Continental Notes, May 1968

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Jim Clark is dead. Killed in a Formula Two race on the German Hockenheim circuit on April 7th, driving as always a Lotus single-seater. What can I or anyone else say, what is there to say, mere words can never express true feelings.

* * *

The new Grand Prix Matra, with the 4-camshaft V12-cylinder engine has recently been out on test and it would seem that progress is satisfactory, so that it should appear at the Spanish G.P. in Madrid on May 12th. Meanwhile the Matra team continue to make strides forward in Formula Two racing, with Stewart winning at Barcelona, Beltoise winning at the ill-fated Hockenheim meeting and Pescarolo winning the first Heat at the Easter Thruxton meeting. The appearance in racing of this French car should enthuse the French crowds like a Ferrari stirs the Italians and the turn out for the French G.P. at Rouen should be a record. French and Italian crowds are very partisan, unlike British crowds who are either lethargic or equally interested in all the competitors, viewing motor racing as an overall sport rather than an activity with any national feelings. The Formula Three and Formula Two Matras have always been well turned out and very competitive, but Grand Prix racing is a big step forward, as Porsche and Honda found out to their cost; let us hope Engins Matra will not regret their great step forward.

* * *

On the same weekend as the Hockenheim race and the B.O.A.C. 500 the A.C. de l’Ouest in their usual self-important way held their Le Mans Test Weekend and were no doubt surprised at the poor turn out, Porsche and Alpine providing the only factory team cars, while J. W. Automotive sent one Ford GT40. The weekend was saved by the first appearance of the new 3-litre flat-8-cylinder Porsche in long tailed 907 form. This new air-cooled 8-cylinder engine has a bore and stroke of 84 x 66 mm., giving a capacity of 2,924 c.c. and is coupled to a six-speed gearbox with the clutch mounted on the end, as Ferrari used to do on his rear-engined sports cars. As on the works 6-cylinder 2-litre and 8-cylinder 2.2-litre engines, Bosch fuel injection is used and thirteen inch alloy wheels are fitted, being of the single nut centre-lock type. The Alpine entry was the original 3-litre Gordini designed Renault V8 engined car that raced at Montlhery last year, together with a new car to the same specification. The GT40s driven by lckx, who flew over from Brands Hatch, made fastest lap in 3 min. 35.4 sec., which does not compare with the record lap set up last year by Hulme and Andretti with Mk. IV Fords in 3 min. 23.6 sec. One big reason for this is the introduction of a chicane just before the pits, which slows the cars down from about 150 m.p.h. to around 45/50 m.p.h., so that they accelerate past the grandstands at around 90-100 m.p.h. as the Grand Prix cars did last year on the Bugatti circuit, and they looked pathetic compared with the fast cars at last years 24 hour race that were passing the stands at 160-170 m.p.h. and looked excitingly fast. This chicane has been built to make the pit area safer and was financed by Ford (U.S.A.) as a gesture of goodwill after their victories of 1966 and 1967. Some mean-minded people are saying that Ford did this to ensure that they hold the lap record for all time! What is really required at Le Mans is a complete rebuild of the pit area for it is archaic and out of date and this chicane is only dodging the real issue. This years 24 hour event does not look like being a classic race, but no doubt the event will survive, for it has survived equally bad low ebbs in its history since 1923.

With the Grand Prix Matra only just out on test it was not surprising that were was no Matra Prototype at the Test Weekend, nor was the 2-litre Healy-Climax V8 ready nor the Marcos. The new Marcos has just been completed and the original idea of a V12 B.R.M. has been dropped and it is now fitted whit a V8 Repco engine. The body design is very unusual, being the work of Dennis Adams who designed the attractive Marcos 1800 and Marcos 1600 body, one of the most striking looking British cars on the market.

* * *

Repco Engines of Melbourne, Australia have released news about their latest V8 engine, a 4.2-litre with four overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, destined for Indianapolis. A similar unit in 3-litre form will be used this season by the works Brabham cars and Repco are obviously out to power yet another World Champion Brabham. These new engines have a gear train driving the camshafts in place of the roller-chains used on the single cam-per-bank Repco engines.

The release goes on to mention that the engine, designated the type 760, is an in-line, or sister development of the Grand Prix 3-litre, type 860, unit. Bore and stroke of the type 760 is 3.786 in. x 2.830 in., and the 90-degree V8’s single-plane crankshaft runs in five main bearings in an aluminium crankcase. The four valves per cylinder are inclined in pairs at a 30-degree included angle, and are operated by piston tappets from the twin gear-driven overhead camshafts per cylinder bank. The cylinder heads are light alloy castings, with four shallow pent-roof combustion chambers in each, a single 10-mm. sparking plug being very slightly offset from the centre of each chamber. Lucas low-pressure fuel injection will he used.—D. S. J.

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