Mal­lett’s men­tal me­an­der­ings

FOL­LOW­ING A TRIP TO THE GOOD­WOOD RE­VIVAL MEET­ING TO WIT­NESS A MAG­NIF­I­CENT DRIVE BY SAM TORD­OFF IN A 356, MAL­LETT REM­I­NISCES ABOUT HIS LESS NOTE­WOR­THY RAC­ING CA­REER…

Classic Porsche - - Contents -

Ihave just re­turned from the good wood re­vival meet­ing where I wit­nessed some of the­most ex­cit­ing four-wheeled­mo­tor rac­ing on the planet since, well, last yearʼs Re­vival. (I say four-wheeled be­cause there is ab­so­lutely no for­mof­mo­tor sport that can hold a can­dle to­mo­togp­for thrills, spills and sheer jaw-drop­ping, heart thump­ing brav­ery and spec­ta­cle. If you donʼt yet­watch it then I sug­gest you start now.) But back to Good­wood. Hard to choose which of the week­endʼs dozen or so races was the most ex­cit­ing but the closely-fought saloon car races just had the edge for me.

Whether it was a con­voy of slippy-slidy drift­ing Corti­nas or jug­gling Jaguars cir­cu­lat­ing with barely a bumperʼs width be­tween them, it was non­stop thrills from flag to flag, and thor­oughly grip­ping stuff.

How­ever, dis­play­ing only a slight amount of bias, my can­di­date for driver of the week­end goes to Sam Tord­off, run­ning his 1953 Porsche Pre-a Coupé in the Ford­wa­ter Tro­phy event for pre-1955 pro­duc­tion­based sports and GT cars. Hav­ing led the 2016 Bri­tish Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship for much of the sea­son, Sam just missed win­ning the cham­pi­onship by two points. His class showed in the Ford­wa­ter Tro­phy at Good­wood by qual­i­fy­ing on pole fol­lowed by a stun­ning drive in the race.

After fail­ing to get off the line at the start, he fought his way through from the very back of the field to fin­ish sec­ond, set­ting the fastest lap of the race en route. Shades of Lewis Hamil­ton. If he had­nʼt fluffed the start one sus­pects that the race would have been far less ex­cit­ing as his pace sug­gests that he would have run away from the field. It was a rare treat to see five Porsche 356s on the grid, in­clud­ing two Speed­sters, both run­ning with hard­tops fit­ted.

It says much that the con­stant de­vel­op­ment of his­toric cars over the last half-cen­tury and more has led to a sit­u­a­tion where a 356 can defy the laws of cu­bic ca­pac­ity and out­run cars of over twice the cc and which, in pe­riod, pro­duced three times the horse­power. Such was the lim­i­ta­tion of the 356 engine in the early Fifties that Porsche de­signed the im­mor­tal four-cam Car­rera engine to go rac­ing.

On its in­tro­duc­tion, the Car­rera pro­duced 110bhp, a sub­stan­tial im­prove­ment over the 70bhp of the pushrod 1500S. To­day a well-de­vel­oped 356 race engine will be eas­ily pro­duc­ing 150bhp, or more, with the added han­dling ad­van­tage pro­vided by less weight aft of the transaxle.

Porsche 356s were a rel­a­tively rare sight on Bri­tish cir­cuits when new and if you were se­ri­ous you had to be in a Car­rera. The late Dickie Stoop, whose 904, ʻYOU 4ʼ, was run­ning at Good­wood, cam­paigned a 356B Car­rera in the early 1960s, a car that sub­se­quently burned to the ground in a road ac­ci­dent when owned by Porsche racer Nick Faure.

When my own brief and com­pletely undis­tin­guished rac­ing ca­reer com­menced in the 1970s in the HSCC ʻRoad­sportsʼ se­ries, my right-hand drive 1957 Speed­ster was just as the fac­tory built it, other than fit­ting a later Su­per 90 engine and a roll-over bar. Ex­tra points were given for driv­ing to the event and most com­peti­tors did just that. In the ear­li­est races ʻtun­ingʼ con­sisted of lit­tle more than pump­ing up the tyres and fid­dling, if you were so in­clined, with the shock ab­sorbers.

Run­ning in the up-to-1600cc class, I in­evitably found my­self to­wards the back of the field and be­fore the end of the race be­ing lapped by the big boys in their As­ton Martins and Austin Healeys. This led a few of us to form the Blue Flag Drivers Club, a very ex­clu­sive so­ci­ety, with mem­ber­ship by in­vi­ta­tion only.

The badge for the BFDC fea­tured a Helix Aspersa (gar­den snail) ram­pant bran­dish­ing said flag. Mem­ber­ship was re­stricted pri­mar­ily to 356 pilots, but with an equally out­classed Jowett Jupiter driver also be­ing a founder mem­ber.

Quite soon, and in­evitably, as Porsche own­ers sought more speed, the cars be­gan to be de­vel­oped, be­com­ing less ʻroadʼ and more ʻs­portsʼ. The late Tony ʻDocʼ Standen, an ex-pat Amer­i­can, was only too aware that in the US the rules were much more lib­eral when it came to mod­i­fi­ca­tions and far from be­ing ʻv­in­tageʼ the 356 had con­tin­ued to be de­vel­oped as a com­pet­i­tive racer, and he started the long road of up­grades. Trum­pets on the car­bu­ret­tors, an Isky cam and stiffer valve springs were the min­i­mum up­grade, closely fol­lowed by Car­illo rods and a light­ened fly­wheel.

Even­tu­ally the fin­ger of sus­pi­cion started to point at the faster cars, now ar­riv­ing on trail­ers, hav­ing aban­doned any pre­text of be­ing road cars, and tongues be­gan to wag – were they run­ning ʻbig-boreʼ cylin­ders? As far as I re­call the hand­ful of 356 boys reg­u­larly rac­ing back then were far too gen­tle­manly to launch a for­mal protest and, as even with the en­hanced per­for­mance they were still no threat to the big­ger cars, the scru­ti­neers were not too in­ter­ested in a tear­down. After a far too in­ti­mate ca­ress with the Brands Hatch Armco, I re­tired my Speed­ster from com­pe­ti­tion be­fore it, too, be­came un­suit­able for the road.

The Good­wood cars are of­ten crit­i­cised for the fact that they have been de­vel­oped way be­yond the ca­pa­bil­ity of the day, dis­tort­ing his­tor­i­cal ac­cu­racy. Austin A35s dic­ing with Jaguars for in­stance is quite un­rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the time pe­riod – but, what fun. And long may it con­tinue. CP

“THE FIN­GER OF SUS­PI­CION STARTED TO POINT…”

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