Our best race
Brands Hatch, England, July 30th.
It is remarkable, hut true, that we have not had a serious motor race, other than Grand Prix events, in Great Britain since 1959; this was brought home forcibly when practice began at Brands Hatch for the B.O.A.C. 500. The assembly of cars was such that British spectators must have wondered if they were not at Nürburgring, Spa or Le Mans. It seemed impossible that it was in Great Britain, and furthermore it was the final, and critical, round in the Prototype and Sports Car Manufacturers’ Championship. The last time that we had a race of sufficient importance to be considered worthy of inclusion in the Sports Car Championship was the T.T. in 1959, after which the R.A.C. let it die and our country became a great sea of club racing of no International importance.
That vigorous and enterprising club, the B.R.S.C.C,, with the backing of Sir Giles Guthrie and the British Overseas Airways Corporation, put us back on the International calendar and were rewarded by a really fine race. The only pity was that it had to be held at Brands Hatch, a circuit that was not really large enough for a race of this calibre and one to which the public seem reluctant to go in vast numbers. In spite of this the race was a huge success and if Nick Syrett and B.O.A.C. have their way it will become an annual classic event. The inadequacy of the Brands Hatch circuit to cope with a race of this magnitude brought home the fact that Great Britain has a surfeit of good club circuits, on which our organisers have concentrated, at the expense of a first-class National circuit to equal Monza, Spa, Le Mans or Nürburgring.
However, all the foregoing did not stop the B.O.A.C. 500 race from being a success and when practice began the pits were jam-packed full of exciting machinery. There was a Chaparral 2F (Spence/Hill), three-open P4 Ferraris (Stewart/Amon), (Scarfiotti/Sutcliffe), (Hawkins/ Williams), the Maranello Concessionaire’s Coupe P3/4 Ferrari (Attwood/Piper), three Private LM Ferraris (Pierpoint/Dibley), (Prophet/ de Klerk), (Edmonds/Fitzpatrick), five works Porsches comprising two 910 models with flat 8-cylinder 2.2-litre engines (Rindt/G. Hill), (Siffert/McLaren), a Le Mans long-tailed 907 with similar engine and r.h. steering (Herrmann/Neerpasch), and two 910 models with 2-litre flat 6-cylinder engines (Elford/Bianchi), (Schutz/Koch), all these being on fuel-injection. There were three private Group 4 sports Porsche 906 models (Spoerry/Steinemann,) in de ‘Udy’s car, (Bradley/M. Costin), in Dean’s car, (Dean/Pon,) the works Lola-Chevrolet V8 now painted red with a white arrow (Surtees/Hobbs), the white Sid Taylor Lola-Chevrolet V8 (Hulme/Brabham), the green de ‘Udy Lola-Chevrolet V8 (de ‘Udy/Westbury), a 5.7-litre Ford “Mirage” (Thompson/Rodriguez), five private Ford GT40 cars (Lucas/Pike), (Sutton/Bond), (Liddell/Gethin), (Crabbe/Charlton), (Drury/Holland), three Chevron GT coupes, two with 2-litre B.M.W. engines (Cardwell/Bennett), (Martland/Muir), and one with 2-litre B.R.M. V8 engine (Redman/C. Williams), three Lotus 47s all with twin-cans Lotus-Ford engines, the Lotus Components one with Tecalemit-Jackson fuel injection (Miles/Oliver), the Team Elite one (Preston/Taylor) and the Chris Barber one (Hine/Greene). There were two Lotus Elans (Jackson/Crabtree), (Burnand/Taggart), a lone 2-litre Abarth OT (Mould/Ashmore), an M.G.-B (Enever/Poole) and an Austin Healey 3000 (Worswick/Clarke). There should have been three Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 cars, but they withdrew at the last moment.
A lot of people were hard-pressed to remember the last time we had such a fine collection of long-distance racing machinery gathered together in this country, and it was felt that before the race started the B.R.S.C.C. should have held its Racing Car Show in the paddock!
