Vallelunga, Italy, October 12th.
After many rumours and much shilly-shallying, the 21st Gran Fremio Roma, final round in the 1969 Championship of non-graded drivers, took place at the interesting Vallelunga circuit on the outskirts of Rome. The city’s Automobile Club has been making vague promise’s or several years that safety and other circuit facilities would be improved and it seems that this promise is about to be fulfilled, although the erection of some promised guard rails was delayed—in typical Latin fashion—until only a few days before the race.
With Graham Hill incapacitated following his Watkins Glen accident, there were only two graded drivers present. Jochen Rindt was making his last appearance with the Winkelmann Racing Lotus 59B, although he is hoping to be running the team on his own account next year, having re-signed with Lotus for 1970. Rindt has won no fewer than 22 Formula Two races for Winkelmann in the four very fruitful years of his association with the team, but his attitude at this meeting can only be described as petulant and he failed to put on the show which is normally expected of him. The other graded driver in the race was Piers Courage, who took over the neat monocoque De Tomaso, fitted with a new Cosworth-Ford FVA engine. Courage was quite enthusiastic about the Italian car, which is the first serious racing machine designed by former Lamborghini employee Ing. Dall’Ara, but he found that the cramped confines of the cockpit made gear-changing and even steering rather difficult, although this didn’t seem to dampen his normal ebullient style of driving.
With but two Grand Prix regulars in the programme, attention naturally focussed on the two’ contenders in the European Championship. Early leader Hubert Hahne again drove a Dornier-built BMW, a design which has not had a confidence-inspiring season. BMWs have had two serious accidents, one of them fatal, in their previous two races, but Hahne—who had only just recovered from the effects of his Enna accident—set out in practice to make his last bid for the Championship, in which he was sharing the lead with Johnny Servoz-Gavin. Servoz-Gavin himself was given leave from a sports car racing commitment at Montlhéry to drive a Matra International MS7 in its last ever race. Although the blond Frenchman did not take the early-season F2 races with much apparent seriousness, his latter performances have been excellent. He took pole position on the grid for the first of the two 40-lap heats by 0.36 sec. from Courage, both of them appreciably under Brambilla’s 1968 record set in it Ferrari 166 Dino last year.
Servoz-Gavin and Courage lost no time detaching themselves from a closely-matched bunch which contained Rindt and the two other Winkelmann Lotus 59Bs driven by John Miles and Andrea de Adamich, who had filled the second row of the grid. Although Rindt hauled the Lotus up into third place, there was no holding the two leaders, who pulled out a couple of seconds on Rindt, his team-mates following in the order Miles and de Adamich. An exhaust pipe fell off the Italian’s engine at an early stage, puncturing a tyre on the closely-following Brabham of Robin Widdows, and they both made pit stops for attention.
These delays elevated Hahne to fifth place, but the German was coming under heavy pressure from Alan Rollinson in the Irish Racing Cars Brabham BT30, with the second BMW of Dieter Quester and Xavier Perrot’s Brabham BT23C in close pursuit. These four were half-way round their 11th lap when Hahne slewed sideways on one of the fastest of the bumpy circuit’s corners and the other three could not help being involved in a comprehensive accident. A bystander said that one of Hahne’s rear wheels had gone out of line, suggesting a suspension breakage, but the car was too badly damaged for this to be confirmed on the spot. Rollinson’s Brabham was also wrecked. Perrot’s broke its’ chassis and Quester was delayed. Happily, no one was hurt.
Servoz-Gavin needed only to finish to take the title, but he was in no mood to let Courage pass him. Nevertheless, the Englishman eventually found a way through, although he missed a gear and spun off almost immediately. Courage was back in the race very quickly, but the front of his car was damaged and Servoz-Gavin led for the remainder of the heat, having already set fastest lap of the race. With 10 laps still to go, Courage again went off course, and this time Rindt and Miles swept by into second and third places.
But that was not the end of the accidents, for Rindt walloped a barrier with only four laps still to go when the Lotus ran out of brakes, and moments later be was joined by local man Claudio Francisci, who had been entrusted with the Matra normally driven by Jackie Stewart. Trying to re-pass a fast-moving Widdows, who had just overtaken him, Francisci launched himself right over the top of the Brabham, damaging his own car and putting Widdows temporarily out of the race with broken suspension.
The second heat started without six damaged cars and another which had blown up, although Widdows was a runner after hasty repairs. Servoz-Gavin again led away, winning handsomely, for Courage was forced to retire after five laps with electrical trouble. Miles, going particularly well in the best-placed remaining Lotus, seemed certain to take second place overall when his engine stopped with only three laps to go. The fuel system was playing up, but he managed to get going again, having lost six places.
De Adamich took Miles’ place, successfully working his way past the Brabham of Peter Westbury and Widdows, who battled all the way to the line, Widdows just getting there first. Derek Bell, with no Ferrari Dino to drive, had borrowed a Brabham BT30 and came in fifth despite continual transmission problems.
Addition of times naturally gave Servoz-Gavin an unchallengeable victory, and with it the 1969 Formula Two title. The remaining results look more like a Formula 5000 event, with Westbury and Miles finishing over a lap behind on the combined results and most of the others well spaced out at distances of several laps. But although virtually everyone except Servoz-Gavin had either run into various problems or crashed, mechanical retirements were few. Westbury was rewarded for a consistent and trouble-free race with second place and Miles was third.—M. G. D.