Monthly Archives: April 2011

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Monza Miscellany

GT cars at Monza.

It is not generally known that the first race for cars that we now call GT cars took place at Monza: the Coppa Inter Europa in 1949. In this race three of the first five “street” Ferraris to be made (Tipo 166 Inter) were entered and they filled easily the first three places, Count Bruno Stersi winning in his Touring-bodied car and establishing already Ferrari superiority in the category. While GT cars remained front-engined Ferrari continued its domination, but then gradually Porsche, above all, came on the scene and since the demise of Group C the GT revival has witnessed real rivalry between Zϋffenhausen and Maranello. The ageless Porsche 911 is still a potent force – it won at Monza despite the presence of seven of the new Ferrari 458 Italias.

changing, yet changeless as canal water

 

The Monza circuit is set in a Royal Park. A stroll around the old banked section of the track – lined with beautiful woodlands full of bird song – is very rewarding.

Bank of Italy

One can still pick out traces of the chicanes which were installed at the entrance to the bankings for the 1000 kilometre sports car races from 1966 until the banking was used for the last time in 1969.

Chicanery

As a very fast circuit Monza has been no stranger to chicanes and by the mid-Thirties temporary devices were inserted on the faster stretches – those thundering Grand Prix  Auto Unions and Mercedes needed slowing down! By 1972 permanent chicanes, since modified, were installed before the Curva Grande and at the Ascari Curve with a third one, the Variante dell Roggia, preceding the fast Lesmo Curves four years later. Many other changes have occurred over the years not least the creation of the famous Parabolica to replace the Curva de Vedano which itself eventually eliminated the original South Banking, a raised curve rather than a fully banked corner.

Parabolica

We have seen how, since the Thirties, the sports-racing car has gradually pushed aside the series production sports car in the major endurance events. This trend was encouraged particularly in the Mille Miglia and was taken up after the War by the Le Mans organisers with their Prototype class (originally intended to be temporary in the aftermath of the conflict) but the public loved the big fast racers and they seem here to stay. So it is refreshing to see at Monza the GT3/GT4 cars, especially the latter category whose cars are much more akin to those original participants in the Coppa Inter Europa races. The GT4 class had seven runners, made up of five different marques including a Maserati MC GranTurismo GT4.

Trident Tested

 

 

The attractive Lotus Evoras took the first two places in the GT4 class despite suffering punctures.

Lotus Flowered

 

 

The 3-Hour race was happily free of any major incident and there was no use of the Safety Car. Of the thirty-two starters just seven were unclassified. Here we can see the no. 42 Ferrari abandoned as the French-entered Ferrari 458 Italia enters the Variante Ascari.

Ferrari Park

 

 

One of the joys of visiting Monza is the sense of history all around. The Sala Tazio Nuvolari, named in honour of Italy’s (the world’s ?) greatest driver, contains an example of a Lancia V4 motor as fitted to the Lambda, one of Italy’s most innovative cars.

Pedigree

 

 

TAILPIECE

Artisan

The little Piaggio Ape P3, one of Monza’s workhorses

 

©2011 Words and Images by David Blumlein.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Song of the Mistral

David Blumlein is on a roll. Following on from Essen, he travelled south to Le Castellet for the opening round of the 2011 Le Mans Series. His observations can be found below.

The Circuit du Castellet, set on a high plateau between Marseille and Toulon, overlooked by the mountainous hills of Sainte-Baume, has not a long tradition of long distance sports car racing. One recalls the Matra V-12s at the height of their fame coming here in 1973 but the circuit is chiefly remembered for its staging of the prestigious Grand Prix de France in former years. Having since fulfilled the rôle of a test track, it is now back to hosting international races and was chosen as the venue for the opening round of the Le Mans Series in 2010 when the race was of eight hours’ duration. Happily it was the opener again this year but the race was reduced to six hours.

Unhappily this event will be chiefly remembered for the inexcusable confusion at the start, which severely damaged four GTE Pro Porsches and the Jota Aston Martin – only the latter car and one of the German cars were able to resume albeit way down the field. It seems that the Pace Car decided to do a second starting lap and the GT runners at the back could not see this and, finding that the lights on the starting gantry were set at green, began racing in earnest.

All this pandemonium spoilt the real Porsche versus Ferrari battle that is a regular feature of the GT field.

One of the endearing qualities of long distance sports car racing is the opportunity it provides for a good car to carry on winning even after several years of involvement in competition. Look at the Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 in the Thirties and the Aston Martin DB3S, which still made it to a fine second place at Le Mans in 1958 after five seasons of successes. So it is with the Pescarolo which unusually came back from a year’s absence during which the team’s very existence was in doubt! From the back of the grid at the start (to where it was relegated owing to a small technical infringement in practice) to the front at the end was a dream result for Henri Pescarolo and his loyal team, but it seems relevant to ask what future developments  can they look forward to?

 

The LM P2 class was rich in variety. Among the nine entries were six different chassis and three types of engines. We had two different Lola chassis, one the ex-RML MG Lola, the Greaves Motorsport Zytek Z11SN, two HPD ARX-01d cars, three of the new Oreca-03 chassis built nearby to the circuit and the Norma M200P which made its début at Le Mans in 2010.The HPDs are an interesting mixture: they use a Courage-based tub on to which is grafted the work of Nick Wirth and they are powered by the Honda developed 2.8-litre twin-turbo V6.

