VSCC New Year
VSCC New Year AA ark Garfitt's January 1 meet at the 1VIVerzons near Ledbury was…
Pace scores from Fittipaldi at home
Sao Paulo, January 26th
With only two weeks separating the Brazilian Grand Prix from the Argentine Grand Prix in January, most of the teams spent their time (depending on whether they were drivers or mechanics) either relaxing on beaches or sweating blood trying to ensure that their cars arrived at Sao Paulo’s Interlagos circuit in time for the first practice session. After all the speculation surrounding Ronnie Peterson’s proposed sale by Team Lotus to the Shadow organisation, this story erupted afresh in Brazil with endless conferences between the two teams, intense discussions in expensive hotel rooms and rumours abounding like never before. Peterson was duly fitted into a Shadow at the Interlagos circuit, admitted that he would be driving for the team in the Brazilian Grand Prix, and then drove a Lotus 72 after all. The decision as to whether he leaves the Lotus team or not certainly does not appear to remain in Peterson’s hands any more, and the uncertain atmosphere which prevailed in the team over the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend can do nothing but harm to their chances in future races.
In an effort to bring the now-ageing Lotus 72 back into a state of competitiveness, Peter Warr rushed back to England immediately after the Argentine Grand Prix and returned to Sao Paulo with a pair of revised rear suspension units for the two cars. These incorporated modified uprights with different pick up points for the lower links to change the car’s roll centre in an attempt to improve its handling. Peterson’s car also sported the larger front brakes which Ickx had used at Buenos Aires, but as only four new discs were available and one of them was slightly out of true, the unlucky Peterson was the driver who was given the slightly distorted one. In addition, the only replacement engine available for the Swede’s Lotus 72 was the one which Ickx had used during the Argentine Grand Prix, so one got the general impression that the second Lotus was being prepared for a number two driver. Perhaps they were anticipating Tom Pryce joining the team right up until the day before first practice?
But whilst Lotus and Shadow involved themselves in complicated financial jousting, there was plenty of work going on in other quarters. Having chosen to abandon their idea of relying on Firestone’s existing range of racing tyres, the Vels Parnelli team quickly came into the Goodyear fold with Mario Andretti, all of them knowing full well that whilst Firestone’s stocks might well be adequate there was no chance of being in on any development programme that Goodyear might have unless they joined in with everyone else. Ferrari built up their spare monocoque 312B3/012 into a running car for Lauda to use while the unhappy Copersucar Fittipaldi Formula 1 team loaded the burnt-out remains of Wilson Fittipaldi’s Grand Prix challenger back into its vast transporter and rushed home to Sao Paulo where they built up a completely new car for his home Grand Prix. The second Copersucar Fittipaldi, chassis number FD/02, featured some major alterations including the positioning of its water radiators on the car’s flanks at the rear of the monocoque and a cutaway engine cover to replace the fully enclosed bodywork seen at Buenos Aires. Stronger uprights were fitted to both front and rear suspension for the team suspects that the failure of one of these components was the cause of the Argentine accident.
Amongst the more familiar competitors, there was little to report in the way of change. The two red and white works McLarens for Emerson Fittipaldi and Mass, the two Martini Brabham BT44Bs for Reutemann and Pace, the two Shadows for Jarier and Pryce, the Lolas for Stommelen and Hill and the Williams cars for Merzario and Laffite remained in the same trim as they had raced two weeks earlier. One or two minor aerodynamic changes could be seen on John Watson’s Surtees TS16 while Hunt’s spare Hesketh 308/1 was fitted with a wider track front and rear as an experiment for the 4.9-mile Interlagos circuit.
Some modifications had been made to Sao Paulo’s international circuit since 1974, although the much-awaited resurfacing turned out to be confined to the start/finish straight and only enabled the cars to have a slightly smoother ride without measurably improving lap times. Practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix took place on the Friday and Saturday morning, two and a half hours being allocated to the Grand Prix cars on each day. One has to go back to 1973 to find the Formula One record for Interlagos, Emerson Fittipaldi’s Lotus 72 and Denny Hulme’s McLaren M19C sharing 2 min. 35.0 sec. on the way to first and third places respectively in that year’s Grand Prix. But Ronnie Peterson won pole position for that race with an incredible 2 min. 30.2 sec. at the wheel of a Lotus 72 and these times were not approached the following year. But this year, with pre-race testing revealing the two works Brabhams recording laps in the 2 min. 32 sec. bracket, it seemed as though Peterson’s all-time best might be approached, or even beaten.
