Continental notes, June 1967

After the victory by the Ford “Mirage” in the Francorchamps 1,000-kilometre race the question a lot of people were asking was “What is a Mirage?” Put into simple terms it is an improved Ford GT40, but not improved in the same way as a Mark II or so radically redesigned as a Mark IV. It will be recalled that when Ford first started in European racing they took over Eric Broadley and his Lola project and gradually developed that design into the 4.7-litre Ford coupé that eventually went into limited production as the GT40 and was homologated with the F.I.A. as a Group 4 sports car (50 examples built in 12 months). The building of the prototype cars was done at Slough, west of London, by Ford Advanced Vehicles under the direction of John Wyer and this firm also built the Group 4 Ford GT40s sold to the racing fraternity and other private owners. F.A.V. also ran a customer service, giving assistance at the more important races. Meanwhile the Mark II Ford was being developed from the basic design of the Mark I, the principal change being the installing of a 7-litre Ford V8 engine. This called for a stronger gearbox, bigger drive shafts, larger brakes, wider wheels and so on and so on until the 4.7-litre Mark I or production GT40 had little in common with the 7-litre Mark II. Concurrently an entirely new project was under way which was the J-car that appeared at Le Mans test week-end in 1966 and which used a bonded honeycomb material for the chassis and had little in common with the Mark II other than the 7-litre engine. This project became the Mark IV that is being raced this year. The Mark III is an improved road-equipped version of the GT40, such as you or I might buy for everyday use.

Last winter Ford Advanced Vehicles came to an end as a subsidiary of Ford U.S.A. and J. W. Automotive Engineering was formed by John Wyer and John Willment, keeping the same staff and factory and continuing with the building and supplying of GT40 cars and parts, as well as undertaking other projects. One of these is the Ford “Mirage” which was commissioned by the Gulf Oil Company who wanted to run a racing team. Last year the Essex Wire Company of America did the same thing and Wyer and his workers looked alter the three GT40 cars run by that group. Gulf wanted something more sophisticated than a Group 4 sports car, that at best could only hope for a class win, so J. W. Automotive Engineering came up with the “Mirage.'” The basic chassis is a GT40 but it is built to a lighter specification and being in the Group 6 prototype class any little details could be altered and improved while they were working on the chassis. The basic 4.7-litre Ford V8 engine was used at first, later enlarged to just over 5 litres and at Spa they had a 5.7-litre engine, which is another series of Ford engine altogether. An entirely new body was designed, taking full advantage of the Le Mans regulations and the car looks very similar to the Mk. III Lola or the Mk. IV Ford, both of which adhere to a “Le Mans pattern.” The main advantage in the new body shape is a reduction in frontal area. A name other than Ford GT was needed for this project and “Mirage” was decided upon as it was easily pronounced in all normal racing countries, especially France for Gulf had their eye on Le Mans. While John Wyer and his men looked after the design and construction, David York took over team management, having looked after the Essex Wire Team last year.

At the L.e Mans test week-end the cars made a promising first outing and after that they ran at Monza where only Ferrari 4-litres were superior and then at Francorchamps, with the 5.7-litre engine in the new car, only Chaparral was superior in practice, while in the race and rain, the “Mirage” notched up its first victory. The most significant thing about that race was the fuel consumption of the 5.7-litre “Mirage” for it went much farther than the works P4 Ferrari and the Chaparral on a tankful of fuel. This could well put the “Mirage” in a strong position for a Le Mans victory, for it obviously has nearly the speed of the big works cars and could go through with two less stops. The cars are painted pale blue with an orange stripe on the centre line and are a most interesting development project.

