A strange situation has arisen in the Grand Prix world, for after winning the 1969 World Championship with a Cosworth V8-powered Matra, Stewart now finds himself facing the 1970 season with an unknown and untried car to drive, namely a March powered by a Cosworth V8 engine. Having won the Championship driving a Matra one would expect Stewart to continue with the same successful car, and for the French firm to want to keep him at the wheel of their blue cars, but Stewart races for Stewart and the Matra plans for 1970 did not appeal to him so he did not renew his contract. When Stewart first made contact with the French Matra firm he went along with his team manager Ken Tyrrell and made a yearly agreement that Matra would supply the chassis and know-how, along with the manufacture, and Tyrrell would supply Cosworth V8 engine and Stewart as the driver. At the time of the first approaches Matra were just getting under way with their Grand Prix programme and what better than to strike up an association with a driver of more than average ability and a team manager with long experience of European motor racing? However, the use of the Cosworth V8 engine part of the deal was considered as a purely temporary expedient, as Matra were hard at work on their own V12 Grand Prix engine. Due to this engine not being very competitive to begin with the Cosworth unit was accepted for a second season, along with Stewart and Tyrrell, and the result was a string of victories for Matra and the World Championship for Stewart.
During 1969 the Matra V12 engine was completely revised and the new engine was giving satisfactory results by September last, so Matra pulled out their original plan, which was to win the Grand Prix Championship with their own car and engine. This is where the ideas of Matra and the Tyrrell/Stewart combine differed, for the British pair wanted to go on racing with a Cosworth V8 engine, so it was mutually agreed that the contract would not be renewed for 1970, leaving Matra to go in their original direction with an all-French Grand Prix car, and the Tyrrell/Stewart combine to return to Britain with a lot of financial backing, a supply of Cosworth engines and the 1969 World Championship as proof of their ability.
Fortuitous or not, a new enterprise had recently started under the name of March Engineering, with a new factory at Bicester in Oxfordshire, their intention being to supply racing car chassis the way Cosworth supply racing car engines, and the Tyrrell/Stewart combine made a deal with them to supply March-Cosworth V8 cars for the 1970 season. This new concern produced a competitive Formula Three car which finished third in its first race, and this was, in effect, the first announcement that March Engineering was in existence. Main selling point for the firm is the designer, Robin Herd, who was with McLaren and then Cosworth Engineering on the yet-to-be-raced 4-w-d car, while racing team know-how comes from Alan Rees, who handled Jochen Rindt and the Winkelmann team in Formula Two. Apart from supplying chassis design and construction to Tyrrell for 1970, March Engineering intend to run their own Grand Prix team and have persuaded Amon and Siffert to join them as “works” drivers, the cars being powered by Cosworth V8 engines and transmissions by Hewland, needless to say. They also plan to run “works” cars in Formula Two.
Now all this activity calls for very large sums of money, apart from the money that Tyrrell and Stewart are bound to take along with them, and just where it is all coming from has not been explained so far. March Engineering say officially that they do not approve of setting up business on money provided from within the racing industry, from sources such as Gulf Oil or Dunlop Tyres, and have “accordingly taken steps to secure outside financial backing and this will account for more than half of the 1970 racing budget”. To persuade the reigning World Champion to agree to buy a car that has yet to be built must be one of the best moves ever made in Grand Prix history. The outcome will be awaited with interest by all followers of the sport.
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With the start of the 1970 racing season the official title of homologated Sports Cars is changed from Group 4 to Group 5. It will still be necessary to show proof of a series of 25 cars being built before the FIA will accept homologation as a Sports Car, but in 1971 this rule will be dropped and one-off Sports Cars will be accepted, providing they comply with the existing rules as regards bodywork, fuel tank capacity, spare wheel, luggage space, etc. The maximum engine capacity will remain at 5-litres for Group 5 Sports Cars, while Group 6 cars, or Prototype/Sports Cars, will remain at 3-litres. All the long-distance classic races in 1970 will be for Groups 5 and 6, and this will continue into 1971, but new rules will be announced soon for 1972 onwards. It is anticipated that long-distance racing in 1972 will be for a classification that will combine the best of the present Group 4 and Group 6.
