Sports Round-up

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Formula Two

A three week gap between the Mugello round of the European Formula Two Championship and the next race in Sweden, at Karlskoga, gave March Engineering time to assemble their most ambitious challenge ever seen in this category of racing. Not only did they enter regular Championship contenders, Patrick Depailler and Hans-Joachim Stuck, but they had also persuaded Colin Chapman to lend them his team Ieader Ronnie Peterson for the occasion. It was the very first time that Peterson had driven a March since 1972 and, mindful of his domination of the category during his spell with the Bicester team, everyone held high hopes for his race at Karlskoga.

True to form, Peterson vanquished all his challengers in the 68-lap race, even though he only qualified the car on the fourth row of the grid. Depailler was quickest in practice, followed by promising Frenchman Jacques Laffite (now a member of the Frank Williams Grand Prix team) in his BP-sponsored March-BMW, On the second row were Patrick Tambay, a talented graduate from Formula Renault, in an Elf 2 spaceframe ahead of local Swede Torsten Palm’s GRD. Palm, brother of the famous ex-rally navigator Gunner Palm, has been an occasional Formula Two competitor over the past season or so and consistently shows encouraging form in this “intermediate” category of International racing.

Although Depailler and Laffite assumed the first two places at the start, Peterson’s tremendous expertise with cars of this type jumped him through to third place by the end of the opening lap. By lap five the blond Swede had displaced Laffite and he tailed Depailler until just before half distance before going through to the front. From that point on Peterson was never seriously challenged and, although Depailler was three tenths of a second adrift when the chequered flag came out, that was a different matter altogether than actually passing Peterson. To be a “follower” is one thing in motor racing, but to be a “leader” is something completely different and Peterson had definitely shown the “youngsters” what it was all about at Karlskoga. By contrast, Stuck, who shone so brightly earlier in the season, failed to sustain this level of competitive ability in Sweden, trailing in a lowly eighth. The race admirably proved that, on occasion, the injection of somebody from a higher level than the other competitors are used to, frequently provides a first-class gauge of aspiring stars’ ability and gives them something to “shoot for”.

European Touring Car Championship

By following up their win in the Nurburgring Six Hours with a class victory and seventh place overall at Zandvoort, Hans Meyer and Klaus Ludwig ensured that Ford take overall victory in the 1974 European Touring Car Championship. Their Castrol Team Zakspeed Escort RS raced all the way to the chequered flag with the BMW 2002 Alpina of Harald Ertl/Thomas Betzler, but managed to beat the German car by just a lap.

As far as the overall placings were concerned, Ford had a comfortable first victory for their 3.4-litre Cosworth-engined Capris, the winning car being driven by Jochen Mass and Rolf Stommelen, the latter standing in for Niki Lauda who was bedridden with a bad attack of food poisoning back home in Austria. In many ways it was a lucky triumph for this driving combination, for the Toine Hezemans/Dieter Glemser Capri started from pole position and looked set for victory before being involved in a minor collision while lapping a private BMW CSL. An electrical lead to the fuel pump had snapped as a result, losing the Capri ten minutes. They eventually finished sixth, leaving the Porsche Carrera RS of Gijs van Lennep/Hartwig Bertrams to take second overall ahead of the Huub Vermeulen/Rob Slotemaker BMW CSL.

With five rounds of this expensive Group Two saloon series now completed, it seems that the Dijon round postponed until October may be cancelled altogether, so there is just a single race left at Jarama. In the under-2-litre class, Ford are unbeatable with 100 points although things are much more open in the unlimited category where BMW has 72 points to Ford’s 70. In the drivers’ league, which is far from settled, Hans Heyer and Alain Peltier share first place with 70 points apiece.

Oliver’s Can-Am success

The North American Can-Am Championship has become a far less consequential affair over the past couple of seasons, this state of affairs inevitably allowing one team to dominate the proceedings. In 1972 and 73 it was the turbo-charged Porches, but regulation changes for 1974 have meant that the normally aspirated 8-litre Chevrolet-engined UOP-Shadows are the cars to beat. Don Nichols, the team chief, employs his 1973 Grand Prix drivers Jack Oliver and George Follmer to do the driving, for while they were generally uncompetitive in Formula One, they can more than match the predominantly “club racer” opposition in North America.

The most recent race took place at Mid-Ohio on August 11, providing Oliver with his fourth victory in the series and virtually ensuring him of this year’s title. Brian Redman had his first outing in the ex-Donohue Penske Porsche 917/30 and provided the two black cars with a little bit of a challenge, but Oliver finally asserted himself at the front of the field and won the race. George Follmer and Oliver do not get on together, making no secret of it in a pre-race brawl earlier in the Can-Am series. But Follmer foolishly decided to take his dispute into the race at Mid-Ohio, retiring in disgust after what seemed to be an ill-considered attempt to push Oliver off the circuit. It is a pity there is not better competition for the Shadows in Can-Am; if there was, then there would be no time for this irresponsible tomfoolery.

