Matra beats Alfa Romeo Bid

Nurburgring, Germany, May 19th

Last year the Matra-Simca team had a slight superiority over the Ferrari team which resulted in a narrow win in the World Championship for Makes. This year the French equipe again has a slight margin of superiority, but instead of Ferrari making the challenge the Italian colours are worn by the Alfa Romeo team, which recorded a splendid 1-2-3 victory at Monza after both Matras retired. The tables were turned at the Nurburgring, however. Henri Pescarolo put his Matra on pole position with a time of 7 min. 10.8 sec., fractionally faster than Carlos Pace’s Formula One and outright circuit record, with Jean-Pierre Jarier alongside him nearly two seconds slower.

The Alfa Romeos were eight or more seconds slower around the 14.1-mile circuit, Arturo Merzario recording 7 min. 18.8 sec. during practice and Rolf Stommelen 7 min. 19.8 sec., whilst five or six seconds slower again were the Gulf GR7s of Mike Hailwood/ Derek Bell and James Hunt/Vern Schuppan. The Autodelta team’s practice had been marred by oil system failures on all three cars during the first minutes of the opening practice session: the Facetti/de Adamich car lost oil pressure, the Stommelen/Reutemann car dropped its oil filter, and the Merzario/ Redman car broke an oil line.

Practice times were indicative of form during the race. Jarier quickly pulled out a commanding lead while Pescarolo baulked the Alfa Romeo drivers at the rolling start then maintained second place, falling back 22 sec. in the opening seven laps of the race (which had been reduced from 44 laps, 1,000 kilometres to 33 laps, 750 kilometres as a fuel conserving measure). Stommelen and Merzario were visibly outpaced, while behind them Bell got the upper hand on Facetti.

Jarier, having his first really competitive drive in the Matra team, set a new sports car lap record in 7 min. 15.9 sec. whilst establishing his lead, and handed the car over to Jean-Pierre Beltoise with a comfortable margin of a minute over Larrousse. After 15 laps Larrousse made an unscheduled stop with the engine running badly, and the blue car lost two laps while diagnosis confirmed a dropped valve. Larrousse was sent out again, and eventually finished in fifth place.

The Alfa Romeo challenge slowly wilted in the sunshine. Facetti lost time after colliding with his team-mate, Reutemann, and was a lap behind after having the car’s nose section replaced. Reutemann continued safely but was lapped after 26 laps; Merzario and Redman were 4.1/2 minutes down after 29 laps but then the gearbox casing cracked, and the car retired behind the pits with seized transmission.

The Gulf cars did not feature in the race for the lead although Bell moved up to second place for two laps when the economical DFV engine out-distanced the 12cylinder power units. Hailwood spun the car and damaged the rear suspension, leading to retirement, then Bell transferred to the Hunt, Schuppan car which finished in fourth place Turbocharged works/Martini Racing Porsch 911 Cameras ran trouble-free into sixtl and seventh positions, despite van Lennet damaging his car badly during Saturday’: practice and Schurti colliding with another Porsche during the race.

The works Chevron B26, with a new Briar Hart designed alloy 2-litre engine installed ran impressively in the hands of John Wat son and Peter Gethin but retired from a salt class lead late in the race with rear whee bearing failure. The 2-litre class, and eightl place overall, was then claimed by Joht Hine/Ian Grob in the KVG Racing Chevron B23. The Grand Touring class was as clost as ever, contested by no fewer than 21 3-litre Porsche 911 Carreras, and John Fitz. patrick/Jurgen Barth emerged the winner; by 56 sec. from Claude Ballot-Lena/Bol Wollek

It was the Ford versus BMW battle that many people in the 60,000 crowd came to see a rare encounter in this year’s diminished factory programmes. Hans Stuck was exciting to watch, trimming 14 sec. from the Group 2 lap record during practice with Jochen Mass’ Capri close behind, and for three laps they kept the crowd on tip-toe circulating inches apart. Then Stuck’s BMW transmission seized, and shortly afterward the Mass/Lauda Capri retired when an insecurely fastened wheel worked loose after pit stop. There was only one other Group car in the race, another works Capri drive: by Glemser/Hezemans who finished in eleventh place.—M.L.C.