Pau Grand Prix

Pau, France, April 2nd.

The race at Pau is one of those that can always stand on its own merits no matter whether it is for Formula One cars or go-karts, for the circuit is pure street racing and remains the same year after year and is always an exacting test of driver and car. Unlike a lot of circuits you have to be right on line to the inch at Pau if you want to lap fast and consistently, or else you damage wheels and tyres on kerbstones. This year the Pau G.P., the twenty-seventh to be held, was the first round in the French series of races for the new Formula Two and a small but very select entry had been invited to participate. Works Brabhams were driven by Brabham and Hulme, works Lotus by Clark and Hill, works Matras by Beltoise and Servoz-Gavin, the Winkelmann Brabhams by Rindt and Rees, the Tyrell Matras by Stewart and Ickx, the Coombs McLaren by Courage, and Widdows with his own Brabham. All of these were using the 16 valve Cosworth-Ford engine and except for the two Lotus 48 cars, who were using ZF gearboxes, everyone was using the latest Hewland FT200 gearbox.

Practice was held on Friday afternoon at 2.30 for one and a half hours, which gave everyone plenty of time to get things adjusted properly. Clark flew in direct from Indianapolis where he had been testing the STP turbo-jet car, lapping at 163 m.p.h., so he must have found the 1,600-c.c. Lotus a bit underpowered. Even though it had rained in the morning and the circuit was still damp through the Beaumont Park, there was no problem about setting new lap records, with new cars, new engines, new tyres and new brakes, only the drivers being unchanged. The previous best lap time ever was 1 min. 26.0 see., by Hulme last year in the 150 b.h.p. Brabham-Honda, so it was no surprise that 1967 Formula Two cars of virtually the same overall size and with 200 b.h.p. easily surpassed this time on a damp circuit. While most of the drivers had already done two meetings with the new cars, Clark saw his for the first time when he arrived at the circuit and he got straight into it and joined in, setting the pace within a few laps and making everyone chase him for pole position. Just after clocking 1 min. 25.4 sec. he stopped at the pits and said he thought there was something wrong with the left-front wheel. There was; the centre-lock hub nut had come loose!

On Saturday practice started at 2.45 p.m. and conditions were perfect, everywhere being absolutely dry and clean and the temperature cool so with a rush everyone was out again. The Tyrell Matras were improving, as though basically last year’s cars they were being improved with new parts, such as suspension uprights and wheels; entirely new cars are due at the end of the month. Schlesser, not having his new Matra yet, borrowed a Lola with twin-cam Lotus engine, but it would not work satisfactorily. Hulme was in fine form and obviously out for a front-row-grid position and Stewart was not only going very fast but was outstandingly smooth. Clark was also going very fast, but having to work hard to keep the Lotus going where he wanted it, while Brabham was working overtime and getting the results. Courage crashed the Coombs red McLaren very badly, tearing wheels off and getting away unhurt, and Stewart overdid things and hit a kerb with his Matra, breaking a suspension upright, while Ickx spun his Matra into the straw bales at the station hairpin. He had done the same thing the day before, but this time made a good job of it, so that the Tyrell mechanics had a late night working session ahead of them. The Winkelmann team were quietly getting on with things, having no problems and, while not at the forefront, neither Rindt nor Rees were far behind the works drivers. The whole tempo of this practice session had been very high and some of the drivers seemed to be getting desperate and throwing caution to the winds. The result of it all was that Clark got down to 1 min. 20.8 sec., over 5 seconds faster than last year’s best, which was a phenomenal improvement for one year and an increase of 600 c.c. Stewart, Brabham and Hill were all very close to one another, but quite a way behind Clark, while “new boy” Widdows was well below the old record lap.

By Sunday morning the Matras of Stewart and Ickx had been repaired and they were able to try them out, the Belgian boy’s car having a blue nose cowling from a works car, which clashed with the dark green bodywork. The Coombs McLaren could not be repaired so Courage was a spectator, but Frenchman Servoz-Gavin was able to join the starting grid due to the generosity of Brabham. The second works Matra was lacking a Hewland gearbox and as his works cars had survived practice Brabham loaned his spare gearbox to the Matra team. Schlesser declined to drive the borrowed Lola twin-cam, so there were only twelve cars on the grid, but they were a very select twelve.

Throughout practice Brabham had been using some new ultra-low profile Goodyear tyres, on 15 inch wheels, on the rear of his car and he kept to these for the race, with normal 13 inch wheels and tyres on the front. The front row of the grid was shared by the three big tyre firms, Clark on Firestone, Stewart on Dunlop and Brabham on Goodyear and after a warm-up lap the 12 cars were ready for the 70-lap race. All except Oliver went off from the start like rockets, the white Lotus 41 with green stripe stuttered away from the line, but picked up all right later on. Hill had difficulty with his ZF gearbox on the opening lap and got pushed back down the field while he sorted things out, and though Clark led the opening lap Rindt was right alongside him at the end of the pits straight and he forced the green Brabham past on the inside of the right-hand bend in a most audacious manner and took complete command of the race from then on. It needed only six laps to sort the field out, with Rindt leading Clark and Brabham, then a gap before Stawart arrived followed by Beltoise and Hulme close behind. Beltoise had assumed that Stewart would streak off with the leaders and had tucked in behind the dark green Matra. Unfortunately Stewart’s car was not handling like it did in practice and he could not challenge the leaders so Beltoise had “backed the wrong horse.” Graham Hill was gathering himself up to pass Rees, having recovered from his gear fumbling and the rest of the runners were already way behind, Oliver having lost two laps through a pit stop to have his gear-linkage looked at. With Clark on his tail Rindt had to set a cracking pace and the race-average was way above the old record lap average speed.

