Continental Notes, May 1961
IN spite of all the fuss and furore that the English raised over the past two years about the 1961-64 Formula for Grand Prix racing, it has now begun and is with us for the next four years. Various manufacturers who said “We won’t support it” and drivers who said “We won’t drive 11/2-litre cars ” are still with us I am happy to say, and the racing scene is quite unchanged and is just as fast and furious and looks like becoming more so as the season progresses. In spite of the S.M.M.T., who suddenly took a righteous interest in Grand Prix racing last year, we have the new 11/2-litre Formula and everyone is working flat out on new designs. The two recent Grand Prix events, at Pau and Bruxelles, the former on a slow twisty circuit and the latter on a fairly fast circuit, have both seen the lap records improved upon. Last year both these races were for Formula Two cars, of 11/2-litres and no weight restriction, and the ” dismal-jimmies ” said the new Formula with its weight limit of 450 kilogrammes for 11/2-litres would make the cars absurdly slow. At the moment most people are racing last year’s cars anyway, and the continual development in engine power, brakes, tyres, road-holding and driving has seen both lap records for 11/2-litres increased substantially, and at Pau the out-and-out record, previously held by a 2 1/2-litre, was comfortably broken. It is unlikely that fast-circuit lap records will be approached by the present Formula One cars, especially at Reims, Spa and Monza, but my guess is that they will be long before this Formula draws to a close in 1964.
Ferrari has already shown his new Formula One car to the World, with its 120-degree V6 engine at the rear and though the popular Press tend to accept the publicity of 190 b.h.p. at 9,500 r.p.m. a more reliable source suggests that it is giving a very honest 178 b.h.p., which sounds reasonable. This is the sort of figure that the engine is likely to develop when mounted in the chassis, with all accessories on board and is the figure that Phil Hill and von Trips are likely to have available when they are doing 9,500 r.p.m. in this new car.
Not to be left behind Porsche have now produced photographs of their new F.1 car, the chassis having a major change from Porsche policy in having double-wishbone and coil-spring front suspension, though the rear-end is similar to their existing singleseaters, having fully-independent suspension by means of unequal and unsymmetrical wishbones, radius arms, and coil springs. The gearbox is similar to that used at present, as are the brakes, Porsche finding that good drum brakes are still pretty satisfactory, though they are experimenting with their own design of disc brake. The most exciting release is the new engine, which is a horizontally-opposed 8-cylinder, with twin o.h.c. to each row of four cylinders, and cooling by a flat mounted fan on top of the engine rather like the Chevrolet Corvair. This new flat 8-cylinder Grand Prix engine of 11/2-litres, along with Ferrari’s new 120-degree V6 engine is beginning to indicate a new lease of life to the mechanical side of Grand Prix racing, and when B.R.M. and Coventry-Climax have their V8 engines racing, the scene will be most exciting. The fact that all the engines will be mounted behind the drivers is really of little importance, for not long ago all these engines would have been mounted in front of the drivers and the cars could have all been described as looking alike!
In order to give competitors a chance to try out their cars for the Le Mans 24-Hour Race, for official practice is invariably all too short for such a long event, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest closed the Sarthe circuit over the weekend of April 8th/9th and quite a number of teams took part in some unofficial practice. Most outstanding was Ritchie Ginther with the new rear-engined sports Ferrari with 2.4-litre V6 Dino engine, which lapped very fast, and comfortably faster than any previous best laps at Le Mans, even by 3.8-litre D-type Jaguars and the mighty 4.9-litre Ferraris of days just gone by. The Scuderia Serenissima were there with an intriguing machine which consisted of a new Tipo 63 chassis, which is the ‘ birdcage ” with rear-mounted engine, but in this car the engine was one of the 3-litre V12 cylinder units which was just getting sorted out when the factory withdrew from racing at the end of 1957. This was the unit that revved to over 10,000 r.p.m. and made such a wonderful noise, and it will be good to hear it again, even though it has been slightly subdued and put in the back of a sports car. Another interesting machine at this weekend practice was a 1,700-c.c. RS60-type of Porsche fitted with a special coupé body, with very sloping screen and a rectangular funnel-shaped back that was designed to suck air into the carburetters and cooling blower. There were many other competitors practising, including private Aston Martin G.T. models, Sunbeams, Triumphs and Lotus Elite. Unfortunately, Sunday was marred when Jo Schlesser crashed heavily on a Ferrari 250GT and put himself in hospital with severe injuries, which will keep him from racing for some time. Having failed to get a start at Bruxelles he drove to Le Mans through Saturday night to take the opportunity of putting in some practice with a G.T. car.
The weekend was marked by an innovation, not witnessed at Le Mans for many, many years, which was a race other than the famous 24-hour event. An International motorcycle race was run, in two heats of 10 laps each, and it would be nice to think that this was the prelude to bigger things, such as a full-length Formula One Grand Prix on the Sarthe circuit.
It is interesting that one character of racing in Belgium has not changed over a period of 13 years. I refer to road racing on circuits with a difference. The first race in which I took part in Belgium was a motorcycle event at Mettet in 1948 and this circuit sticks in my memory because of the cross-road in the middle, it being a figure-of-eight circuit. As you belted down to the crossroads and peeled off for a fast left-hand bend you were conscious of other riders (who were half a lap ahead!) belting towards you and peeling off in the opposite direction. Then later in the season the new Cathedral on the outskirts of Bruxelles was nearing completion and had a fine circuit of concrete roads around it, so the local motorcycle Club organised the “Circuit de la Basilique,” which was literally a dice round the Cathedral. Just recently I was at the Bruxelles Grand Prix, on the Heysel circuit out by the Atomium, where the long fast straight runs parallel with the Motor Road from Antwerp, so watching from the back of the pits you would see trucks, buses and cars of all shapes and sizes going along the Motor Road, and then suddenly ” Whammm… ” a Porsche or Cooper would go singing past them with a speed differential of 100 m.p.h. and it made a most intriguing sight. It brought back many happy memories of road racing in Belgium, in the days when the Spa circuit was less of a speed-track and much more interesting, and there were numerous circuits all over the small, but enthusiastic, country.—D. S. J.
CIRCUIT OF CESENATICO, April 2nd Formula Junior-96.2s Km.
After sorting out 36 fastest cars from 50 entries during practice, the field was divided into three heats of 12 cars each; the first four going into the final to be disputed over 35 laps of the 2.75 km. street circuit in Cesenatico on the Adriatic coast of Italy. Heat winners were John Lover (Cooper B.M.C.), Pirocchi (de Sanctis) and Cecchini (Stanguellini-Fiat). In the final the Swiss driver Siffert spun but passed most of the field to get back into second place, and when the leader, John Love, had trouble the Swiss took the lead.
1st : J. Siffert (Lotus-Ford) . . . . 50 min. 38.2 sec. — 114.046 k.p.h.
2nd : D. Piper (Lotus-Ford) . . . . 51 min. 17.3 sec.
3rd : G. Rigamonti (Osca-Fiat) . . . . 51 min. 43.1 sec.
4th: G. Zanarotti (Stanguellini-Fiat) . . . . 52 min. 16.8 sec.
5th: ” Geky ” (Stanguellini-Fiat) . . . . 1 lap behind
6th: D. Love (Cooper-B.M.C.) . . . . 1 lap behind