Practice soon showed the inadequacy of the pits for the space that was available was totally insufficient. A Mini at a Brands Hatch pit is one thing but a P4 Ferrari is something else, and there were times when a queue was forming, waiting to get into the pits, and, even worse, another one waiting to get out. Nobody seemed to mind too much and the two practice sessions went off happily, with a friendly atmosphere all round. Practice was on Thursday and Friday afternoons, Saturday being clear for preparation for the six-hour event on Sunday. Full credit to the B.R.S.C.C. for not running a mass of supporting events, so that the B.O.A.C. 500 was received in its proper perspective, as an important occasion. There were the usual things going on during practice, Graham Hill was trying to persuade Porsche to re-design their cars, Stewart was doing the same with the P4 Ferraris, David Piper’s LM Ferrari had an electrical short circuit when Dibley was driving it and it caught fire, but was soon put out, Prophet crashed his Ferrari LM and Crabbe crashed his GT40; the B.R.M. engine in the pretty little Chevron GT kept running on seven cylinders, the Chaparral was proving more suited to the circuit than was expected, and Hulme was in his usual fine form with the Lola-Chevrolet V8, but Surtees managed to equal his time. Brabham looked most unfamiliar shut up in a coupe; Porsche had a Spare 6-cylinder car for training which everyone seemed to be driving, including the Japanese lad who recently won some Brands Hatch races. Mike Costin was having a holiday from helping Duckworth build proper engines for Ford and was driving a private Porsche 906, Dave Charlton from S. Africa was having his first taste of English-type racing, with Crabbe’s GT40, the Chevrons were going well enough in the 2-litre category for von Hanstein to take a closer look at them, and the timekeepers and their assistants seemed to lose all track of which driver drove what car, so that Stewart got good times for everyone and the Hawkins/Jonathan Williams’ car was on the second row of the grid even though the two drivers really went no faster than those on the filth row.
The 36 cars on the start line made an impressive sight and an even more impressive sound as they got away at 12 noon to start the six-hour race, under a grey sky. Hulme was a hit slow off the mark, Surtees shot off into the lead and Hawkins nipped in behind him, followed by Scarfiotti, Spence and HuIme. On only the second lap Surtees went into the pits with the red Lola-Chevrolet, and the words “why doesn’t he go back to Ferrari” came to mind! The push-on connection to the ignition coil was wrongly fitted, causing an intermittent short-circuit, and took some while to find, which put the car right out of the running. This left Hawkins in the lead in the third of the works Ferraris, with a struggling pack of cars behind him, led by Spence (Chaparral) and HuIme (Lola), who were pressing to get by, but the Australian wasn’t going to move over for them. Before we could see how Redman was going to shape up with the Chevron-B.R.M. the crown-wheel and pinion broke. For nearly 15 minutes Hawkins held the lead, but first Hulme got by, then Spence and then Scarfiotti. The tail-enders had not yet been caught so Hulme had a clear run and made the most of it, and even the most disinterested spectator must have been impressed as the first thirteen or fourteen cars thundered or screamed by. Lola-Chevrolet, Chaparral, Ferrari, Ferrari. Ferrari, Porsche 8-cylinder, Porsche 8-cylinder, Mirage, Ferrari, Porsche 6-cylinder, Porsche 6-cylinder, Porsche 8-cylinder, Lola-Chevrolet, Ford GT40, Porsche 906, Chevron GT and so on. It was a fine sight, and it was going to continue throughout the afternoon, or we hoped it would.
During the second quarter of an hour the leaders started lapping the slower cars, and though this broke up the battling among the leaders it started the sort of skilled overtaking manoeuvres that Brands Hatch has never seen before. The skill of the fast drivers going in and out of the traffic was a joy to watch, although at times it made me shut my eyes and think “he’ll never make it.” The whole circuit seemed to be a sea of waving blue flags and made it very obvious that Brands Hatch is too small and wiggly for this sort of racing; there just is not enough distance between the Corners. Graham Hill was leading the Porsches, but Siffert was driving very well and right behind Hill, while Hawkins had been elbowed down to his rightful place, which was third in the row of Ferraris. Lucas crashed his GT40 at Paddock Bend, so there was no chance of seeing how Roy Pike would have gone in it, and Hine stopped at the pits with the green Lotus 47. The official words said, “Battery reported to have fallen off.” They were not far out for instead of being in the right rear corner of the tail, it was in the left rear corner!
