Reflections at Zolder

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Reflections at Zolder

“IHE UMW I, , ‘,evince ‘el Belgium, between Antwerp and Liege is not the most pleasant part of Europe. being flat and sandy and pretty featureless. The scenery is either fa-ctorics and induStry or sandy scrubland and heath. and when the sun shines it is tolerable, but when it rains it is awful, and it rained all day Saturday. There was a Own. when Stewart and Helm were the Grand Prix leaders, when a rainy practice session would see all the cars remain under covers and little Or no activity on the wet track. Al ‘,der it was truly remarkable how many drivers ventured out Imo the rain on the new Goodyear rain tyres, and many of them stayed out for a long time. I could not help reflecting that even the slowest of them was going ales faster in the wet than I coold ever have hoped to have driven in the dry. and I am sum t hal applies to a lot of other iournalists.reporterwerities who were watching. I did once suggest that with so minty spare cars at most Formula One races there ought to be an end-of-season five-lap handicap on age preferably’ tier Grand Prix reporters, eising the Spare ma, When I asked eiround aiming me 0,11caPtcs• suggesting an impromptu race. I received a surprising variety of replies. from “Great idea. when do we start?” through “Mmni. well yes. but I’d want some private practice first” to No thanks. I don’t wane to drive a Formula One car”. and I was thinking of a race in the dry!

The Belgian race saw the introduction of a set of tyre rules and regulations dreamed up by PISA that are far too complex to discuss in detail, but they involve all tyres being marked with aerosol paint of a prescribed colour, through a prescribed stencil, the colours varying from right and left and changing day by day, as do the stencils and all the marking equipment has to be kept under lock and key and a stencil marshal appointed for groups of four teams, and forms being filled in in triplicate and onc set of rules if it is dry and another if it is wet, and final decisions being made two hours before the start . ..whew! A very complex method of controlling what the tyre companies have agreed to do anyway, and that is to stop producing special soft tyres for qualifying for grid positions. Practice is now done on tyrsss that will do a race distance, and Goodyear and Michelin have an , engineer’s agreement on this. You’d have thought this would have been sufficidn, but oh no, not in this day and age. A bill set of regulations have to be drawn up. I still think one of these days we’ll have a Fortnula One race comprising “legal eagles” and the rule books, with drivers, managers and tem’ owners present. but no cars. At least it will be quiet enough to hear what people arc saying.

The pit lane at Zolder is unbelievably narrow and I wonder why FOCA put up with U. It is also too short for a full field and there is no room for spare cars, while the pits themselves arc exactly that, holes in the ground below the level of the pit road. I wonder if the man who designed the layout has ever worked with a team and helped to hump everything up onto the pit counter. The Spanish circuit at Jarama may be a funny little Mickey Mouse affair, but she pits layout is first class, Zolder organisers should take a look sometime. The number of people in the pit lane at Zolder was ridiculous and it is amazing that nobody gel run over. It makes me shake my head in despair when I see a photographer stop in the pit road, put his great camera box down on the ground and go down on onc knee to take an “any” snap of a driver’s helmet or a sponsor’s name on the side of a car. At the bottom end of the pit road. ius, before cars go out on the track it was very dicey for the mechanics of teams like Alfa Romeo, Ensign. ATS and Shadow lemmas’ front the other end, like Ferrari. I.otus, Renault, Brabham ete. were doing 50 or 60 m.p.h. at the end of the lane with bandy six inches between their cars and those being worked on, which didn’t leave much space ter mechanics doing a job of work. One chief mechanic sent a polite note to thc President of the Grand Prix Drivers Association (.10d, Scheckter, asking his to tell his young men 19 take it easy. As one chief mechanic said later ‘lit’ they don’t cool it. we’ll abed an air bottle out front of them.” A steel nitrogen bottle on its trolley would play havoc cvith the front of a Formula One car.

Fashion is a great factor in Formula Onc design and it will be interesting to see who follows thc new pattern set by Gordon Murray and Patrick Head, of having curved edges to the side-P.ds• vvith no “kick-ups” at the ends iust in front of the rear tyres. These “kick-ups” have quite a lee variants. from total enclosure to forming funnels to let air up and Out ahead of the tyre. ma., openings are open, others have gauze mesh .6 them Knite edges along the side-pods syere vcrY popular and these grow up othe veritable w-alls “to stop air spilling over the edge.” All that now a thing iel the past and air is reckoned to Sc domg something completely different to what it was doing in 1979. As readers who fellow the European scene will know, the Spa-Francorchamps circuit has been shortened. with an exciting and daunting new leg across the middle of oho old circuit. retaining the same pits and start-line area and the steep climb up l’eau Rouge Radiallon. It is now ten years since we had a Grand Prix on the Francorchamps circuit anti people are wondering when the Grand Prix will return there. At the moment, officially, At -revised circuit has not been passed for Formula One racing by the FISA Circuit InsPectors, and anyway, Zolder has the contract for the Grand Prix in 1981, so a return to Francorcharnps cannot happen before 1982, if then. The start-line at Francorchamps is on quite a steep slope and when I first went there, in 1948. Otto were held on the line with their hand-brake, then the hand-brake requirement disappeared from the regulations and drivers had to iuNle with their right foot on brake and accelerator Pedals at the same time. Some teams put small pieces of rubber under one wheel to chock the car, others used small bits of wood, a folded cigarette packet or similar chock; small stones were even used. In the past ten years the phobia of safety and track cleanliness has grown enommusly so I do soot set any way of holding 24 straining Formula One cars on that downhill grid. They could not move the start to the fiat kg of the circuit for the short straight ends in an acute hairpin, which would be asking for trouble. At

the moment I do not know what the answer is, always assuming that the Spa-Francorchamps owners want the Formula One circus back in the Ardennes.

Arriving at Zolder the day before practice began. after a dry but Windy ride across France and Belgium on my BMW motoreycle. I went for an evening m.I with two friends in the village of Boldeburg, near the circuit. We were well away with our meal sot 9.30 p.m. when one of them said -Do you realise what day it is?” I didn’t. “It’s May 1st.” Exactly twenty-five years ago to the very day and very hour, I was having dinner in a hotel in Brescia in Northern Italy, with the engineers of the Mercedes-Bera racing team, after doing At best day’s work in osy life. 140000 from MOTOR SPORT June 1955. “On May lot motor-racing history was made, for Stirling Moss won the 1,000-mile Mille Miglia, the first thne in twenty-two years that this has been achieved by a British driver, and I had the very great privilege of sitting beside him throughout this epic drive.” A twenty-fifth anniversary, with two rnotor racing friends seemed like a good time to have a large cognac in celebration before we fell to discussing Tiff Needell’s chances with the Ensign, or whether Ferran and Lotus were going to get up off their knees at this meeting, and I hoped the race would be won by Jones, Piquet., Villeneuve or Arno..—D.S.J.

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