Matters of Moment, March 1984

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US compromise in sight?

FOR THE past two years now the Americans have been virtually barred from World Endurance Championship racing, and the Europeans from racing in the States, as the result of a split between the FISA ruling body and IMSA, the American association which effectively controls endurance racing. At Daytona early in February talks were held between Jean-Marie Balestre and Pierre Aumonier for FISA, and John Bishop for IMSA, and we have to wait now until the middle of March to hear the outcome.

Technically the two sides were not far apart, and the biggest problem to be overcome was one of attitude. FISA tends to frame its regulations in a technical way as a challenge to manufacturers, while the IMSA rules attempt to equate the various manufacturers and to discourage those with the most money, and the greatest commitment, from becoming dominant. Hence the Porsche 956 is ineligible for IMSA racing, forcing Porsche to build the single turbo, single plug per cylinder 962 model with various other technical differences. The driver’s feet, for instance, have to be behind the front axle line for IMSA racing, whereas under FISA rules the pedal box location is free for C1 (unlimited) cars, but accords with IMSA for the C2 (Junior) cars.

There is cautious optimism that the differences may have been resolved, and if this is announced this month it will create a tremendous response on both sides of the Atlantic. The way will be cleared to have at least one WEC event per year in America and, even more important, for the Americans to compete in the World Championship series. With a “works” Chevrolet-Lola, a works Ford Mustang GTP, Marches with various power units, and GM-backed projects such as a turbocharged Buick V6 and the pretty Pontiac Fiero, the injection of fresh colour and competition in the World Endurance Championship would come as a most welcome development.

Discrepancies between the two sets of regulations would not be difficult to resolve as regards pedal boxes, positioning and capacity of fuel tanks, and minimum weights. The handicapping of Porsche by stipulating single turbos should not prove an insurmountable problem either, and the biggest area of dispute was FISA’s almost religious obsession with fuel economy, something that is not taken into consideration in the States.

Whilst the motor industry has properly invested huge amounts of money into improving production car fuel consumptions, the public at large has no knowledge or comprehension at all of FISA’s “fuel economy endurance racing” and therefore remains unimpressed. This is something for the Grand Prix fraternity to dwell on during 1984. Spectators at endurance events have a hearty dislike of the way the pace is dictated by fuel conservation rather than driver skill, and the fuel ration appears to be irrelevant to the job in hand.

If Messrs Balestre, Aumonier and Bishop have come to an agreement on this point, we can only hope that the IMSA viewpoint prevailed. — M.L.C.

Fatuous Figures

Having loaded the Motor industry with the heavy burden of crash-testing and exhaust-gas pollution, adding enormously to the cost of producing new models, isn’t it high time Bureaucracy let our motor manufacturers off the hook over the necessity of submitting every different type of car to those futile mpg tests? Not only is it necessary to submit cars for these fuel consumption tests but the findings have to be published in all advertising for the cars concerned. We have for a long time regarded these mpg figures as fatuous. In the first place, of the three that are calculated, in an unrealistic (usually) rolling-road investigation, there are those calculated at steady speeds of 56 mph and 75 mph — and we all know that in ordinary useage cars are not driven at anything like steady speeds for any length of time. Moreover, at the higher speed wind drag can begin to have some effect, which a rolling-road test takes no account of. The third “urban cycle” figure bears little more relation to reality, except for discrepancies in how it should be determined for cars with automatic transmission, etc. If the Government’s idea was to obviate exaggerated advertising claims it didn’t work, as the 64 mpg from the Austin Metro suggested soon after its announcement, showed. Manufacturers quoting the unrealistic official steady-speed 56 mph figures can quite easily mislead a public that mostly makes its own mpg assessments from vague fuel-gauge readings, and anyway, road-tests figures in the motor papers are there for those who are interested in accurate fuel-thirst recordings. It may be said that these mpg figures, at a time when the ever-rising cost of petrol has made the majority of car owners very conscious of fuel economy, have some value as a means of comparison. It must, however, depend on how accurately the Government tests are conducted and especially on what steps are taken to ensure that the cars submitted are not in unusually good tune or, conversely, sub-standard. Our attention was drawn to the absurdities that could arise under circumstances of non-average cars when we were reading a road-test report in a weekly contemporary of a small Japanese car. In this report it was stated that the journal’s testers obtained an overall fuel consumption figure 13 mpg below that of the equivalent Government figure, suggesting that the car submitted for the official testing was, to say the least, a very good one! You see what we mean? It seems time for this fatuous and expensive fuel-consumption checking to be withdrawn. —W.B.

