Racing has long been a favourite sport of the Argentinians and in years gone by the tremendous achievements of Fangio, Gonzales and several others never failed to excite their fellow countrymen. Since the 1950s, however, this wealthy South American country has been off the World motor racing map and attempts to revive International single-seater racing in the country have been confined to a series of Formula Junior races in 1964 and Formula Three races in 1966 and 1967. Meanwhile, the Argentinian’s own “club” racing continued to thrive with the most important events being for highly modified saloons racing over road courses. Circuit racing also caught on, too.
Since the last revolution, in 1966, the country has knuckled down to using some of the huge natural resources available and the country has been showing considerable improvements all round. Thus, with a stable political scene, the motor-racing elite considered the time was right to hold a series of races more in keeping with those of the glorious past. The prime mover behind this scheme was none other than Fangio for he turned out to be far more than just a figure-head. He decided the series would be for Formula Two. He enlisted the aid and financial resources of the national petrol company, Y.P.F., whose function in the Argentine is very similar to that of E.L.F. in France, for private competition is allowed, unlike Spain. Y.P.F. through their large sports and social club organised the aeries and while they had their failings, particularly with the keeping of time-tables, let it be said that the series went off fairly smoothly and the racing itself was run with a professionalism few people expected.
By late summer a deputation led by Fangio had canvassed the European scene and arranged for 21 cars to be shipped to the Argentine for the four-race series to be held on four weekends in December. Fangio has strong ties in Italy so it is not surprising that of the 21 cars, 11 were Italian and nine of those Tecnos built by the Pederzani Brothers at Bologna.
The full entry was headed by the works Ferrari Dinos of De Adamich and Brambilla, which had started to show such good form in their last couple of races in Europe. Tecno were contracted to bring three works cars for Siffert, who joined the team just for the series, regular driver Regazzoni and Facetti, the veteran driver who occasionally drives for the team. The Surbiton, Surrey, based Ron Harris Racing Division team were also asked to bring their three Tecnos, one for Rodriguez and the other two for drivers to be nominated by the Y.P.F. Club. Time trials in a Formula Three Brabham were held and the lucky pair were Reutemann, who had been Argentinian Touring Car Champion for three years running, and Marincovich. Jonathan Williams was also invited with a brand new Tecno, run by Tomaso, as this Italian team’s competition programme has been taken over by a former Fangio team manager, Ugolini. There was another Tecno for the Swiss driver, Moser, who won the F.J. Temporada, and a brand new car for Vianini, a wealthy Italian-born but Argentinian-domiciled driver who was receiving sponsorship from Pepsi-Cola.
From France came the two works Matras for Beltoise and Pescarolo, Beltoise having won the January, 1967, F.3 Temporada Series. The rest of the field was made up with Brabhams and the Herts. and Essex Aero Club Lotus of Jack Oliver. Thus there were only five different makes of cars, which was rather disappointing. Leading the Brabham contingent was the Roy Winkelmann Racing Team with their usual cars for Rindt and Rees. The latter had wanted to slide into retirement and tried to convince the organisers to take the rising Australian, Schenken, instead. Schenken meant nothing to them and they instated that Rees drove. Frank Williams (Racing Cars) Ltd. brought their Brabham for Courage and was also contracted to sell and service two similar machines to local drivers Bordeu and Pairetti. Bordeu, a one-time protégé of Fangio, was a regular competitor in European F.J. races in the early 1960s and Pairetti was the local hero, having just clinched the important Argentinian “Touring Carrettera” Championship the week before the series was scheduled to start. Two more Argentinians, Copello and Cupeiro, made arrangements for new Brabhams for the series.
The first race was held at the fine Buenos Aires Autodrome, which boasts about 12 different combinations of circuits, and No. 9 was used. The Autodrome, set in a huge park on the southern outskirts of the city, was built in the early 1950s and its facilities are a lesson to European circuit builders. It had everything; garages for the mechanics to work in, huge pits, a decent tarmacadam paddock car park, a good restaurant, all the facilities one expects and never sees in Europe. The second race was near Cordoba, the country’s Second largest town. This was a new circuit set in rather barren countryside and was very fast. The third circuit, also recently built, was at San Juan in the far west of the country with the Andes close at hand. It is quite the most staggering site for any race circuit in the world, nestling in a rift between towering mountains which almost entirely encircle the thin wiggly figure eight configuration track. There is a cross-over and several very fast Ess bends and all the drivers were unanimous in their approval of the circuit. Again pit and paddock facilities were better than anywhere in Europe. For the final race in the series it was back to Buenos Aires and the Autodrome, but this time circuit Number 9 was being used with an extra and tricky loop added, so that it was re-named No. 6.
The first race was on December 1 and had exciting prospects as this was the first time Rindt, winner of the majority of European F.2 racing during 1968, was up against the Ferraris and their newly found speed and reliability. Rindt was fastest in practice, but the front row was completed by the two Ferraris just fractionally slower. Wings were much in evidence. Rindt established himself in the lead in the early stages, but the Ferraris were chasing hard and the Austrian was obviously having to work very hard round the Buenos Aires circuit. By lap 18 of the 70-lap race both Ferraris had disposed of Rindt, having the edge on acceleration out of tight corners and on controllability. Ferrari was running on Firestone tyres, now reckoned to be slightly superior to the Dunlops. Rindt held on to third place until his rear chassis mounting wing had a lateral movement stay support break and then he retired. This left Oliver in third place with his Lotus and he was starting to hold off a challenge from Courage when it fizzled out as Courage’s car suffered exactly the same fate as that of Rindt. By then the race was half-run and the remaining laps were reeled off without incident with the two Ferraris crossing the line nose to tail with Brambilla in front, as he had been for the majority of the distance. Oliver was a long way back in third place, followed by Regazzoni in the Tecno. The rest of the finishers in the order Pescarolo, Rodriguez, Bordeu, Facetti, Vianini and Rees had all been lapped, most more than once.
