Sunday, July 27, 1969 there are two important championships. On the one hand, the fifth round of the European Mountain Championship in Freiburg; on the other, the fourth race of the Canadian-American Challenge Cup V Ca-Am. Peter Schetty, at the wheel of the Ferrari 212E 12 cylinders, prevails in both heats, with a total time of 10'48"3, at the hourly average of 123.880 km/h and becomes the new champion of the mountain, succeeding the historic Mitter champion of the Porsche team. Five tests, five successes, always at the wheel of the 12-cylinder Ferrari 212E, the only car that this year has really given satisfaction to the manufacturer of Maranello.
"A fabulous car, in five races, from Montseny to Rossfeld, from Mont Ventoux to Trento Bondone and now here in Freiburg has never betrayed me".
The spider produced in Maranello moves nimbly in the narrow bends of the 11,200-kilometre course, with impressive accelerations in the short extensions, without ever an uncertainty. It doesn’t matter that there are still three races to be played at the end of the European Championship, because Schetty now has an unbridgeable advantage his opponents. However, the two-litre Fiat-Abarths support a very good test. Arturo Merzario, who is increasingly putting himself in the spotlight as a driver of safe quality, asserts himself in the Sport category until 2000, finishing second in the overall ranking. The Comasco rises in 11'28", at an average hourly of 116.680 km/h. The third place of the German Walter Lehmann and the fourth of Gigi Taramazzo mark the affirmation of the House of Turin.
In addition to the European Mountain Championship, there is also the fourth race valid for Ca-Am in Edmonton. Although the predictions easily assign the leadership of the race to one of the two McLaren, Chris Amon aboard the Ferrari 612, designed by Maranello for this type of race, initially imposes himself at the head of the race. This is quite a rare event for Can-Am, as in the three previous races the McLaren drivers had always dictated the pace of the race to the end. Amon holds his head until Hulme overtakes his McLaren on lap 14. But the New Zealander does not give up and throws himself in a furious chase of the Englishman with a gap of just eleven seconds. From the first to the last lap, the two drivers chase each other, wheel-to-wheel dueling, in an exciting game of overtaking, which sends in excitement the 140.000 spectators present at the Speedway Park in Edmonton.
With them there is also Bruce McLaren, the constructor of the homonymous team, who, however, is forced to retire due to mechanical problems, after the first thirty laps. Hulme manages to detach Amon slightly and covers the eighty laps of the circuit, equal to a total of 325 kilometers, in two hours and five minutes, at an average of 173 kilometers per hour, a remarkable average, product of the duel with Ferrari of Amon. Hulme’s victory is far from easy. To make his race difficult contributes not only the experience of the New Zealander on board his Ferrari, which is placed behind Hulme, spaced by just 4.9 seconds, but also the boredom of the transmission and escapement of the orange car of the English.
The third place of the competition goes to the young Canadian driver George Eaton, with two laps behind, who ends the race without the tyre of the right rear wheel, sending the public into a frenzy, and with a chronic overheating of the engine, which also marked the previous editions of the Ca-Am championship. This had begun to lose pressure in the second lap to burst at the end, when the cars usually proceed on 300 km/h. Fourth place went to the English John Surtees, on Chaparral 2H, ahead of the Canadian Tom Dutton on Lola T70 Mk.3 Chevrolet. Once again, a Mclaren wins the Canada-America Cup. But it is a difficult and uncertain success until the end. The race that ended in Edmonton allowed Scuderia Ferrari to look forward with great hope to the seven races that still remain to be held in Can-Am.
In fact, the House of Maranello has collected several defeats during the Formula 1 championship. So much so that Thursday, July 31, 1969 comes the news about the oath of Villar Perosa (locality of which the Agnelli family is native, who owns a summer residence in a luxurious eighteenth-century villa bought by the counts of Perosa in the nineteenth century, called the Castle) not to take part in the German Grand Prix. Scuderia Ferrari’s decision to take a break is probably also linked to the recent changes at the top of the company. Although there are rumors that the Casa di Maranello could also give up the Italian Grand Prix scheduled for September on the Monza track, it seems unlikely that the team decides not to race in front of its audience, since the new car should be ready for 7 September 1969. It seems that the car is conventional, but also suitable for the four-wheel drive.
