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#143 1966 Belgian Grand Prix

2021-12-21 00:00

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#1966,

#143 1966 Belgian Grand Prix

Domenica 5 Giugno 1966 la Ferrari di John Surtees partirà in prima posizione nella 1000 Chilometri del Nurburgring, sesta prova del Campionato mondial

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On Sunday, 5 June 1966, John Surtees' Ferrari started in first position in the 1000 Kilometres of Nurburgring, the sixth round of the World Championship for Makes and the International Prototype Trophy. The new lap record set by the Englishman on the famous German circuit during Friday practice remains unbeaten in the following day's practice. Surtees lowered the limit he himself had set last year by eighteen seconds, and thus emerged as the favourite in the competition. The most formidable opponents of the Italian 330 P3 will be the Chaparral and the Porsches, considering that no seven-litre Ford prototypes will take to the track, but only the more modest GT 40s. Phil Hill, who will alternate with Swede Bonnier at the wheel of the mighty American car, set the second-best time. In the Chaparral clan, however, there were fears about the chances of victory. Hap Sharp, the car's builder, says he is concerned about the car's road holding:

 

"There are still some problems to be solved".

 

Chaparral participates in the test with the intention of perfecting the cars for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Along with the Ferrari of John Surtees (who will have Mike Parkes as his partner) and the Chaparral of Phil Hill (the first car with an automatic transmission to take part in a 1000 kilometres), the new 2.2-litre prototype Porsche of Rindt and Nino Vaccarella will aim for success. The Austrian driver lowered his time by three seconds and set the third best time during Saturday's practice. Fourth on the grid is the Ferrari Dino of Ludovico Scarfiotti and Lorenzo Bandini. At least 200.000 spectators will attend the race. The weather is splendid, the track in excellent condition. To the surprise of the engineers and the 200.000 or so spectators crowded along the most difficult road circuit in Europe, on Sunday, 5 June 1966, the American Chaparral Prototype car, driven by Phil Hill and Joaquim Bonnier, won the Nurburgring 1000 Kilometers race, valid for the International Prototype Trophy and the World Sport Championship. In fact, a new duel was expected between the 4-litre Ferrari entrusted to Surtees and Parkes and the Fords, with a certain favor of predictions for the mighty Italian car, which a fortnight ago had brilliantly asserted itself at Spa. On the other hand, the Chaparral - which is equipped with an automatic gearbox, which until this race had been judged not very rational, especially on a track like this one - behaved splendidly, even if favoured by the Ferrari 330 P3's stop after just six laps led by John Surtees.

 

A sensational performance was also provided by the 2-litre Dino cars, which placed second and third with the Scarfiotti-Bandini and Rodriguez-Ginther crews; the Italian pair came in just 42 seconds behind Hill-Bonnier, and were a constant threat to the latter. In the 2000 class, the Porsches are clearly beaten by the sprightly Italian cars, which take great revenge after the Targa Florio. As for the Fords, they were never in the top positions: the fastest of them, driven by Ligier-Schlesser, finished fifth, more than a lap behind. After the Chaparral had taken the lead on lap seven, only once did its lead appear in jeopardy: it was when on lap 37 Hill and Bonnier stopped to fit the car with tyres suitable for the wet. Unlike most racing cars, the Chaparral had bolt-on wheels, like normal touring cars: so it took more than three minutes to make the change, and the lead over the pursuing car, the Ferrari Dino of Scarfiotti and Bandini, dwindled to 55 seconds. But three laps later the Chaparral ave a lead of over a minute and a half again. Then, still in the pouring rain, Phil Hill and Bonnier slowed the pace, allowing the Scarfiotti-Bandini Dino to reduce the gap considerably. It should be noted that at the start of the race John Surtees had set a new lap record for cars in the Prototype category by running 8'37"0, at an average speed of 158.800 km/h. The overall average for the winners was 143.800 km/h, more than two kilometres lower than that achieved in 1965 by Surtees-Scarfiotti in Ferrari.

