Not a Vintage Year
Silverstone, September 17th
In 1905 the first Tourist Trophy was won by J. S. Napier in an 18 h.p. Arrol Johnson at an average 33.9 m.p.h. around the Manx circuit. The fastest-ever TT win was recorded by Harald Ertl/Derek Bell in an Alpina BMW CSL with a six-cylinder engine developing some 360 b.h.p. in 1973, pre-chicane days at Silverstone. This year the BRDC again held the event at Silverstone over 107 laps (slightly in excess of 300 miles) and a BMW CSL won for the fourth time. That will be the last occasion on which the winged BMW saloon car does win the TT, for the car’s homologation papers expire at the close of this ‘season.
Despite the presence of a Mercedes, albeit a privately-tuned example by AMC, of Stuttgart for Brian Redman/Clemens Schickentanz, little interest was evident in this year’s yr. Both spectators and manufacturers stayed away. BMW have no interest in racing a car that ceased production in 1974, and the biggest crowds came when well-known drivers could be seen either in BMWs, Jaguars or Fords. As expected practice produced two Luigi prepared 3.2-litre BMW CSLs on the front row. Fastest were Tom Walkinshaw/Umberto Grano, Walkinshaw setting a time 1.81 sec. faster than Eddy Joosen/Raijmond van Hove could manage in their similar Car.
The Mercedes was on the second row. A 4-ilitre SLC V8 in silver, it had more connection with road cars than is normally the case in the Group Two touring car category. The threespeed automatic transmission and power steering were cases in point, Redman pointing out with a whimsical smile that the automatic only effectively allowed the choice of two gears on a track such as Silverstone. The car tended to twitch a bit on the way. into corners, but once settled in on its big fat Goodyears Redman Commented that it was stable enough, with very progressive oversteer.
Some 13 of the British Group One modified Capris were entered, The fastest proved capable 91 holding fifth fastest time in the experienced hands of Gordon Spice/Chris Craft.
Further down the entry the dearth of pure works cars was emphasised by the interest created by a duo of VW-backed Sciroccos and a trio of factory Skodas. Group Two as a category has died at the hands of manufacturers who normally support it, both Ford and BMW now engrossed either in the German national Group Five series or in BMW’s case with promoting, at all costs, their new mid-engined M1 coupe, and the series of races it is scheduled to have supporting Grands Prix.
The 3-hour race was pretty conclusive proof that even the best of drivers (Schickentanz is very experienced in these Mercedes-AMG efforts, finishing second in the 1971 Spa 24-hour race with a 6.8-litre converted 300 saloon) cannot extract what has not been provided. The Mercedes is astonishingly good for a converted road car, but that is all the tired-looking silver machine really is. An engine change in practice took them down to little over 350 b.h.p., and that is little enough to propel some 1,300 kg., well over twice the weight of a Formula One car. From the start Grano led Joosen’s BMW with the Mercedes driven by Schickentanz taking up station in third place, gradually falling away from the leading BMWs. Behind, there was an almighty train of Ford Capris getting in amongst the few continental visitors in their fully modified Group Two BMW 5 or 3-series cars
Initially this great long train of cars, a sizeable proportion of the 44 cars that were permitted to start, was headed by Helmut Kelleners/Edy Brandenberger in their Eggenberger-modified BMW 320i.
Later Spice and Craft managed to get the Capri up to second place. By then the Grano/Walkinshaw CSL had expired with broken valve gear and consequent blown piston; the Mercedes had been retired with little engine oil pressure, Redman having covered just a lap upon taking over from Schickentanz. The orange VW Scirocco of Willi Bergmeister/Jorg Siegrist made a spectacular exit from the race with a spin and subsequently marshal-controlled fire.
This left Joosen in effortless command of the race. Even the gallant effort of Spice and Craft was curtailed almost simultaneously with that of the orange Scirocco, piston failure sidelining this Capri.
