A Race of Incidents
Adenau, May 19th
What the 1,000-kilometre race entry lacked in quality this year it made up in quantity, for 92 cars were entered and 67 actually started the race, but only 34 were running when the winner crossed the line. A number of entries were cancelled before practice began, such as the two ASA 1000 entries from Italy, as they were still not finished, and Team Elite had only two out of their three cars serviceable after the 500-kilometre race at Spa the previous weekend, as Clive Hunt had crashed badly in one of the white and green Lotus Elites. Numerous private entries failed to arrive, particularly among the GT Ferraris, there being four non-arrivals, but to make up for some of these there were a few additional entries.
However, practice on Thursday, Friday and Saturday reduced the numbers considerably, among those in trouble being the Ferrari team, for Vaccarella wrote off a brand-new 250P rear-engined prototype, and put himself in hospital. The Stirling Moss entry of a special coupé version of Lotus Elan to be driven by Ireland/Whitmore was taken home as the drivers deemed its roadholding unsafe, the 2-litre 4-cylinder 2 o.h.c. Abarth prototype, with engine in front of the rear axle and 6-speed Colotti gearbox behind, all in a space frame with open 2-seater bodywork, was being finished in the paddock and though it practised it was not considered race-worthy, and the similar car with 850 c.c. Abarth-Fiat 2 o.h.c. engine and 6-speed Simca-Abarth gearbox was also withdrawn.
Other cars suffered mechanical trouble, or were crashed mildly, but a lot of all-night work got most of them to the line at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning. Practice was all important as the line-up for the Le Mans type start was arranged in order of practice times, though which of the pair of drivers for each car actually recorded the best time was open to doubt. Naturally the two works Ferraris of Surtees/Mairesse and Scarfiotti/Parkes headed the line, followed by the two factory 8-cylinder Porsches of Barth/Linge and Bonnier/Phil Hill, the former pair with the open car and the latter with the coupé, these being the cars that took part in the Targa Florio. Outstanding in the line-up were Heini Walter/H. Muller in fifth place with a GTO Ferrari, the position having been gained by the Swiss hill-climb expert, and the Lola GT coupé in ninth position having only practised on Saturday morning, the time being recorded by Tony Maggs. In 11th place was an Abarth-Simca 1300GT thanks to the brilliant driving of Eberhard Mahle, and a Lotus Elite in 17th position, driven by Hobbs/Trevor Taylor.
Space does not permit me to give a lap by lap account of the race over the 44 laps of the Nurburgring, but so much happened during the seven and half hours of racing that it will have to be recorded in precis form. The weather started fine but gradually deteriorated into rain, sleet, hail, cold winds, sunshine and back through the lot again. Conditions throughout the race varied continually and were far worse than a day of solid rain, for dry patches followed slippery patches and vice-versa, so that there was no disgrace in a spin or a crash, but great credit to those who managed to stay on the road and still go fast. The start was very ragged, a lot of drivers anticipating the flag and Peter Lindner in a brand-new 1963 lightweight E-type Jaguar not only led away from the start but stayed in front of Surtees and Scarfiotti with the works Ferraris for a whole lap, thanks to his knowledge of the Nurburgring.
Past the pits at the end of the opening lap the two Ferraris went by the Jaguar, but the good start meant that Lindner was leading the G.T. cars. The works Porsches did not make good starts and were seventh and eighth at the end of lap one, but were gaining ground fast, with Bonnier in the coupé and Barth in the open one. Extremely well placed, in 13th position, was David Hobbs in a Lotus Elite. Running in close formation the two Ferraris dominated the race until the end of lap 14 when Surtees came in to refuel and hand over to Mairesse, letting Scarfiotti go on ahead in the lead.
On the next lap Scarfiotti stopped, refuelled and Parkes was away before Mairesse came by, but only a few kilometres farther on, at the sharp right-hand hairpin at Aremberg, Parkes went round in a big tail slide and hit a stone wall, the impact tearing off the left-hand rear wheel, wishbones, hub carrier and half-shaft. Mairesse ran over some of the debris and punctured the left-hand front tyre, and while he was stopped and fitting the spare wheel, Phil Hill went by into the lead with the coupé 8-cylinder Porsche he had taken over from Bonnier on the beginning of lap 12. The open 8-cylinder Porsche had retired on lap four with a broken back axle, and since the Targa Florio trouble both Porsches had been fitted with axle/gearbox unit oil temperature gauges. Mairesse got going again but did not realise that the spare tyre was of a different type to those normally fitted and feeling that the steering was a bit odd he drove slowly for the rest of the lap fearing that something was bent. By the time he reached the pits, changed the wheel and tyre, verified that all was well and set off again, Phil Hill was over half a lap ahead and it looked like Porsche’s big chance to win the 1,000-kilometre race outright.
Mairesse was gaining ground rapidly, in spite of rain showers, hail stones and sleet, when on lap 21 Phil Hill arrived at the scene of the Ferrari debacle, on the Aremberg hairpin, and got all crossed-up on the slippery surface and went off the road bending the Porsche coupé in the process. So once more Ferrari was in the lead and now with no serious opposition. For the remaining half of the race Mairesse and Surtees motored on unchallenged, neither of them putting a foot wrong, though at times visibility through the windscreen was appalling, the fancy double-arm wiper being almost useless, so that Surtees had to rely solely on his knowledge of the Nurburgring during the bad rain and hail storms towards three-quarters distance. The weather cleared up for the last few laps and Mairesse took over after 40 laps to bring the car home to victory.
