Group 1 grumbles
ENTERING ITS SECOND full year, Group 1 standard saloon-car racing starts the season on a note of discord and controversy. In the centre of all this is the RAC Minorsport Division who were responsible for reorganising the regulations but only announced their deliberations two weeks ago and only five weeks before the start of the season. Furthermore some of those decisions have met with rather less than unanimous approval.
Last year the classes were drawn up on the pre-taxed price of the cars, but for the new season, this has been switched to the post-taxed prize with the added rider that companies had to nominate which cars they wanted on the list of eligible models. The new categories make the split at up-to-£800, £800-£1,050, £1,050-£1,500 and over £1,500. Here the problems start, for while the list is valid from January 1st the prices are retrospective to October. Since then the majority of the cars have gone up in price and even changed classes. A particular example is the Vauxhall Viva 1500 de luxe 2-door which is a potential class winner in the £800-£1,050 category.
The Fiat 132, for instance, which has only been available for two or three weeks was given a price by Fiat when it was first announced and this has since been revised to take it into a different category yet it was never actually sold at the original Fiat estimate.
The 83 cars have been selected from the list of FIA homologated vehicles and consequently some more recent models, which are popular on British roads but have yet to be officially ratified, are missing from the list. For that matter Ford has only nominated three models from its extensive range, the Escort Sport, Capri 3000 and Escort Mexico—all potential winners. If you just happen to want to race a Consul GT—then bad luck.
Another point that has upset some competitors is that the new rules state that the standard seats must be used even for the driver. A proper competition seat is unlikely to offer any kind of speed advantage but would certainly be more comfortable and offer greater safety in the event of an accident while the banning of adjustable shock-absorbers is likely to lead competitors to added expense trying various kinds of different rates.
But there is a lot of sense in the new regulations too. Racing tyres have been outlawed so cars will have to run on road tyres and those cars which are offered on the market with cross-ply tyres must race on cross-ply tyres and similarly for radially-equipped cars. The same rim width, as on the standard car, must also be used and the same tyre size. The regulations have been tightened regarding fuel tanks demanding greater safety, and on such items as dynamos.
Peter Browning of the BRSCC who has been involved in sorting out the regulations says, frankly, that he is disillusioned by the final result and that too many people with axes to grind got involved. He feels that the RAC should make up their own list of cars, avoid FIA homologation, and examine showroom examples of models to draw up their own homologated standard specification.
Certainly Group 1 provided some cheap racing for the competitors and some splendid excitement for the spectators last season. We only hope the new rules do not spoil this.
F1s in hill-climbs
The sound of the Ford Cosworth DFV Grand Prix engine will he heard at British hill-climbs for the first time this coming season. Reigning champion Sir Nick Williamson seems to have started it all off when he saw the Formula One March 721G, which has a chassis related closely to the F2 March. Sir Nick, of course, used a Formula Two March to clinch the 1972 Championship and didn’t see why he shouldn’t have a DFV in the back of his as well. March obliged and Sir Nick should have over 450 b.h.p., instead of the 270-odd he had from the Brian Hart 2-litre motor he used in 1972.
But he certainly will not be having it all his own way because Tony Good, who has been concentrating on sports cars over the past few seasons, has decided to return to single-seaters. He commissioned a special Cosworth DIN-powered Lyncar to be built by talented designer Martin Slater and some of you may have seen it tucked away in the corner of the Olympia Racing Car Show. The chassis is basically similar to the Formula Atlantic Lyncar used to good effect by John Nicholson last season. A third top hill-climbing name who will be using the famous Duckworth-designed motor this year is Tony Griffith. But he is not screwing one into the back of a modified F2 or Atlantic car, he is using one in a position to which it is well accustomed—the back of a Brabham BT33. That was the 1971 model F1 Brabham but the type was used extensively in 1972 as well. I am not sure of the history Griffith’s car but it is almost certainly exGraham Hill/Tim Schenken.
