Rear View Mirror
Volume 7, No.1
- Don Capps
- September 2, 2009
- RVM Vol 7, No 1 (PDF format, 231k)
“Pity the poor Historian!” – Denis Jenkinson
The Dangers of Nostalgia
Or, Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Historians...
Over the past several years I have busied myself with various research projects and the occasion thought as to just how to even begin to make a dent in the many things that need to be done, that is, questions not only answered, but then consideration given as to how that answer fits with that question or answer over there and so on.
Then there are the more mundane issues of pondering as to whether someone claiming or trying to be an “automobile racing historian” is a sports historian or an automotive historian. Not that it matters, of course, since regardless of the answer you are still going to probably starve if you have any delusions about earning a living with that on your business card. Interesting, but whatever happened to just having a calling card? Or whatever it would be if you simply had a card with your name and perhaps your vocation or avocation on it?
Much of the history, the past, the record, of automobile racing has been captured, recorded, noted by journalists and other diarists, as is the case with much of history, but then the mulling and pondering that historians do with such materials has also been left to the journalists and “buffs” to sort out rather than the historians. That few self-respecting historians would ever admit to having a serious interest in automobile racing, outside that of an avocation, is quite understandable, I would guess. Being an automotive historian and studying labor relations between the United Auto Workers and Ford is one thing, writing about Ford and the Holman Moody operation is another. The same with being a sports historian: writing about the 1936 Berlin Olympics is one thing, writing about the 1936 Auto-Union team is another.
At any rate, the point is that even the lesser corners and niches of Clio’s Realm should be taken a look at by historians and given some level of serious and professional inquiry beyond that of being a novelty. Let me hasten to state that there actually have been dissertations with topics relating to automobile racing, as surprising that may or may not be. I think it may be safe to hazard an opinion that the automotive historians probably take automobile racing quite a bit more seriously than the sports historians. Of course, the automotive historians tend to lean towards the “inorganic” aspects of automobile racing, the cars and their components rather than the people, although they are by no means ignored.
The Society of Automotive Historians (SAH), of which I am a proud member – if you are not, why not? – has been struggling for several years now to establish a “special interest group,” the International Motor Racing History Section, for those interested in automobile racing history. So far, it seems stuck at the Good Idea stage. There are, of course, no end of reasons for that, but there seems to relatively little progress over the years. It is always something of an irony in this when you consider the books that SAH has honored in recent years. Here are a few of those books which had automobile racing as a major aspect of the book honored with one of its distinguished awards recognizing the best books of the year, the Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot Award or the Award of Distinction:
2007 – Autorennsport in der DDR - BMW (Ost), EMW, Wartburg, by Horst Ihling.
2004 – The Fairmount Park Motor Races, 1908-1911, by Michael J. Seneca, published by McFarland and Company, Inc.
2002 – Le Rallye Monte-Carlo au XXème Siècle, by Maurice Louche.
1996 – Mercedes-Benz Quicksilver Century, by Karl Ludvigsen, Transport Bookman Publications, Ltd.
1988 – Jaguar: Sports Racing and Works Competition Cars from 1954, by Andrew J.A. Whyte, G.T. Foulis/Haynes.
1984 – My Two Lives, by Rene Dreyfus and Beverly Rae Kimes, Aztex Corp.
1982 – The Miller Dynasty, by Mark Dees, Barnes Publishing West and Bugatti, by Bor-geson, by Griffith Borgeson, Osprey Publishing Ltd.
1975 – American Automobile Racing, by Albert Bochroch, Viking Press.
1972 – Mercedes Benz Racing Cars, by Karl Ludvigsen, Bono/Parkhurst Books.
The SAH also recognizes outstanding articles appearing in magazines with the Carl Benz Award or its Award of Distinction. Once more, winners with a racing theme:
2007 – "Breaking the Mold: NASCAR at Road America, 1956,” by Greg Fielden, published in Collectible Automobile.
2006 – "Lucky Goes to Camp," by William Oosthoek, published in Vintage Motorsport.
2005 – “1,000 Miles in Half a Day,” by Carl Goodwin, published in Vintage Motorsport.
2002 – "The Aesthetics of Sport," by Carl Goodwin, published in Vintage Motorsport.
2000 – "Kurtis" by Michael Lamm, Collectible Automobile.
As you may note, in recent years the articles with a racing focus have done quite well, none being recognized in the years prior to 2000.
