Looking back on Formula Two
AT THE beginning of October we saw the last Formula Two race for 1967 and the outcome was a win for Ickx driving a Matra-Cosworth. This made him the European Formula Two champion driver, as a result of accumulating more points over a series of races than Frank Gardner, who was the runner-up. At the end Of August there was a big Formula Two race at Brands Hatch which Rinds dominated and at the end he was acclaimed as the champion Formula Two driver, while at the same meeting Rees did ribt figure in the results at all but was acclaimed a Formula Two champion driver as well. Both Rindt and Rees were driving standard production Brabham cars, with i6-valve Cosworth engines and Hewland gearboxes, and ICkx has been driving a works-supported Matra run by the Tyrrell team and, like the Brabhams, powered by a Cosworth engine and driving through a Hewland gearbox. In September, in France, the last of the French Formula Two races was run and this resulted in yet another championship win, this time for the Winkelmann Racing Team, with no accolades anywhere for Brabham, Cosworth or Hewland. If all this sounds confusing it is not surprising, for it was all very confusing and very muddled, and has been all season. When the existing Formula Two was announced it all seemed simple and clear-cut, as being a Formula that was going tO keep engine complication within reasonable bounds, by limiting the number of cylinders to a maximum of six; was going to provide quite fast cars with -a capacity limit of 1,600 c.c.; was going to provide the opportunity for drivers and teams who could not aspire to 3-litre Formula One cat, to get into single-seater racing and to provide somewhere for the better Formula Three drivers to graduate to. It all seemed very logical and drivers who wanted to concentrate On single-seater racing seemed to be well .provided for, starting on a b000-c.c. Formula Three car, graduating to a ‘,boo-c.c. Formula Two car and eventually reaching the top of the tree with a 3,000-c.c. Formula One car.
When the new Formula Two began this year, the other two Formulae were both well under way and neatly segregated in that a Formula One, or Grand Prix driver, could not take part in Formula Three races. Unfortunately the ” Stepping-stone ” between these two types of racing, which Formula Two was going to provide, went wrong, not in the mechanical sense, for the cars were a great success, but in the organisational and control sense. The F.I.A. quite reasiMablyaOsunted that Formula Two would become the province of lesser Formula One drivers and the better Formula Thee drivers so they provided a Drivers’ Championship on the same lines as the Drivers’ Championship in Formula One racing. As the Formula One Championship is a World Championship, the Formula Two competition was called the European Championship, and just in case someone like Clark Or Brabham decided to go ” pot-hunting ” the competition was barred to drivers on the F.LA. Graded list, which includes all the top Grand Prix drivers.
This rule threw .some race organisers into a panic, tor they were planning Formula Two races with all the top drivers taking port, so they immediately opted out of the European Championship series Thio.moye was led by the French, who made up their own rules for a series of races in France to count for a special championship of their own, not for drivers or manufacturers, but for entrants, which is where the Winkelmarm Racing Team succeeded. ‘Me French got together with the major constructors and before the season started formed a ” closed-shop “set of races at Pau, Reims, Rouen. Montlhery and Albi, accepting factory team entries from Lotus, Matra, Brabham, Lola and the private teams of Tyrrell and Winkelmann, which Meant little or no room for newcomers or private owners. This group of constructors and semi-works teams had nearly all the aspects of Formula Two well sewn up, So that even with unlimited Money there were people who could not get .a chassis or an .engine, or an entry, without a lot of string-pulling. In a French race entry of eighteen runners it was unlikely to have more than lour genuine private Owners, the list being monopolised by graded drivers or works drivers. The French had to cancel their Montlhiry race so their championship wae. decided on just four races, and was settled after three anyway, so as a championship it was a farce. ‘Those race organisers who did not side with the French stuck to the European Championship rules, though there were some who abandoned Formula Two altogether, but there was an adequate
number of races: spreading from Spain to Sweden and Britain to Italy, totalling ten events in all, With none in France. In the Brands Hatch round of the European Championship Gardner gained top points, but he was only fourth in the race so that he was virtually overlooked. In a well-meaning attempt to give the new Formula Two a boost the R.A.C. ran a Championship for these races, decided on five British events, and Rindt won this very convincingly. Over this same series of five British races the magazine Autocar ran a drivers’ championship for British and Commonwealth driers only, which is the one that Alan Rees wort. Had MOTOR SPORT been interested in Formula Two drivers’ championships I am sure we could have held one for be-aided drivers, or something similar! The result of all this has been a confused season of Formula Two racing that gave very few up-and-coming drivers any chance of either “