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The Chaparral's success on the German Nurburgring circuit represents an important moment for international motorsport. It means that Ferrari and Ford, protagonists in recent years of a close duel in the Prototype Trophy, are being joined by another major manufacturer, General Motors, despite not in an official capacity. The Chaparral, in fact, is produced in a small workshop in Midland, a Texan town of 60.000 inhabitants, by two oil industrialists, Jim Hall and Hap Sharp. Research, testing and experience, however, took place at the American company's Technical Center. The car is two years old, boasts a fair number of victories (last year it won the 12 Hours of Sebring) and an interesting peculiarity: the automatic transmission. This is of the Powerglide type, the same, that is, in use on General Motors Chevrolets. The driver does not have to think about shifting or clutching, there are only the accelerator and brake pedals. The application of the device on a large-capacity racing car was a remarkable innovation, which puzzled many engineers and sportsmen. Victory at the Nurburgring should put an end to any criticism. The German circuit is famous for the number of corners: 174, a real record. Many are very tight, uphill or downhill. It has been calculated that in the 1000 kilometres it is necessary to use the gearbox twelve thousand times. The manoeuvre engages the driver physically and distracts him, if only for a moment, from the course. Phil Hill and Bonnier had no such concern: it is logical that they were facilitated and could devote their attention to the track. Which, in the long run, translates into second gains. The Chaparral's engine is a Chevrolet eight-cylinder aluminium V-cylinder, 5354 cc, producing 450 horsepower at 6800 rpm.

 

The car is 4 meters long, 1.63 metres wide and 0.60 meters high; the front track measures 1.35 meters, the rear track 1.32 meters; the wheelbase is 2.28 meters. It has a weight of 600 kilos empty (125 kilos more with driver and fuel), independent-wheel suspension, four dual-circuit disc brakes, and an all-aluminium structure. The body is made of plastic. It can reach a top speed of 320 km/h. Among the refinements made to the current model (named MK III as the third in the series that began in 1964) is a drift calculated transversely to join the two rear fins. The device is mobile and can be controlled by the pilot while driving. Three different positions are provided, so that the best grip on the ground and thus perfect road holding is achieved under all circumstances. The system is not new, Mercedes had successfully tested it twelve years ago on the 300 SLR participating in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Another special feature of the Chaparral is that it has wheels secured by bolts, like a normal touring car. Finally, a few words about the driving force behind the Chaparral enterprise, Jim Hall. He is in his thirties, has three brothers, a wife - Sandy - who takes care of the administrative side of things, an engineering degree and many of the oil wells in the Midland region. Hall began his interest in racing as a hobby; today it has become the reason for his life. This year his car had not gone very well, retiring at Daytona and Sebring. There were many things to fix. He spent two months in the workshop to prepare for the 1000 kilometres of the Nurburgring and the next round at Le Mans. He can be satisfied.

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Seven days later, exactly Sunday 12 June 1966, the Belgian Grand Prix, the second round of the Formula One World Drivers' Championship, was held at Francorchamps. At Monte-Carlo, in the first race of the season, the young Scotsman Jackie Stewart, at the wheel of his B.R.M., won ahead of Lorenzo Bandini. At Francorchamps - and this appears to be the most important news - the B.R.M. and Lotus cars with 3000 cc engines would make their debut, i.e. equipped with the new 16-cylinder engine prepared by B.R.M. for its own cars and those of Colin Chapman. At Monte-Carlo it was tested for a few laps but the single-seater that tested it did not take part in the race. The outcome was not too surprising considering the characteristics of the Monaco circuit, full of tight curves and ups and downs; it was not so much the power that mattered (the 2000 cc cars develop 250-270 horsepower against the 350-360 horsepower of the 3000 cc), but the handling. The Belgian track, on the other hand, is more suitable for three-litre cars, as it allows very high speeds and averages. What counts, precisely, is the power of the engines. That's why B.R.M. decided to debut its 16-cylinder engine, which would be driven by Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill, while at Monte-Carlo it preferred to give up. The situation at Ferrari was quieter. Three single-seaters were dispatched to Belgium, two 12-cylinder and one 6-cylinder. Surtees and Bandini will probably take to the track at the wheel of the first two, which received special care in Modena after the defects shown by the model that retired in the Monte-Carlo race.

