Grand prix scene

DSJ previews the coming season
By the time these words appear in print the 1972 Grand Prix season will have begun, with the Grand Prix of Argentina held on the National Autodromo in Buenos Aires. The Argentinians held a Formula One race in 1971 as a test run for their World Championship event this year and it will be recalled that it was a strange race held in two parts and Amon was the overall winner with a V12 Matra-Simca, the only race either he or Matra won during 1971. The next Grand Prix is not due until March 4th, when the “circus” fly off to South Africa and race on the Kyalami circuit, so that there is a little time to take stock of what we might see in 1972.

The focal point of Grand Prix racing will be the Tyrrell Team who set the pace through most of 1971 and won the Manufacturers’ Championship, while their number One driver was World Champion. It is nice to know that all is well within the Tyrrell Team and the personnel will be as before, with Ken Tyrrell as the overall thief, Derek Gardner continuing his successful design work, and Stewart and Cevert doing the driving. During last season, if one believed everything that was written and said, you could have got the impression that the Tyrrell Team consisted of three key men and a handful of mechanics working from a wood shed in Surrey, no doubt helped a great deal by the pixies and fairies; anyone who was at Brands Hatch last October will have seen the parade by all those outside firms and individuals who helped that stretched nearly the whole way round the Club Circuit. It was a fine parade and it was nice to see everyone enjoying some of the Stewart/Tyrrell glory. They ranged from the Goodyear Tyre Company and all its resources down to small individual firms like those of Maurice Gomm, who did sheet metal work, and Jack Knight, who does machine-shop work. The list was far too long to repeat in detail, but everyone seemed to be involved so that you began to realize that the chaps in the wood-shed really are occupied with co-ordination, assembly and race preparation. It also made you realize that far from three people were involved, the figure being nearer 300 or 3,000, if you take into account all the people on Research and Development at firms like Lucas, Girling, Goodyear, Koni, Armstrong, GKN and so on, all of whose brain-power and facilities were available to the Tyrrell Team. By and large they will all be behind the Tyrrell cars again this year and Cosworth and Ford have pledged their continued support, even going so far as to say that if the 12-cylinder opposition from Ferrari, BRM and Matra starts giving trouble then there will be a Super-Cosworth DFV engine available, with no prizes for guessing whose car it will be installed in, or even what colour that car will be.

All this means that Tyrrell’s team will be as strong as ever and they start the season with the two cars they raced most of last season, together with the brand new one that was on show at Earls Court last October; having failed to sell the old 1970 prototype (or the 1970 March 701 cars) there will be a lot of old material under the bench should a disaster strike the team, like the ship carrying the transporter across the English Channel sinking with all hands. The three cars, 002, 003 and 004, which will form the mainstay of the team, will naturally have been improved in detail, and as soon as Hewland produce a gearbox/differential unit that gets away from the original Volkswagen layout, then Gardner can get on with a new design layout. The eagerly awaited Hewland gearbox will be like Porsche and Alfa-Romeo have already used in Sports Car racing, where the gearbox cluster is ahead of the crown-wheel and pinion assembly, instead of sticking out the back, and this will enable the overall centre of gravity to be moved farther forward and a reduction in the overall polar moment, or dumb-bell-effect, and this could lead to all sorts of interesting suspension, steering and handling improvements being made.

The Porsche 908/3, designed especially for the Targa Florio in 1970, which also proved advantageous on the old and new Nurburgring, was a prime example of the trend. When thinking drivers like Redman and Elford first saw the 908/3 and realized they were going to sit so far forward that the steering column was only a few inches long and the centre-line between the front wheels passed under their knees, they were a bit taken aback and a little sceptical, but after driving these “Mickey Mouse” Porsches they were full of enthusiasm for their handling and cornering capabilities. If Hewland get their new gearbox unit into production soon then we can expect all sorts of designers, from Robin Herd of March to John Surtees, to make use of this “revolutionary new layout” even if it is three years out of date in modern racing, to say nothing of it having been tried, not very successfully, on on certain Italian GP cars many years ago.

