Car racing continued as the world’s second most popular spectator sport in 1973, with more than 6 million people attending major races. Heartening, perhaps, but statistics compiled by Goodyear would be more pleasing to the bookies, for horse racing had a massive lead past the post, with an attendance of nearly 74 million. Goodyear’s figures show an average of 33,059 fans -attending 183 major races in 1973. The Grand National division of NASCAR in the United States had the largest total attendance —1,251,000 for 28 races, an average of 44,679 per race. Manufacturers’ Championship series (sports prototype) races ranked first in average attendance and second in total attendance, with ten races drawing 1,011,500, an average of 101,150 spectators per race. Le Mans claimed the largest single race attendance figure of 300,000. Formula One racing drew the third largest crowds with 963,000 attending 15 races, an average of 64,200 per event. The German Grand Prix claimed the largest attendance, with 300,000 people scattered through the Nurburgring forests. Goodyear’s statistics proudly include the fact that their tyres shod all 15 Grand Prix winners.
What their figures don’t include is whether horse-racing’s 74 million spectators watched only the major races or whether all races are included, how many major races there were and the fact that betting enables horse-racing to take place six (or is it seven?) days per week. Were it possible to include nonpaying spectators of sports then rallying would surely feature high up the list: 2,000,000 people are estimated to have watched last year’s RAC Rally alone!
British spectators can do their bit towards 1974 figures by attending the Simoniz/ Daily Mail Race of Champions meeting at Brands Hatch on March 16th/17th, when John Webb expects this first European Formula One race of the year to draw in 60,000 people. Entries for the Race of Champions, on Sunday the 17th, so far include Peterson and Ickx for Lotus, Fittipaldi and Hulme for Texaco-Marlboro McLaren, Hailwood for Yardley-McLaren, Reutemann and Roberts for Brabham, Scheckter and Depailler for Tyrrell, Pace and Mass for Surtees, Hill for Embassy-Lola, Revson for Shadow, Amon, in the new car carrying his own name, Hunt for Hesketh, von Opel for Ensign (if he decides to continue in Formula One) and making his Formula One debut, Formula Atlantic driver and DFV engine builder John Nicholson with the brand-new Lyncar built by himself and Martin Slater. The meeting will include a round of the Rothmans F5000 Championship on the Saturday and on the Sunday there will be rounds of the BOC Formula Ford Championship, the Triplex Production Saloon Car Championship and the Joliet Player Atlantic International, plus a celebrity race in Shellsport Mexicos for Champions from different sports, including Joe Bugner, Henry Cooper, Ann Moore, David Broome, and so on.
World Cup Rally goes on
Certainly the organisers of the UDT World Cup Rally scheduled for May 5th to May 25th must be tenacious. In the face of a world energy crisis, political problems, withdrawal of interest by manufacturers including Ford and British Leyland, England out of the World Cup football competition, and with privateers left with little time to prepare -cars, the Committee, chaired by Wylton Dickson, is emphatic, at the time of writing, that the event will go on. However, the route has been changed as a concession to dramas going on in the world around. The original intention was to travel across Africa to Kano and Khartoum and reach Munich (where the final of the World Cup is to be held) via the Middle East but, reports Deputy Clerk of the Course Henry Liddon, returning from a route survey and expressing himself through the pen of Eric Dymock, this has proved impractical not because of the Middle East War so much as political difficulties which prevented crossing Chad in Central Africa and the USSR. Instead the route will now go through France and Spain, into North Africa, through Morocco, Algeria, and across the Sahara into Niger, to a halt south of Kano in Nigeria. It will then double back almost to Tripolitania, to Tunis where competitors will travel across the Mediterranean to Turkey, Greece, Yugoslavia and Austria, then to the finish at Munich.
We wish luck to competitors and organisers, but in common with Stuart Turner and a number of other prominent rally people, feel that the event would have been more opportune had it been postponed for twelve months: some other peg could have been found on which to hang it in 1975 other than the World Cup.
