Well done Regazzoni
Nürburgring, August 4th: For what it was worth the German Grand Prix was given the title of the European Grand Prix this year, a dubious honour it last received in 1968. As long as it remains a 14 mile-per-lap drive round the Eifel mountains the Nürburgring will always remain the Nürburgring, no matter how much it is smoothed out, widened or made easier, for the better the circuit gets the more exacting is a fast lap and seven minutes was the aim that a lot of people had in their sights for a lap time when they began to assemble in the paddock. The last piece of tidying up had been completed, this being the long undulating straight from Dottinger Hohe to the “chicane” at Tiergarien which had been widened and resurfaced, one bridge removed completely and another removed and replaced with a better one. The result was a much smoother passage along the straight, with no chance of becoming airborne. An arbitrary figure of 25 starters had been chosen, for reasons best known to the financial wizards of the Formula One Constructors Association, and 31 drivers were ready for practice. Among the new faces on the scene were Howden Ganley with the Japanese British Kit-Car called the Maki, Chris Amon making a return with his own car much modified since it last appeared, with the front brakes inboard once again, the water radiators on each side of the engine and new aerofoils front and rear as well as “a million other mods”. The Token of Ray Jessop was being driven by Ian Ashley, Derek Bell was driving the second Surtees, Jacques Lafitte was driving the second Williams and Edwards was back in the second Embassy-Lola, more or less recovered from his F5000 accident. Mechanically there was nothing startlingly new, though BRM had finished off a third P201, which Pescarolo took over, Ferrari had a brand new 312B3 which Regazzoni was using and Brabhams had built a fourth BT44 which the Hexagon mechanics were finishing off for John Watson. Everyone else was with their usual car, the Lotus team having the modified Type 76-JPS/10 as a training and test car for Peterson, while Scheckter had the use of Tyrrell 007/5 as a test car. Fittipaldi was using the latest McLaren, M23/8, with the new rear suspension using parallel links at the bottom instead of a reverse wishbone and the Marlboro-Texaco team’s spare car, M23/5, had also been changed to this layout. The Surtees team with their Mark 3 versions of the TS16 had new full-width front aerofoils to try out in practice and Ferrari confused everyone by turning their rear aerofoils through 180-degrees, the Vee edge, which was the trailing edge, now becoming the the leading edge. This they did on 016, the new car, and 012 which was Lauda’s car, but the “Muletto” which was 014, kept the old wing layout.
First practice was on Friday, more or less for three hours over lunchtime, with a short break to tow in any cars stranded out on the circuit. Lauda’s claimed lap in under seven minutes during private testing was the standard everyone expected, but no one achieved, and few got anywhere near the seven minutes barrier. As is usual at the Nürburgring there was a lot of circulating round the pits-loop, taking in the South and North curves, before anyone struck out over the bridge before Hatzenbach and set off on a full lap. The weather was dry but very overcast, and not at all promising, but impending rain kept off. Poor Ganley circulated the Maki round the loop for some while and then when he set off for a full lap, he was barely out of sight of the pits when something broke and put the car violently into the Armco barriers, ripping off the entire front of the car and damaging the driver’s ankles, necessitating his transport to Adenau hospital. Stuck was in trouble with the Cosworth engine in his March and had to be towed in during the break and while things were at their height in the second part, Hailwood had his McLaren M23/1 turn sharp left on him as something broke in the front suspension, just as he reached the start and Finish plateau. The car went out of control and damaged itself but the driver was unhurt, and M23/7 was quickly brought out of the paddock for him to continue with. Towards the end of the practice session Peterson failed to re-appear, for the left rear wheel on Lotus 72/R8 broke up and put the car into the guard rails, bending just about everything except the intrepid driver. Amon was making no progress at all with his own car, one lap being sufficient to reveal serious overheating troubles, so the car spent the rest of the day in the garage having its radiator mountings modified. Fittipaldi tried the latest Texaco-Marlboro McLaren, fitted with the very low and very rearward mounted rear aerofoil, the layout soon to be outlawed by the CSI, while both he and Hulme used the spare car.
