Rome Grand Prix

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Rome, October 27th.

Following Brambilla’s victory in the Hockenheim race two weeks earlier, the Ferrari Formula Two team returned to Maranello to prepare themselves for a three-car assault on the final race of the season, the Rome Grand Prix at the Vallelunga circuit. In the intermediate week Pescarolo, the French Matra driver, scored his first ever F.2 win at Albi, after the cars of both Rindt and Stewart had failed with electrical trouble.

The big surprise of the Albi meeting was the performance of British driver Gethin in the Frank Lythgoe Racing Brabham BT23C. Gethin eventually finished second at Albi and at Rome his was the only Cosworth FVA-engined to offer a challenge to the V6 Dino Ferrari units. Ferrari nominated Brambilla, Bell and de Adamich for their car with de Adamich making his motor racing return following his accident with the Formula One Ferrari at the Race of Champions. Apart from the Ferraris, the field was a little sub-standard as several cars, including Rindt’s, were being prepared for shipment to the Argentine for the forthcoming Temporada Series. However, the works Lola-BMWs were present for Siffert and Hahne and the Bologna-based Tecno team had great hopes for Regazzoni.

The organisers introduced a novel scheme in arranging the grid for, instead of grading drivers by their fastest lap, they picked the three fastest laps for each driver during the long practice session and averaged the time out. Not only does this method cut by two-thirds a time-keeping error, but it also gives an advantage to the consistent driver rather than one who can record just one quick lap.

The two Italian Ferrari drivers dominated practice, both lapping at 1 min. 16.3 sec. with Brambilla having the faster average. But Gethin showed his previous week’s performance was no flash in the pan and was third fastest at 1 min. 16.4 sec., followed by Regazzoni. This compared favourably with Ickx’s lap record of 1 min. 18.9 sec. The race was split into two 40-lap parts, which both followed a similar pattern.

The circuit was packed by a huge crowd all shouting for Brambilla, who is the local favourite, as he used to race in F.3 regularly at this track. He obliged by pulling into an immediate lead followed by de Adamich with Gethin third. Brambilla made the running all the way through, but in the closing stages Gethin challenged de Adamich hard, but was badly baulked while lapping Hahne in the second B.M.W.

So Brambilla came home to great applause, followed 1.7 sec. later by de Adamich, with Gethin third ahead of the works Matras of Beltoise and Pescarolo. On this occasion Bell in the third Ferrari could not keep up the pace set by his Italian colleagues and finished sixth, ahead of Hill in his rather tired Lotus. Siffert was beset with fuel pump problems and Regazzoni stopped early on with faulty ignition.

The second race followed the pattern of the first, but with one notable exception. The two Ferraris again took the lead with Brambilla at the head, but Beltoise headed Gethin this time. But once the determined Epsom driver had finally overtaken the Frenchman he rapidly closed on de Adamich. With two laps to go he split the two Ferraris and held on to finish second behind Brambilla. Unfortunately for him de Adamich was still second on combined times. But it was Brambilla’s day, for he had driven superbly, and if this form continues Ferrari will soon have an Italian driver back in their Formula One team. The meeting finished with wild scenes as the crowd mobbed their new-found hero. Positions in the second heat for third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh places were exactly as in the first and thus in the final results as well. A worthy eighth place was the English driver, Rollinson, who put the somewhat unsuccessful Merlyn F.2 car through its paces to far greater effect than any of the other ten drivers the Gerard-Merlyn team have tried this year. With performances like the one-two at Rome it looks as if the Ferraris will be the cars to beat in the Argentine during the weeks of December.A. R. M