The race of Champions

Wet and Interesting

Brands Hatch, March 17th

There was one bright spot in the wet and soggy day at Brands Hatch which overcame the gloom and squalor of the Kentish circuit at its worst, and it even tempered the overpowering smell of onions and hot-dogs. That moment was when Ickx drove round the outside of Lauda on Paddock Bend, the black and gold Lotus passing the red and white Ferrari on Lap 35 to take the lead in the 40 lap Race of Champions. It was a classic manoeuvre by the Belgian Lotus driver and under the conditions of a wet and slippery track it was an example of a master of the arts at work. He had been hounding Lauda's Ferrari for a number of laps and on Lap 34 he made a "dummy run" to get by as they went into Paddock Bend, and did the job smoothly and confidently next time round. To the section of the enormous crowd attending the race that were in the Paddock Bend area, it was a joy to behold in the miserable weather conditions.

The whole meeting started off badly on Friday morning when practice for the Race of Champions began, for the rain was falling steadily, the John Player Team Lotus had withdrawn their entry of 1974 cars for Peterson and Ickx, and substituted Lotus 72/R5 for Ickx alone, and Amon's new car was missing having had a mechanical failure and accident the day betore in private testing at Goodwood. In spite of everything the two hours of practice were quite lively, with the two works Ferraris of Regazzoni and Lauda keeping everyone else on their toes. Everyone's thanks must go to the Motor Circuits Developments and the BRSCC for organising the Race of Champions as a season's opener in Great Britain so that everyone can see the new and exciting things in Formula One without having to wait until the British Grand Prix in July, and to the Daily Mail and Simoniz Ltd. who backed the organisers. The result of all their efforts was a fine entry of Formula One cars and drivers, the field being enlarged by the addition of the faster Formula 5000 cars and drivers, and the meeting being filled out with supporting races for Formula Ford, Formula Atlantic and Group 1 saloon cars, to say nothing of a jolly event for non-racing drivers in non-racing cars, this being a race for professionals from other sports in Ford Mexico saloons. To return to the serious business in hand the two works Ferraris, both to the 1974 format of flat 12-cylinder engines hidden beneath angular but smooth bodywork, with side radiators mounted longitudinally with air exits above, and full-width aerofoil on top of the low chisel-nose, were soon showing that their performances in the South American races were no flash in the pan. They were looking as good in the wet as they had done in the dry, and Revson in one of the new Shadows was equally effective, his smooth style paying dividends on the wet track, even though the conditions were not the sort he enjoys. Jarier in the second of the new Shadows was still learning his way along, as was Robarts in the up-dated 1973 Brabham BT42/3. Mass had the latest Surtees TS16, newly painted in its latest and largest sponsor's colours, Matchbox and Fina being relegated to single-word coverage, and was out promptly, learning his way around the circuit. The new Hesketh was resplendent in its pure white, with a national stripe across it, and while not being revolutionary in concept had many interesting detail features about it, such as the built-in plug in the left side of the hionocoque for connecting a slave battery for the starter, together with a pullup flush-fitting lever for earthing the whole electrical system, and the steering wheel fixing of a single central Allen screw, with two pegs on the column boss for location. James Hunt was driving for his Lordship and there was no shortage of support and service vehicles for the one-man team.

