The turn of Porsche-Salzburg
Nurburgring, Germany, May 31st
Following on the three first-class races of the Monza 1,000 kilometres, the Targa Florio and the Spa 1,000 kilometres, the long distance scene looked all set for another fine race at the Nurburgring. Although Porsche had won the previous three races there were all the signs that Ferrari was becoming a serious menace with his 512S “spyders”, and the battles between these two 5-litre “thinly-disguised” Grand Prix cars were providing some real motor racing. All the indications were that Ferrari had Porsche on the run, lacking little in performance and proving remarkably reliable, and with Ickx and Surtees as known “Ringmeisters” the ADAC 1,000-kilometre race on the Nurburgring held great promise. In addition Alfa Romeo were attacking the race as seriously as they had done the Targa Florio, with their 3-litre V8 prototypes, and like the two 5-litre sports-car teams they did a lot of pre-race testing. However, by the time competitors gathered for the opening of practice on the Friday before race day, with the Nurburgring in fine form, with the weather bright and sunny, the anticipated battle was fading fast. Porsche did the sort of technical manoeuvre that Mercedes-Benz used to do, which completely demoralised any opposition. They had a private test-day and ran the normal 5-litre 917 coupe and the Targa Florio 3-litre 908/3 “spyders” and were soon satisfied that the Targa Florio cars were the best bet. While the 917 could be driven adequately fast round the circuit, it required a lot of physical effort and the general opinion was that two really fast laps would be enough, whereas the 908/3 “spyders” could be driven hard indefinitely. In addition there was the bonus of better fuel consumption from the 3-litre engine, which would cut out one pit-stop compared with the 917. The Zuffenhausen racing department being in top gear for “horses for courses” produced four Targa Florio models, two for the JW Gulf team and two for Porsche Salzburg, and before practice started they made it known to everyone that the improved fuel consumption was going to be a vital factor, apart from the lower fatigue factor for the drivers. It would seem that after the Targa Florio they put all the 908/3 cars in a box, shook it up, and built a set for the Nurburgring, and though the various mechanical components were shuffled around or replaced, the basic cars were as follows:-
908/007 Elford/Ahrens…………..908/008 Elford/Ahrens
908/008 Siffert/Redman…………908/010 Siffert/Redman
908/009 Rodriguez/Kinnunen…908/011 Rodriguez/Kinnunen
908/011 Attwood/Waldegaard…908/003 Attwood/Herrmann
All were to the same specification, with the 3-litre flat-eight-cylinder air-cooled engine mounted well forward and the gearbox between the engine and the final-drive unit, a layout which may well alter the whole mechanical scene of motor racing in the near future, and they all had the smooth but square-shaped open bodies, the markings on the Gulf blue cars being as in Sicily, with two orange arrows on the Siffert/ Redman car and one on the left side of the Rodriguez/Kinnunen car. The Porsche Salzburg team had more simple colours, white for the Elford/Ahrens car and yellow for the Attwood/Herrmann one. This technical superiority onslaught by Porsche, even though it was split under the banners of two independent teams, was enough to demoralise any opposition, though Alfa Romeo had already become demoralised after a private test-day and had reduced their original entry of four cars, to one car for Stommelen/Courage. They had made an attempt to lighten this one car, by the use of special metals here and there and it had a minimal tail like a Porsche 917, but a one-car entry could not be taken as serious. Ferrari on the other hand arrived ready for battle, with three 512S “spyders” and the Scuderia Filipinetti coupe of Parkes/Muller in support. From the word go Ferrari were morally defeated, and at every turn things became worse. First they were back to the Targa Florio situation, battling against the small and nimble “Mickey Mouse” Porsches, then there was the announced fact that the Porsches were saving one pit-stop over the 5-litre cars, the four cars from Stuttgart were driven by first-class experienced drivers and being on their home ground Porsches had the sort of local advantage that Ferrari had enjoyed at Monza and in Sicily. This was only the beginning, for the next blow fell when Ickx arrived with a wrist bandaged up, saying he had fallen downstairs and sprained it. After only a few laps’ practice he said he was not strong enough to drive and departed. Although Friday practice was for the most part dry, it rained towards the end of the day and Schetty was caught out by the water on the very fast section between Bergwerk and the Karussel and spun off into the trees, finishing upside down in a mangled heap of scrap and miraculously escaping unhurt. For the Ferrari team it was one thing after another and they were beaten before the race began. There was no question of repairing the crashed car so a shuffle round of drivers took place and the two remaining works Ferraris were given to Surtees/Vaccarella and Giunti/Merzario, with Schetty side-lined as reserve driver.
