This eye-witness account is published so that those who were not present can see the impression created by the two green cars. We do not necessarily endorse the opinions of this correspondent – ED.
FIRST thing was a telegram to the Milan Club to say that the channel ferry had delayed the B.R.M. They arrived Wednesday night with the two transports presented by Austins and the Commer workshop van. There were two B.R.Ms and a complete spare B.R.M. engine. On Thursday morning one of the vans brought all the odds and ends of equipment up to the paddock lock-ups. After lunch the whole team arrived; as the three vans came up the road they looked most impressive. Parnell and Richardson arrived with Mrs. Parnell and Mays in Raymond’s Ford Zephyr. The B.R.M.s were wheeled out onto the empty track and there was a noticeable air of self-consciousness about the whole set-up. There did not appear to be a foreman for the mechanics and Mays seemed to make the decision that the cars should do a warming-up lap on soft plugs.
Both cars lapped steadily and private timing gave their time at around 2 min.10 sec, (the lap record was then 1 min. 58 sec. by Fangio last year). After about seven or eight laps they came in and were taken away as the rear-axle ratios were too high.
On the Friday both cars practised officially until Richardson ran off the road twice, the second time bending the oil-side steering arm. Parnell did 2 min. 2.2 sec. while the track was damp. Later there was a puff of smoke from the engine and he coasted in. The cars were taken away. All-night work was needed, and on Saturday afternoon Richardson’s car appeared, having had the steering arm taken to Alfas to be straightened and crack tested—so much for the mobile B.R.M. workshop!
Richardson lapped pretty regularly, never in perfect conditions, in about 2 min. 6 sec., with a 2 min. 5.6 sec., best lap. Parnell ‘s car did not appear. As would be expected, Richardson was losing four or five seconds on the corners, but up the straights the car impressed everyone. Alfa did 1 min. 53.2 sec. and Ferrari 1 min. 55.3 sec.!
Saturday night Mays received confirmation from the RAC refusing permission for Richardson to drive. Mays was furious and threatened to withdraw both cars; although he was obviously aware that Richardson had sailed for Monza without the necessary consent from his National Club.
Sunday morning, at 6 a.m., Parnell’s car, now fitted with the spare engine, was taken to the track. This engine was brand new and had to be run in. Von Stuck then drove the car, was highly delighted and knocked about 2 min. 6 sec. At this point the trouble really began. The story was that a piston had broken on the still-tight engine, so the car was withdrawn and Richardson’s car brought up for Stuck to continue practice. Then that car had trouble in its selector mechanisms due to Stuck missing a gear, the result being that it was possible to select two gears at the same time,. which would, of course, wreck the rear axle assembly. So this car was withdrawn. Result, no B.R.M.’s started.
1. Why were they so Late in leaving England ? When the ferry-service broke down they should have been arriving in Milan.
2. Why bring two cars to a new circuit with the same axle-ratios ? Why not fit one car with one ratio and the other with another, then one is bound to be somewhere near ? As it was, both cars were wrong, and why bring both cars to the track for an unofficial tryout? One car would have soon shown them what gear-ratio was required. Alfa, for their initial tryout, used one car and the drivers took it in turns to thrash it round.
3. Why bring the whole shooting match, including the workshop van, to the circuit for an unofficial “run round” ? One car would have told them enough to get on with.
4. Why no mechanic foreman (apparently)?
5. When Alfa take a car out they warm up for about 30 sec. on soft plugs with the radiator blanked off, in go the hard plugs, and the car is ready to be thrashed. No doubt hot oil is put in before the car arrives. B.R.M. did not appear to be sure how to warm up the engine
6. Parnell’s trouble was apparently in the supercharger. With the complicated B.R.M. design it is quicker to change the engine than to dismantle a broken one. An engine change lakes best part of 24 hours. A Ferrari engine can be taken out in three hours, a Simca in one hour. Perhaps B.R.M. think they will never have any trouble!
7. When Richardson pranged, the car was taken into the paddock and peered at gloomily. It was Berthon who said what to take off in the way of body panels. No foreman, or head mechanic. No Attempt was made to tear the front suspension apart and check if it were bent; the car was just covered up and left. Yet they had the mobile workshop with them!
8. The spare engine had never been run—why ? What is their test bed for?
9. The cars are good enough and drivers are available. Bira was a spectator, so were Lang, Pietsch and Fagioli. The whole trouble is the people behind the car. Let’s he honest. They know little about real racing and seem reluctant to get hold of someone who does. The mechanics are a willing lot but lack the experience of real racing mechanics.
10. The Austin vans got so hot in the cabs when climbing over the Alps that their drivers were nearly fried; and the windscreens do not open. They have two-speed rear axles, carry a car apiece, but still cannot keep pace with the Commer workshop van, which carries 10 tons of equipment. Black vans with silver edgings are used to carry the dead in Italy, an Alfa mechanic told me! What did he mean ?—D.S.J.