Pau, France, April 17th
Just as the Brabham-Hondas ran away from everyone on the flat “grass-track” circuit of Goodwood, so they did on the climbing, twisting, turning, descending street-circuit of Pau. From the outset the 1966 all-roller-bearing, 4-valves-per-cylinder, 4-cylinder, 1,000-c.c. Honda Formula Two engines made everything else appear obsolete, everything else being the 2-o.h.c. B.R.M. engine, the single-o.h.c. Cosworth engine and the 2-o.h.c. Renault Gordini engine.
After two afternoons of practice the Brabham-Hondas of Jack Brabham and Hulme were unchallenged, being the same cars used at Goodwood but with another engine in Brabham’s car. Due to bad weather in England delaying Brabham’s personal aeroplane he missed the Friday practice and it was left to Hulme to fly the Australian-Japanese flag, which he did to good effect by recording 1 min. 26 sec. for the tight little French street-circuit. This was a new fastest time ever, irrespective of engine capacity, and the nearest rival to Hulme was Jackie Stewart with Tyrell’s Matra-Cosworth with a time of 1 min. 27.6 sec. The best that Clark could do with a Ron Harris-Team Lotus car powered by Cosworth was 1 min. 27.8 sec., and Graham Hill with Coomb’s Brabham-B.R.M. did 1 min. 29.0 sec., being beaten by Arundell with the second Ron Harris car with 1 min. 28.8 sec.
The superiority of the Honda engine over its rivals stood out a mile and Hulme was delighted with the car, thoroughly enjoying himself as he beat all the opposition. When Brabham arrived, just too late to practise, he was well satisfied with his team-mate’s performance, and on Saturday afternoon when practice began again he soon joined in with the Honda demonstration of power, being only a tenth of a second slower than Hulme, so that they dominated the front row of the grid. However, Stewart got close to them with 1 min. 26.5 sec., the Matra being the equal of the Brabham but the Cosworth part not matching up to the Honda engine. Clark had been trying the new Monocoque Lotus 44, which is basically a Lotus 35 of last year but with different suspension members and a wider track. It was using the latest Cosworth engine, with Lucas-Cosworth fuel injection, but Clark was not at all happy with it and for the second practice session he went out in one of last year’s Ron Harris cars, running on Weber carburetters; he was just settling into his stride when the exhaust pipe came adrift. Others were in trouble on the tricky Monaco-like circuit, for young Ickx bent the nose of his Matra-B.R.M. on the straw bales and Siffert went right off the road in his Cooper-B.R.M. and ended up in the trees with a car that was too badly damaged to be repaired in time for the race. Grandsire, in one of the new “works” Alpine-Renaults, also had an accident. but it was not serious.
Sunday proved to be very warm and dry for the 80-lap race, and the grid line-up looked rather like the Easter Monday Goodwood race, with the two Brabham-Hondas and Stewart’s dark green Matra-Cosworth in the front row, and Clark and Graham Hill just behind, giving further cause to think that England is losing its grip on Formula Two. It needed merely three laps for the pattern of the race to become established. with Hulme leading Brabham and Stewart keeping up with them; or, to be more exact, the Brabham-Hondas were staying just in front of the Matra-Cosworth. Then came Rindt (Brabham-Cosworth), doing all he knew to stay ahead of Hill and Clark, and after a gap Arundell was leading the rest of the field. As Stewart rounded the station hairpin on lap five his Cosworth engine died away and he coasted to a stop by the signalling pits where Ken Tyrell was operating. A welded connection on the Cosworth fuel-injection linkage had broken, so Tyrell sent Stewart on foot across the park to the main pits, carrying the seat from his car, while Ickx was signalled to stop next time round. Stewart leapt in and rejoined the race in last place, a lap behind the leaders, but with 73 laps to go. He soon discovered that this second car had an inoperative 4th gear in its Hewland gearbox, and as he changed from 3rd to 5th past the signalling pits he gave Tyrell a sign of despair, but nonetheless pressed on as hard as he could. All this left Hulme and Brabham so far out in front that it seemed as if the rest of the runners had given up, but Rindt was still staving off the attacks of Hill and Clark. On lap nine Brabham took the lead from Hulme and from that point the only time he looked back was to see if the opposition was still racing. Hulme was in his leader’s slipstream until lap 14 when he got into a muddle at the station hairpin and ended up at right angles to the road, but got going again just before Rindt, Clark and Hill arrived. For a couple of laps they were able to keep Hulme in sight, before he left them and got back into Brabham’s slipstream, showing yet again what reserve of power the Honda engine had over its rivals.At the end of lap 17 Clark shot into the pits as his battery was showing signs of failing, and another was fitted and he rejoined at the back of the race, two laps down on the leaders. We now had both Clark and Stewart doing their best to make up for lost time and work their way back up the depleted field of runners, for Attwood (Lola-Cosworth) had retired with a split fuel tank, Revson (Lotus-Cosworth) had stopped out on the circuit with a broken engine, Gardner (Lola-Cosworth) also had engine trouble, and Beltoise (Matra-Cosworth ) had retired when he bent the front end of his “works” car on a wall.
