As these words are being read the South African G.P. will be taking place, this year at the Kyalami circuit and not at the usual East London one. (A full report will appear in February Motor Sport.) As the event is in the World Championship series this year, many teams have had to get organised very quickly, and there have been some interesting changes. Biggest surprise was Graham Hill leaving the B.R.M. team, where he has been number one driver for many years, and joining Lotus as number two to Jim Clark. Since the arrival in the Bourne team of Stewart in 1965, Hill has been hard pressed to justify his position as number one, and Stewart’s steady progress has made it all the harder. During 1966 tension was mounting and the B.R.M. team manager was often put in a difficult position, such as when he had only one good engine, or one good gearbox left after practice troubles. Most of the time he retained faith in his number one driver and gave the good parts to Hill, even though it was more likely that Stewart could have made better use of them. It is a very good team that can guarantee to have two perfect cars on a starting grid. All this is not to decry Hill’s driving ability or his position as team leader, but it does support the theory I put forward some while ago that until the arrival of Stewart in Formula 1 in 1965 we had been accepting a lower standard of top-line driver than we had had in the past. Bright newcomers are bound to appear on the scene, and many do no more than that, but the occasional one leaps to the top quickly, and inevitably the established stars have to take a bit of a knock: Jim Clark did this to Innes Ireland, unwittingly, when he joined the Lotus Grand Prix team, Ascari did it to Villoresi in the Maserati team, Rosemeyer did it to Stuck and Varzi in the Auto-Union team, and so on back through the ages. Personally, I think Hill has made a wise move, for he can now drive at the same pace as he has always done, which is a very fast pace, and thus back up Clark, instead of having to drive ” over his head ” in his efforts to stay ahead of Stewart within the same team. For those of us who accept that Clark is the top driver at the moment there will be no discredit to Hill if he makes second place on the starting grid behind Clark; in fact, the Lotus team is going to be very strong, for if Hill is behind, it will only be by fractions of .a second, for he has always been in the “top six ” in Grand Prix racing. Just how successful Team Lotus are going to be will depend on the new V8 Cosworth engine, which Ford (England) are financing. The Ford publicity machine gives the impression that they have bought Hill and that the Clark, Hill, Chapman, Lotus combine is in reality Ford (England). Financially this may be true, but I feel that it will be a Lotus-Cosworth that wins the races. The Ford workers’ newspaper is already telling them that the combination of Clark and Hill driving the new Ford Grand Prix car is going to be a strong challenge in 1967. My feeling is that the Ford empire have not realised that they are working for Colin Chapman, not him working for them! It is the way to get results, as a look at Indianapolis shows; Clark and Chapman set the landmark there, with the assistance of Ford (U.S.A.). The Cosworth V8 engine is not expected before the Monaco G.P. on May 7th, but I feel we can rest confident in the abilities of Duckworth and Costin to do what they say they will do.
The next major move that happened at the end of 1966 was John Surtees joining the Honda team. Now this was no surprise at all, for there was really nowhere else for him to go, and Honda would have been stupid to have missed the opportunity of signing on this top-flight driver. Since leaving the Ferrari team Surtees has been a bit lost, for though he drove for Cooper-Maserati it was not a satisfactory combination, but he had to drive that or nothing. Obviously he would not join any team as number two driver, so that ruled him out of Lotus, B.R.M., Brabham and Gurney’s Eagle team. He could hardly go back to Ferrari, so the only hope was Honda, and that is what has happened. Good a driver as Ginther is, he is not in the ” top six ” and Honda are out to win, so it was a simple matter of Ginther out, Surtees in. In big business things like this are easily done, and Grand Prix racing is big business. The funny thing about this move was that Ginther seems to have misunderstood what Honda said (perhaps they spoke in Japanese!) for after the Mexican G.P. there were those who were prepared to believe that Honda were withdrawing from racing. Perhaps Ginther did understand but explained himself badly, or the reporters were not listening properly. Whatever happened, Ginther has left Honda and has joined Gurney with his Eagle team, which is a very good thing, for the diminutive Ginther will make a very good number two to the giant Gurney, just as Hill will back up Clark. Had the Eagle team got as advanced as they had hoped last season they would have run two cars, with Jerry Grant as number two and, even if he had only had the 4-cylinder Coventry-Climax-powered car, he could have spent a useful year learning the European Grand Prix way of racing. As it turned out he did not get a chance to drive in Europe due to a lack of Eagles and this put them a season behind their competitors. By replacing Grant with Ginther they have saved a lot of time, for Ginther has nothing to learn about European circuits and Grand Prix racing; he can start off using the Eagle to its full immediately. It was not a case of dropping Grant, for he had never really started.
