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          A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  Motor racing

The world could actually, be satisfied as far as the development of mobility is concerned. Certainly, there are too many tail-backs and there is too much congestion, but apart from that, it would actually suffice, to be able to travel unbelievable distances at many many times our own walking speed.

Apart from obstacles like, e.g., the oceans, one can in the meantime, approach any point on earth in the space of a day's march, at least at the time of year when the wheather is suitable. Indeed, for 99 percent of the travelling, all-wheel drive is not even necessary, and for 98 percent, not even a high amount of ground clearance is needed.

Indeed, the desire to travel particularly fast still remains. Cars which are capable of doing this, are even sold in countries in which very strict speed limiting is the order of the day. This leads us to the conclusion, that simply having an engine which it strong enough to do this, is sufficient. Since, let's face facts, cars that are really fast, also cost a great deal of money.

What's even worse, is that sometimes, for whatever reasons, the (mostly male) owners of such cars use the amount of power at their finger tips, what happens then, is e.g., what is being done in Nardo (Southern Italy), mostly at night and with beads of sweat on their foreheads. The question that remains, is why do people do things like this?

With which, we arrive at the professional racing drivers. Car racing has been around for as long as cars have. The industry maintains, that racing victories have a positive affect on the sales of cars. A big factor of these victories are the drivers (in the beginning only men), whose talents were discovered mostly from their jobs as mechanics. Way back in the beginning, there were the so-called gentlemen drivers, because only they had the time, and only they could afford the sport.

Let's go back to the middle of the last century, at the time when motor-racing was just being revived. Let's consider the most prestigious class, the Grand Prix. Without mentioning the number of deaths at this point, we wouldn't be able to carry on. Indeed, the outcome of an accident at that time, seen in the above picture, was very different, compared with today. Aluminium just doesn't have the same qualities as carbon-fibre does. A great number of racing drivers paid for this with their lives.

Fatally injured racing drivers
1950Raymond Sommer
1950Joe Fry
1952Luigi Fagioli
1953Felice Bonetto
1953Charles de Tornaco
1954Onofre Marimon
1955Don Beauman
1955Alberto Ascari
1955Pierre Levegh
1956Louis Rosier
1957Ken Wharton
1957Piero Carini
1957Eugenio Castellotti
1957Herbert Mackay-Fraser
1957Alfonso de Portago
1957Bill Whitehouse
1958Peter Whitehead
1958Stuart Lewis-Evans
1958Luigi Musso
1958Archie Scott-Brown
1958Erwin Bauer
1958Peter Collins
1959Jean Behra
1959Ivor Bueb
1967Lorenzo Bandini
1968Jim Clark
1973Roger Williamson
1973Francois Cevert

Between the races it was almost too much of a good thing, at least for the top drivers it was. A pleasant pastime, for the majority of the people at that time impossible, and being surrounded by beautiful women, a lot of men would have given anything to be able to change places with them. Indeed, as soon as one got into the orbit of this clientele, one felt the danger that was ever-present. Even when watching the renditions in the, still quite rare television, the question was being asked, what on earth happened there?

The spectators at the races were able to experience a lot more. There was the background noise, from a high pitched whine to the gross bark of the big engines, from the normal manoeuvering up to the borderline risk-taking, without which the top drivers of the time couldn't exist. Very often, and above all, those with a youthful nature, were trying to get these sounds from their own cars, they were however, years, even decades behind the racing sport. The argument, that developments made in the Formula-1, go towards improving the production series, was absurd.

One can safely assume, even in 1956, double the power and half the weight, of course, using a sports car as the basis. In addition, don't fool yourself by assuming a well balanced handling, possibly also under all weather conditions. Even the poorly informed spectators could, over and over again, recognise the fine line between calculated risk and pure madness.

Some critics maintain, that at the Grand Prix, all they do is drive around in circles. This is of course, even on the simplest circuits, not true, after all, constant attention to what the other drivers were up to, was demanded. Of course, on the (old) Nürburgring circuit, they were driving around in an enormous circle, but who could seriously maintain, that racing on a hilly course, with blind sections that were approached flat out, was simple or easy.

Parts of a race-track, e.g., the Carousel on the Nürburgring, are made up of concrete slabs. At least the trenches on the inside of the curves have been removed. One of the few early attempts that were made to make the races safer. Another example were the legendary hay-bales, a bit more effective than if one had put up a warning sign.

The majority of the drivers knew the course like the back of their hands anyway. If this was not the case, then the drivers did a walk-around or drove around the course on a motorcycle.

One can no longer even imagine racing cars which are not covered with advertising. Indeed, in the beginning, after the second world war, that's the way it was. Even earlier, the national honour was much more important, this was even before fascism reared it's ugly head. The British cars were green, the French blue, the Italian red and the German white and, as long as a racing driver won in his own country, it didn't matter much who he was.

Germany, of all countries, changed their colours with the emergence of the National Socialists. The now legendary story was: the white-painted car was one kilogram overweight, which is why it was sanded down to the naked aluminium. Indeed, there's plenty of room for doubt. Since then, the German racing cars were given the name 'Silberpfeile' (Silver Arrows), regardless of whether they were made by Mercedes or by Auto Union.

Those were the days, when a maximum weight was stipulated. Since 1961, it's just the other way round, and set so low, that it could only be underbid by one or two teams. All in all, the new regulations did little to increase the stability of the individual groups of components.

At first the sponsors were only allowed outside of the race track.

Whereby, the sponsors were urgently needed. Ostensibly, in the Formula-1 and over the middle distance, it was costing €10 million to improve the lap time by one second! If one did not belong to the elite group of drivers, like Jim Clarke, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and even Miika Häkkinen, to be able to join the team, one had to bring along a sponsor.

In a F1-racing car everthing is terribly expensive. Even the steering wheel, jam-packed with high-tech, apparently costs approx. €15.000. Indeed therefore, the vehicles have also become safer. Mass pile-ups, with cars flying though the air, that were certain to end in deaths, are nowadays, relatively harmless. 10/03               Top of page               Index
2001-2015 Copyright programs, texts, animations, pictures: H. Huppertz - E-Mail
Translator: Don Leslie - Email:

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