Piper plays the Norisring
by Michael Kettlewell
DAVID PIPER really called the tune at Norisring in Germany last Sunday, winning the 200-mile sports car race quite comfortably in his 4-litre Ferrari 330P3/4. In the first heat Piper took the lead on the sixth of the 41 laps when Gerhard Mitter's 3-litre Porsche 908, which he was tailing closely, succumbed to clutch trouble. He finished all but a lap in front of second man Frank Gardner's sick 5.5-litre Lola-Chevrolet T70. Piper took it easy in the second heat, letting through challenger Jo Bonnier's 5-litre Lola-Chevrolet T70 with five laps to go—Bonnier was out of contention in reality, having failed to finish the first part.
Second overall, and one lap down in the overall classification, was Austrian Dieter Quester in the works 2-litre Group 7 BMW 2000. Although not entirely happy with either the handling or the engine of the hill-climb car, Quester finished two laps ahead of third man Jo Siffert in the Hart-Ski Racing Team's 2-litre Group 6 Porsche 910.
ADOLF HITLER himself would have been surprised to see his famous Nurnberg Stadion arena used as part of a motor racing track. The Nazi monument is now the spectating area for the 2.44-mile Norisring motor racing circuit, a track which makes use of private roads south of the big town of Nurnberg (also known as Nuremberg).
The start and finish line is right under the balcony where Hitler made his infamous speeches. There follows the temporary pits structure, which is just where Vic Elford snatches fifth gear in his 2-litre Porsche 910. Then the previously wide road narrows appreciably and curves gradually to the right for over half a mile. Vic holds his top ratio for this section, which is flat out, and then comes a first-gear left-hand hairpin and it is flat-out through the gears again along a road running parallel, curving to the left. On reaching the tribunes area again Vic changes down from fifth to second for the esses—a right followed immediately by a left. Then it is up to fourth behind the tribunes before a slight right-hander and then a second-gear hairpin by the railway station. From this the Porsche accelerates flat-out along a short straight bordering the Grosser Dutzendteich lake and through a left-hand kink which joins the main straight back past the start-finish area.
The Norisring certainly calls for sheer speed, but good braking and acceleration qualities are needed for the sharp hairpins. Prior to last Sunday's meeting the lap record stood to last year's winner, Frank Gardner in Sid Taylor's 5.5-litre Lola-Chevrolet T70, in the time of 1 min 23 sec (106.19mph). Sheer guts are needed too, for along the " dog-leg " part of the circuit the road is very narrow and is lined by concrete marker posts and lamp-standards just a couple of feet from the edge. One driver remarked that if anyone lost it seriously at the hairpin he could easily spin back into oncoming traffic on the opposite carriageway.
Norisring has been used for motor-cycle racing since 1947. Cars first graced the track in 1952 when there was a race for Formula 3 500 cc machines. Rennwagen did not appear again until 1960 (Formula Junior), but since then it has been used regularly for most types of car.
This year's 200-mile sports car race was the most important ever staged at Norisring. With the cancellation of the Rheims 12-hours due for the same day the event attracted many top-line entries that the organisers never dreamed of having. The race was open to sports cars—any sports cars, Groups 4, 6 and 7 being admitted. It is well over a year, nearly two in fact, that a really serious Group 7 race has been run in Europe. The main reason for entertaining this category was that the Porsche and BMW hill-climb team cars run in Group 7 form. No American CanAm cars were expected to enter. And none did.
In the over 2000 cc class there were four Lolas. Sid Taylor had his last year's car for last year's winner Frank Gardner, using a 5.5 litre engine as, of course, the 5-litre Group 4 limit did not apply. Jo Bonnier, Ulf Norinder and Jackie Epstein ran their Lolas in the more normal 5-litre form. Mike de Udy was a non-starter. David Piper entered a brace of Ferraris, ex-Maranello Concessionaires 4-litre 330P3/4 for himself and the trusty 250LM for Brian Muir. This was the first crash-gearbox car Brian had ever raced. Porsche entered a dark horse in the shape of a Group 6 3-litre 908 for Gerhard Mitter.
There were five Ford GT40s. Paul Hawkins entered his brace for himself and Eric Liddell, while private-owners Peter Sadler, Ed Nelson and David Prophet had theirs. Completing this class was a surprise in the shape of Swiss Hans Schertenleib's 5-litre Maserati. This was the car built for Le Mans in 1965 and crashed by Jo Siffert very early on. It features the space-frame to end all space-frames, a maze of spaghetti-thick tubes embracing the engine and generally holding together the whole car. Each tube is in tension and the whole car must be very light— as Denis Jenkinson remarked, " If one tube broke, there would be a ping and the whole car would disintegrate."