At least would-be-competitors should be assured of a good route, prepared (with the help of Jim Gavin and others) by “Britain’s most experienced co-driver”. Deputy Clerk of the Course Liddon’s ability has been recognised by the firm of Haldex AB, of Haalmstad, Sweden, manufacturers of the ubiquitous HaIda trip-meters, who have proclaimed him “Co-driver of the Year” in 1973. The jury which selected Liddon included Erik Carlsson and Liddon’s “devoted achievements to the benefit of rally sport as a whole” was cited in making the award in addition to taking into account his victories in the 1,000 Lakes and RAC Rallies alongside Timo Makinen in an Escort RS.
The Fiat 132 series met with a mixed reception when it replaced the popular 125 series a couple of years ago. Radical improvements have been made to the range for 1974 which ought at last to make the 132 superior to the model it superseded. Both styling and engineering modifications are included and the models have been renamed the 1600GL, 1600GLS and 1800GLS. The sill line of the side and rear windows has been lowered, air intakes, extractor vents and large rear lamps incorporating reversing lights are included on all versions, and the GLS models have a new radiator grille, hub caps, bumpers with rubber buffers and guard strips at waist height. Compared with the 125 the 132 has proved somewhat soggy and less of a driver’s car, not a very popular move among Fiat customers. The situation has been put right by adding an anti-roll bar at the front, fitting new steerage linkage bushes, new type shock-absorbers and wider section tyres. Under the bonnet modifications to carburation, cylinder head, inlet manifold and air filter have been aimed at widening the torque band and thus flexibility and pulling power over the whole range. Maximum power of the 1800 model goes up to 107 b.h.p. Fifth gear has been lowered slightly to give better performance in the overdrive ratio of the optional five-speed box. Automatic or four-speed manual gearboxes can be alternatively specified. Right-hand driver versions of the 132s will not be available until early summer, by which time Fiat 126 customers will hopefully be enjoying fresh air and sunshine in the Fiat 126 Sun-Roof model now being offered.
BMW’s 525 model—the 520 bodyshell fitted with the 2500’s 2.5-litre six-cylinder engine—is now on sale in Britain. Brief driving impressions prove it to be quiet, flexible, but not particularly acceleratively fast, though its top sped should be around the 120 m.p.h. mark. In contrast with other BMW models it feels softer and less taut, is of course more compact than the 2500 which continues to be available, equally comfortable and if anything even better appointed than the 2500 and 3.0 range, but at £4,099 its value-for-money compares badly with the Jaguar XJ range.
The world’s best-selling sports car, the Datsun 240Z, has grown up into the 260Z, now available in Britain. Styling remains virtually unchanged, but engine capacity is increased to 2,565 c.c. from 2,393 c.c. by lengthening the stroke from 73.7 to 79 mm. (bore remains 83 mm.). Power goes up 11 b.h.p. to 162 SAE b.h.p. at 5,600 r.p.m. and torque from 146 lb. ft. to 152 lb. ft. at 4,400 r.p.m. Gear ratios have been improved and the drive train strengthened, spring rates increased to compensate for extra weight of the improved specification interior and heavier engine and tyre sizes go up from 175 to 195. But no changes have been made to the brakes of this 127 m.p.h. sports car, so prone to fade under hard driving.
Ford have improved the interior of the Consul Granada range . . . Mumford Engineering Ltd., Gigg Mill, Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, have announced the 90 m.p.h. Mumford Musketeer three-wheeler (two steered at the front) powered by the small push-rod Viva engines . . . Jeff Uren has ‘added a modified Consul/Granada to his range, called the Seneca . . . Mazda have announced a new 1000 c.c., overhead camshaft saloon, offering excellent accommodation, performance and styling for a realistic £999. For something entirely different, John Turner is contesting the Special Saloon Car Championship with a Skoda 110R Coupk powered by a 5-litre V8 engine. Lamboighini (GB) Ltd. has appointed Portman Garages Ltd., George Street, London WI as its sole distributor for central and Greater London and reduced the price of the 2.1/2-litre, V8 Urraco by £270 to £7,998.
Graham Hill succeeds Denny Hulme as President of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association on April 1st.