 

Also at Modena, the Cooper-Maserati cars were tuned and will be driven by Rindt, Ginther, Bonnier, Siffert and Ligier. Jack Brabham will use the Brabham V8 Repco, the same one used at Monte-Carlo, while his team-mate, Denny Hulme, will contest the Grand Prix with a Coventry-Climax 4-cylinder 2.7-litre engine. The Lotus team presented its first car with a B.R.M. H16-cylinder engine, driven by Jim Clark and Peter Arundell. Bruce McLaren brings the same car used in Monaco to Spa, but uses a Serenissima V8 engine instead of the Indianapolis Ford V8 type that is still in the design phase. Gurney has his first All-American Racers Auto Eagle, which temporarily runs a 2.7-litre Coventry-Climax four-cylinder engine until the Weslake V12 is ready. Reg Parnell's team brings the Lotus-B.R.M. 2-litre V8, which will be driven by Mike Spence, while Vic Wilson and Bob Bondurant will race the Camaco-Collect team's 2-litre V8-powered B.R.M.'s. The first practice session began on Friday, 10 June 1966. Jackie Stewart, in a 2-litre V8 B.R.M., sets the best time, but there is confidence within the Ferrari team, and it seems only a matter of time before the 3-litre V12 can take to the track and improve on the times that have been set so far. Although the fastest Grand Prix lap was 3'49"2 set by Gurney in a Brabham-Climax V8 in 1964, earlier this year Parkes set a new record with the 330P3 in 3'46"4.

 

But Stewart continued to improve his times and managed to lap in 3'42"0. In the meantime, Richie Ginther breaks the limited slip differential while preparing for practice, and the Maserati engine in Rindt's Cooper also breaks down, while the wrong final drive ratio is fitted to Clark's Lotus. Arundell completes three laps with the Lotus fitted with the B.R.M. H16 engine, before it breaks down. Bruce McLaren's McLaren suffers several problems including oil leaks, and Dan Gurney uses his Eagle with a Coventry-Climax 4-cylinder engine fitted with a Hewland gearbox to gain experience with the new chassis, but has minor problems with mechanical components. The official B.R.M. drivers have a new car with an H16 engine at their disposal, so both Stewart and Hill run test laps with this single-seater, before concentrating exclusively on the cars with the V8 engine. The timekeepers are given no indication as to which car a driver is using, so they do not know which cars with different engines set the times. Only from the pits is it known that both Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart set their fastest lap with the 2-litre B.R.M. V8 engine. Surtees tests the Ferrari V12 with Firestone and Dunlop tyres, the same car used during the Monaco Grand Prix. The latter is fitted with rear hubs and knock-off wheels like those used on the P3 sports prototype. Bandini, starting with the second test session, uses the Ferrari V12, which is fitted with the same type of hub and has the same wheels as Surtees tested, both front and rear.

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The problem that the Ferrari V12 encountered during the Monaco Grand Prix was related to the differential housing that broke, a problem caused by the fact that the twisty circuit and the greater power of the 3-litre engine forced the differential to work harder. For Jim Clark and Team Lotus, the problems continued: the new car could not be repaired and the 2-litre had problems with the gearbox. In addition, the engine first malfunctions and eventually breaks down. To make matters worse, the grease used to lubricate the components during assembly leaks out of the front hubs, and it all ends up on the brakes. For the Cooper team things are no better. The British team's mechanics have redesigned the drive shaft to try to solve the problems that emerged in Monaco, but new problems arise. Once the V12 engine was properly adjusted Surtees managed to lap faster than Stewart, and set the fastest lap in 3'40"4. During the first practice session, US driver Phil Hill drives around with a camera positioned on the front of the car, as he has the task of filming what happens on the track. The American driver is given the task of filming images by a film company, which is making a car film called Grand Prix. However, before the start of practice on Saturday, 11 June 1966, the Grand Prix Drivers' Association meets and decides that the use of the front camera must be limited to a period of time at the end of official practice.

