On Wednesday, 13 May 1970, the Turin-Piacenza motorway is closed to traffic for a morning on the Santena-Villanova d'Asti section of the Turin-Piacenza motorway. This section is reserved for testing by Ferrari, which experiments with numerous aerodynamic solutions on its mighty 512 S with a view to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The car reaches a speed of 344.832 km/h and, what is very important, in conditions of excellent stability. The speed is timed on two bases equipped with photoelectric cells by the Fiat Electronic Research Department. Arturo Merzario and Peter Schetty took turns at the wheel of the berlinetta. It will be the Swiss driver who will touch 350 km/h in one of the last tests. At the end of the day, Ferrari's technical director Mauro Forghieri admits:
"At Le Mans, the key point is the Mulsarme straight. It's a straight of about six kilometres, where the cars travel at top speed. What better than a motorway to imitate it? We had to carry out a series of aerodynamic research inside and outside the 512 to study its behaviour at high speeds. Our task was to increase the safety margin with which the driver can control the car, to allow him, if possible, to relax for a moment and not have to concentrate more. In a few hours of work here, we have carried out tests that would have cost us a month on a circuit".
Schetty and Merzario, under the watchful eye of Forghieri and Franco Gozzi, Scuderia Ferrari's sporting director, carry out around 40 tests, covering over 400 kilometres and filling the Piedmont countryside with the roar of the 12-cylinder Ferrari engine. Various types and combinations of wings and sprockets are fitted to the car, with the aim of avoiding body oscillations and lightening the tail and nose. At the end, the drivers are smiling.
"We're doing really well".
After a Sunday break for Formula 1, the World Championship for Makes resumes. On Sunday 17th May 1970 the sixth episode of the challenge between Ferrari and Porsche is scheduled. The venue was the circuit of Spa-Francorchamps, in Belgium, where the 1000 Kilometre race took place. On one side three 512 S with Ickx-Surtees, Merzario-Schetty and Giunti-Vaccarella, on the other side the 917s equipped with the new 5000 cc engines with the tested pairs Siffert-Redman, Rodriguez- Kinnunen, Elford-Ahrens and Herrmann-Attwood. As always, a challenge to the limit is expected, also because Ferrari is playing its last chance for the world title. The situation is well known Porsche has 42 points in the standings, Ferrari 25. The men from Stockholm only need one win, at Spa, to win the championship.
"In any case, we will continue to participate in the trials of the event. It's valuable experience, also for next year".
The Belgian 1000-kilometre race will be run at high speeds. The circuit, which the drivers of the Grand Prix Drivers Association consider too dangerous, allows speeds of up to 300 km/h. A comparison of powers and the first severe test for success, then the five-litre Porsche, which made its debut at Monza in the 917 driven by Elford-Ahrens, will be champion. It is worth noting that the Maranello crews were all new, apart from Giunti-Vaccarella. Andretti and Amon's absences forced sporting director Franco Gozzi to revolutionize the team, pairing Ickx with Surtees and reconstituting the Abarth duo-principal with Merzario and Schetty. Much is expected above all from Ickx, who is at home at Spa, Madrid burns pain permitting. In the three-litre sport-prototype sector, Matra-Simca with Beltoise-Brabham and Pescarolo-Servoz- Gavin will be present, but Alfa Romeo 33.3 will be missing. The Milanese cars will make their comeback at the 1000 Kilometre Nurburgring. For now, they are undergoing an intensive rejuvenation treatment. In the meantime, a very interesting rumour is circulating Ferrari is reportedly preparing an eight-cylinder engine to be fitted in its Formula 1 car next year, while the 12-cylinder engine is being shelved. This is a sensational rumour, given Enzo Ferrari's lifelong attachment to and defence of the 12-cylinder engine. On Friday, 15 May 1970, on the first day of practice, Jackie Ickx, in the 512 S, achieved an exceptional feat by running 3'24"4, at a record average speed of 248.336 km/h. Last year, Redman, in the three-litre Porsche 908, set a time of 3'37"1. Last year, Redman, in the three-litre Porsche 908, had set a time of 3'37"1. The Belgian left the fastest driver in the Gulf team, Mexican Pedro Rodriguez, three seconds behind, who had to be content with a time of 3'27"0. Ickx drives as only he knows how to do on his home circuit, the dangerous, too fast track of Spa. During practice, a few drops of rain fell, and the track was slippery in some sections. Jackie also beat the Formula 1 single-seater record, which belonged to John Surtees' Honda (now his driving partner) in 3'30"5. The young Belgian driver, whose condition has improved since the Monaco Grand Prix, when he was still suffering from some pain due to the after-effects of the burns he suffered in the accident in Madrid on 20 April 1970, is enthusiastic about the 512 S.
"It is likely that tomorrow I will be able to drop below the time I have set now".
In effect, the Italian cars give the impression of being perfectly tuned. In this sense, the training of the Giunti-Vaccarella pair, in the second Ferrari (the third is entrusted to Merzario-Schetty) was also comforting: Giunti, in great shape, set the third best time of the day: 3'34"3. It should be noted that the Roman driver, like Merzario, Schetty and Vaccarella, has never run on the Spa circuit. The 917s were a bit in the shade. Only those of Rodriguez and Siffert were fitted with 5000 cc engines. Elford's car (running for the other team, Porsche-Salzburg) has the 4,500 cc, but it seems that in the race it too will mount the new engine.
