Matra fail, Ferrari win
Monza, Italy, April 25th
As is traditional the Monza 1000-kilometre sports car race was held on Liberation Day, a public holiday, and this year it fell on a Wednesday, an unusual day for a motor race. The proper Monza road circuit was used, untrammelled by GPDA-inspired chicanes, so that the race was a glorious flat-out blind for the whole 174 laps. With power and speed being more important than handling the Ferrari team were at last on equal terms with the Matra team, while the Gulf Research Mirage team were not far off the pace. Matra ran the same arrangement as at Dijon, with Beltoise/Cevert in the lighter and more highly-tuned MS670 with Hewland gearbox, and Pescarolo/ Larrousse in the more robust car with ZF gearbox, the two Grand Prix drivers to set the pace while the other pair kept close ready for any emergency.
The Ferrari team was also like the Dijon race, with Ickx/Redman in the number one car, and Merzario/Pace in the support car, but this time there was double support as Reutemann/Schenken were in a third 312P.
The Gulf-Mirage team are still not strong enough to challenge or play tactics, although while they run they are fast enough to mix it with their rival teams. Both their cars were Cosworth V8-powered, Bell/Ganley in M601 and Hailwood/Schuppan in M602.
Although a field of 38 cars qualified for the race, and 36 actually started none of the remainder were in a position to challenge for the lead, having to be content with racing for a class win, either in the 2-litre sports class or the GT classes. The two Martini Racing works Porsche Carreras were ruled out of GT due to having modified anchor points for the rear suspension radius arms, so the factory took advantage of being in the Prototype class and made the rear aerofoil full width, instead of the homologated engine-lid width. Their drivers were Müller/van Lennep and Follmer/Schurti, the rugged American proving to be the fastest of the four.
There was a vast array of 2-litre class Chevrons and Lolas, mostly driven by Italian amateurs, some of whom got quietly on with their racing, while others got in the way of the works drivers and caused quite a number of phenomenal avoidances. Fortunately due to the skill and judgement of the works drivers, there were no nasty accidents.
Practice soon showed that the Matra versus Ferrari battle was going to be to Grand Prik standards, with full-power Formula One engines, special tyres for qualifying and all the other tricks of the trade. The result was some very fast lap speeds in the region of 160 m.p.h. and the old Porsche 917 lap record looking bit shattered. Cevert did 1 min. 21.13 sec. and Ickx did 1 min. 21.8 sec., no-one else being in the same category.
At the time of the 11 a.m. start the crowd was a bit thin, but by midday the Autodrome had filled up and the day was set to be warm and dry. A rather boring and dull rolling start was employed, the long line of cars in pairs stretching almost out of sight. After leading for three glorious laps, Ickx had to give best to the Matra of Beltoise, but he did not lose contact or relax pressure, and these two ran away from everyone.
Behind them Merzario was leading Pescarolo, Reutemann, and Bell, with Hailwood already falling back with clutch trouble. Among the rest of the runners Follmer was really thrashing his Porsche Carrera and was right in amongst the 2-litre sports cars, much to their amazement and Porsche’s consternation, for the Carrera was not meant to be driven that hard. Sure enough it could not stand such a pace and the engine broke after only 19 laps.
Up at the front Merzario lasted only 7 laps when he stopped out on the circuit with a broken gearbox. The Matra/Ferrari battle continued with Beltoise leading but quite unable to get rid of Ickx and the first significant difference came when the Matra stopped to refuel at 33 laps, while Ickx went on to 40 laps before he needed fuel. They both stayed in their cars for another session, and the Ferrari pit was equal to that of Matra so that Ickx was able to retain the lead he had taken when the Matra stopped, but only for one lap, when the Matra went by again.
At lap 42 we were back at square one, with a slight advantage to Ferrari in fuel consumption, equality on refuelling, but with an advantage to come for Matra when they put their faster driver in the car. The first of the Mirage-Cosworth V8 cars was also proving economical and Bell kept going for 43 laps before refuelling and handing over to Ganley, actually holding third place overall while Pescarolo refuelled and Reutemann handed over to Schenken.
At 54 laps the situation was unchanged, with Ickx continuing to hound the Matra in and out of the slow-moving traffic and some idea of the traffic conditions can be gained by the fact that they first lapped the tail of the field after only 5 laps, so had already lapped some cars ten times!
At this point there was consternation in the Matra pit when Pescarolo stopped unexpectedly with a strange feeling to the front left-side wheel, which was not surprising when it was discovered that the stub axle was cracked and about to break. While Larrousse sat in the car the assembly was changed and it was not until the leaders were on lap 64 that he was able to rejoin the race. This let Schenken into third place, but not going very fast, so that he was lapped by the Beltoise/Ickx battle and when Ganley had the Cosworth V8 engine blew up in his Mirage, due to losing water, Hailwood became a rather poor fourth. This time the Matra ran 35 laps and when Beltoise stopped on lap 68, lckx went into the lead again. The French car was refuelled, the front tyres changed. Cevert got in, and nearly shot off in reverse! A mechanic dived into the cockpit, fiddled with the gear-lever, found a low forward gear and Cevert was back in the race, but it had been an ominous portent.
This had let lckx get a whole lap ahead and dropped Cevert behind Schenken, but only until the Ferrari stopped for fuel and for Reutemann to resume command. When the leading Ferrari stopped at 80 laps for refuelling and for Redman to take over it retained its lead, but Cevert was able to get on the same lap. There was no question that Cevert was much faster than Redman, and very rapidly the Matra hauled in the Ferrari, passing it on lap 103 right in front of the main grandstand to the fury of the partisan crowd. This time Cevert ran 37 laps on a tankful of petrol and came in at 105 laps total to refuel and change rear tyres, so that when he rejoined the race the fleeing Redman was 59 seconds ahead with another 15 laps before he was due in for petrol.
