Rumblings, September 1977

Racing with silencers

The era of silenced racing cars returneth! As mentioned in the July issue (and see Letters from Readers last month and in this issue), an RAC— backed Working Group has been studying the possibilities of using silencers again. The result is that the RAC Race Committee has decided such restrictions should be enforced for certain classes of car next year. A further group of cars will be added one year later.

Before looking at the less obvious ramifications of quieter racing cars, let us just briefly list the cars affected from January 1st, 1978. They are: Minis of all capacities in the Leyland Challenge; Escorts competing in their marque series and Renaults in the championship for modified 5s. Formula Vee, production sports and saloon cars, all are included as well.

In other words the production based one-marque championships and the badly supported F/Vee single seater formula suffer, along with any racing labelled production. No decibel levels have been decided as yet, but the Working Group is, “also formulating a technical specification for silencers. Leading UK manufacturers are co-operating in the study”, an RAC statement declares. Decibel levels are likely to be announced in September, and are not expected to be harshly restrictive.

At present the recommended formulae to be added to the above group from January 1st, 1979 are: both 2-and 1.6-litre Formula Ford; Sports 2000; Special Saloons, plus F/Super Vee and Thoroughbred Sports.

Obviously the second group is a lot more controversial than “the tip of the wedge” selection! Little would seem to he lost amongst the production car ranks by the absence of noise, for they rely for spectacle mainly on close or stock car racing displays. The handling of such cars, on road tyres for the most part, is also loose enough for plenty of sliding and caterwauling rubber to mask any loss of exhaust noise.

So, for the first year at least, the matter is more one of principle. Is the strangulation of the quietest cars in a day’s club racing ping to benefit British Club Racing? Is it going to overcome local resident noise objections? Perhaps bring us more regular use of Thruxton and Castle Combe? The answers seem to be the dispiriting Public Relations reasoning that feels, “It’s important to make a gesture”, begging favour with the general public.

It is difficult to see the regulations making any difference to the public initially. When, in 1979, the bulk of a British Club Race meeting could comprise of Silenced cars, then local residents could benefit.

Then, one wonders, will anyone want to see such emasculated traffic in action? In the latter group, Special Saloons and Thoroughbred Sports machines would all seem most vulnerable to the loss of character that silencers must bring. Later on, will the international cars have to comply with silencing regulations? Or will the rich/professionals have a different set of rules to conform to, leaving Mr. J. Soap with the overwhelming thrill of driving his sanitised Mini?

Apparently the RAC Motorsport Division have made these moves in the hope of heading off environmentalist pressure ,groups at work on local district councils. Particularly under attack from such sources are Brands Hatch, Knockhill (a shaky future anyway?), Thruxton and Castle Cumbe.

Goodyear’s Century

Niki Lauda’s win at Hockenheim in the German Grand Prix gave Goodyear their tooth World Championship Grand Prix victory, a slightly slower century than that set by the Ford DFV engine earlier this season.

In fact the Goodyear tyre record started rolling in the days of the 1 1/2-litre formula, when Richie Ginther gave the one-year-old Goodyear Racing Division its first taste of Grand Prix glory, on his V12 Honda in the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix.

Ginther flew front his home in Southern California to present the Hockenheim victor with a specially made racing tyre marked with the 100 successes.

USA spectator population surge

The Americans are expecting new records in spectator attendance at motor races this year. Goodyear have been monitoring the figures at major races and predict that over 6.6 million people will watch at the major meetings this year: a conservative figure for the sport as a whole, because of the absence of crowd figures from the 800 local short tracks scattered across the country.

Goodyear say that the average American “major event” will draw over 44,000 onlookers, a pretty staggering figure by British standards, and one arrived at in the course of checking 49 such meetings in the first six months of this year.

Branches of the sport to shim the most benefit have been the NASCAR saloons and USAC single seaters, both racing based around the speed bowl concept. Next in increased popularity are the IMSA saloons, a category currently being contested with recent success by Britain’s David Hobbs in the McLaren Racing BMW 320-turbo.


