THE RACING CAR OF THE FUTURE
A SUMMARY OF THE SUGGESTED MODIFICATIONS TO THE FORMULA FOR GRAND PRIX RACING CARS.
T’HE time draws near when the A.I.A.C.R. will have to decide the formula for Grand Prix racing cars during the years 1937, 1938 and 1939. All over Europe, and in America too, keen discussion is being carried on as to the lines on which the new formula should be based. Manufacturers, representatives of Official clubs, racing drivers, and mere interested followers of the sport, they one and all voice their opinions and solutions of an extremely difficult problem.
In England, Mr. Cecil Kimber, head of the famous M.G. Car Company, has put forward the suggestion of 4-litre engines and a weight limit of 600 kilogrammes. Certain it is that a reduction in speed of the present-day ” projectiles ” must be accomplished, unless special roads are to be used for racing. Mr. Kimber’s scheme (and he is by no means alone in his view) would undoubtedly bring this about, but at the risk of antagonising the existing supporters of Grand Prix, all of whom have spent vast sums of money in perfecting their existing designs. It might be claimed, of course, that English manufacturers would come forward with cars if a li-litre engine limit were used ; but the sad fact remains that, with the exception of the M.G., and occasionally the Austin, England has had no representatives in the Many 750 c.c. and 1,100 c.c. road rates abroad. At all costs we must not sacrifice the substance for the shadow.
The French Talbot factory has produced some famous racing cars in its time, and the suggestions of M. Lap, its chief, are therefore worthy of the deepest consideration. M. Lago suggests that engine size should be limited to about 2 litres, and that superchargers should be banned. He points out that although the supercharger has been in use on racing cars for 15 years, the number of touring cars so fitted is negligible. In his view the racing formula should tend to develop better standard cars. As for superchargers, America has given them up on racing cars for two years, and he asserts that this device will find its true métier in aviation. On the other hand, M. Lago apparently forgets that at least two American manufacturers have introduced supercharged models recently, using the lessons of racing.
M. Lago does not believe in a weight limit. It is up to the manufacturer to make his cars as light as possible. Sum-. ming up the advantages of his formula, M. Lap says that the cars would be cheaper to construct, and therefore more numerous ; being of the same size and unsupercharged, the public would feel that they bore some resemblance to their own machines ; their speed would be less, and accidents therefore less frequent. As we have already pointed out, it is a matter of speculation whether the cheaper cost would encourage more manufacturers to build racing teams. For our part, we do not consider that the public care very much whether the cars they are watching are anywhere near standard productions or not ; rather the opposite for a 100 per cent. racing car has an appeal all of its own.
As for accidents, as far as our memory serves us, there were just as many disasters when racing cars were only capable of 130 m.p.h. as there are in these days of 200 m.p.h.
The formula put forward by the Automobile Club de France is, in effect, a modification of the existing formula. They suggest a retention of the present weight limit of 750 kilogrammes, but not including tyres. This 750 kilos. should include, however, sufficient petrol, oil and water to last the car a distance of 300 kilometres. The races should be of the same distance, 500 kilometres, with no refuelling allowed until 300 kilometres has been covered.
It is difficult to state the definite results of such a formula. Its chief merit lies in its attempt to give the present competitors the benefit of their experience with their present cars, which would not have to be very seriously altered.
Our French contemporary L’iluto has recently published the opinions of various well-known French authorities on this suggested formula. M. Ettore Bugatti found his chief objection to the A.C.F. formula in its lack of sharp definition, which would inevitably result in complications. Referring to the weight limit, he is prepared to accept any limit suggested, for he says that new cars will have to be built in 1937 anyway. Robert Benoist, the famous ” ace,” is all against the formula, and some of his objections are in complete agreement with our own criticisms. He complains that any suggestion of fuel limitation detracts from the fundamental principle of a speed Grand Prix race, and savours of touring car racing. Then it would be extremely difficult to check the weights of the fullyequipped and fuelled cars without placing them in a closed park afterwards. Such a course is fraught with difficulties. Altogether, Benoist does not think that
the A.C.F. formula would stand a chance of success, and he thinks it is far more likely that the Italian scheme of a 1,500 c.c. engine limit will be used by the International Sporting Commission. M. Lory, the designer of the 1,500 c.c. Delage on which Benoist made his reputation, wholeheartedly supports the idea of a 300 kilometre petrol consumption limit. The problem of consumption, in his view, is one of the most important, and to neglect it is a serious failing. He is all in favour of a reduction in the weight limit, and thinks the A.C.F. might have even come down another 50 kilogrammes. He asserts that weight reduction is bound to reduce speed, and he would like to see
maximum speeds drop 50 k.p.h. Racing design, to M. Lary, consists in reaching the correct balance between speed, roadholding and braking, and in his view the former has outstripped the remaining points in present-day cars.
That weight-reduction will bring down speed is also the opinion of M. Berstarione, designer of Hotchkiss cars, who adds that the existing cars are much too fast, and pleads for a more logical approach to Grand Prix racing. He hastens to point out that he is not against speed, and even goes so far as to declare that this is the final test of a car. He thinks that speed has increased with too great a rapidity, and that road-holding and braking, although they have also advanced considerably, are still a long way behind.
M. Bertarione praises the 300 kilometre petrol consumption limit, for he points out that the modern supercharged G.P. racing car is .deplorably at fault in this respect. The petrol limit will ultimately benefit touring car design. If the supercharger has to be discarded in order to keep within the limit, so much the better. M. Emile Petit, designer of the Sefac car, would like to see the formula of the A.C.F. carried out not only in G.P. races,
but also in the smaller events. He considers that the 300 kilometre pit stop would then give rise to some practical results—provided that there was adequate control over competitors and that the rule was rigidly observed.