After the acquisition by Fiat of Ferrari, in Maranello the work of the group led by Mauro Forghieri, who remained working between Maranello and Modena during the 1969 season, composed by Walter Salvarani, Antonio Maioli, Angiolino Marchetti, Sergio Panini, Franco Lugli and Gianfranco Piccagliani. Engineers, technicians and designers are engaged in the creation of a new 12-cylinder engine of 3,000 cc in flat form. In addition to the preparation of the 312 F1 with two and four wheels and a new gearbox. In particular, the study of the flat 12 cylinders comes from a curious request of a group of American investors of Franklin, arrives in Maranello with the intent to finance the research and production of small engines that could enter the wing of an aircraft. With these specifications comes a 12-cylinder engine, of which the lowered center of gravity and an inclination of the trumpets ideal for an aeronautical program.
In parallel, a design of a Formula 1 car with four-wheel drive is studied. Enzo Ferrari himself was the promoter of the research for months, and through this he wanted to impress the buyers - and therefore the top - of Fiat. Forghieri works on a project that can make the pair of front and rear wheels independent through a hydraulic joint positioned on the transmission, making sure that if the rear wheels lose grip under the load of power, the excess torque is transmitted to the front wheels. The torque will be distributed for 65/70% to the rear axle in a progressive way. Excited by the birth of this project, Ferrari pushes Forghieri to accelerate the development time, but the engineer manages to convince the Modena manufacturer not to concentrate his forces solely on this model, preferring to develop the new engine at the same time.
To counteract the Ford-Cosworth engine, which enjoys excellent features such as lightness, balance and low torque, as well as an oil circulation that avoids dispersion and rinsing, subtracting power, along with the engineer Bussi, Forghieri performs a curious test in the test room: in practice, the two engineers test the engines without the oil cup, and equipped with two masks verify the amount of oil circulating by centrifugal effect. The engine will then be equipped with only four bench pins, on which two bearings will be mounted at the ends of the shaft-motor, while the distribution axes will be backed on rollers and the connecting rods will be forged in titanium.
The use of titanium comes from a curious experiment that began in 1965, the year in which Chinetti (importer of Ferrari from the USA) sent titanium blocks to Maranello. Through this, rods are produced that will not last more than ten hours at the counter. Then, Forghieri discovers - talking to Russian aeronautical technicians, present in a hotel in Berlin - that he has used an incorrect (cylindrical) peening method. The pellets, in fact, created micro-fractures and titanium, a very sensitive metal, hit by hydrogen and oxygen in the air, became fragile. Moving on to the shot peening performed with silica pellets, over time the problem was solved.
Therefore, Sunday, August 3, 1969 Ferrari will be absent in Germany, but given the characteristics of the circuit is likely the massive participation of full-face cars, such as Matra, Lotus and McLaren. In addition, together with Formula 1 will also race the Formula 2 cars, a choice dictated by the desire to deploy on the starting line a large group of single-seaters. Friday 1st August 1969 is a day of practice for the drivers of Cesana-Sestriere, the sixth race for the European Mountain Championship, and for the German Grand Prix. In fact, the two events will be held simultaneously on Sunday, August 3, 1969.
Official mountain climbing training will take place from 9:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. Another session will be scheduled on Saturday, from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., but starting at 2:00 p.m. will be held the social race reserved for third category Turin drivers. The closing of the route will be carried out from 11:00 a.m. on Friday, at 12:00 a.m. on Saturday, and finally at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday. The race, which will begin at 11:00 a.m. and will end around 2:00 p.m., are entered over 148 drivers. Cesana and Sestriere are connected by the Bousson-Rollieres-Sauze road. Along the 10.000-kilometre route, a thousand bales of straw will be placed and the commissioners will be equipped with fire extinguishers as a precaution, with the hope of not having to use them. Each class has its own record to beat, but the most prestigious, the absolute, will be the feat that Peter Schetty and Ferrari will try to overcome. The record is by Mitter of the Porsche team, who ended the test last year in 4.54.600 at the average hourly of 127.088 km/h.
Meanwhile, the weather is great in Germany. The Eifel mountains are at their best, and when the Nürburgring is at its best, it’s a fantastic circuit. The German Grand Prix is much more than just another World Championship race, in which to earn more points. The Nürburgring is a difficult driving challenge to match. Driving a fast lap on this circuit is satisfying and challenging for the driver. The myriad of curves of all kinds, in its 22.8 kilometers, the steep descents that bring out the courage of a driver, the fast curves that enhance the skill and above all the fantastic character of the circuit, are a real challenge to anyone who thinks they can drive a race car.