The 2-litre class was (naturally) mainly Porsche, with Group 6 910s for Vic Elford (Bill Bradley's car), Ben Pon, Gerhard Koch, Jürgen Neuhaus, Hans-Dieter Dechent, Siegfried Lang and the two Hart Ski Racing Team drivers Jo Siffert and Rico Steinemann.
In Group 4 906s were Helmut Leuze, Richard Brostrom, Erich Bitter, Gunther Werlich and Toine Hezemans.
The Belgian Team VDS entered their two well-known 2-litre Alfa Romeo T33s for Teddy Pilette and Serge Trosch. Swiss driver Gustav Schlup ran his Elva Mk 7S with 2-litre Porsche engine, while both Nikolaus Ukmar and Manfred Liebl chose BMW propulsion for their modified Lotus 23s. Manfred Behnke drove a creation looking like a Lotus 23 called a Behnke-Condor which had a twin-cam Ford motor.
Lastly came the car which the organisers dearly wished for: the 2-litre BMW Group 7 hill-climb car. Its driver was Austrian Dieter Quester, who made full use of the car's potential. The immense power of the Apfel-beck four-cylinder engine gave him the speed on the straights, and with such little weight the car could outbrake and outaccelerate practically everyone at the hairpins. The BMW used a five-speed ZF gearbox.
a British meeting where the clock rules, the organisers delayed the start
so that Bonnier could repair his Lola—which, incidentally, is reputed to
be an ex-John Surtees CanAm car brought up to Group 4 specification. Meanwhile,
the other drivers got out of their cars and wandered about aimlessly and
then at 1.45, to tremendous applause, Bonnier's Bartz Chevrolet barked happily
and he went off to complete his own private warming-up lap. As he took up
his position on the grid at 1.48 the 30 sec signal was given and the Norisring
200-miles got underway. Mitter seized the lead from Piper and Bonnier, while
Neuhaus was late away.
Into the esses, Mitter was still ahead of Piper and behind, Bonnier ran third ahead of Hawkins, Muir, Quester, Gardner (back on Goodyears), Siffert, Elford and Liddell. Ulf Norinder spun his Lola and David Prophet had to stop to avoid him, stalling the Ford and losing time restarting. This only started Prophet's troubles—later on his passenger's seat mounting broke and he had to drive with one hand, holding down the seat with the other. He spun once at the far hairpin when he found he hadn't enough hands.
Meanwhile, Mitter kept his lead, although Piper was not far behind. Gardner was moving up fast, disposing of Muir on the second lap and moving into fifth on the third. Bonnier was still third and Hawkins fourth. There was hardly anything in it on the fifth lap, Piper right on Mitter's tail, then a lap later round came Piper in the lead and some time after Mitter crawled by, to retire at the pits with clutch trouble.
Piper was now secure in the lead, and Gardner was still making up ground. But Gardner was in trouble, too, for under braking with full tanks the nose section of the Lola was touching the ground and it soon began to break away and to float about. After seven laps Gardner had passed Hawkins and was up to third and his sight was now set on Bonnier in second position. Slowly but surely he closed the gap and after 13 laps he was through. Hawkins was never far behind the pair of them until he stopped at the pits after completing 17 laps—he had blown the radiator by-pass hose and lost seven laps before continuing. Team-mate Eric Liddell dropped from fifth to ninth place when he stopped to have a loose door catch attended to. Muir, too, had lost time. The Australian lost a lap as the radiator overflow pipe was pouring water straight down a carburettor! The pipe had obviously been misplaced when the car was topped up with water on the grid.
Ulf Norinder had given up after several slow laps with severe clutch slip and Ed Nelson had a very nasty moment. He looked at his petrol pressure gauge and found it was registering nil and, peering in his mirror, he saw the petrol pipe had come adrift and was pouring fuel over the hot engine. Nelson expected the car to go up in flames at any moment, but fortunately it didn't.
After 23 laps Bonnier got by Gardner again, for the Sid Taylor Lola had gear selector trouble and it was impossible to select either second or third ratios, which were quite handy for accelerating out of the hairpins. The car gradually dropped back, but still retained third position. Then all of a sudden Frank was surprised to learn he was second again—Bonnier had stopped on the circuit with electrical trouble; the coil was adrift. As the race wore on, Gardner lapped more slowly but still hung on to second place and was never in danger of losing it. Piper lapped him on the 39th lap, but then Gardner shot by again to unlap himself and finish the full 41 laps' distance.