The two Ferrari drivers were in a class of their own, with Lauda fastest in 7 mins. 00.8 sec. and Regazzoni next with 7 mins. 01.1 sees., not a great difference for a 14 mile lap. There was no real opposition to the cars from Maranello, only Scheckter in the latest Tyrrell being in the same league, with 7 mins. 03.4 secs., but 2.3 seconds at an average speed of around 120 m.p.h. is an awful long way behind. The rest ranged through “good tries” to “hopeless”, while others were still learning their way round the circuit. Watson was still using the 1973 Brabham, as the BT44/4 was still being finished off in the paddock, and Migault was still using a P160 BRM as the first of the 1974 cars was being rebuilt for him back at Bourne.
When the day’s activities were analysed, the Maki, Lotus 72/R8 and McLaren M23/1 were beyond immediate repair, the Amon was having a pretty major rebuild, March were changing engines and a lot of people were disillusioned about the chances of a Cosworth powered car breaking seven minutes, though it was on the cards for both the Ferraris.
On Saturday practice was the same time as on Friday, with a “clearing up” break half way through. The Lotus mechanics had worked through the night and built Peterson an interesting “special”. This comprised the front half of JPS/10, including the front suspension, the monocoque and the water radiators just behind each front wheel, while the rear half was Lotus 72, the earlier type of rear suspension being grafted onto the 1974 monocoque. Hailwood was using his later McLaren, the bent one being abandoned, the Maki had been shovelled up and put back into its vast transporter, the Japanese mechanics looking a bit bewildered by it all, and the Amon car was ready to go, though its owner-driver was not. He had developed a streaming cold so the young Australian Formula Three driver Larry Perkins was all set to have a go. The “Ringmeister” form that Ickx was supposed to be going to show, according to his fans, never materialised and it was left to Fittipaldi to try and put some pressure on the two Ferraris, though it was not very heavy pressure. The organisation was using a new automatic time-collating machine that printed the results very rapidly, but the only thing it did not take into account was when a driver did not improve on his first day’s time, with the result that an awful lot of people were merely credited with their Friday times when the day was done. Just before the “collection break” Regazzoni’s Ferrari emitted a great sheet of flame out of the back as he hurriedly switched off with the throttle pedal jammed down fully. The fuel injection metering unit had seized wide open and prevented the throttle mechanism from closing, so he was towed back behind a course car. Not many people had been making improvements to their lap times during the first part of practice, and as the second part was due to start the rain began. It was just a sprinkle at first, but then it developed into a deluge and the clouds and weather came right down onto the ground and sat there in the depressing way they can in the Eifel mountains. It was the end of serious practice, though a surprising number of drivers circulated round the pits-loop, splashing through the puddles on rain tyres and sending up fantastic spumes of spray behind them. Lauda was one of the first to try the wet conditions, soon followed by Regazzoni in the “muletto”, while Watson tried the brand new BT44 Brahham. Scheckter was out in the spare Tyrrell. Hunt was out in the spare Hesketh, and Reutemann, Pryce, Lafitte, Peterson, Fittipaldi and Hill were all going round. Even Hulme made a couple of passes, but he would have gone quicker on a push-bike! Fittipaldi got all serious about the conditions and stopped and had a different type of rear aerofoil fitted, to try the effect, but nobody seemed interested in setting off round the full circuit under the rainy conditions. Practice eventually fizzled out and the fastest 25 cars were posted as starters, with the two Ferraris on the front row of the grid, followed by Fittipaldi and Scheckter leading the Cosworth brigade. Scheckter, Peterson, Hailwood, Watson and Pace all took advantage of the 1974 change-of-car rule, the South African having done his best time with the spare Tyrrell, the Swede having done his in the Lotus 72 before it destroyed itself, the motorcycle champion having done his time in his earlier McLaren before it too decided it had had enough, the Irishman deciding to use the new Brabham when his old one developed engine trouble and the Brazilian just wanting a change.
