Continental Notes, May 1964

When a motor race finishes most people either pack up and go home, or retire to a bar to explain why it had been a good race or a bad one, and the general public at last get a chance to invade the paddock and see the cars close up. They can feel tyres, peer into cockpits, squint under engine covers, try and take photographs, and all around there seems to be uncontrolled pandemonium, in the midst of which the mechanics have to load cars onto transporters, gather up tools and equipment and, after an hour or so, can relax for a drink or a sandwich. This after-race hullabaloo is always much stronger at Continental races, for only in England are the public encouraged to buy their way into the paddock during the meeting. Abroad the public are kept out until everything is finished, and then it is like opening a floodgate, especially in Italy if an Italian car or driver has done well, for there is little to choose between enthusiasm and patriotism in that country.

At some races the organisers insist on their F.I.A. rights and demand to have the engine of the winning car stripped for measurement, to weigh the car, analyse the fuel and generally make sure there has been no cheating. This is not compulsory, but is usually insisted upon in the case of a new car or an “outsider” winning a Grand Prix, and as soon as the lap of honour has been completed the car is wheeled into a garage or fenced-off area, attended by mechanics and members of the team, and they are thus immune from the flood of spectators pouring into the paddock; spectators who, in their enthusiasm, crowd round the cars, lean on it, press on it, even stand on it, and often Perspex screens are broken, mirrors pulled off, fibreglass split, petrol cans knocked over, tools spilt and so on; not intentionally like hooligans out to do damage, but just in enthusiasm to have a look and to touch, and there is never room for everyone. Often as I have watched the winning car being whisked away for verification, with its attendant mechanics, I have thought that they were the lucky ones, but there is another side to the story, as I was able to witness, by chance after the race at Pau. The milling crowds were getting thicker as I met Keith Duckworth, who said he had to go and help remove the cylinder head from the new Cosworth engine, and not being in a hurry to get to hotel or bar, I joined him, slipping through a side door into the large garage used for the technical inspection at Pau. The Lotus 32 of the Ron Harris team was already in there and it seemed that it would be a simple matter to weigh the car, unbolt the cylinder head, measure the bore and stroke, and that would be that. The first difficulty came when the scrutineers wanted the petrol tanks emptied before weighing the car, and as this was the engine’s first race Ron Harris had put in more petrol than was necessary, not being sure about the consumption, so that it was not a question of his mechanics just draining out a half-gallon. Jerrycans had to be found and, of course, they were full, so somewhere had to be found to put the fuel, and when all your private cars and the transporter already have full tanks, ready for an early-morning start for home, four gallons of petrol can be very difficult to dispose of without either giving it to a passer-by or setting fire to it, and as the Lotus tanks were pumped out another jerrycan had to he found, for Clark had been carrying more than eight gallons too many. Eventually the tanks were dry and the car was weighed, scaling 424 kilogrammes (approx. 933 lb.), or just 4 kilogrammes over the legal minimum for Formula Two.

The next thing was to remove the cylinder head, but the car had been running for some two hours and the engine was still pretty hot, and you do not remove aluminium cylinder heads while they are hot; not if you want to put them back again that is. So we all had to kick our heels and wait for everything to cool off, and it is surprising how if the start of a race is delayed your engine seems to lose all its heat very rapidly, but when you want it to get cool it seems to take hours. It was now quite dark outside and the crowds and all the other teams had long since departed. As this Cosworth engine was the first one delivered to the Ron Harris team the mechanics had had no time to find out how it came apart, they had been busy enough completing the car in time for its first race, so Duckworth had to roll up his sleeves and show them how it came apart, when he considered it was cool enough. Exhaust pipes, water pipes, fuel pipes and carburetters were all removed, head nuts removed, and the great moment arrived to lift the cylinder head off the studs. It rose about two inches and stopped, and some ripe English language was heard as it settled back down again. The Cosworth engine is inclined to the right and the head would not come off because it was fouling a tube that braced the cockpit crash-bar back to the chassis! The Lotus 32 was indeed brand new, and the power unit had been assembled into the chassis complete, since when there had been no occasion to lift the cylinder head until now. The mechanics sagged visibly; they had been up until 5 a.m. that morning getting the car ready for the race, had grabbed a few hours’ sleep, and it was now 8 p.m. and everyone else was back at their hotels having supper. The French scrutineers insisted on measuring the bore and stroke, and suggested that the engine/gearbox unit could be moved back a few inches, but that meant dismantling the back suspension, inaccessible oil and water pipes, getting block and tackle, and so on. Duckworth suggested that perhaps if he held he head up the few incites it would move on the studs the scrutineers could bend their instruments and insert them into the slot between head and block. That was not popular! There was only one solution and that was to cut out the offending tube, so the long-suffering mechanics set to work, but it meant hacksawing sideways with a stroke of an inch or two, due to various things being in the way. Finally the offending tube was removed, the head lifted and the measurements taken, albeit with rather primitive measuring sticks, and the quoted figures were not too accurate but were near enough. There was a dull pause while some multiplying and long-division sums were tackled, and it was ultimately pronounced that the capacity was “under 1,000 c.c.,” but no-one was prepared to say how much under 1,000 c.c. Duckworth said it was designed to be 998 c.c., the quoted figures work out to 994 c.c., but everyone was fairly happy.

