Reflection in the Swedish lakes

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There were one or two minor lakes in the paddock during practice, as the weather tried to wreck the Swedish Grand Prix, but fortunately the sun won the battle and the water soon evaporated. Until mid-morning on race day everyone was prepared for another Spanish Grand Prix riot, the expectations of tyre-changing being uppermost in most people’s minds. The over-night modifications to the pit area, described in detail in the race report, deserve every credit, both to those in the Constructors Association who thought up the idea and those in the Organising club who put it into action so promptly. It was not a perfect arrangement, but it was a very good compromise. There is something about the atmosphere in Sweden that makes this sort of thing possible, the Anderstorp Racing Club are essentially enthusiasts, keen to progress and keen to learn.

Sven Asberg, the Clerk of the Course, is a strong and powerful “no-nonsense” man whose word is law, even to the point of being a dictator, like Raymond Roche used to be at the late lamented Circuit of Reims. When you have got one strong man at the head, with an enthusiastic committee following him you can get things done, otherwise the organising committee dicker about and fail to make strong decisions. Sven Asberg is known affectionately as “Smokey” as he is seldom seen without a long cigar stuck in his mouth, and it never seems to get any shorter as the day goes on! Although he is very much the man at the helm, and will stand no nonsense from anyone, he actually has a very humorous side, as was shown at the prize giving, held in the paddock after the race. Without understanding a word of Swedish it was possible to appreciate that Asberg is a born comic in front of a microphone, and he spoke not a word of English. Flis actions and facial expressions as he conducted the prize giving in a one-man show, were highly entertaining, and having presented all the national prizes there was still no sign of Ken Tyrrell and Jody Scheckter, so “Smokey” carried on with a line of patter that kept everyone amused until the Tyrrell team arived. It was not their fault they were late, no one thought to tell them about the prize-giving and Tyrrell and his driver had returned to their hotel. Their arrival, late though it was, was well received, and Tyrrell ‘recalled his own race win in Sweden in 1935, with a Formula 3 Cooper. I can recall that particular prize-giving myself, for it was a good party, and when it was at its height Ken Tyrrell went to the Grand Piano in the huge ballroom and with a flourish that would have done justice to a concert hall, he played the opening bars of a Rachmaninoff concerto. There was an instant silence, as everyone expected him to continue, but Tyrrell got up and said “That’s all I know of it” and walked back to his table! I can also recall the ballroom having the most incredible cut-glass chandelier hanging from the centre of the ceiling, and next morning someone’s braces were hanging from it. It was a very high ceiling, and the human pyramid next morning, with yours truly balanced on the top, hooking the braces off with a broom handle, would have got a round of applause at any circus; and we did not bring the whole lot crashing down either.

While the Anderstorp Raceway is nothing to write home about as far as circuits go, being a Super Slot Track, and the sort of shape you make in your lounge with Scalex kit only because you never have room to be imaginative, there is a pleasant atmosphere surrounding it all. It is very much like the old Zeltweg races on the Austrian Airfield before the Osterreichring was built, the organisation exuding such a friendly atmosphere that everyone is very tolerant. If you are given a pass to go anywhere, it does just that, unlike some circuits where there are so many variations on the pass theme that you find yourself climbing up the wall in despair, when all you are trying to do is go to the lavatory. Anderstorp is not the easiest of places to get to, and accommodation is limited and not of a very high order, compared to somewhere like Bruxelles or Monte Carlo, so that there was a noticeable absence of drongoes, fairies, play-actors, powder-puff boys and hangers on, such as reaches an all-time high in Monaco. Even the great sponsorship publicity machines were on half-cock, a great relief.

Although Jody Scheckter is referred to as a “new-boy” someone who keeps statistics reckoned that it was his thirteenth Formula One race, so it was high time he had a win. Last year his supporters thought he was going to win four or five races, but as Eoin Young pointed out in his Hulme column in Autosport, Baby Bear kept spilling his porridge last year. Having taken him away from the influence of Grizzly Bear Hulme, it would seem that Ken Tyrrell has put a bib on Baby Bear Scheckter and taught him how to use a spoon. All credit to Tyrrell for persevering, but even more so for seeing the possibilities. While Patrick Depailler is a “new boy” to Formula One racing, he is not a new boy to racing, having had a lot of experience in all manner of categories, and now that he has a pole position to his credit I have learnt to spell his name correctly. It is Depailler, and not Depaillier, as I have been writing for too long.

