Archive for the ‘Sports Racers’ Category

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(Alvis Upitis)

 

Denny Hulme unleashing all 670 ‘neddies’ of his McLaren M8D Chev at Mid Ohio in August 1970…

The alloy block Chev V8’s were 7.6 litres in 1970, the ‘Batmobile’ arguably the sexiest of the Can Am McLarens and certainly one of the most successful.

Denny won 6 of the 10 rounds and Dan Gurney another 2 before sponsorship conflicts brought to an end his drive which arose as a result of Bruce McLaren’s fatal testing accident aboard an M8D at Goodwood on 2 June 1970. Peter Gethin, Dan’s replacement won another round adding to the ‘papaya rout’.

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Denny and Teddy Mayer are easy to pick, perhaps some of you can help with the names of the rest of the team, modest ute and trailer indicative of a ‘no frills’ approach to all but the ‘weapons of battle’ (Alvis Upitis)

I wrote an article about the McLaren M8D a while back, click here to read it;

https://primotipo.com/2014/08/01/peter-gethin-mclaren-m8d-chev-can-am-1970/

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Hulme won the Mid Ohio round, the ‘Buckeye Cup’ from Peter Revson’s Lola T220 Chev and Lothar Motschenbacher’s ex-works McLaren M8B Chev, in the shot above Denny is ahead of Lothar early in the race.

Credits…Alvis Upitis

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Teddy Mayer, Denny and the team resolve the next set-up changes to Hulme’s steed (Alvis Upitis)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(Fistonic)

Frank Matich’s Brabham BT7A Climax leading Jim Palmer’s Cooper T53 Climax around the 2.897 Km Mount Maunganui road circuit, New Zealand, 28 December 1963…

Mount Maunganui is a beach town at the southern end of Tauranga Harbour in The Bay of Plenty in the north of New Zealands North Island. Only two ‘Bay of Plenty Premier Road Race’ meetings using public roads around the towns wharf area were held, in 1962 and 1963. The circuit was oblong in shape, the startline was in Totara Road and ran down Hewletts Road, onto Tasman Quay and then Hull Road. The creation of the permanent Bay Park circuit in the area supplanted the road course which was created by Joseph and Graham Pierce and Feo Stanton. To create the track they had to tar-seal a section over a railway line and then remove it after the weekends racing to allow the trains to operate the following morning!

Race winner Jim Palmer, Cooper T53 Climax, Mt Maunganui 1963 (Fistonic)

The 1963 event was won by Jim Palmer from John Youl’s Cooper T55 Climax and Tony Shelly’s Lotus 18/21 Climax. Both of the Australian’s John Youl and Frank Matich used the meeting as a ‘warm-up’ for the 1964 Tasman series which started at Levin, the following weekend, on 4 January 1964.

Grid positions for the 15 lap final were determined by the results of two heats; Matich comfortably led his until encountering timing problems with his Coventry Climax engine, Palmer took the win with John Youl victorious in the other heat.

In the championship race, Palmer started well and lead Shelly, Matich- off the back of the grid, quickly passing the smaller engined cars and Youl but Shelly soon led, and Matich grabbed 3rd as Youl spun. Matich set a lap record of 1:10.4 as he moved the very latest ‘Intercontinental’ Brabham BT7A into 2nd behind Shelly. He took the lead on the next lap whilst Youl closed on Palmer. Shelly was passed by Palmer with 3 laps to go with Matich left out on the circuit with an inoperative throttle, and John Youl also passing Shelly. Palmer won from Youl, Shelly then Rex Flowers Lotus 20B Ford, Roly Levis’ Lotus 22 Ford and Neil Whittaker’s Cooper T43 Climax.

John Youl, Cooper T55 Climax (Fistonic)

In fact the race was very much a portent of the Tasman Series (won by Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T70 Climax) with all four of Matich, Palmer, Shelly and Youl being competitive with Matich having a swag of mechanical problems only finishing one of the 5 rounds he started, at Longford, in 3rd place.

In the NZ Tasman races Palmer, Shelly and Youl all contested they drove extremely well, almost as a group in their outdated cars- Cooper T53, Lotus 18/21 and Cooper T55 behind the leading bunch of Australasian Internationals- Brabham, Hulme, McLaren and American Tim Mayer.

Youl was 4th in the first 3 NZ rounds and then travelled back to Australia before Teretonga to prepare for the first Australian round at Sandown where he finished 3rd. His beautifully prepared 1961 (ex-F1 and then Brabham’s car for the Australasian Internationals in 1962) Cooper T55 with its innovative Geoff Smedley designed and built twin-plug Coventry Climax FPF head had done 5 meetings with routine maintenance but no rebuild. His 3rd at the AGP was followed by a DNF at Warwick Farm with crown wheel and pinion problems. He then had a great 2nd at Lakeside and was 5th at Longford, his home race in a strong finish to the series.

In fact Youl was very much the ‘form driver’ of this group having finished 2nd and then taking 2 wins in the final three rounds of the Australian Gold Star series in the later months of 1963, at Sandown, Mallala and Warwick Farm. Noteworthy is that these performances were against Lex Davison, Bib Stillwell and David McKay all of whom were aboard much more modern equipment than Youl. He was second in the Gold Star to Stillwell’s Brabham BT4 Climax in 1963 as he was in 1962.

Palmer, later multiple NZ Gold Star winner and ex-F1 driver Shelly had virtually identical results in the four NZ Tasman races, and finished all of them which is admirable at a time the 2.5 FPF’s were notoriously brittle being pushed to the limits as they were.

Without doubt Frank Matich had the pace of the Internationals in the ’64 Tasman but he had no chance of success without better preparation/luck/greater mechanical sympathy- Geoff Smedley joined him not so long after Youl’s unfortunate retirement from the sport at the end of 1964. Grazier Youl was one very fine driver who deserved a ‘factory’ drive such was his pace in the ex-Brabham Cooper T55 to fully realise his potential. I don’t know enough about the man to place him in the pantheon of Australian single-seater pilots but for sure he was very handy behind the wheel…

Matich chasing Colin Ngan, Cooper Bobtail in the sportscar race won by FM- love these industrial background shots (Fistonic)

Matich in his Lotus 19B Climax…

Frank Matich above blasting his very highly developed Lotus around the Mounts working wharves, such a distinctive background!

Frank’s Lotus was far and away the quickest sportscar that weekend, he won the race from the Lotus 15 Climax of Barry Porter and the Lola Climax driven by J Riley. The Matich 19B was destroyed at Lakeside in 1965, hospitalising the Sydneysider in the process. Out of those ashes was born the Elfin 400 Olds or Traco Olds as FM called it, and Matich SR3 and SR4 programs, all great cars.

In the same way that the Lotus 18, Chapman’s first mid-engined design (F1/FJ) redefined the sophistication of the path the Coopers had blazed so well, so too did the 19 amongst sportscar grids. The car used much of the 18 hardware albeit adapted to comply with sportscar rules- FIA Group C. Chapman detailed the car with Len Terry also playing a role in its design.

The cars spaceframe chassis was made of 1 inch and ¾ inch steel tube of 16 and 18 guage, there was a scuttle hoop of perforated sheet steel to provide further cross-sectional bracing. The first car, chassis ‘950’, was initially fitted with an aluminium body with subsequent cars using bodies made of fibreglass. The front and rear body sections were hinged for ease of access with two horizontal doors for driver and passenger! access and egress. Wheels were Lotus 15 inch ‘wobbly-webs’, disc brakes were 10.5 inch and 9.5 inches in diameter front / rear.