While the scrutineers filled in their official forms the mechanics cleaned the head and block faces, prepared new gaskets and got on with the job of putting it all together again. I crept quietly away, it now being 9.36 p.m., thinking that perhaps it is easier to not win races and just battle it out with the milling crowds when the flood-gates open!

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One of the advantages of being a Press-reporter or psuedo-photographer is that you can vary the position from which you watch a motor race, and I usually choose my position depending on the circuit, the pit layout, the quality of the race or the weather, having no hard and fast rules. At the recent Siracusa Grand Prix I happened, quite by chance, to be standing in the pits between the Ferrari team and the Lotus team, the two chief protagonists in the race. When Arundell stopped with gearbox trouble, as reported elsewhere in this issue, Andrew Fergusson, who was managing the team, had the bright idea of putting Arundell into Spence’s car, and thus turning a dull procession into a motor race. Before doing this he wisely decided to check with the organisers that it would not infringe the regulations, so asked me to keep his lap-chart going while he did this. It was important to keep track of the race in detail so that he would know exactly where Arundell would be when he took over. Having kept the chart while Fergusson organised the change-over and sent Arundell on his way, I naturally continued to take a keen interest in the Team Lotus activities. There were only three members of the team out in Sicily, and with the number-one mechanic attending to the sick car, the second mechanic operating the signalling board, and Fergusson keeping the lap-chart, they were grateful for another hand with a stop-watch in it. Arundell’s first objective was to catch Bonnier, which would move him from sixth place to fifth place, so having signalled him P6 we then gave him —41, which was the gap in seconds between Bonnier and himself. This was quickly whittled down and we were soon giving him —6, and so on, and while this was going on we checked his gap to the leader, John Surtees. It was remaining constant at 68 sec. so we decided not to tell him this, as it might depress him and cause him to subconsciously ease up. What was much more important was that the gap to Bandini in second place was being reduced by three seconds a lap, and there were sufficient laps left to be covered to allow Arundell to catch the second-place man. This was exciting for us and here we made a tactical error.

Arundell could now see Bonnier ahead of him, so there was no need to give him a signal showing the gap any more, and when he got by into fifth place he could see the two Parnell team cars ahead of him, so we showed him a list of names indicating the race order and P5 for himself. As Amon, Hailwood and Bonnier had all been lapping at the same speed, and Arundell had caught Bonnier easily, it was obvious that it was only a matter of time before he caught the other two. What he did not know was that he was rapidly catching Bandini and, as I say, this is where we “goofed.” The Lotus pits was “upstream” from the Ferrari pit, so they could read our signals, and our stop-watches were indicating that Ferraris considered Bandini safely in second place, by the fact that he had not speeded up. In order to encourage Arundell to keep up the good work, not that he needed much encouragement, we showed him —45 Bandini, and next time —41 Bandini and so on. We got to —35 Bandini and then the gap stopped closing, and it was obvious that Ferraris had alerted their driver to the danger and he had responded. The gap fluctuated now and then but Arundell’s rate of catching had died, even though he was still lapping at the same speed as Surtees, and in our haste to give him encouraging signals Ferraris had read them and woken up. Had we been smarter we would have given Arundell a signal saying —68 Surtees each lap and perhaps Ferraris would have thought all was well. As it turned out Banditti made an unscheduled pit-stop and after that there was little need for pit signals as the racing was hand-to-hand, or wheel-to-wheel. After the event it is easy to see one’s mistakes or tactical errors, and it is on such occasions that the clever and experienced team manager can excel. I am not suggesting that Fergusson was to blame for anything, as he goes to but one race a year, Colin Chapman normally doing the job of running the pit, but I feel I should have seen this snag. Had the pit positions been reversed so that the Italians could not have read our signals the situation would not have arisen, which shows just how much a pit manager has to think about. I think I’ll stick to race-reporting and remain neutral.

