There was quite a lot of detail development work taking place during the Austrian Grand Prix practice periods, and on the day prior to official practice beginning. The 1972 Tyrrell, number 005, had been undergoing some stress testing in England and the chassis had been found wanting, so in order to relieve the situation temporarily the inboard-mounted front brakes had been discarded and conventional disc-and calipers were hub-mounted at the front. For race day the air intake in the head fairing was replaced by a new one of truly gigantic proportions and it will be interesting to see if it sets a fashion the way the original Tyrrell air intake did when it appeared last year. The team had travelled direct from Nurburgring, with 002 and 003 complete, and the bare bones of 004, which had been cannibalised to keep the others complete, and the new car travelled out direct front England. All four 721G March cars were gathered together in the paddock, 721G/1 for Beuttler as usual, 721G/3 for Peterson and 721G/4 for Lauda, while 721G/2 was a spare for Peterson but was also being used for an experimental layout of twin water radiators mounted at the front, instead of the normal side position. The whole front was covered by a wide time fairing with two holes for the cooling air, and looked rather as if the Brabham BT34 and a Surtees TS9B had copulated and produced an offspring. Before official training began and because the radiators had not arrived, the mountings and the wide nose cowling were tried out by Peterson on 721G/3. purely as a structural lest.
The BRM team had hoped to run a revised P180 model but the over-worked engine department at Bourne were behind their sehedules and all the engines available were needed for the four P160 models being used for the race, these being P160/01 for Beltoise, P160/05 for Gethin, P160/06 for Ganley and P160/3 as the spare car. There was an entry in the official list for Wisell, but that was as far as it went. New flat air intakes were being tried out, looking rather Lotus-like and were a completely different approach to scooping up air from above the driver’s head, to those used in the past. The Matra entry for Amon comprised the usual two cars, MS120D/07 the 1972 car with the stiffer and sleeker monocoque, and the old square-shaped MS120C/04 as a spare. During the day before official practice began both cars were ready to go but Amon had not arrived and so the Matra people let Lauda have a drive in the spare car, but soon wished they had not, for he blew up the engine and abandoned the car out on the circuit. The McLaren team were in good form, with a brand new car to C-specification for Revson, this being M19C/2, though it was yet to receive its new official number. Hulme had M19C/1 as usual, and M19A/1 was the practice car for either driver to use. In the Tecno team it was Nanni Galli’s turn to drive and though this little team is no great challenge to Ferrari or Lotus, it is making steady progress in a forwards’ direction, which is more than some teams are doing.
As the seasons wears on some teams and cars begin to look a little tatty and grubby and part worn, but Ecelestone’s Brabham team is quite the reverse. The whole set up seems to get better and brighter at every race, and the cars all sparkle. They had the same three cars, but BT37/1 was fitted with the latest Hewland gearbox. This is a stronger gearbox with a better casing and improved mountings for the brake calipers, as well as a better system underneath for the suspension mountings. It is not a revolutionary new design, but is an improved version of the normal gearbox used by the Formula One car builders. Graham Hill was driving this car, while Reutemann had BT37/2, as usual, and Wilson Fittipaldi had the split-radiator BT34/1. Fresh from their 1-2 victory in the German Grand Prix the Ferrari team arrived early with confidence, especially as the cars had gone very fast during some tyre-testing practice some weeks earlier. Only lckx and Regazzoni were entered, the Belgian having car number 5, with number 6 as spare, and the Swiss driver had number 7. Before official practice began Regazzoni’s car was tried with some air collector boxes on each side, feeding cold air to the inlet trumpets. They were a strange layout, because the radius arm on each side from the rear suspension runs across the top of the inlets, so the collector boxes had to enclose the radius arms, with a leather gaiter around the tubular arm where it ran through the back of the collector box. The intense heat of the meeting played havoc with the Ferrari fuel systems and vapour locking kept occurring in the injection system. Extra electric pumps were fitted to keep the collector tank full, the petrol was passed through a separate radiator, air was fed to the pumps, the piping was re-routed and lagged, but all to no avail, the engines would not run cleanly for more than a few laps. In desperation a different petrol was used, but it made no difference, the problem was never solved.
The Lotus team had no great problems apart from Fittipaldi not feeling too happy with the handling of 72D/R7, fitted with a new gearbox after its Nurburgring disaster. His earlier car, 72D/R5, gave him much more confidence and he proved to be fastest with it. Cosworth engines not being over-plentiful at this time of the year, Walker had an early engine in 72D/R6 and the car was also uprated to the latest combined oil tank and single central oil radiator with the rearward mounted aerofoil as on the other two cars. For the race R6 had a later series engine installed, but it proved to be a mistake. During practice, efforts were concentrated on reducing the angle of the aerofoil to get more r.p.m. on the fast parts of the course, but retaining sufficient down-thrust from it not to impair the cornering. The nature of the corners at the Osterreichring are such that they assist down-thrust on the tyres naturally, so that aerodynamic down-thrust can be reduced accordingly, and the less down-thrust generated by the aerofoil the less air drag, and the higher the maximum speed. It all sounds fairly easy, but in fact it is a hit-and-miss compromise to try to keep the car stable under all conditions.
Once again the Williams March 721/3 appeared all brand new and shiny, completely rebuilt around yet another new monocoque, and by the end of the first day of official practice it was again a total wreck. This time it looked as though a tyre punctured and while trying to control things Pescarolo was back on the guard rails again, unhurt but a non-starter as the car was too badly damaged to mend immediately. The other Williams car, the 711/3 which Pace drives, just goes on and on, unscathed and keeping it in first-class fettle is a pleasurable routine for the Williams mechanics. Since the Nurburgring both cars had been fitted with Tauranac-designed one-piece tubular anti-roll bars front and rear, to replace the March fabricated layout.
Since the Nurburgring race Schenken’s Surtees TS9B/006 was completely rebuilt around a new monocoque, not because of accident damage, but in the interests of development. The cars of de Adamich and Hailwood were unchanged, and Surtees himself was entered to drive a brand new car, but after testing at Goodwood the engine was not too healthy and the team did not have a surplus of engines to risk an expensive breakage. Arriving early, Surtees contented himself with driving the cars of Schenken and Hailwood during unofficial practice, to see if they were about right. To complete the list of 26 runners there were the two private entries of Stommelen with the Effelland-March and Migault with the Connew, the latter having a definite entry and making its first official appearance outside England, while the former was looking for someone to pay for his racing now that Mr. Eifelland had withdrawn.
With an afternoon of unofficial practice and two afternoons of official practice there was a pleasant and leisurely air about the Austrian meeting and though the terrific heat was making everyone happy it was giving the engines some headaches and air scoops and deflectors were sprouting in all manner of unusual places, this being the first really hot weather of the 1972 season. — D. S. J.