The RML team could not have been happy to see their former MG-Lola finishing two places ahead of their newer car – older cars doing well in long distance events again! The new Nissan 4.5-litre V8 was used in two of the Oreca-03 chassis and in the Greaves Zytek; the rest of the class had the Judd HK, a 3.6-litre V8.

The Rebellion Lolas marked the return of Toyota to international sports car racing, the Japanese motor giant having developed a 3.4-litre V8 derived from a Formula Nippon block.

Having opted to give Sebring a miss, Aston Martin gave its new LM P1 challenger, the AMR-One, its race début at Le Castellet. The car is still too new and the team was in reality treating the race as a test session. It arrived at Paul Ricard having recently tested at Pembrey and Dijon and its unready state was emphasised by its only doing one solitary lap in Friday practice. The car differs from its rivals at Audi and Peugeot by having an open cockpit and, most interestingly, a 2-litre straight-six turbo motor; such a configuration has not been seen in the LMP class for many a year. The car started the race but later spent a long time in the pits, apparently with a misfire. Aston Martin has been very tight-lipped over the details of its newcomer but it is clear that the engine has been causing problems. The car came out again during the last half hour of the race, almost unnoticed.

 

 

 

 

With the Porsche ranks depleted in GTE Pro, the new Ferrari 458 Italias  helped themselves to the class win but one notices that Zuffenhausen put it over Maranello in the GT Am category with the remaining Felbermayr car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How pleasing to see Nissan win the LMP2 class with their new engine especially in view of the awful troubles back in the homeland. This success was by courtesy of the Greaves Zytek, the combination staking claim to the third spot on the overall  podium as well.

David Blumlein, April 2011

Tecno Classica from a Special Correspodent

It has been a busy few weeks on the road, Essen, Le Castellet, Zolder, Monza, Le Mans, all in short order. So posting to the blog tends to get lost in the fog of priorities but the beast must be fed.

 

We are lucky to have David Blumlein on board to dispense automotive wisdom. Listen, learn and enjoy.

John Brooks, April 2011.

Rosso

 

 

Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale.

Alfa Romeo owes its revival in sports car racing in the late Sixties to Carlo Chiti’s T33 sports –racer, powered by a 2-litre V-8. The company wanted to offer the public a taste of what they were achieving on the tracks and the result was this exquisite Stradale version, shown at the 1967 Turin Show. It was designed by Franco Scaglione but only 18 were made.

Wedding Present

 

 

1928 Mercédès-Benz Nürburg saloon.

A typical product after Benz and Daimler A.G. merged in 1926. Its name celebrated the recently opened Nürburgring circuit on which one of the company’s cars won the first race.

Imposing

 

 

A roadster version took part in the 1929 Alpine Trial driven by future star Rudolph Caracciola.

Rear Gunner

 

 

1934 Mercédès-Benz 130H

Influenced by former Benz engineers, the Stuttgart company experimented with some rear-engined designs in the Thirties and this Type 130 H (Heckmotor – rear-engined) was introduced in 1934 – it did not sell well!

Hanomag Kommissbrot

 

 

Hanomag Kommissbrot and Rekord

A name largely forgotten nowadays but Hanomag started life in the mid-19th century producing steam locomotives and then trucks, tractors and military vehicles in Hannover. By the Twenties they had turned to petrol vehicles and in 1925 they made the Hanomag 2/10, an open 2-seater with a rear-mounted 500 c.c. single-cylinder water-cooled engine. Because it resembled a loaf of Army bread, it was quickly nicknamed Kommissbrot but it was popular – 15,775 were made.

Up Town Top Ranking

 

 

By the Thirties Hanomag had moved up market and the 1.5 litre Rekord dates from 1938.

Every Silver Cloud has a Lining

 

 

1967 Glas 1304T

Hans Glas rose to fame with the introduction of the Goggomobil in 1954 which proved to be a very popular micro car. The Glas range moved up market in the following years with bigger cars using mainly 4-cylinder engines, of which this car is typical. Glas is remembered also for the fact that he was the first to use belt drive for overhead camshafts. BMW took over his Dingolfing factory – today it produces not only BMW cars but also the bodies for Rolls-Royce cars.

W.O.'s You Know...............

 

 

Bentley 8-Litre

The top of the range Bentley with a 6-cylinder overhead camshaft engine, designed to compete with the Rolls-Royce Phantom II. Only 100 were produced between 1930 and 1931. This was W.O. Bentley’s own car.

It's Mr. O'Reilly, Sybil.

 

 

1936 Riley Sprite

The Riley Sprite (1936-1938) was the last of the sporting Rileys before the Second World War, using a developed version of the famous engine with high camshafts and hemispherical head, introduced in the Riley Nine in 1926. Rileys had an enviable reputation in competitions particularly in endurance events. This car has special bodywork by Pourtout and was raced privately in France. The Riley company failed in 1938 and was absorbed into the Nuffield Organisation.

