Continental Notes, December 1968

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Now that the Grand Prix season is over we can review the situation briefly, and no one will be displeased with Lotus-Cosworth and Graham Hill winning all the awards, no one, that is, apart from their main rivals. It was a fitting end to the season that Hill should win the World Championship by winning the last race, which was the Mexican G.P. (reported elsewhere in this issue by M.J.T.). When a driver becomes World Champion through the default of others and accumulates points that total more than those of a driver who has actually won more races, then the Championship seems a bit of a farce, but when the outcome depends on the results of the last race and the new Champion wins that race convincingly it is much more satisfactory all round. When the season started most people were convinced that Jim Clark was going to sweep the board and his untimely death threw the Grand Prix scene into a gloom. Hill had to take over the lead of Team Lotus and he did the job nobly and worked hard to achieve his crown. When you have won the Spanish G.P., the Monaco G.P. and the Mexican G.P. you can be considered a worthy Grand Prix driver, unlike a lot of people who won nothing this season but like to be known as Grand Prix drivers. Lotus, of course, is a name that is synonymous with winning, and we all know that a Lotus Grand Prix car from the agile brains of Colin Chapman and his staff is something special, and not a slavish copy of someone else’s ideas. An equal on victory prowess must surely be Stewart, who won the Dutch G.P., the German G.P. and the American G.P., only Hill’s second places putting him ahead at the end. To Matra, for whom Stewart drove, an accolade is surely deserved, for this was their first season in Grand Prix racing, and also to Tyrrell, who ran the Matra-International team, it also being his first attempt at Grand Prix racing. However, they were beaten in the Manufacturers’ Championship by McLaren cars, though the McLaren top driver, Hulme, finished third in the drivers’ list, such is the complication of the points system employed. Finally, the biggest acclamation of all must surely go to Cosworth Engineering, who produced and serviced all the engines used in the Lotus, McLaren and Matra cars, with a word for the Ford Motor Company, who put up the original £100,000 so that Keith Duckworth and his men at Cosworth Engineering could design and produce the remarkable V8 engine that has set the standard in Grand Prix racing for two seasons now. If there was an engine manufacturers’ championship it would have been enough to have won it, but to finish first, second and third must surely indicate domination. Many people refer to the Cosworth V8 as a Ford V8, and Duckworth at times is prepared to consider himself as a Ford subsidiary, for they backed the project from the start, but I cannot help feeling that the same V8 engine would have been 1, 2, 3 if someone like Andrex Toilet Paper had put up the initial £100,000. The last time that Lotus won the Manufacturers’ Championship they were backed by the Esso Petroleum Company. This year they were backed by John Player, the tobacco people, and they have won again. If the brains and ability are there it would seem that it is not important where the money comes from as long as it comes!

This season has brought us to the end of the third year of the present Formula for Grand Prix racing, and when it was first introduced in 1966 it was thought that it might only last for three years, though it was scheduled for five. The F.I.A. has announced that it has been extended for another two seasons, to the end of 1972, and that the C.S.I. are studying ideas for a new Formula to start in 1973. If by October, 1969, they have had no bright ideas, then the existing 3-litre Formula will be extended until the end of 1975, so it is certain the Grand Prix racing can look forward to a long and healthy life.

