The 1970 International Championship of Makes for Sports Cars moved from its two opening contests in the USA to Brands Hatch on April 12th with the promise of an exciting battle between Ferrari and Porsche round the 2.65-mile Kent circuit.
The entry was naturally headed by cars from both manufacturers but was also well backed up by some good Group 6 3-litre machinery, as well. In fact the race was split up into four classes, Group 5 up to 2 litres, Group 5 over 2 litres, Group 6 up to 2 litres, and Group 6 over 2 litres.
There were a few non-starters, including the Porsche 917 of Piper. Its engine swallowed a stone, with dire results, and the Martini Porsche 908, which Dean crashed heavily. Until recently he actually owned this car and ran successfully throughout the Can-Am series with it.
Race day was abysmal, with the rain pouring down from dawn, but despite this 20,000 people arrived to see the only decent British sportscar race of the year. The race was scheduled to start at midday and half-an-hour beforehand the cars were allowed three exploratory laps. Loos decided to non-start as he did not have any wet weather tyres available, so there was a total of 34 cars, which is still pretty crowded at Brands Hatch.
When the flag dropped it was Elford who pushed the white Austrian Porsche into the lead ahead of Ickx, Siffert and Brabham. The torrential rain was really going to play havoc with ignition systems and one of the first to suffer was the Finno-Dutch Porsche of van Lennep, which stopped at the end of the first lap to be dried out. It ran perfectly from then on, eventually to climb up to fifth place overall. Lanfranchi stopped at the end of the first lap to fit the rain tyres which weren’t ready at the start and Smith in Taylor’s Lola wished he had done the same. In the appalling conditions the slick dry-weather tyres on the T70 had no grip, and he crashed heavily on the top straight at the end of the first lap, coming to rest outside the Press box. He was, fortunately, uninjured.
On lap two Ickx took the Ferrari past Elford into the lead, while fate seemed to strike the P.V team. Rodriguez was observed to overtake several cars on the yellow flag and was black-flagged for a warning he ignored for a couple of laps. Eventually signalled in by his own team, he was duly reprimanded and set off from the pits well sideways with the bit now firmly in his teeth. Siffert had possibly also been affected by the accident for his 917 sustained a flat tyre. His was a quick pit stop just before Rodriguez came in, but it dropped him down the field.
There was more excitement on the top straight when Courage had a huge spin and just touched a barrier, so had to stop for the bodywork to be patched up. Soon afterwards his progress was further halted by a flat tyre.
However, the leading Ferrari was not in a happy position either for Ickx was having a terrible time trying to see, due to a defective windscreen wiper, and he made a couple of stops for new blades before he finally stopped for a new wiper motor.
So it was Elford out in the lead once more with Amon challenging him hard, while Rodriguez was making tremendous progress and fully justifying his reputation as one of the best wet weather drivers. By lap 15 he was up into third place again and meanwhile Amon was all the time trying to force his way in front of Elford. He finally succeeded on lap 16 and two laps later Elford was relegated to third place by the press-on Rodriguez. On lap 20 the Mexican took the lead by diving in on the inside at Paddock-you can watch every club race at that point throughout the season and not see such a skilled manoeuvre. Immediately he started to pull out a lead by lapping five seconds faster than anyone else on the circuit.
Just after being overtaken by Rodriguez, Amon had the galling experience of colliding with a Chevron-BMW and thus had to make a pit stop to replace a damaged tyre. Meanwhile quite a lot of the other 2-litre cars seemed to be suffering from water in the works, although the Nomad-BRM and the Irish Porsche were notably going well, as Was Walker’s Chevron B16.
By lap 30 Rodriguez was over half a lap ahead of Elford, while Brabham was up to third with the Matra, and leading the Group 6 category ahead of Siffert, Merzario who had taken over early from Amon, Pescarolo and Bonnier. Astoundingly, Mike Walker had the 2-litre Chevron up to seventh place overall at one stage, but then a gear stripped and the Chevron lost a lot of time in the pits. Like a lot of other cars the Craft McLaren-Cosworth had stopped with water in the ignition and was never really in the running.
By lap 50 of this 235-lap 1000 km. event the leading order was Rodriguez, Elford, Siffert, Brabham, Attwood, Amon/Merzario, Servoz, Bonnier, Larrousse and van Lennep, who was now starting to come through well. The leading 2-litre car was the Irish Porsche, as most of the prototypes had run into one trouble or other, while the Astra of Nathan led the smaller prototype category
A few laps later the Autodelta Alfa Romeo driven now by Andrea de Adamich had a repeat of its previous spin, but this time it hit the pits barrier hard enough to put it out of racing, and 11th place, for the rest of the day. So the Group 6 class was now a straight fight between Matra and Porsche. Retirements included the Hine/Skailes Chevron, he Richardson/Brown Daren and the Craft/Taylor McLaren, all with drenched ignitions, and the De’Udy/Gardner Lola with a holed sump.
The pace was naturally slow and it looked as if the race would last for over seven hours and run into dusk if the rain didn’t subside. Furthermore, the big cars were a lot more economical in these conditions and the race was 1 hour 40 min. old when Rodriguez came in to take on more fuel and continue with the driving. The second and third place Porsches also made stops for fuel, but changed drivers as well.
The Matra pits seemed poorly organised and a lot of time was wasted undoing the unnecessarily complicated front bodywork sections to get at the clutch master cylinder, which needed attention.