Although Emerson Fittipaldi and Carlos Pace are acknowledged experts round Interlagos, much of the interest and attention in the pits and paddock centred round Jarier’s Shadow DN5. This new car from the Shadow stable had astounded most of its rivals by securing pole position at Buenos Aires, comfortably outpacing the opposition. Unfortunately the failure of the crownwheel and pinion, a failure caused by deficient material supplied to Hewland Engineering and not a manufacturing fault on the part of the gearbox builder, resulted in the Frenchman rolling to a halt on his warming-up lap and never getting the chance to prove his practice form. The question everyone was wanting to know amounted to “could he repeat this at Interlagos”?
Spurred on by the confidence he’d built up in Argentina, Jarier quickly threw the “cat amongst the pigeons” by starting off in exactly the same way as at Buenos Aires. Hardly had the circuit opened than the black Shadow streaked round to record an amazing 2 min. 31.52 sec., comfortably ahead of its nearest rival. Carlos Reutemann worked up a terrific amount of effort but couldn’t improve on 2 min. 32.17 sec. and Emerson Fittipaldi was out of the hunt anyway with a cracked fuel pump on his McLaren M23.
Inevitably suspicious rivals began staring at the new inlet trumpets on the Shadow DN5’s Cosworth motor as well as the revised exhaust system with its big megaphones right at the back. Clearly, suspected one or two individuals, the Shadow factory is next door to Cosworth at Northampton and they must have bought some special engines. But whilst the doubting opposition was wondering why and the more respectable teams were trying to do something about equalling the enthusiastic Frenchman’s times, Jarier was preparing to out-run his rivals yet again.
After a half-hour interval, Jarier stormed back onto the circuit and further demoralised his opposition with an even quicker lap in 2 min. 30.4 sec. his confidence in the car being so great as to allow him to take the fast left hand swerve following the pits absolutely flat out in fifth without lifting his right foot. Fittipaldi almost caught up with Reutemann, both McLaren and Brabham hovering together on the 2 min. 31 sec. mark. but acute understeer seemed to be plaguing half the field and their times varied accordingly. Neither Ferrari driver seemed very much at home over the bumps and ripples, although Lauda eventually worked his way down to 2 min. 31.2 sec. in the team’s “muletta” during the second session after complaining that his new machine was suffering from acute oversteer which made it virtually undriveable. Regazzoni was well on the wrong side of 2 min. 32 sec. while Hunt’s steady progress was marred by a spin in the spare Hesketh which knocked off the nose section. Neither Lotus managed to finish Friday with a lap beneath 2 min. 33 sec. for while both drivers agreed that the altered rear suspension proved a worthwhile improvement, this simply left them with acute understeer. Peterson’s car was also suffering from mysterious braking problems and ended up refusing to run properly on all eight cylinders with the result that the Swede’s fastest lap in the second session wasn’t even below the three minute mark. You could sense the tension, bred out of sheer frustration, building up in the Lotus pit, for this is a team which has become acclimatised to winning and not just scuffing round in the second half of the grid as a bunch of also rans.
Others in trouble included Mike Wilds, his BRM running out of steam rather heavily against a barrier which jarred his left wrist and bashed the front of the P201 about sufficiently badly to prevent it practising again on Friday. Neither the Penske nor the Parnelli were having much luck while both the Williams and the Lola team were not particularly quick while the Fittipaldi car was at least lapping steadily and smoothly with the minimum of drama as Wilson Fittipaldi got used to the new car on his local track.
Saturday morning turned out to be much the same as Friday. With a fresh engine installed in the DN5, Jarier broke the 2 min. 30 sec. barrier with an incredible 2 min. 29.98 sec-lap to ensure that he started from pole position for the second successive Grand Prix. For the remainder of that session the contest was simply left to decide just who would join Jarier on the front row rather than who would eventually be on pole position. Both Ferrari drivers tried to come to grips with the situation, Regazzoni turning in a 2 min. 31.22 sec. and Lauda, now back in his newer car with all the settings and adjustments from the “muletta”, managed a time just two tenths slower. Reutemann and Pace ended up with 2 min. 31.00 sec. and 2 min. 31.22 sec. respectively while neither Tyrrell was really in the picture and Mass’s McLaren was only fractionally slower than Depailler. Watson seems to be getting on with both John Surtees and the task of sorting out his TS16, ending up quicker than Pryce and the two American cars in addition to both Lotus entries who were having one of their darkest and most depressing weekends ever. Andretti’s Parnelli had a troubled time, consuming two engines during practice, while a serious misfire in Stommelen’s Lola meant that he was obliged to share Hill’s car in the final session and was thus rewarded with his fastest lap of the weekend in 2 min. 38.05 sec. a time which ensured that he started the race as slowest qualifier behind Wild’s BRM and the Copersucar.