Matra did not enter as they were too busy preparing for Le Mans, so the serious factory entries were looking a bit thin on the ground, though it did mean that some of the more professional private teams were going to get a look in. Of particular interest in the 3-litre Prototype class was the appearance of the Argentinian car designed by Oreste Berta, using a Cosworth V8 engine and Hewland gearbox in a tubular space-frame, with numerous other British made parts in its construction. It was quite a neat and tidy open two-seater and was driven by two Argentinian drivers, Luis di Palma and Carlos Marincovich, but as a first-time team at the Nurburgring they could hardly hope to challenge the regulars. There was a pretty full complement of British and European amateur teams, though numerous people entered and did not arrive, so that the total for the race was only 54 instead of the more usual 70 to 80, though much of the non-serious or poorly-prepared entries seen in the past were thankfully missing.
Practice continued on Saturday morning, but it was wet and damp to begin with and though the circuit dried out for most of the 22.835 kilometres it was the Friday times that really counted for the two-by-two start. T’he morning ended on a gloomy note, for Hans Laine, the fast-rising Finnish driver of the AAW team, crashed his 908 Porsche on the main straight and was burnt to death in one of motor racing’s nastier, but unavoidable, incidents, but one which every racing driver knows can happen. Safety rules and limited space in the start area having killed the traditional “Le Mans-type” start last year, the ADAC continue with what is laughingly described as an “Indianapolis” start, but what in reality is a shambles that Indianapolis would be embarrassed to know about. In order of practice times the cars were lined in pairs, stretching far away into the middle distance, headed by the two blue and orange Porsches of the Gulf team, with the white and yellow cars of Porsche Salzburg behind them, and then the red Alfa Romeo of Autodelta and the red Ferrari of Giunti/Merzario.
On Friday Siffert had done 7 min. 43.3 sec., a full half a second under the Formula One lap record set up last year by Ickx in a Brabham, and Rodriguez did 7 min. 44.2 sec., and these two were on their own as third fastest was Elford with 7 min. 48.2 sec., followed by Attwood with 7 min. 57.1 sec., and after that everyone was over 8 min., which put them all completely out of contention with the “Mickey Mouse” ‘Porsches. Alfa Romeo were not only unhappy but extremely puzzled, for their single car could not get within 10 sec. of the times they had recorded in private practice, while Ferrari had juggled about so much with cars and drivers that no one knew who had done what, though no doubt Surtees had made all the fast laps that were accredited to the team, but none of them were fast enough to cause any worry to Porsche. Unlike Spa and Monza there was a noticeable dearth of 917 Porsches, the only one being that of the Gesipa Racing team, for Wihuri had withdrawn his AAW team 917 after the tragic accident to Laine. The Gesipa team were running their 908 as well as the 917 and were planning to use three drivers for the two cars, ringing the changes on the combination of pairings depending on how the two cars were placed at the end of the first part of the race, Kelleners starting on the 917 and Neuhaus starting on the 908, with Basche as second driver for either one, and the possibility of putting Kelleners and Neuhaus together in the highest-placed car as the race progressed.
