DURING this season there has been a new name among the makes of racing cars, and that is Tomaso. One appeared in the French Grand Prix, another at Solitude, four of them at Modena and three at Monza. In consequence some notes on this newcomer will not go amiss. The man behind this small factory is Alessandro de Tomaso, a young Argentinian who came over to Europe some years ago and raced Maserati in G.P. events and in sports-car events, and then drove sports Oscas, and once or twice a special Osca 1½-litre stripped out and running as a Formula Two car to the old 1,500-c.c. Formula. He made his home in Modena, and married the American girl Isabelle Haskell, who also used to race sports Oscas. Last year Alessandro built his first racing car to Formula Junior rules, and also a 1½-litre car with Osca engine and Colotti gearbox to the then Formula Two rules. I had the pleasure of driving the 1½-litre car at Modena during its early test days as a prototype. This year he has built a number of chassis and fitted them with engines and gearboxes to customer’s choice, and called the cars Tomaso-Osca, or Tomaso-Alfa, depending on the unit in use.
The layout of the Tomaso chassis is very conventional by present-day standards, having a tubular space frame somewhat on the lines of the Cooper, in as much as it uses large-diameter tubing,. rather than spaghetti-like tubes as on Maserati or Lotus. Suspension to all four wheels is independent by means of double wishbones and coil-spring/damper units, Italian disc brakes are used and alloy wheels made in Italy. The engine is installed behind the driver and either a Colotti gearbox is used, or a new 5-speed one built specially for Tomaso. These cars have the distinction of being all-Italian, made in and around Modena, and afford numerous Italian drivers the opportunity of acquiring a single-seater racing car complying to Formula One standards. When it is realised that Ferrari does not sell his racing cars, and Maserati do not make complete racing cars any more, Tomaso is filling an important role in the private-owner field in Formula One racing.
He will still build Formula Junior cars, but recently has been concentrating on Formula One cars, and while not so large and powerful as Cooper or Lotus, is in a similar capacity to Emeryson in England. One of his recent cars has been fitted with a bored-out Alfa Romeo Giulietta engine, transformed by Virgilio Conrero, of Turin, and this engine had a special cylinder head with twin ignition, fired from two distributors driven from the ends of the camshafts. Having started off by building one “special,” Tomaso has expanded during the present season and now has a small factory working well, and has plans developing fast for building his own engine. His cars cannot hope to challenge the Ferrari team, but for the amateur Italian, and the semi-professional Scuderias, the Tomaso Formula One car is an interesting proposition.
At Maranello the Scuderia Ferrari were still working on the chassis for the Indianapolis racer, for since Brabham’s attempt this year the Italians have been eyeing Indianapolis with great interest. At first it was thought that Phil Hill would be the driver, but now that is not so sure, for having seen what the effect of going to Indianapolis had on Brabham this past season Ferrari is beginning to think that it may be better to employ a professional Indianapolis driver. There is little doubt that Brabham’s season of European Grand Prix racing suffered badly this year in consequence of all his flying to and fro, trying to achieve more than was reasonably possible. Precise details of the Ferrari for Indianapolis are not yet known, but it will doubtless have a rear-mounted engine in a chassis basically similar to the Grand Prix cars, but what form the engine will take is another matter.
Certain of the Grand Prix drivers have this year ‘formed a group known as the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, and membership is by invitation, though just what the qualifications are for being invited to join are a little obscure. It certainly has nothing to do with winning a Grand Prix, for Baghetti is not a member, even though he has won three Grand Prix races, and there are some members who have never won a G.P., but that is neither here nor there. This formation of drivers get together at each Championship Grand Prix meeting and discuss relevant points as regard The Driver and Grand Prix racing, and at their last meeting they decided to present an award each year to the best-run event of the Season. It seems they will take into account all aspects of organisation and control, including the Press Service, and I hope this year they will bear in mind the Pescara 4-Hours, for it is the only occasion on which I have ever returned to my hotel to find duplicated results of practice times awaiting me in my pigeon-hole at the reception desk. After the awful struggles one has at some races to get anything other than the lap times of the first six or so drivers, this was most welcome. Another well-run Press Service was this year’s German Grand Prix, where American journalist Leo Levine, stationed with ” Stars and Stripes ” in Germany, did his best to supply the needs of a vast number of journalists, both bogus and bona fide. I hope they will also bear in mind when reviewing certain British Organisations, that a lap chart contains all the competitors, not just the first six. I was nearly caught by this at one British Grand Prix, when told ” Don’t bother to keep a lap chart, old boy, we give you a complete one at the end of the race.” Luckily I have a distrustful nature and kept my own chart of the race progress for every competitor; at the end the official chart only went down to sixth place! The siting of the Press Stand is also something important and worth bearing in mind. I have actually been to a World Championship meeting in this country where there was no Press Stand, and there have been others so far away from what is happening that they are a waste of time using. The Monza Press Stand is one of my favourites as it is high above everything at the top of the vast grandstand, and once there you can take a detached and all-embracing view of what is going on, and once through the vital gate there are no petty bothersome officials, and you can get on with your job in peace.
This gesture of an award by the Grand Prix drivers’ is indeed a magnanimous one and can only do good for the Sport, which is, their primary aim.
There is no doubt that the Liége-Rome-Liége Rally is accepted as the toughest rally of all, and even though its title has been changed to The Marathon of the Route, and no longer goes to Rome and back, it has always kept up its tradition of being tough and not pandering to any competitor or outside interests, like some rallies do. Last year, it will be remembered, Pat Moss and Ann Wisdom had an outright win with an Austin Healey 3000, and that car is certainly a rugged sports car, especially the works rally model. This year the Marathon went from Liége, in south-east Belgium, to Sofia and back, on one of the toughest and roughest routes yet sorted out by the organisers. Not only was the going rough but the time schedules were such that the whole thing was nearly a motor race from start to finish. Of a total of 85 starters only eight finished the course, and this was remarkable enough, but outstanding was the fact that of those eight there were four Citroëns, both ID and DS models, and in fact a DS 19 model won the event outright, driven by Lucien Bianchi and Georges Harris.
The Marathon involves 90 hours of driving, with only a 4-hour rest at Sofia, so that crew stamina is as important as car stamina, and the first-class suspension of the DS19 Citroën did more than its share to give the drivers a comfortable ride. To win the Marathon in a hard-sprung sports car like an Austin Healey gives all credit to the toughness of the crew, but this year the car itself deserved as much credit as the crew, for the DS19 is a full 5-seater family saloon, with all mod. con., and the remarkable performance of having four cars in the only eight finishers says much for the ” new-fangled Citroën, with its troublesome air and hydraulic mechanisms ” as certain anti-Citroën people are apt to describe it. I make no bones about the fact that I am an ardent admirer of the car that is still 10 years ahead of all the others. Not needing five seats the DS19 does not fit into my motoring programme, but Citroën suspension, road-holding, and other technicalities on a Porsche body/chassis unit would make a dream car for me.
Before leaving rallies, a word about the Tour de France, which is taking place as I write. This is a Rally of the Circuits, with easy road sections between various famous French racing circuits and hill-climbs, where timed races and tests decide the winners. A novel note is introduced this year for the final stage which begins at Marseilles; the cars left running are loaded on a special charter boat and taken across to Corsica. There they undergo some arduous regularity tests at pretty high speeds on rough mountain going. After this the cars are put back on the boat and sailed to Nice, from where the Rally started, and where the Rally ends. This is surely the first time a Rallyman has had to be a good sailor as well as a good driver!—D. S. J.