Matters of moment, September 1987

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Fuel-Gauge Formulae

For how much longer do we have to endure the uncertainty of Formula One cars completing races due to their fuel tanks running dry? Or the knowledge that top-rank Grand Prix drivers cannot use their full skills throughout a race for fear of this happening? We maintain that drivers should not have to race “on the gauge”, and that a fuel-computer, however accurate, has no place in a single-seater racing car.

Well-fought races can be marred by a car running dry short of the race distance, and one day the much-publicised World Championship itself may be distorted in this way. Are fuel limits necessary in Formula One? They were adopted, specialist fuel-consumption or touring-car races apart, as a sop to public opinion. The most recent application arose when, in some quarters, it was thought that the world’s oil reserves were running out. To force GP cars to consume ordinary 100-octane petrol in limited quantity was held to imply the advancement of engine efficiency.

This excuse for making world-class racing drivers concentrate on fuel gauges as well as on their proper task, which is to go as fast as possible round a given circuit, has long passed. It is a ruling that should be speedily abolished.

We can leave to the engineers and technicians whether, with the prevailing reduced turbo-boost but unchanged engine capacity, efficiency (not power) is enhanced or reduced. What we do know is that the enjoyment of following a race can be spoiled by the knowledge that, at any moment towards the end, a car may run dry. This can be construed as just as much a driver-error as over-revving an engine, running too long on one set of tyres or damaging the suspension by driving over kerbs.

It could even be argued that computerisation and radio technology are advanced because in today’s races it is necessary to keep drivers fully acquainted with the fuel situation! Our view is that the present fuel restrictions add an unwanted, unnecessary and artificial factor to Formula One motor racing.

The prospect of cars failing to run the race distance through running dry could be obviated by reintroducing refuelling stops, adding to the excitement of tyre changes. But race officials would no doubt be horrified at the assumed fire hazard, small as this has proved in longer events.

Allowing designers to use as much fuel as they deem necessary would be the other solution. Even then, the engine efficiency factor would be present, because no-one would wish to incur the weight and possible drag penalties which carrying more petrol than your rivals would incur.

And when Formula One is confined to (presumably more economical) non-turbocharged power units, why should these unwanted fuel-limits continue to apply? Let us have no more of it, we say! Anyone who knows the anxiety of driving ordinary cars with the fuel-gauge on zero and no filling station in sight must surely sympathise with racing drivers in a similar situation? With their very considerable skills to exercise at extremely high speeds, this is a factor they should not have have to contend with . . .

Club news

Just as the original Ecurie Ecosse, which entered the winning Jaguars at Le Mans in 1956 and 1957, spawned a supporters club (the Ecurie Ecosse Association) so the reformed World Sportscar Championship Group C2 team is attracting a loyal following. A new Club Ecurie Ecosse aims to bring its members and the team together through various social events. Membership costs £10 per annum from Andrew Mitchell, Club Ecurie Ecosse, PO Box 5, 25 Market Square, Duns, Berwickshire TD11 3EQ.

Ulster Automobile Club’s 600-Mile Tour of Ireland starts in County Down on Friday October 9 and runs via Athlone and Limerick to Killarney on the Sunday. Intended for clubmen and cars of all ages, it includes driving, navigation and regularity tests, but no speed events. Registration forms can be obtained from the UAC at 3 Botanic Avenue, Belfast BT7 1JG.

Goodwood will once again be the venue for the Alfa Romeo Owners Club’s annual Giulia Register Rally, for which all 105 series cars are eligible. It is hoped that many of the entrants will run in convoy to the event, on Saturday September 12.

Over the weekend of September 25-27 the North Wales Sub-Centre of the Austin Healey Club will be playing host to a national AH event, the 1987 Welsh Weekend, in Llandudno. Send an sae to Mrs V Bowman, Ty Healey, 12 Brondyffryn, St Asaph. Clwyd LL17 OYA for details.

Yeovil Car Club has announced that the Esso Bristol to Weymouth Run it has organised for the last five years will next year be replaced by a Bristol to Bournemouth event. Expected to be the largest veteran and vintage vehicle run in Britain, this will take place on Sunday June 12, 1988, and full details can be obtained from Keith McGee at 38 Kenmore Drive, Yeovil, Somerset.

One week after the Bristol Owners Club’s annual Bristol Day and Concours at Stoneleigh Abbey in Wanvickshire on September 6, its London section is holding an “End of Summer Gathering”. Anyone is welcome to go along to the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens on September 13.

Although its annual driving tests at Eversley last month had to be cancelled at short notice, Lancia Motor Club has an open day at Castle Combe on September 5. Entry fee is £15. LMC’s competition secretary is Nigel Hargreaves, 19a Spinal Street, Marlow, Buckinghamshire SL7 3HJ.

Hambury Hall near Droitwich in Worcestershire is the venue for this year’s Standard Triumph International Rally on September 20.