I feel sure most race-goers will want to see Ferrari providing the main opposition to the Tyrrells for everyone loves a Ferrari, and Enzo’s team remains unchanged with Ickx, Regazzoni and Andretti and the flat-12-cylinder 312B will continue to be their weapon. Whether the cars revert to the orthodox 312B/1 layout, retain the “different” 312B/2 layout, combine the best of both or veer off at a tangent only time and development will tell, for I doubt whether the Ferrari engineers know themselves at this stage. They are still wondering what went wrong in 1971 when it looked as though they were going to sweep the board. Stewart usually makes statements which cause me to fold up in agony, but at the Paul Ricard circuit he made one which actually made me smile. Everyone assumed that the Ferraris would blow the opposition into the middle distance on the long straight, but as it turned out they barely saw which way Stewart’s Tyrrell went, it was so fast down the straight. When questioned on this Stewart explained that up to that point Ken Tyrrell had been teaching him how to go fast round corners, now he was teaching him how to go fast on the straights! Whether someone was listening when I suggested the speed was due to the “new lightweight ELF petrol” that Stewart was using, I don’t know, but one of the Italian comic papers got very hot under the collar after the race and demanded to have the petrol checked for an additive. Following that event Stewart made everyone look silly at Silverstone, at a lap speed of over 130 m.p.h., so his engine was checked to counter rumours of it being 3 1/2-litres. If only everyone had faced up to the fact that when Stewart has an “on day” he can out-drive anyone in racing today, they needn’t have wasted their time discovering that the ELF petrol was bog-standard and the Cosworth engine was 2,993 c.c. and not 3,500 c.c.

The Matra team seem to be doing something of a Bugatti or Gordini act, or perhaps they are just being very French. Whatever the reason, they have reduced their team to a one-car effort, with Amon driving, presumably in the hope of providing the New Zealander with a really good car and a really good V12 engine, but I can’t help thinking that he’s going to feel very lonely out there on his own and that must be bad psychologically. In fact the whole team will suffer from this feeling when they line up in the pits with their one entry alongside three screaming red Ferraris, with the total talent of Ickx, Regazzoni and Andretti straining at the leash. On this premise if weight of numbers is all that counts then BRM should annihilate everyone, for they are planning to run six cars. Actually an important factor called quality comes into the equation, especially when drivers are the subject matter, and in the past Nuvolari and Rosemeyer proved that an outstanding one-man effort can overcome an entire team, just as Moss proved more recently in 1961, but these were special drivers and we lack any like them at the moment. The BRM plan is to run a first league of three cars, driven by Beltoise, Gethin and Ganley, and a second league of Marko, van Lennep and Soler-Roig, but if we are honest with ourselves we will admit that the whole six of them in one BRM are unlikely to demoralize the Stewart/Tyrrell combination. Assuming a minimum of three engines being needed to keep one car racing continuously, the BRM engine department are going to have to build and maintain 18 engines, apart from development work and the replacement of write-offs, so I just hope the engine department at Bourne is big enough and strong enough to handle this mammoth task, to say nothing of all the gearboxes that will be needed, for BRM make the whole of their car, as does Ferrari. To start the season the 1971 P160 cars will be used, with some of the old P153 cars to fill gaps, but the first league will get the new P180 models as soon as possible, this new model being a further development of the original concept, with its compact V12-cylinder engine.

