Formula Two Review

Rouen, June 28th

It seemed almost too good to be true when Hubert Hahne finally broke BMW’s Formula Two duck at Hockenheim on June 14, but better was to come a fortnight later at Rouen-les-Essarts. Once again a BMW won, but this time the victory was somehow more convincing, for although the race was a slipstreamer the quality of the entry was much higher. The winner was Jo Siffert, who, like Hahne, was scoring his first ever Formula Two victory.

Just as an indication of the extremely high standard of international competition, Rouen attracted entries from 32 drivers. Two did not arrive because of car trouble and a third driver, John Watson, had a nasty practice accident when a tyre went flat. Even so, there were 29 drivers, so many in fact that there had to be two eliminating 13-lap heats and a 25-lap final in which there was room only for 18. Thirteen nationalities, from all corners of the globe, were represented. France provided eight competitors, four of them in works Pygmees, led by Jean-Pierre Beltoise with support from Patrick Dal Bo, Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Patrick Depailler. Beltoise’s Matra Formula One team-mate Henri Pescarolo again had Bob Gerard’s Elf-supported Brabham BT30 and there were other BT30s for Francois Mazet in the semi-works Sports Motors car and local man Jean-Pierre Jaussaud. The latter had arranged to drive the Motor Racing Enterprises’ car which is sponsored by the former Swiss amateur hill-climber Albert Obrist and more regularly driven by F5000 man Howden Ganley.

-British drivers provided five of the entry: Graham Hill in a semi-works Lotus 69, European Trophy leader Derek Bell in Tom Wheatcroft’s Brabham, Scotsman Graham Birrell in Ecurie Ecosse’s similar car, Peter Westbury in his privately-owned car and F2 March sponsor Malcolm Guthrie in his works-supported March 702.

Australians Jack Brabham and Tim Schenken were both in Brabhams, of course, Brabham making his second appearance of the season in John Coombs’ car, as used by Stewart to win at Crystal Palace. Argentina had two entries, the two yellow and white Automovilclub Argentino Brabhams for Carlos Reutemann and Benedicto Caldarella: as usual there was a large contingent of Argentinian pressman following their every movement and radio reports were broadcast literally every five minutes by a commentator who returns to Argentina after every European race to broadcast on national eyents!

There were two Swiss drivers, Jo Siffert having his third F2 race of the year in a works BMW, and Clay Regazzoni„ who was back to lead the Tecno team after his fourth place with a works F1 Ferrari in the Dutch Grand Prix. Swedes Ronnie Peterson and Reine Wisell were renewing their Formula Three battles of the previous two seasons, Peterson in the other Guthrie March and Wisell in his privately-sponsored Chevron, which has not done very much racing and even less testing.

Jochen Rindt was, of course, there in the leading works-backed Lotus 69, while fellow-Austrian Dieter Quester was in one of the four BMWs.

Single-car entries came from Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi, Japan’s Tetsu Ikuzawa and the Polish Count Adam Potocki, the latter hardly being in the same class as the other two; all of them drive private Lotus 69s. From Italy came Andrea de Adamich in the Jolly Club Brabham BT30, and there were BMWs for Belgian Jacky Ickk and German Hubert Hahn; who brought BMW strength up to four.

Rindt, Hill, Beltoise, Siffert, Ickx and Brabham are all graded drivers and were therefore ineligible for European Trophy points, but the others were all anxious to score in this round, the fourth of the 1970 Trophy series.

At the start of the present season it looked as though the Lotus 69 had the edge on the Brabham BT30 and Tecno. But the new March – which to start with this year was nowhere in the hunt – seems to have caught right up. Young Peterson put his March on to pole position for his heat, having set the same time as Regazzoni, but only 0.1 sec. faster than Rindt’s three-year-old circuit record.

An indication of the exceptionally close racing which would thrill the crowds in the final came in the heats, when the leaders circulated in one multi-car bunch which genuinely slipstreamed down the long straights, changing position several times each lap. The first heat fell to Siffert, with Peterson and Brabham arriving at intervals of one-tenth of a second, while the second was Regazzoni’s, by a rather larger margin, from Rindt.

