Too easy for Ferrari
Nürburgring, May 27th.
The annual 1,000-kilometre sports car race organised by the ADAC on the Nürburgring never fails to produce a large entry, for the organisation and the circuit can accommodate an almost limitless number and variety of cars. This year’s event was open to Prototype sports cars, GT cars and Group 2 saloons and the 44 laps of the Nürburgring is a challenge in itself, without the actual competition of racing for an outright win or a class win. When the weather is bad in the Eifel mountains it can be really bad, and when it is good it is superb. This year it was superb throughout practice and the race and the Nürburgring was in fine form with thousands of people camping in the surrounding countryside and alongside the 22.8-kilometre circuit.
Although the days of the thinly-disguised Grand Prix car masquerading as a sports car are once again numbered, with proposals for a more “production based” concept to take over (until it gets out of control, as always happens), there were the makings of one of the best Manufacturer confrontations for some time. Two-car teams came from Ferrari, Matra-Simca and Alfa-Romeo for an outright win, with teams from Porsche, Ford and BMW ready to profit from any weakness among the giants.
The two Ferraris were driven by Ickx/Redman (0888) in normal 312P form and Merzario/Pace (0890) with a car carrying numerous modifications. The tail section was lower and smoother, giving a better air-flow over the full-width rear spoiler, and this was achieved by moving the engine oil radiator from above the clutch housing to a position below the right-hand side water radiator, with a duct in the side of the body to feed air to it, the water radiator still receiving its air from a top duct. In place of the two air scoops on top of the body feeding the engine inlet air boxes, was a Cosworth/Lotus-like air box above the roll-over bar feeding air to a wide flat box on top of the flat-12 engine. This car also had new pattern rear suspension hub-corners. Although the cars were faster than last year, they were not fast enough to dominate practice and were exceedingly “twitchy” on the Nurburgring undulations.
Setting the pace was the Matra-Simca MS670 of Cevert/Beltoise, strongly supported by that of Pescarolo/Larrousse, both cars using Hewland gearboxes for this race. Alfa Romeo had two of their new 33TT12 cars, with flat-12-cylinder 3-litre engines, with the gearbox between the engine and the final-drive, as on their old V8-engined cars, and both had the 1973 unusual-looking body shape, with large hump behind the cockpit and air intakes on the passenger side of this hump feeding to the injection trumpets of the horizontally-opposed engine. The handling of these new Alfa Romeos looked good and this was confirmed by those ferrari drivers who had occasion to follow them. Drivers for the Milanese team were Stommelen/de Adamich and Regazzoni/Facetti.
After the first practice the scene in the paddock was memorable from a mechanical viewpoint for whereas Formula One racing seems to have settled on a basic layout in profusion, the Long Distance world is still full of variety.
Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Matra, Ford and Porsche were all changing engines in their cars and variety was in abundance. The small and compact Ferrari flat-12 hangs from under a tubular framework extending out behind the cockpit, the large and not very pretty-looking Alfa Romeo flat-12 is attached to a tubular space frame while the neat V12 Matra engine bolts to the rear of the Matra-Simca monocoque. Ferrari uses his own 5-speed gearbox stuck out the back, Matra uses a Hewland in similar fashion and Alfa Romeo use their own 5-speed mounted forward of the rear axle centre-line.
Not far away Ford were changing a Weslake inspired fuel-injected 3-litre V6 engine in one of their Capris, and there were fuel-injected flat-six Porsche engines everywhere and as many variations of 4-cylinder English-Ford engines as could be imagined, both FVC and BDA versions, while a V8 Cosworth DFV in a Lola T282 and a 3-litre V8 Alfa Romeo in a Montreal coupé completed the picture, the powerful 6-cylinder 3.2-litre BMW engines rather old-fashioned amongst this engine galaxy.
The ADAC always give great encouragement to small teams and private owners, and there was no shortage of Chevrons and similar specials, from well-organised professional private teams, like the John Bridges Red Rose Racing, to keen amateurs with an old car and a handful of spare sparking plugs. There always seems to be room for all, though not all of them survive practice or go fast enough to qualify.
