Third successive win for Ickx and Andretti
Brands Hatch, April 16th.
Ferrari’s complete domination of the first year of 3-litre prototype sports car racing continued in the BOAC 1000, Britain’s single contribution to the World Manufacturers’ Championship. The bumpy Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit proved kind to the field and both Ferrari and Alfa Romeo brought home all three of their cars, although the three Cosworth V8-powered machines all faltered. It was the story very much as before with the well-established pairing of Ickx and Andretti scoring their third consecutive victory with Peterson/Schenken logging up a third consecutive second place. Again it was Redman and Regazzoni who ran into trouble, this time in the closing stages, when engine trouble dropped them from a secure second to a distant fifth place. The Alfa Romeos finished third, fourth and sixth.
The entry was confined solely to Group 5 cars in direct contrast to the two previous rounds of the Championship in Florida. There was only two classes; over 3-litres and 1,300-3,000 c.c. Ferrari started strong favourites and looked every inch the part with their team of three 312Ps. Ickx/Andretti had their Daytona winning car, Redman/Regazzoni were also in their Daytona car while Schenken/Peterson were given a brand new machine (chassis 0894) which had not been raced previously, but was to exactly the same specification.
Carlo Chiti’s Autodelta outfit came straight to Brands Hatch with their three Sebring race cars, all having been fitted with fresh engines which have been modified to give a better pick-up lower down. All the drivers seemed pleased with the modifications. De Adamich doesn’t seem very keen on being half of an all-Italian driving duo any more, so an amendment to the published programme was that he was paired with Elford for this occasion. Thus Marko was to drive with Galli, while the Revson/Stommelen team remained unchanged. With Alfa Romeo only running three instead of their normal four cars, Hezemans was listed as a reserve but actually turned up in a 2-litre car.
Ecurie Bonnier were back to two cars, fielding their regular Lola T280-Cosworths for the pairings, Craftf/Larrousse and Wisell /Bonnier. Right from the beginning of practice the team looked patently unprepared for a 1000 km. and only an optimist would have expected the cars to last the distance. Although barely three months old they look as if they have led an incredibly hard life; such is their preparation.
Gulf Research Racing had whisked their Gulf-Mirage back front Sebring and had managed to fit in some testing at Goodwood prior to Brands Hatch. This had given them food for thought and various suspension problems, such as spring rates, still need sorting out properly. But at least the blue and orange machine looked well turned out for drivers Bell and van Lennep.
The 3-litre category was completed by two Porsche 908s, but not ones previously seen this year. The experienced German driver Jöst has acquired an ex-works Porsche 908/3, reputed to be the Nurburgring 1000-km.-winning car from last year, and still painted in JW colours. Jöst’s co-driver was the experienced and wealthy Italian, Casoni. An older 908/2 was in the hands of two amateur Austrian drivers, Otto Stuppacher and Kurt Reider, and was entered by the Bosch Racing team, this being the car that Niki Lauda used to race.
The 2-litre category was rather disappointing for the Red Rose Racing team, who did so well in Buenos Aires, had decided to give the race a miss as had various of the new 2-litre Lola T290s which are uunder Bonnier’s wing in various guises. In fact only three of the 2-litre entries come from abroad, making it more like a British National meeting. The Osella Abarth team brought along just one of their latest machines, now with a Hewland gearbox, for Merzario and Hezemans. A second Abarth was entered by Scuderia Brescia Corse for Franco Berutto/Mario Ilotte but, on inspection, this turned out to be a much older example with the engine hung behind the rear axle.
The majority of the remainder were either Lolas or Chevrons. By far the most professional of these was the entry made under the name Barclays International Racing with Lola Cars. This was a works assisted Lola T290-FVC and regular driver Guy Edwards (who was responsible for persuading bankers Barclays International to sponsor his car) was partnered by the very experienced David Hobbs. The only other Lola was an older T212, with a BMW engine, entered by Dorset Racing Associates for Birchenhough/Joscelyne.
