Continental notes, May 1958
Italy really did get itself into an unhappy state over real motor racing, but after the initial ban on all events on other than closed tracks, such as Monza, there are signs of common sense prevailing and normality returning. In Sicily things were quite healthy for the Siracusa race took place on the usual road circuit and the Targa Florio has been reinstated as a World Championship event, while in Italy the Naples races this year were for sports cars with a 2-litre limit, a type of event they have often had in the past. The classic town-to-town races have, however, really fallen under the axe and the Giro di Sicilia was limited to Touring and Grand Touring cars and run as a regularity event with set speed schedules. The same route was used as in past racing events and at four points round the course there were timed speed hill-climbs. The Mille Miglia has taken the same form as the Giro Sicilia except that an entirely new route is being used which runs the entire length of the Dolomite Mountains and the only similarity with the past are the facts that it starts and finishes at Brescia and is 1,000 miles in length. Other than that the 1958 Mille Miglia will be a shadow of its former self and the Automobile Club of Brescia would have done better to call it The Tour of the Dolomites. It is due to be run on June 8th, but I fear few people will take much interest for to continue to use the name of an event that had sufficient eharacter to stand out as a classic, for what is now nothing more than a rally, is rather like running Le Mans as a 100-mile event and still calling it the Le Mans 24-hour race.
The Royal Motor Union of Belgian, who organise the gruelling Liége-Rome-Liége Marathon Rally are holding another event on July 17-20th which should be just as gruelling and this is the Liége-Brescia-Liége Rally for minicars. Realising that the serious minicar, suchh as Goggomobil, Isetta, Zundapp and so on have come to stay, the R.M.U. are hoping to attract an enormous entry of small fizzing machines so that the noise at the start in Liége should be quite something. Basically the event is open to cars not exceeding 500 c.c., having four wheels and not more than three cylinders, but the organisers are being fairly flexible in respect of what they originally intended to be production minicars. They will admit sports cars, prototypes, cars with no doors and even those with engines basically of over 500 c.c., providing they are linered down to this maximum and, of course, have not more than three cylinders. They are really out to encourage competition amongst the real minicars rather than small cars like the four-cylinder 600-c.c. Fiat, but one can foresee some keen competition between two-cylinder Abarth-Fiat 500, Berkeley, Goggomobil, Frisky, Isetta and so on.
At the end of June another 500-mile race is to be run on the Monza banked track and already interest is building up, only this year I hope the professional drivers will say here and now that they will not take part and not wait until a week before the event. There are plenty of un-professional drivers who would like to have a go, so the sooner we know why is going to “chicken-out” this year the better it will be for all concerned. The Firestone Tyre Company are already planning an initial trip to do some pre-race testing of special tyres and if the American boys from Indianapolis really learnt anything last year, and I am sure they did, it is easy to visualise 180 m.p.h. laps being made in practice. One team that will certainly be back at Monza is the Ecurie Ecosse and this time they hope to be better prepared and are working on a single-seater Jaguar with exposed wheels to allow them to use bigger tyres. But for the tyre limits last year the standard D-type Jaguars could have lapped at 160 m.p.h., so this year I hope to see one of the Ecurie Ecosse drivers well up amongst the American cars. Enzo Ferrari is showing interest in this event and has promised the organisers that he will enter a car but who will drive it is another matter, for last year Hawthorn, Collins and Musso all refused to go near the Monza banked track. However. the Monza 500-Mile race is definitely on this year on June 28th or 29th depending on the weather and if anyone wants to see sheer unadulterated speed with 190 m.p.h. being reached on the straights, then Monza is the place to go.