For quite a while now the Scuderia Ferrari have been taking with them to races a very complex timing equipment made by the Swiss Heuer firm, operated by an expert from the factory. While this does not affect starting grid positions, the official timekeepers deciding the results, this does allow the team to know very precisely and accurately, as well as speedily, what the opposition are doing during practice. The equipment consists of a box with a battery of five buttons, each one designated to a given car. When a button is pressed the electrical contacts operate a timing clock that prints the time on a roll of paper, giving the actual lap time to one place of decimals. There are two of these boxes with five buttons on them, wired up to the time recorder and printer, and the operator watches the lap time and the car number as it is printed in front of him, and notes anything of interest down on a pad so that the team-members can see for themselves. It also records the number of laps completed, and accounts for pit stops, providing the operator presses the right buttons in the right sequence. The fellow who runs it for the Ferrari team is an artist with the buttons as well as knowing the Grand Prix scene and who to time and who not to time. With ten buttons available, two of which are obviously car-marked for Lauda and Regazzoni, the buttons being numbered 12 and 11, respectively, it leaves eight more for the opposition. In the final practice in Sweden it was interesting to see who the Ferrari team considered to be their opposition, by the numbers on the remaining eight buttons. They read 1, 3, 5, 7, 33, and 24, with two blanks. These were, in the same order, Peterson, Scheckter, Fittipaldi, Reutemann, Hailwood and Hunt. They did not have Ickx, Hulme, Beltoise or Depailler on their short list, but it did not take the operator long to add Depailler’s number to one of the spare buttons. One can assume that the Ferrari team are pretty clued up on the state of Grand Prix racing, so that the numbers on the Heuer timing buttons give a pretty good indication of what they think will be happening, It must be every aspiring ace’s ambition to get his number on a Heuer button in the Ferrari pit, when that happens he can consider he has arrived.

The number of suspension breakages during the race was not only unprecedented, but unexpected. On Lauda’s Ferrari it was the inner mounting of the top transverse link on the right side. This mounting comprises the ball of a Rose joint in a short tube, the tube being welded to the tubular superstructure stemming from the Cast bridge-piece across the back of the engine. The welding was gradually tearing away, so that the centre of the ball joint was moving inwards, thus causing the wheel to lean in. This slow collapsing promoted what is described as “deteriorating handling”. In addition, it was causing the drive-shaft to bottom on its sliding splines, thus transferring all the sideways loads into the final— drive unit and the gearbox shafts, which finally began to break up, On Hulme’s McLaren the rear suspension is located on a tubular bridge across the gearbox, with a near-vertical tube running down to the lower mountings. It was this near-vertical tube on the left side which failed, allowing the pivot point to rise upwards, and the wheel to lean in, until the tubular bridge across the gearbox finally broke. On Wisell’s works March the pivot bolt that runs across the bottom of the rear hub-carrying upright on the right side, broke. On Brambilla’s car the front right hand lower wishbone was badly bent, caused by him running over the kerb at the new ess-bend, to which he admitted freely, saying that the car went alright afterwards, but it felt a bit different.

Brian Redman’s withdrawal from the UOP-Shadow team after only three races was honest and straightforward, typical of his character, he being one of the few mentally well— balanced drivers in motor racing today. As Stuart Turner, of Ford, once said “It’s not that they are dishonest, but they just don’t know how to tell the truth”. With Redman there is no such problem. He throughly enjoyed driving the Shadow, it being a nice car, and he enjoyed being with the team, but it was the rat-race of the overall scene of Formula One that he could not stomach. He found the whole business too tense and at a pressure higher than he was able to enjoy, so he wisely opted out and returned to Sid Taylor’s Formula 5000 racing team, an activity imbued with more sport than business. Redman summed it up by saying “There never seemed to be time to take a leisurely bath after practice and go out for a quiet meal with one of your chums”. Some time ago he told me that he got more satisfaction out of winning a small 2-litre Sports car race for his friend Derek Bennett in one of his Chevrons, than in finishing sixth or seventh in a Grand Prix, adding “and let’s face it, I’m never going to be another Jackie Stewart”. What a nice honest chap.

While watching a Grand Prix race I keep a sort of lap chart in a small note book that tells the story of the race in signs and symbols that only I can interpret. Alongside these I make cryptic comments, like “What the hell does he think he is doing?” or “Good old Regga” and now and then “Ooi . . .” or “Ker-rist”. During the Swedish Grand Prix at lap 29 I wrote “Now we’ll just have to wait for them all to fall apart”. On lap 63 I noted “It’s only the exhaust note of the Ferrari that keeps me awake”. Lauda went out on lap 70, and on lap 73 there is a simple note that reads “I fell asleep” . . . it was not one of the most exciting Grand Prix races. D.S.J.

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