Retro Cool: Spa 6hrs in a Ford Falcon - CHRIS HARRIS ON CARS

Uploaded by drive on 10.10.2012


CHRIS HARRIS: You almost certainly know about the
Goodwood Revival, and you might well have heard of
Classic Le Mans.
But perhaps the coolest historic motor race in the
world is the Spa Six Hours
This is proper motorsport.

Getting changed in the back of a pit garage and a 1963 Ford
Falcon next to you, and an Alfa Juliet Super behind you.

So we're getting ready for qualifying for
the Six Hour race.
Hour and a half of it, little bit of set-up work.
Then we'll have a rocket ship to work with.
CHRIS HARRIS: And this is the weapon of choice for Team
Harris and Frankel, a 1963 Ford Falcon.
We've returned after our 2011 bid ended two hours into the
race on three wheels.
Team leader and car owner is Richard Frankel,
second-in-command is fellow motoring journalist Andrew
Frankel, and the man who runs the garage is
the legendary Vernon.
It may look like an unlikely race car, but with many
lightweight parts from [INAUDIBLE]
Imperior, it weighs about 1,250 kilograms and it's
running a healthy Ford 289-cubic-inch motor with well
over 400 horsepower.
Factor in small disc brakes at the front, drums at the rear,
and two 15-section Avon ZZs, and you've got a
recipe for real fun.
Only for some reason, this car has amazing traction.

CHRIS HARRIS: Good cars everywhere.
Look, 911!

CHRIS HARRIS: So qualifying.
I have to do three laps to get qualified and then we've got
some set-up work to do, because Richard, the car's
owner, doesn't think it's handling very well.
We've got an understeer problem.
Which is strange in a car with that much power that's
rear-wheel drive, but that's the way of it.
So let's go and see if we can get rid of the understeering.
Andrew's done well, though.
We just did a 3:11, I think.

ANDREW FRANKEL: Well, this is us.
We're in at number 47, but that's actually not the
problem that you'd think it is in a race like this.
Now he's done a 10.03.
Now we can't remember what it did last year, but I think it
was something--
I think the best time it did was something like a 19.
So with a new engine and a bit of set-up work, the car seems
to have bounced maybe 8, 9 seconds a lap.
And that's with just me driving, so when Chris is in
it, it's probably going to go quicker than that.
CHRIS HARRIS: We've taken--
we wanted to get some grip in the front axle, and you can do
that sometimes by taking the grip away from the back of the
car, and it seems to have worked.
The car has quite a lot of understeer, and we're really
worried about these Avon ZZ tires, so
really, we have to make--
three drivers have make two front tires, a pair of front
tires, last two hours.
And that is something we looked like we were going to
fail to do last year.
This year, it looks possible.
Those have done 25 laps, so that's getting on for
two-thirds of a stint.
And that means that they're looking OK, which is a really,
really good thing.
If we can do this with that set-up, that's fine.
We're going to do one more thing.
We're just going to change the roll-bar at the front and try
and soften it a bit, see if we can get a little bit grip into
the front of the car.
ANDREW FRANKEL: Sorry to tear you away from your presenting.
You need to go get in the car.
CHRIS HARRIS: The changes worked.
We got down to a 3:04 in the end, which put us P38 from 103
starters, and the best Falcon in quali.
Game on.


CHRIS HARRIS: As you can see, tires play a big role in the
race weekend--
not just preserving them on the car, but pushing them
around the paddock on the Scuderia Frankel trolley.
Now I've got enough tires to mean that we'll start--
Richard will start the race on four new tires, two of which
are actually from last year's race, but weren't used.
But they're fine.
And then that leaves us with two new fronts to go on for
Andrew and two new fronts to go on for me, hopefully.
We think that the rears will last the whole race.
Well, at least we hope they will.
But certainly, the rears we took off last night had done
an hour and a half running, and they were
really quite good.
So I think we're in good shape.
I had to literally twist the old chassis.
Otherwise we were going to shove into the motorhome.
Come on.

