Around and about: comment on the racing and club scene, September 1971

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Tobacco race in South Africa

South African motor racing centres around the annual Formula One Championship which comprises about eight keenly-contested races held mainly in South Africa itself but others in Rhodesia and Mozambique. In the last three or four years the whole thing has centred round two men—John Love from Bulawayo in Rhodesia and Dave Charlton who lives just a couple of miles from the Kyalami track outside Johannesburg.

John Love, who raced extensively in Britain in the early 1960s, has won the championship several years running, but in 1969 had to fight off a considerable challenge from Charlton who, like Love, had obtained a Lotus 49.

A big battle was undoubtedly on for 1970 and Love decided to replace his well-worn Lotus with a new March 701, while Charlton’s car was updated to Lotus 49C specification. For once everything went right for the bearded 34-year-old Yorkshire-born driver and he took the title from Love, who experienced quite a lot of trouble with the March, including wrecking it at Kyalami.

Love’s racing efforts have long been backed by the Gunston tobacco firm, who have claimed excellent promotional value from the exercise, while Charlton had a private sponsor by the name of Aldo Scribante. But for 1971 Charlton was able to obtain additional sponsorship from Gunston’s big rival, Lucky Strike. Charlton, of course, drove a works Brabham BT33 in their colours in the South African Grand Prix, but continued to race the Lotus in South African Championship races, and seemed to have the edge on Love.

In an attempt to remedy the situation Love replaced the March with one of the latest Surtees TS9s. Charlton beat the new car first time out but the heat was obviously on and Lucky Strike, well pleased with his efforts, gave him a cheque and told him to come to England and make sure he bought a car which would beat the Surtees. Charlton plumped for a Lotus 72D and along the line got the chance of driving a works Gold Leaf-Team Lotus Formula One car. Although he was entered in two races he sadly finished up with just one lap of the British GP to his credit due to unbelievable misfortune.

However, back in South Africa, the big confrontation between Love in the now well-sorted Surtees and Charlton in the ex-Wisell Lotus 72 was scheduled for the Rand Winter races at Kyalami in early August.

Charlton took pole position but Love was close behind and it was the Gunston man who smoked into the lead. However, Charlton soon passed him and started to pull away, but Love continued to try hard but with nine laps to go had the throttle of his Surtees stick open as he lifted off for Clubman’s Corner and this caused an incredible accident. The car finished up wedged in between the upper and lower Armco rails with poor Love trapped in the wrecked Surtees. Miraculously he was removed from the car uninjured, although whether the game 46-year-old will continue to chase Charlton in the future is difficult to tell.

Charlton won the race and broke Kyalami’s outright lap record, and he is now well on the way to his second South African Championship. Charlton would still very much like to race for a European Formula One team and it will be interesting to see if Lotus give him another chance.

***

• Formula Two has been the domain of Brabham, Lotus, March and Tecno during its last year of the 1,600-c.c. regulations and of these firms March Engineering have been particularly successful both from a results and production point of view, having built over 20 712Ms. Probably spurred on by this record both McLaren and Surtees have already announced their intention to build racers for the new 2-litre Formula which comes into effect on January 1st. McLaren, who built F2s in 1967 and 1968, re-enter the fray with a new car designed by Ralph Bellamy, the man who was responsible for the latest McLaren F1. Production cars will, of course, be built by Trojan, who have issued an official statement to the effect that they will also be building McLaren 3-litre sports cars.

Surtees, who have previously concentrated only on Formula 5000 and Formula One, also have a Formula Two car on the stocks, this being the work of Mike Pilbeam, a former Team Lotus and BRM designer. Meanwhile, March have every intention of holding their lead and already have next season’s 722 built and will be conducting a test programme in the near future.

• With 10 of the 16 rounds of the Monoposto Championship run Brian Toft was upholding front-engined honours for his fast driving of the Anco has put him at the top of the championship table. He has a total of 63 points, just eight more than Chris Featherstone with his 1966 Lola T60. Mike Irons is presently third with a Brabham BT15. The Anco has featured in Monoposto racing for some years now and Toft, along with the Cowburn brothers, have continued to develop their home-built device in the face of some sophisticated rear-engined machines. Incidentally, Mrs. Phyllis Hood has relinquished her post as Monoposto secretary and the task has now moved to Peter Knott, 60, Baird Avenue, Basingstoke, Hants.

