#187 1970 Monaco Grand Prix

2021-10-31 00:00

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#1970, Fulvio Conti,

#187 1970 Monaco Grand Prix

At Monza, who's back with Ferrari? Chris Amon and John Surtees. When the New Zealander and the Briton divorced from Maranello, lively discussions and


At Monza, who's back with Ferrari? Chris Amon and John Surtees. When the New Zealander and the Briton divorced from Maranello, lively discussions and polemics broke out. Chris didn't show up for weeks, changed his mind many times and finally left Ferrari at the end of last year. Surtees left, or was kicked out, after the 1966 24 Hours of La Mans. He was sidelined just before the start of practice, went to Maranello for discussions, then left. It was even said that he stole technical solutions and designs from his Lola. Time passes, certain situations soften or mellow. And here are the two prodigal sons at the wheel of Maranello cars again. After all, they are two professionals. They do a certain job and are paid for it. The attachment to a company, to a manufacturer, has perhaps disappeared in the world of racing, which from a sporting and technical fact is inexorably turning into a spectacle and a financial business. One can understand, then, why Amon and Surtees are returning, no wonder. Today, undoubtedly, the two drivers can be extremely useful to Ferrari. Amon has always shown that he is much more at ease in a sports car than in a single-seater, and Surtees, who won the 1966 1000 km with Mike Parkes at Monza, is certainly not inferior to him. As you know, Amon ends up replacing Mario Andrettl, while Surtees will be in the place of Ickx, injured in the Spanish Grand Prix. But we are sure that the Monza public will find Big John with more warmth. For the Italian fans he has long been an idol: he even gave Ferrari a Formula 1 world title in 1964. Many years have passed, and John is no longer a boy, he even has almost white hair. But if he were to win on Saturday, well, even the magician from Maranello, the pensioner, as he likes to call himself, would look younger. For Surtees, almost a reunion. After the American challenges (Daytona and Sebring) and the English one (Brands Hatch), Ferrari and Porsche are facing each other again in Italy, at Monza, where on Saturday the 1000 Kilometre fourth round of the Constructors' World Championship will take place, which is proving to be as uncertain as ever and, therefore, exciting. The German company won at Daytona and Brands Hatch, the Italian one at Sebring. 


Ferrari and Porsche came en masse to the Autodromo, relying on the 512 S of Surtees-Schetty, Amon-Merzario (berlinettas) and Giunti-Vaccarella (spiders) on the one hand, and on the other the 917s of Rodriguez-Kinnunen, Siffert-Redman, Herrmann-Attwood and Ahrens-Elford, one or two of which will probably be equipped with the new five-litre engine. It's easy to assume that the fight will be very hard, but it's difficult that the three-litre sport- prototypes Alfa and Matra-Simca will end up taking advantage of the great duel. The Milanese cars will be driven by Galli-Stommelen, Masten Gregory-Hezemans and De Adamich-Courage, while at the wheel of the French cars there will be Beltoise-Pescarolo and Brabham-Servoz-Gavin. In all, there will be forty cars in Groups 4, 5 and 6 to put on a show. The organisers are a bit worried, especially because on the 5,750 metres of the road track (the high-speed basin has been discarded this year) to be repeated 174 times, cars with very different performances will run together, with speed differences of 150-160 km/h. But then, what are they supposed to do at Le Mans? Ferrari's 512 S is a sports car with a 12-cylinder engine of 4993 cc and 580 horsepower at 8600 rpm. The weight is 810 kilos. The car, made of a load-bearing platform with a mixed tubular structure and studded aluminium sheet, is built in coupé and spider versions, with a short and long tail. In recent preliminary tests at Le Mans, Giunti touched 335 km/h. The 917 used by the Gulf-Porsche team is also a sports car. The engine is a twelve-cylinder, of which there are two types: one, used up to now, of 4500 cc (580 hp at 8300 rpm and another, which will make its debut at Monza, of almost five litres, with power matching that of the Ferrari. Tubular trellis chassis, short and long tail versions, speed (at Le Mans) of 320 km/h. Born in March 1967 as a two-litre, Alfa 33.3 became a 3000-cc sport-prototype last year. The eight-cylinder engine produced 415-425 hp at 9400 rpm. Dry weight 729 kilos. Coupé and spider versions, short and long tail, also for the Milanese manufacturer's car. Monocoque panel chassis with titanium strength elements. Speed is over 300 km/h. Together with the well-known three-litre Porsche 908, the Matra-Simca 650 runs among the sport-prototypes and is perhaps Alfa's biggest rival. At Branda Hatch it was fitted with the new 12- cylinder engine used on the Formula 1 single-seater. It produces over 400 hp at 9000 rpm. Tubular trellis chassis. A version with wings appeared in England. Speed over 300 km/h. 


In order to beat Ferrari on Sunday 26 April 1970 at Monza in the 1000 Kilometre race, the fourth round of the World Championship for Makes, Porsche decided to bring out the 5-litre engines. Until now, the German engineers had proudly proclaimed that the 12-cylinder 4500 cc engines were sufficient. Now the situation has changed. In fact, Siffert-Redman's and Elford-Ahrens' 917s had the new powerplants, rated at slightly more than 610 HP at 8400 rpm. The crankcase remained the same as the original version, while the bore, crankshaft, cylinders, connecting rods and pistons were modified. Siffert in the Porsche managed to lower the time achieved on Friday by Merzario in the 512 S: 1'25"21, at an average of 242.928 km/h. However, Siffert's car returned to the pits emitting a long, smoky smoke, and the mechanics laboured around it for a long time. Rico Steinemann, sporting director of the German manufacturer, dark in face, declared:


"Unfortunately, we will no longer be able to fit this engine to Siffert's car. The Swiss driver will therefore start with the 4.5-litre. The larger 12-cylinder will only be used in Elford's 917. This is a pity".


As a matter of fact, only with the 5 litre engine the 917s managed to do better than the Ferraris, and then relatively, given that the gaps between Siffert and Merzario and Elford and Giunti were minimal. Rodriguez, who races with Kinnunen admits faintly:


"It's a long, hard race. I'll go with the 4500 cc engine; it's less brilliant than the 5 litre, but I think I have a better chance of getting to the end".


If Porsche is preparing for the Monza race with some uncertainty, Ferrari has no illusions. They say:


"They are strong, it is useless to hide it".


In practice, on Saturday 25 April 1970, Arturo Merzario causes a moment of emotion among the Scuderia Ferrari mechanics. After a few laps, the right rear tyre of his car sags. Merzario takes a serious risk, but then recounts:


"In the short straight before the first of the two Lesmo bends, while I was driving in fifth gear at about 300 km/h, I felt the tyre give way. The car reared up and I found myself straddling the guardrail that marks the curve. I must have run about 50 metres that way. I pressed the buttons on the fire extinguishers, unhooked the seat belts and waited. The car stopped half a metre from a plant".


A bad adventure, which fortunately ended well for the strong Lombard racer and the red Ferrari. The 512 S has some problems with the rear suspension, so it will be changed during the night. Enzo Ferrari also attends the tests. Serene and calm, the Modenese constructor, who is up to the great challenges on the tracks all over the world, prefers not to dwell too much on the 1000 Kilometres and talks instead about the unsportsmanlike events of the Geneva Pact, the fake regulations and their violations. Calm words, waiting for the FIA's pronouncements. In the meantime, he watches his cars carefully, those 512 S that the agreement with Fiat has made possible. In the prototype sector, the tests reveal a certain superiority of the 3-litre Alta Romeo 33.3 over the Matra-Simca. The two French spiders had some difficulty in finding the best set-up. In all, forty cars will be competing in the sport prototypes and special gran turismo categories. This has caused some controversy. Many drivers of the bigger cars have complained about having to race together with slower cars. Surtees stated about this:


"We arrive at the bend that closes the grandstand straight at 315-320 km/h and we are faced with a car going 200 km/h. Believe me, these are not pleasant situations".


