USAC comes to Britain
History will be made later this month when for the first time ever America’s premier motor racing series, the USAC Citicorp National Championship, which includes the Indianapolis 500 race, is to move away from its homeland for two rounds in the UK. Silverstone will play host to the sixteen, 850 b.h.p., turbocharged, singleseater racing cars in a 150-mile race on September 30th, and the circus will move to Brands Hatch for a 125-mile race on October 7th.
Reigning USAC Champion Tom Sneva, fourtimes Indianapolis 500 winner A. J. Foyt and 1978 Indianapolis victor Al Unser are amongst the sixteen drivers who qualified for the British rounds in a qualifying session at Brooklyn Speedway, Michigan, in July. 1978 Indianapolis pole position man Sneva topped the qualifying times with a 209.059 m.p.h. lap round the z-mile banked oval, followed by team-mate Rick Mears, both in Penske-Cosworths. Foyt was third fastest in his Coyote-Foyt and Johnny Rutherford fourth in the McLaren-Cosworth.
This will be the first opportunity British crowds have had to see the remarkable, Indianapolis winning, Cosworth DFX turbocharged V8 in action on its home ground.
McLaren’s Gordon Coppuck has predicted maximum speeds of 204 m.p.h. at Silverstone and 182 m.p.h. at Brands Hatch. From our observations of Sneva and Mears testing at Brands Hatch in August we would like to think that lap times will be less spectacular, however. Troubled by undcrsteer and a dearth of traction (the floo-odd horsepower are transmitted through rear tyres of only 13 in. width), the two were hard pushed to crack the i min. 30 sec. barrier on this first acquaintance. We could hear the wheels spinning all the way up the hill out of Surtees — the power is such that wheelspin can be generated quickly enough to blow the engine. The evocative noise from the DFX ranged from a soulful wailing at low revs during the four essential slow warm-up laps to an eerie scream as the turbocharger launched the Penske-Cosworth along the top and bottom straights. Sixteen turbocharged engines should make incredible music.
Most of the USAC contenders will be seeing road-racing circuits for the first time on this British circuit. Sneva is one of these: he was noticeably more cautious than Mears, who had road-racing experience in Formula Vec. Sneva predicted that the USAC cars will be much more suited to the flat, open spaces of Silverstone than the twists and undulations of Brands Hatch.
The Silverstone and Brands Hatch race dates will be preceded by two days of intensive testing and true Indianapolis style qualifying. Full USAC regulations will apply, including pace car rolling starts, refuelling and the yellow-flag slowdown procedure.
This ambitious venture will be organised by the BRDC and BRSCC for USAC. Both races are being promoted by Motor Circuit Developments Ltd., whose £400,000 prize money, travel and other expenses will be raised to nearly one million dollars by American bonus and accessory money.
For all concerned it will be a sizeable gamble. USAC cars do not race in the rain. Britain without rain consistently in early autumn? Wc can only hope so. John Webb tells us that contingency plans exist to postpone the races by one day if it rains on the intended Saturday race dates. If rain continues on the Sundays it will be a matter of refunding money to spectators and counting the cost.
The Brighton Speed Trials
On Saturday, September 9th, Brighton’s Madeira Drive will echo again to the roar of competition machinery as the 1978 edition of Britain’s oldest extant motor sporting event gets under way. Sponsored by Fribourg and Treyer, the Haymarket tobacco company, this year’s Brighton National Speed Trials have a record entry of more than 200 vehicles.
The real battle of the day promises to be for FTD, between the rapid machinery of the likes of Simon Riley, David Render and David Purley. Riley will no doubt be looking for an improvement on his last year’s irrn and all-time record of 18.28 sec. in the Monsieur Houbigant Formula 5000. Render wants his record back and will be using a Lotus 78 to do it with, while Purley is expected to field suitable machinery to make sure he doesn’t.
Leading the two-wheel brigade will be Flying Dutchman Henk Fink; he is coming with the awe-inspiring, supercharged, 1,015 c.c. “Big Spender” with the avowed intention of collecting FTD and the George Brown Trophy.
Amongst the entries will be Motor Sport’s Deputy Editor, in Bobby Bell’s Lister-Jaguar. Practice starts between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.
The New Lotus Esprit S2
Considerable detail changes have been made to the mid-engined Lotus Esprit. Instant recognition factors of the S2 are a distinctive chin spoiler and air intake duct and Speedline alloy wheels with increased hub offset and wider rims to give a 1 in. increase in track. There are new tail-light clusters too.
Inside the instrument cluster and switchgear has been totally redesigned, the bucket seats are wider and recontoured to improve lateral and lumbar support and headroom. A new engine cover incorporates an inspection hatch for checking liquid levels and a Britool toolkit is incorporated in the engine cover which now has an integral hot air dam separating hot and cold sides of the engine for better engine cooling and hot starting in high ambient temperatures.
An external air duct on the nearside of the car, located directly behind the rear three-quarter window, ram feeds air into the luggage compartment to ensure a constant flow of air over the inside of the rear screen to prevent condensation build up in the trapped area above the engine. Ducting continues the air flow to the carburetter intake; the resultant cold air ram feed is said to improve volumetric efficiency and consequently chop 0.3 sec. off the o-6o time (to 6.8 sec.) and 0.8 sec. off the otoo time (to 19.4 sec.).
Other details include black, chip-resistant paint treatment to spoiler, sills and rear valance and double coachlining from nose to tail with S2 badges on the rear three-quarter panels.
The Esprit S2 costs £11,124.37. Now that initial development of the Esprit is presumably considered to be concluded, will Lotus consider it ready for a Motor Sport road test?
On Sunday, September 24th, a Pageant will mark fifty years of the Shuttleworth Collection, housed at Old Warden Aerodrome, Biggleswade, Beds. Founded in 1928 by Richard Shuttleworth, who was killed in a flying accident in 1940 whilst serving in the Royal Air Force, the Collection Is now the only organisation of its kind in the World. Although best known for its historic aeroplanes, it was an early car that started it all: a Panhard Levassor of 1898, which has just been restored in the Old Warden workshops and will lead the vehicle parade at the Pageant. A flying display will be a highlight of the Pageant.
The Bristol Owners’ Club annual Bristol Day and Concours d’Elegance will be held at Woburn Abbey on Sunday, September loth. Entries for the Concours sould go to Eric Woodin, 15, Huntsmoor Road, Ewell, Surrey.