This Month of the International Racing Scene

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Overcrowding on the International Calendar seems to go from bad to worse, for already in March we had the Le Mans test weekend clashing with the B.R.D.C. International Trophy meeting at Silverstone, and in April the Formula One race at Madrid clashed with the B.O.A.C. 500 at Brands Hatch and the Formula Two race at Hockenheim. Apart from events having to share the meagre number of good drivers that there are in Europe, it can involve some teams in the sort of organisation that would drive normal people crazy. At the Le Mans weekend Ferrari had to send out two teams of engineers and mechanics, one to France and one to England, while Amon had to shuttle to-and-fro by air. The Porsche team drivers were spread all over the place on that weekend, some at Le Mans, some at Silverstone, some in Sicily practising for the Targa Florio and another at a hill-climb, and the poor team-manager had to keep his finger on all their movements and arrange things so that they all came together when required.

The month of May starts off on the wrong foot right away, for on the first weekend we have the Spanish G.P. and the Targa Florio on the same day, Sunday, May 4th. How this came about is one of the mysteries of the workings of the Commission Sportive of the F.I.A., but come about it did. The Spanish G.P. is due to be held on the tricky, twisty, little circuit in the Montjuich Park in Barcelona, a circuit that seems too small for Formula Two cars, so what Grand Prix cars will be like on it I cannot imagine. The organising club have re-surfaced some of the circuit, and eased some of the corners, but it is hard to think of it as a Grand Prix circuit. The Targa Florio is something quite different, the 72-kilometre circuit through the Madonie Mountains in northern Sicily is a challenge to a man and machine that nobody in their right mind would attempt to initiate in this day and age of social-security, but the event has existed almost from the beginning of motor racing and will continue to be supported by racing drivers young and old, each new generation of drivers including many who are ready and willing to pit their skill and the strength of their cars against the rugged and unchanging mountain roads. I have followed the fortunes of the Targa Florio for 15 years or more and have yet to meet the racing driver who sneered at the Circuit of the Piccolo Madonie and said he was unimpressed. Quite the opposite, in fact, even hardened “slot-racing professionals”, who in unguarded moments let their hair down and had a go at the Targa Florio, have said “Good grief, what a driving challenge that was”. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the Sicilians are not rich enough to attract the “business-men” from today’s crop of professional top drivers, so that the Targa Florio is not contested by the cream of the drivers. When you see what the professional-circus can do to old-established races and organising clubs perhaps it is just as well that the Targa Florio is left alone. Somehow, the sight of a blood-red Ferrari, or a white Porsche, snarling through the mountains or screaming up the main street of Cerda in a flurry of dust, is sufficient in itself, it does not seem to matter who is driving it. The atmosphere of the Targa Florio is unique in motor racing, which is why I have chosen it in preference to the Spanish G.P. for my choice on May 4th, and this year, for the first time, the fastest cars are starting first, which should see some new records in the opening laps.

The French town of Dijon have hopefully been trying to get a permanent circuit build nearby, to replace the airfield they have used for racing in the past, and in the hopes of having it finished they booked an International date for a Formula Two race on May 4th. Circuit building progress did not materialise so the race project had to be dropped and they have reverted to a lower status Formula Three race. Dijon is a large, rather grubby French town that holds little attraction to me other than being the point where the rain usually leaves off, when motoring from north to south in France on the east side. On the dreariest of days, once past Dijon the skies always seem to brighten and I feel I am really getting into the heart of France and the countryside and surroundings take on a new aspect.

In America on May 4th the U.S.A.C. are holding a saloon-car race for their big American V8 stock cars at Indianapolis Raceway Park, up the road a bit from the famous Indianapolis Speedway. I have always been under the impression that U.S.A.C and N.A.S.C.A.R. give some of their stock car races International licence in order that European drivers might have a go with the big saloons; a sort of goodwill gesture. However, our American correspondent tells me this is not so and it is merely part of an internal and domestic rivalry between the two organisations. The F.I.A. International race licence ascribed to some of the races is really a status-symbol and a means of attracting the top stock car men with the lure of bigger and better financial awards.