Dimensions; 141 inch long, 65” wide, a height of 31/32 “, the wheelbase was 7’ 6”, front track 49” and rear track 47.5 “. The cars weight was quoted at 1232-1250 pounds less driver but with 8 gallons of fuel. Said girth was dependent upon the engine fitted, over time this included the FPF’s around which the car was designed and also various American small-block V8’s. Similarly, whilst the Lotus sequential, 5 speed ‘Queerbox’ was specified the cars were also fitted with Colotti and Hewland gearboxes ‘in period’.

Lotus 19 Climax cutaway, technical specifications as per text (Thatcher)

When completed chassis ‘#950’ was tested by both Moss and Chapman, Moss had been racing Cooper Monaco’s amongst the swag of cars he competed in at the time, his opinion of the 19 relative to the Monaco, a design several years older would be interesting. Its said that the 19 was the first car Stirling drove after recovery from his 1960 Spa Lotus 18 accident.

Only 16 or 17 of the cars were built, the limiting factor for build numbers was the supply of Coventry Climax FPF engines which were of course the engine de jour for the British F1 ‘garagistes’ at the time.

The seminal research over the last decade or so on the fate of the various Lotus 19 chassis was carried out by enthusiasts/experts/journalists/engineers/drivers on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ (TNF). What follows is based upon the contents of that highly interactive forum, with the ability of so many knowledgeable people to test evidence, the summary of ownership and changes in specification over time. The contributions of Ray Bell and Bryan Miller are specifically acknowledged.

Frank Matich raced two Lotus 19’s; the ex-UDT Laystall 19 chassis ‘950’ raced by Stirling Moss which was destroyed in a testing accident at Warwick Farm in 1963 and a replacement 19B which was delivered by Lotus Components sans chassis number. It was also destroyed, again in a testing, or more specifically an accident during a practice/qualifying session at Lakeside on 24 July 1965.

I have written tangentially about these cars in an article about FM’s rivalry with Bib Stillwell’s Cooper Monaco and other articles on Frank Matich, and very specifically about the 19B, Matich’s accident in it at Lakeside and its role in relation to the design/conception of Garrie Coopers Elfin 400, the first delivered of which was raced by Matich. I don’t propose to cover that all again, click on the links at this articles conclusion to read what I’ve already been written.

The first Matich Lotus 19 Climax, chassis  ‘950’ shot at Homestead Corner Warwick Farm in 1962, compare the photo with the similar one of the 19B at the same corner below (Ellacott)

Caveat Emptor…

When Frank Matich was looking for a replacement for his oh-so-successful Lotus 15 Climax it was immediately obvious to him that the car to have was a 19 given the success of Moss, Ireland, Gurney and others in the cars on both sides of the Atlantic.

His ex-Leaton Motors mechanic Bruce Richardson, working in the UK for Reg Parnell Racing at the time, contacted UDT Laystall in England on FM’s behalf to determine if they were interested in selling one of their 3 19’s. Frank knew Moss having met him on the great Brits previous trips to Australia. Shortly after Richardson’s contact Matich ‘…discussed with Stirling buying the (UDT Laystall) car (#950) Stirling was racing in the USA…who advised Frank, who wished to have the car shipped directly from the States to Australia that the car was pretty tired and it would be best for the car to return to the UK for a full rebuild and then be sent out from the UK. The car duly arrived in late 1961 and Frank was not happy with the state of preparation and he called Stirling to intervene’ Bryan Miller wrote.

Matich had been shafted by UDT Laystall, far from the first time we poor Colonials had been short-sheeted by less than honest operators who relied upon 12000 miles of Ocean to get away with sins of omission or commission! Moss, not involved in the commercial aspects of the deal at all, righted the wrongs with a financial adjustment in favour of the Sydneysider. The story goes something like this.

Rather than rebuild the car the UDT folks used the opportunity to bolt some of the shit bits they had lying around the workshop they didn’t want from their three cars to good ‘ole ‘950’ and shove it on a ship at Southhampton for Sydney!

Matich ordered the car with the Colotti box fitted to ‘950’, they sent him a ‘Queerbox’, very much not the better alternative although Matich said later to Bell ‘they weren’t a bad box as long as you set them up well’. Frank specified a regular windscreen, they sent a high one, ‘The crankshaft was obviously carrying a very old crack, it was very unlikely that it hadn’t been previously detected’ according to Frank, Ray Bell wrote. ‘There was a lot of that sort of thing about the car, so its clear Moss went into bat for Frank’. Moss drove the car whilst in Australia for the International series of races that summer (he raced Rob Walker owned Cooper T53 Climax and Lotus 21 Climax in NZ and Australia in January/February 1962) and was able to see for himself the state of the car as delivered from the UK. ‘Onya Stirling!

Having overcome those obstacles the 19 very rapidly became the fastest sportscar in the country, indeed, one of the fastest cars in the Australia- his dices with Bib Stillwell’s older but very well prepared, sorted and driven Cooper Monaco wonderful spectator drawcards across the continent.

Lotus 19 Climax ‘950’ in the Lakeside paddock probably during the International meeting in early 1963. Coventry Cliamx FPF engine and Lotus ‘Queerbox’ clear as is copious ducting for brake cooling (Mellor)

#950’s demise occurred during a test session at Warwick Farm…

Matich’s backyard was Warwick Farm from the time the circuit opened  at the wonderful Liverpool horseracing facility. He did all of his serious testing there, it was close to his various bases on Sydney’s North Shore, and he was always developing his cars with tweaks major and minor. This process of continuous development of bits for all of his cars, factory built or otherwise, was sustained right to the end of his career in early 1974. By then he was building world-beating Formula 5000 cars, indeed no-one did more miles around the Western Sydney outskirts circuit than FM.

In 1963 he raced the Lotus and works Elfins- a Clubman, Formula Junior and an ANF 1.5 variant of the FJ with which he contested the AGP, at, you guessed it, Warwick Farm. He was 8th in the race won by Jack Brabham’s Brabham BT4 Climax. On one of these test days Bell records that ‘The very reason for its (950’s) demise…was the fitting of new uprights (from Lotus)…Matich had come in from testing saying it felt funny and asked Bruce (Richardson, by then back from the UK and FM’s chief mechanic) to go out and drive the 19 while he followed him in the Elfin openwheeler. The upright broke and he went into the fence’. The fence was the very solid and unyielding WF Pit Straight fence which comprised 2 inch thick planks of wood bolted to railway sleepers. The chassis was rooted, it was too badly damaged to be repaired so a replacement was ordered from Lotus Components.

‘The original 19 chassis (950) went to Ray Hopwood, a friend of Franks. I think it was he who buried it under his house after deciding he wasn’t able to use it, which had been his intention’ wrote Bell.

Bell then speculates about the commercial arrangements between Lotus and Matich about the new 19 frame given the demise of ‘950’ was as a result of the failure of a new Lotus upright which was too thin. What is clear, whether Chapman gave him a special price or otherwise is that wealthy Sydney businessman Laurie O’Neill paid for the chassis either in whole or in part. Bruce Richardson confirms the chassis was acquired from Lotus, and therefore is not one of the unaccounted for Lotus 19 chassis- there are about four of these chassis on the TNF list. For sure some components from ‘950’, all possible, would have been retained to bolt to the new frame which Miller reports ‘Frank did not think his car (19B) ever carried a chassis plate, he held no memory of ever seeing one on the car but at that time it was of no importance’.

