Bank holiday racing
The circus that constitutes International racing in England put on two big shows over the Easter holiday, the B.R.S.C.C. organising a meeting at Snetterton on Good Friday, March 24th, and the B.A.R.C. running the same sort of show, with most of the same performers, at Silverstone on Easter Monday, March 27th. With the demise of the Goodwood circuit the traditional Easter Monday show by the B.A.R.C. was moved to Silverstone. The major event at both meetings was a race for the new Formula Two cars. of 1,600 c.c. maximum capacity and a limit of six cylinders, and virtually the same field took part at both meetings, cars powered by the new 16-valve Cosworth-Ford engine dominating the scene. The B.R.S.C.C. had the honour of organising the very first race for this new Formula and they ran their event in the form of two 10-lap heats, in which everyone took part, and a 40-lap final for all those still running. All this system seems to do is to provide two short races which decide the starting grid for the main race, making practice times rather superfluous. At Silverstone the B.A.R.C. had an entirely different arrangement, running their event in two parts, each of 20 laps, with the overall result being decided by the addition of the times for the two parts. This was rather like running a 40-lap race and stopping it halfway through so that the slower cars and lame-ducks could catch up before the race continued. Both meetings were sponsored by the cigarette and tobacco industry, Snetterton by Guards Cigarettes and Silverstone by W. D. & H. O. Wills. At neither meeting was the crowd overwhelming (at Silverstone it was sparse) so one hopes that all those enthusiasts who stayed at home and spectated on television were smoking furiously and putting up the profits of the two companies concerned.
Additional races at Snetterton were a 15-lap race for Group 4 sports cars, a qualifying round in the Autosport Championship, and a 15-lap race for Group 5 saloon cars, a qualifying round in the British Saloon Car Championship. At Silverstone similar races were run, for the same championships, over 20 laps each, as well as a Formula Three race. The Snetterton crowds were shown a demonstration by the rear-engined supercharged twin-cam M.G. record-breaking car, driven by Stirling Moss, and at Silverstone there was a splendid acrobatic display by an elderly American bi-plane with naked Pratt and Whitney radial engine.
SNETTERTON (March 24th)
2 p.m – Formula Two – 10 laps – 27.1 miles (43.6 kilometres)
1967 Brabham BT23 cars dominated the entry, all with Cosworth FVA engines, driven by Brabham, Hulme, Gardner on works cars, Rindt and Rees for Roy Winkelmann, and Widdows with his privately-owned car. Opposition came from McLaren with his own car, G. Hill with a works Lotus 48, Surtees with a works Lola. Stewart and Ickx with Matras of the Tyrell team and Beltoise with a works Matra, all these cars being powered by new Cosworth engines. A second works Lola, driven by Irwin had a 16-radial valve B.M.W. engine and a similar car was entered by the B.M.W. factory for Hubert Hahne.
The Austrian driver Rindt was in terrific form and out-drove all the big stars to win this short race, being chased home by the works Brabhams. Neither of the B.M.W. engined cars showed much promise and Hahne was a bit lost on the wide open spaces of the Snetterton airfield. Surtees retired with a broken shock-absorber unit and Stewart went out with fuel feed problems, but not before he had set the fastest lap.
2.40 p.m. – Sports Cars Group 4 – 15 laps – 40.65 miles (65.42 kilometres)
This was four races in one for Classes A (over 2,500 c.c.), B (1,601-2,500 cc), C (1,151-1,600 c.c.) and D (up to 1,150 c.c.) with the overall winner obviously coming from class A, comprising as it did eight Ford GT40s and five LM Ferraris. The German driver Koch (Carrera 6) spun at the first corner and eliminated himself and two of the Fords (Drury and Liddell) and it was Salmon (GT40) who led, but he was soon overhauled by Hulme (GT40) and Hawkins (GT40) while Piper (Ferrari LM) lay fourth. Hawkins pressed hard on the leader and after 13 laps he got by while they were lapping some slower cars on a corner, Hulme miscalculating and being forced off line, which allowed the waiting Hawkins to take the corner faster and jump into the lead, which he kept until the end of the race. Piper retired with a flat tyre.