With only half an hour gone this great pack of exciting machinery was now in a glorious muddle, overtaking on both sides, going into corners three and even four abreast, missing each other by inches, using all the track and a lot of the grass, keeping the flag marshals working overtime, and with the leader lapping at around 1 min. 38 sec. it must have been a time-keeper’s nightmare; but it was well worth Seeing, The poor little M.G.-B got elbowed completely off the course at South Bank Bend, there were so many Cars going into the corner that it had no option but to get away from it all. Only 41 minutes flagged as some dim-wit thought oil was pouring out, when it was obviously water from the overflow! This caused a slight diversion after the start the leading Lola broke a rocker arm on the left bank of its Chevrolet V8 engine and Hulme stopped at the pits and mechanics fitted a new rocker. Hardly had this happened than Hill had his 8-cylinder Porsche jump out of 3rd gear and the engine over-revved and broke a valve, which could not be replaced. As the end of the first hour approached Scarfiotti had a big spin on the Bottom Straight but kept going, and pit-stops for fuel and changes of driver began, with Attwood being the first in with the P3/4 Ferrari, to hand over to Piper. At the one-hour mark the order was Chaparral (Spence), Ferrari P4 (Stewart), Ferrari P4 (Scarfiotti), Porsche 8-cylinder (Siffert), Mirage (Rodriguez), Ferrari P4 (Hawkins), Porsche 6-cylinder (Schutz), Porsche 6-cylinder (Elford), Porsche 8-cylinder (Herrmann), Lola-Chevrolet (Westbury) and a Porsche 906 (Dean) leading the Group 4 cars. Hulme was back in the race with a new rocker fitted to his Chevrolet engine, but the Abarth was out with a broken universal joint on the nearside drive-shaft. Pit stops for fuel and driver changes now took place with rapidity, though some took a bit longer. The works Chevron GT of Cardwell/Bennett was delayed as the crankcase breather pipe had come off, smothering everything in Oil. Some pits stops were a bit chaotic for until the car stopped, and the tyre experts measured the tread wear, the mechanics did not know whether they were going to have to change tyres or not. One Ferrari was jacked up at both ends, all the hub nuts loosened, and then the front tyres were not changed after all. Confusion which caused official reports to vary from “routine inspection” to “changed all four wheels,” this applying to the Amon/Stewart car when it came in. There being no provision at Brands Hatch for long-distance racing and pit stops, the cars were being refuelled from open churns with big funnels in the filler necks, just like the T.T. or Le Mans of 1928!
By 1.30 p.m. the order was Chaparral, “Mirage,” Porsche (Siffert), for none of them had yet been in for fuel, but at this very point the Chaparral stopped for fuel and Phil Hill took over, this stop letting the “Mirage” briefly hold the lead. While these routine stops were taking place Hulme returned with the white Lola and it was out of the race, with a clutch defect. When the last of the 6-cylinder works Porsches came in, the 9t0 driven by Schutz, it was Rindt who took over in place of Gerhard Koch. Eventually the “Mirage” made its first stop, for fuel and a change of all four wheels, and for Thompson to take over, and this let the Porsche 8-cylinder (Silica) take the lead for a brief moment. One of the few bright things in the pit stops was seen at the “Mirage” stop, for instead of pouring oil in from a can, the engine was fitted with a pipe sticking out of the tail to which a flexible oil pipe was attached by a snap-connector, and oil was pumped into the sump under high pressure from a container in the pits. Other than this, pit work on the whole was a bit “vintage.” At two hours Porsche (Silica) led from Chaparral (Hill), Ferrari (Amon), Ferrari (Sutcliffe), all on the same lap, while the red Lola-Chevrolet (Suttees/ Hobbs) was up to loth place after its delay at the start of the race, and the red Ford GT40 (Liddell/Gethin) was leading the Group 4 sports cars, just as this was sorted out the Chaparral punctured one of its Firestones and the pit stop allowed the first of the Ferraris to take second place, but almost at the same time the leading Porsche (Silica) stopped for fuel and for McLaren to take over, so the Ferrari (Amon) was leading through no fault of its own! The Chaparral was now second, the Porsche third, and another Ferrari (Sutcliffe) was fourth. Routine pit stops and driver changes were clearly going to play an important part in the overall picture and these caused the lead to change continuously, especially as a lot of them took place close on each hour, thus affecting the official results at each hour. Shortly before 2.30 p.m. Amon brought the leading Ferrari in for fuel and Stewart took over, and this stop dropped them behind the Chaparral (Hill) but not behind the Porsche 8-cylinder (McLaren), though they were all on the same lap.