In all 52 cars were listed to line up for the start at 11 a.m. on Sunday morning, in perfect weather, but in fact only 48 did so. Two were not race-worthy after practice and two were withdrawn at the last moment due to one of the drivers being apprehended by the police for not paying for a car he had crashed and written-off last year. This was little Jorge Pinhol from Portugal, who was in a legal muddle with a German who had lent him a car. His Portuguese compatriots withdrew their tearn of two Chevrons in protest.
After following the pace car round the “pits loop” the 48 cars were released on a flying start, Cevert and Ickx on the front row racing each other to the South Corner with a large high-speed traffic jam following them in a close crowd that made any English “commuter battle” on our Motorways look like an old-ladies tea-party. It was Cevert who burst way and left Ickx, Merzario, Stommelen and Regazzoni floundering along behind. Pescarlo barely got out of sight of the start before his Matra engine blew up, an expected occurrence, but no quite so soon. After practice Matra were running short of engines and had been forced to put back an old tired one in their second car. The lack of any Mirage cars at the race was due to engine shortage, everything being required for Le Mans, only two weeks away. As a close wheel-to-wheel race there was not much hope, but in 44 laps and 3,000 kilometres there are so many variables that the outcome can never be judged on practice form or the opening phase of the race. Although Matra were already reduced to one car it was a good one well driven. Ferrari were known to strong but for the first time the team was working without Peter Schetty in the pits, so anything could happen, and the Alfa Romeos were still an unknown quantity. The opening lap produced another possible variation to the final outcome for Hans Stuck Jnr. was ninth overall in the BMW saloon, with Jochen Mass right behind him in the works Ford Capri, both leading all the Porsches and all but one of the 2-litre sports cars. Van Lennep in the prototype Porsche Carrera RSR, with full width rear spoiler and wider rear wheels than standard, was having trouble getting by the BMW/Ford battle, and when Regazzoni’s Alfa Romeo blew up at the start of lap 2 it began to took as though anything might happen in this 44-lap race.
The four factory prototype 3-litres that were left were out on their own, then came John Burton in the Red Rose Racing Chevron in a splendid fifth place overall, and so far ahead of the other 2-litre competitors that they were in a different world. Behind him were Haldi with his old Porsche 908/03 and Casoni with the Italian-owned Lola T282, neither of whom could be guaranteed to last 1,000 kilometres, so that it was quite on the cards that the BMW/Ford/Porsche saloon car battle could be for an outright win.
Whereas in sprint-racing with single-seaters a race that becomes a procession usually stays that way to the end, a long-distance event with a wide variety of cars and drivers seldom remains stable for very long. The maximum is usually up to a refuelling stop and driver change, for if the new driver doesn’t alter the scene the pit crew can, either for good or bad. The battle between BMW and Ford had become a bit rough, for it was between Stuck and Mass as a personal battle and just had to end in disaster. This it did on lap 5 when Stuck rubbed the BMW violently along the Armco barrier at the start of the !ong straight, wrecking the left side and exposing that virtually the whole body was made of fibreglass, even though it looked standard. At this time Burton was in the pits with the little Chevron as the short control rod to the metering unit of the fuel injection had broken. By the time the mechanics had fitted a new one and reset the injection Burton rejoined the race in fifteenth place, and Manfred Mohr in a Ford BDA-powered AMS from Bologna, was leading the 2-litre class and going well. This little car could have been a Chevron, a Loia, a Daren, a GRD or anything else, being built by Italian amateurs to orthodox 2-litre Ford-powered sports car specifications. In the GT race Follmer was leading with the Martini-sponsored works Carrera RSR from a gaggle of privately-owned ones, the Kremer team lacking the inspired driving of John Fitzpatrick as he had been co-opted into the works Ford Capri team driving the second car with Gerry Birrell. But Follmer did not lead for long as he crashed mildly.
At 8 laps the four works cars all refuelled neatly and tidily with Beltoise away in the Matra, Ickx staying in the second place Ferrari, Pace taking over from Merzario and de Adamich taking over from Stommelen. Just when it all seemed settled de Adamich appeared at the pits at the end of 11 laps and after a long consultation and some probing about the flat-12 Alfa Romeo was retired, due it would seem to oil getting into the clutch from a leaking crankshaft seal. Hardly had this happened when the Matra failed to appear and the two Ferraris went by to start lap 14 on their own.
