Continental notes, September 1965

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SOME readers may have noticed that Continental Notes were missing from last month’s issue, and also that the Dutch Grand Prix report was written by M. L. T., and there were no Reflections on the Dutch G.P. The reason for all this was quite simple. I was laid flat on my back by a severe attack of influenza, contracted on the first morning of practice. As this was the time for the last pages of MOTOR SPORT to go to the printers there was a mild Editorial panic and flap, but fortunately M. L. T. took time off from editing Motoring News to help us out.

Earlier this year, at the A.D.A.C. 1,000-kilometre race at the Nürburgring, the Ferrari team produced the little Dino 166 coupé, which put the cat among the Porsches, for this obsolete Grand Prix car, turned into a GT Prototype, put up a truly impressive performance. Had it been a 2-litre it would have been impressive, but it was only a 1.6-litre and running in the 2-litre class, and it was amusing to hear the moans in the paddock about the Dino, with people disbelieving Ferraris when they said it was a 1.6-litre engine. A lot of people said it must be a 2-litre engine, but the Ferrari team merely smiled and said that they could make a 2-litre version if they wished. Usually the grumblers are complaining about someone who goes very fast in a class having an oversize engine; this time they were grumbling about an engine being undersize. Now Ferrari has built a 2-litre Dino, and with open bodywork it has been competing in the European Hill-Climbs driven by Scarfiotti, and, needless to say, it has been winning fairly easily, as well as setting up new course records. With the advent of the Dino 196 the grumblers are happy, for nobody minds a 2-litre car winning the 2-litre class, but it’s all wrong for it to be won by a car with an engine smaller than it need be!

In Modena there is a lot of work going on and a lot of money being spent with no apparent results and no very clear objective as yet. This is on the Serenissima project, started well over a year ago and financed by Count Volpi after he left the ill-fated A.T.S. firm. Volpi is a young man who loves fast cars and motor racing, and who formed the Scuderia Serenissima some years ago, the name being the old one used for Venice, where the Volpi family reign. The new Serenissima project has been mentioned at various times as it has progressed, and earlier this year I saw the third car completed in their tiny workshops in Modena. It was an open GT Prototype looking very like a Ferrari Prototype, but was painted a dark blue colour, which was a rare sight in Modena where everything is usually red, even the politics. The design of the car follows today’s conventional layout for a Prototype 2-seater, with the engine amidships behind the cockpit, the engine being a 3 1/2-litre V8 with four overhead camshafts and a row of double-choke Weber carburetters in the middle of the vee. Designed by Massimino, who made his name with Maserati, it is a very neat and tidy power unit, looking very much like an enlarged Coventry-Climax engine.

The first Serenissima was a coupé and did some test running last winter, after which it was broken up and a second coupé was built, this latter still being in existence when I called in. The open car which was beautifully finished in all respects, was the third to be built, and a fourth has now been completed, this being another coupé. The nearest approach to using these cars was an entry at Le Mans, and it looked as though the open car would be there, but at the last minute it was withdrawn, so we have yet to see the Serenissima in competition. Although the latest engine is a 3.5-litre, the original engine was a 3-litre, and it has recently been suggested that people have been snooping around the small workshop in Modena, with a view to buying the engine for next year’s Grand Prix racing. While the idea is quite good, it is unlikely that it would develop into anything really serious, for by B.R.M., Ferrari and Honda standards the Serenissima facilities are negligible, and you cannot go Grand Prix racing with one engine and the promise of some more parts later on. You have got to have an engine design and development section in full swing all the time, strongly backed up by foundries and machine shops producing engines in a continuous flow. For a private owner to get starting money and have some fun the Serenissima engine might be an idea, like digging up an old 4-cylinder 2.7-litre Coventry-Climax engine.