I am hoping that this effort will finally begin to gel and that it begins to march, rather than inch, its way into this realm.
Automobile racing history has been as blessed with those outside the hallowed halls of academe possessed of being able to think as historians as it has been cursed with those who never let facts get in the way of a story, good or otherwise. Unfortunately, while it may not necessarily be the case, it seems that the latter often outnumber the former.
Sad to report, but it seems to be by a huge margin.
Which is why I have such a problem with certain aspects of nostalgia, especially when nostalgia supplants history. Nostalgia is fine and dandy, we are all guilty of it to one extent or another. So, yes, there is a place for nostalgia, but its place in Clio’s Realm is limited at best and a plague at worse when it crowds out history and replaces it with legend and myth – and occasionally out-right fraud and lies.
The advent of the Digital Age caught Clio not quite knowing what the impact and effects of a world powered by electrons rather than paper in the world of knowledge would be. While Clio has adapted to a large extent, the digital library concept being a boon to scholars along with collaborative tools and improved means of sharing and exchanging information and knowledge, our Muse has experienced mixed fortunes in this particular neck of the woods.
I like Peter Vack’s VeloceToday, which I think is an excellent example of how things can be done in the age of electrons. Its focus is stated in a very straightforward matter: “The Online Magazine for Italian & French Classic Car Enthusiasts.” And, that is very much exactly what it is. This also the matter of Michael T. Lynch being the major contributor to most of the issues, which for me is reason in and of itself to read the magazine. It is a magazine with style, one very much its own, and simply a well-done effort. I recommend that you at least give a look for several weeks and see what you think.
I am beginning to think that the forum concept is far more of a two-edged sword than I reckoned it to be. It is like the porridge of the Three Bears, except that getting it “just right” is much more difficult than Baby Bear’s preference being a fortunate coincidence. Trying to have it big enough to have a broad enough audience to have a flow of ideas and information while generating good discussion and yet not be so big as to dilute the content and stifle discussion would probably make even Dan Briggs or Jim Phelps and the IMF think twice about that mission.
How to create and then operate a forum focused on automobile racing history which will attract scholars and historians while not entirely being devoid of those with some level of interest in the topic while also minimizing the impact of the “history buff” and the nostalgists and yet make it interesting seems to be an item for the Really Hard To Do Box. Then there is also the problem of even if it is successful, at least to some extent of its goals, that the very success of the forum could be a problem.
At the moment, I have to say that while I have looked at a number of the current fora that seem to have some element of interest in automobile racing history, none seem to quite be what I am looking for, which may say more about me than the fora in question, of course. I remain convinced that the forum concept is one with tremendous potential, the potential remains unfulfilled at the moment.
One major drawback to the fora I have looked at lately is that they are largely geared to appeal to the nostalgists rather than the scholars and historians. While there have been some truly exceptional strides taken regarding several topics, these remain the rare exception and certainly not the rule. There is also a tendency to confuse information with knowledge, although knowledge is, of course, based upon the acquisition of information. Too often race data has become an end unto itself, information often divorced from any meaningful context. This race data information in turn generates the production of statistics which once more seem often to exist independently of any context.
But, I digress....
Changing the Formula
The Formule Internationale that went into effect with the 1934 season, usually referred to as the “750 Kilogram Formula,” was rather a popular one with the Germans, but not quite so popular with the French and Italians, to say nothing of the Americans and the British. For 1936, the French, that is to say the Automobile Club de France, decided to forgo running its Grand Prix to the Formule Internationale and instead hold the event for sports cars. While the German teams did get a the occasional comeuppance from the Italians, the 1934 Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France and the Grosser Preis von Deutschland in 1935, and even the French, the 1934 Grand Prix de Belgique, it was usually a silver German car taking the checkered flag in the major events of 1934 and 1935 once Mercedes and Auto Union entered competition.
The formula was originally scheduled to run for three seasons, 1934 through 1936, but whereas the formula had been approved in October 1932 to take effect in January 1934, October 1935 came and went without a new formula. I had often thought about that and assumed that the decision to implement the new formula came in October 1936 at the Fall meeting of the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus, the A.I.A.C.R. While the decision to extend the current Formule Internationale until the end of the 1937 season was apparently made then, it would seem that the formula itself was already decided upon earlier in 1936.
