A look back at 1970

DSJ reviews the past F1 season

It would not be unreasonable to look back on 1970 as the year of deception in Grand Prix racing, for many people, from drivers to journalists were on tip-toe with excitement and hope at the beginning of the year and these hopes came to nothing. However, it was not all deception for there was much of interest and many unexpected things happened, and sadly many of these involved accidents and death, with the loss of three top-line drivers, Rindt, McLaren and Courage, and many drivers in other categories, from amateur clubmen to semi-professionals. If you look at motor racing from a little way back, and not too personally, you must accept 1970 as having been a very bad year, just as we had bad years in the past, like 1933 and 1958, and if history is anything to go by 1971 should be better.

Possibly the greatest deception of 1970 was the Stewart/Tyrrell/Dunlop set-up, which had dominated the scene in 1969 almost to the point of making the opposition despair. The best driver, the best manager and the best tyre are useless without the best car, and the car is useless without the best factory behind it. In 1969 Matra were solidly behind Stewart and Tyrrell, even though they were using a Cosworth engine while the French team were struggling on with their own V12 engine. At the end of 1969 Matra made it clear that in 1970 they intended to run only Matra engines in Matra chassis, but that Stewart and Tyrrell would be most welcome to stay. After an all-too-brief test of the new Matra V12 engine Stewart and Tyrrell decided to leave the Velizy team and set up on their own, with money from Dunlop and Elf petrol: 1970 saw Stewart as an also-ran as regards overall results, though never as regards driving, for he continued to show himself the equal of anyone, and better than most, but the 1969 impeccable management of the Tyrrell team was sadly lacking and the strength of Matra engineering and research was sadly missed.

Starting with a March 701 and later building his own Tyrrell car, always with Cosworth engines, Tyrrell’s team was a mere shadow of its 1969 image, for things went wrong, bits fell off, bits broke, the new car fell apart on nearly every outing, and the once all-powerful combination of Stewart and Tyrrell ended the year on a very low note, a decline that was not helped by the Cosworth engines losing reliability and Dunlop announcing there would be no financial support for Stewart in 1971. The Matra team progressed strongly during the season, although badly lacking the inspired driving of Stewart, and when he was sitting behind the screaming exhaust pipes of a Matra on the starting grid, or racing alongside Beltoise, as at Monza, Stewart must have wondered whether he made the wrong decision in 1969. The disbanding of the Stewart, Matra and Tyrrell combination must surely go down in the history of Grand Prix racing as one of the all-time big mistakes.

Another big mistake was surely Amon’s decision to leave Ferrari at the end of 1969. He had tested the new flat-12-cylindered car, but by this time he was so disillusioned by Enzo Ferrari that he had lost all faith in Maranello, and was inwardly convinced that there was no hope for them. When the flat-12 kept breaking while on test, he did not heed their promises that it would be all right one day. When Ickx and Regazzoni lapped him in his works March at the end of the Austrian GP, the two Ferraris cruising round in a consolidated 1-2 victory run, he must have wept inwardly.

And what of March? Last winter it was not so much what March Engineering Ltd. said about themselves, but what the world of publicity said about them. To plunge into Grand Prix racing, F2, F3 and Can-Am from the deep end was courageous in the extreme and, though many people said they would sweep all before them, especially with Amon and Siffert as works drivers, and Stewart and Andretti as customers, the March people were more cautious and at times were embarrassed by the publicity and prognostications. Suffice to say they built and sold a lot of racing cars, and finished third in the Grand Prix Manufacturers’ Championship, behind Lotus and Ferrari, and ahead of Matra, Brabham, BRM, McLaren and De Tomaso, all of whom have been in existence for a long while in some form of motor racing.

The 1970 life of March Engineering Ltd. has not been easy and it is significant that Amon and Siffert could not get away quickly enough, while Graham Coaker, one of the four directors, left and was replaced by the Hon. Jonathan Guinness, M.A. (OXON). Amon ran away from the March works team probably because he is “the little boy lost”, and is to try his hand with Matra, while Siffert left because he was disillusioned, having joined March thinking he would be number one, with guaranteed Grand Prix starts, only to find he was number two and had to qualify for his places on most grids. Almost from the start of the season he had lost confidence in the March organisation and when you have that handicap you can never drive well. That Siffert could still drive and race was shown by his performances with the Gulf-Porsches of the JW team in sports-car racing, where he was right at the top.

