Continental Notes, May 1966

The European season started with quite a flourish with the practice week-end at Le Mans, but the big question mark was “what does Enzo Ferrari intend to do ?” At the last moment he sent word to say that no works cars would be taking part in the practice and that there would only be one 4-litre P3 and one Dino 2-litre taking part in the race in June, representing SEFAC Ferrari, the official entrants of the Maranello cars. His reason for giving the test week-end a miss was that he could learn all he wanted to about high speed at Monza. As far as endurance is concerned he has the use of the private road circuit near Milan that belongs to Alfa Romeo. Last year the team did a full 24-hour dress-rehearsal before going to Le Mans. As for the idea of only entering one P3 to battle against the might of Ford, he says it is ridiculous for a little firm like Automobili Ferrari to attempt to do battle against the Ford empire, but his one car would represent a token effort. This may sound strange coming from Ferrari, who has more racing experience than most other people put together, but it is worth bearing in mind that even the powerful Daimler-Benz A.G. have made it known that they would not attempt to do open battle against the giants of the United States of America, on purely technical grounds. There is no doubt that Ford’s all out programme of racing and competition has succeeded as far as publicity and fame are concerned, and if General Motors become so worried that they open their Research and Development departments to racing, then everyone else will have to take a back seat and watch Ford and G.M. try and destroy each other. If this happens on the circuits of Europe, as well it might, then our only consolation will lie in the fact that once the battle is won, both parties will go back home. to the U.S.A. and we shall be able to get on with racing our “home-made specials,” such as Ferraris and other things that we understand. The new Ford J-car at the practice week-end at Le Mans gave an inkling of what we might expect if a Ford versus General Motors battle ever starts, for it was more like a travelling laboratory than a racing car. It is no wonder that Ferrari is backing out, and it would not surprise me if he withdrew altogether from Le Mans leaving Ford to achieve a hollow victory. If they failed to win due to mechanical or human failure they would be the laughing stock of the World, and Ferrari would lead the laughing. At the end of last year, at his annual re-union, he laid great stress on the fact that the mighty Ford Empire were putting millions of pounds into their efforts to win Le Mans, and all they were doing really was trying-to beat the puny little Ferrari factory at Maranello. “Poor little us,” he said, “what can we do against the might of Detroit ?”

Every year at Le Mans there is one noise that stands out above all else and gets the prize for the “noise of the year.” When Le Mans restarted after the war it used to be an awful music record that was played over and over again, throughout the 24 hours. At various times it has been the exhaust notes of certain cars, either because of a particular note, a certain volume, or a monotonous beat. The early Porsche Carreras were one, for they droned on and on and never changed and gave the impression that if you went away for a week, when you came back “that noise” would still be there. Later it was Aston Martin who became “the noise” with the harsh note of the DB3S and then the Rover turbine took over with its high-pitch whistle. This year “the noise” is going to be the Porsche Carrera 6 coupes, for they have a truly shattering exhaust note that almost hurts the eardrums.

During the test week-end the 7-litre Ford lapped at just over 140 m.p.h. whereas last year the P2 Ferrari lapped at just under 140 m.p.h. Some well-known (sic) writers gave the Ford a maximum of 245 m.p.h., while even drivers of slower Fords thought their cars were doing 215 m.p.h. or more. Last year the Ferrari may have approached 190 m.p.h. so it stands to reason that if a Ford is going to do well over 200 m.p.h. down the Mulsanne straight and its lap time is a bare 1 second faster, then it must be losing on braking or acceleration. Either that or the driver is worse, and no driver is going to accept that. The sensible driver who makes a good lap time would say his car was slow down the straight and make it obvious that only his superb driving through the corners achieved the good lap time. Before quoting fantastic maximum speeds it is as well to correlate the speed to the lap time or the rates of acceleration and braking. It’s mostly a matter of a sense of proportion, and 245 m.p.h. with 475 b.h.p. in a car weighing some 23 cwt. does not sound proportional.

