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F1 History Magazine 18

Continental notes, September 1973

Taken from the September 1973 issue of Motor Sport

By Denis Jenkinson

Looking back on the whole sad and unfortunate affair of the Dutch Grand Prix makes one realize more than ever that motor racing is getting out of hand and is spiralling upwards in ever-increasing circles until it is going to blow sky-high, with all of us in the middle of it to receive the debris on our heads.

magazine history  Continental notes, September 1973

Smoke from Roger Williamson’s burning car at Zandvoort in 1973

We have now had an unbroken run of motor racing for 28 years, longer than ever before, and during the last five or six years we have had crisis upon crisis arising connected with all possible aspects of motor rating. We have had crises before but never as frequently as we are having them now, and if it is not a safety crisis, it is a driver crisis, then we have organisational and manufacturer crises, and about the only thing we haven’t had is a spectator crisis. The whole scene goes blundering along from one crisis to the next, with no time to get anything really sorted out; although improvements are made and a relative control kept over complete chaos, we are always on the brink of disaster, and we are all so busy in our tightly-knit little world that we have little opportunity to solve our problems adequately.

If we take a cold hard look at motor racing from well outside its influence we can only come to one possible decision, and that is that all our problems would be solved if we stopped motor racing altogether. For those of us in motor racing this is quite impracticable, but at times there are a number of us who think we should call a truce for a year or 18 months and try and put our house in order, because surely one day someone in the outside world who doesn’t know about motor racing and certainly doesn’t care about it, is going to be in a position to ban the whole thing.

magazine history  Continental notes, September 1973

A somber Jackie Stewart after winning the Dutch Grand Prix

There are many people in our ranks who are working their heads off to try and solve our many problems, and we must support them all we can, but equally there are nearly as many who get in a terrible flap and make hasty decisions in their attempts to ‘do good’. The worst are those who merely want to be seen doing good, but they are beyond the pale. Just as those who are working hard need help, those who are flapping about with good intentions need guidance and a degree of opposition in order to keep a sense of proportion. The sad affair of the fire at Zandvoort caused a storm and committees and organisations have been formed for this and that, but it seems doubtful whether much thought has been given to root causes of disasters.

A lot of publicity was given to the pathetic fire-fighting and marshalling at Zandvoort and rightly so, but not enough was given to the inadequacy of the Armco barrier that collapsed when the March struck it and was the prime cause of the car turning over and catching fire. Not only the inadequacy of the installation, but the design and specification.Then further back is the reason the March hit the barriers, whether the suspension or the steering broke or a tyre collapsed, or whether the driver made a mistake. The fact that Goodyear made a special effort to disclaim the possibility of tyre failure on Williamson’s March, and Max Mosley made even bigger efforts to disclaim the possibility of something breaking on the March, to the extent of almost saying that Williamson was incompetent, immediately made everyone suspicious of their motives.

magazine history  Continental notes, September 1973

Max Mosley and Tom Wheatcroft talk with Williamson before the race

If something breaks on an aircraft then immediately all other aircraft of the same model are grounded until an investigation is made. When something breaks on a racing car the details are beefed up a bit and it is hoped it won’t break again. When a front suspension breaks on a March, or a rear suspension on a Shadow, or an upright on a Lotus, or a brake-shaft drive on a Tyrrell, or a wing mounting on a Brabham, or the monocoque on a Ferrari, then all the cars of that design should be ‘grounded’. That is, if we want to make racing cars as safe as possible. Much of the detail work on a racing car today is designed to aircraft standards, and by ex-aircraft designers, which is an excellent thing for racing progress, but my feeling is that they do not have the backing of aircraft standards of workmanship and certainly do not have the backing of aircraft standards of inspection and control, while servicing is pretty rudimentary by aircraft standards.

