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#182 1969 Canadian Grand Prix

2021-11-12 23:00

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#182 1969 Canadian Grand Prix

On Saturday, September 20, 1969, the Canadian Grand Prix will be held at Mosport Park, Ontario. A demonstration of how the World Championship is gradu

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On Saturday, September 20, 1969, the Canadian Grand Prix will be held at Mosport Park, Ontario. A demonstration of how the World Championship is gradually expanding in all areas of the globe. The recently introduced Canadian Grand Prix extends the list of North American events to three events. The race will take place in Mosport Park, near Toronto and will be the biggest in Formula 1 this year. To precede the ninth race of a World Championship that has already proclaimed the victory of the World Champion title in favor of Jackie Stewart and Matra at the end of the Italian Grand Prix, are scheduled the 500 Kilometers of Imola and the seventh round of Can-Am. Both will take place on Sunday, September 14, 1969. On the Imola circuit, the dispute of the race is not particularly lucky: a violent storm hits the Autodromo towards the middle of the race, twenty-eight laps from the end. Therefore, the race direction is forced to suspend the race, given the many accidents that occurred, fortunately without victims. However, Jackie Ickx was declared the winner in the Guf-Mirage, equipped with a three-litre Ford-Cosworth engine. At the moment of the decision of the race direction, the Belgian driver is in the lead of the competition, after having completed seventy-one laps of the course, for a total of 356,207 kilometers in 2 hours 20'10"8, at the average of 152,464 km/h.

 

Ickx was the author of a solo race when the storm started. Even before the rain, the selection was very tough: in fact, in the middle of the race only Ahrens, Dechent Koch and Elford-Herrmann could almost keep the rhythm of Ickx, with detachments still recoverable. But the Belgian, a specialist in wet racing, proves to be superior to everyone with and without the rain, and dominates the race. His main rivals, De Adamich, Ahrens and Nanni Galli, tried to resist him, but were forced to give in. Without Ickx the race would certainly have been more fought and the outcome uncertain: just think, in fact, that during the fortieth lap Ickx has rounded everyone, except Ahrens who was about a minute behind the Belgian. Once again the abilities of the young driver emerge, supported by the stability and power of his car, capable of delivering 430 horsepower; you can see the validity of the Gulf-Mirage compared to that of the other cars. Only the Porsche of Ahrens has resisted better than the other cars, along with the Alfa of Nanni Galli, even if it was Giunti to conquer the second place, aboard the Alfa 33-3, equipped with a three-lap engine. The test of the Fiat-Abarth two liters is also excellent, winning the third and fourth place, with Hezemans and Merzario, who subsequently climbed on the Dutch car. The Fiat-Abarth 3000 of Merzario kept the pace fairly well until the sixteenth lap, then she was forced to retire due to tyre problems.

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The competition was punctuated by accidents, especially when the asphalt became slippery. The most serious one happened to Koch during the 39th lap, just before the Rivazza: his Porsche 908 was completely destroyed, but the driver, as happened on Saturday at Bonomelli, managed to save himself and only got a leg cut. On the same day on Sunday, September 14, 1969, Jacky Ickx signed an exclusive partnership agreement with Scuderia Ferrari to take part in the Formula 1 World Championship and Constructors, thus leaving the Gulf-Mirage team and Brabham in Formula 1. It has long been known that there were good relations between the Maranello team and the Belgian driver, and that both were willing to return to work, as had already been done during 1968. Ickx, in the previous days, had gone to Maranello several times and had seen how Ferrari is preparing for the 1970 Championship: the single-seater, the 312 B, which should have made its debut at the Italian Grand Prix, raced in Monza, and the Sport 512 of five liters. Evidently, the young ace must have really liked the new cars produced in Maranello for the next season, and must have had confidence in the technical means that will be entrusted to him.

