Solitude Grand Prix
Stuttgart, July 28th
A circuit that is made up from normal everyday roads, with climbs that bring an ordinary saloon down to 2nd gear, descents that make normal people apply the brakes, an 160 m.p.h. straight, corners from 30 m.p.h. to 130 m.p.h. and a length of 11.417 kilometres, all in a glorious wooded valley, is one that deserves a visit no matter what the type of racing is that is being held.
Such a circuit is Solitude, named after the castle on top of the hill overlooking the valley in which the circuit lies. A Formula One race on such a circuit is motor racing at its best, and with supporting races for Formula Junior and G.T. cars, the 220,000 people who turned up to watch on race day had plenty to keep them interested. The first time I experienced the atmosphere of the Solitude races was in 1950, as a motorcycle competitor, and that year there were 300,000 spectators; in 1954 the total rose to 435,000, there always being a bigger crowd when a combined car and motorcycle meeting was held.
Over the years the circuit has been improved steadily, and this year a new tarmac paddock for the Grand Prix cars was built behind the pits, the entrances to the main paddocks were improved, a fine new road built between the Autobahn and the circuit and many smaller improvements were made, all of which, added to a very efficient and friendly organisation by the A.D.A.C. made the Solitude meeting a very pleasant one, especially as summer came to Southern Germany at long last, with blue skies and warm sunshine.
A remarkable list of 29 entries was received, ranging from a full Team Lotus down to private owners making their first appearance in a Formula One race. The Cheshunt team fielded their complete collection of Lotus 25 models, for Clark, Taylor and Arundell, the last named also being in the Junior race with a Lotus 27 of the Ron Harris team. After mechanical disasters at Silverstone the Brabham team were reduced to one Coventry-Climax V8 engine and this was fitted into the early Formula One Brabham chassis for Jack to drive, it being the car he used earlier this season with the Colotti gearbox. The B.R.P. team had Ireland in their own stressed skin car and Hall in a Lotus, both with B.R.M. V8 engines, and Reg Parnell had his two Lola-Climax V8 cars for Amon and Hailwood, the motorcyclist now being part of the Parnell team. Tim Parnell had three cars entered, himself in his Lotus-B.R.M. V8 and Robinson and Carter in old 4-cylinder Lotus-Climax cars. Hugh Powell entered his two Scirocco-B.R.M. V8 cars, both of them now fitted with their own design of solid-disc electron wheels, And Rob Walker entered his 1962 ex-works Cooper for Bonnier, the 1963 car being in process of being repaired after it ran its bearings at Silverstone. The Scuderia Centro-Sud had two cars entered, the ex-works B.R.M. V8 for Bandini and one of their old Cooper-Maseratis for the Portugese driver Cabral.
Private owners were Collomb (Lotus-Climax V8), Anderson (Lola-Climax V8), Raby (Gilby-B.R.M. V8), Siffert (Lotus-B.R.M. V8), de Beaufort and Mitter (Porsches), Pilette (LotusClimax 4-cyl.) and Seifert (Lotus-B.R.M. V8). Once again Phil Hill was on loan to Mr. Filipinetti to drive his new Lotus-B.R.M. V8, and to complete the field there were two old Lotus 18 cars fitted with the Borgward engines used in Formula Two some years ago. The only non-starters were Abate with a Centro-Sud Cooper-Maserati and Schlesser with a Brabham-Ford.
The circuit was closed for the whole of the Friday and Saturday prior to the race, and each day there were two hours of practice for the Grand Prix cars, the rest of the time being taken up with practice for Juniors and G.T. cars. Last year in practice Clark had lapped in 3 min. 53.9 sec. and during the race Gurney had set a new lap record with 3 min. 55.6 sec. but such is the progress of Clark and Coventry-Climax that within a very short space of time the Team Lotus leader had done 3 min. 50.2 sec. in a total of only nine laps.
As the nearest opposition was Brabham with 3 min. 55.7 sec. and Bonnier with 3 min. 56.0 sec. there was no point in Clark wearing out the Lotus. The only other drivers to break 4 min. for the lap were Arundell with the old Lotus 25 with Weber carburetter Climax engine and ZF gearbox, he turning in a very creditable 3 min. 57.8 sec., and Siffert with 3 min. 58.7 sec., while Taylor was having trouble with the Colotti gearbox on his Lotus 25, but whether due to Colotti, Lotus or Taylor I would not like to say.
