LEGENDARY GRAND PRIX CIRCUITS & DRIVERS REAR ENGINED GP CARS
One does not really ever think of a modern Grand Prix car with a front mounted engine. Until the 1930's and the appearance of Auto Union's front engined machines were the conventional layout.
The first "mid engine" race car appeared at the 1923 Grand Prix of Italy at Monza on September 9 in an innovative Benz Tropfenwagen, ("tear drop car") taking 4th place behind the all new Fiat straight 8 supercharged Tipo 805-405 and the Miller entered supercharged 122.
Ferdinando Minoia's unsupercharged 1991 cc twin cam 65 BHP Benz with its engine mounted behind the driver, built in with a transaxle, swing axle independent rear suspension and inboard brakes were other advanced features of the Edmund Rumpler design.
The Tropfenwagen was no match for the supercharged Fiats of Carlo Salamano and Felice Nazzaro. The Italian Grand Prix of 1923 included one of Harry Miller's rare European appearances with his single seat American Miller 122, ("122" Designation was for its engine capacity in cc), driven by Chity Bang Bang fame Count Louis Zborowski.
With a change in the formula for Indianapolis in 1923 to 2 litres and the riding mechanic excluded, Miller was the first to develop a pure single seat race car.
Little known name at the time, Alfa Romeo entered a P1 driven by Antonio Ascari, the french including Bugatti stayed away resulting in a resounding win for the modified Fiats, becoming the first supercharged race cars to win a major European Grand Prix. Rumpler's machine performed honorably recording a top speed in excess of 110 MPH.
A year later Benz and Mercedes pooled their resources before a merger in 1926 ending the development of Rumpler's design in favour of a conventional front engined car by the groups new chief engineer Ferdinard Porsche, who was to leave and create the famous rear engined Auto Unions.
By the 1930's the rear engined machines dominated Grand Prix racing, Auto Union's combined German manufacturers of Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer.
Hans Stuck Senior became the first winner of a Grand Prix in a rear or mid engined machine designed by Porsche at his home GP in Germany of 1934.
With the introduction of the C-type in 1936, Bernd Rosemeyer dominated European racing becoming champion.
With the inauguration of a drivers championship in 1950 cars were again prudentially front engine mounted until Sir Sterling Moss privately entered a Rob Walker Cooper which raced to victory at the Argentine GP of 1958. Moss became the first, driver to win a world Championship event in a mid engined car.
By the 1960's front engined race cars in Formula one were obsolete.
AMERICAN TURBINE CAR SETS LAND SPEED RECORD
An American team has recently raised the WHEEL DRIVEN land speed record to 458.44 MPH breaking the 1964 record held by the Late Donald Campbell by 55 mph.
The record was set at the Bonneville flats by California motorcyclist and car racer Don Vesco in a turbine powered streamliner, called "Turbinator".
The FIA averaged the speed at 458.44 with a top speed pass of 461 Mph. The machine is powered by a shaft driven gas turbine helicopter motor producing 3,750 shaft horsepower at 16,000 RPM.
A further attempt to increase the record to over 500 MPH is likely next year.
After lengthy set-backs due to unseasonably wet weather, Donald Campbell set a World land speed record of 403.1 Mph in Australia on Lake Eyre on 17th July 1964 in his 4-wheel drive, shaft driven Bristol Siddeley "Proeus" gas turbine Bluebird.
Bluebird now resides in Lord Montagu's National Motor Museum at Beaulieu.
His speed in each direction was identical, despite the many variables in surface and wind strength.
In December of the same year, again in Australia, this time at Lake Dumbleyung he achieved a unique and incredible second world speed record, on water at 276.33 Mph. Thus becoming the only person to hold both Water and Land Speed Records at the same time.
Three years later on January the 4th 1967 whilst trying to become the first person to go over 300 Mph on water he crashed at Coniston water.
He had achieved a run of 297 Mph on the first leg, but turning around without refueling and not waiting for his wake to settle, set off on the second leg. The boat lifted out of the water after exceeding a speed of over 300 Mph, somersaulted and disintegrated on landing on the surface.
Australian Ken Warby still holds the World water speed record set on 8 October 1978 of 317.60 Mph at Blowering Dam, New South Wales in Spirit Of Australia.
Ken Warby has been living in the USA since 1987, in the Cincinnati area. He is building a new boat, 50% more powerful than his last.
He plans a new record attempt, sometime in the future.
Sites he has been looking at to accomplish this are all in Australia.
In October 1997, Andy Green, an RAF fighter pilot, and the team led by former Land speed record holder Richard Noble took the non wheel driven World Land speed record to over 763.035 MPH, Thrust SSC did the unthinkable by breaking the sound barrier at Mach
Thrust SSC stands alone in its class of land speed record vehicles, until the time comes to take another crack at the record.
Other vehicles will no doubt join this elite class some day.
EARLY GRAND PRIX
This current season of Formula one has been mostly a long uninteresting season.
Have any of you wondered where and when it all started?
The first motor race seems to been held barely a year after the first horse less carriage appeared on our dusty roads.
Arguments about the arrival of the first car seems to lay with Gottlieib Daimlers motorcycle of 1885 and Karl Benz's tricycle in 1886, but the modern company bearing both their names credits them with the first car in 1886.
As early as 20 April 1887 Count De Dion won a contest from Paris to Versailles and return a total of 20 miles at an average speed of 16.3 mph driving a 4 wheeled steam car. This was not a race and either was the Paris-Rouen Trial of 1894 organized by a Paris Newspaper.
