Porsche über alles
Nurburgring, June 1st.
This year the annual long-distance classic race at the Nurburgring was held later than usual and being only two weeks before the Le Mans race the entry suffered from the abstention of Matra and Alpine, and a Ferrari entry limited to one car. The incredible power of the Porsche racing department was shown by their entry of five prototype cars and one Group 4 car, as well as the preparations of a car for their Austrian branch, with Le Mans preparations already under way. Even had the French firm entered, the race would have remained a straight fight between Porsche and Ferrari, for no one else is able to keep pace with these two giants of long-distance racing. From the moment practice began the odds were heavily in favour of Porsche for they had eight Spyder versions of the 908 model at their disposal, whereas Ferrari had but on 312/P car, the one raced at Monza and Spa. In the Porsche collection were three cars that had been completely rebodied, the open Spyder bodywork being much cleaner aerodynamically, with no Perspex windscreen, but merely a slightly raised fibreglass panel around the cockpit to the limit of the regulations. Since the Monaco ban on aerofoil assistance the suspension-operated flaps on the tails had all been removed and the tails had simple spoilers on them, though the deflectors on each side of the nose cowling were retained. A number of the cars were those used in the Targa Florio and at Brands Hatch, they were not a complete set of new cars as some people seem to think. Two of the old-type 908 Spyder models had been sold to the Porsche Konstructionen Salzburg, the other half of the Stuttgart empire, and one was entered for Lins/Attwood, the second car being kept as a spare, both being painted red and white, the Austrian colours. The three new-bodied cars were given to Siffert/Redman, Elford/Ahrens and Stommelen/Herrmann, while Mitter/Schutz and Kauhsen/von Wendt had the older body style. In addition to this armada Porsche had three entries reserved in the Group 4 Sports-Car class, for 917 models, but they only produced one, number 917004, as all their concentration was on the 3-litre cars.
Beside all these Stuttgart cars the lone Ferrari 312/P looked a forlorn hope, but Ferrari is never to be underestimated and a single Ferrari in the hands of Amon/Rodriguez could play havoc with the best laid German plans. The John Wyer Gulf-sponsored team had two very exciting-looking Gulf-Mirage cars, but both were too new to be any real challenge. Ickx/Oliver had a brand new car powered by a 3-litre Cosworth V8 Grand Prix engine. This entailed an entirely new rear end to the chassis and the V8 engine was too wide to fit between the monocoque extensions on the normal Mirage chassis layout. Consequently the main monocoque structure behind the cockpit was strengthened by riveted box sections and a tubular space frame extended rearwards to the back suspension, to carry the Cosworth engine and the Hewland gearbox. The side water radiators layout was retained with the cooler in the nose of the car. The second Gulf-Mirage, driven by Hobbs/Hailwood, was an original car with full monocoque chassis and a B.R.M. V12-cylinder engine and ZF gearbox, but for the first time the power unit was the latest from Bourne with the 4-valve-per-cylinder layout. Neither car had run before arriving at the Nurburgring and the Gulf mechanics had a hard time with two new engines and a new chassis layout to learn about.
Alfa Romeo had entries for two 3-litre cars, but when the Autodelta transporter arrived it brought a trio of production 2-litre cars to run in Group 4, and entered by their German agents. These were homologated Type 33 cars and driven by Schultze/Facetti, “Nanni” Galli/Giunti and de Adamich/Vaccarella. The Abarth factory also sent three cars, all open 2-litre four-cylinder models in which the engine is still mounted behind the rear axle. One of these was running in Group 6 and the other two in Group 4, but after practice accidents only the Group 6 car was left and it was driven by Ortner/van Lennep. Lancia entered two open Fulvias they had run in the Targa Florio, these being driven by Maglioli/Pinto and Munari/Aaltonen. All the usual private German teams were entered, including the I.G.F.A. racing team, now renamed the Deutsches Auto Zeitung Team, running their Ford GT40 driven by Kelleners/Jöst. There were three private 907 Porsches, the 2.2-litre car of Koch/Dechent and the two 2-litre versions of Manfredini/Biscaldi and Nicodemi/Moser.
