From the Motor Sport Archive
Silverstone, England, July 19th
During the days before official practising, the Silverstone circuit was a hive of activity, so that at one stage it almost looked as if the Grand Prix had begun. The result of all this was that nearly everyone was ready to go when official practice began on Thursday, with the exception of Team Lotus who arrived at lunch-time. After the very fast practice laps at the International Trophy meeting last March it was no surprise to see the old official lap record of 1 min. 25.1 sec. held by Amon since April 1968 being surpassed by everyone who is worth his salt in Grand Prix racing. As has become the pattern this year Stewart set the pace right from the start with MS80-02, the Matra-Cosworth V8 he normally races, and there was no one out on the first practice session who could even cause him to worry, let alone try extra hard. This was because Team Lotus were not ready and Rindt had no car to drive, for the Austrian is the only driver fast enough these days to cause Stewart any worry. Having set a good standard time of 1 min. 21.5 sec., more than one whole second faster than the next man, Stewart put in some practice with the 4-w-d Matra MS84 and got down to an interesting 1 min. 24.1 sec. Beltoise was backing the Scot up well with 1 Min. 23.0 sec. in M.S80-01, and the whole Tyrrell team was a model of how to go motor racing and demoralise the opposition. Team Lotus should have provided the opposition, but having the technical side trying to change over from obsolete two-wheel-drive cars to 4-w-d, two drivers who are little help to any team effort, and the sort of unharmonious atmosphere in the whole set-up that one normally associates with the B.R.M. team, the Tyrrell Matra International team were not too worried about the Lotus opposition, though Tyrrell would be the last person to under-estimate Chapman.
McLaren Racing were out in strength, with Hulme (M7A-2), McLaren (M7C-1) and their new 4-wheel-drive car (M9A-1) making its first public appearance, the whole team being in a very pleasant and happy condition and all working for the good of the orange cars. McLaren is a great believer in 4-w-d requiring new driving techniques and as this was the first time out in competition with the new car he borrowed Bell from the Ferrari team and let him do all the 4-w-d driving to get the car under way, while he and Hulme concentrated on trying to keep the old cars up with the leaders. Ferrari at last relented and let Amon have some help in his lonely battle, taking Rodriguez into the team, giving him 0009 an early car, with Amon having the choice of 0017 or 0019, and the Mexican soon justified the opportunity by recording 1 min. 22.6 sec., which put him second fastest in the first practice session. With Brabham still out of action it was hoped that Gurney would join Ickx for this race, but negotiations fell through so the young Belgian was left with the choice of two cars, BT26-3 the one he normally drives and BT26-4 a brand new one. As Hill was ready to practise and the Lotus cars were not, he had a go in the new Brabham during Thursday morning, clocking 1 min. 24.1 sec., which was faster than lckx could do with either of the cars! The immaculate Frank Williams Brabham, which used to be known as BT26-4, but is now BT26-1, confusing the number game, had hardly started practice before the Cosworth engine broke and it was rushed away to have the engine changed, Courage having to sit and watch everyone else practise. The B.R.M. team, led by Surtees, reappeared after missing the French G.P. and the new car (P139-01), had the monocoque chassis altered, with more bulbous cockpit sides and the outer skin maintaining its width for the whole length instead of tapering inwards at the rear, and the oil coolers had been removed from the sides and replaced by one above the gearbox, blended into the air spoiler. Oliver was still driving the earlier car (P133-01). Siffert was driving the Walker-Durlacher Lotus 49B and Elford was driving Antique Automobiles Ltd. McLaren-Cosworth V8. The interesting new Cosworth Engineering 4-wheel-drive car was entered for Redman to drive, but Porsche commitments prevented him from trying the car before practice began so Trevor Taylor drove it earlier in the week. All was not exactly to the liking of Duckworth, Costin and Hird, the men behind the car, so it was withdrawn officially before the meeting began and work continued to get it right for the Italian G.P.