While on the subject of speed it was interesting to note on the way to Pau that the French authorities have placed speed limits on all large commercial vehicles, and in the usual French manner where motoring is concerned they have made a very practical job of it. The limits set are high enough for very few drivers of “heavies” to complain: coaches, for example, can crack along at 85 k.p.h. (about 53 m.p.h.), really enormous Berliet or Willems lorries can cruise unmolested at 70 k.p.h. (about 44 m.p.h.) and if they pull a trailer they must drop their speed to 65 k.p.h. (about 41 m.p.h.). These speed limits seem so sensible for the sizes of vehicle that it is doubtful whether many large commercial vehicles will ever exceed them. Had the limits been set at a ridiculous 20 or 25 m.p.h there would have been continual law-breaking, so it is really refreshing to see some intelligence being used by those in control of law-making. A thing that is becoming very noticeable in France is the preponderance of DS19 Citroëns, the French have really taken to this remarkable car and they are to be seen everywhere. However, there are two snags to this, one is that the DS19 throws up more spray and mud than any car I have ever come across and the other is that an enthusiastically-driven DS19 can make one hurry unnecessarily in one’s Gran Turismo coupé if the honour of Porsche is to be retained, especially on fast swerving roads across the South of France. The ability of the DS19 to go once it is fully wound up is understandable, having driven one pretty hard, but the reason for the fantastic shower of muck that follows in its wake on a wet road is not so easy to understand. It sprays out in all directions so that even when one passes in the opposite direction it plasters your screen more than any other vehicle. As no car is perfect I suppose one will have to put up with this sort of thing from the lucky Frenchman who placed his order early for a DS19. At the other end of the scale Citroën are also making themselves felt on the French roads, for over Easter weekend the traffic was continually dropping to a walking pace up long hills as everyone followed a 2 c.v. Citroën struggling to make its 9 b.h.p. pull a whole family along on their Easter holiday. After a few days of this I was glad to get into Italy, the land of Fiats, but it was not long before the traffic was slowed up by a two-cylinder Fiat 500 grossly overladen and in the middle of the road. Very soon now minicars are going to require special tracks to run on like cyclists!
One of the interesting sights at Siracusa was to see a 26-year-old Italian girl driving a Grand Prix Maserati and not teetering round at the back of the field in an effeminate way, but having a real go “with the boys.” This was Maria-Teresa de Filippis from Naples and though it was her first outing in Formula 1 she showed she was not frightened of using the car, getting it into full-lock power slides through the corners and winding it up to well over 7,000 r.p.m. in the gears. Although she is new to Grand Prix racing she is not new to motor racing, having driven an A6G sports Maserati in local races, at Monza in the Supercortemaggiore races and in the Mille Miglia. Having seen her performing on difficult street races at Naples and Bari it was no surprise to see her wring-the-neck of her newly-acquired Grand Prix car. To the Siracuse organisers and the Italian Federation I give full marks for allowing her to take part in a Grand Prix, something the R.A.C. are afraid to do, banning as they do, such women as Nancy Mitchell, Patsy Burt and Jean Bloxam from any hope of competing in a Formula 1 event. On the other hand, the R.A.C. will accept Scott-Brown with his unfortunate deformity yet the Italian Federation will not allow him to take part in Italian races. The F.l.A. stands for the Federation International Automobile., the governing body of all motor racing in Europe, yet they seem to have little or no control over the question of accepting women drivers or deformed male drivers, their only action being to “pass-the-buck” and retreat. The governing body of motor racing may be International in theory but it certainly is not in fact.––D. S. J.
Easter at Mallory Park
Twenty thousand spectators watched the Nottingham S.C.C. race meeting at Mallory Park on Easter Monday. The weather was fine but cold for the Formula III and sports-car programme. P. G. Fletcher in his Lotus and John Brierley in the Victoria-Climax clouted the bank at Shaw’s Corner and L. Mayman lost a wheel, but the drivers were not seriously injured in this otherwise enjoyable meeting.
10-lap Race for 1,300-c.c. sports cars: 1st: J.C. Brierley (Victoria-Climax), 79.91 m.p.h.; 2nd: A. Macmillan (Lotus-Climax). 79.88 m.p.h.
10-lap Race for over 1,300-c.c. sports cars: 1st: P. Tayylor (Aston Martin), 72.56 m.p.h.; 2nd: A. Riddy (Lotus-M.G.), 71.98 m.p.h.
10-lap Formula III: 1st: P. Proctor (Cooper-Norton). 78.54 m.p.h.
30-lap sports-car race: Overall winner: D. Protheroe (Austin Healey 100S).
Up to 1000-c.c. class: 1st: R. Gilbert (Turner-Austin), 62.84 m.p.h.
1,301-c.c – 1,600-c.c.: 1st: K. Mackenzie (M.G.). 67.58 m.p.h.
1,601-c.c. – 3,000c.c.: 1st: D. Protheroe (Austin Healey 100S). 74.68 m.p.h.
15-lap Formula II: 1st: D.W. Wagner (Cooper-Norton), 78.81 m.p.h.
20-lap Unlimited sports cars: A. Macmillan (Lotits-Climax). 81.82 m.p.h.; 2nd: J. Blumer (Lotus-Climax) 81.74 rn.p.h.