Surprisingly few cars had fallen by the wayside, though Rindt spent a long time at the pits having the ignition distributor changed on the fuel-injection works Porsche 6-cylinder he was sharing with Schutz, and the Surtees Lola-Chevrolet was losing water internally and overheating. Thompson spun off at Clearways in the Gulf-sponsored Ford “Mirage” and hit the bank between two Gulf advertising banners, and Sutcliffe bounced off an LM Ferrari in the backwoods, but continued. As 3 p.m. and half-way approached the Chaparral was still leading but it then had a routine stop for fuel and for Spence to take over so that as the third hour was completed it was actually in the pits and it was the number one Ferrari (Stewart) which led, followed by the 8-cylinder Porsche (McLaren), with the Chaparral third, officially one lap behind. Hobbs took over the Surtees Lola-Chevrolet after more water had been added, and was then black in the Surtees pit and some heated words, which all added to the general pandemonium in the pit road. As the Scarfiatti/Sutcliffe Ferrari had been dropping back the Hawkins/Williams Ferrari was fourth, followed by the 907 Porsche (Herrmann/Neerpasch), which was being driven steadily and regularly. The Group 4 sports cars were being led by the Dean/Pon Porsche 996, the plump Dutchman scratching round the Brands Hatch circuit with the best.
For about 30 minutes a comparative serenity pervaded the scene, apart from the Austin Healey having a spectacular spin and the de ‘Udy/Westbury Lola-Chevrolet dying at the bottom of Paddock Bend with a flat battery. The Chaparral (Spence) caught and passed the second place Porsche (McLaren) but was not gaining much on the leading Ferrari, but more pit stops were due. As the end of the fourth hour approached Hawkins spun his P4 Ferrari at Clearways Bend and crumpled the tail so that all the fasteners were inoperative; he stopped at the pits to have it wired down and there was a real panic in the pits for the leading Ferrari was due in for fuel, oil and a change of all flair wheels, and for Amon to take over. In the midst of fuel churns, tyres, jacks, mechanics, too many photographers, engineer Forghieri, marshals, firemen, public address commentators and so on, the Hawkins/Williams car roared back into the race with its battered tail wired down firmly, and two minutes later Amon was out, but the Chaparral had gone by into the load and the McLaren/Siffert Porsche was past into second place. As with the Chaparral at 3 p.m., the Ferrari was officially one lap down at 4 p.m., being in the pits, but there was not a whole lap between the three cars when the Ferrari rejoined the race. The Suttees/Hobbs Lola-Chevrolet was really boiling well now and the Elford/Bianchi works Porsche 6-cylinder broke its valve gear after climbing up to fourth place. At 4.10 p.m. McLaren stopped for fuel in the Second place Porsche and to have some brake pads changed, and this let the Anton/Stewart Ferrari back into second place, and it was just over a lap down on the Chaparral hut was tapping at about the same speed. The white Chevron GT of Martland/Muir was losing brake fluid, and had to change the nearside front tyre, indicative of lots of understeer, and this was done quickly and neatly in spite of being a bolt-on type wheel. The Crabbe/Charlton Ford GT40 was in the pits for a long while having its offside steering arm repaired, and at 4.45 p.m. Spence brought the Chaparral in for its last routine stop tor fuel and a change of tear tyres, and Phil Hill went off, still in the lead, but the Ferrari was now on the same lap and only seconds behind.
