On concours events – and more
“AFTER ALL, IT’S ALWAYS GOOD TO SEE WHERE WE ARE GOING…”
Historic racing is a summer sport and the sun always shines. Not true, sadly. We all know how to drive in the wet – soften everything off, keep it smooth and stay off the conventional racing line. As ever, knowing it and actually doing it are two very different things. I was briefly reminded of that as the leading group of cars splashed past me on both sides on the final lap of a rainy historic sports car race at Silverstone recently. The first Cobra snapped sideways and was caught by its driver, a second Cobra took a short cut across the grass and a lightweight E-type slid along behind hoping to pick up the pieces.
I had seen them coming from some way back – everyoneʼs lights were on in the gloom – and there were blue flags to warn of their arrival, but lapping and being lapped can still make for tense moments. There were no problems this time – the leadersʼ commitment was matched by their car control and the first Cobra duly went on to take the flag. Then it was time for some appreciative waving from us drivers to the marshals on the in-lap. A wet race is a challenge for them, too.
We encountered a different set of issues a few weeks earlier in a similarly wet race at Magny Cours. We almost expect rain in England, but surely not in France? If anything, it was worse. A GT40 came up behind me more than once only to aquaplane off before passing. A safety car was sent out to assess the conditions.
Some of the slower cars had trouble closing up on it, so – to the frustration of the quicker cars – the safety car period became extended. It eventually went back in again and racing resumed. Then it came back out and, after a further interval, the race was red flagged. All very disappointing you might think, but some canny competitors managed to use the chaotic conditions to their advantage.
In round numbers, a wet lap and a refueling stop each took three minutes. So a stop cost a lap. Simple. However, under the safety car, the lap time went up to four minutes. Now it was possible to stop, get back out in front of the train and work your way back round to the back of it without losing a lap. Why didnʼt we spot that? It turned out to be the difference between first and second in class. Damn!
All this talk of rain leads to the important subject of windscreen wipers and
where they park. It came up when I was researching some of the details on a very early right-hand drive 911. I used to own a similar car only a few chassis numbers later, so I should really have remembered.
Anyway, issue #20 of this magazine featured the very first right-hand drive car and the pictures showed its wipers parked on the passenger side. Knowledgeable enthusiasts told me that was correct. That should have been sufficient, but I had seen some older photographs of the same car that suggested, earlier in its life, its wipers had parked on the driver ʼs side.
The usually reliable Brett Johnsonʼs Restorer ʼs Guide to Authenticity said the wipers parked on the right on the earliest cars – thatʼs presumably the driver ʼs side on a right-hand drive car. Peter Morgan said much the same thing in my well-thumbed copy of Original Porsche 911,
despite showing a number of pictures that suggested otherwise. Another difference of opinion about the details.
As before, the best way to resolve these disputes is to look at some original cars and some period photographs. That was easier in this case than in many others, not least because most pictures of the front of a car, as well as those from other angles, show the wipers.
So, out came the Brooklands road test compilations and one or two other period sources. The answer turns out to be the one we started with – the wipers park on the passenger side on the earliest cars. The very first right-hand drive car may have been an exception due to its earliness. I should also say that the rule changed after the first two or three years of production. In model year 1968, as both Brett Johnson and Peter Morgan will tell you, the wipers started to park on the driver ʼs side! They were also painted black rather than silver. If this discussion starts to sound a bit early 911-centric, I did also look at some late-356 pictures, including those in Wallace Wyssʼs Porsche 356 Photo Album with a similar question in mind.
Youʼve guessed it, the wipers on the older model appear to park on the driver ʼs side. It looks as if the convention went from the driver ʼs side to the passenger ʼs side and back again in less than three years. As far as I can tell, the changes were made in the name of improved visibility. After all, itʼs always good to see where we are going. CP