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#213 1972 Belgian Grand Prix

2022-02-05 23:00

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#213 1972 Belgian Grand Prix

Palermo Automobile Club, which organizes the Targa Florio, during Wednesday 17th May 1972 diffuses a note in which informs that: "Following the nation

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Palermo Automobile Club, which organizes the Targa Florio, during Wednesday 17th May 1972 diffuses a note in which informs that:

 

"Following the national firefighters strike, the official practice, scheduled for the 18th May have been postponed. The new day and hour will be precised tomorrow.”  ACI press office told that the official practice “will most likely take place on Saturday morning".

 

The firefighters strike will last until Saturday 20th May 1972, so it should not affect the execution of the Targa Florio, since the race will take place on Sunday 21st May 1972. On the streets of Palermo it will take place again on Sunday the fight between the Alfa Romeo and the Ferrari. The Targa Florio, seventh appointment of the Sportscar World Championship, it’s the last great international competition on the road. This characteristic assures to it an unique charm and prestige. This is why and because of technical reasons the Ala Romeo chose the Targa Florio, in which dominated last year with Vaccarella- Hezemans, for his comeback in the championship after the absence at the practices of Monza and Spa. Maybe this is one of the last chances for the Milanese team to beat the team from Maranello, that is dominating the championship, in which it has 120 points with six consecutive wins in Buenos Aires, Daytona, Sebring, Brands Hatch, Monza e Spa. The Alfa Romeo has lost the first four races of the World Sportscar Championship and missed the following two (Monza and Spa), considering their eight cylinders 33 TT 3 too inferior than Maranello’s 312 P12 cylinders. Inferior of development and chassis, and most of all power, this has convinced the Alfa’s technicians to not compete on very fast tracks. The Targa Florio is another story.

 

"The ones that have crossed the roads of my Sicily on a car, can go everywhere with their cars".

 

Said Vincenzo Florio, the Palermitan nobleman whose organized the first edition of the race in 1906 (and won the Alessandro Cagno Itala at the thrilling average speed of 46 km/h). Bumpy roads, filled with curves and up and downs. Today the 72 kilometers of the Targa number 56 circuit are asphalted, but are not as smooth as the autodrome tracks: holes, patches, cracks shake the sophisticated sportscars, which are indeed single-seaters covered by a chassis. No need to say that the result of this race is more important for the Milanese House than for Ferrari. Maranello team has already proved the power of its team, men, cars, organization, winning six out of six races of the Sportscar World Championship. It has come to the Targa reluctantly, because last year they renounced to it and, so, they lack on technical references to exactly assess the possibility of the 312 P on the road, and because Enzo Ferrari considers the race dangerous for cars and drivers. A reduced participation, so, with just a red car and an original crew, Arturo Merzario (who know the track just a little) and Sandro Munari (who is driving the three liters for the first time). The Alfa Romeo, instead, is looking for the comeback with a strong team of fours 33 TT 3 and men whose at the Targa have always been great, from Nino Vaccarella to Vie Elford, from Nanni Galli to Andrea de Adamich. The proportion of energies is clearly in favor of the Milanese House: four to one. The number could impose the result of the race, because in won’t take anything, a puncture, a broken rim, to be late. So at this point is clear that if Alfa Romeo will lose, it will be a burning whammy, while if Ferrari will surrender, the defeat will have a lot of excuses. Carlo Chiti, head of Alfa Romeo, says:

 

"The cars are essentially the Brands Hatch ones. The power is 435-440 horsepower more or less, the weight is 665/670 kilos. Ours eight cylinders enter in couple at 4500 rpm, and so we didn’t have to do changes. This evening we will put new engines on the four 33 TT 3, which the drivers will have to use during practices and the race. There is not enough time to change them all in the night between Saturday and Sunday. My boys must be careful, but I already know that somebody, like Vaccarella, won’t resist the desire of the lap time record".

 

While Giacomo Caliri, Ferrari technical director, here exceptionally on the side of Cesare Florio, who is Lancia sport director and knows well the men and feelings of the Targa Florio, says:

 

"We would need a tank on these roads. There are at least ten deadly kilometers. Otherwise, the development mule worked really well and this reassured us. We will use intermediate tires. Because they resist better to punctures. We changed the engine’s throwing speed by lowering it from 6600 to 5500 rpm, which allowed us to gain power to mid-range speeds".

 

They even spoke about the future of the Targa on a conference done by the lawyer Nino Sansone, president of the Palermitan Automobile Club. The International Sport Commission has given to the organizers two options for next year: or the Targa Florio is done on another circuit, a proper track, or on the same streets but it will lose the international validity and it will be a test for the Gran Turismo European Championship. Sansone asked to the CSI a two-year moratorium:

 

"We keep doing like this for 1973 and 1974, and in 1975 we will do the Targa in a 9 kilometers circuit. The Mezzogiorno fund has already forecasted appropriations for those facilities".

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So, if everything will go as planned, the Targa Florio will be transformed in three years; if the CSI will say no, this will be the last year of the historic competition. Even though there is nothing official yet, it looks like that the organizers will admit to the race all the 88 enrolled (the maximum number was 80) without valuing quali times. It is believed, in any case, that five or six cars will not participate for breakings or other reasons. The sport technician verifications, according to the Targa Florio traditions are very strict, an authentic identikit of the drivers and cars that will join the competition, to see if everything is in order. The checks of the cars and drivers is logically followed with maximum interest regarding the Ferrari 312 P and Alfa 33 TTs. Ferrari bet on Arturo Merzario and Sandro Munari which, while waiting for the official sessions, take turns in the circuit with the mule. In general they both seem to be satisfied and are smiley. By the way nobody does predictions, not even Nino Vaccarella whose will be paired with Rolf Stommelen in the Alfa. Vaccarella, the favored to win the Targa Florio (his home race, because the driver is from the Madonie), does not go too far, let alone he does it before the race. Stommelen is enthusiast instead:

 

"The car is wonderful and with Nino Vaccarella everything is simpler".