 

Saturday's session is delayed for forty-five minutes to allow the fire brigade to extinguish the fire that has broken out on the Burnenville hillside. As soon as the circuit is cleared, Surtees takes to the track on Firestone tyres and sets a time of 3'38"0, with an average speed of 233 km/h. It is clear that no one can match the time set by the Ferrari driver: in fact, the new B.R.M.'s are a long way from being able to compete and Stewart and Graham Hill concentrate on the old 2-litre cars, while Team Lotus does not test as they have no car available. In this regard, Colin Chapman and Jim Clark fly to England to retrieve parts that might be useful for the V8 engine, as the car with the new H16 BRM engine cannot be repaired. The Cooper team seemed to be able to overcome their problems and Rindt managed to lap in 3'41"2, still remaining far from the time set by Surtees. Gurney and McLaren are unable to make any progress: both their cars suffer from excess oil spurting in the wrong places, and they cannot even come close to the lap times of the cars equipped with 1.5-litre engines. McLaren's Serenissima engine broke its bearings, putting an end to its hopes of starting the race, as Brice McLaren and his mechanics had no spare engine available. Bonnier's Cooper-Maserati V12 manages to run good times and Mike Spence also sets good times in his 2-litre Lotus-B.R.M. of the Parnell team. While practice for the Belgian Grand Prix is taking place at Spa, it is fair to say that even a driving ace can be the protagonist of an ordinary road accident, perhaps in the streets of his home town.

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This is what happened on the morning of Saturday 11 June 1966 to Nino Vaccarella, the driver from Palermo who, driving a Ferrari, won a Targa Florio, a 1000 kilometre race at the Nurburgring and many other world championship races. Vaccarella, at an intersection in the centre of Palermo, hit a telephone company van with his powerful car, knocking it over onto its side. Fortunately, he was unhurt, as was the driver of the other vehicle. The accident blocked the traffic for a long time: the Palermitani, among whom Vaccarella counts his most loyal fans, took the opportunity to ask the driver for autographs. The driver of the phone van also asked him. During the previous days of practice the sky was always sunny, but on Sunday, 12 June 1966, the sky was cloudy and a rain-soaked race was in sight. Team Lotus manages to repair Jim Clark's car, who takes to the track in the morning to check that all the components are fitted correctly, but part of the rear suspension gives way and when the car is brought back to the pits to carry out the repair, panic spreads. The mechanics try to fix it before the start, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Both official B.R.M. drivers, Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill, are forced to use the two-litre V8 engine, and Bandini decides to use the car equipped with the Ferrari V6 engine because he is not yet used to the V12's power delivery. The Italian driver, like his team-mate Surtees, rides on Dunlop wet-weather tyres, as they were both unable to try Firestone wet-weather tyres.

 

Before the start of the Grand Prix the Maserati engine mounted on Siffert's car shows signs of internal water leaks, while Bondurant's B.R.M. is painted in the same colours as the McLaren, and also bears the same number. Before the start, a parade is organised in which the drivers are given a tour of the circuit in open cars. Afterwards, the Formula 1 cars are assembled on the starting grid and two minutes before the start of the race all engines are started by the mechanics. Meanwhile, rain-laden clouds begin to appear over the hills in front of the starting grid. Jochen Rindt is in the middle of the front row, with Surtees on his left and Stewart on his right. Jim Clark, Surtees' direct competitor for the World Championship, was not sure whether he would participate until the last moment due to problems with his Lotus-Climax the previous day. Luckily, however, the Scot was able to start the Grand Prix with his Lotus equipped with the Coventry-Climax 8-cylinder engine, starting on the fourth row together with Graham Hill. The problems for Jim Clark, however, did not end there, as at the start of the Grand Prix the starter lowered the flag a few seconds early, surprising the Scot as he was overtaken by competitors starting from the next rows. The cars are still all close together when the loudspeakers announce that the rain previously reported at Stavelot has in the meantime reached Malmedy. John Surtees, meanwhile, takes the lead of the race followed by Jochen Rindt, Jack Brabham, Lorenzo Bandini and Jackie Stewart. During the first lap there is a frightening accident involving eight drivers.

