#198 1971 South African Grand Prix

2022-08-31 00:24

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#1971, Fulvio Conti,

#198 1971 South African Grand Prix

With the 1000 km of Buenos Aires, scheduled for Sunday 10 January 1971, on the Municipal Autodrome (164 laps of 6121 meters each), the Sportscar World


With the 1000 km of Buenos Aires, scheduled for Sunday 10 January 1971, on the Municipal Autodrome (164 laps of 6121 meters each), the Sportscar World Championship begins. The very narrow track reproposes the challenge between the big five-liters Sportscars and the three-liter prototypes among Italian, German, and French cars. Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Porsche and Matra take part in this competition, together with a fair number of other teams. The line-ups concern Porsche, with the Gull team and the one of a private club, which lines up four 5000cc 917 driven by Siffert-Bell, Rodriguez-Oliver, Elford-Larrousse and Van Lennep-Marko; Alfa Romeo brings three 3000cc 33/3 with De Adamich-Pescarolo, Galli-Stommelen and Hezemans-Fittipaldi, Ferrari make their debut with the new prototype, powered by the Formula 1 engine, entrusting it to Merzario and Giunti, and Matra, which brings a three-liter 660 with Beltoise-Jabouille. Waiting for the qualifications that will be held on Saturday, preliminary tests are done to set up the vehicles. And Alfa Romeo struggles from the get-go, since they immediately lose a car in a dramatic crash that involves the Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi (who had been appositely employed for this race) and the Swede Ronnie Peterson at the wheel of the lightened and upgraded Ferrari 512 with which Ickx and Giunti won the 90 hours of Kyalami. Peterson, in the middle of the turn called Ascari, loses control, spins, and after about a hundred meters hits a guardrail. The Ferrari catches fire, but the flames are rapidly put off by the firefighters. Fittipaldi, who was following the Swede closely, to avoid colliding with Peterson goes out, demolishing the front of his car against the same wall against which the 512-M had crashed. The two drivers are unharmed. It looks like that the cause of the incident was the flabbiness of a tire of the Ferrari, which is supplied to the Swiss team Filippinetti. It’s unlikely that the mechanics will be able to fix the two cars on time for the competition. The track, very narrow and dirty, is full of dirt and not marked by appropriate curbs. The presence of debris on tarmac may have caused the puncture. In the last few days there have been vivid protests against the organizers, passionate but maybe a little naïve, and the hope is that the track conditions will be better for the qualifications. This is one of the reasons why the lap times set by the drivers are not that exciting. Needless to say, the favors of predictions go to Porsche, which dominated last year, present to the Baires race with four 917 cars, partially renewed and modified. 


This prediction is already partially confirmed in the first practice session. The best lap time is set by the expert Mexican driver Pedro Rodriguez, at the wheel of one of the German cars. Rodriguez, even without putting his maximum effort, sets a 1'52"75. The second fastest time is also set by a Porsche drive, the Englishman Vic Elfors, just 0.018 slower. The Alfa Romeo 33/3, driven by Andrea de Adamich and Henri Pescarolo, sets the third time, 1'54"74. The session is animated by a spectacular crash that involved Ralf Stommelen’s Alfa Romeo. Gone off track at one of the turs, Stommelen’s car crashes into the guardrail, but luckily the driver gets out unharmed. Ferrari stay in a waiting position. Ignazio Giunti and Arturo Merzario, with the brand-new 312 P that mounted the single-seater engine, make a few good laps, without ever going full throttle though. The best time set by both drivers is 1'55"57. Then, the unknowns of the various private cars are left, some of which have good chances of putting themselves in the fight for the win. Italian drivers and technicians hope to obtain a triumph in the 1000 km of Buenos Aires, but it won’t be an easy feat, as the practice times show on Saturday, January 9th, 1971. The fastest car is Rodriguez and Oliver’s Porsche 917 (1'52"7), while the debutant 3000cc Ferrari prototype sets a time of 1'52"74, putting itself into second place. Andrea de Adamich will start from fourth place (1'54"43), following Siffert’s Porsche (1'54"04). It needs to be said, Ferrari made a really good impression. The car had been finished just a month before and send to South Africa for the first tests. It arrived late to Buenos Aires due to flight problems provoked by bad weather, and so Maranello technicians didn’t have enough time to do a precise setup, like Alfa Romeo could do. Nevertheless, the 312 P, with Giunti and Merzario that are both rookies on this track, immediately offered a clear demonstration of its possibilities. Again not too happy news for Alfa Romeo: Stommelen, however, should take part to the race and so should Fittipaldi, but the latest will do it driving the Porsche 917 of a private team, since the Spaniard Soler-Roig willingly decided to give up his seat. The premises of an enjoyable show are great; however, on Sunday, January 10th, 1971, the nth tragedy on the Argentinian Track is consumed: Ferrari driver Ignazio Giunti loses his life in the fire of his car, turned into a fireball by the collision at 200 km/h with Jean-Pierre Beltoise’s Matra. He, slowed down by a lack of fuel, during the race gets out of the car and pushes it in order to reach the pit lane. 