Relegated to spectators on race day were Ashley, Migault, Schenken, Edwards, Perkins and Amon, but of these Ashley was told to stand-by with the Token, as first reserve, in case anyone failed to start. A really enormous crowd had been pouring into the Eifel mountains all during Saturday, the vast majority of them camping in the woods and fields around the circuit and the continuous heavy rain through Saturday night did not seem to have damped their enthusiasm. All the major vantage points were packed solid and the car parks were full to overflowing and the Nürburgring was all set to witness a good race. Overhead the sky was ominous, though the ground was dry and before the start, due at 1.30 p.m., it was announced that if rain developed during the first four laps the race would be stopped and restarted when the drivers and entrants considered it safe. If they had done more than four laps and less than eight laps when the rain came, then the race would be stopped and restarted with everyone in the order they were when it was stopped. If they had done more than eight laps then the race would be stopped and considered finished. At 12.45 p.m. everyone was lined up in the pits road, ready to start off on a full warm-up lap, and standing by as a sign of the affluent times in Formula One, were spare cars for Team Tyrrell, Ferrari, Hesketh, McLaren, Surtees, Embassy-Lola and Shadow, while there was a spare Brabham in the paddock. As first reserve Ashley followed the 25 cars off on the warm-up lap, only to collect a flat tyre half-way round, so while everyone returned to the pits to top up with fuel and generally get ready, the Token was limping slowly round, arriving late with no tyre on the right front wheel. The suspension had been damaged, so while everyone began to assemble on the dummy-grid the Token had new parts fitted and just made it to the back of the grid in time. It was waved into position alongside Bell’s Surtees, making 26 cars on the start line, with no instructions as to what the driver was supposed to do. Everyone moved up to the main grid, the starting signal was given and a minor shambles developed. Gone are the days of the perfect Grand Prix start, we now get the standard Formula One fracas. Fittipaldi had trouble getting into gear, Depailler dodged past him, Hulme tried to go to the left, only to find Ickx overtaking him, and the two Texaco-Marlboro McLaren’s made contact, breaking the right rear suspension of Hulme’s car and knocking Fittipaldi’s left rear out of line. Hulme was left derelict in the middle of the track, while Fittipaldi got away at the end of the field. Having seen Fittipaldi apparently unable to start, Ashley did not hesitate and took off with the rest of them. While this mid-field excitement was taking everyone’s attention, there were more important things happening out at the front. From his pole position Lauda did not make a very good start, and it was Regazzoni who shot into the lead, with Scheckter hard behind him and Lauda in third place. They went round the South Curve and up the straight behind the pits with Regazzoni leading and Lauda cursing himself for muffing his start. Going into the North Curve the Austrian tried to outbrake Scheckter’s Tyrrell, got all crossed up on the inside, spun across the track, clipping the Tyrrell as he went, and ended up in the barriers, the Ferrari badly bent and out of the race on the second corner.
Regazzoni was away, with no one to bother him, and by the end of the first lap it was all over. Driving extremely confidently and running hard enough not to be bothered by anyone the Swiss driver reeled off the laps, completely out of sight to all the hopefuls who thought they were going to beat him. The comic-turn among the mid-field runners had a second showing, for while McLaren M23/6 was dragged off the circuit, Hulme climbed into the spare McLaren and set off round the full circuit, and, until the officials woke up and black-flagged him, there were 26 cars running in the race, and a total of 27 out on the circuit. Fittipaldi was barely halfway round the first lap before his damaged rear tyre deflated and he limped his way slowly back to the pits. Hulme had two clear fast laps before being disqualified, and Ashley continued in the race, seemingly overlooked by everyone. Watson did only one lap with the new Brabham, retiring at the pits with something wrong with the right front suspension, which had put him off on the grass, and on the next lap Lafitte retired at the pits with the right rear upright casting broken on his Williams car.