As regards circuit safety and circuit building standards the ideas may be alright but I am sure they are not being carried out to a very high standard of civil engineering.This is where our weaknesses lie, and if we approach the outside world with our problems we are going to find that the only sure answer to be offered will be “give up racing”. Consequently we have to tread carefully and this is why I get a little anxious for our future when people rush madly about after a catastrophe and “shout to high heaven” about this being wrong and that being wrong. One day these people will shout too loudly in the wrong direction and the official clamps will be on before we realize it.

magazine history  Continental notes, September 1973

Zolder: Peterson leads Cevert, Ickx, Hulme, Reutemann, Beltoise, Pace, Stewart, Fittipaldi and Lauda

Without doubt the Dutch put so much time and effort into getting Zandvoort working again and making the track surface and shape satisfactory, that they overlooked numerous important organisational details. This can only be put down to inexperience, for much of the organisation was new to this sort of overall responsibility, but not new to actual motor racing. Every year or 18 months, for as long as I can remember there has been a bad motor racing accident. Someone has left the stable door open and a horse has got out. There is a great cry, a mad rush to slam the door, lots of shouting and yelling which dies away until the next time the door is left open and another horse gets out. I do not know what the complete answer to it all is, I wish I did, but I am very worried that one day we are going to be told forcibly, by law-and-order, that there is no solution and that the stables, the doors and all the horses have got to be done away with.

In a similar vein is the question of where Formula 1 is going. The present 3-litre capacity formula has been running since 1966 and a lot of people feel it is long overdue for a change, but the problem is to decide where to go. So far nobody has come up with a good answer, in fact few people have come up with any answers at all and my feeling is that a lot of people who should be thinking about the problem are keeping quiet hoping the problem will go away. Others are much too busy in trying to solve more pressing problems that are affecting motor racing, but a new formula for Grand Prix racing has got to come.

magazine history  Continental notes, September 1973

Jackie Stewart on his way to victory at the Nürburgring

As a side issue there has been some muttering about applying limitations to tyres, which to my mind would be foolhardy for the tyre companies like Firestone and Goodyear are spending a lot of money on research and development and racing tyres form a large part of this. If you are going to put limits on a firm’sR&D programme they are soon going to go somewhere else. Neither Firestone nor Goodyear are in racing to make money or for advertising purposes, they are in racing as an engineering exercise, to learn things.

The Constructors’ Association have just announced their complete agreement with the tyre companies to the effect that problems of tyres should be left to those who know the subject and that the people concerned are well aware of the existing problems. They say “the interests of safety would not be served by the introduction of restrictions on the design or dimensions of Formula 1 tyres or by attempts to reduce cornering speeds by interfering with the efficiency of the cars.” A lot of people are ticking away about the number of deflated tyres in Grand Prix racing, and to listen to them you would think that the tyre companies don’t know about the problem. Nobody is more aware of a deflated tyre than the men from Firestone or Goodyear and to imagine that they are not worried about the matter or are not doing anything about it shows a simple-mindedness that is hard to believe.

magazine history  Continental notes, September 1973

Clay Regazzoni’s BRM minus Marlboro sponsorship in Germany

On the subject of problems in Grand Prix racing a very unimportant one but nonetheless a very significant one, reared its head at the German Grand Prix. This was the matter of the Government ban on cigarette advertising, with the consequent overnight disappearance of John Player, Marlboro and Embassy. While this left us with Lotus, BRM and Shadow unadorned by any handles I hope everyone is taking this as “the gypsy’s warning”. If one outside pressure group, backed by their Government, can squash the power of three big companies as easily as that it can happen again, and if it happens too often the cigarette companies are going to go somewhere else.

Do not let anyone be fooled into thinking that such sponsors are spending money on racing purely for their enthusiasm for motor racing. The day we are no longer any use to their big business interests, which is selling cigarettes, we shall be dropped very smartly. Some people are kidding themselves that they are doing a great lob of work keeping these non-technical sponsors interested in motor racing, selling them the whole idea of motor racing. They are completely off beam, the advertising world are using us for their own ends, albeit paying handsomely for the privilege.

magazine history  Continental notes, September 1973

Emerson Fittipaldi drives to second at Monaco

All we have to do is keep racing alive and well with a big following, if not then these non-mechanical fairy godmothers will go elsewhere. We didn’t find them, they found us, and they thought “there is a good way of spending our advertising budget”. When it is no longer a good way they will be gone. Many people will remember the hire purchase finance companies getting interested in racing, with the Yeoman Credit Racing Team and the Bowmaker ream. The present happy state of affairs with the tobacco companies paying for everything will not go on for ever and if we have any more outside pressures being applied like we did in Germany then the happy days are numbered.