Now there was one other reason for being here
this weekend as well.
Richard and myself took part in the U2TC race, without a
doubt the most competitive old racing car series around.
It's for pre-'66, under two liter touring cars.
We were in a beautiful Alfa Julia Super, which was lacking
some ponies compared to the frontrunners, but could hassle
the suspiciously rapid Minis and go sideways everywhere.
We brought the old soldier home in 27th from 48 starters.
I'm not sure you can have more fun motor-racing than this--
watching the Lotus Cortinas ahead on three wheels.
CHRIS HARRIS: But the main event was the Six Hours, and
this meant a meeting in Mission Control, which bears
an uncanny resemblance to 100,000-mile
Land Cruiser Amazon.
Here we discussed our demon tactics and attempted to
formulate a plan.
Anyone eavesdropping might have confused this with three
blokes talking bobbins, but that's by the by.
RICHARD FRANKEL: Well, I think I'm probably not using as many
as you guys.
I think that six two, six three is probably about it.
ANDREW FRANKEL: I'm using six-two.
CHRIS HARRIS: Oh, is that what it is?
ANDREW FRANKEL: I'm very happy to set that as a limit.
RICHARD FRANKEL: I think that's probably about it.
I seem to be driving different cars than you guys,
but there we go.
Because I'm, A, not entirely sure the corners are
[INAUDIBLE] in the gears.
I'm puttering around everywhere in fourth gear but
very happy.
Only hope that I can keep the cigar lit on the way around,
but there we go.
ANDREW FRANKEL: I cannot see a set of front tires--
in fact, I'll tell you.
A set of front tires will not do four hours.
So whatever they look like after two hours, I think, in
my view, you have to change them.
CHRIS HARRIS: I think that's probably fair
enough, isn't it?
RICHARD FRANKEL: OK, well, we have six new front tires, so
we can do that, no problem at all.
basically if a curb-- if it's painted
tarmac, do what you like.
CHRIS HARRIS: Yeah, painted tarmac--
ANDREW FRANKEL: But if it's a curb, keep off it.
Painted tarmac is smooth and flat.
If it's got a ripple in it, it's no good at all.
RICHARD FRANKEL: And I'm going first.
You're second, Andrew, and you're third, Chris.
CHRIS HARRIS: Absolutely.
Can you now turn the camera off before Andrew starts
predicting where we're going to finish in the race?
ANDREW FRANKEL: Yeah, I'd just like to say--
Turn it off now.
ANDREW FRANKEL: --if we have a really good run--
CHRIS HARRIS: Turn it off now.
Off now.
ANDREW FRANKEL: --I think that, if everything goes
according to plan, nobody gets up on any curbs, I think
there's a chance that we could get really drunk later on.
CHRIS HARRIS: Is he finished?
Some superstitions don't die.
RICHARD FRANKEL: Would now be a good time to tell you that
I'm actually a teetotalling vegetarian?
RICHARD FRANKEL: I just think that , you
know, there's too much--
too many animals are killed, and I just feel that the
vegetable's the way ahead.
And actually, alcohol, it is-- it is the devil's drink.
And I just think, you know, I'm very happy on water--
CHRIS HARRIS: Did you say that when you were--
RICHARD FRANKEL: Cup of tea, occasionally.
CHRIS HARRIS: Marching around the hotel with a bottle Ardbeg
the other night?
RICHARD FRANKEL: And I just think that one has, you know,
all these pleasures.
I just think that--
I think the simple life, I was thinking about sort of
abandoning material possessions, and you know--
RICHARD FRANKEL: Maybe sort of go to a monastery, I think,
probably, and just reflecting on life, and
just taking it easy.
And I just think we've obsessed--
ANDREW FRANKEL: Give your life over to the service of others?
RICHARD FRANKEL: Well, let's not be hasty.
But I think, you know, certainly one could--
CHRIS HARRIS: Can I have the 904, if that's the case?
RICHARD FRANKEL: Well, I feel that there are causes more
worthy than you, Christopher.
But let me give that some serious thought, if I may.
ANDREW FRANKEL: You know what they say, that charity begins
at home, and there's nothing quite like family.
ANDREW FRANKEL: Um, can I just say, for the record, that I'd
very happy with the Manza.
RICHARD FRANKEL: The monk's habit presumably offers a lot
of freedom as well, doesn't it?
And a lot of air--
CHRIS HARRIS: Take it for Andrew, 'cause he could stash
a lot of stolen water bottles and things that he tends to
[INAUDIBLE] from restaurants.
ANDREW FRANKEL: Yes, we do certainly have a kleptomaniac
in our midst.
CHRIS HARRIS: Right, gentlemen.
Best of luck for the race.
Best of luck for the race.
CHRIS HARRIS: And let the fun begin.

VERNON: And if at any time any if you are driving like a
girl, you'll need to pull your finger out.


CHRIS HARRIS: Richard starts the race
with a simple mantra--
avoid trouble.
For the first few laps, this cost us a few places, but that
doesn't matter.
We're racing to finish.
If six-hour races in new cars are attritional, they're
doubly so in old sheds.
And we must nurse those tires.
CHRIS HARRIS: Richard gets us into the 30s,
which is pretty heroic.
Andrew jumps in and heads off to the fuel station.
Using a slow consumer-spec pump to fill a 140-liter fuel
cell takes eons.
Then he's away and we're trucking again.
But not for long.

The motor isn't pulling properly.
Vernon and his team set to work, find the alternator has
come loose and is brushing the fan.
It takes 10 minutes to fix, and Andrew's out again.
Um, but then back in again a few laps later.
The alternator [INAUDIBLE]
has detached itself.
RICHARD FRANKEL: So it's just got no steam at all.
It sounds all right.
All the dials are pointing in the right direction.
But there's just-- there's just nothing happening.
It feels like it's a two-liter Falcon.
CHRIS HARRIS: If racing at Spa isn't already enough of a
privilege, when the light fades, it becomes a dream--
the colors, the rhythm of the circuit, the noises, and the
shapes of those machines.
Anyhow, Andrew stays out this time, but the times aren't
what he's capable of.
Clearly he's nursing a problem, and this is now about
coaxing the Falcon to the finish.

It's getting dark by the time I'm in the car.
Andrew says he thinks it's only
firing on seven cylinders.
So we head out, but on my second lap, the motor loses
even more power.
I have to pit, really.
The boys find one of the plugs has no gap left, which, as we
all know, is bad.
They work furiously and gallantly, but it doesn't make
any difference.
The car is retired for a second year, and when the
right-hand rocker cover is removed, the cause of the
problem is very clear.
You want to talk us through the damage?
Come on, Vernon.
Not at the moment.
CHRIS HARRIS: So it's busted two rockers.

Who knows?
There could be further damage.
Might not.
Might be a case of just put two rockers in
and then start out.
CHRIS HARRIS: Two broken rockers.
VERNON: We'll obviously have to take that side up and have
a look, make sure nothing's cracked and broken.
RICHARD FRANKEL: This is pretty depressing, no?
We didn't finish again.
It remains unfinished business.
Nixed by--
by bad luck.
There we go.
RICHARD FRANKEL: Same time next year, chaps?
CHRIS HARRIS: I think so.
RICHARD FRANKEL: They have a tiddlywink championship in
Brussels about the same time.
We might divert.
There we go.
CHRIS HARRIS: We can't be beaten, can we?
We've got to do it again in the same car.
Because the car's so cool, we have to finish the race.