Reflections on the Dutch G.P.
When Jim Clark does one of his demonstrations of the perfect Grand Prix driver at work, as he did at Zandvoort, there are people who do not enjoy watching and consider it monotonous or dull, even though he may be setting up new lap records and race records. Now I enjoy a wheel-to-wheel dice as well as anyone, and during those two classic races at Reims, in 1953 and 1961, I was standing on the seat with excitement along with everyone else, but equally I can sit calmly and watch a perfect performance by a great artist. It is rather like going to a concert and enjoying an invigorating overture or symphony where the whole orchestra are working away in unison and the crescendo of sound makes you want to rise up on your toes, or, alternatively, sitting in quiet meditation and listening to a great soloist playing a concerto on piano or violin. Afterwards you do not say that Menuhin's playing was dull or monotonous because he was out there on his own, unless, of course, he happened not to play well. You know the concerto by heart and can listen to a perfect rendering with immense satisfaction in appreciation of a great artist at work, and you can applaud a faultless performance, or come away dissatisfied should he have made some slight error of timing or volume. I feel that one can view the performance of a great driver and car in the same manner, and the combination of Clark and Lotus-Climax are such that it is a joy to watch - a perfect performance. You know exactly what the race involves - in the case of the Dutch G.P. it was 80 laps of the Zandvoort circuit - and to watch Clark lead from the first corner to the finish was to watch an artist at work.
It has been described as "faultless" and "never put a wheel wrong," but in fact he did make one tiny error on one lap round the hairpin behind the pits, when he put a wheel up the inside kerb. After the race, when talking with Clark and Chapman, I commented on this, saying that the race had not been quite perfect for Clark had bumped the kerb on one lap and I was interested to learn the reason. Clark never assumes that he is going to lead from start to finish, and he took precautions to seal round the edges of his goggles to stop the ingress of flying sand particles that are always prevalent on the Dutch circuit, and to make sure that his goggles were really fitting well he had done the strap up really tight; it was too tight in fact, and during the race he developed a splitting headache due to the goggles pressing on his forehead, and it was during a moment of acute headache that he put his front wheel up the kerb.
As head of Team Lotus, whose cars had finished first and third in the race, Colin Chapman was highly delighted with his two drivers, not so much because of the results, but because of the way they had both driven and kept in close contact with Chapman in the pits. Before the start Clark had told him that on this circuit he would not feel secure until he had a 45-sec. lead, always assuming he could get into the lead, and arranged with his boss to let him know how the gap was progressing should he be able to outstrip all his rivals. Chapman said it was a joy to follow the race on a stop-watch, for Clark pulled away from the rest second by second, and even when those behind him were having trouble he still increased his lead. At 50 laps it was 40 sec. and at 55 laps it was 45 sec., and as soon as Clark was given the signal his pace eased just sufficiently to keep the gap at 45 sec. For the next 20 laps the gap never varied by as much as a second, until Surtees saw his oil pressure dropping and eased off. "He goes like a clock," said Chapman," and the infuriating thing about him is that afterwards when I ask how the car was he just says 'oh, fine,' and leaves it to me to decide how to improve it for the next race."
Chapman was equally full of praise for Arundell, who had driven a lonely race, unable to keep up with the "big four" but a great deal faster than the rest of the runners. His whole race had been controlled from the pits by stop-watches, speeding him up when it looked as though Brabham might catch him, keeping him steady after Brabham had gone out, speeding him up again when Graham Hill was in trouble and could be caught, slowing him down when the B.R.M. stopped, and speeding him up again when the B.R.M. joined in again, and finally slowing him down when his third place was secure to the end. To the casual onlooker, Arundell's pace looked the same throughout the race but to the stop-watch clickers it was varying all the time depending on the conditions. As Chapman said, "Marvellous bloke Arundell, responded instantly to every signal we gave him, and we certainly kept him busy." A well-satisfied Team Lotus.
The night before the race the Shell Petrol company gave a cocktail party and during the evening the Grand Prix Drivers' Association presented the Team Lotus mechanics each with a silver tankard to commemorate the seven Championship events which Lotus won last year, as the drivers of all the teams considered it an outstanding achievement. Remarking afterwards to the Team Lotus chaps that it was nice to sec them sharing some of the glory of the Lotus World Championship, they agreed that it was a nice gesture but stressed the point that to a racing mechanic seeing his car finish first in a race, with the knowledge that a job had been well done, was more than sufficient compensation for the long hours put in during preparation. Also at this party the G.P.D.A. presented Joseph Siffert with a trophy awarded to the best private owner, a decision made by the works drivers and given in memory of Wolfgang von Trips, whose great interest had been the encouragement of up-and-coming drivers. A final award from all the drivers in the Association was given to Jim Clark by his rivals as a token of appreciation of the fact that he had beaten them fair and square seven times during 1963. It was a scale model of a Lotus 25 and with it went the hope that they would not have to give him a similar present at the end of 1964!