If the test goes well, he will use it for the race. Siffert did not shine, due to tyre problems. On his 917 were mounted rims with too large channels, and at high speeds, due to the centrifugal force, the tyre tends to shrink and loses pressure. Twice Siffert has to stop along the route with a flat tyre. The same mishap affects his team-mate Redman. The fact is that the two are preceded in the classification of the best times even by Pilette, who with an old Lola T 70 runs in 3'39"2Z10.
However, Porsche's comeback at Spa against Ferrari is decisive. On Saturday 16th May 1970, on the second day of practice for the 1000 kilometres, the wall of 250 km/h average, which up to last year seemed unreachable, is demolished by Pedro Rodriguez. With the Gulf Porsche 917 equipped with the new five-litre engine, the Mexican driver lapped in 3'19"8 at the fantastic average of 254.054 km/h, while Siffert, in the other 5000 cc 917, dropped to 3'23"9. The balance between Ferrari and Porsche was broken in favour of the German Company. Four seconds and six tenths separate Rodriguez from the best Ferrari driver, Jacky lckx. There is also a detail to be underlined: after Rodriguez, in the middle of the tests, gets the time of 3'22"6, Ickx gets into his 512 S to try to get back the unofficial track record; the Belgian driver does a few laps with a time of 3'24"8, then the Ferrari's engine gives out.
The mechanics will have to change it with a spare during the night. The same operation is planned for the car of Merzario-Schetty, whose 12-cylinder engine was already not running well on Friday. Therefore, two Porsche 917s and a Ferrari will be on the front row at the start of this 1000 kilometre race, and behind them a swarm of 917s, interspersed with the two other 512 S. The euphoria that reigned in the Ferrari clan inevitably cooled. The 600 bhp of Porsche's new 5-litre engine had fully revealed itself. Was the Maranello company locked in the German stranglehold? The answer comes on Sunday, 18 May 1970: at Spa, in the 1000-kilometre race, the sixth round of the World Championship for Makes, the Porsche wins.
As at the Targa Florio, Siffert and Brian Redman win, but this time in the new Porsche 917 with a five-litre engine. The Swiss and the Englishman concluded their efforts on the Belgian circuit at an average record speed of 240.459 km/h. Second, at 2'35"5, came the Ferrari of Ickx and Surtees, followed by the 917 of Elford-Ahrens and another Ferrari, that of Giunti and Vaccarella. The third 512 S finishes seventh with Schetty and Merzario. A foregone conclusion? Maybe, but if the Ferraris driven by Giunti and Schetty are delayed by the usual problems with the fuel pumps, which don't draw the petrol in the tanks thoroughly, forcing the drivers to two unexpected stops, the one driven by Ickx and Surtees behaves magnificently. The trouble, if we can call it so, was represented by John Surtees, who not only failed to imitate his teammate, but lost ground in the direct comparison with Redman and his 917.
The 1000 Kilometre race took place under a cloudy sky (it stopped raining a few minutes before the start and resumed at the end) in front of 30,000 spectators: few for the spectacle offered by the Porsche-Ferrari duel. At the start, Siffert and Rodriguez take the lead, followed by Ickx and Giunti. On lap 14, the two Porsches stopped at the pits to refuel and Ickx took the lead, gaining 15 seconds over Siffert and 55 over Elford. Further back is Rodriguez, Giunti, Bell (in a 512S of a Belgian team), Hermann (with another 917) and Schetty. Rodriguez, trying to reduce the distance from Ickx, sets a record time of 3'16"5, at an average speed of 258.320 km/h. At the 28th lap, that is after more than a third of the race, Ickx and Siffert stop at the pits.
The Belgian hands the car over to Surtees with an advantage of twenty-five seconds, the Swiss gives up the wheel to Redman. And the race changes its destiny. While Rodriguez is forced to make an additional stop to replace the left rear tyre, Surtees loses ground to his rival. A trickle of seconds, with discouragement and anger taking hold of the men in the Ferrari box. Redman reaches Surtees and overtakes him. At the end of the twenty-eight laps in which the 512 S was driven by the former World Champion, the positions are reversed. In all, Surtees loses 180 seconds, three minutes. An enormity on the fast circuit of Spa. Bitter jokes are uttered in the pits:
"We should have had two Ickxes at the wheel".
"Of course, with some more Ickx...".
Siffert and the Porsche and 91 flew towards the triumph (the fifth of the German company in this world championship), while Ickx, back at the wheel, could only keep his positions. One fact proves that the Belgian's Ferrari was in perfect conditions: on the 62nd passage, Jacky turns in 3'18"5, a very good time. Unfortunately, due to the regulations, which consider the driving hours, in relation to the drivers' fatigue, it was not possible to get Ickx back into the car earlier. Twenty-five laps from the end, the 917 driven by Rodriguez gave up (trouble with the ignition system), but there was Slffert who assured the success to Gulf-Porsche. All the competitors were lapped by the Swiss, except Ickx; the two equalled for almost the entire race the lap record of the Formula 1 single- seaters (Surtees, Honda. 3'30"5).
Meanwhile, during the night of Saturday to Sunday, Argentinean driver Juan Manuel Fangio - one of the strongest and most popular racing drivers of the 1950s - suffered a myocardial infarction and was immediately admitted to the Guemes clinic, where the team of cardiologists, led by Dr Alberto Bertolazzi, carried out a series of tests. Dr Bertolazzi himself, who is also the champion's personal physician, later stated that the sick man's condition was very serious and had not improved since his admission. Nevertheless, the doctors hope that Fangio's strong temperament - he is 59 years old - will help him to overcome the crisis. The prognosis is confidential, and it is likely that the critical period will not be over before midnight on Monday 18 May 1970.
