XIV Siracusa Grand Prix



Joseph Siffert’s day

Siracusa, Sicily, April 4th.

As a change from last year the weather was blazing hot for the XIV Gran Premio Siracusa, and the organisers attracted a representative entry of works cars, private teams and independents. SEFAC Ferrari sent two V8 cars for Surtees to choose from and a flat 12-cylinder car for Bandini, while Team Lotus sent two Type 33 cars, one with a normal Coventry-Climax V8 engine for Clark, and a flat crank low-level exhaust pipe engine for Spence. The Parnell team had their two Lotus 25 cars with B.R.M. engines for Hailwood and Ireland, and Rob Walker’s team entered Bonnier with their Brabham-Climax V8 and Siffert with his own Brabham-B.R.M. V8, but running under the sponsorship of Walker, the car painted the familiar blue with white nose band. The B.P.-supported Centro-Sud team had their three ex-works space-frame B.R.M. cars running, with Gregory, Scarfiotti and Businello driving. The rest of the entry was made up with private owners, these being Anderson (Brabham-Climax V8), Raby (Brabham-B.R.M. V8), Collomb (Lotus 24-Climax V8) and Wicky (Lotus 24-B.R.M. V8). Hawkins was entered with Stoop’s Lotus 33-Climax V8, but did not arrive.

The two V8 Ferraris were to all intents and purposes identical, except that 0005 had an English-made fibre-glass body, and 0006 had an Italian body, but the shapes were the same. Both engines were using Bosch direct injection and four separate coils for the 12-volt ignition system. The 12-cylinder car was using Lucas port injection with very long intake pipes, and on each side the six exhaust pipes fed into a single tail pipe in a piece of sheer artistry by the Ferrari pipe-bender. The Team Lotus cars were slightly under-geared for the very fast circuit, but the alternative gearboxes were too high, so Clark and Spence left them as they were, and apart from easing some oil into the throttle cable on Clark’s car the mechanics seemed to have little to do. Ferrari, on the other hand, were experimenting with 0005, changing axle ratios, trying different tyres, and making comparisons between Champion and Marchal 10-mm. sparking plugs; while in between times Surtees was practising with the second V8 car and Bandini seemed fairly happy with his 12-cylinder car. Anderson was having his troubles, for a control rod on his Lucas injection unit broke and later the Layrub couplings on his drive shafts chewed themselves up; in spite of these bothers he put in quite a respectably fast lap at 1 min. 49.9 sec.

Last year practice was a bit chaotic and though Bandini had lapped in 1 min. 50.5 sec. with a V6 Ferrari, the lap record stood to him at 1min. 53.9 sec. in the race, but all this was before last year’s cars got under way and the V6 Ferrari became dated. Siffert was quietly getting on with some fast motoring and was in the 1 min. 47 sec. bracket, and Clark and Bandini soon got down to these sort of figures, and once Surtees had got 0005 sorted out he was not only there with them, but set a new best time with 1 min. 46.8 sec. Siffert’s time was no fluke, for he kept putting in times in the 1.47 bracket and was obviously in fine form, while his two Swiss mechanics had got his B.R.M. engine really buzzing round. The three Centro-Sud cars were being ministered to by a works B.R.M. mechanic and sounded in good fettle, and Scarfiotti was the fastest of the three drivers with 1 min. 49.7 sec., and Hailwood was fastest of the Parnell team with 1 min. 49.2 sec. Just before the end of practice Clark and Surtees were both out and, quite by chance, came together as they went past the pits, but neither of them was prepared to show the other one just how fast he could go. Unfortunately, Surtees had just been flagged in by his pit and, being an obedient driver, he eased off for his slowing-down lap and Clark pressed on and did 1 min. 46.5 sec. Coming round the final bend before the pits Surtees ran out wide not paying attention, and slid on some sand and clouted the straw bales, crashing mildly, with no serious damage. As a local journalist wrote, there was “un poco di panico” in the pits, as the accident could be seen happening. Perhaps if Surtees had been of the character of Farina or Gonzalez, or Behra, he would have ignored the “come in” signal from his pit and had a go at “dusting-up” Clark, even if it had meant showing just how fast he could go, and in consequence he might not have crashed. The “good old days” may not have been so scientific or serious, but they were good fun.