On to Cordoba where practice was completely disrupted by a huge rain storm. The times were very close with De Adamich and Regazzoni posting equal fastest times followed closely by the Brabhams of Rindt and Courage. Rinds, Courage, and Beltoise shared out the lead of the first ten laps with De Adamich biding his time just behind them. Then on lap 10 he swept by and quickly started to pullout a lead with Rindt hanging on. Courage, Beltoise, with Pescarolo and Regazzoni, formed a tightly-knit bunch contesting third place and the battle continued for the rest of the 70 laps. Rindt tried his hardest to stay on terms with De Adamich and a couple of laps from the end the Ferrari went on to five cylinders due to a soft cam lobe, but the Italian had enough in hand to finish 4.4 sec. in front of Rindt. The juggling for the next four places continued until the very last lap and the four swept across the line in the order Pescarolo, Regazzoni, Beltoise and Courage. To console Courage for his disappointment at being out-fumbled was a new lap record to his credit. In seventh place was Siffert, still learning how to drive the Tecno and, in fact, he only passed the similar car of Vianini in the closing stages. This was certainly a fine performance by this Argentinian-based driver. The remaining finishers were Rodriguez with an off-tune engine, Oliver, who disliked the circuit though it had Armco barriers almost all round it, Williams, Facetti, Rees and Bordeu. Bordeu was not classified as he had hit a barrier and spent too long in the pits wondering if the car was safe to continue, despite assurances from his mechanic. It lost him the Argentinian F.2 Championship. Brambilla, the winner of the first race, was right out of luck for he was rather under the weather with a stomach upset and was never higher than sixth before retiring with ignition problems. This result put De Adamich well ahead in the championship.
Race three was at the fabulous San Juan track and the most interesting story was in practice. In the Temporada Series each race had two days’ practice, the first for drivers to learn the circuit with times not counting towards the grid, while on the second all times counted towards the race line-up. Rindt, thinking he could learn the circuit and set up a good time all in a day, decided to give the first day’s practice at San Juan a miss and take his wife on a sightseeing tour of the Andes instead. Unfortunately for him on qualification day a huge dust storm blew up and practice was cancelled and the previous day’s times taken into account. Rindt did manage to do 3 few laps of the circuit, but he had to start at the back of the grid.
Siffert, who had by now got the habit of Tecno driving, was in pole position with De Adamich alongside him with Beltoise and Brambilla only a little slower. There was some very ragged driving in the early stages, particularly from Brambilla. In the opening laps both the Ferraris took turns in leading and Beltoise got ahead of them for a couple of laps also, while Rindt was quickly picking up places. After a spin by Brambilla, De Adamich got the chance to pull away from the field, which he did in fine style. Brambilla eventually over-revved his engine and retired leaving Beltoise a secure second with Siffert third. Rindt was driving well and eventually took Siffert ten laps from the end to finish third. It is just possible that if he had started from his customary front row of the grid position he would have beaten De Adamich. Oliver finished fifth, just beating Regazzoni whose team mate Facetti showed new-found form to finish seventh Argentinian Copello drove well this time to finish eighth ahead of Rodriguez who had been delayed in an accident with Moser. Bordeu was tenth and behind him all the others had experienced trouble of one sort or another.
For the final race it was back to Buenos Aires with the knowledge that De Adamich had the championship clinched and that Ferrari would probably make a clean sweep of the Series. It certainly looked that way after practice with the front row comprising of the two Ferraris and Rindt with the Italian car both a second quicker than the Brabham. This race was split into two 25-lap parts with combined times counting towards final positions.
The two Ferraris soon swept into a large lead travelling nose to tail and the whole thing looked a complete walk-over. But on the last lap, after trailing smoke for some time, the engine in Brambilla’s car blew up and he failed to make the finish, leaving De Adamich the clear winner from Rindt. Third was Siffert, again driving well, followed by Courage, Oliver, Beltoise and Regazzoni. Reutemann, whose Harris Tecno had broken in the three previous races, had been given the chance to drive Copello’s Brabham and brought it to eighth place in an excellent showing.
The second heat started in chaos for De Adamich fumbled his start and was rammed from behind. This sent the Ferrari sideways into the pit road, knocking down six people foolishly standing there and injuries included broken legs. However, the Ferrari was able to continue after losing half a lap. With no Ferraris in the running it was Rindt out in front and he looked the certain victor. But luck was not on his side and a fault in the fuel injection metering unit caused the engine to misfire badly and lose power, and Courage driving very well gradually caught and passed him. Oliver and Siffert were also able to overtake the ailing Brabham, although on the last lap Rindt succeeded in re-taking Siffert, the Swiss driver thinking the race had finished the lap before. So the order was Courage, Oliver, Rindt and Siffert with Beltoise fifth followed by De Adamich, who came through the field well despite a spin. This time Reutemann headed such names as Beltoise and Pescarolo before retiring with a blown engine and Williams also went well, but was let down by a failing engine.
When the final results were computed, Courage was the clear winner from Rindt with Siffert placed third. Oliver was fourth, De Adamich found himself fifth overall followed by Beltoise, Pescarolo, Copeiro, Bordeu, Vianini, Rees and Williams.
The Series had shown that the continued development of the Ferrari had brought its just rewards whereas all the cars with Cosworth engines had suffered from lack of this, for the FVA engine is virtually the same as it was when it first ran in March, 1967. For Britain we hope that Cosworth will have the modifications to bring their engines on equal terms with Ferrari next season.—A. R. M.