1970 French Grand Prix

Clermont-Ferrand, France, July 5th

Before reading this report the one of the Dutch Grand Prix (page 850) together with Reflections on the Dutch Grand Prix (page 858) should be read first, in order to achieve continuity on the Grand Prix scene for 1970.

After some rather wild ideas about running the French Grand Prix on the little aerodrome circuit at Albi, common sense prevailed and the Circuit of Charade in the hills above Clermont-Ferrand was once again chosen as the scene for the race. Last year had seen a convincing first and second place by Matra, using the MS80 cars, albeit with Cosworth V8 engines, and it had proved to be a very popular event with everyone. The circuit is something of a miniature Nurburgring, of 8.055 kilometres in length among the forest-clad hills, and while it is terrific fun to drive round it suffers a bit from being narrow and having the corners following one another in quick succession so that overtaking is difficult, but in spite of that there is no comparison with an aerodrome circuit. The only driver not enthusiastic about driving round the Circuit of Charade is Rindt, as he has an incipient stomach ulcer complaint, aggravated by his insistent smoking, and the continual sideways-G effects of the circuit tend to bring on sickness. This was a distinct set-back for Team Lotus, having got the Lotus 72 approaching perfection, and they arrived with the two cars used at Zandvoort altered only in respect of trying different shock-absorbers on the rear, but with their star driver very disinterested in the prospects and refusing to stop smoking even though his doctor advised it. Miles in the less modified Lotus 72 was very enthusiastic about the circuit and could not do enough practice, but with the best will in the world Chapman could not pin Lotus hopes on the young Englishman. As practice progressed it became clear that Rindt’s lack of enthusiasm for the circuit was the least of the Lotus worries, for along with all the other users of Cosworth V8 engines, the big worry was the way the Ferrari and Matra 12-cylinder engines had been advancing in the last race or two. There was a practice session on Friday afternoon and no sign of the Ferrari transporter, for it had arrived at the Italian frontier ten minutes after the Italian and French Customs men had closed for the night as far as dealing with transport was concerned. In consequence the Cosworth-powered cars dominated things, being led by Stewart in the Tyrrell March 701. Last year in practice Stewart had recorded 3 min. 00.6 sec. with the Matra MS80, so sub-three-minute laps were looked for almost immediately but were in fact very conspicuous by their absence, the reason being put down to the circuit having been out of use by racing cars so that a general coating of dust and public traffic film had to be worn off by the racing cars before their racing tyres could really get to work. Although practice went on for 2 1/2 hours times were all comparatively slow and Stewart and Amon were the only ones who approached the three-minute limit. The Tyrrell team were using March 701/4 for Stewart and March 701/7 for Cevert, with March 701/2 as a spare for the team leader, and when his number one car showed a tendency for the throttle slides to stick he went out in the spare car while his mechanics took the throttle mechanism to pieces on the number one car. Cevert was full of the joys of putting up a good performance in his own Grand Prix event and very quickly got down to a respectable 3 min. 02.87 sec., close to the existing lap record of 2 min. 02.7 sec., which caused Tyrrell to terminate the exuberant young Frenchman’s practice before he went on his head, believing that his driver should make haste slowly.

Race Results


Circuit - Clermont-Ferrand




Clermont-Ferrand, Auvergne


Permanent road course


5.005 (Miles)


Chris Amon (Matra-Simca MS120D), 2m53.9, 103.611 mph, F1, 1972