This A.D.A.C. race always attracts a large amateur British entry as the club encourages new cars and drivers to cut their teeth at this event. The Nurburgring although being formidable is actually remarkably safe. In the prototype classes were numerous British one-off specials such as the little Deep Sanderson coupé powered by a 3-litre all-aluminium Martin V8 engine and driven by Lawrence/Wingfield, the open Lola T70 powered by a 1968 B.R.M. V12-cylinder engine, of Wilson/Walker, entered by McKechnie Racing, a brand new and very smart Astra from Nathan Racing, powered by a 2-litre Coventry-Climax four-cylinder engine, as well as a similar but earlier Astra for two German drivers. The works car was driven by Nathan himself and Beckwith. A neat little open Ginetta, also Climax-powered, was driven by Richardson/Farthing and a coupé Ginetta with 1,300-c.c. Ford twin-cam engine was driven by Moore/Harvey-Bailey. There were numerous Chevron-B.M.W. coupés entered, the red works car being driven by Hine/Wisell, through the original plan had been that B.M.W. works driver Hahne should drive with Hine. Surprisingly there were only two Lola-Chevrolet V8 coupés running, the yellow and black one of Bonnier/Muller and the green and gold one of Prophet/Nelson. Needless to say the Group 3 class for GT cars was dominated by Porsche 911 coupés in a remarkable variety of colours and sponsors, form VW agents to fruit sellers.
While the top end of the entry was a bit sparse, apart from the powerful Porsche works entry, the various classes were well supported, showing that there is no shortage of private owners who want to go racing. Practice was all day on Friday and again on Saturday morning, but by the middle of Friday afternoon rain settled in and was still persistent on Saturday morning. However, before the rains came Porsche and Ferrari showed their strength by soundly trouncing the existing lap record, Siffert going round the 22.8 kilometres in 8 min. 00.2 sec. and Amon in 8 min. 00.3 sec., so that for all practical purposes we could say they both did an eight-minute lap. With only one car Ferrari had few problems, whereas Porsche were battling against problems on all sides. The new aerodynamic bodywork was proving a bit too efficient and the cars were light on their front wheels and the drivers were not happy with them. The day before official practice began Siffert had been practicing on the short South circuit and had flow off into the bushes, wrecking the car, so that he was doing the official practice with the spare works car, with the old type of body. On Friday Elford in the second of the new cars also flew off the road into the bushes, so the team were left with only one new car, which nobody was very keen to drive. In addition to the 908 cars there were problems with the 4½-litre 917 model, for the B.M.W. team manager had given permission for the Munich firm’s works drivers Quester and Hahne to drive for Porsche and they were practising with the 917. When the B.M.W. directors heard about this there was a minor explosion and they were told to stop immediately as B.M.W. we’re not prepared to risk their drivers in the still un-race-proved 917. This was late on Friday afternoon, by which time Hahne’s place in the works Chevron had been taken by Wisell, so he and Quester were unemployed. Porsches’ problem was who to put in the 917 as none of the works drivers were very keen, so after phone calls to London they co-opted Piper and Gardner to fly over and tackle the 917. Their first introduction to it was in the wet on Saturday morning and they found its 500 b.h.p. and light weight distinctly exciting, even on the straights. Two other drivers who had their first try with new cars in the wet on Saturday were Oliver in the Mirage-Cosworth V8 and Hailwood with the 48-valve B.R.M.-engined Mirage, the number one driver of each pair having done what little running they could manage on Friday.
Practice problems were not confined to the big factory teams, for Taggart was suddenly taken ill on Friday afternoon and Goodwin, his co-driver of the Chevron-B.M.W., had to co-opt Nash to help him out. The complete tail on the little Deep Sanderson blew off at speed while Lawrence was driving and after much fibre-glass work it was repaired, only to have Wingfield smash the front in, so more fibreglass was called for. The McKechnie Lola-B.R.M. arrived with doors that hinged outwards from their base, and the scrutineers insisted that they should be hung from their front edge, so there was much drilling and screwing, which lost Wilson and Walker some practice time, and Prophet’s Lola kept seizing its Chevrolet V8 engine. Troberg’s co-driver, Rothstein, completely demolished their Lola-Chevrolet V8 and a 911 Porsche was inverted and spent Saturday being beaten straight, while Vernaeve decided to go saloon-car racing at Zolder instead of sharing a Chevron-B.M.W. with Baker, so Enever was called out to take the place of the Belgian. Enever’s usual car, the yellow J.C.B. Ltd. Chevron was being prepared for Le Mans so the entry was taken by Stock with his blue Chevron and Brown co-drove with him. Granville-Smith’s Shelby-Cobra broke its new engine and was a non-starter and with numerous entries not arriving the total list of runners on Saturday night was 65.