Reutemann was in good form and was pressing Scheckter hard, these two being in a Cosworth race that had little connection with the Ferrari race, and while Regazzoni dominated the scene a wistful Lauda explained to the continuous flow of enquirers that he had goofed. Fittipaldi did one more lap before retiring, the McLaren not feeling right, and Pace stopped at the end of lap four to tell his mechanics that his Brabham did not feel right. As there was no obvious reason for his complaint they fiddled with the rear aerofoil and sent him on his way. In a surprising fourth place, but some way behind the Scheckter/Reutemann duel, lay Jochen Mass in his Surtees, leading Peterson in the cobbled-up Lotus 76/72, Depailler in Tyrrell 007/2, Ickx in Lotus 72/RS, Hailwood in McLaren M23/7 and Merzario in the latest Williams car. Hunt, Jarier, Beltoise and the rest followed at intervals, On the fifth lap Beltoise came to rest when his BRM engine died on him, through an apparent electrical fault, and Merzario was reduced to a crawling pace when the throttle linkage broke a vital part and only allowed one bank of slides to open. At this point it was sprinkling with rain on the far side of the circuit, and though most of the track was damp it was not significant enough for the race to be stopped, or to justify anyone stopping to fit rain tyres. On the Start and Finish plateau it was still dry, so only the drivers had to do any worrying, and they just got on with the job. Peterson, Ickx, Mass, Hailwood and Depailler had a bit of a carve-up during the sixth lap, and the Frenchman in the Tyrrell came off second best, damaging the back end against the barriers, while Mass was elbowed to the back and the two Lotus drivers finished the lap side-by-side and a bit too close for comfort. Next time round the order of this group was Ickx, Mass, Hailwood and Peterson, and the issue seemed to be settled.
By the end of lap seven, which was half distance, Regazzoni was around the North Curve and away on his eighth lap before Scheckter and Reutemann came into view of the pits. The battle for fourth place was still going on, with Ickx in command, and behind them in eighth place was Hunt, followed by Jarier, Stuck, Pryce, Hill, Pescarolo, Brambilla, Bell, Ashley and Pace. Schuppan had retired the Ensign with gearbox trouble, having done nearly a lap with the throttle stuck open and driving and changing gear on the ignition switch. Regazzoni’s lead was so comfortable that he did not have to strain the Ferrari and was lapping just above the old lap record, which still stood to Pace (Surtees) in 7 min. 11.4 sec. from last year. At the end of the eleventh lap Mass stopped in a cloud of smoke as the Cosworth engine in his Surtees blew up in a big way, and this left Hailwood sandwiched between the two black and gold Lotus cars. Pryce was now in a good seventh place, having caught and passed his team-mate Jarier, and also Stuck in the orange March, and was driving an excellent race for one in a Grand Prix car on the Nürburgring for the first time. Scheckter just managed to scratch below the old lap record in his efforts to get rid of Reutemann, but it made little impression on the leading Ferrari. Ashley had come charging into the pits with no tyre on the right front wheel of the Token for the second time in the day, and was soon back in the race with a new wheel fitted. The hurried repairs before the start had meant that the steering was not properly aligned and the tyre had worn itself out. As Reutemann started his last lap the rear aerofoil on his Brabham was breaking up, the right-hand side-plate hanging off and the whole thing threatening to fall off. The Lotus pair appeared on their own, for Hailwood had landed all wrong after the jump at Pfanzgarten and the McLaren had turned violently sharp right, head-on into the Armco barrier, as if something had broken on landing. The front was smashed in and Hailwood was trapped in the wreckage with severely broken legs.
When Regazzoni completed his fourteenth lap, having led from start to finish, he received a rousing welcome and the whole Ferrari were beside themselves with joy, even Lauda raising a wan smile. Scheckter trailed home in second place, followed by Reutemann, and then Peterson led Ickx home by a few feet, having “jumped” him on the final straight. Pryce led the rest home, Stuck coasting across the line with a dead engine having run out of petrol along the final straight. Graham Hill came charging into ninth place right on the tail of Jarier’s Shadow, and Brambilla trailed in at the end very slowly with a front tyre deflating. It had not been a great German Grand Prix, but it certainly had been an eventful one and it was a very satisfying win for Regazzoni and Ferrari.
Results (top five): Nürburgring – 22.835 k./lap, 14 laps
1st: G.Regazzoni (Ferrari 312B3/016) 1 hr. 41 min. 35.0 sec. — 188.825 k.p.h.
2nd: J.Scheckter (Tyrrell 007/1) 1 hr. 42 min. 25.7 sec.
3rd: C.Reutemann (Brabham BT44/1) 1 hr. 42 min. 58.3 sec.
R. Peterson (Lotus JPS/10) 1 hr. 42 min. 59.20 sec.
5th: J.Ickx (Lotus 72/R5) 1 hr. 43 min. 0.00 sec.
There were one or two Cosworth engines sounding a bit “different” during practice, as though they were running higher compression ratios than usual, or different valve timings. They still could not match the Ferraris.