The latest medical bulletin confirms the diagnosis of a myocardial infarction, with complications of moderate severity that are under control, and adds that his blood pressure and other clinical symptoms are evolving favourably. As soon as the news broke, many of Fangio's friends and admirers rushed to the clinic for information. The clinic itself was swamped with phone calls from all over Argentina, while telegrams and messages of congratulations continued to arrive from all over the world. The son of Italian emigrants from the province of Chieti, Juan Manuel Fangio was born in 1911 in Balcarce, a small town 400 kilometres from Buenos Aires. After many years of apprenticeship in garages and mechanics' workshops, he participated in a touring car race for the first time in 1936 and won his first victories even before the outbreak of the World War.
In 1948 he was already a well-known driver, at least in his own country, so much so that the Argentine Automobile Club entrusted him with a Maserati to take part in the first Temporada, with the presence of the most famous European drivers of the time, against whom Fangio proved to be a very classy racer. The following year he competed in the European Grand Prix, first with a Ferrari, then with the famous Alfa Romeo 158, hired by the Milanese company. It was the start of a meteoric rise. World Champion in 1951 in the Alfa, in 1954 in the Maserati and Mercedes, in 1955 again in the German car, in 1956 in the Ferrari, in 1957 in the Maserati: five world titles, a record that will be difficult to beat. He then retired from racing.
The World Championship for Makes continues towards the most important race of the year, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, scheduled for 13 and 14 June 1970. In the meantime, on Sunday 31st May 1970 the seventh episode of this event will take place, which up to now has seen Porsche prevailing over Ferrari. On the Nurburgring circuit the 1000 Kilometre race is run. For the occasion, Ferrari changes the crews. Ickx-Giunti, Merzario-Vaccarella and Surtees-Schetty will be on the three 512 S cars. As we know, in the past, apart from the Amon and Andretti parentheses, it was decided to line up Ickx-Surtees, Giunti-Vaccarella and Schetty-Merzario. The change was dictated by logical reasons. Today, Ickx and Giunti are the two fastest drivers in the team. This was even stated by German sports director Rico Steinemanrt, who said at Spa:
"If Ferrari had had those two together, I don't know if we would have won".
The task, for Ferrari, is as arduous as ever. Gulf-Porsche and the Stuttgart technicians, after many trials, intend to dust off the cars brought to the Targa Fiorio, namely the super-light 908 three-litre third version. The spiders, which in Sicily won first and second place with Siffert-Redman and Rodriguez-Kinnunen ahead of Giunti-Vaccarella, have been strengthened and the bodywork slightly modified. In addition, the ratios have been changed and the engines tuned to offer more relevant speed cues. In any case, the Nurburgring, with its twenty-two kilometres of twists and turns, has been judged like the Madonie track: it's difficult, unfortunately, that the expert men of Porsche's house have made a wrong evaluation.
There will, however, be some five-litre 917s supporting the 908s. In the prototype sector, the 3000 cc Alfa 33.3s will make their return to the track, having undergone intensive testing at the Nurburgring in recent days. The Milanese cars have been lightened considerably - it is said that they have dropped from over 700 to around 650 kilos - and this should lead to an improvement in performance. The comparison, by now, is with the Matra-Simca that with the twelve-cylinder engine adopted on Formula 1 cars have demonstrated an excellent level of competitiveness. For the Italian manufacturers, the commitment in the marque championship is becoming increasingly heavy. Now, to redeem a disappointing season there is nothing left but Le Mans, with the hope, of course, that the 1000 km of Nurburgring will bring them a new success.
On Friday 29 May 1970 the official tests of the 1000 Kilometres of Nurburgring began and the major manufacturers officially announced their respective line-ups. The most disconcerting news concerns Alfa Romeo that after having tested on Wednesday on the Balocco track with Andrea De Adamich, will not line up the Italian driver in Sunday's race, limiting itself to line up only one car entrusted to the German Rolf Stommelen and the English Courage. The partial renunciation of the Italian company seems all the more serious considering that the characteristics of the circuit are clearly more favourable to 3000 cc cars than to big 5000 cc cars. Porsche itself has announced that it will use the 908 MK 3s, which have already won at the Targa Florio and which have a displacement of 3000 cc. The German manufacturer - through its two teams - will line up four cars with the usual crews: Ferrari, as mentioned, will change the pairings which, if positive, will then be reconfirmed at Le Mans.
However, Jackie Ickx will not be in the race, because before the start of the weekend he accidentally dislocates his wrist when he falls in the house. Moreover, during practice Peter Schetty goes off the road and falls into a ravine: the car is destroyed, but the driver is incredibly unharmed. Initially Ferrari thought they could replace Ickx with the young Swede Peterson, already engaged for the 24 hours of Le Mans, when the second bad news arrived. Schetty has gone off the track. The Swiss driver recounts what happened shortly afterwards:
"At the third corner after Adenau, I ended up in a puddle. The car spun around and I found myself between the trees".
The 512 S subsequently rolled into an embankment, but fortunately did not catch fire and Schetty climbed back onto the road, bruising his back. Result: Schetty's automatic exclusion and only two Ferraris in the race, with the crews Giunti-Merzario (considered the sprinters) and Vaocarella- Surtees. In addition, there will be a private 512, that of Mueller-Parkes. Not a happy situation, given the Porsche line-up and the times set by the three-litre 908 Mark 3s (the same as in the Targa Florio, but with 15-inch rear wheels and not 13). The Germans preferred them to the 917s because they made the drivers less tired on the Nuerburgring circuit and involved a smaller number of refuelling. Siffert is the fastest of the team. There is also an Alfa Romeo 33.3, just one, with Courage and Stornmelen. The lack of the second car, which should have been entrusted to Galli and de Adamich, arouses a lot of controversy and an energetic reaction from Galli, who will ask for the cancellation of the contract to switch to Matra.
