Letter from Switzerland
Letter from Switzerland
Dear A .H.,
You remember telling me that our "little Bernie" had organised a Swiss Grand Prix in this year's World Championship Calendar? Well, I was delighted when I heard the news, for apart from a funny little race at Diion in 1975 which called itself the Swiss Grand Prix. we haven't had a World Championship Swiss Grand Prix since 1954. I know it was before your time, but you Will recall that 1955 saw that awful accident at Le Mans that shook everyone out of their 1939 daze and made them realize that we were no longer in the days before the 1939-45 war and were really into the post-war "brave new world" for which a lot of people had fought and many more had died. The carefee years of freedom were over, though it took some while for it to sink in, but race organisers became responsible and realised that motor racing really was dangerous. Unfortunately the Swiss over-reacted and banned all forms of motor racing with never a thought for keeping the Swiss Grand Prix in the calendar. Other organisers in Europe put up a show of respectability and tried to protect the public from further onslaught by wayward racing cars, but the Swiss merely opted out of the whole business. It was not the Swiss enthusiast who opted out. but the Swiss government and officialdom, which was a great pity for there has always been a fine element of enthusiasm for racing among the Swiss people and they have produced some good drivers. We will never forget Jo Siffert and dear old "Reggaand today Marc Surer is one of the nicer people in Formula One. Since that ban in 1955 it is surprising that a permanent circuit has not been built in Switzerland, though there have beers some mutterings from time to time and there is a tiny little circuit barely usable for club events let alone a Grand Prix. The Swiss Grand Prix start. in 1934 when the national Automobile Club got permission to close the roads through the Brcmgartefi forest just outside the capital city of Berne and they came up with a really super circuit, fast, daunting. challenging, dangerous, exciting, in fact, all those things that racing drivers wanted. The agreement with the Burgomasters of Berne was that the roads could be closed once a year, so a veritable orgy of racing took place. with motorcycle races, sports car races, "voiturette" races and the Grand Prix all crammed IMO three days. The motorcycle events were for the two-wheeled and three-wheeled Swiss Grand Prix, the Prix de Bremgarten was for national sports cars, the Prix de Berne was for "voiturettes" or Formula 2 and the Grand Prix de Berne was for the big buys. It was one of the best weekends on the calendar. It ran without break for the years 1934 to 1939 and was one of the last confrontations between Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union before war put a stop to it all. It started up again in 1947 and ran oilht through to 1954. Everything was planned for the 1955 event when the Le Mans holocaust happened and that was that. I went to all those Post-war events and actually rode in the sidecar races of 1949-52 and it Was always one of my vourite meetings, for apart from all the races the circuit was one of the hardest in Europe and alter a race there you really felt vou had done something worthwhile. It was so fast that it was
• Physically tiring fighting G-forces and there were no straights on which to rest. Before the war the Auto Unions were lapping at around 105 m.p.h..
which was very quick for road-racing standards. Remember that the Silverstone airfield was not lapped at over 100 m.p.h. used 1953.
There was some difficulty for the Automobile Club to get things going in 1947 as the town Burgers were not keen but the original agreement signed in 1934 still stood, at there was nothing they could do about it. However, they made it very clear that they disapproved of the noisy business of motor racing as it upset the peace and tranquillity of their lovely country and spoilt it for tourists, or an they said. I would think the motor racing "tourists" spent more money in Berne during race week than the rest of them did throughout the year. In 1955 it was the Government who stepped in and over-ruled the orginal agreement so the Automobile Club could do nothing and the town Burgers were happy. When you said the Swiss Grand Prix was back in the World Championship calendar I went rushing off to Berne. but I should have known better. All the permanent pits and grandstands have long-since been demolished and three is now a Motorway running right through the Bremgarten forest at you can no longer even see the trace of the Bremgarten circuit in places. However, rational thinking made me realise that I was living in the past and having seen the race round Detroit back in the summer I realised that what Bernie must have done was to organise a race round the streets of Berne, using the Chris Pook concrete barrier and wire-netting principle to keep spectators out of trouble, at I went into the city but could find no sign of a Grand Prix. Somewhat bewildered I went down to Geneva. on the principle that many people consider it to be the capital of Switzerland. and anyway all the money is in Geneva on the face of things, even though the real money is in Zurich. Once again, no sign of a Grand Prix but I was told "Oh, the Swiss Grand Prix, yes it is taking place in France. on the little circuit of Dijon-Prenois. it is only 200 kilometres fro. here".
I wandered off thinking "am I going don-lally? Or has my hearing and reason really departed?". The Swiss Grand Prix is in France! It's like saving the Epsom Derby is being run at Aintree, or the Wembley Cup Final is being held at Harringay. Obviously the whole thing is a hoax and you've been having we on.