Due to the German ban on all cigarette advertising at sporting events a lot of the teams had to use up enormous quantities of sticky tape to obliterate the names of Players, Marlboro, Embassy.
We hope the Formula One accident research men look closely into the breakages suffered at the Nürburgring. They were not very good for the peace of mind.
If the organisers do their sums right in analysing the race they will find they had 26 drivers and 27 cars taking part, and the original plan was for 25 of each! Formula One Circus or Grand Prix racing?
Reflections in the Eifel Mountains
Naturally Ferrari enthusiasts are always delighted when a Ferrari wins a Grand Prix, and so are most people, but the nicest thing about a Ferrari victory is the way the Ferrari team enjoy it. Once Regazzoni had crossed the finishing line the whole team hugged each other with real feeling, no one person was singled out for special praise by anyone, they all enjoyed it and whether it was a mechanic, team manager or engineer, any two who were adjacent to one another threw their arms round each other and gave a great affectionate hug, smiling happily all the time. The swarthy Swiss got a terrific reception at the end of the race, even from the German spectators, in the same way that he got an enthusiastic welcome from the British crowds at Brands Hatch. Regazzoni doesn’t have much to say to anyone, and does not have a tame journalist tagging along behind him enlarging on anything he says, like some top drivers do. He gets on with the job of being a professional racing driver and everyone seems to like him, even though there is not much in the way of a friendly personality exuding from him. I think the average spectator likes Regazzoni because he is something of a mystery man and he is a hardcharger with no nonsense about him.
During the race the new Ferrari team manager, Luca Montezemolo, was getting a bit agitated and worrying that Regazzoni was going too fast and might over-do it somewhere. He kept suggesting to Mauro Forghieri that they should slow him down, but the bespectacled engineer said “Don’t flap, Regga’s OK”. It was very obvious who really runs the Ferrari team, for all the mechanics were looking to Forghieri for guidance and the word to be prepared every time Regazzoni was due. Forghieri and his right-hand man Jaime Caliri were leaving nothing to chance and on every lap their time-keeper knew exactly when the Ferrari was coming onto the final straight, and in those last few seconds before it appeared over the Tiergarten all the yo-yos, the fairies, the camp-followers and the hangers-on were cleared from in front of the pits and mechanics stood ready with quick-lift jacks, pneumatic wheel nut spanners and rain tyres as well as dry tyres. If Regazzoni had headed for the pits at any time during the race, either with a puncture or to change to rain tyres when it was damp on the other side of the circuit, the whole team was ready and waiting for him. As it turned out he went by on every lap, sounding strong and healthy, but never once did the team relax its vigil, and each time that Regazzoni changed down for the South Curve his chief mechanic Giulio Borsari listened to the exhaust note with an appreciative ear, and Regazzoni wasn’t messing about or making any mistakes.
On the occasion of the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch the Hesketh team published a souvenir booklet about their racing activities and in it James Hunt evaluated the men he thought he might see in his mirrors, if he ever got into the lead of a Grand Prix. It was good reading and a very honest appraisal of what he thought about most of the other drivers, with the exception of what he thought about Regazzoni, for he said “Frankly, I honestly think that Clay Regazzoni is over the hill”. My reaction on reading that was that Hunt was sticking his neck out and asking for trouble, and I could see the same thing happening to Hunt if he tried mixing it with Regazzoni at the Nürburgring, as happened to Stewart when he tried it on with the swarthy Swiss. I could see the Hesketh stuffed into the guard rails and Regazzoni saying quietly, “What happened to Hunt?” In the German Grand Prix I don’t suppose Hunt ever saw Regazzoni, for the Ferrari driver was on the front row of the grid and the Hesketh driver was on the seventh row of the grid. There are a lot of hills on the Nürburgring and Regazzoni was over them and gone long before Hunt was anywhere near them.
