XIII Siracusa Grand Prix

A Motor Race

Siracusa, Sicily, April 12th.

At first glance the Siracusa race did not look as though it was going to be very exciting, but as it turned out it proved to be one of the best yet. Rain made a complete nonsense of practice, and further rain on the morning of the race and a wet track before the start did little to arouse enthusiasm. However, in spite of this, a great crowd of Sicilians turned out and by the end of the race had had their money’s worth of excitement.

Time and distance factors caused a difficulty over entries as regards Team Lotus drivers, and the Siracusa Club thought Jim Clark was going to lead the Lotus attack, whereas the Cheshunt concern sent Arundell and Spence with the two 25B cars used at Goodwood. The car Clark had driven had been re-modified back to 15-in. diameter Dunlop tyres and was fitted with a new type of 5-speed ZF gearbox with simplified selector linkage. It was Arundell’s turn to drive this car, Spence taking the other one of the Goodwood pair. The Ferrari team used this race as a tryout for two new models, both developed from lessons learnt at the end of last season with the “stressed-skin” chassis cars that appeared at Monza, but much redesigning had taken place. Surtees had the latest model, with V8 engine, and a V6 model as a stand-by, while Bandini had a V6, all three being on the new 13-in. diameter Dunlop tyres mounted on new Ferrari cast-alloy 5-spoke wheels. The rest of the entry was made up of private teams and private owners, there being Hailwood and Amon with the Parnell team of Lotus 25 cars with B.R.M. V8 engines and Hewland gearboxes, the Centro-Sud team of 1963 ex-works B.R.M. V8 cars for Baghetti and Masten Gregory, and Bonnier was driving Rob Walker’s 1963 Cooper-Climax V8 as their new Brabham was not ready. The private owners were Raby (Brabham-B.R.M. V8), Epstein (B.R.M. V8), Pilette (Scirocco-Climax V8), Jean Claude Rudaz, a young Swiss, with Rob Walker’s 1962 Cooper-Climax V8, the Swiss Wicky with a Lotus 24-B.R.M. V8, and Revson and Siffert had similar cars, the last-named also waiting for a new Brabham, as was Anderson, who was forced to be a non-starter in consequence, the only other non-starter being de Beaufort (Porsche).

The first practice session was on Friday and, although dull, the weather was dry, but few people were really ready, Centro-Sud not having arrived, and Team Lotus being there but having missed scrutineering, so much of their time was wasted with officialdom, who were not very helpful as they were still a bit sore at the non-arrival of Jim Clark to lead the Lotus attack. Bandini was in fine form and making the new V6 Ferrari really go, his lap times soon being below the 1½-litre record of 1 min. 54.9 sec., and then below the all-time record held by Moss with a Vanwall in 1 min. 54.3 sec. Not content with this, Banditti went on to greater things, and finally settled for a remarkable 1 min. 50.5 sec.—179.185 k.p.h. Meanwhile Surtees was working on the brand new V8 Ferrari, it had not even been run round the yard before leaving Maranello, time being short, and he was beginning to get it under control and lapped at 1 min. 52.4 sec., which was not a bad start for a brand-new car and engine. Most of the non-works runners were circulating around the 2-min. mark, and then Siffert upset things on the corner before the pits, the Lotus turning over on top of him and breaking a collar-bone. There was a lull while he was rushed off to hospital, and everyone threw sand all over the corner and then started petrol fires to try and burn off the spilt oil, but only succeeded in melting the tar!

Eventually practice resumed, and the Lotus team cars were allowed out officially, having already been out but flagged in due to not having been scrutineered. When the final count was made the time-keepers credited Arundell with third fastest time, in 1 min. 55.2 sec., which was very fast for his first time on this tricky high-speed circuit, but the organisers refused to accept either of the Team Lotus times as a penalty for missing scrutineering and weighing; Hailwood was next fastest with 1 min. 56.8 sec., and Amon next with 1 min. 57.9 sec.

Next day it rained and rained, so that all hopes of any decent lap times were gone, and whatever the Team Lotus drivers did in the wet had to count for the grid; the Centro-Sud B.R.M. drivers were in the same boat, as was Wicky who had only just arrived. Finally, after much discussion, a starting grid of sorts was evolved which embraced everyone except Wicky, but not in the true order of ability.

On Sunday the rain stopped about one hour before the start was due at about 3 p.m., and there were signs of the track drying out in places, though there were still some large muddy puddles around the 5.5-km. circuit, and Bonnier, as the “shop steward” of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, collected signatures from drivers and entrants just before the start, and persuaded the organisers to cut the race distance from 56 laps to 40 laps.

Masten Gregory made the mistake of starting his B.R.M. engine on the 3-min. signal and this prompted everyone else to start up, so that it seemed an eternity to keep engines running until the flag was raised. When it fell everyone got away in a cloud of spray, Gregory by now on six cylinders, having wetted a couple of plugs during the long wait. Arundell fairly whizzed through the field and at the end of the opening lap was a comfortable third, just behind the two Ferraris of Bandini and Surtees, no-one else being within sight of this trio. After four laps like this, Surtees took the new Ferrari V8 into the lead and began pulling away from Bandini and Arundell, and it seemed as if the race was going to develop into a procession, for Amon who was fourth was already some way behind, and he was followed by Bonnier, Spence, Hailwood and the rest, while Gregory’s engine was now running on all eight cylinders and he was moving up towards this group, but unlikely to catch them. Revson had put his car into the straw bales on the opening lap, so there were only thirteen runners.