 

In the afternoon of Friday 19th May 1972 a lot of drivers also drive near the road circuit where there is an accident, fortunately without victims. Marotta’s 1600 Alfa Romeo collides with a frozen food truck after the Bonfornello straight: the vehicles got almost totally destroyed, but the drivers got unharmed. During the day of Friday 19th May 1972 the long wait for the practices of the fifty-sixth Targa Florio that will take place on Sunday keep going through the drivers, mechanics and sportsmen. Set on Thursday, the practices have been postponed because of the firefighter strike and without their assistance the police commissioner, Dr Li Donni, didn’t give the permission to proceed. With the end of the firefighter strike, the practices will take place on Saturday morning, on the eve of the most ancient race of the world that eve this year will see in the first line some of the most driving champions. The matter of the practices done in extremis is obviously an issue involves a few big problems. It is expected, for starters, that the night between Saturday and Sunday will be spend awake for some like Sandro Munari, and mostly for the mechanics who will have to take off the engines used during the eve of the race and build the new ones on the car that will take part to the race. This thing worries Ferrari’s engineer Caliri, who is teaming up with Lancia’s Cesare Fiorio, who has been temporarily let go to Maranello.

 

"Fiorio is with us also to let Peter Schetty rest".

 

During the qualifying session on Saturday morning the young Alfa Rome’s engineer Morelli anxiously scan the chronometer.

 

"See, if Merzario doesn’t arrive straight away, Elford can keep the fastest lap".

 

The sentence stops in the engineer throat: announced by the mighty rumble of his 12 cylinders, the 312 P of the Comasco driver flash on the Cerda finish line while finishing the fourth and last hour of the Targa Florio practices. His time is 33’59’’7, at the average speed of 127.077 km/h. Elford, the best one of the Milanese team, does a lap time of 34’06’’2 with his 10 cylinders 33 TT 3. So the Ferrari is still at the top and even though at the Alfa Romeo they said they didn’t engage the mood in the team clearly got worse.

 

"We are four against one, we should be able to succeed this time".

 

Said the Alfa Romeo drivers. Eleven laps of the Targa Florio mean 791 kilometers in the harsh and wild mountains. The only straight, in Buonfornello, at the sea level, is five kilometers long; in this tight piece of road they get almost to 301 km/h. Road holding, manageability, fatigue resistance are a must to get to the success, almost like lucky because the unexpected can be numerous, first of all the punctures. Exactly a puncture affects Ferrari in the next few practices laps on track, always with Merzario driving, who got unlucky two times. Particularly the second one almost got the 312 P to the end. Arturo Merzario said:

 

"The front right tire slowly deflated and I didn’t see it. Then, after Cerda, I pressed the brake more forcefully and the press of the front end determined the blow up of the tire. The car went right and left, until I flew on a grass, landing on four wheels".

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About thirty spectators went straight to rescue the Comasco driver and put the Maranello’s racing car back on track, picking it up. The intervention of a helicopter with Ferrari mechanics on board was unnecessary. So Merzario is able to go back to the box, where his 312 P is carefully checked.  Nothing is broken and Munari replace his teammate for an inspection lap.

 

"See how it goes, be sure you don’t push". 

 

Said Giacomo Caliri and Cesare Fiorio in chorus. Sandro Munari in these conditions does a lap time of 34’30’’5, that is the third time of the day, amazed then by the compliments and the praise,

 

"I didn’t do anything special, we can improve a lot".

 

Not bd for a driver that did just 1000 kilometers in the Ferrari 3 liters and about ten laps on Targa Florio track. Cesare Fiorio looks at his driver with admiration and whisper to a friend:

 

"Can you believe that before the practices an Alfa messenger came begging me to catechize Munari: to give space, seeing in the rear mirrors the nose of a 33 TT 3, because otherwise...".

 

A similar scene seemed to be happened, but on the contrary, the protagonists are the wild Arturo Merzario and Nanni Galli. At the end of his fastest lap the Comasco, in fact, went off his car angry and shouts to a group of Alfa mechanics saying:

 

"Tell Nanni to be more careful".

 

Explaining right after to Caliri:

 

"He didn’t give me space for a long way, even though he knew I was behind him".

   

Galli justified himself saying:

 

"We were at the entrance of Campofelice, at a point where the overtake isn’t even permitted. Arturo had probably lost three or four seconds. I don’t understand why he complains so much".

 

The rivalry between Ferrari and Alfa resurfaces in the Sicilian sweet mood. Both Chiti and Caliri affirm to be great. Without any doubt the tension will be dissolved on Sunday morning. Merzario- Munari versus Vaccarella- Stommelen, de Adamich- Hezemans, Elford- Van Lennep and Galli- Marko. One versus four: the power of the number on performance. However, Ferrari is still winning the race on Sunday 21st May 1972. Arturo Merzario and Sandro Munari, with the 312 P, won the Targa Florio and give the World Sportscar Championship to the team from Maranello. It’s the seventh consecutive success for Ferrari, the second for Merzario and the first one for Munari. Maybe it’s the most meaningful and suffered affirmation, because the most antique race of the world it’s not done on smooth circuits, but on wild Madonie streets, between an enthusiastic and generous audience whose don’t have any limit on caution. Targa Florio gives to the team from Maranello the World Sportscar Championship four races before its end. Ferrari follows Porsche in the title and most of all on the technic and organizational domain that marked the House of Stuttgart. The gear roller of the team is formidable: seven out of seven successes, and five one-two with eight drivers: Ickx, Andretti, Regazzoni, Peterson, Schenken, Redman and the Italians Merzario e Munari, all of them winners at least one time. A supremacy of technical and human means, a car, the fabulous 312 P with a 12 cylinders engine, that made Alfa Romeo and the English Lola and Gulf- Mirage reconsider their aspirations.

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This supremacy has seen its best expression, the magic moment in the Targa Florio, that legitimizes the three liters built in Maranello as a proper car, even though it was built for tracks. The lonely red car sent from Maranello to Sicily destroy the Alfa Romeo team, composed by four 33 TT 3, expert crews, a meticulous preparation and animated by an angry want of revenge. The DNFs of Elford- Van Lennep and Vaccarella- Stommelen for the break of their engines in the first few laps help Ferrari, while de Adamich- Hezemans after a spin and a little touch to the wall just look after to finishing the race at the third place. Galli and Marko, instead, try everything to contrast the action of Merzario and Munari, so much that they finish the race in second place just a few meters distance. It’s a quite big distance, that gives an idea of how much uncertain the fight was between the 312 P and the 33 TT 3 of the Italian- Austrian couple. However, it’s quite logic that out of four cars there is one behaving a little well between the others, while Ferrari it’s just one. In the analysis of the eleven laps of the Targa Florio, Merzario and Munari led the race for nine laps, Galli and Marko for two. Ferrari risked losing the Targa Florio for two long stops at the box, Alfa Romeo probably lose it for a spin of Galli during the eighth lap. First episode: Arturo Merzario stops after three laps and the mechanics change the rear tires; but when the 312 P, driven by Munari, is about to restart the mechanics see that the front tires need to be changed as well. Merzario’s advantage vanish. Second episode: Arturo Merzario gives the position to Munari at turn seven; the right rear tire doesn’t want to get screwed, more seconds consuming.