Before the start at 10 a.m. on Sunday there was much anxiety over tyres, for it had been raining, the circuit was damp, and there was the chance of more rain. Gulf cars and the Ferraris had suitable Firestone’s to use, but the Salzburg Porsches were on Goodyear and as there was not a tyre to suit the apparent conditions they changed to Firestones, and, meticulous at all times, the Goodyear stickers were removed from the cars, though they had been on in practice while the cars were running on Goodyears. Looking along the line of cars on the start area it was seen that the Argentinian Berta was well placed, with a lap in 8 min. 39.8 sec., with only works cars or very experienced private Porsche drivers ahead of it, and just behind was the little yellow Daren of Richardson/Cowin, with FVA Cosworth engine, which had gone round in 8 min. 52.8 sec., driven by Richardson, well ahead of some stiff Chevron opposition, and 2-litre Porsches. The Mazda-engined Chevron from Belgium had found a lot more speed since the Spa race, by feeding the carburetter with cold air, rather than letting it breathe from the engine compartment. It not only became very competitive in the 2-litre Prototype class but sounded really sharp. In the GT category there were many 911 Porsches and new 914/6 VW-Porsches, but the 2.2-litre 911 models were by far the fastest, Frolich doing 9 min. 35.0 sec. The fastest 2-litre 911 was that of Loos in 9 min. 46.4 sec. and the fastest mid-engined 914/6 VW-Porsche was 9 min. 58.9 sec., but as this was the first race appearance of 914 models it was too early to draw conclusions.
Setting off behind a 3.5-litre V8 drophead Mercedes-Benz the 54 starters went down past the pits, round the South Curve, along behind the pits to the North Curve and then took a link road that brought them on to the starting area again, at which point the flag was dropped and the first six or eight pairs shot off on an “Indianapolis rolling start”, the rest being in some disorder round the link road and the North Curve. In general disarray they all took off on a flying start and followed the leaders who were already racing, Rodriguez having got ahead of Siffert, while Giunti was forcing his way by into second place. After they had all gone the VW-Porsche 914/6 course car, driven by Herbert Linge, followed them round on the opening lap to see that all was well, a sensible move by the ADAC, for if anyone knows the Nurburgring Linge does. Giunti got by Siffert going into the North Curve and then held everyone up for the opening lap, which allowed Rodriguez to get well into the lead, but next time round Siffert was in second place and the two Gulf cars took command of the race. On the third lap Giunti’s Ferrari died out on the circuit when the high pressure fuel pump for the injection system gave up, and Elford took over third place, so it was now really all over and no race. Surtees was in fourth place and had Stommelen in the lone Alfa Romeo pressing him hard, and Herrmann was being followed by Parkes, then came Larrousse in one of the Martini team 908 Porsches, Kelleners in the only 917, Koch in the BG Racing team 908, Lins in the second Martini 908, Neuhaus in the Gesipa 908, and then the Argentinian Berta, followed by Greger in another 908 Porsche. Blatzheim was leading the 2-litre Prototype class with his open 907 Porsche, L’Amie was leading the 2-litre Group 5 class and Frolich was the first of the 911 Porsches.
The two Gulf cars just ran away from everyone, including the Salzburg-entered 908/3 cars, and all Ferrari hopes faded on lap 7 when Surtees had the steering wheel of the 512S break and stopped for a long time at the pits having a new one fitted. This left Stommelen in fourth place with the Alfa Romeo, but not even in sight of the leading three cars. On lap 9 Siffert took the lead from Rodriguez and on lap 11 they both headed for the pits for fuel and a change of drivers, and immediately after them Elford also stopped for fuel and a driver change. Up to this point the race had become processional and a Gulf-Porsche walk-over seemed assured, but now the unexpected crept in. Refuelling was being carried out with gravity feed hoses to each pit, and both Gulf cars being in together there was one hose per car. Next door in the Porsche-Salzburg pit they had Elford in but their second car was not due, so they refuelled with two hoses and were ready to go before the JW cars, but Kinnunen pulled out first, in the Rodriguez car, ahead of Ahrens, while Redman in the Siffert car was having trouble in getting the starter motor to turn the engine. Eventually it fired and Redman was off after the other two cars. Just after half-way round his first lap Kinnunen took the fast jump at the 13-kilometre mark, landed all wrong and was in the ditch, unhurt but out of the race, so that from a complete command of the race the JW Gulf team now only had second place, but only for a short time, as Redman soon got the lead back from Ahrens, and pulled out a comfortable lead for his eleven laps, which took the car to the half-way point at 22 laps. Meanwhile all sorts of things had been happening behind the leaders, Surtees and Vaccarella were driving hard in the 512S Ferrari to regain ground, the Berta had stopped out on the circuit with a split water system swirl-pot, the 917 Porsche had undergone a change to dry weather tyres and the right front wheel had not been done up properly so the wheel came off and damaged the hub. The lone Alfa Romeo had changed all its Goodyear tyres back to Firestone, but had then gone out of the race when Courage was driving it due to the rear coil-spring units breaking away from their mountings. The three works Porsches were now completely unchallenged, in the order Redman, Elford and Attwood, with the Muller/Parkes Ferrari in fourth place, followed by Surtees/Vaccarella, Larrousse/Marko, the Gesipa 908, Lins/Kauhsen, Koch/von Wendt, Greger/Leuze and then the Cabral/Wicky 907 leading the Chevron-Mazda, the last two battling for the 2-litre Prototype class since the Blatzheim 907 had retired.
