An Interesting Experiment
OULTON PARK, May 1st.
AFTER some rather uninspiring years at Goodwood, the T.T. moved to the pleasant parkland circuit at Oulton Park for this year’s race, and was organised by the B.A.R.C. for the R.A.C., with the co-operation of the Cheshire Car Circuit Ltd., and financed by the Senior Service cigarette company. Somehow, the idea of a T.T. race on anything other than a proper road circuit, with kerbs, lamp-posts, houses, and so on, never seems very convincing as far as being a classic race is concerned. When the series was discontinued on the splendid Ards circuit in Northern Ireland and was held at Donington Park in 1937 it seemed a rather lukewarm affair, and later when it had to leave the rugged Dundrod circuit and go to Goodwood, to save it from extinction, an equally lukewarm affair resulted. Perhaps it will eventually return to the Isle of Man mountain-circuit and regain former glories as a classic long-distance race.
This year’s event was open to sports cars of unlimited capacity and GT cars, and was run in two heats of two hours each, with a 1½-hour break in between, during which time cars could be repaired at the pits and made race-worthy once more. The starting grid for Heat One was decided on practice times and the starting grid for Heat Two was according to the finishing order in Heat One. The overall result and winner of the Tourist Trophy was decided by the addition of the two Heat results. This proved to be an interesting experiment, especially as spectators were allowed to cross the track during the interval and watch the activity at the pits from behind the barriers on the edge of the pits road. Another welcome innovation for a British meeting was the fact that the T.T. was the complete racing programme, standing firmly on its own feet without numerous supporting races. All this with fine weather at Oulton Park added up to a most satisfactory day, for somehow the pleasant Northern circuit and its amenities and officials seems to encourage a relaxed and sporting approach to motor racing.
The entry consisted of nineteen sports cars and ten GT cars, and all were exciting and interesting machinery, guaranteed to please anyone with a passion for motor racing. All the GT cars were present, but four of the sports cars failed to materialise, these being Ronnie Hoare’s new prototype Ferrari with 4.4-litre engine, which Graham Hill should have driven, the rather tatty-looking King Cobra that Salvadori should have driven for Ford Advanced Vehicles, Sutton’s Attila Chevrolet and Trevor Taylor’s Lotus 30. Out for practice and ready for racing, in spite of numerous mechanical troubles, were three Lola 70 models, the red works-supported one of John Surtees, with 5.3-litre Chevrolet V8 engine, the dark blue private one with 4.7-litre Ford V8 of Harold Young Ltd., driven by David Hobbs, and Dibley’s similar green car, with 6-litre Chevrolet engine. Team Lotus entered a Type 30 for Clark to drive, but the special 5.3-litre engine burst in practice and a more normal 4.7-litre V8 Ford engine had been installed for the race, while other Lotus Type 30 cars were driven by Prophet and Wilson, all three using Tecalemit-Jackson fuel injection. There were two McLaren-Elvas, one the red and blue works car of the McLaren Racing Team, and the other the green private one of John Coundley and his partner. Both cars used 4½-litre Oldsmobile engines, but the works car was fitted with the interesting Tera-Mala fluid torque-converter developed by Ferguson Research.