Chapman’s new protégé

Over the past few months, motor racing’s band of “doubting Thomases” have seemed to thrive on what looked like the downfall of Team Lotus. As we now know, Colin Chapman’s team has bounced back into prominence and, although 1974 will not be remembered as the most successful for Team Lotus, they have two Grand Prix triumphs to their credit already. This, as we have no need to point out, is two more than a great number of other organisations. Colin Chapman is still well in command of Team Lotus activities, so it will come as encouraging news to patriotic readers to hear that he has recruited a young up-and-coming British driver from Formula Atlantic with a view to “training” him in the ways of Formula One. The driver selected is 26-year-old Jim Crawford, who has been steadily working away at building himself a reputation as a leading contender in this national category, driving a March 74B owned by his friend and fellow competitor Stephen Choularton. Both Chapman and Peter Warr scrutinised his progress carefully before inviting him to Hethel to sign a contract. But Chapman has taken a clever course bearing in mind Crawford’s lack of experience with powerful cars. Rather than fall into the same pitfall as he did back in 1972 with David Walker, and repeating the promotion of a leading contender in a lesser category straight into a Grand Prix seat, the Lotus chief has decided that his newcomer will be “phased in” gently. He has signed him for one year, during which he will be allowed several test sessions to get the hang of a Formula One Lotus and, if he acquits himself favourably, he will then drive in a couple of non-Championship races. After this, and presumably Chapman has in mind the Race of Champions and the Silverstone International Trophy meetings at the start of 1975, then Lotus have the option to sign Crawford for three further years.

The memory of poor old David Walker, struggling to keep his head up while quite clearly not up to the job, is obviously very clear in Colin Chapman’s mind.—A.H.

***

The American driver Peter Gregg successfully defended his last year’s victory in the closely-fought 1974 American GT and Touring Car Championship (the TransAm Championship). Driving a 3-litre Porsche Carrera RSR, Gregg won two of the three races counting for the Championship ahead of Ludwig Heimrath and Hurley Haywood, both in Carreras. In fact Carreras filled the first five places in the Championship and the Corvettes and Camaros were right out of the picture. Al Holbert won the first of the Championship heats, at Lime Rock, when Gregg crashed badly on the second lap.

***

Basil Wales, after many years as Manager of the British Leyland (nee BMC) Special Tuning Department at Abingdon, has relinquished the post to take up another in British Leyland’s Parts and KD Division. His place has been taken by Richard Seth-Smith, a former Triumph PR man and latterly PR Manager for the Truck and Bus Special Products Division. Seth-Smith’s new team will include Bill Price, who used to be Assistant Competitions Manager and was the man responsible for homologation in the good old days, and returns to the fold after leaving when the Competitions Department was disbanded. He’ll be in charge of Engineering Development and the Abingdon workshop, while John Kerswill will be in charge of parts marketing and Simon Pearson, one-time Triumph PR man, will be responsible for Abingdon’s PR activity and for: “co-ordinating British Leyland’s involvement in motor sport”. With British Leyland already involved in competition again with the racing Dolomite Sprints (albeit partially through the back door), will this mean an all-out return to competitions for British Leyland? We hope that if it does, Seth-Smith will re-engage those fantastic, world-famous Abingdon mechanics who went to waste when Stokes disbanded the Competitions Department.

***

Our comments about Motorcraft plugs in the article about Champions Racing Division on page 963 ought to be qualified a little. Motorcraft are still very much involved in the world of plugs, even if according to the people at Champions they are taking less interest in Formula One and other big international formulae. Indeed, after the Champions article had “gone to bed” we received a Press release which implies that Motorcraft are to put much more effort into pushing their wares on the British competition scene. What they have done initially is to appoint seven retail outlets for Motorcraft racing plugs, all strategically placed to supply Motorcraft plugs to competitors during motoring sport events. Jaycessories will sell them from their Silverstone caravan, Demon Tweeks will handle Oulton Park Sales, Nick Whiting’s All Car Equipe shop in West Kingsdown will look after Brands Hatch, Sports-Tune of Edinburgh will service Ingliston, John Aley, Snetterton, while nonspecific-circuit suppliers are Greetham Engineering Ltd., Coventry, and Sutton Rebore Ltd., Surrey.

***

Jeremy Grammer, of 78, Hillside Gardens, Barnet, Herts, informs us that he has taken over as Secretary of the Sunbeam Talbot Darracq Register from H. F. Gray.