A Sunday afternoon drive for Ickx
Hockenheim-Ring, Germany, June 13th
With the ban on the Belgian Grand Prix by the CSI the Formula One world was faced with three clear weekends between Monte Carlo and the next event, due at Zandvoort. For some who were repairing the ravages of Monte Carlo this was a good thing, while others were taking the opportunity to enlarge their stock of 1971 material and cars. In view of this enforced lay-off the Badischer Motor Sport Club of Hockenheim organised a Formula One event in a day of mixed racing at the Hockenheim Motodrom on the 6.788-kilometre road and stadium circuit, and called it the Jochen Rindt Memorial Race. As the Motodrom already has the Jim Clark Memorial Race on its calendar the great concrete stadium is beginning to take on a rather macabre character.
All the Formula One teams except Matra (busy at Le Mans), Brabham (recovering from Monte Carlo) and Tyrrell (busy in the wood-yard) took advantage of the excellent financial offers of good starting money and a £6,000 first prize, to send cars and drivers and combine it with an early arrival at Zandvoort the following week. For what the Germans describe as a “farmer’s race” there was a surprisingly good entry, the only people being missing were those like Siffert and Rodriguez, contracted to drive at Le Mans, as were Amon and Beltoise, and Hulme and Stewart who were driving in Can-Am at Mosport. What should have been a quiet, pleasant weekend of gentle motor racing actually turned out to be a mechanical holocaust and by Saturday evening there was more work going on in the paddock than was reasonable for such a small event, and it had been going on all Friday as well, even before the short practice session in the afternoon.
Ferrari had sent two 1970 cars, with 1971 engines, for Ickx and Regazzoni, and would have had a third for Andretti, but he was resting after a slight accident in a USAC race. On the first day car No. 3 that Ickx was driving swallowed a nut into its oil system and as it could not be located the engine was changed for a new one, and on Saturday car No. 4 that Regazzoni was driving devoured its clutch, the remains falling out in a grey powder when the gearbox was removed. As the broken bits had done a neat machining job on the back of the crankcase the wound was plastered with Isopon in case there were any cracks that might let oil out. In spite of these problems the two Ferraris had little trouble in taking the first two places on the grid, Ickx with 1 min. 56.8 sec. and Regazzoni with 1 min. 57.7 sec. which gave a measure of the extra power being available this year from the flat-12 engine, as well as the added cornering power of the latest Firestone tyres, for last year at the German GP Ickx made fastest practice lap in 1 min. 59.5 sec. with a race lap-record of 2 min. 00.5 sec.
Team Lotus had a full complement of cars, the two Type 72 Cosworth-powered cars, and the Pratt & Whitney turbine powered car. Earlier in the week Fittipaldi had had an accident on the public road in France, when another car turned across his bows, having signalled that it was going the other way, and though not badly hurt he had to stay in hospital, and miss the Zandvoort race as well. Consequently, Trimmer was called in to take over 72D/R5 and Wisell became number one driver, his car 72/R3 having been uprated with the D-series new rear-suspension layout. David Walker, having impressed Chapman with his test-driving of the turbine car was being given his chance to race it and as the engine had been back to Pratt & Whitney for a check-over and some more improvements to the throttle-response, Team Lotus seemed set fair for an instructive weekend.
Practice turned out to be dramatically destructive. After lapping in 2 min. 02.8 sec. with the gear ratio too high in the turbine car, it was lowered and on Saturday morning Walker was just getting going when the turbine engine did itself a horrible mischief internally and flames came shooting out of the chimney. It was thought that an oil seal may have failed and let lubricating oil into the “furnace”, with disastrous results as could be seen when the chimney-stack was removed. There was no question of further running and the power-unit was taken out and sent back to Canada with a note saying “It’s broken”. The result of this disaster was that Walker took over 72D/R5 and Trimmer became a spectator, having gone round in 2 min. 03.3 sec., but that was not the end of the Lotus trouble, for after lunch Walker practised in the Type 72, recording a best time of 2 min. 03.2 sec. on his first try with one of the torsion-bar sprung cars, when he was seen to go by the pits with only one oil cooler on the back of the car, whereas there should have been two, side-by-side. The left one had fallen off! By the time his oil pressure gauge told him there was no more pressure because there was no more oil in the system it was too late, and the Cosworth engine was seized solid and work had to begin on installing another engine.