The Zandvoort circuit is not much more than 100 yards from the edge of the sea and, apart from sand dunes, the coast is very flat, so that strong sea breezes are invariably blowing. At times it has been so cold at Zandvoort, even though the sun has been shining, that I have had to scoop out a trench in the sand and lie flat in it just to get a little respite from the wind and enjoy the sun, but this year the breezes were warm though as strong and variable as ever. The long straight on the circuit runs more or less parallel with the sea and prevailing winds either blow down the straight, up the straight, or across it, and very occasionally there have been moments with no wind at all. During practice this year the wind came from different directions in turn, and the general run of practice lap times was noticeably controlled by this. On Friday morning it blew down the straight and times were down around the record, in the afternoon it dropped altogether and times were still good, but not as good as the morning, and on Saturday the wind blew across the straight and times were generally down on the previous day. The differences were only measurable in tenths of seconds but the more sensitive drivers could appreciate that any big efforts they were making on the twisty part of the circuit to reduce lap times were being nullified by the wind effects on the straight.
During the first practice session Gurney was credited with the fastest lap, but most of the team time-keepers were of the opinion that Clark had made fastest lap. This possible discrepancy arose because Clark and Gurney were running in close company when they recorded the laps in question, Gurney with 1 min 31.2 sec. and Clark with 1 min. 31.6 sec., and their racing numbers were 18 and 16, respectively. The official time-keepers do not have time to consider individuals, they make their observations on numbers, and if two cars go by in quick succession the timing apparatus makes consecutive recordings on the timing tape and a visual recorder notes the passage of the cars by numbers. It is a difficult enough job to operate a timing instrument on a car passing at 140 m.p.h. and even more so to observe the numbers, so that 18, 16, could easily have been written down as 16, 18, and as there were probably a half-dozen more cars following, the timekeepers have no time to consider whether any particular driver is doing fast or slow times. They record time continually and leave it to the time-keeper's clerks to co-relate the time recordings with the order of passing of the cars, and then do their sums to find out the actual lap time for any given number, and after that they can spare the time to find out who number 16 was and who number 18 was. In the pits it is a different matter, for the team managers or team time-keepers do not have to record every lap for every car, but only those of their own team and their direct rivals. As everyone in the pits is on Christian name terms with one another, the time-keepers watch out for Dan, or Jim, or John, and recognise them approaching the pits at high speed by various things such as shape of the nose cowling, colour or sound. lihroughout practice there is a continual "bush telegraph" working up and down the pits, and everyone knows just when "Jimmy is going to have a real go this time," so that there are invariably six or eight stop-watches concentrated on anyone out to put in a fast lap, apart from the driver's own time-keeper. When Clark and Gurney were out together and it was obvious that they were both pressing on to good effect and were in close company, it can be imagined how much concentrated effort was being put into the watches following their progress. Up in the official time-keepers' box, away from the pits and out of touch with any known happenings, the time-keepers were getting on with their job of recording time against the passage of all cars that crossed the timing line, and recording the numbers of the passing cars, the clerks sorting out the elapsed time for each lap a few minutes later. Down in the pits there were numerous people who recorded 1 min. 31.1 sec. for Clark and 1 min. 31.8 sec. for Gurney, so that allowing a tenth or two for the inaccuracies of hand-timing everyone was agreed that Clark had done the fastest lap of all and Gurney had done a very good one. Imagine the surprise when the official times gave car number 16 at 1 min. 31.2 sec. and car number 18 at 1 min. 31.6 sec., Gurney being 16 and Clark 18. It is futile to argue with official time-keepers so everyone accepted the figures, assuming that times would improve during the next two practice sessions. Due to the wind changes and other variables this did not happen, so that Gurney got pole position on the starting grid and Clark was in the centre of the front row, and it is nice to be able to record that no-one begrudged Gurney his position, for he had been going so well that he really deserved the benefit of the doubt. However, as things turned out they were to Clark's advantage, for at the start of the race all three cars on the front row were side by side as they arrived at the first corner and, being on the inside, Gurney was badly placed and had to brake first, while Clark was perfectly placed to take a line through the right-hand bend, "shutting the door " on Gurney and forcing Graham Hill to take a wide outside line. Perhaps there are some "ifs and buts" in Grand Prix racing after all, and it would have been interesting to have seen what Clark would have done had he reversed positions with Gurney on the grid.
