Around and about, March 1978

March Racing Dates to Remember.

Britain’s premier event in the Month of March is the 30th Daily Express International Trophy at Silverstone on March 19, the only opportunity in 1978 other than the Grand Prix that British spectators will have to see Grand Prix cars and stars in action.

Highlight of this non-Championship Formula One race could be the debut of the new Lotus 79, to be driven by Andretti. Peterson will drive a Lotus 78. Other confirmed entries at the tune of going to Press include Depallier’s Tyrrell 008 and Stuck’s Shadow. Twenty cars are expected to compete for the sixteen places on the grid and part of the record £100.000 prize fund.

Supporting races include the Vandervell International Formula Three race, and rounds of the Esso Formula Ford 1600 Championship and the Tricentrol British Saloon car Championship.

As mentioned in more detail elsewhere, Brands Hatch hosts the first round of the European Touring Championship on March 12.

The BARC is again showing faith in Formula Two by hosting the first round of the European Formula Two Championship at Thruxton on Easter Monday, March 27. Philips Car Radio’ are taking some of the financial burden of the £48,000 meeting from the BARC’s back.

With at least eleven major teams and more than 35 drivers likely to be contesting the 1978 Championship, the 55-lap Thruxton round should make for exciting racing and Brian Henton’s 120.02 m.p.h. record (Boxer-Hart, 1977), is unlikely to stand the test.

As last year, the meeting will be televised by BBC Grandstand. Supporting races include rounds of the BP Formula Three, Tricentrol British Saloon Car, Philips Car Radio Formula Ford and BARC Thoroughbred Sports Championships. Practice will take place on Easter Saturday, March 25.

Brighter British Saloon Season

The welcome return to regular British saloon car racing of John Fitzpatrick and the presence of Grand Prix driver Gunnar Nilsson and European saloon car ace Dieter Quester forecasts a fascinating and lively battle for the 1978 Tricentrol British Saloon Car Championship.

For Fitzpatrick And the British spectators it will be just like old times, with this seasoned campaigner returning to the Broadspeed fold, this time in a works Leyland Dolomite Sprint prepared by Broadspeed and made possible by the sponsorship of Hermetite.

Fitzpatrick does not expect to contest all the rounds of the British series, but Tony Dron in the Leyland cars entered “twin” Dolomite Sprint, also from Broadspeed Engineering, certainly will. European spectators won’t be robbed of “Fitz”, however, who will be running a Porsche 935 and a BMW CSL in Europe.

The Dolomites that Fitzpatrick and Dron will drive are little altered from their 1977 form. Meanwhile, winter homologation has provided the contesting Capris with new front bodywork and air dam, plus 7 in. rim wheels. Both cars have about 220 horsepower and similar kerb weights.

But both Leyland and Ford teams are likely to lace much stiffer opposition this season. BMW Concessionaires GB Ltd. have negotiated for Nilsson and Quester to share a 3-litre. fuel-injection, 530i saloon, entered by Pentax Cameras, part of the Rank Organisation. The Toleman Group of Companies are sponsoring a second 530i for Rod Dougall/Norman Dickson. Dougall will also run a Toleman-backed, BMW-engined, March 782 in the European Formula Two Championship.

Racing driver Tom Walkinshaw will manage both the saloons and Formula Two teams as Motorsport General Manager of BMW GB. The cars will be prepared and maintained at Walkinshaw’s new premises at Kidlington, Oxford, from where he will also sell Alpina competition components and accessories for BMWs.

In this second year of Tricentrol sponsorship for the RAC national championship, prize money has been substantially increased over what was offered, to the dismay of many competitors, last season.

There will be £1,500 to be divided among the four classes in eleven of the twelve rounds. The exception will be the GP supporting event, which will have a prize fund of £2,000.

A boost for Saab in 1978

As expected SAAB’s new management team, led by Jack Smerdon, have announced plans to sell their exciting turbocharged 99 model in Britain this year. Priced at £7,850. including a high level of standard equipment. this turbocharged saloon represents a new era in high performance motoring at a rather more terrestrial price than those proclaimed by your friendly Porsche dealer. Initially some 600 of these 145 brake horsepower Saab Turbos will be for sale in Britain through 80 trained dealerships.