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magazine history  Continental notes, September 1973

Add your comments

18 comments on Continental notes, September 1973

  1. Nick H, 13 August 2013 10:50

    I’ve been revisiting the 1970s F1 scene recently, both on YouTube, and though old copies of Motor Sport, and the Williamson incident at Zandvoort is shocking and heartbreaking even now.

    Whatever the causes of some of these accidents, in a lot of cases the cars of the time actually seem to stand up relatively well to impacts – look at the infamous Scheckter incident in the ’73 British Grand Prix, but in many cases it’s what happens after the crash that the problems start – the safety features themselves that can cause trouble, be it cars piercing poorly secured armco barriers (with predictably gruesome results for the driver concerned) or hopelessly ineffective standards of fire marshalling, as with Roger Williamson, and I believe, Siffert at Brands Hatch two years previously.
    A dangerous time for a dangerous sport, but so many avoidable deaths caused by the very safety measures that were there to prevent them in the first place.

    While I do regret that I wasn’t around to see racing in the 60s and 70s, to see some of the great cars, drivers and circuits of the era, I’m glad the sport has learned so much since then, and that these days drivers are pretty sure that when they go to a race meeting, that there’s a good chance that they’ll be coming home afterwards…

    Had a wry chuckle at this comment by Jenks though:

    “…The whole scene goes blundering along from one crisis to the next…”

    Some things never change, do they?

    Nick H

  2. Chris C, 13 August 2013 11:16

    Fascinating contemporary insight into a tragic period of racing that has been well documented in more recent times.

    An interesting glimpse into the future as well… first signs of the cigarette advertising clampdown that would have ramifications in years to come and of course change the traditional cosmetic appearance of F1 cars (traditional red and white Marlboro McLaren springs to mind)

    Although F1 does not seem to be so heavily included in the ‘energy drink wars’ like other forms of motorsport are, there is of course heavy investment from the likes of Red Bull and Monster Energy… and no matter what any PR guru says, much like the cigarette companies in the latter decades of the 20th century, they are not in it purely for the love of racing.

  3. C C, 13 August 2013 11:59

    I’m a bit sketchy on my 1970′s F1 knowledge so found this really interesting. You get the impression of how raw F1 was back then, something that still lingered through the 1980′s to a degree.

    Nowadays, every 2 weeks, we watch something that is a cross between a political soap opera and a game of chess that’s completely controlled by a load of suits on the Pit Wall issuing instructions on what to do.

    Wish there was some kind of happy balance where F1 could still appear raw and dangerous, and yet be safe.

    Thanks for bringing back the article

  4. Ray In Toronto, Canada (Ray T (The other one)), 13 August 2013 14:04

    Interesting reading a piece – by one of the pioneers – of an era when life was, sadly, still ‘cheap’ (relatively speaking, of course).

    Funny, too, that there’s always some “crisis” or other in the Soap Opera world of Formula One…but, mercifully, not to the tragic proportions of yesteryear.

    These days the crises extend from the down-right silly, media-driven mumbo jumbo (Malaysian GP RBR ‘Multi-21′) to dangerous-yet-avoidable (British GP tyre deflations/disintegrations) to the economic (mid-to-smaller sized teams on the verge of ‘bankruptcy’.).

    Thankfully, we’ve avoided some appaling and horrific tragedies, having “lucked out” at Silverstone earlier this summer.

    Life is dear in F1 now… due, in large parts, to the pioneering efforts of a driver shown in a few of the pictures in the article, one Jackie Stewart.

    I don’t think ‘Jenks’ was one of those that supported Stewart’s early efforts, was he? I guess that’s because he (‘Jenks’) was from an era when life was cheap.

  5. John, 13 August 2013 16:28

    Interesting article. Shows that somethings haven’t changed at all.