 

Third episode: Nanni Galli is leading thanks to the present from Ferrari, but loses more than a minute to turn on the engine and restart. It’s a quite big distance, that gives an idea of how much uncertain the fight was between the 312 P and the 33 TT 3 of the Italian- Austrian couple. However, it’s quite logic that out of four cars there is one behaving a little well between the others, while Ferrari it’s just one. In the analysis of the eleven laps of the Targa Florio, Merzario and Munari led the race for nine laps, Galli and Marko for two. Ferrari risked losing the Targa Florio for two long stops at the box, Alfa Romeo probably lose it for a spin of Galli during the eighth lap. First episode: Arturo Merzario stops after three laps and the mechanics change the rear tires; but when the 312 P, driven by Munari, is about to restart the mechanics see that the front tires need to be changed as well. Merzario’s advantage vanish. Second episode: Arturo Merzario gives the position to Munari at turn seven; the right rear tire doesn’t want to get screwed, more seconds consuming. Third episode: Nanni Galli is leading thanks to the present from Ferrari, but loses more than a minute to turn on the engine and restart. The last two laps are full of suspense, with the incredible Helmut Marko, wildly following Arturo Merzario. The Austrian driver, who has never driven here, takes a minute and a half to the Italian driver, who is proceeding with wise assessment, saving the 312 P, its front tires are at the limit of reliability.

 

Marko does the two fastest laps of the race (33'44"5 and 33'41"0), but Merzario can administrate his advantage thanks to the reports coming to him from four posts radio connected cunningly arranged by Cesare Fiorio. Arturo Merzario and Sandro Munari, two Italians in Ferrari. It didn’t happen in a long time and it’s the first time that the 312 P is entrusted to a fully Italian crew; all this is the outcoming of an experiment defined risky from many. Not risky, but uncertain probably yes, because the Comasco knew a little the Targa Florio route and the Veneto was driving the Maranello Sport for the first time, after a limited preparation of 1000 kilometers on Fiorano track and ten laps on the Madonie streets. For Merzario this win has a particular taste. The Comasco driver went from Abarth to Ferrari in 1970. Nevertheless, during these years he has driven more for Abarth, but he was lent to it from Maranello, than for Scuderia Ferrari. Merzario did a lot of apprenticeship, and drove the 312 P just because Mario Andretti renounced to almost all the European International Championship tests. The two of them (it’s the first time since 1965 that there is an all-Italian crew) have wheals on their hands because of the long use of the gear. Arturo Merzario also didn’t feel well and was helped by a doctor of the hospital build behind the box. The hot weather, the commitment of control the 450 horsepower of the 312 P and the non-happy compromise did by the two for the driver seat (Sandro is a lot taller than Arturo, so different regulations of the pedal board, the wheel and seats are needed) made their race extremely difficult. Merzario said:

 

"I finished the race exhausted, I’ve never felt so bad. The hot, the anxiety of the last two laps, the commitment to not make mistakes with those tires that undo themselves kilometers after kilometers, the very uncomfortable driving position reduced me as a rag. In addition, I’m a nondrinker and when I went up on the grandstand I got covered in champagne. I really got out of form. But it’s all behind now. This was a good occasion the demonstrate that I’m worthy, that I’m not a light one. I drove that 312 P with the attention of a watchmaker puts on a chronometer. My kidneys are destroyed and I cannot feel my hands even though I got them patched up and bandaged. But what a joy. I’m happier for this success over the one I got fifteen days ago at the Spa 1000 kilometers. In the last two laps I didn’t feel comfortable with the tires so I just limited Marko’s comeback".

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It's a great season for Sandro Munari, who is thirty-three, from Cavarzere, a great Venetian guy who has the wisdom of his people. A rally champion, in January he won the Monte Carlo one, it’s a loan given from Lancia, for which he races since 1966, to Ferrari, in the shadow of the great fiat Group. He pulled over a modest approach to 312 P, knowing that driving a front-wheel drive Fulvia with 160 horsepower and another thing it’s the Modenese three liters with 450 horsepower in the back, and he build his victory day after day. He wasn0t the fastest one but he could keep his position in an admirable way, doing one of his four laps in 34’47’’0, a better time than for example Nanni Galli or Andrea De Adamich. Sandro Munari says:

 

"Now they know at the Targa as well who is the Dragon from Cavarzere. At home they will be happy. At the beginning of the race I was very nervous, but then I relaxed and I didn’t have particular problems. The faith of the engineer Ferrari helped me. Noe, I’d like to continue. On Sunday there will be the 1000 kilometers of Nürburgring but I already know that I’ll stay in Italy. Never mind, I’ll wait for another occasion. Winning the Targa with Ferrari still seems like a dream".

 

Munari keeps going satisfied telling a detailed episode of the race:

 

"I think that today I’ve demonstrated that I can behave well at the wheel of the 312 P. the practices helped me and I could drive in fluency. Of course, an hour of Targa equal to six hours of the Monte Carlo Rally. I just had a moment of fear: near the Bivio of Scillato, a Fulvia, really a Fulvia, closed my trajectory in a turn. I touched it with the front and put myself crosswise. Now I hit, hit, I screamed, and then I straighten the car a thread from the wall and after everything went well".

 

Engineer Caliri at the end of the race says:

 

"It’s a great affirmation for Ferrari. Our cars have been projected for circuits and for one hundred kilometers races, and they did well at the Targa test. It means that the 312 P is strong, that it can adapt to every street and every type of task. I have to thank Cesare Fiorio, whose experience in this race, that I, as a Sicilian from Catania, have never seen, has been decisive. I don’t know how it would have ended without the radio connection and the sings given to Merzario at the end".

