1972 South African Grand Prix
First win for a Yardley McLaren
Kyalami, March 4th.
Relieved of its usual status of being the first World Championship event of the year, the South African event nevertheless proved to be a great success. The 26-car field was watched by a record crowd and the race proved to be a succession of exciting battles for the lead which, finally, resulted in victory for Hulme in a Yardley-sponsored McLaren M19A. It was HuIme who was last year robbed of victory in the closing stages due to a rear suspension failure.
As has been the case for several years the race was held at the Kyalami track, mid-way between Johannesburg and Pretoria. The majority of the cars had been flown directly from Argentina and this enabled testing to start early. Both Firestone and Goodyear organised sessions. The lap record stood at 1 min. 20.0 sec. to local champion Dave Charlton so, when Fittipaldi lapped in 1 min. 17.2 sec. and then Stewart in 1 min. 16.4 sec. during the tyre tests, the lines were really humming back to England. By the time official practice commenced on Wednesday, March 1 the great majority of the teams had put in some miles of testing.
Although Kyalami has always been considered to be one of the safer circuits, further modifications to this end were completed just before the Grand Prix. The various vertical earth banks have been replaced by concrete slabs, which the GPDA have decided are safer, and further catch fences have been added. While in South Africa Jackie Stewart carried out on inspection at some other circuits and it appears that Cape Town will have to be modified considerably before it can be used for International racing again. On circuit garage accommodation has been further improved at Kyalami and all the cars and equipment can now be housed in lock-up garages adjoining the pits.
The field was only slightly changed since Buenos Aires. Elf-Team Tyrrell offered a formidable challenge with the usual cars for Stewart and Cevert plus the new 004 as a spare. This is the car that first appeared at the London Motor Show and is built to the same specification as the previous two. Cevert’s car was fitted with some new front uprights which formed part of the disc brake caliper in a similar manner to that used by Matra for some time. They offer a weight-saving advantage and proved successful in operation. March Engineering Ltd. brought along their two 721s for Peterson and Lauda, as the new 721X with its inboard gearbox and special safety features was not complete. Both Marches sported new nose sections totally different from the previous “unicorn” type.
Ferrari turned up with their three regular B2 models for last year’s winner Andretti, Ickx and Regazzoni. All three cars finished up with new nose sections, these being very similar to the Tyrrell nose, although Andretti’s was not available until race day. John Player-Team Lotus were also much as before with the two well used Lotus 72Ds for Emerson Fittipaldi and Walker. Fittipaldi’s car, which started life back in September 1970, was possibly having its last Grand Prix as a new 72 is being built for the Brazilian.
Marlboro-BRM were down to four cars for this race, Soler-Roig and WiseII having been left out while Beltoise took up his place as team leader, his car, which was badly dented at Buenos Aires by Soler-Roig, had been rebuilt on a new monocoque section and was still to the P160 design. There were similar cars for Gethin and Ganley, while Marko had the choice of two of the older, and now rather long in the tooth, P153s. Back in England the team had tested the first of the new rear radiator P180s but, due to lack of development, decided not to bring the car out to South Africa.
Following their good showing in Argentina the Yardley McLaren team seemed in a confident mood and brought along the two regular and now well proven McLaren M19As. Hulme had the newer of the pair while Peter Revson was in the car which has previously been driven by HuIme, Gethin, Donohue and Hobbs.
Following their disastrous start to the season in Argentina Equipe Matra were hoping to make a better showing and again were concentrating on a lone MS120C for Amon. The oil tank had been moved to the rear to provide for better circulation but otherwise the car was unchanged. Amon reported that Matra have now started to design a new chassis which should appear at the French GP.
John Surtees was present in a team managing capacity to oversee the efforts of his three side-radiator TS9Bs. Two were in the blue and white colour scheme of Brooke Bond Oxo-Rob Walker for Schenken and Hailwood while a third, red and white car was entered by Ceramica Pagnossin for de Adamich. The Brabham team was as before with the white and yellow Brabham BT34 for the Argentinian Reutemann and the older BT33 for Hill. The team should have newly designed cars in time for the Spanish Grand Prix.