  6. Michael Kavanagh, 13 August 2013 17:50

    The trouble with motor racing is that it is dangerous – at least that’s what it used to say on the back of the tickets I used to buy. When Jackie Stewart’s out-of-control Tyrrell hurtled directly at me at Silverstone at the Daily Express Trophy meeting and stopped no more than six feet away with nothing more than chestnut paling to separate the pair of us, I didn’t demand my money back – that was an acceptable risk which, as a (mostly) responsible adult, I was prepared to take.

    If we want ‘safe’ motor racing and not the sort of racing Jenks was writing about above, then we end up with the anodyne rubbish that we have today in F1 and elsewhere; or, processions as they’re known at carnivals up and down the country. We can’t have it both ways.

  7. Dave Cook, 14 August 2013 09:08

    Blimey, You must have been a few feet from me! When he stopped rotating I was looking directly at the gearbox. He recovered to win the race. Now that day could warrant an article all by itself…..

  8. Michael Kavanagh, 15 August 2013 06:53

    @Dave Cook. All the best people were at that spot! I believe there’s footage of the incident out there in YouTube land …

  9. R.E.B, 15 August 2013 13:13

    It is an uncomfortable issue to face when it is admitted that part of the fascination of motor racing is the danger. As I write this I see on the news that the stunt man that took part in the parachute drop into the olympic ceremony has been killed persuing his passion for extreme sports. Motor racing I suppose can be termed an extreme sport, admittedly of varying degrees. That stunt man could have gained a very similar sensation wing gliding in a tube with a fan at the bottom, but he would hardly have been interested. We could run a grand prix on simulators and remove all risk. Would anyone watch this? So my question is, should motor racing be made more dangerous?

  10. Nick H, 15 August 2013 19:47

    @ R.E.B, “So my question is, should motor racing be made more dangerous?”

    No. Personally I think that would be a huge backward step. And whatever else may be wrong with the modern sport, I’m glad we’re not reading a top driver’s obituary every few months. But, safer shouldn’t equal bland or characterless – there needs to be a happy medium.

    The sport’s always going to be dangerous – there will always be the unforeseen occurrences (Think Massa in Hungary ’09)

    Unnecessary dangers should be avoided where possible, certainly with regards to car construction, standards of marshalling, medical facilities etc, and somehow circuits need to be designed so that mistakes, (whether it be over enthusiastic overtaking maneuvers or simple brain fade) get punished, not by some poor devil killing themselves, but by losing time. Too many drivers these days get away with things because they can – theres no real penalty for running out of road, and it needs to be decided on track as it happens, rather than by a panel of stewards.


  11. Ray In Toronto, Canada (Ray T (The other one)), 16 August 2013 13:37


    “…So my question is, should motor racing be made more dangerous?”

    Hello R.E.B.

    Seems to me that the ACO already took the decision to make their motor race at the Sarthe “more dangerous”.

    They did this by incoporating painted swathes of road at a circuit known to get rain/moisture…and, then, made it worse by having the armco stationed right up against trees.

    In the Le Mans thread I wrote that there were two other spins on the wet blue paint ahead of Simonsen’s Aston Martin before he lost it and crashed.

  12. Brett, 20 August 2013 10:13

    @ R.E.B, “…should motor racing be made more dangerous?”

    No, absolutely not. Still, an interesting question. If you had asked ‘should motor racing have more crashes?’, then I MAY answer ‘yes’. Though I certainly do not want any injuries. Or deaths.

    With the colossal drabness of present F1, & the wonder of carbon fibre technology, this may be worthy of consideration. The reptilian parts of my brain do indeed enjoy the calamity of shunts. This I can not deny. I am not alone here, either.

    HOWEVER, this ancient desire to witness crashes could be easily satiated & negated by close competitive racing. It would have to be racing, though. Not the driving – the procession – the gadgetry – which happens today. No, it would have to have the cars be able to race as closely as the DRIVERS WANTED, & not be dictated by the aerodynamics which are presently allowed. Before ‘my time’, scribes, photographers, fans would talk with glee of GP’s which had battles worth remembering. Or more likely, became unforgettable. (forgive the capitals but racers want to race, not be inhibited by such inconveniences)

    So my question is; what is your preference, close racing or fast racing?