There are always modifications and improvements being made to the Nurburgring and this time the stretch of road at Flugplatz had been beautifully resurfaced and the hump at the top of the rise had been eased, while some of the corners around the Hatzenbach area had been improved. In the starting area a guard-rail fence had been erected along the front of the pits, separating them from the track, and while this prevented anyone from crashing into the pits it made the pit road dangerously narrow, as well as being incredibly long. For years people have wanted to give signals form the back of the pits where the cars come up from the South turn, but this has always been verboten. With the guard-rail reducing the width of the pit area all signalling was transferred to the back straight, behind the pits! Another problem that the guard-rail brought about was the reduction of space for the Le Mans-type start, which has been traditional at the A.D.A.C. 1,000 kilometre, so it was abandoned and a two-by-two rolling start inaugurated. The official excuse was that Le Mans start drivers did not have time to fasten their safety belts properly. Overnight there were still problems in the Porsche camp as it was felt that Redman’s limited knowledge of the Nurburgring might delay the number one car, but Siffert insisted that he could make up any deficit, and, anyway, Mitter and Schutz did not want to split up their all-German team. Another problem was that of tyres, whether to use Firestone or Dunlop, for while most of the team drivers felt they could go quicker on Firestone tyres, certain policies within the Porsche organisation insisted that some cars ran on Dunlop tyres. In the end Siffert and Redman, now with the spare Austrian-owned 908, but with the engine from the new car that the Swiss driver had crashed, was on Firestone tyres, as was the only remaining new-bodied car, driven by Herrmann/Stommelen. The other four 908 models were all on Dunlop tyres. Apart from a slight leak form one of the petrol filters on Sunday morning, the Ferrari was free of problems. In pairs the whole entry was lined up behind the pace car, a 280SL Mercedes-Benz in which the one and only Fangio was riding, and they streamed away down to the South turn, back up the return road behind the pits and then took the loop road round the North turn that brought them into the pit area again. The result of this so-called Indianapolis-start was pathetic, for the pace car shot into the pit road leaving Siffert and Amon leading the string of cars that disappeared out of sight behind them, and not quite knowing where the actual starting line was supposed to be. They both hesitated and the cars behind them all bunched up and Mitter, Stommelen, Elford, Attwood and Kauhsen were all around them as they got under way. By this time the cars at the end of the line were accelerating hard, just to keep up, and 64 out of the 65 got away in an untidy procession. Odd car out was the German-owned Astra-Climax that eventually got away some minutes after the last car had gone. Although Mitter got away first and Amon was boxed-in by all the Porsches, it did not take long for things to get sorted out. Siffert went straight through into the lead, ahead of Mitter, Amon, Elford, Attwood, Stommelen Ickx in the Mirage V8, Kauhsen in the last of the works eight-cylinder Porsches and the rest. Kelleners was next, in the German GT40, leading Pilette (Alfa Romeo 33), Koch (Porsche 907), “Nanni” Galli (Alfa Romeo 33), Piper (Porsche 917), Moser (Porsche 907), Ortner (Abarth 2000), and Hine (Chevron-B.M.W.). On the way down to Adenau there had been some excitement among the tailenders for Axelsson go this Porsche 906 sideways on, Gregory swooped off the road with his 910 to miss the Swede, and managed to get back again, Baker narrowly missed the 906, but Lepp struck it and the blue Chevron of Red Rose Motors was out of the race, but the 906 Porsche continued. A little further on Wilson went off the road in a big way with the Lola-B.R.M. V12 and was lucky not to be hurt.
Although the roads were dry the weather was dull and rain was threatening down in the Adenau valley, but Siffert was in great form and his first flying lap was 8 min. 29.4 sec., beating the existing sports car record of 8 min. 33.0 sec. Amon soon got the Ferrari clear of the Porsches, catching Mitter on the fourth lap, but he could make no impression on Siffert. As soon as Amon recorded a fastest lap, Siffert recorded a faster one, until they were both lapping around 8 min. 0.5 sec., but the gap between them remained about 10 seconds. Mitter was going extremely well, keeping the Ferrari in sight all the time, but the rest of the fast cars were left behind by this trio. Elford, running on Dunlop tyres, could not quite keep up with Stommelen running on Firestone tyres, and Ickx was keeping the Mirage V8 in the picture in sixth place, ahead of the Porsches of Attwood and Kauhsen. The well-prepared GT40 of Kelleners was in tenth place, just behind the 907 of Koch, and leading Group 4 and also Hobbs in the Mirage V12. Pilette crashed the Belgian 2½–litre Alfa Romeo 33, without injury, at the climbing right-hand corner at Bergwerk, where the Clydesdale/Markey Nathan-Imp had already retired, and the Prophet Lola-Chevrolet was reported stopped at Adenau-Forst. At the end of the opening lap four cars had visited the pits, Bonnier with his Lola, Brown with the blue Chevron to change a duff sparking plug, Axelsson to see what damage had been done in his accident, and Linge with a Porsche 911T to investigate front suspension troubles. The first three got back in the race in a flourish and began running very steadily to pull back their deficits.
