Rumblings, March 1973

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DONINGTON PARK.—Work proceeds apace with the reconstruction of the Donington Park racing circuit and one or two alterations are being made in order to conform with present day racing standards, but the general shape and character of the circuit will remain much as it was in 1939, when it was last used for motor racing.

Much further advanced, however, is the Donington Park racing car museum, which houses Tom Wheatcroft’s unique collection of single-seater racing cars. Due to be open by the middle of March the first three halls of the collection’s complex are completed and contain nearly fifty single-seater racing cars ranging from 1933 to 1971, with some very interesting groups such as six 4-wheel-drive Grand Prix cars, a group of Grand Prix winners, a group of “number one” cars such as the first Brabham V8 and a whole galaxy of BRM models, as well as a select group of cars that actually raced at Donington Park prior to 1939.

Admission to the large entrance hall and restaurant will be free, as will be the viewing of a number of interesting competition cars and exhibits that do not come under the select “single-seater” category. A charge will be made to penetrate the second and third halls containing the many Grand Prix gems.

MOTOR SPORT has always been very much in favour of the Donington Park circuit and it was our “yardstick” for British racing circuits when the post-war airfield-circuit craze took hold. While admitting that a disused airfield was better than nothing, we refused to get starry-eyed about places such as Boreham or Ibsley or Gamston, while we still knew that Donington Park was a real road circuit, which is why we enjoyed the opening of Oulton Park so much. That MOTOR SPORT has always had an interest in single-seater racing cars is self-evident, so it should occasion no surprise when we say that we have made our photographic archives available to the Wheatcroft Collection and that D.S.J. is technical adviser to the whole project.

ROADS ARE GETTING FASTER.— Continuing this theme, to which we have devoted some paragraphs recently, there must be no tendency to return to record-breaking runs on public roads, but there is no harm in feeling pleased with good progress made over the improved thoroughfares of modern Europe. It is interesting that, following MOTOR SPORT’s road-test of the BMW 3.0 CSL, in which report we included some notes of the time taken to drive about Europe, the BMW Concessionaires have issued advertising copy featuring the feasibility of driving comfortably from Calais to Nice in one of these 146-m.p.h. cars between breakfast and dinner. The run across France from coast to coast has become faster since we did it in an E-type Jaguar some years ago. I am reminded that Stanley Sedgwick, President of the Bentley DC, was able to motor his prototype R-type Bentley Continental from Eze-sur-Mer to Cobham in Surrey between 6 a.m. and 11.55 p.m., back in 1970. A year later, in spite of a detour and a delayed hovercraft, the same driver did this journey between 6 a.m. and 10.45 p.m., in his 1966 Lincoln Continental. The Lincoln averaged 62.8 m.p.h. for the 770 miles from Nice to Boulogne, inclusive of a detour to Orly, the running-time average being 70 m.p.h.

Since then Mr. Sedgwick has changed the Lincoln for a 1971 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, in which he has left Cobham at 6 a.m. and arrived at Nice (casino) at 10.25 p.m. He covered the 759 miles between Boulogne and Nice in 11 1/2 hours, at a running-time average (stops totalled 70 minutes) of 73.5 m.p.h. This compares with the road-test BMW’s average of about 70 m.p.h. from Calais to Monte Carlo inclusive of some very lengthy stops: the running-time average for the 797 miles with detours from Calais to Nice (Airport) was in the region of 100 m.p.h. The Cadillac was, of course, some 25 m.p.h. slower flat-out than the BMW. This is reflected by the American car’s best mileage in an hour being 96.8, compared to the BMW’s best of 124.7 miles, in the rain by the way. The Cadillac averaged 11.2 m.p.g., which was slightly better than that a the Lincoln, at 10-11 m.p.g., but inferior to that of the BMW CSL, which gave 15.13 m.p,g, over a hard 3,789 miles.

The excellent speed-limit-free European Autoroutes and the improved freeways round Paris are responsible for a significant speed-up in today’s traffic. I recall that the Editor of one of the weekly motor papers wrote of a quick journey from coast to coast, in a Ford Capri, details of which have escaped me. Incidentally, Mr. Sedgwick reminds me that his 1,000 miles in a day on British roads in his 1931 8-litre Bentley was accomplished without a co-driver, and I would say again that a car like a BMW 2500 makes it reasonably effortless for me to drive 360 miles to the office and back in a day, with time to do almost a full day’s work, without using a Motorway and crossing London twice, usually in the rushhour.—W.B.

RACING SCHOOLS.— In spite of what many people will tell you we are of the opinion that great racing drivers are born not made, but we do not deny that a racing school can serve a good purpose. It can get a natural champion off the ground quickly, as evidenced by Emerson Fittipaldi’s apprenticeship at the Jim Russell School at Snetterton, and it can be of great assistance to people who want to find out about single-seater driving. We have had occasion to direct many of our readers to the Jim Russell Racing School in far-away Norfolk, many of them merely wanting to satisfy their curiosity about driving a modern horizontal-position racing car, and by all accounts they have been well satisfied with the money spent. Now Jim Russell is opening a further school, at Silverstone, which will operate throughout the 1973 season and should prove very popular with Silverstone being more centrally located than Snetterton. Further details from the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School, Silverstone Circuit, near Towcester, Northants, NN12 STN.

At the end of last season we had the opportunity of attending a Motor Cycle Racing School, held on the Silverstone Club circuit by the David Dixon Racing School. This functions in much the same way as a car racing school and “pupils” are conducted in groups of five or six, riding race-prepared 250 c.c. Honda twin-cylinder motorcycles. In order to keep an eye on the pupils “headmaster” Dixon rides a race-kitted 4-cylinder Honda 500 c.c. and after leading the school for a pre-determined number of laps he then lets them go ahead and follows them, his more powerful machine permitting him to catch anyone who is overstepping the mark. We took the opportunity of trying one of the “school” bicycles, and though built from a road-going Honda 250 c.c. it made a very pleasant racing machine and one on which a budding road-racer could easily find out if he was going to enjoy motorcycle racing. We also had a go on the “headmasters” 4-cylinder 500 c.c. Honda, and with its 112 m.p.h. down the Club Straight and lots of smooth power out of the corners it was a most enthralling machine to ride, the absence of all road trim and unnecessary weight making it quite a quick circuit machine.

Like the car racing school it is possible for people to join the motorcycle school for a single session, “just to find out” and it is surprising how a rider who is competent on the road with a 650 c.c. Triumph sports hike, becomes all at sea on a circuit with a racing motorcycle. As David Dixon said, “Some of them won’t come back, others, we would prefer them not to come back, and some have the makings for enjoying motorcycle racing and are not wasting time and money”. Schools have been run at Silverstone, Oulton Park, Cadwell Park and Lydden Hill and the organisation hires out leathers, helmets and boots, so all you have to do is turn up. As many motorists, and readers of MOTOR SPORT are now taking to motorcycles as a hobby, a session of “riding properly” might not come amiss. Further details from David Dixon, 35 Wedeland Avenue, Guildford, Surrey, mentioning MOTOR SPORT.

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