The French driver crossed the track diagonally, cutting the road to the Ferrari. Beltoise manages to save himself, while Giunti cannot avoid the impact with the French car and loses his life at 29 years of age. His death reminds of Lorenzo Bandini’s one, passed away at Monte-Carlo in 1967, also driving a Ferrari. The terrible crash, which destroys the spirits of Argentinian sportsmen, drivers, and technicians, has happened right in front of the principal grandstand of the track. The competition has been on for an hour and a half. The race pace is extremely fast: Giunti had taken the lead of the race in the initial phases, then he was overtaken by the big five-liter Porsches of Rodriguez and Elford, but towards lap 30 (of the scheduled 164) he retakes the lead, rapidly accumulating a 40-second lead. Other eight passages and the tragedy happens. Beltoise feels his Matra’s 12-cylinder engine mumble, before stopping. On the momentum it keeps on going for a few hundred meters, but then it stops along the track. The Frenchman gets off and starts pushing his car, a heavy spider, zigzagging to exploit the minimum slopes of the track. Tenaciously, the French driver heads towards the pits, but he is on the right side of the road. To reach the mechanics he should cross the road. Violating sports regulations and the most banal safety norms, the Frenchman, who is also a racing veteran, decides to cross the line of tarmac, without being stopped by any of the stewards. It looks like nobody is coming out of the previous corner and Beltoise throws himself and his Matra towards the box. Unfortunately, right in that moment, Scuderia Filipinetti’s Ferrari driven by Mike Parkes, and Giunti’s 312-P are coming. The Englishman, with a flicker, avoids the obstacle, the Italian - with his visual covered by Parkes’ car until the very last moment - unfortunately can’t. The 312-P explodes and crashes along the track between the terrified screams of the public and the mechanics, in a few seconds Giunti’s car is surrounded by flames. 


The 3000cc Spider from Maranello stops in the middle of the carriageway. Firefighters spray the wreck with fire extinguishers, trying to get close to the cockpit, where it’s possible to see Giunti’s unconscious body, which was blocked in the fire for 40 seconds. Rescuers finally manage to extract the driver and they put him on a stretcher, taking him to a near medical center. Giunti has face wounds, possibly a cranial fracture and terrible burns. Doctors declare that the Italian driver’s body is at 60% covered by third degree burns; paramedics decide to hospitalize him at the Fernandez Clinique. During the transportation in the ambulance, despite a desperate series of cardiac massages, Giunti’s heart stops beating. Every intervention is vane. The doctors keep his death as a secret for about two hours, while Ferrari technicians, friends and simple sportsmen run distraughtly to the hospital. The scenes of pain and desperation are imaginable. Arturo Merzario, who was supposed to get behind the wheel after Giunti, abandons himself to a crisis of tears. The race goes on. Beltoise, escaped from the crash, heads towards Matra’s box between the screams and imprecations of the crowd, who assisted to the tragedy before their very eyes in and has no doubts about the fault of the French driver. Beltoise is also tugged by Ferrari mechanics, who - gone crazy from pain and anger - throw themselves at him. The driver is then accompanied by police officers in a precinct to give an official declaration on the incident. In the dreadful mess that followed the tragedy, an Argentinian photographer, Carlos Solari, excessively leans out of the Matra box’s roof and falls from a four-meter height, ending up on a step of armored concrete. Also the photographer will have to be taken to a hospital with cranial fractures. Everyone agrees that Beltoise is the one to blame for the incident. Ferrari sports director, Peter Schetty, pronounces bitter words for the French racer’s irresponsible gesture. 


"First of all, we must ask ourselves why the Matra found itself low on fuel on the runway, and why it didn't refuel earlier. The Matra has no fuel reserve. Therefore it was up to the driver to calculate the remaining amount, and it was also up to his pit crew to warn him in time of the need to stop and refuel. Then and above all there is the strange behavior of the French driver, once the car had stopped. He first stopped near the right-hand side of the track, then hinted at an attempt to cross, then returned to the right. All this while the other cars were arriving at high speed. This lasted about five minutes, as while Beltoise was on the track pushing the Matra, some cars, such as Mike Parkes's, made three laps. Fate had it that just as Giunti's Ferrari arrived, the Matra was almost in the middle of the track. Ahead of Giunti was Parkes. The latter saw the Matra in time and avoided her. It was too late for Giunti".