A group of riders made a recommendation to the race management, asking that the marshals be very careful and that it be clearly explained to the slower drivers that they must give way to the others. Who says that the sport of driving is not a business? In just a few days, the Automobile Club of Milan manages to sell more than 100.000 tickets (prices: from 2.000 to 10.000 lire) for the 1000 km of Monza. Already at dawn on Friday, 24 April 1970, long columns of cars are heading towards the circuit: people drive at 30 km/h to go and see the spectacle offered by Ferrari and Porsche. Never had I seen so much enthusiasm, but it is logical that the battle that opens on Saturday, at 11:00 a.m., attracts the crowd and ignites the cheers. Two substantially balanced teams will take to the track, so much so that no one, technician or enthusiast, dares to venture a prediction on the eve of the race. In the world championship for makes, Porsche is leading with 24 points, against Ferrari's 15. The Stuttgart company won at Daytona and Brands Hatch, the Maranello one at Sebring. There were three official 512 S, with Amon-Merzario, Surtees-Schetty and Giunti- Vaccarella, four 917s, two of the Gulf-Porsche of John Wyer, with Rodriguez-Kinnunen and Siffert- Redman, two of the Porsche of Salzburg, with Elford-Ahrens and Herrmann-Attwood. Ferrari risked losing one of its cars when Arturo Merzario crashed into a guardrail at the Lesmo bend after a tyre failed. Fortunately, the story ended happily, and, during the night, the mechanics put the car back together. Merzario and Amon found their smiles again; for Amon, it had been a lightning bolt. Chris had learned of the mishap in the evening, on his return from training at Silverstone in England. On the other hand, the tyre and refuelling problems are of some concern to everyone. The high speeds that can be developed at Monza mean that tyre temperatures and consumption increase considerably. It is easy to imagine that many cars will have to stop in the pits because of punctures. This already happened last year. Then there's the question of fuel consumption. The Ferraris use more petrol than the Porsches, which could mean more pit stops. This was an important factor, according to some even decisive, but it wasn't certainly the only one that moved the Mille Chilometre. Porsche renounced to mount the new five-litre engine on the 917 driven by Siffert: the 12-cylinder engine, thanks to which the Swiss driver had set the best time, yielded to mechanical stress, and the German engineers decided to use the original unit, of 4500 cc. It turns out, however, that a 5-litre engine is used in Elford's car. 


At Monza, we end up talking only about Ferrari and Porsche, it's natural, even if we shouldn't underestimate the presence of the Alfa Romeo 33.3 and the Matra-Simca 650 with 12-cylinder Formula 1 engines, present in force in the three-litre prototype category. De Adamich-Courage, Zeccoli-Facetti, Gregoni-Hezemans, Galli-Stommelen will be racing for the Milanese company, while Beltoise- Brabham and Pescarolo-Servoz Gavìn will be racing for the French company. It is unthinkable that the 3-litre cars can bother the 512 S and the 917, but they will certainly fight each other fiercely. There is only one prediction: 1000 kilometres with the look of a Grand Prix. At the end of the 174 long laps of the road course, will the Ferrari or the Porsche win? 100.000 people in Monza are asking themselves this question. On Saturday 25 April 1970, at the end of the race, Porsche prevailed but Ferrari's defeat in the 1000 Kilometres of Monza was not a defeat. Rodriguez and Kinnunen, after Daytona and Brands Hatch, obtained the third success in this World Championship for Makes, with the 917 of 4500 cc, but behind them there were three 512 S, that is all the cars lined up by Maranello team for the great challenge with the rival of Stuttgart. The decisive breakthrough was missing in a fight that took place on a level of remarkable balance, but Ferrari could complain about it with the bad luck that haunted Chris Anton. On the other hand, the young Italian driver Ignazio Giunti emerged, the author of an excellent race and the protagonist of a long duel, first with the five-litre Porsche driven by Elford-Ahrens and then with the winners' one. At the start, Elford, on the strength of his 5000 cc 12-cylinder engine (610 bhp at 8400 rpm), tried to lengthen the pace, tailed by Rodriguez and Giunti. However, a little later the Englishman's co-driver Kurt Ahrens was forced to stop far from the pits because of a puncture, and the battle between Rodriguez (replaced for only 54 minutes by Kinnunen) and Giunti took on the tones of a heated Grand Prix. Ignazio gradually managed to get close to the 917 of the Gulf-Porsche team and at the Ferrari pits it was decided for the final, decisive shift to let Amon take the place of Nino Vaccarella. Refuelling, ready, go and the 512 S found itself enveloped in a swarm of flames. The flames were promptly put out, but between the firemen's intervention, Amon's return at the wheel and the engine restarting, the Maranello team lost almost a minute. The Porsche, on the other hand, quickly refuelled and restarted, making itself unreachable. 


Thus, the Stuttgart company, by placing only one of the four 917s, brought another 9 points to its world classification, rising to 33 points against the 21 points of Ferrari. It's not an unbridgeable lead, but it is beginning to take on a certain consistency. It should be pointed out that the 512 S driven by Amon and Merzario (considered the most balanced crew of the three Ferrari cars) could not perform at its best: the drivers had not had the opportunity to take care of the set-up after the repair following Friday's accident. And in a race on the edge of 232 km/h average, with peaks of 315-320 km/h, the detail has its importance. Elford even allowed himself the luxury of lowering the lap record set last year by Beltoise's Matra-Ford Formula 1 car: 1'24"8 (at an average speed of 244.103 km/h) against 1'25"2, but no comparison can be made with last years' races, as they took place on the complete circuit, i.e. road track and high speed bowl. In any case, the fact remains that from one edition to the next, technical progress, both in the field of Formula 1 single-seaters and in that of the big sports cars, increasingly exasperates performance. Safety limits are being pushed to the limit, especially when cars as different as the Porsche 917 or the Ferrari 512 S and the Gran Turismos, which barely reach 200 km/h, take to the track together. Giunti, Surtees, Courage and Siffert (who was eliminated from contention almost at the beginning of the race) often found it difficult to overtake, with cars that set the bends to the maximum of their possibilities, having no margin to give way to the more powerful cars. Says Schetty at the end of the race:


"There was no need for such complications. There are already many unforeseen events during the race. Merzario and I, for example, found our windshields covered with oil sprayed by Elford's 917 and, one after the other, we skidded off on one of the fastest bends".


In the prototype sector, the Matra-Simca cars with the 12-cylinder Formula 1 engine won out over the Alfa Romeo 33.3. Beltoise-Brabham and Pescarolo-Servoz-Gavin had no problems. The Alfas are mown down or delayed by various troubles and mishaps: in any case it is a disappointing performance. Both Italian constructors are called to revenge on the Targa Florio: and that's what also Ferrari's irreducible fans hope for, Porsche permitting. However, Jo Siffert's feat in the practice of Thursday 30 April 1970, concerning the Targa Florio, the fifth stage of the Makes' Championship, aroused admiration and removed any thought of revenge for the Maranello team. The Swiss driver, with the three-litre Porsche 908 Mk3, demolished the lap record set last year by Elford: 34'10"0 against 35'08"2. It means that Siffert covered the 72 kilometres of the Madonie circuit at an average speed of 126.439 km/h. An exceptional average for those who know the roads of the circuit, which runs up and down, from the sea to the mountains and back to the sea in an interminable and exhausting series of bends. However, without taking anything away from the man and the machine, it should be noted that in recent years the course has undergone some improvements: some corners have been straightened, the surface is more carefully maintained. The 100km/h average has fallen, and the average speed is now around 130km/h. But it is not only Siffert who is the man to beat. In practice, for Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, the entire Porsche team must be beaten. The Germans, who have been winning at the Targa without interruption since 1966, use the three-litre 908s, with all the necessary updates, especially based on the experience in the field of lightweighting gathered with the 909 spider that allowed poor Mitter to win the European mountain title in 1958.


