Continental Notes, October 1959

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92

Recently the combination of Moss and the Cooper-Walker F.1 car has been in the news in the popular press and the lay public’s mind, rightly by reason of their brilliant victories at Lisbon and Monza, and wrongly by reason of a lot of talk about troubles with the Italian-built five-speed gearbox used on the car. Much has been said and written about the breakages of various gear wheels in the transmission and the discovery, at this late stage, that many of the gears had been wrongly manufactured. The whole affair points to only one thing and that is poor inspection somewhere between the drawing board and the starting line, and the fact that the Equipe Walker have no organised inspection department indicates just how close to “motor-racing on a shoe-string” they are. A few years ago when competition in Grand Prix racing was very strong the Connaught team had to withdraw from racing before they got hopelessly left behind like Gordini did. Yet one of Connaught’s greatest worries while they were racing was the fact that they had to rely to a large extent on parts being made outside their own factory and, having no inspection department, they had to have faith in the manufacturers of the various bits and pieces, a faith that was seldom justified for their cars failed on many occasions due to bad manufacturing, faulty material, or careless assembly, all of which could have been eradicated by having their own inspection department. Yet the cost of setting up a skilled man with the necessary equipment and measuring instruments was prohibitive for them.

Many times this season we have heard of the bad luck of Moss when something has broken on the Walker-Cooper whereas, in reality, it has been bad management; the lack of scrupulous inspection. In addition, time has been a factor for even had Equipe Walker found errors in manufacture it would not have been possible to get things remade, which all indicates how a small private concern, or even a small factory such as Cooper themselves, are going racing on very limited means. The fact that there are people willing to run racing teams under such circumstances is praiseworthy and almost heroic, and the fact that Grand Prix races are being won under such conditions is remarkable, but nevertheless it is a sad reflection on the state to which Grand Prix racing has sunk when one remembers how it used to be. While progress in lap speeds and race speeds is being shown, and power outputs are increasing, the advance has not been outstanding. When one has seen a Grand Prix team designed, built, maintained and raced to the standards of Alfa Romeo, Lancia, or Daimler-Benz, during which era a one-man “shoe-string” team had little hope of survival, it is sad to see the greatest form of motor racing developing into a “do it yourself kit” type of activity. Agreed that we have seen some good competitive racing, but one can also see that with stock-cars; what we lack nowadays are good engineering achievements and design inspirations.

These thoughts have been prompted by the opening remarks in this article, about the failure of the Cooper-Walker transmission and the reason being put on parts being wrongly manufactured. My personal view on this is still that lack of inspection was to blame, and as that was a definite fault in the Walker set-up it would have been wise to have kept quiet about the matter and correct the fault, rather than expose it.

*

At the end of August an event took place at Brands Hatch that could well foresee the future of racing: I refer to the Kentish “100” race for F.2 cars in which most of the current Grand Prix drivers took part. Firstly, the entry was so large that only the fastest 16 qualifiers were accepted and this is something that is bound to come to bigger races sooner or later, for with motor racing being avalable to so many people entry lists are soon oversubscribed and qualifyng times are the only way of solving the problem. However, the B.R.S.C.C., who ran the meeting in question, missed the opportunity of starting something which would benefit the sport materially. Having listed the 16 fastest cars during practice it meant that at least that number and more were rejected. It would have been a simple matter to have held an additional race for the non-qualifiers, and it would have been equally as exciting as the main event, judging by the closeness of practice times, though naturally a little slower. By doing this everyone would have gone away happy; as it was there were some disgruntled drivers, many of whom had come a long way and at some cost, and all they could do was to be spectators. This qualifying for a place on the starting grid is a good thing and ensures that everyone tries really hard, but there should be some consolation for those who do not go fast enough, for undoubtedly they are all driving to the limit of their capabilities. Of course, there are not always enough non-qualifiers to form a starting grid for another race but when there are, such as at Brands Hatch, then it should be part of any regulation concerning limited entries and qualifying, that a consolation race should be held. As most of the non-qualifiers are probably people who are racing for fun and not profit, as distinct from most of the qualifiers who are professionals and race for a living, a consolation event would do much to keep the sport healthy.

