Reflections on the T.T

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The T.T. has been a peculiar affair. It began in 1905 as a genuine attempt to have a race for touring cars, even to the drastic measure of insisting that vast wooden boards be carried upright behind the driving compartment to simulate the drag of a landaulette body. Arrol-Johnston, Rolls-Royce, Rover and Hutton won these I.O.M. contests. Then the thing became a race for true Grand Prix cars (or, rather, GP cars of an engine size special to the T.T.) in 1914 and again in 1922, Sunbeam winning on both occasions, still in the I.O.M.

There was then a long interruption, until the T.T. was revived over the splendid Ards road circuit in Ireland in 1928, and was for true sports cars. These ranged from model-A Ford tourers and a Triumph Super Seven to Carraciola’s giant supercharged Mercedes-Benz. At Ards, during the golden era of the T.T., sports cars very similar to those in the showrooms, ranging from 750-c.c. M.G. Midget to that huge Mercedes, took the Tourist Trophy home.

As the years went by the rules changed, blowers being barred and road-equipment discarded. French sports cars, still in the right tradition, dominated the Donington T.T.s of 1937/38, the race still run on a road-circuit, of sorts. After the war Ireland came to the rescue with another real road circuit, at Dundrod, and sports/racing cars like C-type Jaguar, Aston Martin DB3S and Mercedes-Benz 300SLR prevailed. From 1958 the T.T. deteriorated into a race round a big field, at Goodwood; from 1960 entries were restricted to GT cars, in an attempt to return to something of the original conception of T.T. cars—cars you can tour in. Ferrari won all four of these, and this year, to provide spectator appeal, the regulations were changed to two classes, sports and prototype sports cars of over 1,600 C.C. and GT cars exceeding 2,000 c.c.

As “D.S.J.” has pointed out, prototype sports and GT cars are rather pointless and now that great hairy engines are available it would be nice to see them in single-seater racing cars. But while England and America offer some sort of starting and prize money for these freaks whereas Formule Libre racing cars are catered for only at minor Club meetings, the situation will remain. It is debatable whether the inclusion of prototypes in races like the T.T. helps very much with the development of saleable sports and GT cars. Adaptation-wise, possibly; but F.1 teaches all the worthwhile lessons that are handed down eventually to the production-car market—fuel injection, transistor ignition, ram induction systems, reliable disc brakes, better tyres, and other items that were formerly mysteries to John Citizen, motorist.

No-one surely, would willingly choose an A.C. Cobra to drive enjoyably from Calais to Monte Carlo if a Ferrari 250 GTO were available? Nor does Colin Chapman race the Lotus 30 with the object of one day tuning it into a nice docile sports car with hood and wind-up windows from which to take the ozone during a quiet amble along Brighton front. Modern prototype sports cars and even the GT cars are only useful for the Grand Tour if you have a trailer or transporter to put under them…

Some of the T.T. cars do have winkers, however, as we realised when we witnessed Gurney take a left-hand corner at Goodwood while signalling a right turn, just like many tourists do.

There is no denying the spectacle of these “big-bangers” in action and it is surprising that such a small crowd (estimated at 18,000) went to Goodwood, where for three hours 4-litre Ferrari and Cooper-Oldsmobile were to do battle with the 4.7-litre Lotus-Ford and A.C. Cobra-Ford cars, driven by names of the calibre of Clark, Hill, Suttees, Gurney, Ginther, Hill, P., Ireland and Salvadori. This was the first motor race sponsored by the Gallaher Group of Companies and one hopes their support will continue, permitting another “big banger” T.T. next year.

Not that the big cars had it all their own way. For the first half of the race stormy opposition came from Hulme’s Repco-Brabham BT8 Climax and Trevor Taylor’s Elva-B.M.W., both of under 2-litres.

The Brabham went sick after a splendid run, suffering from mis-firing which investigation of the distributor, fuel pump, fuel system and carburetters and three changes of sparking plugs failed to irradicate. The real cause remains a mystery, for when I ‘phoned Team Elite four days after the race there was no reply, suggesting that the trouble was so serious that the car never got home to Derby, or perhaps Hulme had returned to New Zealand in disgust?

Trevor Taylor’s Elva-B.M.W., which had also been going splendidly, retired from a series of chain reactions. After its fuel stop it wouldn’t re-start until a slave battery had been pressed into service. The Bosch dynamo was giving trouble, and finally seized up. This broke the belt which also drives the water pump, the engine overheated, and the gasket gave out. But not before everyone had been enormously impressed with the speed of these Elvas powered with Nerus-tuned o.h.c. B.M.W. power units.

It was interesting that not only were American cars well represented in this 29th Tourist Trophy Race, but that the Dunlop tyre monopoly was broken by the adoption of those enormous 8.00-8.25 x 15 Goodyear Blue Streak Stock Car Special covers on the Cobras. The race would have been more interesting had the Lola-Fords run, but perhaps they feared Ferrari opposition, as Talbot-Darracq did that of Fiat at Brooklands in 1923; although this is a poor comparison, because at the time the T-Ds were invincible and the Fiats they feared so much flopped badly in the “200,” whereas the Lola-Ford GTs have yet to prove themselves. In view of John Wyer’s close association with the Goodwood T.T. it was a surprise to find this team an absentee; the lone Salmon Aston Martin DB4GT, which was a Wyer highlight a couple of years ago, is now outclassed, finishing 13th. The American-engined cars are becoming a match for the best European GT cars, and it was clutches which refuse to transmit the poke, even when delivered from eight cylinders, that were suspect in the T.T., not the engines, although Salvadori’s Cobra had some ignition trouble and Phil Hill’s Cobra was delayed by a broken engine oil pipe. So far have we come since a Chevrolet Corvette performed in a very amateur fashion, to put it mildly, in the T.T. of 1961…

The 4,727-c.c. Ford V8 engine was not disgraced, however, for it gave the A.G. Cobras 1, 2, 3 in the GT category, with the Willment entry driven by Sears the meat in a Shelby sandwich, and enabled us to see Clark at his considerable best, within the limits of Goodwood, using all the road at St. Mary’s, between Woodcote and that silly chicane and out of the chicane, in his endeavour to close on Hill’s Ferrari, after a second pit-stop, had lost Clark the lead. The seconds hand of my Breitling Navitimer suggested that Clark and Hill would come to grips about a couple of laps from the finish, but Lotus chassis trouble put an end to such stimulating speculation. However, the installation problems that have dogged the Lotus 30 appear to be behind it. The reason that the Lotus mechanic put in to instead of 15 gallons of fuel at Clark’s first pit-stop was apparently due to the tank refusing to take any more while the car was up on the jack. At all events, that’s Team Lotus’ story. They say it was intended to put in 15 gallons and call Clark in again if the speed of the race necessitated another fuel stop. The offending locking ring, which finally eliminated the Lotus 30, made things so hot that water had to be poured over the wheel, not over the brake, as the commentator told us. Our photographer caught them cooling things off—see Pictorial Review in the centre pages.

Tyres stood up remarkably well, the faster cars changing rear covers once only, beyond half-distance, and Clark’s Lotus only the n/s. wheel, whereas in 1965 some cars made four stops for changes of all wheels during the three hours of the race, and it was worse in 1960.

Ireland’s spin put Suttees in hospital with concussion inconveniently close to the Monza GP; in 1962 it was Clark who collected Surtees in a spin.

So the sparse crowd which attended this Gallaher Golden Jubilee T.T. had plenty to talk about… —W. B.