On Sunday, 31 May 1970, Porsche beat Ferrari six to one to win the world title. This is the result of the challenge for the makes' championship between the two manufacturers since February. The German cars, managed by John Wyer's Cult team and Pleck's team, Ferry Porsche's nephew, Porsche Salzburg, won the races at Daytona, Brands Batch, Monza, Targa Florio, Spa and Nurburgring (total: 60 points), while the Italian cars only won at Sebring, obtaining good but insufficient placings in the other races (35 points). Porsche's success, which found its mathematical sanction in the 1000 Kilometre of Nurburgring (Ahrens-Elford won in the 908 Mk 3 already seen at the Targa, ahead of Hermann-Attwood, in the same type of car, and Surtees-Vaccarella, in the Ferrari 512 S), was the result of their own merits and of others' demerits. The Germans had an excellent organisation, a greater commitment, a more rational and conspicuous employment of men and means, a more sagacious programming. Their most shrewd move was to entrust the management of the races to Wyer's team, thus removing a major headache.
At the same time, they flanked the English manager on all technical matters, proposing the third version 908s for two races, the Targa and the Nurburgring, and the five-litre engines as soon as Maranello's 5,000 cc began to annoy in terms of power. Ferrari has had an endless series of problems. It may have been minor, but you lose a race because of a broken windscreen wiper or a blown engine. Accessory companies have been a source of great annoyance to the House of Mannello. Problems with the fuel pumps, for example, were repeated at almost every race. It should also be considered that the 512 S started a year later than the 917s. Driver problems also arose, with Andretti and Amon not being available. In any case, everyone is disappointed, both the fans and the Italian team. Now all they can think about is the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the race that is almost worth the championship. But woe betide if they miss this appointment too.
On Tuesday 2 June 1970, at around 12:00 a.m., at the age of 33, Bruce McLaren lost his life during a practice session at the Goodwood circuit near London. During practice, McLaren was driving at high speed (around 250 km/h) when the car being tested, a McLaren 8D produced for the American CanAm championship, hit a railing, and exploded. McLaren was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital, but by the time he arrived he had already passed away. Eight months ago, McLaren announced that he intended to partially retire from racing. After winning the Pan- American series with a victory in the 210-mile Bryan, Texas, race last November, the racer said he intended to devote more time to his business interests.
The month before, in October, during a race at Riverside, California, he had an accident but was unhurt. Slightly undersized, the New Zealand driver had two broad shoulders and considerable physical power. He was destined to become a good rugby player, his favourite sport, which he had played in his youth. However, a serious accident during a match prevented him from continuing in the sport. McLaren, who had learned to drive a car at the age of 15, came to terms with this and decided to give up rugby and concentrate on motor racing. A McLaren technician recounts:
"Suddenly, I saw a cloud of whitish smoke envelop the tail of the car. Almost at the same time, the car spun off and crashed into the embankment that runs alongside the track".
The impact was terrible: the big yellow-orange two-seater sportscar broke in two, almost disintegrating. McLaren was extracted from the burning wreckage and died on the way to hospital. Bruce McLaren was also gone. One of his cars betrayed him, one of the cars that had brought him the greatest success. He and teammate Hulme had dominated last year's Canada-America Cup, winning $300.000.
"It's the Americans who finance me. Thanks to racing in the United States, I can afford to take part in Formula 1 Grand Prix and keep my company's balance sheet in the black".
McLaren was a serious driver-builder. As said before, he had started racing at the age of fifteen in New Zealand (he was born in Auckland on 30th August 1931, his father managed a garage with a petrol station), he had soon made a name for himself and at the age of twenty, having abandoned his engineering studies, he had landed in London thanks to a grant of 1000 pounds destined to the most promising New Zealander racer. He went to Cooper as Jack Brabham's number two and in 1959, at only twenty-two years of age (a record in his genre), he won the United States Grand Prix. From that moment on, although he didn't reach the heights of a champion like Jim Clark, his career was swift and sure, studded with prestigious victories: the Grand Prix of Argentina (1960), Monaco (1962) and Belgium (1968), the Tasmanian Championship (1964), the 24 Hours of Le Mans paired with Chris Amon in the Ford (1966), the CanAm Cup (1967 and 1969). McLaren was a man who rarely took risks, who saved his car. The mechanics said:
"With Bruce we work well. He's never nervous. When he gets out of the car, he can tell you exactly what's wrong and suggest how to fix it.”
McLaren, besides being a good driver and a good test driver, was an excellent technician, able, for example, to set up the suspension of a single seater, something that many steering wheel aces can't do. As a constructor, McLaren started in 1963, two years after Brabham. First Cooper-Climax elaborations, then two-seater racing cars, then, in 1966, Formula 1, which was equipped, in succession, with Ford-Indianapolis engines reduced to three litres, Serenissima, BRM V12 and, finally, Ford-Cosworth. The workshop (a red brick building and shed) was set up at Collibrook, near London airport.
"That way I get there and back quicker".
Seven models were produced: 1969 and 1970 Formula 1 single-seaters with two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, five-litre Formula A single-seaters and Indianapolis type, and two CanAm two- seaters in two versions. Forty-five employees worked for the company. Yet McLaren, small and round, with a curious bouncy walk (at the age of nine, he had suffered from conotemoral joint disease and doctors had predicted he would never walk again), found time to go water-skiing and spend time with his wife Patricia and his baby daughter Amanda.
"Now, though, I'm going to give up racing little by little. I'm going to be a builder, and that's it".