Statistically minded enthusiasts will tell you that in 1971 Lotus did not win a single Grand Prix for the first year since so long ago, and Colin Chapman will add “Don’t tell me”, but personally I was not conscious of the fact, though I was conscious that the Lotus 72 was not the leader that it ought to have been. When your team has lost the genius of a Jim Clark and the forcefulness of a Jochen Rindt you are bound to hit a doldrum, and though Fittipaldi and Wisell did their best in 1971 they could hardly have been expected to carry the Lotus flag in the manner to which it had been accustomed. Fittipaldi made good progress, driving extremely neatly and smoothly, but lacking inspiration, and fully justified being kept on the strength for 1972. but Wisell was panting a bit too hard trying to keep up the pace, and as the pace was not high enough he has been dropped in favour of David Walker who has exuded solidarity, compatibility, race-craft and ability in Formula Three with Team Lotus. All he has to do now is to do the same with nearly twice the speed and four times the horsepower. One can only say “Good luck, Matey”. The Lotus 72 has undergone three major changes to the design since it was first shown to us at the Lotus factory, and the 1972 version will see a fourth major redesign, especially around the rear suspension once again. The turbine car has not been abandoned, only shelved while some more deep thinking is done.

At the March factory in Bicester the unusual-looking March 711 has undergone a re-think and come up in revised form as the 721, until such time as a brand new design appears, but like so many Cosworth engine and Hewland gearbox users much will depend on Keith Duckworth and Mike Hewland. The blond Swede Peterson will lead the March attack once more, and if 1971 is anything to go by “attack” will be the operative word for Peterson knows only one way of racing and that is hard. Rather breathlessly in pursuit will be the young Austrian Nicki Lauda. Other teams that will be in the hands of Cosworth and Hewland for their destiny will be McLaren, Surtees and Brabham, the Kiwi lot from Colnbrook giving us all something interesting to follow by bringing Peter Revson from America as their number two driver to Hulme. Revson has been with us before, some years ago with rather inferior machinery, but recently has matured and shone in USAC and Can-Am racing using the latest McLaren machinery. Whether he will shine in European Grand Prix racing or find out how easy it has all been in America, as poor old Dan Gurney did recently when he tried to return to Grand Prix racing, remains to be seen. New smaller, lighter, safer McLaren cars are on the way for about mid-season, after the Indianapolis and Can-Am projects are finished, but in the-meantime Hulme and Revson will use the 1971 M19 cars with numerous minor modifications.

John Surtees has decided to devote more time to running his successful racing-car building firm and less to driving so he has formed an interesting works team of Mike Hailwood and Schenken, the former being an obvious choice, especially after the way he went at Monza last year, and the latter being a last minute surprise just when it seemed that the skinny Australian was going to lead the Brabham team. The Surtees cars will follow logical development lines on from the TS9, there being little about the concept of the original car to require much change while Cosworth and Hewland remain static. The Brabham team, which really ought to be called the Tauranac team, now has a new management in Bernard Ecclestone and Colin Seeley, two chaps who have been mixed up in racing for many years, Ecclestone with cars and Seeley with motorcycles, and after apparently leaving the team Graham Hill is back again with the Argentine Formula Two star Carlos Reutemann as his number two. The idea of the two new directors of Motor Racing Developments, the firm that operates the Brabbam team, is that they will handle the running affairs, leaving Tauranac more time to concentrate on design and development of the cars. Time alone will tell how it will all work out.

New names in Grand Prix racing are always interesting and this year will see the appearance of Tecno cars in Grand Prix racing. In Formula Three and Formula Two their name is not only well-known but highly respected and their path into the top league of motor racing is being helped along considerably by the Rossi family, through the backing of Martini & Rossi. The new Tecno is a truly commendable effort that puts many British designers to shame, for the Pederzani brothers have designed, built and got running a horizontally-opposed 12-cylinder engine, not unlike a Ferrari, in less than 18 months. It is attached by 15 bolts to the back of a space-frame chassis, following their F2 experience, and drives through a Hewland gearbox. Based in Bologna, Tecno plan to run two cars with Derek Bell and Galli as drivers, and thanks to the enthusiastic Rossi brothers David Yorke has been lured away from the JW Automotive sports-car team to give Tecno inspiration and direction along the lines of success that he traced with Vanwall, Essex Wire and JW Automotive.

