Formula 2 review: end of an era

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A series of four races held in Brazil and Argentina during November brought to an end the 1,600-c.c. Formula Two which had been in effect from the start of 1967. These events, two at Sao Paulo’s Interlagos track and one each at Porto Alegre and Cordoba (Argentina’s single race) marked a dramatic turn in the fortunes of European Trophy victor Ronnie Peterson and March generally for they failed to win any of the races.

By the time a very mixed bag of Formula Two competitors had been selected for the South American series most teams ‘engines were pretty tired with a season’s hectic racing in Europe behind them. But, while the visitors such as Peterson, Schenken and Hill had to make do with rebuilding facilities far from home, the Fittipaldi brothers and Carlos Reutemann’s entrant, Automovil Club Argentino, had an apparently never-ending supply of freshly rebuilt motors to slip into their chassis.

The first two races at Interlagos were both won by Emerson Fittipaldi’s Lotus 69, although in the first event he only passed Peterson a couple of laps from the end of the second heat when the Swede got boxed in behind a slow Brazilian in a hired Lotus. Fittipaldi slipped through and Peterson was unable to get back in front in the couple of laps remaining. The following weekend Peterson again provided Emerson Fittipaldi with his main opposition, although the Brazilian had the race in the bag after the March driver inadvertently pressed the ignition “kill” button on the steering wheel.

Argentinian star Carlos Reutemann warmed up with a fourth and second place at Interlagos, then shot into prominence with a victory at Porto Alegre where Emerson Fittipaldi was beaten into second place. Nevertheless this was good enough to secure the series title for the Brazilian. Ronnie Peterson crashed the March in practice, but the damaged rear suspension was rebuilt in time for him to start the first heat and dice closely in a four car bunch with Schenken, Reutemann and Fittipaldi. But he eventually retired with lack of fuel pressure leaving Reutemann victor by less than a second. In the second heat Schenken was cruising to what seemed like a comfortable win when his engine lost its oil pressure with two laps to go and Reutemann took an overall win. The wiry Italian driver Giovanni Salvati was killed when his March ran underneath a trackside barrier after he lost control while disputing fourth place with Wilson Fittipaldi’s March in heat two.

Finally, at the dusty track at Cordoba in Argentina, Tim Schenken rung down the curtain on the 1,600-c.c. Formula Two by scoring his long-awaited victory in his Rondel Racing Brabham BT36, beating Reutemann (his number two in next year’s Formula One Brabham team) Hill and his much-improved Argentinian team mate Carlos Ruesch who had shown such an upsurge of form in the four South American races. Particularly notable performances over the four events had come from Rondel Racing’s Bob Wollek, the young Frenchman distinguishing himself with a front row position at Cordoba and looked like following Schenken home in second position until his engine failed, and Carlos Pace. This young Brazilian has had a miserable European season in his privately backed Williams March but enjoyed enough mechanical reliability to lead one of the heats at Cordoba and demonstrate what may be forthcoming next season with a consistently reliable car.

Those who never reproduced the form expected of them included Graham Hill, whose best result was third at Cordoba and former Lotus Formula One team man Reine Wisell who never got to grips with his difficult spaceframe Lotus 69.

The first and last race in the formula was won by a Brahham, Jochen Rindt having opened the score back at Snetterton on Good Friday 1967 with a thrilling victory over Graham Hill’s Lotus 48 at the wheel of his Winkelmann BT23. This was particularly appropriate for, in the five years that passed before Schenken’s victory at Cordoba, more races in this category were won by the Weybridge cars than any other. In total the Brabhams, BT23, BT23C, BT30 and BT36 racked up a total of thirty victories as against eighteen scored by Lotus and seventeen by Matra. Other scores included March with ten, Tecno with nine, BMW with six (although they powered a March to victory this year), Ferrari with six and Lola with four.

Much of the success of the formula undoubtedly stems from the amazing Cosworth FVA 16 valve motor, developed by Keith Duckworth as part of the great Ford deal which gave rise to the DFV in 1967. Out of the 101 major races in that five year period some eighty five were won by the Cosworth FVA which was butchered about and prepared by a wide variety of engine preparation concerns with mixed results. Some produced tremendous power outputs, notably higher than average, such as the Pederzani brothers at Tecno and the Pedrazzanis at Novamotor, while some others were less effective. In fact Tecno took the development one step further in 1971 when, in anticipation of the production head 2-litre F2 which starts in 1972, they used derivatives of the four-valve Ford RS 1600 motors which, although unreliable, gave Tecno valuable experience for the future.

There were only two racing car constructors who used their own power units. The Ferrari Dino 166 used the 4 valve motor from the sports coupé and proved rather unreliable when it first appeared on the scene briefly in 1967. The following year things improved until, right at the end of 1968, they scored an amazing series of five victories in Italy and Argentina when driven by Ernesto Brambilla and Andrea de Adamich. They returned to Europe only to disappoint and the popular stories circulating at the time seemed to suggest that they’d mixed up some of the Tasman 2.4 V6s by mistake for the trip to South America! Subsequently the Ferraris were withdrawn and just seen occasionally when Tino Brambilla loaned one for a couple of races.

BMW started their project right back in 1967 as well, using Lola chassis in which to install their troublesome motors until they were right. For three seasons BMW motors being winched out of the white Munich cars became a familiar sight in Europe wherever Formula Two cars raced. Then in 1979 they suddenly came right with a tremendous series of six victories and then closed their competition department, feeling that the time to withdraw was when they were well on top. This year one of the late crossflow 1970 engines was fitted to Dieter Quester’s March and he proved that the power was still there by winning the Monza Lottery slipstreaming blind.

Of the drivers Jochen Rindt enjoyed success to the same degree as he sustained failure in Formula One up until the end of 1969. Driving both Brabham and Lotus machines he won a grand total of 23 races while his nearest challenger Jackie Stewart could only muster a total of eight driving Matras and one with a Brabham. Next in line comes Peterson with six, Emerson Fittipaldi and Cevert with five while Regazzoni and Beltoise both have four to their credit.

The great attraction of Formula Two has been the successful European Trophy series in which the non-graded newcomers can have their own contest scoring on a world championship system within the framework of an overall race with established aces.—A.H.

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