Due to the South African GP being changed to March 30th and the industrial shambles in Britain the teams, whose real objective is to win the important races, found themselves behind with preparation. For this reason the two 1974 Lotus Fl cars, after testing in Spain, were being shipped to South Africa rather than Brands Hatch. However, the old Lotus 72 that did arrive was really very new, being R5 which was re-incarnated from the original R5 and was sporting a new banana-shaped rear aerofoil and a new oil tank. Last year the Lotus 72 had a very neat arrangement of an oil tank forming a back-bone strut from the top of the gearbox, supporting the rear aerofoil. The CSI outlawed this arrangement by bringing in new laws limiting the aerofoil to a maximum overhang of one metre *from the rear axle line, and forbidding the oil tank to extend beyond the rear end of the gearbox. The new Lotus oil tank was wide and flat, straddling the gearbox and comprising the main tank and a reserve tank operating on a weir system to keep the level topped up through a special valve. The "banana" aerofoil was introduced last year by Gordon Murray on the Brabham BT42, the theory being that an air-bubble forms in the centre of the wing, with high-speed air passing over it and creating more down-thrust than a conventional aerofoil shape. The McLaren Team, in its various guises, were very well equipped, with two red and white cars for Texaco and Marlboro, and their drivers Hulme and Fittipaldi, and an orange and white one for Yardley's man Hailwood. The first two cars had an extra long wheelbase, with a large spacer between the engine and gearbox, and the third car had a medium length wheelbase, with a spacer of half the length. All three sported new "winkle-picker" nose cowlings in place of the usual chisel-noses, and had improved rear aerofoils and mountings. There was a brand-new Brabham BT44, the third in the series, started up for the first time just before practice, and driven by Reutemann, and Graham Hill was in one of the new Lolas, making its British debut. A brand new name in Formula One was the Lyncar, driven by John Nicholson, and Morris Nunn had the second of his Ensign cars for von Opel. Last and least was a repainted BRM P160, a lonely single entry from Bourne after the much trumpeted four-car, five-car and even nine-car entries promised a couple of years ago by the BRM big white chief. The lone green and white car with the words MOTUL and Team BRM on the front was driven by Pescarolo.

In spite of the appalling wet weather there was some impressively fast motoring going on during the Friday morning, with average speeds of well over 100 m.p.h. in conditions in which normal people would not want to do 100 m.p.h. down the straight, let alone average that speed round the 2.65-mile twisting circuit. By the end of the morning Revson was fastest with 1 min. 33.5 sec., but right at the last moment Lauda pipped him for the prize of 100 bottles of champagne, with a lap in 1 min. 32.0 sec. Almost at the same time Robarts collided with Mass, having not seen him hidden behind another car, and both the Brabham and the Surtees were damaged as they went off the road.

Saturday morning was as good as Friday had been bad, and in dry sunny conditions practice began to make more sense with the existing lap record of 1 min 23.0 sec., held jointly by Beltoise (BRM), Lauda (BRM) and Peterson (Lotus) set up in the 1973 Race of Champions, being improved on by the two Ferraris and the Hesketh, but no one got near the 1 min. 20.8 sec. time set up by Fittipaldi in a Lotus 72 in October 1972 during practice for the Victory Race. Even though the new Hesketh was by no means perfect in its handling, and not entirely to Hunt's liking, he got on with the job and got pole position on the starting grid with 1 min. 21.5 sec., with Regazzoni alongside him a mere tenth of a second slower. In row two were Lauda and Reutemann, at I min. 22.1 sec. and 1 min. 23.0 sec., respectively, followed by a courageous effort by Pescarolo in 1 min. 23.1 sec. and Fittipaldi with 1 min. 23.2 sec., a time equalled by Hailwood, but the new-tangled 2 x 2 grid put the Yardley-McLaren a row behind the Marlboro-McLaren (Texaco fuelled). Then came Mass, alongside Hailwood a tenth of a second slower, followed by Revson with 1 min. 23.6 sec. and HuIme with 1 min. 24.1 sec. A puzzled Ickx was in row six at 1 min. 24.2 sec., alongside Hill with 1 min. 24.6 sec., but more puzzled was Chapman when he realised his new boy had managed to beat Robarts (1 min. 26.0 sec.), Nicholson (1 min. 26.8 sec.) and von Opel (1 min. 27.0 sec.). Things could only improve!

