(By means of which our European reporter occasionally keeps in touch with the Editor.)
As I write this the Grand Prix season is coming to an end in Japan, the orientals having decided that motor-racing is a good thing, even though it must clash with their philosophy of peace and quiet and pure thought. Last year the Japanese were very lucky in that the drivers Championship was decided at their race, even though Lauda handed it to Hunt on a plate by pulling out of the race because it was too difficult for him. Not dangerous, mark you, but difficult. This year it’s all a bit different, Lauds has already won the World Championship by amassing more points than anyone else, and has folks out with Ferrari so he opted out of his contract and missed the last two races of the season. To me he is a man with no pride. I grew up among champions who knew they were champions by their ability to beat any opposition, points and statistics did not enter into the scene. They were the Champions and it was up to the rest to beat them. This “creepy-crawly” attitude of becoming a champion by amassing more “points” than anyone else is a sad disease that has even permeated the two-wheeled world, where the “ya-hoo” who got the most points was apparently proud of the fact that he didn’t need to compete in the last races of the season, as no-one could “out-point” him. To me that’s a pretty poor sort of champion. A real one would accept the challenge of all races, and say “If there’s a race, I’ll be in it, and you just try and beat me.”
Lauda leaving Ferrari to join Alfa-Romeo (oops! sorry, I should have said Brabham) is only history repeating itself for at the end of 1953 Albert Ascari left Ferrari to join Lancia. Ascari had driven for Ferrari for a number of years and had dominated the scene during 1952/1953 and then left, just like that. At the time it seemed unbelievable, for Ferrari had given Ascari his opportunity and made him World Champion. It seemed very ungrateful to leave and join the opposition. Enzo Ferrari made Niki Lauda, so it seems equally unreasonable and ungrateful to leave and join the opposition. I hope the same fate doesn’t befall Lauda as happened to Ascari. At the same time that Ascari left the chief mechanic of Ferrari also left and joined the ill-fated Bugatti project. At the circuits Stefano Meazza was Ferrari, he was she man who held the wheels of the team together. When they were travelling and made a short overnight stop it was Meazza who woke everyone up at a am and had the coffee ready so that they were on the road again by 4.15 am. When there was friction in she team between Ascari and Ferrari it was Meazza who calmed things down. In the present era it has been Ermano Cuogi doing the same job. It was Cuogi who led the Ferrari team from the “chinese-fire drill” type of pit stop to the pit-stop that left the British teams breathless. This year at Zolder was a classic example. Now Cuogi has left the team, or rather he has been asked to leave, because his faith has always been in Niki Lauda, and this is nice. So he has gone to Alfa Romeo with Lauda.
However, although the 1977 season is ending, it is not yet time to reflect on it because the dust has yet to settle, but even mt, it has been a good season with lots of interesting happenings on the various circuits. Equally, it has been quite a good season off the circuits. It must have been because it has all gone so quickly and so much has happened. Having finally decided that Europe has become so full of cars that “real” motoring, as we knew it in the ‘fifties, is dead and buried, I spent a lot of the past season on two-wheels, on my Honda 500/4 and then on BMW 75/7 motorcycle. Going to races on a motorcycle is a different way of life altogether, you have complete freedom to do what you want to when you feel like it and you can go along at your own personal pace. I spent a number of years sitting in traffic in she E-type Jaguar on my own, wondering why I was doing it, when I could have been on a motorcycle either riding down the outside or the inside of the queue, or merely going somewhere else. Once in a stream of traffic in a car you are committed, on a motorcycle there isn’t a stream of traffic; unless you are going to a motorcycle meeting! I always remember meeting Willy Green the historic 250F Maserati driver) at the British GP a few years ago, when he was on a BMW motorcycle, before they became fashionable. He was King of tho Road, and the paddock, amongst the Ferraris, Maseratis, Aston Martins, Jaguars, Lotus etc. With a grin, .he told me he was coming to the motorcycle meeting the next weekend at Silverstone, in a Ferrari because everyone would be on motorcycles!