About this time last year those of us who are interested in the fastest speed achieved on land were staggering around holding our heads and trying to get a sense of proportion. We knew all about 400 m.p.h. and Breedlove had comfortably exceeded this figure with his jet-propelled tricycle, but then along came the Arfons brothers, running as rival teams, and before we knew where we were the record was over 500 m.p.h., and Art Arfons left it at 536 m.p.h. using only a small proportion of the 17,000 lb. thrust of his jet-engine. By the time these words are in print he may well have turned on the lot and set the record to well over 600 m.p.h., but he is not alone, for Breedlove hasn’t finished yet. Needless to say, Donald Campbell, who just managed to scratch up 403 m.p.h. with “Bluebird” is in on the act with a jet-propelled project that he hopes will exceed 700 m.p.h. There is nothing like being ambitious, for his expensive Bluebird was going to do over 500 m.p.h. and only just passed the 400-m.p.h. mark.

Art Arfons visualises approaching the speed of sound one day in the near future, a speed of around 720 m.p.h., but it will no doubt be approached in easy stages, like 550-600-650-700 m.p.h., and where Arfons is concerned you don’t laugh. He has been playing around with jet-propelled devices for many years now and knows what he is doing. This breed of American record-breaker comes from the Hot Rod and Drag Racing activity, rather than from the Sports Car set, and they are essentially the types that get on with things in a practical fashion, rather than wasting a lot of time on talk and theory. The Summers brothers are another pair who are out for records, having built a conventional record-breaking car driving through the wheels and using four Chrysler V8 engines, their objective being to become the fastest in the wheel-driven class, for there are now two categories for the ultimate maximum speed, jet-driven and wheel-driven. Their car, called the “Goldenrod,” is immensely long, having the four V8 engines in line, and all four wheels are driven, the driver sitting right at the back, beyond the rear wheels. The odd thing is that all this activity will be at Bonneville on the Salt Flats, when “experts” have told us that the Salt Lake is finished for high speed.

Anyone involved in the running of veteran cars, Edwardian cars or any other early vehicles knows the debt that is owed to the Dunlop Rubber Company for continuing to make obsolete tyres. In these days of rubber roller-skate wheels for cars, a 19-in. tyre cannot be found, while even larger veteran tyres are out of the question, but Dunlops continue to make small quantities of large-diameter tyres, even though it is not a commercial proposition. If someone at Dunlops suddenly decided overnight to stop the manufacture of these obsolete sizes, many veteran, Edwardian and vintage cars would be forced into museums, never to run again.

Recently, at Monza, the Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company sponsored a veteran and vintage gathering and it is interesting that they should do this, for it may well mean that they are intending to make obsolete tyres as well. This year Goodyear have made great strides in getting into European motor racing, being strong in GT and Prototype racing, and having Brabham and Honda on their tyres in Grand Prix racing. Goodyear tyres were not only used by the Le Mans-winning Ferrari LM of Gregory/Rindt, but were also used on the Reims 12-Hour-winning Ferrari of Rodriguez/Guichet. They have yet to win a Grand Prix race, but with Clark and Lotus around on Dunlop tyres, this will be difficult for them, though they are certainly providing some strong competition for Dunlop, who have had a monopoly for some years. The Firestone Tyre Company have also got a foothold in European racing, with Bruce McLaren using their tyres on his McLaren-Elva sports car, and they have their sights on Grand Prix racing as well.

While I do not want to see America dominating European racing, and I hope that Ferrari can go on warding off the attacks of Ford in GT Prototype racing, the advent of American competition is very healthy for the sport in general. The Ford Motor Company have shown us that money alone will not win Le Mans, so that Europe should not be worried by any onslaught on our motor racing by the mighty dollar-bearers. In the tyre world the competition to Dunlop provided by Goodyear and Firestone has made a healthy and competitive atmosphere; and it may well encourage Continental and Pirelli to return to motor racing and help Dunlop fight the Americans. Grand Prix racing, and any other form of racing for that matter, is essentially a mechanical contest and a great part of the interest lies in the technicalities. Remember the doldrums of 1961, when even B.R.M. were using 4-cylinder Coventry-Climax engines, and see how much more healthy racing is today with engines from Climax, B.R.M., Ferrari and Honda, with V8, V12, flat-12 and flat-16-cylinder engines. The same interest accrues where other components vary, for there is nothing like variety, and if tyres could be any one of five different companies, plugs could be Champion, Lodge, K.L.G., Bosch, Marchal, or Autolite, fuel-injection could be Lucas, Bosch, Tecalemit, or Hilborn and so on, through all the components used in a racing car, then there is automatically a much greater interest to all concerned.

