from Sports Car & Lotus Owner, January 1958


by Mike Costin


IT is rather a pity that record attempts by a firm like Lotus, with racing commitments throughout the European season, have to take place in the Winter.  All the fun of leaving England and heading south for supposedly warmer lands is spoiled by finding snow, ice and fog in places where, a few months earlier, we sweltered in tropical heat. This sort of thing may be "just the job" for Monte competitors in cars full of gadgets; it is not quite the same in a racing transporter loaded with a car and many hundredweights of spares.

     However, the plan was to make an attack, on the banked Monza circuit, on world records in the 1100 cc and 750 cc classes.  Since the regulations permit engines to run with or without supercharger we took Coventry Climax engines fitted with special "blowers" made by the same firm.  This seemed to be the logical way of improving on the figures set up by the late MacKay Fraser just over a year ago.

     The car was basically a series two Eleven, highly polished and with a perspex "bubble" fitted over the driving compartment.  The front brake assemblies were removed to reduce weight on the front suspension, which was of the F2 wishbone type. Between engine and rear axle, coupled by two short propeller shafts, was fitted a five speed gearbox of the type developed on the F2 car.  A normal differential unit was used in conjunction with the DeDion rear suspension assembly.

     We, that is Cliff Allison, Steve Sanvill. Jack Murrell and I, left Hornsey in a very heavily loaded transporter early on Friday, 29th November.  We immediately got stuck in Seven Sisters Road when one fuel tank ran dry and the other pumped up only air. Then on the way to Folkestone we ran over a petrol can, which somebody had decided to discard, and damaged the rear wing.  At Folkestone the float bowl fell off the carburetter and we were forced to buy and fit a new one.  Going on the boat it was noticed that the petrol can incident had damaged a rear wheel, so a new tube was then procured and a spare wheel fitted while we were on the boat.  Our journey had not started too well.

     Anyway, we left Dunkirk on Friday night, dividing the crew of four into pairs and doing two hour spells of driving and navigating followed by four hours off.  In this way we reached Briancon by Saturday evening.  During the latter part of the run we had been having trouble with grabbing brakes—and on Sunday morning I found that the lock nuts on the rear axle had worked loose.  Delayed by the necessity to remedy this situation we did not reach Milan till 8 p.m. on Sunday evening.

     On Monday morning we went straight to Monza and were installed in the garages which are a feature of the track.  While the 1100 engine was being run, just for warming up purposes, the blower manifold split due to vibration; the flanged plate by which it was attached had bowed.  A local works quickly machined the plate back to true and at 3:30 p.m. Cliff began his first test runs.  He quickly got down to target speed— represented by a lap in 1 minute 5.7 seconds—and so we decided to begin the record attempts proper on the following morning.

     By 11 a.m. timekeepers and officials had assembled but fog blanketed the track.  By midday, however, Cliff decided that visibility was good enough for the record runs to begin.

     Everything went according to plan until one lap after the 50 kms record had been taken, when the blower belts burned out as a result of slackening.  Cliff brought the car in and a set of old belts was fitted.  Within half an hour the car was on the track again, going beautifully and running right up to schedule.  But our troubles were not over, by any means.  First the engine went, quite suddenly, on to three cylinders.  Cliff kept going, although his times were down by about six seconds a lap, and just when I had decided to call him in—fearful of the effects of fuel starvation on a supercharged engine—the car began to run quite normally again.

     Later the car came round with the rear of the bodywork missing.  Lap times were not greatly affected and thus Allison was signaled to continue.  But soon after the 200 kms mark had been passed the engine went on to three cylinders again, and Cliff decided to call it a day.  Despite everything we had succeeded in setting up five new class G records.

     Wednesday, December 4 was given over to fitting the 750 cc engine and working on the rear body panels, which had not been badly damaged.  On Thursday we tested the car—still without its tail at first—but lap times were rather disappointing, averaging 1 minute 13 seconds with the best figure 1 minute 12.3 seconds.  Taping of all body joints subsequently improved things to the extent of 1 1/2 seconds.  It was thus decided to make an attempt on 750 cc records on Friday the sixth, and sticking tape was applied to all body joints, the front hinges, and joints with the "bubble" top.