The next in the field with a suggested formula was the A.C. de Monaco, represented by M. Anthony Noghes. M. Noghes points out that the original intention of the current formula was to confine speed within certain limits by stipulating a maximum weight. The result has been intensive research by designers in th, realms of power-to-weight ratio, and their discoveries have completely upset all previous ideas on the subject. Moreover, they have given this detail of design far more attention than they did when weight was unlimited and engine size the only restriction. He is afraid that the colossal increase in speeds is only obtained by growing engine size, and places an unfair burden of danger on the drivers who have to handle the cars.
M. Noghes is particularly concerned lest the handling of G.P. cars should fall exclusively into the hands of a small high-skilled group, trained by years of successively increasing speeds, and therefore practically irreplaceable in the future. The following opinions of M. Noghes strike us as being the most significant of any. He considers that designers should have carte blanche in the choice and usage of petrol, so as to encourage research work which will benefit all motorists. Superchargers are essential, he says, if high
revolutions are to be obtained, and the trend in this direction is no passing phase. Finally, it is vitally important that a minimum weight limit should be fixed, so as to avoid the dangerous cutting down of weight to superfine limits. The formula suggested by the A.C. de Monaco, then, is as follows :—Engine size limited to 1,500 c.c. ; minimum weight of 700 kilogrammes, with tyres, but not counting petrol, oil or water ; and corn plete freedom as to blowers, fuel and fuel consumption. In order not to inconvenience the drivers, M. Noghes adds that a margin of 50 kilogrammes should be
allowed for cars with fuel, etc., on board, so that there would be no need for them to drain the oil and fuel. Finally, M. Noghes
criticises the distance suggested by the A.C.F. formula. He points out that 500 kilometres at 1VIontlhery and a similar distance at Monaco are very different matters, and the 300 kilometre re-fuelling stop therefore cannot possibly be applied rigidly. Although the Contest Board of the American Automobile Association does not hold any races under the international formula, it has nevertheless offered an
opinion to L’Auto, through its C.S.I. delegate, Mr. W. F. Bradley. Mr. Bradley began by tracing the course of events at Indianapolis. Under the old
formula of cylinder capacity limit, with superchargers, the numtier of competing manufacturers gradually fell to two. After a time the public began to lose interest in the various” Specials “which were always the same cars, bUt with different names. Rather than drift slowly to disaster, the Indianapolis authorities consulted the various manufacturers, with the result that the supercharger was banned and the capacity limit substituted by a limited petrol consumption. How successful this move has been may be judged by the fact that Indianapolis now receives 60 or 70 entries, although the actual field is restricted to 34. The present-day entries, although slightly slower than their “
Special” rivals, have the benefit of a high degree of reliability, thanks to their stock-car descent.
Mr. Bradley asserts that the average speed has riot fallen, contrary to popular belief, and the number of accidents is actually decreasing. The reason for this is found in the fact that drivers realise that their fuel supply is limited, and therefore pass their rivals on the straights in preference to the corners.
Technically the new formula has resulted in higher compressions, which have been made possible by the close co-operation of the fuel companies. This, in turn, has had the effect of improving the efficiency of stock-car engines in the States. Mr. Bradley’s condemnation of the supercharger appears to be conclusive. Since Fiat produced their team of supercharged cars in the 1923 French G.P. every Grand Prix racing car has been “blown.” The practice became general in America about two years later. In the intervening (Continued on next page.)
period the supercharger has been perfected, until to-day it -gives no trouble at all. And yet, it is practically non-existent as a stock-car fitment. He gives withering figures to prove his statement. In 1934 America produced 2,282,037 cars, of which not quite 500 were supercharged In France the number of cars was 175,000, of which less than 300 were ” blown.” in England and Germany the proportion was rather less. Only in Italy does the supercharger become a noticeable feature of general design, for no less than 15 to 20 per cent, of her production cars are so equipped. He forms the conclusion that the supercharger is intended for aero engines. Turning to his idea of a practicable formula, Mr. Bradley informed L’Autu that, in his opinion, a reduction in engine size to 1,500 c.c. or 2,000 -c.c. would make racing less costly, and less dangerous. He thinks that a maximum weight limit
is useless, for it is in the interests of manufacturers to make their cars as light as possible. He is in favour of a free choice of petrol, for it is impossible to define a “standard ” petrol. In America tetraethylised petroLs are widespread in use ; in England they have only been introduced comparatively recently ; in France they are forbidden ; in Italy they are only used for aviation. Petrols with a benzol content, however, are little used in America, but of common usage in England and Germany. As we go to press we learn of the suggestions of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, a body whose members are in very close touch with racing as carried out to-day. Their proposal is for a maximum capacity of two litres, while they suggest that the weight limit be increased to 800 k.g., so as to save the tremendous expense or lightweight construction throughois: the car and the temptation
to cut down the strength of the various parts to a ‘dangerous extent.
Another suggestion was to cut down the tank capacity to 125 litres, roughly 25 gallons, but in view of the difficulty of enforcing this rule we understand that the R.A.C., who are the body responsible for bringing the British proposals before the International body, will not put forward the point.
Enough has been said, and sufficient opinions expressed, to show the complications of the problem. The more widespread the discussion, however, and the more thrashed out the subject becomes, the greater is the chance of a really satisfactory formula being decided by the International Sporting Commission in the spring.
It is vitally important that no mistakes should be made.