The organisers' idea was that the 16 fastest among the Formula 5000 runners, who had their own 32-lap race on Saturday afternoon, should join the Formula One cars for the 40-lap Race of Champions on Sunday afternoon. The wet practice on Friday meant that those Formula 5000 cars that qualified had to take grid positions with wet-track times against the dry-track times of the Formula One cars, so it was all rather lop-sided. On Sunday morning there was an untimed practice session during which Mass crashed his rebuilt Surtees beyond immediate repair, Reutemann had the camshaft driving belt break on his Cosworth engine, which meant installing another power-unit and Ickx had his Cosworth engine break due to lack of oil when the automatic system failed to top up the tank. This meant installing an engine prepared for the South African GP as Lotus were behind with deliveries from Cosworth. The Ensign Cosworth engine filled itself up with oil when the scavenging system went wrong so von Opel was forced to be a nonstarter through no fault of his own. Although the morning had started fine and dry it did not last and before the Formula One cars were due to assemble the rain was falling steadily. Conditions were as had as can be imagined when the starter's flag fell, some 30 minutes late, due to delays caused by accidents in earlier races, especially the Formula Ford race, which had to be re-started after a major accident on the first corner. Hunt could not get any grip and was swamped by those behind him, and Reutemann made a superb start, straight into the lead with Fittipaldi and the two Ferraris in hot pursuit. As the tail of the field descended from Druids hairpin Pilette and Wilds spun their Formula 5000 cars, the former restarting while the latter was embedded in the Armco barrier. On the next lap, with Lauda in front of Fittipaldi but Reutemann still leading, Hunt spun the Hesketh out of Druids but kept going, and on the next lap Nicholson did likewise with the Lyncar. From his poor grid position Ickx was soon up into fourth place behind Fittipaldi and ahead of Regazzoni, the swarthy Swiss having Hailwood and Revson in his wake, and trying to see where they were all going to was Hulme in the second red and white McLaren. Tasman Champion Gethin was leading the Formula 5000 contingent, as well as Pcscarolo (BRM) and Hill (Lola), and two Formula 5000 cars were lapped in five laps. On Lap 7 Lauda took the lead from Reutemann and began to draw away, while Fittipaldi and Ickx were right up behind the Brabham. Things remained static for a few laps while other slower cars were lapped, including Hunt with the new Hesketh which did not feel right after its spin. On Lap 14 both Fittipaldi and Ickx got past Reutemann and a lap later Ickx was by the McLaren and into second place, but barely in sight of Lauda's spray. Slowly but surely the Lotus closed up on the Ferrari until it was delayed by lapping slow Formula 5000 cars, while Lauda was also having trouble with them, Gethin holding him up for quite a time. Reutemann's race ended abruptly on Lap 20 against the barriers at Druids and Hulme stopped to change his visor in the hope of seeing where all the wet-weather racers had gone. Once clear of the slower cars Ickx really began to press Lauda and the MO cars left Fittipaldi's McLaren way behind and by Lap 30 the Belgian driver had got the Austrian in his sights and was lining up for the kill. At the start of Lap 35 Ickx made his master stroke, right round the outside of the Ferrari and it was all over and Lauda was left to find an excuse to give his fans when he arrived home a wet but worthy second to a driver noted for his brilliance in wet and diffictlt conditions. It was an exceedingly popular victory with the very large, but thoroughly wet, crowd, and the John Player and Team Lotus members were overjoyed with the performance of "Pierino" Ickx and the old Lotus 72.

The race will have to be renamed the Race of Foreign Champions if things don't improve, for Hailwood was the only British driver among the first seven places, the International standings being Belgium, Austria, Brazil, Britain, Switzerland, America and France; what happened to the British domination of Grand Prix racing?-D.S.J

Results:

1st: J. Ickx (Lotus 72/R5) . . . . 1 hr. 03 min. 37.6 sec - 160.87 k.p.h

2nd: N. Lauda (Ferrari 312B3/74) . . . 1 hr. 03 min. 39.1 sec.

3rd: E. Fittipaldi (McLaren M23/4). . . . 1 hr. 03 min. 55.9 sec.

4th: M. Hailwood (McLaren M23/1) . . . 1 hr. 04 min. 56.5 sec.

5th: G. Regazzoni (Ferrari 312B3-74) . . . . 1 hr. 05 min. 04.1 sec.