Schetty also criticizes the behavior of the race organizers: in fact, when a car is stopped on the track, it is mandatory to wave the yellow flags to warn the other competitors. No one from the Ferrari crew saw a yellow flag. A truly absurd, incredible incident, which nevertheless happened. Ignazio Giunti paid the price, without fault. Italian and Argentine motoring, sincerely affected by the tragedy, are now in mourning. At the Fernandez hospital, Giunti's body is reassembled. Since the investigating judge gave the go-ahead for the removal of the poor runner's body, the Italian diplomatic authorities promptly intervened and gave instructions for the runner's body to be transferred to a velatorio (a place where funeral homes are set up and the in Argentina). On Monday 11 January 1971 there will be a memorial mass for the pilot arranged by the Italian embassy, ​​which will be attended by numerous Argentine personalities. At the same time, the Italian diplomatic and consular authorities immediately start the procedures for the repatriation of the body, which will probably take place on Tuesday 12 January 1971, on board the first useful plane (that of Alitalia) departing for Italy. There is no doubt that the greatest responsibilities weigh on Jean-Pierre Beltoise; however, if the Frenchman's behavior directly caused Giunti's tragedy, many others were wrong. Beltoise, 34 years old from France, has been racing since 1963, has considerable experience both in sports cars and in single seaters in Formula 1, Formula 2 and Formula 3. It is hard to understand how he could have made such a gross mistake. For six years, the international sporting regulations have prohibited push maneuvers, precisely because of their undoubted danger. He should have resigned himself to retirement. And nothing would have happened. Why didn't Matra managers and technicians stop Beltoise's useless effort? They should have known that their pilot's dangerous effort would be in vain. The stewards could not have avoided disqualifying the car. Why did the marshals allow Beltoise to push his Matra towards the box by zigzagging on the footpath to take advantage of the slopes? The correct behavior would have been this: block the Frenchman, even with the use of force, and push the car off the track.


Even the work of the organizers was uncertain and confused and, according to technicians present in Buenos Aires, the prepared fire and rescue services were not efficient. The firefighters worked slowly, leaving Giunti in the blaze for about 40 seconds. Now, it is known that the best flame retardant suit does not last more than half a minute. Moreover, it appears that the extinguishing work continued with the carcass of the Ferrari in the middle of the roadway while the other cars darted to the sides. Crazy. These are the first questions, the first points to underline. Apart from Beltoise’s absurd behavior, one fact remains: world-class races must be organized by prepared people, not by willing but terribly naive enthusiasts. For the record, Porsche prevailed in the 1000 kilometres, taking advantage of the tragedy that took away the only official Ferrari in the race, the 312-P driven by Giunti and Merzario. The Stuttgart team achieved success with the five-liter 917 driven by Jo Siffert and Derek Bell, who preceded teammates Rodriguez and Oliver. In third and fourth place the two Alfa Romeos of Stommelen-Galli and de Adamich-Pescarolo. However, this final ranking is unofficial and only on the afternoon of Monday 11 January 1971 will the official one be announced. There is in fact a dispute from Alfa Romeo regarding the second place which should be the prerogative of Stommelen-Galli rather than the Porsche of Rodriguez-Ollver. A re-examination of the times will allow us to shed full light on the authentic classification of the race. The Porsches, after the disappearance of the Ferrari, prevailed over the Alfas above all for their greater speed. At the start, as mentioned, Giunti's Ferrari took the lead, then it was overtaken by Rodriguez's Porsche. Then it was Elford's turn, still in a Porsche, to take the lead while Siffert, who had a bad start, started a comeback that would lead him to success. The 917s, alternating in the lead, tried to weaken Giunti's Ferrari, but Giunti took the lead again, so much so that he was ahead by 44 seconds at the time of the accident which caused the suspension of the race for a few minutes. When the race restarted, Siffert crowned his comeback by overtaking Rodriguez, the Alfa of Stommelen, the Lola of Cupeiro, and the private Ferrari of Juncadella and Pairetti which at the end of the race would have been fifth overall. On lap 115, Elford's Porsche was eliminated, and it stopped on the track and was rescued by the mechanics.


"We all have to die, but we all refuse to think about it. Drivers, like anyone: we are not a special category. Yes, there is fear of an accident, and it is what develops prudence. And it prevents many tragedies. For example, I have always taken some time to become familiar with a car. I've always preferred not to take unnecessary risks. Well, to tell the truth, maybe I'm too cautious".