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Suddenly Denny Hulme skids and ends up sideways: the drivers following the New Zealander, in order to avoid him, are forced to carry out risky manoeuvres, giving rise to a series of spins, exits from the track and crashes. The drivers who are furthest behind manage to avoid contact by passing between the cars involved. Jim Clark is among them, as the engine of his Lotus breaks down before reaching the top of the Burnenville hill. Shortly afterwards, Bonnier and Spence also lose control of their car due to the wet track, as do Jochen Rindt and Jo Siffert, who are fortunately involved without serious consequences. Jackie Stewart, Bob Bondurant and Graham Hill spin: the first two crash, while Graham Hill comes to a halt between hay bales. The one who suffers most damage is Jackie Stewart, who ends up against a protective barrier, ending his race inside a gutter with his B.R.M. completely destroyed. At this point an episode of very sporting solidarity unfolds: Graham Hill, who was also involved in the accident, but who could restart the race as his B.R.M. was not damaged in any way, seeing his young team-mate bent over in his seat, with his overalls now soaked in petrol and one leg blocked by the sheet metal of the car bent to one side, gives up and, getting out of his car, rushes to help him, extracting him from the narrow cockpit.

 

"I stayed like that for twenty-five minutes, unable to move. Bob Bondurant and Graham Hill came to my aid. The latter managed to get a spanner from a spectator's toolbox and after forcing the metal sheets they pulled me out. There was no doctor, no place for me to lie down: they put me in the back of a van and took me away. Then the ambulance arrived and took me to the first aid station, near the control tower. They laid the stretcher on the floor, among cigarette butts. Then they loaded me into another ambulance with a policeman on a motorbike who had to escort me to the hospital. Then the policeman lost the ambulance and the driver of the ambulance did not know how to get to Liège".

 

He continues:

 

"At the time they thought I had a spinal injury. Fortunately I was less serious, but they didn't know that. I realised that if this was the best that could be had there was something terribly wrong with the track, the cars, the medical aid, the fire service, the emergency personnel. The runway had grass verges that were like stepping stones, obstacles that you risked crashing into, unprotected trees, bends with no escape space and so on. But the situation was general: on many circuits there were pits not protected by guardrails, where a car could crash every lap, perhaps into the bins in which the fuel was kept. We drivers ourselves did not yet have the indispensable full-face helmets. Even the public was not always sufficiently spaced out and protected. It was ridiculous and at the same time dramatic".

 

Meanwhile, in the pits, seeing only seven of the fifteen cars pass by, there were moments of great apprehension, while conflicting news came in. Clark, Stewart, Graham Hill, Bonnier, Hulme, Siffert, Spence, Bondurant are missing. Only after several minutes does the truth become known, and later still the first details about the accident arrive, easing everyone's anxieties. The most reliable and objective testimony of the multiple accident involving Clark, Stewart, Graham Hill, Spence, Bondurant, Bonnier, Hulme and Siffert during the Belgian Grand Prix was provided by Phil Hill, who had won the Nurburgring 1000 kilometre race with Bonnier the previous Sunday. Phil Hill, an American driver with a long career (he was also World Champion, in 1961, with Ferrari) is on the track - thanks to a special authorisation - outside the race; a camera is installed on his car to portray the phases of the race. The task of driver-operator is entrusted to him by the film companies (Douglas & Lewis Productions, Joel Productions, John Frankenheimer Productions Inc., Cherokee Productions) that are making a film with a motor racing theme, Grand Prix, starring Yves Montand. Phil Hill was following the leading group when suddenly, as he exited the fast Burnenville curve, which is about five kilometres past the finish line, he saw a group of cars fan out in front of him amidst great spray.

 

"They were spraying in all directions like mad, but I didn't immediately realise what was happening. Luckily I had plenty of time to slow down, and I could see Jackie Stewart's B.R.M. crashed into a metal barrier".