The normal heavy-duty Hewland gearbox of the McLaren-Elva was used to carry the final-drive unit and the bell-housing had been cut off and a new casing welded on, this casing comprising two compartments, one next to the final-drive unit being the fluid reservoir for the torque converter and the forward one, coupled to the engine, carrying the torque converter unit itself. The empty Hewland gearbox casing still stuck out the back and under it was a sump-cum-cooler for the converter fluid. This mechanism was not a simple automatic gearbox as some would have it, but a fluid drive between engine and crownwheel and pinion, the slippage depending on load and throttle opening, which arc naturally related to road speed, the driver having a simple control to select ” operation ” or ” non-operation.” The McLaren team also entered an Elva-B.M.W. for Amon to drive. Lanfranchi had the Attila-Ford V8 entered by Weybridge Engineering, and Williams had his Lotus 23 with Brabham wheels and suspension parts and B.M.W. engine. There were three Brabham BT8 cars, the very modified one of Nathan with Oldsmobile V8 engine, and the more normal ones of Hitchcock with 2-litre Climax engine and Hulme with 2.2-litre Climax engine, the last named driving for Sydney Taylor Racing. To complete the sports-car list was the lone green Ferrari 275LM of David Piper, this mid-engined V12-cylinder 3.3-litre coupe still trying to become an homologated GT car, but in the meantime running as a GT Prototype and now qualifying as a sports car. The ten GT entries were made up of six Shelby-American Cobras, all with 4.7-litre Ford V8 engines’ two Ferrari GTO models, the ex-Piper one of Sutcliffe and the 1964 one of John Dawnay driven by Salmon, and the two lightweight E-type Jaguars of Wansborough and Bond. Of the Cobras, Whitmore drove an open one and Sears a Daytona coupe of the Alan Mann works-supported team, Gardner drove the Willment coupe, Roger Mac the Chequered Flag Team’s open one, and the two open ones of Radford Racing were driven by Dangerfield and Alan Grant.
The front row of the grid for Heat One, decided on practice times, gave an indication of what might happen, for alongside the V8 Lola 70 cars of Surtees and Hobbs and the works V8 McLaren-Elva was the little Brabham-Climax driven so ably by Denis Hulme, other faster and more powerful cars being behind, either due to practice troubles or not being driven fast enough. Heat One began at 12 noon in a crescendo of sound and clouds of smoke as a vast amount of horsepower was unleashed, and Surtees leapt into the lead, followed by McLaren, Clark, Hobbs and Hulme, the little Brabham almost keeping up with the bigger cars, and obviously out-distancing the rest of the field. Just before the start the works Cobra coupe of Sears had brake trouble and he had to join in on the back of the grid and do a lap or two without brakes and then stop at the pits and have them sorted out. In the last-minute panic he had been push-started and was penalised two laps, which put him right out of the running, but nonetheless he pressed on when the brakes were fixed and four times established a new GT lap record.
In just one hour of racing, the big names had all fallen by the wayside, Surtees having led until his Lola felt funny on the steering, McLaren then leading until the oil seal between the fluid-housing and the torque-converter housing of his Ferguson transmission started to leak, and then Clark took over the lead until a locking-nut on a rear wishbone shook loose and allowed the rear wheels to steer as well as the front ones, which made him stop at the pits to investigate. This left Hobbs in the lead with the remaining Lola 70, as Dibley had literally fallen by the wayside with a collapsed rear suspension, but the Harold Young Ltd. car had to stop for fuel and later for water, which set it back, with the result that Hulme took the lead and romped home the winner of Heat One. It was a very deserved win as the Sydney Taylor Racing prepared Brabham had run fast and faultlessly. The team was obviously in full command of the situation all the time and displayed an air of quiet confidence. They reaped the reward of smooth, efficient, consistent running, and no small factor was Huhne’s fast and tidy driving. Piper lost a certain third place due to having to stop for fuel, for Coundky caught and passed him, having begun to get the hang of his new McLaren-Elva. For an hour and a half Amon had clung on to Piper’s Ferrari, even though the little Elva-B.M.W. 2-litre was not handling too well and the throttle was sticking open, but finally a head-gasket leaked water and the car stopped with overheating.
Surtees bad rejoined the race briefly, after investigating his steering problems, but retired to the pits to have the rack-andpinion assembly removed and replaced by the one from Diblcy’s car, in readiness for Heat Two. The McLaren mechanics were also hard at work in the pits, having taken the transmission off, replaced the oil seal and made up locking plates to prevent it from moving again. The works Lotus 30 suspension had been screwed up tight again and Clark had finished Heat One, though a lot of laps behind. Among the GT cars Whiunore had set the pace, throwing the big open Cobra around as if it were a Mini, cornering in full-lock.slides with smoke coming off the rear tyres. It was not surprising that he had to stop for new rear tyres and for fuel, and this together with brake trouble on Salmon’s Ferrari let Sutcliffe win the GT category, with his older G1’0 Ferrari, the tortoise-and-hare act of the sports cars being repeated among the GT cars.