For Team Williams/Motul it was the first time that they were fielding two Formula One cars in a World Championship event. Patron Frank Williams had acquired the services of former Brabham designer and director Ron Tauranac to act as race engineer for this event. Williams’ own cars, designed by Len Bailey and known as the “Politoys” in deference to a sponsor, are still not complete so he brought along his new March 721 for Pescarolo plus the older March 711 for Brazilian Carlos Pace, who was making his Formula One debut having arrived on the European scene in 1970, in Formula Three, moved up to F2 for 1971 and now has found sufficient sponsorship from his homeland to make Formula One this year. Yet another March was the one making its debut in the Eiffelland Caravan colours and sporting bodywork redesigned by one Luigi Colani on behalf of the German sponsor. Some of this was discarded during testing but the special cockpit design, with its centrally-mounted mirror and front air scoop for the engine, remained (see colour centre spread). Stommelen was the driver and while he has previous experience with Brabharn and Surtees in Formula One, the rest of the crew were completely new to this class of racing and it showed. Eifelland wish the car to be known by their own name and have even gone to the trouble of replacIng the March chassis plate by one of their own claiming the car to be chassis 21/1 although, in reality, it is March 721/4.
Completing the list of 27 entries were three local drivers. Most of the attention was focussed on Charlton who, it will be recalled, was a member of the works Lotus team for the British GP. In fact after that he returned to South Africa with the car he raced, 72D/R3, and went on to win his second South African Championship with it. Charlton is heavily sponsored by the local Lucky Strike cigarette firm and their promotional activities were a lesson to many better known companies in Europe. They say that they have seen a direct increase in sales since linking with Charlton and announced they will be sending him, and the Lotus, to three European GPs in the summer.
The other two local entries were made by Team Gunston, for veteran Love, who was fielding a Surtees TS9 in front radiator form, and the little-known William Ferguson with the ex-works Brabham BT33/1 which he had just purchased and used in one local race, Incidentally Gunston are one of Lucky Strike’s main rivals.
There were three practice sessions, all in the afternoon, totalling 8 1/2 hours. If this was not enough the circuit was open for testing in the morning as well. Stewart and his Tyrrell totally dominated the official training sessions for the Scot was fastest in all three of them. On Wednesday he pulled a stroke which threw everyone into despondency for, within the first half-hour, before almost anyone else had got going, he had lapped in 1 min. 17.0 sec. and this was to stand for the remaining eight hours of practice as the pole position time. At the end of the afternoon Reutemann was credited with second fastest time at 1 min. 17.3 sec. although few people believed it. However, the time stood until after the end of practice on Friday when it was finally revised. Thus the second fastest was Jacky Ickx with 1 min. 17.8 sec. followed by Fittipaldi on 1 min. 17.9 sec. Hulme was fourth fastest at 1 min. 18.1 sec, while Stewart even found time to post the fifth fastest practice lap in the training car. The next bunch were all around the 1 min. 18.5 sec. mark.
There were early problems for several competitors with Revson’s engine blowing up after a couple of laps, Charlton’s brand new engine would not run properly due to an electrical fault, Pescarolo’s engine blew up on the first lap, team-mate Pace had wheel-bearing trouble and Ganley’s clutch broke on his first lap.
Thursday’s practice could have brought disaster for the usually smooth trouble-free Tyrrell team. On what appeared to be a slightly slower day Stewart was again setting the pace with low 1 min. 17 sec. laps but, half-way through the session, he had a frightening moment from which he was lucky to escape. On the fast kink on the straight before the pits, the wing mountings broke and the rear aerofoil tried to break away from the car turning on its back in the process and sending the car out of control. Fortunately Stewart caught it and drove back slowly to his pits, a few shades paler.
After a few problems with the brakes had been sorted out Fittipaldi was going well and was Stewart’s nearest challenger finishing with a practice time of 1 min. 17.4 sec. to put himself firmly on the front row. Peterson, Ickx and Regazzoni all lapped in 1 min. 17.8 sec. with Cevert 0.1 sec. slower. Beltoise asserted himself as the quickest of the BRMs although none of them were showing the form of last season while Revson and Charlton moved up the list with 1 Min. 18.5 sec.
On Friday morning, following overnight rain, Hailwood, who had missed the previous day’s session completely because of gearbox trouble, had been recorded at 1 min. 17.4 sec. The moment the afternoon’s official session started the former motorcycle champion went straight out and did exactly the same time to put himself right near the front. The time remained the quickest of the day until the closing half-hour struggle when Stewart repeated his 1 min. 17.0 sec. to head the field again and re-emphasise his pole position time. Regazzoni was given a rather doubtful 1 min. 17.3 sec. while Hulme and Fittipaldi were both on 1 min. 17.4 sec. and last year’s winner Andretti looked good at 1 min. 17.5 sec. Peterson was well up but his time of 1 min. 17.8 sec was equalled by his Ferrari sports car partner Schenken who didn’t want to let Hailwood run away with all the Surtees spoils. A look at the grid will show that half the field were covered by one second-a fantastically close margin which indicates just how competitive Formula One racing is these days. After breaking an engine, his only one, Ferguson reluctantly scratched but only after showing some promise by qualifying in the Gunston Surtees as fast as John Love.