 

Precisely Cesare Fiorio then said:

 

"Munari and I took off a great satisfaction winning the Rally in Monte Carlo in January. Now, you know this win at Targa. I’m most of all happy for Sandro. Of course, that Marko have certainly been amazing".

      

Carlo Chiti, head of Alfa Romeo, seems satisfied:

 

"This was our best race. We have fought with Ferrari for the first place and Marko have been the fastest. It was an equal fight, and this is a step forward for the 33 TT 3. But, it makes me angry to know that we lost for a spin. I want to precise that the Elford engine collapsed because of a big impact of the rear and of the cup of the oil on a bump in the roadway".

 

It’s raining again in the circuit of Nürburgring on Saturday 27th May 1972. In the second day of practices for the 1000 kilometers, eighth act of the World Sportscar Championship, nobody does relevant times. It doesn’t rain just for a few minutes, favoring those drivers who race under the warm sun. Like for Peterson (Ferrari), who set the fastest time at over 172 of average speed, or for Bell with the Gulf-Mirage and the two Alfa Romeo of Stommelen and De Adamich, that set little superior performances. The other 312 P Ferraris of Merzario- Redman and Ickx- Regazzoni are respectively in third and fourth row in the starting grid, because they were even slower than the Porsche 908 of Jöst- Casoni and of the B221 Chevron 2 liters of Hine- Bridges. The two cars from Maranello can’t’ be more to the front because they were at the box when the track was dry because they have to change the brake discs (in Merzario’s) and the candles (in Ickx’s).  Rergardless the starting position, the Ferraris remain the favorited in this race. The threat could be the Alfa Romeo, that have always been good on this track and, in this occasion, from the improved Gulf- Mirage. At 11:00 a.m. of Sunday 28th May 1972 the sixty-eight cars will start the race, they’ll have to do forty-four laps of the circuit. The starting grid sees in first row two Alfa Romeo 33TT3: Stommelen- Helford and Adamich- Marko. The third row is occupied by the Porsche 908 of Jöst-Casoni and by Ferrari 312 P of Redman-Merzario. The other Ferrari of Ickx-Regazzoni is in fourth row just behind the Chevron B 21 of Hine. Bridges. At the start of the race Ferrari is initially struggling, while the Gulf Mirage does a great start. In particular the Gulf Mirage of Bell-Van Lennep, which we can consider one of the main characters of this 1000 kilometers characterized by a rigid temperature and a light rain. Bell and Van Lennep started with intermediate tires, while Ferrari prefers- as a precaution- put the less sliding cover for rain. Thanks to this the Gulf- Mirage can attack the triumphal march of the Ferrari. Just before the half of the race, thanks to a long stop of Peterson, Bell overtook him and led the race.

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At this point the Gulf- Mirage have to change tires as well so Peterson with Ferrari can go back leading the race. The Ferrari give to Ickx- Regazzoni it’s not lucky: the car, in fact, had to retire after a third of the race because the Ticino driver went out of the road, going wide in an insidious turn. Regazzoni is not injured but in the impact with the guardrail the car is seriously damaged, enough to not continue the race. Bell and Van Lennep are in second place in front of the late Merzario, with his no more efficient gear. Two laps before the end of the race Bell had to retire because his engine broke, giving to Merzario the chance to finish in second place before the couple Adamich- Marko. The other Alfa Romeo, the one of Elford- Stommelen finished at the eleventh place because of a spin did during the first laps by the English. The car can restart the race but remarkably lingered (three laps), so much that the technician if Alfa - to gain some space from the competitors- decided to put on slick tires for the last laps of the race, mostly because the track is no more completely wet. Stommelen with these tires has the satisfaction to do the fastest lap of the day: 6'42"2. The final standing sees Peterson and Schenken in first place. The two ended the race in 6 hours 1'40"2, at an average speed of 160,683 km/h. In second place the Ferrari of Redman- Merzario far 4'29"7. Then De Adamich- Marko one lap distant; Bell- Van Lennep in fourth place, two laps distant: fifth Hine- Bridges (Chevron B21) three laps distant; and sixth Bonnier- Larrousse (Lola T290) five laps distant. The Sportscar World Championship after eight races sees the Ferrari first with 160 points. The first following is Alfa Romeo with 76 points. Third the Porsche with 47 points; the Lola at 45; and then fifth the Chevron, with 34 points. Aided by the fact of the recent win of the championship, the Scuderia Ferrari will not participate at the 24 Hours of Le Mans that will take place on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11th June 1972. They announced it with a press release from Maranello.

 

"This decision is motivated solely by the impossibility to include the French race in the Ferrari 312 P technic-agonistic program, having as a goal a Sportscar World Championship set out on 1000 kilometers distance or six hours. Ferrari express its regret to sportsmen and organizers of Le Mans for the forced waiver".

 

Enzo Ferrari expressed more than once his negative opinion against the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s a long a dangerous race, that seems to be beyond the time but however it still is fascinating and has a particular recall. The eight consecutive successes and the conquer of the Sportscar World Championship permitting to the Maranello team to say no to the French organizers, not very polite against Scuderia Ferrari in the past. Is looks like a logic decision but the sportsmen will fight it back. The Targa Florio wasn’t an appropriate test for the 312 P as well. And yet, the theory has been defeated by reality. Losing at Le Mans wouldn’t have been serious, since that everyone knows the setting given to the car, while winning would have meant achieve an exceptional season. We can say about Ferrari what we also said about Alfa Romeo in occasion of the waiver of Monza: who doesn’t attend is always defeated.  After the two tests of the Sport World Champion prototype is time to begin preparing for the Belgian Grand Prix. The Formula 1 teams go to the paddock of Nivelles circuit to get ready already on Thursday 1st June 1972, the race will take place on Sunday 4th June 1972.