Against the Formula One-powered cars there will still he several brutish Formula 5000s, the McLaren M10B still proving a popular model on the hills. One of hillclimbing’s coming men, Richard Thwaites from Yorkshire, will continue with his, after toying with getting a Formula One-type car, but has enlarged the Chevrolet engine to 5.7-litres. A newcomer worth watching who has just acquired a Similar M10B is the man who used to hide under the name of “Spotty Smith” but who is actually Tony Bancroft. “Spotty” has bought the ex-Bill Wood circuit racer, having previously made his mark first with a TVR V8 with which he won the BARC Castrol Championship, and last year he drove a Chevron B19 fitted with a 3-litre BMW straight-six engine. This hybrid has now passed into the hands of Phil Scragg. Former Mini hill-climb ace Chris Cramer will have a March powered by the ex-Sir Nick Williamson Hart BDA engine so he could be a contender, while Roy Lane will continue with his McLaren. All in all, a tremendous season of Championship hillclimbing is promised despite Shell dropping out of the sponsorship of the series. The first round is Loton Park on April 23rd and continuing through a total of 16 rounds to Doune on September 23rd.
JCB continue Historic Championship
It is very pleasing to record that the Staffordshire excavator firm, J. C. Bamford Ltd., is to continue to sponsor the Historic Racing and Sports Car Championship, originally devised by Speed Merchants, for the third year in succession. This year there will be six rounds of the competition and two will be at venues where the Championship has not been seen before—OuIton Park and Thruxton. However, the other four rounds will be at Silverstone and all will be at major meetings on the Grand Prix circuit.
The dates to mark in your diary are as follows: April 9th, Silverstone International Trophy; May 20th, Silverstone Martini Interserie; July 14th, Silverstone British GP; August 5th, Thruxton International; September 8th or 9th, Oulton Park Gold Cup; and September 23rd, Silverstone TT meetings.
This year the rules have been altered so that the sports and single-seater car; compete on equal terms in the same class, instead of in separate divisions. But there will be up-to-2-litre, 2-3-litre and over-3-litre classes. Current Champion Willie Green, who narrowly scored victory last year in a Maserati Type 60, is switching to single-seaters and will be campaigning one of two Maserati 250Fs that he is stripping and rebuilding for patron Anthony Bamford. These JC13 races not only bring back the nostalgia but they tend to be extremely closely fought and exciting and there still isn’t much to beat the spectacle of a 250F in an opposite lock slide around Woodcote!
Mick McManus goes racing
Watch out grappling fans, Mick McManus is forsaking the wrestling ring for Brands Hatch. Yes, the husky McManus, darling of the Pontefract Town Hall, is taking to motor racing along with many other sporting personalities not normally connected with racing in a supporting event to the forthcoming Race of Champions. All will be driving Ford Consul GTs and the whole thing is in aid of Sparks (Sportsmen Pledged to Aid Research into Crippling Diseases) and Brands Hatch has guaranteed £3,000 prize money. However the prize money, whoever wins it, goes to the charity although the race winner does get to keep his Consul GT for the year. The race will be over 10 laps of the Club circuit on March 17th, the day before the Formula One race, and as well as McManus other names include former European Heavyweight Champion Henry Cooper, lone sailor Chay Blyth, Douglas Bader who is the President of Sparks, golfer Michael Bonallack, mountaineer Chris Bonnington, former England cricket captain Colin Cowdrey and his lady opposite number Rachel Heyhoe, rugby caps John Dawes and David Duckham, former England footballer Jimmy Greaves, cyclist Reg Harris (who did some racing in a Jaguar saloon in his time), athlete David Hemery, jockey Geoff Lewis, equestrian Richard Meade, plus two of the really top names from motorcycle racing Speedway Champion Ivan Mauger and road racer Phil Read. Both Mauger and Read have expressed a desire to try four-wheel racing seriously one day and Read already knows his way round Brands Hatch having done several laps in a Formula Ford last season under the supervision of Ken Tyrrell. Whatever, it should be a hilarious event and hopefully McManus will not try to gain a submission with a step-over Paddock lock.
Silverstone free admission
Somewhere amongst all those dusty books and MOTOR SPORTS have you got a copy of the programme from the very first International Trophy meeting which was held at Silverstone on Saturday, August 20th, 1949. If you have, Silverstone would like to hear from you and are offering two free grandstand seats for this year’s Jubilee International Trophy meeting for the loan of the programme.
The offer is open until the end of the month and anyone with such a programme should send it with a stamped addressed envelope for its safe return to the Circuit Manager, Silverstone Circuit, Near Towcester, Northants NN12 8TN.
