The rain in Spain falls mainly on the circuit of Jarama, it would seem, and the Spanish Grand Prix looked all set to be a rather dismal affair with everyone splAhing round on rain tyres with their rear anti-roll bars disconnected, trying to find traction rather than doing any inspired racing. In perfect conditions the Jarama circuit is slow and boring for Formula One cars, and also for most of the drivers, so that the scene was set for two hours of not the best sort of Grand Prix racing. Then quite suddenly the rain stopped and within a few laps the track was bone dry and the great saga of the pitstop panics took place, which must surely go down in Grand Prix history. The chaos as everyone changed to wheels fitted with dry-weather tyres was complete and the result put new life into the race and into Grand Prix racing in general. Hours after the event a lot of people were still laughing uproariously over the attempts of the “super efficient Formula One teams” to do a simple thing like change all four wheels on a pair of cars. Even those directly concerned with some of the prize-winning boobs were still chuckling amongst themselves because hardly anyone had been left out of the chaos, except the Scuderia Ferrari, for the Italian team had got both their cars in and out like a flash, leaving everyone wondering how they had done it. The answer was simple for most of the team management and the mechanics have been involved in long-distance sportscar racing. A few years ago a Ferrari pit stop was well-known for representing a Chinese fire-drill, but then along came Mauro Forghieri and Peter Schetty and they transformed the team, so that instead of watching a Ferrari pit stop at Le Mans or somewhere, for a good laugh, you watched it with admiration for its slickness and efficiency. This year Ferrari has abandoned long-distance racing and many of the regular personnel are now with the Formula One team.
Nobody was laughing about the Ferrari pit stops, least of all Lauda and Regazzoni, for the swiftness gave them first and second places on a plate and all they had to do was to keep driving hard and consistently. The major pit-stop prize must surely go to Colin Chapman’s John Player Team Shambles, who were already holding the Motor Sport Shambles Trophy and if anyone is going to wrest it from them after the Spanish race they are going to have to try very hard indeed. I am not saying that Lotus are going to retain it, far from it, for I am sure they will get the Lotus 76 sorted out and hand the Trophy back. Actually, Peterson’s stop for tyres was not at all bad, bearing in mind that the fixing of the rear wheels has not been designed for speedy wheel changes, the single Nyloc nut having to be wound down the long threaded spindle with one tool and tightened up to its predetermined torque with another tool. It was when Ickx came in that it all went wrong; one rear wheel was being tightened with the torque spanner, while the other was yet to be done, when someone gave the signal for Ickx to go. He started up, the wheels spun while still on the jack, the car came off the jack and tools and mechanics flew in all directions as the Lotus started to accelerate up the pit lane. With a rear wheel not properly on its driving pegs, it soon came free and Ickx came to rest with no drive to the rear wheels, coasting to a stop outside the Trojan pit, while a horde of figures in John Player black and gold one-piece water-proof suits chased after him with various bits of pit equipment and tools. Ickx had come to rest just where Ron Tauranac was expecting Tim Schenken to stop and a very loud voice in best Australian told Ickx what to do. Without any drive to the rear wheels he could not do it, so the car was forcibly pushed out of the way, by which time the Lotus chaps were having another go at finishing their wheel change amid a lot of shouting and yelling from all sides, aided by some cheering from the other teams.
This time when Ickx was signalled to go he added to the confusion by pressing the fire-extinguisher button instead of the starter and the whole confused scene disappeared in a cloud of white fire-fighting vapour. The engine was started and sucked this into its intake so as fast as the Cosworth engine tried to set fire to the mixture in its cylinders the fire-fighting gas tried to put it out, and it was some time before the Cosworth engine won the battle and fired on all eight cylinders, the white vapour and exhaust gas coming out of the tail pipes being really spectacular and very evil-tasting according to those who got a mouthful. Eventually Ickx rejoined the race, but many laps behind, and he did not go far before returning to the pits to retire with a leak in the front brake system, it not being deemed worthwhile continuing. There were some black and gold people who were not amused, but everyone else thoroughly enjoyed the whole affair, especially the March team who had finished their wheel change on Stuck’s car early and could sit back and enjoy the scene that was enacted almost in front of their pit.