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As the gamblers would say, “the chips are down,” and in long-distance racing for Prototypes and Grand Touring cars this is true. At Daytona the experimental Shelby-entered A.C. Cobra-Ford V8 coupé led the whole race until rear axle trouble and a pit fire put it out. At Sebring an homologated A. C. Cobra-Ford V8 won the GT category, ahead of all the Ferrari GTO models, and the latest move has been the Ferrari concentration on winning the Le Mans 24-hour race, at the expense of foregoing the Targa Florio. The Le Mans entries include a number of Shelby-Cobras, including one with a 7-litre Ford Galaxie engine, but more important is the entry of three Ford Prototypes, or Lola-Ford to you and I. These are entered by the Ford Division of the Ford Motor Company, U.S.A., which means “works” cars in any language, so there is no more hiding behind private concerns or private owners, and the 24-hour race is going to be an open battle between the Ford factory and the Ferrari factory with their Prototypes, with various other entries taking sides, such as the Shelby-Cobras, and the private GT Ferraris.

The S.E.F.A.C. Ferrari team are pinning their faith on cars basically as raced last year, with V12-cylinder engines mounted behind the cockpit but in front of the rear axle. There are two Models, the 275/P and the 330/P and the chassis are virtually the same, having tubular space frames, all-independent suspension, 5-speed gearboxes and similar track and wheelbase. The 275/P engine is a 3,285-c.c. unit and the 330/P is of 3,967 c.c., both being of 60-degree V12 layout and following the long-established Ferrari principles of single overhead camshaft to each bank, chain driven from the crankshaft. The smaller engine is, said to develop 320 b.h.p. at 7,700 r.p.m. on a 9.8-to-1 compression-ratio, with a bore and stroke of 77 x 58.8 mm., while the big one develops 370 b.h.p. at 7,200 r.p.m. on 8.8-to-1 Compression-ratio, with bore and stroke of 77 x 71 mm. Already these cars have made a successful debut at Sebring, the smaller-engined ones finishing first and second, and the big one third after losing the lead due to a long pit-stop for electrical repairs.

With so much publicity to be gained in the World’s daily newspapers, radio and television, from a success at Le Mans, it is not surprising that Ferrari is throwing in all he has in his effort to win yet again. At the weekend of testing on April 18/19th he had a 4-litre Prototype going really well, and a 3.3-litre as well, until Abate spun off in the rain and crumpled it. In addition to these two open 2-seaters with the full wrap-round screen and aerofoil wing across the back, there was what might be termed a 275P/LM, this being built around a 250LM Berlinetta, the rear-engined GT car that is struggling to get into production. Instead of the 3-litre engine in the rear a 3.3-litre Prototype engine was installed, using the production type 5-speed gearbox with the clutch and flywheel between the engine and gearbox; the other prototypes having the exposed clutches right at the back of the gearbox. The 250LM full coupé body was used but over the rear deck, from the chopped-off rear window to the tail, had been fitted a very neat streamlined tail with a large window in it. The maximum speed of these prototypes is around the 190-m.p.h. mark, give or take a little, depending on who does the timing, but there is no arguing the fact that they are fast.

