News from McLaren
At the end of last season the McLaren Racing Team decided to cut their losses and abandon the 3-litre Ford-Indy-engined Formula One car project, as well as the abortive Serenissima-engined gap-filler. In the short months of the off-season they designed and built an entirely new car with a new purpose in life. This is a small and compact car that is basically intended for Formula Two, using a Cosworth-Ford engine and Hewland gearbox, the team getting delivery of one of the first production Cosworth F2 engines, so that testing started promptly. Two cars are being run by the works team in F.2 races and with the design finalised the car is now in production by Elva Cars at Croydon, in the way that the McLaren Group 7 sports car has been produced. Less engine and gearbox it sells for around £2,500.
The chassis structure is a monocoque of duralumin sheet riveted and bonded to steel bulkheads, the side pontoons containing rubber fuel tanks, with a third one behind the driver’s seat. Suspension is completely unsophisticated, following accepted Grand Prix practice, with coil-spring/damper units, while disc brakes and 13-in. alloy wheels are used. The wheelbase is 7 ft. 6 in. and the front and rear track are 4 ft. 6 in. The detail finish of the whole chassis follows the standards of previous McLaren cars and with a competitive engine installed it should be a worthy contender in Formula Two, either as a works car or run by a private team.
For Formula One McLaren is awaiting the new production V12 B.R.M. engine, as are other small constructors, but in the meantime a Formula Two chassis has been modified to take a V8 B.R.M. engine. This has involved cutting away part of the rear section of the side pontoons, increasing the stiffness at this smaller section, with the result that the V8 engine fits in very neatly. The engine will be to the latest 2.1-litre Tasman specification and is coupled to a Hewland gearbox. This works car will be driven by Bruce McLaren and should be quite competitive in the early Formula One races, such as Brands Hatch, Oulton Park and Monte Carlo. By the time the faster events arrive it is hoped that the V12 B.R.M. will be delivered, and this will be installed in a similar car to the present Formula Two chassis, but a bit larger to take the longer engine.
This new series of single-seater cars from McLaren has been designed with the private buyer in view, which is the main reason for dropping the use of Mallite in the construction and turning to orthodox duralumin. Mallite construction was all right for the works cars, where time and money are not terribly important, but was not practical as a saleable proposition, both from the point of view of initial construction and subsequent maintenance.
The McLaren Racing Team now have a fine new 6-cylinder Ford diesel transporter and with two Formula Two cars ready at least a month before the first race, as well as a makeshift Formula One car for the beginning of the season, so they should enjoy a better season than they had in 1966. Bruce McLaren should get plenty of single-seater driving this season, while he will also be very busy with the American Ford team in long-distance racing. Because of his work with Detroit on the Mk. II Fords there is no question of McLaren Racing getting involved in Group 6 as yet, though the Group 7 sports cars for American racing are continuing.
News from Ferrari
Last month saw most of Modena and a lot of Italy well off the ground with excitement and satisfaction, following the sweeping victory by the Ferrari team in the Daytona 24-hour race. To start two new P4 cars and have them finish first and second, with a private P3 backing them up in third place, was more than anyone could wish for. Even the most anti-Ferrari people were delighted to see the ” little house of Maranello ” really trounce the Ford Empire, and to rub it in by crossing the line at the end of the 24 hours three abreast; and to think that a short while ago Mr. Ford very nearly bought the whole Ferrari plant. When the Ford people saw the new P4 on test at Daytona in December they said what Aston Martins used to say at Le Mans practices some years ago. “These speeds are impressive, but they won’t keep them up for 24 hours.” The P4 cars, described in greater detail in the Daytona report elsewhere in this issue, were using the new VI2 engine that has three valves per cylinder, two inlet and one exhaust, and with the inlet tracts down between the camshafts, with Lucas fuel-injection. This 3-valve layout first appeared on a Dino V6 engine in hill-climbs and then at Monza on the Grand Prix cars, when they finished first and second on their first outing; now the 3-valve P4 engine has finished first and second on its first outing, which makes one realise that Ferrari really knows about engine design and building. During the winter it was thought that the P4 engine would be well over 4-litres, but it turned out to be 3,967 c.c. No doubt the rumoured 4.8 or 4.9-litre version could be built if more than 450 b.h.p. is needed, for engines are no problem to Maranello. The 4-o.h.c. P4 engine runs at 8,000 r.p.m. and is everything that a European racing engine should be, in direct contrast to the 7-litre iron Detroit engines with their 520 b.h.p. If Ferrari can get 450 b.h.p. from a 4-litre, then it is not too much to hope that Aston Martin can get the same figure from their new 4-o.h.c. 5-litre engine, so that we might see the Lola Aston Martin challenging the existing giants.