This was what Ignazio Giunti used to say in conversation with friends. He discussed it serenely, in the quiet hours away from the track or in the short rest intervals between one practice and another, when the driver gets out of the car and it's the mechanics’ turn to work. But not even prudence, a minimum of prudence, can act as a shield against the unpredictable, often silly, and banal. Nor can it be imagined that a driver lifts his foot off the accelerator as he comes out of a corner, not knowing what he might find along the way. Giunti was 29 years old. He was born in Rome on September 30, 1941. His father, Pietro, was from Calabria, his mother, Gabriella Sanmartino, from Piedmont from Strambino. 


"As a boy I didn't like studying much and loved motorcycles. That's how I started, riding a motorbike along country roads".


Ignazio Giunti got his driving license in 1959, and two years later he competed in his first race. An uphill race with the family Giulietta prepared by a neighbor mechanic. A beginning common to that of many very young drivers. Race after race, always with modest-engined cars, other Giuliettas, even Fiat-Abarths, even 500s. The family, which has land in Calabria, between Paola and Maratea, successfully promotes a hotel and tourist business, but Ignazio prefers living in Rome, where by now they call him the king of Vallelunga, the circuit on the outskirts of the capital, and he only goes to Calabria on vacation. The leap into the international arena dates back to 1967. Giunti was hired by Autodelta, the Alfa Romeo team. First the GTA Gran Turismo, then the new two-liter Alfa 33s. He teams up with a young boy like him, the Tuscan Nanni Galli, and in a short time the two become a very strong crew. They call them the terrible twins, because they are good and very similar, in physique and in the way they drive. Class successes rained down, not absolute ones because the Alfa Romeo prototypes weren't able to compete with the bigger rival cars. And Ignazio decides to leave the Milanese company. In Maranello they esteem him, Ferrari trusts him and declares himself willing to fulfill the driver's greatest wish: to race in a Formula 1 single-seater. 1970 was the magical year for the Roman racer. He wins the Sebring race with Andretti and Vaccarella and the Kyalami race in South Africa paired with Ickx. He made his debut in the Formula 1 World Championship obtaining a series of good positions and was elected Italian car champion at the end of the season. Enzo Ferrari says about him:


"I'm happy. He has shown that he possesses those qualities of combativeness and courage that Amon, for example, didn’t show".


And he confirms him for the 1971 season. Ignazio had a worry in these last days of his life. He feared he could only compete in a few Formula 1 races, those in which the new purchase of the Maranello team, Mario Andretti, could not participate. But he still hoped to be able to assert himself.


"I’d like to win the Italian Grand Prix or the Targa Florio. It would be enough".


He had spent Christmas with his family: his father had died a year earlier, he lived with his mother. He had two sisters - married - and a brother. He was engaged to a Milanese mannequin. Giunti had left for Buenos Aires in a good mood. The three-liter Ferrari, though new, inspired confidence in him.


"The engine is that of the single-seater; therefore it is a point of strength and safety".


And, indeed, Ignazio and his red spider were doing well on the fast Argentine track. Now, it's all over. One particular chills. Giunti died like Bandini, in the fire of his Ferrari, after having conquered the Italian championship. Champion only for ten days. Buenos Aires like Monte-Carlo, two incidents with different dynamics but with the same tragic conclusions. Ignazio suffered less than Lorenzo. 


But that's no consolation. Monday 11 January 1971 thousands of people pay homage to the body of Ignazio Giunti. The body of the young Roman pilot is disposed of in the Italian church in Calle Moreno, in the center of Buenos Aires, after the Italian embassy completes all the procedures for the removal of the pilot's body from the hospital. A funeral rite is celebrated in the morning: the Italian ambassador Paolo Tallarico, all the members of the Scuderia Ferrari with the sporting director Peter Schetty, the one of Alfa Romeo and all the other riders who took part in the race are present. There is also a large representation of the Italian colony of Buenos Aires. In all probability Giunti's body - a final authorization is awaited from Rome - will be embarked on Tuesday 12 January 1971, during the afternoon, on an Alitalia plane and will arrive in Rome in the early afternoon of Wednesday. Ferrari teammates will travel on the same plane. As for the Frenchman Jean-Pierre Beltoise, it is believed that the judicial aftermath for the Matra pilot ended with the long interrogation to which he was subjected on Monday evening by the police. The matter could have serious consequences for Beltoise on a disciplinary level since, from various quarters, there is an insistent request that the Argentine and international automobile federations take action against him. In particular, the disqualification of the Frenchman is requested at least for the Formula 1 Argentine Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday 24 January 1971 in the same racetrack where Giunti died. On Monday evening, during a long television programme, the highest Argentine motoring authorities and two FIA delegates, in the presence of former racer Juan Manuel Fangio, attempted to analyze the dynamic of the accident, and in particular to establish possible responsibilities: everyone agrees that the responsibility for the tragedy should fall on Beltoise, whose behavior is attributed to inexplicable psychological phenomena, and probably to the mental state in which the Frenchman was, since a runner in the race thinks only of the race, and sometimes it acts against all consistency. For his part, Jean-Pierre Beltoise expresses deep regrets for the serious accident that cost the life of Ignazio Giunti. The French driver declares in particular that when his car stopped due to lack of petrol, he tried to push it to the side of the track where the pits were located, but that the slope of the road at that point of the circuit prevented him from completing the operation. A reason that leaves us somewhat perplexed, since once he realized that the Matra had run out of petrol, Beltoise had no choice but to direct the car, on the way ahead, in the direction of the meadow surrounding the circuit, so as not to hinder the smooth running of the race. That’s how Beltoise continued his defense:


