I must start this month’s notes with a postscript to my remarks in the last issue of Motor Sport concerning a certain 2-litre Porsche Carrera that became unstable at speeds of over 115 m.p.h. due to the tyres that were fitted. On the way to the Austrian Grand Prix I called in at Zuffenhausen, and noticed that this self-same car had been fitted with a set of Dunlop SP tyres since my criticism. I borrowed the car again, from the Press department, and took it out on the same stretch of autobahn on which I had done my previous runs and once more did 6,000 r.p.m. in top gear, and this time it ran dead straight, using only one traffic lane, and passing other vehicles at this speed without the slightest qualms. There was a strong cross-wind blowing and for this reason it would not run “hands off,” but the two index fingers on the steering-wheel spokes were all that were needed to guide it. A real Porsche, in other words.
All this summer there has been a bit of a rhubarb in F.I.A. circles over Mr. Ferrari and his 250LM rear-engined Berlinetta GT car, and recently things came to a head and there were shouts and screams in all directions. The simple facts are that in the past Enzo Ferrari has cheated, like all the other GT manufacturers in racing, and now the F.I.A. have called his bluff, and it hurt. The rules say that before a model can be homologated as a GT car for competitions, 100 examples must have been made and sold, or at least there must be the intention of making and selling too examples. If 50 or 60 cars have been built, and the rest are under way, then the F.I.A. homologation committee will usually accept a car for GT racing, without waiting for completion of the full hundred. With the 250LM, application was made for homologation when only a handful had been built, and it was turned down. Further application was made after the introduction of the 3.3-litre engine, to replace the original 3-litre engine, and it was still called a 250LM, though in fact it was a 275LM. Again it was turned down, for the impression was presented to the F.I.A. that very nearly too cars had been built, which was not true, and the committee looked deeply into the matter and found that double figures had barely been reached. Recently the car was again proffered for homologation, even though some 13 or 14 have been built and another dozen or so are under way, and whichever way you look at it this is not 100 examples. At this refusal to the application there was a fine old rumpus and threats by Ferrari to move to another Country, to give up racing, to stop racing in Italy, and so on. He was grieved, not .so much with the refusal to give homologation to the 250LM or 275LM, but because the Italian Automobile Club had given him the impression that they could fix it with the F.I.A. to accept the car. They failed to do this and Ferrari justifiably got angry with them. I say justifiably because they had obviously done a fiddle in getting the 2-litre Abarth and the Alfa Romeo GTZ homologated, just as there had been some jiggery pokery in getting the competition E-type Jaguar accepted, when less than a dozen had been built, and the last of the competition Aston Martin models, of which only, two or three were built.
As I said earlier, it was all right while everyone was cheating, and Ferrari got away with the GTO Ferrari, even though he admits to building only 34, but as soon as someone plays honest, and very, obviously so, then everyone must toe the line. Once a particular model has been homologated it is possible to alter it beyond all recognition, providing the specification on paper appears the same, and the alterations Can be described as optional extras. In this way the original Europa Ferrari was changed to the 250GT, which was altered from long chassis to short chassis, and then to the GTO. The original E-type Jaguar was changed to a racing version; and then to the lightweight competition model, with 5-speed gearbox and so on. Alfa Romeo obviously pulled this one when they developed the Giulietta Sprint into the Giulia Sprint and then into the tubular space-frame TZ model, and Abarth fudged over the changes from his Abarth woo to the Abarth-Simca 1300 and then to the Abarth 2000. All this was legitimate cheating, as the parentage of the car did not really change, but when Ferrari set out on the 250LM project there was a radical change, the engine and gearbox being taken from the front of the car and put in the back, and an entirely new layout was used. By no stretch of imagination could this car be considered a development of the GTO. At the same time Porsche started on their 904 project, which was also a radical departure from the series of Carreras developed in the past, the engine in the new car being in front of the rear axle, as on a Porsche Spyder, instead of behind the axle. The Porsche 904 bore no resemblance to any previous production models, so they set to and built WO cars and sold them; in fact they built about 114 cars altogether. At about the same time, Carroll Shelby was developing the A.C. Cobra for racing, and was well in production with the roadgoing Cobra, and its homologation as a GT car went through easily, though there were some dark mutterings about the acceptance of the Daytona coupe as being strictly standard. When the Porsche 904 reached the 100 mark it was homologated, so that Ferrari now had two of his GT rivals being very open and honest about the whole business, and they had really made an effort to comply with the rules. Under these circumstances no committee could possibly have accepted the LM without there being the full too examples built, and this was where the Italian club were short-sighted and optimistic. As a result of all this the LM has been kept out of GT racing, with the result that the old GTO, which is a 1963 design, has had to try and uphold Ferrari fortunes in GT racing, but this it has been unable to do, which is not surprising as it was reaching its limit last year. Had the LM been homologated last spring, as was expected in Italy, it would have dominated GT racing, but when it does get homologated it will be a year behind in development, which may be difficult to overcome.