The French V12 engine had broken a connecting rod, which had come out through the side, and Beltoise was stranded near Wippermann corner. While the first Matra blow-up had been expected, the second one was not, and with Le Mans so close the Matra people looked very worried. All the Ferrari team had to do now was cruise round and keep out of trouble, but with the other works cars gone so soon there was no guarantee the Maranello cars would not go the same way. Consequently the rest of the runners took on a different complexion.
Since his unscheduled pit stop Burton had been going like the wind, working his way impressively through the field until he was back in the position he had been, leading all but the works prototypes, so that as he took over what had been fifth place, it suddenly became third place overall. His progress had been helped by numerous variables, for the Chevron had been refuelled during its stop so it could now run through the period when everyone else was stopping for fuel and changing drivers. The little AMS was taken over by Finotto, who was nothing like as fast as Mohr, and the rear suspension collapsed before he had gone very far, and Cheneviere took over the Swiss Porsche 908/03, and Glemser took over the leading Ford from Mass, but even so Burton’s drive back up to his original position was really terrific. It was all the more so when he made the routine stop for fuel at 18 laps and for John Bridges to take over and it was revealed that he had no clutch, the pedal movement being insufficient to free it. Rather than waste time trying to re-adjust everything, the Red Rose lads jacked the back end up, Bridges started the engine, snicked in into gear and with lots of revs on and the rear wheels whizzing round the car was dropped off the jack and back into the race! Changing gear with the clutch solid was not too difficult but it meant there was no second chance if you missed a gear change and the engine stalled, or you got sideways or had a spin.
In the Ferrari camp all was well, and Redman took over the leading car from Ickx, the two of them cruising along to a certain victory. At one point Pace misread the pit signal and stopped too soon and Merzario was not ready, having to leap in the car and drive off without gloves, and all twitchy and unbalanced. He was still all wound up when he finished that stint at the wheel, whereas the Ickx/Redman duo were running like clockwork, stopping every eight laps. During the final stages Merzario got all wound up tight again and decided he would like to win and stormed up on his team leader and overtook him. This did not amuse Ickx or the rest of the team, and when the skinny Italian made the final routine pit stop he was yanked out of the car and given a rollicking while Pace finished the race in respectful close company to Ickx.
For third place overall it was an entirely different story for though the Red Rose Chevron was third the Haldi/Cheneviere Porsche was close behind and equally close was the Müller/van Lennep Carrera. When Burton arrived at the pits unexpectedly with his right rear tyre going flat there was a panic, and while it was changed and the car restarted on the jack, Haldi went by. However, Burton was equal to the situation and regained his place with one lap to go, and the works Carrera of Müller/van Lennep was kept in fifth place. The leading Ford Capri had retired with a broken engine, letting the second one take over the class win, with sixth overall, and from seventh to eleventh place was a miscellany of cars that were rarely out of sight of each other throughout the 1,000 kilometres, the seventh and eighth placed Chevrons passing and re-pasing continually, as did the leading GT class Porsche and the remaining BMW saloon.
As always in a long-distance race there were those drivers who just stood around and never drove. Amon and Larrousse failed to get in their cars, as Stuck crashed the BMW and Pescarolo blew up the Matra and Hailwood drove a hired Chevron brieflly on the opening lap, before its ignition went wrong.—D.S.J.
ADAC 1,000 Kms – Groups 2, 4 and 5 – Nürburgring – 22.835 km/lap – 44 laps – Very Warm
*1st: J. Ickx/B. Redman (Ferrari 312P 3-litre flat-12) – Grp 5 – 44 laps – 5 hr. 36 min. 53.4 sec. – 178.944 k.p.h.
2nd: A. Merzario/C. Pace (Ferrari 312P 3-litre flat-12) – Grp 5 – 44 laps – 5 hr. 36 min. 53.5 sec.
*3rd: J. Burton/J. Bridges (Chevron B23 1.9-litre Ford) – Grp 5 – 40 laps – 5 hr. 38 min. 56.2 sec.