The heat wave covering the mountains of the Eifel puts everyone in a good mood during the first free practice session on Friday, August 1, 1969. With the absence announced by Ferrari the drivers on the field drop to fourteen, but what is missing in quantity is compensated with quality. The Lotus Team puts Andretti at the wheel of the four-wheel-drive Lotus 63, a single-seater already driven by Miles at Silverstone, after having torn him from his commitments in American racing. Andretti is a strong supporter of the four-wheel drive and does not want to waste time with the old two-wheel drive models Lotus, with the placet of all in Lotus. After Silverstone, the gearbox and power distribution of the car underwent numerous tests and improvements for lubrication. And the brake calipers were also improved, as they had a tendency to stick after application. The rigid internal mounting on the Lotus 63 eliminates all the bending normally encountered with the external supports.
Hill and Rindt drive the 49B. For Hill the car is new construction, while for Rindt it is the same single-seater 49B already used at Silverstone. The car Hill drove at Silverstone will be delivered to Bonnier. The petrol shortage in the single-seater that occurred during the British Grand Prix was not such a simple problem to solve as it seemed and the 49B cars had undergone a complete overhaul of the pipes and pipes of the tank collection, to prevent the problem from recurring, as there was a sufficient level of gasoline in the tanks, but the pumps had not collected the last liters. For Ickx the choice falls on the latest model of the Brabham BT26-4, as an alternative to the BT26-3. The same Brabham is present with crutches on the circuit; the autralian driver plans to return to the cockpit at the Italian Grand Prix.
Stewart and Beltoise are driving the two Matra MS80 cars, and in particular the crashed Silverstone car was repaired just in time to participate in the Grand Prix. There’s a four-wheel drive, but it’s an extra, and no driver has been nominated to drive it. The McLaren team registers the car with four-wheel drive, but this does not appear on the circuit. McLaren and Hulme are content to drive the two cars they have used throughout the season, abandoning however the tray-shaped engine covers, in favor of separate wing profiles, mounted on short uprights, Like many others, they have now used that the regulations are clearer and that wing profiles should not be part of the bodywork. In fact, the limitations are in height, width and anchor points. Surtees drives the latest B.R.M., with reinforced front suspension and a new enlarged air deflector above the central exhaust system. In addition, the team made several attempts to distribute the power and torque of the lower 12-cylinder engine in the speed range. With Surtees now engaged in the development of the new car, Oliver takes over the P138-01, the B.R.M.
The remaining four entries are related to private owners, including Siffert in the Walker/Durlacher Lotus 49B, Courage in the Williams-Brabham, with the team full of confidence after the Silverstone race, Elford in the McLaren of Tiger, and Bonnier with his Lotus 49B just bought and the team of Parnell that will follow him in the race operations. To avoid losing sight, the Formula 2 race will be held at the same time as the Formula 1 race, starting from a separate starting grid. With all drivers ranked in the German Grand Prix, Formula 2 takes a very attractive perspective. And, as a result, all the possible German pilots decide to participate.
The Winkelmann team will race Herrmann and Stommelen in the Lotus cars that usually drive Hill and Rindt. The Matra leads Pescarolo and Servoz-Gavin. A complete official BMW team is in the hands of Hahne , Mitter and Quester, while for Tecno there is Cevert and for Frank Williams Attwood. The list is then completed by the presence of Ahrens , Westbury and Perrot with their private Brabhams. Apart from the BMW cars, all cars are equipped with Cosworth FVA engines.
The free practice session on Friday morning did not develop any particular negative notes, except for a few minor incidents. An exception is Andretti: after a few miles in the four-wheel drive Lotus, a camshaft breaks on the engine, so that the valves, pistons and connecting rods are irreparably damaged. Siffert, on the other hand, showed up just before the end of the morning’s practice, because someone had informed him that these would take place in the afternoon, thus failing to make a complete lap. Since the guardrail was built along the pit lane, it is no longer possible to time a lap starting from a standstill and competitors are forced to take a full lap, before timekeepers recognize it.
However, it is still possible to take a tour of the short circuit of the pits to make sure that everything works well, before leaving for a full ride. Obviously, if a driver makes a full lap and enters the pits road, instead of continuing along the short circuit of the pits, he does not record an official time. Like Andretti, Hulme also gets stuck on the circuit, when the Cosworth engine of his McLaren shuts down due to an ignition failure. As expected, Stewart set the pace with his MS80, which drops below the 8-minute bogey time, followed by Rindt 2.5 seconds slower than his Scottish rival. The pair of B.R.M. drivers struggle to get below the time of 9 minutes, so not only is it unthinkable that they reach 8 minutes, but we must assume that they will not even be competitive if compared to the competitors of Formula 2.