Spice transferred over to one of the remaining Capris of the three he had entered, finally sharing the third place car of Stuart Rolt (yes, the son of Tony) and Peter Clark, partner in CC Racing who prepare these successful 3-litre Fords. Second position was the property of Kelleners and Brandenberger, once Spice and Craft had been eliminated.
The racing action had centred on the gaggle of Capris behind Kelleners in the opening stages of the event. The first fuel stops, on or around the close of the first hour, broke most of these up. However, that fast and furious early pace obviously had sonic effect on the Fords for many of them were to suffer failures in the rocker gear, either through over-revving or the method of assembly which varies from tuner to tuner. Stuart Graham, sharing with John Cooper on this occasion, and Vince Woodman/Jonathan Buncombe, both were amongst those with Capris that suffered some problems, yet they struggled on to lowly finishing positions. In fact three of the surviving Capris took the Manufacturers Team Prize, the only team left running amongst the 25 classified finishers. A more remarkable feat was the sixth overall finishing place of the VW Scirocco of Anton Stocker/Hans Nowak, another encouraging result for the factory’s somewhat tentative steps into the sport. Making its debut at the race was a brand new Group Two Golf prepared by Richard Lloyd’s own preparation concern at Silverstone. Sharing with former Lotus Formula One recruit Bob Evans, Lloyd drove the car through minor troubles to finish fourteenth.
It is probably time the BRDC took a look at the validity of Group Two racing for an event bearing such an honourable title. Judging by the low spectator attendance, -a different recipe is required, – J.W.
The European Historic Championship Race
IF THE TOURIST TROPHY had been dull, the 1o lap Historic Race which followed, a round of both the European and UK Historic Car Championships, was far from so and awakened the somnolent spectators.
Neil Corner took pole in the Donington Collection BRM P25, nearly two seconds ahead of Willie Green in the JCB Maserati 250F and well under the Historic lap record for the Grand Prix circuit. John Harper’s Lister-Jaguar completed the front row. Bruce Halford’s Lotus 16 failed to turn up for practice because his tow car broke down, but both he and Pat Lindsay, who had switched to the ERA after the Multi Union had fallen sick in practice, were allowed to start from a to second penalty.
These Historic races seem to be pulling in better grids than many of the more modern formulae; a delectable mixed bag of 28 single seaters and sports racing cars provided a feast for the eyes. John Beasley’s 21-litre B-type Connaught, Brooks’ 1955 Syracuse Grand Prix winner, was a very beautifully restored and driven newcomer to the scene. It was pleasing to see the Monza Lister re-appear, rebuilt by Chapman after Green’s massive Donington crash, but not so competitive in the hands of its owner.
That terrible duo of Corner and Green launched straight off the line into their familiar battle, the Maserati and BRM never more than yards apart. They were side by side under the Daily Express Bridge, then blue smoke poured off the 250F’s tyres as Green slid through the chicane with a tenuous first lap lead. Corner, surprised at the older Maserati’s straight line speed, challenged again at Copse, but Green drove a “wide” car to hold off the BRM challenge until Abbey. Corner led into the chicane, but Green pulled past on the exit as the BRM died with a detached throttle linkage. Green relaxed into a substantial lead from Harper in the dull-black Lister, its development engine holding together at last. But the real story of the race was unfolding behind, with Halford carving through the field from that 1o second penalty position. By the end of lap three he was lying fifth! Robs Lamplough began to get the feel of his BRM P25 after a slowish start, took Harper on lap four and had Green in his sights into the chicane. First Halford, then Lamplough, then finally Halford again smashed Green’s old sub-100 m.p.h. Historic single-seater record and Beasley’s Lister-Chevrolet made outright Historic record leaving them at 1 min. 42.25 sec., over 103 m.p.h.
