THE F.I.A. seem to be at it again, proposing to make further alterations to the rules and regulations for Group 6 Sports/Prototype cars running in Championship long-distance races. The sudden and unforgivable way they axed the big powerful cars like Ford and Chaparral, with the 3-litre engine capacity limit, still rankles with most people in the racing game. Even though it has now become obvious that Alpine-Renault, Matra and Porsche were behind this mean and sneaky way of getting rid of the big American V8 prototypes, and there is every hope of a French victory at Le Mans, few people have really accepted this 3-litre limit, though most people have fallen in with it as there is no other choice. Now the F.I.A. are proposing to alter the rules yet again, with a 3½-litre limit for pure racing engines and allowing the introduction of production engines of 5-litres capacity. It is proposed that this dual-limit for Group 6 Prototypes should take effect in 1971 and at the same time Group 4 sports cars should be barred from Championship races. Needless to say there is a lot of opposition to this suggestion, and British manufacturers seem to be leading it.
An F.I.A. proposal that is more reasonable and should receive support is one concerning record attempts. They propose to recognise distance and time records for Homologated Touring Cars, separate from the free-for-all records listed at present. The idea is that an official nominated by the F.I.A. will choose three production cars at random and these will be “run-in” under strict supervision. The competitor will then be free to choose any one of the cars for the proposed record attempt. If this can be done without any bias or conniving, which personally I doubt, it could bring new life into record-breaking, for everyone loves a record and sales promotion people could use the figures advantageously. When the M.G. racing department took records at around 250 m.p.h. with a “tear-drop” special powered by a supercharged M.G. twin-cam engine, everyone was impressed, but few people rushed away and bought a twin-cam M.G.-A. Similarly, when Austin Healey did 190 m.p.h. with a beautifully streamlined Healey 100 fitted with a supercharger “to counteract the rarified atmosphere at Bonneville and give the equivalence of sea-level” I doubt if many people bought a Healey 100 as a result. If British-Leyland can take the 1-hour saloon car record with a production Jaguar XJ6, or Vauxhall can claim the fastest flying mile with a production Viva GT, then the results might have an effect, though I often feel that competitive success does not sell cars, it only keeps the customer you already have. A fellow might buy a Ford Cortina because it happened to match the colour of his garage doors, and, anyway, the people in the “box” next door have a Vauxhall. When he hears of a Ford Cortina victory in some rally or race or something, it makes him feel that he made the right choice and will encourage him to buy another one when the time for a new car comes round. It certainly won’t make the chap next door change his Vauxhall for a Ford.
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From the beginning of 1971 there will be a new Formula Three, more or less like the present one, where tuning and development is limited in an attempt to keep the cost down and the “big-time” people out. The capacity limit is to be raised from 1,000 c.c. to 1,600 c.c., but the number of cylinders is to remain at four. The cylinder block and cylinder head must come from a production engine, of which at least 500 are manufactured in 12 months, and the gearbox and differential unit must come from a car of which 5,000 are produced in 12 months, but it need not be the same car as the block came from. There is a limit of five forward speeds and a minimum weight of 440 kilogrammes. Engine power is to be limited by a restrictor flange in the induction system, but at the moment there is a complete muddle over the dimensions of this flange. On December 27th, 1968, the F.I.A. published a communication in English which gave the dimensions as 20 mm. diameter by 3 mm. length. In the January F.I.A. Motorsport Bulletin, in the French text, this was confirmed as 20 mm. diameter by 3 mm. length, but in the English translation at the back of the Bulletin the dimensions were given as 22 mm. diameter by 3 mm. length. In the January issue of the R.A.C. Motorsport News there was a STOP PRESS item that said the dimensions had been confirmed at 20 mm. diameter by 3 mm. length. In the February F.I.A. Motorsport Bulletin, in French text, it again stated clearly 20 mm. diameter by 3 mm, length, and this time it was confirmed in the English translation to be the same size. In the R.A.C. Motorsport News for February it was stated to be 22 mm. diameter by 3 mm. length. Confusion still reigns, but I would go for the French text and 20 mm. diameter. Fortunately the new Formula Three does not take effect until January, 1971, so let us hope that in the next 22 months the F.I.A. and the R.A.C. will get together and sort this matter out, and they should have time to write to all the Formula Three engine builders personally, for, apart from scrutineering, that 2 mm. difference could be important.
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At times there is the feeling that motor racing is far too involved and bogged down by too many regulations; we suffer in Europe, but America are just as badly off. At Indianapolis progress was suppressed by U.S.A.C. until Colin Chapman sneaked in without really being seen and started a revolution. This started a fantastic snowball of progress that was fascinating in all its aspects, soaring onwards to turbine engines and four-wheel-drive. Then U.S.A.C. had a relapse and while turbines have been suppressed by putting heavy limits on them, 4-w.-d. has been outlawed and Indianapolis looks like sinking back into another doldrum. The “rate-of-progress” had become more than officialdom could manage. Now the S.C.C.A. are to outlaw turbine engines in their road-circuit events in the Can-Am series. It’s a good thing some of these rule-makers are not involved in the American space programme or Russia really would forge ahead in the Space-Race.
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By this time the South African Grand Prix will have been run (March 1st) and most Grand Prix teams will have shown roughly what they intend to do in 1969. B.R.M. had an official Press conference recently to tell us that they do not intend to race the H16 cylinder car again, even though they now have a 4-valve-per-cylinder version on the test-bed, which is smaller and lighter than the original engine. Surtees and Oliver will race V12-engined B.R.M.s, the latest engine having 4 valves-per-cylinder with the exhausts in the vee of the engine. The Bourne-based team will concentrate on cars for the two works drivers and all other racing activities will be looked after by a separate department. Tim Parnell will continue to run a V12-engined car and it will be driven by Pedro Rodriguez, who could well cause some embarrassment in the official works team. Within the B.R.M. organisation there has been some re-arranging, for last year they were getting fouled up with various side issues, and this year Tony Rudd is in complete control and his only responsibility is the works team of Suttees and Oliver. By concentrating on Grand Prix racing at Bourne and moving all other activities to Darlaston B.R.M. are out to be more competitive this year is a factory team, and Grand Prix enthusiasts will be with them all the way, for they are one of the few teams able to build their own car, engine, gearbox and transmission. B.R.M. stands for British Racing Motors and it is now a truly British team with British engineers and British drivers and the car is all-British, supported by Shell and Dunlop.—D. S. J.