I am not suggesting that Regazzoni is a great champion, far from it, and his German Grand Prix win was only his second, the other being at Monza in 1970, but he has won two more Grand Prix races than Hunt has won. As for him being “over the hill” as Hunt put it, I think it would be nearer the mark to say that Regazzoni has never actually been “on the hill”, if we look at the hill as being the pinnacle as set by Stewart when he was on form. At the moment I don’t think we have anyone on the pinnacle, but we do have a lot of aspiring climbers, which might explain how we have such a varied collection of race-winners this year, and how newcomers like Scheckter and Pryce look so good. The overall standard is not as sharp as it might be, though the competition for the place at the top is as strong and virile as it has ever been. At times it would seem to be a bit too virile, judging by the number of accidents we are having at the start of races. This year there have been far too many, mostly caused by inattention, misjudgement, or plain stupidity, all things that a Grand Prix driver is not supposed to suffer from. It does give one to think that perhaps the overall standard of ability in Grand Prix racing is not as good as some people would like us to think it is. It is certainly not £50,000 ability, £500 a driver would be nearer the mark. Perhaps if the drivers were presented with the repair bills, or the cost was deducted from their retainer it might improve their judgement and ability.
The latest muttering to come out of the paddock concerns the idea of drivers being involved in “transfer fees” when changing from one team to another, they getting a percentage of the “fee” as they change teams. It would be most amusing to know what some of them think they are worth, either as potential race-winners or publicity material. At one time there was only one game being played, and that was racing and the name of the game was winning. Since the advent of the big-business firms who merely want to hang an advertising programme on a racing driver, the name of the game is money to many of them. Fortunately there are still those who live under a fixation, which is to win, and Peterson is our best example at the moment. Some of the drivers haven’t a hope in hell of ever winning a Grand Prix, yet they spend advertising money from their various sponsors with carefree abandon. The world of advertising has such a lot of money to get rid of that £100,000 spent on a no-hoper trailing round at the back seems justified to them, provided he is in “Formula One Racing”. If the “transfer fee” idea develops it will not be long before the business ventures involved get together and control things taking it in turns for “their man” to win a race. In the sordid world of big business this would be termed “fair shares for all”, but to the enthusiastic follower of motor racing it would be called “rigging the results” and there are a lot of people who would stop going to Formula One races if this happened.
During the three days activity on the Nürburgring there were far too many mechanical failures on chassis and running gear components. If an engine is overstressed and breaks a con-rod or drops the head off a valve, it is understandable, but when cars break vital components that throw the car out of control and into the crash barriers it is time some of the “designers” took a close look at themselves, or the “development engineer” looked into the matter of servicing and maintenance. Ganley is pretty certain that something broke on the Japanese Maki suspension, which caused his accident, while Peterson is equally certain about the rear wheel breaking up on his Lotus 72. The way Hailwood’s McLaren M23 turned sharp left during practice was indicative of something breaking in the front suspension or the steering, though his accident in the race he puts down to his own mistake in landing “all wrong” from the jump over the brow at Pflanzgarten. Lafitte’s Williams car had a great crack across the cast alloy upright of the right rear suspension which he fortunately felt before it broke completely.
After the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, where the rules said in effect “no racing in the rain” it was assumed that this was because of the inadequacy of the pits to cope with a mass influx of cars to change wheels. That the same rule was applied at the Nurburgring could not have been for that reason, so we can only assume that Formula One has decided “no racing in the rain”. Apart from wondering why Goodyear and Firestone have been developing special rain tyres, and what they think about the idea, this new move seems to have arrived as a fait accompli presumably after discussion by all those actively concerned. When you say “Formula One” you are encompassing two members of the Constructors Association, a representative of the Drivers Association, circuit and organising representatives, members of the CSI and various self-proposed “specialists” from advisory groups; representatives from the tyre companies as well, one would hope. The race at the Nürburgring was held over 14 laps, but if torrential rain had developed at nine laps the race was to be stopped and considered finished. This would have deprived the spectators of five laps of Grand Prix racing and presumably everyone would have got a refund of part of their entrance money as they went home! Somehow I can’t see that happening in Germany or anywhere else. Rain on lap 51 at Brands Hatch would have “short-changed” the British public of 24 laps of racing. One day the paying public are going to get wise to the way the world of Formula One are treating them, and if the paying public don’t turn up there won’t be any Formula One. There might still be the odd Grand Prix motor race for any gentleman who wishes to partake with his racing car, but the big blousy circus that we have with us today will have gone up in smoke.