 

The Belgian Grand Prix will take place oat the new Nivelles- Baulers Autodrome, right on the south of Bruxelles in the industrial area neat Charleroi, on a distance of eighty-five laps. In exception of two drivers that have been to Nivelles- Baulers during the tire tests, the majority of the drivers have to learn the characteristics of the track. The long straight over the box is slightly going up, and finish with a rapid turn to the right which takes to a short straight before a long right ring composed by two curves, which takes to a tight curve to the left and to a straight ending on a curve similar to a chicane. Then there’s short straight which is in an inferior level to the paddock, which enters in a fast right downhill, then in the end they have to brake on the extremely slow turn that takes you back on the main straight. The average speed on this 3.724-kilometer-long circuit is almost 185 km/h, with a maximum speed a little superior to 250 km/h. The free practices will take place on Friday 2nd June 1972 and Saturday 3rd June 1972 during the afternoon, but already on the 1st June 1972 most of the teams take their materials in the paddock, and somebody do some non-official practices sessions, in which the Tecno 12 flat cylinders, that Galli can drive pretty well. It’s absent from the scene the current champion Jackie Stewart, that doesn’t feel well because of a light health problem. Ken Tyrrell, for this reason, says:

 

"I’m really sorry for Jack not to be here, but I don’t think that this absence will affect his reconquer of the title. There are still a lot of races to do and exactly the balance of the strength that we register in the championship could be in his favor. Jackie didn’t feel right for a long time. He decided to do some tests in a Swiss Clinique and the doctors found an ulcer. He won’t need a surgery, but a strict diet and, most of all, a calm period. The experts recommended to Jackie to not do physical efforts, like driving in a Grand Prix, and invited him to stay in bed".

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In a new autodrome thirty kilometers distant to Bruxelles there are the protagonists of the great circus of Formula 1. All of them except for one, which is Jackie Stewart, who won’t participate to the Belgian Grand Prix because of an ulcer. The doctors imposed to him a month of rest so the Scottish can go back to his Tyrrell on 2nd July 1972, in Clermont- Ferrand, for the French Grand Prix. It’s an absence that favors Stewart’s rivals, first of all Emerson Fittipaldi with Lotus and Jacky Ickx with Ferrari. It’s impossible to do predictions on the behavior of the roaring three liters with eight or twelve cylinders on this track of Nivelles. There are no references, given that this is the first time that the Belgian autodrome hosts the Formula 1 cars. However we can consider the track to be a medium-fast type: Ickx, with the 312-B2, in a series of practices done to test the tires, he did the 3724 meters of the track in 1’12’’6, at an average speed of 184.660 km/h. it’s not a very high mean. Clay Regazzoni, the reserve driver in absence of Mario Andretti (busy in the USA), compare the Nivelles at the French circuit of Paul Richard. The Swiss thinks that Nivelles is better, because it offers some ups and it’s not monotonous like the transalpine one,

 

"There are like tine shifts per lap and the get to the top speed, 285 km/h more or less, in the box straight".

 

There are a lot here in Belgium that swear on a Ferrari victory on Sunday. Actually, the 312 B2 had demonstrated to be on a growing up phase. In Spain and Monaco, Ickx and Regazzoni were able to put themselves in the first positions and the Belgian couldn’t collect two successes because of the wrong tires’ choice In Madrid and for Beltoise’s fabulous start, with the B.R.M. in the principality, a start that affects the whole race, did under the rain. If there won’t be another flood, it’s easy to think that Ickx and Regazzoni will be the protagonists of the competition with Fittipaldi. Lotus and Ferrari seem to be in the same yield escalation as they were in 1971, but in a negative way. The 71 and the 312 B have technically improved (both have changed the suspensions), the second one has now a more accurate set up, which is done in the garage and not on track. And the benefits have been instant. For two models on the way of success, and another one about to debut. It is the Tecno, that Nanni Galli hopes to bring onset after many pushed back. We don’t have to expect a loot by this car wanted by the Pederzani brothers with the support of Martini and Rossi.

 

To have finally put the tires on the asphalt of a track already means something positive. The job will be long, it will hopefully also be profitable. The car is still not completely okay so it will be necessary to work on it for a while. The time needed. The car looks well, even though the cooling system tubes, out of the body of the car, are not very elegant. Pederzani brothers say that the 12 cylinders boxer engine done by them delivers 465 horsepower at 11.800 rpm: a great level of power. The weight, however, is pretty elevate: 575 kilos more or less. But the mechanics swear that it will decrease very soon, because they will use new and lighter alloys. It is clear that the Tecno, which started with a lot of ambitions, is still far from that level of competitivity reached by Lotus, Ferrari, McLaren and B.R.M. Stewart’s absence will favor his rivals for sure, first of all Emerson Fittipaldi with the Lotus and Jackie Ickx with Ferrari. Lotus and Ferrari this year seem to be united by in the yield escalation like they were during the season of 1972, but in a negative way. The 72 and the 312 B have technically improved (both have changed the suspensions), the second one has now a more accurate set up, which is done in the garage and not on track. And the benefits have been instant. Jackie Ickx, that in the championship standings has 16 points, against Emerson Fittipaldi’s 19, Denny Hulme’s 15 and Jackie Stewart’s 12, says about the injury of the Scottish driver:

 

"Who is winning, will take 9 points: ana gaining nine points without the Scottish gaining one is great advantage. On the other hand, Jackie did the right choosing to miss this race. I can feel him: I suffer of upset stomach as well. I don’t have an ulcer, but I’m not alright. It’s because of the competition stress. The worst moment is before the start. There is one or two hours in which you can feel a hand squeezing you there, inside. Then, during the race, the lump loosens, but the damages remain".

 

Clay Regazzoni as well asserts that:

 

"Stewart lately had some problems with the car, but remains a fearsome opponent. His absence clearly is positive for us, but I don’t think it could be decisive for the title fight".

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The Swiss driver, unlike Jacky Ickx, doesn’t think that Jackie Stewart’s illness can be indicate as professional. Emerson Fittipaldi, however, agrees with Jacky Ickx.

 

"We are under pressure the whole year. There is not a moment of relax and the tension accumulates. I have stomach problems as well. I get cured, follow a diet, and get controlled. Believe me, always travel and run is not funny. Our profession is tough".

 

This is three drivers, three aces, opinions to which in addition there is the wise and balanced one of Peter Schetty, former driver and Ferrari sports director.

 

"The cars improve year after year: always more refined, always faster, they commit the men at the limit of their strengths. We don’t follow the rhythm of improvement of the cars, and so the situation is about to get critique. In addition, today, the cars are more or less equivalent, and we can find numerous drivers in a second. The stress and tension end to be exhausting: who has been driving for a long time feel more the weight on their shoulders".