With one hour to do the Chaparral (Hill) led by 18 seconds from the Ferrari (Anton), which was in turn a lap and a half in front of the first Porsche (Siffert), but the Ferrari had one more fuel stop to make. This was good for the Chaparral, and anyway Phil Hill was comfortably increasing his lead over Anion, but it meant that the Porsche (Siffert) could still regain second place if the Ferrari pit stop was bungled. More important was the fact that the outcome of second place was going to determine the result of this season’s long-distance racing Manufacturers’ Championship for Ferrari and Porsche were a single point .apart. The Herrmann/Neerpasch Porsche was lying fourth, the Scarfiotti/Sutcliffe Ferrari fifth and the battered Hawkins/Williams Ferrari sixth. The Suttees/Hobbs Lola began to blow out clouds of smoke and finally retired, the de ‘Udy/Westbury Lola had been got going again with another battery but now succumbed to a broken crown-wheel and pinion, the Cardwell/Bennett Chevron CT crashed, as did the Edmonds/Fitzpatrick Ferrari LM, and the Martland/Muir Chevron GT was cruising round without brakes.
With only ten minutes left to run, the second place Ferrari screamed into the pits for a quick refill and for Stewart to take it through to the finish. This time the Ferrari team were really ready and it was as smooth and slick a pit-stop as anyone could wish for. Stewart was away and barely a minute had been lost, so second place and the Championship was safe, but equally it meant that the chaparral was now firmly heading for a well-deserved victory.
After six hours of fast and furious racing the first two cars finished on the same lap, having covered 211 laps of the twisty little circuit. It had been as fine A long-distance race as we have seen this season and certainly the best in England for many a year. The Chaparral victory was loudly applauded and it was a pity that Jim Hall was not there to see it, but his partner Hap Sharp was in charge and the handful of mechanics who have been working on the cars in Europe all this season were more than satisfied. It was also a joy to Phil Hill and Mike Spence, for they have been so close to victory all season, since they first teamed up at Daytona last February. Every credit must go to Nick Syrett and the B.R.S.C.C. for putting this country back on the International map with a proper long-distance race, and our thanks to Sir Giles Guthrie and B.O.A.C. for backing this event which we hope will keep us in the International Championship in future years. D.S.J.
The B.O.A.C. 500 – Group 6 Prototypes and Group 4 Sports Cars – Six hours’ duration – Brands Hatch full circuit – Overcast
1st: M. Spence/P. Hill (Chaparral 2F-Chevrolet V8 – 7 litre) 211 laps – 6 hr. 00 min. 26.0 sec. – 149.798 k.p.h. (93.08 m.p.h.)
2nd: J. Stewart/C. Amon (Ferrari 330P/4 V12 – 4 litre) 211 laps – 6 hr. 01 min. 24.6 sec.
3rd: J. Siffert/B. McLaren (Porsche 910 8-cyl – 2.2 litre) 209 laps
Now that we have a race accepted in the International long-distance Championship all we need is a British team capable of winning – how about it, Jaguar?
* * *
Everyone was agreed that it had been a terrific race. The R.A.C. were seen to be smiling like Cheshire cats, as if it had been the late-lamented R.A.C. Tourist Trophy race.
* * *
That there was not much room on the little Brands Hatch circuit for 36 cars was seen by the interchange of paintwork among a lot of the cars. One Ferrari seemed to have three different colour schemes.
* * *
Anyone who was going to go to Brands Hatch and changed their minds at the last moment must regret it for ever.
* * *
A lot of seemingly tough drivers were looking very second-hand after doing a 1½-2-hour stint at the wheels of the faster cars. There was no time to relax anywhere round the circuit, especially on the short straights with three and four abreast.
* * *
The pits were marvellous. Just like the Taiga Florio except that all the bad language and hot-tempered skirmishes were in English!
* * *
And no “supporting” races. A proper race does not need support.