A very heavy programme of European Formula Two races virtually came to a close at the end of July, leaving the graded drivers to concentrate on Formula One. The European Championship for non-graded drivers, in which B.M.W. works driver Hubert Hahne has a six-point lead, has only one more round to be decided, this being the Sicilian event at Enna in late August, for Zandvoort has already been cancelled (shortage of money), and Vallelunga looks like suffering the same fate. Only Servoz-Gavin, in a works-supported Matra, is now in a position to challenge the German for the Championship.
Monza, Italy (June 22nd)
Monza, one of the traditional homes of motor-racing, attracted an excellent field of non-graded drivers for a 45-lap event which inevitably turned into a closely-fought slipstreaming race relieved only by the occasional retirement as the pack whirled round in constantly-changing order.
Widdows, driving Bob Gerard Racing’s Brabham (the same car which had won at Hockenheim the previous week in the hands of Hart), proved more than equal to anyone else at the Milanese circuit. Having spun in the early stages while in the lead, Widdows made a remarkable recovery and assumed a commanding lead—for this type of race—of over two seconds. Second was Westbury, whose privately-owned 1969 Brabham (although with a less powerful 1968 engine) was brought into an excellent second place ahead of the Frenchman Cevert in a works Tecno, with another privateer, Guthrie, an equally close fourth in his 1969 Brabham.
The three works Ferraris—none of them using the new radial valved cylinder heads—had an unreliable day, with the only surviving car, Bell’s, scratching home in fifth place from the Scotsman Birrell in Ecurie Ecosse’s 1968 Brabham. The Swedish Formula Three driver, Peterson, made an impressive first appearance in a works Tecno, but stopped to have a front tyre checked after a brush with a barrier, although he finished on the same lap as the winner. The Tecnos had their best outing of the year and briefly filled the first three places: team leader Galli retired, however.
Reims, France (June 29th)
Reims, like Monza, is an old-established circuit with an illustrious history. But its long straights lend themselves to slipstreaming manoeuvres, as at Monza, although the A.C. de Champagne succeeded in attracting several members of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association along for what looks like being the last race at Reims before major changes both to the pits and the general configuration of the track are undertaken.
It was generally expected that the narrowness of the road and the challenge presented by the fast swerves on the back leg of the circuit would prevent large group’s forming, but this was not to be the case. In fact, the group had 13 participants of rather different ability and they hammered round at a speed well below the lap record right to the end of the race. Retirement ultimately reduced their number to seven.
The race was decided within sight of the flag, at the final Thillois hairpin, where the entire bunch arrived virtually alongside each other, each trying hard not to be the first to make a break. It was Cevert who made the first move and by the time the others had got their engines running cleanly again he was away, holding the tiniest of margins from Widdows, Courage and Stewart, who were all arguing afterwards that they deserved second place, so close were they. The race proved only that the circuit has too few bends to show up driving ability.
Langenlebarn (July 12th)
On his home circuit Rindt proved the master of both 35-lap heats around the military airfield of Tulln-Langenlebarn. But the opposition offered a stern challenge, notably Stewart, who hounded the Austrian in both heats. In the second, Rindt was pursued during the early laps by Stewart, Hill and Westbury, who was making a good showing with his private Brabham. It was fitted for the first time with a 1969 engine from which 235 b.h.p. is produced (not 435 as incorrectly stated in this column last month). Unfortunately for Westbury, the engine gave trouble and he was forced to withdraw.
The Austrian race was the first Formula Two round in the Championship for non-graded drivers since Madrid in May, but only Hahne, in the disappointing B.M.W., improved his position among the leaders, Servos-Gavin, who had gone to drive a Matra in the U.S.A., is now the only one with sufficient points to deprive Hahne of his lead in the one remaining championship race.