The Nürburgring offers spectators unlimited opportunities to see the Grand Prix at its best. It is easy to position yourself at a point where cars enter the field of view long before they are recognizable and, coming out of a fast curve or a series of curves, the knowledge of the circuit and the skill on the part of the driver can be easily grasped by the speed with which this appears. Another practice session is scheduled for Friday afternoon. Ickx, Stewart, Siffert Courage drive beautifully, while Rindt doesn’t look safe, though fast. McLaren is fluid and unflappable. Moving to a point of the circuit, where cars disappear from view, behind a blind curve to the right, being positioned high above the track, on a bank, you can look inside the cockpits and see the movements of the drivers, while the cars disappear behind the trees.
Siffert and Ickx disappear from the field of vision with maximum power, controlling the car in counter-steering, proving that they not only know exactly the way, but that they are completely masters of their cars. Stewart applies the power steering correction only when necessary as an action, rather than doing it deliberately like the first two. Instead, Rindt doesn’t seem to be having any fun, but appears somewhat reluctant to let his car slip away along the way. Among the cars of Formula 2 stands out the competitiveness of Servoz-Gavin. While the Formula 1 cars support in an excellent way the tests, beyond the Flugplatz consumes a tragedy. Porsche pilot Gerhard Mitter loses his life after a flight of 100 metres. It is an accident caused only by the break of a fundamental part of the car, considering the point at which the car went off the road and the knowledge of the circuit by Mitter. Before he got behind the wheel, Mitter said:
"Usually, you run to win. But this time I also have to be a test driver. Bmw wants me to suggest possible improvements to the car, which, moreover, I consider splendid".
The accident takes place just after the Schwedenkreuz curve (Swedish Cross), a point where according to legend an ancient Swedish knight died, despite being between the less difficult left turns of the tormented circuit, which winds in 175 curves - from Nürburg to Adenau - for 25,378 meters. Mitter leaves the track at full speed, and after making a flight of over 100 meters crashes into a meadow. The German driver is now drawn from the wreckage of the car, and turns off while being transported to the hospital in Adenau. According to one route inspector, Mitter, like the other drivers, faced the Schwedenkreuz at speed without skidding; however, he continued the steering, leaving the track.
In 1960, Mitter won the German Formula Junior Championship with a car of his own design, combined with a Lotus chassis and a DKW engine. Porsche had then hired him in 1965, immediately assigning him to uphill competitions, of which he became one of the strongest specialists. King of the mountain, he was European champion for three consecutive years in 1966, 1967 and 1968. Three years of success and climbing. His duels with Ludovico Scarflotti and Ferrari were exciting. Mitter was a generous fighter, and his dream was to climb aboard a single-seater in Formula 1. He was also used by the House of Stuttgart in the world championship races. He won many, including the last in Sicily this year: the Targa Florio, paired with Schutz, on the 908 of three liters. Last Sunday, the organizers of the race in Freiburg had urged Mitter and Porsche to run:
"No, too fast Ferrari, too fast Schetty".
Both the driver and the managers had responded. Mitter, after the race, had gone to Schetty to congratulate him, designating him the new king of the mountain. Given his skills as a mechanic and test driver, he was often entrusted with the difficult to drive machines, those to be developed with particular sensitivity. In fact, he had entered into an agreement with BMW in Formula 2. As a sign of mourning, BMW decided to withdraw its cars and not participate in the German Grand Prix. Herman also retires, out of respect for his historical friend.
During practice, Ickx, Siffert, Stewart, Rindt and McLaren all break the 8-minute barrier. The young Belgian driver of Brabham recorded an incredible 7'44"2. Bearing in mind that Ickx and Siffert have already been to the Nürburgring this season, who have a great experience of fast laps and have completed hundreds of laps in the last four years, the pattern that gradually emerges is what they expected.