The first real race seems to be a 732 mile event from Paris to Bordeaux and return. Won by Emile Levassor (one time vehicle maker) at 15 mph in 48 hours, 48 minutes using a Daimler 3.5 HP engine in a 2 seat machine. Regulations required vehicles to fitted with 4 seats, therefore a Peugeot driven by Koechlin was awarded the main prize, yet Levassor is recorded as the winner.
The first motor race using the term "Grand Prix" was held on 26-27 June 1906. The French Grand Prix contested over two days on a 65 mile triangular shaped circuit at Le Mans. The organizing club, Automobile Club de France required each of the thirty two competitors to complete 6 laps each day, resulting in a total distanced covered of 780 miles. Each machine started at 90 second intervals, with Hungarian Renault works driver Ferenic Szlsz winning at an average speed of 73.3 miles per hour. Szlsz retired from racing in 1914 aged 41, dying in 1970.
The French Grand Prix remained the only such event termed "Grand Prix" until 1921, when the Brescia GP was organized in Italy.
Starts as we know them today did not commence until the French Grand Prix at Strasbourg in 1922.
There had been 35 city to city road type racing events before the first GP, all using Paris as a start point and heading out to other French cities such as Bordeaux and Marseilles or European capitals such as Berlin, Vienna, Madrid between 1894 and 1903
More importantly from 1900 a series of races commenced named after an American newspaper magnate, James Gordon-Bennett, proprietor of the New York Herald.
The Gordon Bennett Trophy was raced by a team of 3 representing the country holding the cup and by not more than 3 challengers. The cars were entered by a national club had to be made in the country, but not necessarily designed there. These races also saw the first system of painting cars in national colors, which was abandoned years later.
GRAND PRIX CIRCUIT - SPA FRANCORCHAMPS
The first Grand Prix for racing cars was run on the magnificent Spa-Francorchamps circuit in 1925.
It was won by the Alfa romeo team.
When it was last run on the full circuit in 1970, Pedro Rodriguez won in a BRM P153 at 149.97 mph [then a GP record].
Fangio and Farina won the first two championship Belgian GPs.
Peter Collins won his first at Spa in 1956,Jim Clark won four times in succession[1962-65] although he loathed the place.
The race was also run at nivelles and 10 times at Zolder, Jackie Stewart's only serious accident was in the wet at spa in 1966 and Gilles Villeneuve died at Zolder in 1982.
In 1983 a new shorter Spa circuit was used, with new pits and start line before the la source hairpin. The stretch up to les Combes remained from the old circuit, but then a sequence of corners led into the new section with fast bends leading back to Stavelot picking up the old circuit again and to the fast stretch back to the pits, broken by a ridiculous chicane nicknamed 'the bus stop'.
The new circuit was resurfaced to combat aquaplaning in 1985, and the work was completed only ten day's before Grand Prix practise.
Under the pounding of racing cars it started to break up, and the meeting was cancelled and rescheduled to be run four months later, uniquely in GP history.
GRAND PRIX DRIVER - DAN GURNEY
Dan Gurney - The popular son of an opera singer whose family moved to California after his father's retirement, Gurney began racing in West Coast sports car events before competing at Le Mans for the first time in 1958.
By 1960 he had gained a place in the works Ferrari F1 team but it was not until 1962 that he won his first F1 race for Porsche in the French Grand Prix.
Between 1963 and 65 Gurney drove for Jack Brabham's F1 team consistently proving himself a match for Clark and his Lotus whilst repeatedly let down due to trifling mechanical failures.
With the advent of the 3 liter F1 regulations in 1966 he started his own team, Anglo American Racers and won the 1967 Belgian Grand Prix at the wheel of the Eagle-Weslake.
Underlining his versatility Gurney also won Le Mans in 1967 sharing his 7 liter Ford with Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt.
GRAND PRIX CIRCUIT - THE OLD NURBURGRING
The old Nurburgring was not one but two circuits which could be used together [making 19miles] and had 172 corners.
The Nordschleife [North loop] was 14.2 miles and the Sudschleife [south loop] a mere 4.8-miles.
Where the two met there was a paddock,pits a wooded grandstand and a Hotel. The Nurburg Village, Which is overlooked by the ruins of an old 12th century castle. Local district controller, a Dr. Creutz felt the construction would help the areas crippling unemployment and promote tourism.
Work started in 1925 and was finished for the grand opening in June 1927. The track was wet and the race was won by Rudi Caracciola.
A month later the track hosted the German Grand Prix and 100,000 locals turned out to watch Otto Merz win in a Mercedes-Benz.
This vast circuit was the site of Tazio Nuvolari's greatest victory for Alfa Romeo in 1953; of Juan-Manuel Fangios greatest drive, fighting back from a delay in his Maserati 250F to win in 1957; and of Jackie Stewart's remarkable win in the fog of 1968, driving
with his wrist in plaster.
Such a fast and spectacular track must also have its victims and all around the old Nurburgring there are places where the fast and wild died young.
The march of time dictated that safety and television would become important factors. It was virtually impossible to cover the entire track without several hundred TV cameras and no broadcasting organisation could afford such an operation.
But it was the safety which finally and inevitably put paid to the old Ring. It was, by its very nature, almost impossible to make safe.
Despite a 3 year program in the early 1970's to erect barriers and create run-off areas there were still safety problems and in 1976 Niki Lauda proposed to the drivers that the circuit be boycotted.
The other drivers voted against Lauda and the race went ahead on August 1st that year. Lauda crashed and was badly burned and only saved by the combined actions of fellow drivers rather than by the ill-equipped fire marshalls.
At the end of that year the governing body of the sport withdrew the Nurburgring's F1 license.
Other racing when on for another six years, And on May 1982 held its last International
event-a 1,000km sports car race.