With Clark out of the way Graham Hill disposed of Rindt, who was safely in fourth place, and behind came Rees who had got past Arundell, but could not get rid of him. In seventh place was Schlesser with the second “works” Matra, with B.R.M. engine, the last of the runners on the same lap as the leader. Tyrell was still urging Stewart on, keeping him informed of the situation as he closed up on other cars, but Clark was too far back to make much impression on anyone. As Brabham and Hulme completed lap 40, which was half way, they lapped Schlesser and Stewart was now within striking distance of the Frenchman. There was nothing to stop the two Honda-powered cars and they circulated nose-to-tail, making a most impressive noise and looking immaculate; the only occasions when they were not together being when they lapped a slower car and it got in the way through the narrow parts of the circuit. The other runners were still dropping out as they tried to keep up the pace. Rindt retiring, Bianchi (Alpine-Renault) retiring, Grandsire retiring, and Arundell retiring, so that by 50 laps there were only eight cars left running. Graham Hill was securely in third place, even though his B.R.M. engine had broken a mounting and was leaning on the Brabham chassis frame. and Stewart was fast approaching Rees, to take fourth place from him. This he did on lap 69 as the leaders lapped the little Welshman, for Stewart was in the slipstream of the Hondas„ though a lap behind them. Hulme had set up a new lap record on lap 59 with a time of 1 min. 26.03 sec. though obviously Brabham was within a hairs-breadth of this time, and on lap 63 Clark equalled this time, going as hard as he could at the end of the field with no hope of catching anyone, but having a determined. drive.
The two Brahham-Hondas completed their “demonstration run” with power in hand and only Graham Hill managed to stay on the same lap right to the end. Stewart, Rees and Schlesser were a lap down, followed by Clark a lap later, and the only other runner was Ligier (Brabham-Cosworth), who had had a long pit stop early in the race to fix his seat, and never made up the loss.
While the Brabham, Honda and Goodyear people were celebrating their complete domination of the F2 race there was a 35-lap Formula Three race that started off with a close scrap between Pike (Lotus 41), Courage (Lotus 41), Gethin (Brabham) and Cardwell (Lotus 41). After 80-laps of F2 racing the circuit was pretty slippery, added to which was the sand that was sprinkled over the worst parts, so that the whole pattern of the race changed as first Pike spun, then Courage spun, and finally Gethin spun, taking Pike and Cardwell with him, so that Courage was left as sole survivor of the leading group and a surprised winner.
For the week-end after the Pau Grand Prix the Formula Two circus split up and went to Spain for a race at Barcelona, others went to Germany for a race on the southern leg of the Nurbugring, and some went home to try and improve their cars.
1st: J. Brabham (M.R.D. Brabham-Honda), 1 hr. 59 min. 14.1 sec. 111.108 k.p.h.
2nd: D. Hulme (M.R.D. Brabham-Honda), 1 hr. 59 min. 14.6 sec.
3rd: G. Hill (Brabham-B.R.M.), 2 hr. 0 min. 44.8 sec.
4th: J. Ickx/J. Stewart (Matra-B.R.M.), 79 laps.
5th: A. Rees (Brabham-Cosworth), 79 laps.
6th: J. Schlesser (Matra-B.R.M.), 79 laps
Fastest lap: D.Hume, on lap 59, and J. Clark on lap 63 in 1 min. 26.03 sec. 115.133 k.p.h. (new record)
A press preview at Turin
The popular conception of what goes on at functions to announce new motor cars to the Press is, without doubt, a misguided one, for the journalists’ lot at such “junkets” is more often than not far removed from the realms of honeyed pampering. When Fiat recently held a test weekend at Turin to allow British Pressmen to try the new Fiat 124 there were attendant circumstances which, trying as they might have been at the time, are nevertheless amusing in retrospect.
The party was split into two groups,the first leaving on a Thursday and the second on a Friday, to return on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Thursday was the day of the April snows, and the first party was among those who were delayed at London Airport, finally being diverted from Milan to Rome and spending that night in a sleeper to get them to Turin. As the editor was unable to go, I went in his stead and was thankful that I was one of the second group, for our flight was incident-free and we arrived at our Turin hotel, after a coach trip from Milan, about midnight.