A keen interest was taken in the movements of Jack Brabham at the Dutch Grand Prix, for after the first practice session on Friday morning he had lunch and then caught an air-liner from Amsterdam to America, to go to Indianapolis and do his qualifying runs on Saturday, after which he flew back to Holland, arriving at 9.30 on Sunday morning, then taking a few hours' rest before starting in the Grand Prix at 3.30 p.m. A lot of people felt that he was deceiving the Dutch organisers and not behaving properly towards them, doing only one practice session and starting the race without proper rest beforehand, and on the face of it this was true but it is not the whole story. Clark and Gurney were out at Indianapolis doing practice before the Monaco Grand Prix and arrived in Monte Carlo too late to take part in the first practice session, but Brabham refused to do this and left his Indianapolis practice until after the Monaco race as he considered all that travelling would have taken the edge off his performance at Monaco. Between Monaco and the Dutch Grand Prix there was a spare week-end during which Indianapolis qualifying runs were made, both Clark and Gurney completing theirs, but Brabham had all sorts of trouble with his Brabham-Offenhauser, mostly due to the 4.2-litre 4-cylinder engine shaking bits off the Brabham chassis, so that he just missed doing his qualifying runs. He was actually at the entrance gate when the qualifying period ended, but it was too late and he had to wait until the following week-end, which was that of the Dutch Grand Prix. This meant that he had to do his rush trip across the Atlantic, there being no alternative other than scrubbing his Indianapolis entry or his Dutch G.P. entry, and in both events there was too much money at stake for a business man like Brabham even to consider such a course. He qualified for ninth row of the start at Indianapolis and the third row at Zandvoort, so he did a mediocre job at both circuits rather than one good job at one and a non-appearance at the other. To say that Brabham found himself on a cleft-stick is to put it mildly. There were people who thought he would he too tired to drive in the Dutch Grand Prix, but I feel that they must be thinking of Grand Prix races of the past when races went on for three hours or more with cars that needed physical stamina to drive. Today, drivers do not have to be lifted out of Grand Prix cars through sheer physical exhaustion, they skip lightly out of their comfortable, softly-sprung, easy-to-steer cars and dash off to another race, or drive home, with only the occasional blistered foot or hand to show that they have been at work.
It is interesting how time can pass during a practice session and nothing can get done, whereas on other occasions everything goes smoothly and there is time to spare. In the Ferrari pit there was a fine example of how time can be wasted unintentionally through silly little things that build up. Bandini was going round quite happily but decided that he could do with more return spring tension on the throttle pedal, in order to have a better feel of things on the slower corners. He came into his pits and a stronger spring was produced which fitted between the throttle slides and a bracket on the chassis behind the engine, so that it pulls die slides shut. The engine hatch was removed and the stronger spring fitted, though the hooked end had to be bent to a better shape so that it pulled squarely, and after some experimenting it seemed satisfactory. This had already taken up a fair amount of time, during which Bandini remained in the cockpit, and then the mechanic put the engine cover back in place and began to turn the Dzus quick-action fasteners which hold it in place. These are easily turned with a stumpy screwdriver or even a thin coin, and he did three of them all right, but the fourth just would not click home for some inexplicable reason, even though it had come undone easily enough. A larger screwdriver was tried, another mechanic had a go, they both had a go, someone put a hand up underneath the cowling to help, the engineer joined in, and all they managed to do was to ruin the slotted head of the fastener and take some paint off the cover. Meanwhile Bandini was patiently waiting to go out again, time was going by, and to make matters worse he could not see what they were doing behind his head, for lying back in the modern Grand Prix car you cannot see out behind you. He tried using his mirrors but could not see why they were having so much trouble and everyone was too busy to tell him, so he just had to resign himself to patience. It was a ridiculous situation, for these fasteners are such simple things that they seldom go wrong, but this one had at the very moment it had been undone. After what would have been described in a race report as a "very long pit stop," Bandini was sent off with only three fasteners holding the cover in place. All he had stopped for was to have the throttle spring changed, but from a distance it probably looked like a case of "Ferraris must be in trouble with their car, judging by the time Bandini has been in the pits."