• Further to our paragraph last month regarding the Formula Ford tyre situation, we gather that, after representation from the RAC and to comply with the spirit of the Formula Ford and Formula F100 regulations, Firestone has announced that until the end of the year the discount allowed to competition licence holders purchasing Torino Wide Oval tyres has been increased from 40% to 50%. This means that a set of tyres will cost about £25 and a modification to the mould should mean that the drivers will get better wear rate than in past months. Having criticised the properties of the tyres for road use we will be interested to learn the findings of a Standard House staff man who has just had a set of Torino Wide Ovals fitted to his BMW 1600.

• In October a new motoring programme for the family will commence on Independent Television entitled Drive-In. The once-a-week programme will include items on practical maintenance, the latest in new cars, the teenage motoring scene (whatever that may be?) and a small amount on the sporting side. Thames Television are producing the programme, although it is not yet certain whether it will be screened purely in their own region or networked. The programme will be introduced by Shaw Taylor who, according to a Thames Press release, has been “25 years an average driver”. Presume it will be an average sort of programme!

• We felt it was a very retrogressive step when the BRDC ran their annual Clubman’s Championship on the Silverstone Club rather than Grand Prix circuit last year. We always understood that the idea of this meeting was to give the regular Silverstone Club circuit racers an opportunity to drive on the full circuit which, if they raced something like a Formula 1200 or Clubman’s car, they would not normally have. Therefore it is good news to see that this meeting is back on the full three-mile track this year and that only drivers who have raced on the club circuit during the current season are eligible to race.

The main event will be the final of the Triplex Saloon-Car Championship with supporting races for Formula Ford, Formula Vee, Formula Four, Formule Libre, Clubman’s Formula, 750 and 1200 Formulae, GT and Modified Sports Cars. In fact, a packed programme. The date is October 9th.

• Following the success of the initial Senior Service-sponsored Hillrally in Wales news comes of an International event along similar lines again with backing from the cigarette manufacturer. This time there are changes, the most important being the expected participation of several French competitors and the fact that there will be two routes. Route A will be for 4-wheel-drive vehicles and those 2-wheel-drive vehicles with good ground clearance and Route B will be less severe but far rougher than a rally special stage, according to Clerk of the Course Tony Ambrose. There is a prize fund of £1,200 and good spectator viewing is promised. The event covers the weekend of September 25th and 26th and rally headquarters will be the Metropole Hotel, Llandrindrod Wells.

Le Mans in the lanes
The sound of open racing exhausts disturbed the peace of the Derbyshire countryside a few Sundays ago when the Assistant Editor was allowed to try his hand at the wheel of two classic sports cars which have distinguished themselves at Le Mans. The two cars came from different, eras, a 1955 Jaguar “D”-type and a Ford GT40, but both proved equally exciting to drive.

Both cars have been completely stripped and rebuilt during the past year by William Green Garages of London Road, Derby, this firm specialising in the restoration and sale of high-performance equipment. William Green himself was really born too late, for he is rather in the mould of the latter day drivers like Mike Hawthorn and decries the whims of the dedicated young professionals. Nevertheless he has scored a fair degree of success in sports and saloon car racing both at International and club level and now races various cars belonging to the Anthony Bamford collection, including the Jaguar “D”, a Dino Ferrari, while a Maserati Tipo 61 will soon join the list when a rebuild on the car is complete.

Green offered to let me drive the cars in one of those pub conversations that is usually forgotten. But the following day the phone rang and he said: “Meet me at the garage in half an hour.” The “D” type and the Ford GT40 were both in immaculate condition and were just waiting to be driven.

However, his garage had plenty else of interest to offer for the birdcage Maserati made a most interesting study stripped down to its incredibly intricate chassis. My eyes were also caught by a line of rather dusty engines propped up against the wall. Apparently Anthony Bamford had bought a “job lot” of engines from Maranello and there, before our eyes, were several V6 Dino engines of varying capacities, a Formula One V12 engine probably used as late as 1969 and three V8s which Green said came out of the Lancia-Ferraris raced in 1956.

I drove the Ford first, although I was certainly not the first journalist to do so, for this particular car was built as a road-going example and was on the Ford press and demonstration fleet for some time. After Green bought it the car was completely stripped and rebuilt and the standard engine replaced by a full-race example complete with steel crank, special rods, modified heads and all the goodies. This engine gives something like 360 b.h.p., which is pretty exciting even when driving through the 11-in. diameter rear wheel (9 in. fronts are fitted), with Dunlop racing tyres.

