British teams and two Scotsmen dominate F1. Ford invests heavily to make its mark at Le Mans, the finances Cosworth’s ground-breaking GP engine.
Driver: Jackie Stewart
Nürburgring ’68: a class apart
With the rain coming down the choice of tyre was very simple, so that everyone was on a more or less equal footing but Stewart had a special set of ‘super wet’ Dunlops on his Matra.
Graham Hill led as far as the exit from the long Schwalbenschwanz bends, when the light-blue Matra-Cosworth shot by and disappeared in a cloud of spray, pulling out a lead of l0sec to the end of the opening lap.
That lead caused an audible gasp from under the mass of umbrellas in the public enclosures. Hill, Chris Amon, Jochen Rindt, Dan Gurney, Jacky Ickx and John Surtees followed through, except that the Honda was heading for the pits, its ignition awry due to the overheating at the start, the torrential rain or both.
Stewart’s standing lap was 10min 14.8sec, really impressive in view of the conditions, but there was more to come from the little Scotsman. At the end of the second lap his Matra was over 30sec ahead of Hill’s Lotus and Stewart was looking splendidly confident, while Amon was excelling himself and hanging on to the Lotus, being right in its spray past the pits.
Stewart’s pace was truly phenomenal, or else the pace of the rest was pathetic, but no-one lapping at over 80mph in these conditions could seriously be called that. At the end of four laps the Matra had a healthy lead of 59sec over Hill’s Lotus.
Stewart covered lap six in 9min 41.3sec and was really at grips with the conditions. He was through the ‘pits loop’ and round the North Curve before Hill and Amon could be heard approaching the startline.
Lap eight saw Stewart with a new fastest lap of 9min 36sec, a time that used to be respectable in bright sunshine… By the end of lap nine the Matra-Ford was into the woods at Hatzenbach before the second-place Lotus was in sight of the pits.
Stewart lapped Bruce McLaren during the 10th lap, while Pedro Rodriguez was gaining rapidly on Denis Hulme, although the world champion could see nothing in his mirrors because of his own spray.
The magnificent Stewart drove on to one of his finest victories. Never has the Nürburgring thrown out a challenge like this, and all of the drivers had risen to the occasion with every ounce of skill they possessed. It was miserable but magnificent. — DSJ