Continental Notes, September 1972
My practical knowledge of motor racing only goes back to 1932, but even so, the name of Enzo Ferrari and his Scuderia Ferrari was well in the news then, and still is today. To many people Ferrari is motor racing, whether it is Ferrari the man or the Ferrari cars. In my early days the Scuderia Ferrari was synonymous with Alfa Romeo, and the name Alfa Romeo meant motor racing, and every now and then there would be a mild panic in racing circles and somehow Ferrari would be involved. In 1932 Enzo Ferrari was running a team of those beautiful monoposto Alfa Romeos, each with a Ferrari emblem on the bonnet, and in those days, before the plastic sticker craze, a Ferrari emblem on the bonnet meant it was a factory car, you could not buy your Ferrari sticker at the local speed shop. Suddenly there was a great outcry when Alfa Romeo withdrew the monopostors, leaving Enzo Ferrari and his drivers with nothing to race, and I recall that my future was going to be rather dull without any more photographs in the magazines of my favourite racing car, because in those days I was living by photographs and reports in Motor Sport, and the weekly issues of The Motor and The Autocar. However, Alfa Romeo relented and the lovely monopostos re-appeared under the banner of the Scuderia Ferrari. Ever since then there have been minor outcries from Italy and inevitably Enzo Ferrari has been at the centre of them, but, through them all the Ferrari team has gone on racing, winning and losing.
Now there is another outcry from Italy. Having swept the board in prototype sports car racing, winning ten races out of ten, and then getting first and second places in the German Grand Prix, Enzo Ferrari made a great pronouncement, in Italian, that was interpreted into various European languages, including English, to say that the whole business of motor racing was getting too costly and he would have to withdraw his team from racing in 1973. People who are not used to this sort of thing threw their hands up in horror and cried aloud, but many more said “What ? Again Ferrari withdraws!” Of course, one day old uncle Enzo will give up racing and no one will believe him, because he has “cried wolf” too many times, but at present the recent announcement has already been watered down to suggest that his racing engineers have new models well under way for 1973, but the team’s activities will not be on such a large scale as this year. When Ferrari withdrew his entries for the Le Mans 24 Hour race this year, nobody really took it seriously, assuming that the wily old Italian was manoeuvring for something, and it was not until Le Mans was all over and finished with that people began to realise that there were no works Ferraris at Le Mans. It is just possible that at the end of the 1973 season we shall look back and think “By golly, there were no works Ferraris running this season”. Possible, but not very probable, though if we hear an announcement from Lotus that they have signed Ickx for their 1973 team, we shall have to think again. At the moment he says he has signed a 1973 contract with Ferrari.
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Without Italy being involved in racing the scene would be very dull and if the buzzing is not emanating from Modena then it comes from Monza. This year the Italian Grand Prix is being deliberately slowed down and though everyone seems to have accepted the idea and the method, no-one seems to remember why it has come about or who started the idea. The lap record last year was 247 k.p.h. (153.5 m.p.h.) and somewhere along the line there has been the thinking that it is all a bit too fast and some more corners in the circuit would make the Italian Grand Prix more of a road-race. The idea of some extra corners in the circuit has been going on for quite a time, and last year there was a comic dead-lock when Ferrari could see that his 3-litre prototype Sports car was not going to keep up with the 5-litre 917 Porsches, and said he would not let his team race unless chicanes were introduced, and the Porsche people said they would not race if artificial chicanes were built, as they were only interested in flat-out power performance. As the Monza authorities were then not ready to do any construction work anyway, the whole affair fizzled out. Now, at last, the work has been done and there is an artificial chicane just after the start, before the track enters the narrow part of the road circuit, leading to the Curva Grande, and another one, of a more permanent nature, at the entry to the Ascari Curve before the back straight. The first one is made with guard rails fixed to the existing track, while the second one comprises a new piece of roadway that turns left off the track, into the woods and then out again, on to the existing track and down the back straight. These modifications will probably add ten seconds to the lap time, and knock the average speed down to about 130 m.p.h., but Monza will still be Monza. It will not be the first time some extra corners have been added to the track, as this was done in 1936 and 1937 when the Alfa Romeos could no longer keep up with the Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Unions, and they were Enzo Ferrari’s Alfa Romeos in those days. Then the idea was to give the Italian cars a chance of keeping up with their faster rivals. The idea (or one of them) today seems to be directed towards preventing the cars keeping pace with each other. With such equal performances between cars and drivers today the whole field tends to circulate round Monza in a close bunch, and it is hoped that the extra corners will allow the drivers with greater ability to break away from the main group. Whether it works or not we shall see on September 10th.
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Rules and Regs.
One of the latest bits of news from the rule-makers is that from January 1st, 1973, i.e. the beginning of next season, the minimum weight of a Formula One car is to be raised from 550 kilogrammes to 575 kilogrammes. The technical hope is that constructors will use these extra kilogrammes to make some of the suspension parts stronger or the castings thicker, but I can’t see that really happening. Other new rules limit the total fuel load to 250 litres, and no individual fuel tank, or fuel cell will be allowed to hold more than 80 litres. It is interesting that after some disasterous fires that occurred a year or two ago, there was a feeling that something should be done by the C.S.I. to try and prevent fires, or at least control them if they started, which was a reasonable thought, looking at the fire-fighting equipment that was available and suitable for track-side use, the C.S.I. were told by fire specialists that the maximum blaze that the equipment could control was in the order of 300 litres of petrol. As it was easy to visualise two Grand Prix cars in the same accident at the start of a race, this automatically limited cars to 150 litres each, but this immediately indicated the need for refuelling during a Grand Prix of normal duration. There was no support for either idea from anyone, so the whole subject was dropped and the present rules made up instead. Quite justifiably the drivers do not want to be burnt to death and preventative methods are being looked at, but the problem is not a simple one. It is interesting that the constructors in general do not want shorter races, and many of them would welcome longer Grand Prix races.
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The first of the Ford sponsored V-12 cylinder engines has been on test recently, in one of the Gulf-Mirage cars, and it looks to be quite an interesting new power unit. A lot of people will remember the V-12 Weslake engine that Dan Gurney used in his Anglo-American Eagle Grand Prix cars, so it is no surprise that Weslake has produced a V-12 for Ford. In the number and disposition of the cylinders, the number of valves and the number of camshafts it follows Eagle knowledge, but those apart it is a new design. It has a bore and stroke of 75 x 56.46 mm giving 2,993 c.c. develops 455 b.h.p. at 10,500 r.p.m. on the Weslake test-beds, breathing through 4 valves per cylinder from Lucas fuel-injection. In the Ford news that came with the first photographs of a mock-up engine, it is stated that “the design allows for alternative bore and stroke dimensions and if necessary an increase in capacity to suit other Formulae”. Now that is a most interesting statement that has me completely baffled. — D. S. J.