Saab appear to have kept their feet firmly on the ground in the matter of servicing as well. The standard 6,000 mile interval is retained, and warranty is unaffected. Simply expressed the car. represents the marriage of the 99 EMS (Fuel iniection) mechanical parts to the three-door Combi body, the ensemble boosted from the EMS level of 118 b.h.p. by the provision Of a carefully developed Garrett AiResearch exhaust turbine.

We say carefully developed, for Saab have resisted the temptation to concentrate solely on horsepower, preferring to go flitexcellent torque. The Turbo model offers 174 lb. ft. torque at 3,000 r.p.m., compared with the already sporting EMS 2-litre level of 123 lb. ft. at 3,700 r.p.m.

Although engine capacity is the now-usual 99 2-litre size, the turbocharging installation features a milder camshaft profile, and an 8:1 cr. instead of 9.2:1 cr. of the EMS. Other mechanical changes include a half inch extra on clutch diameter, a 10% raise in final drive ratio and standard fitment of an oil cooler. The steering is from the non-EMS side of Saab, but the Pirelli tyres are like those of the EMS.

Saab say they have an insurance broker who will not blanch at the anticipated 125 m.p.h. top speed coupled to a 0-60 m.p.h. standing start time of less than 9 seconds. Overall fuel consumption is expected to be very similar to that of the EMS at 21 m.p.g. overall. The car weighs nearly 24 cwt., so the provision of good torque is an excellent idea.

During last summer Saab suffered a pretty disastrous loss of sales in Britain, and the new managing director was appointed to head a fresh management team. There is a strong feeling of ex-Leyland at the top now, though they know they face the challenge of selling to customers presently in the Mercedes, BMW, Volvo and Peugeot bracket.

Hunt’s title

Although, as we are all aware, James Hunt was unable to retain his World Championship title last year, he did take the premier award in the Tarmac British Racing Championship. The puzzling awards (they seem to move in two-year cycles, calculated on a formula that needs an expert co-ordinator) have been given for the past six years, James Hunt winning twice in a row, as did Frank Gardner (who has recently announced his retirement in Australia) and Stuart Graham. The Tarmac title is a worthwhile one for the recipient. Champion plugs give an undisclosed amount, there is a Tarmac cheque for £2,000, a trophy and a case of wine. Some 300 people attended this year’s “do” in February, but Hunt was absent in South Africa.

The RAC Rally moves to Birmingham

This year’s Lombard-RAC Rally will be based in Birmingham. It will start from the City centre on the morning of Sunday, November 19 and finish there on the afternoon of Thursday, November 23.

In between times crews will have tackled a 1,900 mile route in England, Scotland and Wales. Sixty special stages, a total of 460 miles, will be included.

A Sunday loop will swing through the Midlands through a series of special stages designed for ease of spectator control and convenience before a night halt in Birmingham, where rally headquarters will be at the Holiday Inn. The much tougher second leg will take in 220 miles of forest stages starting front Birmingham on the Monday morning, running north into Scotland and returning to Birmingham again on Tuesday evening for another night halt.

The traditional sting in the tail comes in the third and final leg, a 36-hour loop through the Welsh forest, returning to Birmingham in mid-afternoon on Thursday.

Turbocharged Volvo 343s for the European Rallycross Championship 

Per-inge Walfridsson’s win in the 1977 Swedish Rallycross Championship with a Turbocharged Volvo 343 has encouraged AB Volvo to enter two similar works 343s in the 1978 European Rallycross Championship. Drivers will be Walfridsson and Per Engseth.

Both cars will have turbocharged 1,400 c.c. engines developing about 210 b.h.p., fed through the rear wheels by Volvo’s continuously variable transmission. They are being prepared in the Gothenburg workshops of Volvo Competition Service, headed by Gunnar Andersson.

Volvo’s schedule takes in fourteen events throughout Europe, including nine rounds of the European Championship in Austria, Italy, Finland, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Great Britain, (Lydden Hill, September 10), Germany and France.

