Trio to the top—three future champions?
WORLD CHAMPIONS Graham Hill, John Surtees, Jackie Stewart and, of course, current Champion Emerson Fittipaldi are all still racing today. On the evidence of the first three rounds of the 1973 series it looks as if this year’s Champion will come from one of the two latter men on the list. But who could be Champion in 1974 or ’75? MOTOR SPORT takes a brief look at the careers of three drivers who have already made their mark in Grand Prix racing within the last year. We will leave it up to you to decide if a future Champion is there and what better chance to judge them than to see them in action at the
Just over two years ago a raw naive young South African stood amongst the crowd at Kyalami and watched his home Grand Prix. He came from East London on the coast but was in Johannesburg to receive a driver to Europe award which he had won by his performance in a series of Formula Ford races. Previously he had made something of a reputation in various home-prepared Renault R8s. Shyly this young man, named Jody Scheckter, received the award from Denny Hulme. Two years later Scheckter sat in a works McLaren on the front row of the grid for the South African Grand Prix alongside Hulme and Emerson Fittipaldi. There have been few such meteoric rises to the top.
In the intervening two years Scheckter raced solidly, excelling in every category he entered. Arriving in Britain he bought an elderly Merlyn Mk. IIA Formula Ford, and soon started winning with it. By half way through the year he had moved up into Formula Three with a works Merlyn and ended the season with several victories.
Suddenly he was hot property for 1972 and out of several offers he decided to drive for McLaren in their works Formula Two car. That machine had its problems but he won the last ever major race at Crystal Palace and also looked good in sports cars. At the end of the year McLaren gave him a drive in US Grand Prix and he was a sensation. But for an unfortunate spin he would have finished fourth.
This year he has a limited programme of Formula One races planned plus a Formula Two drive for Rondel, a Formula 5000 drive in America with a Sid Taylor Trojan and some possible outings with a Ford Cologne Capri. At 23 years old there is no doubt that Scheckter is a champion of the not-too-distant future. He has just bought a house in Sandhurst, Surrey, and is engaged to be married to a South African girl.
The little town of Santa Fe in Argentina is hardly the hub of International racing but it is amazing how drivers of championship potential come to light from the most far off places. Carlos Reutemann is a fine example. His first contact with racing was as a spectator at a local mountain climb in 1964. He thought he could drive faster than those he watched and managed to persuade a local Fiat dealer to lend him a car. The simple fact was that he could drive faster and in the space of the next four years he had become one of the top names in Argentinian racing with four national touring car championships to his credit.
But his big break was in 1968 when he won a drive in Temporada Formula Two series in Argentina. His car was poorly prepared but he still showed up well against the European competitors. His big aim was now to race in Europe and he achieved this in 1970 as a member of a Government-backed two-car Formula Two outfit. At first he had something of a reputation as a crasher but he soon matured and finished the year with some good results. In 1971 he became one of the major names in Formula Two and finished runnerup in the European Formula Two Championship.
His Formula Two exploits had all been at the wheel of a Brabham and Bernie Ecclestone included him in the 1972 Brabham Formula One team. He started the season by setting pole position in his first race for the team in his home country. The rest of the year brought its problems and a nasty F2 accident but later in the year showed he had tremendous Formula One potential.
In 1973 that potential should be realised particularly as he will lead the Brabham team driving the brand new and exciting BT42, and he will also drive occasionally for Ferrari in sports cars. In the racing season he lives with his beautiful wife Mimicha and their young daughter, in central London.
When Emerson Fittipaldi first started to make his mark in Britain informed Brazilians used to tell us that, while Emerson was good, back at home there was a driver called Carlos “Moco” Pace who was even better. In fact both Pace and Fittipaldi came from the same area in Sao Paulo and knew each other well although Carlos was somewhat older (he is 28 now) and had started racing in 1964. In his home country he was certainly very successful and before arriving in Britain in 1970 he was cleaning up all the local sports car races with an Alfa Romeo T33.
Pace was the Formula Three sensation of 1970 and he took to single-seaters quite naturally, although his only previous experience of this type of vehicle had been a couple of Formula Vee events. In a Lotus 59 he drove to six victories and many other placings and finished up as the Forward Trust Champion. Due to a bereavement in his family he did not start his 1971 season until late but driving an F2 March, run by Frank Williams, he was soon back in his stride with the highpoint being a victory at Imola.
With sponsorship from Brazil he was able to finance himself in Frank Williams’ Formula One team for 1972, driving alongside the experienced Frenchman Henri Pescarolo in March 721s. While Pescarolo had a spate of accidents, Pace impressed with some excellent drives picking up championship points in Spain and Belgium.
This attracted a great deal of interest from several major teams and he drove both Ferrari and Gulf-Mirage sports cars towards the end of the season and also joined the Surtees Formula Two team for the last few races. Surtees was most impressed and snapped up Pace to drive for him in 1973 in both Formula One and Two while he is now also a regular member of the Ferrari sports car team. Like Reutemann he lives in London with his wife Elba and their daughter.