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Later, after the film work was finished, Phil Hill himself would attempt to give an explanation for the frightful accident, which together with the testimonies of the other drivers can be reconstructed as follows. The start for the fifteen cars taking part in the Grand Prix had been given less than two minutes before, in pouring rain. After the Eau Rouge climb, the track bends to the right and after a short straight stretch heads into the wide fast curve known as Burnenville. In the leading group there were Rindt's Cooper-Maserati, the Ferraris of Surtees and Bandini, and Jack Brabham's Brabham, but the positions had not yet been delineated, not least because visibility was poor due to the sprayed water raised by the cars' tyres. If the consequences were not as tragic as it could have been, the event has almost something miraculous about it. The next lap Lorenzo Bandini crossed the finish line in the lead, followed by John Surtees, Jochen Rindt and Jack Brabham, with Richie Ginther and Guy Ligier following at a distance, already finding it very difficult to keep up with the pace of the leaders. During the course of the fourth lap Rindt took the lead of the race while Surtees, after being overtaken, pulled away so as not to be bothered by the water raised by the Cooper-Maserati's wheels. With the rain now soaking the whole circuit, the speed of the cars dropped considerably: Rindt lapped in about 4'30"0, while Surtees kept his distance and on lap eight overtook Ginther and Bandini, who were in third. A few laps later Guy Ligier stopped in the pits to adjust the clutch and lower the tyre pressure, while the rain continued to fall. The drivers on the track avoid overtaking each other, as the main objective of the competitors remaining in the race is to keep the car on the track and not slip.

 

Brabham is in fourth position, and every time he passes in front of the pits he seems surprised to see that his team is still there at the side of the track, signalling to him how the race is progressing. The Belgian Grand Prix in previous editions had been over thirty-six laps: in 1965 the race distance had been thirty-two laps, but in the current edition this was reduced by the organizers to twenty-eight laps. Only during the eighteenth lap did the intensity of the rain begin to lessen and Surtees finally managed to see the Cooper-Maserati ahead of him. In the meantime, Rindt began to have problems with the limited slip differential, which had not affected the car's handling in the presence of wet asphalt, but which was causing the Austrian driver not a few difficulties now that the track began to dry. Taking advantage of the situation was John Surtees, who managed to overtake the Austrian driver without much difficulty on lap 24. Having completed the entire race distance in just over two hours, John Surtees won the Belgian Grand Prix, followed at forty-two seconds by the Cooper-Maserati of Austrian Jochen Rindt, while third, one lap down, was the Ferrari 2.4 of Lorenzo Bandini. Jack Brabham and Richie Ginther occupied fourth and fifth place respectively, and scored 3 and 2 points, important for the drivers' classification. Guy Ligier, on the other hand, despite managing to finish the race in sixth place is not classified, and therefore does not win any points, because the new FIA rules stipulate that competitors must complete 90% of the total race distance to be classified as finishers; the French driver is less than one lap away. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if the rain hadn't stopped and the track hadn't dried out, but no one wanted to see the seven cars remaining on the track taking more risks than they had already taken.

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John Surtees, at the wheel of the three-litre Ferrari, won the Belgian Grand Prix, the second round of the Formula 1 World Drivers' Championship, on the very fast circuit of Francorchamps. The success of the single-seater from Maranello, although well-deserved and expected since Saturday (Surtees had lapped in the stunning time of 3'38"0 at an average of 232.844 km/h during practice) was, however, facilitated by the initial accident. The race continued with only seven cars while the rain, which had made the asphalt slippery by falling heavily even before the start, was getting thicker and thicker, hindering the drivers. John Surtees knows something about this, who for twenty-four laps tailed Rindt's Cooper-Maserati without managing to overtake it because of the splash of water and mud raised by the Italian-English car. At the end of the eighteenth lap the rain ceased to fall, while Rindt was still in the lead chased by Surtees who six laps later - when the track had partially dried out - finally managed to take the lead. There were four laps to go before the end of the race, and Surtees' Ferrari was increasingly increasing its lead over the Cooper-Maserati, which was beginning to struggle. It was unfortunate that the dramatic accident at Francorchamps, during the Belgian Grand Prix, somewhat disrupted the regularity of the highly anticipated second round of the World Drivers' Championship, although it is more than likely that none of the drivers involved would have been able to thwart the fine victory of John Surtees and his Ferrari.