The fuss over this homologation of GT cars, and other fusses over saloon cars as well, has been going on all season, and one good thing it has done has been to make the F.I.A. think over their rules and revise them. At one time a GT car was a practical and usable road car that could be raced, but development and the rules has caused the appearance of the Porsche 904 and the Ferrari LM, which are splendid racing cars, but not everyday GT cars, though there are people who use a 904 as a road car. It has also developed very fast and powerful racing coupes that are getting into the hands of inexperienced drivers, as witness the number of crashed 904 Porsches this season, and had there been 100 Ferrari LM models available, there would have been a lot more crashes; not because there is anything wrong with these cars, far from it, but they are very fast racing machines and there are not more than twenty or thirty drivers in Europe capable of handling them to their limit. The F.I.A. have reviewed the whole situation and come up with some new rules, which take effect on January 1st, 1966, providing nothing arises to change their minds Wore the end of this year. The aim is to revert GT racing to real production GT cars, and at the same time keep the racing we have for cars in the LM and 904 category. Group D will be Series GT cars, of which at least 500 examples per year must be built; Group E will be Competition GT cars, of which 50 examples a year must be built; and Group F will be for Prototypes or Sport cars, which means one-off models—a Prototype if the intention is to develop it into a Group E car, or a Sport category if it is a pure racing special.
This new scheme seems good common sense, for it will mean that GT racing will be for proper manufacturers’ GT cars, such as M.G., Triumph, Jaguar and so on Competition GT will be for the specialist firms in small production; and prototypes will be a sort of free-for-all as it is now. If you study long distance races you will find it hard to assemble too good GT drivers, so that by halving the requirements for the racing. GT cars, it will mean that the market will be restricted by natural selection, which will be a good thing.
What Ferrari will do about the situation is anybody’s guess at the moment ; he may abandon the LM and GT racing, or he may go on and build 100 and get it homologated for next year. He has obviously been unhappy about the whole situation all season, and during the summer was des-doping another version of the GTO, with independent rear suspension, by wishbones and coils, and a new gearbox layout, for the GTO still has “cart springs” at the back and a rigid axle. Unfortunately, Parkes up-ended this prototype GT at Modena, when the brakes failed, and the new layout was exposed to the world, until mechanics flung a sheet over the upturned car. However, with Porsche and Shelby American having exposed their honesty, it is unlikely that a revised GTO Ferrari will be accepted for homologation, so once again Ferrari will be in difficulties, but as Carroll Shelby said: “The old man will probably think of something; you just daren’t go to sleep if you want to beat him.” Which is fair comment about a man who has put more into motor racing than anyone alive today, for while Ferrari cars have been in racing since 1947 without a break, Enzo himself has been a power in racing of all kinds since the early 1920s.
While still on the subject of GT and Prototype racing, it seems that Ford of Detroit have seen the error of their ways, in trying to run the Lola-Ford GT Prototypes by remote controlled computers, and have encouraged the amalgamation of Shelby American and Ford GT. Carroll Shelby was quick to see the impossibility of running his European racing from California, and his racing will now be operated from Slough, where the Lola-Ford GT project has been based, and the two operations will conic under one small self-contained organisation. GT racing will still be done by the A.C. Cobras and Prototype racing by those beautiful sleek coupes called Ford GT. In this way Shelby can concentrate on producing a new Cobra, with improved suspension but essentially the same open or coupe road-going car, and not have to spend time building a rear-engined prototype Cobra, which was his intention, and the Ford GT can still be raced as a prototype for development work and prestige purposes. Shelby started to build a Cobra coupe with 6.8-litre Galaxie engine, which would have run as a prototype at Reims, but as it would probably have been quicker than the Lola-Ford coupe, he was “persuaded” from finishing the project. He can now put the 6.8-litre Ford engine into the production Cobra and get it homologated as a GT car when he has built 100, and that should see off the-GTO Ferrari and the LM. Meanwhile, the Lola-Ford coupes as prototypes can appear with the 4-camshaft Indianapolis Ford engine, which should see off the Ferrari 330B, providing reliability can be achieved. The future does not look good for Mr. Ferrari, and it rather looks as though Ford are still a bit angry with him for not going through with the sale of his factory, which was being negotiated last year. As I said previously, Ferrari has been racing a long time, and he is not going to be an easy rival to overcome, even though the Cobras have beaten the GTOs very soundly this season on numerous occasions.
