Avon Motor Tour hots up
With just a month to go the Avon Motor Tour of Britain looks like living up to the reputation of the event that it emulates—the Tour de France. There are some vital differences however. First 1973 is very much a pilot year so that only Group 1 cars are eligible, unlike the French event which includes Matra MS670 sports-racers and the like, while the final route, around Britain and Wales, does not include any hill-climbs, which is rather a shame.
The 1,000-mile route does cover five circuits and seven rally-type special stages, although these are expected to be mainly tarmacadamed. It is going to be very interesting to see how the racing drivers fare on unseen roads and how the rally drivers adapt to circuit racing, for this event offers a unique combination of both.
There are top names from both spheres on the entry list. Among the racing brigade will be Grand Prix drivers Graham Hill, Vern Schuppan and Howden Ganley, not to mention top saloon-car dicers like Frank Gardner, Dave Matthews, Tony Lanfranchi and Gordon Spice. But equally the big names of the rallying world are also on the list, including Roger Clark, now at the peak of his career, Wheelbase/Kleber Scholarship winner Chris Sclater, Tony Fall, Irish contender Adrian Boyd (who is my outsider for victory), and promising up and coming British talents like Mike Hibbert, Bob Bean and Andy Dawson.
To add to these top drivers there are several publicity “names” as well as umpteen motoring journalists taking part—mainly in the co-driver’s seat. But the Duke of Kent will definitely be at the wheel of a works Ford and aviator Sheila Scott will co-drive one of the Huxford Fiats.
Various manufacturers’ teams, be they from the works, concessionaires or dealer associations, seem to be taking plenty of interest in the event. Ford has entered a full complement of four cars and will obviously be going all out for victory, while BMW has a particularly strong team of their 3.0 Si models as raced in Group 1 by Tony Lanfranchi and Roger Bell. Chrysler Dealer Team will have a Hunter and an Avenger for Bernard Unett and Colin Malkin, and Dealer Team Vauxhall will be running a trio of their Firenzas including one for Gerry Marshall. Under the banner of Huxford’s of Fareham there will be a team of three Fiats which will receive some works backing. The team will run a 127, a 128 and 124, two with lady crews including women racing champions Alison Davis (co-driven by Sheila Scott) and Jean Denton (co-driven by motoring journalist Sue Baker).
The British Datsun importers are expected to announce a competition policy within the next few weeks and are rumoured to be bringing over some racing Datsun Cherries for Japanese drivers for the British Grand Prix. Meanwhile one of their newest distributors, Datsun (Baker Street) Ltd., is fielding a very strong trio of Bluebirds in the Avon Tour with Graham Hill/David Benson, Frank Gardner/John Davenport and Tony Fall/Mike Wood as the crews. British racing champion Gardner has already spent considerable time setting up the cars but they are aiming for a class rather than overall victory.
The class structure is the same as in Group 1 racing with the divisions made by price rather than cubic capacity. Most of the big names are in the two more expensive divisions, which leaves the two smaller classes open for the Clubman. Avon, themselves, are offering a generous bonus scheme which will make the event very worthwhile for the drivers in the lesser categories who do not have a chance of overall victory. There will be a total of 80 competitors, 20 in each of the four classes. Naturally the cheapest class is dominated by Moskvitches, including a team from the concessionaires.
Just about the only disappointing aspect of the event has been the lack of foreign interest but this will surely come as the event grows. Tentative plans are already being made for a bigger and better Avon Tour next year but meanwhile we look forward to seeing if those rally drivers or the racers come out on top.
The future of the 7
There has been a good deal of talk in recent months about the possible demise of that great enthusiast’s car, the Lotus 7. In the middle of last month Colin Chapman hosted a press conference about its future. Basically, Chapman said the trouble was that volume was no longer great enough for the car to be built by Lotus and VAT also brought problems, but he was reluctant to kill off the Seven. Thus he had come to an agreement with Graham Nearn of Caterham Car Sales for them to assemble Sevens at their Surrey premises. Caterham have, of course, been long-time supporters and major distributors of the Lotus Seven. They will assemble the Super 7 Series 4 to virtually the same specification as Lotus and will offer for sale two versions. There will be a powerful version with a Lotus big-valve twin-cam engine which will sell at £1,500 while a 1300 GT push-rod powered model will cost £1,195. Caterham expect to build about five cars a week. Of course, with the advent of VAT, the kit car became obsolete and these prices are for complete cars.
World Cup Rally
As we close for press I understand that the World Cup Rally, which created such tremendous publicity in 1970, will be on again in 1974. Full details are not yet to hand but I understand that the event will be sponsored by United Dominions Trust Ltd. and Tony Ambrose will again be involved in the organisation.
Rumours suggest that the event’s route will be confined to the Europe and Asia land mass and will journey through Russia. Of course the announcement of this third “marathon” type event will promote plenty of controversy. Many critics reckon that these type of events are just too costly even for the most wealthy works teams.
“Formule Libre” British GP?
The British Grand Prix at Silverstone on July 14th will be open to any single-seater car complying with the CSI safety requirements, according to the regulations issued recently. This move is all part of the protracted industrial battle between the GPI (representing the organisers) and the Constructors’ Association. The GPI ranks have already been broken by the Spanish GP organisers but Silverstone is still holding out and thus have taken this unusual step.
In reality it means that entrants of Formula 5000 and Formula Two cars in particular can take part in the Grand Prix along with the Formula Ones but at the moment none of the cars in these lesser categories comply with the safety requirements. Of course, it is possible that Lola, Chevron and other 5000 manufacturers could build the latest deformable structures to their cars, although it is still unlikely that fuel tankage could be increased sufficiently to allow the cars to go the full distance. — A.R.M.