ETC first round to BMW
The first round of the much-publicised European Touring Car Championship battle between the Ford Germany and BMW manufacturers' teams fell in favour of BMW on the 5.75 kilometer Grand Prix circuit, without last year's chicanes, at Monza, near Milan. However, it was the private BMW 3.0 CSL entry of Bavarian tuning firm Alpina which took the honours, driven by Niki Lauda and Brian Muir, after two of the factory-entered Capris and both factory-entered BMW CSLs expired with mechanical problems and the third works Capri of Jochen Mass/Jody Scheckter, which finished second, 21.4 sec. behind the BMW, was delayed by a disorganised pit-stop.
Vittorio Brambilla took an early lead in the Schnitzer-entered BMW CSL shared with Bob Wollek, soon overpowered by Jackie Stewart and Jochen Mass in Capris, while Hans Stuck Jnr. challenged them closely in the works BMW shared with Chris Amon. The Gerry Birrell/John Fitzpatrick Capri retired after only three laps with a leaking water pipe between the cylinder block and one dry-deck head.
After the Brambilla and Stuck cars had retired with blown head gaskets, the second works BMW of Toine Hezemans/Dieter Quester had departed to the paddock with suspension problems and continually-loosening wheel nuts and the Tino Brambilla/Walter Brun Schnitzer-CSL had broken its gearbox, Stewart and Mass and then co-drivers Dieter Glemser and Jody Scheckter opened up an immense lead, circulating at close to 130 m.p.h. and lapping the entire field by the 81st of the 142 laps.
Eighteen laps later when Scheckter brought the second-placed Capri in for what should have been a routine pit-stop and change-over to Mass, four minutes were lost changing the near-side rear tyre when the air-line for the compressed-air wheel brace proved too short and then the alternator belt was found to be cut and twisted. Glemser made a quick hand-over to Stewart in the midst of this melée, who continued in the unchallenged lead, but Lauda had now passed into a clear second place, 75 sec. ahead of Mass, one lap down on the leader.
A Ford win seemed assured, until on the 117th lap Stewart retired at Lesmo when the camshaft broke, leaving the thoroughly reliable Alpina-BMW, which Lauda/Muir had paced well, to take the laurels. Mass did all he could to catch Lauda, but found the task impossible and Lauda even found time for a further stop for fuel. Two privately-entered Capris finished third and fourth, seven and eight laps down.
The up to 2-litre class fell to the ex-Autodelta privately-entered Alfa Romeo GTAM after the very quick Norman Reeves (Uxbridge) Escort RS 2-litre of Dave Brodie/ Claude Bourgoignie retired with ignition problems and the Rafael Barrios/Umberto Grano Broadspeed RS 1840 slowed with fuel-starvation.
Stewart and Vittorio Brambilla set joint fastest lap of 1 min. 38.3 sec. (210.452 k.p.h., 131 m.p.h.).
Monza 4 Hours – Group 2
1st: N. Lauda/B. Muir (3.0 BMW-Alpina CSL) ... 142 laps – 816.5 kms. – 202.87 k.p.h.
2nd: J. Mass/J. Scheckter (3.0 Ford Capri RS) ... 142 laps
3rd: A. Ruiz-Gimenez/J. Mesia (3.0 Ford Capri RS) ... 135 laps
4th: H. Kautz/A. Krebs (3.0 Ford Capri RS) ... 134 laps
5th: K. Fritzinger/Miss W. Odenthal (3.0 Ford Capri RS) ... 132 laps
6th: U. Knecht/M. Gerny (3.0 BMW-Schnitzer CS) ... 126 laps
Fastest lap: J. Stewart (3.0 Ford Capri RS) and V. Brambilla (3.0 BMW-Schnitzer CSL), 1 min. 38.3 sec. – 210.452 k.p.h.