Fast and furious
Monza, Italy, April 25th.
This year the 1,000-kilometre race, run on the combined road and banked track circuit at Monza, took place in glorious weather, unlike last year when it rained all day. It looked as though it was going to be a simple question of the Ferrari team drivers tossing a coin to see who was going to win, as the Ford team did not enter, but at the last moment Chaparral entered one car and this kept the Ferrari team on their toes. The race was open to Prototypes (Group 6) of up to 2,000 c.c. and over 2,000 c.c., Sports cars (Group 4) and GT cars (Group 3) of the same two capacity groups. There were two P4 coupés from the Ferrari factory driven by Parkes/Scarfiotti and Bandini/Amon, two P3 coupés, which are last year’s works cars fitted with ZF gearboxes, outboard brakes and P4 bodywork, one driven by Muller/Vaccarella for the Filipinetti team and the other by Rodriguez/Guichet for the N.A.R.T. Opposing these red cars were the two pale blue Ford Mirage cars of the Gulf team, that appeared at the Le Mans test week-end, now having 4.7-litre Ford engines enlarged to 5 litres. The lone Chaparral 2F coupé, with aerodynamic “wing” over the tail was driven by Phil Hill/Spence and showed that it could take on all the opposition, by making fastest practice lap in 2 min. 53.8 sec. against Ferrari’s best by Bandini in 2 min. 54.1 sec. Parkes was close behind with 2 min. 54.5 sec, and these three were the only ones under 3 min. for the 10.1-kilometre lap. In the 2-litre Prototype class there was one factory V6 Dino Ferrari, the latest model with three valves per cylinder and fuel injection, driven by Ferrari “new boys” Jonathan Williams and Klass, this car being in direct opposition to two works Porsche 910 coupés, with short-tailed bodywork. There were numerous other Dino Ferraris running but none was able to support the works car and all had earlier two valves per cylinder engines, some with fuel-injection others with carburetters. The Swiss drivers Steinemann and Spoerry had one of last year’s works Le Mans Porsche Carrera 6 cars, with long-tailed bodywork and they were good support for the factory cars of Herrmann/Siffert and Mitter/Rindt. In the Sports category the big class was a straight fight between numerous GT40 Fords and LM Ferraris and the 2-litre class was an all-Porsche affair. The big GT class had only three GTB Ferraris competing and the 2-litre class had some private 91 I Porsches, the M.G.-“B” hard-top of Roger Enever/Alec Poole and a very standard private Matra coupé 1,150 c.c.
Although there were 41 starters it was really a three-car race, the two P4 Ferraris against the Chaparral. Bandini, Parkes and Spence led off at a furious pace from the two-by-two rolling start with the Chaparral actually in the lead, its aluminium Chevrolet V8 engine making a low rumbling noise from the pair of four-inch diameter exhaust pipes in direct contrast to the high-pitched scream from the four small-bore tail pipes of the 12-cylinder Ferraris. For lap after lap Bandini and Spence were wheel to wheel, sometimes side-by-side, sometimes one behind the other, and always with Parkes just behind them, waiting to take over the challenge should anything happen to the leading Ferrari. Behind this trio were Rodriguez (Ferrari), the two Mirage Fords of Piper and lckx, and the Ferrari of Vaccarella. In the 2-litre class Williams (Dino Ferrari) was comfortably leading the two 910 Porsches, who were being well backed up by private Carrera 6 Porsches. Spence recorded a new fastest lap in 2 min 57.8 sec. – 204.499 k.p.h. (approx. 127 m.p.h.) but the works Ferraris were going equally as fast. Piper had a long pit-stop with one of the Mirage Fords, with a tiresome water leak that took some time to fix, the Drury/Oliver Ford GT40 was retired with a leaking head gasket and an Italian-driven 904 Porsche GTS wrote itself off at the South Corner on the road circuit. At the beginning of each high-speed banking there was a “chicane” so that cars had to start each banked section almost from a standing start. Rodriguez hit the barriers at one of these ”chicanes” and made a quick pit-stop to make sure there was no damage to the rear end and this dropped him back to sixth place. Bandini was now beginning to monopolise the lead but the Chaparral was never far away, although Parkes was beginning to worry it, and while the big Ferraris were successfully dealing with their opposition the little Ferrari, the 18-valve Dino, was overheating badly and had to give up, letting the Porsches command the 2-litre class. In the Sport classes Schlesser was leading the GT40 Fords in the Ford France car, but he was behind the Koch/Stommelen Carrera 6.