D.S.J. has already described in detail his experience in a GT40 so there is little that I can add apart from saying how impressed I was with the general comfort and ride. Naturally, with the full-house engine, the cars tend to be very noisy and there is an enormous surge of smooth power as the engine comes on the cam. To keep the revs above 3,000 r.p.m. it is necessary to play tunes on the five-speed ZF box but this only adds to the general fun. With the present engine and final drive Green estimates the top speed at around 180 m.p.h. Recently he used the car to go down to Monaco and this was the one that D.S.J. and Jacky Ickx spotted in the Casino Square as related in Continental Notes recently.

With myself in the Ford and Green in the “D”-type we must have made an impressive sight as we drove up the A6 and then into the minor roads of Derbyshire. At one stage one of the local Formula Ford drivers in an Elan SE joined in the convoy and was cornering on the door handles to keep up as we set, what appeared to us to be, a fairly leisurely pace, although Green put on some displays of opposite-lock motoring every so often.

Then it was my turn to try the “D”-type (2 CPG), which is one of the most famous Jaguars of all. This is the car which Hawthorn and Bueb drove to victory in the tragic 1955 Le Mans race. After that it was retained by the works mainly as a development car and was fitted with various rear-suspension lay-outs, including a De Dion rear-end. As late as 1958 the works still retained the car and in that year it did a big mileage at MIRA testing tyres at an average speed of over 130 m.p.h. Later Duncan Hamilton purchased the car and it passed through various hands until Anthony Bamford bought it last year and had it stripped to the last nut and bolt by Green’s talented staff.

I had only been driving the car for a couple of minutes along some narrow lanes that were completely new to me when a light rain started to fall, which soon turned into a heavy shower. Not the ideal conditions to explore the handling of this 290-b.h.p. machine which was on 5-in. rims fitted with old Dunlop green spot tyres. After frightening myself a couple of times by daring to prod the accelerator when the car was not pointing absolutely straight, I decided that discretion was most certainly the better part of valour.

However, I was amazed at the tremendous torque of the engine, which pulled from 1,500 r.p.m., unlike the GT40, while the gearbox was also a delight to use. It was a fantastic experience to sit in that cockpit on that hard leather seat with the tail fin behind my head and imagine I was Mike Hawthorn. The roar from the open exhaust was almost deafening, yet a beautiful sound, and all too soon the run was over with the rain now pelting down.

It was a Sunday afternoon I shall long remember and one that I am sure thousands of Motor Sport readers would love to have shared. My thanks to William Green and Anthony Bamford for the loan of the cars.

***
• In almost every sport opportunities exist to represent one’s own country but by its very nature motor racing does not lend itself to team effort, and thus such opportunities are few and far between, although Jackie Stewart’s performances are obviously good for Scotland (or is it Switzerland?). However, an exception is the annual Europe Nations Cop for Formula Three which will, for the second year running, be held at Thruxton and organised by the efficient BARC. The race is made up of teams representing various European countries, each fielding three cars and the cumulative results of the best two drivers’ results produce a victorious country.

Since the competition was inaugurated in 1967 it has always been a great honour amongst Formula Three drivers to represent their country. The nations where F3 is popular usually field two teams (Britain, France, Sweden), while Switzerland, Germany and Austria can also expect to be represented. Britain has never won, for the Swiss were victorious in 1967 and 1968 and the Swedes won in 1969 and 1970. The race is on September 19th and there is an excellent supporting programme of Group 5/6 Sports-car racing, a saloon event and an additional F3 race for the British drivers who do not make the team.

• The councils of two of the longest established motor clubs, The London Motor Club and the North London Enthusiasts’ Car Club, with the consent of their members, have decided to merge. The new club will be known as the London Car Club Ltd. and Graham Hill has agreed to act as President. The Secretary of the amalgamation is George Stones of 66, Pattison Road, London, NW2 2HJ.

• A popular poser that we are often asked to solve comes from racing competitors whose regular tow car has broken down and who need something to get them to the circuit at the weekend. Now a firm called Hawker Engineering are offering the hire of a long-wheel-base Ford Transit and are willing to transport racing cars to both British and Continental circuits. This supplements their Continental car recovery service which has been in operation some time. Details from Hawker at 335, Kilburn Lane, London, W9. Tel.: 01-969 5917.

• The GKN group announced last month that Graham Hill has joined the company in a consultative capacity, although, of course, he will continue to lead the Brabham Formula One and Rondel Formula Two teams. He will be involved with GKN’s automobile sub-groups, including the Castings and Forgings sub-division, the Birfield transmission division and Vandervell Products.—A.R.M.