The Matra had got away from the pits all right this time, albeit in second gear, and once more Cevert began whittling away the Ferrari’s lead, but this time knowing that it was his rival’s turn to stop next. At 121 laps, still with 45 seconds lead, Redman was into the pits, petrol was poured in, Ickx took over and as he screamed out of the pit lane the Matra went by into the lead. With more than 50 laps still to run it was anybody’s race, and both teams had their faster driver out on the track. With the Ferrari on full tanks and the Matra half full the blue car pulled steadily away at about one second per lap, but at 130 laps Cevert was seen heading into the pit lane and a cheer went up as the Ferrari retook the lead. The Matra was feeling peculiar and a rear tyre was changed, but three laps later Cevert went by making “thumb down” signals to his pit crew and at 134 laps he stopped again. This time the front tyres were changed and he made a complete nonsense of getting away, stirring about with the gear-lever, revving the engine like mad and slipping the clutch unmercifully as he got away in third gear. The crowd sensed that the end was near and cheered loudly. One more lap and the Matra was in the pits for good; apart from the Hewland gearbox chewing itself up the left, front stub-axle had broken, as on the other Matra.
This left Ickx with an unassailable lead, more than a lap ahead of Reutemann. whose Ferrari was overheating but still going all right, and the crowd settled down quietly to await an overdue victory for the Ferrari team. With the second Gulf-Mirage long since gone, with a broken clutch after Bell took over from Hailwood, in place of Schuppan the Matra of Pescarolo/Larrousse got back into third place, the remaining 2-litre cars not providing any opposition. A privately-owned Alfa Romeo 33TT33 was limping round with a sick engine and all the other cars with any semblance of speed had succumbed to the pace.
In the GT group the Fitzpatrick/Keller Porsche Carrera had lost its lead when the distributor drive broke and had to be changed and the De Tomaso Panteras were no more impressive than could be expected. The second works Porsche Carrera RSR also retired with a broken engine, due to failure rather than overdriving, and some of the remaining runners were so far behind that they might have been in a different event altogether.—D.S.J.
Monza 1,000 Kilometres – Grps 4 and 5 – Monza Autodrome – 5.75 km/lap – 174 laps – Warm & Dry
1st: J. Ickx/B. Redman (Ferrari 312P 3-litre flat-12) – Grp 5 – 4 hr. 07 min. 34.4 sec. – 242.473 k.p.h.
2nd: C. Reutemann/T. Schenken (Ferrari 312P 3-litre flat-12) – Grp 5 – 3 laps behind
3rd: H. Pescarolo/G. Larrousse (Matra-Simca 3-litre V12) – Grp 5 – 10 laps behind
4th: G. Galiardi/”Pooky” (Lola T290-Ford 1.6-litre) – Grp 5 – 24 laps behind
5th: C. Facetti/”Pam” (Alfa Romeo 33TT3 3-litre V8) – Grp 5 – 25 laps behind
6th: G. Schon/”Pal Joe” (Lola T290-Ford 1.9-litre) – Grp 5 – 29 laps behind
7th: L. Moreschi/”Frank McBoden” (Chevron B21-Ford 1.9-litre) – Grp 5 – 31 laps behind
8th: C. Schikentanz/E. Kremer (Porsche Carrera RSR 2.7-litre) – Grp 4 – 32 laps behind
9th: B. Cheneviere/P. Zbinden (Porsche Carrera RSR 2.7-litre _ Grp 4 – 34 laps behind
10th: C. Turizio/A. Marzi (Chevron B21-Ford 1.9-litre) – Grp 5 – 39 laps behind
Other classified finishers: J-P. Beltoise/F. Cevert (Matra-Simca V12) 40 laps behind; J. Fitzpatrick/P. Keller (Porsche Carrera RSR) 40 laps behind; C. Gaspari/J. Pinhol (Lola T292) 42 laps behind; M. Nesti/G. Morelli (Chevron B21) 51 laps behind; C. Manfredini/G. Moretti (De Tomaso Pantera) 56 laps behind; E. Bonomelli/T. Zeccoli (Porsche Carrera RSR) 60 laps behind; G. Gottifredi/G. Galimberti (De Tomaso Pantera) 67 laps behind.
Fastest lap: F. Cevert (Matra-Simca MS670) on lap 94, in 1 min. 21.9 sec. – 252.747 k.p.h. – 157.01 m.p.h.
Retirements: R. Joest/M. Casoni (Porsche 908/3), 1 lap; U. Locatelli/M. Martino (De Tomaso Pantera), 7 laps; A. Merzario/C. Pace (Ferrari 312P), 7 laps; G. Lise/U. Grano (Chevron B21), 12 laps; A. de Adamich/G. Serblin (March-BMW), 15 laps; G. Follmer/M.Schurti (Porsche Carrera RSR), 19 laps; C. Santos/M.Cabral (Lola T292), 20 laps; C. Oliver/A. Wicky (Porsche 908/2), 22 laps; G. Pianta/P. Pica (Lola T282), 42 laps; D. Bell/H. Ganley (Mirage M6), 54 laps; H. Müller/G. van Lennep (Porsche Carrera RSR), 62 laps; “Tango”/L. Rassega (Chevron B21), 79 laps; I. Harrower/J. Bell (Chveron B21), 83 laps; E. Tondelli/S. Buonapace (Chevron B21), 101 laps; C. Haldi/J. Fernandez (Porsche 908/3), 103 laps; W. Frey/P. Etmuller (Chevron B23), 108 laps; M. Formento/L. Pozzo (Chevron B21), 111 laps; J. Dolhem/”Fallo” (Lola T292), 115 laps; M. Hailwood/D. Bell (Mirage M6).