Monza, Italy, September 8th
The mere mention of Monza conjures up speed and Grand Prix racing with no ifs or buts, and once again the Italian track lived up to its reputation. Although practice did not start officially until 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon, the track was a hive of activity nearly all week, with teams trying out new cars and new drivers, and there was no doubt that the 1968 race was going to be a hard and very fast event. The entry was one of the best seen in Grand Prix racing for quite a time, with Lotus, Ferrari, Matra and Cooper all entering three-car teams, and Honda entering two cars. The two U.S.A.C. drivers, Andretti and Unser, were signed up to join in Grand Prix racing, the former with the third Team Lotus car, and the latter with the second B.R.M., taking the place of Attwood, who was dropped from the Bourne team without any warning. The two Americans practised extensively before official practice began, and Andretti showed excellent form, lapping faster than the existing lap record, so that it was clear that the regular Grand Prix drivers were going to set some searing speeds during practice. With a total of 26 entries, someone was going to get left out, for the regulations specified that only 20 cars would start the race, these being the fastest 20 during the two afternoons of practice. Before it all began there were some non-starters, two of the Cooper entries being withdrawn as Widdows had had an accident testing a prototype car for the Gulf J.W. team, and Alfa Romeo would not allow their 3-litre V8 engine to be raced, so Bianchi's entry was withdrawn. In addition, the organisers made it clear that if the two U.S.A.C. drivers returned to America to take part in the Hoosier 100 race on the Saturday before the Grand Prix, they would be disqualified, for the rules forbade any driver to take part in two events within a time span of 24 hours. After doing the minimum of practice on Friday afternoon, both Andretti and Unser flew to America to take part in the U.S.A.C. Championship event, and though there was much lobbying before race day, the Italian Federation stuck to their rules and disqualified both drivers. All this left 22 cars to qualify for the 20 places on the starting grid, and as the Bernard White B.R.M. V12 had all the wrong gear ratios, it was unlikely that Gardner would qualify the car, and with so much factory activity Moser had little chance of qualifying, so that the outcome was pretty cut-and-dried. What was not so sure was the order which the 20 runners would occupy on the grid, for unofficial practice had shown that no one had a monopoly on speed, and practice got under way with a rush when Andretti and Unser roared away from the pits to get in some official laps before flying away, just in case the rules were bent for their benefit.