But there was no one better at testing cars than him, the master, as the mechanics called him. So, at the Goodwood circuit, which had been closed to competition because it was considered too dangerous, he got behind the wheel for the last time. Now, we wish Bruce McLaren Motor Racing wouldn't leave us as well. When three days later, on Friday 5 June 1970, the Formula 1 circus gathered in the Francorchamps paddock for the first practice session, there was a very noticeable absence among the participants. The orange cars of the Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Team are not present.
Practice runs from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., and although a light drizzle during the afternoon makes some drivers nervous, by the time practice starts everything is dry and the sun is shining brightly, so that the beautiful Francorchamps circuit is in superb condition. As of this edition, the course is slightly modified, so now instead of taking the very fast Malmedy right-hander at around 150mph, it is necessary to brake very hard, turning left off the island of grass before turning right onto the Masta straight. This so-called chicane increases lap times in the order of seven to ten seconds, so it will be necessary to set a new set of time references for Formula 1 cars at Francorchamps.
Apart from the very sad absence of the McLaren team, which included Gethin, who would temporarily take Hulme's place, and de Adamich with the Alfa Romeo-powered McLaren, Eaton with the third of the Type 153 B.R.M. cars, Tyrrell's second driver, Servoz-Gavin, who suddenly decided to retire from racing, Moser with his standard British Grand Prix Car Kit built in Italy for him by Bellasi, and Surtees with his private McLaren, would also not take part in the race. This lowers the number of participants to eighteen, the last of whom is Soler-Roig, who is waiting for Lotus to finish modifying his second Type 72.
Thus, for the beginning of the tests there are only seventeen entries. for this Grand Prix Stewart has two Tyrrell March at his disposal, the 701/2 as first choice and the 701/7 as training car. the Scot uses the second car to get used to the circuit before going out with the first car, to set qualifying times. The official March cars are tested for the first time at Spa. The team is committed to finding the right balance and resistance of the aerodynamic devices (the front fins, side tanks and tail profile) at the highest speed compatible with stability. But since most of the downforce is directed at keeping the front-end low, this will prove to be a difficult problem to solve.
Amon's car, the 701/1, has been completely rebuilt, so the New Zealand driver uses it, while Siffert drives the 701/5, but neither of them gets much practice because of the various adjustments and fuel supply experiments that are frequently carried out, because at Spa the cars spend a lot of time with the throttle wide open and with the windows squashed at the front, which leads to a particular phenomenon: the fuel slides forward in the injection system, rather than backwards, as would be necessary. The Brabham team experiments with new fuel systems and mounts tanks on each side of the cockpit, as the engines are always thirsty at Spa. The system of plastic pipes and electric pumps looks like a plumbing nightmare, but it seems to work. Brabham drives the BT33/2, while Stommelen, as usual, leads the BT33/1.
Team Lotus brought a modified Type 72 to Spa for Rindt to drive: this was the 72/1, which had a redesigned rear suspension geometry that no longer had the much-vaunted anti-squat characteristics. But the car didn't cover many kilometres, because after a few laps a rear hub seized and broke the lower swingarm support. Someone hadn't drilled an 1/8-inch vent hole in the hub post casting on the right rear, and the pressure build-up from the heat blew the oil seal. As a result, the lubricant leaked, the bearing seized, and the sudden reverse torque was greater than the suspension could handle.
John Miles tests the Lotus 49C, making his first appearance at Francorchamps. The British driver had been at Spa the previous weekend in an Elan to learn the course. After Miles does some practice with the 49C, it is given to Rindt, as the Austrian racer has not even begun to set decent times in the Lotus 72. Graham Hill runs with the Lotus 49C rebuilt by Walker, without front fins or rear wings, trying to gain more on straights thanks to the reduced aerodynamic drag than he loses in corners because of the loss of thrust, but the results are not very convincing.
Soler-Roig is waiting for the 72/2, the second of the 1970 cars that has been extensively modified. The monocoque has been stripped down, the bulkheads have been riveted inside the fuel tank spaces, mid-section, two bag tanks are now placed on each side, the interior skin of the cockpit has been strengthened and the rear surface of the cockpit has been moved forward to give a thicker box section around the driver's shoulders. All this has been done to improve the torsional rigidity of the monocoque, which was the root cause of the car's high-speed cornering instability.
As on the 72/1 the rear suspension was altered to remove the anti-squat features, and on the 72/2 a completely new front suspension frame was fitted, removing all the anti-dive features. As a result of all the work, you could say that the 72/1 was modified into a 72B and the 72/2 into a 72C. Ferrari too, with Jacky Ickx, tries to eliminate any form of fin or wing, but soon returns to the original conformation because the Belgian driver finds the car too sensitive and nervous, although this could be due to the fact that the suspension and tyres were designed to withstand the downward thrust of the wings. Ferrari brings an additional car to Spa, which will be judged in the race by Ignazio Giunti. For the Italian driver it is his Formula 1 debut:
"A new, wonderful, exciting experience - I'm happy. I was told to learn the track and get familiar with the car and so far, I have found it easy and smooth".
The BRM team is not at all happy, as the transmissions mounted on the cars have problems with selectors and gears coming out of their phase. The Matra team is also busy changing the ratios on the Hewland gearboxes, so they are not very present on the track. Colin Crabbe's yellow and brown March 701, driven by Ronnie Peterson, is tuned to reach an optimistic maximum of 195 mph. It is therefore curious to note that when Peterson reaches the maximum engine revs on the straights, he prefers to leave the fourth gear engaged rather than lose time in changing the ratios, because this is his first race at Spa, and he has much to learn. Nevertheless, Peterson drives very well and with a lot of confidence, and his times are 3'40"0, less than ten seconds slower than Stewart and Brabham, which is very good if you think that this is only a first outing.
