The popularity of Grand Prix racing continues unabated in spite of numerous small wrangles and difficulties, and once again there are fifteen major races in the calendar, starting with Argentina and Brazil in January 1974 and ending with the United States race in October. Of those races that alternate their venue the FIA list says that the Spanish GP will be at Jarama, north of Madrid, the Belgian GP at Nivelles, south of Bruxelles, the French GP at Dijon, south-east of Paris and the British GP at Brands Hatch, south-east of London. A full list of dates and venues will be published in the January 1974 Motor Sport.
With surprisingly little fuss most of the major teams have had a shuffle round, ready for 1974, the accent being on drivers and sponsors, with some thought to better chassis, but apart from BRM and Ferrari, an overall acceptance of whatever engine Cosworth Engineering dish up with Ford cast on the cambox covers. With a Hewland gearbox bolted on the back most teams are in business again for another season. No doubt they all lost vast sums of money over the 1973 season, but in spite of that they will be back, to lose even more in 1974. The Tyrrell Team, still backed by ELF and Goodyear, are starting from scratch, and Ken Tyrrell is going to have to work hard with his new drivers to stay in the running. With Stewart retiring from racing and the untimely death of Cevert, the Team had to do some careful thinking and they have employed Jody Scheckter as number one driver and Patrick Depailler as number two. Scheckter is a fast driver, but youthful and wild, lacking experience, while Depailler is a bit mediocre, but at least he is 100% French and ELF require a French driver in the team. On hearing that Scheckter was joining the Tyrrell Team, one enthusiast remarked that he hoped the Tyrrell lads were hard at work building up a supply of cars. During 1973 Scheckter drove in four Grand Prix races and damaged four cars, a record nearly as good as Peterson’s. Agreed that the damage at Watkins Glen was not his fault, but nonetheless, the car was damaged. It could be that he is just unlucky, and his luck will change in 1974 with Tyrrell.
The 1973 World Championship Team, call them what you will, were Lotus and they should have a brand new model ready for next season. Continuing the successful 1973 policy of employing two ace drivers, they have replaced Emerson Fittipaldi with Jacky Ickx, retaining the services of Peterson who has been this year’s “blue-eyed boy”. Although the Swede has crumpled quite a few cars during the season he more than made up for it by winning four races and making innumerable fastest practice laps. In fact, it has been Peterson who has been the pacemaker more often than not and at many races when the Lotus morale was struggling, due to everyone else being faster in practice, it has been Peterson who has risen to the occasion and put the team on the front row. Fittipaldi started off well, but did not continue the pace and has been something of a disappointment to Team Lotus, especially after his fine 1972 season. Admittedly he had a nasty accident in practice for the Dutch GP, but on the whole he seems to have spent too much time talking and not enough driving. While he has been yacking and wittering, his fellow number one in the team was pressing on furiously, to everyone’s joy. Quite how Ickx will get on, trying to keep pace with the flying Peterson remains to be seen, but some indication of the Belgian driver’s potential can be gained from his effortless third place in the German Grand Prix driving a works McLaren.
The McLaren Team have undergone a shuffle, losing Scheckter to Tyrrell, and replacing Revson with Emerson Fittipaldi. The 1972 World Champion should enjoy driving the McLaren and he should not have any problems teaming up with that placid old bear, Denny Hulme. Having left the McLaren Team Peter Revson has joined Don Nichols’ Shadow Team, still backed by Universal Oil Products, and it looks as though George Follmer will be number two driver to Revson, making it an all-American team. Old man Ferrari continues to battle his lonely way against the British-based teams and has made a clean sweep in the racing department, bringing back Mauro Forghieri in charge of design and development, and employing Regazzoni and Lauda to do the driving. Somehow Regazzoni and Ferrari seem made for each other, the swarthy Swiss has a bearing and a driving style that cries out for a screaming red racing car. If he wins any races for the Scuderia, as well he might, there will be rejoicing throughout the land. His team-mate from Austria tries very hard to justify his position, and drives hard and courageously, but does not seem to be a natural winner. He has a tendency to corner in a spectacular fashion, often a bit too fast so that he is not really in full control until well after the corner, whereas someone like Peterson on the same corner is under control and on full power right through the corner. Italian enthusiasts should be happy with Niki Lauda in the team, as Austria is a friendly neighbour and very popular with Italians, providing you do not come from the Dolomites.
John Surtees is well on his way again preparing for 1974, in spite of weeping into the television cameras at the British Grand Prix and saying all was lost. The worthy Brazilian Carlos Pace will still be driving for Surtees and towards the end of the 1973 season he showed some fine form, though the cars could not stand the pace. His teammate once more will be the jovial Mike Hailwood, who deserves a special award for his 1973 season with Team Surtees. To achieve absolutely nothing throughout the year and still be happy and smiling through it all takes a good character amid the rat-race of professionalism. The story I like best of all about Hailwood was one race where his car broke down continually during practice, and every time he set off from the pits he could never be sure of returning, so finally he tucked a paperback novel into his overalls before setting off again, saying “I’m getting fed up with just lying out there in the sun waiting to be collected, I’m taking something to read this time”.
Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham Team would appear to continue unchanged, with Reutemann and the elder Fittipaldi driving, and of the rest we know that. Lord Hesketh is having Harvey Postlethwaite design a new Cosworth-powered car for James Hunt, while Graham Hill is up to something with a Lola chassis from Eric Broadley’s factory. If the big white chief of BRM is to be believed the Bourne Team do not know themselves what they are doing in 1974, but whatever they do it cannot be much worse than their efforts in 1973, and the same might be said of the March Team. Frank Williams is still aspiring to be a Ken Tyrrell and there is a whole row of “hopefuls” aspiring to replace Stewart. Among them Chris Amon is on the way down and Jochen Mass on the way up, the rest are fairly static.