Although the battle for overall victory dispelled itself rather abruptly there were numerous interesting races going on down the field, for the 67 starters were divided into six G.T. categories by capacity, and five Prototype categories. The race for first overall G.T. car lay between the Lindner/Knocker Jaguar E-type and the Noblet/Guichet Ferrari GTO. Lindner was faster than Noblet, but after refuelling Guichet was faster than Knocker, so the GTO was leading when the Jaguar succumbed to engine failure. The two French drivers were beautifully matched, their driving impeccable, the car faultless, and they were not only first G.T. car and second overall, but finished on the same lap as the winning works Ferrari. At half-distance the works Porsche 2-litre Carrera GT, that was third in the Targa Florio, was lying sixth overall, driven by H. J. Walter/Ben Pon and the team of Linge/Barth took it over in an attempt to gain the position of first G.T. car, but they were unable to catch the Ferrari of Noblet/Guichet. Running fast and steadily, apart from trouble with exhaust pipes trailing and boot lid coming unfastened, was the front-engined V12 Ferrari that used to be a sports car belonging to Count Volpi, but is now a prototype and has a new body painted grey with aerofoil behind the cockpit. Driven by Abate/Maglioli it was always in the running and finished third overall.
In the small G.T. class David Hobbs was leading easily until a misfire started in the engine and being untraceable the car had to be withdrawn, so Hobbs and Trevor Taylor took over the second Elite from John Wagstaff on lap 11 and worked it up from 32nd position to ninth position overall by the end of the race and won the class. In this class the two M.G. Midgets of Dick Jacobs, driven by Hedges/Martyn and Foster/Greene, ran like clockwork mice, never faltering or putting a foot wrong and finished as immaculate as they started.
Once again the Abarth-Simca 300 challenge faded due to unreliability over a long distance. The 1,600 c.c. and 2-litre G.T. classes were dominated by Porsche Carreras, although a P1800 Volvo coupé driven by Neerspach/Schultze was running very well until it retired on lap 29. The 2,000-2,500 c.c. G.T. class was confined to three Lawrencetune Morgans and a standard Lancia Flaminia Zagato coupé, so in spite of troubles the Morgans merely had to keep going in order to win their class. However, one of them fell by the wayside when a front stub-axle broke, another was running in a very sick state and it was left to the third to win the class.
The next G.T. class was all Ferraris and was dominated by the Noblet/Guichet car, but equally impressive runs for reliability were those of David Piper in his green GTO, co-driven by American Ed. Cantrell, and the Belgian special-bodied 250GT of “Elde”/Langlois. Of this class Hitchcock contrived to turn his GTO upside down in the Karussel banked hairpin on lap 16 and it remained there for the rest of the race, competitors having to go round the flat perimeter at reduced speed. The von Csazy/Foitek GTO Ferrari, which Hedges crashed in practice for the Targa Florio was crashed again in practice for this race and yet again on lap 35 when lying sixth overall. The Scuderia Filipinetti GTO which started off well broke a valve and wrecked its engine.
The last of the G.T. classes was an all-Jaguar affair and after the Lindner car broke its engine the Sargent/Lumsden sister car, which was delivered on the Monday before the race, took over the lead and lay fourth overall, going extremely well, until Peter Lumsden “lost-it” in a big way at Flugplatz and spun and crashed in all directions at very high speed. He was comparatively unhurt but the Jaguar was a total wreck. This left the class to some very slowly-driven standard E-types so that it would appear that the E-type is a good touring car that is all right as long as it is not raced.
The only real interest in the small Prototype class was a special fibre glass-bodied B.M.W. with a works overhead camshaft flat-twin air-cooled engine of 715 c.c. with separate belt-driven fans blowing air across the cylinders, and two down-draught dell Orto motorcycle carburetters; however, it did not last the race and two pushrod B.M.W. twins were all that finished.
In the “up to 1,300 c.c.” class the prototype French Alpine, with Lotus-like chassis and rear-mounted 2 o.h.c. Renault-Gordini engine, went extremely well driven by Rosinsky/Casner and dominated the class, over a horde of René Bonnet coupés with similar engines. In this class was the Sebring Sprite driven by Clive Baker/Christabel Carlisle and the young English Miss drove splendidly. When she took over, the car was running behind two Porsche Carreras and after following them for two laps she then passed them both and never looked back. Her co-driver took over again and kept the position until the end of the race.
The 2-litre Prototype class was left to two Alfa Romeo Giulia T.I. Super saloons after the works Porsches disappeared, until one of them hit a tree head on, but the other one ran to the finish. In the 3-litre Prototype class the works Ferrari dominated, but the special-bodied 250 GT of Kerrison, with Mike Salmon as co-driver, ran a regular race, though it lost seventh place overall on the last lap due to the pit staff not realising the proximity of the German driven standard 250GT.
The last class had but one entry, this being the works Lola-Ford V8 GT coupé, driven by Maggs/Olthoff and after starting off well it was delayed by a rear wheel working loose and damaging the driving pins. After a long stop to rectify this and fit other rear wheels it ran very well, making a glorious noise and looking most impressive until the distributor drive gave trouble and forced it to retire.
Of the retirements the appalling conditions caused some ten or more cars to crash, some with slight damage, others being total wrecks and yet there was no serious personal injury, thanks to the inherent safety of the Nurburgring, due to the springy hedges and soft earth banks that line a great part of the 22.8-kilometre circuit.
D. S. J.