During the 1½-hour interval there was a variety of work carried out at the pits, from routine changes of brake pads and tyres, to head-gaskets, dynamos, starters and so on. The Lola team got the steering off the Surtees car but then gave up and wheeled the car away, more serious problems having been discovered; the McLaren team got the torque-converter all together again, and seventeen cars were ready for Heat Two at 3.30 p.m., Piper arriving on the line almost as the flag was raised. There were some gaps in the grid, as Gardner’s Cobra coupe was still being worked on, as was Amon’s Elva-B.M.W. and Williams’ Lotus, Brabham-B.M.W., while Sparrow replaced Dangerfield on Cobra No. 26 of the Radford team.
The opening laps of Heat Two were very exciting, as Coundley took the lead from the front row, followed by Hobbs, and Clark and McLaren stormed through the field from their positions on the back of the grid. Hobbs got by Coundley and led, and then Clark got into the lead and McLaren got into second place, while Coundley slowed down as he could feel a ” clonking ” from the drive shafts, and then stopped at the pits with the righthand one broken. McLaren could not make any impression on Clark, but held second place until smoke began to appear out of the back of the car as it had done in Heat One, but this time it was engine-oil smoke, and before anything serious broke McLaren retired at the pits. Finding Coundley with a healthy car but a broken shaft the mechanics stripped the works car and fitted their righthand shaft to Coundley’s car, as there was still a lot of racing time left. Unfortunately, just as they finished, McLaren saw that the inboard ” spider ” on the left-hand shaft was cracked, so some more cannibalising of the works car began, and Coundley rejoined the race much later than anticipated.
Clark was pressing on in no mean manner, as he was lying sixth overall and gaining ground all the time, and he was well clear of Hobbs, while the calm Hulme was sitting comfortably in third place in this Heat, but leading overall. Piper was leading the rest of the field, but his gearbox was failing and Sears was catching him with the coupe Cobra. Whitmore was driving more sedately now as he had the GT category in control, providing he stayed the right distance ahead of Sutcliffe’s Ferrari. Shortly after half-distance in this second Heat Clark coasted into the pits with a broken gearbox and that was the end of his meteoric run, and though this left Hobbs in the lead with the Lola-Ford V8 he was not far enough head of Hulme to achieve an outright victory. His pit was not really in touch with the situation and could get no official information from the time-keepers, which was peculiar to say the least, and they were also unsure of the fuel consumption of their car. Their pit signals became a bit hazy and poor Hobbs thought he was leading and eased off, but meanwhile the Sydney Taylor team and Denis Hulme seemed much more in touch with the situation. The R.A.C. timekeeping was only working to whole laps completed and not taking into account the portions of a lap completed at the end of each period of two hours, unless two competitors were on the same lap, and this caused confusion and some injustice as far as Hobbs and the Lola were concerned.
All the time Hulme was driving the Brabham-Climax fast and regularly, and though he could not stay with Hobbs and the 4.7-litre Lola, he finished second in Heat Two and came out the winner overall, his whole day’s performance having been a model of good preparation and planned running. Towards the end of the race Piper was left with only top gear on his Ferrari LM and dropped down to fifth place, but his good run in Heat One gave him a well-earned third place overall with a car that was not built for this short, sharp sort of racing, as are the current Anglo-American sports cars. Jack Sears won the GT category in Heat Two, but Whitmore was the overall winner with the open Cobra.
A very interesting and enjoyable meeting, but hardly the classic Tourist Trophy race.
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One day the combination of Surtees and the Lola-Chevrolet will get sorted out and the: no-one catch it
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The new sports-car lap record was set at 1 min. 39.0 sec. by McLaren; the Formula One record is 1 min. 39.2 sec.
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The Ferguson Tera-Mala torque-converter showed excellent promise and left the driver with both hands and both feet to concentrate on steering, braking and accelerating. After a full day’s trouble-free testing earlier in the week it was ironic that an oil seal should start leaking, even after having been changed in practice.
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In practice Surtees made best time with a lap in 1 min. 36.6 sec., a sign of things to come.
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Roger Mac was easily the fastest of the non-works Cobras, but unfortunately a rear wheel cameoff and he spun out of the race.
D. S. J.