MATTERS OF MOMENT, September 1982

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THE PIQUET / SALAZAR INCIDENT

That Piquet lost his temper with Salazar after his Brabham had been shunted out of the German Grand Prix by the latter’s ATS was just the sort of episode the Media delights is for we saw the subsequent “fisticuffs and booting” at least four times on BBC that day. It is not our intention to discuss the rights or wrongs of the matter here, but it is amusing to remember that “there is nothing new under the sun” — did not the great Alberto Ascari have to be restrained at the trackside from adopting the same tactics after a similar shunt in another such race, a long time ago? At Brooklands the rules stated that “A competitor who crosses another in any part of a race to as to interfere with that or any other competitor’s chances, is liable to disqualification, unless it be proved that he was two clear vehicle-lengths ahead before taking ground in front of his opponent”.

Changing times, changing methods, These days drivers overtake with split-second judgement by braking later than their opponents, going into corners. Those 20 or 30 feet or whatever between overtaking cars which the Brooklands Observers would have been looking for are now as much a part of the past as Oxford bags and fold-flat windscreens. . . .

Another changed aspect of motor-racing is that Piquet gained much sympathy for having lost possible World Championship points because of the collision. For our part, we hope he was driving to win the race, without adapting his skills to chasing mere Championship points. Our regret was that he may have been robbed of victory in the German GP by the spectacular collision and also that we were cheated of the Brabham’s anticipated pit-stop to refuel and of knowing therefore whether the commanding lead which Piquet had built up when the coming-together occurred would have enabled him to have kept ahead in spite of it.

CREDIT WHERE DUE . . .

At a time when we are experiencing a spate of Anniversaries, Commemorations, “Birthdays” and similar date-impregnated celebrations, it seemed odd to read in The Times last month an appreciation of the Issigonis Mini Minor, for although some 4.8-million of these “Minibrics” have been sold, it will not be until 1984 that the famous mini-car attains its 25th Anniversary. However, the fact remains that, with Mini sales now decreasing, The Times saw fit to publish a long piece by Peter Waymark about it.

The article in The Times was a well-balanced look-back and Sir Alec Issigonis rightly got the praise he so richly deserves for designing the infant for BMC in the first place and for the later World-wide adoption of his ingenious technical ploys by most other top manufacturers of the smaller cars. However, it was a sad fact that no mention was made of Alex Moulton, whose rubber-cone suspension was pan of the original Mini Minor and whose clever Hydragas system was used for subsequent BMC and British Leyland cars. The Mini’s Moulton suspension itself gets a mention but its creator does not, in spite of the fact that there might have been no Mini, or a far less effective one, without it.

We are reminded of this because we have just been driving an MG Metro, equipped all round with Moulton Hydragas suspension, which gives this refined, well-equipped, £4,799 little car a remarkably good ride, and outstanding cornering powers, even when iris carrying four adults and the driver is in a hurry. Indeed, this MG Metro — disregarding whether or not you approve of the MG badge, are prepared to welcome the new BL model as a modern MG 1300, or consider the revamping of the MG badge thereon as sacrilege — is a very jolly car to go about in and it should give much pleasure to a great many economically-minded sportsmen. Reverting to the Moulton suspension, there is more to it than the excellent ride and handling qualities it provides. It enabled valuable space to be saved in the Mini Minor, always of much importance in very small motor cars, and it had the progressive action which helped Issigonis when he decided to use 10″ diameter tyres on his 1959 baby car.

Today’s Moulton Hydragas independent suspension retains its subtle smooth-riding feel, as it irons out road irregularities. This may not be liked by everyone. We remember a certain experienced amateur racing-driver who had purchased a then-new MG 1300 and who complained that there seemed to be a fault with its suspension. We happened reheat a hill-climb at the time where Alex Moulton was present, some introduced him to the car’s owner.

After a brief trial run wit, Alex said there was absolutely nothing amiss and if the racing-driver didn’t care for his suspension he had better get some other car (I believe the MG was changed for a Porsche). We also recall the Continental Correspondent telling Alex after a short fast thrash in an 1100 BMC saloon with the Moulton suspension system that it had made him feel sick and he wouldn’t be staying for lunch. As with good wine and exotic food, perhaps this suspension is an acquired taste. We certainly think that Alex Moulton, experienced driver and keen motorcyclist, should have been given a little of the credit that page The Times lavished on the talented designer of the still-popular Mini Minor.

A VERY GOOD GRAND PRIX

The Austrian Grand Prix of August 15th, D.S.J.’s report of which is included in this issue, was one of the most interesting and catching F1 races we have had for a considerable time. It proved that such races can be run over very fast circuits (lap speeds at the Osterreichring were not far below that of the ultimate lap-record for the pre-war Brooklands banked circuit by a 24-litre car) and that, contrary to the pessimistic views of Keith Duckworth, a race such as this can be considerably enlivened by pit-stops on the part of fuel-thirsty turbocharged cars, as MOTOR SPORT suggested they might, as long ago as last February (the Brabham mechanics changed all wheels and refuelled one of their cars in 14 sec. according to the first reports, or more than twice as fast as the best the German mechanics managed for the Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union teams during the 1938 Donington Grand Prix, with perhaps rather more fuel to put in, at the rate of some five gallons per second). On this occasion the ploy didn’t come off, the Brabham-BRMs not being sufficiently reliable to finish the race. But no doubt we shall enjoy this excitement of pit-stops in future F1 contests.

This Austrian Grand Prix proved also that normally-aspirated power units can still be a match for highly-boosted turbocharged engines, with Lotus back on winning form, using the indomitable Cosworth-Ford vee-eight. With this engine in contention with those of Renault, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, BMW, Talbot-Matra and Hart, the technical aspect of F1 racing is wide open. It was also one of the closest finishes seen in GP racing, and as it was raining at Lord’s the BBC gave almost uninterrupted live-coverage of this highly entertaining race. Let no-one say that modern F1 racing is dull. . . !