 

Despite Jackie Stewart absence there are still twenty-six drivers ready to fight with each others, in which there is also the brave Carlos Reutemann, who after he recovered from a broken ankle he went back in scene in Formula 2 races at Crystal Palace and had his hand closed in a car door, and got a finger of his left hand squeezed. With a hand bandaged and still limping because of the injury at the ankle, the Argentinian driver seems to be more than ready to go back racing in Formula 1, most of all because they build for him a completely new Brabham. On Friday first free practices and with the hard duty to learn the new track, Peter Gethin spins with his P 160 B.R.M. bending it, so it’s given to him Helmut Marko’s P 160, to whom they give Vern Schuppan’s P153 B. Since the first few minutes, the two Ferraris of Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni are very competitive and do the rhythm. This until Emerson Fittipaldi’s black and gold Lotus starts to do its own pace: the young Brazilian starts do his rhythm, and before the end of the afternoon he sets a lap time of 1'11"6, standing in front of the two Ferraris. The performances of the Brazilian driver Carlos Pace with his March-Ford are very good, he is running in 1'13"1. Without even doing it on purpose, the five fastest drivers on the first day of practices of the Belgian GP are the ones who stood out during the 1972 Formula 1 World Championship. Fittipaldi (Lotus), Ickx and Regazzoni (Ferrari), Hulme (McLaren) and Beltoise (B.R.M.) are leading in this very uncertain four wheels event.

 

Stewart in the only one missing, forced in bed by a boring ulcer. So, even though he is not here, we always end up talking about the Scottish. Tyrrell has announced that in a week in Le Mans, in margin to the 24 Hours, they will present the new car. Drew by the designer Derek Cardner and mark by the number 005, it will represent a more modern version of the current car. The debut, in a month at Clermont- Ferrand, for the French Grand Prix. All these cars are substantially identical to the ones we’ve seen on track in Spain and Monaco. For each one, little tweaks and different suspensions adaption, but not relevant changes. Lotus and Ferrari are on top of the large group of cars that are on the leading positions of the World Championship. The English and Italian brands have found a solution for the suspensions and the situation have rapidly improved. The attempt of Ferrari, for example- that’s the spring-shock absorber group put horizontal- is negative is demonstrated by the fact that the March went back to classical solutions. March did a similar experiment, but they changed their minds after two races. However, nor Peterson shined. This is the year of Lotus or Ferrari, many say but for now and waiting for Stewart to came back, none of them took over. Fittipaldi won in Spain, but he got betrayed by the rain in Monte Carlo. Ickx and Regazzoni have had good placements but none of them had the decisive lunge. Could it happen in Nivelles? There are good hopes. The 312 B2 has demonstrated to be at an excellent level on set up in the box and just needs some more finishing touches on track. After the successes in the Sport Championship, Ferrari needs to gain at least one in the Formula 1.

 

The afternoon of free practices on Saturday 3rd June 1972 is divided in two sessions. This allows the major of the teams to have enough time to get organized and do everything calmly. Except for Emerson Fittipaldi, who dominates the scene with an incredible calm since the beginning. Not only the young driver is learning, but he is doing it fast and is beginning to put all the other drivers behind him. During the last hour of free practices Fittipaldi takes a pause to show his teammate the best trajectories to gain his lap times taking them to 1'12"76 while before they were 1'13"3. Emerson Fittipaldi, in the meantime, sets the fastest lap in 1'11"43. Danny Hulme sets the third time in 1'11"80, putting himself between the two Ferraris of Jackie Ickx (behind him) and of Clay Regazzoni (in second place). François Cévert is doing his best for the Tyrrell team and gets the fifth place in 1'11"93. Next to him there is the other Frenchman Jean-Pierre Beltoise. While right behind them there are Peter Revson and Mike Hailwood. Then follow in ninth and tenth place the Argentinian Carlos Reutemann and the Italian Andrea de Adamich with the Surtees. In the Nivelles track as well that equilibrium situation between cars and men keeps going and it makes everything uncertain and so more compelling the current World Championship. Nobody can emerge and if someone has the exploit the others can rebut effectively: the drivers are the first to be aware of this.

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Here can win anyone of us, that us has to be obviously wisely interpretated watching the times did during the three practice sessions. Emerson Fittipaldi keeps the first place also, the gap with the other drivers, especially with the ones of Ferrari and with Denny Hulme, is extremely short: we are in the order of hundredths of a second, this lets us expect a very close battle, open to every solution. After all the four Grand Prixes that have preceded this one of the Belgium have been won by all different drivers and cars (in Argentina Stewart- Tyrrell, in South Africa Hulme- McLaren, in Spain Fittipaldi- Lotus and in Monaco Beltoise- B.R.M.), with Ickx- Ferrari in the first positions, so much to give the opportunity to the Belgian to occupy the place of honor right behind Emerson Fittipaldi in the provisional championship standings. The 312 B2 has shown a significant improvement starting from the Spain Grand Prix letting the Belgian and the Swiss to get in the little group of the most qualified drivers for the final win. However the impression is that both Fittipaldi and Hulme have obtained their times easier than Ickx and Regazzoni: the cars from Maranello bounced more than Lotus and McLaren in the fast corners of this undulating track, forcing the drivers to a great effort. The feeling is confirmed by Clay Regazzoni and indirectly by Emerson Fittipaldi. The Swiss driver says:

 

"Today I occupied the whole track to find the best trajectories: if I entered right on the turn the front end tended to break down, if I was faster I slid with the rear and it made me angry to see Fittipaldi going smooth and clean".

 

While the Brazilian driver says:

 

"Maybe the 312 B2 has some chassis problem: that’s better because otherwise we couldn’t contrast it, it has an incredible engine, I sometimes got to Ickx and Regazzoni at the exit of some slow turns. They were fast as lighting in acceleration, I got them while braking and gained something in the turn".

 

The crux of the problem, at least for the Lotus- Ferrari challenge, is in this question: the agility and the road holding of the black-gold British car or the horsepower of the 12 cylinders from Maranello? Regazzoni shakes his head:

 

"We have to pay attention at the start, if Emerson gets away it will be difficult to reach him".

 

In this uncertain eve, with Jackie Ickx who really wants to win to get to the lead of the World Championship and to obtain a success at home we have to remember about the two Italian drivers racing in Nivelles, Nanni Galli and Andrea de Adamich. Galli takes to the debut a Tecno-Martini distressed from some little set ups inconveniences.

