I occasionally have readers asking why such-and-such race is not mentioned on the International scene in Motor Sport, or pointing out that a certain driver won a race in South Africa, Portugal or Austria and yet he is not mentioned in the International results, or they ask why certain races are mentioned and others of a similar nature are not mentioned. The simple answer is that International races are listed on the F.I.A. Calendar and all other events are listed under “National, with foreign participation” and “National only”. In Formula Three, for example, there are races under all three classifications, a number have full International status, others have a National permit, with a certain number of drivers from other countries being allowed in, and many are purely National, restricted to drivers licensed in the country organising the event. Many Group 4 and Group 6 races are run under National permits with invitation to other countries and in America a handful of the U.S.A.C. and N.A.S.C.A.R. races have full International permits, the rest being run under National permits.
Many people seem to be in a muddle over the difference between International events and National events, and give great importance to races that are strictly domestic in places like South Africa, Australia, or on the American continent. An event is given an International permit if the F.I.A. think it is important enough, while in a big series like the N.A.S.C.A.R. Stock Races, which has races nearly every week for their Championship, they nominate half a dozen or so to have full International status, in case any non-Americans want to have .a go with the 190-m.p.h. stock cars.
This article each month will deal strictly with the events on the International Calendar. We may have a first-class entry of British-based sports cars for an event at Oulton Park or Snetterton, but if it does not have full International status there will not be any works Ferraris, Porsches or Alfa Romeos, so that it won’t be a significant event on the International scene.
On the first day of March the opening event in the 1969 Drivers’ World Championship will have been held on the Kyalami circuit in South Africa, and we shall know the real team line-up of drives for the various regular participants. Two weeks later, on March 16th, most of the Grand Prix contestants will be at Brands Hatch for the 50-lap Race of Champions. There will be practice on the Friday and Saturday before, and on each afternoon there will be Indianapolis-type qualifying for the starting gird, with each driver having a clear track for four laps, the two flying laps to count for the grid. Instead of the usual disorganised free-for-all of practice, during which the time-keepers log all the laps covered by every driver and some time later tell us who made the fastest lap, we shall be able to watch each driver doing his fastest laps in turn on an empty track. Friday afternoon practice should be interesting, but Saturday afternoon practice should be really exciting. The teams will have had two morning “free” sessions to get everything sorted out so that by Saturday afternoon cars and drivers should be tweaked up to maximum pitch. Let us hope that the weather doesn’t spoil everything, for this promises to be a real spectator outing.
A week later, on March 21st/22nd, there is the annual 12-hour race at Sebring, on the rather flat and featureless airfield circuit in Florida. If the Daytona 24-hour race last month was anything to go by the long-distance racing season is wide open and anybody could win Sebring. The race has quite an impressive history, going back many years now, but somehow it has never imprinted itself on the International scene as being an outstanding classic event. On the Sunday of that weekend, March 23rd, there is the opening round of the Challenge Europa for Touring Cars to Group 1 or Group 2 with Group 5 modifications being allowed, which means saloon cars of which 5,000 (Group 1) or 1,000 (Group 2) have been built in 12 consecutive months. This first race will be at Monza on the full road and track circuit fur a period of four hours.
At the end of March there is a busy weekend, for on Saturday and Sunday there is the special test weekend at Le Mans in preparation for the 24-hour race in June, and on Sunday, March 30th, there is the 21st Daily Express International Trophy meeting at Silverstone organised by the B.R.D.C. This Festival of Speed is an annual classic on the British scene, but is fully International so we should get a good entry for the 52-lap Formula One race. As the British Grand Prix is due to be held at Silverstone in July, most teams will want to use the B.R.D.C. meeting as a try-out. In this multi-race meeting there will also be a 25-lap race for Group 4 sports cars, 910 Porsches, Chevrons, Dino Ferraris, GT40s, Lolas and McLarens, etc., a 15-lap race for Group 5 “free-for-all” saloon cars, and a 12-lap race for Historic racing cars. Whether you pay £1 to stand on the grass, or £2 5s. 0d. to sit amongst the scaffold poles and canvas of the stands, a full day’s entertainment is assured. As it starts at 12 noon and the Le Mans practice finishes about this time I can visualise a lot of flying taking place between the Sarthe airfield and the Silverstone airfield.
Over in the United States the 1969 stock cars will be battling bumper-to-bumper at Atlanta, in the State of Georgia, for one of their regular oval-track meetings, this one having International status.
D. S. J.