Austrian 500-Kilometre Race

ZELTWEG, AUSTRIA, September 14th.

IN spite of being limited to the small 3.2-kilometre L-shaped circuit on Zeltweg aerodrome, the Austrian Automobile Club courageously organised a straight-forward 500-kilometre (300 miles) race for Group 4 homologated sports cars (50 off). They invited an interesting entry of twenty-two starters, in three groups, over 2,000 c.c., up to 2,000 c.c. and up to 5,300 c.c., the large class comprising privately-owned Ford GT40 coupes, Ferrari 275LM coupes and a pair of 7-litre Cobras; the middle group was all Porsche Carrera Six coupes and a lone Lotus Elan, and the small group was an all Fiat-Abarth 1300 coupe affair.

Practice showed that the Porsches were best suited to the circuit, being as quick as the Fords round the corners, and what they lost on maximum speed down the straights they made up on braking, especially at the bottom-gear hairpin bend. The Fords and Ferraris were in further trouble as their rate of tyre wear called for a change halfway through, whereas the Porsches could run the whole 500 kilometres on one set of tyres and only require to stop for fuel or driver changes. The Porsche factory entered two cars, strictly standard Group 4, and they were driven by Mitter and Herrmann sharing one, and Silica driving on his own. The only opposition to these two works cars could have come from Rindt driving a Ford GT40 belonging to F. English Ltd. (Bournemouth) and Ireland driving Bernard White’s ex-Essex Wire Team Ford GT40. Apart from both of these Fords losing time at pit stops compared with the Porsches, Rindt was delayed by brake trouble and the driver’s door not shutting properly, and Ireland had to keep his speed down to conserve tyres as his team had no suitable spares, and he had trouble with the passenger’s door coming open, due to a cracked hinge mounting caused by a minor accident in an earlier race. David Piper was well placed behind the works Porsches with his Ferrari LM but a slight collision with Bonnier’s Porsche, when he was lapping it, caused a rear wheel bearing to break up on the Ferrari, which put him out. David Hobbs drove Bernard White’s Ferrari LM but retired with numerous ailments including an oil leak, but Parkes ran consistently with Drummond’s Ferrari LM, but could not match the Porsches. Spence drove the dark green Ford GT40 of Cussons but was plagued by over-heating, and Casoni was not quick enough in the Italian-owned Ford. It was left to Mike Salmon, in John Dawnay’s Ford GT40, to uphold the American flag, and he ran a consistent and well regulated race to finish fourth and win his class. The two Cobras from the Chequered Flag stable both expired, Bondurant’s with engine failure and Raeburn’s with a burst oil cooler.

Of the privately-owned Porsches that of Udo Schutz was easily fastest, and with Linge sharing the driving it finished third, ahead of the Swedish-owned Porsche of Bonnier/Axelson and the Dutch-owned one of van Lennap. The second orange Porsche of the Racing Team Holland, driven by Pon, retired with a broken differential, and the green Carrera Six of Porsche Cars Great Britain was badly damaged at the front when de Udy spun off and collected the straw bales.

As has happened all this season, the Carrera Six coupes showed remarkable reliability and speed, and on the short, bumpy airfield circuit they really came into their own against the more powerful, but much heavier, Fords. The very pretty little works Abarth coupe of Ortner gave a trouble-free demonstration, winning the all-Abarth category.

It was an interesting race, run without undue fuss, although the time-keepers got in a bit of a muddle over third place for some time. The private teams all had their personal problems, some conducting their race strategy and pit work with efficiency, while others were chaotic, but it was all good fun and afforded a lot of people the opportunity of taking part in a long-distance event, which must be so much more satisfying to drivers, owners, mechanics and pit-crew than a 50-mile sprint race. We could do with more events like this on the International calendar.—D. S. J.

500 KILOMETRES – Zeltweg Airfield – 157 laps – Very hot
G. Mitter/H. Hermann (Porsche Carrera Six) 3hr. 07 min. 52.55 sec. – 160.416 k.p.h.
2nd: J. Suffert (Porsche Carrera Six) 3hr. 07 min. 58.31 sec.
3rd: U. Schutz/H. Linge (Porsche Carrera Six) 154 laps
4th: M. Salmon (Ford GT40) 153 laps