"We preferred these very light cars to the 917s. The four-and-a-half-litre cars are no good on these roads. It's impossible to find the right set-up, and they wouldn't last the distance".


Elford, who did one lap of the circuit in a 917 (and rather well, as he posted a time of 35'5"7), adds:


"It dances like a top, it's a challenge to keep it on the road. You can take it for a spin, and that's it".


Ferrari, on the other hand, is obliged to use its five-litre 512 S. Among the various projects of the Maranello company there is also the one of a modern sport-prototype of 3000 cc, with boxer engine with 12 horizontal and opposed cylinders and the mechanics of the Formula 1 single- seater, but the commitments with the Sport and the 312 B have so far prevented its execution. Vaccarella and Giunti therefore had to take the five-litre car over the mountains, which was no easy task. The car, although exceptionally compact, is always big for the roads of the Madonie, and ends up with a surplus of horsepower, with a weight that, fully loaded, is around 1050 kilos. Admits Giunti:


"It's a struggle to drive on these roads. After a while, your arms feel tight and, perhaps unconsciously, you can't keep up the pace".


Over the evening, the unexpected of a cold accompanied by violent shivers of fever hit the rider. Ignazio went to bed at around 7:00 p.m., after having taken a lot of medication.


"The other day I was stationary on the circuit for two hours. I was sweating and I got cold. Now I feel like I've been beaten up a lot. In any case, I think I can race tomorrow".


Ironically, also Vaccarella wasn't exactly in good health: he was tormented by a rheumatism in one shoulder and was obliged to spend the afternoon under the hands of a skilful masseur. The championship is divided into eleven races distributed between the United States and Europe, over a period of time that goes from 31 January (24 Hours of Daytona) to 11 October (1000 Kilometres of Austria). However, no race, no matter how interesting and spectacular, has the charm of the Targa Florio, the last fabulous and even anachronistic survivor of the competitions that arose at the beginning of the sport of driving and motor racing itself. It is the only race in the world that takes place outside of an autodrome, on the enchanting but exhausting roads of the Madonie, each lap (and tomorrow there are eleven scheduled) is seventy-two kilometres from the sea to the mountains and back to the sea, in a picturesque landscape, amidst the choral, all too enthusiastic participation of hundreds of thousands of spectators. On Sunday, 3rd May 1970, Porsche also wins the Targa Florio. It is its tenth success in the Sicilian race, the fifth consecutive, the fourth out of five races of the 1970 Makes Championship. Jo Siffert and Brian Redman, in the new 908 three litres, win ahead of their team mates Rodriguez and Kinnunen. At the end of the race, there is plenty of champagne and hugs for all, in a climate of general euphoria. The Germans and the English drivers of the Gulf-Porsche team felt they were one step away from the world title: in the classification they had now 42 points: one more win and the challenge with Ferrari will be over. Just Ferrari offered a splendid test, severely challenging the rivals from Stuttgart and showing to be really the only adversary of Porsche, whether the races took place on the circuit or on the mountain roads of the Targa. Giunti and Vaccarella, not even in good health, obtain the third place carrying very well their big and too much powerful car for the thousand curves of the circuit of the Madonie. Says Giunti at the end of the race:


"We deserved to get in between Siffert and Rodriguez. This result is a bit of a bitter pill for us".


In fact, the two Ferrari drivers, after finishing the first lap in seventh position (a first lap run on a road strewn with mud, dirt, and water spots due to a heavy rainstorm early in the morning), managed to climb several positions, inserting themselves authoritatively between the Porsche team cars. Fifth at the second and third passage, third at the fourth, second at the fifth, Giunti and Vaccarella ended the sixth lap in the lead of the race, among the delirious enthusiasm of the crowd. On this subject, one fact: on the seventy-two kilometres of the circuit, it is estimated that 500.000 people are present. The traffic police later announced that 68.000 vehicles from Palermo and the surrounding area alone left for the race area, creating a formidable traffic jam. 


The start was moved from 8:00 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. to allow the ambulances scheduled for the race to reach the first-aid posts. The driver of honour was the president of Alfa Romeo, engineer Luraghi. After the start, preceded by the only official Ferrari, the Porsche men went on the counter- offensive, managing to overtake the Maranello duo in four passages. It should also be noted that, compared to the 908s, the Ferrari was forced to make five stops, two more. That translates into a loss of around two minutes. On the other hand, it's inevitable that a five-litre car consumes much more fuel than a three-litre car (every two laps, Ferrari consumes around 100 of the 120 litres of fuel in its tanks). Also on the tenth lap, Vaccarella violently hits the front of the car on a bump.


"The front end was vibrating, and I preferred to stop at Polizzi for a check-up".

Vaccarella said at the end of the race. Both Giunti and Vaccarella will end this Targa Florio with sore hands.

"I haven't counted the number of changes, but there are certainly more than a thousand".


At the end of the race, both drivers will be extremely fatigued, certainly more so than those in the Porsches, but there is a big difference between driving a car that weighs 1000 kilos and one that weighs 550 kilos. Wyer himself, the boss of the Gulf-Porsche team, has words of admiration for Ferrari and its drivers.


"Very good. Now we are going to Spa with two five-litre 917s".


Porsche didn't have many problems, apart from a certain anxiety to see that Ferrari managed to keep up with the 908s built especially for this circuit. Of the four Porsches prepared for the Targa, only one was forced to retire. That of Elford-Herrmann. On the first lap, Elford ran into the mud, spun, and went off the road, breaking a suspension. The driver was unhurt, but the car was no longer in any condition to continue. The same fate befell Umberto Maglioli, at the wheel of one of the three 3000 cc Alfa 33.3s lined up by the Milanese company. In a truly singular event, all three cars go off the road. First Maglioli, then Masten Gregory and Courage. Few cars arrived, many accidents over the 792 kilometres of the race, but nonserious. The most serious one was almost at the end of the race, when the Porsche driven by Attwood-Waldegaard crashed into the MG driven by Chatam-Harvey, which went off the road and hit a spectator, who probably suffered a leg fracture. Despite this, the Targa Florio is still a positive result, with each year's race getting faster and faster. Kinnunen's record lap (33'36"0, at an average speed of 128.571 km/h) is proof of this; Siffert and Redman's record average is proof of this.


"Before, we at Ferrari knew that Siffert and Rodriguez were two tough bones. Now, we really don't need to add Kinnunen".


Says Giunti at the end of the race, talking about his opponents. While Rodriguez, second at the finish, does not hesitate to declare:


"The Targa is a race not suited to my possibilities. And it's also dangerous, better not to risk it".


Siflert, after the first laps, had complained about the 908. He had said:

"It jumps all over the place. It's a hard car, difficult to drive".


But then the Swiss driver got used to the Spider, and in the end he was all smiles. Ed pra is likely to have to drive the 908 at the Nurburgring 1000 kilometres. At Spa, in Belgium, he will instead have a 917 with the new five-litre engine tested at Monza. And Ferrari? The Maranello marque didn't have much faith in the capabilities of its five-litre 512 S on the narrow roads of the Madonie. Giunti and Vaccarella, however, fared honourably, taking the car to third place after a long, exciting battle with the Porsches. The two declared:


"It was, believe me, a real grind. Our hands are sore from using the gearbox and shaking the steering wheel".


Ignazio, it must be said, was better than Nino, who has perhaps reached the end of the best period of his magnificent sporting career. Engineer Morelli, in the absence of Ferrari's sporting director, Franco Gozzi, and technical director, Forghieri, led the Modenese team, and with skill.


"Did you see that this time the refuelling was fast?"