Both drivers love the circuit and treat it like a friend, unlike Stewart who takes it as an opportunity to challenge his skill. Rindt instead seems to give in to the lack of enthusiasm for the difficulties that the circuit offers, preferring the simplicity of a short circuit that was able to learn. McLaren’s time of 7'59"5 is really remarkable, considering he didn’t seem to drive so fast. As expected, Servoz-Gavin is far ahead of all other Formula 2 drivers and virtually as fast as Surtees with the last B.R.M. Oliver’s practice is short-lived, as the power plant of the second B.R.M. breaks down during the session. Bonnier, however, waits for the arrival of his used Lotus 49B, and Andretti is also stopped, waiting for a new engine to arrive from England, as deliveries from Cosworth Engineering are delayed.
The third and final practice session takes place on Saturday, August 2, 1969. New spectators outside the public precincts will have confirmation of which are the drivers who will have the skills to win, who is in Germany just for fun, and who is not competitive. Ickx recorded his best time in 7'42"1, at an average of 177,900 km/h, showing that the performance of the day before was not the result of chance. Stewart takes up the challenge of the young Belgian and marks a time of 7'42"4: a remarkable parity, taking into account all the variables in a lap of 22.8 kilometers. An incredible performance that of the Belgian, who beats both Stewart’s official record of 8'05"0, that his best time. Rindt turns as best he can, but without conviction in the driving style. The Austrian driver will be forced to admit that he lost the challenge to the Nürburgring circuit.
Siffert is the author of an incredible test, but his lap time is not exceptional due to the lack of speed along the final straight. His practice stops abruptly, when the left front suspension breaks and at the end of practice he is forced to change the engine. Hulme and McLaren are both well below 8 minutes. Their drive is clean and safe across the board, and although Hulme is the fifth fastest ever, he is over ten seconds slower than Ickx and Stewart. Courage recorded an exciting 7'56"1, but was overtaken by Elford with the Antique Automobiles McLaren, whose race at the Porsche Nürburgring paid off. Hill completes the last lap under the 8-minute barrier.
Meanwhile, Lotus replaces the engine in its four-wheel drive, giving Andretti the chance to make his first real lap of the circuit. Starting from a standstill, the Italian-American driver recorded a time of 8'58"0. The next lap is 8'28"0; the next 8'15"0, until a camshaft breaks again in the newly mounted Cosworth engine. Unfortunately, we have to admit that reaching a time of 8'15"0 in the second fast lap, having never driven on this circuit before, and with a completely new car, justifies the confidence that the Lotus team instills in Mario Andretti. Forced by the needs, the British team buys a third engine and the mechanics willingly go to work to replace it, such is the enthusiasm that a driver like Andretti instills in a team.
Surtees does not record a fast lap with the new B.R.M. due to oil leaks and broken suspension, while Oliver can not do better than qualify among the cars of Formula 2. Saturday morning, finally, arrives on the circuit the Lotus 49B of Bonnier. However, entering the car, the driver notices that he is so tight in the cockpit that he can not even bend the right arm to operate the gear lever, so he is forced to change gear by stretching the left arm through the cockpit. Certainly not the best comfort for a Formula 1 driver. Despite a brief shower of rain that fell after practice, the splendid weather continues throughout the race Sunday, and a crowd of 350.000 people surround the circuit. Parking and camping areas are overflowing.
The previous challenge, held at Silverstone, at the British Grand Prix, crowned the victory of Jackie Stewart, but also highlighted other drivers, worthy opponents of the Scottish Matra team. In addition to Rindt and Amon, the young Belgian driver Jacky Ickx of Brabham-Ford makes room. As already mentioned, the Formula 1 and Formula 2 cars will race simultaneously, so that Sunday, August 3, 1969 the thirteen drivers will settle in the starting grids ready to start, With the exception of Surtees, who won’t be able to line up because of trouble at his Branham’s engine. The British driver is forced to give up a fight that would have been unequal against teams that do not have an uncontested leader, such as Chapman, Brabham or Tyrrell.
Perfect weather conditions portend a thrilling duel between Jacky Ickx and Stewart, with the rest of the drivers trying to keep up. Although, for once, the Belgian driver manages to make a good start from pole position, many other drivers are authors of a better start, in particular Stewart, Siffert, Rindt and Hulme. The young driver of Brabham is swallowed by the group of participants, while the drivers pour into the South Turn. Stewart leaps to the front of the race, followed by Siffert and Rindt who throw themselves into the chase with force, while Ickx slips into eighth position. At the Curva Nord frantic moments develop between the last drivers of the group, and shortly after the official information service indicates the withdrawal of Mario Andretti and Vic Elford.
