Matters of Moment, March 1999

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editorial

As you read this, we are completing the final pages of the next edition. It will be no normal issue. In it, we will be celebrating the birthday of this magazine which started life 75 years ago as The Brooklands Gazette. Quite apart from its unique content, it will be, by some margin, the biggest issue of MOTOR SPORT that has ever been created. Alongside the usual series and stories will be a unique look back at the history of the world’s oldest motor-racing magazine and fresh insight into the sport it has commented on and indulged in for the last three-quarters of a century.

What stood out during the research into how the sport has changed is how much has remained the same. I wonder, for instance, how many who visited venues such as Spa-Francorchamps, Monza, Indianapolis or Le Mans in 1924 would have bet then that they would remain as the jewels of our sport. The significance of this is not what it can teach us about the past but what such facts tell us about the future. Formulae will change, cars will become faster and safer but if uou ask whether we will still be seeing cars plunging through Eau Rouge in 2074 my guess is that we will. In any event, I think it unlikely I’ll be around for long enough to be proved wrong.

Simon Taylor, on the other hand, enjoys no such comfort as his prediction that Michael Schumacher will be the next F1 World Champion will come true or otherwise in little more than eight months. I share this view though I suspect the most interesting question will be whether Irvine or Hakkinen proves best of the rest. Do not underestimate the Ulsterman; anyone who can shine from the shadows of a team-mate such as his is a man of rare talent, something we will take for granted not many months from now.

Just back from Silverstone where we were sampling some elderly racers sharing but one thing in common: each came with an aeroplane engine. You can read next month about the glorious insanity of such cars but, for now, I’m not sure I have ever laughed more driving a car than I did while on a 1913 Monarch powered by a World War One Curtiss biplane engine.

The day was organised by the VSCC whose race season starts at Silverstone on April 24th; we will be there in force for one of the most delightful meetings of the year. If your impression of an event organised by the Vintage Sports Car Club is a bunch of old buffers crawling around the track, be assured it is not like that. The racing is real, the members friendly and the cars as spectacular as any. Particularly those with the aeroplane engines…

Goodwood is producing the definitive book about the circuit in time for this September’s race meeting. If you took any great or unusual photographs at the Revival Meeting last year and would be happy for them to be used, you should send them to Samantha Hannen, c/o the Image Library, Goodwood House, Goodwood, Chichester, West Sussex PO18 OPX. Readers who have their images published will receive free tickets to all three days of the meeting.

Derek Bell races a 956 at Daytona

Derek Bell was reunited with the works Porsche 956 in which he and the late Stefan Bellof won the 1983 Silverstone 1000Kms race when great Sports Prototypes of 1967-1990 contested the HSR Rolex Thundersport series opener at Daytona’s 24 Hours meeting on January 29. After the Porsche 962s of early leaders Rudy Junco and Danny Sullivan failed, the two-hour spectacular was won by David Murry and Lloyd Hawkins in the latter’s Porsche 962, from Jim Mullen’s Spice-Cosworth SE90. The contemporary 24-hour event was won by the Dyson Riley & Scott driven by Andy Wallace, Butch Leitzinger and Elliott Forbes-Robinson after a day and night battle with the race favourite, the Ferrari 333SP of Allan McNish, Max Angelelli, Didier de Radigues and Wayne Taylor. The Stefan Johansson-led Ferrari 333SP took the final place on the podium.

Classic Grand Prix series for late ’60s F1 cars

Matra, Eagle-Westlake, Ferrari and BRM V12s plus a Brabham-Repco V8 are already slated for a new series of five international races for 3-litre Formula One cars built before December 31, 1971. The series, which was approved by-the FIA’s Historic Commission last month, starts at the FIA Truck Grand Prix at Barcelona’s Catalunya circuit on May 1-2.

Entry to the Classic Grand Prix series, organised by David McLaughlin of The Force (Formula One Race Car Entrants), is by invitation. “We bridge the gap between Paul Alexander’s Pre-’66 series and Thoroughbred Grand Prix,” said McLaughlin. “While the TGP does an excellent job, you cannot run unwinged cars on treaded tyres against Bob Berridge in a ground-effect Williams FW08B.”

Brazilian Abraham ‘Abba’ Kogan is gearing up to run a brace of wailing Matras — the ex-Jean-Pierre Beltoise MS11 of 1968 and a 1971 MS120 – as well as a 1967 Ferrari 312 and the Brabham raced at Monaco in 1988. “We are 150 per cent committed to the series,” said team manager Tony Green. “It’s great news.”

Ben Liebert, who runs a Fittipaldi in the TGP championship, is looking at competing in selected events in his 1967 Eagle. Sid Hook will join the fray in his Cooper-BRM, and Bobby Bell plans to bring out his BRM P153 for the first time in many years. “At last there is somewhere to run this type of car competitively,” he said.

Likely entries from the Cosworth DFV era include ’96 TGP champion Michael Schryver in his ex-John Miles Lotus 72-3, Ean Pugh with the unique Brabham BT34 ‘Lobster Claw’ (in which Graham Hill scored his final F1 win) and the distinctively-styled March 711s of Ted Williams and Peter Muller. Classes for Pre-1972 Formula Two and Formula 5000 cars will provide additional interest on the grids; indeed the participation of Bob Tabor’s ex Jim Clark/Jackie Oliver/John Watson Lotus 48 R1 – which is near the end of a concours restoration – and several McLaren M4As is eagerly awaited.

