That go-ahead club, the B.R.S.C.C., under the direction of Nick Syrett, last month took the bull by the horns and made a stand against the bureaucracy of the R.A.C. and the F.I.A. on the subject of the capacity limits for long distance racing. It will be recalled that the day after the Le Mans 24-hour race a group of men representing the sporting interests of their countries got together and voted that in 1968 Group 6 Prototype cars would be limited to 3-litres and Group 4 Sports cars to 5-litres. This group of men, described by von Hanstein of Porsche as being “ill-advised and incompetent” seem to have made the decision without first holding discussions with manufacturers and owners of cars competing in this class of racing, certainly as far as this country is concerned, and a number of people who have just invested many thousands of pounds in a Group 6 car now find themselves, with a vehicle that will be useless for serious racing at the end of this year. Jaguar and Aston Martin are both experimenting with projects of around 5-litres for Group 6 and overnight they have been ruled out by the Commission Sportive of the F.I.A. The whole thing was done so hastily and in such an underhand manner that there must be more in it than meets the eye, though as yet no word of explanation has come from the R.A.C. delegate to the Mr. Dean Delamont.
The general feeling all through this nasty affair has not been so much against “what they have done” but against “the way that they did it,” for it was so obviously sparked off by certain people in the Le Mans 24-hour race organisation, probably with pressure being applied by interested parties. Further down the page this will become very obvious to the most disinterested reader. If 18 months’ or two years’ warning had been given of this proposed change there would have been general consent, but next January is too soon to be practical.
When the B.R.S.C.C. were assured of having most of the people interested in this type of racing at Brands Hatch for the B.O.A.C. race, Syrett called a meeting in London for the day after the race. The object was to discuss this C.S.I. decision and it received immense support, the principal people being the organisers of Watkins Glen, who are in the throes of preparing the organisation for a 1,000-kilometre race next year, the organiser of the Daytona 24-hour race, representatives from the Monza, the Nürburgring and the Sebring long-distance races, and the B.R.S.C.C., Eric Broadley of Lola, Ferguson of Lotus, Taylor of Ford, von Hanstein of Porsche, Hap Sharp of Chaparral, le Guezec of Matra, Bruce McLaren, David Yorke of “Mirage” Ford, the Sports Car Club of America and Grovewood Circuits; Delamont of the R.A.C. and Schroeder of the C.S.I. were there as observers! “Lofty” England of Jaguar was there in spirit and sent an interesting letter giving his views, that “the most likely reason for the Le Mans organisers wanting to place a restriction on engine capacity… is as a face-saver against the possibility of an almighty shunt occurring in the pit/grandstand area. They are loath to alter the circuit in a manner necessary to slow cars down to a reasonable speed through the pit area…” This echoes exactly what von Hanstein had to say when the decision was announced. The two-faced old “magician of Maranello” declined to attend the meeting, writing to say that he only objected to the idea of 5-litre sports cars competing against 3-litre prototypes and as the Le Mans organisers had written to him to say that the two groups would not compete together he was satisfied. At the time of the first hint of the announcement he wrote to Le Mans to say he would not compete in 1968 if there was any limitation to engine capacity. Even at this moment I imagine his engineers are squeezing a 3-litre Grand Prix engine into a Dino coupé.
The general feeling of the meeting was that the decision to limit engine capacity was made much too hastily and not in the best interests of the sport as regards the methods used. The C.S.I. are having their next meeting on September 11th and are being urged to reconsider the ruling and that there should be a one-year “stay of execution” until January 1st, 1969, or that organisers should be allowed to have an unlimited-capacity class in their races, this class not to count towards any championship points.
Some interesting comments from the people at the meeting were:—
Chaparral: “It will completely prohibit us from competing in European races.”
Matra: “We shall be unable to race any prototypes in 1968.”
Porsche: “We are concerned by the way in which the decision was taken.”
Lola: “It is unfair to manufacturers to make a change at such short notice.”
Nürburgring: “We are not in favour of the 3-litre and 5-litre limits.”
America: “We hope the C.S.I. will in future adopt a more democratic approach to rule making.”
Not long after the Le Mans race and the C.S.I. decision the Ford Motor Company of America announced that they would not be racing in Europe in 1968 and Renault announced the details of their new 3-litre V8 engine for Le Mans 1968.
