Enna (August 25th)
Formula Two racing moved to Southern Europe on August 25th as the culmination of a series of National races at the high-speed circuit of Enna which skirts a large lake in the centre of Sicily. Once again it appeared that the race would be another close-company slipstreaming battle with bravery and slight variations in engine power deciding who was to cross the line in the lead after the 50 laps. Several of the familiar English faces were absent because of rumours that the organising club might require the travel-worn teams to qualify for place’s on the grid. Thus there were but 20 names in the programme on race day of whom two did not start and the remaining 18 represented a very fine selection of Formula Two talent to contest this round in the European Formula Two championship.
Criticism in the Italian sporting press of the dangers of slipstreaming arising from a big accident at Monza in July with a serious injury to the driver of a works Tecno prompted the A.C. Enna to evolve a system of qualifying which was calculated to prevent any driver from getting close enough to a rival to derive any assistance from the other’s slipstream. This involved restricting the number of cars on the track at any one time to four and worked quite well until Courage arranged things so that he tagged on to the tail of one of the four works Ferrari Dinos. He thereby put in a time which equalled that of the works Matra Sports driver, Pescarolo, who in turn achieved his fast time by pressing his Cosworth engine beyond even the limits permitted by its special French-made connecting rods. The best Ferrari time was returned by Ickx but no one could approach the Belgian’s 1967 record time achieved during the race with a tow.
The Club’s answer to the prevention of slipstreaming in the race itself became apparent when the grid was assembled, for 75 metres separated the nine rows in the obvious hope that any groups which formed would only be small. But the cause of slipstreaming lies not with the drivers (very few of whom will admit to enjoying this type of racing) but in the circuit and it was not surprising that nine cars immediately formed into an echelon which constantly changed its order. The group comprised Rindt, Ickx, Brambilla, Courage, Bell, Regazzoni, Beltoise, Pescarolo and Hart but was slightly divided when Pescarolo spun at enormous speed after a foreign body got into his eye. Nevertheless, they all stayed in touch with less than five seconds from first man to ninth, for Pescarolo managed to recover.
Ferrari were not showing the expected form with Ickx’s car suffering from the effects of a practice accident and Bell’s engine down on power but the two Italian-speaking drivers Regazzoni and Brambilla did much of the early leading when permitted to do so by Rindt or Courage. Retirements came when Beltoise’s Matra briefly caught fire with a short-circuit and Williams blew up when about to join the leaders. But Rindt showed his utter mastery of the Formula by dropping to the back of the group while he changed goggles to combat the abnormal dirt and grit then making his way to the front in the short space of four laps, crossing the line in the same time as second man Courage and following men Brambilla and Regazzoni. Bell, Ickx and Hart were only a matter of yards behind followed by Pescarolo and the rest a lap or more in arrears.