Piers Courage uses De Tomaso number three and waits for a new one to arrive from Modena. Like Amon's March this one should be recognised as 38/2, being a one hundred percent rebuild of the second car, with the addition of a wider rear track and different suspension geometry. Towards the end of the practice session the pace begins to increase as the drivers quickly get used to the recent changes to the circuit. Brabham put in a lot of effort, as did Stewart, while Stommelen drove impressively. Shortly before the end of practice, Brabham sets a record time of 3'31"5, astounding the competition.
On Saturday 6 June 1970 the last practice session takes place from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. In this session the two B.R.M. drivers, having skipped the first day of practice, will be particularly busy. Stewart continues practice with the spare Tyrrell March, while Ferrari gives two cars to Jacky Ickx, the 001 and the 003. Giunti, on the other hand, is still driving the 002; a completely new car, since the 002 was the car that had crashed and burned in Spain. Team Lotus repairs the 72 and puts it at Miles' disposal, while Rindt takes over the old 49C. The last 72 arrived at Spa, but it was being refined, so Soler-Roig - although entered - was forced to skip the race. Brabham went on with the work of calibrating the fuel systems and didn't make any fast lap, while Stewart with his two cars was well organized, and after some practice with the reserve car he went out in the 701/2 and set a time of 3'28"0.
Also Rindt tried to bring his Lotus 49C to the limit and set a time of 3'30"1, while Ickx brought his limit to 3'30"9 seconds. In B.R.M. they worked to solve the problems found in Oliver's engine because of a valve, probably damaged after an over-revving made the day before, when it kept on jumping out of gear. Meanwhile, Rodriguez set a very good time of 3'31"6. On the Walker Lotus 49C driven by Hill all fins and wings were reassembled, while the two Matras were the same as on the previous day. During the session, on Pescarolo's car there was a loss of oil pressure; the French driver turned off the engine in a hurry and stopped to avoid breaking it, thus ending his day's practice. The new De Tomaso arrives at Spa, but it too needs a finishing phase. In the meantime, Courage withdraws the 38/3 because of a damaged cylinder head gasket.
Oliver's BRM is quickly driven back to the garage for an engine change. Also, the Cosworth engine driven by Rindt showed some anomalies during the session, so the car was taken to the back of the pits, where the mechanics proceeded to disassemble it. In the meantime, the official March cars started going better and Amon scored a good lap, in 3'30"3, the third fastest of the first afternoon. Nevertheless, the New Zealander driver was almost two seconds slower than Stewart and his Tyrrell March. However, luck soon deserted Amon, because when his mechanic checked the spark plugs, he discovered that the one on cylinder number one was covered with aluminium; the Cosworth engine had broken down. As time goes by it becomes clear that V8 Cosworth engines break down disastrously, so the usual happy confidence does not reign among those who use this engine.
Among the owners and private drivers, Peterson could now use all five gears of the gearbox and set a respectable time of 3'36"8, while Derek Bell, in the Brabham driven by Wheatcroft, had fun completing lap after lap, setting as best time 3'36"2. At 2:30 p.m. practice stopped: a pleasant break followed till 6:00 p.m. Meantime, in the paddock Lotus mechanics made a very quick engine change on the 49C driven by Rindt, the assembly of the new Lotus 72 was finished, the March driven by Amon was dismantled and the De Tomsaso number three was put aside, leaving its place to the new one. The calendar provides for a final hour of practice from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.: this will obviously be the make-it-or-break-it session as far as the starting grid is concerned. Although make-it is the goal, break-it is still common: in fact. Rodriguez stops abruptly with a broken connecting rod in his B.R.M. engine.
Amon's car was still reduced to small pieces, therefore the New Zealander driver had no hope of practising, but Rindt's Lotus was ready; the Austrian driver took the track in the latter, as well as Courage, who managed to run some laps in the new De Tomaso. During this last hour of practice, Stommelen set his best lap, but Peterson was immediately behind him and Giunti beat them both. Ickx practises with the spare Ferrari without however managing to set good times. Later, the Belgian driver returns to the track with the 003 and scores his best time, in 3'30"7, the fastest in this final session. Stewart is content to set a time of 3'33"1, knowing he has a margin of over two seconds over his nearest rival. In the meantime, at the entrance to the ess curve on the Masta straight, which the bravest drivers take without lifting their foot from the accelerator, the Matra team sets up an instant speed timing beam, so that it turns out that the highest top speed is recorded by Hill in the Lotus 49C of Walker, without fins and wing, at 294 km/h (about 182 mph).
At the end of the three practice sessions, the front row of the grid includes Stewart, Rindt and Amon. In the last hour of practice, Soler-Roig could not complete more than two timed laps and was consequently excluded from the race, as the regulations required a minimum of five laps to qualify. While the various mechanics worked late into the evening to prepare the cars for the race, the drivers hoped for mild weather during the race. The weather forecasters had guaranteed good weather for Sunday, so the start was set for 1:00 p.m., preceded by a drivers' presentation at midday. The latter were happily surprised to find that the sun was shining on the Spa circuit on Sunday 7 June 1970. Thus, the competitors can concentrate serenely and prepare their tactics for a race in which fuel consumption will be a problem to be taken into serious consideration. In this respect, the Tyrrell team is well prepared, and both the 701/2 and the 701/7 March are ready to run. The latter car, as mentioned, is destined for the grid, but such is Tyrrell's thoroughness that the second car could have been replaced immediately if necessary.