While on the subject of the way Formula One is treating the paying customer there have been a great number of complaints about paying large sums of money to go into the paddock only to find that all the Grand Prix cars are hidden away under tents and awnings fixed to the sides of the transporters, or else barriers prevent you seeing very much. The world of Formula One, or at least some of its members, delight in saying that it is “a multi-million pound business” while others say it is not a sport or technical exercise but that it is “entertainment”. They should join the public once in a while and see where the “multi-million pounds” are coming from and what sort of “entertainment” it is. I think they would find that an awful lot of it is a great big con. There is nothing wrong with Lauda and Peterson having a go at each other, or the sound of the Ferrari engine, and one or two others certainly “entertain” but there is an awful lot of dead-wood in Formula One.
Before the start of the German Grand Prix there was a heartrending little scene in the pits. The privately sponsored Token car had just failed to qualify for a place on the grid, Ian Ashley being twenty-sixth fastest, which was no reflection on his efforts at his first go in a Grand Prix. The organisers said he could stand by as first-reserve, in case anyone failed to start, so Ashley set off on the warm-up lap of the full circuit with the rest of them. On the way round he had the right front tyre deflate while charging down the Fuchsrohe hill. With the rubber flailing about he drove round the rest of the lap, arriving back at the pits on the bare rim, but meanwhile everyone else had returned and were getting ready for the start. The Token team’s problem was complicated because the flailing tyre had damaged the upper wishbone and there did not really seem time to do anything about it. However, they got stuck in and replaced the damaged parts, while Ashley sat in the cockpit, having no idea how near the race was to starting, apart from knowing that everyone had left the pit road and was assembling on the dummy-grid. If the repairs were completed in time there was no guarantee that Ashley could start, for all twenty-five cars seemed in good order, but if they were not completed in time, it might not matter if he was still “first reserve”, but there was the awful feeling that if he didn’t get to the back of the grid, sure as Dr. Sodt’s law applies, someone would fall out before the start. Working against time the Token was repaired and as Ashley shot off round the South Curve pits-loop to join the back of the grid there was the awful feeling that after all that effort he was going to be wheeled to one side due to the grid being full. As it turned out he was ushered onto the back of the grid, alongside Derek Bell as the field was preparing to start, and seeing Fittipaldi stationary when everyone else started, Ashley joined in, reasoning that only 24 cars had started on the flag, so as “first reserve” he was justified in making up the number; and anyway, no-one told him anything to the contrary. During the race he had another tyre failure, due to the hurried rebuild not allowing for any accurate lining up of the suspension, which caused excessive tyre wear. Once more he drove the rest of the lap on the flat tyre, until it parted company with the wheel, and he returned to the pits on the rim. With the pit road being empty of cars, and the Token pit being at the far end, he went down the pit road at a fair rate of knots. He had another wheel fitted and rejoined the race, to finish one lap behind the leader. Altogether an event full of drama and excitement for this amateur group, but nonetheless satisfying, for a lot of people didn’t finish the German Grand Prix, and it was the Token team’s first try. When it was all over poor Ashley received a “yacking” from the wife of a well known team manager for the speed he had gone down the pit road! Some of the Formula One people really should get involved in long-distance sports car racing, where the pit-road is in continual use, with cars coming in for repairs, refuelling or tyre changes, and they should have been at some in the days of Siffert and Rodriguez in 917 Porsches; you did not loiter about in the pit road in those days, but made sure you were up on the pit counter if the klaxon heralded their approach to the pits.
An observation without comment. In many places on the Nürburgring there are now wire-mesh catch-nets in front of the Armco harriers. These nets are mounted on wooden stakes but so far no one is worried about splinters of wood piercing the body. Recently, at an English hill-climb venue a wooden barrier had to be protected by a steel strip to prevent splinters of wood projecting in the case of a car hitting the barrier. This was demanded by the Safety Committee of the RAC. When someone has a trauma about being impaled on the wooden stakes holding up the catch-fence at the Nürburgring I wonder what they will mount in front of the wire netting? They could always grow a springy box-hedge to absorb the initial blow; come to think of it the Nürburgring was lined with springy box-hedges before the great face-lift demanded by the GPDA, when they insisted on double-row Armco barrier the whole way round the circuit on both sides. Sometimes I wonder if we really know where we are going.—D.S.J.