All was set for a thrilling final, and there were some good drivers having to spectate because they hadn’t been quite quick enough to qualify. Among them was Graham Hill, who discovered a dud shock-absorber between heats.

To begin with the two Swiss, Siffert and Regazzoni, featured at the front of the group battling for the lead, while Pescarolo, Rindt and Brabham tarried behind: Bell stayed well in touch, tailed by lkuzawa, Fittipaldi, Schenken, Peterson and Cevert with Wisell and Ickx not far behind. Brabham, the only user of Goodyear tyres, had already found them a bit too wide for really good straight-line speed, but nevertheless he was giving the two Swiss in his group a terrific race. He was later to drop back slightly, but not so far as Rindt, whose heart just didn’t seem to be in this race and who could be heard lifting off the throttle on the way down the hill to the hairpin.

Pescarolo retired when his engine tightened up and finally stopped, Ikuzawa came into the pits with a valve spring broken and Cevert came to a steamy halt on the circuit.

Whether or not you call this type of competition slipstreaming or not, it was anybody’s race. At half-distance, Brabham started to drop back slightly and the youngsters started to move up into contention with the leaders. First to make a move was Fittipaldi, closely followed by Schenken (who set a new lap record as he did so) and then Peterson, who made a tremendous bid in his March and led Siffert for five of the six last laps. He was still leading as they started lap 25, the last, and he had a big 100-yard margin as they swung into the hairpin, only to go sideways on as Siffert, Fittipaldi and Regazzoni swept past. Peterson managed to restart behind Ickx and Schenken, very close still, but with no chance of regaining the lead for which he had worked so hard. The finish could not have been more exciting: Siffert was in the lead as they approached the line, with Fittipaldi less than a car’s length behind, and Regazzoni third. With only a matter of yards to go, Regazzoni’s Tecno virtually lurched out on the pits side of the road and somehow managed to scrape past the Fittipaldi Lotus, slotting back into second place in a manoeuvre which looked very alarming but which was undoubtedly fair play for the last lap. The others were only fractions apart, Ickx taking fourth from Schenken and Peterson cursing himself for his mistake but glad of sixth place, only just in front of Bell and Brabham. Rindt was a lowly ninth, but still only 11.3 sec. behind the winner!

So March’s loss was BMW’s gain. That long run of Cosworth victories which started at the end of 1968 clearly detracted some of the interest from Formula Two, so now their two successive victories should give BMW all the encouragement they deserved for three and a half seasons spending money for which precious little return was seen. Other competitors say that the German cars are now undeniably more powerful than the Cosworth, and the road-holding deficiencies of the BMW chassis are largely cancelled out on an undiscriminating circuit like Rouen.

The performance of the March was perhaps even more unexpected, for the car had not looked at all impressive in earlier races. The BMW factory has had a March chassis for evaluation since the start of the season and there is now a chance that it will be raced at last. On the evidence of Rouen, it could be the combination of engine and chassis to beat.—M. G. D.

Michelin Radials

Michelin have issued a useful book listing sizes and pressures of their radial tyres on modern cars and vans. They supply XAS tubeless radials for the new Triumph Stag, X (M+S) tyres for the new Range Rover and are currently supplying as standard or optional equipment on British cars ZX tyres for Spridgets, ZX tubeless tyre for Ford from Escort 1100 GT to Capri 2000 GT, Hillman Avenger and Vauxhalls from Victor 1600 to Ventora, XVRs for AC 428, XAS for Daimler Sovereign, Jaguar XJ6 and Triumph TR6 PI, and the good old X for Jaguar 420Gs. The booklet referred to is available from The Michelin Tyre Co. Ltd., 160, Brompton Road, London SW3, on mention of Motor Sport.

A Trojan Aeroplane

Trojan Ltd. are to build Rolls-Royce Continental-engined AESL Airtourer aeroplanes under licence in the UK – a far cry from Leyland’s original solid-tyred two-stroke small car.

New Lucas Deflectors

Lucas announce new rectangular beam deflectors designed especially for the type 3 and 4FR headlamps of the Ford Capri and Hillman Avenger, these being easily fitted and obviating having to change the bulbs or the complete sealed-beam unit for driving on the continent. They cost 30s. per pair, with an adhesive GB sticker thrown in.