In late 1935, Motor Sport1 provided a report on a special meeting in Zurich at the Hotel Baur au Lac of the Bureau Permanent International des Constructeurs D’Automobiles. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the changing of the current International Racing Formula. The article states that “The object of the meeting was to consider whether the Formula might not be changed before its allotted time, alarm being felt that the increase of power and speed taking place under the present rules.”
The Chairman of the committee was Schippert representing Mercedes-Benz. The other delegates present were: Raymond Mays representing E.R.A., this being a first for the marque; Ettore Bugatti; Jano representing Alfa Romeo; Dacco representing Scuderia Ferrari; and Stuck and Dr. Feuerstein representing Auto Union, the latter being the replacement for Walb as the team manager.
Bugatti, opening the committee meeting, questioned the purpose of the formula being of the opinion that it served no good purpose. However, Bugatti was at a loss as to what the replacement formula should be, but did suggest that reduction to 700 kilograms would be a help. This suggestion was not met with any enthusiasm by the German representatives who were very much in favor of the status quo, their prospects for the 1936 season looking quite rosy compared to the gloom that the others viewed that same season.
Whereas Bugatti did not come armed with proposals for changing the formula, Dacco did, although he hastened to add that Ferrari and Alfa Romeo were satisfied with the current Formula, their only concern being the enormous costs now necessary to compete. Dacco prefaced his remarks by stating that his suggestions were to encourage the participation of unsupercharged cars against supercharged cars. Dacco suggested three ideas for the next formula.
The first was for a maximum weight of only 600 kilograms with a maximum capacity of two litres if unsupercharged and 1,350 cubic centimeters if supercharged. The second was for a maximum weight of 700 kilograms and a maximum capacity of three litres if unsupercharged and two litres if supercharged. And, the third was for a maximum weight of 800 kilograms with a maximum capacity of four litres unsupercharged and 2.7 litres if supercharged. In each case, the bodywork would be for two-seaters with a minimum width of 85 centimeters, the fuel used would be optional, the weight to include tires and wheels, but not fuel or lubricant.
These suggestions did not meet with any enthusiasm or support by those representing the other constructors. One sore point is that any of the Ferrari proposals could be met by being made from “voitures de serie” – production cars. Not a good tactic since the one item all those were against was sports car racing as an consideration for the formula, the problems of crafting the rules in such a way as to not allow thinly disguised being thought nigh upon impossible.
The only decision that resulted from the meeting was that the current Formula should continue until the end of the 1937 season, not coming into force until 1938, the reasoning being that about two years were needed to prepare for any changes that the new formula would create for the constructors.
The meeting did take the time to discuss the 1.5 litre “Voiturette” formula, the reason for the presence of Ray Mays in Zurich. Mays suggested that the current Voiturette formula continue for the moment and that at some point, say after the next Formula was underway, that the 1.5 litre formula be given consideration by the constructors. The Germans expressed an interest in the 1.5 litre idea, which already had support from Bugatti and E.R.A who were building cars to that formula, as well as Maserati who were not present.
The meeting adjourned and would convene in January to further discuss the issue, including the ideas proposed by Dacco of Ferrari.
It is apparent that the next meeting generated some sort of proposals or recommendations that the committee agreed upon. A meeting in Paris between the A.I.A.C.R. and the Bureau Permanent International des Constructeurs D’Automobiles led to the announcement of a new Formule Internationale, one that was based upon a sliding scale of displacement and weight. The mini-mum weight for an unsupercharged car using the maximum displacement allowed is 850 kilograms, the same for a supercharged car using the maximum displacement allowed. The maximum displacement allowed is 4,500 and 3,000 cubic centimeters, respectively. The minimum width of the bodywork is 85 centimeters at the driver’s seat with no limits on the choice of fuel or the amount carried in the car. The weight includes wheels and the lubricant for the transmission, but not engine lubricant or coolant or fuel.
An editorial in Motor Sport2 suggests that the new formula was the work of the Italians with the Germans granting their approval, with the French, Bugatti, approving. However, comments in the same issue taken from L’Auto providing the reactions of the other French constructors are not quite as generous.3 Delage, Talbot, and Delahaye are all critical of the ratio for unsupercharged and supercharged engines. Each had other complaints as well, but so did the Motor Sport correspondent – that unsupercharged engines were even included in the new Formula.
There is food for thought found in the closing paragraph of the Motor Sport correspondent’s comments: “Before leaving the subject of this meeting, it is worth mentioning that the Sporting Commission was asked whether they would make the formula compulsory in all big races. This was considered impossible, but the formula will definitely be used in at least six races, and probably ten.”