 

There is no doubt that Ickx is a formidable driver: Formula 2 champion in 1967, the following year he won with Ferrari the French Grand Prix, in Rouen, under the flood. Now, at twenty-four, Ickx is also the youngest driver in Formula 1. In this championship, Ickx was the only one to beat Stewart, and right on the circuit of Nurburgring, on August 3, 1969, where they count more on the skills of those behind the wheel than the performance offered by the car, which in the case of Brabham cannot compete with Stewart’s Matra or Rindt’s Lotus. Ickx is a complete driver, who easily switches from single-seaters to large Sport or Sport-Prototype cars. Last year he established himself with the Ford GT 40 in the 500 Miles of Brands Hatch, in the 1000 Kilometers of Spa and in the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen. This year he dominated the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, after an exciting duel with Hermann’s Porsche, and now in the 500 Kilometers of Imola. Ickx, the son of a well-known automobile journalist, lives in Brussels with his family. He does not smoke, does not drink alcohol and judges with severity those who give in to these temptations, but in return he is an idol of the girls and is a foodie. One of his passions - the Ferrari clan says it’s a mistake of youth - is eating raw spaghetti, claiming that:

 

"Italians ruin them by cooking them".

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Kind, cheerful, fair in the race, Jackie Ickx does not lack character. His patron this year, Jack Brabham, knows something about this, with which the friction has not been lacking this year. With the Ferrari men it will certainly go differently. Parallel to the Imola 500 Km race, as mentioned, the Bridgehampton Race Circuit hosts the seventh round of Can-Am without any surprises. In fact, the New Zealander Denny Hulme wins at the end of an exciting race, which sees the latter and his team-mate Bruce McLaren alternating at the head of the race four times. Hulme’s victory comes as a result of what happened during the fifty-eighth lap, which corresponds to the moment when John Surtees, driving a Lola-Chevrolet, is forced to retire due to a mechanical failure; until this moment, In fact, the English has been a valid antagonist for Hulme. McLaren gets the second place, followed by more than a lap behind the Swiss Jo Siffert, with his Porsche. Fourth came Lothar Motschenbacher, with the McLaren M12 Chevrolet, for the Motschenbacher Racing team, and fifth was Pedro Rodriguez. Chris Amon, with Ferrari, was forced to retire due to an engine failure during the fourth lap.

 

He finished these two races, a few days later, and exactly Thursday, September 18, 1969, at the Mosport Park circuit, during the dispute of the Canadian Grand Prix, ninth round of the World Championship, not only all the teams from Europe, but also three local drivers added by the Canadian organizers, bringing the list of registrations to twenty participants. The Mosport Park circuit is built on sandy, hilly terrain, about 50 miles from Toronto. Its twisting, curves, climbs and descents through the wooded territory, make this track interesting and quite fast. In a way, Mosport Park can be said to resemble Oulton Park, as there are numerous difficult corners for which drivers must have the courage to face them, and they cannot make mistakes. However, it should be noted that although the structures are adequate for the dispute of a World Championship test, these are limited due to financial problems, to the point that it has even been hypothesized that they could lead to the closure of the circuit. However, things have improved recently, and the circuit and organization now seem to work smoothly. With the race to be held Saturday, September 20, 1969, and that will develop for a distance of 90 laps of the circuit of 3,957 kilometers, the tests are scheduled for Thursday 18 and Friday, September 19, 1969.

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Following the example of the organizers of the US Grand Prix, Canadians also offer cash prizes up to 20th place, so anyone who is unlucky and forced to retire to the starting line will still be assured a cash prize, sufficient to cover the costs of participation. And it must be said that, even if the total sum is not as high as that offered by Watkins Glen, it is still enough to attract private support from Europe. With the World Championship already won by Stewart, the members of the Matra International team relax a bit and reduce the almost total concentration that had been addressed to the Scottish driver. But that doesn’t mean they’re not going to win in Canada. In fact, the French team registers three cars: the MS80-02 of Stewart; the MS80-01 of Beltoise, and the MS84 four-wheel drive of Servoz-Gavin, starting from the beginning, unlike what happened in Monza. In fact, during this season, Servos-Gavin drove well in the Matra Formula 2 team and was very happy to return to the Formula 1 category. After winning the World Championship in Monza, during the Italian Grand Prix, Stewart already began to market his status as champion, probably forgetting that Graham Hill is still the reigning World Champion, and will remain so until the end of the 1969 season.