6th: P. Revson (Shadow DN3/1A) . . . 1 lap behind

7th: H. Pescarolo (BRM P160) . . . . 2 laps behind

8th: I. Ashley (Lola T330 - F5000) ... 2 laps behind - First F5000

9th: S. Thompson (Chevron B24-F5000). . . . 3 laps behind

10th: P. Gethini (Chevron B28-F5000) . . . . 3 laps behind

11th: C. Santo (Lola T330 -F5000). . . . . 3 laps behind

12th: R. Robarts (Brabham BT42/3) . . . . 4 laps behind

13th: D. Hulme (McLaren M23/6) . . . . Not classified

14th: A. Dean (Chevron B24-F5000 . . . . Not classified

15th: Sig. L. Lombardi (Lola T330-F5000) . . . . Not classified

16th: J. Nicholson (Lyncar F1) . . . . Not classified

17th: G. Hill (Lola T370-F1) . . . . Not classified

Fastest Laps: Formula One-J. Ickx (Lotus), 1 min. 33.8 sec. - 165.44 k.p.h.

Formula 5000-P. Gethin (Chevron), 1 min.37.4 sec - 157.15 k.p.h

Retired: M. Wilds(March F5000), T. Pilette(Chevron F5000), D. Magee (Lola F5000), C. Reutemann (Brabham F1), J. Hunt (Hesketh F1)

Non-starters:J. Mass (Surtees F1), R. von Open (Ensign F1), G. Edwards (Lola F5000), B. Redman (Lola F5000), V. SChuppan (Trojan F5000), J.P Jarier (Shadow F1), K. Holland (Trojan F5000).

Bugatti OC and Ferrari OC opening rally (March 10th)

The traditional Opening Rally of what might be described as the Nostalgic/Evocative Club took place at the Chateau Impney Hotel, Droitwich. It included a Concours d'Elegance, but March is a trifle early for such a contest in England and the immaculate competing cars had to contend with a snowstorm. Fortunately for the judges, it was possible to inspect them in a garage in the hotel grounds, rather as if the cars were being scrutineered for a race. They and the supporting non-competitors included some exotic machinery, from those sober-looking Ferraris of the sort first imported here to the latest flat-I2 Boxer model, while the Bugattis ranged from a Type 37A to a 57SC Atlantique electron coupe.

The George Harris Cup for the best I3ugatti, excluding GPs, went to E. M. Dean's Type 43A with roadster body, a car imported from America. Posner's 37A was best GP but as it was a lone entry its owner sportingly declined the trophy. The Godfrey Eaton Trophy was won by S. F. Pile's Ferrari 500TR, Anthony Bamford's 250 GT Boano took the Coronation Cup, and D. W. Flanagan's SWB Berlinetta, which was a Nurburgring winner in 1962, the Roy Taylor 250GT Trophy. Bamford's 1927 GP Delage, the exCampbell one which now has the Chula-Lory ifs, was an unexpected entry, which captured the John Broad Veteran/Vintage Award. The Porter PVT Trophy was taken by J. G. Marks' Type 57 Bugatti and D. Mason-Styrron's r.h.d. Ferrari 365GTS 4 Spyder was awarded the President's Trophy, presented by Col. Hoare, for the best post-1959 Ferrari not eligible for the Eaton Trophy. Finally, there was the Scuderia Award for those members industrious enough to bring a stable of cars, won by D. K. Nelson's pair of Ferraris, a 1969 365GTC, and a 250 GTO that was a Tour de France and Angolo GP winner. The other makes were so reluctant to face the snow that no prize was awarded in this class.

After a very adequate lunch Sir Nick Williamson presented the foregoing prizes and many 1973 trophies, ably assisted by the Secretary, Sir Anthony Starmer. More BOC pennants were awarded and Roy Symondson was given a special Bugatti long-status presentation. The Chairman said the Club intended to carry on as usual and to fight the 50 m.p.h. speed-limit.—W.B.