At two thirds of the first lap, the American is the victim of an accident and Elford, who is just behind, remains involved. The four-wheel-drive Lotus and McLaren involved in the collision were destroyed, and Elford was taken to the hospital with a broken arm, while Andretti remained unharmed. At the end of the first lap, Stewart can count on a six-second lead over Siffert and Rindt, but Ickx is right behind them and quickly regains ground. Ickx arrives so quickly behind McLaren, Hill and Hulme, that they skillfully marry off his trajectory. In the middle of the second lap, Courage takes a sharp downhill turn and finds himself in a ditch with the car tilted and the tank full of petrol.
Stewart, meanwhile, makes the most of the advantage of having the clear road in front of him and retains a nine-second lead over Siffert, while Ickx overtakes Rindt and stands alongside the dark blue Lotus 49B. Stewart’s stop lap was 8'02"5 and his first fast lap was 7'50"9. But Ickx makes his third lap in 7'45"9, at an average of 176.4 km/h and bridges the gap that distances him from the Scottish driver, after passing Siffert very quickly. Stewart’s Matra is pushed over the top, but Brabham approaches undaunted, driven by Ickx’s skillful driving. In addition to the duel between these two pilots, no further battles develop for the top places. In fact, Siffert, Rindt, Hulme, Hill, McLaren and Beltoise seem almost to have to run a second category race, while Oliver is closely followed by the Formula 2 cars of Servoz-Gavin, Pescarolo and Cevert.
As Stewart made his way down the undulating final straight, Ickx stepped into the Scotsman’s wake and leaped to the side of Matra, approaching the flat left corner under the Antoniusbuche. Being poorly positioned on the inside, Ickx had to give up the pace and follow Matra in the chicane at Tiergarten; but then, passing in front of the pits, the Belgian driver was again alongside the Scotsman. Once again Ickx is on the wrong side and a brave attempt to overtake, entering the south corner, does not go well. Ickx scored a record lap of 7'44"5 at the end of the fourth lap but, as much as I try, he struggled to outsmart Stewart, who I try not to give any opportunity to his rival.
Almost unnoticed, at the end of the fourth lap Bonnier went back to the pits and retired, due to a leak to the fuel tank of his new Lotus. Throughout the fifth lap the lead battle continued, with Ickx desperately trying to overtake Stewart’s Matra, but finishing the lap almost paired and in their respective positions. All other competitors, in the order Siffert, Rindt, Hulme, Hill, McLaren and Beltoise, with Oliver in the queue in the background, remain delayed. As the two leaders climb up the straight behind the pits into the north corner, Ickx makes a desperate attempt to overtake Stewart and goes inside under braking. However, in a cloud of dust and locked wheels, Ickx crosses the corner, slips wide and Stewart regains the leadership again.
Undaunted, Ickx continued to bother the Scotsman throughout the course of the sixth lap. When both leading drivers reach the heights of the Tiergarten, Ickx is a few meters closer and then alongside the Scotsman at the pass in front of the pits. Ickx’s short lead held up to the end of the straight, before they ran towards the South Turn. This time, however, Ickx enters the corner first and takes the lead of the Grand Prix, as they pass behind the pits. With the road finally clear, Ickx takes full advantage of the potential of his Brabham and establishes another lap record, with a time of 7'43"8, which gives him a two-second advantage over Stewart. Siffert and the others are now so late that they seem to run in a different category. Meanwhile, Rindt’s engine lost power, and the Austrian driver was forced to move from fourth to eighth, behind Beltoise.
Meanwhile, Bruce McLaren overtakes Graham Hill, and the new order of drivers who follow the leading duo is now composed of Siffert, Hulme, McLaren, Hill, Beltoise, Rindt, Oliver. The latter, who seem to be racing in a secondary category, if compared to the two leading drivers, actually maintain an average of over 100 miles per hour on the Nürburgring circuit, which makes us appreciate even more the pace imposed by Ickx and Stewart to the German race. Meanwhile, in the Formula 2 standings, Servoz-Gavin exits when his engine explodes, spraying oil on the circuit. This factor benefits Pescarolo, who takes the lead, leading the race to an average of over 100 miles per hour. Having also stopped Cevert, Pescarolo is the undisputed leader of the Formula 2 standings, while behind him there is a fierce battle for second place between Attwood, Ahrens and Stommelen.
