Continental Notes, September 1957

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Now that B.R.M. have won a Grand Prix race, admittedly a small one, we are in the happy position of each of our current Formula 1 Grand Prix teams having won a race. To Connaught must go the honours for achieving the first victory, to Vanwall the honours for the most important victory, and to B.R.M. the honours for setting the seal on the downfall of Italian cars in Grand Prix racing. When Connaught won in Syracuse in 1955 Maserati and Italy were impressed but considered it a fluke, or an oversight on their part that they let it happen. However, the following year the Ferrari team had a horrid shock at Reims when Schell thrust a Vanwall in amongst them, upsetting their demonstration run, but once again the Italians really excused it by saying they had not realised the Vanwall was on the same lap. Nevertheless, there was no getting away from the obvious speed of the Vanwall and a week or two later both Italian teams saw the B.R.M. pair of Hawthorn and Brooks streak off into the lead at Silverstone and then, luckily for Italy, they blew up. At the end of the season, at Monza, the Vanwall really mixed it with Ferrari and Maserati, so much so, that Moss began to wonder if he should leave Maserati and join Vanwall for 1957. In less than 12 months Italian supremacy in Grand Prix racing was being severely challenged; Connaught had beaten them, B.R.M. had led them, and Vanwall had raced neck-and-neck with them, and all this just after Mercedes-Benz had withdrawn from racing, leaving Italy at the top of the tree.

In 1957 Moss and Brooks joined Vanwall, which in itself worried the Italians, but for a moment their confidence returned when none of the British cars competed in the South American races. In the smaller races that opened the European season Connaught were very active, but lacked top drivers so that they did not challenge the Italians, apart from the efforts of Lewis-Evans at Naples. Although he did not achieve any results the Italian eyes opened and they wondered if this was another Brooks and Syracuse story. Then at Monaco the Vanwall was right in the forefront, Moss leading the opening lap until he overdid things and crashed, but it had Italy worried, the British menace was at it again. No longer was it a case of “the rumbling of distant thunder,” the storm was fast approaching and at Reims Lewis-Evans provided the flash of lightning and at Aintree it burst. After a race full of trouble and incident for everyone, the Vanwall was victorious and the Italians hurried home under a cloud to prepare for the Nurburgring. Hardly had they arrived in sunny Italy when they heard that B.R.M. had nipped quietly off to France, borrowed Behra, and won the Caen Grand Prix. Consternation reigned, the B.R.M., which was reputed to be unreliable and to handle badly, had won a race and Behra and Schell expressed satisfaction with the car. First Connaught win, then Vanwall, and now B.RM., “the British are making a habit of winning ” thought the Italians, “in sports-car racing we expect them to win with their Jaguars and Lotuses, but not in Grand Prix racing, they have so little experience.” Maybe the Italians do have 25 years experience of Grand Prix racing behind them, but my opinion is that the Vanwall team are now gaining experience in the ratio of one year to five years.

The Italians are worried, and beginning to run round in circles with cries of “to work, the British Grand Prix menace is getting dangerous,” but it’s too late my friends. I think the British Grand Prix menace is forging ahead and nothing will stop it now that it is in its stride. It was with great relief that the Italians watched the Vanwalls floundering in the unknown at Nurburgring, but what about Monza in September, with the Italian Grand Prix being held on the road circuit only; I can foresee that trio of green cars way out in front. I think the Italians have left it too late, but we must take care, we must not get complacent even if we do trounce the Italians, for in Stuttgart there has been an ominous silence these last few months and let us not forget that when Mercedes-Benz announced their withdrawal in the middle of 1955 they said they might return in 1958. In those days it seemed a long way off but now 1958 is next year. When we have beaten the Italians at Grand Prix racing the real work will begin, first to stay in front and then to beat the Germans.