New Diesel-Class Records

CONGRATULATIONS are overdue to John Aley and the Austin-Rover Group for having set up new British National diesel-class records in the standard-car category with a Rover 2400SD Diesel Turbo. The records, which were set up at Snetterton circuit, by Collins, Thynne, Aley himself, Moody and Windsor. The records ranged from 5 km at 70.86 mph to 500 miles at 62.58 mph and included a dozen others, with one hour at 68.44 mph. The records broken were those of a Ford Granada diesel, established five years earlier. The Rover ran on Goodyear Grand Prix S tyres, covering in all just over 920 miles (although records were not broken above the 500-mile mark), at 14.6 mpg. Although there can be no comparison with a record bid by a standard car, and over a short road-type circuit at that, to keep sense of proportion, nearly 35 years ago the International Diesel-Class records stood at 161.9 mph for the 5 km, 110.43 mph for the 500 miles, with the hour record at 113.485 mph, respectively to the credit of Jackson’s Cummins Diesel Special and Lacour and team’s MAP. — W.B.

Motor Show at the NEC

THIS year’s British Motor Show at the NEC will be the biggest ever held in this country the SMMT has promised. Open to tbe public from October 20th to 28th, it will fill eight halls — the eighth and newest one housing a display of “Super Trucks” as opposed to mere commercial vehicles! Cars, motor caravans, carriagework, accessories and components will fill four of the halls, and some significant new car models are already on the horizon including the new Panther and Reliant sports cars. Visitors coming in by air will transfer through the new terminal building at Birmingham International Airport, adjacentt to the NEC, via a fully automated MAGLEV shuttle system, operated by magnetic levitation and a linear induction motor.

Club News
SWTV

SWTV stands for Scottish Western Thoroughbred Vehicle Club, which concerns itself with vehicles manufactured before 1964. The big event of the year is the June Rally, involving regularity runs, an observed section, and driving tests, but before that, on April 8th to be exact, the club will hold their annual Autojumble. This uses the some venue as last year, Doune Motor Museum, which is well placed for visitors from all parts of Scotland. Membership details and events information are obtainable from the Secretary, W. J. McCreath, 32 Huntley Avenue, Giffnock, Glasgow, G46 6LW.

Land’s End Trial

THE 63rd running of this trial takes place on Friday and Saturday, April 20th/21st, with 350 cars and motorcycles entered. Attendance is always high, with hill such as Crackington, near Bode, and the Blue Hills Mine near Perranporth drawing large crowds. Competitors will tackle the first of these between 10 am and 4 pm on Saturday, moving on to the latter during the afternoon, before the finish at Newquay.

Rapier Register

THIS year sees the Golden Jubilee of the Lagonda Rapier, and the Register, among other events, has been allocated the Parade before the VSCC Silverstone meeting on April 14th. The annual dinner is to be held on March 17th, and it is hoped that in May one or two Rapiers will cover 1,000 miles in emulation of Lord deClifford’s drive in the 1934 RAC Rally. Rapier owners who are not yet members should write to Mrs Jean Williams, “Smithy”, Tregynon, Powys, for information.

Morgan Sports Car Club

In July this year, the Morgan Motor Company will celebrate their 75th Anniversary, and a series of events is being planned jointly by the Company and the MSCC, including a visit to Prescott, a Scenic Run and a Dinner Dance. These will be held on the weekend of July 28th/29th, and booking is already heavy, as Morganists seem to be a particularly active breed. The list of local centres not only covers this country, but extends to Poland, Texas and Saudi Arabia, all of whom report their doings in the monthly “Miscellany”. The General Secretary is Barry Iles, 22 Montpellier Spa Road, Cheltenham, Glos.