In fact, the mistakes of the Monza 1000 kilometres have not been repeated. Every race says something, technically and in terms of sport. The Targa Florio is certainly no exception and once again confirmed its validity. Naturally, the Targa provides food for thought more for the losers than for the winners, in this case Ferrari and Alfa Romeo on the one hand and Porsche on the other. The Stuttgart-based company started humbly from small cars, dedicating itself to top-level competition even when it could only aim for modest class success. It has grown little by little, strengthening its commercial base and expanding its sporting commitment to become one of the leading players in racing. It has also managed to develop new drivers, from Siffert himself to Elford and now, it seems, to Kinnunen, while Waldegaard is making a timid appearance. On the other hand, Ferrari has an interesting project ready for a sports prototype with mechanics and an engine of 3000 horizontal and opposed cylinders derived from Formula 1. Unfortunately, Ferrari's multiple commitments have so far prevented its implementation. Thus, the expedition to the Targa had to rely on the 5000 cc 512 S: just one car for Vaccarella and Giunti. The car offered a great test of adaptability, enhancing the level of constructive solutions achieved by our brand.


It is certainly an excellent car: conceived for the racetracks, it has offered a remarkable demonstration of resistance to the wear and tear on the narrow, difficult roads of the Madonie. A positive race, therefore, because no one, honestly, would have expected so much. It is a good omen for the next competitions, even if Porsche's advantage in the world classification seems high (42 points against 25). It's back to Monte-Carlo: on Sunday 10th May 1970 the Monaco Grand Prix of Formula 1 is disputed, third episode of the World Championship and powerful tourist-spectacular attraction for the Principality. The tests started on Thursday 7th May 1970 and continued Friday and Saturday, the day when a qualifying race should take place to establish the six drivers to be added to the ten privileged ones of the now famous and deprecated Geneva Pact. It should because the wind of protest is in the air. There are whispers that a group of riders intend to go on strike. There are twenty-five riders registered, unless they have second thoughts, so fifteen of them would need to take to the track in the mini-Grand Prix, with the risk of smashing up the car or worse. An absurdity, which Jackie-Stewart himself, the 1969 world champion, currently leading the classification, condemns.


"The organisers complained in previous years about having few cars at the start and not being able to offer the public a great show. Now that there are so many competitors, they exclude them a priori. This is a big mistake".


The polemics are lively and involve everyone, including Ferrari. In any case, it is to be hoped that the confused events of the Spanish Grand Prix will not be repeated and that a reasonable solution will be found. 


On a sporting level the number one remains Stewart, even if, up to now, his March- Ford has never had to undergo such a wearing test as the one of the Monegasque circuits, deadly for gearboxes, transmissions, and suspensions. Then there's Brabham, Hulme, Rindt, Graham Hill, Beltoise, Amon, in short, the usual stars of the big circus. And Jackie Ickx will not be missing either, in the Ferrari 312 B sent to Monte-Carlo in an updated model, with a modified engine and a new type of rear wing. Ickx had a terrible accident on 19 April 1970 in the Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama. Oliver, in the B.R.M., ran him over, the two single seaters caught fire and the young Belgian, less quick than the Englishman to run away, suffered painful burns. Jackie is limping slightly, his hands and legs bear the purple marks of burns, but he is optimistic.


"It's been a long holiday that I wouldn't have wanted. I feel good, I'm cured, even if I can't sit for long, I'm ready, in Monte-Carlo with the Ferrari we can get a good result".


Ickx slips the fireproof wool coat over his head, picks up the blue helmet with the big green visor and, calmly, lets himself slip into the cockpit of his Ferrari. The Belgian, golden girl of the sport of driving and Ferrari's first (and so far only) driver in Formula 1, is ready for practice for the Monaco Grand Prix. He talks to sporting director Gozzi, to technical manager Forghieri, whispers something to chief mechanic Borsari. He smiles. It's always him, he hasn't changed. Barely three weeks have passed since the dreadful accident in the Spanish Grand Prix, but Ickx is back on the track. The Ferrari managers are a little worried.


"But are you really all right, Jackie?"


They ask him, seeing that the young man is limping slightly and that he bears the purple marks of the Madrid burns on his forehead, hands and arms. But Ickx is calm, and the operations in the pit lane are routine.


"Ferrari makes a big effort at Monte-Carlo, and it was logical that I had to make my contribution. In Brussels, the doctors asked me: do you prefer that we treat you with a slow but painless method or with a quick but painful one? I chose immediately. I begged them to be quick, as quick as possible. Sometimes I even screamed in pain, they practically flayed me. But now I'm here too, in Monte-Carlo".


And he smiles at his beautiful fiancée, Catherine Biaton, the daughter of a Belgian industrialist, who wanted to follow him this time.


"She's good, we're going to get married in September or October, and we've already agreed: I'll keep racing. You know, I'd really like to win a World Championship".


But honestly, how does Ickx feel? Has the accident left any marks on you? Ickx shrugs, vaguely bored, and says:


"I'm almost healed, I feel good, what should I have waited for? I realised that the accident with Oliver in Spain had left me feeling a little tense, especially when I had to take a corner with someone beside me or behind me. But now, after twenty-three training laps on the first day of practice, the feeling is gone. I'm also a bit sore, I did a lot of gymnastics at home to keep my body fit for the exertions of Monte-Carlo, but maybe it wasn't enough. Anyway, I think everything will be fine".


Ickx has a precise memory of the dramatic moments he spent on the Madrid circuit of Jarama. He recounts:


"I had started without uncertainty and was in a good position. Then, suddenly, in a sort of left- hand bend, I saw Oliver's B.R.M. pointing at my Ferrari in the mirror. There was nothing I could do to avoid the collision. Then I started the on-board fire extinguishers, which gave me a few seconds to breathe while the flames were already rising and unbuckled my seat belt after much effort. On instinct, I sprinted to the other side of the runway, where I knew there was a fire station, and rolled onto the grass".


Ickx pauses for a moment, then, in a carefree, cheerful tone, continues to narrate:


“They showed me the photos of the accident. One guy filmed the whole sequence in colour. Beautiful. And, well, I realised that Oliver and I had been very lucky".


There is an air of quiet confidence about Ickx. Sometimes he even seems a bit of a Gascon. He is an elegant and polite young man who loves to joke with friends, who knows how to deal with his enemies (his furious quarrel last year at Monza with old Jack Brabham is famous) and who, above all, is an excellent professional. The son of a journalist from Brussels, the brother of an amateur racer who has now become an editor of motoring magazines, Ickx started racing in 1961, with motorbikes. Then, from 1965, cars. Formula 2 champion in 1967, he made his Formula 1 debut in the same year, winning his first Grand Prix in Rouen, France, in 1968 with Ferrari. His CV is rich and includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the German Grand Prix.


"Here, these are the most difficult races of the year, maybe the second one more than the first one".


And Monte-Carlo?

"Well, it's a circuit I like and on which it's possible to combine something good".


On the drivers, Ickx has precise ideas.


"Today, there are no great differences between the best. In the past, there were exceptional champions who characterised an era: Fangio, Moss, Clark. Now, I only mention one name, Stewart. But I'm convinced that, with the same mechanical equipment, there are at least ten racers who are equivalent in racing".


A very correct, wet-weather acrobat, Ickx is a true sportsman: he swims, rides, waterskis, plays tennis and skis. He doesn't drink or smoke, but on the other hand he is a gourmet, and don't be fooled by the fact that he likes raw spaghetti, just as don't be fooled by his child-like air. He is already thinking about the future, about when he will retire. He is investing his earnings in partnerships with friends and perhaps he will become a businessman.


"But for now, I'm a pilot, and I like it".


Forghieri signals for him to get into the car. Catherine hands him the blue helmet. In a moment, the roar of Maranello's 12-cylinder engine is heard. The pit boss raises the green go-ahead light and Jackie sprints up the slope of the Casino, in the rain, while Catherine sighs. For better or worse, amidst discussions and controversies that affect everyone, from the stewards to the constructors, from the drivers to the organisers, the Monaco Grand Prix proceeds on its way.