No mention has been made of the colours of the various cars because at the time of writing everything seems to be matt white, but once the spray-shops get into action we will see who is going to win! For my money, whatever colour the new Lotus turns out to be will be the winning colour.
Rules and Regulations
The rule-makers in Paris have made some important pronouncements recently. The Formula Three rules that come into force on January 1st 1974, will remain in force at least until December 31st 1976. Formula Two will continue until December 31st 1977, with a possibility to increase the width of the body to 130 cm., so as to include a crushable structure, as is used in Formula One. This new width with the crushable structure will become law in 1975. The minimum weight limit for Formula Two cars will be increased to 500 kilogrammes in 1975 for safety reasons. The existing Formula One rules for Grand Prix racing will continue until December 31st 1975, so we have two more seasons of the present 3-litre cars. Exactly what the new Formula will be is not known at present but the CSI will prepare a new Formula in collaboration with the interested parties on the following basis:
1. Single-seater (thank goodness! – D.S.J.)
2. Increased minimum weight (Progrescive thinking! – D.S.J.)
3. Restricted tyres (Oh dear! I hope they talk to Firestone and Goodyear. – D.S.J.)
4. Aerofoils prohibited (What! They tried that once before. – D.S.J.)
5. Four-wheel drive prohibited (Real progressive thinking. – D.S.J.)
6. Restriction of the air intake for control of power output (Oh no! Haven’t they been to a F3 race? – D.S.J.)
7. Commercial fuel (What else! With ELF, GULF, TEXACO, FINA, YPF, Shell and UOP in racing can you imagine using alcohol or nitro? – D.S.J.)
So there we have the lines of thinking along which the CSI are plodding their unenviable way to sort out the future of Grand Prix racing.
The 3-litre prototypes for sports car racing are to continue until December 31st 1975, i.e. two more seasons for Manta, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Cosworth-powered specials to battle it out over 1,000 kilometre races and the Le Mans 24 Hour Race. To encourage the future of GT racing the production run of 500 units will be able to be spread over two years instead of one year, as from January 1st 1976. As from January 1974 it will not be allowed to run Group 5 prototypes in events counting for Rally Championships, for safety reasons, so no more V12 Matra rally cars!
On circuits the CSI have banned all International events at Montlhéry and the Montlhéry track owners have said “We give up anyway”. Having spent more money than they can afford, to try and keep Montlhéry healthy and safe to CSI/GPDA standards, it is still not enough and officialdom is demanding more and more money to be spent in the endless search for safety. The Montlhéry owners have cried “enough” and have opted out of the whole business. How long, I wonder, before the next circuit opts out of the endless battle to keep pace with officialdom’s demands?
The new little circuit of Croix-en-Ternois near Arras in France has been restricted in its activities in a big way, the CSI forbidding F1, F2, and any cars over 2-litres in Groups 5, 6 and 7, which doesn’t leave them much future.
Some rules on starting grids are interesting; Formula One race being limited to two cars per row and the rows must be staggered, and for F1 and F2 races “a driver having changed cars after setting his best practice time shall retain his place on the grid providing that he starts with a car of the same make, type, group and category”. Now this is important, for it will allow teams to use specially tweaked-up sprint cars for one super fast lap, and if it blows sky-high on its second lap it will not matter. This should liven up practice quite a bit, once Chapman, Tyrrell, Ferrari and McLaren catch on to the idea. It is going to be really exciting to see Team Lotus wheel out the “qualifying car” for Peterson, once they have got every thing worked out. This year we have toyed with this idea in the use of “qualifying sticky-tyres” and there were some awful screams from people who did not have access to these special tyres. I can hardly wait to hear the screams from those who are unable to build special “qualifying cars”. The 1974 season looks good.
A note has come from the Brands Hatch owners which I quote in full, no comment being necessary.
“In the case of the British Grand Prix we would like you to know that in 1974 we shall be obliged to pay £75,000 in Formula One prize money alone, compared with £46,000 in 1972 (the last time the GP was at Brands Hatch), when a £2 admission charge sufficed. In fact, with VAT and other increases, our costs for the entire meeting will soar towards £150,000 necessitating greatly increased spectator charges. Our current thoughts are to keep the basic admission cost as low as possible (probably £2.50) and to raise grandstand prices to nearer the Continental level – not as high as the £20 per seat charged for one Grand Prix, but at various rates between £.2 and £5 extra.”
Start building your portable grandstands now chaps, and strengthen the roofs of your cars, space will be at a premium.
A sad note came from Maserati SpA of Modena, to the effect that they applied to the CSI for homologation of the mid-engined Bora, with 5-litre VS four-cam engine, in Group 4 (Special Grand Touring cars), with a view to competing in GT racing. The CSI committee were unanimous in turning down the application, because production of the Bora was not sufficient, according to the existing rules which require 500 units in 12 consecutive months. The Maserati firm had already prepared two Boras for racing and were very upset by the decision. They admit frankly that they knew they had not built 500 cars when they sent in their application, but they knew also that other manufacturers had not complied with the 500 rule and yet their cars had been accepted. They do not mention Ferrari, De Tomaso and Porsche by name, but we know who they mean. A couple of Maserati Bora coupes in amongst the Daytonas, Panteras and Carreras would have been interesting and sporting, but the CSI did not seem to think so.
Maserati SPA have not given up hope, and there is hope in the new role that has just been announced, that the 500 can be spread over two years as from 1976, but it is doubtful if the racing Bora will wait that long. A pity about the rule-makers. International Formula Libre is what we want.