When the C.S.I. decision was made, the Le Mans organisers haying put forward the proposal, everyone thought they were trying to get rid of Ford, but I suggest that they knew Ford were not going to race in Europe in 1968 and they knew that Renault were about to launch their 3-litre V8 engine. It would be interesting to know who asked our representative to vote in favour of this 3-litre limit, bearing in mind the 5-litre Aston Martin and Jaguar projects. Anyway, all credit to the B.R.S.C.C. for having the initiative to do something and get people together. If they controlled the sport in Great Britain I am sure that things would be a lot healthier and more efficient, but that is just a matter of opinion.
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In the same way that Ford (England) have been financing Cosworth Engineering to produce a Grand Prix engine for Lotus, the French Renault concern have been financing the small Alpine firm in Dieppe and employing Amedee Gordini to design engines for them. The Alpine-Renaults of 1,300c.c. and 1,500c.c., with Gordini 4-cylinder engines have done extremely well in long-distance racing in their own categories and the Gordini engine knowledge has been passed on to the Renault R8. Now the Alpine-Renault combine intend to go for more than class wins and Gordini has designed a V8 engine to fit into the tiny Alpine Le Mans coupe, which should produce some interesting results. The engine is a 90-degree V8 of 87 x 63mm. bore and stroke, giving a capacity of 2986c.c. and uses a cast-iron cylinder block with aluminium cylinder heads. There are four overhead camshafts driven by single-row roller chains and two valves per cylinder, with 60-degree angle between the valves. The compression ratio is 10.5 to 1 and at 8,000 r.p.m. the power output is quoted as being between 315 to 325 b.h.p, and it is stressed that this engine is for long-distance racing and not for Grand Prix rating.
The Alpine Le Mans coupe with mid-engine location is noted for its good shape and with a 4-cylinder 1,500c.c. engine they can reach over 150 m.p.h. and lap the Le Mans circuit at 126 m.p.h. so with a 3-litre V8 engine in the same engine compartment it should become very competitive for an outright win, which must be the aim of Regie-Renault. As this engine has been designed specifically for mid-chassis installation behind the cockpit, all the auxiliaries are arranged at the rear of the cylinder block in order to present a smooth and tidy front end that can fit close to the rear of the cockpit. The Alpine chassis is a fairly orthodox space-frame, with Grand Prix type suspension all round using coil spring units and this year has been using a Porsche 5-speed gearbox. It was noticeable that the French Michelin tyre firm have been taking more and more interest in racing and at various times Alpine cars have been racing on special Michelin tyres, indicating a renewed French National effort towards motor racing, and this along with efforts of Matra and a general revival of sporting interests all over France, could indicate a renaissance for the country which pioneered motoring and Motor racing.
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Another new engine project is proposed by Weslake Engineering, the designers and builders of the V12-cylinder engine that powers the Eagle. Knowing of the “closed-shop” policy adopted by the barons of Formula Two as regards the Cosworth engine, Weslake feels that there is the need for another 1,600c.c. Formula Two engine, and, of course, he is right as anyone knows who has tried to buy a 16-valve Cosworth engine through the normal channels. (Just one of the many things that has gone wrong with Formula Two).
Harry Weslake and his design team have been making a study of the Hillman Hunter cylinder block and have decided that it is at least as good as the Ford Cortina, so they have designed a 2 o.h.c.-cylinder head for it, complete with 4 valves per cylinder and using the knowledge gained from the Eagle engine. Before the V12 engine for the Eagle burst into life the abilities of Weslake Engineering to design and build a complete engine were unknown, though their knowledge of cylinder head and port design were well proven. The performance of the V12 Weslake engine has dispersed any doubts that might have existed, and along with the V8 Cosworth engine it stands alone in developing over 400 b.h.p. from 3-litres. Ferrari, B.R.M., Honda, Maserati and Repco all have 3-litre Grand Prix engines, none of which give 400 b.h.p. under race conditions, and this was well illustrated in the Belgian G.P. at Spa, which the Weslake engine won. That they are going to produce a Formula Two engine is good news indeed and they are aiming at a conservative 205 b.h.p. at 9,000 r.p.m., the first engines being available next winter in time for the start of the 1968 season.