Recently the Firestone Tyre Company announced their withdrawal from motor racing, including Grand Prix racing, and there was the same old wailing and crying that we heard when Esso and B.P. withdrew their money and facilities. Other oil and petrol companies took over, including some new ones, so it is quite likely that new tyre companies might take the place of Firestone. The Dunlop and Goodyear firms are continuing with their support, and Michelin have been showing interest, so I do not think we shall see Grand Prix racing cars reduced to running on their rims. Another withdrawal from Grand Prix racing seems to be Gurney and his V12 Eagle cars, and after their showing this past season they are not likely to be missed. Last year Harry Weslake’s engineering and research firm got the V12 engine working effectively enough to be competitive and to win the Belgian G.P., but during the winter Gurney and his operatives thought they could make a better job of things without Weslake Engineering, and they set up on their own. The result was such an appalling failure that by the end of the season Gurney had to come to an arrangement with McLaren to drive one of his cars, in order to take part in the American races. Exactly why the Gurney-Eagle project has fizzled and died we shall probably never know, it certainly wasn’t for want of a good driver, nor from the want of a basically sound car. Numerous personal and business problems certainly had an effect, but it would be unfair to go into them in detail. While 1968 saw Gurney flop in Europe it saw him rise up in American racing and there is no doubt that the V8 Indianapolis-type Eagles will be well to the fore in U.S.A.C. racing in 1969, with the lanky Californian driving as well as ever. Another disappearance that seems likely next season, for a time at any rate, is that of Honda. During 1968 they showed promise a number of times, but achieved little and must be scratching their honourable heads and wondering what went wrong.

* * *

In just one month’s time the 1969 season will be starting and following these notes is a list of the more important events and their dates. One of the major changes is the South African G.P. taking place on March 1st, instead of around Christmas or the New Year. This brings it nearer to the start of the European season and it is likely to see some new cars taking part. In the past, when S. Africa has started the season with a race in January, it has only had the “left-overs” from the end of the previous season. Apart from the major Grand Prix events of each country there are only four other Formula One races on the calendar, three of which are in England, so British enthusiasts should count themselves very lucky. There is the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, the B.R.D.C. Fiesta at Silverstone, and the Oulton Park Gold Cup, so Grand Prix enthusiasts throughout the country will have opportunities to see Lotus, Matra, McLaren, Ferrari, B.R.M. and other Grand Prix cars. The unfortunate people in Sicily, who cannot get to Monza in the North of Italy, or German, French and Spanish people who cannot travel far, will not see a Grand Prix car all season. In addition to the three races mentioned we have our own Grand Prix event, which is taking place at Silverstone in 1969. The only other Formula One event on the calendar, apart from the National Grandes Epreuves, is a race at Madrid in March, but unfortunately this clashes with the B.O.A.C. 500 at Brands Hatch, which is going to present some driver problems. Another very bad clash is the Targa Florio with the Spanish G.P. on May 4th, which is going to make it difficult for drivers like Siffert and Elford. This clashing of dates also affects Formula Two on numerous occasions and the long-distance racing world. As usual, the Test Weekend at Le Mans falls foul of an established event, this time the B.R.D.G. Silverstone meeting on March 29th.

It would appear that the French G.P. is to be held at Clermont-Ferrand, an interesting but rather slow and wiggly circuit, but at one point someone suggested it might he held at Albi, a depressing suggestion, for the days of the glorious fast road circuit at Albi are long dead. The circuit now is a flat aerodrome perimeter track, no more exciting than Castle Combe, though the town of Albi would receive the Grand Prix “circus” extremely well, better than Clermont-Ferrand in fact. In the Formula Two calendar England has only two events, one at Thruxton and the other at the Crystal Palace, but there are races in every corner of Europe, including one scheduled for December at Siracusa in Sicily. Like the Pau G.P., the Siracusa G.P. used to be a significant Formula One race, but the financial demands of drivers and teams priced them out of existence. Other small Grand Prix races were forced out of the calendar by circuit problems, races such as Bordeaux, Aix-les-Bains, Bruxelles, Naples, Solitude, Modena and others. If the-latest proclamation by the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association is serious then I can foresee other circuits disappearing from the calendar. The drivers are suggesting that if circuits do not conform to their standards of safety they might refuse to race on them! If they do not watch out it might be like the workers who returned from a strike to find that the management had sold the factory and gone into liquidation. Race organisers are in business, and if the business does not show’s profit they will look elsewhere to employ their energies.