*

Another aspect of the Kentish “100” race at Brands Hatch that is sure to influence the future is the way the F.2 Porsche performed amidst the Coopers and Lotus on their home ground. Driven by the Swedish driver Bonnier it was not only fourth fastest in practice when everyone was trying extremely hard, even to the extent of Moss and Brabham both spinning-off in their attempts to make f.t.d. but it finished fourth in one heat and third in the other, with an overall fourth in the general classification. It was noticeably steady on the corners and had no trouble in staying in front of Moss on the Cooper-Borgward when that car was cornering in a full-lock slide of almost uncontrollable proportions, and then accelerating away from it out of the corners. The only drawback with the car as to suitability for the tricky little circuit was the fact that it had too many gears and Bonnier had to waste too much time in gearchanging. This was particularly noticeable at the start, for while Bonnier was changing from first to second the rest of the field were still accelerating hard in first gear and he lost precious yards. However, for a first appearance of both car and driver on this. specialist short circuit they both did remarkably well, and the general consensus of opinion was that had Brabham, Moss or Salvadori driven it, or any similar Brands Hatch specialist, it would have been a certain winner, which is not meant in any way to discredit the performance of Bonnier for he performed far better than many people thought possible with such brief knowledge of Brands Hatch-type racing. The following week the single-seater Porsche was taken to Goodwood and after practice for the T.T. had finished Moss and Graham Hill tried the car and there was quite a crowd of other drivers in the queue behind them.

The outcome of all this is that many people are beginning to flourish cheque books in the direction of Stuttgart for a F.2 car for 1960, while the far-seeing ones are thinking in terms of the new F.1 in 1961. This little excursion to England by Porsche has done a lot to dispel the idea that Cooper have a monopoly on racing and that the 1961 Formula for Grand Prix is as stupid as many people made out just a year ago. The question now is whether Porsche are going to produce any more single-seaters and if so whether they will sell them.

*

With Moss winning the Italian G.P., Brabham being third and Brooks retiring, the outcome of the 1959 Drivers’ Championship is still wide open but, the pity of it all is that the final deciding event is not to be held until near the end of December. This is to be at Sebring in Florida on an absurd airfield circuit that cannot possibly produce anything resembling a classic Grand Prix event, any more than the Avus race did, yet the outcome of the Championship depends on the result of this race. That in itself is bad enough, but to hold the event as late as December is to ask for loss of interest in the whole idea. It will be just over three months since Monza before we know who is World Champion for 1959, and two weeks later the 1960 season will begin and thoughts will turn to the Champion for that year, so that this year’s Champion will have a very short reign. If it is either Brabham or Moss the chances are they will go straight on to New Zealand after the Sebring event so that there can be no proclamation of the World Champion in Europe. Once the 1960 season is under way no one is going to be terribly interested in the outcome of 1959 and most people will be busy planning and building for the new season.

There is no doubt that the F.I.A. committee responsible for deciding on the Sebring date have dropped a clanger of major proportions and made a farce of this year’s Championship. The recent Italian G.P. at Monza saw the Scuderia Ferrari make one of their biggest tactical errors ever, and they have made some pretty big ones. They had five cars ranged up to beat the combination of Moss and the Walker-Cooper and yet they let him win. First of all they lost Brooks at the start, which was unforeseeable but they then got Moss in a sandwich between Phil Hill and Gurney, with Allison and Gendebien to back them up. Somehow it seemed obvious that the race was going to be one of strategy and cunning, and against the agile brain of Moss all the Ferrari team put together could not hope to beat him. Moss had done a clever bit of “gamesmanship” by fitting knock-off wheels on the rear of the Cooper and Ferrari assumed that this meant that Moss would make a pit stop to change tyres. Undoubtedly this would have been so if Moss had been made to go the whole race at lap speeds of around 1 min. 40 sec., but Ferrari made the big mistake of withdrawing all his forces at the same time, to fit new tyres and, of course, this left Moss to tour on at his ease and save rubber so that he could go through non-stop.

The fact that Hill and Gurney could not get away from the Cooper during the opening laps made it obvious that neither of them had a hope of catching Moss after they had made their pit-stops. Moss was obviously letting Hill set the pace of the race at the start, which was quite fast, and had Ferrari left Hill to go on until he used up his tyres it would have meant that Moss would have had to go at the same pace and use more rubber than he wanted to. Meanwhile, Gurney could have been fitted with new tyres to enable him to keep up the attack when Moss would have had to stop for a wheel-change. There was some talk that Brooks was going to go through non-stop, which would have had the desired effect of forcing Moss, and one would have thought that when Brooks went out on the first lap the plan could have been switched to use another driver. Another tactic would have been to call in Gendebien or Allison on lap two, let Brooks take over the car and really go after Moss, which he could well have done. This would have meant sacrificing another team driver from the point of view of Championship results, for driver changes, while being permitted, rule out the obtaining of points. With Brooks in the running for the Championship and having no hope of getting points after his retirement on lap one, he had nothing to lose and had he won the race with the car of Allison or Gendebien he would not have improved his position in the World Championship, but he would have put both Moss and Brabham back a bit.

However, all this conjecture on how the Scuderia Ferrari could have fixed Moss would have meant running as a team and not as individuals and that someone would have had to make a sacrifice for the benefit of the Scuderia. In these days of the “rat-race” for the World Championship and personal ambition such actions do not exist, for team-spirit is a thing of the past unfortunately, and few people care any longer whether Ferrari win a race or Cooper win a race, it is all a matter of which of the “stars” has won. D.S.J.