Meanwhile Wisell was doing his best to keep the team cheerful, but in spite of changing from a three-tier rear aerofoil and wide nose fins, to a single-plane rear aerofoil and narrow nose fins, he seemed to be stuck at the threshold of breaking the 2-minute barrier, recording 2 min. 00.2 sec. and 2 min. 00.1 sec. Finally, on Saturday afternoon he managed 1 min. 59.6 sec., being the only driver to join the two Ferraris in the select under-two-minute group.
While Lotus seemed to have their cars spread out in bits all over the paddock the March team were in a similar state, but in even greater variety. They had entered Peterson, Soler-Roig and Galli, and while the last two had their usual cars, the Spaniard with 711/4 with Cosworth power, and the Italian with 711/1 with Alfa Romeo power, Peterson had two cars. There was 711/2 which he had driven so well at Monte Carlo, and a brand new car 711/6, being finished off in the paddock, this having a new Alfa Romeo V8 engine, as March had been very impressed with the way Peterson had made 711/1 go at Silverstone back in May. While the new car was being finished the Cosworth engine in 711/2 went wrong, and the one in Soler-Roig’s car was very flat, so both cars were taken apart for new engines to be installed. Meanwhile Galli had done the first practice with the Monte Carlo engine in and it was then changed for a brand new Alfa Romeo engine. When it was all screwed together it was reluctant to start and when it did it did not do many laps before it went bang, so once more the car was taken apart, and the old tired engine put back. Most of the practice was over by the time Peterson’s new car was properly completed, but he managed to get down to 2 min. 01.5 sec., but the March troubles were not over.
On the morning of the race there was a short test-period and during this the Alfa Romeo engine went bang and Peterson had to switch to his original Cosworth-powered car for the race. Another driver who had to use the Sunday morning session was Surtees, for after being equal third fastest on Friday he had the right-front fabricated hub assembly break on TS9/001 which spun the car off into the guard rail and demolished the suspension back and front on that side on Saturday morning. A lot of paddock-work got everything straightened out. This car had a revised layout at the back end, with a new oil tank, the battery underneath it, instead of alongside, and the oil coolers raised up, all in the interests of giving a clear passage for the heat from the inboard rear brakes to get away more easily. There were also some new lightweight wheels constructed from two magnesium-sheet pressings bonded and bolted together with a foam filling in between, these being made by Magnesium-Elektron Ltd. of Manchester. The second Surtees TS9 was driven by Stommelen, unchanged from Monaco, while there was a third Surtees entered by de Adamich, but it did not materialise, the Italian having terminated his activities with the March-Alfa Romeo car.
The McLaren team entry comprised one car, one driver, two mechanics and the team-manager and was simple and uncomplicated compared with everyone else, Gethin driving M14A/2 with fourth place on the grid with 2 min. 00.1 sec., the only problem being the replacing of the clutch after practice. BRM arrived with three cars, with entries for Miles and Ganley in the up-rated 1970 cars, P153/07 and P153/06, respectively, and a brand new 1971 car, P160/03. Miles drove this one in practice as well as the older one, and it was using the new “shovel” nose cowling and much steeper angled radiator. It was in the entry-list without a driver being nominated, in case Siffert or Rodriguez retired early from Le Mans and could get to Hockenheim in time to start from the back of the grid without practice.
Ganley was showing new sparkle and enjoying himself, ending up practice with fifth fastest time, in 2 min. 00.5 sec., equal to last year’s lap record, at the expense of a slight excursion into the rough stuff, and being faster than Miles, whose best time was 2 min. 00.9 sec., with the new car. The rest of the entry comprised private owners, Barber with his new March 711 that first appeared at Monte Carlo, Perrot with Siffert’s 1970 March 701, Allen with the re-incarnated March 701/6 of Frank Williams (the only salvageable part after Cyd Williams crash at Oulton Park being the chassis number plate, which was affixed to a second-hand monocoque from Tyrrell’s timber-yard), Lamplough and Terbeck with a pair of old V12 BRMs from 1968, and Beuttler with the March 701/11 of the Clarke-Mordaunt-Guthrie combine.