In late 1963 Matich imported a brand new Brabham BT7A to contest the annual Australasian International Series (from 1964 The Tasman Championship) and local Gold Star, Australian Drivers Championship events.

Almost immediately he became the quickest local openwheeler driver- and one who gave nothing away to the visiting Internationals either. Given the weakness of the Lotus sequential ‘box, Bell ‘…Frank regarded the crownwheel and pinion as marginal…referring to easy starts to protect it…and he often lost the start to Stillwell in their 19 to Monaco clashes…’ Matich fitted the 19B with a Hewland HD5 ‘box given the experience others had of it in cars like it in the BT7A and being well aware of the shortcomings of the Queerbox. By then he had both the support of O’Neill and Total so had an adequate budget to do things properly. The cars chassis was adapted to suit the ‘box at the rear. During the short period the 19B raced it was evolved, beside the BT7A, with various Brabham bits. There appears to be no definitive list of the modifications but brakes, wheels, some suspension parts and other Brabham ‘bits and pieces’ are cited as modifications from standard Lotus 19 spec. Equally there is no neat list of bits which were transferred from the first Matich 19 ‘950’ to the 19B, albeit the ex-Moss chassis was definitely buried under a house, this fact attested by several sources including Richardson, Bell and Miller- none of whom have a vested interest in the opinion they proffer.

Not the Australian Tourist Trophy but the 19B late in its life in early 1965 after a change of Total livery, from light blue to white, here, again at Homestead Corner, Warwick Farm (Ellacott)

Australian Tourist Trophy 1965…

Frank Matich was a professional racing driver, the family Weeties were provided by race and related commercial success, to win the 1965 ATT was therefore important to him. He won the race the year before at Longford in the 19B but for 1965 the field had greater depth.

Ken Miles was coming from the US to race a factory Shelby AC Cobra, Frank Gardner was returning home to race Alec Mildren’s Mildren Maserati, a Birdcage Maserati engine fitted to a chassis built by Bob Britton- a Lotus 19 clone!, the Lotus 23 lookalike built on Britton’s Lotus 19 jig. There were also some pesky Lotus/Ford Twin-Cam engined Lotus 23’s which were quick enough to win should the big guys run into trouble. In fact the latter is what occurred, Pete Geoghegan won the race in a Lotus 23 after the retirement of others.

Matich took the 19B to the Gold Star round at Lakeside in July, his primary focus that weekend was racing his Brabham. Spencer Martin won the Gold Star round in the Scuderia Veloce Brabham BT11A. But the Lotus shared the Matich transporter with the Brabham on the journey north to fettle the car in preparation for the ATT in November. It was during practice that FM lost the car in the fast right hander behind the pits at over 120mph when the throttle jammed, destroying the car and hospitalising him with burns to his hands and back. Damage to the car was to its front, especially the left front. Various sources suggest (not Bell or Miller) that the car may have been damaged further after the accident for insurance purposes.

The accident was catalyst for Total to end the relationship with Matich. Boral Ltd acquired Total’s business in Australia and they did not want to be involved in motor-racing. The remains of the 19B, owned by O’Neill remember, were then used as a point of dimensional reference during the build of the Elfin 400 Traco Olsmobile at Elfin’s Conmurra Road, Edwardstown, South Australia factory in late 1965. The 19B donated its gearbox and some other minor components to the Elfin build. Even though the remains of the 19B were seen by various people at Elfins over the years the remains of the chassis have never seen the light of day and were probably, at some clearout, disposed of. The future value of these cars was not foreseen then of course!

Despite all of the foregoing, that is, the total destruction of both cars as racing entities, the ex-Moss/Matich Lotus 19 #’950 races on, reconstructed around a replacement chassis built in the 1980’s. So far, surprisingly, the 19B has not been rebuilt/reconstructed/resurrected despite Peter Brennan noticing, whilst looking at a Lotus 18 very recently and concluding that the pedals in his Elfin 400 are probably from the 19B…go for it PB, cars worth $750K have commenced reconstruction with far less of the original car than that!…

Bibliography…

‘The Nostalgia Forum’ Lotus 19 thread particularly the contributions of Michael Oliver, Ray Bell and Bryan Miller, Graham Vercoe, sergent.com, Bob Homewood, Glenn Ducey

Photo Credits…

Milan Fistonic and Peter Mellor- The Roaring Season, John Ellacott, Bob Thatcher

Lovely frontal shot of Frank Matich, Lotus 19B Climax, this car probably the most highly developed of its type in the world-V8 variants excepted. Car developed by FM and his team in Sydney, building upon his first 19 which was written off  in a Warwick Farm testing accident. Plenty of Brabham bits inclusive of wheels fitted to this car (Fistonic)

Finito…

 

hawt hill

I don’t think of Mike Hawthorn as a Lotus driver but here he is with Graham Hill, rather similar in age, they were both born in 1929…

Amazing really, grafter Hill worked hard to get into motor racing, his GP career started not long before Hawthorn’s finished and went well into the 1970’s, not to forget Graham’s Le Mans and Indy wins of course. Mike’s racing entree was smoothed by his fathers wealth, it’s intriguing to guess what he may have achieved had he raced on into the 1960’s and applied his considerable skills to Chapman’s works of Lotus art.

Both Hill and Hawthorn are English to the core albeit completely different charcters. And personalities they certainly were. It’s a wonderful shot.

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Hawthorn, Lotus 11 Climax, Oulton Park, Cheshire April 1955 (Popperfoto)

The event or reason for the Hill/Hawthorn shot is unrecorded but dated 12 April 1956 as is the photo of Hawthorn with Stirling Moss below. Its dated 11 May 1953, i am interested if anybody can assist with the places and occasions…

hawt moss

Credits…

Getty/Manchester Daily Express, Popperfoto

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Denny Hulme stands with ‘his’ two Chev ZL1 aluminium-blocked cars at the Riverside Times Grand Prix in 1968…

Both mighty fine cars, an M8A McLaren would be far rarer than an ‘ally-block Corvette but i bet the factory didn’t sell too many of them. You could option the engine in a Camaro for a while as well, here in Australia Bob Jane won an Australian Touring Car Championship with one so equipped in 1971.

The M8A’s were dominant in Bruce and Denny’s hands in 1968…

Credit…

The Enthusiast Network

Tailpiece…

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monza bros

Siffert, Pedro chillin’, Redman and Kinnunen- JW squad 1970 (Schlegelmilch)

The JW Gulf boys relax before the off, the winning duo were Pedro Rodriguez and Leo Kinnunen…

There was only one Porsche 917 amongst the first nine cars home at the duration of the Monza endurance classic on 25 April but the German flat-12 was first, Pedro Rodriguez and Leo Kinnunen were happy winners.

Three Ferrari 512S followed them home, the Ignazio Giunti/Nino Vaccarella/Chris Amon Spyder 1.5 minutes adrift of the John Wyer Porsche.

It wasn’t a happy season for Ferrari in sportscars. Supremely competitive in F1 with the first of its flat-12 engined cars, the 312B, the 5 litre V12 512S really didn’t receive the development it needed to knock off the Porsches.

The German cars mainly raced at 4.5 litres in capacity that year but it was still more than enough. A win at Sebring in the second round of the Manufacturers Championship was Ferrari’s best result, and the flat-8 3 litre, nimble, light Porsche 908/3 mopped up on the tight, twisty circuits unsuited to the 917. The dudes from Stuttgart had the game well covered.

