Formula Two

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The Situation

When the latest regulations for Formula Two came into force in January, 1967, the Motor Circuit Developments group, which controls Brands Hatch, Snetterton, Mallory Park and Oulton Park, suggested that everyone should call this new class of racing “European Formula”, for rather obscure reasons. Come 1968 and they dropped the Formula from their meetings, but the nickname they had given the Formula and never really caught on was a true description of this class of racing during 1968.

Although there have been only two meetings featuring Formula Two in Britain this year, one was a huge success, the other a failure, thanks to atrocious weather. On the Continent these 1,600 c.c. single-seaters have attracted large crowds and at Hockenheim in October the official attendance figure surpassed that of many European Grands Prix. In 1969 the Formula continues with Europe the main stage for Formula Two, although again the British Automobile Racing Club will promote two meetings in England.

At the end of 1967 the Formula did look rather like a Ford benefit for the Cosworth FVA (Four Valve—series A) engine they had financed and won every race. The Fiat Dino-based Ferrari engine had been expected to challenge the simple Cosworth 4s, but Ferrari engineers had done their sums wrong and the Ferrari did not appear until midway through the season. Its one performance was a dismal failure and the team were not seen for the rest of the season. The other opposition to the Cosworth-powered cars was to have come from B.M.W., who were entering single-seater racing for the first time. They placed their very complicated engine with radially opposed valves into Lola chassis and they struggled all season. But the engine was just not producing power the equal of the British Cosworth-based unit and they returned wiser to Munich.

Again in 1968 in the engine game it has been the Cosworth FVA on top with only minor modifications from last year’s specification, but just as the season has drawn to a close they are being beaten for the first time in the two-year history of the Formula. At the start of the season Ferrari reappeared with more power and showed promise immediately, but this seemed to be the tale for most of the year. Regularly they challenged the Cosworth FVA cars but always they were beaten. Once mid-way through the season at Zolder they had the chance to win in a two-part race. Amon won the first heat, but in the second was further down the field and as the overall result was based on combined positions he needed to finish ahead of team-mate Ickx, who was running one place ahead of him. Despite pit signals to the Belgian driver to slow, he did not heed them and the race was lost. After that Amon was disillusioned with F.2 and lckx certainly did not seem as keen as the previous year when he was driving a Tyrrell Matra and winning the European Non-Graded Championship. Ferrari finally turned the cars over to their new second-string drivers, Bell and Brambilla, and it was then success that finally came. The season ended with three races on consecutive week-ends in October. Brambilla won the first, at Hockenheim, but he was strongly accused of rough tactics in the slip-streaming battle to the finish, while Bell finished third. The next week the racing was at Albi in France and the Ferrari team gave the race a miss, although probably would have won it had they attended. The final race was at Vallelunga, near Rome, and here where Ferrari had done much of their testing. They scored all ends up, finishing first and second, as reported elsewhere in this issue. Admittedly neither Rindt nor Stewart were present, and had they been it might have made a great scrap instead of a run-away win for Brambilla. However, there is no doubt that through prolonged development over the season Ferrari are now at least equal or perhaps even have the edge over the Cosworth cars.

But the main interest in the October series of races has been the reappearance of B.M.W. Following their dismal showing in 1967, their engineers went back to the drawing board and completely re-designed the head. The regulations, of course, insist that a standard block is utilised in the design. The new engine made its debut at Hockenheim, and the first thing everyone did was count the number of plugs—there are three per cylinder. No longer are the inlet tracts down in between the camshafts for the radially opposed valve idea has been dropped. However, there are still four valves per cylinder but, unlike the Cosworth engine, the two inlets are not side by side but diametrically opposed. The sketch shows their disposition.

Hence the engine looks more complicated than the Cosworth as it has eight separate injection trumpets and eight exhaust pipes which finally merge into two, giving it a characteristic note. Power is said to be 220 b.h.p. at 10,500 r.p.m., compared with Cosworth’s 215 b.h.p. at 9,200 r.p.m.

This engine is certainly the equal of the Cosworth FVA, but at the moment the drivers, Jo Siffert and Hubert Hahne are not very happy with the handling of their new Lola T102 chassis. B.M.W. plan a full season in Formula Two next season, perhaps prior to an attack on Formula One, for this German company with their superb saloon cars are fully aware of the advantages and publicity gained from a racing programme.