While pre-viewing the latest range of BMW motorcycles at Goodwood House, recently, I had the occasion to help put the test bikes away for the night in the household stables. Querying as to how I would get back I was told a car would pick me up. Naturally, it was a BMW car, and I pondered on the nicety of an empire that produced two and four wheeled machines carrying the name badge. The only other one I could think of in she present scene was Honda. This same thought has often crossed my mind at races, about those racing teams who have an end-product in a road-car, like Ferrari, Lotus, Alfa-Romeo, Porsche, and even Renault this year. When Regazzoni was driving for Ferrari it was nice to see him arrive at meetings in his Daytona Ferrari, and today you will always see Mario Andretti at the circuits in his Lotus Elite. He doesn’t drive it from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, naturally, but it is always taken to the races for his use between hotel and paddock. While I can see the satisfaction of owning a BMW car and a BMW motorcycle, as a “matched pair”, I’m not too sure about a “matched pair” of Hondas. A tin-box, which I think is called the Civic, or something like that, would go well with a Honda 200 c.c.. but would be incongruous with a Honda 750 or a Honda Gold Wing. A fascinating thought is what Porsche would produce if they designed a motorcycle. A 3-litre turbo-Porsche, and a 750 c.c. Porsche motorcycle would be quite, something, while a 928 and a 1000 c.c. motorcycle from Zuffenhausen would be a real “‘matched pair”. Until such time as that happened those of as who enjoy two wheels as well as four wheels with the same badge, will have to settle for a BMW. My only problem is that I don’t really like BMW cars, I still enjoy my old-fashioned Jaguar car, with its simple three-spoke, wood-rimmed steering wheel and knock-off vintage hub caps, but I do like my two-wheeled BMW. Now, if Jaguar had made a motorcycle….
This affinity between cars and motorcycles it much stronger than most people are prepared a admit. Personally I have never made any bones about the problem, I love cars and motorcycle, or for that matter, anything powered by an internal combustion engine. One well-known Formula One designer, whose car won tho recent Canadian GP, would love to design a motorcycle, for he feels that the basic principles have never bees really delved into, Unfortunately, Formula One only gives him two months break in a year, so he’ll never get the opportunity to pursue the idea; As I said, a Porsche motorcycle would be quite something.
High Performance Tuition
Porsche racer and Ministry-qualified driving instructor Mike Franey is offering a highly comprehensive course in high-performance driving for owners of fast cars. Franey, who finished seventh overall and won his class with Barrie Williams with his 3-litre Carrera is the Brands Six Hour Race recently, splits the course into two sections. Part One involves six hours of road driving in the client’s car, split into two hour sessions, with the two hours at night.
Part Two consists of three hours of car handling and full performance instruction on a private airfield 30 miles north of London, split into two lessons. The first hour includes circuit familiarisation before venturing into maximum braking and high-speed slalom practice on the main runway. Instruction on road surface recognition and under and oversteer is given, too. The second, two hour lesson concentrates on cornering and high speed techniques, with emphasis on precision and accurate car control.
Franey points out that the emphasis throughout the whole course is on concentrated individual instruction, with opportunities for practice in any advanced road and track driving techniques the client wishes taught. Additional instruction on road or airfield can be bought by the hour.
We’ve used the airfield involved several times for road test cars, by the way, and would describe it as very safe, though hard on tyres.
Franey can be contacted on 01-734 3356, office hours.
* * *
Sadly we learn of the death of Miss I. C. Schwedler, the Brooklands driver who was racing in 1931, winning in Dunham’s Alvis in 1933 and later taking to an MG Magnette, her team finishing 3rd in the 1934 LCC Relay Race.
We are sorry to record the death in Chesterfield Infirmary of Norman Higgins, Press Officer of the Motorcycle club and a staunch supporter of tho Club’s famous trials. He collapsed while competing in the Exeter Trial with Chris Betson, to the Imp which he had so generously loaned to W.B. to compete in the Lands’ End Trial earlier this year.