Continental Notes, June 1971
The Sub-commission for Technical Regulations, which is made up of D. H. Delamont (GB), J. Herbert (France), P. Frère (Belgium), J. Oliveau (USA), A. Rogano (Italy), J. Rousseau (France), C. Schild (Switzerland) and T. Schmitz (Germany), are continuing to tidy up the rules for International racing and they have decided that as from January 1st, 1972, Grand Prix cars shall have an increase in minimum weight from 530 kg. to 550 kg., which is 1,166 lb. to 1,210 lb., the general feeling being that Formula One cars are being built too light and too flimsy.
At the same time it was decided that a monocoque structure should have a minimum thickness of 1.5 mm. (0.060 in.) for its outer skin, a figure agreed with the racing car constructors. These two decisions are the beginnings of a study by the CSI of fundamental safety considerations in relation to Formula cars, which is a very good thing and it may help to stop some of the hysteria of the safety-conscious “do-gooders” who seem unable to think further than iron rails and the banning of existing circuits. They erect safety barriers and catch-fences everywhere in case a car flies off the road due to something breaking. Surely it is more logical to try and prevent things breaking in the first place, and this move by the CSI is very welcome.
The splendid rule about red lights on the back of Grand Prix cars, which should have come into force on April 1st (a very appropriate day), has been postponed until July 1st “because of the British postal strike” to quote the official announcement! This means that all the Grand Prix teams must be ready to switch on their red tail lights when they get to the torrid wastes of the Paul Ricard circuit down near Marseilles on July 4th for the French GP. “This light must be switched on when required by the Stewards of the meeting” to quote the CSI once more.
Another interesting rule that came into force this year was one relating to refuelling systems in long-distance sports-car races. Where the organisers provide the refuelling system all is well, but where the entrants have to provide their own it must be by gravity through a pipe of 2-in. to 4-in. diameter and the gravity system must not generate more than 0.5 atmospheres (7 1/2 lb./sq.in.). Obviously no-one is going to use a 2-in. pipe when they can use a 4-in. one, and to obtain half an atmosphere, for again no-one is going to settle for less, it means that the fuel supply has to be at a height of 27 ft. above the car.
In the past the major teams like Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Porsche used pressure refuelling equipment using compressed nitrogen fed into the fuel container, forcing the petrol through the filler hose at anything up to 25-30 lb./sq.in. The CSI felt that things were getting out of hand, so drew up the new rules, but whether they realised that the new rules would involve the building of enormous tubular towers behind the pits, with a 45-gallon fuel drum on top and a pressure refuelling system to pump the petrol up to the container so that it can then run down the feed pipe at the regulation 0.5 atmospheres, is not clear.
The petrol fairly gushes down the 4-in. pipes, but the leading teams have more problems to cope with. Fortunately Gulf and Shell take over most of the responsibility for erecting the tower and providing the necessary pumps to get the fuel to the top. With a two-handled quick-action bayonet fitting on the end of the 4-in. hose, the mechanic clicks it onto the car as it stops and 24 gallons go in in a matter of 10 to 12 seconds. It is also compulsory to have an overflow valve to which another mechanic pings in a tube which lets the overflow pour into a separate container, thus indicating that the tank is full. Undoing the bayonet fitting shuts a flap valve in the feed pipe and also one in the fuel tank neck on the car so that the risk of spillage is at a minimum. The whole system works very well and is a vast improvement over the old-fashioned churns and funnel or lever-controlled valve on the hose nozzle where the refuelling mechanic used to watch the level rising in the tank through the filler cap.
For 1972 the CSI proposes to admit all cars of all Groups without any cylinder-capacity limit, to take part in the European Hill-Climb Championship. At the moment the European events are limited to sports cars, and until this year there was a 2-litre engine limit, but for 1971 this has been increased to 3 litres. The basic rules for European hill-climbing were settled at a time when Italy and Switzerland had banned all open-road events. The Swiss relaxed their ban for hill-climbs, but the Italians relented under a number of excuses, one being that sports cars up to 2-litres could take part in events on public roads, and this immediately allowed the mountain hill-climbs to continue, these rules applying to Italy and not Sicily. There was no pressure to permit single-seaters to take part, and Porsche, Abarth and Ferrari were content to run sports cars, but over the years some of the hill-climbs have introduced single-seater classes, though they could not count in the Championship runs.
With this new CSI ruling it could mean a resurgence of interest in mountain hill-climbing, which next to the Targa Florio must be the last stronghold of good old-fashioned rugged motor racing. Possibly the CSI looked at some of the competition in British hill-climbs, for they have banned the use of 4-wheel-drive, which is a pity. There are plans to run a competition within the Mountain Championship for National Teams, and it would be nice to see a British team in it, if some philanthropic sponsor would help to pay the expenses. I should imagine that driving a McLaren M10B Formula 5000 car up the Trento-Bondone mountain climb or the Montseny would give you more excitement and satisfaction than a whole season of circuit racing in Britain.
Le Mans and Hockenheim
In view of the fact that only about four Grand Prix drivers will be taking part in the Le Mans 24-hour race on June 12th/13th the Badische Motorsport Club of Germany are proposing to hold a non-championship Formula One race at Hockenheim on Sunday, June 13th, to be called the Jochen Rindt Memorial Race, over 35 laps of the Motodrom. They have quite a strong entry and the event looks as if it could be quite a success. I wonder how many people going to the race realise that the race-manager Wilhelm Herz was at one time a works NSU motorcycle rider and holder of the motorcycle World Record at well over 200 m.p.h. I think I am correct in saying that Herz was the last record-holder to use an orthodox motorcycle to take the World Record. His supercharged 500-cc, twin-cylinder NSU had a normal motorcycle frame and forks with the rider astride the machine. After that record-breakers became low, tubular projectiles with the rider almost lying prone.
In view of the fact that I considered the Le Mans race laid down and died last year, with its pathetic 4 p.m. start on Saturday and disgusting 4 p.m. finish on Sunday, I am taking the Hockenheim race as an excuse to let someone else enjoy Le Mans and see if the proposed “Indianapolis-type start” lifts it up off the ground. It will need something, for apart from the Gulf-Porsches and the Martini Porsches the entry is depressingly thin.
This does not mean I think much of the Hockenheim Stadium, and I am glad that the German GP has gone back to Nurburgring, even if it has been altered quite a lot, but there is nothing against having a friendly little Formula race at Hockenheim, or on any stadium for that matter. My objections last year were simply to comparing Hockenheim with Nurburgring as the scene for the German Grand Prix. I would like to see every circuit in Europe holding a Formula One race, but only the best circuit in each country holding the National Grand Prix; after all Grand Prix means Great Prize, which should mean the best there is on all counts.
The latest official note from Paris says that the Mexican GP has been re-instated in the World Championship for this year, having been excluded earlier this year because of the public rowdiness last year. The organisers have promised better crowd control and as an act of faith have deposited a large sum of money in a Swiss bank as a guarantee. If rowdiness breaks out this year the money will be forfeited and the CSI will donate it to a worthy motor sport cause—oohl.—D. S. J.