 On Saturday the third and last day of practice takes place and on Sunday, if there will be no clamorous protests the notorious Geneva Pact, the race will finally start. Finally, because by now it seems that Grand Prix have become a source of trouble and general discontent, so much so that sporting events have almost taken a back seat. In this regard, there is only one man to beat, Jackie Stewart. At the end of last season, the Scot had left Matra for March. The facts seem to confirm the goodness of the World Champion's choice. The March cars, also adopted by Servoz-Gavin, Amon, Siffert, the Swedish recruit Peterson and Mario Andretti (who remained in the United States), are behaving very well. They were the revelation of the 1970 championship and many who had greeted its birth with scepticism must now think again. The single seater does not differ substantially from the others. After all, all 3-litre Formula 1 cars end up looking a bit alike: monocoque chassis, weight at the limits of the category (530 kg), five-speed gearbox, rear-mounted engine. The designer, Robin Herd, did not want to create anything particularly new, but to proceed on the safe ground of experience. The engine is also the well-known Ford-Cmworth eight-cylinder in the 1970 version, with power increased to around 430-440 hp. This unit is also adopted by Brabham, McLaren, De Tomaso, and Lotus, with the result that the small English company had to set up no less than thirty-four of them for Monte-Carlo. As always, the World Champion trained scrupulously. On the first day of practice alone he completed forty laps, half of those planned.


"I'm among the ten privileged drivers, but I don't want to. Everyone has to qualify, that's fair. Why favour the old guys in the business and dampen the enthusiasm of the new guys? But racing has become a huge business and that's all that matters".


The Scot is not afraid to speak his mind. It was he who, last year, caused the cancellation of the Belgian Grand Prix by judging the Spa circuit unsafe. The adversaries of the March and Stewart are those already seen at work in South Africa and Spain. In particular Brabham, McLaren and Matra- Simca with Goodyear tyres. Nowadays, with cars like each other, it is above all the tyres that can determine the success of a driver or a car. Now, it is well known that Goodyear is more competitive than Dunlop and Firestone. It should be noted, of course, that each team is under contract and can therefore only buy tyres from a certain company and not from others. Ferrari is confidently awaiting the test of Jackie Ickx. To be honest, they would be content with a good performance. The Belgian has just come back from the serious accident in Madrid, and one cannot expect the impossible from him. However, every hour that passes the young man is more serene and calm. The mechanics would like him not to downshift all five gears at the gasometer turn in order to go from about 150 km/h on the straight before the turn to 50 km/h at the turn itself.


"The engine is saved, but what about the gearbox?"


This is one of the most worn parts of the Monaco circuit. It is estimated that - on average - each driver has to make some 2000 gear changes in the 80 laps. The comparison is also between the eight-cylinder Ford-Cosworth engine and the twelve-cylinder Ferrari boxer engine, which is credited with 460 hp at 12.000 RPM, to which are added the twelve-cylinder engines of the B.R.M. and Matra-Simca. Meanwhile, the second Ferrari arrived for Ickx. The arrival was delayed by a strike at Maranello. However, it is likely that the Belgian will take part in the race with the car used in practice. A duel of drivers, cars and engines. So far, the Cosworths have prevailed, but it is not certain that they will continue: the engine produced in England is no longer as indestructible as it once was. The exasperated search for horsepower to increase power has caused serious weakening. Will Ferrari, Matra and BRM be able to take advantage of it? There are the premises of a fantastic show, and people know it. Monte-Carlo is invaded by tourists, you can't find a ticket to watch the race by weight of gold. Many, many Italians with their yellow T-shirts with the prancing horse. They are so tender. There is the usual picturesque world of the Grand Prix, young people and girls who adapt to not sleeping and eating a sandwich just to see the competition. The Principality anticipates the summer crowds. In the meantime, the drivers of the Grand Prix Drivers Association are meeting in the Hotel de Paris, in Monte-Carlo, to define their position about qualifying, and therefore the Geneva Pact. So far it is not known what they have decided. 


Regarding the qualifying trials, the organisers have made it clear in another communiqué that for the purposes of choosing the six non-privileged runners to be added to the ten automatically admitted, the times obtained in the joint training sessions will also count, and not only those recorded in the half-hour reserved for their selection. However, for the starting line-up, only the times set in the general tests will count. The organisers have in a way prevented a probable request from the drivers. They also categorically denied the rumour that the number of starters would be increased from sixteen to twenty.


"We have secured the Monaco Grand Prix for sixteen cars. It would be impossible to make changes now".


The Formula One World Championship arrived at the third stage: after the South African and Spanish Grands Prix, it was now the turn of the Monaco one, perhaps the most spectacular and disconcerting of all, imprisoning in its narrow city circuit the unbridled 3-litre single-seaters with 450 hp. At the top of the standings is Jackle Stewart (13 points against Brabham's 9 and Hulme's and McLaren's 1 6), and the Scot, in the March-Ford, reconfirmed that he was number one by obtaining, on the first day of practice, the record time of 1'24"1, at an average speed of 134.625 km/h. Last year, still in practice, Stewart had set a time of 1'24"6 in the Matra-Ford, the same time achieved today by Chris Amon (also in a March), to whom the success at Silverstone, the first in seven years of activity in Formula 1, seemed to have given a boost of confidence. Then, there are Hulme, Beltoise, Brabham and Rindt, with the 1969 model Lotus. To find Jackie Ickx and the Ferrari we have to go down to seventh place (out of twenty-one competitors on the track; Andretti, Soler-Roig, Moser and Bell did not practice and will not participate in the race). Ickx laps in 1'26"2, a time that is respectable.


"We didn't think he could go so fast straight away".


They say in the Ferrari garage. But to heal faster, to get back to his Ferrari, Ickx chose a quick but painful method of treatment, the abrasion of burnt tissue. It is logical that they look at him with admiration in the box. With the tests, the other main topic of the day was the mini-Grand Prix qualifying, scheduled for Saturday over twenty-three laps. But will this mini-qualifying race take place? On the eve of this Grand Prix, the International Automobile Federation, the ultimate ruler of the destiny of competitive motor racing, intervened, and goodness me, unable to contradict itself and its regulations, the FIA recommended to the organisers of the Monaco Grand Prix that the qualifying race be abolished. An advice, when it should have been a final order. But you know how these things go. In any case, the stewards of the Monaco Grand Prix, after a long meeting on Friday evening, in which Campanella (Italian sports commission) and Schmidt (Germany) also took part, decided to comply with the recommendation. So, no mini race for the eleven non-privileged drivers. Instead, an additional practice session will be held. In short, the confusion and unsportsmanship of the Geneva Pact remain, even though Saturday's absurd race has fortunately been abolished. The stewards had received a telegram from the international commission, to which they responded with another communiqué:


"The stewards of the Monaco Grand Prix, having taken note of the position of the International Sports Commission regarding the qualifying session on 9th May for certain drivers, have decided to examine the matter from the point of view of safety, in accordance with article 138 of the International Code; Considering that the particular layout of the circuit and the conditions under which the race would take place, with the need for qualifying, would increase the risks, they have decided for the aforementioned reasons to cancel the 23-lap qualifying session and to replace it, for 20 competitors, with an additional 30-minute qualifying session on Saturday 9th May".