In Saturday’s second session, just as everyone was beginning to give up hope that anyone would challenge Jarier for his place at the head of the field, Emerson Fittipaldi hurled everything he could muster into one desperately quick lap in his McLaren M23. The result was the quickest time in the final session of 2 min. 30.68 sec., decisively faster than third man Reutemann but nowhere near quick enough to dispirit the elated Jarier whose Shadow blew up its engine during that last session.
Race day at Interlagos is more like a national festival with the fans showing the same patriotic exuberance that characterises the Italians and French but which seems to be lost on the British. From an early hour the gigantic grandstand along the main straight was squashed full to capacity beneath a scorching sun and obliging water tankers played hoses of cool water on the chanting mob to keep them from roasting. Most of the drivers were anxious to keep out of the searing heat for as long as possible, knowing full well that they would be hot enough in their cockpits wearing their triple-layer overalls, so few emerged before the very last moment to climb into their cars.
The start was delayed for a short while to enable Lauda’s mechanics to complete an engine change in his Ferrari, an ominous black pool beneath the Italian car bearing witness to a leaking oil pump during the unofficial session in the morning. As always in front of his home crowd, Emerson Fittipaldi drove out onto his warming up lap last of all to be greeted by huge chants of applause, but equally popular were Carlos Pace and the World Champion’s elder brother whose Brazilian built car attracted a great deal of support. As the cars lined up in their two by two formation, Peterson’s car had a last minute front tyre change on the start line only to find that his Lotus 72 would not fire up on the dummy grid. The field moved slowly forward to the starting line leaving the fuming Swede churning away on his starter button to no avail.
Down swept the Brazilian flag and Reutemann dived between Jarier and the tardy Fittipaldi, edging the Shadow out on the inside of the first corner and leading away down the straight in his elegantly striped Brabham. Pace made a splendid getaway from the third row to move into third place while both Ferraris were next ahead of Scheckter’s Tyrrell and Fittipaldi’s McLaren, the World Champion having made an absolutely appalling start. This was the order at the end of the opening 4.9-mile lap with Depailler, Ickx and Watson hanging on a few yards behind. Peterson’s Lotus was last away after some frantic fiddling on the line, so he came through well after the rest of the field which included Merzario, Mass, Pryce, Donohue, Andretti, Hunt, Brambilla, Laffite, Wilds, Hill, Stommelen and Wilson Fittipaldi.
Jarier was clearly taking things very carefully, for Reutemann is not the easiest of drivers to find a way past and although the Shadow edged alongside on a couple of occasions, it was not until the start of the fifth lap that he drew alongside the Argentinian as they rushed down the long straight after the pits and he outbraked the Brabham into the bottom corner. From that point on the young Frenchman simply ran away from his opposition in such a fashion that he had accumulated a two-second lead over Reutemann by the end of lap five. Admittedly the Brabham team leader had quickly discovered that his choice of one hard compound tyre on the right front rim and three soft compound covers was completely unsuitable and it didn’t take long for him to slacken his speed somewhat.
As a result, Pace, the two Ferraris, Scheckter and Fittipaldi were all boxed in behind him, Pace making tentative attempts at forcing a way past his team mate largely because he didn’t like the look of Regazzoni’s Ferrari looming ominously in his mirror and trying to slip inside him on the tight comers where Reutemann was really holding them all up. Depailler was lapping all on his own and Ickx must have been wondering just what he was doing with Watson’s Surtees and Pryce’s Shadow banked up behind his ageing Lotus. But for the crowd, the Brazilian Grand Prix provided terrific spectacle, that is if they managed to forget the fact that Jarier’s sinister black Shadow was confidently pulling away from everyone else at over a second and a half on each lap!
On lap 12 Pace’s tenacity paid off and he immediately started to pull away from his team mate in pursuit of the now-vanished Shadow while Fittipaldi’s task was eased when Scheckter swung into the pit lane to change a blistered rear tyre. Unfortunately the Tyrrell driver had been conscious of a strong smell of oil from his car and was back for a good few laps later with a split oil tank. Stretching his lead all the time, Jarier was almost twenty seconds ahead of the determined Pace on lap 18 and Reutemann was dropping steadily away, first to be picked off by Regazzoni, then Fittipaldi and finally Niki Lauda’s Ferrari. Donohue retired the Penske with a broken trailing edge to the car’s rear aerofoil, Wilds’ BRM rolled to a halt with a broken flywheel bolt and Watson’s energetic pursuit was unfortunately delayed by a puncture which necessitated him stopping to change a wheel.