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Seppi in conversation, and for the horologists he is sporting a nice Heuer Autavia chronograph  (Schlegelmilch)

The speed of Ferrari’s evolved 512S, the 512M was clear at the Osterreichring 1000 Km in October, so 1971 looked to be a great battle of two amazing 5 litre cars but effectively the Scuderia waved a white surrender flag before the seasons commencement.

They chose to race a new 3 litre flat-12 engined prototype, the 312P in 1971 with an eye to the rule change to cars of that capacity in 1972, rather than the factory race the 512M.

The Ferrari privateers did their best against the Panzers but it was ineffective, the speed of the beautifully prepared and superbly Mark Donohue driven Penske 512M duly noted. The 1971 endurance season could have been the greatest ever had Scuderia Ferrari raced those cars!

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Pedro drives, Leo and the boys ride

Back to Monza 1970. The other ‘works’ Porsches were well back- the JW 917K of Jo Siffert and Brian Redman finished 12th, the Porsche Salzburg 917K’s of Vic Elford/Kurt Ahrens DNF with puncture damage after 92 laps and the 1970 Le Mans winning combo of Hans Hermann and Richard Attwood were out with engine failure on lap 63.

Still there was strength in numbers, Pedro and Leo were there at the end, in front…

Credits…

Rainer Schlegelmich

Tailpiece: Tifosi @ Monza, not as many as if a 512S won…

monza

(Schlegelmilch)

 

jag le mans

(Max Staub)

The winning Tony Rolt/Duncan Hamilton Jaguar C Type ahead of the Phil Walters/ John Fitch Cunningham C5R Chrysler and Alberto Ascari/Gigi Villoresi Ferrari 375MM at Le Mans 13/14 June 1953…

Early in the race it was clear the Jaguar C Types, Ferrari’s 340/375MM and Alfa Romeo 6C/3000CM were the cars in the hunt for outright victory, the Lancia D20’s and Talbot T26GS were outclassed.

Moss, the initial hare from the start in a works C Type had a misfire in his 3441cc DOHC straight-six, which set in after 20 laps putting him back to 21st and out of contention. Worse for Hawthorn and Farina was disqualification of their 4.1 litre V12 340MM Ferrari after brake fluid was added before the requisite 28 laps were completed. Fangio’s Alfa was out with engine dramas in his 3.5 litre, DOHC straight-six, the car shared with his countryman, Onofre Marimon, at about 6pm

As darkness fell the Ferrari/Jag battle intensified between the Ascari/Villoresi 375MM and Rolt/Hamilton C Type with the Alfas not too far back. Rolt and Hamilton led, the best placed Fazz was hampered by a sticking clutch and a thirst for water.

At dawn the same two cars led, with Moss up to 3rd  in the car he shared with Peter Walker, as the mist cleared they still led. By 9am the lead Ferrari had dropped back to 5th, retiring at 11am. The works Paolo Marzotto/Giannino Marzotto Ferrari 340MM challenged the lead Jags and Cunningham finishing 5th behind the winning car driven to the finish by Duncan Hamilton with Moss/Walker 4 laps back with the Phil Walters John Fitch Cunningham C5-R Chrysler 5.4 litre V8 a lap further adrift in 3rd. The third works Jag C Type of Peter Whitehead and Ian Stewart was another 2 laps back having driven a pace to finish throughout.

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Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton chew the fat, Silverstone 6 May 1955, the car is Rolt’s works D Type ‘XKC 403’…

Love this carefully posed shot, perhaps used to promote the meeting the following day. Its practice for the 7 May ‘Silverstone International’ sportscar race, a 190Km event won by Reg Parnell from Roy Salvadori, both aboard works Aston DB3S’, then came Rolt, Hamilton and Mike Hawthorn in works D Types. Mike started from pole and set the fastest lap.

Credits…Max Staub, Central Press, F2 Register

Pierre Levegh relaxed during the 1953 Le Mans weekend beside the Talbot Lago T26GS he drove to 8th place together with Charles Pozzi…

He famously came within an ace, an hour in fact, of winning the race solo in a similar car the year before.

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Levegh led the race from about 2am, during his long hours at the wheel the engine developed a vibration, which he felt he could nurse better than his co-pilot given he was in synch with the cars rhythm.

But an hour from the end of the classic the car coasted to a halt at Maison Blanche, about a mile from the pits. The Talbot was mortally wounded, either a conrod let go after a big over rev or a bolt holding the central crankshaft bearing came loose. What was never clear, Pierre was driving with a broken rev-counter, is whether the engine succumbed to the malady present for much of the race or whether in his exhausted state the driver missed a gear.

The Frenchman’s real name was Pierre Bouillin, his racing pseudonym Of Levegh was the surname of an uncle who was a pioneer driver who died in 1904. Alfred Levegh was a leading member of the Mors racing team at the turn of the century. Pierre assumed his uncle’s surname in 1938 but when he commenced racing in a Bugatti 57T in 1937 raced using his own name.

The wealthy Parisian brush company owner was a talented sportsman, being a world class tennis and ice hockey player in addition to his talents behind the wheel, a career he started pre-War in his early thirties but did not flourish until after the cessation of global hostilities.

Pierre, driving a factory Mercedes Benz 300SLR was an unwitting and innocent part of the tragic sequence of events which took his life, and those of 83 others at Le Mans in 1955. Not a subject I care to explore and an incredibly sad and inappropriate epitaph for a driver who was a journeyman in Grand Prix cars but good enough in Sports Cars to be invited into a team containing Moss and Fangio…

Levegh, Talbot Lago T26GS during his heroic but ultimately unsuccessful 1952 Le Mans drive (unattributed)

Credits…

Stanley Sherman, Klemantaski Collection, oldracingcars.com

fazz color

The Ludovico Scarfiotti/Peter Sutcliffe factory Ferrari P4 during the 1967 Brands Hatch 6 Hour held on 30 July…

Louis Klemantaski’s creative shot beautifully captures and ‘distresses’ the 5th placed car, Phil Hill and Mike Spence won the race in a Chaparral 2F Chev from the P4 of Chris Amon and Jackie Stewart.

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Sutcliffe dives the P4 inside the Enever/Polle MGB (Klemantsaki)

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P4 Ferrari cockpit at Brands ’67. Of the period ‘innit? Momo wheel, Veglia Borletti instruments, right-hand 5 speed change, car a spaceframe chassis with riveted on aluminium panels to add stiffness, beautifully trimmed for a racer-added to driver comfort over longer distances (Klemantaski)

I wrote articles about the Ferrari P4/CanAm 350, Chaparral 2F and 1967 Le Mans which may be of interest if you are into these cars and this great era of ‘unlimited’ endurance racing, check out;

https://primotipo.com/2015/04/02/ferrari-p4canam-350-0858/ and https://primotipo.com/2014/06/26/67-spa-1000km-chaparral-2f/ and https://primotipo.com/2015/09/24/le-mans-1967/

fazz 3

Brands pits, 6 Hours ’67; the 3 factory P4’s in line astern with the Scarfiotti/Sutcliffe car ahead of the other two crewed by Amon/Stewart 2nd and Paul Hawkins/Jonathon Williams 6th. # 30 and 32 Lotus 47 Fords are Taylor/Preston 19th and Hine/Green DNF (Klemantaski)

Credit…

Klemantaski Collection

Tailpiece: Phil Hill in the winning Chaparral 2F Chev from the Scarfiotti/Sutcliffe Ferrari P4…

fazz last

(Klemantaski)

 

 

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George Follmer eases his oh-so-powerful Porsche 917/10 around the demanding swoops of Watkins Glen, New York State, 23 July 1972…

Follmer won the Can Am that year after taking over the drive vacated by Mark Donohue who had a disastrous second round practice crash at Road Atlanta, Georgia in July. Follmer was a wise choice by Roger Penske, the right mix of speed, engineering nouse and mechanical sympathy to deliver the goods at short notice. Watkins Glen was Follmer’s first race in the challenging 917/10, he was 5th, the hitherto dominant McLaren’s of Denny Hulme and Peter Revson were first and second- it was the last race win for the McLaren works team in the Can Am…

I must admit I have always been in two minds about these beasties. On the one hand they are very clever bits of engineering in adapting an existing race winning design made redundant into an altogether different and equally successful bit of kit. On the other, their dominance effectively, along with some silly SCCA rule decisions, destroyed the best ‘Formula Libre’ racing category on the planet. Make that the best racing category on the planet.