As is well known, the ten drivers who qualified automatically were Brabham, Rodriguez, Rindt, Ickx, Hulme, Amon, Stewart, Beltoise, Hill and Surtees. Since there were 21 entrants, the six to be added (for safety reasons only 16 cars could take part in the Grand Prix) were to be found among McLaren, Courage, Sevoz-Gavin, Peterson, de Adamich, Stommelen, Pescarolo, Miles, Siffert, Eaton and Oliver. Last year, officially, according to Monaco rules - according to which to hold the lap record you have to complete the race - the record was set by Courage and his Brabham, in 1'25"8, even if, before retiring, Stewart recorded a time of 1'25"1. This year the Scot managed to break the last record, recording a time of 1'24"1. Hulme, for his part, equalled last year's unofficial record of 1'25"1. On this first day of testing, the Lotus team does not appear particularly satisfied. At Silverstone, the British team had discovered that the Lotus 72 is not rigid enough, with both the rear and front end prone to twisting. This problem had not been detected on the slow circuit of Jarama. Rindt and Miles, therefore, returned to the old Type 49 cars, also used in South Africa, to which the latest type of triple-wing rear wing was applied. On the Matra V12, Beltoise used the latest front wheels with brake callipers integrated in the hub and deflector discs in the centre of the wheels to centrifuge the cooling air. Pescarolo, on the other hand, has the old Girling calipers at his disposal. Friday 8 May 1970, during the morning the sky was dark, and the rain was pouring down. Practice, before breakfast time, was a disaster, even if Stewart continued to lead the time classification with a time of 1'37"1. No driver seemed to push as hard as the Scot and, on the contrary, sometimes, to try to catch up with him, they exaggerated and crashed into the barriers. This is what happens to Graham Hill and Bruce McLaren, who crash their single seaters at the edge of the track. This marks the end of practice for both. Saturday 9 May 1970, over the afternoon the volume of rain decreases, but the intensity of the light is still weak.


After Thursday's depressing spectacle, B.R.M. replaced the Lucas ignition system with one of the Italian brands Marelli, and now that the track was dry the team hoped for a change. But, considering the overall picture, the only thing that changes is that the team manages to move from a miserable last place to a reasonable last place. In the final practice session, Stewart was again in good form. This time he was the only one to go down under 1'25"0, turning - even if with some difficulties - in 1'24"0. At last, the Matras driven by Pescarolo and Beltoise returned to excite not only the French but also some English spectators. On the contrary, the day was not as positive for Hill and Servoz-Gavin. The first one, going up the slope towards the Casino, had a sudden and inexplicable accident and rubbed the front part of his Lotus against the barriers. Hill is among the ten qualified drivers by right, but if the Englishman is ready to start, the car is not so ready. The Walker team must work to solve this problem. Finally, after three days of practice and, above all, of confusion, complaints and controversy, we know the names of the sixteen drivers who will take to the track for the Monaco Grand Prix, the third episode of the Formula 1 World Championship. With the ten privileged (Brabham, Rodriguez, Rindt, Ickx, Hulme, Amon, Stewart, Beltoise, Graham Hill and Surtees) Siffert, Courage, Oliver, Pescarolo, McLaren and Peterson qualified for the race. Excluded are De Adamich (McLaren-Alfa), Eaton (B.R.M.), Stommelen (Brabham), Miles (Lotus) and Servoz-Gavin (March). Saturday was also an eventful day. The organisers began by issuing a communiqué stating that for the purpose of choosing the six drivers to be added to those of the Geneva Pact, the times obtained in the joint training sessions on Saturday, Friday and Thursday would also be valid, and not only those set in the thirty-minute qualifying session. On the other hand, the times achieved during this period would not be counted for the starting line-up. An electronic computer was needed to determine the six best times from the eleven non-privileged drivers. Jo Bonnier, president of the Grand Prix Drivers Association, assures:


"The confusion will soon be over, because in the next Grand Prix twenty or twenty-two cars will be admitted to the start, practically all those that sign up for the Formula 1 trials".


The meeting of the riders takes place in the morning and, apparently (there are those who swear that there will be a few surprises at the start of the race), it does not lead to disputes.


"We're not a trade union, we're just an association set up for the purpose of circuit safety. We cannot take a stand against the Geneva Pact. It concerns manufacturers or competitors and organisers. All we did was to let those in Monaco know that we considered the track to be as safe for twenty single seaters as for sixteen".


In essence, the Grand Prix Drivers Association called on the organisers to admit all entrants, but the proposal was rejected. One has the impression that more vigorous action on the part of the Grand Prix Drivers Association would probably have led to better results. But the drivers do not agree with each other. Surtees (one of the ex-officio qualifiers as former World Champion) states:


"We discussed many things. The problem of qualification was one of many. The atmosphere? All quiet".


Ickx, with a smirk, states:

"It was a big shindig".

And he doesn't add anything else. Siffert, furious, shouts:


"This way you can't go on, I'll end up giving up Formula 1".


Spirits were also boiling at De Tomaso. The Italo-Argentine manufacturer is fighting its battle against the Geneva Pact with great courage. It arrived in Monte-Carlo with a justifiably combative spirit, preceded by three telegrams, two for the president of the Italian Motor Sports Commission, Campanella, and one - rather vibrant - for the German Schmidt, representative of the International Commission. De Tomaso demanded Schmidt's removal for his threatening attitude towards Frank Williams, his racing manager.


"Nobody scares us. We will go all the way".


Perhaps he will withdraw his car from the starting line on Sunday? Finally, the trials, first the common ones, then the extra thirty minutes. Jack Stewart, in a moment of respite from the bad weather (cloudy skies, occasional drops of rain, a violent sea storm, so much so that many sprays ended up on the seafront, wetting the track), drove his March-Ford down to 1'24"0, at a record average of 134.785 km/h. Other drivers also improved their times. Other drivers also improved their times, including Jack Ickx in the Ferrari, who achieved a good 1'25"5, the third best time of the day and fifth overall. Ickx is happy with himself and the car, but at Ferrari they don't forget that the young man is recovering from the frightening accident in Madrid and they just say:


"All we need is to get to the end".


Not missing a little contrariety: during practice, a wire inside the switch that controls the petrol pumps comes loose and the Belgian driver is forced to stop for a while at the pit. Graham Hill and Servoz-Gavin go off the track. The Englishman hits a protective barrier on the climb leading to the Casino and stops after a tailspin with his Lotus seriously damaged. Servoz-Gavin, in the March, on the other hand, spun off at the chicane, breaking a wheel. To make matters worse there is the fact that the driver must run to win a place in the race, so he urgently needs a car. To solve the problem, in the pits they changed the number on Stewart's spare car and the French driver was ready to start. At the end of the third practice session, the additional half an hour starts for the eleven non- qualified drivers. 


Among them, Courage and Siffert particularly stand out. Pescarolo, on the contrary, had to reckon with an exhaust valve of his fuel system that blocked, preventing the injection unit from receiving fuel. The driver, to continue this extraordinary session, borrows Beltoise's single seater. Surprisingly, Servoz-Gavin is among the unqualified drivers. During a party held a few hours later on his yacht, amidst general scepticism, the French driver announces his retirement from racing, dictated above all by the fear he felt after his accident in winter and the lack of feeling of safety while driving. Sometime later, Johnny would admit that even the simple reconnaissance of the track on foot - a habit common among drivers - had scared him so much that he decided to give up racing.


"When you don't feel up to it, it's better to retire in good order and not continue in vain, I no longer have the faith necessary to succeed in this profession, fear has finally won me over".