The Filipinetti car was in a dreadful state of tune, the engine going in fits and starts, and during one "start" it caught Phil Hill on the hop and he shot off the road, fortunately without doing any serious damage. Quite a number of people missed this first practice, which was not sensible of them, for the Solitude circuit takes a lot of learning, but on Saturday everyone was out and the track was very busy. With such a shattering time recorded yesterday, Clark had little need to do much more and waited to see if anyone was going to approach his time.
As one would expect, it was Brabham who did this and the Australian got down to 3 min. 51.8 sec. and was obviously in good form, driving with the old Brabham crouch that always seems to appear at Solitude. Clark did a few more laps and equalled this time, and then concentrated on race preparation by doing a pretty quick lap after filling the petrol tanks; this was 3 min. 52.6 sec. which gave a good idea of his race potential. There were quite a number of "moving chicanes" out on the circuit, but no names shall be mentioned so that no umbrage can be taken, but lap times are the answer, and this situation made it hard for the faster drivers, but they could not complain for this was essentially a non-works motor race.
Bonnier was in surprisingly good form, the Solitude circuit obviously being much to his liking, and he was pressing on to good effect with the blue Cooper, but Ireland could not seem to get into the swing of things, even though the B.R.P. car was going very fast down the straight. However, after meditating in the sunshine for a while he got going quite well, but not as fast as one would expect. Team Lotus were still messing about with the Colotti gearbox on Taylor's car, and as time was running out they switched numbers and Taylor had a go in the hack car with which Arundell had recorded 3 min. 55.6 sec. Taylor did 3 min. 55.9 sec. which must indicate something or other, except that Arundell had done a session of Junior practice and was in fine spirits, while Taylor was unhappy and dejected.
Others who got under the 4 min. mark were Siffert, who nowadays drives faster than many team drivers, and Chris Amon with Parnell's Lola, while Jim Hall missed the bogey time by three tenths of a second. Bandini had missed the first day of practice and was a bit late in getting going in this final session, so that his time of 4 min. 01.2 sec. was not really indicative of his capabilities and more could obviously be expected from him.
Sunday morning was taken up with G.T. races and a Formula Junior event, which Arundell won convincingly, so that he was in good form for the Grand Prix, and as the time of the start approached Team Lotus were still assembling the Colotti gearbox on their second car, but it had Arundell's number on it. In order to give Taylor a chance of a serious drive it was decided that he would take the old reliable carburetter car with ZF gearbox, and Arundell would have to make out as best he could with the experimental car, which had an "air stream" windscreen like Clark's car and was also carrying the thick yellow stripe down the centre of the green body.
This not being a race of great importance Lotus were experimenting with some new drive shafts on Clark's car. In fact all three works Lotus cars were using different designs of shafts, the differences being in the spider that bolts on to the rubber ring at the inboard end by the gearbox. The hack car had original shafts with spiders fabricated from sheet steel, Arundell's car had the current ones with forged solid one-piece spiders; and Clark's car had experimental ones with spiders formed from taper tubing welded direct onto the shaft. In all three designs the outer ends carried a conventional Hardy Spicer universal joint.
It was some minutes after 1.30 p.m. before everyone was lined up on the grid and Arundell had a piece of paper stuck on his instrument panel to show him the gear lever positions; as he had not driven the Colotti gearbox car before and he was trying to remember that he had six gears to play with now. From practice times it was obviously going to be a race between Clark and Brabham, but when the flag dropped Brabham shot off on his own and Clark's arm went up to indicate that he was in trouble. Everyone dodged him and roared away after the leaders and mechanics ran to the stricken Lotus, to find that the right-hand drive-shaft had ripped one of the tubular ears of the spider off the shaft and mangled the rubber coupling, while the left-hand shaft had also bent the prongs of the spider.
While the remaining twenty-six runners raced up into the hills, led by Brabham and Bonnier, the works Lotus was pushed to the pits and mechanics set to work to take off the drive shafts and fit the old ones they had as spares, for Clark had insisted that it was worth while to do this and permit him to have a drive, even if all hope of getting anywhere had gone. While the mechanics got on with the job Clark assisted with the lap timing and signalling, and was overjoyed when Taylor came round in second place behind Brabham at the end of the first lap.
With Clark on the side lines this was Brabham's big chance and it was clear that no one was going to catch him. Behind Taylor came Bonnier (Cooper), Ireland (B.R.P.), Amon (Lola), Arundell (Lotus), and Siffert (Lotus), the rest already being left behind. On the second lap young Amon jumped up into third place but his team-mate Hailwood came into the pits with a dead engine, the Lucas transistor box for the ignition having died. He was shortly followed by the biggest and most miscellaneous collection of cars heading for the pits that anyone has seen, for nearly all the tail-enders found that two laps of the Solitude was more than their cars could stand!
