G.P. Du Limbourg (June 8th)
The controversial cancellation of the Belgian Grand Prix was a serious blow to Belgian people, who were thereby denied the opportunity of watching top racing drivers handle powerful single-seater machinery around one of Europe’s most testing circuits. It was therefore decided to alter the date of the country’s only Formula Two race to that of the cancelled Formula One race and to invite as many graded drivers as the Belgian R.A.C. could afford. Of course, one of those selected would have to be Ickx, who is a huge draw in his own country, but the problem was to find a suitable mount, for Ickx has no Formula Two contract this year.
The choice of car fell upon the 1968 Braham of Alistair Walker Racing, a well-equipped Formula Two organisation which has run a Tecno for Walker himself in previous races. Disheartened by the inability of the Tecno people to produce any spare parts for his car, Walker had acquired the Brabham from Frank Williams Racing, this being the car which Courage has used while awaiting a 1969 model, so the standard of its preparation was of a high order. The only disappointments about the race were the absence of Ferrari (who is reluctant to waste his cars on non-European Formula Two Championship events) and the fact that Spa could not be used as the venue. Instead, the Terlaemen circuit in the province of Limbourg came into use, this being an artificial circuit in the style of Brands Hatch, as opposed to Spa.
Opposing Ickx among the graded men were Siffert (in the latest Dornier-built B.M.W.), Stewart (Matra), Courage (in a very new Brabham BT30), and the two Lotus drivers Hill and Rindt, the latter making his return to the wheel after his serious accident in the Spanish Grand Prix.
Rindt’s recovery must be adjudged complete, for he raced hard throughout both 24-lap heats of the event with Ickx, passing and re-passing in crowd-pleasing style until clutch slip slowed the Belgian in the first heat and a broken valve spring took the edge off his engine in the second. The battles among the Formula One stars for the lesser placings were no less exciting, with Stewart making a spectacular recovery from a slow start to catch up with Hill and Courage, who raced together in close company for 15 laps, and taking his Matra right round the outside of Hill at the first corner to put himself in a firm third place.
Unfortunately both for Hill and Stewart, the Matra’s gearbox gave trouble and on the last lap of the heat the two touched wheels at the slowest corner on the circuit and Stewart’s car reared over Hill’s damaging the former’s suspension, although both finished the full distance. Hard work by the mechanics got the Matra ready to start the second heat, but its engine blew up on the reconnaissance lap. Siffert, who had damaged the suspension of his B.M.W. as the result of a spin in the first heat, also had it repaired, but a petrol pipe had been flattened and the white car’s engine would not rev to more than 8,000 r.p.m., so the Swiss did not run for very long.
Rindt again assumed the lead, pursued by Courage and Hill, with Ickx all set to pass both the latter men, which he did shortly, moving up to Rindt and resuming their earlier battle. Hill brought the Lotus into the pits where he asked his mechanics to check the front suspension in search of deteriorating handling. They made a thorough investigation, finding nothing amiss, so feeling in the pit as Hill pulled out and a rear wheel went askew were somewhat mixed. Hill suspected that the trouble might also afflict Rindt’s car and there was talk of calling in the Austrian, but the team manager asserted that Hills breakage was a result of his earlier incident and Rindt was left in peace to win another resounding Formula Two victory.—M. G. D.
Rhein-Pokal-Rennen (June 15th)
The second Formula Two race of the year at Hockenheim clashed with the Le Mans week-end, so the entry was not up to the standard of the earlier event, which had qualified for the European Formula Two Championship.
The diminutive motorcyclist Ivy, who is making a good impression in car-racing circles, quickly moved into the lead, well clear of the usual slipstreaming bunches, until his gear linkage began to give trouble and forced his retirement after he had led 23 of the race’s 30 laps. There were four cars left in the closest pursuing group and some very well-thought-out tactics by Hart, in a Braham belonging to the Leicestershire garage proprietor and former E.R.A. driver Bob Gerard, gave him a well-deserved but narrow win from the older-type works B.M.W. of Hahne, followed closely by former hill-climber Westbury and the little-known Swiss amateur Perot, who races purely for fun.—M. G. D.