 

"Youth troubles, we have to fix the set up, some technical problems to solve but I’m already happy to be here".

 

Andrea de Adamich is feeling better than him whom Surtees doesn’t shine but it doesn’t go badly. Andrea will start from the fourth row with the perspective of a good placing: it’s not very much but we can’t hope for more in a group of many aces busy trying to win. On Sunday 4th June 1972 almost 65.000 are at Nivelles to attend the Belgian Grand Prix, with a great but not brilliant weather. There was a time in which in Team Lotus the preparation of the race was minimal, but those days have ended and the preparation of the race is not only analyzed but meticulous. So much that on Sunday morning, when is permitted to the teams to do another free practice session before the start of the race, planned at 3:30 p.m., none of the black and gold car has switched off, since they were all ready to race, like the backup car. The feelings of the members of the teams the morning of the race is usually a good sign of the preparation and of the general mood. The twenty-six cars go outside the boxes to do the warm-up lap, then to get ready for the actual start, with Emerson Fittipaldi in pole position, Clay Regazzoni in the middle and Danny Hulme on the outside of the first row. The others take their positions on the grid, in the back in second-last position there is Nanni Galli with his Tecno, with a new car and engine built by Pederzani brothers in their small factory in Bologna, and not with a serial engine bought in Northampton. Next to him in last row and at end of the grid there is the Austrian driver Niki Lauda. The start is really impressive with the twenty-six cars going up the rise, with Clay Regazzoni putting himself right in front of Emerson Fittipaldi, then Jacky Ickx and Denny Hulme.

 

In the opening lap Andrea de Adamich and Peter Revson touched, because of this they both must go back to the box at the end of the first lap to get a new tire each. There is a leading group already. In the leading group we can see Clay Regazzoni, Emerson Fittipaldi, Jacky Ickx, Denny Hulme, François Cévert, Mike Hailwood e Chris Amon, and in the following group a little detached Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Howden Ganley, Carlos Pace, Wilson Fittipaldi, Ronnie Peterson, Dave Walker, Graham Hill and Tim Schenken, and the other drivers following ever more outdistanced or late because of the stops at box. After five laps it looks like Emerson Fittipaldi really wants to overtake Clay Regazzoni. The Brazilian driver tries while braking in the final turn of the lap, but finds out that it’s really easy for the Swiss driver to block his trajectory. During the ninth lap Emerson Fittipaldi retries and cleverly overtook the Swiss driver, taking the downhill turn in a different way. When the Brazilian driver takes the lead, Carlos Pace takes the leading of the second group of drivers, and while the Brazilian driving the Lotus goes far from the first group, the dark blue March 711 of the compatriot does the same with the second group. Tim Schenken, driving a Surtees, has to retire during the eleventh lap because of an engine overheating problem, beginning a series of retires in the first half of the race: he's followed by Jean-Pierre Beltoise with his B.R.M. after fifteen laps for an engine overheating problem as well, Wilson Fittipaldi with his Brabham after twenty-eight laps for gear problems, while Mike Beuttler stops during the thirty-first lap because of a broken transmission.

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After leading for eight laps, Clay Regazzoni stays in second place until the thirty-first lap, when François Cévert overtakes the Ferrari, after conquering the third place in the previous laps, to the detriment of Jacky Ickx; who had to go back the box when a throttle level didn’t respond the way it should. Mike Hailwood is doing pretty well: the British driver stayed for a long time with the leading group, keeping the seventh place in the beginning, and then gained positions while the others had problems. During the forty-seventh lap Carlos Pace can gradually get closer to the end of the first group, arriving to see Mike Hailwood’s car. But while the British driver overtakes Helmut Marko’s B.R.M., Carlos Pace is blocked by the lapping loosing almost all the ground he gained to that moment. After fifty-five laps Jacky Ickx race ends: the throttle problem was repaired during the first stop, but something didn’t work, forcing the Belgian driver to go back to the box and retire. Clay Regazzoni, who was taking behind Chris Amon’s Matra and Denny Hulme’s McLaren, has to retire during the fifty-eighth lap, when Nanni Galli touched his Tecno with another car at the hairpin, then crossing Clay Regazzoni and damaging his Ferrari. The Italian driver, on his Tecno, goes back to the box hardly to retire, while Clay Regazzoni seems furious when jumping out of his Ferrari. Chris Amon is doing a very regular race onboard of his Matra V12. The New Zealander driver goes up to third place and seems to be ready to get some satisfaction in this championship. In the meantime, undeterred, Carlos Pace is not discouraged, and during the sixty-fifth lap he gets closer to Mike Hailwood again, but this time they both have to overtake two cars busy in a furious battle. That is the one between Ronnie Peterson on his March 721X Special and Rolf Stommelen on his Eifelland March Special. Mike Hailwood’s knowledge of the races obviously helps him overtaking the pair battling, without many problems, while Carlos Pace will take much longer before he can do it, loosing ground again.

 

Again the Brazilian driver got stuck and during the sixty-fourth lap has to follow his contenders again. The race is almost over and the team Williams driver, while insisting, has not margin to reach Mike Hailwood in fourth place. In the meantime the fight between Ronnie Peterson and Rolf Stommelen ends when the Eifelland has gear issues. At the sixty-seventh lap it looks like Chris Amon runs low on fuel, so he goes to the box and then back to the race, but the forced stop puts him in sixth place. So Denny Hulme goes up to third place, who has done a clear race by now, and his McLaren is performing in smooth and clear way. The young Emerson Fittipaldi simply went far from the others and has lapped most of the cars. In the incredible relaxed and smooth style that the Brazilian has developed, which adapts admirably to the Lotus 72, has never put a wrong tire and got far from Clay Regazzoni’s Ferrari and all the other cars constantly. Emerson Fittipaldi did a perfect race. The Brazilian set the fastest time in all three free practices, winning easily at the end of the eighty-five laps of the Belgian Grand Prix. Behind his back, in second place, arrives at the finish line François Cévert on his Tyrrell, far a little more than 26 seconds. Third place for Denny Hulme, who did a smooth race. Follows in third place Mike Hailwood, far more than a minute from the winner. Some points for Carlos Pace also, fifth on a March, and Chris Amon, sixth with his Matra. The New Zealander driver has lost the possibility to get a podium during the last few laps of the race. At the eve of the race we would have imagined a possible battle: Lotus’ agility and grip, or Ferrari’s power. The question got answered on track with a negate result for the team from Maranello. The Lotus, and also the Tyrrell, have demonstrated that they could run easily on this wavy track. Clay Regazzoni in fact admits:

 

"I could do nothing, Fittipaldi and Cévert were faster than me in the mixed trait. I tried to block them as long as I could, then the Brazilian overtook me during the brake at the curve and Cévert did the same a little after with Lauda’s complicity, who close the door on me".

