Reflections on the 1966 Dutch Grand Prix

ONE of the best things in the Dutch G.P. was to see Brabham and Hulme working together, to fend off the attacks of Jim Clark, not for the benefit of any individual but for the good of the Brabham team. In this age of “Driver Racing” rather than “Motor Racing,” where the lay enthusiast puts all the emphasis-on the man and none on the machine, there has been little encouragement for drivers in the same team to do much to help each other for the overall benefit of the team. In many cases team drivers have appeared to be bitter enemies rather than team-mates and everyone has been out for himself, with a fixation on Championship points and little or no thought of Championship points for his manufacturer. The popular press prate about the Drivers’ Championship and give no thought at all to the Manufacturers’ Championship, which to my mind is more important.

Jack Brabham and Denis Hulme never say very much, neither of them being talkative types, but they are both very shrewd, With ears of similar performance there are only two places on the Zandvoort: circuit where you can overtake. One is braking at the end of the long straight, getting through on the inside of the righthand 180-degree Tarzan Hairpin, and the other is diving into the downhill approach to the left-hand Hunze Rug Hairpin behind the Pits, but this calls for some very clever manoeuvring through the fast right-hand bend approaching the braking area. In the first three laps when Clark got his Lotus between the two Brabhams, he was just able to hold on to Hulme down the straight and each time he made sure that he was on the right of the road as they approached the braking area at 140-145 m.p.h. By braking to the absolute limit and staying on the right and being badly placed for the hairpin, Clark was able to get into the corner first. On each lap Hulme would be in front as they approached the corner, but each time he went to turn towards the apex Clark would be scratching around on the inside of the bend and the Brabham would have to run wide and fall in behind the Lotus as they accelerated away from the corner. Presumably Brabham could see this happening in his mirrors for after the Hunze Rug Hairpin, through the fast bends round the back of the circuit, he would ease back and wait for Clark and Hulme. On this succession of fast right-hand bends there is no question of being overtaken, for anyone near the limit of adhesion must stick to one line; and it is a case of high-speed “follow-my-leader.” Had Brabham not eased slightly Clark might have been able to stay ahead of Hulme sufficiently to compensate for the difference in speed down the straight. As it was, Hulme was able to lead down the straight by reason of superior high-speed acceleration, and finally he managed to get just sufficient lead to allow him to get to the braking area ahead of Clark and take the inside line on the Tarzan Hairpin, and that meant he could lead out of the corner and get behind Brabham through the fast swerves. Even so, the two Brabhams could not out-distance the Lotus that easily and for eight or nine laps Clark was really on the tail of Hulme’s car. However, at every point where Clark might have dived to the inside Hulme “happened to be,” and he could not try to go round him for Brabham was there. This often meant that llulme was a bit slower out of a corner, being on the wrong line, but if he was Brabham waited for him. Had there been a gap between them the agile Clark might have found a way of getting into it.

This was team-driving at its best and the only pity was that Clark had no-one to help him, also all three drivers are friendly chaps so it was all in a spirit of good fun. Had there been two Lotuses against two Brabhams it would have been a lot more exciting, and had it been a British team against an Italian team, with national honours at stake, we would have seen some real motor racing with no holds barred. I well recall the Ferrari team “ganging up” on Harry Schell at Reims in 1956 when the Vanwall first began to show its real form. Poor Schell was not a very clever driver and the Ferraris outwitted him. Tony Vandervell was furious afterwards and swore blue-murder about the way his car had been bullied by the opposition, for his whole object in racing was to “beat the red cars,” as as he put it. A lot of people sympathised with him, but I told him that he had to get a team of good drivers and do the same to the Italian cars. At the end of the following season his Vanwall team of Moss, Brooks and Lewis-Evans not only routed the Ferrari team complete!y but drove Fangio and Behra, with the fastest Maseratis, right into the ground and right under the noses of the Italian crowds at Monza. To me the sight of a team of driver’s working closely together to dominate all the oppoation for the benefit of the manufacturer is one of the real reasons behind Grand Prix racing. The fact that this work results in the best driver of the team becoming World Champion Driver should be the bonus, not the “raison d’etre.”

Clark’s driving in this situation, and later in the race was yet another example of how a driver does not have to win a race to show his true ability, though winning is a nice compensation. Last year when Clark ran away from all the opposition, with a regularity that some people described as rmtnotimous, there were those who said that he only did it because he had a faster car than everyone else, and that if he ever had the odds against him he would give up and that he was not capable of “Tiger.” If any of those people were at Zandvoort I hope they got a mouthful of sand as they ate their words.

The Dutch people are justifiably proud of their permanent circuit at Zandvoort and are always trying to improve things, and this year they decided that the area in front of the pits was not really big enough, especially as it was anticipated that the 1966 formula cars would be passing the pits much faster than previously. To make more room they moved all the pit buildings and the two-storey timekeepers’ building back a mater of 20 feet. As this reduced the size of the paddock, which is behind the pits, they very sensibly built a new car park a short distance from the paddock for the use of those vehicles that need to be near the pit and paddock area, but not necessarily right in the paddock. They also built a footbridge, of simple tubular construction, to enable journalists and photographers to cross from the paddock to the Press grandstand. These were all first-class improvements’ that helped everyone and caused no discomfort, making the Dutch Grand Prix a pleasant job of work for those who consider it work, and police officialdom that has got out of hand in the past was happily non-existent this year.