For two laps Stewart keeps eye contact with Ickx, but he can’t stay close enough to try to push him into the corners. The Scotsman only pursued his rival, waiting for his eventual mistake. This tactic goes on until the tenth lap, when the Matra starts to slow down losing almost ten seconds all in one lap. The gear shift is starting to get difficult and Stewart can’t put in the gear he wants, having to settle for the third when he should enter the second, and the fifth when he should enter the fourth. Rindt called the pits after nine laps to complain, as is usual, that his engine is running out of steam, and on lap 10 he retired, having lost practically all positions and having slipped in last, behind Oliver.
With Stewart in trouble, Ickx can relax. First though, on lap 10 the Belgian driver brings the gap between himself and his rival to 13.3 seconds. And while Oliver’s lone B.R.M. spreads oil everywhere, the pace slows down considerably. The British driver retires to the pits and Hulme also stops, because the gearbox emits clunking noises and freezes. In the meantime, Stewart decides to slow down because he can no longer do anything to recover Ickx, and has enough advantage over Siffert, so he is not forced to worry about a possible recovery of the rival. At the points where he should have been in third or fourth gear the Scotsman is forced to use the fifth gear, allowing Ickx to increase his lead to over half a minute, despite reducing his lap time by 10 seconds and more, also because of the circuit became quite oily.
At the end of the twelfth lap Beltoise brings the second Matra to the pits, because on the left front hub has seized and broken the lower hub pin. On the penultimate lap Ickx double Stommelen, Attwood and Ahrens who are still in the race for second place in the Formula 2 division, with Stommelen giving a great impression to his first Grand Prix on a single-seater. In the middle of the thirteenth lap, near the Karussel, Siffert sees his left wheel come off in front of the car because of the broken suspension, despite being replaced after the test. The car ends its run inside a ditch, but the Swiss driver remains unharmed. Siffert jumped out of the Lotus-Ford cockpit just before the car burned down.
At the end of the fourteenth lap Ickx fails to pass the leader of Formula 2, so Pescarolo is forced to complete another lap of the circuit. At the finish line first, Ickx received a formidable ovation for a masterful driving test, at a record pace, followed by the only surviving Formula 1 cars, those of Stewart, McLaren and Hill. Pescarolo finished his last solo lap and finished fifth overall, simultaneously winning the Formula 2 race. Meanwhile Stommelen, Attwood and Ahrens continue along the chicane to fight the second place. As they head for the finish line, some flames come out from under the Winkelmann Lotus and Stommelen jumps out of the car. A leak from the fuel tank allowed the gasoline to escape, depositing in the underbody, and contact with something hot led to ignition of the fuel.
With great lucidity, Stommelen drives to the finish line, where he knows that a fire brigade commander would be ready to wait for him, and in fact shortly after the flames will be quickly tamed, but this accident makes him lose the second place. At the beginning of the race there were thirteen competitors, but only four drivers will cross the finish line. Ickx is the first, ending the fourteen laps in an hour 49'55"4, at the average hourly record of 174.500 km/h, followed by Stewart at 58.5 seconds away. To classify third, more than three minutes from the winner, is the New Zealander Bruce McLaren, ahead of the former world champion Graham Hill with Lotus-Ford, at 3'58"8. The other pilots were forced to retreat.
Among the most sensational retreats are Vie Elford and Mario Andretti, driving the four-wheel drive Lotus, Piers Courage on Brabham-Ford and Jo Siffert. The four drivers went off the track, but fortunately no one suffered serious injuries, except Elford who - as mentioned - is found to have fractured his left arm and a bruise to the shoulder, remaining imprisoned in McLaren-Ford. Instead, the unlucky Rindt (ignition), Hulme (gearbox) and Beltoise (suspension) left the race due to mechanical failures. As said, the Formula 2 ranking sees the Frenchman Henri Pescarolo - aboard the Matra - winner of the race and ranked fifth overall, with 7'11"0 delay. The Lotus team had an excellent race, even if it was never in contention for the victory, and the Rolf Stommelen car caught fire in the box just after crossing the finish line. The German remained unharmed and finished eighth overall (fourth among the Formula 2 cars), after the Englishman Richard Attwood and the German Kurt Ahrens of Brabham-Ford.
