IV Imola Grand Prix

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107

Walk-over for Clark

Imola, April 21st.

Every year there are motorcycle races held on the Imola circuit, but not since 1956 has there been a car race, and that one was something of a classic event for it was the first time the Italian sporting world sat up and took note of the name Lotus. It was a sports-car event in which Osca and Maserati were the main contenders and Cliff Allison caused quite a stir by leading the race in a Lotus XI until something broke and put him out.

The Imola circuit is 5.017 kilometres to the lap, is unusual in being run anti-clockwise, and contains all manner of curves and corners, hills both up and down, and changes of direction from down to up in the middle of corners, and all with a lap speed of around 100 m.p.h. in spite of two hairpin bends. It is road racing at its best, and after holding sports-car races for three years the Automobile Club of Bologna were unable to afford the organisation of a race until this year. The town of Imola lies to the east of Bologna on the road to Rimini and the Adriatic coast, and the circuit runs alongside the river Santerno and is called the Circuit of Castellaccis and is right on the edge of the town a bare five minutes’ walk from the centre. Since that memorable race in 1956, which incidentally was won by Castellotti in an Osca with Jack Brabham second in a central-seat Cooper sports car, the circuit has only heard the sound of racing-car exhausts on odd occasions when Maserati borrowed it for testing in 1957. With a big motorcycle meeting being held each year the amenities of the circuit are naturally kept in good order so all was set for a great race in April.

With the A.T.S. firm out testing at Monza, the new Ferrari nearly ready for testing, and Team Lotus racing at Pau the week before the Imola race was due, all seemed set for the first good Grand Prix of 1963. However, it was not to be and A.T.S. withdrew their entry of Phil Hill, saying the car was not yet race-worthy, the new Ferrari did not start its testing until the beginning of the week of the race, and the entries of Surtees and Mairesse were withdrawn, which meant the Team Lotus were left on their own, opposed by most of the private runners who had been at Pau. It had been a 750-mile trek for the mechanics in their transporters, from Pau to Imola, so the amount of servicing and overhauling done to the cars was not excessive. There was plenty of practice provided though its starting and finishing times were a bit erratic, and altogether there were four periods, two on Friday and two on Saturday, roughly morning and afternoon. The two Team Lotus cars were as used at Pau, being last year’s Type 25 models with the new Coventry-Climax V8 with fuel injection in Clark’s car. This unit attracted the attention of the A.T.S. people and of Michel May, the Swiss engineer who is advising Ferrari on the Bosch direct-injection on the 1963 Maranello engines. Bonnier was again driving the hired works Cooper for Rob Walker, while the Centro-Sud team made a return to racing with their two old Cooper-Maseratis with Bandini and Abate as drivers, and de Beaufort had his two Porsches there. The second one was to have been driven by Muller but he was indisposed, so Jack Fairman was offered a drive at the last moment, he being at Imola to spectate as he was living in Bologna while testing the A.T.S. After sorting out the paperwork he just managed to get in the last practice session.

Joseph Siffert, the Swiss driver, who had gone so well at Pau, was there with his Lotus-B.R.M. V8 and Gunther Seifert, the German driver, was there with his newly acquired Lotus-B.R.M. V8, this being the car that Seidel tried to race last year. The Scuderia Filipinelli lent their 4-cylinder Lotus 22 to Baghetti but it was running very badly and the Italian driver went home in disgust. Anderson had his Lola-Climax V8, Collomb his Lotus-Climax V8 and Schlesser his Holbay-Ford-engined Brabham. To complete the field there were two Italian drivers with Lotus 18 cars, Starrabba with a Maserati engine in his and Prinoth with a 4-cylinder Climax.

It did not need any practice to get a good idea of how the race would probably go, for even with a V8 at both ends of his Cooper, Bonnier could hardly hope to hold Clark with the 200-b.h.p. Climax engine and he was unlikely to trouble Taylor very much. Needless to say, Clark, Taylor and Bonnier formed the front row of the grid, with Clark on the left as it was a left-hand circuit.

A National Formula Junior race took place first of all, in the early afternoon, and it must have made Mr. Fiat very sick for all the fast runners were using English-tuned Ford engines, even in Italian chassis. The Formula One race began to show signs of starting around 4 p.m., but by the time the drivers had done two laps to have a last look at the circuit and conditions, and everyone had been cleared from the track, it was 4.22 p.m. when the start was given.