Just before one hour of racing Parkes took second place from the Chaparral as Spence was beginning to feel an unhealthy vibration from the rear end and on the seventeenth lap he stopped at the pits to investigate. Quite by coincidence a rear tyre was losing air, so he had another wheel fitted and went back in the race, but the vibration was still there and at the next pit-stop a fault was found to be developing in one of the drive shafts so the car had to be retired. This left the Ferraris in full command of the race, even after refuelling stops, which they had done at about this time, and at 25 laps, or quarter distance, Bandini was still driving the leading car, Scarfiotti had taken over from Parkes in the second place car, Rodriguez was still in the N.A.R.T. car, now in third place, and Vaccarella in the Filipinetti car was fourth. With 4-litre Ferraris 1-2-3-4 the crowd of 60,000 was more than happy, although they had obviously enjoyed the battle of the Chaparral while it lasted. Schlesser had now got the French Ford GT40 ahead of all the Porsches, who were no longer bothered by the works Dino Ferrari and could ease off, while the private Dinos were not in the picture and the Ickx/Rees Mirage had gone out with ignition failure, although Piper was making up time in the other Mirage and going extremely well. At the height of the battle the race average had been well over 200 k.p.h. but it now dropped back to 199 k.p.h., and the two factory P4 Ferraris were comfortably out on their own. However, the Ferrari plans were suddenly disturbed when Scarfiotti brought the number two car into the pits off-schedule as it seemed to be running out of fuel. The last quarter of the tankful was not being picked up by the pumps, so while the car was refuelled a rear tyre was changed and Parkes took over again, but this stop let Rodriguez catch up and he proceeded to challenge the works car forcibly. At 40 laps Bandini made a routine stop with the leading Ferrari and Amon took over, now well in the lead and the average speed was still hovering around the 200 k.p.h. mark (approx. 124 m.p.h.). Parkes and Rodriguez were now side-by-side and sure enough, during the forty-seventh lap Rodriguez tried to out-brake Parkes going into the North “chicane” and went straight on into the barriers and bent the front end of the Ferrari pretty badly, so that now the two works cars could relax. The Vaccarella/Muller Ferrari was a lap behind, followed by the works Porsches of Rindt/Mitter and Herrmann/Siffert, who had both overtaken the Ford France GT40 that Ligier was now driving.
At 50 laps, which was half-way, conditions were still superb though a strong breeze was blowing, and the two works Ferraris were easing off and running in close company at an average of 198 k.p.h. The Koch/Stommelen Porsche Carrera 6 which had started off so well had been delayed by valve gear trouble and this had let Koch’s second Porsche entry, driven by Schutz/Neerpasch take the lead in the 2-litre Group 4 class. In the GT classes the competition was very weak and Paul Vestey/Carlos Gaspar were having no trouble in leading the big GT class with their GTB Ferrari, the same car that Pike/Courage drove at Le Mans last year, and the Enever/Poole M.G.-“B” was running steadily and leading the small GT class, the 911 Porsche opposition having fallen by the wayside.
Apart from the fact that the Parkes/Scarfiotti car had to refuel more often than was intended, the two Ferraris had only to complete the distance and they showed no signs of failing. For nearly an hour everything ran smoothly among the leaders, but then Vaccarella missed a gear change approaching the Lesmo bends and had a lurid spin, clouting the front and rear of the Ferrari against the barriers and breaking a wheel and bursting a tyre. He limped the car back to pits and a new wheel was fitted and the bodywork hammered out of the way of the tyres and he rejoined the race, but all this had let the two works Porsches and the French GT40 go by. The continual hammering on the bankings was beginning to take its toll, the Piper/Thompson Mirage had broken a shock-absorber and stopped to have it replaced, the production GT40s were rubbing their near-side front tyres through the top of the bodywork, the Walter/Ditzler Ferrari LM broke its nearside rear suspension and burst the tyre, arriving at the pits all lopsided, and the “Tiger”/Facetti Carrera 6 did the same thing to its offside rear suspension. The GTB Ferrari of Vestey/Gaspar was having trouble with broken spokes in its nearside rear Borrani wire wheels, but the still led their class.
At 70 laps Bandini was still in the leading Ferrari, and he was now comparatively touring round at an average of 197 k.p.h. The number two car was two minutes behind in second place, due to its extra refuelling stops and three laps behind came the two works Porsches, followed by the Schlesser/Ligier Ford GT40 and the Vaccarella, Muller Ferrari. For the closing phase of this endurance race Amon took over the leading Ferrari and Scarfiotti the second car, and all seemed set for the two works Porsches to follow them home. With only three laps to go the 910 Porsche driven by Siffert broke its front suspension and the steering became vague in the extreme, but the Swiss driver struggled on slowly. Meanwhile the Filipinetti Ferrari of Vaccarella/Muller had passed the Schlesser/Ligier Ford and was catching the sick Porsche. The triumphant Bandini/Amon Ferrari finished the 100 laps, to the delight of the very large Ferrari following among the crowd. It was nearly a lap ahead of its team-mate, due to its extra refuelling stops, and the healthy Porsche of Rindt/Mitter finished third, four laps down. As Siffert came limping along the finishing straight the Filipinetti Ferrari came screaming off the banking and passed the Porsche to take fourth place overall in sight of the chequered flag. This was some small consolation for the Swiss team as shortly before this their GT40 Ford had left the pits running on seven cylinders and sure enough a fire started in the carburetters and the whole car went up in flames and was gutted before the fire-brigade arrived. Fortunately there was no personal injury, but the car was a write-off.
Once again Ferrari was victorious in a long-distance race, the 1967 Ferrari P4 cars showing a useful improvement over last year’s P3 cars, though the challenge from America is still strong and while Ferrari is quite competent to do battle against Ford and General Motors he would no doubt welcome some help from other European manufacturers in this Europe versus U.S.A. battle. – D. S. J.