Porsche had of course competed in the Can Am before 1972, the decision to get serious was effectively made on its behalf by the FIA in making redundant the Group 5, 5 litre Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512S cars which provided two of the best ever seasons of sportscar endurance racing in 1970 and 1971.

Zuffenhausen’s  existing 3 litre 908 was unlikely to be competitive with the Grand Prix engined designs of Ferrari and Matra, a completely new 3 litre engine would have been required under the new endurance racing rules.

So Porsche planned to spend its racing budget on winning the Can Am in its most important single market- using the existing 917 package of engineering goodies as rather a sound base.

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Follmers 917/10 Watkins Glen 23 July 1972. Donohue’s crash destroyed the only super lighweight titanium spaceframe chassis, this is the heavy! aluminium one. Two massive Eberspacher turbo’s, see the wastegate above the exhaust outlet pipes, new 4 speed transaxle developed for the 917/10 (Rainer Schlegelmilch)

Early Design and Development…

After the 1971 Le Mans classic was won by the Gijs Van Lennep/Helmut Marko Porsche Salzburg 917K a new open ‘Spyder’ designated the 917/10 was built based on the learnings of the open cars raced by Porsche in the Can Am in 1969 and 1970.

Jo Siffert raced the new car in four 1971 Can Am meetings before his untimely demise in his F1 BRM P160 in the Brands Hatch Victory Race.

Jo took two 2nds at Mid Ohio and Road America, 3rd at Watkins Glen and a 5th at Donnybrooke in the series won again by the dominant papaya McLarens, this time by Peter Revson in an M8F Chev.

Private owners of 917 Coupes were given the opportunity to convert their cars to Group 7 specification inclusive of a 5.4 litre version of the big Flat-12, a change achieved by increasing the bore to 90mm. The ultimate power increase was not as appreciable as the jump in torque as the valve sizes and timing were as per the original 4.5 litre lump.

Seppi leads Denny in turn 9 at Laguna Seca on 17 October 1971- Porsche 917/10 and McLaren M8F Chev. Jo died at Brands Hatch a week later. The earliest evolution of the 917/10 body clear in this shot. Revson won at Laguna with Hulme 3rd and Jo 5th (Manor)

At about this time the commercial arrangements between Porsche and Penske Racing were concluded for 1972 (see tailpiece) so most of the development efforts went into the turbo-charged 917/10 to be raced by Mark Donohue.

The ‘development efforts’ required were truly stunning to take the existing spaceframe design and evolve it to cope with circa 900bhp rather than the 450bhp 4.5 litre flat-12 engine first fitted to the chassis in 1969. Then there are the aerodynamics and the small matter of an engine with sufficiently good throttle response for road circuits, not something achieved before by a turbo engine.

After the contracts were signed Donohue, Penske and Senior Engineer Don Cox travelled to Germany to meet the Piechs, Helmut Flegl ‘who was to be our only contact with the Porsche factory. He and no-one else was to make decisions at their end’ Mark Donohue says in his ‘The Unfair Advantage’, the superb book written by him together with Paul Van Valkenburgh.

During that first visit the Americans were stunned by facilities which Donohue likened to Chevrolet R&D albeit on a much smaller scale ‘We were truly impressed. We reckoned all we had to do was put the operation in the proper gear, push it forward and we would have unlimited success’ said Mark. It was to be not quite that easy.

Donohue, Penske, Don Cox and Helmut Flegl at Weissach with the normally aspirated test 917/10 at Weissach on that first trip to Germany as related in the text. Note the ‘sissy’ rear wing compared to the big, butch muvva developed by Donohue and the Penske lads in the ‘States pictured elsewhere (Porsche)

An amusing anecdote of that first trip to Germany was Donohue being asked to do some laps in the test car which had about 1500 miles under its belt in the hands of Willy Kauhsen under Flegl’s supervision. Donohue had endured a couple of long boozy nights with his new colleagues and a big lunch but he figured the request for some action shots, in a car he had never sat in before, would be ok.

He did some laps ‘It was ‘hunting’ back and forth on the straight as though it had an inch of toe-out. I had to jamb my legs against the steering wheel to keep it in a straight line at 150mph. And I couldn’t shift it well because the gears were in odd locations and there weren’t any definite gates’.

When Donohue stopped Flegl told him he had done a time of 53 seconds against the lap record of 51.5…he was expected to better it!

Donohue played for time, asking for the pedals to be adjusted and went out again, improving a smidge. He stopped and Flegl asked him ‘What do you think of it now?’. Donohue asked the German (remember that Mark was a degree qualified engineer) about toe, camber, steering geometry, spring rates and wing angles- everything. ‘It was basically an understeering car, but it was oversteering in the high speed bends. And it had instability in the straights…I said I think it will be better if we stiffen the rear anti-roll bar, increase the wing angle and reduce the toe-in at the front. Flegl became very angry. He said ‘You tell the mechanics what to do, but you don’t tell me what the car does! What is my job? Obviously, you don’t need me’. I had made a political mistake already. His bosses were standing around watching while I appeared to be doing his job. They were all used to the concept of separating the driver, the engineer, and the mechanics. They weren’t prepared for a driver to have some engineering knowledge’.

Donohue then jumped into the car and got below the record; all were pleased except Flegl and Kauhsen who had put 1500 miles on it only to have Donohue go quicker having not sat in the car before, hung over, all in the space of about three hours! ‘Flegl figured I had gotten him fired. But because Cox and I had already done a good job (in the days earlier) convincing him of our combined forces approach, we were able to keep the relationship from falling apart’, said Mark.

Donohue intended to devote three days to chassis testing but stayed in Germany for three weeks!, working with Flegl on every variable, using the test track and two skid pads- one with a 100, and one with a 400 foot radius.

They started with the suspension and then worked on aerodynamics. The Germans were not convinced about Donohue’s tried and true technique of test pad before heading to the test track but Flegl stuck up for them ‘The two of us could discuss the situation in engineering terms and reach a stronger conclusion than either of us working alone. It was much easier on me as I could concentrate more on my driving. Flegl constantly kept elaborate records of precisely everything we did, and how it affected the car’.

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Where did I drop the bloody thing?! Mechanic at work on the #59 Brumos ‘customer’ 917/10, 4.5 litre, during the Watkins Glen Can Am 23 July 1972 (Rainer Schlegelmilch)

‘We tested springs, bars, shocks, ride heights, wings and all possible variations in suspension alignment…It became obvious that all of their suspension geometry was wrong. I could tell by looking that the front was wrong, because it had such a short swing-arm radius. That’s why it was hunting so badly on the straightaway’.