On the second weekend in May the 1,000-kilometre race for sports and sports-prototype cars takes place at Spa on the magnificent Francorchamps circuit. For Porsche, who are out to win the Targa Florio, this will mean some terrific organisation, getting drivers and material back from Sicily and on to Belgium, though a duplicate set of cars will be essential. If all goes well with the new Porsche 917 then the factory will no doubt pin their hopes on these 12-cylinder 4½-litre cars, whereas the smaller and more compact 3-litre eight-cylinder 908 models will contest the Sicilian event. Spa should see the new open Ford P69 with 3-litre Cosworth V8 engine really get into its stride, and the 312P Ferrari, for these new and exciting “thinly-disguised Grand Prix cars” should go very fast round the 150-m.p.h. circuit. In complete contrast on the same day the Formula Two contenders for the European Championship will be at the Jarama circuit, just north of Madrid, and here the average speed will be under 90 m.p.h. If you cannot race on natural road circuits like Francorchamps and want a 100% safe and simple permanent stadium instead, then Jarama is a fine example. It is the “slot-racers” delight and while the amenities are not yet finished, the circuit itself is excellently finished, the rest following gradually as finance permits. In faraway Budapest on this day will be a saloon-car race of simple and rather primitive form, but a race in the real traditions of European road racing, and as more and more of Western European road racing becomes hygienic and clinical, thanks to the ministrations of “do-gooders”, some of whom have never driven a racing car in their life, I am tempted more and more to forsake single-seater racing and return to the basics of the European Touring Car Championship. For Championship lovers and points counters the weekend of May 11th will be a busy one. The Spa race is the sixth in the International Championship for Manufacturers, the Madrid race is the fourth in the European Trophy for Formula Two drivers, and the Budapest race is the fourth round in the European Saloon-Car Championship.

At Silverstone on May 17th the Aston Martin Owners’ Club are running their Martini Trophy meeting on the outer circuit, with all its speed and excitement. This is an annual event that has steadily risen in stature over the years, with all credit to the A.M.O.C., but being relatively new to the International Calendar it suffers from being overshadowed by more important events, this time the Monaco G.P. The main race at Silverstone is to be a 65-lap (304-kilometre) event for Group 4 sports cars and Group 6 prototypes, which will probably be a sort of lesser B.O.A.C. 500 event, but interesting nevertheless. Supporting races include a Formula Three wheel-to-wheel dice, a saloon-car free-for-all and an Historic event for combined pre-war and post-war racing cars. For home-based enthusiasts Silverstone will be the place on May 17th, but for the lucky ones who can get abroad Monte Carlo will be the place. There is practice on Friday and Saturday, and the classic round-the-houses Grand Prix on Sunday after lunch, under the Patronage of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. It looks as though Gold Leaf Team Lotus are going to put all their eggs into Graham Hill’s basket, for the rest of the team will be at Indianapolis, where big money and big contracts are at stake for Lotus. This particular weekend is the first qualifying period for the Indianapolis starting grid and Rindt and Andretti are concentrating on getting STP-Lotus cars on the front row. It is probable that Hill will do his qualifying on the second weekend, which will put him out of contention for the opening stages of the race, but in return he will have had the chance of winning of Monaco G.P. yet again. At Montlhéry on May 18th is another small French International Club-type meeting.

On the fourth and last weekend of this busy month of May we have Whitsun, with an International Formula Three race at the Crystal Palace, and proposed Formula Two race being cancelled due to the contestants pricing themselves out of the market. On the same day, Whit-Monday, the R.A.C. have their lamented Tourist Trophy Race at Oulton Park for sports and sports/prototype cars, this time to be run as a three-hour race for the two categories for a prize of £1,000. On Whit-Sunday the European Hill-Climb Championship begins with the Spanish Montseny event up the very twisty 16.3-kilometre climb of the southern slopes of the Pyrennean Mountains that form the frontier between France and Spain. On the same day the fifth round in the European Saloon-Car Championship takes place at Brno in Czechoslovakia, with a supporting Formula Three race.

Finally, on May 30th the Indianapolis 500 takes place, weather permitting, and this climaxes a month of trials and tribulations at the Speedway, during which 33 cars and drivers qualify to take the rolling-start. Friday, May 30th is the big day for all American racing drivers, their chance to become world famous, but during recent years the European invasion of Indianapolis has upset the balance of things and changed the whole scene, but it looks as though the status quo is returning. Nothing would give me more personal pleasure than to see Gurney win the Indianapolis 500, and there is every possibility of that happening, for since withdrawing his A.A.R.-Eagle company from Europe and Grand Prix racing Gurney has been putting all his efforts into U.S.A.C. racing—D. S. J.

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