort on going fast without using so much fuel would certainly improve the breed in a way which every motorist could appreciate, while an intelligently-planned limitation of fuel supplies could also keep speeds and weights within reasonable bounds. It would have to be done carefully, if we want interesting racing; a straight-forward ration would probably produce a dreary procession of cars trying to spin out their fuel allowances. The scrutineering difficulties in limiting fuel-feed rate are also clear. But why not limit the size of the fuel tank, which ought to be fairly easy to check, and which would indirectly limit the size and power of the whole car?

The fuel-tank limitation would offer designers and drivers the option of going fast, and stopping relatively often for fuel, or of keeping going longer at lower speeds. It would also be easy to put different engine types (petrol, diesel, turbine, etc.) on an eqtuitable basis, by allowing different sizes for different fuels. We would not have to recruit senior wranglers as scrutineers for Wankel’s epitrochoidal engines. We could hope to see an interesting variety of types on the circuits, with very different characteristics, appearances and sounds.

Changes of formula, to encourage a neglected type of engine or to discourage a type which is enjoying an undue dominance, need not produce the upheavals that we now have. The emphasis of the formula could be shifted gradually from year to year, by relatively small changes in tank sizes. It would then be fairly simple for constructors to make the necessary changes in their designs each winter, anti to adapt existing cars, so that they would not have to scrap almost everything at an arbitrary date and start again. We would not have flat periods when obsolescent designs were kept going for the fag-end of a formula period and other periods when races were spoilt by heavy crops of teething troubles.

To give a basis for discussion, what about the following scale:—

Free fuel … … 5 gallons

100-octane petrol … … 6 gallons

80-octane petrol … … 7 gallons

Diesel fuel … … 8 gallons

Paraffin-type fuels … … 10 gallons

This scale would give a limited opening for alcohol and nitro-methane users, a chance for the current high-revving, high-compression G.P. engines, a chance for larger-capacity lower-revving engines, and a chance for diesels designed for performance, rather than adapted commercial vehicle engines. Superchargers would be able to find their true level, instead of being given an arbitrary value by the formula. The gas turbine would have an opportunity as soon as its fuel consumption became at all reasonable.

I expect that the racing of a variety of types of car, of comparable overall performance but different characteristics, would be more interesting than the present concentration of effort on to relatively similar types. Overtaking would be less dangerous, as the types would have their best performances, under different conditions. The consequence of accidents would be less serious, if fuel loads were kept down; the Le Mans disaster was made-worse by a large quantity of fuel. Smart pit-work when refuelling would also add to the interest. We might even see some accurate fuel-gauges developed, which would be a useful, if minor, gain.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Sheffield. – J. Seager.

[Ingenious. – Ed.]