coming” or moving ” up,” with a to* of three Formula Two Champions. It is rather like the ” Car of the Year” award, which was a good idea when there was one competition, but is now worthless as the winner has to add after the title, ” by reason of the votes of the following people.” …raking Formula Two as an Overall picture there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Austrian driver Rindt was the most successful, the Brabham the most successful car, and the Cosworth engine the most successful power unit. Officially the most successful Formula Two driver was Windt, Rees or Ickx,, and when applying for jobs next season they can all justifiably say ” Formula Two Champion.” Last year when Brabham was World Champion Driver, he was World Champion of Grand Prix racing, with no discussion. That is what has been happening in Formula Two during 1967; what should have happened is another thing altogether and there are varying views held by everybody. Many organisers say they cannot afford to put on a Formula One race, but they are not prepared to organise a race without drivers like Brabham, Clark, Stewart and Surtees taking part, for without the stars the public will not attend. Some racing teams will tell you that they have to run Formula Two cars for they cannot employ top drivers and not use them every weekend, and there are not enough Formula One races to keep such people as Clark or Hill in full employment. Gurney will tell you that he does not drive in Formula Two because he feels it is wrong for a Formula One driver to race in a lower category, a sentiment with which I am in full agreement, and it is one which the F.I.A. obviously agree with but are reluctant to enforce. When I see drivers like Clark, Hill, Stewart, Surtees and Brabhain in a Formula Two race I always think of England Test cricketers playing on our local village green and I imagine Gurney thinks of top-league base-ball players playing on the street corner with a soft ball. If there were not any 400-b.h.p. Grand
Prix cars for these people to drive it would be another matter altogether. I would like to see the F.I.A. be strong about this matter and make some ruling such as barring Grand Prix winners from Formula Two, or even drivers who have finished in the first three, and try to .give some encouragement to newcomers. I would not suggest barring all Grand Prix drivers for if you did that the rising driver would have no standards by which to judge his own ability and would never get any experience of driving in company with the experts. Last year there seemed to be a number of Formula Three drivers who were ready to progress to better things and Formula Two was the obvious step, but there was tiot much encouragement or hope and the best they could expect would be to finish sixth if enough works cars broke down. Nobody is going to learn very much at the back of the field keeping out of the way of the top Grand Prix drivers as they are lapped. Drivers like Redman, Widdows, Rees, Courage, Oliver and Gardner have been completely overshadowed in Most of the Formula Two races, having been swamped by ” star ” drivers, whereas this category of racing should have been for them to finish in the first three at least. Another aspect of Formula Two that has disappointed has been the mechanical side, in particular the engines. The Cosworth firm designed a brilliant 4-cylinder 16-valve engine and had it in full production before the season began, so that these engines have dominated the racing. This is no complaint against Cosworth, it is not their fault that they are so good at their job, but it. has made for a monotony of noise in Formula Two and has demonstrated that onemake racing is not a healthy thing. Much was expected from the 4-cylinder B.M.W. engine and something from the 6-cylinder Ferrari engine, hut both were depressing. The B.M.W. engine was a failure and the Ferrari engine a miserable failure in comparison with the Cosworth engine. As regards chassis design there has been interest with Lotus, Brabliam, Lola and Matra all on a very equal footing, all fairly conventional and showing little in the way of development over the season, and with all the leading contestants relying on engines from Cosworth there has not been much in the way of development over eight months (if racing. This prompts me to ask ” What is the Purpose 01 Formula Two ? ” It can’t be a. training ground when it
is monopolised by Stewart, Brahham, Clark, Hill, Surtees, McLaren and Hulme, for they don’t need training. It can’t be a development ground, for many of the above drivers have complained about the complete lack of development. It could be classed as an entertainment and travelling circus, but if that is the purpose it’s a very expensive way of entertaining the public, and the public have not shown much interest in being entertained. If it was meant as a ” stepping-stone ” from Formula Three it has not succeeded for it has permitted only a handful of drivers to make the step and at best they have only been in mid-field during most of the races. If I give the impression that Formula Two has failed in whatever its purpose was supposed to be it does not mean that I am suggesting it should be scrapped. Far from it, for I am convinced there is a need for such a category of racing, but not as a playground for the Clarks, Surtees and Brabhams of our world, or as a means merely to keep expensive drivers fully employed. ‘Greed is one of our worst attributes and spoils so many good things.
D. S. J.