Reflections on the German Grand Prix

Maybe Ferrari is slow to learn, or maybe there are good business reasons, but the German Grand Prix was a repetition of 1963. Last year the early part of the year saw Ferrari concentrating all his efforts on Prototype GT racing, with subsequent domination, but at expense of development work on his Grand Prix cars. It was not until Le Mans was over and won that they got down to serious work on the Grand Prix cars, and then they became very competitive, Surtees winning the German Grand Prix and in every race after that being well in the running for the lead at all times. The V8 engine made a brief appearance, but was obviously well overdue in its development work, so that it did not appear in racing until 1964, by which time the new flat-12 cylinder engine should have been running. This year has seen a repetition of this state of affairs, for once again the Prototypes for long-distance racing took up all the time in the early part of the year, with the Grand Prix cars taking second place. The result of this was wins at Sebring, Nurburgring 1000 km. and Le Mans, but it meant that the V8 cylinder G.P. car was not quite in the running against Lotus, Brabham and B.R.M., and that the flat-12 cylinder engine was greatly delayed. Once again, with Le Mans over and won, and long-distance racing classics finished for the year, the Grand Prix Ferrari is getting sorted out. At the German Grand Prix it was in excellent form from the moment practice began, and Surtees and the V8 car stretched the opposition to the limit so that they ran into trouble, and it is more than likely that he will continue to do so for the rest of this season, but once again it is rather late in the year.

The question is, why does Ferrari pursue this policy, and it is no doubt for numerous reasons, among the most important being that victories in the long-distance classic races with V12-cylinder Prototype cars must have a direct influence on the sale of production Ferraris. Selling Ferrari road cars is one of the main objects of the Ferrari factory and if the Ferrari G.P. car won all the Grand Prix races it is doubtful whether the factory would benefit very much. If Surtees won the World Championship for Drivers he would get plenty of publicity, but the Ferrari car he used would barely get a mention and would certainly not influence many people to buy a Ferrari road car. I know there is a Manufacturers Championship for G.P. constructors, but winning this carries very little publicity in the popular press world, they being more interested in the human being than the machine. In Prototype racing there is no driver Championship, only a Manufacturers Award, so every win by Ferrari gets full publicity for Ferrari. Having two drivers per car at Le Mans or Sebring means that it must be a team effort and everyone hears that “Ferrari won Le Mans.” It is relatively unimportant who was driving it, so that the publicity must benefit the manufacturer. If Grand Prix racing was run on similar lines over 1,000-kilometre distances with two drivers, and the Grand Prix Championship was for the manufacturer, as it used to be long ago, then I am certain that Ferrari would put all his efforts into G.P. racing from the beginning of the season. After all, he is in business to win races and sell cars, not purely to make John Surtees a World Champion. Surtees is an employee of the Ferrari factory and should be working to win Championships and races for his employer, but due to the arrangement of the Championship for Drivers he is more interested in Surtees for Champion, which is reasonable under the circumstances. This applies to all the top drivers who are employed by factory teams and, equally, the outlook of Ferrari must be in the minds of other manufacturers who are trying to sell cars through racing.  If the Grand Prix Championship was concentrated on the manufacturer and not the Driver I feel sure that firms like Jaguar would take an interest, but why should they spend time and money to make their driver, “J. Soap,” a World Champion, with little kudos or benefit to Jaguar Cars Ltd.?

Before leaving this subject I must think further on the idea of 1,000-kilometre Grand Prix races with two drivers per car. Think of the German Grand Prix over 44 laps of the Nurburgring, with pit-stops and driver changes, and think of the teams of drivers such as Gurney/Brabham driving a Brahham-Climax V8, or Clark/Arundell in a Lotus 33 and so on; it would be most interesting, especially with the 1966 Formula cars. Although not making a very auspicious debut, the advent of the Honda Grand Prix car in the German Grand Prix was indeed a landmark in the history of Grand Prix racing. Entries by Italian, French, German, British and even American cars in Grand Prix racing has been normal and accepted since Grand Prix racing began early in the century, but an entry from Japan is something that a few years ago would have been considered impossible. If World History lasts long enough the 20th Century will stand out as an exceptional one for many reasons, such as the real development of mechanised travel, the probings into Space, a spread of equality throughout the world, and the rise of the Far East countries as world powers. Among the many facets of the rise of the Far East countries will be their spread into world trade in the mechanised field, and the entry of a Japanese car in Grand Prix racing is one of the signs of the times. At present the only non-Japanese parts in the car seem to be wheels, tyres, brakes, instruments and driver, but this situation will no doubt change as Honda engineers learn more.