Another piece of definite news, as distinct from rumour, is the fact that the Australian Repco firm are building an entirely new V8 engine for Brabham. This can cause no surprise at all, for after the amazing success of the ” hot rod ” V8 engine, it would be a strange engineering firm who were not compelled to go one better and do the whole job from scratch. There is no intention of building anything exotic or complicated, but merely to continue the development line started with the modified alloy-Buick V8 that formed the Repco V8 engine during 1966. Brabham and Tauranac will continue with the development of the chassis and, while the new Brabham-Repco V8 will not provide much engineering or design excitement, it will certainly be a sound and practical job that will take a lot of beating, just like Brabham himself as a driver.
With Surtees leaving Cooper-Maserati, young Jochen Rindt has returned to his position as number one, a place he relinquished to Surtees with splendid grace last July. A lot of up-and-coming drivers could well keep an eye on Rindt as an example of how to succeed if you have not got the outstanding natural ability of a Clark or a Stewart. I remember watching Rindt in the old Formula Junior racing in Europe, when he was just starting. Austria ran a Formula 1 race and he dearly wanted to drive in it, being his ” own ” Grand Prix event, and he worked away and got the loan of a 1-1/2 litre Ford pushrod engine, which was put in his Junior Cooper. Against V8 B.R.M. and Climax engines it was hopelessly outclassed, even if he could have driven as well as the factory drivers, but this did not trouble Rindt. He was in a Formula 1 race, which was all that mattered, and he drove like a demon, thoroughly enjoying himself and putting up a performance that was no disgrace at all. He has kept this happy press-on characteristic all through his brief career, and it often carries him way ahead of better drivers who are busy grumbling and complaining. The Maserati firm are continuing to supply engines to Cooper, and while the V12 may not have appeared very fast, and only won one major event, it took the Cooper cars to numerous praiseworthy places behind the winning Brabham, as the tabulated Race Results of 1966 elsewhere in this issue reveal.
With the 1967 Grand Prix season starting on January 2nd we can look forward to a busy and interesting year, though this first event is hardly likely to provide any serious pointers towards the trends for the rest of the year.—D.S.J.
With Le Mans regulations for 1967 virtually unaltered, it looks as though the Ferrari-Ford battle will be continued throughout the year. Mike Parkes has been testing a new P4 Ferrari at Daytona, this car having the same engine as the P3 but smaller and lighter bodywork. Ferrari has a strong team of drivers this year with Bandini, Parkes, Scarfiotti and Amon spearheading the Prototype challenge. Ford have not been giving much away, but it is believed that the GT40 is undergoing revision for the Group 4 category, and no doubt the lasting propensity of the Mark II (or J-type) under fierce racing conditions is also receiving attention.
A British challenge may well appear from the Lola-Aston Martin liaison, for a year or more ago Tadek Marek, Aston’s chief designer, admitted that he was interested in Le Mans especially but would be loth to return there without the experience of a company actively racing at the present time. Which also underlines the fact that the longer Jaguar delay, the colder the water will get.
Such has been the rate of development in aerodynamics and suspension over the past five years that it is doubtful if even Mercedes-Benz could return to the scene as they did a dozen years ago, with complete success from the outset.—MLC