From GT Prototype it is a short step to fast “sports cars” or “backyard hotrods,” and recently I spent a day at Goodwood with the newly formed McLaren Racing Team when they were testing the first car they have built entirely by themselves Bruce McLaren has been gathering a small staff around him of keen and clued-up people, and during the summer they moved into a small factory at Feltham. McLaren bought the Zerex Special Cooper that was converted from a Formula 1 Cooper into a sports car by an American team, and his chaps reworked it into a very potent sports car, using an Oldsmobile VS engine in the back. Two months ago they started on an entirely new project of their own design, using the same Oldsmobile engine, and a 4-speed Hewland gearbox, and it was this car that was on test. After getting the bar tiling to his liking, McLaren took me for a couple of fast laps of the Goodwood track, around a min. 25 sec., just to prove to me that it was a two-seater sports car, for I have continual arguments with these chaps and their hotrods racers. I maintain that they are ridiculous as sports cars, and they should spend their energy building single-seaters from the same components, and be forced into being a Formula Libre type of single-seater racing for non-Championship events. With the sort of machinery that was in the Guards Trophy at Brands Hatch we have the making of some terrific single-seaters. My contention is that if they are going to race sports cars, then at least they should be able to carry two people at racing speeds, and in this way I persuade them to take me for rides! (A trip in a Lotus 30 is imminent.) I would like to take this two-seater question further and suggest that tiding mechanics should be carried in these sports cars when they are racing, but I can just see the R.A.C. allowing that, which is a pity for I am all set for a dice, and I know lots of other people who would join me as racing passengers. The first McLaren, as it is called, was surprisingly comfortable, the level ride being outstanding and the suspension so soft and controlled that sitting on a fibreglass seat was no bother at all. Cockpit room was pretty cramped, and through St. Mary’s and the chicane had the greatest difficulty in avoiding leaning on McLaren’s left arm, which supports my contention that racing with passengers would develop much more civilised “sports cars.” The Oldsmobile engine, running to 7,000 r.p.m., was remarkably smooth, but gave a good punch in the back on acceleration, compared to the smooth torque of the V12 Ferrari engine in the 330B, and the handling of the McLaren was remarkable for its smoothness and balance, there being very little wheel-twiddling or full-lock slides, the car being held on a very steady course, especially through the fast corners. Being a “sports car” as distinct from a Prototype GT car, the windscreen was minimal and tailored for the driver, so that wind pressure at 130-160 m.p.h. was terrific and a lot of laps would have given me a pain in the neck. The chassis and suspension on this car are virtually to modern Grand Prix car specification, and its smooth ride was a most outstanding impression, which explains why Grand Prix drivers can sit in an unpadded cockpit on a sheet of aluminium or fibre-glass. What I am hoping is that one day someone will devise a tandem-seated Grand Prix car, so that I can sit behind some of the “workers” of today and really see how they go round corners.
To close on an entirely different note, on the way back from Monza I passed through Berne, in Switzerland, and took the opportunity to do a lap of the old Bremgarten circuit, in the forest just outside the town. It was always my favourite European circuit, both as a Grand Prix circuit to spectate at, and a motorcycle circuit to race upon, and I have always considered it the best road-circuit I know. Due to having had this as my “standard” since 1948, it is easy to see why I am not enthusiastic about a lot of today’s circuits, and why I have no time at all for converted aerodrome circuits, but it is also why I regret the passing of the Ards circuit arid the Dundrod circuit in Northern Ireland. The last race at Berne took place in 1954, just ten years ago, and yet the vast wooden grandstand is still there, its great cantilever cool, covering two or three thousand seats, still being awe-inspiring. In these clays of building by-pass roads for the pits it is interesting to recall that the Berne circuit had this arrangement front the start, way before 1939, and while the road is still there the pits themselves have been demolished. Wondering whether the mists of time were dimming my spectacles, I drove round the circuit, which remains completely unchanged, even though the roads are in everyday use. The surface has not been maintained as it used to be when it was used for racing once a year, but all the corners, hills, trees, cobbles and kerbs are still there, though in places through the woods the grass verges have encroached onto the road and it is not as wide as it used to be. I still think it is the best road circuit I have known, and if it was used for racing today it would sort out the drivers, as it used to in the past, though I feel some of today’s drivers would not like it. Any readers holidaying in Switzerland next year should make a point of taking a look at the Bremgarten circuit, and see what racing used to be like. It was only ten years ago, but it seems much more, and after driving round, my spectacles were as clean and clear as they were in 1948 when I first went to Berne. D. S. J.