"It was fate. There was a lot of bad luck in this incident. I warned the stewards to signal the danger with the yellow flag, but it is clear that no one has seen them. Nothing would have happened if the flags had been seen".


The French pilot, however, denies the fact that anyone tried to attack him:


"I wasn't pushed badly by anyone. I gave all the explanations they wanted to the Ferrari executives and the same to all the others".


On the other hand, Argentine automotive circles are concerned with demonstrating above all that the racetrack services, before and after the tragedy, worked perfectly, starting with the inspectors responsible of waving the yellow flag. In Ferrari circles, and also in those close to the other teams participating in the race, the fact that Beltoise was able, for a few minutes, to proceed in a zigzag on the track, pushing his car from the rear, and therefore without controlling the steering wheel, while the racing cars continued to dart to the right and to the left. Now it is a question of establishing whether the yellow flag signals were made immediately after the Beltoise stop, or whether there was some delay. Meanwhile, from Maranello, Ferrari's first reaction to the disaster that cost Ignazio Giunti's life was the renunciation to the Formula 1 Argentinian Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday 24 January 1971, not valid for the World Championship. In an official press release, the Maranello team announces that it has withdrawn its participation in the Formula 1 Argentine Grand Prix, in which Andretti, Ickx and Ragazzoni had entered. The reasons for the decision are communicated to the president of the CSAI, who ensures prompt action on an international level. Ferrari does not officially justify its decision, but it is clear that the Maranello team is also accusing the organizers of the 1000 Kilometers and intends to emphasize the need for a different conception of safety services in the race. We know that Enzo Ferrari was painfully struck by the tragedy, also due to the unthinkable, absurd way in which it unfolded. 


To friends, the Modenese builder confesses:


"Ignazio lost his life in a car of those he favored, but he was tenacious and courageous, and he would also have become great in Formula 1".


Jean-Pierre Beltoise, besieged by journalists in his room at the Coty Hotel in Buenos Aires, repeated his version of the tragic accident that cost Ignazio Giunti's life on Monday 11 January 1977. The French driver is very pale, he appears deeply depressed and afflicted as he releases his brief statements to the press representatives.


"I saw the yellow flag signaling danger. But of course no one else saw it. Otherwise the accident could have been avoided".


Beltoise says he was moving his Matra towards the pits:


"But at that point the elevation of the runway prevented me from carrying out the necessary maneuvers. Then everything was lightning fast. Twenty-four hours after the accident it would seem that it just happened".


The car had run out of fuel, Jean-Pierre Beltoise reiterates, and also had mechanical problems.


"My intuition told me that a terrible accident was about to happen. As I drove the car forward, I felt more nervous. The curve described by the Argentine would have de with the imputation from the track increased the danger".


Beltoise denies that he was attacked after the tragedy by people from the Ferrari team:


"It is false, at no time have I been attacked, and I was able to immediately give my explanations which were accepted without reservations. I feel immense pain for the young Giunti".


These statements by Beltoise, who is obviously trying to excuse himself for the mistakes he made, weren't enough to relieve him of any responsibility for the accident. An Argentine judge, Roberto Rojo, denounces him for murder following an accident, a formula that corresponds to the charge of manslaughter under the legislation of the South American country. After being interrogated for a long time by the magistrate in the police station of the racetrack, Jean-Pierre Beltoise was released but will not be able to leave Argentina without the permission of the judicial authority. This is the first act of an investigation which will most likely involve many people, from the organizers to the race commissioners, to the security services. The news of the tragic death of Ignazio Giunti and the mechanics of the disaster caused a stir in public opinion, indignation, and protests. There are many calls for justice to be done with exemplary punishments. Now, listening to the statements of the organizers of the 1000 Kilometers of Buenos Aires and those of Jean-Pierre Beltoise, everyone seems to have done their duty. The Argentines argue that the French pilot is solely responsible, he claims to have chosen the best behavior in the situation and the French press writes that the responsibility for the tragedy must fall on the South American leaders. Thus, paradoxically, no one is or feels guilty for the death of Ignazio Giunti, a pilot and, above all, a 29-year-old young man. On the contrary, the Argentine press feels offended by the moved and shocked reactions of the Italian commentators: Giunti is dead, never mind, it's Beltoise who did the crime. But, in the controversy, they forget the facts, they draw a veil over unfavorable statements. Fangio, five times World Champion, says calmly:


"Perfect organization".