3.30 p.m. – Formula Two – 10 laps – 27.1 miles (43.6 kilometres)
Although Rindt once more took the lead it did not last long as his ignition gave trouble and he retired, leaving the race to the works Brabhams with Hulme leading Brabham to the finish. None of the Lola cars or the Matras were in the picture, but McLaren challenged Rees and Gardner strongly for third place, while Hill just scraped into the results. Hahne retired from this heat with the works Lola-B.M.W. and Irwin in the sister car was in a lowly ninth place.
4.20 p.m. – Saloon Cars Group 5 – 15 laps – 40.65 miles (65.42 kilometres)
Like the Group 4 sports car race this was four races in one for Class A (over 2,000 c.c.), Class B (1,301-2,000 c.c.), Class C (1,001-1,300 c.c.) and Class D (up to 1,000 c.c.) there being very few holds barred in the super tuning of these saloons, providing they look fairly standard from outside. Amongst the 4.7-litre Ford Falcons and Mustangs were two Alfa Romeo GTA saloons fitted with twin turbo-superchargers, driven by oil pressure, these being works entries from Autodelta S.p.a. However, one was struck in the rear at the start, and retired and the other went off the road on the second lap.
In Class A Jack Oliver headed home Gardner, driving Mustang and Falcon, respectively, and in Class B, Elford (Porsche 911) gave G. Hill (Lotus-Cortina) a lot of trouble, showing superior speed along the straights, until he overdid things on braking for the hairpin at the end of Norwich Straight and hit the bank. In Class C the works Mini-Cooper of Rhodes vanquished the Superspeed Anglias and in the smallest class Broadspeed Anglias beat the Fraser Imps.
5.15 p.m. – Formula Two – Final – 40 laps – 108.4 miles (174.5 kilometres)
The starting grid for the 40-lap final was decided on each driver's best race time in either of the two heats. In spite of retiring in Heat 2 Rindt took pole position on the grid by reason of his Heat 1 victory, and he had Hulme and Brabham alongside him. Hardly had the field left the start than there was a collision between Fletcher (Brabham-Cosworth) and Beckwith (cooper-Cosworth) which also involved Irwin (Lola-B.M.W.) and it caused the German powered car to turn over and do irreparable damage to the top of the engine, the driver fortunately not being seriously injured. Rindt dashed off into the lead again but this time Hill really challenged the Austrian and the team Lotus car took the lead at one stage. The two of them dominated the race, never more than a few lengths apart, but it was Rindt who crossed the finishing line first by the narrowest margin. His team-mate Rees gave worthy support by beating the Brabham works team and McLaren, to take third place; a fine day for the Winkelmann team.
SILVERSTONE (March 27th)
11 30 a.m.– Formula Three – 20 laps – 58.54 miles (94.2 kilometres)
After the very large field had got away safely the race resolved itself into a terrific scrap between Ahrens, Gethin, Chris Williams and Rollinson, all driving Brabhams, these four cutting and thrusting and giving no quarter. Some way behind them Bell (Brabham) and Nunn (Lotus) were similarly engaged but while the front four seemed to be hampering each other the other pair were making use of each other, with the result that they gradually closed on the leaders. Williams was beginning to dominate the leading foursome, which became three when Rollinson went out with a broken camshaft, and shortly after this the leader suffered the same trouble, so that Gethin and Ahrens were left watching each other for weak points. They were so engrossed that they overlooked Bell and Nunn who caught them up on the penultimate lap and as they came down to the last corner Nunn was through on the inside to gain a well-deserved victory.
12.30 p.m. – Formula Two – Part 1-20 laps – 58.54 miles (94.2 kilometres)
With only minor differences the field of competitors was the same as at Snetterton, but the sole remaining Lola-B.M.W. was driven by Siffert, in place of Hahne, and Brian Hart was driving the Frank Costin designed Protos on its first public outing. All told there were 24 cars on the grid, with a front row consisting of Brabham, Lotus, Brabham and Matra, all with new Cosworth 16-valve engines and driven, respectively, by Rindt, Hill, Rees, Stewart. In the second row were Brabham himself, Surtees (Lola) and McLaren with his own car, these cars also using Cosworth 16-valve engines. Fresh from their success at Snetterton the Winkelmann team drivers shot off into the lead with Rees leading for a lap, but thereafter Rindt took command and ran away from everyone, only Graham Hill putting up any opposition, but his efforts came to nought after thirteen laps when the rear wishbone mountings pulled out of the chassis and even he could not cope with a four-wheel-steering Lotus. Rindt led unchallenged to the end of the 20 laps with team-mate Rees keeping the rest at bay, Surtees and McLaren battling against each other for third place all the way. The splendidly prepared, but quite standard, Winkelmann team cars were making all the factory teams look a hit amateurish and Brabham must have been wondering whether he had sold his new works cars to Roy Winkelmann by mistake!