This first outing was not as impressive as I expected it to be, there being far more trouble with the power unit than seemed reasonable, and the team as such were not very well organised. A typical example was their lack of knowledge of the Nurburgring and I should have thought they would have sent a man round to all the circuits last year to get the lie of the land. The pits at Nurburgring are after the timekeepers’ box, and timing line, so a car leaving the pits is not seen by the timekeepers until it has completed a full lap. This is normal and does not matter much on a 2-minute lap, but means on a 9-minute lap that a lot of effort goes untimed. To avoid this the organisers have provided a “short cut” so that drivers can pass the timing box before setting off on the 22-kilometre lap. This involves going round the Sudkehre, along behind the pits, which are on a sort of island between the parallel straights by the Tribunes, and through a gateway which brings them “upstream” from the timekeepers. A driver can use this short circuit as much as he likes, providing he signals his intention to come through the gate, and then when he is ready to go out on the full circuit he raises his hand as he goes past the timing box and his starting time is taken. Apart from avoiding untimed laps this system also allows a driver to get his car thoroughly warm and working properly before setting off on the full lap. Nobody told Bucknum or Honda about this arrangement, and they had not found out about it beforehand, with the result that Bucknum did a number of laps during the first day of practice that were not timed, which was why the organisers found that the Honda had not completed five timed laps. I cannot help feeling that a well-known Stuttgart firm, who used to race, would have had a large portly gentleman prowling round all the circuits during the year before their entry in racing, finding out about this sort of thing.

Another example of bad planning was the fact that the Honda car arrived at the Nurburgring without the compulsory catch tank for the engine and gearbox breather pipes, and this resulted in the absurd sight of the Japanese mechanics wiring a Coca-Cola tin to the back of the car, with plastic pipes stuffed in it. If anyone had read the International Formula One regulations carefully they would have known that all cars are obliged to have catch tanks fitted. When this rule first came into being most people complied by fixing small tanks onto the gearbox or some similar convenient part of the car with aero-elastic and some of the tanks were nicely made welded aluminium affairs, while others were a couple of oil tins soldered together to provide the necessary 3-litres capacity. Certain Scrutineers got so used to catch tanks being last minute additions, hung on as afterthoughts, that one group of them in Italy just refused to believe that Lotus had built their catch tank into the design of the Type 25, it being part and parcel of the main oil tank, but an entirely separate container. Another way of providing the necessary 3-litres capacity to collect oil breathings, was by Cooper who fed the pipes into the tubular chassis frame, having blanked off all the ends of tubes and fitting a drain plug.

If motorcycle racing is anything to go by, the Japanese learn very quickly, and if they make design mistakes they are not afraid to scrap the whole thing and start again, before things get out of hand.

During the 11 laps that the Honda completed at the Nurburgring in the race itself, the best lap time was 9 min. 22 sec., which was 12 seconds slower than Spence’s practice lap in the Lotus 33. As Clark lapped in practice some 31 seconds quicker than Spence, with an almost identical car, it would be reasonable to suppose that Clark in the Honda would have lapped at about 8 min. 50 sec. This assumes that Spence and Bucknum have about the same knowledge of the Nurburgring and the same ability, so for a first time out the Honda did not go too badly.