Yours U.S. J.
Letter from France
Dear D.S. J.,
We wondered where you had got to. There were those in Dijon-Prenois watching the Formula One race that was called the Swiss Grand Prix. who said -this can't be a serious event, with no Ferrari on the starting grid and no D.S.J. on the side-lines being cynical about the whole business'. Ate race it was quite a lolly little affair. but as the Swiss Grand Prix. well. I don't really know. There were some Swiss. flags about the place and some of the officials came from Switzerland and of course. the Swiss Longines people were doing the timing, but then they do it at all the Formula One races. I was at that amusing race in 1975 which was held at Dijon-Prenois and called the Swiss Grand Prix and although Regaztoni won it in a Ferrari 312T it failed to attract a full field. Still, it was a good excuse for the Dijon organisers to have a Formula One race in a year when the French Grand Prix proper was held at Paul Ricard. This year they've only really taken that logic one step further and staged what amounts to a second French Grand Prix, so perhaps if they'd called it
the Grand Pee de Beaujolais or some such title you wouldn't have objected — and failed to turn up! I must agree that it is pretty daft having a Swiss Grand Prix in France — particularly as everybody knows there hasn't been any circuit racing in Switzerland since 1955 — although I suppose it's no more absurd than having a San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, is it? In fact, the more one thinks about it, there are other precedents for staging two World Championship Grands Prix in one country during the same year. Remember, there was a Pescara Grand Prix as well uses Italian Grand Prix at Monza and we've now got Long Beach, Las Vegas and Detroit in the United States which is equally odd on the face of it. And, remember, Las Vegas is hardly at the opposite end of the country from Long Beach! , Still, for the Renault Formula One team it was a nice opportunity to have a crack at winning the season's second Grand Prix within France, something they sadly failed to do as Keke Rosberg took full advantage of Alain Proses handling difficulties late in the race and surged past with a lap and a half left to run. Renault has been having a really bad season and this was simply another blow to the French marque which had started out the year optimistically hoping to win the World Championship. Interestingly, far from being emotionally upset, they faced this latest in their catalogue of 1982 disasters with stoic resignation: but at least their failure this season means that their pleasant people will continue to be around in 1983, for the Renault management is absolutely determined to win the World Championship and doesn't want to withdraw from the business when their fortunes are at such a low ebb.
I was glad that Rosberg has at last won his first Grand Prix because his enthusiastic. never-say-die approach has helped lift the Williams team morale after they'd been let down by Jones and Reutemann. Really, it must have been difficult for Frank Williams to have much faith in human nature after his two established top drivers wandered casually away, unexpectedly, within a few months of each other. It's funny, isn't it, how p.ple are forgotten so quickly? I recall thinking -well, how the hell is Frank going to extricate himself from this mess?" and now his number one driver is romping away with thr drivers' Championship and has won his first Grand Prix. I've a lot of time for Keke Rosberg because he puts everything he's got into his driving and his string of results this season has been pretty impressive for a man who didn't score a single Championship point in 1981. What's more, I'm sure the fact that he isn't bracketed in the Villeneuve • Jones class doesn't worry him in the slightest: Rosbcrg will reply that results are thc important things at the end of the day and he's managing to achieve them. He is staying with Williams in 1983 which must be good for both of them. (Inc thing that really irritated a lot of people at Dijon-Prenois was the stupid behaviour of young Andrea de Cesaris in his Alfa Romeo. I remember a couple of years ago you wrote a piece saying that back markers ought to be aware that a faster car is coming up behind them and be prepared to move out of their way. To judge by de Cesaris's performance at Dijon, he clearly doesn't (or can't) read MOTOR SPORT. His baulking was so blatant when Rosberg and Lauda came up to lap him that it had to be seen to be believed: eventually Rosberg heaved him out of the way with an outburst of -rough stuff' but as the Williams driver later remarked "what I had to do certainly frightened me — but it didn't seem to worry de Cesaris in the slightest!" I think you would agree that there is a world of difference between sheer enthusiasm and blatant stupidity, but de Cesaris obviously doesn't understand the distinction. Many of my colleagues tell me that de Cesaris has boundless untapped talent. boil must say that I've seldom seen a trace of anything more than moderate promise in his driving. He's one of
Marlboro's favourites — thcir influence earned him his place at McLaren and now helps to sustain him at Alfa Romeo — and! think that this sponsor should examine his achievements a little more objectively. He was a thorough nuisance at Dijon and needs to be carpeted forks bet..., Doubtless I will find you lurking somewhere at Monza— can't believe that you would miss a race there for anything. Yours,