Ickx chose the Ferrari 003 and Courage used the 38/2, the last De Tomaso. B.R.M. mechanics worked hard and long to mount a new engine on Rodriguez's car, and also Pescarolo and Amon will be able to take advantage of new engines. Soler-Roig, as said, will not take part in the race, but also Ronnie Peterson risked not taking part in the race, as the police stopped him while he was reaching the circuit. A bit of high-level diplomacy on the part of the race officials allows the Swedish driver to be released just a few minutes before the competitors can start their warm-up lap. It is just after 1:00 p.m. when the seventeen cars are brought forward onto the grid, and in a fantastic burst of sound they roar down the hill to begin the 28-lap race, with Rindt taking the lead from his central position on the front row. However, on the opening lap it is Amon who takes the lead, followed by Stewart, Rindt, Rodriguez, Ickx, Brabham and Beltoise.
At the back of the group, Derek Bell went to the pits at the end of the first lap with the gearbox locked and retired. Stewart's superiority shown in practice was no longer so evident in race, and even if the Scotsman took the lead on lap 2 Amon, Rindt, Rodriguez and the others managed to stay close to him. On the next lap Amon regained the lead and Stewart realised that the Cosworth engine wasn't performing at its maximum potentiality. Shortly after, Rodriguez climbed to third place, getting rid of Rindt with few problems, and on lap four he was second. On lap five, the Mexican took the lead, with Amon, Stewart, Ickx, Rindt and Beltoise following. This is the spectacle that every B.R.M. follower has been waiting to see, and to see it happen on the very fast circuit of Francorchamps is wonderful. In a few laps Rodriguez set a new lap record, thanks to a time of 3'30"8, at an average speed of 240.787 km/h, almost equal to the old Formula 1 record, set before the introduction of the Malmedy curve.
During the fourth lap Piers Courage brought his De Tomaso back to the pits because the Cosworth engine was rapidly losing the oil pressure; the English driver wisely stopped before having an accident. In the meantime, the race settled down, with the B.R.M. dictating the pace and the March cars driven by Amon and Stewart following. Ickx was fourth, followed by Brabham, Rindt, Beltoise, Oliver, Peterson and Pescarolo. Stommelen, Siffert with a very unhappy car, Giunti with the second Ferrari, Hill and Miles closed the group. At the end of the seventh lap Oliver returned to the pits with the umpteenth broken engine, but at least he had the satisfaction of seeing his team mate still leading the race. As Rodriguez finished his eighth lap, he had a small crash coming out of the La Source hairpin and Amon managed to catch up. the two were very close and together they drove up the hill side by side.
In the meantime Brabham climbed to fourth place after overtaking Ickx, and later on he also managed to gain third place at the expense of Stewart. Seeing Brabham's fast ascent, the B.R.M. mechanics informed Rodriguez that the clever Australian was catching up, but during the ninth lap Brabham jumped over the Malmedy corner and was forced to leave his position to Stewart and Rindt, as Ickx had lost another position in the process. During the tenth lap Rodriguez seemed to be able to proceed safely in the lead of the race, as Stewart in the meantime lost ground to the Mexican. Only Amon managed to keep up, following the B.R.M. driver into second place. Shortly afterwards, when Rindt passed by the pits, his Cosworth engine made a strange noise; this was the last time we saw him pass in front of the pits, because shortly afterwards the Austrian driver went back on foot while the leader completed his 24th lap.
Meantime Pescarolo overtook Peterson and reached Beltoise, while Brabham recovered ground, after the mistake made on Malmedy bend. Once again, the BRM team mechanics warned Rodriguez, also because the Australian managed to set a new record lap in 3'29"5. Shortly afterwards, while Stewart was leaving La Source at the end of lap 14, the car suddenly slowed down, the driver quickly raised an arm and, in an instant, a thick cloud of smoke rose, while the Cosworth engine broke down in a big way. From the pits, Ken Tyrrell was forced to see the engine wreckage coasting at the foot of the hill. On the previous lap Miles had stopped in the pits in the Lotus 72, after a spin at the left-hand bend of Les Combes, and it was discovered that both rear tyres had lost almost all their pressure.
Despite the signals coming from the pits, Rodriguez continued undisturbed in the lead and did not strain his engine at all. The Mexican took the engine revs to 10.200, despite having 10.700 at his disposal. Despite this, he was always faster than his rivals and, as the fuel load diminished, he managed to set a new lap record of 3'28"9, later improving it to 3'27"9. Meantime Amon tried to push his car beyond the limit, always remaining two seconds behind the BRM and practically running at the same speed. Behind the two leading drivers, Brabham followed in third place, but now he seemed unable to challenge the leaders' higher speed, while Ickx was fourth. An unexciting position, above all because his Ferrari engine did not seem to have any problems. Followed by the two Matras, that from time-to-time exchange places.
Ignazio Giunti drove a good race but was told to stop when the black flag was shown because someone told the race director that the Ferrari was leaking oil. The Italian driver stopped in the pits at the end of the eighteenth lap, but the Ferrari mechanics found no oil leaks, so Giunti resumed the race, having lost a position to Stommelen. On the previous lap Hill had stopped in the pits with a leaking rear tyre. The British driver, having felt the bumps in the Burnenville curve, decided to stop at Malmedy to investigate. In any case, Hill had been up to now the author of a very boring race, since for a short period of the race the gearbox of his Lotus had stuck with the top gear engaged, and he was now one lap behind the race leaders.
