Continental notes, November 1963
Activity on the Continent has now finished, as far as racing is concerned, but there is still plenty of news from the Continent and outstanding last month was the revelation of the new G.T. Ferrari. Every now and then we have to change our fixed ideas, that is those of us who do not grow old and misty-eyed and just as we now accept that a Grand Prix car has its engine at the back, or that to go fast round a circuit you do not need a large ungainly racing car, but a small, light and scientifically designed one, so we are going to have to accept the new formula for a G.T. car.
Since Cisitalia and Lancia invented the G.T. car, it has become personified by the Ferrari 250 models, first the Europa, then the 250GT and finally the GTO. There have been many other good G.T. cars, and many bad ones, and a lot of sports cars with hard-tops that people thought were G.T. cars, but you and I know that when we talk about a G.T. coupé we mean a competition 250GT Ferrari, and as a type it has become universally accepted, and copied.
With the latest announcement from the Ferrari factory at Maranello, we are going to have to change our ideas of what we consider a G.T. coupé, for the 1964 Ferrari Berlinetta 250 Le Mans is nothing more (as if one would want anything more) than the 1963 Ferrari Prototype 250P, with the top of the windscreen joined to the aerofoil wing over the tail, doors with windows added, interior trim by Farina, and there we have it. The all-round independent suspension, inboard rear brakes, rear-mounted V12-cylinder engine with six double-choke Webers, 5-speed gearbox out the back, tubular space frame, are all there. When the 250P appeared this year in the long-distance races, I loved it, but said frankly that I did not see how it could be considered a Prototype of a G.T. car, whereas the 4-litre 330LM coupé was a Prototype.
Halfway through the season I began to wonder, and by August it was obvious that I was going to be wrong, and in September the jigs for the GTO chassis were broken up. Now we have the new Berlinetta as depicted on these pages, and the Ferrari factory issue a nice brochure on the car with technical details. The 250 Le Mans coupé is clearly going into full production in order to build sufficient for homologation, so it looks as though Ferrari is going to be one step ahead in G.T. racing yet again.
Now the idea of a rear engine G.T. coupé is not new, for I have driven over 250,000 miles in one, and Porsche Carreras can still win races, but they have small 2-litre engines, the flat-four layout being very suitable for a production G.T. car. Also Porsche have a very nice G.T. coupé for Prototype racing using the 2-litre version of the 8-cylinder Grand Prix engine, but still only 2-litres. That one could think in terms of more powerful rear-engined coupes for G.T. racing was proved by Eric Broadley with his fantastic Lola coupé with 4 1/2-litre Ford V8 engine mounted behind the driver, and that car was and still is one of my favourites, but as yet there are no signs of serious production. When Ferrari puts a model into production you can reckon it will be made and sold, so that the introduction of the 3-litre V12-cylinder Berlinetta 250 Le Mans is truly a landmark in G.T. cars.
It always used to amuse me that Jaguar, Chevrolet, and Aston Martin could seldom beat the GTO Ferrari, for nice as it was, it was very old-fashioned, with a rigid beam rear axle, heavy tubular chassis, and was a big car by any standards. But now it is obsolete, and the design can be buried as having been a very successful one, but no longer any use. The thought of the GTO Ferrari being obsolete makes me realise what splendid times we live in, and how we progress.
Mention of the Lola G.T. coupé, with Ford V8 engine, makes it worth mentioning that it would seem that Broadley is to have encouragement from Detroit, as Chapman did over his Indianapolis cars. With Ford money, facilities, and push behind Lola, that beautiful G.T. coupé could well be a force to reckon with next year. It had all the makings of being a real challenger this season, but various set-backs stopped it from making much of a show, though the potential was obvious for anyone who was watching closely. Once again World Ford have come out into the open, and many people have shown surprise that they should be interested in Lola, but actually it is very reasonable. There can be no doubt that World Ford have a gigantic motor-racing programme in hand, from which they will obviously reap the benefit of advertising, and surely the ultimate in their programme must be Grand Prix racing. They first of all attacked rallies with their own products, for a good rally car is basically a production model, then they attacked racing on their own doorstep, at Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Trenton, using the brains of Colin Chapman to provide a racing chassis, while they provided the racing engine. Then they negotiated to buy the Ferrari factory but the negotiations fell through, so clearly they had to look elsewhere. Now I am sure they did not want the Ferrari factory in order to market Ford/Ferrari G.T. cars, but they had their sights on G.T. racing and Prototype G.T. racing, in other words, Le Mans, Sebring, Nurburgring. There cannot be a Prototype G.T. coupé with more potential than the Lola, so it is not surprising that Ford made overtures to Eric Broadley. The question is “which Grand Prix team will get Ford support when they are ready to go into Grand Prix racing?” It would not surprise me if the Grand Prix Ford is 100% Ford, for they must be gathering motor-racing know-how very fast, and I would bet anything that if there was a Grand Prix Ford there would very soon be a Grand Prix Mercedes-Benz to oppose it. And that brings us naturally to Honda. If they do not appear by Zandvoort next year I feel they will have missed the boat, but as one of the potential drivers said, and he knows from experience, “They are very thorough people, a bit too thorough perhaps.”