While Lotus were the champions there were some good runners-up, like the Hesketh team who let their car down off the jack before the rear wheels were put on, and the Shadow team who were busy fitting a new nose fairing to Jarier’s car at the time the track dried, and acquiesced to the driver’s demand to leave the wet-weather tyres on. He charged back into the race onto a dry track, returning almost immediately to the pits for dry-tyres, to be sent off with a flea in his car, as the pit had just signalled Redman in for a tyre-change on the second Shadow. After that was done Jarier was allowed back In again and when he had gone a leak was discovered on the compressed air power spanner that does up the wheels nuts. In case this meant that the wheel nuts had not been done up properly Jarier was called back in and a check made. The real concern was for Redman who was having a good trouble-free run which they did not want to spoil by a fruitless pitstop. As Jarier’s wheel nuts were perfectly all right, it was reasonably assumed that Redman’s were, his wheels having been changed first. After four pit stops Jarier was able to get on with his racing, which he did with great enthusiasm. The Tyrrell team were well in the hunt of the pit-stop dramas, somehow getting both their cars in at the same time, and so it went on all along the pits, the dramas ranging from major to minor. Even those who had no trouble were not exactly proud of the time taken, and in comparison with the great days of the Gulf Porsche 917 racing in long-distance events, when David Yorke and the mechanics of the John Wyer team set some pretty good standards for pit stops, the whole Grand Prix scene was a bit of a joke, but at least most people seemed to enjoy it.
For a long time the Formula One “circus” has been brain-washing us into believing that they are a super-efficient multi-million pound self-supporting industry, and the whole scene has been almost boot-faced with its own self-importance, whereas in reality they are all quite human, though some of the team owners were still a bit boot-faced afterwards. I have been advocating 1,000kilometre races for Grand Prix cars, when people have asked me how I would brighten up Formula One, for with pitstops and driver changes it could not fail to be entertaining. After all the dust and vapour had settled and those that were still in the race were on the right tyres, another breath of fresh air pervaded the scene. During the chaos the only people who had kept a lap chart going were the official time-keepers in their air-conditioned tower well up-stream of the pits, who were unconcerned with what was happening off the track. Apart from Ferraris being first and second not many people had much idea of the actual placings, and one or two who had been all right up to the Lotus drama had had everything obliterated by the Lotus gas-bomb. One team was convinced that their lap chart was one hundred per cent correct, except that they had Regazzoni in first place! The result of all this was that the only reliable information most drivers were receiving as they passed their pits was their lap time. Consequently, almost everyone, except the two Ferraris, let their hair down and rated against anything with four wheels that was in front of them.
The shambles had started around lap twenty-two, so that for something like sixty laps there was an uninhibited free-for-all going on with drivers blocking each other, carving each other up, diving through on the inside, running round the outside and generally having a lot of fun. When it was all over most drivers agreed that they had thoroughly enjoyed themselves, even though they hadn’t got a clue as to what was going on. It was certainly enjoyable to watch. When these self-styled “professionals” know their race positions to the split-second they tend to cruise around not deeming it worthwhile to try very hard in order to move up from twelfth to eleventh place, and the whole proceedings can become very processional, but it was not processional at Jarama. It was like Formula Ford right to the bitter end, with so many drivers unsure whether they were sixth or sixteenth. Come to think of it, with the two Ferraris way ahead on their own, and only Pescarolo’s BRM V12 in amongst all the Cosworth V8 engines, it was virtually Formula (Super) Ford, if you accept that Ford make the DFV and not Cosworth. Normally when a backrunner is being lapped by a third or fourth place runner he slows right down and gets out of the way, if he’s not going slow enough already, but not this time. There was no gentlemanly stuff, it was all good healthy motor racing, and pretty skilled at that, with a bunch of five or six elbowing their way into the hairpin at the end of the long straight. Added to this carefree attitude were a handful of renegades who do not conform to the “Stewart school of rules”, drivers like Stuck, Jarier, Hailwood, Merzario, Redman and Depallier who just love driving racing tars over the limit. Some people went so far as to suggest that Grand Prix racing is taking on a new and brighter outlook without the oppressive hand of Jackie Stewart ever present in the minds of the new young tear-aways, for in the past the Scot had been known to reprimand a keen young aspirant to Formula One, saying “Och, we don’t drive like tha’ in Gran Free”. Even his cohort, the late Francois Cevert, took it on himself to reprimand a lively newcomer last year. Whether it would be possible to run a Grand Prix without any pit signals is debatable, but it would certainly liven things up if the Spanish Grand Prix and last year’s Canadian Grand Prix are anything to go by.