In spite of our magazine being a monthly the production_schedules are rushed along at breakneck speed so that there is less and less time to digest the happenings at a race meeting before rushing into print. At the Easter Goodwood meeting there were lots of little things happening that were of interest and that could not be analysed until a few days later, especially as there was very little time between races on the actual day. At Pau it was possible during practice to find out various interesting things, such as why Graham Hill’s B.R.M. engine went “flat” after 5 or 6 laps. An exhaust valve had a hole right through the head and when put in a vice it was possible to break the head off with fingers, yet it had held together for the whole race, but that cylinder was not producing any power. The Honda engines in the Brabhams had been run to 10,500-r.p.m. and neither Brabham nor Hulme had really tried; they felt they could have lapped a lot quicker if they had been pushed. The high pressure fuel pump on Clark’s car failed just before he got to the assembly paddock and a new one was fitted, but on the warming-up lap it was only giving 80 lb./sq. in. instead of the desired 100 lb./sq. in., which is why he changed cars with Arundel. As soon as the race started he realised that though the cars looked the same they were very different and Arundel had newer tyres on the front, which altered the handling enormously, and also he had different gear ratios, so that Clark found himself in the wrong gear at various points of the circuit, compared with his own car. His disappearance was caused by a flat tyre, cut by a piece of glass, and he felt it go as he left the chicane but was already set up for taking Madgewick, which is why he got round Madgewick before pulling out of the race and letting others go by. Stewart’s Matra lost its accelerator pedal due to a variety of causes. It is on a bracket mounted on the floor of the car by four bolts, whose heads protrude under the belly of the car. Being a new car the coil springs had settled slightly and when the car was full of fuel they compressed a bit, so that ground clearance was reduced. Stewart was so happy with the handling of the car that it was agreed to leave everything as it was. There was sufficient ground clearance for all normal purposes and one of these was the deliberate running over the kerb at the exit of the chicane. However, what was not normal was that a furrow was being cut in the earth beyond the kerb, due to everyone running wide and as the offside wheels went into the furrow the effect was to raise the height of the kerb and the bolt heads were gradually worn away until the mounting came adrift. Schlesser’s Matra-B.R.M. expired just before the end of the race due to a small ignition short circuit. which corrected Itself aftrer the race!

It was most interesting to watch the Japanese mechanics get one of the Brabham-Hondas ready for racing. The new F.2 engine is an all-roller-bearing unit and, unlike plain-bearing engines, oil pressure is not important, providing the oil is circulating. To warm up they keep the engine between 5,000 r.p.m. and 8,000 r.p.m., and when started from cold the all pressure was a mere 7 lb./sq. in. As things got warm it gradually dropped until the gauge oscillated around 1-1 1/2 lb./sq. in. at 8,000 r.p.m. When racing, all the drivers have to do is to keep an eye on the oil temperature, they can forget the pressure as long as the needle is not actually down on the stop. At one rime any self-respecting racing engine was an all-roller-bearing affair, such as the 1926-27 Delage or the straight-eight Bugattis, but as bearing metals and knowledge improved it was possible to produce plain-bearing engines of equal efficiency and reliability and the thin-shell type of bearing as perfected by Vandervell transformed the racing engine. Daimler-Benz stuck to roller bearings throughout their engines during their successful seasons of 1954-55 but, generally speaking, engine designers plumped for the plain bearing. One or two engineers continued to pin their faith to the roller-bearing layout, even though their firms did not allow them a free rein, but they were voices in the wilderness. It is interesting that Honda, who have no tradition to misguide them, have turned to roller bearings instead of plain bearings, especially for a tiny engine where every fraction of drag must count. Designing and making a roller-bearing engine is much more difficult and costly than a plain bearing engine, which is the reason a lot of engine designers have fought shy of such a project. Personally, after many years of experience with roller-bearing motorcycle engines, I could never understand why anyone was interested in anything else for racing. The knowledge that there was sufficient oil providing it was circulating was always comforting, even if the bearings were hammering themselves out, whereas on a plain-bearing engine the sight of the pressure gauge beginning to sag was cause for alarm and caution. Another thing about the Honda engines is the way they seem to be stuck together with “goo.” All the joints where there might he an oil seepage are covered with a sticky “goo” which looks horrid, but seems to be effective.

