Continental Notes, October 1971

Tecno Grand Prix Engine
One of the interesting happenings last month was the news that Tecno had got their 3-litre Grand Prix engine running, in fact it had been hoped to have the car at Monza, and at the time of writing there are hopes that the first car might be at Brands Hatch for the F1 race on October 24th. Now, in Formula One circles anyone would be justified in asking “Who are Tecno?” In Formula 3 and Formula 2 circles there would be no need to ask, for the small Bologna firm run by the brothers Luciano and Gianfranco Pederzani, is extremely well-known by reason of the results gained by their Ford-based engines and their own chassis. Although they started with Ford and Cosworth engines they were soon rebuilding them to their own ideas until the Cosworth F2 engine was virtually a Tecno engine. They have now designed and built a 12-cylinder 3-litre engine for Formula One racing, which is quite a big step forward for a small firm.

It is a horizontally-opposed engine, on the lines of the 312 Ferrari, with four camshafts, four valves per cylinder, and down-draught inlet ports, Lucas fuel injection, Marelli ignition, and will be joined to a Hewland gearbox/final drive unit. While the appearance of a new name and power unit in Grand Prix racing is always welcome it is with some reservations that I view the 12-cylinder Tecno. For many years Italy has produced exciting engines, but few have ever worked, apart from those that emanated from Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati. It is not difficult to recall the flat 8-cylinder de Tomaso engine, the V8 A.T.S. and the V8 Serenissima, none of which really got off the ground in Grand Prix racing. It is one thing to build one engine, or even six engines, but something else to make them work and make them raceworthy. Whether Tecno will be as successful with this 12-cylinder engine of their own, as they have been with their modified Formula 2 Cosworth engines, we shall have to wait and see, but one thing they have on their side is quite a few years of competitive racing in the smaller Formulae, and successful years at that.

Porsche Can-Am Engine
While on the subject of engines it is amusing that Porsche have now done an about-face over the matter of their horizontally-opposed 16-cylinder 5-litre engine. Earlier in the year details of this engine were released, accompanied by a sob-story of how the engine was being put on the shelf and labelled “an interesting experiment”, because the nasty men at the F.I.A. had decreed a 3-litre limit for sports car engines in 1972. Added to this was the statement that for 1971 the 12-cylinder 5-litre engine in the 917 would be adequate in view of the lack of any serious opposition to the Porsche 917.

At the Austrian 1000 kilometres race there was a thinly-disguised works Porsche entry, accompanied by more Porsche technicians than we have seen for a long time, and though the car was a fairly straight-forward 917 coupé it was fitted with a very special anti-lock braking system. Although the mainstay of Porsche racing has been left to the J. W. Gulf team this year, the people at Stuttgart have never lost touch with racing and it is their intentions to have a go at Can-Am racing in 1972 with the 16-cylinder 5-litre horizontally-opposed air-cooled engine. In spite of having put the 16-cylinder “on the shelf” it has done sufficient test-running to develop valve trouble and this has been overcome by the English firm of Aitcheson whose colloidal-graphite is well-known. They have treated the 32 valves by a special process of their own which has overcome the valve-stem sticking problem, and were so pleased with the results that they told the world about it at a time when Porsche people were saying “16-cylinder engine? What 16-cylinder engine?”

In an official Porsche statement the firm’s number one speaker, Rico Steinemann, said in connection with Porsche not taking part in 3-litre sports car racing in 1972, “the development of a new 12-cylinder 3-litre engine would force us to use small cylinder capacities of only 250 cc. The present and future stiffer emission regulations make construction of cylinders of under 350-c.c. displacement an ill-considered technical dalliance, that can in no way find positive expression in the series car.” It is gratifying that someone is still viewing motor racing as a technical exercise and not idol-worshipping and a bally-hoo public entertainment, but my sums tell me that a 16-cylinder 5-litre engine has individual cylinder capacities of 312.5-c.c. So either the projected Can-Am engine is going to be enlarged to over 5-litres or Porsche are going to do some “technical dallying.”