While on the subject of Group 6 cars and long-distance racing it might be as well to sort out the Ferrari situation. Last year the factory team ran 4-litre cars in open and closed form, known as P3. The V12 engine had 4 overhead camshafts with inlet ports in the centre of the vee and the exhaust ports on the outside in an orthodox 2-valve-per-cylinder arrangement. Coupled to this was a Ferrari 5-speed gearbox with the rear disc brakes mounted “inboard” on each side of the gearbox. Suspension followed what is now orthodox Grand Prix practice and the chassis frame was a mixture of stressed skin and tubes. For this year the P4 was introduced which was a logical development of the P3, the engine still being a 4-litre or Type 330 by Ferrari designation of the capacity of one cylinder, and it still had 4 overhead camshafts, but there were 3 valves per cylinder, two inlet and one exhaust and the inlet ports, fed by Lucas injection, were situated between the pairs of camshafts. This new engine was coupled to a new Ferrari 5-speed gearbox and the rear brake discs were moved outboard to the hubs, with suitable alterations to the suspension members. A lower and smoother bodywork was fitted, either open cockpit or coupé. The P4 is essentially a factory team car for this year and certain private owners were sold improved versions of last year’s P3 cars, Outwardly these cars look like P4 cars, having the same coupé bodywork, but they differ mechanically for they have the 1966 type 4 o.h.c. engine, with carburetters feeding the inlet ports in the vee of the unit, but they have the P4 suspension improvements and the P4 outboard brake discs, and the gearbox is a 5-speed ZF unit. In consequence they are not P3 cars, nor are they P4 cars, as the factory team cars, so have to be termed 330 P3/P4. As with the Ford “Mirage” these 1966/67 Ferraris seem to be less thirsty than the works P4 cars and not lacking much in speed, so their chances at Le Mans are also high. They are run by various Ferrari agents or supporters of long standing and there are four of them, a bright yellow one for the Equipe National Belge, a red and pale blue one for Ronnie Hoare and his Maranello Concessionaires in London, a red, blue and white one for Luigi Chinetti and his North American Racing Team, and a red and white one for the Swiss Scuderia Filipinetti.

From things past and present to things of the very near future brings us to a magnificent document from Ford (England) entitled “First ever Ford Formula 1 Engine” in which is described in great detail the 3-litre V8 engine that Keith Duckworth and his Cosworth Engineering firm have designed and built for use in the 1967 Lotus Grand Prix cars to be driven by Clark and Hill for Team Lotus. At the time of writing the first engine is expected to be at Zandvoort on June 4th, in the new Lotus Grand Prix car, and, knowing the abilities of Duckworth, Costin and Chapman, it should be a most interesting newcomer to the Formula One scene. The 1,600 c.c. Cosworth-Ford FVA engine was the beginning of this joint project, which is to culminate in the 3-litre Grand Prix engine. In November 1965, with Coventry Climax having given up racing engine production, Ford agreed to spend £100,000 on an engine project for the exclusive use of Team Lotus, the work to be done by Cosworth Engineering and for it to take a two-part form. A 4-cylinder Formula Two engine was initiated, to be available to other constructors and the result of this was to determine the second part which was the Formula One engine for Lotus. We have already seen the remarkable success of the 16-valve FVA engine, so it is not unreasonable to expect similar results from the 3-litre V8 and certainly no one will underestimate any of the men involved in the project. In view of the financial size of the project Ford quite rightly insisted that Team Lotus had a number two driver who could support Clark to the full, which is the reason that Graham Hill was signed up for he is a number one driver and Team Lotus are now stronger than anyone.

It is refreshing that a big manufacturer is giving such support to Grand Prix racing and more so that they are prepared to disclose all the details of the new power unit long before it has even appeared at a circuit. Some manufacturers are reluctant to disclose any details of a new engine or car and seem to think that someone will rush away and copy them. This is a ridiculous outlook for anything that appears in the paddock must be obsolete as far as the Research and Development department are concerned for you do not design engines and cars overnight, and twelve months is good going from initial drawing board work to an appearance at a race track. If you are going about the job properly then during that twelve months you are working on development and new designs for the next twelve months. Any really competent racing design team will tell you that what they have in the paddock is not secret, but what is being built for the next race, or what is on the drawing board for next year, is secret. Racing people who make a big fuss about letting you see what they are using at a race are usually those who have no “forward thinking” projects on the go and are just hoping some bright idea will turn up and are afraid that you will find out that they have run out of ideas.

