A remarkable official statement arrived from the FIA, which said “The CSI Bureau was informed by its Circuit and Safety Subcommittee of the circuit owners of Spa-Francorchamps’ agreement to carry out a modernisation programme of three years, requiring a capital investment of approximately 18,000,000 Belgian francs. Major safety improvements will already be completed before the first international race in 1971. However, the CSI Bureau decided not to allow open wheel racing car competitions on the Francorchamps circuit during the present year. A decision for 1972 will be taken at the end of this year, after a study of the detailed improvement programme to be carried out before the 1972 racing season”.
What this means is that the CSI have banned the Belgian Grand Prix for 1971, not the GDPA, not the Constructors’ Association, not the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium, but the “men at the ministry”. These men, the CSI Bureau, are the president, Prince von Metternich, his vice-presidents, Martin Pfunder (Austria), Pierre Ugeux (Belgium) and Charles Moran (USA), and members, Lord Camden (GB), Bernard Cousten (France), Engineer Rogano (Italy), and Sture Agvald (Sweden). The Circuit and Safety Sub-committee who advised the CSI Bureau on the matter of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, comprises Tom Binford (USA), G. Bacciagaluppi (Manager of Monza), J. Bonnier (President, GPDA), J. Corsmit (Holland), D. H. Delamont (GB), J. Rosinski (France), Herbert Schmitz (Germany and Nurburgring) and Leon Sven (Belgium and the Spa Circuit).
Somewhere along the line all these noted people had a hand in the cancellation of the Belgian Grand Prix, and no doubt there was quite a bit of “buck passing”, but be that as it may, the decision is acceptable but for one thing; that is that they are happy to allow 5-litre sports/prototypes to race on the circuit, a 917 Porsche holding the outright lap record anyway, and they will allow saloon cars to race there, but for some strange reason the circuit is not considered safe for Grand Prix cars. The whole thing sounds like a typical piece of international face-saving and argy-bargy, but it more or less says that officialdom considers the Grand Prix car of today an inferior vehicle to a sports car, too fragile and unsafe to be let loose on a circuit that offers a challenge. You get the feeling that those illustrious gentlemen who make decisions and decide what is good and what is not good for motor racing, have never looked at a 3-litre flat-12 Ferrari Grand Prix car and a 3-litre flat-12 Ferrari Group 6 sports/prototype car alongside each other, or a 3-litre V12 Matra Formula One car alongside a 3-litre V12 Matra Group 6 sports/prototype car. How they can say Francorchamps is safe for sports car and not safe for Grand Prix car is quite beyond me, and a lot of other people as well.
And now we come to the really humorous hit. With no Belgian Grand Prix this year, and all the mutterings about using Zolder falling flat, the problem arises that if the race is not held in 1972 then the Belgians will have to hold a qualifying race in 1973 in order to get their Grand Prix re-instated in the Championship series for 1974. On realising this, John Webb of the Grovewood Group offered the use of one of their circuits to the Belgians so that they could hold their Grand Prix in 1972, and thus keep the continuity. The only available circuit turned out to be Oulton Park for 1972, but the odd thing is that whenever anyone suggests holding the British Grand Prix at Oulton Park there are cries of “unsuitable, too small, too narrow, too bumpy, no amenities, poor access roads, blah, blah, blah”. But Webb thinks it would be all right for the Belgian Grand Prix. With CSI decreeing that Spa-Francorchamps is all right for sports cars but not for Grand Prix cars, I feel someone, somewhere, is taking the mickey.
The idea of the Belgian Grand Prix being run at Oulton Park was probably sparked off by a group of Swiss who are proposing to try and get the Swiss Grand Prix re-instated by holding it at Hockenheim in Germany. Some while ago I suggested that Grand Prix racing has become such an organised circus, that rather than travel about all over the world “putting up the big top”, We decide on a central location, run all the Championship races there, merely changing the organisers, the decor and the crowds, bringing them in in Jumbo Jets. One month we have the Spanish GP, the next month the French, and so on, and all the performers stay there all the time. My main point being that all the newly-constructed and “designed” circuits were conforming to the same dull Mickey Mouse pattern, with no spark of imagination or challenge among them.
Everyone laughed at my suggestion. They also laughed at the idea of twelve years ago when I said we needed varying classes of single-seater building up to Formula One, instead of the “special builder” making pseudo sports cars. As with a lot of things, we’ve exaggerated, with Formula Ford, Formula Super Vee, Formula Atlantic, Formula Three, Formula Two and Formula 5000 all leading to Formula One. What we want at the top is a Formula Super One, on the lines of USAC, with turbo-blowers, nitro-fuel and almost unlimited horse-power, but at least the idea is right and you can step out of your cradle and into a single-seater. Whether you ever become a racing driver or merely remain as one who drives a racing car, only time will tell.
For as long as I can remember Enzo Ferrari has openly admitted no personal interest in the Drivers’ World Championship, making it clear that he does not intend to support racing in order to put an individual up on a pedestal. He races for the benefit of Ferrari and the Ferrari team, and his aim has always been to make Ferrari cars the World Champion Grand Prix cars. Another man who echoes these sentiments whole-heartedly is Colin Chapman, who says that if there was no Championship for Grand Prix car manufacturers, Lotus would give up Grand Prix racing tomorrow. Like Enzo Ferrari he wants to see his Lotus cars acclaimed as World Champions of Grand Prix racing.
Now Ferrari has no problems, for a Ferrari is a Ferrari, but Chapman comes under the heading of the “special-builder”, and the FIA say that a Lotus-Cosworth is not the same as a Lotus-Vauxhall, for example, if such a thing was built. This problem has arisen with the Lotus turbine car, which is a Lotus-Pratt & Whitney in the official lists, and the rules say that any Grand Prix points scored by a Lotus-Cosworth are not the same as those scored by a Lotus-Pratt & Whitney. This ruling looks like preventing Team Lotus racing the turbine car at Monza, for example, where its 475 b.h.p, could well be proved advantageous, for by September Lotus might be in the running for the Championship, having scored points all season with the Lotus-Cosworth cars. A win with the turbine car could not be added to their score, but if Lotus made their own V8 piston engine and their own turbine engine then all the points could be added together.
If the STP-March team score any points with their March-Alfa Romeo they have the same problem, the score cannot be added to any points scored by March-Cosworth cars. With March the ruling is not so vital, for the Alfa Romeo-engined car is not likely to affect the ultimate outcome in a victory, but the Lotus turbine car could be a vital factor, but more important, the ruling looks like retarding progress with the turbine through lack of encouragement to race it. The ironical thing is that Chapman was one of the people who caused the FIA to define the “special-builder’s” cars, calling them “Hybrids”. When winning Grand Prix cars were built in their entirety by Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Gordini, Lancia, Mercedes-Benz, Vanwall and BRM there was no problem, but when Cooper-Climax and Lotus-Climax appeared on the scene, followed by a great spate of “specials”, the FIA had to make a decision, for we got to the point of Lotus-BRM and Cooper-BRM cars, and nobody could decide who was going to be Champion Manufacturer. One way or another the “special-builders” are always in trouble.
Some readers often accuse me of being flippant and irresponsible, especially when I smile patronisingly at concrete walls with steel guard rails in front of them, or rear light on Grand Prix cars, but in the long term some things are not as daft as they first appear.—D. S. J.