Despite a heavy rainstorm early on Saturday morning, the skies were clear as the crowds started to pour into Kyalami. There is no racial segregation at the circuit although the price, at £2 for gate admission, naturally was rather high for those other than the white South African population. A full programme of events had been laid on including races for Fomula Vee (won by a girl of 18), Formula Ford and saloons and there was an amusing race for South African manufactured Ford Cortina pick-up trucks which was won by British Formula Three driver Roger Williamson, who has been out at Kyalami testing a Formula Two car for March. By the time the 3 p.m. start had come round a record crowd of over 80,000, many encouraged by the huge support given by the local newspapers, had packed round every available vantage point. As ever there were last-minute dramas. In a morning warm-up session Hulme’s engine had developed a leak in a rear oil-seal on the engine and this was only rectified with a quarter of an hour to go while Pace’s Grand Prix debut looked in jeopardy for his electrical fuel pump stopped working while the car was being warmed-up and was still being changed as the cars lined up on the grid. Graham Hill was another in trouble and his ignition box was swopped at the last minute while de Adamich’s car also received last minute attention.
Right on time the 25 cars (Pace was not on the grid) rolled forward off the dummy grid with engines furiously blipping. Then the flag dropped and they were off with a great roar. Hulme made the perfect get-away and, as Stewart and Fittipaldi eyed each other (Regazzoni had made a slow start), the McLaren took an inside line and drove past the pair of them through the open space they left, to take the lead into the first corner. Further back, Schenken had miscalculated the start and in the process boxed in Revson while Charlton’s engine went sick immediately with a seized mechanical fuel pump. In fact he only completed two laps and retired a very disappointed man.
Meanwhile, Hulme held his lead until the end of the first lap but, as the race entered the second one, Stewart leaped in front. In the flash of colour as the field swept across the finishing line it was Fittipaldi third followed by Hailwood, Cevert, Andretti, Peterson, Beltoise, Hill and the rest. Once in the lead Stewart looked as if he was going to hand out the old treatment. Rapidly he started to pull away from the others and by the tenth lap he had opened up a gap of something like five seconds on Hulme, vvho was being harried by Fittipaldi and Hailwood. Already a gap had opened to Cevert who was just about to be passed by Peterson. Next up was Beltoise, followed by Reutemann, who, though not showing his Argentine form, was never the less going well. Regazzoni and Amon were in hot pursuit of the Argentinian then came Andretti and Revson. The rest were in the order: Ganley, lckx, de Adamich, Hill, Pescarolo, Lauda, Marko, Walker, Stommelen, Love and, bringing up the rear, was Pace who started from the pit road three laps late. Schenken was already out of the running, for his engine had blown up on lap 9, while Gethin’s BRM was also in the pits having its electrics seen to and in all he lost 12 laps.
Fortunately for the spectators Stewart did not increase his lead but rather had to fight to retain it, for the Hulme/Fittipaldi/Hailwood trio was closing on him. Meanwhile BRM hopes took a tumble when Beltoise, briefly up to sixth place, rushed into the pits complaining of lost power. Broken valve spring (or springs) were suspected and team manager Tim Parnell sent him out again to carry on as best he could and he resumed in 21st plate. Cevert had also been a pit visitor with engine trouble but a complete new ignition unit restored this engine although as he drove back into the race he found third gear missing. He continued in 22nd place.
Meanwhile, the second place battle brought the trio closer to Stewart. Hulme dropped to the back of the group as his engine had started to show signs of over-heating while Hailwood passed Fittipaldi. By lap 25, the former motorcycle champion was right on the Tyrrell’s tail and had Stewart not made it very difficult for Hailwood to pass the Surtees would have taken the lead. The challenge really had the crowd on their toes for Fittipaldi was only a few lengths behind Hailwood, just to add to the further excitement. All this was too good to last for, on lap 29, Hailwood’s car suddenly swerved, as a bolt in the rear suspension broke. He managed to control the car and bring it to rest without further damage but the challenge was over. Stewart said later that he doubted if he could have held the Surtees off for very much longer. The demise of Hailwood briefly took the pressure off Stewart but not for long as Fittipaldi was still close at hand. Hulme had dropped back in third place while Peterson had moved up to fourth and was followed by Amon and Revson, who, after his slow start, had moved up from nineteenth on lap 1 to sixth place. The Ferraris, particularly Ickx, were not showing the expected form although Regazzoni and Andretti were seventh and eighth with de Adamich, going better than previously, hounding them. Ganley had made a pit stop with a rough-sounding BRM engine while further back there was an entertaining scrap between Hill and Lauda, who had pulled away from Pescarolo, who in turn was getting his mirrors full of Dave Walker. Reutemann’s name was added to the list of retirements when his engine had a high pressure fuel line burst and he retired at the entrance to Clubhouse corner.
