This further proved to Briggs Cunningham that the timeworn dictum, "you can't beat inches," is a fallacy. He has dropped the manufacture of the Cunningham and is now experimenting with a new, smaller, lighter competition chassis intended for the 180-cu.-in. Meyer & Drake engine of proved merit. Furthermore, at Reims Cunningham discussed with M. Perouse, Secretary of the all-powerful Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, the possibility of limiting 1955 sports-car engine displacement to three liters.
In the smaller classes (1100 and 1500 cc.) the overwhelming superiority of the Osca proved conclusively that the logical power unit for any winning sports car is not a souped-up touring engine but a detuned racing unit. Notable Oscas have been those of Rees Makins (1100 cc.), which has won its class in every one of a dozen AFB events, and the Jim Simpson car (1500 cc.) with an equally impressive record.
AND THEN SHE BLEW UP
The most exciting 1954 race was at Andrews AFB, Washington, D.C., on May 2. Throughout the 200-mile President's Cup, Kimberly and Spear, with identical Ferraris, fought a merciless battle. One lap from the checkered flag, with a two-minute lead over his rival, Kimberly was a sure thing for a trip to the White House to receive the trophy from President Eisenhower. Then his engine blew up.
In the West, car-builder Sterling Edwards took the four-year-old Palm Springs main event with a 4.1 Le Mans Ferrari, to become the first repeat winner. The fifth annual Pebble Beach road race (April 11) was another Ferrari success when Edwards won the Del Monte Trophy, beating two Cad-Allards and a C-Type Jaguar; but at Golden Gate, San Francisco (June 6), before 100,000 spectators, it was Jack McAfee's turn with the Paravano 4.5 Ferrari. Edwards managed a second though. Meanwhile, at the Bakers-field Sports Car Races, Britisher Ken Miles won both events with his fabulous MG Special, beating (believe it or not) two Ferraris and a Maserati. In professional racing, the year's outstanding event?the 500-Mile Indianapolis Memorial Day Classic?went to that human bomb, Bill Vukovich, with an Offy-powered Keck Fuel Injection Special. He became third man to win the race two years running?after Wilbur Shaw and Mauri Rose.
Although the future of sports-car racing at Air Force bases is uncertain, press reports about definite cancellations have been premature. There is a fair chance that several events will be run in 1955 at the larger airfields. Whatever the outcome, enthusiasts need not fear that the sport will die. Already this season the Sports Car Club of America has been offered 47 possible venues for race meets by progressive groups and communities. In addition, at least 10 Eastern and five Western road and airfield courses, several of them new this year, will hold races in 1955. The tentative date for next year's Sebring 12-hour international sports-car race is March 20; the event is definitely on, and many top-notch European entries are expected.
Judged by any standard?Top Ten or the proposed new Class Championships?Kimberly is not only the season's champion driver of the United States but also the most improved one. The leading candidate for rookie-of-the-year honors is Ralph Durbin, a skilled, aggressive, 36-year-old Detroit enthusiast, who drives a well-tuned TF-MG. Durbin has logged six class firsts, four seconds and two thirds in seven major competitions covering 12 races, in addition to an overall first and two thirds against such opposition as Porsches.
Looking toward next year, American sports car enthusiasts are hoping that some effort will be made to restore the balance in favor of true road races. The Brynfan Tyddyn, Pa. race on July 25, though limited to 2,000-cc. machines, showed that airfield racing has encouraged slack habits among drivers. There were three unnecessary flips (an MG, a Maserati and a Kieft-Bristol) when contestants forgot that real roads have crowns and that soft shoulders, ditches and stone bridges are more treacherous than cardboard boxes filled with sand.
FASTER AND FASTER
In the overall picture, 1954 has brought to light some interesting things. First: Grand Prix racing's Formula I gave impetus to the attainment of a long-sought ideal?a high-efficiency engine able to develop 100-brake horsepower per liter. Both Mercedes and Ferrari have achieved this goal without sacrificing reliability. Mercedes, with a straight-eight, double-overhead-camshaft, fuel-injection engine, produces 280 b.h.p. at 8,500 r.p.m. for only 2,496 cc. Ferrari, with the new GP 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine, is good for 256 b.h.p. at 7,500 r.p.m. Maserati isn't far behind.