Chief opposition to the Ferraris looked like coming from Eric Broadley’s two Lola coupés, “Powered and Paid for by Ford,” but on their first outing they were disappointing in their speed, needing quite a lot of detail adjustment, but without doubt fundamentally right. On these ultra-low coupés the centre section of the chassis, comprising the cockpit and the engine bay, is constructed of thin-gauge sheet steel welded into a box structure, and the nose cowling, tail and engine cover, doors and body sides are all of fibreglass, one car having a much thinner layer of fibre-glass than the other. Front suspension is by tubular wishbones, most beautifully bronze-welded, and coil-spring damper units, and at the rear the suspension is typical of a modern Grand Prix car, but strong enough to take 400 b.h.p. On each side a lower wishbone and top transverse link join the cast hub carrier to the chassis and twin radius arms give fore and aft location, while coil-spring-damper units are used. The drive shafts have no universals, relying on enormous rubber “doughnuts” at the inboard ends for lateral movement. The aluminium 4.2-litre push-rod o.h.v. Ford V8 engine sits just behind the driving compartment and is coupled to the big Indianapolis-type Colotti gearbox. The engine uses Weber downdraught carburetters and a V8 Coventry Climax type of cross-over exhaust system with the two tail-pipes running into an expansion box mounted above the gearbox and two tail-pipes sticking out of the cut-off tail. Bowing to Ford wishes, splined hub wire wheels with eared hub-nuts are used, instead of the cleverly conceived Lola alloy wheels, and the disc brakes are buried deep inside these wheels. On one car thermo-couples were attached to the brakes to provide some interesting readings. The two seats in the cockpit are very reclining and beautifully finished, as is the whole of the interior, and in fact the whole car. There are air ducts running from the nose of the car through the body sides, through the doors and into the engine compartment, blowing on to fuel pumps and exhaust pipes. The carburetters draw their air from ducts in the sides of the roof, just behind the doors.

Unfortunately, the first practice day was very wet at times, and the Frenchman Jo Schlesser, driving the first of the two cars to be built, which had already been flown to New York to show to Ford people, had flown back again, got into an “aqua-planing” situation on the enormous Dunlop tyres and spun off at the bend at the end of the Mulsanne straight. Schlesser escaped serious injury, but the car was very badly wrecked. Although there are two more of these Lola-Fords nearing completion, this accident will set the programme back a bit.

Further serious opposition to the usual Ferrari domination of Le Mans was put out by Carroll Shelby’s A.C. Cobras with Ford V8 engines, and a works A.C. with Ford V8 engine, this and one of Shelby’s cars being coupés, but alongside the Lola-Ford they seemed like “gallumphing great elephants.” Another prototype car to use a Ford V8 engine, with standard Ford carburation against the usual Webers, was the Sunbeam Alpine Tiger a 2-seater coupé based on an Alpine but much modified. From Italy there was a very pretty coupé on the Iso-Rivolta chassis, using a Chevrolet Corvette engine and gearbox and de Dion rear suspension. The car was mechanically designed by Bizzarrini and the body by Drogo, and in true Italian style it looked first class. In a style that only Maserati seem to be able to create was a 5,044-c.c. V8-cylinder 4-o.h.c. fuel-injection engined coupé, on which the roof line blended into the rear wings and the rear wings themselves blended into the doors and windscreen. The lid for the luggage compartment was in the roof of the tail! The chassis was a space frame with wishbones and coil-springs at the front and de Dion at the rear. Sponsored by the French Maserati agent, the car was built and assisted by the Modena factory. Among the many other cars running at this practice weekend for the 24-hour race were numerous private Porsche 904 models, the 2-litre 4-cylinder GTS model with fibreglass body bonded to a steel chassis, and the factory themselves with a production 904 coupé fitted with a flat-8-cylinder 2-litre engine as used in their prototypes last year, this car being a 1964 prototype.

Among the smaller cars were two really hot Alfa Romeo Zagato coupés on the GTZ tubular space-frame chassis with independent rear suspension as well as independent front, 5-speed gearbox, disc brakes and alloy wheels; these being as fast as the production 2-litre Porsches on the straight.

The scene at Le Mans seems to go through phases. depending on the variations in the regulations, and it now in a splendid period of really exciting experimental GT coupés. A line-up of Ferrari 275P/LM, Lola-Ford Maserati 5-litre, A.C. Cobra-Ford V8 coupé, Iso-A3 Grifo coupé, E-type Jaguar Competition lightweight coupé, Sunbeam Tiger and Porsche 904/8-cylinder would give you enough noisy, fast and furious motoring to last most enthusiasts a life-time; as a taste of a possible future now with us there is the Rover-B.R.M. gas-turbine car, now in pretty aerodynamic coupé form and competing on equal terms with the 2-litre class.—D. S. J.