Different times, indeed.
It is interesting to consider that despite many words being written about the new Formule Internationale which began in 1938, not until I discovered the sliding scale for displacements and weight for the first time in the 1946 supplement to the Floyd Clymer book on the Indianapolis 500 had I ever laid eyes upon that scale. I later found the scale as part of the entry blank for the National Championship event held at Milwaukee on 27 August 1939.
|Minimum Weight*||Minimum Weight **|
|40.639 cu. in. (666 cc)||881.840 lbs (400.000 kgs)||….|
|42.714 cu. in. (700 cc)||829.291 lbs (406.555 kgs)||….|
|48.816 cu. in. (800 cc)||938.795 lbs (425.835 kgs)||….|
|54.918 cu. in. (900 cc)||981.300 lbs (445.115 kgs)||….|
|61.020 cu. in. (1,000 cc)||1,023.805 lbs (464.395 kgs)||881.840 lbs (400.000 kgs)|
|67.122 cu. in. (1,100 cc)||1,066.309 lbs (483.675 kgs)||910.169 lbs (412.850 kgs)|
|73.224 cu. in. (1,200 cc)||1,108.814 lbs (502.955 kgs)||938.498 lbs (425.700 kgs)|
|79.326 cu. in. (1,300 cc)||1,151.319 lbs (522.235 kgs)||966.827 lbs (438.550 kgs)|
|85.428 cu. in. (1,400 cc)||1,193.823 lbs (541.515 kgs)||995.156 lbs (451.400 kgs)|
|91.530 cu. in. (1,500 cc)||1,236.328 lbs (560.795 kgs)||1,023.485 lbs (464.250 kgs)|
|97.632 cu. in. (1,600 cc)||1,278.883 lbs (580.075 kgs)||1,051.814 lbs (477.100 kgs)|
|103.734 cu. in. (1,700 cc)||1,321.338 lbs (599.355 kgs)||1,080.143 lbs (489.950 kgs)|
|109.836 cu. in. (1,800 cc)||1,363.842 lbs (618.635 kgs)||1,108.472 lbs (502.800 kgs)|
|115.938 cu. in. (1,900 cc)||1,406.347 lbs (637.915 kgs)||1,136.801 lbs (515.650 kgs)|
|122.040 cu. in. (2,000 cc)||1,448.852 lbs (657.195 kgs)||1,165.131 lbs (528.500 kgs)|
|128.142 cu. in. (2,100 cc)||1,491.356 lbs (676.475 kgs)||1,193.460 lbs (541.350 kgs)|
|134.244 cu. in. (2,200 cc)||1,533.861 lbs (695.755 kgs)||1,221.789 lbs (554.200 kgs)|
|140.346 cu. in. (2,300 cc)||1,576.366 lbs (715.035 kgs)||1,250.118 lbs (567.050 kgs)|
|146.448 cu. in. (2,400 cc)||1,618.870 lbs (734.315 kgs)||1,278.447 lbs (579.900 kgs)|
|152.550 cu. in. (2,500 cc)||1,661.375 lbs (753.595 kgs)||1,306.776 lbs (592.750 kgs)|
|158.652 cu. in. (2,600 cc)||1,703.880 lbs (772.875 kgs)||1,335.105 lbs (605.600 kgs)|
|164.754 cu. in. (2,700 cc)||1,746.384 lbs (792.155 kgs)||1,363.434 lbs (618.450 kgs)|
|170.856 cu. in. (2,800 cc)||1,788.889 lbs (811.435 kgs)||1,391.763 lbs (631.300 kgs)|
|176.958 cu. in. (2,900 cc)||1,831.394 lbs (830.715 kgs)||1,420.093 lbs (644.150 kgs)|
|183.060 cu. in. (3,000 cc)||1,873.898 lbs (849.995 kgs)||1,448.422 lbs (657.000 kgs)|
|189.162 cu. in. (3,100 cc)||1,476.751 lbs (669.850 kgs)|
|195.264 cu. in. (3,200 cc)||1,505.080 lbs (682.700 kgs)|
|201.366 cu. in. (3,300 cc)||1,533.409 lbs (695.550 kgs)|
|207.468 cu. in. (3,400 cc)||1,561.738 lbs (708.400 kgs)|
|213.570 cu. in. (3,500 cc)||1,590.067 lbs (721.250 kgs)|
|219.672 cu. in. (3,600 cc)||1,618.396 lbs (734.100 kgs)|
|225.774 cu. in. (3,700 cc)||1,646.725 lbs (746.950 kgs)|
|231.876 cu. in. (3,800 cc)||1,675.055 lbs (759.800 kgs)|
|237.978 cu. in. (3,900 cc)||1,703.384 lbs (772.650 kgs)|
|244.080 cu. in. (4,000 cc)||1,731.713 lbs (785.500 kgs)|
|250.182 cu. in. (4,100 cc)||1,760.042 lbs (798.350 kgs)|
|256.284 cu. in. (4,200 cc)||1,788.371 lbs (811.200 kgs)|
|262.386 cu. in. (4,300 cc)||1,816.700 lbs (824.050 kgs)|
|268.488 cu. in. (4,400 cc)||1,845.029 lbs (836.900 kgs)|
|274.590 cu. in. (4,500 cc)||1,873.358 lbs (849.750 kgs)|
* Increasing by 1.928 kgs (4.25 lbs) for each increase of 10 cc (0.61 cu. in.) of displacement.