On lap 25 suddenly Jarier’s advantage levelled off and Pace started to edge closer. The Shadow’s fuel system was playing up, making the engine cut out intermittently on corners which meant he was unable to maintain his lap times. Eventually Pace could see his adversary on the track in front of him, but there still did not seem to be sufficient time for the Brazilian to whittle down his lead. Then, on lap 32, Jarier’s epic drive came to a premature end when the fuel metering unit control arm seized and the Shadow glided to a standstill.
Jarier’s retirement was just the cue the crowded grandstands required. As one man they erupted in delight, for not only was Pace leading his home Grand Prix but Fittipaldi had elbowed his way in front of Regazzoni on lap 29 and was now putting in one of his typical “late race spurts” in an effort to catch the Martini Brabham. As the commentators screamed hysterically, the progress of Mass’s unobtrusively but quickly driven McLaren brought the German driver through the field into third place which he maintained to the chequered flag. Depailler rounded off a dismal weekend for Tyrrell by crashing heavily into some catch fences when a front wishbone broke on 007/4 and Pryce found himself caught out by his older Shadow’s acute understeer and slid into similar fences on the uphill left hander leading onto the main straight.
Although Fittipaldi’s McLaren was catching Pace by about half a second a lap, there was simply not enough time left and, anyway, to catch somebody is one thing but to pass them is another, particularly when that “somebody” is about to score his first Grand Prix victory. As it was, the World Champion never got close enough to his old friend and rival, Pace crossing the line a weary but delighted winner to the accompaniment of applause which must have been heard in Rio-de-Janeiro. Mass pounded across the line a steady and workmanlike third behind his team mate while the uninspiring Ferraris were next and Hunt’s Hesketh just beat Andretti by a second and a bit for the final Championship point. Reutemann, having stopped to change his Brabham’s front tyres finished eighth ahead of Ickx and the unlucky Watson, while the final, very deserved, round of applause went to Wilson Fittipaldi who brought the locally-built car home 13th despite broken exhaust pipes for much of the race.
The Copersucar Fittipaldi didn’t have a very auspicious Grand Prix debut, but in its second race it certainly made a marked improvement in the right direction, something which many more established teams who have been around for some time failed conspicuously to do. For Peterson, finishing the race in a disappointed 15th and last position, there must have been a painful lesson there somewhere. – A.H.
THE BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX – Formula One – 40 laps – Interlagos
7.96 kilometres per lap – 318.4 kilometres – Very Hot
1st: C.Pace (Brabham BT44B/2)…………… 1 hr. 44 min. 41.17 sec. – 182.488 k.p.h
2nd: E. Fittipaldi (McLaren M23/9)…………. 1 hr. 44 min. 49.96 sec.
3rd: J. Mass (McLaren M23/8)………………. 1 hr. 45 min. 07.83 sec.
4th: C.Regazzoni (Ferrari 312B3/014)……. 1 hr. 45 min. 24.45 sec.
5th: N. Lauda (Ferrari 312B3/020)…………. 1 hr. 45 min. 43.05 sec.
6th: J. Hunt (Hesketh 308/3)…………………. 1 hr. 45 min. 46.29 sec.
7th: M. Andretti (Parnelli VPJ4/002)……….. 1 hr. 45 min. 47.98 sec.
8th: C. Reutemann (Brabham BT44B/1)…. 1 hr. 46 min. 20.79 sec.
9th: J. Ickx (Lotus 72/R5)……………………… 1 hr. 46 min. 33.01 sec.
10th:J. Watson (Surtees TS16/04-4)………. 1 hr. 47 min. 10.77 sec.
11th:J. Laffite (Williams IR/02)……………….. 1 lap behind
12th:G. Hill (Lola T370/HU2)…………………. 1 lap behind
13th:W. Fittipaldi (Fittipaldi FD/02)…………. 1 lap behind
14th:R. Stommelen (Lola T370/HU3)……… 1 lap behind
15th:R. Peterson (Lotus 72/R8)……………… 2 laps behind
Fastest Lap: J-P. Jarier (Shadow DN5/1A) on lap 10 in 2 min. 34.16 sec.- 185.894 k.p.h.
Retirements: V. Brambilla (March 741/2-4) on lap 2, broken engine; J. Scheckter (Tyrrell 007/2) on lap 19, split oil tank; M. Donohue (Penske PC1/02) on lap 23, handling problems; M. Wilds (BRM P201/04) on lap 23, broken flywheel; A. Merzario (Williams IR/04) on lap 25, loss of fuel pressure; T. Pryce (Shadow DN3/3A) on lap 32, accident; P. Depailler (Tyrrell 007/4) on lap 32, suspension failure; J-P. Jarier (Shadow DN5/1A) on lap 33, fuel metering control arm seized.
23 starters – 15 finishers.
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