Acceleration is one of the most satisfying sensations evolved by the human being, and it is the one thing thin can never be controlled by law. Acceleration records are always of interest, for they are the ultimate in the effects of G-forces. Recently new top-levels were recorded on two and four wheels. At Elvington Airfield in Yorkshire. Dutchman Henk Vink on a drag-racing motorcycle powered by a supercharged, nitro-burning, 4-cylinder, Kawasaki 1,077 c.c. engine; recorded a mean time of 8.805 seconds for a two-way run over the standing-start 1/4-mile. With a similarly tuned, but smaller engine of 984 c.c. he took the World standing-start kilometre record with a time of 16.68 seconds; his terminal speed at the end of the kilometre was around the 200 m.p.h. mark!

In America Kitty O’Neal, a 29-year-old, half-Cherokee Indian, half-Irish, girl drove a rocket-powered car to new USAC records at El Mirage in California. She covered a standing-start 1/4-mile in 5.029 seconds and the 500-metres (or 1/2-kilometre.) in 5.384 seconds. The average speeds for these distances were 178.962m.p.h and 207.739 m.p.h. respectively. It was estimated that she was doing nearly 400 m.p.h. at the end of the 500-metres and withstanding 4 1/2 G as the rockets fired.

Obituary: John Ogier

We were saddened to hear just before we went to Press of the death in a road crash of John Ogier, Chairman of Ogle Design Ltd. He was 56.

John Lionel Eardley Ogier started his career as an Austin apprentice. During the War he served in tanks and gained the Military Cross. Ogier’s racing career began in an XK120 in 1952. He progressed to a close involvement with John Tojeiro and was seriously injured in a crash in a Tojeiro-Jaguar in 1957.

The accident persuaded Ogier to forsake driving to become an entrant and team manager, for which he was perhaps best known. He ran a Cooper F2 for some time, but the Ogier name was most often connected with Aston Martin, particularly those cars of the Essex Racing Team. Drivers of the Calibre of Jim Clark, Roy Salvadori, Tony Maggs, John Whitmore, Innes Ireland and Graham Whitehead all drove for Ogier at one time or another.

Ogier became involved with the late David Ogle in 1959 and, with John Whitmore, later helped Ogle set up David Ogle Ltd. to manufacture Ogle Minis.

After Ogle’s death, ironically in a road accident, in 1962, Ogier who was at the Nurburgring, helping to run Jim Clark in a Lotus 23 twin-Cam at the time) reformed the Ogle set-up as the internationally famous Ogle Design Ltd. and had run it ever since with Managing Director Tom Karen. One of Ogle’s best-known responsibilities under his direction was the design of the trend-setting Reliant GTE.

Our condolences to John Ogier’s wife, family and friends.—C.R.

Jensen to Import Japanese Cars

Another Japanese name joins the ranks of the imports to Britain, with the disclosure by Jensen Parts and Service Ltd. and Britcar Holdings that they are to import part of the Subaru range of cars.

The Subaru range is rather different technically to the usual run-of-the-mill Japanese cars s having flat-four, overhead camshaft engines, rack-and-pinion steering and all-independent suspension.

Robert Edmiston, Managing Director of Jensen Parts and Services Ltd. and Britcar Holdings and now of Subaru (UK) Ltd. also, reckons that the major demand will he for the firm’s novel, indeed unique, 1,600 c.c., four-wheel-drive estate car, It under £4,000 a realistic alternative for those who would like, but can’t afford, a Range-Rover.

Jensen Parts and Services new venture is to ensure the future of the Company, formed from the rubble of the car manufacturing company. Edmiston rightly points out that demand for Jensen spares and service would shrink with time: the Subaru interest will keep the 70 employees fully occupied into the future at West Bromwich.

Edmiston did not preclude the possibility of Jensen re-entering the motor manufacturing business in the future, an interesting thought.

The Things They Say

“The actual car that won the race in 1906 is tucked away on blocks in a garage some where in Orpington, Kent…”—Eoin Young, writing in Autocar of the Renault that won the 1906 French Grand Prix. But the Renault hidden away in Orpington is a 7-litre car, whereas the GP winner had a 13-litre engine. Mr Young!

“Can defending world racing champion James Hunt and Ireland’s John Watson close up on rival Niki Lauda in Sunday’s British Grand Prix? Eric Dymock will be at Brands Hatch on Thursday to watch the leaders fight for pole position in lap practice”. From The Guardian, July 9th. 1977. Dymock must have had a very quiet Grand Prix weekend!