With the living part of the Dutch race centred on the seaside town of Zandvoort and the circuit within walking distance from the centre of the town, there is always a general air of holiday. Each year the D.A.F. automobile firm give a dinner party on Friday evening for the Grand Prix “circus,” and it seems to include the lowliest hanger-on and newest “camp-follower.” The D.A.F. management used to say that while they did no racing themselves they liked racing and racing people, and were pleased to give a party for everyone. Now that they have been involved in racing with the Formula Three Brabham with D.A.F. variable belt-transmission, they are more than ever delighted to welcome the racing people as they can enjoy being part of the racing scene. On Saturday evening another party is given by the Shell petrol company, whose headquarters are in Holland, but they make no attempt to explain why for they are as big a part of racing as racing itself.

It so happened that I returned to England the week after the Dutch Grand Prix and was able to read the weekly motoring papers, and there are now five of them, so that you can select yoor reading matter to choice in the same way as you can chose a daily paper that suits you. A lot of people criticise the daily paper handling of motor racing, and I am one of them quite often, but it is easy to forget that what a reporter sends back on Sunday night might not appeal to the Editor so it gets altered or omitted in favour of news that he thinks the majority of his readers want. This often infuriates the racing enthusiast reader and also the reporter, but editors insist that they have to produce papers for the majority, not the minority. With a weekly motoring paper, this problem does not arise, for the reporter is the one who decides what goes into print, his only limitation being the number of words in the article. The weekly motoring paper reporters are specialists and, one hopes, motor-racing enthusiasts, and one tends to think that they have plenty of time to write the story of the race and to find out what really happens.

Obviously no-one can be in all places at the same time, but it iust so happened that before the start I was on top of the Cooper pit and after the first warm-up lap Surtees pulled in and said there was something wrong with the left front wheel of his Cooper-Maserati. Team manager Roy Salvadori and technical man Dereck White got the mechanics rushing around and the wheel was changed. The replacement was borrowed from Rob Walker’s team in the next pit as there was no time to get one from the Cooper van, and for a moment the replacement wheel did not seem to want to slide smoothly onto the fixing studs. The mechanics thumped it into place and Surtees shot away for his second warm-up lap to join the starting grid, which was already lined up. The whole incident was what Salvation would describe as a “mild panic,” but all was well. Reading the various race reports afterwards it was interesting to read what various people made of this incident. Autocar said “changing Surtees’ front wheels after the warming-up laps, since the original wheels were out of balance.” Motor said “after one (warming-up) lap Surtees stopped with a wayward front wheel which had to be replaced and he was rather late joining the dummy grid.” Motoring News said “Surtees only completed one (warming-up) lap before coming in to complain of a vibrating wheel, and a new front off-side wheel was fitted.” Autosport and Auto-News appeared to ignore the incident altogether. As the Editor has often remarked “Pity the poor historian.”

It was some years ago that I had occasion to lose faith in the time-keeping abilities of the K.N.A.C. who organise the Dutch G.P., and I put it down to the possibility of their “egg-timers” using damp sand! Almost every year now some discrepancy arises as regards lap times. One year a fastest lap was quoted in the results and at the end of the season Autocourse published the complete list of official lap times in which another driver had clearly made a faster lap; presumably the checking-clerks had missed it. On another occasion there was an obvious discrepancy over a practice fastest lap between Gurney and Clark. This year, HuIme made his fastest lap and then Clark equalled it, which gave Huline precedence on the grid, but the timekeepers gave it to Clark and it was a long time before a correction was made. This made all the difference, because it moved Clark from the middle of the front row to the outside. In the race Hulme was given fastest lap on the second lap, which everyone seemed to think very suspect, especially as it was some seconds faster than the pace of the leader. At the end of the race the timekeepers said that Bonnier was in front of Taylor and Ligier and that Stewart was in front of Clark. A lot of people who were assiduously keeping lap charts did not agree with these findings. After a long delay the timekeepers agreed that Clark was in front of Stewart, but they insisted that Bonnier was ahead of Taylor. There are some thankless tasks in motor racing and timekeeping and lap scoring is one of them, but an International Grand Prix should be beyond suspicion.

When there is a lot happening among the factory teams and the factory drivers there is seldom room to mention the back-markers, and a lot of people do not even notice the drivers or cars that make up the end of the list of finishers. One private venture that merits comment and praise is the entry of a Brabham-B.R.M., with V8 2-litre engine. It is the pale blue and white car belonging to David Bridges’ and driven by John Taylor, prepared and maintained by Bridges’ own mechanics. It ran in the French G.P. at Reims, the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, and the Dutch G.P. at Zandvoort, and in all three races ran faultlessly and finished in all three. It says a great deal for the preparation of the car and the driver’s ability and certainly merits a consistency award.