The Chevron contingent was stronger, with brand new B21s for the Swiss pair Peter Ettmuller/Walter Frey and Scotsman Andrew Fletcher who recruited Irish F2 driver, John Watson, as his co-driver at the last minute. In the similar looking but older Chevron B19s were John Lepp/John Burton, Brian Robinson/Francois Migault, John Bamford/Brendan McInerney, Peter Smith/David Welpton, Peter Humble/Nick May, and Peter Gaydon/John Gray.
The category was completed by near-specials like the perennial Dulon-Porsche for Martin Ridehalgh/Herve LeGuellec, a Gropa-BMW for Lanfranchi/Markey and a Daren-Lotus Vauxhall LV240 for Arthur Collier/Henry Clarke. Several other 2-litre cats were entered but failed to show up, although none looked likely to offer much of a challenge.
There were practice sessions on both Friday, in the afternoon, and on Saturday when the proceedings also provided a very exciting Formula Atlantic race. This was won by Vern Schuppan’s March, after McLaren engine builder John Nicholson crashed heavily in the Lyncar, a new design from Martin Slater, who is now making his own cars.
Practice proved to serve little except the superiority of the Ferraris and the amazing speed of the 2-litre Abarth. As soon as practice started on Friday afternoon the Ferraris, Alfa Romeos and the Abarth, were circulating somewhat gingerly on the damp track while, in direct contrast, the Bonnier Lolas were far from ready, still haying the new regulation rear mud flap extensions fitted to their bodywork. By the end of the session the track had dried out, and Ickx was the fastest of the Ferrari drivers at 1 Min. 28 sec. The Ferraris also filled the second two places and Alfas the next three with the Abarth of Merzario/Hezemans seventh fastest ahead of the three Cosworth V8-powered machines.
John Lepp crashed heavily in the Central Garage (Mirfield) Chevron and damaged it too badly to take any further part in the race while the Daren-Vauxhall also left the road.
Times fell on Saturday with Regazzoni the fastest in the morning session, at 1 min. 27.0 sec., while Revson showed some Alfa promise by recording second fastest time. However, the final session put everything in perspective with the Ferraris finishing up with the first three starting positions. Regazzoni was fastest of all with 1 min, 26.6 Sec. while team-mate Redman did 1 mm. 28.0 sec., lckx and Andretti showed what a well-balanced team they are with lckx lapping in I min. 26.8 sec. and his American partner in I min. 27.0 sec., Peterson and Schenken were not very happy about the handling of their new car and their respective times were 1 mm. 27.4 sec. and 1 min. 29.2 sec. These compared with Regazzoni’s pole position time in a Ferrari 512M last year, of 1 min. 27.4 sec.
The best Alfa Romeo time was recorded by Peter Revson, who finished up fourth quickest at 1 min. 28.1 see. (Stommelen was 0.7 sec. slower), while the Bonnier Lolas started to show promise with fifth and sixth fastest times. Craft, in his last appearance for the team, lapped in 1 min. 28.3 sec. and Wisell in 1 min. 28.5 sec., although their respective co-drivers were somewhat slower. Seventh fastest overall was the 2-litre Abarth; Merzario lapped the impressive machine in 1 min. 28.6 sec., embarrassingly faster than either the de Adamich/Elford or Marko/Gall i Alfa Romeos. Completing the fastest ten was the Gulf-Mirage which was suffering from all kinds of handling problems mainly connected with unavailability of the correct springs—indeed some Porsche 917 coils were fitted on the rear.
With a minimum of National publicity the race failed to attract much of a crowd on the warm and sunny race day. The 12,000 spectators who turned up (compared with 17,000 for last year’s wet race) were obviously the real enthusiasts. It was pleasing to see that two or three parties of British fans had made up “Lola for victory” signs, just like the Italian race fans, who can be seen at Monza, Monaco and elsewhere, with similar “Viva Ferrari” banners. But, for the British fans, theirs was something of an optimistic hope, a fact underlined when one looked at the preparations made in the pits for the routine stops. Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Gulf and the Bonnier team all had pressurised refuelling equipment and Ferrari also had pressurised systems for topping up engine and gearbox oil. For the engine oil, each car had an oil level indicator on the side and the tanks had quick fill non-spill attachments, which have oil pumped in them from a tank carried on a mechanic’s back. Ferrari, along with Alfa and JW, also had compressed air operated wheel-nut wrenches while Bonnier’s team were relying on a good old, but slow, hammer method so they were obviously going to lose out in this respect.