 

However, Stewart’s promotional advertising is intended to help the organizers of the race; and so, thanks to pre-race propaganda support, a crowd of 40.000 people crosses the gates of Mosport Park. The Gold Leaf Team Lotus trio, consisting of two Type 49B and a Type 63 four-wheel drive, remain similar to the trio of cars used in Monza. Hill and Rindt drive two-wheel drive cars, while Miles will be in the four-wheel drive car. The normal cars are the same entered in Monza, the 49/10 for Hill and 49/6 for Rindt, while Miles will have the 63/2. Another team consisting of three cars is the Owen Racing Organisation, with the three B.R.M. available, including the P139-01 that will be driven by Surtees, the P139-02 destined for Oliver, as had also been at Monza, and the P138-01 - a replacement car for factory drivers - which is lent to Canadian dealer Lotus Bill Brack. Jack Brabham and Jacky Ickx will drive the same cars used in Monza: the Australian driver will bring the 26/4, while the young Belgian will be on board the 26/3. Piers Courage, as usual, will be driving the car of Frank Williams' team, the 26/1. McLaren and Hulme will have their usual M7C/1 and M7A/2. Scuderia Ferrari’s commitment is very bland, with only one car sent to Pedro Rodriguez, who was also registered by the North American Racing Team of Luigi Chinetti, and cared for by his mechanics. The car is the 0017, with the 1968/69 engine used in Monza, equipped with central exhaust system and sockets on the outside of the engine. The new single-seater with 12-cylinder engine is still slow to make its debut because it is still not stable, as emerged during the tests in Modena.

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The rest of the writings are private owners: among them, Jo Siffert with the Lotus Walker/Durlacher, the American driver Pete Lovely with the Lotus 49B bought earlier this year, Silvio Moser with his Brabham-Cosworth V8, and two rather dated cars, driven by Canadian drivers; a 1967 Brabham, equipped with a 2.7 litre Coventry-Climax engine, and the other is the original AAR-Eagle, also powered by Climax. The Brabham is driven by John Cordts, whose experience has been mainly in Can-Am racing, while the Eagle is driven by Al Pease, who seems to lack enough experience to keep up with high-level drivers. The first day of practice is exempted from official timekeeping, so that drivers and teams can familiarize themselves with the circuit and adjust the set-up of the cars before Friday, when the lap times for the grid positions will be recorded. The lap record for the Mosport Park circuit, 1'19"5, was set by Bruce McLaren in the last race of Can-Am, with his 7-litre McLaren Chevrolet V8. Even if nobody comes close to the limit marked by the New Zealand driver during the first practice session, according to the times collected in the pits, there is no doubt that the lighter and more manageable cars will be faster than the big and heavy cars of the Can-Am championship.

 

Jochen Rindt tested the Lotus 4wd, the second built by Lotus, which had been rebuilt after Andretti had been involved in an accident on the Nurburgring circuit. Numerous improvements were made during the reconstruction, including a re-design of the central gearbox and the front and rear control unit of the throttle power management. However, the tests of the newly rebuilt car are hindered by the surface of the circuit that in some places is covered with sand and earth, carried by strong gusts of wind, resulting quite slippery, also causing a spin by Jochen Rindt at the height of the curve present before the entrance of the pits. Fortunately, as early as the afternoon most of the sand and dirt will be removed from the circuit and unofficial lap times will begin to improve. Jochen Rindt was able to drive well below the record set by McLaren with the Can-Am car, while Beltoise, Siffert and McLaren themselves scored times just above the record. McLaren’s engine had been in the mechanics' custody all morning and, after careful work, a new engine was installed for the afternoon tests. Stewart does not get on track, as the Hewland gearbox on his Matra misses a gear. Team B.R.M. does not pose a threat to Cosworth-powered cars. Surtees is not well and is not able to drive, so he skips Friday practice, as does Ferrari, which in this case is managed by the NART team.