News from B.M.W.
The Bayerische Motoren Werke in Munich have for many years been sending out news of interest only to the family motorist, with occasional sorties into the sporting world, such as the V8-engined 507 two-seater of some years ago, and the TI versions of the fine 1800 and 2000 saloon. This year news from Munich contains much of racing interest with the formation of the factory Formula Two team and their tie-up with Lola. The performance of the radial-valve cylinder-head engine will be followed with keen interest, as have the various record-breaking runs made by the 2-litre version in past months. Latest news is that Lola are supplying a two-seater sports chassis into which one of the 2-litre versions of the Apfelbeck engine will be installed, and this will be driven in the European Mountain Championship events by the Austrian driver Dieter Quester, and it should have about 270 b.h.p. available.
News from Porsche
Latest news from Porsche is that they say they have no intention of taking part in Formula Two this year, leaving that field of racing to B.M.W. The Stuttgart firm are certainly very active in long-distance prototype racing, their latest version of the Carrera Six appearing at Daytona, where it finished fourth overall. In addition to this, one of last year’s Le Mans cars finished fifth and production 911 models were ninth and 10th. In ninth place was a 911 S, and in 10th place was a 911, so that Porsche cleaned up all possible categories. The 911S is homologated as a GT car (Group 3, 500 off) and the normal 911 as a Touring car (Group 2, 1,000 off). Porsche production and sales are now reaching such a volume that the F.I.A. are going to have to rewrite their rules, or else other manufacturers are going to have to do something about it. The “cooking” Porsche with the flat-four push-rod engine, the Type 912, has now passed the 9,000 mark in 12 months, so is homologated as a Group 1 series-production Touring car; the flat-six overhead camshaft 911 model, in standard form, has nearly reached an output of 3,000, and has been homologated as a Group 2 Touring car, while the hot version of the flat-six, the 911 S, has passed the 1,000 mark, but remains homologated as a Group 3 Grand Touring car, though it could be up-graded to Group 2 if needs be. The wild-looking Carrera Six was homologated last year as a Group 4 sports car (50 off), and the latest Carrera Six, known as the 910, is a worthy Prototype or Group 6 car. In the 2-litre category Porsche would seem to have a stranglehold on the F.I.A. group classifications for long-distance racing. It is just possible that one day they might progress to something much larger than 2-litres, and then they will be a challenge for overall victories, for the existing cars are not far behind the ” big boys ” even now.
News from the R.A.C.
Any news from the R.A.C. is of interest and when it concerns racing cars in the Isle of Man it is more than welcome, but the latest information is that the projected match race between a car and a motorcycle round the T.T. circuit is now OFF. This time the cold water has been poured by “the firm next door,” the Auto Cycle Union, for they have now cancelled the idea, even though the R.A.C. were in favour of this one. Simple and uncomplicated enthusiasts like you and me, who just want to enjoy all branches of our sport, just can’t win. It seems like it is a case of “back to the disused airfields and stadiums for our enjoyment, it’s all we are going to be allowed.” No wonder more and more people are going to watch Continental motor races.
The month of March will see motor racing start in a big way, even though club-type racing has been going on throughout the winter, for on March 12th the Race of Champions has been resurrected at Brands Hatch. This season-opener for Grand Prix cars was held in 1965, when Mike Spence won it, and at the time it seemed a worthwhile and successful event, but was missed last year. It is being run in two very short heats, of 10 laps each of the full Brands Hatch circuit, followed by a 40-lap final, the first heat starting at 12 noon. Interspersed with these short races for Grand Prix cars (as distinct from Grand Prix races) will be some saloon car races, a type of racing that seems to have degenerated into the sort of thing that Stock-Car Racing used to be, with unruly yobboes masquerading as racing drivers. If you can tolerate the low standards and all the fun of the fair, then Brands Hatch will be the place on March 12th, for the Grand Prix entry should be good, and the only entries not yet confirmed are the works B.R.M. team. Even Honda seem to be sending a car for John Surtees, so the noise alone will be worth the entry money.
