Two new designs made their public debut at the Dutch Grand Prix, one from McLaren Racing and the other from Don Nichols’ AVS Shadow team. These were the McLaren M26 and the Shadow DN8 and they had much in common in that they were both logical developments of previous models rather than radical new designs. Strangely enough they both had new monocoque body/chassis units of lower profile aimed at cutting down frontal area and improving air flow. The M26 monocoque is of riveted construction utilising aluminium alloy panels with aluminium foil cells forming a honeycomb structure and the regulation deformable structure is in one with the monocoque. The oil tank is also an integral part of the chassis, situated behind the driving’ seat, Suspension front and rear follows the same principles as those used on the successful M23 design, with rocker-arm front end operating inboard coil spring/shock-absorber units, while at the rear the wheels are located by reversed lower wishbones, single top links and twin radius rods on each side, with coil spring units. Many of the components on this new car are identical to those used on the M23, and it is only the flatter and more shapely monocoque, with air intakes at the rear of each side for the water radiators that makes it easily identifiable from the current successful M23. In addition to this car the McLaren team had their usual three M23 cars, with M23/6 and M23/8 for Hunt and M23/9 standing by -as a spare for Joe hen Mass who was due to drive the new car on its first public outing.
In a similar vein the Shadow DN8 was a logical development of its predecessor the DN5, it being recognisable by its very shallow monocoque, with high cockpit surround. The design of this car had been started by Tony Southgate, before he left Shadow to join Lotus, and its completion was the work of his assistant David Wass, who took over the technical leadership of the Shadow team. It was no great surprise to find the car entrusted to Tom Pryce, who was full of enthusiasm for the feel of this new model. Jean-Pierre Jarier had to be content with his usual DN5 car, and Pryce’s usual car was there in case it was needed.
With remarkably little fuss the Scuderia Ferrari transporter joined the assembly in the paddock and two cars were unloaded for the use of Regazzoni, only one entry having been made. They were 312T2/027, earmarked as the car to use, and 312T2/026 as the reserve car, both unchanged from when last seen. The ravages of the Austrian Grand Prix had been made good, either by complete rebuilds, new cars or abandonment. Scheckter’s usual 6-wheeled Tyrrell P34/3 was a virtual write-off and he was using the latest car, P34/4 with the oil cooler in the nose, while Depailler’s car had been repaired. The suspension breakages were attributed to high-frequency vibrations being set up by the little front wheels, which weakened and shattered some of the components, this phenomena being attributed to the high-speed characteristics of the Osterreichring! (Will Ken Tyrrell now try to get the Osterreichring banned or altered?) The latest and lightest of the Brabham-Alfa Romeos, number BT45/4 was scrapped after Pace’s accident and the troublesome carbon-fibre brakes were put back on the experimental shelf. This reduced the team to their original three cars, Reutemann driving BT45/3, Pace BT45/1 and BT45/2-2 being the communal spare, it having a revised rear suspension geometry. March built yet another new car around Brambilla’s chassis number, this now being 761/1-4, while Peterson had the choice of 761/3-3 or 761/6, the latter being his first choice, though no longer financed by the Citibank Travellers Cheque money. Stuck had his usual car 761/2, still in original form, a one-driver un-crashed car, which is something of a record for the March teams. The Team Surtees mechanics had done a remarkable job on the crashed car from Austria, number TS19/04, by cutting off the damaged right-hand side and riveting on a completely new portion, so that is represented TS19/04 1/2! Alan Jones was still driving it and the second works car, TS 19/02, was being driven by the F3 Swedish driver Conny Anderson as Brett Lunger was involved in another form of racing in America. Emerson Fittipaldi’s car damaged in Austria needed a complete rebuild so a nearly-completed new car was finished off in time for the Dutch race, this being FD04/4, while the wrecked FD04/3 was repaired at leisure. As a spare for the ex-World Champion there was FD04/2.
Team Lotus were in remarkably good shape, their three Type 77 cars being unscathed after the Austrian race, and the main interest around their pits was the knowledge that a new car had been out on test in secret at Silverstone. Not only was it due to be a successor to the Type 77, but it was said to be a revolutionary landmark by present-day standards, in company with the Lotus 25, the Lotus 49 and the six-wheeled Project 34 Tyrrell. Of the three sleek black and gold cars Andretti had 77/R3 and 77/R1 to choose from and Nilsson had 77/R2. There was still only one air-starter to be seen, on R3, but the adjustable rear anti-roll bar was available on all three cars. Among the lesser teams Horsley’s Hesketh collection had assembled a new car for Guy Edwards, this being 308/4 built up around a monocoque that has been carried as a spare. Deciding his sprained wrist was not fully recovered, Edwards opted out and let Rolf Stommelen drive the car. Harald Ertl was in the basic 308/2, which had run well in Austria, and his original car from last year, 308/1 was still being kept as a “show-car” devoid of certain parts which had been used to keep this year’s cars going. Frank Williams had contrived a new nose on his latest car, FW05/3, with a ducted oil cooler in it, like a Lotus, while FW05/2 retained the bluff full-width nose, these two cars being driven by Mezario to choice. The Ligier team were concentrating on JS5/02 but had JS5/01 in the paddock for emergencies, and the Penske team were relying solely on their 1976 car, the Austrian GP winning PC4/01. The earlier Penske car, PC3/02 was sold to Hexagon of Highgate who were running it for the Dutch F3 driver Boy Hajye on a complicated “Renta-drive” deal. Morris Nunn had contracted Jacky Ickx to drive the works Ensign MNO5 and the earlier Ensign MNO4 (renamed Boro) made a re-appearance with Larry Perkins and the FIB Alarm company of the Dutch Hoogenboom family. Pescarolo had his privately-owned Surtees TS19/01 and Pesenti-Rossi had Tyrrell 007/4 as usual.
The John MacDonald RAM-Racing Brabham BT44 cars were seen briefly before practice began, with a Swiss law-man restraining them, but then they disappeared into thin air and were never seen again!