** Increasing by 1.285 kgs (2.83 lbs) for each increase of 10 cc (0.61 cu. in.) of displacement.
Naturally, this set me to thinking, which is always a dangerous thing. Actually, it made me think just that more harder about the problems related to the history of automobile racing, that so much of the “obvious” stuff was either missing or not fully understand. After all, the sliding displacement scale had been in plain sight of many for years upon years, had it not? Surely, at some point someone who had it would have shared it with one of those writing about the era. Yet, as far as I know, the scale seemed to be one of those items talked about, but which no one had actually seen.
Mammas, don’t let your babies grow up to be historians since they will fret and frown over these sorts of things for hours upon hours for days without end.
The Rules of the Game: The A.A.A. Contest Board in 1931
From the Edwin C. Waterhouse Collection in the Archives of the International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen, New York
Among the items found in the Edwin C. Waterhouse Motorsport Collection of the International Motor Racing Research Center (IMRRC) is a copy of the Second Edition of Automobile Racing by Ray F. Kuns, published in 1932. The Kuns book was part of a series of editions that were printed during the Thirties concerning automobile racing. These books were printed in magazine format and provide a fascinating window into the world of that period, covering no end of topics to include building your own racing car.
The Waterhouse Collection itself is an amazing assemblage of materials, one that makes the researcher so thankful for the IMRRC since much of what found in the numerous boxes holding the collection would not be otherwise available for scholars to access and use in their work. The materials contained run the gamut from a scrapbook loaded with amazing things to programs and books with which one never becomes complacent due to the treasures that reside within the boxes of the collection. It is one of my favorite collections at the IMRRC, there always being something I seem to have overlooked or now have a better understanding of the context and, therefore, see the material in a different light.
The following is an excerpt from the Kuns book.4
Influence of the Contest Board of American Automobile Association
The American Automobile Association has for many years sponsored racing through what is known as the A.A.A. Contest Board. It is not the intention of the Contest Board to regulate all racing, but rather set up standards for racing which must be met for all sanctioned events. In order that events be recognized as official in America they must be conducted with the jurisdiction of this board. It is true that there are many dirt track races put on each year which are not within the board and which are conducted in a very sportsman-like and business-like fashion.
All championship events are under the jurisdiction of the A.A.A. Contest Board. The rules which govern these contests are published in book form, available to all who are interested in racing. This book is the “Official Competition Rules,” Contest Board of the American Automobile Association. The price of the book is fifty cents. The address of the Contest Board is Pennsylvania Avenue at Seventeenth Street, Washington, D.C. Anyone who contemplates entering racing should avail himself of this book in order that he may know the position of the Contest Board and what is expected of a driver, whether he plans to enter sanctioned or non-sanctioned events. If he plans to enter sanctioned events it is impossible to comply with the requirements without having definite knowledge of them as set forth in this book.
Some of the most important rules which must be met are outlined below. There are minor changes of the rules which will be in effect for the 1932 season. These changes are noted in the 1932 rule book.
1931 CHAMPIONSHIP RACING RULES OF THE CONTEST BOARD OF THE A.A.A.
“At a meeting of the Contest Board, held at Detroit, October 13, 1930, the following regulations were adopted to govern both championship and general racing during 1931:
1. No race will be accepted in the championship schedule where the total prize money is less than $50 per mile. Promoters may, at their option, increase the purse in the interest of attracting entries.