Another March activity that failed miserably in 1970 was the association with Granatelli’s STP Corporation. A third STP-sponsored car was to be run for Mario Andretti and it looked as though he would set the Grand Prix scene alight with his March 701, called an STP Oil Treatment Special, with the Granatelli family behind him. It was the original damp-squib and looking back we should blame Stewart and Tyrrell, for the reason Andy Granatelli bought the March 701 for Andretti was because Tyrrell had bought one for Stewart for the 1970 season. Granatelli reasoned that he knew nothing about European racing cars for Formula One, but whatever Stewart was going to drive must be all right, so he became March’s second customer.

The greatest deception of all must be the fact that even while Tyrrell was collecting his new March 701, he had Derek Gardner at work on the design of the new Tyrrell car, and when the car was revealed in August it was said that the decision to build it had been made before Stewart had even driven the new March, which does not say much for their confidence in March Engineering Ltd. The results to date of the Tyrrell car do not suggest their thinking was right.

The 1970 season was not all deception, I am glad to say, for BRM, Lotus and Ferrari produced happenings of great importance. The reorganised BRM team really got to grips with their V12-cylinder engine in a new car, and it was always well in the picture, Rodriguez’s victory at Spa going down in history and the battle for the lead at Monza by Oliver and the Mexican, with all the opposition, being memorable. Ferrari not only kept the promise that Amon did not heed, the flat-12 engine becoming reliable and fast, but they introduced the revelation of the year in Gianclaudio Regazzoni, the swarthy fellow from Lugano in Switzerland.

To win a Grand Prix in your first season is creditable, if not outstanding, but what do you say of a driver who, in addition to winning the Italian GP, finished second behind his team-leader in the Austrian GP, the Canadian GP and the Mexican GP, fourth in his first GP at Zandvoort, and fourth in his second GP at Brands Hatch, scored three fastest laps and finished third in the Drivers’ Championship behind the late Jochen Rindt and Ickx? Either Regazzoni is a super-driver, the Ferrari is a super-car, or the opposition was all mediocre, I leave the decision with you, the reader, for you will have your own ideas, but I have the greatest admiration for Regazzoni for he gets on with the job, heedless of the “blah” that goes on all around him, he has 100% confidence and belief in Ferrari and all that Maranello stands for, and, above all, he is a “racer”. An unbiased friend was watching the Grand Prix drivers at the International Trophy at Silverstone and he remarked that most of them were “out there merely earning their money, they weren’t racing—though there are a few exceptions”. Regazzoni wasn’t there, but I feel my friend would have made him an exception.

Finally, there is the great happening of the Lotus 72, a car so full of new ideas in the present design-doldrum of British racing cars, that a lot of people viewed it with suspicion. It took time to get it to work properly, but when it did it was impressive and the way Rindt cruised effortlessly to victory at Zandvoort was outstanding. At the South African GP the Lotus mechanics were preparing a tired old Lotus 49 for Rindt, but they said “You wait until Chapman’s new car is ready”, and they were absolutely right. The Lotus 72 won four races in a row with Rindt driving, admittedly two of them with luck, but what a lot of people said “If only Jimmy Clark were still with us, how he’d go in the Lotus 72”. Unlike Rindt, who had little faith and confidence in Lotus, Clark was part of Chapman and Lotus. Alas, they are both gone, a fact of racing we must accept, but the way one misses someone who is dead varies in many ways. When Bruce McLaren died while testing his new Can-Am car everyone wept, and the McLaren team obviously missed him more than anyone, but I feel that they completed the 1970 season without McLaren in a sort of numb stupor, and that 1971 is going to see them really feel his loss, when the plans and projects he started are completed and new inspiration and leadership is needed.

I started by saying that the year of 1970 was one of deceptions, which is true, but it was also a year of great turbulence, and the next few years will no doubt show the effects of this turbulence on the overall scene of Grand Prix racing. On the management and organisational side of Grand Prix racing, 1970 saw it bring itself into great disrepute with wrangles and arguments, protests and strikes, over everything from money to medical facilities, from qualifying to circuit safety, but fortunately once the flag fell the “bullshit” stopped and there was some great racing, which saved the face of Grand Prix. When you’ve got an engine running at 10,000 r.p.m. and pushing out 420 b.h.p. just behind your head, it doesn’t matter whether you are in first gear or fifth gear, there is no time for “chat” and argument, discussion or complaint, you’ve got to get on with the job and deep down, whether you are on pole position or the back of the grid, you’d like to be the first one into the next corner. If you haven’t got this feeling deep down and basically you don’t get into a racing car, or if you are in one you should get out and let someone else take your seat.—D. S. J.