The end of the first lap was rather like 1956, only this time it was Clark in a Formula One Lotus-Climax way out in front, so far in fact that even the Italians were impressed; he was followed, as expected, by Taylor, Bonnier, Siffert, Anderson and Bandini, the rest trailing out behind. The fast difficult curves of the Imola circuit, many of them blind and plunging downhill on a tightening radius, were the sort where real driving skill paid off and Clark just disappeared into the distance leaving everyone else behind.

A repetition of Pau seemed certain, but on lap two Taylor drew into the pits unable to select gears properly and the Team Lotus mechanics had to remove the back of the gearbox and sort things out. Clark was pulling out 2 sec. a lap and more on Bonnier, who was now in second place, and Siffert was just keeping the Swede in sight. Bandini soon passed Anderson and the Lola-Climax driver had a whole horde of cars on his tail and all over the road on the corners. Being only his third race with the V8 and wanting to take things easy and learn, he let them all by and sat behind them to pick them off one at a time when he felt ready for it. This crowd comprised Prinoth, Abate, Schlesser and de Beaufort and they were having a good old go together, the little Brabham-Ford surprising everyone and buzzing round merrily at 7,400 r.p.m. Fairman was, some way behind this lot, feeling his way along in the Porsche, for the time accredited to him on the starting grid had actually been done by de Beaufort when he was trying the car.

By the time the Lotus mechanics had fixed Taylor’s gearbox, Clark had completed 10 laps and was 20 sec. ahead of Bonnier, with Siffert still third, and by this time Starrabba had stopped out on the circuit with a broken throttle cable and Bandini had retired at the pits with a broken engine. Taylor did only one lap and was back to the pits with same selector trouble, so once more the gearbox and cover was removed and the selectors put back into place. This time it lasted for four laps before it went wrong again, and by this time Taylor was too far behind to have much hope of catching anyone. Once more he set off and this time the gearbox behaved itself and he settled down to some very fast lapping and to use the occasion as a good practice period, for the Imola circuit is one on which a driver can learn to drive really well.

Way out in front Clark was doing rather the same thing, being far enough ahead to be untroubled by anyone, and whereas his “promenade” at Pau had been rather dull, he was enjoying the one at Imola, trying out various driving techniques on the interesting corners. In the middle of the field Anderson was settling down and first of all passed de Beaufort and then Prinoth, but ahead of him Schlesser and Abate were locked in mortal combat and giving away no space. However, on lap 16 Anderson used the superior speed of the Lola V8 to pass them both and get away from them. Collomb was not very happy with his Lotus-Climax V8 as the transistor box of the ignition system was giving trouble and after the engine had died out on the circuit, he got going again and retired at the pits. Clark was touring round half a minute in front of Bonnier when on lap 21 the Cooper engine blew up and the Swede came into the pits with oil blowing out of all the joints so something pretty serious had happened inside the engine.

This put Siffert into second place about 1 min. behind Clark, the Swiss driver’s B.R.M. engine going well and these two were the only ones on the same lap. Anderson now lay third driving smoothly and regularly his position quite safe and behind him Abate and Schlesser were still battling away. Abate was waving his fist at the little blue Brabham and blue flags were waved, whereupon Schlesser moved over and waved the red Cooper by, only to repass it again a few laps later! Taylor’s gearbox was behaving itself, though he was changing gear very carefully, and he was lapping seconds faster than anyone else just for the fun of it for he could not hope to catch anyone, even Prinoth who was limping along with a misfiring engine. On the road Taylor caught Clark and sailed past him, and set up a fastest lap in 1 min. 48.3 secs.—166.769 k.p.h. (well over 100 m.p.h.) which equalled the fastest that Clark had done in practice.

The race was over 50 laps and by half distance it was all over apart from the Abate/Schlesser battle but even though most of the drivers were going round on their own it was generally agreed afterwards that the circuit was such that it was a joy to drive round even though you were not racing against anyone. Clark toured home to win another easy race and a very happy Siffert finished second, on the same lap as the winner, his faith in the Lotus-B.R.M. V8 being confirmed at last for he spent a miserable season of retirements last year trying to get the car sorted out. An equally satisfied Anderson was third and Schlesser won his battle over Abate, while both Porsches finished the race.
D. S. J.

Imola images

The Circuito di Castellaccio is such a good one that everyone hopes it will not be seven years before it is used again.

***

The Shell Petrol company backed the race and gave a golden Shell emblem to the winner, while prize-money was accorded every 10-laps so Clark cleared up the maximum.

***

The performance of the Brabham-Ford was remarkable and one hopes the V8 Brabham will give Gurney as much fun as Schlesser was having.

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