Continental Notes, June 1972

The Formula One Constructors

Under most circumstances I am in favour of dictators, providing their ideas coincide with mine, and particularly in motor racing I like dictators. Ettore Bugatti never stood any nonsense from anyone, nor did Enzo Ferrari or Tony Vandervell, neither does Colin Chapman. When things become on friendly and democratic confusion and indecision usually take over and for this reason I am naturally suspicious when any group of people with the same interest get together and form a society or association to further their own ends. Not without reason I have been somewhat suspicious of the Formula One Association which has representatives from Brabham, BRM, Ferrari, Honda, Lotus, March, Matra, McLaren, STP, Surtees, Tyrrell, Walker and Williams on its list of members. I can never really believe that Chapman, Tyrrell and Mosley, for example, are working together for their common good rather than working away for the protection of Lotus. Tyrrell and March, respectively. I however, biased as I am I cannot commend too highly a powerful document put out by this Association as a united effort that strikes at the very heart of the future of Grand Prix racing. This document is entitled “Recommendations of the Formula One Constructor’s Association for Formula One Grand Prix events from 1973 onwards.” It suggests that the CSI Bureau concerned with the future of Grand Prix racing acted hastily and are now reluctant to admit it. The Constructors say “Before sufficient technical and constructional information was available the CSI Bureau acted in haste and without consultation with the Formula One Constructors and announced in December 1971 that from 1973 onwards pit stops would be compulsory in Grand Prix events and the fuel capacity of Formula One cars would be limited. The reasons for this pronouncement have never been made clear, but both safety and political motives have been suggested. It seems the CSI, having placed itself in an invidious position, is now unwilling or unable to change the decision taken at a time when research to provide safer Formula One motor racing had just started. This research plus technical studies has produced information which clearly shows the CSI Bureau decision to have been taken in haste and to have little relevance to the real problem.” They then go on to say that the idea of a compulsory pit stop for petrol, or worse the alternative suggestion of running Grand Prix races in two heats, or two heats and a final, would not provide events worthy of the title “Grand Prix” or “Grande Epreuve”. If pit stops for petrol are forced to happen or have to happen they then put forward a very reasonable list of minimum requirements to ensure that such pit stops are reasonable, fair, and safe and end this bit by saying they “are of the opinion that the implementation of these necessary safety measures is impossible without vast and unwarranted expenditure on the majority of the present circuits.” This is all quite fair, except that most of the Grand Prix circuits are used for long distance sports car races in which cars make three or even four refuelling stops quite reasonably, the only difference being that a second lost in a 1000 kilometre (620 miles) race can be won back, whereas a second lost in today’s mini-Grand Prix races can mean the difference between winning and losing.

As a body, they arc completely against the idea of two heats or two heats and a final, pointing out that the suggested fuel tank limit would restrict the final to 140 Miles which would degrade the title “Grand Prix” for a World Championship race, and they say “The CSI proposals reduce the stature of Grand Prix racing to Formula Two or Formula Three level. This cannot and must not happen.” They then list a perfectly sound collection of constructional ideas for making the cars safer in case of an accident and end by saying “That all Grand Prix races should be held as one race only; that there should be no fuel capacity limitation; that a Formula One Grand Prix cannot be decided by two heats or two heats and a final; and that the CSI Bureau withdraw the regulations made last December concerning pit stops”. Although they do not say so in their document, as it would only confuse the issue, they would not be against longer races rather than shorter ones.

At the time of writing, which is during the Monaco Grand Prix week, some political mutterings were made at a CSI Press conference that indicated that the Constructors Association and the CS I were going to get together and have another think about the whole matter, but if the decisions are to be made by 1st June, 1972, it means they have already been made and will have been pretty hasty whether they are positive ones or negative ones. it is nice to know that my desires for bigger, better and longer Grand Prix races are not a lonely cry in the wilderness. As long-distance sports car racing is in a precarious situation at the moment, with a lack of manufacturer support apart from Ferrari, how about turning all the 1000 kilometre races into 3-litre free-for-all events, with two drivers per car, running in open-wheel form or with full bodywork ? Do not bother to write and say it would not work, or that Grand Prix cars would not last the distance, for the difference between a Formula One Ferrari flat-12 and the 312P flat-12 sports car is negligible, as it is with the MS120C Matra-Simca VI2 and the Le Mans 660 or 670 Matra-Simca V12, and if there is any difference between the Lola T280 and the Mirage M6 Cosworth V8 Hewland transmission layout and the British Grand Prix “kit cars” then I’d like to know about it. Why don’t we stop shilly-shallying about with all these categories, Formulae and Championships and have one big race at each circuit ? The 1000 kilometres of Buenos Aires, the 1000 kilometres of Monza„ the 1000 kilometres of Spa, the BOAC 1000 kilometres, the ADAC 1000 kilometres, the Osterreichring 1000 kilometres, and throw in a few more like Barcelona, Kyalami, Montlhery and Daytona and the overall winner could really call himself the Champion Constructor and if we ended up with two World Champion drivers, so what ? Two of anything are always supposed to be better than one.

John Young Stewart—World Champion

Just before the Sebring 12-hour race last Match a certain beady-eyed little Scot was going-around amongst the sports car drivers encouraging them to sign a GPDA petition that was calling for a complete boycott on all Formula One or FIA Manufacturers Sports Car Championship races at the Belgian Spa-Francorchamps circuit, A week later a letter arrived from the GPDA headquarters in Switzerland stating that at their meeting at Watkins Glen last October, they agreed by a majority decision that they would not participate in any future Formula One or Manufacturers Sports car races at Spa-Francorchamps. So why the need for the petition at Sebring in March ? At this majority vote there was one dissenter and four abstainers, and since then some members had reversed their decision due to being committed to teams by written contract. The GPDA missive from Switzerland went on to say that the fact that certain GPDA members would be competing at Spa on May 7th did not “in any way indicate a change of heart on the part of the Association as a whole regarding the desirability of participating at this circuit at any future time.”