By the 100-lap mark the rain at last seemed to be slowing down and Rodriguez had moved two laps ahead of team-mates Siffert/Redman, with Elford/Hulme third, although the New Zealander didn’t have a very high opinion of a Porsche 917 in the wet. Ferrari were out of the hunt now with the Amon/Merzario car fourth, but six laps down. The young Italian Merzario had done a good job, keeping his end up well. Fifth was the steadily-driven Attwood/Herrmann car, while van Lennep/Laine had moved the AAW Porsche up to sixth place to head the Group 6 class, but with Beltoise/Brabham hotly in pursuit.
The Wisell/Bonnier Lola was still going well in eighth position ahead of Pescarolo/Servoz and Koch/Larrousse. Chris Craft had taken over the Bernie Evergreen Porsche 908 and had already moved it up to 11th spot just ahead of the Reid/L’Amie class-leading Porsche 910, although the Lepp/Silverwood wasn’t very far behind. The Nomad-BRM seemed to have the Group 6 2-litre class in the hag if it kept going, while the Astra and the Gropa were neck and neck for second place, young Birrell being particularly impressive in the Gropa, which was being raced for the first time.
The field was thinning, with Blatzheim rolling his 997 in spectacular manner at South Bank, and the Chevrons of Martland/Lucas, Skeaping/Purley, Twaites/Smith disappearing with a selection of mechanical problems.
The first 100 laps had taken almost three hours, which was expected to be half distance, but speeds were still down, although the track was possibly starting to dry. At 3.24 p.m. Rodriguez came in after his marathon drive and handed over to Kinnunen, who now had a big responsibility on his hands.
The next hour or so was fairly uneventful, for the first Seven positions remained unaltered during the next 50 laps. However, during the period, Siffert closed up some 30 seconds on Kinnunen, while the Elford/Hulme car more or less held station in third place. The Matra of Beltoise/Brabham lost further time in the pits with clutch trouble, while Craft moved his Porsche up to ninth place. The Ickx/Oliver Ferrari was still going, but in 14th place. Both the WRA cars of Burton/Walker and Bamford/Creasey had ground to a halt with gearbox and engine problems, but most of the others were still going until Pescarolo’s engine exploded in the biggest possible way and left a huge smokescreen.
The race had speeded up now, and Merzario, who had gone so well in the wet, was having to fight for his fourth place, and indeed, was overtaken first by Attwood and then by van Lennep. He was called in and Amon took over, soon moving the car back to fifth place. Then he caught Redman on the road, although actually four laps ahead, and the pair started a spirited battle. Sadly for some reason or other this ended rather suddenly when Redman lost control at Westfield and left the course. The Porsche clouted the bank, fortunately without too much damage, but was out of the race.
So at the 200-lap mark it was still a Porsche 917 trio at the front, but with the Rodriguez/Kinnunen car (Rodriguez back at the wheel) five laps ahead of Hulme/Elford with Attwood/Herrmann a further three laps down. The van Lennep/Laine car was now up to an astounding fourth ahead of Amon/Merzario. The Koch/Larrousse car was sixth, only just ahead of the Bonnier Lola. Craft had handed the Porsche 910 hack to de Cadanet, who promptly spun and then retired a few laps later with a broken gearbox. IHowever, at the 200-lap mark he was still classified eighth ahead of the L’Amie/Reid Porsche and the Lepp/Silverwood Chevron, which was now starting to close on the Irishmen.
The closing minutes were kept alive by Amon stopping for fuel and he moved the car into third place by passing Herrmann just half an hour from the end. About the same time Lanfranchi crashed the Nomad heavily on the entry to Clearways and thus lost the 2-litre prototype category. This gave the class to the Mylius/Birrell Gropa, which at last had pulled away from the Astra, which was in trouble and kept boiling. The battle for the other 2-litre class was still on, for British sports car Champion John Lepp was closing on Tommy Reid at quite a pace.
The closing minutes were kept alive by Anion stopping for fuel and dropping back to fifth, and then taking fourth place again only to start to suffer from a fuel feed problem of some sort or another.
At the end of 6 3/4 hours of gruelling motor racing Pedro Rodriguez came in to take the flag no less than five laps ahead of the two Porsche Salzburg 917s. The van Lennep/Laine car took a fine fourth place just ahead of Amon/Merzario Ferrari. Then came Koch/Larrousse. Bonnier/Wisell, and Ickx/Oliver finally managed to work up to eighth place overall. In ninth spot the Trish Porsche led the chasing Chevron by only a couple of lengths.
Another Porsche 910, driven steadily by Beuttler and Gold, was 11th ahead of the Brabham/Beltoise Matra which limped clutchless into 12th spot ahead of the Parkes/Muller Ferrari which seemed to spend most of the race in the pits drying out its electrics. The Clydesdale/Franey Chevron-BMW was 14th despite wet ignition trouble early on, while the Birrell/Mylius Gropa won its class ahead of the remaining pair of finishers.
Every so often Pedro Rodriguez really rises to the occasion and puts in a terrific performance and this was one of those occasions. The BOAC 1000 was a sweeping success for Porsche as, at last, the JW cars were more than admirably backed up by the second string Porsche Salzburg team. The next round in the championship is the Nürburgring which Ferrari needs to win to keep in the championship hunt.— A. R. M.