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While recent actions by the C.S.I. are still fresh in our minds it should be noted that as from 1968 there will be no Manufacturers’ Championship in Formula One, or Grand Prix racing. This simple decision was made by the C.S.I. at their last meeting, with no explanation given. Because the popular Press, radio and T.V. and the more feminine motor papers give so much space to what Graham Hill has for breakfast, or the colour of Jackie Stewart’s pyjamas, the cars that they drive in Grand Prix races have tended to become overlooked and the average spectator or reader probably never realised that there was a Championship for Manufacturers running concurrently with that for drivers, to the same points system. Usually the champion driver is driving the champion car, but it is not always so. When the present championships were instigated in 1950 the battles in Grand Prix racing were battles between Ferrari, Maserati and Alfa Romeo, and when Alfa Romeo won the championship it was their driver Farina who was champion. In 1952 and 1953 when Ferrari won the championship it was his driver, Ascari, who was champion. In 1958 the champion car was the British Vanwall, but the champion driver was Hawthorn, who drove for Ferrari. This was because the Vanwall team of Moss, Brooks and Lewis-Evans were winning races for the late Mr. Tony Vandervell and his Vanwall team, and not only for themselves, so that Brooks won some races and Moss won some, the important thing being that Vanwall won them all. The F.I.A. were proud to present their award to Tony Vandervell and his team, but the following two years saw Cooper win the championship and standing behind John Cooper were Coventry-Climax who built the engines, and Jack Knight who made the gearboxes, so the F.I.A. were not sure who to present their award to. This group construction has developed so that it is difficult nowadays to single out who should be considered the manufacturer. If the new Lotus 49 were to win the Manufacturers’ Championship this year you can he sure that Walter Hayes and Harley Copp of Ford (England) would endeavour to be at the head of the queue that would form to claim the award. I know they are spending £100,000 at Cosworth Engineering, but we must not forget that the Esso Petroleum Company have been spending on an average about £50,000 a year since about 1957 at Lotus, which adds up to some £500,000, so Geoff Murdoch, the Esso competitions manager, should head the queue. As Keith Duckworth designed the engine and various specialist firms in Coventry made the castings, and Cohn Chapman and his lads built the chassis, they should also head the queue. And what do the F.I.A. write down as “name of the Champion Manufacturer”; is it Lotus, Lotus-Cosworth; Lotus-Ford? and what about ZF who make the gearbox and the Firestone money that has gone into the tyres? This muscling-in on the act can get absurd and I am not sure it hasn’t done so already. If money subscribed to any project is excuse enough to have your name on an award then we must refer to the Team Lotus cars as “Esso-Ford.” The nice thing about the Vanwall team was that it all belonged to Mr. Vandervell and he paid for everything out of his own pocket.
If Brabham, Gurney or Rindt won the championship the inscription for the Champion Manufacturer would really get complicated. Perhaps the C.S.I. have shown wisdom in dropping the Manufacturers’ Championship and have at last caught up with modern racing trends, for Ferrari, B.R.M. and Honda while being praiseworthy individual efforts are not winning Grand Prix races very often these days. Times change and while motor racing continues to attract the “powder puff press” and its public who can only praise an idol or star, and are incapable of seeing the real point of motor racing, then they may as well get on with it, but at least you and I will know the real truth of the matter when the day of reckoning comes at the end of each season of Grand Prix racing. I only hope that people like Ferrari, Sir Alfred Owen, Mr. Honda, Colin Chapman and Jonathan Sieff will continue to provide vehicles for the “stars” to chase their championship honours with when there are no tangible returns for them.
Today it seems fashionable for the winner of a race to thank his mechanics for preparing such a fine car, usually because they cannot think of anything very original to say and remember only what the last winner said. Let us hope that as from January 1st, 1968, the race winners will remember to thank the manufacturers who provide them with jobs and cars with nothing in return any more. If Brabham, Gurney or McLaren win then that is another matter. Times change indeed.