To channel the attention of the public of the German Grand Prix was - of course - the victory of Jacky Ickx, who crowns the constant improvement of the Belgian driver and his Brabham Ford. Sixth in Spain, fifth in Holland, third in France and second in Great Britain, Ickx gets his best victory in Germany. In Germany two factors have been combined: the technical characteristics of Brabham, which is at ease in the slow circuits, rich in many curves, while in the fast tracks openly denounces its shortcomings, and the ability of Ickx, who gave class and ability demonstrations, despite his Brabham is not a very competitive car. The Belgian is one of the most gritty drivers on the road today; the more difficulties, the faster he runs. Not for nothing is a wet asphalt ace.
The unbeatable Stewart has finally found a valid competitor: the young driver Jackie Ickx, who had already distinguished himself at the Silverstone circuit, has snatched yet another success for the Scottish driver. It is true that the Scottish Matra-Ford did not guarantee one of its best performances and performances, but it is also true that Ickx and his Brabham-Ford were the authors of an exceptional race. The skill combined with the knowledge of Ickx’s superior circuit, which made opposition to Stewart, made him prevail over the Scotsman. The young Belgian is rightly proud of his victory, because winning a race on the Nürburgring is winning a real car race.
A success, this achieved in Germany, which allows Ickx to enter the second place in the world ranking with 22 points, behind the unreachable Stewart who leads the standings with 51 points. It is unthinkable that Stewart’s climb to the world title could be threatened: the World Championship is now his personal fiefdom. But the great moment of Ickx will create more uncertainty in the next races, of which the next in Monza, on 7 September 1969 at the Italian Grand Prix. In this context of great champions, of beaten records, of broken averages, on the terrible circuit of Nurburgring, tamed by Ickx and Stewart, it comes just to think about how wise was the decision of Ferrari to stay in Maranello. It also seems that Ickx and the Italian House have remained on very good terms. In fact, it is known that Belgian next year will leave the Brabham-Ford team and it is said that maybe it will go to Honda or Cosworth, but there are also those who ensure a return to Ferrari.
Meanwhile, on the hill of Sestriere, the weather improved after the rain on Saturday evening, and thousands of spectators, present in the meadows and on the ridges at the edge of the track, surround the route of Cesana-Sestriere where Schetty, aboard his Ferrari 212E, triumphs again. It is the sixth consecutive success in the European Mountain Championship. The Swiss broke the record of the late Mitter, who last year had scored a time of 4'54"6, at the hourly average of 127.088 km/h, with a time of 4'53"3, at an average of 127.650 km/h, 1.3 seconds less than the friend who fell in Germany.
Schetty took advantage of his car much more than he had done during training and his Ferrari assisted him wonderfully. The climb to Sestriere was exemplary. The single-seater faced the curves and hairpin bends with extreme confidence, announced far from the roar of the twelve cylinders. Never an uncertainty, never a setback, but a clever game of shifting, braking and accelerating, at 200 an hour, leaving in the audience the image of a red flash. Upon arrival, Schetty dedicated his statement to his friend Mitter, who had passed away a few days before.
In Saturday’s practice, the Ferrari driver had scored a time of 4'52"5. In the race, despite beating equally the record of the Porsche driver, the conditions of the road, remained wet because of the rain on Saturday night, did not allow him to record the same time of the tests. The driver in fact declared that the first two kilometers and the last stretch, from the bridge to the finish, were slimy, as if he were traveling on oil. But the Cesana-Sestriere could also boast the presence of other protagonists, as evidenced by the eight records improved in addition to the absolute.
The race was a festival for the Fiat-Abarths, which placed six cars of its drivers - or of its sports customers - in the top ten places of the overall ranking. Arturo Merzario at the wheel of the two-litre Fiat-Abarth, placed behind Schetty and pulverized the class record, with 20 seconds less. But the Fiat-Abarth 3000 sport certainly cannot be compared - in terms of performance - to the Ferrari 212 E, since the Abarth is equipped with a four-cylinder engine against the twelve-cylinder red spider. We will have to wait for the three-liter version, which should debut in mid-September, during the dispute of the 500 Kilometers of Imola.
Peter Schetty has therefore taken care to keep up the honor of Ferrari, which is not yet clear whether it will take part in the remaining two races of the Formula 1 World Championship, given that the Swiss driver has now achieved the conquest of the European mountain title. In any case, the 27-year-old racer from Basel is a man you can rely on in peace. It is therefore likely to play a role in the World Championship brands for Ferrari. Spectators at Cesana-Sestriere admired the style, the impetus, the determination with which the Swiss drove towards the Colle, hairpin bend after hairpin bend, bend after bend.