On the next lap Bonnier re-asserted himself and got by Amon, but Brabham and Taylor were now well away, and Bandini now came into the pits with his B.R.M. running on seven cylinders, which it had been doing from the start. A plug was changed and he went hack into the race now down to 18th place, but determined to improve his position.
After five of the 25 laps had been run Brabham had a 2 sec. lead over Taylor, who in turn was 7 sec. ahead of Bonnier, but the Swede had Amon, Arundell and Ireland very close behind him. Then came Siffert all on his own, and the rest trailing along behind. The odds and ends were still in and out of the pits, so that the second half of the field was a bit of a joke as far as racing was concerned, and on lap six it looked as though the front half was going to turn into a joke as well, for as Brabham went by to start his seventh lap Taylor was seen to be heading for the pits, and he had barely stopped when Amon came in, and both retired. Taylor had lost oil from his final drive unit and the crownwheel and pinion had broken, while Amon's new Climax engine had run a bearing.
As a race the whole thing was now over, before it had even begun, for Brabham was well out in front and settling down to 4 min. laps, and Bonnier, Arundell and Ireland were following at respectable distances. Siffert was in fifth place but was having trouble with 4th and 5th gears jumping out of engagement and was having to hold the lever in position, and behind him came the Porsches of Mitter and de Beaufort. However, there was one interesting spark in the middle of the field, and this was Bandini who was going at a terrific pace, and rapidly making up for his slow opening laps and pit stop. The B.R.M. was going very well and the young Italian was making good use of it and lapping faster than anyone and gaining places consistently. This kept interest going, and as Brabham started his 16th lap there was the sound of a Coventry-Climax V8 behind the pits and Clark appeared, to begin racing.
In true "Stirling Moss Style" Clark joined in the racing just for the fun of the thing and proceeded to set new lap records one after the other, his first flying lap being 3 min. 52.8 sec., and he got progressively faster. Over half the race having been run his mechanics had taken the opportunity to drain off half the fuel in the tanks, so that he joined in with the car in good trim for fast laps. As he shot by Brabham, who was cruising round at about 4 min. (or about 105 m.p.h., average), the race leader thought for about 1 sec. "where did he come from?" but immediately realised that he had no need to try and keep up with the flying Lotus. For the rest of the race Clark gave the vast crowd a magnificent demonstration of high-speed driving, his pulverisation of the lap record hesitating on one lap when he got held up through the twisty section of the circuit.
Brabham quietly got on with the job of winning the race, keeping comfortably ahead of Bonnier, while Arundell was doing a splendid job in the works Lotus and having no trouble at all with the Colotti gearbox, though he had to think carefully before selecting gears but was getting used to things and lapping as quick as he had gone in practice with the hack car. Bandini was moving up all the time, and when Siffert's B.R.M. engine succumbed to consistent over-revving as gears jumped out by breaking a valve, the Italian took over a worthy fifth place. Hailwood had rejoined the race after Amon's retirement, by having the transistor box from the broken Lola fitted to his car, and was cruising round well behind the field, getting in some Grand Prix driving practice.
Brabham went by to start his last lap and then Arundell came into sight, now in second place, followed by Ireland and Bandini, and at last Bonnier appeared coasting along with a broken engine. With one lap to go his Coventry-Climax V8 had let him down and he stopped just before the finishing line on the right hand side of the road, in a most dangerous position, for the finish is just after a long fast open left-hand bend. With the broken Cooper sitting by the finishing line yellow flags had to be waved to warn drivers to change their line through this last corner, and Bonnier must have felt very uncomfortable sitting there. He was hoping that the engine would re-start and run sufficiently long for him to drive across the line and be classified.
Clark appeared and flashed by to start a last attack on the lap record, and then Brabham appeared to win the race after a very good drive, and Bonnier tried to drive the Cooper over the line, but the engine was solid so he was not credited with his last lap and the car was pushed away. Arundell was flagged in second, after a splendid drive in his first serious attempt at Formula One racing, having profited from his Junior race earlier in the day, and having coped with the unfamiliar and supposed unreliable Lotus and Colotti gearbox, with no trouble at all. A not very satisfied Ireland finished third, and fourth came Bandini after having put on a display of driving that more than justified Signor Dei's belief in him and also justified the acquiring of the B.R.M.
Clark's final lap was his final word in lap records, 3 min. 49.1 sec. which was 6 1/2 sec. improvement over the old record, and in only ten laps of racing, with cars spread out all round the circuit.—D. S. J.