Reflections on the Italian Grand Prix

With regard to the unquestionable victory by Surtees for Ferrari, with the V8-engined car, I can only refer to my reflections on the German Grand Prix printed in last month’s Motor Sport. If Ferrari was not so tied up with the business of selling cars I am sure he would concentrate more on Grand Prix racing, and B.R.M. and Coventry-Climax would have a hard time throughout the season instead of just towards the end. Enzo Ferrari himself would much rather put all his efforts in Grand Prix racing, but his sales directors keep pointing to sales increases after victories at Sebring or Le Mans. It is true to say that Surtees and his Ferrari dominated the whole meeting, setting the pace and making fastest time in practice, setting the pace and warding off all attacks throughout the race, making a new lap record and winning the race at a new record speed. Ile could hardly have done any better, and he was well backed up by his team-mate Bandini, who fought one of the most bitter battles throughout the whole 78 laps and snatched third place by a matter Of inches from Ginther. On Friday Bandini did all his practice with a V6 Ferrari, and on Saturday Spent most of the time in the new flat-12-cylinder car (See photograph on page 865), and it was not until just before the end of practice, with the track still wet, that he did a few laps in a V8 car. He then drove the V8 in the race, and a very good job he made of it, particularly as he had not driven a V8 car for a long time, apart from testing. In the British. German and Austrian races he drove a V6 and there must be quite a difference in the operating characteristics of the engines. A tot of pompous English people seemed to take a poor view of the way he out-smarted Ginther on the run-in to the finishing line, but I suspect that they have not seen drivers like Brabham, Gurney or Ireland doing similar dodging and outflanking movements. This was motor racing, not an old ladies tea-party, and if Ginther could not look after himself then he should not be in a works team. Another thing that upset ” the British ” was the patriotism of the Italian crowds, who gave vent to a loud cheer when it was seen that Gurney was its trouble and was no longer going to challenge Surtees and the red Ferrari. The Italians go to motor racing to see Italian cars, and drivers if possible, win motor races, and all round the circuit they must have been wondering how Surtees was going to vanquish the tenacious Gurney. They probably offered up prayers, or cast the evil-eye, in their endeavours to help Surtees, and when these actions were rewarded by the sound of Gurney’s engine going sour on him, naturally they gave vent to their feelings, for their idol was going to win. It was also their terrific patriotism that caused them to break through the barriers and carry Banditti shoulder high, after he had beaten Ginther. Why should they “chair” Surtees, he was a foreigner, whereas one of their own countrymen, and a Milanese, had won the hardest battle they had witnessed for many years. I wonder why the patriotic British spectators did not force their way through the crowd and “chair” Surtees, instead of “tutting” and considering it all a “damn poor show.” Italians are a wild and unpredictable lot at times, but when they are happy they do not mind showing it.

Monza has always fascinated me, for when you enter the track under either of the tunnels you get a marvellous feeling of permanency. Everything is made of ferro-concrete and is there for good, unlike British circuits where scaffold poles and plastic sheeting structures are erected and “temporary” seems to be the keynote, because at any moment an injunction might cause a circuit to be closed. The other great thing about Monza is that it means a flat-out blind, with engines on full song and going as hard as they can. If a car is circulating as you come under the tunnel you will hear it approaching at peak r.p.m., and it goes by and disappears out of sight and sound still at peak r.p.m. I have always felt that Monza was the perfect track to end the European season, ever since my first visit in 1949. The race at Monza is always a flat-out do-or-die affair and you feel that if this is to end the European season then it can be “s… or bust,” and we-have the winter to recover. Nowadays this is not so, for after Monza the World Travel season begins, with races in the United States, Mexico, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia before the European season begins again, and soon we shall probably be adding Japan to the list. Even so, the Monza race this year was a truly wonderful end to a very busy European season, and after starting with the twists and wiggles of Monte Carlo, and going on to the finesse of Spa or Rouen, the acrobatics of Brands Hatch and the hard work of Nürburgring, the uninhibited blast round the Monza track was a splendid Climax. That speed was more important than sheer driving skill was instanced by the twelve cars that took off in a solid bunch and stayed that way, until mechanical faults dropped people out.