During the 20th lap on Peterson's March an exhaust manifold pipe broke, so Crabbe called him to the pits to have it changed by the mechanics. While waiting, the Swede moves from eighth place to last, too far back to be classified as an official finisher. Jack Brabham is also suddenly flagged down after he is seen going slowly at Stavelot corner. Shortly afterwards, the Australian driver coasts into the pits with a disintegrated clutch ring. On lap 20 there are still two seconds separating Rodriguez's B.R.M. and Amon's March, with the Mexican clearly in full control. Shortly afterwards Jacky Ickx passed in front of the pits visibly slowing down, being in difficulty because of the petrol that filtered into the cockpit, due to a leakage in one of the fuel pumps. Two laps later the Belgian driver stops in the pits. While the leak is closed, Ickx puts on dry overalls and restarts. The Belgian resumes the race in last place, if we exclude Peterson who is still stopped at the box.
In the following laps Giunti tried to recover the lost ground by reaching and overtaking Stommelen, in trouble with the gearbox, gaining the fifth place, while the Matra driven by Pescarolo, who was in the fourth place, progressively lost contact with his teammate. After Ickx stopped at the pits, Beltoise regained the third place, even if he remained very far from the leaders. Shortly after, on Pescarolo's car the alternator suddenly stops charging and the battery starts to discharge, damaging the fuel pumps and the injection system. One lap from the end, the French driver is forced to return to the pits, and being convinced of not having enough fuel, he asks for his tanks to be filled. Obviously, as this was not the problem, the battery would no longer operate the starter motor. In the meantime, Amon continued to follow Rodriguez's B.R.M., but without managing to catch up with him.
To the joy of B.R.M. fans, and above all Rodriguez fans, the little Mexican accelerated down La Source hairpin bend for the last time, with Amon little more than one second away, and after finishing his last lap setting a record time of 3'27"4, he could finally celebrate the win of the Belgian Grand Prix. After a long period of domination, the Cosworth engine was finally beaten by a 12-cylinder engine. More generally, the joy for B.R.M.'s victory spread among those present at the circuit, because the British team had tried hard for so long to break the monopoly of the V8, and now the feat succeeded on the fastest circuit for Formula 1 cars, in a magnificent way.
Amon drove one of his most beautiful and intense races, but he admitted that he couldn't do anything to contrast the B.R.M. speed: the New Zealander could only hope that by keeping the pressure high on the Mexican driver, Bourne's 12-cylinder car could have broken down. But this was not the case. Beltoise finished the race at the third place, while Giunti - despite the sudden and unmotivated stop - completed his 28th lap going up to the fourth place. Stommelen managed - despite gearbox problems - to achieve an excellent fifth place, also taking advantage of the sudden stop of Henry Pescarolo, who in the meantime remained stuck in the pits, and in fact completed only twenty-seven laps. Siffert, author of an anonymous race with a car that simply didn't work well, failed to complete the final lap and was forced to stop along the circuit because of a loss of fuel pressure. The Belgian Grand Prix was a superb race, with BRM winning convincingly, not because of the failure of the other competitors. From his third-row start, Rodriguez managed to recover position after position, helped by the power and speed of his B.R.M., and his evident pleasure in racing around the fabulous Francorchamps circuit at an average speed of 150 mph, reaching almost 187 mph along the Masta straight, makes this a magical motor race, beyond the imagination of ordinary mortals. Rookie Ignazio Giunti's fourth place was a pleasant surprise. It could have been third if the race officials had not black-flagged the young Roman driver on lap 17. They said:
"The car is leaking oil".
Obediently, Giunti stopped at the Ferrari pit lane and a quick check established, to the general astonishment, that his 312 B was not leaking. Ignazio got off to a flying start, but the stop caused him to lose a position. A real shame. However, what is really important is that finally, in the world championship standings, a Ferrari driver returns, and an Italian name reappears. This hasn't happened for a long time, and it would be pointless to look for the causes, which are well known after all. Better to limit we to recording with satisfaction the brilliant debut of the newcomer in Formula 1. Freshman, of course, only in this sector at the top of the sport of driving, given that the twenty-nine-year-old Roman racer began his competitive activity in 1961 and boasts a rich palmares, especially in the field of sports and sports prototype cars. Last year, Ignazio left Alfa Romeo for Ferrari to crown the aspiration of all drivers: to drive a Formula 1 car. In recent months, at the wheel of the five-litre 512 S in the Ferrari-Porsche challenge, Giunti has offered comforting proof of his maturity. On many occasions, he was the fastest, the most concentrated driver in the Italian team; the reward for these results came in the form of his entry to the Belgian Grand Prix in the third car specially prepared for him (the other two were contractually assigned to Jacky Ickx).
At Spa, on an extremely demanding circuit (but one that the Roman knew very well for having run the 1000 Kilometre race there), he never lost contact with the group, and handled himself confidently side by side with more experienced drivers. He had the task of bringing the car to the finish, he finished with a fourth place that could have been third. All was well, therefore, there are favourable premises for the future (even if it seems that in the next Grand Prix of Holland his place should be taken by the Swiss Clay Regazzoni). In any case, now we just must hope that Giunti doesn't get excited (or too excited) about the Belgian race: the road is still long, woe to bad advisors. Baghietti knows something about this. As a side note to the Belgian Grand Prix, two more notes: it was the first time this year that two Ferraris took to the track, a number that can be considered ideal today in the World Championship trials; a 12-cylinder engine returned to success (it hadn't happened since 1968, Ickx's victory with Ferrari at Rouen, in France), while the eight-cylinder Ford-Cosworths, on a very fast track, highlighted what had already transpired in the previous races: they were at the limits of their endurance. Is their invincibility over?