Continental Notes, October 1970

Author

admin

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

There are so many occasions when I get sick and tired of the Drivers’ World Championship, and a lot of other Championships as well, but at Monza I had to be very short with a lot of people. They were not saddened by the death of Rindt or the loss to Team Lotus. All they were worried about was whether the rules allowed a dead man to be World Champion. I get equally short with people who ask me who I think is going to be World Champion immediately after the first Grand Prix has been run, and my answer to them is that I’ll tell them who I think ought to be World Champion at the end of the season, after I have analysed all the races, and it probably won’t be the one with the most FIA points. There have been years when I personally would not have awarded a World Championship to any driver, and other years when the choice has been obvious, irrespective of the points scored under the FIA rules. The fact that Rindt was killed while he had an almost unassailable lead in the points race for the title of World Champion, put so many people into a flutter that it was really sickening. I still think that the reason for motor racing is for the combination of car and driver, coupled to the rest of the team that operate out of the limelight, to beat all the opposition and win the race for which they are entered. At Monza the job in hand was to win the Italian Grand Prix, at the beginning of the season the job in hand was to win the South African Grand Prix and at the end of the season it should be to win the Mexican Grand Prix; a car and driver combination, backed by his team, that wins all the Grand Prix races would not need any points system to prove he was the best. To win a Championship by scoring more points than the next man is a bit like winning the football pools. To win all the races is much more impressive. So, dead or alive, Champion or Posthumous Champion, let’s not forget that in 1970 Jochen Rindt had a record that read 1st Monaco GP, 1st Dutch GP, 1st French GP, 1st British GP, 1st German GP. A worthy Grand Prix driver, if not among the great artists of the sport of motor racing.

* * *

One of the few attributes of the Le Mans 24 Hours Race is that it goes on for much longer than most races, but this year the local inhabitants must be feeling that someone is exaggerating, for the Le Mans race is still going on. Hollywood is in the throes of making yet another epic about motor racing. Will we ever forget the Frankenheimer film “Grand Prix” that was destined to end all motor-racing films, and very nearly did ? The latest epic is a film about the Le Mans 24-hour race, and production has been going on since June, with the full Le Mans circuit in use, on and off, ever since then. The locals are making a fortune, for one thing that Hollywood does is to spend money, but just as Monte Carlo got very tired of motor racing after Frankenheimer and his crowd had been there for a week, the people round the Circuit of the Sarthe must be getting equally tired. However, this film is being controlled by Steve McQueen (or was at the time of writing), and apart from being a very convincing actor, McQueen is a chap who does as much as he says. Whereas Frankenheimer took lessons at the Carroll Shelby School of Racing Driving before embarking on his epic, so that he would know what racing was all about, McQueen races anyway and his performances with a 908 Porsche in open competition were no disgrace. Consequently he is trying to present a film about Le Mans that bears some resemblance to reality, but he is having a hard time for his backers think that blood, fire, crashes, bitterness and mean-mindedness are reality. They can’t see that such things are there but only are a small part of reality, they want to enlarge them out of all proportion, just as Frankenheimer did in “Grand Prix”. An interesting sequence that McQueen wanted to capture on film, and managed to arrange to do, was the view that the leader of a race has on the opening lap. He did this by sending his GT40 Ford camera car round the Le Mans circuit at 3.45 p.m. on race day, driven by Servoz-Gavin, so that the camera mounted on the nose filmed the Le Mans circuit completely empty of other racing cars, but with all the “effects” such as marshals, fire crews, ambulance men, police, and the crowds, all at the ready and expectant. The fact that only one man ever sees a racing circuit in that condition had never occurred to me until McQueen’s crew pointed it out, but looking back into the distant past I recalled such circuits as Berne, Francorchamps, Monza, Zandvoort, Mettet, Floreffe, Lugano, Locarno and so on, when I was riding passenger to Eric Oliver on his Norton sidecar outfit, and we always led from the flag fall. The view we had of those circuits, all teed-up and prepared for the race, was unique. We used to practise starts so assiduously that to see another sidecar outfit in front of us was unique! McQueen is a great actor for visual expressions and actions saying more than words, as anyone will agree who saw him in “BuIlitt”, but the word from Le Mans is that he is having trouble with his backers who want to add a lot of corny trash as dialogue, as happened in “Grand Prix”. In that awful film there was some marvellous genuine film footage taken during racing, and who will ever forget the view the camera captured of racing in the rain at Spa ? The year before Frankenheimer started making the film he told me he knew all about “race-driving” and was not going to have any of that rubbish of drivers “sawing away at the wheel”; Bonnier had told him that the “lean-back-arms-rigidly-stretched-out” was the real thing. To my mind the best sequence in that film was the view from the helicopter of Surtees in the rain in a Ferrari, driving on a knife-edge and “sawing away” at the wheel with delicate fingers and thumbs. The car never deviated a fraction from its line, yet Surtees never stopped moving the steering wheel, it was beautiful to watch. If McQueen has his way the Le Mans film should be pretty authentic, but the trouble is we can’t be sure he’s going to get his way. The rot started way back when he had every intention of taking part in the 1970 race as a serious competitor, but his backers found out and because they think that Le Mans and motor racing is the most dangerous thing in the World (they must have seen “Grand Prix”!) they put the clamps on McQueen and forced him to withdraw. He was quite honest about the whole thing, saying that he needed their money to make the film, so he had to agree. Whereas Frankenheimer used faked-up Formula Three cars to represent Formula One cars, McQueen has hired a whole lot of genuine Le Mans cars, such as Porsche 917, Ferrari 512S and Porsche 908 and used Le Mans type drivers, like Redman, Parkes, Siffert, Attwood, Bell and many more to do the driving. The only fake would appear to be a Ferrari that is demolished in an accident, which is actually a T70 Lola-Chevrolet disguised to look like a Ferrari. As a mean-minded friend said “Not a bad use for a T70 Lola-Chevrolet anyway”. If personal wrangles can be held off, and the money holds out, and McQueen remains in control, this film, which is due in 1971, could be a good thing.

* * *

The day after the Austrian GP the Ferrari team did not return in triumph to Italy, but stayed at the Osterreichring to test some new tyres. These were not the usual Firestones on which they race, but were Michelin tyres, and in the paddock were three very plain Citroen vans, in one of which was tyre-mounting and wheel-balancing equipment, while the other two were stuffed with wide-tread racing tyres. Not only did the three vans have Clermont-Ferrand number plates, but so did all the sleek DS21 Citroens and 504 Peugeots that were parked in the paddock. It was lovely “cloak-and-dagger” stuff that all came to light after most people had gone home. Unfortunately the tests were spoilt because it poured with rain all day, but just as Elf petrol and Gulf petrol moved into Grand Prix racing as Esso and BP pulled out, it looks as though Dunlop’s withdrawal may be followed by Michelin’s entry, and Pirelli and Continental still make sniffing noises around the racing circuits.—D. S. J.