When the new 3-litre V8 Cosworth-Ford engine appears, at Zandvoort we hope, there will be no mysteries for Ford have told us all about it. What they have not told us is the line of development on which they are going, in order to keep the engine in front and to increase the output from the initial 380 b.h.p. at 9,000 r.p.m. to well over 400 b.h.p. The engine is a 90-degree V8 all-aluminium unit of bore 85.7 mm. and stroke 64.8 mm. giving 2,993 c.c. capacity. Compression ratio is 11 to 1 and four valves per cylinder are used, in pairs at an included angle of only 32 degrees. The four overhead camshafts are driven by a train of gears from the front of the crankshaft and operate the valves through piston-type tappets. The inlet ports are in the vee of the engine with the exhaust ports on the outside and there is a single 10 mm. sparking plug in the centre of each combustion chamber. A 12-volt Lucas transistor ignition system is used and Lucas fuel injection system, both ignition and fuel metering units being in the vee of the engine and driven from the timing gears. On each side of the crankcase are oil and water pumps and these are driven by a single long cog-belt drive in triangular form. As the engine will form part of the stressed structure of the car, lugs are cast into the front for attaching it to the bulkhead behind the driver’s seat and at the rear for attaching the suspension members.

While appreciating the desire of the Public Affairs Staff of Ford (England) to provide everyone with as much information as possible it is a pity that their copy-writers do not know a bit more about motor racing. They say “Previous designs have always called for the engine to be carried within a space-frame or a monocoque body. Now for the first time the power unit will be the strength section of the car. Both the body and rear suspension are hung around the engine.” Have they not looked at an H16 B.R.M. or the first of the monocoque V8 B.R.M. cars, or the Lancia D50 and various other cars that never reached completion? The interesting thing is that up to now no one has made a 100% success of this principle of using the engine as a stressed member, but Chapman could prove the exception to the rule. Then there is the description of the layout, whereby the shortness of the engine allows space for a large fuel tank ahead of the engine and behind the driving seat, as if this was master planning by Duckworth. In 1933 Dr. Ferdinand Porsche designed the Auto-Union racing car with its fuel tank in the same place and for the same reasons of minimum change of weight distribution. Another part of this epic reads “It was not until 1959 that Jack Brabham won the World Championship for Britain in a Cooper and since that historical date British cars or drivers have remained unchallenged.” A dogmatic and sweeping statement if ever there was one. In 1958 Mike Hawthorn was World Champion driver (in a Ferrari) and Mr. Vandervell’s Vanwall cars won the Manufacturers’ Championship for Britain, or are memories really that short? All that Brabham and his Cooper with the Coventry Climax engine did in 1959 and 1960 was to carry on the good work that Hawthorn and Vandervell did in 1958.

If Clark and Hill and the Lotus-Cosworth-Ford V8 drive the opposition into the ground in the same way that Moss and Brooks did with the Vanwalls, for Tony Vandervell’s personal pleasure, then I shall be delighted and I hope that in nine years’ time I will not forget it.

Just twelve months ago when I was at the Lamborghini factory at St. Agata, near Bologna, there was only one Miura in existence and a lot of people still considered it to be a Motor Show gimmick. The Miura is the very low two-seater coupé with the V12-cylinder engine mounted transversely behind the cockpit, the 5-speed gearbox being integral with the crankcase so that all the gears, from the camshaft drive train to the final drive train are all running in the same plane, with no need for right-angle gear drives or crown-wheels and pinions. At that time work was proceeding on the finalising of the detail design, especially as regards the engine/gearbox unit, with a view to production. When I was there recently there was a production line of six or seven cars on the go, some twenty had already been delivered and a new factory was being completed so that a re-organisation of the present one could take place and make room for an extension to the output of the Miura, the production for the next two years having already been ear-marked. The amount of detail design work that has gone on is formidable, for it involves not only the details of the car, but also of the machine shop and machine tools, such as the jigs and fixtures for boring the camshafts and for machining cylinder lines in groups of three. Lamborghini makes most of the mechanical components of the car, having despaired of getting satisfactory service from many specialised suppliers. The machine shop is an engineer’s delight and the work on the combined cylinder block and gearbox/final drive casting is fascinating. One of the problems with a mid-engined coupé is luggage space and on the Miura it is solved by building a compartment into the hinged tail that covers the engine unit, so that it is completely insulated from the mechanical components and the lid opens like any sports car and forms the extremity of the bodywork. Another interesting point is the row of tumbler switches, for lights, etc., which hang down from a panel in the roof. With the modern reclining driving position it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach forward to switches on the instrument panel so that the positioning in the centre of the roof panel makes good sense.