On the long and arduous Nurburgring there was little question of a wheel-to-wheel battle, it was much more a question of a long-distance endurance racing and cars and drivers putting up meritorious performances relative to the circuit. The overall position had settled down into a line of works Porsches punctuated by the red Ferrari in second place and the blue and orange Mirage V8 in sixth place. The big 917 Porsche was rumbling along steadily, the driver’s instructions being to keep it running throughout the race and not indulge in any heroics. It way lying 14th, with Hine in the works Chevron right behind and going well. Another car that was going well was the open Abarth 2000, driven by Ortner, running in 12th place overall. Bonnier was carving his way up through the field in the big Lola, and the German GT40 team were keeping a wary eye on him, for they were in competition for the lead in the Group 4 category. On lap 9 both the Mirage cars came in for routine refuelling stops and driver changes, Oliver taking over the Cosworth-powered car and Hailwood the B.R.M.-powered one. They were the first to stop for fuel, and were followed shortly afterwards by the 917 Porsche, also a thirsty car.
With such a long circuit and 44 laps to cover it is an almost impossible task to spread refuelling stops among a team of cars, and Porsche decided to have an absolute orgy of refuelling at the end of lap 11, thus getting through the 1,000 kilometres with only three refuelling stops. In previous races the Ferrari V12 engine has proved more thirsty than the Porsche eight-cylinder engine, but on the Nurburgring it was their equal, which brought an interesting new aspect to the race. Siffert came in, refuelled and handed the leading car over to Redman, and while the Porsche was at the pits the Ferrari also stopped and Rodriquez took over. Then the five other works Porches came in in quick succession, Shutz took over from Mitter, Herrmann from Stommelen, Ahrens from Elford, Lins from Attwood, and von Wendt from Kauhsen. Everyone got back into the race without any change in position, but some of the gaps between the cars were now quite different, the Ferrari stop having taken longer than that of the leading Porsche. Bonnier had now got the Lola into 11th place, aided by the refuelling stops of the works Abarth, the 917 and two of the private 907 Porsches, and he also stopped after 11 laps and Muller took over with full tanks. The GT40 Ford was still running non-stop, its fuel consumption being outstandingly good, and it went for 14 laps before its regulation size tank needed replenishing. On the first lap after the mass refuelling the third place Porsche was reported to be in trouble and going slowly, and sure enough Herrmann cam by in third place, followed by Ahrens, and then Schutz was seen heading for the pits with his left front wheel not revolving, the wheel bearings having seized. Porsche mechanics took it all apart and repaired things, not so much with any hope of getting the car back among the leaders, as to investigate the trouble and be prepared for recurrence in any of the outer cars.
The works Chevron, which Hine had been driving so well, refuelled after 12 laps and Formula Three driver Wisell took off and that was the last that was seen of it for he crashed before completing half a lap. By this time the sun was trying to shine on the plateau by the start, but down in the valley by Adenau there were rain showers which were keeping the drivers very alert. Oliver stopped at the end of lap 13 with the front suspension on the new Mirage coming adrift, and after it was tightened he set off again just ahead of Hailwood in the second Mirage, and the two cars ran in close company for three laps, until the Cosworth-powered car collapsed near the Karussel with a broken rear suspension. Hailwood did not get much further as the B.R.M. powered car ran out of petrol a third of the way round lap 19, and though a spectator supplied some, the engine would not restart and no fuel pressure could be generated.
