CIRCUITS AND CHICANES

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64

CIRCUITS AND CHICANES

The present season of motor-racing has seen the growth of a custom which is almost universally disliked by drivers and spectators alike. We refer to the use of artificial corners, or chicanes, on road circuits.

The situation has been brought to a head by the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, where five chicanes were erected on various parts of the autodrome, and were so placed that they completely wore out the brakes of the competing cars. From the drivers’ point of view these chicanes are cordially disliked on the grounds that they are totally unlike any corner encountered on an ordinary road. They are difficult to judge, owing to the two “

hurdles” presenting the appearance of a solid wall when approached at high speed, and altogether present an obstruction which they feel might very well be dispersed with. To the spectator, a chicane is uninteresting. The cars are slowed to a very low speed, and the result is merely the spectacle of braking and acceleration. A hairpin bend has the same

effect, but it at least gives scope for masterly negotiation.

The only people who benefit’ by chicanes are the organisers. They have the comforting thought that the cars are being held back to a speed at which accidents are unlikely to happen. In France, particularly, this reason has great force, while the Monza authorities will do anything to avoid a repetition of the calamitous 1933 race.

Justification for the use of chicanes has been asserted in some quarters in the fact that, at Monza, they tested the brakes so severely that designers were made to realise the shortcomings of their present systems. The point immediately arises : are the ,brakes of :he modern car as efficient as they might be, both in

power and endurance? M. .Charles Faroux says they are not, especially in regard to the dissipation of the intense heat generated in the process of retarding a car. In one department, that of brake linings, we are as well equipped as we can ever hope to be.

The issue raised by the Monza race is not so much ;k doubt of the efficiency of brakes, as whether the circuit itself was not unnecessarily severe. Modern Grand Prix cars have no difficulty in covering 500 kilometres on a give-and-take road circuit such as Spa, and we, personally, believe that brakes are as well developed as any other feature of automobile .design.

A more serious criticism of chicanes was summed up by. Chiron, while watching the Italian Grand Prix, in the words : ” If the authorities are decided that racing-cars are too fast and they are determined to keep speed down, why not limit the engine size to 1,500 c.c. and leave the circuits alone? ” That starts the argument all over again ! This

journal has been of the opinion throughout the long discussions as to the ideal Grand Prix formula that the lessons learnt by the present cars have justified the inherent dangers of racing on normal roads at speeds up to 190 m.p.h. The argument that the cars can only he handled by a small number of men who have graduated over a period of years is dispelled by the sudden rise of Rosemeyer.

It is only necessary to run over in one’s mind the list of races this season which have been contested by the fastest cars, without a fatality, to realise that the use of chicanes has very little to recommend it.