During the winter break in the championship, Servoz-Gavin had an accident while competing in a rally in France, when he was hit in the right eye by a tree branch. After initially playing it down, the worsening situation forced him to be hospitalised and he spent a long five weeks recovering in a darkened room. Despite hopes of recovery, which included good performances in endurance races, the resulting loss of vision made him lose confidence in his driving. Already at the beginning of the season, during the Spanish Grand Prix, his car was hit by fire from the clash between Ickx and Oliver, reminding him of the death of Lorenzo Bandini, an episode that had particularly shaken him. In the half-hour reserved exclusively for the eleven non-privileged drivers, the fastest was Siffert, in the March-Ford, with 1'24"6. If this time had been valid for the line-up the Swiss would be on the first or second row. After the timekeepers compare all the data, the classification of the six fastest drivers of the extraordinary session is drawn up. Siffert is the driver who lapped fastest (1'24"6). He is followed by Courage, McLaren, Oliver, Peterson and, finally, De Adamich and Stommelen with the same time. However, this doesn't mean anything. In fact, during the general practice, Pescarolo had recorded a very good time, equal to the one recorded by McLaren during the extra session. This means that neither De Adamich nor Stommelen will be able to take part in the race. Talking about times, apart from those obtained in the thirty minutes, if the Geneva Pact wasn't in force, Rodriguez and Surtees would have to give way to Stommelen and De Adamich. The Mexican got 1'28"8 in the three days of training, the Englishman 1'27"4, against 1'26"9 by Stommelen and 1'27"6 by De Adamich. This is the clearest demonstration of the lack of sportsmanship in this arrangement. Meanwhile, Hill's car was still too badly damaged to be repaired in time. It was therefore decided to quickly repaint the car that Miles had failed to qualify in the Walker team colours, to change the advertising slogans and to adapt the cockpit and controls to Hill's needs. The organisation accepted the change, but the FIA insisted that Hill start last.


On Sunday 10 May 1970, at 3:00 p.m., the start of the third round of the World Championship is scheduled. The presence of 100.000 spectators is expected around the pavements of the Principality. Before the start, Prince Rainier takes a ride in the five-litre Maserati V8. Meanwhile, the sixteen starters - who are arranged in staggered pairs - prepare on the dummy grid. On the first row will be Stewart and Amon. In second, Hulme and Brabham. Followed by Ickx and Beltoise. Fourth row for Pescarolo and Rindt. Followed by Courage and McLaren. The sixth row is occupied only by Siffert, the place next to him - which would have belonged to Graham Hill - is left empty. Thirteenth and fourteenth position for Peterson and Surtees. In the penultimate row, Oliver and Rodriguez. And, finally, Hill. As the starter's flag dropped, the sixteen cars sped towards turn one. Stewart is in the lead. Behind him, a line of cars followed, heading up the hill towards the Casino. At the exit of the tunnel, towards the port, Stewart leads the race, followed by Amon Brabham, Ickx, Beltoise, Hulme, Rindt and Pescarolo. The others are already further back. But the games are still open, and everyone can still take advantage of every available opportunity. Now, two March occupy the first two places of the classification, but in the fray, there are also Brabham, Ferrari and Matra. Hill, who had started last, overtook Oliver, but he soon realised that his safety belt was so tight that it limited his movements and influenced his braking. The driver then slips back into last position. On the second lap, Beltoise is hit by Ickx as they slow down to take the hairpin bend where the old gasometer used to be.


On the next lap, Rodriguez is forced to take the B.R.M. back to the pits because the exhaust manifolds continue to open. However, the problem was solved, and the Mexican was able to re-enter the race, even if with two laps behind the others. Meantime, Stewart increased more and more the gap separating him from Amon, who was dragging Surtees, Peterson, Oliver and Hill. On lap 7, the Scotsman, who was showing a safe and imperturbable drive, gained five seconds' lead over the New Zealander, which turned into a great advantage in Monte-Carlo. Meantime, behind Amon, Brabham, Beltoise, Ickx, Hulme, Pescarolo, Rindt, Courage, Siffert and McLaren kept a high rhythm. The group is so pressing that it almost seems that Amon is waiting for them. Stewart laps in 1'26"0, gaining ground with each lap. On lap 12, Jacky Ickx's Ferrari breaks its right driveshaft. The Belgian driver walks back to the pits. Ickx's stop hinders Hulme, Pescarolo and Rindt. Therefore, the game changes slightly and, while Stewart continues to drive alone in the lead of the race, Amon, Brabham and Beltoise run at a close distance detaching themselves from the group that until a short time before was following them. In the meantime, Surtees was losing ground fast and, on lap 13, he was quickly overtaken by Peterson and Oliver. The oil pressure of his Cosworth engine was falling fast. For the Englishman and his McLaren there was nothing left to do but retire. In the meantime, the sky continued to get cloudier and cloudier. The following laps are similar, until, on the nineteenth, McLaren hits the chicane with the right front wheel, damaging the suspension. The driver is forced to retire. On lap 20, Stewart's lead over Amon reached twelve and a half seconds. But the scene changes considerably on the next lap. Brabham tries to line up with Amon to overtake him. In the meantime, Beltoise had problems with the rear axle: the Matra couldn't stand the rivals' pace anymore. Some positions further back, Siffert began to close the distance on Courage. At the end of lap 22, while the drivers were approaching the hairpin bend of the gasometer, Stewart ran at 1'25"4, while Brabham rushed into the March of Amon, gaining the second position. Beltoise, who continued to have problems, slipped behind Hulme. It was only a matter of moments before the Matra's transmission broke down definitively. 


After lapping Hill's Lotus, which was still in last position, on lap 26 Stewart had problems with the engine ignition. He goes, therefore, to the pits where they change the spark plugs. In the meantime, however, Brabham took the lead and Stewart found himself three laps behind the leaders. Those who were expecting to see some lap records from Stewart, after having fixed the single seater, were disappointed. The problem, evidently, is not in the ignition unit, because the March of the Scottish driver continues not to work as it should. Stewart, however, continued to run giving his best and recording some small progress. The driver managed to split from Rodriguez who was ahead of him but remained in last position. On lap 30, Brabham is still in the lead and there is nothing Amon can do to reverse the situation. While the two drivers stopped in the pits, Hulme, Pescarolo and Rindt drove along the Promenade. Courage finds the steering of the De Tomaso increasingly hard, to the point that he struggles to correct the directionality of his car. It is at this moment that Siffert overtakes him. Rindt, in fifth position, has so far failed to run at a good level of competitiveness, but suddenly seems to find the rhythm. The Austrian driver feels that he should try to overtake Pescarolo. So, on the thirty-sixth lap he makes his way, but without succeeding in overtaking Hulme. The rack and pinion mechanism of Courage's De Tomaso, meanwhile, becomes increasingly difficult to manage. The driver returned to the pits, but the Williams team mechanics began to dismantle the car and managed to fix it. Halfway through the race, Brabham still had a two-second lead over Amon, who was followed by Hulme, Rindt, Pescarolo and Siffert. No other driver is at full speed. During the 43rd lap, the engine of Oliver's B.R.M. explodes. The car stops surrounded by a cloud of smoke. The stalemate that had formed between the drivers in front was suddenly broken when Siffert overtook Pescarolo. At the same time, Hulme loses the use of the lower gear and starts to slow down. Brabham, meanwhile, was preparing to lap Stewart who was in an unhappy last place, without making any progress. The Scotsman is overtaken on the fifty-ninth lap. Two laps later, when Amon arrived along the Promenade, a bolt of the March rear suspension fell, inevitably slowing down the driver's race, who had only to retire. Brabham was alone and could start breathing again. Problems with the gearbox on Hulme's car made the New Zealander slip to fifth place. 