At half-distance Redman was into the pits for a refuel and for Siffert to take over, but when the Swiss driver pressed the starter nothing happened. Meanwhile, the Saltzburg Porsche had stopped and refuelled and Elford was back at the wheel, and he was away into the lead while the JW mechanics tried to get the starter to work. After a long time and coupling two extra 12-volt batteries into the system, giving the starter a 36-volt shock-treatment, the engine burst into life, but by this time EIford had gone by, now a lap in the lead, and was well away on his second lap. A lot of oil had been added to the Siffert/Redman car, which was ominous, and it only got a few kilometres from the pits before the engine seized and Siffert had to park it by the side of the road. The reluctance to start had not only been electrical trouble but the engine giving up the ghost anyway. This left the two Salzburg Porsches comfortably in first and second places, and though Surtees had made up an enormous amount of ground and taken third place from Muller, he was not going to climb any higher. With eleven laps to go the leading car was refuelled again and Ahrens took over for the last stint and a lap later Attwood took over from Herrmann and all was well. The works Ferrari and the Filipinetti Ferrari were still going strong but were no match for the little 3-litre Porsches and the drivers were having to work very hard just to keep the cars on the road.
With no-one to challenge them the two Austrian-entered Porsches merely had to tour round and finish, and having so much time in hand they stopped for oil on lap 37 as a precautionary measure after seeing what happened to the Siffert/Redman car. The white car of Elford/Ahrens got the chequered flag and averaged 165.0 k.p.h. for the 1,000 kilometres, setting up a new record race-average speed. The only consolation that the Gulf team had was that Rodriguez had set a new Prototype lap record in 7 min, 50.4 sec., quite a lot slower than practice times because the car was running on intermediate wet and dry Firestone tyres, whereas practice had been on the best condition dry weather tyres.
Of the 54 starters 34 were still running at the finish, the two works Porsches completing the full 1,000 kilometres, or 44 laps, and the rest being various distances behind, ranging from one lap to 14 laps behind, but the whole point of racing is to win outright, or at least win your class, and if you can’t do that then at least you can still be racing when the winner completes the 1,000 kilometres. A classic example was the battle for victory in the over 2,000-c.c. GT class for the two 911S 2.2-litre Porsches of Froilach/Toivonen and Kremer/Huber crossed the finishing line side by side, an official two-tenths of a second apart, after racing for 37 laps of the Nurburgring, and they nearly collided after getting the chequered flag. Of the private British entries all credit to those who finished, in particular to Heavons/Garton who won the Group 5 class for 2-litre cars with their Chevron-BMW and to Konig/Lanfranchi who kept the Nomad-BRM V8 going for 37 laps to finish third in the 2-litre Prototype class, two laps behind the Chevron-Mazda of Deprez/Vernaeve which had gone like one would expect a Wankel-powered car to go.—D. S. J.