Certain people tell you that the general public are not interested in such things, and they are quite right, but I am talking about the 50,000 people in this country who are interested in such things; the motor racing enthusiasts who follow all aspects of racing, not the fickle public who only attend races because they are told to by high-pressure salesmen. There are signs that the moneymaking boom period of motor racing in this country is over, and the future will be with us, the 50,000 hard core. The masses will no doubt find some other “pastime” and motor racing will be left to those of us who enjoy all aspects of this mechanical sport, not merely the social status and the “blood” aspect, so beloved by the popular Press.

While most people are rushing away from their homes in August, many of them to the continent of Europe, I seem to be able to take the opportunity a leaving Europe and returning home for a holiday. There is so much interesting motoring activity in England during the summer months that I find it a good place to take a holiday, and this year went to Silverstone to the big motorcycle meeting run by the British Motorcycle Racing Club, for their Hutchinson “100” Trophy. Mike Hailwood, who has rather lost interest in Grand Prix racing for the time being, was in cracking form and won three of the races, and he certainly looks more at home on a motorcycle than he does in a racing car. One of the reasons for attending this meeting was to meet up with Eric Oliver, with whom I used to ride as sidecar passenger, and we took part in a parade of racing motorcyclists from the past. As there is an A.C.U. rule that solo machines and sidecar machines must not be on the track at the same time, we were allowed to go out on our own on a clear track for our “parade.” We were using Chris Vincent’s 650-c.c. B.S.A.-engined sidecar outfit and Eric suggested that we made it a high-speed “parade” and had a bit of a go, which I thought was an excellent idea. We had not ridden together since 1949, though we both still ride motorcycles fairly regularly, and for six laps of the Grand Prix circuit at Silverstone we really enjoyed ourselves. Unfortunately the inevitable downpour of rain arrived as we were waiting to go out, so we had to ride on a very wet track, but even so Oliver was lapping at 75 m.p.h., about 20 seconds under the lap record, and it was a most exhilarating experience to passenger once again with the finest sidecar rider there has ever been.

The following day, to complete this holiday weekend, I accompanied the Editor to Prescott for the Vintage Sports Car Club’s annual Hill-Climb, and a more pleasant and relaxed meeting it would be hard to find.

Last year I had a brief introduction to the Daily Express Offshore Powerboat Race from Cowes, in the Isle of Wight, to Torquay in Devon, and found it very fascinating, with a remarkable affinity to motor racing, the power being provided by Jaguar, Maserati, Ford Galaxie, Chevrolet and the like. It was also surprising how many familiar faces from Goodwood, Silverstone and the B.R.D.C. were to be seen around the boats. This year the race takes place on Saturday, September 4th and it is hoped that the seas will be in a troubled state by then. Last year everyone found the going too smooth, for it was a beautiful day with a calm sea, and the powerboat people do not enjoy it when it is like that. They want waves and rough seas that make these large boats leap six or eight feet out of the water. It is a fine thought that the competitors said the course was too smooth and that they wanted it rougher and tougher. Can you imagine the members of the Grand Prix Drivers Association asking to have some of the circuits roughened up a bit, because it is all too easy at present? Somebody once suggested turning the Oulton Park circuit into a real road circuit, like the old Ards circuit near Belfast, with cross-cambers, kerbstones, manhole covers, shops, houses, pavements, traffic light bollards and so on, in fact, all the hazards normally encountered in motoring. I thought it was a first class idea, but who would race on it, and would “Auntie” R.A.C. allow it? The powerboat people are a very different lot, the bigger the waves and the stronger the wind the better they like it. Let us hope the change of date from August to September will provide them with the conditions they want.—D. S. J.

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