Continental Notes, October 1956

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64

WITH the Spanish Grand Prix being cancelled the 1956 World Championship concluded at the recent Monza race and once more Juan Manuel Fangio gained the title of World Champion. At no time during the season did the situation ever look settled for Fangio, in fact at one time it seemed almost certain that he had no hope of winning the title and there was every possibility of “new-boy” Peter Collins becoming World Champion. However, as things have turned out the results have put the three main contestants, Fangio, Moss and Collins, in their right order of ability in the eyes of many people, Fangio having 30 points, Moss 27 and Collins 25. One driver who has been rather overlooked, and yet he finished fourth, is Jean Behra, for he amassed a total of 22 points throughout the season entirely on his own, whereas the other three drivers at some time or another all borrowed another car in their team in order to finish races. Fangio used Collins’ car at Monaco, Collins used Portago’s car at Silverstone, and Moss used Perdisa’s at Spa, whereas Behra got four third places and a second driving single-handed. The result of this was that before the Italian Grand Prix he was in a position to become World Champion.

The question of whether a driver should change cars during a race or not is one that is discussed very fully wherever enthusiasts meet and there is much to be said for both sides, though personally I should like to see the rule abolished and if a driver breaks his car then he is out of the race. When the whole system of the World Championship is thought about carefully and dispassionately then I come to the conclusion that it would be a far better thing for Grand Prix racing if the whole thing was abolished. This may seem a sweeping statement on the face of it, but reflect a moment and remember that Mike Hawthorn is one of the world’s best drivers and yet he only finished in one Championship event this year; reflect also that Moss has finished his third year of Grand Prix racing and is probably closer to Fangio than anyone on ability with a Grand Prix car, and yet at mid-season Collins looked like becoming the first British driver to be called World Champion. I am not saying that Collins is not a good driver, far from it, but this has been his first season of first-line Grand Prix racing and no one in their right mind, even Peter himself, would say he was a better Grand Prix driver than Moss. Reflect also, mechanically, that the reliability between Lancia/Ferrari and Maserati is about equal and that the Vanwall is faster than both of them, and then see the true absurdity of trying to draw conclusions from a contest that is fundamentally inaccurate in its results.

I would like to see the driver championship abolished and Grand Prix racing become once more a battle between different makes of car, for that would give the true perspective on racing and the results of racing. Casting back through the ages we can recall that the question was whether Alfa-Romeo was better than Fiat or Delage, and after that whether Bugatti was better than Alfa-Romeo and Maserati, to be followed by the question of the merits of Mercedes-Benz against Auto-Union. Now it should be a case of Ferrari versus Maserati versus Vanwall, not “is Moss better than Fangio, and is Hawthorn better than both of them.” After all, if you take two drivers of equal ability then the result of the race will depend on the merits of the car, so the manufacturer becomes important. The factory that can build the fastest, most roadworthy and most reliable car will win and added to that is the team organisation that can make or mar the success of the car. Due to the popular press, drivers are being put an pedestals where they do not really belong, and I think that is a bad thing for motor racing. If a driver has ability he will become the leader of a manufacturer’s team, if he has less ability he will be number two in the team. In 20 years time I hope I shall be able to recall that in 1956 Fangio led the successful Lancia/ Ferrari team, Moss led the Maserati team through their ups and downs, Schell led the thrusting and promising new Vanwall cars and Hawthorn fought valiantly, but briefly, as leader of the B. R. M. team. I am not suggesting that drivers should sink into insignificance, far from it, for I still think that the driver of a Grand Prix car is a very special type of human being, and to me they are the 20th century gods, but the real truth behind motor racing is a mechanical battle between factories, designers and mechanics, with driver proving the worth of the mechanical people.

In sports-car racing we already have a Manufacturers’ Championship, but due to the unsoundness of sports-car racing as a whole the thing is farcical, so it would be far better if the F. l. A. were to scrap it and transfer it to Grand Prix racing. It only needs one example to show the idiocy of the sports-car championship and that is the Lotus 1,100 c.c. car, which no one will deny is one of the outstanding sports cars of recent years, but what hope have Lotus got of ever winning the Manufacturers’ Championship ? In many ways present day motor racing is in a muddle and with the beginning of the new Formula 2 on January 1st, 1957, it would be a good time to start putting motor racing a little straighter than it is now. Already people are asking “Which is going to be the best Formula 2 car, the Cooper-Climax, the Lotus-Climax, the Gordini, the Maserati or the Ferrari? “No one is saying Will Moss beat Fangio ?” and then in brackets (“on Formula 2 cars “). Let us start right away and try to find out which team of designers, builders and mechanics are going to produce the best Formula 2 car. Let us try and find out whether it is mechanically more praiseworthy to win races with a 6 cwt. car using 130 b.h.p. or a 9 cwt. car using 200 b.h.p. Do not let us fog the issue with the merits of driver A against driver B, for remember that when driver A becomes too old to go fast, or wisely retires, there will always be another driver A to take his place.

While on the subject of Formula 2 for 1957, which is limited to racing cars of not more than 1,500 c.c. capacity, it is worth viewing what is known about some of the possible contestants. By the time these words are being read the first prototype Ferrari engine will he on the test bed and the chassis will be under construction. This is a V-6 engine with a three-bearing crankshaft, staggered cylinder bores and side-by-side big-ends. Each bank of three cylinders has a separate cylinder head with inclined valves and two overhead camshafts, these being driven by double-roller chains. In the centre of the Vee is a one-piece aluminium casting on which are mounted three double-choke downdraught carburetters. This engine will be mounted in an entirely new chassis frame and is the first of Enzo Ferrari’s experiments into Formula 2 and will be run next year in order to gain experience with small engines, so that if in two or three years’ time Formula 2 replaces the current Formula I, just as did happen in 1952-53, then he will be well to the fore. Not being convinced that a V-6 arrangement is the best, Ferrari also has plans for a four-cylinder 1,500 c.c. engine and a 12-cylinder model, but as yet only the V-6 is in production.

Cooper has already shown us his first Formula 2 car, and remarkably fast it goes, while Lotus are hard at work on the design of an entirely new car built around the twin-cam 1,500-c.c. Coventry Climax engine and there is every possibility of it being ready by Motor Show time. Of Osca, Gordini and Maserati there is no sign, other than the knowledge of good 1,500 c.c. engines already existing.

That Formula 2 has a great future is almost sure, and already the British organisers have shown their interest, while such Italian races as Syracuse and Bari are making enquiries as to the possibility of holding Formula 2 events next year. Some people seem to think that if, as seems likely, Formula 2 becomes very popular it will provide cheaper racing, and looking at the Formula 2 Cooper that ran at the British Grand Prix meeting this would seem true. However, when you see the beginnings of the designs of new Formula 2 cars, cheapness has already gone with the wind. Lotus and Cooper intend to use the twin-cam Coventry-Climax engine, which is hoped to give 130 b.h.p. and that unit alone will probably cost over £1,000 and already 130 b.h.p, is going to be barely enough on a Grand Prix circuit like Reims, Spa or Monza. If Formula 2 becomes truly international, as well it might, then in three years’ time the cars will be as costly and complicated as Formula I cars are today. Three years is no time at all in the development of a Grand Prix Car, for remember that in October three years ago we were chewing over the rumours about Mercedes-Benz re-entering Grand Prix racing and Lancia building a Formula I car and here we are already on the threshold of a new era of racing.

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