All right, he was the race director, and he is responsible for what happened on the racetrack: it is logical that he defend himself. But then, you come to say that, perhaps, Beltoise wasn't wrong either, is truly incredible. Doesn't even Fangio know that the international sporting regulations prohibit push maneuvers? He forgets or pretends to forget that none of his course marshals have intervened. And this is a fact. Here is Beltoise and associates: the French press, by ancient custom, under every regime, has always shown itself to be chauvinistic. Are there France's interests to defend? Is there a citizen under indictment? Well, the defense is automatic, ex officio, against everyone and everything. Beltoise says he did what he could, and no one dreams of contradicting him. It is said in Paris:


"Argentinians are the real culprits".


Jean-Pierre, glory of the country and of all French journalists, is innocent, as he was trying to remove the car from the track. The fact that he tried to move it zigzagging in the middle of it doesn't even arouse a gasp of amazement. Almost, Parkes is to blame. which perhaps limited the view of Giunti, or of Ignazio who, distracted, stopped to look at the rev counter. At this point, indignation gives way to anger. After the tragedy, not a motto of honesty, of human loyalty. At this point it is hoped that the competent bodies, first and foremost the Italian Motor Sports Commission (CSAI) with its president Rogano, will continue with the utmost energy on the road taken. Not only that: the news of the tragic death of Ignazio Giunti, who died in the fire of his Ferrari during the 1000 km of Buenos Aires, was almost completely ignored by the British press. Only the sports weeklies will publish the comments on the absurd accident caused by the French rider Jean-Pierre Beltoise. Among the English newspapers, only the Times and the Daily Mirror dedicate a few lines to the death of the young Italian pilot. In addition to reporting on the paradoxical accident, the most authoritative British newspaper has words of praise for the Roman rider. The Times writes:


"Giunti proved to have a formidable talent. He will always be remembered as an excellent prototype driver".


Again the Times gives news of the steps taken by the sports commission of the Automobile Club of Italy (CSAI) and the reactions of Ferrari. The news of Giunti's tragic death is at least greeted with condolence and consternation in British sporting circles as well. The most famous riders (including Graham Hill, John Surtees, Jack Brabham, and Denny Hulme) were shocked to learn the causes of the accident and, regretting the loss of the Roman rider, they have words of reproach for Beltoise. In particular, former World Champion John Surtees declares:


"If Jean-Pierre Beltoise was pushing his Matra just to get to the pits, and not for mere safety reasons, then the heinous responsibility is all his".


Denny Hulme, on its behalf, says:


"This news saddens me a lot, above all because we all loved Giunti, a good young man with a future ahead of him. The causes of the accident seem improbable to me, they are so absurd and far removed from our professionalism. If it is true that Beltoise is responsible for it, we will all have words of deep reproach for him".


On the other hand, the emotion for the fatal accident remains very strong in Argentina. However, the Argentine newspapers, which continue to give great prominence to the serious episode, react on Tuesday 12 January 1971 to the criticisms formulated against the organizers of the race by speaking of a campaign against Argentina. The local newspapers harshly commented on the criticisms made abroad against the organizers of the race. According to the Cronica newspaper, a controversy has begun fueled by Europeans who want to transform the World Championship into a time championship and that those in charge of this investigation, in addition to seeing the film of the race, should collect the testimonies of all the riders. In the meantime, hundreds of people went to Ezeiza airport on Tuesday afternoon to pay their last respects to the body of Ignazio Giunti transferred to Italy on board an Alitalia plane, which left at 6:30 p.m. for Rome, where he will arrive on Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. Minister Counselor Paolo Emilio Bassi, representing Ambassador Tallarigo, receives the official condolences of President Levingston and the Argentine government, which are presented to him by a senior official of the Presidency, the Dr. De Bianchetti. Tuesday 12 January 1971 Arturo Merzario and Andrea de Adamich return to Rome. The Ferrari driver, Giunti's race mate, looks very downcast. Andrea de Adamich about the behavior of Beltoise, declares:


"Acting like this is not only irregular but if the action continues over time, one becomes irresponsible".