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While on the subject of Grand Prix and Grand Prix drivers, a communication has come from Joakim Bonnier, the President of the G.P.D.A., to say that they are going to try to organise a permanent body of professional race-marshals who will travel round the Grand Prix circus on a full-time basis, looking after the more important aspects of marshalling. The G.P.D.A. are not looking for simple flag-wavers, it is something more serious than that and the best thing I can do is to quote from Bonnier’s letter. “They will have to know several languages, they must like constant travelling, they must have a certain knowledge about communications, they must have authority, they must know something about organisation and, above all, they must have a very high sense of responsibility.” If you think you can fit the requirements and are interested you can contact Joakim Bonnier at 6, rue Bellot, 1206 Geneva, Switzerland. If you can fulfil all those requirements and there are no marshalling jobs available you could always apply for the job of Motor Sport Continental Correspondent, for the requirements are the same, the only problem is that we have no vacancy at the moment, unless I write myself off on the way to the post in the E-type. But seriously, the G.P.D.A. idea is a good one, for I have never been happy about the way race-officials and marshals are so often people doing the job at one race a year, and until we return twelve months later they go back to their job as bank manager, butcher, baker and candle-stick maker. This does not apply to England where we seem to race “every weekend, and twice on Wednesday nights.”
If I might digress from the subject of International marshalling to International journalism and race reporting, it might be opportune to answer the many enthusiastic readers who write and say “How can we get a job like yours, or can we have your job?” It will pay to re-read Bonnier’s requirements above and add “a 100% interest in racing cars and motor racing.” If you can fulfil those requirements you are on the way to having a job like mine, but you still have to find the opening.
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Next month on the other side of the Atlantic the series of races for the Canadian-American Challenge Cup begin at Elkhart Lake circuit on September 3rd. The Can-Am races attract a lot of European-type racers because the Challenge Cup is stuffed full of dollars, though the races themselves are not very serious, being 200 mile sprint-type events for Group 7 two-seater racing cars, a breed of special about as International as an Indianapolis car and very much a domestic affair for Canada and the United States with everyone being powered by Ford or Chevrolet V8 engines. From the publicity that flows in about the series it would seem that the races themselves are not so important as the money to be won, an attitude that seems strange to European thinking where it is more important to be known as the man who won the German G.P. on the Nürburgring, than the man who won ten thousand Deutschmarks. However, the Can-Am races have a strong following and there are races at Elkhart Lake (Sept. 3rd), Bridgehampton (Sept. 17th), Mosport Park (Sept. 23rd), Laguna Seca (Oct. 16th), Riverside Raceway (Oct. 29th) and Las Vagas (Nov. 12th) and it seems that there will be factory Fords running as well as .a Chaparral and privately-owned Lola-Chevrolets, McLaren-Chevrolets and so on, all to Group 7 specification which means a bare two-seater with enveloping bodywork, but no practical requirements like windscreens, lamps, spare wheels, luggage space or passenger accommodation, in fact, two-seater Formule Libre cars. The only complaint I have against such specials is that regulations forbid the carrying of passengers, so they might just as well be Formula Libre single-seaters and then modified Indianapolis cars could compete, and that would be interesting.
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In the Grand Prix world there remains one more European event, which is the Italian G.P. at Monza on September 10th, and it has the doubtful honour of being the Grand Prix of Europe. Mr. Stanley, the secretary of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, once made a sound suggestion to me when he said he thought that the Grand Prix of Europe ought to be something special. His idea was that it should always be the last race of the European season and should be of at least 10 hours’ duration. All the previous races would be in the nature of practice runs in preparation for the Grand Prix of the year and each country would take turns at organising it. Imagine 10 hours at Monaco, marvellous thought. And how about making the G.P. of Europe a team affair, with unlimited numbers of cars available to a pair of drivers. Clark and Hill would take turns at keeping a Lotus 49 in the race, Brabham and Hulme would team up on a Brabham, Rodriguez and Rindt on a Cooper-Maserati and so on. As each car wore out, fell apart or just broke, another would be wheeled out awaiting the arrival of the driver hot-foot from the wreckage of the first car. The driver changes, pit stops for fuel and tyres and so on would be terrific, but the pits would have to be arranged so that spectators could see what was happening, and why not make it a full 12-hour event? Imagine the activity in the Lotus pit as Hill took over from Clark, having the pedals, the seat, the rollbars, the spring rates, the windscreen and the tyres all changed, or they could compromise like drivers have to in long-distance sports car racing. I’d put my money on Brabham and Hulme in a Brabham-Repco V8. This would certainly make for a Grand Prix with a difference and justify a special title such as the Grand Prix of Europe.
