Continental Notes, October 1972

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Ferrari

As suspected the various translations of Enzo Ferrari’s speech last month were a bit wide of the mark when the headlines suggested he was going to withdraw his team from racing. What he really said was that he was going to cut down on his racing activity, which is not the same thing as cutting out his racing activities. For 1973 he has already announced his sports car team to comprise two of the all conquering 3-litre flat 12-cylinder 312P cars, with Ickx, Redman, Pace and Merzario as the drivers in Europe, and Andretti replacing the last named in the American events. At the moment Peter Schetty, the successful team-manager of the 1972 season, is giving up his job, and no replacement has been named. The new Grand Prix Ferrari for 1973 was on test just before the Italian Grand Prix and will certainly be run next year with Ickx driving it, but whether more cars will be run is still a matter of conjecture. If more than one of the B3 models are raced then Andretti and Merzario will be the obvious choice of drivers, as Pace is signed up with Team Surtees for Formula One in 1973.

Motor racing is the whole purpose of life to Enzo Ferrari, and always has been, cars and in particular engines, have always been his great passion, which is probably why there has never been a particularly bad Ferrari engine, and why they always sound good. I cannot remember the number of times that spectators have remarked to me that a motor race does not seem complete without the sound of a Ferrari engine, even if it is not winning. After the flap it looks as though we are going to be alright for 1973.

* * *

Sports Car Racing

For some reason which is best known to the CSI and to race organisers, the sports car racing calendar is very badly crowded into the first half of each year. This arrangement is not at all popular with the racing teams, but nothing is ever done about it, and after working and racing at ridicously high pressure until mid-summer, the scene suddenly goes very flat. With their season starting in January it means that any new cars must be ready long before winter comes, and at the moment it looks as though next year races might be a lot more interesting than most of those of this year. The 312P must surely be the car to beat and the standard at which to aim, while Matra showed on paper that they could match Ferrari, but never took up the challenge. It is hoped that next year will see Matra running in more races than just the 24-Hours of Le Mans, though at the moment they are still talking in terms of the one race. Alfa Romeo have finally got their flat-12 cylinder engine completed and running in a chassis on test, so this will presumably be racing next season, and the Gulf Research Mirage with its V12 cylinder Ford-Weslake engine will be ready, so the sports car scene shows every prospect of livening up next year. This year the Ecurie Bonnier Lola T280 with V8 Cosworth power showed itself to be very fast, especially when driven by Larrouse, but limited facilities and finance cramped the team’s progress all season. The concept of the Lola-Cosworth V8 looked to be a good one for 1000 kilometre races, although Gulf Research were not convinced about the Cosworth V8 engine as a long-distance unit, for they work to very high standards and have been used to American Ford and German Porsche engineering and stamina qualities.

* * *

The Glory Book

Quite often in discussions about racing drivers and their abilities the outcome settles on what races they have won. It is the entries in the “Golden Book” of race results that people remember in years to come, especially if the driver concerned does not have a strong public image or a forceful PRO. Nobody has to look in the book for confirmation of the ability of Stirling Moss or Fangio, but they might need to in order to estimate the ability of Jean Behra or Castellotti. When I mention this mythical “Golden Book” some readers write and ask where they can get a copy, but of course it does not exist as one volume, it is the overall history of motor racing, the written-down results at the end of race reports in Motor Sport and the other reporting magazines, the lists of past-winners in the programmes for individual events and so on. A driver might get very loud praise in a race report but it does not mean much if his name never appears at the head of a results list. It would be nice to think that a “master copy” of all race results was kept by the FIA in Paris, but that is a forlorn hope. Enthusiastic private readers probably have the best kept records of motor racing history.

If you are not of the Roman Catholic faith, or you do not understand or accept that faith it is best that you stop reading now, while I write about The Glory Book, or “Albo della Gloria” to give it its Italian title. In Modena there lives a priest known to all as Don Sergio, and apart from practising the Catholic faith he is an avid motor-racing fan. I have known him for many years and he was in Modena in 1955 when Moss and I roared through the town in our winning Mercedes-Benz in the Mille Miglia. He was also spectating in 1956 and 1957 when we did not roar through Modena, having retired much earlier on. When Mike Spence won the Race of Champions in 1965 Don Sergio knew all about it and shortly afterwards I was in the Monza paddock with Spence when the little bespectacled priest came up chattering away enthusiastically about the “Corsa der Campione”. Poor Spence did not speak a word of Italian and thought Don Sergio was trying to convert him to the Catholic faith, but fortunately, I was able to introduce them and explain what it was all about. A little while later the McLaren team were in Modena installing a V8 Serenissima engine into their early Formula One car when Don Sergio breezed into the workshop full of “oohs” and “ah’s”, for this project was all very secret at the time. After looking round the car and the engine he said, “Oh dear, I wish I had known about this, I could have bought some holy water with me and given this nice new Grand Prix car a blessing”.

Whenever a racing driver is killed in action Don Sergio says prayers for him and for a long time has had a small Chapel in his Church in Modena for those who have lost their life in motor racing, whether they were Catholic or Atheist, for Don Sergio feels it his duty in life to look after them when they are gone. He has now inaugurated a large monument in Modena, some twenty feet high, as a perpetual memorial to all drivers who have been killed in motor racing and the “Albo della Gloria” has been published, containing over 450 names, starting with Emil Levassor, who crashed in 1896 and died the following year as a result of his injuries.

In some countries this Album of Glory and the memorial would be looked upon as something morbid or sensation seeking, but in Italy it is sincere. I have an elderly French friend, who was involved in motor racing in the mid-twenties, and still follows racing closely, who says “Je suis toujours triste quand j’attende le mort d’un coureur” and for me that is more sincere than English words can express. — D. S. J.