Meantime the Cosworth engine of Siffert's March began to present a technical problem that slowed down the race: a valve of the feeding system detached, not allowing the fuel to pass through the dispenser. At the 66th lap, after De Tomaso's mechanics had succeeded in remounting the steering on the car, Courage returned to the track, even if too far behind the others to hope to be classified in the result. Siffert lost more and more positions as his engine continued to cut out at times. But being close to the end of the race, the driver decides to continue, even if at a slow pace. The gap between Brabham and Rindt, who had moved into second place, continued to increase: from 13.6 seconds, it reached 15 seconds. It seemed that the Austrian had no hope of taking the lead in the race. Five laps from the end, Brabham seems to be able to conquer an easy victory; Rindt is not dangerous. But suddenly, from the pits, signals were given in the direction of the Austrian driver. Colin Chapman, in fact, at the Lotus pits, begins to wonder if Brabham is slowing down to secure the victory or because something doesn't work on his car. So, in doubt, he begins to urge Rindt to accelerate as much as possible. The driver follows the British manufacturer's instructions. People are all standing along the track and leaning out of the windows of the houses, as for twenty laps Brabham and Rindt have been battling each other, and the Austrian - due to a drop in power from the Ford-Cosworth engine fitted to the Australian's Brabham - decreases the gap from 24 to 9 and to 3 seconds. Three laps from the end, Brabham was unintentionally hindered by Siffert who was heading towards the Casino. The gap with Rindt is suddenly reduced to a few seconds, motivating the Austrian to push even harder. During the last passage the mechanics of Brabham are on the track and they signal to Brabham that Rindt is less than twenty meters away, while those of Lotus incite their driver. The two of them speed on the opposite straight to the finish line, first Brabham, then Rindt. Brabham is all right, one thinks, and instead here comes Rindt, and only after twenty-three seconds Brabham. His car had small front wings folded in and the nose was slightly damaged.


"I arrived too long at the Gasometer corner. I braked all the way and found myself against the barrier".


The fact is this: Brabham, with his late braking, blocked the four wheels, cancelling the directional power of the front ones. In essence, he was no longer able to steer. It is the second time that Jack loses a race at the last corner. He had a similar misadventure in the 1967 Italian Grand Prix, when he was overtaken by Surtees' Honda at the parabolica. Pescarolo followed, who arrived third, Hulme fourth and Graham Hill and Pedro Rodriguez, respectively one and two laps behind. After the race, it can be said that the Monaco Grand Prix was not only the Grand Prix of controversy. It was also a fantastic race, which revealed the winner on the last bend after 80 tight laps and 251 kilometres of the winding and wearing circuit of Monte-Carlo. Jochen Rindt was the first to cross the finishing line at the wheel of the 1969 version Lotus-Ford, while Jack Brabham, in the lead from the 28th passage, in one of his cars, got into the safety barrier protecting the narrow turn of the Gasometer, leaving the Austrian driver free. However, Brabham managed to restart and finish the race in second place, a position that takes him to the top of the world ranking with 15 points. Stewart, forced to retire on lap 27, remained at 13. Unfortunately, the balance sheet was also negative for Ferrari. Just eleven laps from the start, the right half shaft broke and Jacky Ickx, who had been greeted with enthusiasm and sympathy on his return to the race after the Madrid accident, walked back to the pit lane. For Rindt, 28, married, it was his second victory in a Grand Prix (last year he won in the United States), and for Lotus it was his 37th. He won it with a splendid race, culminating in the last lap in which he obtained the new record of the circuit: 1'23"2, at the average speed of 136.081 km/h (eight tenths less than the time set in practice by Stewart, in the March-Ford, two seconds less than the 1969 time set by Courage). But it must also be said that Brabham, forty-four years old, favoured his rival with an almost unbelievable mistake for an experienced driver like him. Before, the Monaco Grand Prix, which took place in a break of good weather (the rain, which had stopped falling in the morning, resumed immediately after the conclusion of the race), had shown the usual, extraordinary Stewart. The World Champion, with the March, had a very fast start and, in a few laps, distanced Amon (March), Brabham (Brabham), Beltoise (Matra-Simca), Ickx (Ferrari), Hulme (McLaren) and Rindt (Lotus). The Scotsman gained exactly one second per lap on his rivals in the first eight passes. 


Behind him Brabham managed to overtake Amon and went after Jackie, as had already happened in the Spanish Grand Prix, the second episode of the World Championship. A short-lived chase, then Stewart stalled in the pits with the engine leaking. The mechanics replaced the spark plugs and Stewart restarted three laps late. Nothing more could be done. His March stopped for good on the 57th lap, for the same reason. Monaco is not a lucky race for Stewart, who also last year had to retire while in the lead, then with the Matra. Stewart's retirement opened the second phase of the competition, that is the duel between Brabham and Amon. While Graham Hill (in the Lotus driven by Miles), who had started last, was recovering positions on positions showing that he was always at his ease on this circuit where he had won five times, while Siffert was taking the fourth place on lap 60 and Pescarolo (Matra-Simca) was running with the first ones (and, according to the infamous Geneva Pact, they would be drivers of second series for Formula 1), Brabham and Amon were fighting tenaciously, with Rindt behind them. But for March-Ford it was a bad day. After Stewart, also Amon had to stop, and thus began the final phase of Brabham-Rindt struggle, while Siffert was also in trouble. On this point we must point out that in the first six places of the Monaco Grand Prix there wasn't any car of the new English Company. The De Tomaso driven by Piers Courage, complained of a hardening of the steering wheel that compromised the test. The success of Jochen Rindt and Lotus in the Monaco Grand Prix gives the Formula 1 World Championship a splendid uncertainty. In the space of six points, we find four drivers and four different cars: Brabham, in the Brabham, at the top with 15, then Stewart, in the March, at 13, then Hulme (McLaren) and Rindt himself at 9. The common denominator was the eight-cylinder Ford-Cosworth, which - despite being stretched to its limits - continued to dominate the scene. But it's also logical, given that as many as thirty-four were sent to Monte-Carlo to meet the needs of the five teams (there's also De Tomaso) adopting it. But beyond the technical events, the central point of the Monaco race remains the dramatic final between Brabham and Rindt. 


It rarely happens to see a duel like the one that took place on the Monte-Carlo circuit. We keep on discussing what happened at the gasometer bend, Brabham's accident against the safety barrier and the mocking victory of the unrestrained Rindt. Did Brabham make a mistake or did the Australian's brakes fail him? It's logical that old Jack blames the brakes (and it may well have been perfect), but on that last bend it was perhaps his 44 years that betrayed him. Apart from the 5-6 seconds suddenly lost because of Siffert's slowness in giving way, a fact that allowed Rindt to get close to his rival crowning a fantastic pursuit, in the last twenty laps Brabham went on losing ground, in spite of the signals given by the box. You could see Rindt engaged in heart-stopping stunts, with his Lotus jumping from one bend to another, performing spectacular dérapages, while Brabham continued at a more measured pace. And at the gasometer the moment of truth. Brabham's behaviour suggests that it was the driver, with Rindt and 251 kilometres of hard racing behind him, who lost concentration for a moment. The four blocked wheels, Brabham's attitude at the wheel (he was tense, impaled, as many would say) and his inability to steer imply that the brakes were applied late and with excessive force. If there had been no brakes, the wheels would simply not have stuck and Jack, drawing on the experience of over twenty-two years of racing, could probably have attempted some kind of last- ditch manoeuvre. That's the way it went, and brakes or age (Rindt was twenty-eight, it was logical that he was fresher), Brabham lost the chance to win his fourteenth Grand Prix, perhaps the most deserved one. A bitter second place, as bitter was the race of other drivers (and of those who could not start because of the Geneva agreement), first Stewart, Amon, Siffert and Ickx. It was also a negative race for Ferrari and De Tomaso. There were high hopes for the return of Ickx, but for the Belgian the Monaco Grand Prix lasted only a few moments. Among other things, the failure of the axle shaft prevented the evaluation of the real possibilities of the Maranello single-seater, of its 12-cylinder engine. In Spain the car was destroyed after one lap in the fire with Oliver's B.R.M.. Here Ickx stopped on the climb leading to the Casino on the eleventh lap. Due to the breakage of the axle shaft, a duct of the fuel system was cut, and a trickle of petrol dripped onto the road.


"We can't see our 12-cylinder engine at work".


Admit the managers of the Italian manufacturer, who are not really in a good mood. Now, the fine-tuning continues. There are still ten tests left on the calendar: will a day finally come that is favorable to the Maranello team?


©​ 2024 Osservatore Sportivo


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