Le Camp Castellet, July 26th
The European F2 Trophy for non-graded drivers lost a qualifying round when the race scheduled for Zandvoort on August 9th was cancelled, so the last month has been a lean one for Formula Two. A welcome addition to the calendar was a hastily-organised event at Paul Ricard’s new circuit at Le Castellet between Toulon and Marseilles in the South of France and a very full field gathered for what promised to be an exciting event. Graded drivers included Stewart in John Coombs’ Brabham (fitted once more with Dunlop tyres after Brabham had raced it at Rouen two weeks earlier), Rindt and Hill in the two works Lotus 69s, Beltoise in his slightly modified Pygmee and two BMWs for Ickx and Siffert. In addition there was a new (but not greatly different) Tecno for Regazzoni, Derek Bell in Tom Wheatcroft’s Brabham, and all the fast-rising names which seem to have found their way into Formula One this year such as Fittipaldi (Lotus 69), Peterson (March 702) and Cevert (Tecno).
The only international race to have taken place at Ricard-Castellet so far was a 2-litre sports-car event earlier in the year. Because Ricard hopes to stage next year’s French Grand Prix at his attractively-situated track, many of the drivers regarded their drive as something of a reconnoitre. What they found was a reasonably well-organised racing facility with spartan pits (at present they amount only to a slip road without permanent stands), an extensive well-surfaced paddock and a refreshing absence of those obdurate policemen who dominate any French race which is run on public roads. Apart from the delightful weather, Ricard-Castellet has little else to commend itself, the main criticism being that the circuit is laid out with a lack of imagination. It is flat, featureless and without good vantage points for the spectators, who seemed rather few on race day, possibly because the admission price seemed high even for this expensive part of France.
And the racing, which on paper seemed likely to be absorbing, flattered only to deceive as the principal contenders fell out with a wide variety of bothers.
The BMWs again seemed set for another win by leading several of the early laps. Regazzoni alone seemed to be worrying the German cars at this stage, while Stewart followed with Tim Schenken’s works-backed Sports Motors Brabham hard on his heels and Beltoise about to pass them both. Indeed, Beltoise was at his best and somehow he found his way into the lead after six laps. When he came round the next time he had increased his lead enormously, and the reason became obvious when his pursuers (led by the BMWs) arrived slithering from side to side, for the Pygmee’s sump plug had come undone and there was oil all over the track!
Beltoise ground to a halt half a lap later after his brave effort with his Cosworth engine’s bearings rattling and the BMWs swept by to lead. Their new-found reliability had unfortunately taken a knock during bench testing the previous week with extensive blow-ups attributed by the BMW engineers to a faulty batch of oil with which they had been supplied in Germany. Siffert’s engine blew up at 12 laps and, although Ickx lasted rather longer, Regazzoni had gone ahead to score his second F2 victory of the season. Ickx’s engine expired after 31 misfiring laps.
The retirements behind came thick and fast, too. Stewart was out with a broken clutch and Rindt was well back in the pack with a loss of engine power which was only explained much later when it was found that his rev.-counter was reading several hundred revs. over-optimistically. In his efforts to keep up, the Austrian was bouncing off kerbs, in the process of which he scored a hole in a fuel tank and retired with his underwear soaked in best BP.
The survivors were not without their troubles and several plodded on with engines which seemed to be suffering from the effects of the heat and the hard driving to which they were being subjected. In fact, only Regazzoni had nothing of which to complain at the end, the new radiator arrangement of his Tecno appearing to be working just as well as intended.
Schenken in second place was almost pipped by Cevert in the second works Tecno: the young Australian had a spin when a gear jumped out, but nevertheless collected the best place of a season which has not been as happy as might have been expected. Cevert covered himself with glory in front of his countrymen, for having been left at the start with a stalled engine he made up for his error in valiant style and on his way to third place set a new circuit record of 2 min. 01.4 sec.—M. G. D.