2. Championship races must have a minimum of 100 miles of racing, either in one event or a combination of sprint events.
3. Championship races may be held on circular tracks one mile or more in length and on the Altoona, Pa., Speedway, provided the type of improvements, track construction and general condition warrant, and after complying with any other special requirements which may be or-dered by the Contest Board.
4. Mechanics must ride in all championship events.
5. It shall be compulsory for the first five drivers in the championship schedule to compete in all championship races. Promoters shall have the privilege of excusing any driver with the right appeal by the driver or the promoter to the Contest Board.
6. Entries for all 1931 championship shall be restricted to those cars complying with the 1931 Indianapolis specifications: (a) Piston displacement, 366 cubic inches and under; (b) wheelbase, no restriction, must be handleable; (c) weight, minimum 7 ½ pounds per horsepower, final minimum 1,750 pounds; (d) tread, measured at center of tire, must be between 54 and 60 inches; (e) bodies, two seated, minimum width across driver’s seat 31 inches, mechanic’s seat permitted stagger of not more than 12 inches; (f) valves, not more than four per cylinder; (g) superchargers barred except positive displacement superchargers may be used on two-cycle engines; carburetors, not more than one for each two cylinders – duplex carburetors, regardless of float equipment, regarded as two carburetors , no restriction on two-cycle, Diesel, semi-Diesel or turbine type engine; (i) brakes, system must operate effectively on all four wheels and be capable of arresting car within reasonable limits, even should a linkage member of one system fail; (j) transmission must have declutching device and reverse as well as forward speed gear-ing; (k) gasoline tanks must be constructed and supported in such a manner as to insure against breakage; (l) all cars must be equipped with a metal fire dash and metal floor pans and if aluminum is used it must not be less than 3/16 of an inch in thickness; (m) no welded parts nor flimsy fuselage (body) construction will be passed.
7. Promoters will be required to state on the entry blank the number of cars to start, the date and time of the closing of entries and whether or not prize money posted will be paid in the or-der of finish in the event the respective cars fail to finish the full number of laps.
8. Drivers, mechanics and pitmen must present themselves in clean clothes.
General Racing Regulations
1. The use of superchargers on four-cycle engines shall be barred on and after January 1, 1931, as set forth in bulletin No. 33, issued March 25, 1930, and again sustained by the Contest Board in regular meeting assembled at Detroit, October 13, 1930.
2. All non-championship competitive race meets shall be held under open specifications up to 366 cubic inches displacement.
3. No sanction will be granted any competitive race meet where the total prize money posted for the day’s events is less than $750 but the Contest Board reserves the right to increase this requirement in any individual case should the circumstances in their opinion warrant.
4. “Percentage races” will not be permitted nor will a sanction be granted for a program where the prize money for the day is to be calculated upon a percentage of the gate receipts, except under unusual circumstances, a detailed explanation of which shall accompany the sanction application and only then with the provision that the minimum purse of $750 shall be posted in accordance with Article 290-B of the Official Competition Rules.
5. Applicants must appear at the track in clean clothes.
6. All cars must be equipped with a metal fire dash and if aluminum is used it must not be less than 3/16 inch in thickness. Metal floor pans must be used.
7. Any car developing a gasoline leak during the progress of an event shall be required to stop at the pits the succeeding lap for examination. A driver failing to observe this regulation will be given the white flag and may be barred from further participation in the event.
8. Drivers must have cars tuned prior to the race, so as not to delay events.
How To Become Registered As An A.A.A. Racing Driver By Contest Board
First – The applicant must be 21 years of age or over.
Second – A preliminary examination of the applicant’s ability to handle a race car at high speed on the track will be made. At all sanctioned meets a Field Representative of the Contest Board is always in attendance. The day before of the morning of the race this representative will ar-range for a test of the applicant’s abilities as follows:
(a) One lap of track, at a speed of no less than 7 seconds slower than the track record on ½ mile dirt track, 12 seconds slower than track record on 1 mile dirt track and propor-tionally slower on tracks of greater length.
(b) Three laps of track either paced or followed by a registered A.A.A. driver of several years’ racing experience who is qualified to pass on applicant’s handling of his car on turns and straightaways.
(c) Providing these two tests are passed satisfactorily, the applicant will be permitted to start the day’s racing program, his entry being confined, where both sprint and long-distance events are scheduled to the sprints only. If performance in the sprint events warrant it, he will be permitted to start in the longer events.