Bob Marley & The Wailers

 

 

1963 BMW 1500

This model, introduced at the Frankfurt Show in 1961, was the car which saved BMW. The Munich firm was in serious financial trouble by the late Fifties – the market for Isetta bubble cars was declining and the big V-8s were hardly profitable. Fortunately the 1500, with its excellent overhead cam engine, was the right car, at the right time and was an immediate success – all the cars that followed stem from it. It is no exaggeration to say that without the 1500 there would be no BMWs today.

Iron Curtain Cruiser

 

 

Tatra 603

Hans Ledwinka showed his sensational streamlined Tatra T77 at the 1934 Berlin Show. It had a rear-mounted air-cooled V-8 engine and initially a central driving position. Derivatives followed and when Czechoslovakia fell under Communist control the theme was continued with this, the 603. A team of these cars performed well in the Marathon de la Route at the Nürburgring.

La Sarthe Limousine

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cockpit

 

 

Skoda 1101 Sport

This is the actual car that Skoda raced at Le Mans in1950 but without success. Nationalisation kerbed future ambitions.

Monte Carlo or Bust

 

 

 

 

1937 Skoda Popular Sport Monte Carlo Coupé

Back Seat Drivers


 

Skoda made advanced cars in the Thirties and this example, one of just 72 made, is a celebration of Skoda’s second in class and eighth overall in the 1936 Monte Carlo Rally. It has not only independent suspension all round but also a transaxle.

Gearboxed

 

 

Notice the linkage to the rear-mounted gearbox.

Bulldog Spirit

 

 

Lanz Bulldog

And now, for something completely different! The Bulldog tractor made by Heinrich Lanz in Mannheim from 1921 to 1960 had a single-cylinder horizontal hot bulb engine whose capacity was gradually increased over the years from 6.3-litres to 10.9-litres. No wonder it needed a large flywheel! It was very popular in Germany and some 220,000 were made.

 

David Blumlein, April 2011

 

The Joys Of Being “MODERN”

As we get older we tend to ponder the past more. And, if we’re ancient, we tend to do so while at the same time decrying the present. It is a ritual that has been passed down through time, generation after generation. And, one suspects, it will remain a tradition long after we have gone to our final reward. Yet, when it comes to present day motorsport, I can’t help but believe that perhaps, just perhaps, there is at least some justification for wanting to look and head “backwards.”
Real life has increasingly become ever more complicated, so why should we put up with a similar increase in complication when it comes to our pastimes, such as motorsport? The other weekend I made a serious attempt to watch the opening 2011 Formula One race, a series controlled by regulations so complex that I’m not sure if the participants themselves understood them.
In previous years I have jokingly said that to view an F-! event you needed to have your lawyer by your side to explain what was happening. Now it seems clear you ought to add a race engineer. For me, it’s all bit too much, so I’ll probably give up on Bernie’s show and grab a refreshing nap instead.
Still, this blog is for those of us who care about cars with fenders and more than one seat. And, although the rules for sports cars may not be as incomprehensible as those of Formula One, trying to sort out the differences between the ever growing numbers of sports car racing categories is straining on my limited number of tired old brain cells. Indeed, it is as if those creating this burgeoning population of befendered divisions have adopted the same “more is better” syndrome that tax men around the globe use when writing their codes.
At Sebring there were no less than six different categories on the starting grid: three for the prototypes and three for the production set. And, unless one had a guide, the only distinction the average person could make between them was the pumpkin seed shapes of the sports racers as opposed to the road going outlines of their lesser performing assembly line based counterparts. Trying to sort out one class from another within those broad parameters was much akin to trying to successfully complete a Sunday newspaper crossword puzzle, an impossible task for all but the few geniuses among us.
The regulators may be happy with what they’ve wrought, as most likely the manufacturers and the participants are, because in today’s scriptures there’s something to keep everyone happy – everyone that is except the fans. Sport, even motorsport, is about winning, and to have winners, obviously you have to have losers. That is how games are supposed to be played.
In many ways, while F-1 has made getting to that end overly complicated, those in charge of the sportscar universe appear to have not attempted to dilute the object of the exercise itself. In that same vain, and for all of its faults, of which there are many, the NASCAR owned Grand Am Rolex championship has not catered to the idea of making every member of the masses a winner. The Rolex has only two classes: the prototypes and the GT cars, and therefore just two chances for victory. All the rest must deal with disappointment.
There is a chance in the current climate for sportscar racing to climb out of the gutter it has so long resided in. Doing so, however, will require a re-think about how many winners can fit on the head of a very small pin. For the sports car community the, at least in terms of a salable class structure, less is far better than more.
Bill Oursler, April 2011

Straight, No Chaser

Breaking News

 

 

Le Castellet, Provence, was the venue yesterday for the next chapter in the long and glorious history of motorsport and Aston Martin. The Aston Martin AMR One broke cover and was seen in public for the first time.

Mind you you had to have sharp reflexes, as it covered only one installation lap before bolting back to the garage. Most of us missed this historic event.

Naturally, Our Special Correspondent, was on hand to capture the moment.

Voilà