I frequently receive letters from readers who ask why I keep attacking Stewart and his GPDA; surely the reason is becoming all too clear. if he said “I had a nasty experience at Spa in 1966 and I have no intention of ever going there again” I would accept his feelings completely, have nothing further to say about it and the matter would be finished. But it is not as simple as that, his pious whinings have brain-washed and undermined the natural instincts of some young and inexperienced newcomers to Grand Prix racing and removed the Belgian Grand Prix from Spa-Francorchamps. I will readily admit that Grand Prix racing is his life and business and he has every justification in anything he does concerning Grand Prix racing. BUT WHAT HAS LONG DISTANCE SPORTS CAR RACING GOT TO D0 WITH STEWART ? To the best of my knowledge he has never been a serious competitor in a long-distance sports car race, he has never shown any desire to become involved in driving in long-distance sports car racing, and I doubt whether anyone would ever ask him to join their team for sorts car racing, yet he was trying to persuade drivers to boycott the Spa 1000 kilometre event.

Many years ago Colin Chapman took a little Lotus 23 sports car to Le Mans that was not only going to win the valuable Index of Performance but was going to steal all the glory from the little French cars of the time, providing it lasted 24 hours. Certain people in the Le Mans Club were not prepared to accept this state of affairs, and by dint of some very shady manoevring of the regulations during pre-practice scrutineering they ruled the Lotus 23 out of court. In a furious temper Chapman said he would never go back to the Le Mans 24-Hour Race, having been a regular entrant for a number of years up to this point. HE NEVER DID RETURN TO LE MANS, and I will always admire him for it. Can you really ask me in all honesty to admire, or even tolerate, our current reigning World Champion Driver ?

Rules and Regs

The job of writing rules and regulations to control something as complex as motor racing is an unenviable task and to draw up rules to control the construction of a racing car, either in an attempt at safety or equality, is even worse. The people who volunteer to take on this job for the FIA have my greatest sympathy, for no one has to take on the job or is forced to take it on, the people concerned get involved because they like motor racing and racing cars. The President of the CSI. when he took on the job recently, pointed out that motor racing all over the world is in the throes of some major changes and very likely by the time a decision has been made, the rule written down and published, the situation will have changed and the rule will be obsolete. One such rule concerns the safety roll-over bars on Grand Prix cars, for in the FIA rule book it says quite clearly in Article 297: Roll bars. “There must be at least one brace from the top of the bar rearwards at an angle not exceeding 60-degrees with the horizontal”. This was a perfect description of the current practice in use on Formula One cars when the rule was agreed upon. By the time it had got into print in the Yearbook the Formula One designers had realised that a much safer cockpit structure could be built by running two braces forward from the rollover bar at an angle downwards to the monocoque, thereby making the cockpit surrounded by a complete cage. According to Article 297: most of the Grand Prix cars today are illegal, except that under Article 293: there is a paragraph headed “Waivers” which says that if the original conception of the car prevents the fitting of the specified rollover bar then an alternative layout will be permitted providing the layout is submitted to the CSI for approval. This is really referring to saloon cars, but the Formula One designers use it rather than worry about the original rule.

Another rule says in item (d) of Article 297: that “all Formula cars must be equipped with a rearward facing red warning light of at least 15 watts. This light must be mounted as high as possible on the centre line of the car and be clearly visible from the rear. The warning light must be switched on by order of the Clerk of the Course”. Without bothering to mention any specific makes, the results of the last two Grand Prix races could have been completely ruined if someone had put in a protest or the scrutineers in Spain and Monaco had been trained at Brands Hatch or Silverstone, for many of the cars did not have their rear lights mounted on the centre line. At Monaco, in the pouring rain of Saturday’s practice and the torrential rain of race day most of the entry had their red lights a glow, at the start if not at the finish. On two cars the lights did not work, and when challenged about this in practice it was pointed out that Article 297: Paragraph (d) says the light must be switched on, but nowhere does it say that the light has to work. The drivers put their switches to the “ON” position as instructed and according to the rule book that was sufficient. I would hate to be on the CSI committee that writes out these rules.

Without doubt the red lights were a good idea and they shone through the spray splendidly, helping the drivers behind, but it was noticeable in the race that a great number of them went out after a time, either because the engine vibrations shattered the bulb, or perhaps because the drivers switched them off. If Stewart or Fittipaldi, or Regazzoni or Ickx are chasing you and catching you, is there any point in making their job easier by letting them see exactly where you are ? Oddly enough the light on the winning BRIM shone continuously, tantalising those who followed. If a red light on the back is a good thing to let the driver see a car in front, then they ought to have a headlight on the front to let a driver see that he is being followed. This might have made Schenken, Peterson and Marko more conscious that they were being followed. With spray rising many feet above the wheels and trailing nearly 100 yards behind the Formula One cars, they should all be fitted with mudguards and spray-flaps, and then we could go on for 1000 kilometres and have refuelling stops and driver changes … But isn’t this where we came in at the beginning of these Continental Notes ? Personally I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong with Grand Prix racing, especially after the Spanish GP and the Monaco GP, but to those who keep on moaning and saying “how can we improve Grand Prix racing ?” the simple answer must be “turn it into sports car racing, but don’t tell anyone”. — D. S. J.