Meanwhile, the body of Ignazio Giunti leaves Argentina. The coffin, accompanied by the sporting director of Ferrari, Peter Schetty and by all the members of the Maranello team, as anticipated, is embarked on an Alitalia jet (flight 577) which will arrive in Rome. Doctor Carlos Castagnino, director of the medical services of the Autodromo Municipal, specifies that Giunti did not die from the burns sustained in the Ferrari fire after the collision with the Matra di Beltoise, but from serious internal wounds. Schetty. before leaving Buenos Aires, make this statement:


"There are numerous rumors and versions circulating in the last few hours about the real or presumed responsibilities, and the consequent positions taken in relation to the accident that cost our Giunti his life. I expressly wish to define as groundless any version that attributes to me the assumption of initiatives in the field of pursuing responsibilities. Scuderia Ferrari reserves the right to submit the documentation relating to the incident to the competent Italian motoring organizations so that a weighted and objective examination can be carried out in the appropriate international offices. It is my wish to express on this occasion my appreciation for the moved solidarity and friendly spirit with which the Argentine authorities and local representatives have participated in the mourning that has struck Italian motoring".


Naturally, now the major concern of the authorities and the organizers of the 1000 Kilometers is to demonstrate that everything worked perfectly on Sunday, that the sports marshals and rescue services did their best. The attacks by the Italian press, the comments and criticisms on the race arouse considerable emotion in Argentina and, in turn, reactions of a nationalistic nature. In particular, an editorial in the Buenos Aires newspaper Clarin states, under the heading An unacceptable accusation, that in no way can it be admitted that shadows are cast on the behavior of the organizers, the firefighters, the police or the commissioners charged with agitating the yellow flags. The newspaper continues:


"We are tired to the breaking point of the fact that in the sporting sphere, when an event occurs involving an Argentine or some Argentines as the protagonist, this serves as a pretext for a phobia to emerge from abroad against the country, its inhabitants, its customs".


Clarin concludes by citing vain previous occasions in which Argentines would have been treated as scapegoats:


"In feeling the bitter taste of unjustified criticism, we ask ourselves: what would have been said if instead of Beltoise or Giunti, the protagonist of this painful tragedy had been an Argentinean? We prefer not to think about it".


According to what Clarin himself publishes, the Argentine officials observed the television recording of the accident for an hour and a half in the presence of FIA members, Schmidt and Piundner, the president of the Grand Prix Driving Association (GPDA), the Swede Jo Bonnier . and the race director, the famous former World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio. According to the newspaper, everyone said they were satisfied with the functioning of the various services. Fangio, in particular, declares that he has never seen such perfection of organization in Argentina or in the world. The synchronism of movements between signalmen with flags, firemen, police, and ambulances would have been perfect. Wednesday January 13, 1971, Jean-Pierre Beltoise is found guilty of negligent homicide in Argentina. This conclusion was reached by the investigating judge, Dr. Rojo, after questioning the pilot and examining the police report on the Buenos Aires accident. Doctor Rojo is the only active magistrate, as the month of January is reserved for holidays for all Argentine magistrates. In Argentina, however, when the criminal event occurs during a sports competition, the magistrate is always lenient, unless, of course, the examination of subsequent elements reveals the intent. This is certainly not the case with Beltoise, irresponsible to the extent that one wants, but certainly not voluntarily inclined to cause the death of Giunti or others. What's more, here we start from the principle that whoever participates in a motor competition accepts in advance all the risks that may derive from it. Beltoise is therefore free to leave Argentina whenever he wants. It could at most be that the magistrate wants to hear from him again in some time. The Frenchman, then, will either return to Buenos Aires or be interrogated by letter rogatory. But Beltoise is not in danger of being punished by criminal law. The case of a boxer who killed his opponent is cited: the judge of first instance condemned him, but the Court of Appeal acquitted him. It is added that the Matra rider will not even be called to trial. Meanwhile, from Buenos Aires, Fangio appeals to Enzo Ferrari to let his three single seaters participate in the Grand Prix on January 21, 1971. Conversing with Italian friends, Fangio confesses:


"It was Ferrari who asked me, personally me, to let him race three cars. Now he can't take them back. The basis of the second race of our Temporada is represented by Ferrari. This is an injustice. The FIA ​​observers themselves declared that the operations concerning the safety of the race and the organization in general were correct. Throughout my life I have made motor racing a school. Comments and criticisms were rushed. I am willing to personally go to Italy with the video of the accident under my arm so that they can see what really happened. If there was a culprit, the FIA ​​investigators will ascertain it. I can guarantee that our men did everything possible to avert the tragedy. Signalmen with flags were working. At the time of the accident, the firefighters were almost run over and overwhelmed by the cars that didn't stop either in front of the fire or in front of the yellow flags. This is not a question of programming. This is where our country and its prestige are at stake".