 

This car now seemed to be definitively on point, and of superior efficiency against the English single-seaters, including the Cooper-Maserati, which improved from race to race (in second place with the young Austrian driver Jochen Rindt, who for many laps managed to hold off Surtees' offensive). It is evident that with all the adversaries in the race, the Ferrari team leader's affirmation would have been even more important. And to think that at the end of the race, Franco Gozzi, Enzo Ferrari's secretary, would have to sack John Surtees. Logically, the Modenese manufacturer's intention is promptly stopped. From the beginning of the season, relations between Surtees and Parkes were never good at Maranello, and in the factory - but especially in the racing department - alliances were formed. Mike Parkes, who also wants to race in Formula 1 in addition to the Prototypes, has long understood that there is no feeling between sporting director Dragoni and Surtees, and therefore takes advantage of this situation to feed the politics of suspicion. The tense situation exploded on Saturday, 21 May 1966 at Monte-Carlo when, during the practice sessions, John Surtees and Ferrari's sports director began arguing in front of the team, journalists and the public. Surtees tells Dragoni that he is an incompetent and dictator, and of course the sports director responds with adjectives like rude and treacherous.

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In spite of the tension, Surtees conquers the first row, and at the start of the race he takes the lead, remaining there for thirteen laps, until he is forced to retire due to the breakage of the differential of his 312. Back in the pits, Surtees and Dragoni quarrelled again. Dragoni accused Surtees of causing the differential breakage with deliberately brutal driving, and when he returned to Maranello he tried to convince Enzo Ferrari to get rid of his former World Champion. On Monday 23 May 1966, in the afternoon Enzo Ferrari calls a meeting to which John Surtees is also invited. The Modena manufacturer listens to the explanations of the British driver and those of the sports director, but apparently makes no decision. But then, at the end of the meeting, Enzo Ferrari orders Franco Gozzi - his secretary - to call the 26-year-old Italian-American Mario Andretti to find out if he is free and interested in driving for the Maranello team. The following day, Tuesday 24 May 1966, Enzo Ferrari calls a second meeting, this time without John Surtees present. The item on the agenda is the possible departure of the British driver. Ferrari does not express his own opinion, but is interested in that of the other men sitting around the table. Among those present, only a few are in favour (Forghieri), others are undecided, while Piero Gobbato the General Manager, is against. Analysing the situation, Franco Gozzi expresses his idea by saying that Bandini is not a number one, that Parkes on single-seaters is not as good as on Prototypes and that Andretti - whom he had heard by telephone the previous day - would have been happy to drive for Ferrari, but he cannot get rid of him before the end of the season.

 

"As things stand we can't lose a top driver, because Bandini is not number one, Parkes on open wheels is a beginner and above all Andretti, after last night's poll, replied that at least for a year he can't come".

 

Lastly Dragoni speaks, reminding those present at the meeting that Surtees, when he is present in the workshop, always looks with great interest at the 330 P3: the reference to the Lola issue is clear to everyone, Ferrari included. At the end of the meeting, Enzo Ferrari arranges to announce the dismissal at the end of the next race, the Belgian Grand Prix. To manage the situation in the best possible way - although the conflict within the team is known to all - and to make it clear that the decision was taken directly by him, Enzo Ferrari sends Franco Gozzi to Belgium. But at Spa, in a race characterised in the opening stages by a violent downpour and the victory of John Surtees, Franco Gozzi, who at the end of the race was frantically searching for a telephone to tell Ferrari the outcome of the Grand Prix and receive instructions, was stopped: his dismissal was temporarily suspended. And to think that Franco Gozzi had set off with the intention of entering the press room and announcing his dismissal.

 

"You go and at the end of the race you make the announcement. Nothing else".

 

Said Ferrari. And so, Franco Gozzi, in the company of Luciano Conti (who drove the car) and Marcello Sabbatini (editor of the Italian newspaper Autosprint) had set off on an interminable eighteen-hour journey by car, because the former did not like travelling by plane. But what is even worse, is that both of them will pester Franco Gozzi for the whole trip and the whole weekend to know something in advance. On the other hand, it is a genuine miracle if the accident did not assume the proportions of a catastrophe, and if the only one to come off badly was the unfortunate Jackie Stewart, the strong Scottish driver who, by winning the first round of the World Championship three weeks ago in Monte-Carlo, seemed to be Surtees' most formidable adversary. But in the Belgian race there was also proof of the excellent form of Lorenzo Bandini, who with his third place at the wheel of the old Ferrari with the 2.4-litre engine leapt to the top of the Monde Championship standings, with 10 points against Surtees and Stewart's 9.

 

Giulia Pea


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