*

While thinking in terms of international rivalry in racing it is worth mentioning the battle that is going on between Italy and Germany in the 3-litre Gran Turismo class. The two rivals are the Ferrari V12 Europa, and the Mercedes-Benz 300SL and for the last two years these two makes have been having some interesting competition. It started in a serious way last September in the Tour of France when all the SLs had trouble and the Ferraris were virtually trouble-free, winning the event outright. In the Mille Miglia this year Ferrari was again victorious and at the 1,000 kilometres at Nurburgring the Ferrari was a lot faster than the best 300SL in practice, but von Trips crashed the car before the race, so Mercedes-Benz had a victory. At Reims in the 12-hour race it was Ferrari Europas all the way, the 300SL getting nowhere, and this was followed by the Gran Turismo race held before the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. Against strong Mercedes-Benz opposition Ferrari was victorious and on the Germans’ home ground at that. The following week the Gran Turismo scene moved to Sweden, preceding the Swedish Grand Prix, and again the two makes clashed, with a Swedish driver on the fastest 300SL and a Finnish driver on the fastest Europa. After a race-long battle the SL had brake trouble and the Europa came home the winner.

Now all this racing is in a comparatively minor category on the International scale, but just as Cooper v. Lotus is important at Brands Hatch or Mallory Park and the results affect Surbiton or Hornsey, so the 300SL v, Europa contest is important in Europe and the results affect Stuttgart and Modena. It is my guess that Mercedes-Benz will have to make a move soon and come out with a works team, for the great days of 1954 and 1955 are fading fast and a Mercedes-Benz on the starting line no longer means a victory. How nice it would be if Mr. David Brown could join in with a Gran Turismo Aston Martin 3-litre and wipe the floor with both contestants in this class of racing. As a further sign of the times it is interesting to recall that Gendebien, von Trips and Seidel were all staunch 300SL drivers and they are now Ferrari drivers. It is very probable that those drivers of 300SL today, who are being beaten by the Europas, such as Bonnier, Bielke and Nocker will he changing to Europas unless Mercedes-Benz do something fast. In September in the Tour of France, with competitive events on practically every circuit in France, as well as mountain hill-climbs, the 300SL v. Europa battle will wage furiously. Moss was all set to do The Tour in a 300SL, but is now wondering if he would not be better off in a Europa. Last year, it will be remembered, Alfa Romeo took the small Gran Turismo class away from Porsche, with the fabulous little Giulietta Sprint Veloce. When is Britain going to join in this Gran Turismo competition?

By way of a footnote, there were some intriguing suspension tests being carried out at Monza recently by Daimler-Benz A.G. — D.S.J.

Motor Sport Silverstone Handicap Trophy 

September 28th is the date for the Peterborough M.C. race meeting at Silverstone and it is also the date for the final of the Motor Sport handicap Trophy to be held at this meeting.

The six qualifiers in the intermediate races held at the V.S.C.C., Eight Clubs, M.C.C. and Aston Martin O.C. meetings during this season at Silverstone will be eligible to compete together with those from the Peterborough M.C. in a final race for the Trophy. — I.G.

Cavalcade of Motoring

On September 14th the Essex Cavalcade of Motoring will take place at the Central Park, Chelmsford. The event is being organised by the Essex Police Advanced Wing Driving School, Chelmsford, and will be divided into two sections, i.e., Concours d’Elegance and driving tests. Judging of the Concours begins at 12 noon with veteran cars proceeding through classes for Edwardian, vintage, pre-war modern and “Special” cars before the driving tests begin at 2 p.m.

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B.A.R.C. Race Meetings

The B.A.R.C. announce that the Members’ Sports Car meeting, originally scheduled to be held on the Club circuit at Aintree on September 14th, has been cancelled.

It was hoped to transfer this date to September 7th but, owing to technical difficulties which have arisen, it is not possible to proceed with this arrangement.

As this latter date has been published, the Club wishes to make the cancellation known as widely as possible.

Remaining B.A.R.C. race meetings this season are as follows:

August 31st  Members’ Sports Car Meeting  Goodwood

September 28th  National Open Meeting  Goodwood