This little incident put paid to practice, with straw bales and people all over the road, but it didn’t matter as most people had finished anyway. On the following afternoon the sun was hotter still and this affected mixture strength slightly, so no improvement was made on the previous day’s best time of 1 min. 46.5 sec. Ferrari had replaced the bent suspension members on the crashed V8 and patched up the fibre-glass nose, but even so Surtees was still experimenting with both V8 Ferraris. The afternoon was not exactly exciting, for Clark just sat around and waited to see if Surtees was going to improve on the time of the day before, and as he didn’t there was little point in wearing out the Lotus. Spence, however, did go out, and improved his position on the grid with 1 min. 47.8 sec., and the two Team Walker cars were having a good go. As fast as Siffert improved his time, Bonnier improved his, this mixed team of Swede and Swiss seeming to urge each other on to greater things, so that Spence and Bandini found themselves behind the Team Walker drivers. While Siffert was really wound up, lapping in 1 min. 47 sec., a number of people in the pits clocked him at well under this figure, but officially he was given 1 min. 47.2 sec., to Bonnier’s best of 1 min. 47.0 sec., so the Swiss was on the second row of the grid, which was not too bad for it put him right behind Clark.

Anderson was still in trouble, stripping the teeth off 2nd gear, which put paid to his practice, but Ireland and Gregory both got below the bogey time of 1 min. 50 sec. With twenty minutes of practice left Clark got ready in case Surtees suddenly pulled out a fast lap, and he went out and cruised round while Surtees was lapping in 0005, but there were no fast laps forthcoming and practice ended on a rather subdued note.

The weather just went on being perfect and an enormous crowd poured into Siracusa all morning, the race starting at 3 p.m., and after some confusion on the “dummy grid” fourteen cars rolled gently forward to the starting line and got away to a good start. Businello was a non-starter as his Centro-Sud B.R.M. had broken its gearbox, and Surtees was using 0005 with the patched-up fibre-glass nose. While Clark and Surtees got away smartly, Bonnier was left behind, his dutch suddenly refusing to bite, and when it did it locked in solid. Meanwhile Siffert had accelerated round the outside of Clark, and while Clark and Surtees were watching each other the Swiss boy shot into the lead and Anderson followed in his wake. At the end of the opening lap the order was Siffert ( (Brabham-B.R.M. V8), Surtees, (Ferrari V8), Clark (Lotus-Climax V8), Spence (Lotus-Climax V8) and Anderson (Brabham-Climax V8). The rest of the runners were led by Bandini (Ferrari flat-12), who had muffed his getaway and got the gear-lever hung up in the gate as he changed from 3rd to 4th. Bonnier’s clutch trouble had dropped him down to 10th place, which was a great pity for he could have supported Siffert up at the front.

It was rather assumed that Siffert’s moment of glory would not last long and that the two works number-one drivers would soon go past him, but for ten laps he stayed in front and neither Surtees nor Clark could make any impression on him, and these three left everyone else behind. With full petrol tanks they were lapping at 1 min. 49 sec. and showing no signs of easing up.

At the end of lap eight Ireland came into the pits with a wrecked gearbox, and two laps later Anderson came in from a secure fifth place ahead of Bandini, with the injector pump control rod broken once more, there obviously being some obscure vibration causing this. With the race still in its early stages, there being 56 laps to cover in all, he set about making up a new control and rejoined the race seven laps later. On lap 11 Surtees had taken the lead but he could not get rid of Siffert and Clark could not get by, so the Swiss driver was the meat in a World Champion sandwich. Surtees came by the pits with his left-side wheels in the sand on the edge of the track and showered Siffert and Clark, but it did not get rid of them, and Siffert did not mind for he had been doing the same thing on other parts of the circuit while he had been leading.