The Mountain Hill-Climb Championship could have a stir-up next season, and the Porsche monopoly might suffer, for Ferrari is talking of returning to the mountains, and this past season has seen B.M.W. and Abarth making some good efforts. In this championship the F.I.A. offered to take in the Tholt-y-Will hill-climbs in the Isle of Man, which is a great feather-in-the-cap for the Lancashire Automobile Club, and for the I.o.M. Tourist Board. Unfortunately a hill-climb of International status needs a fair amount of financial backing and there was no time to find this before a decision had to be given to the F.I.A. so the offer had to be turned down, which is a great pity.—D. S. J.

Grande Epreuves for Formula One—1969

Mar. 1st .. South African Grand Prix

May 4th .. Spanish Grand Prix

May 18th .. Monaco Grand Prix

June 8th .. Belgian Grand Prix

June 22nd .. Dutch Grand Prix

July 6th .. French Grand Prix

July 19th .. British Grand Prix

Aug. 3rd .. German Grand Prix

Sept. 7th .. Italian Grand Prix

Sept. 21st .. Canadian Grand Prix

Oct. 5th .. United States Grand Prix

Nov. 2nd .. Mexican Grand Prix

Other Formula One Races

Mar. 16th .. Race of Champions—Brands Hatch

Mar. 29th .. B.R.D.C. Silverstone Meeting

April 13th .. Madrid

Aug. 16th .. Gold Cup—Oulton Park

Formula Two Races

*European Trophy events

*April 7th .. Thruxton .. England
*April 13th .. Hockenheim .. Germany

April 20th .. Pau .. France

*April 27th .. Eifelrennen .. Germany

May 4th .. Dijon .. France

*May 11th .. Madrid .. Spain

*May 26th .. Crystal Palace .. England

June 1st .. Zolder .. Belgium

June 2nd .. Monza .. Italy

June 15th .. Hockenheim .. Germany

June 22nd .. Rouen .. France (tentative)

June 22nd .. Monza .. Italy

June 29th .. Reims .. France

*July 13th .. Langenlebarn .. Austria

*July 27th .. Zandvoort .. Holland

*Aug. 24th .. Enna .. Sicily

Sept. 14th .. Albi .. France

*Oct. 12th .. Vallelunga .. Italy

Dec. 8th .. Siracusa .. Sicily

Long-Distance Races for Sports and Sports-Prototypes

Feb. 1st/2nd .. Daytona 24 hours U.S.A.

Mar. 21st/22nd .. Sebring 12 hours U.S.A.

April 13th .. B.O.A.C. 500 England

April 25th .. Monza 1,000 km. Italy

May 4th .. Targa Florio .. Sicily

May 11th .. Spa 1,000 km. .. Belgium

June 1st .. Nurburgring 1,000 km. .. Germany

June 14/15th .. Le Mans 24 hours .. France

July 12/13th .. Watkins Glen .. U.S.A.

Aug. 10th .. Austrian Grand Prix .. Zeltweg

Touring Car Races for Championship

Mar. 23rd .. Monza .. Italy

April 13th .. Vienna .. Austria

April 20th .. Belgrade .. Yugoslavia

May 11th .. Budapest .. Hungary

May 25th .. Brno .. Czechoslovakia

June 22nd .. Brands Hatch .. England

July 6th .. Nurburgring .. Germany

July 26/27th .. Spa 24 hours .. Belgium

Aug. 31st .. Zandvoort .. Holland

Sept. 28th .. Madrid 3 hours .. Spain

Mountain Hill-Climbs for Championship

May 25th .. Montseny .. Spain

June 8th .. Rossfeld .. Germany

June 22nd .. Mont Ventoux .. France

July 13th .. Trento-Bondone .. Italy

July 27th .. Fribourg .. .. Germany

Aug. 3rd .. Cesana-Sestrieres .. Italy

Aug. 31st .. Ollon-Villars .. Switzerland

Sept. 14th .. Gaisberg .. Austria

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