Formula 5000 news
The Formula 5000 series in America sponsored by L & M cigarettes grows in stature every year and, in the coming season, its entry list will include many names already known in Grand Prix racing. Peter Gethin, dropped from BMW, has decided to concentrate on F5000 and will drive a Chevron for Doug Shearson Racing. A similar car will, in all probability, be driven by Jody Scheckter and entered by Irishman Sid Taylor, a long-time supporter of the series. Jody will fight in the eight American races between his programme of Formula Two events with Rondel and the five or six Formula One outings he is to have with McLaren.
Taylor’s regular driver over the past season or two has been Brian Redman but he has been signed up by Carl Hass and Jim Hall who will be running a new team in 1973 with the latest Lola T330s. The team may also run a second car for another BRM cast-off Reine WiseII. Also running similar cars will be the very experienced Carl Hogan who will again field two cars for 1971 Champions David Hobbs and rising American Brett Lunger. Lunger will also continue in F2 in Europe in the coming year but will switch from a March to a Chevron for this category.
Another Lola could well be seen in the hands of Mark Donohue. The Roger Penske team fitted an AMC engine into a Lola T330 in place of the ubiquitous Chevrolet and preliminary testing looked promising but then the whole car was destroyed in a garage fire. Whether Penske will continue with the programme after this set-back remains to be seen.
Graham McRae, who won the series last year with his own McRae, will again be running with STP backing and he may also be used in the STP Racing Team’s Indianapolis testing programme. Runner-up to McRae, the talkative Sam Posey is also expected to continue with a Surtees and there are plenty of other talented drivers gearing up for the series. Back in England the scene looks healthier than for a while and, I gather, there is a possibility of former F3 man Bob Evans driving one of the new March F5000s. The two Walsall cousins Alan Rollinson and Steve Thompson, currently racing in the Tasman Series, should be leading contenders for Rothmans points and there is the Shellsport Luxembourg team of Lolas and a Surtees for van Lennep, Belso and Santo.
Sports-car driver Guy Edwards has geared up a sponsorship arrangement to run a brand new Lola T330 in the series and similar cars will be driven by Ian Ashley, who did well with an old Lola T192 last year, and wealthy Australian Colin Hyams. Also from down under will be a particularly interesting car, the Begg FM5 from New Zealand which will be driven by Dave Oxton. This Kiwi already knows some of the British circuits having campaigned a Formula Ford Merlyn here last summer.
Finally Trojan, who stopped building McLarens recently, have come up with their own neat little Formula 5000 car, in which ex-Brahham designer/owner Ron Tauranac is said to have played a part. Keith Holland’s early testing with the car at Silverstone is said to have produced some record-breaking times.
• The BP Man of the Meeting award will continue for the third year running. BP recently had a meeting to sort out any little problems and the decisions should make the popular scheme even better than before. There will be a Man of the Meeting every week in March including at the big Mallory Park International 172 event, on March 11th. That season opener will be a meeting not to miss for it will also include the opening round of the Yellow Pages Formula Atlantic Championship.
• Before the Brazilian Grand Prix, Ladbrokes were offering odds on Emerson Fittipaldi becoming 1973 World Championship of 4/5 on. Jackie Stewart was rated at 9/4 while Francois Cevert was third favourite at 8/1. Clay Regazzoni was quoted at 12/1, Jacky Ickx at 16/1 (a good each way bet that), Mike Hailwood at 20/1 along with Ronnie Peterson. Beltoise and Hulme fetched 25/1, Reutemann 33/1 and Amon 50/1 while Peter Revson, Carlos Pace and several others were not quoted at all.
• Although MOTOR SPORT has dropped out of the British Formula Three Championship as mentioned previously, John Player have taken over the backing where we and Shell left off. This year the scoring is by the Can-Am point scoring method and the championship is scheduled for 12 rounds starting on April 8th at Silverstone. The supporting events to the Monaco and French GP are included in the list and some other foreign meetings will be added to the programme later. Pre-season favourite is GRD driver Tony Brise but similar cars will be handled by such experienced men as Mike Walker, and Alan Jones who will be in a new team. Also in a GRD will be the former Formula Vee champion and last year Super Vee runner-up Brian Renton. A confident Derby man, somewhat in the same mould as the town’s football team manager, Henton tells me: “I’m going to blow them all into the weeds”.