F5000 entries are likely to include Helmut Dango and Frank Nowak in Lotus 70 and Crossle respectively, a couple of McLaren M10s, Frank Lyons’s later M18, Adrian Stoop’s Palliser and at least one Surtees. Like Barcelona, subsequent events at Paul Ricard, France, (May 29-30) and Austria’s A1-Ring (June 12-13) will run with the popular Truck races. British enthusiast; can see the cars at Silverstone’s Coys International Historic Festival on July 31-August 1, while Zolder’s 25th Anniversary meeting on August 21-22 completes the programme in Belgium.

“The social side of The Force events (run for the past 15 years) is very important,” stresses McLaughlin. “We’re out to have a good time. While I am certain that there will be some superb racing, it’s not a championship with the pressure of points to chase. Our emphasis is on enjoying great cars at fine circuits. History is more important than victory.”

Le Mans return for pre-1972 prototypes?

The focal point of the European Sports Prototype Championship will be a sensational eight-lap showpiece race during the Saturday morning build-up to June’s Le Mans 24 Hours, if negotiations with event organiser the Automobile Club de l’Ouest are successfully concluded.

“We want it to happen, and have been offered terms, but currently the chances are 50/50 so we’re not yet banking on it,” said Jonathan Baker, whose Group 4 Racing organisation runs the series for Pre-1972 cars, which will visit Spa, the Nurburgring, Silverstone, Paul Ricard, Monza and Montlhery this season.

Fifty car entries for the Silverstone Cop Historic Festival and Nurburgring Oldtimer Grand Prix Pounds last summer reflected the huge growth of the series, which recreated the legendary Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Ford, and Porsche battles of the period.

More Ford GT40s are expected on capacity grids this season, in addition to Fenari 312PB and 512S models and two Abarth-Osella PA 1s. Among the Chevrons due out, the noisiest will be Kent Abrahamsson’s Mazda rotary-engined version which has not raced since Le Mans in 1970.

Particularly interesting newcomers include Nigel Kemp’s ex-Sid Taylor Lola T70 Spyder, which Denny Hulme raced brilliantly in 1966 and the unique DFV-powered Ligier JS2 of Nicholas Zapata. Among the earlier cars, the first Brabham BT8 to be seen in the championship will be out in Lincoln Small’s hands. Last season’s experimental switch to Dunlop treaded tyres led to closer, more competitive, racing throughout the field and will be continued. The heavier cars will, however, be allowed to run Avon wets in poor conditions, principally for enhanced safety.

MOTOR SPORT display is best at Autosport show

The cream of Jaguar’s Heritage Trust Collection formed the focus of MOTOR SPORT’s extensive display at Haymarket’s Autosport International Show in January, and brought the magazine the award for Best Stand.

Within a magnificent timber ‘pits complex’ built by English Heritage Buildings and dressed with Fifties details sat a C-Type and prototype D-Type Jaguar. In front, the J-DHT assembled NUB 120, the most famous XK120 of all, the unique XJ13 and the 1988 Le Mans-winning XJR 9LM. Jody Scheckter and Eddie Irvine were notable visitors on the busy stand. You could be too – look out for our display at this year’s major historic meets.

Early Ensign to reappear in the TGP Series

The first Ensign Formula One car, the bizarrely-styled MN01 which Rikki von Opel drove in the 1973 French Grand Prix, is being restored for a return to the tracks this year by Mike Whatley. Consistently quickest in Class B of last season’s MOTOR SPORT-supported FIA Thoroughbred Grand Prix Championship in the ex-Chris Amon MN04 of 1975, he also owns chassis MN02 and MN03. One Ensign which got away, however, was the ex-Jan Lammers/Tiff Needell Unipart-liveried N 180, which David Abbott snapped up for a bargain price at last August’s Brooks Nurburgring sale.

TGP Champ’s six-wheel ride

Simon Bull’s six-wheel Tyrrell P34-S caused a stir when it broke cover at the recent Autosport International show. Thoroughbred Grand Prix champion Martin Stretton campaigns it this year, using 10in tyres specially moulded by Avon, suppliers of control rubber for the series. Tyrrell designer Derek Gardner still believes his radical idea could be an advantage 23 years on.

46 3-litre machines from 19 marques mean capacity fields in this season’s TGP series, with five USA drivers plus the Maki of Joop Rauwers.

Classics on the web

Readers who are ‘wired’ and can’t face the walk to W H Smiths can now tap into a website devoted to classic cars. The Classic Driver `webzine’ boasts car news, club and museum listings, as well as private and dealer adverts. When we looked at it, the site didn’t want to let us in without the latest browser software, and when we persisted there were repeated errors – off-putting, as most people run the older stuff. We did see tempting leads on car design and collectables, but they didn’t offer much meat. ‘Automobilia’ gave us a German shop selling modem goodies, and neither the `motorsport links’ nor ‘museums’ listings would download. The news section was up to date, and there are plenty of dealer listings, but enthusiasts may have to wait a while for a good read. Address: www.classicdriver.com

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