    And then I want you to imagine a formula which combines the best elements of these 2 following videos:

    This is what it was. And Formula One can be like this again.

  13. Brett, 20 August 2013 11:05

    Jenks talked a lot but did not hit the necessary point here.

    Within a few curt years an enormous transition happened in Formula One; the implementation of ‘wings’ & a few years later, ‘slick’ tyre technology.

    In this very short period, cornering speeds dramatically & all too often, tragically, sky rocketed. Did the circuit safety increase at the same speed? Both Jenks & JYS would testify a negative to that query. Did car safety increase? It would be a long decade (+) till carbon fibre technology came into existence.

    I wonder if the majority of F1 fans grasp the strength, the influence, the ‘wings’ have on an F1 car. Next time you’re at an airport have a gander at a ‘jumbo’ jet. Then consider these stats: fully laden; 440 tons (400 tonnes), take off speed; 190 mph (300kmh) then have a look at the amount of wing area on the jet. Not big at all, considering those two stats…is it?

    And then examine the wing area of the current F1 car. And it’s weight.

    Do not get me wrong, though; I want to see the F1 megastars who get paid ridiculous retainers earn their ‘bugs bunny’ by racing. Not meandering in a fast fashion. Let the boys race. Close competition. They want to. I want to watch them. I would love to see them race at 2, 3, 4 gravities every corner. Alas, physics!…

    …they can not currently because the wings cause ‘dirty air’. They can only follow each other in a dull procession, interspersed with an occasional ‘gadgeted’ overtake.

    Bernie: Eccelestone; respond accordingly or kindly or begrudgingly – I care naught – kick your clogs off. I’ll send a card.

  14. Barry Glading, 20 August 2013 12:35

    Dear Jenks, he had it right then, and he would have it right now. Thanks for bringing Continental Notes back from time to time. It just reminds me of what I now think of as a ‘simpler time’ which in reality, was never simple.
    If Motor Sport would produce a ‘Continental Notes’ e-book, I’d be a contented bloke. I still miss Jenks.

  15. D Macnab, 21 August 2013 12:47

    For any others reading this – note:

    para 5 for ‘prune cause’ read ‘prime cause’

    para7 for ‘ a link anxious’ read ‘ a little anxious’

  16. Ed Foster, 21 August 2013 13:03

    Thanks D Macnab, good spot. Not sure how those slipped through the net.


  17. Peter Mann, 21 August 2013 22:34

    Jenks has long been seen as anti-safety – yet this edition of his wonderful ‘Continental Notes’ shows how wrong that notion is.

    Time for folks to praise him for his stand on safety.

    PS As others have said – great to have sight of DSJ’s work again. Please keep them flowing.

  18. Ryan, 4 December 2013 18:49

    Jenks was pretty disparaging about Stewart’s efforts to improve safety from the mid-sixties onwards, wrongly in my view. We tend to think that nobody worried much about safety prior to the Stewart era, and in the closed world of racing that is probably true, but outside racing there was a great deal of disquiet. One only has to read Robert Daley’s two books from the sixties to understand that. Stewart saw, before anyone else it seems, that changes in public attitude meant that another accident on the scale of Le Mans in ’55 or Monza in ’61, in which spectators were killed and injured, would lead to the banning of all high level motorsport, thus the drive to install armco at all tracks – not to save the drivers, but the spectators. The huge accidents to the Lotus 49s of Hill and Rindt at Montjuich in 1969 showed graphically how far sighted this was. Without the newly installed armco both cars would’ve ploughed into the crowd, killing god knows how many spectators. If not for Stewart, and others in his wake, motor racing would’ve probably ended then and there.

    My favourite era of motor racing is the 60s and 70s, but I often shudder when I think just how stupidly, horribly, viciously violent the “sport” was in that era, how drivers were burnt to death, sliced in half, decapitated, and how blasé the general reaction in racing was to it all. I can’t say I particularly enjoy today’s Formula 1 – in fact I know longer watch it, but equally I have no desire to see young men grilled beyond recognition or fatally maimed in the name of sport either.

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