 

Friday, September 19, 1969 start the official practice, with the timekeepers ready and running, to detect the time scored by the drivers. It is not long before McLaren’s lap record in the Can-Am championship is easily broken. Beltoise is at ease on this circuit, shown by the fact that the French driver scores a time of 1'17"9, as well as Rindt and Stewart, who are classified in second and third place, as they later mark the time compared to the Matra driver. However, trying to keep up the pace, Beltoise exaggerates and ends up crashing into a metal fence, fortunately without suffering serious damage. In fact, the car is cleaned and prepared to participate in the afternoon practice session. In contrast to Jo Siffert, who is not as lucky and loses control over the curve before the pits, crashing into the steel barriers that line the track. It looks like Siffert stuck his foot under the brake pedal, and at that speed there’s no time to press the brake pedal again. The entire left side of the machine is severely damaged. Fortunately, the Swiss does not get injured, but with both the left suspension torn from the chassis, the mechanics will have an important repair job to do. The drivers of the Brabham team drive without any major problems, as their cars are well adapted to the nature of the circuit, and Ickx records a time of 1'18"3. Soon after, Brabham also takes to the track with the same car used by the Belgian driver, and completes a lap in 1'18"0.

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But when the afternoon practice session begins, it is Ickx who dictates the pace, scoring a time of 1'17"4, which not only annihilates the other competitors of the Grand Prix, but refutes the predictions of the professionals engaged in the championship Can-Am, according to which a simple 3-liter car would not beat beat beat a car equipped with a 7-liter engine. Nobody seems to approach the time set by Ickx: only Rindt and Stewart, who are below the limit of 1'18"0, equal the time set by Beltoise in the morning session. Stewart is hampered in his efforts for problems with the engine, so he decides to try the 4wd Matra, and soon Rindt also stops trying to match the Ickx record, and tries with the 4wd Lotus. But neither driver drives particularly fast on 4wd cars: even Miles turns out to be faster while scoring a time of 1'20"0, demonstrating the potential of Lotus 63 (In this regard, the Lotus Team seems particularly sorry that Andretti can not escape from his USAC commitments, to test the car). In addition to Stewart and Rindt, none of the other riders can express themselves in a particularly impressive performance: Hulme and McLaren accomplish the same time by turning in 1'18"5, and none of the drivers of the B.R.M. team falls below 1'20"0. Pedro Rodriguez with the Ferrari managed by the NART team does not go beyond the thirteenth time, while the Canadian drivers are damaged by having undersized cars, even if their driving suggests that they would not have gone much better with V8 engines.

 

Saturday, September 20, 1969, day of the dispute of the Canadian Grand Prix, ninth round of the World Championship, the weather is nice on the circuit and all twenty cars are ready to line up on the starting grid. Jacky Ickx will start on pole position, having been 0.5 seconds faster than anyone else in qualifying, while the next five cars are 0.1 seconds apart. During the night, the Matras of Stewart and Servoz-Gavin were equipped with engines other than those used in the tests, as was Brabham’s car. A parade of local officials parades on the circuit, followed by a ride in a selection of large American convertible cars, driven by Formula 1 drivers, before starting the operations of the now classic warm-up lap with Grand Prix cars, and align on the grid. At the end of the main straight, the first bend is right and downhill. When the flag was lowered by the mossiere, Jochen Rindt jumped to the front of the group thanks to his advantageous position outside in the front row. During the first lap, Silvio Moser - who was shooting from the last position - had difficulty avoiding one of the Canadian drivers participating in the Grand Prix and crashed into the steel barriers, causing serious damage to his car. Thus, only nineteen cars complete the opening lap, with Rindt slightly ahead of Ickx, Beltoise and Stewart. Stewart soon joined his teammate and chased after Ickx, managing to overtake the Belgian driver during the fifth lap. During the next lap, the Scottish driver also overtakes Rindt and takes the lead of the Grand Prix. During the eighth lap Jacky Ickx also overtook Jochen Rindt, and from this moment he began to fight the Scottish driver.