With Continental activity over for another season I took the opportunity to have a ride on a very exciting machine, and I say on deliberately, for it was on the platform of a sprint sidecar outfit. This was a supercharged Vincent vee-twin-engined machine built by Maurice Brierley and developed over a number of years until it is at a fantastic pitch and one of the fastest sprint machines in the country, and without doubt the fastest three-wheeler. The engine has special oversize barrels which bring the total capacity up to 1,148 c.c. and the Centric supercharger blows at 12 lb./sq. in. at maximum engine revs, which are 7,500 r.p.m. Brierley has made his own frame and suspension for this power unit, and uses a 7R A.J.S. front wheel and brake, for it takes some stopping at the end of a sprint course. My ride was a fairly gentle one over the quarter-mile, but Brierley’s outstanding effort this year was his run at Brighton, over the standing-start kilometre, when he clocked 23.64 sec., and this was carrying a passenger. This time represents an average speed of close on 95 m.p.h. and it prompted me to look back a little in the history of the Brighton Speed Trials. In 1954 the late Ken Wharton, driving the 2-litre supercharged E.R.A. developed by Raymond Mays and known as R4D, set a new course record for Brighton with a time of 23.63 sec. That 2-litre E.R.A. was usually accepted as one of the most accelerative racing cars there was, and it was a good standard by which to judge performance. Wharton used to estimate that he was doing 150 m.p.h. or so at the end of the Brighton Kilometre, and it is interesting that Brierley quoted the same figure for his sidecar outfit this year, when he recorded a time only 1/100th of a second slower, and his machine was carrying two people and had only 1,148 c.c. capacity.
While on history I looked at the solo motorcycle record and when Ken Wharton set the new car record in 1954, Roy Charlton on an unblown Vincent set an all-out record with 23.57 sec., fractionally faster than the E.R.A. Now the record for cars has been lowered to 21.69 sec. by Summers with the Cooper-Chevrolet, but the Course record stands to George Brown on his supercharged Vincent with a time of 19.29 sec., an average of close on 116 m.p.h. Another outstanding motorcycle run this year was by Neville Higgins, also on a supercharged Vincent, with a time of 20.30 sec., but Brown’s performance rather overshadowed this. The interesting thing is that since 1954 the motorcycles have gained a terrific advantage over the cars, not by building freaks like the American Sling-Shots, but by steady development of the basic motorcycle, and, as George Brown says, it would only need a change of gear ratio for him to ride his Brighton record breaker up Shelsley Walsh.
In closing I offer an apology to those readers to whom motorcycles are anathema, but hope that they can see why I like them, especially when it comes to competition of an accelerative nature, and as I do not own a motoring dog (like the Editor) I can do no better than publish a picture of my racing motorcycle, taken by our chief photographer at Brighton. The fact that I am on it is unfortunate for those readers who object to me.—D. S. J.
Ferguson 4-W-D at Wiscombe
At the final meeting of this year at Wiscombe Park Hill Climb, run by the 750 Motor Club, the Ferguson Research factory lent their P99 racing car with 4-W-D to the 1963 Hill Climb Champion, Peter Westbury. With it he made two demonstration climbs, both of which were timed at figures below the previous record. In his own supercharged 2 1/2-litre Felday-Daimler he established a new hill record in 43.54 sec., and his best time (not counting as a record) with the unsupercharged 2 1/2-litre Coventry-Climax engine Ferguson P99 was 43.30 sec.
The following morning, before the timing apparatus was dismantled he drove the Ferguson P99 again and did some tests to adapt the car to the hill, as regards handling, and in a series of runs improved on the existing record no fewer than eight times, his last run being the best of all in 41.98 sec. This was yet another convincing demonstration of the worth of the Ferguson 4-W-D principle, and if it “takes to the hills” in serious competition next year it will make a complete farce of hill-climbing as we know it, until such time as all contenders for F.T.D. have 4-W-D vehicles.
D. S. J.