     During Friday's runs it proved impossible to maintain the target speed due to loss of blower pressure.  Cliff was set a maximum of 8000 rpm in top gear, but could not reach this figure even in fourth.  After 30 laps I called off the attempt because the engine was obviously not developing full power.

     Over the weekend a great deal of work was done in the hopes of restoring supercharger pressure to 15 lb psi.  We spent Monday doing further tests and decided to have another shot at the records on Tuesday the 10th.

     Now the Monza track may be the only place in Europe for really high speed record runs, but it is by no means perfect for the job.  Firstly the track is extremely bumpy, being made up of concrete sections mounted on pillars.  Bumps between section and section tend to increase as parts of the structure are always on the move.  During the winter months parts of the banking becomes almost permanently frozen—as during the 1100 cc runs— because the sun never reaches them.  And for most of our stay matters were complicated by the fog hazard.  At 11 am on the Tuesday Monza was blanketed by fog.  When it became possible to see the banked sections from halfway along the straight Cliff decided that we should start.  Red lamps, of both static and flashing variety, were set out to mark the banking and the car was eventually under way at about 2:15 pm. I felt rather worried about the duration of the attempts, as it would start to get dark soon after 4 o'clock, but it turned out that no decision on this subject was necessary.  After a few laps the engine began to lose boost pressure, and conditions steadily worsened until the blower seized.  At this time the car was out of sight at the back of the circuit Cliff did not come past the pits on time and I set out in a tender car to find what had gone wrong.

     Traveling in the same direction as the record car I completed almost a whole lap with no sign of Cliff.  My feelings as I drove back towards the pits can be imagined.  All was well, however.  I arrived to find that Cliff had just pushed the car into the pits with the blower still seized.

     That was that.  All that remained, I thought, was to load the car into the transporter and drive steadily back to England.  Loading all our spares, tyres and fuel created some problems, but we were ready for an early start on the following morning.  It was raining when we left Monza; on the autostrada to Turin the rain turned into heavy snow. On the lower Alpine passes there was a foot of snow and most traffic had stopped, but our transporter kept going for mile after mile in second gear.  At Monza, with the 1100 cc engine installed Cliff had been averaging over 140 mph.  Now he could scarcely manage 12 mph.  Blocked passes forced us to make a diversion to Gap and by this time we were feeling very cold.  To make matters worse in this respect the windscreen was continually getting snowed-up.  But with nothing untoward mechanically, apart from a broken spring shackle pin and two burst tyres, we proceeded steadily towards the English Channel.

     As the result of a message received from the French customs we were compelled to change our route and head for Paris. The reason—to collect the Le Mans Index winner, the 750 cc Lotus, from the Paris showrooms where it had subsequently been on view. There was no room for this car in the transporter so Cliff drove it to LeTouquet to catch the Air Ferry.  But at LeTouquet the aircraft could not land because of fog and the car was left in the hands of the RAC.  We all proceeded to Folkestone by boat and went on to Ferryfield to pick up the Le Mans 750 on the following morning.

     At Ferryfield slight complications arose. Documents covering the return of the Le Mans car had not arrived, and thus further papers had to be made out for importing the Lotus from France.  Eventually the formalities were sorted out and Jack Murrell drove the car back to Hornsey.  Our journey in the transporter was completed without further ado, and we arrived back at the works late in the evening of December 14.  As a result of our journey the following figures will, subject to the usual ratification, be inscribed in the record books.

Class G —751 to 1100 cc

50 kms    --141.9 mph

50 miles  --140:8 mph

100 kms   --141.0 mph

100 miles  --140.0 mph

200 kms   --139.9 mph

Fastest lap --145.5 mph

The record car at Monza on an earlier occasion with, left to right, Mike Costin, "Jabby" Crombac and Bill Griffiths.