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The young Belgian driver tries any maneuver to overtake a Scottish driver, but the World Champion does not seem willing to give in and leave room for anyone. Lap after lap, the driver of the Brabham tries in every way to put the nose of his car in front of the Matra of the Scotsman, and in doing so they soon end up leaving the rest of the group behind. Meanwhile, Jackie Oliver retired almost unnoticed during the third lap, due to engine problems in his B.R.M., while Hulme left the scene on lap 10 due to the faulty ignition distributor, followed by the eleventh lap by Cordt due to an oil leak. Jochen Rindt fails to keep up with the two leaders, and is swallowed by a group of pursuers consisting of Beltoise, Siffert, Brabham and Courage. This quintet sees its race completely ruined when they meet Al Pease, aboard his old Eagle-Climax. Pease drives very slowly and does not move from the main trajectory. Because of this action Beltoise collides with the Eagle of the Canadian pilot, damaging the suspension of his Matra. As the quintet continues to fight, Brabham takes the opportunity to clear himself and begin to close the gap that distances him from Rindt. During the thirteenth lap Courage is forced to stop because of a fuel leak that leaks inside the cockpit, and two laps later also Surtees goes out of the scene unnoticed, due to problems with the engine of his B.R.M. After making mistakes and being extremely slow on track, at the end of the twenty-second lap the race commissioners decided to expose the black flag to Al Pease, so he is invited to leave the race. The group is gradually losing competitors, despite the race being less than a third of the full distance, while the duel between Stewart and Ickx for the first position continues unabated. On lap 33, Ickx thinks he has a chance to overtake Stewart from the inside in a left turn, because the Matra driver seems to hesitate for a fraction of a second in positioning himself in the right trajectory of the curve. 

 

But as Stewart prepares to pass local driver Bill Brack (in a B.R.M.) inside the bend, Ickx’s Brabham begins the overtaking maneuver and hits the left rear wheel of the Matra with the right rear wheel. The two cars spin at more than 200 km/h, but Ickx manages to continue, while Stewart ends up in a shallow ditch. Its engine stops and the Scotsman is unable to restart it, as the throttle connection has been slightly damaged. This unfortunate accident, caused by a slight error of assessment by both drivers, marks the end of Stewart’s race, while the young Ickx, rather embarrassed by the accident, takes the lead. Behind the Belgian guy, Jack Brabham seems to have inspired and pressed Jochen Rindt, to try to get the second place. The Austrian fights bravely, but in the end he must give in and let Brabham pass. Behind Brabham and Rindt there is not a real race, because Beltoise is to follow comfortably in fourth place, ahead of Bruce McLaren who is in fifth place, but very far from the rival. In the meantime the retirements continue: Pedro Rodriguez stops during the thirty-seventh lap due to the lack of the oil pressure of the Ferrari engine, John Miles stops at the fortieth due to the broken gearbox, as well as Jo Siffert, because of the transmission. And on lap 42, Graham Hill also stopped because of the failure of his Lotus' Cosworth engine. So, at the end of the ninety laps, Jacky Ickx wins, ahead of Jack Brabham and Jochen Rindt. Jean-Pierre Beltoise, fifth Bruce McLaren, and sixth Johnny Servoz-Gavin followed in fourth place. Pete Lovely finished ninth, while Bill Brack finished tenth. The Brabham team is very happy with the result, also thanks to the old Jack who is in great shape and made several less young drivers feel embarrassed.