(d) Where only one long event is on the program, applicant may start and, providing his performance is satisfactory, will be permitted to continue to its conclusion. If apparent weakness of poor handling of his car becomes apparent, he will be flagged from the course.
Issuing of drivers’ certificates will depend upon:
(a) Satisfactory performance in trial on cleared track for one lap.
(b) Satisfactory performance when paced or followed by registered driver for three laps.
(c) Satisfactory handling of his car in the competitive events on the days’ program.
The final decision rests with the representative the Contest Board, after advising and consult-ing with the older registered drivers.
Third – Applicant will complete regular form of registration and pay the fee before the start of his test. If at the end of the day he has satisfactorily met all requirements this will be forwarded to headquarters by the Field Representative with the recommendation that identification card be issued.
Fourth – The driver must appear at the track with his car brightly painted, with number properly placed on sides and tail or back and lettering, not exceeding 8 inches high, of name of car neatly done on sides and all nickel polished and clean.
Fifth – He must be clothed in clean white or other suitable uniform with helmet to match and also to have his mechanic and pit attendants neatly uniformed.
Sixth – He must guarantee the conduct of himself, mechanic and pit attendants to be that of gentlemen and sportsmen at all times.
Many of the leading drivers now appearing on the speedways got their start on the dirt tracks. In some cases they took a Ford or some other make of pleasure car and rebuilt it with racing parts and gained experience with it. They then graduated to the speedway type car, which, due to piston-displacement requirements or other reasons, was no longer eligible for speedway rac-ing but was still very fast on the dirt tracks. Others convinced some race driver of their mechanical ability and became employed as his mechanician, keeping his car prepared and in tune for racing and thus obtained a fine background for their own endeavor later.
Many of the dirt-track races are open to cars of piston displacement up to 300 cubic inches, but some are limited to 183 cubic inches. This latter class permits of the use of Fords and Chev-rolets and obsolete speedway cars of 122 and 183 cubic inches piston displacements.
Very few events are open to cars of over 300 cubic inches piston displacement, although there a few each year for bigger classification.
Cars are subject to a careful inspection at the track by the Technical Committee of the A.A.A. Contest Board as to the safety of their construction and materials.
Ford T steering mechanism, steering knuckles, spindles and wheels are not per permitted to be used. Wire wheels of reputable manufacturer are required. Wooden wheels are not permitted. Steering wheel must be of steel or bronze. All racing cars must have built into their con-struction a fire dash between the engine compartment and the driver’s compartment. The dash must be of metal, such as steel or aluminum. Metal floor boards or pans are required.
The Contest Board rules provide that no automobile be raced or its performance recognized unless it has a motor-drive reverse mechanism and two independently operated sets of brakes.
A hood must be carried at all times. Side pieces of the hood may be left off at the option of the driver.
Welded frames and goosenecks, radius rods, axles, or any other vital parts must be offered for inspection when they have been painted over and are not readily discernible.
Note – A more recent ruling if the Contest Board limited the use of welded parts.
Either one of two place bodies are optional, as is also the wheelbase, so long as the car comes within the safety requirements of the examining Technical Committee. Piston displace-ment is also optional, keeping in mind the paragraphs above regarding eligibility.
Procedures For Making Entry In Sanctioned Events
A schedule of all coming sanctioned events is on file with the Contest Board. Entry blanks may be obtained from the promoter of the event. In the space in the entry blank provided for the driver’s registration number it may be noted “To be applied for at track.”
Where the applicant has never previously had any experience at a sanctioned event, the name of the local Contest Board representative will be given him and he should communicate with this representative to arrange for the driver’s test as provided for above.
It is not necessary to be either a registered driver or a car owner to make entry, same being acceptable to the Board, subject to qualification and further that the entrant, car, car owner or driver has not driven or the car been raced in any nonsanctioned event.
- “Changing the Formula,” Motor Sport, January 1936, p. 101.
- “Formula Pros and Cons,” Motor Sport, March 1936, p. 151.
- Our Continental Correspondent, “Continental Notes and News,” Motor Sport, March 1936, p. 183.
- Ray F. Kuns, Automobile Racing (Second Edition), Cincinnati: Ray F. Kuns, 1932, pp. 5-9. The Edwin C. Waterhouse Collection is catalogued as Records Group 99A6 at the IMRRC.