It is difficult to decide who gets my prize of a full-grown raspberry for bare-faced lying, but ELF team Tyrrell, Gold Leaf team Lotus and Porsche Engineering are high on the list, closely followed by Ferrari. In the running for the “evasiveness prize” of a lemon, are March, Team Surtees, Matra and BRM, while the “orange prize” goes to Bruce McLaren Racing. A firm built up on the character of a man like Bruce McLaren cannot be anything else but straight and true.

New Circuit
Last year when there was a bit of a “shin-dig” over the Francorchamps circuit by certain people whose names I get tired of mentioning, the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium made noises about building a new artificial circuit at Nivelles, just south of Bruxelles. This circuit has now been completed, or nearly so, and the first club-type meeting was held there last month. It is one of those flat complicated autodromes or stadiums, rather like a three-ring circus and the aim is to ring the changes on the variations available to accommodate everything from Formula Vee to Can-Am, and no doubt somewhere within the complex the R.A.C.B. will run the 1972 Belgian Grand Prix, and I hope the young and not-so-young starlets of the Grand Prix world enjoy themselves.

We could all name one or two drivers who will not enjoy it, but the controllers of the sport say progress must come before sentiment or personal enjoyment. Eric Carlsson was so right when he said that he wondered if drivers would find Grand Prix racing rather dull and unexciting when all the hazards have been removed and it’s all neat and tidy, clean and clinical, and safe and sound. I suppose they will take up croquet to get the adrenalin going, though if the 1971 top points scorer in Formula One (World Champion to the masses) is to be believed, he never gets his adrenalin glands working and doesn’t intend to, though I find him hard to believe.

I have a feeling we are about to bury the Belgian Grand Prix the way the French Grand Prix has been buried, and substitute a pathetic event called the Belga Grand Prix (Belga being a Belgian cigarette manufacturer, for the information of non-smokers). I wonder when someone is going to wake up to the fact that the British Grand Prix is not only still run on a disused airfield every alternate year, but the average speed has risen by 50% in its short history. It really is time it was held on a properly constructed circuit and slowed down. When we join Europe how about the British Grand Prix at Lydden Hill, down in the corner of Kent, so that visitors can get to it easily from across the channel. Sounds daft, doesn’t it? But it is as logical as some of the changes that are going on in Europe.

You may get the idea that I am against any changes, or anything new, if so you are quite wrong. I am against the mediocre in what is supposed to be the top class of motor racing. I am not against new circuits either, for I think the Osterreichring in the middle of Austria is superb and that is newer than most. The old airfield circuit at Zeltweg was terrible, and the Austrians had no choice but to use it so they made the most of it. Everyone who went to those races until 1969 only did so because the organisers were so pleasant, the people were so enthusiastic and the whole atmosphere was so agreeable. They always said they would have a proper circuit of their own one day and now they have brought their dream into reality with an artificial circuit cut out of virgin soil that is so good that a number of drivers who visited it for the first time this year found it hard to believe that it was brand new and felt that the track of the circuit must have stemmed from an old motorcycle mountain-grass track or a super Autocross course or something.

Having seen the hillside before the Austrian club even purchased the land I was able to convince them that it was laid out by a group of enthusiasts who walked the fields and said “Let’s take the circuit up that hill; round that group of trees; down that dip; over that brow”, and so on. It was not laid out with ruler and coin protractors and curves, on a drawing board, and that is why it is such a natural circuit. Of course, it is not perfect, and it is not finished, the paddock is rough, the grandstands are primitive, the lavatories are crude, but it will all be finished in time. The important thing is they have a circuit that is enjoyable to drive round, a challenge to drive round fast, has a splendid view for spectators, (remember 130,000 turned up for the Austrian Grand Prix), has character and everyone who drives on it seems well satisfied, from Stewart to lckx. I think the Austrians have got their priorities right and the Osterreichring is new and good, and I am with them all the way. With certain groups in France, Germany and now Belgium, I am in complete opposition, but I am in a minority and occasionally feel like a voice crying in the wilderness.—D.S.J.