Halford took Lamplough on lap seven, just before Ham’s Lister dropped most of its oil out of the chicane. By the eighth lap Halford was closing on Green and took him a lap later. But Green was not to be beaten so easily and as the two roared nose to tail into the chicane, Green bounced the 250F over the kerb in a vain effort to outdo the former Grand Prix driver. Side by side into Copse they went, but then the Lotus’ lighter years began to tell and Halford had the race in the bag, heading Green over the line by 1.33 sec. with Lamplough third, nearly 1o sec. down. Harper coasted across the line in fourth place with a “cooked” engine a by-pass hose had come adrift and Bell’s Lister-Jaguar held off Bond’s Ferrari Testa Rossa for fifth.
The British Historic Championship moves towards the final round at Brands Hatch on October 7th on a cliff-hanger note, with Chris Stewart (HWM Jaguar) and Roddy McPherson (Cooper Bristol) as joint leaders on 33 points. Bell only one point down, and Martin Morris, a consistent class performer in his D-type, still in with a chance on 27 points. C.R.
1st: B. Milford (Lotus i6 17 Mitt 39.411 SCC., 99 63 m.p.h.
2nd: W. Green (Maseratt 250F)
3rd: K. Lamplough (BRM P25)
4th: J. Harper (Lister-Jaguar)
5th: B. Bell (Lister.Jaguar)
6th: K. Bond (Ferrari Testa Rossa)
7th: M. Bowler (Lister-Jaguar)
8th: M. Morris (Jaguar D-type)
9th: J. Beasley (Connaught B-type
1oth: R. Glydon (Lola Mk 1)
Fastest Lap: Halford, 1 min. 42.25 sec. (103,22 m.p.h.)
Other supporting races on the Sunday (after two Formula Ford heats and a final during Saturday practice) included a round of the Diners Club Trans-Europe Trophy Race and a round of the Esso Formula Ford Championship. Walkinshaw’s BMW 530 was disqualified for being under weight after winning the former, so Gordon Spice’s Capri took the award, subject to an appeal pending from Walkinshaw.
Watkins Glen on BBC 2
BBC 2 will be showing a 55-minute edited report of the US Grand Prix (East) at Watkins Glen at 10.30 p.m. on the night of October 1st. Murray Walker will be the commentator. The race will be taken live from a satellite by the studios and recorded for transmission in the evening. We gather that this season’s change of heart towards Grand Prix racing by the BBC is not unconnected with a change in heirarchy. Certainly this regular and excellent GP coverage is very welcome.
New One Make Championships
TWO MORE one-make saloon car championships are to be run on British circuits next season. Volkswagen GB are promoting a ten round Golf GTi Championship – for women drivers! The winner might get a works Group I drive for the 1980 season. RHD Golf GTis will he available very shortly in the UK, by the way. Again from a German direction comes news of a Championship for BMW 323is.
ASTON MARTIN has formed a Young Supporters Club. Membership is open to anybody under 17, and for a £7 joining fee he or she will receive a large colour poster of the Aston Martin V8, leaflets on current models, a tee shirt and a woven badge. The annual subscription will be £3. and for this members will be sent any new product literature, the bi-Monthly employees’ and distributors newsletter and be eligible for any events organised for the club. Details from Geoff Courtney, Aston Martin Lagonda (1975) Ltd., Tickford Street, Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire.
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Donington Park now has its own RAC’ registered race organising club with the formation of The Donington Racing Club, Club Chairman Peter Gaydon feels that this will give the circuit a fair share of responsibility in assisting in the management and development of British motorsport. Now he hopes that a Donington voice will find its way on to the RAC Race Committee to avoid clashes like the recent one between Donington and the BRSCC over next season’s Formula Atlantic Championship. The new Club’s formation will help fill the organising hole left by the BRSCC, who have been banned from Donington for 12 months front October as a result of the squabble…
Details of Club membership can be obtained from the Donington Racing Club, Donington Park Circuit, Castle Donington, Derbyshire (0332 810048).