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Midway through the season Matra seemed to have taken the lead in motor racing when the two French cars made their French Grand Prix debut, finishing the race in first and second place. But today Brabham has done the same thing. At the end of the race, Jacky Ickx was unhappy that he won the race at the expense of Stewart’s retirement. Not surprisingly, with great seriousness, at the end of the race the Belgian driver does not hesitate to apologize to his opponent for the rather unruly clash that Formula 1 drivers usually do not allow themselves. The Belgian took his second win of the season, winning the ninth round of the Drivers' World Championship which, however, does not change the fate of the world, already won by the Scotsman Jackie Stewart. Accident aside, Ickx imposed himself in a race that proved to be particularly selective: only eight competitors - out of twenty parties - ended the race. With his second win, after his success in the German Grand Prix, Ickx is second in the world standings with five points ahead of McLaren, fifth at Mosport, and presents his credentials to Scuderia Ferrari with whom he signed a contract a few days before the Canadian Grand Prix. The other protagonist of the competition was Jackie Stewart, former World Champion: the duel between the Belgian and the British lasted only thirty-two of the ninety laps of the race. He remained, logically, embittered by the story, but did not accuse Ickx of wrongdoing. The new World Champion knows that it happens with a certain frequency that racing cars collide in competition. The slopes are relatively narrow, high speeds, numerous machines and the rush or a miscalculation can often result in accidents.

 

It happened at the Targa Florio: Vie Elford, to overtake Nanni Galli, hit the Italian Alfa Romeo with his Porsche. Such manoeuvres are also seen in Rallies, always, if a driver tries to hinder a overtaking. Such attitudes involve heavy penalties on the part of sports judges and are undoubtedly dangerous, because it is impossible to predict the effects of a contact, given the many factors that come into play and the possibility of studying an impact from the theoretical point of view only when it is perfectly elastic. But this is certainly not the case with collisions between vehicles, given the transferability of their components. In addition to laboratory safety studies, manufacturers are carrying out numerous practical tests, since single-seaters are more exposed than other cars to the effects of a collision, from the sheets containing the driver’s cabin, to the engine, to the tanks, and to the four external wheels to the body shop. There is the possibility of a coupling between machines, or that a wheel breaks the suspension connections, or comes into contact with an aerodynamic element, for example the spoller on the side of the nose, as happened in Monza between Surtees and Hulme. An impact involving the bodywork has the advantage of an energy damping, caused by the deformation of the car, but which leads to the tearing of the sheets and can injure the driver. On the other hand, the contact between wheels means that the driver is not immediately hit, but can cause the investor to take over. As for the three-litre single-seaters and the Sport and Sport-Prototypes, it takes nothing to cause a deviation of the trajectory. In a straight, the rear wheels, with large section tires and without the rounded shoulder, are drive and have the ability to hold the side load. Any external thrust joins the traction and decreases the transverse grip, causing a spin.

 

Instead in the curve the driver sets the steering according to a certain trajectory, in which he takes advantage at the limit of the adhesion of his vehicle. The slightest variation causes a trajectory change, which can result in more spin, until the impact energy is eliminated. In these cases anything can happen and it is absolutely impossible to predict what will be the behavior of the car or cars involved. At Le Mans, in 1955, Levegh’s Mercedes crashed at 250 km/h on Macklin’s Austin, hurling it into the pits, swerved to the left and made a frightening flight exploding; in 1961, at Monza, Clark and Trips collided, and the German’s Ferrari was driven off track; Always in Monza, at the start of a Formula 3 race, the car of a gentleman got on a car remained stationary, capottando. The consequences are more or less serious depending on the speed, the angle of impact, the attitude of the vehicles, the characteristics of the track and many other factors often unrepeatable. Of course, the high speed worsens the effects of the accident. However, the speed of drivers travelling at 250 km/h or 270 km/h is high but uniform, and the relative speeds - which consider the previous vehicle as a reference point - change little. But if the car that travels at 200 km/h has some hesitation and the steering - direct or very little demoltiplicated - communicates the movement to the wheels, then the drama can break out. It is rare for this to happen on the straight, while it is frequent in the curve, in the wheel-to-wheel struggle. Moreover, in Formula 1 it occurs less frequently than in Formula 2 or Formula 3, because the drivers know each other and are real professionals. The collision between Ickx and Stewart is within the rules of the game. The important thing is that nothing happened to the two drivers. And certainly Jacky Ickx has learned an important lesson for the future.

 

Martina Morabito

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