Bonnier was changing gear on his Colotti gearbox without the clutch, and had climbed up to sixth place, but Spence was having trouble getting bottom gear at the hairpin and was losing ground to Bandini, who had taken fifth place when Anderson stopped. Hailwood was trying hard to get by Bonnier and finally succeeded, only to have the main ignition pick-up lead fall off, and the sudden cessation of power as he was going into a corner caused him to misjudge things and strike the wall, which finished his race. The leading trio were still going strong and on lap 28 Siffert was back in the lead, with the two World Champions behind him, but on lap 32 Surtees got back in front again, but not for long, for on lap 37 it was Siffert in front, and all the time Clark was hanging on in third place, being unable to do anything about either of his opponents, for speed really counts on the Siracusa circuit and the Lotus was not fast enough, as is so often the case on fast circuits. With 45 laps gone and the lap times down to 1 min. 46.5 sec. there seemed to be a dead-lock between the leading trio, but then as Siffert changed gear from 5th to 6th at peak r.p.m., 6th gear did not engage and the B.R.M. engine over-revved violently and burst, and the Swiss driver’s great day was over in a shower of broken engine. Surtees led for just one lap and then his V8 engine went sick, and for the first time since the starting flag dropped Clark took the lead.

Meanwhile Spence had been struggling round the hairpin in 2nd gear, losing valuable time each lap, and Bandini had caught and passed him, but the Lotus number-two driver was scratching hard on the other corners to try and make up, until he eventually overdid it on one left-hander and hit the wall, and at Siracusa that means the end of the race. This happened just before Siffert blew up, so that all of a sudden there were only three cars on the same lap, with Clark leading the two Ferraris, Surtees limping along on six cylinders to try and finish. Bonnier now found himself fourth, but was slowing as his gearbox was breaking up under the continual use without the clutch, and Scarfiotti in the only remaining Centro-Sud B.R.M. V8 was fifth and Raby sixth. As Clark, Surtees and Bandini finished their 56th lap Raby had the transfer gears strip in his gearbox and he pushed the car in to finish but unfortunately lost two places while doing so. Clark had had a very lucky win, for while he felt he could have outbraked Surtees in the closing laps, the Ferrari brakes having weakened noticeably, he had no idea of how he could have dealt with Siffert. – D. S. J.


XIV Siracusa Grand Prix – 56 laps – 308 kilometres – very warm

1st: J. Clark (Lotus 33-Climax V8) – 1 hr. 43 min. 47.0 sec. – 178.063 k.p.h. (new record)

2nd: J. Surtees (Ferrari V8) – 1 hr. 44 min. 29.1 sec.

3rd: L. Bandini (Ferrari flat-12) – 1 hr. 44 min. 44.3 sec.

4th: J. Bonnier (Brabham-Climax V8) – 55 laps

5th: L. Scarfiotti (B.R.M. V8) – 54 laps

6th: R. Anderson (Brabham-Climax V8) – 47 laps

7th: B. Collomb (Lotus 24-Climax V8) – 47 laps

8th: I. Raby (Brabham B.R.M.V8) – 47 laps

9th: A. Wicky (Lotus 24-B.R.M. V8 – 34 laps

Fastest lap: J. Clark (Lotus 33-Climax V8), on lap 45 in 1 min. 46.0 sec. – 186.792 k.p.h. (new record)

Retired: I. Ireland (Lotus 25-B.R.M. V8), gearbox, lap 8; M. Hailwood (lotus 25-B.R.M. V8), crash, lap 28; M. Gregory (B.R.M. V8), front suspension, lap 42; M. Spence (Lotus 33-Climax V8), crash, lap 45; J. Siffert (Brabham-B.R.M.), engine, lap 46.

14 starters – 9 finishers


Release that Tiger

When the Sunbeam Tiger was released in Birmingham at the premises of George Heath Ltd., a fully-grown female tiger named Sheba arrived at the showrooms in a crate from Flamingo Park Zoo, Scarborough, and remained in what looked to be a fairly small cage for two days, so that humans who have their freedom could rubber-neck at a real tiger as well as at the excellent Tiger sport’s car. An armed guard stood by.

The Sunbeam Tiger is an excellent sports car, enabling the very considerable acceleration and effortless top-gear performance provided by the 4.2-litre Ford V8 engine to be enjoyed in a British sports 2-seater for the modest price of £1,500. Motor Sport published impressions of it last month and a full road-test report is scheduled for an early issue. This is no excuse, in our opinion, for involving a live tiger in travelling discomforts, confinement and a change of scene which troubles most animals, and we hope sincerely that no other dealer will emulate this unfortunate publicity gimmick of George Heath Ltd. – W.B.