‘At the rear the problem was apparent in tyre wear. The inside two inches of the tyre would wear out immediately…they agreed it was obviously wrong…As we got to the end of our tests, we started looking at the engineering drawings, and computer curves of the geometry. It became apparent that the rear roll centre was too low…When the original chassis was built (in 1969) they hadn’t anticipated all the aerodynamic downforce that could be generated. Now, in a turn, cornering forces were causing the rear suspension to fall, causing too much camber change and wearing the tyres out wrong. I couldn’t convince them of the seriousness of the problem (noting the 917 had just won its second Le Mans!), but i knew that once we had the car at our own shops (in the US) we could modify the geometry ourselves. We could run an A-B test, and let them know how it turned out. I also tried to convince them we needed a locked differential (a Donohue fetish used successfully on most of his cars!), and they fought that too. I figured the sooner we got the car to America, the better’.

‘We never went back to their test track until the last day I was there. After all that work the car was half a second faster. I was tremendously disappointed. I expected it to be two seconds better. It was a great victory for Flegl though. He stuck to our way of doing things, and he showed everyone that it was better. Without making any design changes to the vehicle, we had produced a new lap record…’

Follmer’s 917/10 at Watkins Glen on 23 July 1972. Note the beautifully triangulated aluminium spaceframe, steering rack above the drivers knees, big ventilated discs, beefy left foot brace and battery location on the cars floor. Decent view of the rear wing detail too at left (Schlegelmilch)

The cars chassis had to be slightly redesigned to accommodate the turbo installation and the wheelbase increased by 5/8 inch to allow the more rearward position of the driveshafts.

Very stiff titanium springs and roll bars were fitted with lateral accelerations of greater than 1.6g measured on the Weissach steering test pad.

917/10’s sold to private owners had aluminium frames, the weight only increased marginally to 60Kg with additional reinforcements made necessary by the engines colossal output. Amazing really. The magnesium development frame had done more than 3500Km practising and racing at Le Mans, a magnesium framed car was one of the two supplied to Penske for the ’72 season.

Paul Frere records that the magnesium frames were so difficult to weld that only two specialists at the factory could ‘fizz’ the things together. The mag frame saved 32lbs over the ‘ally ones, total weight of it circa 100lbs with all attachment brackets.

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Engine Development…

The pioneering work on turbo-charged racing engines was done in the ‘States in the mid-sixties to keep the venerable Offenhauser 4 cylinder engine competitive against the new, sophisticated DOHC Ford ‘Indy’ V8.

Stu Hilborn, the fuel injection expert, engineer Herb Porter and Bob DeBisschop of Garrett AirResearch, a manufacturer of turbo’s for Diesel engines most notably contributed.

With a standard Garrett TE06 diesel turbo unit running up to 100,000rpm, and capable of delivering 1.7 bar of pressure- the Offy gave 625bhp at 1.2 bar of pressure, any more than that and the modified 168cid blocks were in mortal danger. This was 150bhp more then the fuel injected 255cid Offy it replaced.

With development this grew to 800bhp by 1971, as power grew throttle response diminished and this of course was the big engineering challenge Porsche had to meet. It was one thing racing open-wheelers in top gear on long corners of constant radius, another thing entirely in road racing where instant throttle response was everything.

Further inspiration for Porsche came from BMW who won the European Touring Car Championship in 1968. Swiss engineer, Michael May, the same guy who pioneered wings on racing cars, developed a blown version of BMW’s 2 litre engine which gave 270bhp on 1.1 bar of boost. Despite detonation dramas the car won 4 races before turbo’s were banned in touring car racing.

At this point, 1970, Porsche started playing with a turbo-charged 2 litre 910 engine, then switched to a 4.5 litre 917 engine using Eberspacher turbos.

Fundamental reserves of Porsche engines are something easily understood once yerv had a chance to own one- I have in mind my over 225000Km ’85 Carrera 3.2, a 15 year old car when I bought it, and a daily driver for 7 years. The engineering of the things is superb and so it was for the 917 engine which was not significantly altered despite the 950bhp developed by the 5 litre turbo compared with the 580bhp claimed for the 4.5 litre normally aspirated motors, around which the original design work was done.

The compression ratio was lowered from 10.5:1 to 6.5:1 by changing the pistons. Inlet valve lift and valve overlap were reduced by substituting an exhaust camshaft for the inlet one and then making an inlet manifold to feed the exhaust gases to the turbine and another to take the compressed air to the intakes via a pressure balancing plenum chamber over each bank. Valentine Schaffer was in charge of  engine development.

There is a lot going on, have you ever seen so much complexity, not exactly an owner-drivers car! Note the spaceframe chassis, dry sump and oil system foreground centre, to its left fuel pumps above one tank, to the dry sumps right a duct for the rear brakes. See the distributor and throttle linkage centre, Bosch injection pump to its left and blow off valves on top of the inlet manifold. Donnybrooke, Minnesota 17 September 1972 (Upitis)

When Hans Mezger’s team did initial drawings for the 917 Turbo engine amongst key design tenets was the decision to use two turbo’s, one per bank of cylinders for the simple reason that two small turbo’s would ‘spool up’ quicker than a big single one offering better throttle response.

The chosen Eberspacher Turbo’s were adapted from industrial diesel units. They ran up to 90,000 rpm on ball bearings and delivered 0.55 of charge per second at a temperature of 150 degrees centigrade, the exhaust temperature went as high as 850 degrees. To withstand such heat the housing was aluminium but the turbine was made of steel.

The induction system was simple- log type manifolds were used for each bank of six cylinders with each turbo feeding one of the simple plenum chambers driven by the exhaust system. The two induction systems shared a common wastegate with a crossover pipe to equalise pressure on each side.

A Garrett wastegate was used and operated as it did in Indy racing. It had a diaphragm valve controlled by an adjustable-tension set spring which allowed the valve to open once the boost pressure was high enough to overcome the set tension. The idea was not to obtain maximum boost, but to obtain steady boost over a workable power band.

Early development problems included exhaust valves seizing in the guides, the heads were unmodified with the reduction in compression ratio and inlet cam profiles noted earlier. By mid 1971 Schaffer had improved durability such that a 4.5 litre engine survived an 8 hour full power run ‘something which reportedly could not be said for the dyno to which it was bolted’!!

The real dramas though were on the test track though where the drivability, read engine response was impossible, and even then after difficulties in just getting the engines to fire, to start. Part of the problem was an engine test cell fire which cost 3 months development time in mid 1971.

The first test ‘victim’ was Willy Kauhsen who tested chassis 917/10-001 at Weissach early in the summer of 1971, Ian Bamsey reports a ‘traumatic experience for the Porsche test driver…at first it took an hour or two to start! And when it eventually stated it went slowly , then suddenly exploded, there was nothing in the middle of the power band. And there was long, long turbo lag – ‘unacceptable’ he quotes Helmut Flegl as saying.

By the end of the year Kauhsen had his time on the Weissach test track to 49.1 seconds, two tenths quicker than Donohue in the same chassis but with a normally aspirated engine. Jo Siffert had the same difficulties driving the car at Weissach and Hockenheim.

The cooling fan size was retained although the speed was increased to 1.2 times engine speed. By now the engine timing had been fixed at 22 degrees B.T.D.C. To stop the engine running on, the injectors had been positioned lower down and close to new butterfly throttles- fuel had been spilling even after the pump supply had been cut. The fuel injection system was the usual Bosch unit used on the 917 throughout and required lots of  tweaking during early 1972 to get the engine race ready.