At the end of March we have Easter and the myriad of events that it entails, but the two big ones are at Snetterton and Silverstone. On Good Friday the Snetterton meeting will see the first appearance of the new Formula Two cars, with their 1,600-c.c. engines, and it is hoped that a Lola-B.M.W. will be running, to challenge all the Cosworth-engined cars. There will also be the usual full supporting programme, and then on Easter Monday those of the entry that are still raceworthy will be at Silverstone. Ever since racing got going again after the war Easter has been synonymous with Goodwood, the B.A.R.C. holding an International meeting of short races on Easter Monday at the Goodwood circuit. The Sussex airfield was never very exciting as a racing circuit, but it was an ideal setting for a Public Holiday meeting, and Easter Monday at Goodwood always seemed a pleasant affair, even if it rained, for the Sussex rain seemed clean and fresh as it swept off the Downs. Now that the Duke of Richmond and Gordon has got tired of having us racing in his ” back-garden” (and who can blame him), the B.A.R.C. had to make new plans, and thanks to the friendly relationships with the B.R.D.C. they are holding their Easter Monday meeting at Silverstone. After the compact and comfortable feeling of Goodwood the Buckinghamshire wide open spaces will seem a bit cheerless for Easter Monday, so let us hope the sun will be shining. The only drawback is the fact that exactly one month later it will all be repeated at the B.R.D.C.’s own International Trophy meeting, except that on Easter Monday F.2 cars will form the main feature, and on April 29th there will be Formula One cars that will make a different noise, even if they will look the same to the casual observer. On April 1st the 12 Hours Of Sebring takes place, and this year it was hoped to organise the race at a new circuit in California, but progress has been delayed so Sebring will be at Sebring once more. After the Daytona disaster the Ford team should come charging back into the fray with their biggest hammers raised high to stamp out the little Italian upstart who took the mickey out of them in February. It would be just like Ferrari to give Sebring a miss, leaving Ford wielding its hammer with no one to strike. While the Ford/Ferrari vendetta rages, to the immense joy of everyone on the outside, and has particular point as Ford failed to buy Ferrari a few years ago, one tends to overlook a small concern called Chaparral, who quietly “figure things out” down in Texas, though it is generally accepted that they use General Motors’ brains to help with the ” figuring out.” Until Phil Hill slid into the retaining wall at Daytona and damaged the Chaparral coupé, it was leading all the Ferraris and all the Fords; and remember who won the 1,000-kilometre race at Nürburgring last year ? It was not Ford and it was not Ferrari, it was Chaparral, and Phil Hill was driving that one as well. If Ferrari does not run works cars at Sebring and the Chaparral wins then we can stand well back, for the Ford Empire is liable to burst at the seams. It would only then want a 4-cylinder Offenhauser-engined car to win at Indianapolis and the Ford engineers would jump into their own computers and press the ” panic button.” Do not get the impression that I am anti-Ford, far from it, for I admire and envy the technology they can apply to racing machinery, but a little suffering does everyone good and makes the best of us strive even harder.
At the end of each year that enthusiasts’ magazine Autosport sum up the famous drivers on a star scale, giving people like Jim Clark five stars, and others four, three, two and one. This is a purely personal idea of the Editor and indicates how he rates the big names. The F.I.A. have their own system of grading and anyone who has figured in the points-gaining lists of Championship events is considered a Graded Driver, and there are certain things a Graded Driver cannot do, such as compete for the new Formula Two European Championship. I have a personal way of classing drivers, starting with Amateur/Amateur drivers, the best of whom progress to Professional/Amateur drivers. Then you move up into the Amateur/ Professional category and when you are Internationally famous you are in the Professional/Professional category, by which time you should be making a comfortable, if not necessarily honest, living from being a racing driver.
For the record the F.I.A. list of Graded Drivers for 1967 is as follows: Chris Amon, Richard Attwood, Joakim Bonnier, Jim Clark, Dan Gurney, Denis Hulme, Herbert Muller, Pedro Rodriguez, “Skip” Scott, Jackie Stewart, Bob Anderson, Lorenzo Bandini, Jack Brabham, Mark Donohue, Graham Hill, Willy Mairesse, Michael Parkes, Lloyd Ruby, Joseph Siffert, John Surtees, Peter Arundell, Bob Bondurant, Ron Bucknum, Richie Ginther, Phil Hill, Bruce McLaren, Jochen Rindt, Ludovico Scarfiotti, Michael Spence.
I think that it is reasonable to say that any aspiring racing drivers could be well satisfied to have their names on the F.I.A. list, for the above collection of drivers represents pretty serious “fast company”. — D. S. J.