As the race approached half-distance, Fittipaldi started to step up his attack on Stewart. For ten laps or more the pair circulated nose to tail, the Brazilian just awaiting the chance to pass. It has been quite a long time since Stewart has had to work so hard to stay ahead. Further back Amon had moved ahead of Peterson for fourth position while de Adamich arrived at the pits in a pall of smoke caused by a badly leaking brake caliper. He was sent out again with the troublesome front caliper blocked off—now well out of the running. The next excitement came on lap 45 when Fittipaldi was reported to have passed Stewart under power just before braking for the corner after the pits. But Stewart came out first but, suddenly, slowed as he fought for gears. A bolt had fallen out of the Hewland box and it had gradually lost its lubricant. Now the box had got too hot and, as Fittipaldi flashed past, in the lead, Stewart pulled into the pits to retire. The new leading order had Hulme second and Peterson third but the Swede was now having trouble with wild oversteering caused by the rear wing working loose and altering its angle. In fact soon after Amon started to challenge for third place. Revson was now fifth ahead of fellow American Andretti whose Ferrari was, apparently inexplicably, 1,000 r.p.m. down on practice. Regazzoni was in the same trouble and just led Hill who had, briefly, put Ickx between himself and the fast learning Lauda.
Lotus were no doubt hoping that Fittipaldi could run through to his second ever championship win but the race was far from over and Hulme, encouraged by his elevation to second place, and the fact that his high water temperature was not having any adverse effect on the performance of the car, started to make ground on Fittipaldi. The black and gold Lotus was now noticeably oversteering badly, the Brazilian having set the car up with oversteer and, as the fuel load lightened, this was becoming much more drastic.
By lap 55 HuIrne had quickly made up the leeway and was now on the heels Of Fittipaldi. The Brazilian offered a token Opposition but the powerful New Zealander snatched the lead without too much trouble, on lap 58, as they slipped through a gaggle of back markers. Everything was going the McLaren team’s way for Revson was now challenging Peterson and fourth place changed hands on lap 59. Beltoise had by this time given up the struggle with the off-song BRM engine and Regazzoni had Stopped to replace a soft tyre and dropped to twelfth.
It looked as if Amon was in for a good result at last but the Matra-Simca suddenly developed a bad vibration on lap 63 and he pulled into the pits to have the trouble investigated. Possibly the problem was in the clutch or flywheel but nothing could be done and Amon was sent back into the fray, now well down the field. Hulme had pulled out quite a lead on Fittipaldi, Revson was now a sound third, but Petersen was being challenged for fourth place by Andretti. Hill had moved up into the points but still had Lauda on his tail and was giving the young Australian a rough time and some good lessons in race craft. Cevert had come through the field well and was about to take ninth place front Walker, who had managed to get the better of Pescarolo.
The McLaren team kept their fingers crossed, remembering last year. As crowds started to gather on the pit rail for the finish there was on lap 73 a great cloud of dust and then a Lotus went by! However, the dust was caused by Love crashing on the fast kink before the pits and the Lotus was that of Walker, which was just about to be lapped by Hulme. From then on the New Zealander reeled off the remaining laps and then thrust across the line at the end of 79 laps to take the chequered flag. It was Hulme and the McLaren team’s first Formula One victory since the Mexican Grand Prix in October 1969. Fittipaldi finished second some 14 sec. in arrears while Revson completed a great day for McLaren by taking third place and scoring his first ever World Championship points. Andretti slipped by an exhausted Ronnie Peterson six laps from the end to take fourth place. The Hill/Lauda dice continued to. the end with experience just getting the verdict, although the pair were lapped in the last few laps. Ickx with the off-tune Ferrari came in a lowly eighth ahead of Cevert. Walker finished tenth just ahead of Pescarolo while Regazzoni, after his pit stop, was twelfth. An uninspired Stommelen finished in thirteenth place with the Eifel and and was then disqualified for a push start on the dummy grid but was later re-instated. Marko was the only BRM finisher in 14th place while Amon, after another pit stop was 15th ahead of Love who was classified just ahead of Pace, Gethin, de Adamich and Ganley were still running at the end but too many laps behind to be classified.—A. R. M.