Chassis design has progressed little during the past season, although there have been a couple of new designs. From Italy came the Tecno and, although such a car has not yet won a Formula Two race, they have certainly been very competitive. The space frame chassis of the F.2 is virtually the same as the very short wheel-base F.3 chassis which started life in 1967, became successful at the end of the year and has subsequently proved to be the best F.3 chassis in 1968. The F.2 version has larger tanks which bulge out of the sides and additional strengthening in the engine compartment, while the drive/power train is the usual Cosworth/Hewland combination. The Colchester firm of Merlyn, whose Formula Three and Formula Ford have been increasingly successful, also designed a brand new Formula Two space-frame chassis rather similar to the Brabham Two cars have been run all season and, though they have not come close to winning races mainly because of not having quick enough drivers, the little firm have done a very workmanlike job and provided an interesting additional make. The Merlyns have been run by Bob Gerard’s team, who have previously flown the Cooper flag in F.2 for several years. This year no Coopers have been seen in F.2. The other new, chassis has come from the British Chevron firm and this is also an adaption of an existing Formula Three frame, again with additional strengthening around the engine compartment and bigger brakes. Only one Chevron has run in Formula Two and was not very successful as the Bolton-based firm had their hands full with their F.3 and GT projects and half-way through the season the idea was abandoned.

However, the most successful Formula Two car yet again has been the well-tried and straightforward Brabham. The space-frame chassis remained little altered from the 1967 model and Ron Tauranac’s design yet again was the equal of any of the more complicated monocoque chassis. The works did not run any cars this year, but Winkelmann Racing took over the task and Rindt won nearly everywhere he went. Private owners also favoured Brabhams, as spares and information are always easy to obtain.

The Ferrari Formula Two monocoque followed very closely their Formula One design, being beautifully constructed and finished. The handling did leave a little to be desired at the start of the season, but development has improved to such an extent that many drivers now consider it to be the best-handling F.2 car.

Matra have continued with their MS7 model, which was introduced in the middle of last season, and have left it unmodified from last season. The strong monocoque chassis certainly does the job as well as any other and in the few F.2 races Stewart has done this year he has always been a leading contender. Beltoise has carried off the European Non-Graded Drivers Formula Two championship with his works Matra and his number two Pescarolo, finished runner-up.

Lotus produced a slightly longer chassised version of their Lotus 48 monocoque for Jim Clark, but in only its second race it was destroyed at Hockenheim when Clark lost his life. For the rest of the season Hill and Oliver continued with the two last year’s cars, although the de Dion-axled, wedge-shaped car was rumoured to be appearing at every other race, it never did.

The non-success story of the season belongs to McLaren, for their M4A Formula Two car came in for it good deal of criticism during the year. Basically it remained unaltered from 1967, although Courage had an enormous amount of success with his car during the 1967/8 Tasman Series. Mainly on these performances the Chequered Flag team purchased two cars and the French Ecurie Inter Sport team bought three cars. The drivers of the cars never seemed happy and neither team persevered to the end of the season. Quite why the design proved to be a failure is not easily explainable, although the works were fully occupied with F.1 and Can-Am commitments and were not able to give the teams any help with development.

Lola did not involve themselves very heavily with F.2 this year, running just one of last year’s monocoque T100s for Irwin until he was injured in a sports car at the Nurburgring and then bowed out completely. However, at the end of the season they built two brand new chassis for B.M.W. These differed from the T100 by having a tubular sub-frame at the rear similar to the design used in the Lotus 48. With only three races behind them the drivers are complaining of unpredictable handling, but they should be able to sort them out in time for next season.

While chassis development has reached a lull, the Formula Two brigade followed the Formula One trend by trying aerofoil sections on their cars. By the end of the year almost everyone had tried one kind of wing or other usually following the type tried by the Formula One cars of the same make. At Albi, the Winkelmann Brabham appeared with a massive bi-wing, for which pretty sensational claims were being made. The men who designed it certainly have the qualifications to get to the bottom of this wing business, but already admit that they are frightened by what they have found. Anyway, at Albi the wing was not properly mounted and the team did not persevere with it. Your Formula Two reporter, for one, is definitely anti-wing and hope that the F.I.A. will consult people well qualified in this field and thus realise the dangers involved.

Last year D.S.J. suggested that motor racing would best be served by only allowing in Formula Two drivers who have not won a World Championship race. Last year there were seven or eight such drivers competing, leaving the non-graded up-and-coining drivers to scratch around in 10th and 11th place. This year the number has thinned considerably, although Hill, Rodriguez and Stewart have raced in F.2 quite regularly. Rindt, who has made most of the running this year in Formula Two, has never won a Formula One race, a fact of which he is very aware, but under D.S.J.’s suggestion still qualifies for inclusion.

Whether or not the Formula has been successful with British race-goers it certainly brought on several British drivers this year. Bell, Oliver and Gethin in particular have been lifted up from the Formula Three quagmire to show their real talent. Likewise Formula Two has done the same for Beltoise and Pescarolo from France, Brambilla from Italy and Ahrens from Germany. There is no doubt that from a driver’s point of view Formula Two is a perfectly adequate step between F.3 and F.1 and the varied circuits across. Europe make it a very thorough training ground. Meanwhile, in Britain everyone is shouting about Formula 5000, which is the new Formula designed for V8 Ford or Chevrolet-powered single-seaters. It may well teach drivers to handle plenty of horse power but they still will not have the experience of slip-streaming at Monza or racing in the staggering heat of Madrid.–A. R. M.
 

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