On Saturday 13 February 1971 Ignazio Giunti should have received the tangible sign of his consecration as absolute champion of Italy: a gold medal. On Wednesday 13 January 1971, the president of ACI, Marinucci, pins this medal on the flag that wraps the coffin of the Roman pilot, who arrived in Rome from Buenos Aires.


"The gold medal of absolute champion of Italy is awarded to this young man for his outstanding merits".


Marinucci adds, with his voice cracking with emotion, in the chapel of Santa Maria degli Angeli at Fiumicino Airport, while the roar of the reactors fills the church. It is a long wait for those who wanted to come and greet Ignazio Giunti on their return home. The airport management had made a ceremonial room available to relatives: the others, friends, colleagues who had met him in Vallelunga, his first competition gym, hesitated for an instant before expressing their pain to their mother, brother, to his girlfriend Mara who cries silently, abandoned in one of the armchairs. They are all there: Merzario, his race mate, Regazzoni, Andrea de Adamich, who drove an Alfa Romeo 33 with Pescarolo in the tragic Buenos Aires 1000 kilometres, CSAI president Rogano, engineer Dondo, general manager of Ferrari, the technical director Forghieri. Enzo Ferrari is missing, remained in Maranello. 


At 2:45 p.m. On Wednesday 13 January 1971, the Alitalia DC-8, coming from Buenos Aires, stops in the farthest parking lot of the airport, from which sports director Schetty and five Ferrari mechanics get off.


"The ongoing investigation will certainly highlight facts and responsibilities; Now please don't ask me any more questions".


Schetty responds to requests for clarification on the details of the accident.


"There will be time, later, to talk about all this".


The controversy surrounding the driver’s death stopped during the afternoon. There is no place for them on a day dedicated only to pain. They will resume on Thursday, and it will be known how much of the responsibility belongs to Beltoise and what part the organizers and race commissioners played in the Buenos Aires tragedy. Some elements confirming, in principle, what was already known, emerge from a subsequent conversation with Schetty and Marinucci himself. At the time of the accident, Giunti had 10-15 liters of petrol on board, the amount he needed to complete three laps of the track before handing over the wheel to Merzario on lap 41. The Italian driver died on impact and did not following the burns reported: a fireman rushed to the scene, with the fire extinguisher, a few seconds after the clash - according to Merzario - but the real rescue, i.e. the tanker, arrived on the scene three minutes late. After the blessing, officiated by the airport parish priest, Don Franco Serfustini, the coffin, at whose feet are placed the helmet and glasses that Giunti wore in his last run, is taken to the church of S. Giovanni Bellarmino in piazza Ungheria, in which Thursday morning at 11:00 a.m. the funeral service will be officiated. Meanwhile, in relation to the many rumors and news about a possible return of Ferrari on the decisions taken not to participate with Andretti, Ickx and Regazzoni in the Argentine Grand Prix on Sunday 24 January 1971, the Scuderia Ferrari reiterates that it confirms any renunciation.


"Any afterthought is to be excluded".


The FIA ​​executives present at the 1000 kilometers of Buenos Aires, after having watched the video of Giunti's accident, seem oriented to acquit the organizers and to attribute more responsibility to Beltoise. The Viennese Martin Pfundner, vice-president of the CSI, declares on his return to his homeland that the tragic death of Giunti was due to a human defect of a runner (Beltoise). Pfundner says he saw the video of the fatal crash in slow motion: it emerges that Beltoise behaved in an absolutely incomprehensible way. According to Pfundner, the FIA ​​is likely to take up the matter.


"The Italian federation or the Argentine one must ask the French federation to examine the facts, given that Beltoise has a French licence. If no agreement is reached, the federations concerned can apply to the FIA. The maximum punishment is disqualification, i.e. the withdrawal of the license for life".


The footage, later broadcast by the television networks regarding the accident that cost the life of Ignazio Giunti in Buenos Aires, only increases the sense of deep condolence in all Italian sportsmen for the tragic death of the Roman driver. It is clear how fate (Parkes avoided the disaster by a miracle) and the irresponsible behavior of Beltolse and the race marshals are at the origin of the painful episode. The short clip of the incident irrefutably demonstrates Beltoise's responsibility for Giunti's death. It is not possible to note whether or not the marshals waved the yellow danger flags, nor the action of the rescue services. However, it is clear that Beltoise was able to carry out his maneuver undisturbed, and that no one attempted to stop him. 


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