The field was allowed several bedding-in laps before lining up behind a new Cortina for the rolling start. When the pace car, driven by the BRSCC’s new executive director Peter Browning who had taken over from Nick Syrett, pulled into the pit road the two-two-two line up was fairly well behaved, although the Swiss-entered Chevron has failed to start with its wiring burned out. As the flag dropped the field accelerated away with the three Ferraris going immediately into the lead. Regazzoni headed the field, in front of Ickx, with Peterson third ahead of the Alfa Romeos, the Abarth and the Lolas which were all mixed up and jockeying for position. The Gulf-Mirage was well down the field, Bell looking most unhappy, and after only five laps the car made a pit stop with overheating. Even by then the two leading Ferraris had pulled out a gap over Peterson’s car with Revson in fourth place, coming under pressure from both Lolas with Craft leading Wisell.
The Mirage problem seemed fairly serious for the 12 series Cosworth engine, fitted overnight, seemed to be pressurising the water system and, when the radiator was bled, great jets of water and fountains of steam issued forth. The whole thing looked rather sorry and some wag suggested that the Gulf team never had these sort of problems with the Porsche 917s! Finally the car got going again but was soon back in the pits and the problem was not solved until the radiator was changed. By then the Mirage was miles behind with no chance of a placing.
Regazzoni continued to hold the lead for a while but all the time had Ickx on his tail, and the Belgian slipped by on lap 41. Peterson was some five seconds in arrears and was having to drive hard to fend off the challenge from Wisell in the Lola. A couple of spins had dropped Craft down the field and then, with 35 laps completed, he trundled into the pits with the lower right rear wishbone fractured. This was quickly removed and then the shambolic Bonnier outfit realised that they did not have a spare. The car was wheeled out of the pits on a jack and later the wishbone was welded up and fitted back on the car, but only so it could be loaded on a transporter. The Abarth was another disappointingly early retirement. After worrying de Adamich for sixth place, Merzario missed a gear and over-revved the engine which immediately went sick and the car was retired.
On lap 50, with the Ferrari team poised to make their. first refuelling stop, the order was Ickx, Regazzoni, Peterson, Wisell, Revson, de Mamie!), Galli, Jöst and then Edwards in the 2-litre Lola. Peterson was the first Ferrari to stop, and took just over 20 sec. to take on fuel and switch drivers, but Regazzitni was the next and took longer as Redman’s safety belts presented a problem. Finally Ickx came in on lap 53 and thus WiseII moved into the lead with the yellow Bonnier Lola. Of course, the glory was only short-lived and, on lap 59. Wisell came in for his pit stop and Andretti took the car he was sharing with Ickx back into the lead. It turned out to be a lead that it was never to lose for the remainder of the race. Meanwhile, the Wisell pit stop was a disaster for it lasted over three minutes, as the team struggled with the re-fuelling equipment, and at one stage Bonnier got showered with fuel. In fact it was Larrousse who took over the car, rather than Bonnier who was scheduled to do so but, by then, the Lola had slipped down the field several places.
After these first pit stops the order settled down through to the 100 lap mark with Andretti/Icky in the lead, by over half a minute, from Regazzoni/Redman, who now had Peterson/Schenken close behind them. One lap down was the Stommelen/Revson Alfa, followed by team-mates Elford/de Adamich, with the Wisell/Larrousse Lola sixth but on the point of pulling into the pits where the rear suspension was inspected. The Mirage had stopped out on the circuit and Bell sprinted back for another ignition box and finally got the car going again. It later spent another long period in the pits with gearbox and gear linkage problems. So the challenge to the two Italian teams was completely exhausted by half distance, for the Lola was soon retired with a broken shock-absorber.