A short while ago McLaren delivered the second of his spaceframe hill-climb cars, with 4.5-litre Oldsmobile V8 engine, the first having gone to Patsy Burt, and before delivery he tried it out at Goodwood, to see if everything was in order. The owner was Harry Zweiffel, the Swiss hill-climb exponent, and on Easter Sunday he won a hill-climb in Luxembourg with the new car, which must have pleased both constructor and customer. Admittedly it was only a short event of 2 min. 10 sec., and does not match up to such mountain climbs as Mont Ventoux or Schauinsland, but it was a good start for the marque McLaren in hillclimbing.

A name that is becoming more and more noticeable in racing is that of Matra. In the world of aeronautical engineering, rockets and space projects, Engins Matra are very well known, but in the automobile world they were newcomers last season when they first appeared in F.3. Matra have many engineering facets to their name and started developing an interest in the automobile world not only for racing but in production as well, and they bought up the small firm of Rene Bonnet, who were in production with a small Renault-powered coupe called the Djet. Rene Bonnet and Jean Redele were keen rivals in small-car racing, especially at Le Mans for the Index of Performance, the former with cars bearing his own name, the latter with his Alpine cars, and both used Renault components. Eventually Redele received full support from Regie Renault and Bonnet was left out of things, so it was very fortuitous for him when Matra absorbed his small factory and took over the production of the Djet under the name Matra-Sport. Their first racing cars last year were very successful,and this year they have branched out into F.2, and as a result of a casual remark at a party Ken Tyrell found himself surrounded by Matra enthusiasm and in no time at all a car was prepared tor Jackie Stewart to try, he being Tyrell’s number one driver. The young Scot was a bit taken aback when his patron said he had to try out an experimental French car, for like so many people in racing he assumed that all good racing cars were built in Great Britain. He drove the car at Goodwood and was quickly satisfied that it was as good as anything else he had driven, and it did not take long for a Matra-Ken Tyrell alliance to be formed. the lofty Tyrell being well respected all over Europe for his F.3 and F.2 teams in the past, and his racing organisation.

The Lancia M.C. sorts out Lancia History

It gave me great pleasure to read your review of the Fulvia coupe, particularly as a Lancia feature had been published in the preceding issue.

To take the historical article first, there are one or two additional pieces of information which John Borthwick, my predecessor on the Lancia M.C. Journal, has passed on to me. One of the questions which had to be settled during the early days of the Company was that of the now famous badge. Five designs were submitted to Lancia by his friend Count Carlo Biscaretti de Ruffia, all of which used the same lettering set respectively on a shield, a circle, a hexagon, an oval of laurel leaves, and a steering wheel. Lancia chose the last of these but it did not come into use until 1911, earlier cars having a rectangular badge.

The cars had many successes in both shows and races, and among these was a Gold Medal at the 1909 Brussels Show for a Gamma. This car subsequently took third place in the fourth Targa Florio. In all, Lancia produced 258 Gammas and the total number of cars built up to the end of 1910 was 539.

Both Mr. Rieman and John Borthwick have earlier referred to the 1919 V12 and there seems to be some disagreement over this machine. According to a Lancia publication dated September 1961 only one was produced, in chassis form, for the Paris show. It was a 22-deg. single o.h.c. unit of 6,032 c.c., with a bore of 80 MM. and stroke of 100 mm.

One further point about Vincenzo Lancia may help to illustrate the kind of man he was. He was reputed, at one time, to have come up against a refusal by the Turin Council to allow him to build in front of an established building line. Lancia refused to give in and eventually discovered that the rule in question did not apply to any projection above ground level, and with no more ado he promptly built his house with the front raised on 6-inch blocks, well in front of the offending line. He was not a man to be beaten by bureaucrats.

Your comments on the Fulvia coupe bear out the opinion of those members of the Lancia M.C. who have driven the car; namely that it is much more in line with those machines produced under the direction of the Lancia family than other models in the current range. A good Lancia always comes to life in the mountains and this one is no exception.—Nigel Trow, Editor, Lancia Motor Club Journal.