Lotus 47 Register

Lotus 47 owner Nicholas Atkins hopes to start a Register for this lightweight competition derivative of the Lotus Europa. Other owners who are interested in Mr. Atkins’ project can contact him at 135, Lyme Farm Road, Lee Green, London, SE12. 8JH (01-852 6458).

New American speed records

The FIA has officially confirmed two new international class 8 records have fallen to American IMSA exponent Peter Gregg of Jacksonville, Florida. Driving a turbocharged Porsche 935 model last November at Daytona International Speedway, Gregg broke two records previously held by Carroll Shelby, who drove an Austin Healey special. The Porsche was very consistent returning 175.911 m.p.h. for 10 kilometres and 175.645 m.p.h. for 10 miles. We are told that Gregg’s 935 weighed 2,150 lb., had a capacity of 2.8 litres and had the turbo boost set to give 620 b.h.p.

On the subject of Gregg we have received a long letter from a Canadian asking us to point out that Gregg was stripped of his SCCA title this year, leaving the title with Ludwig Heimrath of Scarborough, Ontario in Canada. Gregg was disqualified, not for the first time, for infringing construction rules on the bodywork of his Porsche 934-Turbo.

Shuttleworth celebrations

Although they are better known for their aeroplane collection and knowledge, especially since the advent of the BBC serial Wings, the Shuttleworth Collection’s fiftieth anniversary is to be celebrated this year, marking the arrival of Richard Shuttleworth’s first veteran car. In 1928 he obtained a l’anhard Levassor of 1898. A car with a history, for it is said 10 have averaged 24 m.p.h. whilst taking fourth place in the Paris Amsterdam race of 1898.

The 1978 display season will open with a flying day on Easter Bank Holiday Monday, March 27th. Admission charge is £4 per car, or £1 per adult (5op child) in other cases. The collection continues to open between to a.m. and 5 p.m. for viewing on every weekday, when the admission charges are 50p for adults and half that for. children. A combined anniversary leaflet and calendar of events for this year is available, without charge (on receipt of a stamped self-addressed envelope front The Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden Aerodrome, Biggleswade, Beds.

Avon appeal

Avon tyres are to set up a museum of their products within its Service Division at Bath Road, Melksham, Wiltshire. At present they have quite a lot of “stock” for their Museum but the company’s service manager, who is in charge of this project, says, “I am looking for old promotional material, details of our car and motorcycle racing history, old price lists, old-style Avon tyres and any other suitable material. New developments will also be included.”

Those who want to assist can contact Mr. Derek Trigg at that Avon Service Division address.

RAC information

Copies of all the 1978 regulation booklets published by what is now the RAC Motor Sports Association are now available front the familiar 31 Belgrave Square, London SW 1X 8QH, address.

Opel try rallycross

The reorganised British Dealer Opel Team are contesting two British rallycross championships with the recently homologated 2-litre Opel Kadett GT/E. In fact this version of the Kaden is a hotter crossflow-engined GT/E, which is to be driven by Golf club manager Mike Hill of Birmingham. In its debut at Brands Hatch the car won an award for its high standard of preparation and finished seventh overall.

Sporting Sunbeam returns

Sunbeam was the name chosen for Chrysler’s entry in the hatchback car sales contest, and it is this car that is now being developed by Chrysler’s Competition Centre at Humber Road in Coventry. An 1,800 c.c version was first prepared to contest February’s Galway Rally in Ireland, but current plans are for a very moth more powerful version of the Sunbeam, “with the aim of producing an outright rally winning car,” says a Chrysler press statement. It is possible that this means Chrysler will fit a new 16-valve engine to this car, replacing the unit presently used in competition which was originally developed by BRM.

Emission-tested V6

Interesting snippet from TVR in Blackpool is that they have commissioned Olson Engineering Inc., Huntingdon Beach, California to put Ford’s 3-litre V6 engine through a development programme with the objective of passing the American emission regulations. TVR managing director Martin Utley says, “progress is very favourable.”