Reflections in the Spanish dust

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[Production schedules dictate that this look-back at the controversial Spanish Grand Prix, which had to await the CSI decision on Hunt’s disputed victory, appears further forward in the issue than the Grand Prix report, on pages 641-647.]

One thing I always like to try to do is to “dilly-dally” about after a race to watch the cars being loaded into their transporters, to talk to people after the noise and confusion of the race has died down, and in general wait “until the dust has settled” before leaving. So often questions and queries are solved once the dust has settled and the whole scene becomes clearer. Many daily paper or media “scoop-hounds” tell me how different my life would be if I didn’t work for a monthly magazine, to which I reply that this is exactly why I work for Motor Sport and not for the radio, TV, news agency, Fleet Street papers or even weeklies. My real love is motor racing, not journalism, which is why I like to stay behind until the last car is loaded, or as an old American friend used to say “until the last dog’s ‘bin hung”.

At Jarama the dust never did really settle for in the after-race scrutineering Hunt’s McLaren and Laffite’s Ligier were excluded for not complying with the Formula One rules, which to me spoilt a rather enjoyable race. Even sadder is the fact that Formula One racing (I cannot bring myself to call it Grand Prix racing much longer) is so bound up in rules and regulations that it might pay someone to employ Ralph Broad to build them a legal regulation-dodger. I have always felt that Grand Prix racing should be above restrictions and pettifogging regulations, and indeed at one time it used to be and squabbles about rules were confined to Le Mans, but as the gamut of motor racing spread to a wider cross-section of people, and real engineers gave way to pseudo engineers, a lowering of engineering integrity took place and this brought about the need for more stringent rules and regulations. A pure engineer is above political or financial squabbles, as is a pure scientist, but if you lower the standards then you need law-men to enforce the rules; you can no longer leave it to the integrity of the individual. Integrity in design and engineering went out of Grand Prix racing many years ago (except, perhaps, at Scuderia Ferrari), and as the standards lowered so the rule-book got fatter. Today the Formula One Constructors (note the word constructors, not designers or engineers) may be a strong and united body, but I don’t think they trust each other one little bit. Many years ago Ken Tyrrell told me,they were going to organise themselves for the sole purpose of stopping Colin Chapman and Enzo Ferrari taking the lion’s share of the pickings in Formula One racing. Tyrrell called it democratic with a fair share for all. I would call it something else.

With Ecclestone and Mosley as the mouthpiece and brain-box of the Constructors Association, we have been getting the impression that they run Formula One racing, not the Commission Sportive International of the governing body of motoring sport, the FIA. With the Spanish race being the first one for various new rules, dreamed up jointly by the CSI and the Constructors, in the interests of overall safety, for drivers, constructors, spectators, organisers and officials, not only physical safety hut financial safety as Well, it was suggested that the CSI should make an appearance in Spain and let it be seen that they control Formula One racing. Furthermore, the Constructors suggested that the CSI should be seen to implement the new rules, as well as some Of the old ones. This they did and promptly submitted that Hunt’s, McLaren and Latfite’s Ligier contravened various rules: In both cases it was a measurement that was over the prescribed limit, the McLaren on the overall width and the Ligier on the maximum distance of the rear aerofoil behind the rear wheel centre-line, but it could have just as easily been an engine capacity of 3,005 c.c. when 3,000 c.c. is the limit. The Matra, an Alfa Romeo and a selection of the Cosworth engines were checked for bore and stroke and found to be exactly as specified and within the maximum limit. The CSI technical commission submitted to the stewards of the meeting that the two cars concerned contravened the rules, Which was the point at Which the settling dust began to rise again. The race had finished around 6 p.m. and it was after 9 p.m. that the Stewards announced that Hunt (McLaren) and Laffite (Ligier) were excluded from the results and those remaining moved up places accordingly, giving first place to Lauda (Ferrari). McLaren Racing’s boss-man Teddy Mayer soon got lawyers on the job of protesting against the decision, but the Spanish Automobile Club’s Tribunal was adamant, the decision would stand. Mayer has now taken his appeal to the Royal Automobile Club and asked them to make an official appeal to the FIA in Paris, and there the matter stands at present.

Now no-one is suggesting that the McLaren was wrongly measured or that it was legal, Mayer and his team admit default and put it down to carelessness; I would put it down to “cockiness” for Teddy Mayer and Alistair Caldwell, who run the Formula One team, have been rather over-powering “knowalls” and “smart-guys” for some time, which is why none of their “buddies” in the Formula One Constructors Association have shown much sympathy for them. It is not that they Have been caught deliberately cheating, like using a 3 1/2-litre engine or mixing methanol or nitro-methane in the fuel, but they have been found guilty of being careless and their main complaint and appeal is against the harshness of the sentence, which was complete annihilation from the official results and the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championships as far as the Spanish race is concerned. Many people felt the decision was particularly hard on James Hunt, who was anything but careless in his driving of the race, and they thought that he should have been allowed to keep first place and the nine Championship points, but it was pointed out that next time Ferrari could have Lauda win with a 3 1/2-litre engine, have the team disqualified and leave Lauda as winner with his nine points. One suggestion that did seem more rational was that the results should stand but that both Hunt and McLaren should lose their nine points, leaving Lauda and Ferrari with their second-place six points. Of course, if we didn’t have these Championships and this obsession for points-chasing and took the Spanish GP and all the others on their individual merit a lot of this “hoo-hah” would be eliminated. A suggestion that I and two colleagues decided upon was that the results should stand and McLaren Racing should be fined £10,000, a sum large enough to hurt even a Formula One team. (We were amused to see this idea get into the Daily Excess!) One of our group thought £20,000 would be nearer the Mark, while yet another opted for £50,000, saying that the world of Formula One brags about their big-business and multi-million-pound activity, so fine them accordingly. For my part I would have liked this really big fine, which would have shaken the money-conscious Mayer, to have been distributed amongst the teams who went all the way to Madrid and failed to qualify for the race or for any of the Constructor’s shareout. That would have been a nice sporting gesture. But sport went out when business moved in.

On the factual side of the whole affair all the cars were looked at and measured in detail during practice, but it was made clear that only those features which could not be altered were dealt with. Any part of the car that could be easily changed was left until after the race and all the teams were notified of this fact, it being quite clear that any car that finished the race would be scrutineered afterwards. There was little point in measuring the overall width across the rear wheels during practice, if, after scrutineering, a different set of wheels could be fitted. Mayer claims to have not read the notification about after-race scrutineering, which must be the height of stupidity and carelessness for anyone calling himself a professional team-manager or director or what-have-you,

I think we now know quite clearly who is in charge of Formula One racing. It is the CSI and they always have been in charge, even though Ecclestone and his cohorts thought differently. The whole affair was a sad day for Grand Prix racing, but if that’s the way the competitors want it run then they must not cry about it. I never thought I would see Grand Prix racing dragged down to the level of Rallies, Saloon Car Racing, Formula Ford, Le Mans racing and other lowly levels of the sport.

By the time the dust finally began to settle on Jarama it was dark and the last of the transporters had rumbled out of the gate heading north to catch the boat at Bilbao to England, or to cross the frontiers to France and Italy.

In 1974 the Spanish GP at Jarama was a bit of a shambles due to the weather; in 1975 the Spanish GP at Barcelona was a shambles due to the drivers and organisers and now the 1976 Spanish GP at Jarama again was a shambles due to the Constructors. The unfortunate Spanish GP is getting a sordid history like the British GP—three shambles on the trot.—D.S.J.

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