The following day we were taken to S. Salva Castle which Fiat had taken over for the occasion, installing a splendid showroom in the grounds, kitchen and dining room, and a whole mass of electronic equipment from which engineers could plot the progress of each test car along the arranged route. Some of the cars were fitted with a bootful of equipment which recorded on magnetic tape such things as fuel consumption, speeds, acceleration times, etc. With one journalist and one non-English-speaking Fiat driver in each car, we set off at suitable intervals on a 50-mile journey through mountains and over fast straights. It soon became obvious that the car was a perfectly ordinary family saloon but here perhaps was its virtue since it was not intended that it should appeal to the sporting driver. It is rather boxy in shape, but consequently has plenty of passenger and luggage space. The engine has a 5-bearing crankshaft and an aluminium head.
After the road test came a trip along a half-finished motorway, closed to the public, along which had been installed photo-electric equipment to record acceleration times at intervals over 4 km. The results were available within seconds with the aid of computerised processing in a pavilion built for the purpose. It was appropriate that the sugar packets supplied with the coffee were of the “Sprint” brand.
After the acceleration test came lunch (the truffles being accompanied by a reprint on their harvesting from Reader’s Digest), a film on the Fiat 124 and, in the evening, dinner at a formal establishment on the “right” side of the river. Thus ended the formalities, but as there was no London flight from Turin that day we encoached to Milan for a flight the following afternoon; rather less energetic than those of the other group who were roused at 5.30 a.m. for an ex-Turin flight.
On arrival at Milan Airport, the approach roads to which were jammed with the parked cars of plane-loving sightseers, we discovered that the Alitalia flight would be delayed for over an hour. That hour was followed by another, then another and it was 11 p.m. before we finally boarded the Caravelle to the accompaniment of a tuneless record player. The interval had not been without incident; profuse apologies were mingled with angry outbursts and credit cards, issued by Alitalia for free meals up to £1, were decreed not to be available for liquid refreshment.
You can gather that, however well organised the test itself, the process of leaving Italy was rather involved, the confusion being capped when an American traveller bought a drink with a one thousand lire note and was given a mixture of Marks and Swiss Francs as change, immediately bursting into agitated demands of “what the blazes can I do with these ?”
So you see even the best laid plans can go wrong, so bear with us a little when we speak so casually of journeys to exotic foreign climes. They are never quite as simple as they often seem in print, but I hasten to add that the British public relations firm which looks after Fiat’s interests in this country were quite blameless. In fact, they shared our experiences.—G.P.
Stop Press Items
Robin Brasil of Amershatn is rebuilding a Robey steam wagon of the early ‘twenties to original drawings supplied by Robey’s. Found in a Herts. scrapyard in 1964, it is due to appear at a traction engine rally in July. Only one other example is thought to have survived—in Borneo. [It is nice to hear of others besides Foden and Sentinel. What became of the Clayton wagon found some years ago ?—Ed.]
The V.M.C.C.’s Race Meeting for pre-war motorcycles at Cadwell Park on May 27th includes nine scratch and handicap races and starts at 12.45 p.m.
The ex-Lord Tollemache 33/140 Mercedes is being rebuilt in Kent but the special carburetters are reported stolen. Anyone who knows anything about them is invited to contact this office.
A Wokingham garage has been publicised as having run a round-up operation, headed by their Mr. D. Watts, of vintage and p.v.t. cars, which has resulted in five Bentleys and a 1938 Rolls-Royce being shipped to America. . . .
The Vintage Motor Cycle Club has brought its date-limit down to 1941. Why ? It will increase membership but is also likely to inflate the prices of post-vintage machines.
The winning Safari-rally Peugeot, the class-winning Mercedes-Benz and the triumphant Ford Cortina team all used 5s. Champion sparking plugs, like most of the Easter race winners.
This year’s Andover Traction Engine Rally takes place on June 18th. Vintage cars welcome; details from G. Howell, 5, The Crescent, Andover, Hants.
Not only is the 70-limit with us at least until June, but a 50-limit is imposed on some 400 miles of roads in England and Wales. And as an experienced driver was fined £50, with 40 gns. costs, at Middlesex Area Sessions for exceeding the speed limit and passing two slower vehicles (which refused to respond to headlamps flashing) on the nearside on the M4 Motorway last December in his M.G. 1100, we can only wish you happy motoring in this cautious, anti-motoring island! The police admitted driving their Humber Snipe “at over 100 m.p.h.” to catch this particular “criminal.”