Aside from the actual racing at Jarama there was an interesting private affair going on with the Formula One constructors. They have all been busily getting on with building cars, and trying to keep up with the detailed rules that kept emanating from the CSI, but are well aware that with the best will in the world they are not all conforming exactly with the letter of the law. If is not a case of blatant cheating, like using a 3.4-litre engine or being under weight, but silly little things like the height of an exhaust pipe, or the position of a trim tab when the ride height is altered and so on. In their own interests the Constructors’ Association took a “boffin” with them to Jarama, where they knew everyone would be assembled, and gave him a free hand to wander amongst them with the CSI rule book and make a report on what he discovered. This was Peter Jowitt from the RAE Farnborough, who works in his spare time with the RAC Scrutineering department. As his work at Farnborough deals with Aircraft Crash Inspection and Analysis he had an interesting time at Jarama looking closely at some of the accidents that happened, because during the meeting there were four major crashes and two minor ones. His analysis of the Brarnbilla accident, where the March 741 went straight on at the end of the straight, indicated the cause to be the rear aerofoil sructure collapsing and pressing a rear brake pipe onto a brake disc, and complete loss of the rear brakes, the sudden full load going onto the front brakes locking the wheels and sending the March straight on, for a locked wheel will neither stop nor steer. In the Merzario accident, it seems that the Italian was trying to chop through on the inside of Jarier’s Shadow, on a hairpin, and the rear wheels of the UOP car clouted the nose of the Williams car, thus tweaking the nose fins from “down” to “up”; Merzario went off the road in a big understeer on the next fast left-hand corner, headlong into the Armco barrier and the car rode up it and along it, just as Williamson’s March had done at Zandvoort last year. As Merzario’s car was on its way to doing a lowlevel loop in a sideways motion, part of the rear suspension caught the top of the steel barrier, which flicked the car the right way up and it landed on its wheels the other side of the barrier.
Unfortunately, a lot of misguided press and photographic people were standing behind the barrier and some of them got clobbered. Naturally there was a lot of shouting and yelling, but one hopes the GPDA will realise that the precious barriers were once more inadequately installed. Just as the Constructors’ Association are prepared to fork out and take their own “inspector” with them, the GPDA should fork out and send a qualified civil engineer well in advance of their own inspection party, and he should be there while the installations are being constructed, not after they are finished.
The Grand Prix had been scheduled to start at 12 noon, and it was actually 12.25 when it got under way. Had it been delayed for an hour it could have been run completely in the dry, but it seems that it was being relayed on Eurovision TV and the “eyes and ears of the world” were already in a bit of flap and could not contemplate a longer delay. Had Eurovision not influenced the decision it might have been a deadly dull old race! One friend who normally watches most of his motor racing on television, and thoroughly enjoys it, was at the Spanish race in person, and his instant reaction was the incredible noise and confusion which keeps you tingling and on your toes, an atmosphere that does not come across on television. This was at a dull autodrome that does not exude any character of its own, unlike circuits such as Clermont-Ferrand, Monte Carlo, Rouen, Spa-Francorcharnps, Nurburgring, Osterreichring or Monza, which all exude individual character.—D.S.J.
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