 

Emerson Fittipaldi and the Lotus 72, winning the Belgian Grand Prix in Nivelles, have demonstrated to be the most powerful couple in Formula 1 at the moment and have put a serious mortgage on the title, while Ferrari have suffered of a worrying defeat not so much for the retire of Ickx and Regazzoni’s car, but for the inferiority demonstrated compared to the Lotus before the abandonment. These are the main facts of the fifth appointment of the World Championship. Emerson Fittipaldi, twenty-six, married, great-grandson of Italians immigrated to San Paolo Brazil, in two years he went from Formula Ford to Formula 1. His debut was on 18th July 1970 at the British Grand Prix, first victory on 4th October 1970 at the USA Grand Prix. A season- the last one- on the sly, with the hard duty to collect the inheritance of Jochen Rindt. Neither the man nor the car were alright: the first didn’t know the Lotus enough, a delicate and difficult car to drive, the second received a series of innovation to the suspensions then revealed wrong. Emerson Fittipaldi, that speaks a perfect Italian and is a great interlocutor, says:

 

"Now I can understand the limits of my Lotus. I can drive it taking full advantages of the performances that it offers. And the car, when the defaults of the suspensions were corrected, got transformed. If it had Ferrari engine, I would be sure to be the winner of the World Championship".

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A young driver, but while driving is cold and schemer denying the cliché of the commos South American (with Italian origin in addition) hot impulsive, more feeling than reason, and an old car (for years for a Formula 1 car are a lot, even if it got innovated over the seasons) are so at the top of the world standings. The moment is delicate: if in the next French Grand Prix the rivals will not contain the Brazilian driver, the game will be almost over. The Scuderia Ferrari goes from the joys of the 312-P sport to the pains of the Formula 1. The trend of the Belgian race has demonstrated that Ickx and Regazzoni could have obtained the second and third place, or the third and fourth. The problem is all here. If Ickx and Regazzoni had been on the lead of the race at the moment of their retirement we could have said it was bad luck (Ickx’s trouble- a broken dipstick of the throttle control- is banal, but serious for the results, and the collision between Regazzoni and Nanni Galli is in the field of unpredictable events, but not for technical reasons). However, Fittipaldi was already on the lead and neither the Belgian not the Swiss couldn’t contrast his action. This is the point: the 312 B2 has an exceptional engine, but an imprecise behavior, with a chronic defect of oversteering. On slow tracks (Spain and Monte Carlo) the driving inaccuracy - that is reacting in the wrong way to gear solicitation – did not have a big impact; in Nivelles, instead, it came out in an evident way. You just had to see the way the Ferraris and the Lotuses did the mixed part of the track, and for goodness sake we cannot start to insinuate that Fittipaldi is an ace while Ickx and Regazzoni are two poor, like it has been done last year with Jackie Stewart. The remedies?

 

The chassis, in Ferrari’s technicians’ opinion, rigid enough, however tied up to overcame schemes. Looking forward to new solutions (the 312 B3, on which Mauro Forghieri is working on, won’t be ready until Austria or Italy, that means half of August of beginning September), some changes are being studied that should bring positive effects. The environment is pleasantly calm and clear. A positive sing, that has to be mainly given to the quiet activity of the engineer Sandro Colombo, the supervisor in Maranello. Tense relationship, on the contrary, between Regazzoni and Galli. The first accused the other to have damaged him impeding the overtaking and then to have run over him trying to remedy on a spin. Galli defended himself saying that he already was on his trajectory and, indeed, trying to ease the overtake to Clay Regazzoni he ended up spinning. We hope that the controversy ends soon, even though there will be somebody who will take advantage by it to make some noise. Like in Formula 1 there weren’t enough already. Regazzoni did some on fire interviews, accusing the Tuscan of inability. And there is somebody who remembers about the episode happened during the practices of the Targa Florio, when Nanni didn’t give space to Merzario and to the 312 P. we don’t think there could be on principle by Galli’s side. For sure, by then lapped, the Italian driver could have let Regazzoni pass without all these problems. Maybe, he has had a motion of pride and he paid for it himself, involving the Swiss as well. It’s a shame that the rookie Tecno- Martini and the remaining Ferrari both serf-harmed. A shame in particularly for Regazzoni, who could have obtained some points for the World Championship.

 

At this point, nothing has to be gifted to Fittipaldi. But it’s too late now, probably. On this track, the 312 B2 has delivered a poorer performance that the Lotus or Tyrrell, making useless the performances of the 12 cylinders, which here was sharply superior to the 8 cylinders Cosworth: but you can’t just live of engine. All that remains is to underline, with Fittipaldi and Cévert’s, the great Hulme’s practices, with McLaren - no climax, but regular yield -, of the usual Hailwood, with the Surtees, and of Pace with Frank Williams’ March. Amon was about to conquer, with the Matra- Simca, the third place when he had to stop, eight laps before the end, because of a lack of fuel. The New Zealander did a very fast refueling at the box, precipitating then in sixth place. De Adamich had to retire because his engine broke, after a collision at the start with Revson. A bitter day for Italian divers and cars. A great contrast with the joy of Fittipaldi and the team Lotus. Two reference of merit beyond the winner of the race: Peter Revson and the already mentioned Carlos Pace. The American driver has lost a lap at the beginning of the race, not for his fault, and after putting on new tires he drove in an incredibly smooth way, going back up to seventh place. The Brazilian driver Carlos Pace, however, merits a special mention for the effort done during the race and because he never gave up. The end of the Belgian Grand Prix, which projects Emerson Fittipaldi on the lead of the World Championship standing with 28 points, followed by Denny Hulme with 19, we go back racing on Sunday 12th July 1972 on Clermont-Ferrand circuit, which will be location of the French Grand Prix.             

 

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