4th: C. Haldi/B. Cheneviere (Porsche 908/3 3-litre flat-8) – Grp 5 – 40 laps – 5 hr. 39 min. 19.3 sec.
5th: G. van Lennep/H. Müller (Porsche Carrera RSR 3-litre flat-6 – Grp 5 – 40 laps – 5 hr. 40 min. 56.1 sec.
*6th: G. Birrell/J. Fitzpatrick (Ford Capri RS 3-litre V6) – Grp 2 – 39 laps – 5 hr. 40 min. 37.4 sec.
7th: P. Smith/D. Welpton (Chevron B23 1.8-litre-Ford) – Grp 5 – 38 laps – 5 hr. 38 min. 32.3 sec.
8th: P. Etmuller/W. Frey (Chevron B23 1.8-litre-Ford – Grp 5 – 38 laps – 5 hr. 38 min. 33.7 sec.
9th: A. Hezemans/D. Quester (BMW 3.0 CSL 3.2-litre 6-cyl.) – Grp 2 – 38 laps – 5 hr. 39 min. 20.7 sec.
10th: P. Humble/M. Raymond (Chevron B23 1.8-litre-Ford) – Grp 5 – 38 laps – 5 hr. 39 min. 42.7 sec.
*11th: P. Keller/J. Neuhaus (Porsche Carrera RSR 2.8-litre flat-6) – Grp 4 – 38 laps – 5 hr. 39 min. 49.1 sec.
12th: C. Schickentanz/G. Stekkonigg (Porsche Carrera RSR 2.8-litre flat-6 – Grp 4 – 38 laps – 5 hr. 42 min. 55.4 sec.
Also Classified: J. Barth/G. Loos (Porsche Carrera RSR), 38 laps; T. Fischhaber/von Bayern (Porsche Carrera RSR), 37 laps; B. Ekberg/K. Simonsen (Porsche Carrera RSR), 37 laps; E. Sindel/W. Siegle (Porsche Carrera RSR), 36 laps; H. Kelleners/T. Pilette (BMW-Koepchen 16-valve), 35 laps; B. Becker/E. Clever (Porsche 910), 35 laps; E. Babanderede/L. Wagner (Porsche 911 S), 33 laps; H. Hirth/G. Mohrs (BMW 2002), 32 laps; K. Ludwig/L. Pinske (Ford Capri RS), 32 laps; O. Wijk/T. Brorsson (Astra-Cosworth), 32 laps; L. Kaye/A. Birchenough (Chevron B21), 30 laps; F. Theissen/W. Pruser (BMW 2002), 27 laps.
Fastest lap: F. Cevert (Matra-Simca MS670) on lap 8, in 7 min. 20.3 sec. – 186.7 k.p.h. (sports car record.)
Retirements: H. Pescarolo/G. Larrousse (Matra-Simca MS670), G. Regazzoni/C. Facetti (Alfa Romeo 33TT12), F. Cevert/J-P. Beltoise (Matra-Simca MS670), R. Stommelen/A. de Adamich (Alfa Romeo 33TT12), M. Hailwood/X. Juncadella (Chevron), M. Casoni/G. Pianta (Lola T282), M. Mohr/M.Finotto (AMS-Ford), H. Le Guellec/R. Heavens (Chevron), G. Follmer/W. Kauhsen (Porsche Carrera RSR), D. Glemser/J. Mass (Ford capri RS), H. Stuck/C. Amon (BMW 3.0 CSL), T. Twaites/B. McInerney (Chevron), M. Dupont/P. Blancpain (Chevron), H.P. Joisten/H. Rosser (BMW 3.0 CSL), J. Wheeler/M.Davidson (Daren/BRM), A. Goodwin/P. McDonough (Dulon-Ford), J. Quick/W. de Selincourt (Chevron), J. Balanos/J. Proal (Porsche Carrera RSR), I. Harrower/J. Bell (Chevron), D. Gleich/D. Weizinger (Alfa Romeo Montreal), H. Klauke/F. Reider (Porsche Carrera RSR), R. Eberhardt/K. Auer (Chevrolet Corvette), J. Hine/P. Hanson (Chevron), H. Koch/H. Goerke (BMW 2002).
48 starters — 24 finishers