JAN 09th 2015

Thank Frankel it's Friday: Discs, drums and fifties Ferrari sports cars

It was just a tweet from those mischievous types in Hangar 8 at Goodwood Road & Racing, but there was little doubting its target. ‘So @Andrew_Frankel,’ it read, ‘no “disc brake” excuses any more?’

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I knew already what excuse was being referred to, but not why. So I clicked on the accompanying link to discover the Lavant Cup at this year’s Revival is going to be an all 1950s Ferrari sports car affair. And suddenly it all became clear: for many years (save last year when I was unavoidably detained elsewhere), I have been the luckiest chap in the world and been able to race just such a car at the Revival. And every year I excuse my fair-to-middling performance on the fact that the cars that tended to finish ahead of me – C-type Jaguars more often than anything else – did so not just because they had far bigger more powerful engines (which they do) but also because they have disc brakes.

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Actually the brakes excuse is pitiful. ‘My’ 750 Monza (of course it actually has nothing whatever to do with me) may have drums but they are superb and Goodwood is not at all hard on brakes, requiring only one really proper stop per lap and being more than quick enough around the rest of the circuit to keep temperatures under control.

“The variety in sounds should be extraordinary. It’ll be a visual feast too from the pontoon-bodied TR that rates for me as the most beautiful open road racing Ferrari of all time, to the aforementioned, fascinatingly ugly 340 Mexico.”

But I digress. It was entirely proper last year to have a race solely for D-type Jaguars to celebrate their 60th anniversary but with this year’s Ferraris there’ll be several more dimensions added. Broadly speaking while D-types really only vary in colour, nose length, windscreen surround and tail fins (or lack thereof), broadening the scope to include all 1950s Ferraris may reduce the colour chart to chiefly (but not exclusively) red, but in all other respects it invites quite extraordinary variety. The potential field includes cars with tiny 2-litre engines from early V12s like the 166MM to the later four pot 500 Mondials. At the other end of the scale are monstrous bruisers like the 340 Mexicos and Mille Miglias with engines over twice that size, right up to the 375 Plus with its 5-litre V12 producing an alleged 400bhp.

But I expect most entrants will come from between these poles, 3-litre cars with either four cylinder Lampredi engines like the 750 Monza or, somewhat more tunefully, V12 Colombo units such as that used by the Testa Rossas and others. The variety in sounds should be extraordinary. It’ll be a visual feast too from the pontoon-bodied TR that rates for me as the most beautiful open road racing Ferrari of all time, to the aforementioned, fascinatingly ugly 340 Mexico.

What will win? It should be a Testa Rossa because Ferrari was getting at least as much power from three litres at the end of the 1950s as it had from over four litres nearer the start of the decade and while still not boasting the monocoque construction, disc brakes or twin cam engines all D-types had from 1954, by 1958 the TR had been developed into a formidably strong, reliable and quick package. What won’t win is a 750 Monza, at least if the one I race is invited and I’m asked to drive it. The Monza is older than the Testa Rossa, far less powerful with a mere four cylinders rather than twelve and while in some regards it’s actually more advanced than the TR with its five speed gearbox and De Dion rear axle, around a power circuit like Goodwood, it’s just going to get outgunned.

And if this sounds like me getting my excuses in early you could not possibly be more right.

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