One puzzling thing in practice was why Gurney’s Brabham-Climax V8 was so much faster than Clark’s Lotus or McLaren’s Cooper when they were using the same type of engine. Coventry-Climax will tell you that there is very little difference between the engines and nobody in the works teams get any special treatment, yet at Monza, and at Spa, Gurney’s car was much faster than the Lotus. Clark has always insisted that his [Anus is not the fastest car on the straight, in spite of its sleek lines, especially compared with the Brabham car which is relatively podgy and has springs and things out in the air-stream. There are only two fundamental differences between the Brabham and the Lotus that might account for a difference in maximum speed; one is the gearbox and the other is the geometry of the rear suspension. It would seem likely that the Hewland gearbox on the Brabham has less power losses than the ZF gearbox on the Lotus, and the soft, long-travel rear suspension on the Lotus causes large tyre camber changes which absorb power that would otherwise be propelling the car. The Brabham has fairly firm suspension, with very short travel, so there is little sideways thrust on the tyres, and this different approach to rear suspension is also the reason that the Brabham can get away with crude Hardy Spicer sliding-spline drive shafts, whereas Lotus are forever seeking friction-free methods for drive shafts. It was pretty obvious -at Monza that Clark and McLaren were being “towed “‘along by the, draught of the Brabham and the Ferrari.

For some years now Dunlop have had a Monopoly in Grand Prix racing, as far as tyres are concerned, and they have dictated policy and tyre design whether the car builders have wanted it or not. A typical example was the introduction of the so-called rain-tyre a year or two ago which was forbidden for use on dry tracks, as it was said that it would wear out too quickly. Both Moss and Chapman defied the Dunlop edict and used the rain tyres on dry circuits, and not only did they hold the road better than the current racing tyres, but they did not wear out as predicted. This year the introduction of the very wide 13-in. tyre has caused a lot of headaches, and is still not right on wet roads, and, while admirable from the cornering point of view, most people have found their cars to be no faster on the straights, even though they have more horsepower, and it is felt that the wide-tread Dunlop is a mixed blessing. In addition, they are deemed suitable for the Lotus 30, which in theory can do 200 m.p.h. and weighs about 18 cwt., yet they are proffered as the tyre for a Grand Prix car doing a mere 155 m.p.h. and weighing less than 10 cwt. It would appear that these tyres are more than adequate for Grand Prix cars and that the Lotus 33 and the others are carrying a handicap. As long as everyone uses the same tyre and carries the same handicap then it does not matter, but there are signs of other tyre manufacturers getting interested, and that could change the Situation. At Monza the Francis-A.T.S. was trying out some Goodyear racing tyres, and technicians from Firestone were around the paddock. They made it quite clear that they were not on holiday, they were there to give Grand Prix the once-over and see if they ought to become interested. The special rubber “grape-vine” also mentioned that the German Continental tyre firm were setting up a strong racing department again, and apart Item another tyre manufacturer in the racing business that could only mean one thing. Competition is always interesting and a pitched tyre design battle between Dunlop, Goodyear, Firestone and Continental would certainly add to the atmosphere of Grand Prix racing, and it might even persuade Pirelli to come back into racing.

The Italian organisers are very partisan and will bend their rules and regulations to suit themselves, or Mr. Ferrari, and can be very vague when they want to. If they can do anything to help Ferrari cars win they will do so, just as the British will do anything to help British cars win. The GT race at Monza is normally a 3-hour affair for all classes of GT cars, and last year the works-supported GTO Ferrari was thoroughly dusted-up by Salvadori with an Aston Martin. This season the GTO Ferraris have been trounced on all sides by the Carroll Shelby A.C. Cobras, and it was very obvious that if the Cobras had entered for the Coppa Inter-Europa they would have beaten the Ferraris very soundly. After a lot of humming and hailing, and a complete lack of information about the Goppa Inter-Europa, apart from there being a 1,600-c.c, class and a 2,000-c.c. class, it was finally decided that there would be a 1-hour race for GT cars over 2,000 c.c., combined with Prototypes. This decision was made after it was known that Shelby was not interested in entering his cars, and also that the Lola-Ford GT Prototypes were not considering entering, So that the small entry list was limited to GTO Ferraris and 275LM Prototypes, which more or less ensured a Ferrari victory in this race. This dubious means of eliminating any possible opposition to the Ferraris was very similar to the methods employed to keep the big American saloons away from Silverstone, where Jaguars used to reign supreme in saloon-car lacing. Many people have probably forgotten the International Trophy a year or two ago when Gurney brought over a big American saloon at his own expense just for the fun of it, and was ruled out on piffling technicalities. Personally, I haven’t forgotten that incident, and if the British can get away with such dubious manoeuvres then we mustn’t grumble too Much when the Italians try and save face for Ferrari by the same methods. The Jaguar face was not saved for long, and I feel that the saving of the Ferrari GTO face is only very temporary, unless Mr. Ferrari thinks up some new machinery.-D. S. J.