UPROAR IN THE RAC
British manufacturers, drivers, race officials and reporters raised an angry roar of disapproval upon hearing the news, and everybody in the staid old RAC building was suddenly trying to speak or shout at once. The elegant Italian delegate, Count Giovanni Lurani Cernuschi, contradicted Perouse, whose version of the voting implied that only Britain had opposed the change. Cernuschi, better known as Johnny Lurani, a dashing driver of the 1930s, explained to reporters and friends who suddenly swirled around him that Britain and Italy had even tried to compromise on 2 liters. To Lurani a 1�-liter racer was "not a man's car."
Mike Hawthorn, Britain's first world champion driver and leader of an apparently inexhaustible pack of British stars, bitterly criticized the change as "the most retrograde step taken in the history of motor racing." He snapped: "Plenty of drivers can race at 120 mph, but there are not many who can race at 140 mph. Drivers should have to learn to achieve this standard. As for safety, the lighter the car is, the easier it is to handle and the safer it is to drive." Hawthorn was unwilling to make public his specific testimony before the CSI but could not resist groaning, "They should leave the formula alone."
None of the British principals would concede that the new formula would make racing any safer. On the contrary, they argued that it would in fact make racing more dangerous. Since the speed differential between drivers of varying merits will be decreased, the less experienced will be tempted, they said, to drive beyond their capacities. In any case, many drivers believe that they can get out of trouble more easily with more power in hand.
The British were especially irate over the matter of a minimum weight. Famous for their achievements in light chassis construction (the lighter the car relative to its power, the faster it goes), they consider the minimum weight rule a roadblock to further development in this aspect of design. The smaller British Grand Prix cars are already beneath the 500-kilogram limit; all the 1�-liter Formula II racers weigh considerably less.
Mike Hawthorn felt that safety would be better served through alterations in racing circuits, not the cars. "I do not suggest destroying the character of the circuits," he said, "but I think drivers are entitled to a reasonable chance of getting away with it if they go off the road at a corner. A little work is definitely needed on various corners; for instance, the place where Musso went off in this year's French Grand Prix." ( Musso was fatally injured in that accident.)
By their insistence on a very small engine, the majority delegates may well have thrown out the baby with the bath water. Britain's Aston Martin chief, David Brown, who plans to enter Grand Prix racing under the current formula, declared, "We shan't build a 1�-liter car." Tony Vandervell was not sure he wanted to continue at all. Dean Delamont, one of the British delegates to the meeting, said, "We want motor racing to be the ultimate in glamorous spectacle and speed, a prestigious sport. This is a negative step."
Perhaps the desire for glamour and speed will yet be fulfilled through the new intercontinental formula. The approval of Charles Moran's motion for a special subcommittee to develop such a rule gave it official status; this will not be an outlaw movement facing formidable odds. The U.S., which has no small racing engines of note and is not likely to develop any, thereby receives a chance to enter international CSI racing in an important way with engines suited to its resources. For a starter, Moran's committee is thinking of the 4.2-liter Meyer-Drake Offenhauser engine, which dominates the Indianapolis "500." It is very difficult to adapt to road racing, as Briggs Cunningham discovered when he put one into one of his Le Mans sports cars; its "severe power impulses" invite clutch trouble, as the Indy car owner Jack Zink points out, and cars so powered are slow off the mark. Still, it is the best the U.S. has. And Moran is not thinking exclusively of road racing. He suggests the possibility of out-and-out track racing on the intercontinental program, and he will take a close look at the new high-speed track that is under construction at Daytona Beach, Fla. as one of several possible sites. The dramatic track races won by Indianapolis cars at Monza, Italy this year and last gave Europeans a taste of speed racing of a kind they had all but forgotten. The Europeans, significantly, made a substantial and effective effort at Monza this year after largely boycotting the event in 1957. The U.S. will have its first big Grand Prix race since 1937 next March at Sebring, Fla., a further stimulus to American interest in worldwide racing.
A NATIONAL NEED
Moran's group will begin at once to sound out the leaders in American racing—officials of the U.S. Auto Club and NASCAR, chassis builders like Frank Kurtis, engine men at Meyer-Drake. "We want to talk with everybody who might be concerned," Moran said. "We would like to work out a detailed formula to present to the subcommittee by spring. I think this will fill a national need—and the needs of others who feel that 1� liters is too small an engine to represent championship motor racing at its best."