A year ago the Lamborghini Miura seemed to be a dream car, but it is now well in production and power units were being assembled in impressive numbers for such an advanced and complex machine. In Italy it sells for about £800 more than the orthodox front-engined 2 + 2 coupe, so it is not surprising that many people are interested in this new form of travel.

In France the racing world is agog with the news that Matra are planning a Grand Prix car and especially that the Government are loaning them a vast sum of money for the project. The agreement is that if the project is successful the money must be paid back, but what is interesting is the definition of successful. It is not a question of Matra winning Grand Prix races, but whether the results of their efforts in Grand Prix racing bring them improved business in the commercial world. In other words, if the commercial profits of the large Matra concern increase as a direct result of their racing successes then the Government want the money back. If they win all the Grands Prix races but show no rise in overall profits then they need not pay the money back. What we would describe as being ”on indefinite loan.” It is hoped that the engine will be undergoing tests by the end of the year and the car will be ready to start at Monaco 1968, and it is thought that the engine design is already well under way. It is likely to be a 12-cylinder engine, but not a “double up” of a V6 engine recently announced by a small French tuning firm, nor, it is reported, is the long-awaited B.R.M. “customer” engine.

As regards the chassis Matra have shown in Formula Two and Formula Three that they know most of the answers already and a lot of Formula Three drivers who have been trying to catch Jaussaud and Pescarolo will tell you that the Frenchmen only win because the Matra handles better than a Brabham or a Lotus. It could be that the two Frenchmen are better drivers, but that is another story. Unlike some French racing efforts in the past the Matra must be taken seriously for it has technical and material facilities far beyond the reach of some Grand Prix teams, and they have the personnel to use the facilities.

In closing I must record, with deep regret, the death of Lorenzo Bandini, after the crash at Monte Carlo. Bandini was not over-popular with a lot of people because he was very Italian in outlook and everything he did was for Italy and Ferrari. In this polyglot world of present-day motor racing he was an exception, with this insular attitude, but I always admired him for it. He may not have had the skill of a Clark or a Surtees but he had a courageous attitude to his profession of racing driver and always did his absolute best. I recall the time when he had his first drive in a works 12-cylinder sports Ferrari, on the difficult Pescara circuit. It was his “moment of truth” for he could either win or do something foolish with his first really powerful car. He won. At the Nurburgring he drove an old V8 B.R.M. for the Centro-Sud team and made a faster practice lap than the works drivers with the latest factory cars. He did not blind himself with science, he just thrashed on with courage and enthusiasm. Another pleasing aspect of Bandini was his mechanical aptitude, which he demonstrated only two days before his fatal crash. He made a mistake in practice and broke the Ferrari steering. Instead of leaving the derelict car by the roadside, as most drivers would, and walking back to the pits, he found some baling wire, borrowed some pliers and effected a splendid jury-rig that enabled him to drive the car slowly back to the pits. His attitude was “well, of course, the mechanics want it back to see what I have broken.”

There has been much criticism of the way the accident at Monaco was handled, but it has come from people who were not on the spot or were not involved with the organisation. There are bound to be criticisms of the handling of any accident, and accidents will always happen in racing, but let us hope that those whose responsibility it is will deal with the matter and not be influenced by onlookers who may not know the full facts and especially photographers and film people who make a profit from such unhappy incidents. Bandini will be missed by us all. – D. S. J.