71 – 1970 Italian GP


A series taken from the 162-page Motor Sport special 100 Greatest Grands Prix (other specials are available here). To buy the lead image click here. From the editor Damien Smith The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget… Welcome to this special one-off magazine, dedicated to our love of Grand Prix racing and produced by the same team that brings you Motor Sport each month. It seemed a good idea: whittle down 107 years of racing history to come up with 100 GPs that could be considered the ‘greatest’ – then rank them in meritocratic order. By week three, the old grey matter was beginning to ache… Defining greatness was the first task. There were the obvious races – the wheel-to-wheel duels, the comeback classics. But there were also individual performances of supreme dominance, races that might not necessarily have been the most exciting to witness. Greatness goes way beyond thrill-a-minute, we decided. Then there were those races of prominence, attached to a certain time or place that made them hugely significant. I’m thinking specifically of Belgrade, 1939. Only five entries took the start of a race that didn’t sound particularly scintillating. But as it happened to take place on the very day WWII broke out, we felt it worthy of inclusion. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel’s remarkable maiden GP win at Monza in 2008, for lowly Scuderia Toro Rosso, was left on the cutting room floor. Is that fair? You decide. We also opted to include a few races that weren’t Grands Prix, leastways in name, although the strength of entry was such that they might as well have been… Choosing which races should make the list was hard enough; ranking the top 100 in some sort of order was even tougher, especially when it came to the crunch: which should be number one? We never did agree unanimously on the ‘greatest’, but if the magazine was to be finished a decision had to be taken. And that’s what I’m here for! Will you agree with our choice and order? Probably not. But if steam begins to issue from your ears, take a deep breath. In any exercise such as this, there is no definitive list – because there can’t be. Our top 100 is based on opinion, nothing more, designed to be a bit of fun and to spark good-natured debate among fans of the world’s greatest sport. So turn the page, delve in – and whatever you do, don’t take it too seriously. 1970 Italian GP September 6, Monza Jackie Stewart spent practically the whole race battling against 12-cylindered cars,” wrote Denis Jenkinson. “If it wasn’t a Ferrari it was a BRM, and if they weren’t there it was a Matra, so he must be getting fed-up with the sound of 12 cylinders on full song.” Stewart’s March-Cosworth V8 had been at the heart of a slipstreaming classic typical of the era. But it’s the context of his performance that really makes one gasp, for the day before his close friend Jochen Rindt had died after his Lotus 72 snapped left into a barrier on the approach to the Parabolica. For those who would later accuse Stewart of cowardice over his stance on safety, his strength of character at Monza that weekend should have been remembered. There was, in fact, none more brave. Unlike the race that would play out a year later, the battle for Monza ’70 would not go to the line, Clay Regazzoni’s Ferrari breaking the tow late on to claim a clear win that sent Italy into raptures. Stewart was left in his wake, edging Jean-Pierre Beltoise’s Matra and Denny Hulme’s McLaren for second. He’d raced to win, as usual, despite everything. Jacky Ickx’s clutch failure would contribute to Rindt eventually becoming Formula 1’s only posthumous world champion – something that mattered not at all to Jenks. In Continental Notes, he wrote: “There are so many occasions when I get sick and tired of the Drivers’ World Championship… at Monza I had to be very short with a lot of people. They were not saddened by the death of Rindt or the loss to Team Lotus, all they were worried about was whether the rules allowed a dead man to be World Champion. “There have been years when I personally would not have awarded a World Championship to any driver, and other years when the choice has been obvious, irrespective of the points scored under FIA rules. The fact that Rindt was killed while he had an almost unassailable lead in the points race for the title of World Champion put so many people into a flutter that it was really sickening… “To win a Championship by scoring more points than the next man is a bit like winning the football pools. To win all the races is much more impressive. So dead or alive, champion or posthumous champion, let’s not forget that in 1970 Jochen Rindt had a record that read 1st Monaco GP, 1st Dutch GP, 1st French GP, 1st British GP, 1st German GP. A worthy driver, if not among the great artists of the sport of motor racing.” Jenks had been hard on Rindt and he would be tough on Stewart in the future, too – in both cases unfairly so. But his assertion that a race hard-won counted for more as a single entity than a title of world champion is one by which Motor Sport still stands. Or as he put it: “I still think that the reason for motor racing is for the combination of car and driver, coupled to the rest of the team that operate out of the limelight, to beat all the opposition and win the race for which they are entered.” Simple, isn’t it? DS

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