After various saloon-car races the Formula One event over 35 laps was due to start at 1.30pm, by which time it was nice and warm and the stadium was well filled, though not to capacity. Tim Parnell was peering into the sky looking for an aeroplane bringing Rodriguez from Le Mans, and so convincing was this idea that the new BRM was behind the pits and all ready to go, but the Mexican never appeared. While Trimmer had to watch his works Lotus being driven by Walker, the other Brands Hatch protégé Ray Allen was very unhappy with the Williams car as there was something obviously wrong in the fuel system and the only time it ran on eight cylinders was when the tanks were filled right up, an unnecessary quantity of petrol for 35 laps of the Hockenheim-Ring.
Terbeck’s old BRM engine had damaged itself so he was a non-starter, Peterson was starting with his old car that hadn’t done much practice, GaIli’s Alfa Romeo engine was tired, Surtees was using a spare front cowling on his car and had no time to trim the aerodynamics of its properly, and one way and another it was going to be a pretty uninspiring race, but a pleasant afternoon none-the-less and a day out in the sunshine for everyone. There was a time, in the dark days of another age, when such a race would have seen the drivers finish the afternoon bronzed and sunburned after sitting in an open cockpit for and hour or more, when they sat upright and exposed wearing flat-hats, open-necked shirts and short sleeves. Today they disappear into their racing equipment pale and sallow and are just the same at the end of the afternoon.
lckx led the race from start to finish, with a new lap record in 1 min. 58.8 sec. for good measure, which was nothing more than a pleasant Sunday afternoon promenade, except that he didn’t benefit from the sunshine. Regazzoni started to follow him round and Team Manager Peter Schetty was going to let them run in formation until live laps from the end and then give them a free-for-all signal, as there was nothing at stake except the prize-money and if one blew-up it wouldn’t be too serious. There is a lot to be said for non-Championship events, everyone is so much happier and more relaxed. Unfortunately the plan went wrong, for Regazzoni’s engine died as he started his third lap, and this left Ickx away on his own. The rev-limiter electrical circuit had shorted to the chassis, and by the time a mechanic had gone out to the car, found the fault, isolated the electrical circuit and made everything work again, Ickx was on his thirteenth lap and all Regazzoni could do was to rejoin the race in last position and have some pleasant racing practice with no hope of catching anyone, not even Lamplough’s old BRM which was running last.
For a time the two Swedes Peterson and Wisell started a race for second place, with first the March leading and then the Lotus, but it did not last long for Wisell disappeared into the pits after thirteen laps as his efforts on the brake pedal didn’t seem to be supplying much effort at the brakes. This was not surprising when it was found that the brake pedal mounting was becoming detached from the chassis. Nothing could be done about it so he carried on, being extra cautious on braking, but there was no hope of racing very seriously. Gethin’s McLaren only lasted four laps, in fourth place, and stopped for good Mien the short control rod operating the fuel injection unit froo the throttle linkage snapped in two, so that hopes of any good racing were fast disappearing from the scene. Ganley was keeping up the form he had shown in practice and led Surtees for quite a time, and even when passed on lap 13 (that fateful lap again!) he hung on to Surtees very well, in fourth place and ahead of Galli, Stommelen and Barber. The American going quite well in his first European Formula One race.
The second BRM never got going properly, and was in the pits after three laps, and again after eight laps with a broken engine. Allen was having an even more miserable day than Trimmer for he spun round on lap 4 and had to let Lamplough go by before he could restart and after a few more laps the engine was running as badly as in practice so he gave up. The rest went flogging on in various states of personal drama, Walker making no impression at all with the Fittipaldi/Trimmer Lotus 72 as the gearbox was playing up, Galli had hung on to Ganley for a time, the BRM “towing” the Alfa Romeo engined car along in its slipstream to 10,500 r.p.m. in top, which was well over the limit. The Italian driver then lost contact and gradually dropped back to a lonely fifth place, where he stayed for the rest of the race. Stommelen was in a lonely sixth position and finished in that place on the road, but as he had gone straight on at one of the chicanes, due to making a nonsense of braking, he was penalised 1 min., which put him back to seventh behind Barber in the results. (Shades of the “naughty-boy” stuff we used to have with the BARC at Goodwood, or is it that silly circuits produce silly rules?).
Beuttler had had a little private race with Soler-Roig, showing that he could drive an old March faster than the works driver could drive the new one, but then his throttle stuck open and he spun off and luckily came to no harm. By reaching behind him into the engine bay he was able to drive back to the pits operating the throttle by hand. The trouble was cured and he went back in the race, but well back down the field. Nothing else of importance happened and everyone seemed to have had an entertaining and uninhibited day.—D.S.J.