Quester was third, well ahead of Siffert. These two completed 40 laps, while Elford was lucky to hold on to fifth position ahead of Teddy Pilette's rapid Alfa Romeo T33. Elford was troubled by a sticking throttle and gradually lost ground, hitting the bales at both hairpins trying to master the situation. Elford was superb at the esses—"It was just like a special stage on a rally, very slippery, going from opposite lock to opposite lock."
During the interval between the heats there was much work done to the cars to make them competitive again. Bonnier's car was made a runner yet again, while Sid Taylor's mechanic Ron Bennett repaired the nose section of Gardner's Lola—but nothing could be done about the missing second and third gears. The BMW had been in handling trouble yet again, so the damper rates were changed. Quester was not too happy about the engine either, although the BMW was certainly pushing out the power to vanquish the Porsche opposition so thoroughly.
The two-minute signal for the Indianapolis-type start was given at 3.49. Its four headlights blazing, the Sting-Ray course car moved up with the pack prowling behind— Bonnier and Hawkins on the back row after their first-heat troubles. Muir had a surprise at the esses, the passenger's door opening, and he had to lean across to close it with one hand while steering round the corner with the other!
As the Sting-Ray peeled off, the 18 remaining drivers put their throttle feet to the floorboards and accelerated off, Bonnier and Hawkins already being half-way up the field by the start-line.
After one lap Piper had a good lead over Quester, Gardner, Muir and Siffert. Bonnier was already sixth and moving up fast. After two laps Muir was second, not too far behind his team patron Piper either and really throwing the 250LM round well. Quester was third, Bonnier fourth and Gardner, missing his errant gears, had fallen to fifth.
Bonnier was really trying and was up to second place after five laps. Muir was third with Quester up his exhausts and Hawkins had risen to fifth ahead of Gardner and Liddell. Then came a scrapping trio of Porsches comprising Siffert, Elford and Steinemann who were mixing it good and hard. Muir dropped to fifth place behind Quester and Hawkins on lap 8 and now there were three exciting battles among the leaders to watch— not to mention a couple of hectic scraps farther down the field. Bonnier was closing on Piper, driving right on the limit, while Hawkins was keen on taking third place away from Quester. And the Porsches of Siffert, Elford and Steinemann were still at it.
This was thrilling stuff and the Germans put down their sausages and beer to cheer their favourites on.
On the 12th lap Gardner had dropped down the field and had been caught by the three Porsches. Siffert got by safely on the 13th tour, but Elford's efforts ended in disaster when he attempted to outmanoeuvre Frank at the esses. Gardner shut the door at the second corner, sending Elford into the straw bales which hid some solid German masonry. The bodywork was badly damaged and the nearside front wheel knocked askew, but Vic was all right. Gardner had to retire with a split wheel rim and a split petrol tank so his chances of a high overall placing were dashed.
Meanwhile Bonnier was still only a couple of lengths or so behind Piper and Hawkins had closed right up on Quester. Trouble struck the back-markers though. Prophet's Ford was sidelined with a broken rear upright—it snapped in the esses and gave David a nasty moment. Liddell's Ford stuttered to a halt with a flat battery; Eric pushed it from the station hairpin to the pits, where he collapsed. A new battery was fitted to the GT40, Eric was revived and the pair restarted seven laps down. Then Muir, letting Bonnier through at the far hairpin, ran on to a slippery part of the course and lost it, crunching the bodywork against the scenery. Brian made a couple of pit stops for bodywork surgery and eventually continued three-quarters of a lap behind Liddell.
Then, after 26 laps, Hawkins got his third place, but his glory hardly lasted a tour for he was soon in the pits. The Ford was overheating badly and Hawkins had oil surge on the long, flat-out right-hander after the pits. Paul said that the track was very slippery and bumpy on the fast narrow section. " You're doing 170 mph and passing cars with only inches to spare," he said. " One day somebody is going to go off into one of the concrete markers. It was fortunate there wasn't an accident today."
The interest now centred on Bonnier's attempts to get by Piper and a three-car Porsche dogfight at the back. From laps 30 to 36 Bonnier was breathing right down
Piper's neck, hut then on lap 37 David let Jo through. "Bonnier was really trying and deserved to win. I already had the overall win
in the bag and had nothing more to gain," Piper related. The Ferrari driver, pleased with his good day's work, dropped back several seconds behind Bonnier and was cheered as he took the flag second in the heat and overall winner by a lap. Third, and second overall, was Quester in the BMW —this time not lapped—while Siffert and Steinemann were fourth and fifth (third and fourth overall) in the two Hart-Ski Porsche 910s.
There was no happier man than David Piper as God Save the Queen was played. He had really enjoyed himself, liked the organisation and the circuit, and was thrilled to bits that his 4-litre Ferrari 330P3/4 is still competitive.
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