If all goes well the Grand Prix entry lists will be full to overflowing already and yet there are more to come, for Frank Williams and Pescarolo are still together, though whether the Williams Grand Prix car will ever see the light of day is not known. If it does not, Pescarolo will be seen in a March, and another private March owner will be Beuttler as in 1971. The Eifelland Caravan firm of Germany are continuing to support Stommelen and have a new March that will be thinly disguised to look like something else, though not a caravan I hope. Trying to get a foot into the very crowded doorway are two private chassis projects, both dependent on their fortunes with Cosworth and Hewland; one is the Connew, designed and built by Peter Connew in the East End of London, and the other is the McNally from the North of England, but without a fairy godmother to give them each £20,000 it is unlikely that either will see a starting grid, which is a pity when so much work and enthusiasm has gone into these projects to date.

Until now I have refrained from mentioning the colours and creeds of the various teams, mainly because it tends to be rather confusing unless you are standing up very close. With the advent of advertising being allowed to become associated with Grand Prix cars an enormous side issue was introduced that involved big business and all its vicissitudes and as racing-car design is still a technical matter it is best to keep the “nuts and bolts” separate from the “bullshit”. Anyone who has read Paul Frere’s fine book on Porsche Racing, or the AMIMechE paper on the development of the 917 Porsche, will appreciate what is required in the way of engineers, facilities and finance, to tackle motor racing seriously with a view to the knowledge gained being passed on to passenger-car development, which is the only serious reason for racing. Motor racing as “Show Biz” or a “money spinner” cannot hope to have more than a limited life with little or no future, and this attitude fits in well with the advertising and marketing world. The impresario and the ad-man talk the same language, the designer and the engineer tend to look at them open-mouthed wondering what the hell they are talking about. Be that as it may, the outside world, for better or for worse, thinks that the world of Grand Prix racing is a fine spring-board from which to launch their sales campaigns on the unsuspecting public, so once the ban on advertising was lifted all manner of business interests from smoke to scent has pervaded the scene with money and colour. The amount of money would hardly pay for the design and development of a decent automatic transmission and the colour has become so vivid it is rapidly becoming confusing. Like a lot of things in big business the support is shaky and “here today and gone tomorrow” is a phrase the publicity world doesn’t like too much.

Having come to grips with the combinations of various racing cars and colour schemes or un-mechanical names, like Gold Leaf Team Lotus, GLTI, for short, or Yardley-BRM, or McLaren Gulf orange, we now have to start all over again. Gold Leaf Team Lotus is no more, and in its place is the John Player Team Lotus, and the red, white and gold Lotus 72 cars have now become the black and gold John Player Specials in the eyes of the business world, but to you and me a Lotus 72 is a Lotus 72 and Colin Chapman is still the brains behind them. Smokers will know that John Player and Gold Leaf is all the same thing, so in reality Team Lotus is unchanged, apart from having a face lift and a bit of “tailing up”. BRM are in a very different situation for, having used up their two-year contract with Yardley, the cosmetics people decided to have a change and go elsewhere with their money and promotion, so BRM have got themselves tied up with the Marlboro cigarette company and the BRM cars are now all red and white and instead of the team members smelling fragrant they will now smell of nicotine. Yardley have joined forces with McLaren so that the orange McLarens now look like 1971 BRMs and with Peter Revson, whose family own the American Revlon Cosmetics empire, driving for them someone was bound to ask Yardley whether there was any significance or signs of take-over bids. The Managing Director of Yardley stopped any such questions very succinctly by quoting the words of an old song, “I’ve got my captain working for me now”. The lads at March are still keeping the Granatelli family happy, so the March 721 cars will be red, as were their predecessors, and there will no doubt be bigger and better STP stickers everywhere. Taken all round the Grand Prix scene has undergone a fantastic amount of work in the paint-spraying industry, but while the Battle of Waterloo may have been won on the Playing Fields of Eton and the Battle of Britain may have been won on Calshot Water, I doubt if any Grand Prix races are going to be won in the paint-shops.—D. S. J.