What all this means, in fact, is that the FIA have at last realised and admitted that they made a nasty blunder in 1967 when they imposed a 3-litre limit on Prototype/Sports Cars, leaving the Group 4 (as it was then) limit at 5-litres. Porsche showed this year the absurdity of the situation by building 25 of the unraced Porsche 917 cars purely to comply with the rules. They also made clear the question of Group 6 being Prototypes. As they said, “Prototypes for what?” With a Sports Car limit of 5-litres you cannot do any race testing with a one-off Prototype limited to 3-litres. The rules encourage the appearance of untried and unproven designs in the Sports Car category being sold to private owners. In 1970 Ferrari is continuing the lesson with his Type 512, a 5-litre V12 to Sports Car regulations, on sale to anyone with enough money.
While trying to cover up for this awful blunder the FIA are working away on a scheme for a “World Wide Cylinder Capacity” agreement. The suggestion is that all top category racing should have an engine limit of 4-litres with a maximum of 12 cylinders (do I hear agreement coming from Maranello?) and that this should apply to Formula One, Long-Distance Sports Car racing and USAC-Indianapolis racing; and presumably eventually to Tasman Formula, Can-Am Formula and any other group that wants to join in. If this 4-litre, 12-cylinder limit idea is to get under way it must have the agreement of USAC and at the moment negotiations are still going on with the Americans, but no decision has been made. The idea sounds a good one, and it seems that Europe will increase its capacity limit for Formula One from 3-litres to 4-litres, and strike a happy mean for Prototype/Sports Car racing, raising the limit of Group 6 by one litre and lowering the limit of Group 5 by one litre. The Americans will have to lower their limit from 4.2-litres to 4-litres, and once this has been agreed upon, then other equivalent capacities can be discussed, such as the turbine and Wankel engines and the American Stock-block limit, which is at present 5-litres, as well as the USAC supercharged rules. If this European/American agreement can be reached it will be a good thing for Europe, for it will mean that participation in USAC road-racing and at Indianapolis will be a lot easier, and there will be much more interchange of knowledge and engineering, as there is at present in the Can-Am class of racing. With the non-American domination of Can-Am racing, apart from the Chevrolet engines, Goodyear tyres and Reynolds money, it is not surprising that the USAC board of directors is being a bit slow on deciding to agree to a “World Wide Cylinder Capacity Formula”.
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Although European racing has more or less ceased until next Spring, the southern hemisphere is getting into its stride and the Argentinians are running two races in January, 1970. During the end of the 1969 season the organisers were touring Europe weighing up events, drivers and cars, and making plans for their January races, and they had with them Juan Manuel Fangio, thus needing no form of introduction anywhere in Europe. Fangio was acting as adviser to the Club YPF and the aim of the Argentinians is to get back into Championship race organising. On January 11th they are holding a 1,000-kilometre race for Prototypes and Sports Cars-at the Buenos Aires Autodrome and a similar but shorter race of 300 kilometres on January 18th, presumably hoping that everyone will be in good condition for the more important race of 1,000 kilometres. They have received good initial support with interest from Porsche, Alfa Romeo, Matra, Alpine, Ferrari and Abarth, but exactly who will be ready to go in mid-January remains to be seen.
While this is going on in South America, the New Zealand and Australian season will be in full swing with the Tasman Series, there being four races in New Zealand and three in Australia, which is much more balanced than the Can-Am series later in 1970 which is very much Am (America) and very little Can (Canada). The established classic events start as usual at Daytona at the beginning of February for Sports Cars, and in South Africa in March for Grand Prix cars, and then the season is really in full swing with a very busy programme for all classes of racing.
Brief calendars for the major International categories are given below and it will be seen that Formula One (or Grand Prix racing) still has little or no opportunity for new people to cut their teeth before going into a World Championship event. Formula Two, which many people consider has not been as interesting and successful as it might have been, shows no signs of dying, there being ten races in the European Championship and 11 other events for these 1,600 c.c. cars. The Argentinians were going to run a Formula Two race in their “Temporada” but dropped it solely because they felt that it was too early in the new season for this class of competitor.
It will be noticeable that the FIA run Championships for all the major racing categories with the exception of Formula Three. There is a Championship for Formula One, Formula Two, Prototype/Sports cars, GT cars, Saloon cars, Hill-Climb cars, and a special 2-litre category of Prototype/Sports Cars, but nothing for Formula Three; nor for that matter for Formula Four, Formula Vee, Formula Ford, Formule France, Formula 5000, Formula F 100 and Formula Formula! Or are we losing our sense of proportion?—D. S. J.