When Brabham was in trouble with his final-drive unit in the Hewland gearbox of his car, Gurney was also in trouble with overheating and had already made one pit-stop and was out of the running, so as he passed Brabham near the Karussel he slowed down for a quick word and then set off for the pits. Arriving there Gurney’s mechanics took the header tank cap off and let the pressurised water out and then filled it up from a can. The filler on the Brabham car is just in front of the engine, so to those a fair way off it looked as though the mechanic was pouring water over the hot engine. Meanwhile Brabham was starting to walk back along the circuit, and as he passed one of the loudspeakers he heard the dulcet tones of the English-speaking commentator saying “and now they are pouring water over Gurney’s engine….” Hearing this poor Brabham nearly had a fit, visualising one of his £5,000 engines being ruined by distortion and cracks, and as he said afterwards “I started to run!” He soon stopped, realising he was still five or six miles from the pits. This question of getting back to the pits when you break down on the Nurburgring is a big one, only overshadowed by the Targa Florio, but if you know the lie of the land in the Eifel mountains and the configuration of the circuit, it is possible to climb over a fence here and there and find yourself on the public road, where it is easy to hitch-hike back to the paddock/pits area. When you drive round the circuit at speed you are not always aware that the track is running close to public roads in places, or that it is doubling back on itself at different heights. Many a driver has walked a long way along the edge of the track passing numerous points where he could have hitchhiked. If a car breaks down in practice it is a problem to retrieve it while practice is still going on, but there are a number of gates controlled by officials through which a car can be rescued by vvay of the public roads, but newcomers to the circuit do not always realise this and wait until practice is over and then tow the car all the way round the circuit.

After the Grand Prix one driver sent his mechanics round the circuit to collect his broken car while he set off in his private car by way of the public roads, heading for the village of Adenau and saying he would see them later in the evening. He did see them later in the evening all right, some three hours later, but they had been back at the hotel for over an hour when he arrived! The mechanics had gone round the circuit in the transporter, collected the car and continued on round on a second lap until they came to the Adenau gate and then left the circuit and driven down into the village. Meanwhile the driver was in an enormous traffic jam as most of the 300,000 spectators tried to get out of the car parks together and down the road to Adenau. Local knowledge at the bigger circuits is a very useful thing, like knowing that you can walk from the town of Zandvoort out to the Dutch Grand Prix circuit on race day as quick as you can drive, due to the traffic jams; or that the Le Mans and Reims traffic system of one-way roads is first class and you follow the signs, even though they appear to go in the opposite direction to that which you want to go. The French system is to keep everyone motoring at about 60 m.p.h. and you get from circuit to town in one long dice, though you may cover 20 kilometres to achieve a straight-line distance of 5 kilometres, but at least you are motoring all the time and not sitting stationary in a jam, or crawling along at clutch slipping speeds.—D. S. J.



Last year, those who were interested saw demonstrations of Drag Racing by two American Slingshot cars that got well below 10 seconds for the standing-start ¼-mile, and many people who were not interested wished afterwards that they had been. In September and October the newly formed British Drag Racing Association is organising a series of Drag Meetings to which some ten American Slingshot Dragsters have been invited, and three really hot motorcycles to compete against such opposition as can be raised in this country. In the car classes the Americans are not likely to have much competition, but in the motorcycle class we can field the very powerful trio of Brown (Vincent-supercharged), Higgins (Vincent-supercharged) and Flagon (J.A.P. Special), all three being alcohol-burning 1,000-c.c. machines.

Six meetings are being run, in conjunction with various clubs throughout the country, on three successive weekends, one on each Saturday and one on each Sunday. During the week there will he static shows in various towns such as Leeds, Liverpool, Bristol and London, so that during the three weeks concerned almost every part of the country will be able to get a good idea of what American Drag Racing and its machinery it all about. A 7-litre Ford Galaxie engine with an enormous supercharger on it, and running on a mixture of methanol and nitro-benzine, must push out a lot of horsepower and the noise must be worth going a long way to listen to. At a very conservative 100 b.h.p./litre these engines provide plenty of go, and a standing ¼-mile in 8 seconds are regular runs, with terminal speeds of 180-190 m.p.h. at the end of the ¼-mile, The events are planned as follows :—

September 19th : Blackbushe Airport, Camberley, Surrey. September 20th : R.A.F. station, Cleveston, Northants. September 26th : R.A.F. station, Woodvale, Lancashire. September 27th : R.A.F. station, Church Fenton, Yorks. October 3rd : R.A.F. station, Kemble, Gloucestershire. October 4th : Blackbushe Airport, Camberley, Surrey.

Everyone is welcome to these venues, and the whole affair is sponsored by the newspaper The People and they hope that some 20,000 people will turn up for each event. Do not let this advance publicity put you off, as it did lots of people at the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. If you are interested in acceleration, noise, smoke, blood and thunder and something that makes a Grand Prix car seem like a Go-Kart, then I suggest a visit to at least one of these meetings, you will not be disappointed.—D. S. J.