Back in the USA…

Penske were delivered a car which was identical to the chassis Flegl and Donouhue had optimised at Weissach.

Initial modifications centred around bigger and better rear wings. ‘We built two new wings, one the same shape as Porsche’s, only twice as big and one with a modern split flap design. I figured if the drag was too much with them, we could always level them out for the same downforce.’

Whilst waiting for a replacement engine, the team blew one having run it with insufficient oil ‘…Woody prepared an alternate front suspension, which incorporated the long swing-arm…It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it was the best we could do within the structural limits of what we had. The rear roll centre was still too low…We could look to the rear after we got the front suspension working right’. At Atlanta the car was immediately one second a lap quicker with the new front suspension, Donouhe telexed Flegl, the changes were made to the chassis at Weissach, taking the approach even further and producing exactly what Donohue wanted.

Back again at Road Atlanta, with the changed suspension geometry, altered springs and bars and with the split-flap rear wing the car was five-tenths under the circuit record. At that stage Donohue writes he was not convinced the team needed the turbo engine, with Penske assuring him the twists of Atlanta were different to the demands of a power circuit like Riverside. A test at Riverside proved they had enough downforce at the rear, the difficulty was trimming it at the front, where the various profiles tried never achieved the downforce needed.

Donohue’s first introduction to turbo road racing was at Road Atlanta in late January 1972, the latest iteration of the engine was installed in the Penske team’s test spyder, 9117/10-003. Mark found the task impossible, after towing the car to start it, he had the same driving experience as Kauhsen and the late Jo.

‘Once it started we couldn’t keep it running…I tried to drive it for a few laps and discovered that the throttle worked like an ignition switch-it was either wide open power, or off…After a banzai effort I got down to about the same lap time as the non-turbo engine with about 300 more horsepower…Towards the end of the test the blower failed, scattering parts into a cylinder and ruining the engine. We sent it back to Germany with a long dissertation on the problem and possible solutions they could try’.

After another test in March, again at Road Am, and this time with the press present after which Mark returned to Weissach with the Porsche engineers. ‘I decided it was foolish to spend any more time in the states…I told Flegl I’d go to Germany to work with their engine men personally’. With Penske watching he struggled to to do a lap of 49.7 seconds at Weissach. At that stage both men thought the early Can Am rounds should be missed until the engine was driveable.

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Follmer’s 917/10 from the rear showing the huge, carefully developed rear wing, Watkins Glen 1972 (Upitis)

Back to the dyno the turbo went, this time with its injection pump fitted with an additional control element dependent upon boost pressure. Flegl ‘…with a normally aspirated car the injection system had responded to revs and throttle position…now we had a third parameter we had to learn to work with. Right from the first moment the setting of the pump for high boost, intermediate boost, low boost had been incorrect. We had to run different settings on the dyno, then all the knowledge had to be put into the injection pump. It took two or three months to produce a completely new system, with the pump about right’.

Donohue then easily took ‘001’ around the test track in the record time of 48.9 seconds, other than the addition of  extra valving the engine was ready to race; one more butterfly valve on each manifold, linked to the throttle and designed to bleed air out when the throttle was closed and four suction operated valves were located on top of each manifold log to ensue there wasn’t a vacuum in the system while the turbos were spooling up.

The decision was taken to use 5 litre engines (4.5’s for Interserie) in the Can Am, the three engines provided to Penske in 1972 had power ranges of between 894-918 BHP dependent upon boost of between 1.3-1.4 bar. Maximum boost chipped in between 5000-5500rpm. The turbo-4.5 litre variant customer engines gave 850bhp.

Whilst the engine was butch enough to cope with the additional loads imposed upon it the transaxle was not…

Torque produced by the engines was in excess of 700lb/foot so a completely new gearbox was designed and built, 4 speeds being determined as sufficient given the big, fat band of torque. Lubricant was circulated within and pumped through a radiator located above the ‘box. Titanium half shafts were reinforced and splined joints deleted in favour of massive rubber ‘donuts’. Stub axles, uprights and brake disc bells were all titanium as they were for earlier 917’s.

Porsche also developed their own heavily ribbed aluminium brake calipers for the car.

Race Record 1972 and 1973…

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Follmer at Watkins Glen 1972 (Getty)

The rout of the Can Am by the Penske and customer Porsche 917/10 and ’73 917/30 is well known, this article is more about the engineering of the cars, but the race summary goes something like this.

Donohue popped the car on pole at the 1972 Mosport first round but Denny Hulme took the win for the McLaren M20 Chev.

In the Road Atlanta round Mark had a huge accident destroying the magnesium chassis when a rear bodywork locating pin was not secured properly, the departing body and loss of downforce caused the prang from which he was lucky to escape- but Mark did not return until the Edmonton round. George Follmer stepped in, no pressure!, and won from Q2.

At Watkins Glen he was 3rd behind Denny and Revvie- The Empire Strikes Back!

But that was it, George then dialled in to the car and won at Mid Ohio and Road America before Tyrrell F1 driver Francois Cevert, proving his versatility, won in an ex-works M8F Chev at Donnybrooke with George 4th.

 

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Porsche 917/10 cutaway drawing (Tony Matthews)

Donohue won at Edmonton proving he had not lost his mojo upon his return to racing with George winning in California at both Laguna Seca and Riverside and the drivers title, the manufacturers of course going to Porsche.

Hulme halved George’s points haul, the Kiwi on 65 with Milt Minter in a normally aspirated 917/10 3rd and Mark 4th despite missing 60% of the rounds.

In 1973 it took a couple of rounds to get the evolved 917/30 right with Charlie Kemp and George winning in customer 917/10’s at Mosport and Road Atlanta. From then on though Donohue took the lot, winning six rounds from pole, the drivers title and again the manufacturers championship for Zuffenhausen.

McLaren withdrew from the series at the end of ’72, Porsche in ’73- the Can Am, mortally wounded by rule changes which drove away Chaparral at the end of 1970, and now with the departure of McLaren and Porsche limped on but as a shadow, very sadly, of his former self. Shadows of 1974/5 duly noted. Nothing is forever of course, but what a show the Can Am was whilst it lasted…

Bibliography…

‘The Porsche 917’ by Paul Frere in ‘Cars In Profile’, ‘Porsche 917: The Ultimate Weapon’ Ian Bamsey, ‘Mark Donohue: The Unfair Advantage’ Paul Van Vandenburgh with Mark Donohue

Photo Credits…

Rainer Schlegelmilch, Alvis Upitis, Manor, Getty Images

Tailpiece: Roger Penske, 917/10 and fans…

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Donohue ‘Our program with Porsche began at Le Mans in 1971, while we were there with the Ferrari (512M)…Mrs Piech and her sons Michael and Ferdinand asked to see Roger Penske for lunch…At that meeting the Piechs expressed a desire to go racing in the Can Am…Roger followed it up by flying to Grrmany four or five times and eventually they began to hammer out a contract…because of the dollars involved we couldn’t work from a handshake’.

Porsche’s commercial arrangements with Penske were similar to those with John Wyer. The actual preparation and racing of the cars was Penske’s responsibility, with 5 litre engines were delivered straight from the Porsche Experimental and Racing Department and tended at race meetings by factory engineers. Engine development work was done by the Porsche based upon feedback from the drivers and team as well as the engineers in the field.

