Master of the territory

1972 German Grand Prix Jacky Ickx (Ferrari 312B2)

This was personal. This was Jacky Ickx’s stomping ground. He wasn’t about to be beaten here, not by Stewart, not by Fittipaldi. Not by anyone. It had been here in 1967 that he’d been fourth-quickest in qualifying — in an F2 car! The next year he’d been on pole — by lOsec! In 1969 he’d driven a stunning race to catch, pass and pull away from Jackie Stewart to win. But he could’ve kicked himself for ’71.

That’s when he’d gone off on the second lap, overeager to repeat the catchand-pass stunt on Stewart Ickx demonised Stewart, not just because the Scot was recognised as the world’s number one. His safety initiatives with the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association struck discord into Icloc’s romantic vision of life at that time. An artist with a warrior’s soul, Ickx bought into the notion of the racing driver as a solitary figure staring fate unblinkingly in the eye. When the safety drive began to threaten his beloved Niirburgring, a place Stewart termed ‘the green hell’, such feelings only intensified. Stewart and Emerson Fittipaldi were fighting out the 1972 title as Ickx suffered a Ferrari 312B2 that was twitchy and unreliable — and which suffered from appalling rear tyre vibrations under acceleration. But in the German race the Scot and the Brazilian were relegated to secondand third-fastest as Ickx qualified on pole

Mauro Forghieri, designer of the B2, provides some technical background: ‘The tyre vibration came as a result of moving the weight distribution forward compared to the Bl. But at the Niirburgring this wasn’t such a big issue because the handling balance was more important than the traction.” But even Mauro agrees that the biggest factor at the Ntirburgring was always the man in the cockpit. “Jacky knew that circuit incredibly well.

He knew every detail of every corner. John Surtees had been another one; he was so strong at the Ntirburgring he could beat even Clark. I think Ickx was a lover of a particular type of track — an old style natural circuit rather than, say, Monza or Silverstone. It was very important to know where you could take advantage of the barrier, to run really close, and there were some parts where you could cut the corners. It was like the Targa Florio.”

From the start Ickx simply disappeared, setting one fastest lap after another and leaving the others to battle over the crumbs at his table. It was a demonstration of sustained driving brilliance rather than a motor race. It was his last — and his greatest — grand prix victory.

Did he take full satisfaction from putting Stewart in his place? “I believe so, yes,” says Forghieri, “but I cannot say for sure. Jacky was not an open person. You didn’t feel you knew him. It was often easier to read Stewart’s thinking even though he was on another team.”

Mark Hughes