By the 150 lap mark the Ferraris were in a tremendously strong position, still running in the same order on the road, and on the same lap. At the second pit stop the Schenken/Peterson car had briefly moved up second place but this was reversed when they, themselves, stopped, the Ferrari pit stops again being a model of efficiency. The Revson/Stommelen, de Adamich/Elford and Galli/Marko Alfa Romeos were all running well and without problems but just lacked that extra speed.
The Jöst/Casoni Porsche 908/3 had dropped out with a broken engine mount while the Barclays Lola T290 had lost some time with brake problems as soon as Hobbs had taken over from Edwards. Thus, they were now eighth, a couple of laps behind the smooth-running Chevron B19 of Robinson and French Formula Two driver, Migault. Two further Chevron B19s, those of Bamford/McInerney and Gaydon/Gray, filled the next two places .although the latter car had lost considerable time with a jammed starter motor. The fast Fletcher/Watson Chevron had dropped out with a broken brake hose, soon after F2 man Watson had taken over and thus the car dropped from third in class.
With just under an hour remaining, and 200 of the 235 laps completed, the Ferraris had all made their third and final routine stop. Pit signals had beckoned the drivers to slacken their pace considerably and this they had done. Andretti/Ickx were still in the lead, with half a second over Redman/Regazzoni, and had just lapped the Sehenken/Peterson car, so that the first and third cars were circulating in convoy. The Mirage was now running quite well and Bell was seen to overtake the Alfas, though many laps down. The Alfas, however, were firmly ensconced in the next three positions although Marko was running into brake problems.
The final hour produced some late excitement when Regazzoni suddenly made an unexpected pit stop, with a misfire and an oil leak from the gearbox. Three further stops followed, during which time a new coil was fitted and the electrics adjusted and, at one stop, there was a good deal of shouting by Ferrari personnel after a misunderstanding with a scrutineer over the oil leak. These stops dropped the Ferrari to seventh position. Marko was still troubled by brake trouble and lost time while the left caliper was removed and inspected.
Thus the race came to a close with the Andretti/Ickx and Schenken/ Peterson cars crossing the line side by side, although a lap apart. In the pits the Ferrari crew were actually ready to top up the second place car but this was not necessary. Only a lap behind Schenken/Peterson was the Alfa, driven so well by Revson/Stomnielen and, two laps behind that, was the similar Elford/de Adamich car. Although overshadowed the Alfas had shown their best form of the season.
Placed fifth was the consistently well driven and reliable Chevron of Robinson/Migault, which was just ahead of the ailing Regazzoni/Redman Ferrari and the almost brakeless Marko/Galli Alfa Romeo. These three cars all finished with 220 laps to their credit, two more than the Hobbs/Edwards Lola which also finished the race without any brakes. Ninth was the Worcestershire Racing Association Chevron of Bamford/Mclnerney, well ahead of the reliable, but slow, Austrian Porsche of Stuppacher/Rieder. The Gray/Gaydon Chevron was next followed by that driven by Ettmuller/Frey, which would have been much higher had it not started half an hour late. The old Abarth staggered into the pits with the engine making terrible noises just before the end but was still classified 13th ahead of the Ridehalgh/LeGuellec Dulon-Porsche which sounded dreadful from early on. The final finisher was the Mirage but, with only 117 laps to its credit, it was not classified.
In post-race scrutineering the weight of the fifth place Chevron B19 was found to be 40 lb. under the limit for 2-litre cars. There was a possibility of the entrant only being fined for this breach but the matter was not helped when an attempt was made to smuggle some ballast into the car. Thus it was disqualified completely from the results and everyone behind moved up a position and the Edwards/Hobbs Lola inherited the 2-litre class victory.
For the first time in several years the lap times at the BOAC 1000 were recorded and, thus, we were given a new outright sports-car record of I min. 27.4 sec., which was credited to all three Ferraris. Merzario was also credited with a new 2-litre record set up in the early stages.
The BOAC 1000 of 1972 will not be remembered as a classic or exciting race (no cars retired following accidents) but just another chapter of the successful Ferrari onslaught of the 1972 World Manufacturers’ Sports Car Championship. — A. R. M.