After eleven laps Clark made a desperate bid to take the lead from Rindt and got right alongside him as they rounded the bend by the pits, but the young Austrian driver was not impressed and Clark had to drop in behind him again. On the sixteenth lap Clark had a moment’s hesitation with his gear selectors and this let Brabham nip by into second place, for the leading trio were still very close. Graham Hill got by Hulme and they were both still close to the Matras of Stewart and Beltoise, but on lap 19 the Frenchman drew into the pits with a slipping clutch. Although adjustments were made and he did another lap he was hardly out of earshot before it was obvious that his race was run and when he returned to the pits the car was wheeled away. By this time Rindt had lapped Oliver, Servoz-Gavin and Widdows and the pace, like the sunshine was very hot. Brabham could not keep pace with the flying Rindt and as Clark could not get by the works Brabham, the Winkelmann car began to open up a measurable gap. Graham Hill was now hot on the heels of Stewart, who was still fourth, and just when the Lotus number two was preparing for his attack the gear selector arm broke in the ZF gearbox and that was that, so Hulme took over the job of pressing Stewart.

At 35 laps, or half distance, Rindt had a 5-second lead over Brabham, who still had Clark right on his tail. Stewart and Hulme were more than 40 seconds behind the leader and Rees was in danger of being lapped by his “pressing on” team leader. Ickx, Widdows and Servoz-Gavin were still running well, but Oliver could not hope to make up his time lost at the pits. Rindt was lapping consistently around the 1 min. 22.0 sec. mark and was looking fast and confident, his car running superbly, but on lap 37 Stewart stopped at the pits to enquire about a terrible vibration that had started. Pieces had broken off the flywheel outer ring, so he was not mistaken, and the Matra-Cosworth was wheeled away. On the next lap Widdows came to rest at the top of the circuit when his fuel injector unit seized up and flung off the toothed driving belt.

On lap 40 Clark had an enormous moment when braking near the monument in the Park Beaumont and he didn’t realise at the time that it was due to failing rear brakes. This caused him to lose complete contact with Brabham and on lap 47 he was lacking in rear brakes completely and as he passed the pits he indicated he would be in next lap. The nose cowling was taken off and the rear brake circuit reservoir was found to be empty of fluid, it having leaked out of a faulty cap. While more fluid was put in he lost a whole lap and rejoined the race behind Rees, in fifth place now. This made Clark pull out all the stops and he lapped every bit as fast as Rindt who was still leading and drawing away from Brabham all the time; Hulme was a lonely third and Rees a shaky fourth for Clark was bearing down on him remorselessly. At 54 laps Brabham’s engine seemed to change its note ominously and at the end of lap 58 he coasted into the pits with low oil pressure. The oil tank was virtually empty, the contents having been used rather than leaked away, so he was forced to retire. FIA rules forbidding the addition of oil during a race. This left Rindt over a minute ahead of Hulme and Clark was about to wrest third place from Rees, which he did on lap 61 with a new lap record. He broke it yet again on lap 64, with a shattering 1 min. 20.4 sec. and on the very next lap he rushed into the pits complaining of a loose right-hand front wheel, just as he had with the left one in practice. The hub nut had come loose, later it was found due to a machining error on the hubs. After it was tightened he shot back into the race to try and catch Rees who had gone by into third place. With only a few laps to go it was not possible, but Clark did not relax and stormed on to the finish. Rindt was going as hard at the end of the 70 laps as he had gone at the start and had driven a brilliant race, consolidating his Easter victories and putting the Winkelmann team right on top of the new Formula Two, their two cars finishing as immaculately as ever.

In the Formula Three event a large entry list was whittled down to the fastest eighteen in practice being allowed to start. Beckwith was fastest on both days driving the new “special” constructed by the Chequered Flag team, comprising their own chassis frame with front suspension using Brabham and Lola parts and the rear end using Lotus parts. A Cosworth-Ford F3 engine provided the power driving through the latest version of the DAF variomatic belt-drive automatic transmission. Sponsored by DAF of Eindhoven and operated by the Chequered Flag team the car is referred to as a DAF, though it is really a Graham Warner Special. After getting pole position on the grid Beckwith crashed heavily after sliding on some oil and though he was not hurt the front of the car was written off and had to be posted a non-starter leaving the race to orthodox Matras and Brabhams.

The two French drivers Jaussaud and Weber completely outdrove the best British pair Gethin and Chris Williams and it was a high-pressure 35-lap race with the average speed being higher than last year’s Formula Two race average. – D.S.J.