2.25 p.m. – Group 4 Sports Cars – 20 laps – 58.54 miles (94.2 kilometres)
Apart from those who eliminated themselves at Snetterton this was a repeat performance with a bunch of Ford GT40 coupés, Ferrari LM coupés, and Porsche Carrera 6 coupés making us realise that these are the road cars of the future. Hawkins was determined to out-drive Hulme again and shot off into the lead only to overdo things at Maggots Curve and spin all the way to Becketts Corner on the second lap, letting all his rivals go by. On the next lap he lost more ground when he had to go off the road at Copse Corner, avoiding Salmon (GT40) and Pon (Carrera 6) who were in trouble, but after that he forced his way through the field up to second place, but could not make any impression on Hulme who was comfortably out in front. Dean was obviously getting used to his new Porsche Carrera 6 and drove into a worthy fourth place and the winner of his category.
3.25 p.m. – Formula Two – Part 2 – 20 laps – 58.54 miles (94.2 kilometres)
The entry lined up in the order of finishing Part 1, with Rindt, Rees, Surtees and McLaren on the front row. Since the end of Part 1 the Team Lotus mechanics had been doing a masterly job of bronze welding on the rear of the chassis of Hill's car, putting the wishbone pivots back in place and strengthening the mounting points with gusset plates. The B.A.R.C. were running the meeting strictly to schedule and were ready to start Part 2 at 3.20 p.m. as per programme but I.T.V. were behind on their time keeping so the B.A.R.C. agreed to postpone the start for 5 minutes and this was just what Team Lotus needed to complete the work on Hill's car, so for once the great god Television was a help rather than a hindrance! Even if Hill was to win this second part he would not figure in the results as the overall placings were being decided by the addition of the times for the two parts of the race, and as he was starting from the back of the grid his task looked hopeless. However, it was Easter Monday and Hill had come to Silverstone to do some racing so he was out to enjoy himself no matter what the outcome. The works B.M.W. team were not feeling in the same happy mood, their 16-valve engine not approaching the Cosworth engine, and they gave the second part of the race a miss and crept quietly away.
Once again the Winkelmann cars shot away into the lead, with Rees leading for two laps, but then Rindt took over and that was the end of the race as far as anyone else was concerned. The young Austrian was in terrific form, having no problems with his car and even if there had been any it is doubtful whether he would have noticed, for he was taking the long Silverstone curves right on the limit, keeping his reflexes working overtime, whereas a lot of far better drivers were being worried by "this not being right" or "that being wrong." The only one not being put off by the sight of Rindt's car in opposite-lock slides was Graham Hill who set off from the back of the grid with little hope of catching the star drivers up at the front of the grid, but determined to enjoy his driving and this took him steadily through the field right up to second place. It was one of the best bits of motor racing of the whole day, and though he was second to Rindt in Part 2 he did not figure at all in the overall results. A queer sort of racing the English encourage!
Brabham pulled into the pits on the nineteenth lap with a misfiring engine and none of the officials seemed to notice for he was left out of the results completely, even though he was sixth in Part I and only a lap behind in Part 2. Hulme was having gearbox trouble, causing him to over-rev and finally a big-end bolt broke and a connecting rod came out through the side of the block. Perhaps Brabham did sell the wrong cars to Winkelmann.
4.35 p.m. – Saloon Cars Group 5 – 20 laps – 58.54 miles (94.2 kilometres).
This was another repeat of Snetterton and looked all set for Gardner driving the Alan Mann Ford Falcon V8 but a snowstorm developed after the opening laps and it became a case of bravery rather than driving skill. Gardner spun at Beckett's Corner but continued and Muir took to the grass at Woodcote and then spun across the track into the barriers and did not continue, his Falcon V8 being rather bent. Although the snowstorm abated the track was very slippery and Oliver made the best of the conditions to win from Gardner. In the 2,000 c.c. Class, Hill (Lotus Cortina) renewed his battle with Elford (Porsche 911) but this time the German car failed through a faulty fuel pump.
…. and all this was just the International racing over the weekend, there was even more National and Club racing taking place throughout the country. – D. S. J.