At the end of lap seven the two Ferraris went by and Arundell was overdue, to appear moments later heading for the pits; his new ZF gearbox was giving trouble and he could not select 4th or 5th. Just as he was about to explain this to his mechanic the trouble seemed to sort itself out, so he roared back into the race, but next lap he was back in again, and the race as such seemed to be over, for the two Ferraris were now comfortably ahead of everyone else. However, the Team Lotus manager had the bright idea of putting Arundell into Spence’s car, as there was nothing in the regulations against this, the race not counting for any silly championships but being a race in itself. So Spence was called in and in a few seconds Arundell was away in Lotus number 28, leaving Lotus number 24 at the pits. He got away in sixth position, just ahead of Masten Gregory, and soon left the red B.R.M. behind and had his sights on Bonnier, who was in fifth place, having been passed by Hailwood, so that the Parnell cars were lying third and fourth. Although professing to not like the circuit, Arundell was now really flying round and lapping at the same speed as Surtees who was still comfortably in the lead. The Lotus was gobbling up the distance separating it from Bonnier’s Cooper, but, more important, it was gaining two seconds a lap on Bandini, and the race was not yet half-way through.

The gap between the 8-cylinder Ferrari and the 6-cylinder Ferrari was 20 sec. and widening all the time, while the gap between Arundell and the leading Ferrari was remaining constant, and the Ferrari pit made Banditti conscious of this. It took Arundell no time at all to catch Bonnier, Hailwood and Amon, in that order, for they were running pretty close together still, and by lap 25 the Lotus was in third place and the crowds were beginning to urge Banditti on to greater things, for there were now only 35 sec. between the red car and the green car. Just when it was becoming possible to calculate at which point Arundell would be up with Bandini there was pandemonium in the grandstands for the crowd could see Bandini heading for the pits. A stone had split his face vizor and he slithered to a stop, engine revving wildly, screaming for goggles. The broken vizor was reluctant to come off his helmet for a moment or two, the mechanic fumbled with the goggles, and Arundell went by into second place. Pulling his new goggles on, Bandini took off in pursuit as if in a quarter-mile sprint, scattering officials and pit staff in all directions, and now the heat was really turned on. It was now Bandini’s turn to be the hunter and he really got the bit between his teeth and lopped the seconds off the gap between himself and the Lotus, but Arundell was well aware of the situation and looked extremely confident. Out in front Surtees was not without his worries, for the new Ferrari, though leading, was showing signs of trouble in the engine compartment, and he was easing up a bit and nursing it along, far enough ahead to be unchallenged, but not so far that he could not keep an eye on the excitement going on behind him. Each lap Bandini got closer to the Lotus, but he would still have to get by and there were now only six laps to run.

All this excitement at the front of the race had overshadowed the rest of the runners, but quite a lot had been happening, for Hailwood’s clutch had stopped working and Amon was having trouble with his Hewland gearbox, so that Bonnier re-passed them both. Baghetti had retired with electrical trouble on the B.R.M., and Rudaz had retired with a broken front wishbone on his newly acquired Cooper. The original Lotus of Arundell had had its gearbox adjusted and Spence had gone off in it, but did not get far before he had to abandon it out on the circuit, with a repetition of the trouble.

Although the track was dry in places there were still plenty of puddles about and mud on the corners, but this did not deter Bandini, and after setting a row of fastest laps he finally broke the old lap record with a time of 1 min. 53.9 sec., and this brought him right up on the tail of Arundell’s Lotus. Both these drivers were brought up on Formula Junior racing so needed no lessons in cut-and-thrust, and in the opening laps Arundell had been receiving all the mud and water thrown up by the Ferrari rear wheels, but now the positions were reversed, and all round the circuit the crowds were cheering and waving for Bandini. At the end of lap 37 there was no need to look, for the big grandstand nearly fell apart with the shouting and waving of the Sicilian crowd. Bandini had got by, but Arundell was only inches behind and crowding the Ferrari into the very fast corners after the pits. Now there were only three laps, to run, but there was nothing Arundell could do, he had fought hard and lost, but lost with honour, and the two cars remained a few feet apart until the chequered flag was reached, the official gap being one-tenth of a second. So great had been the excitement of this dice that Surtees actually winning the race with the brand-new Ferrari V8 had almost been overlooked.—D. S. J.

Siracusa Sounds

Interesting that both Arundell and Bandini showed greater response when being the “hunter” rather, than the “hunted.” It takes a truly great driver to excel in both roles.

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After Team Lotus and the B.R.D.C. had fouled up the entry for the second year running at Siracusa Lotus cars were not very popular but, thanks to Arundell, all was forgiven after the race.

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Although the new Ferrari won its first race, the Ferrari team were very conscious that they had not had Clark to contend with and that the 25B is last year’s car.

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Thanks to the G.P.D.A. the race was shortened by 16 laps, and as the rain poured down five minutes after the finish one wonders what the outcome would have been had it run the full 56 laps.