Notes on the Cars at Monte Carlo

There was nothing startlingly new at Monte Carlo, but quite a lot of detail improvements and modifications to existing cars. However, the Scuderia Ferrari produced a brand new 312T2 car, number 027 in the series, and this was given to Regazzoni. The first of the T2 cars, number 025, was relegated to the role of “muletta” or the team spare. Lauda was still with his usual car, number 026, and as his chief mechanic said : “Is a good car, why change it ?” The configuration of the T2 remains unchanged, though the engines were using long tapering megaphone exhaust pipes of smaller diameter than previously, presumably to improve the pick-up from slow corners. During the first practice the Ferraris had a thin plastic-coated wire mounted an inch or two ahead of the leading edge of the rear aerofoil, to disturb the air flow and lower the skin friction across the aerofoil.

The pair of six-wheeled Project 34 Tyrrells were as raced in Belgium, except for a complete absence of any form of air-collector box on the Cosworth engines, the V8s using short trumpets on the intakes almost like the first series engines of 1967. Derek Gardner was out and about again, after his Spanish illness, and was keeping a motherly eye on his two remarkable cars. As stand-by there were two four-wheeled Tyrrells, 007/6-4 and 007/4. With Indianapolis clashing with the Monaco GP Mario Andretti was missing from Team Lotus so the John Player lot had only one car, number 77/R2, for the Swedish driver Nilsson. At every race there seem to be more Alfa Romeo men than before, fussing around the Brabham-Alfa Romeos, though we ought to call them Ecclestone-Alfa Romeos, for Jack Brabham would surely never have got himself involved with such a dead-loss engine. This time an Alfa Romeo gearbox specialist was lurking about, for the Milanese factory had made some 6-speed gear clusters to fit into the modified Hewland casings. The “lighter monocoque” car BT45/3 that Pace bent in practice in Belgium, had been repaired and was the team spare, the Brazilian having BT45/I and his Argentinian team-mate the second generation BT45/2. March Engineering’s A-team had built a new car from the wreckage of Peterson’s car after the Zolder race, starting with a brand new monocoque, and the result was a glistening rebirth of 761/3, while Brambilla still had what is ostensibly the first of the 761 cars. The March B-team were as usual, with Stuck in 761/2 and Merzario in 761/4, while a “set-of-travelling-spares” that almost constituted 761/5 were brought along.

McLaren Racing had their usual three cars, M23/8 for Hunt, M23/9 for Mass and M23/6 as the team spare, and during the weekend they dispensed with the engine air-Collector boxes, keeping rudimentary guide vanes behind the driver’s head, and on M23/9 they fitted a two-piece aerofoil virtually under the back of the gearbox, in addition to the normal high aerofoil. The only obvious thing it seemed to do was gather oil drippings!

Such is the hard commercial rat-race of Formula One racing that few people seem to notice that car number 14 is not seen any more, and we never did see car number 15. These were the permanent numbers allocated to the BRM team and the Stanley family, though cars and people seem to have disappeared without trace. Don Nichols’ Shadow racing team were unchanged, except perhaps for slight tightening of the belts all round as financial backing still fails to materialise, while John Surtees’ team look healthier every week, with new wheel-changing equipment showing sponsors’ money well spent. Alan Jones was driving the usual TS19/02, while the first TS19 has been sold to Frenchman Henri Pescarolo, who has financial backing from a French toy firm, the car being repainted white with green lettering. Team Surtees’ regular driver Brett Lunger did not have an entry at Monaco, though he was there as a spectator, and a new car is being built for him.

The rather lavish Walter Wolf Racing, which almost obscures the personalities of Frank Williams and Harvey Postlethwaite, was in attendance with the Hesketh 308C/1 and the 308C/2, which is justifiably called FW05/2. Following the spectacular crash at Zolder the Nunn Ensign underwent a monumental rebuild involving a lot of all-night work for this keen little family-team, and their efforts, which rely on the “house-keeping money”, must be making some of the big-money sponsors wonder whether they have been doing it all wrong. The list of invitations to the Monaco GP was arrived at by a very complicated process, which was decidedly illogical, but resulted in 25 drivers being on the list, of which only 20 would be permitted to start, these being the fastest 20 irrespective of any adverse weather conditions or force majeure. Austrian journalist Harald Ertl was on the list with his white Hesketh 308/3, as was Larry Perkins with the Dutch-owned Ensign called a Bora. Watson was there with the immaculate pair of Penske PC3 cars, concentrating on the earlier model for preference, and Emerson Fittipaldi was there with his brother’s car, and Ingo Hoffman’s car as a spare. The ex-World Champion’s car was affectionately labelled “Rubber Duck’s car”. Last but by no means least was the Ligier-Matra of Jacque Laffite, its heavy sponsorship by the French Gitanes cigarette firm causing a lot of embarrassment to the French Television who were refusing to televise the race because of all the over-powering advertising that many of the cars were carrying.

The whole assembly of Formula One cars, with their huge articulated transporters and all the motor-caravans, were parked on the western side of the harbour, presenting a neat and compact paddock, the teams working in the open air under large canopies cantilevered out from the transporters. Those teams who could still afford to hire boats in the harbour contrived to have them moored alohgside the paddock. Morris Nunn was wondering if he could afford to hire a rowing boat “just to keep up appearances and make it sound good”, but decided the money was better spent on motor racing.—D.S.J.