At the head of the field Redman was going well, keeping up a good pace, and not letting Siffert down as many people thought he might. On the other hand, Rodriguez was disappointing and was losing ground all the time to the Porsche; he was not happy about the feel of the Ferrari and did not have the confidence to push it hard, being content to hold second place, through losing many seconds a lap to Redman. In third place was Herrmann, but Ahrens was running nose-to-tail with him, and Lins and von Wendt were a long way back and about to be lapped by the leaders. The German GT40 was still leading the Lola in the Group 4 category, its refuelling stop having been remarkably quick efficient for a private team, and the Abarth 2000 was still going strongly in ninth place overall. Enever came into the pits with the dark green Chevron minus its tail section, a recurring trouble with Chevrons when they are driven fast, and Baker went off in the car, to reappear on the next lap with a blue tail on the green car, having “borrowed” the tail section from the Lepp car that crashed on the opening lap! This dropped them from a worthy place among the Alfa Romeos down to a position among the 911 Porsches. The Autodelta team had lost the Galli/Giunti car very early on with mechanical trouble, but Schultze and Facetti were leading the 2-litre Group 4 class, ahead of de Adamich/Vaccarella. Third in this class and going strongly were two amateur German drivers, Werlich and Ising, with an old 906 Porsche, being well ahead of the Bradley/Dewan 910 Porsche. Behind the best of the GT Porsche 911 group were the Astra/Farthing, both teams going well and making a good impression.
At 22 laps, which was 500 kilometres, or half-distance, the leaders all stopped again for petrol and driver changes and Redman had more than two minutes lead when he handed over to Siffert. The Porsche refuelling was done in 44 seconds, but the Ferrari was stationary for 90 seconds, as a rear wheel was removed and the back end investigated as Rodriguez reported a strange feel to the car. This let Stommelen into second place and Elford into third place before Amon rejoined the race with the Ferrari. Providing all sent well the Siffert/Redman car was uncatchable and at the half-way mark had averaged 162.3 k.p.h. (well over 100 m.p.h.), which was a pretty staggering performance on the tortuous Nurburgring. The Mitter/Schutz Porsche, which was back in 35th position, stopped again to have the front hub looked at, and the Bonnier/Muller progress came to an end when the left-hand drive-shaft broke a universal. After only three laps in the Ferrari Amon returned to the pits, also convinced something was going wrong with the suspension or steering, but nothing was obvious so he set off again, without losing a position. He was driving at the top of his form and on lap 28 he set up a new sports-car record of 8 min. 03.3 sec., which was also a new absolute circuit record, but on the next lap the Ferrari engine died with some obscure electrical trouble at Wippermann. Although it got going again it did not get far and Amon had to abandon it by the road-side after a valiant drive.
Porsche were now über alles in first, second, third, fourth and fifth places, in the order Siffert/Redman, Herrmann/Stommelen, Elford/Ahrens, Attwood/Lins, Kauhsen/von Wendt, the last car being a lap behind the leader. The Kelleners/Jöst Ford GT40 was in sixth place and leading all the Group 4 cars, including the Piper/Gardner Porsche 917 which was in eighth place behind the Schultze/Facetti Alfa Romeo. The Brown/Stock Chevron had climbed steadily up through the lower ranks until it was in 18th place, and the Ginetta-Climax of Richardson/Farthing was 26th, the Astra-Climax having dropped back. The impressive run of the works Abarth 2000 driven by Ortner/van Lennap came to a stop when the crown-wheel and pinion broke and the 1,300 c.c. Ginetta-Ford of Moore/Harvey-Bailey was plagued by an electrical fault, finally traced to a loose wire behind the ignition switch.
The refuelling on lap 33 were merely routine for the Porsche team, though they were all done quickly and efficiently, and the triumphant procession continued. Everything went according to plan and the 15th A.D.A.C. 1,000-kilometre race became known as the Porsche Race. With two laps to go Redman brought the leading car into the pits and handed over to Siffert so that the Swiss might receive the chequered flag, and three works Porsches completed 44 laps of the Nurburgring, one completed 43 laps, one completed 42 laps and the 4½-litre 12-cylinder 917 completed 40 laps and was beaten by the GT40 Ford of the Deutsches Auto Zeitung team and the Schultze/Facetti Alfa Romeo 33.—D. S. J.
The performance of the Kelleners/Jöst Ford GT40 in winning the Group 4 category yet again, must make a lot of people wish they had not bought Lolas.
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With the Ferrari 312/P setting a new absolute lap record of 8 min 03.3 sec. no self-respecting Grand Prix driver will be content with a lap of over eight minutes if practice for the German G.P. in August is held in dry weather.
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The Porsches 917 has now completed a race, but it could not be described as raceworthy, and certainly not ready to be sold to some of the customers who are in the line with £14,000 at the ready.