As things stand the European G.P. will merely be the usual Italian G.P. at Monza, always a good race, where speed and stamina are all important as is track craft and team tactics. To me Monza is synonymous with sheer speed and as I approach the track and hear a Ferrari V12 approaching from the Curva Parabolica on full song, to go by the pits and grandstands on full song, and to disappear away towards the Curva Grande still on full song, I have to restrain myself from running towards the edge of the track to enjoy the sight and sound to the full. After 20 years of this sort of thing you would think I wanted to run to the railings when I first heard a 158 Alfa Romeo approaching on full song. I was younger then and probably did run, the feeling is still there and I’m sure it will still be there in 20 years’ time, just as I am sure Monza will still be there in 20 years’ time. The regulations say that the race is “an International speed event for Formula One racing cars” and they are so right.
On October 1st the Grand Prix of the United States takes place at Watkins Glen, not too far from New York, and once again the organisers are working on a system of “payment by results!’ This was introduced last year and proved to be very popular and there were drivers still striving to improve their positions when the race finished, even though they were not winning. There is no starting money, though transport to America is paid for by the race organisers, and prize money goes down to 20th place, the maximum number of starters being 20. First prize is $20,000 (about £7,000) and last prize is $2,800 so that in effect a minimum of £1,000 is guaranteed to the worst starter, and the higher you finish the more money you win. This seems such a sound financial system that I am surprised that more race organisers do not follow it. In our system where a driver is paid “Starting money” someone who breaks down on the first lap may have already received £1,000 appearance money, or a driver who does a miserable race may get as much as a driver who drives a good race but does not get in the first three or four. First prize in our recent British G.P. was £1,000, the same as the last prize at the forthcoming United States G.P., but you must remember that Team Lotus probably got £1,200 for Clark appearing at Silverstone, of which Clark probably got half. At Watkins Glen if Clark finishes last Team Lotus will get a bare £1,000, which they have to share with Clark, but if he wins, Team Lotus will get £7,000 to share out. I have no doubt that a driver will have to spend a lot more money in New York than he would in Towcester or Brackley.
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Coming nearer home we have a final race in England for Formula One cars at Oulton Park on September 16th for the Gold Cup held over 45 laps of the pleasant parkland circuit, which will give enthusiasts in the north a chance to see some Grand Prix cars in action, and more important, to hear them rushing down through the trees towards Lodge Corner. Earlier in the day there is to be a demonstration drive by Stewart in a supercharged V16-cylinder 1½-litre B.R.M. from the old days of 1950/52, which should be well worth seeing and hearing. Stewart says “If it’s wet Raymond Mays can drive it.” If you are going to Oulton Park on September 10th be sure to be early or you’ll miss this fine sight. It all starts at 12 noon and goes on until about 5.30 p.m.
While writing about sport in the north, which I know should not come under Continental Notes, I most mention the Tholt-y-Will hillclimb in the Isle of Man. This event and the splendid racing attitude in the Isle of Man is as near to a Continental event as we in Great Britain are ever likely to get, with racing cars on a public road, a hill that is a real climb up a mountain, and a Government that believes in racing. When over there last year I was about to take a friend for a lap of the motorcycle T.T. circuit in a hired Mini when a policeman said “Are you going to show him the circuit?” and then added “He’ll enjoy it,” looked at his watch and said “Alright, off you go, I’ll be here when you get back.” However, I digress (a favourite pastime of mine) for the real reason of mentioning the Tholt-y-Will hill climb on September 24th is that the R.A.C. has now recognised the value of this 3.6-mile long climb and if all goes well in the National Open event on September 24th it should be included in the R.A.C. Championship in 1968. As it is the first time we have had a hill to compare with European hills the R.A.C. have agreed to-apply for it to be included in the 1969 European Mountain Championship, which will be a step forward for Great Britain, thanks to the efforts of the Lancashire Automobile Club and the Isle of Man Tourist Board, The Isle of Man is easily reached by boat or plane and you can spend ordinary pound notes there, no currency problems.—D.S.J.