It worked rather well…

Finito…

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Lord Howe in the process of loading his Mercedes 38/250 SS onto ‘Southern Railways’ cross-channel steamer ‘Autocarrier’ cross channel ferry on 30 March 1931…

AF Rivers-Fletcher in a letter to MotorSport in February 1976 relates his experiences with this car which Howe acquired after Rudy Caracciola’s victory in the 1929 TT at Ards, Northern Ireland. The great German won the 30 lap race with a 5 lap handicap in a rain storm.

Fletcher wrote the letter in response to Bill Boddy’s article some months before comparing the Bentleys and Mercedes in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Fletcher ‘having been at different times, closely involved with both camps, Bentleys and Campbell/Howe Mercedes, found his allegiance torn’. His impressions and recollections make very interesting reading.

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1930 Irish GP/Eireann Cup start, 19 July 1930 #1 Campbell Merc SSK from #2 Howe Merc SSK, #6 Jean Chassagne Bentley Blower, #8 Birkin Bentley Blower, #9 ?, #10 Giulio Ramponi O.M. and the rest (Mercedes Benz)

I first drove some of the cars-Le Mans 6 1/2 litre Bentleys and Earl Howe Mercedes more than 40 years ago..’and in more recent times. ‘Even more revealing was being driven by Barnato, Birkin, Campbell and Howe in the very cars at the time of their racing success. Regretfully, however i never rode as a mechanic in the Mercedes or Bentleys…watching as an apprentice with pangs of enyy during practice for the Brooklands Double Twelve as Wally (Hassan) jumped down into Barnato’s Speed Six Bentley to ride with him as a mechanic’.

Fletcher; ‘After Caracciola’s epic victory with the 38/250 Mercedes SS in the 1929 TT, Lord Howe bought the car and raced it for several seasons. I drove it several times, once on quite a long run with Leslie Callingham of Shell…it must be remembered that Malcolm Campbell and Lord Howe ran their Mercedes in sprints and hillclimbs as well (as long distance races). They were very successful in spite of the brakes, the ‘achilles’ heel of the racing Mercedes.’.

‘…i always thought one of the best performances of Lord Howe’s Mercedes was its run in the 1933 Mille Miglia. Driven by Penn-Hughes and Percy Thomas (Lord Howe’s excellent mechanic) the Mercedes was in fact acting as the tender car to the ‘old mans’ successful MG Magnette team. It was loaded with MG spare parts under the tonneau’.

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1930 Irish GP/ Eireann Cup: Rudy Caracciola Merc SSK from the Howe SSK (Mercedes Benz)

Fletcher then compared the Benz with the Bentleys of the day; ‘The Bentleys particularly the 6 1/2, felt a good deal bigger than the Mercedes, perhaps because you sat so much higher in the Bentleys. Comparing the cars is very difficult because they felt so entirely different. Despite the record i still feel the Mercedes was pre-eminently a sprint machine with ‘bottom-end’ performance. The very light steering, terrific getaway aided by the unique blower installation and the compact feel of the car all made the Mercedes an ideal car for tight circuits and the hills-despite those brakes’.

‘The Bentley was a long distance car with ‘top-end’ performance. With its heavier steering it felt incredible sure footed. It needed more thought in deciding on a line through a corner, but was, i believe, quicker on the faster swerves than a Mercedes. The getaway from rest and from tight corners was slower than the Mercedes, but it made up for this by having tremendous torque in the middle and upper ranges. The ‘big 6 Bentley’ really accelerated between 70-100 where the Mercedes lagged a bit unless the supercharger was used all the time, which was seldom a proposition for long periods. The Bentley brakes were always excellent, with SO little fade, despite the considerable weight’.

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Malcolm Campbell and Earl Howe at Brooklands upon the unveiling of the new BRDC, and still thankfully current! logo, 9 September 1931. What are the cars tho? (Underwood)

Fletcher, in a fascinating letter, his impressions of driving the cars ‘in period’ of vastly greater relevance than any modern ‘comparative tests’ concluded the correspondence with a comment ‘As to the drivers-Campbell, Howe, Barnato and Birkin (one could write of any of the Bentley team, but Birkin and Barnato come to mind as they were most involved with ‘Mercedes baiting’)- it would need to be a complete article, or even a book, to compare them. All were thrilling to ride with, Barnato seemed the safest and Lord Howe the most frightening. Suffice it to say that in many ways Campbell, Howe and Barnato were rather like their cars and Birkin was more like a Mercedes! Don’t you think?’

1930 Irish Grand Prix…

The Irish Grand Prix format from 1929-1932 comprised two handicap, 300 mile races each year with a formula determining the overall winner of the GP. The ‘Saorstat Cup’ was run for cars under 1500cc on the Friday of race weekend  and the ‘Eireann Cup’ for the over 1500cc ‘heavy metal’ on the Saturday. Phoenix Park, the venue is just west of Dublin’s City Centre, the circuit was first used for racing in 1903 and was 6.8 Km long at the time. The 1930 races were won by Victor Gillow’s Riley 9 Brooklands with Rudy Caracciola’s Benz SSK taking out the over 1500cc event and awarded the GP itself.

Of interest to Australian enthusiasts is Adelaide born, but British domiciled Arthur Waite’s 3rd place in the ‘Saorstat Cup’ aboard his Austin, Captain Waite was the winner of the second Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island in 1928. Caracciola’s margin was 8 minutes from Giuseppe Campari’s works Alfa 6C 1750 GS with Howe 3 minutes further back in his SSK- then Birkin’s Bentley Blower circa 35 seconds adrift of the SSK.

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Lord Howe togs up for the 1931 Irish GP/ Eireann Cup in which he was 5th and set fastest lap in his Mercedes Benz SS. The winner was Sir Henry Birkin’s Alfa Romeo 8C2300. An amusing sidebar is this snippet from the Adelaide Advertiser’s report of the race in its 9 June 1931 edition ‘…Birkin’s car, made in Italy, was turned out for the race only by the intervention of Mussolini, who said that, as an Englishman had honoured Italy by ordering an Italian car for an English race, the Alfa Romeo company should provide a double-shift to complete the job. These shifts were necessary because this company is making also the engines for the Italian Schneider Cup planes’, the report concludes. Alfa went to great lengths to get the car to the race in time, factory race mechanic Alessandro Gaboardi accompanying Clive Gallop, a member of Birkin’s team in driving Vittorio Jano’s brilliant 8C2300 from Portello to Phoenix Park and then sat alongside Birkin during the race.

Birkin, Gaboardi and Alfa 8C2300 after their 1931 Eireann Cup win, Phoenix Park, Dublin (Popperfoto)

Mercedes S, SS, SSKL 1926-33…

Click here for a link to the factory site and a summary of these magnificent cars;

https://mercedes-benz-publicarchive.com/marsPublic/en/instance/ko/S-SS-SSK-SSKL-1926—1933.xhtml?oid=4175

Credits…

WG Phillips, Rivers Fletcher letter to MotorSport February 1976, Mercedes Benz

Tailpiece: ‘Carach’ on the way to winning the 836.9 Km 1929 RAC TT at Ards in the works Mercedes Benz SS, on 17 August…

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(Mercedes Benz)

The RAC International Tourist Trophy, a race for ‘production sports cars’ was held from 1928 to 1936 on a 13.67 mile road course on the outskirts of Belfast at Ards, eight spectator fatalities after a car crashed into the crowd in 1936 caused the events demise.