The Formula 1 World Championship, which opened on March 1, 1969 with the South African Grand Prix on the Kyalami circuit, returned to Europe two months later with its second act, the Spanish Grand Prix, which took place on the Catalan track of Montjuic. At the same time as the Formula 1 World Championship, however, the International Brands Championship takes place too. After the first round, the 24 Hours of Daytona on Sunday, February 2, 1969, on Saturday, March 22, 1969, at 11:00 a.m., the 12 Hours of Sebring will take place. The best cars and drivers take part in the race: Ferrari, Alfa, Porsche, Ford and Lola-Chevrolet. An exceptional line-up that will do battle on the fast (and somewhat bumpy) track of the old Florida airport. For Ferrari, this is the official return to competition in the constructors' championship, which last year it had deserted in protest against the regulations proposed by the FIA. It comes back with only one car, that three-liter prototype 312 P that seems to be the result of the most advanced experience and technique. 12-cylinder engine, 420 horsepower at 9800 rpm, weight 630 kilos. The car has been subjected to long tests in Italy (the gearbox was redone in a month after it had reported serious shortcomings), and now it is ready. It will be entrusted to a formidable crew, the Italian-American Mario Andretti and the New Zealander Chris Amon (who on prototypes has always behaved much better than in single-seaters): Alfa Romeo brings to debut its 33 of 3000 cc, with eight-cylinder engine, 400 horsepower at 9000 girl/minute, and 680 kilos.
Three cars will take to the track, with John Surtees-Andrea de Adamich, Nanni Giunti and Vaccarella-Bianchi. For the Milanese company, after two years of competitions in the 2000 class, culminating in the excellent placings in the 24 Hours of Le Mans 1968, it is an important step, it means to appear on equal terms in a sector of motor sport dominated until now by foreign brands or by Ferrari. In this regard, it should be noted that Alfa Romeo and Ferrari are facing each other after twenty years, and it can be assured that the two Italian companies will not help each other, far from it. What's more, John Surtees and Andrea de Adamich will be driving the Alfa 33.3, and they haven't been on very good terms with the Maranello manufacturer, apart from external interests, of course. In addition to a family duel, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari will have to watch out for Porsche, Ford and Lola. Porsche, having remedied the inconveniences suffered in the first test of the world championship, the 24 Hours of Daytona, lines up five 908s, entrusting them to the usual, very strong Elford, Siffert, Mitter, Herrmann, Redman; Ford has the tested GT40 of 5000 ernie with Ickx and Hawkins; while the Lola-Chevrolet will try the surprise hit, already successful in Daytona. Just the Lola T70 with Chevrolet eight-cylinder engine of 4980 cc and 500 horsepower, have impressed well in the first training runs. For now, after all, technicians and drivers try to find the best set-up of the cars and to take care of the tuning of those organs that will be more stressed (gearbox, brakes, suspension and engine).
The circuit is 8360 meters long and develops in a long trail of straights and very dry corners. In spite of these premises, on Saturday, March 22, 1969, Ford wins the 12 Hours of Sebring, but Ferrari comes within a whisker of success, while the Alfa Romeos lose, the Porsches have to be satisfied with honorable placings and the Lola-Chevrolets don't repeat the feat of Daytona. The classification of the 12 Hours of Sebring, the second round of the World Championship for Brands, speaks clearly: first the strong, tested GT 40 of the young Ickx and Oliver, second, just one lap away, the solitary, rookie Ferrari 312 P of Amon and Andretti, then the Porsche 908 of Buzzetta-Stommelen, Mitter-Schutz and Soler Roig-Lins and the Lola T 70 of Leslie-Motschenbacher. The Ford, therefore, has established itself in a hard-fought 12 Hours (the command of the race has changed fourteen times, twenty-three of the sixty-nine cars started Saturday at 11:00 a.m. were forced to retire), but great admiration arouses the test of Ferrari. The three-litre car from Maranello was the protagonist of the competition: while the five-litre Ford and Lola led a race at a loss, Amon and Andretti engaged in a furious duel with the Porsche crew. For about one thousand kilometers, from the fifth to the tenth hour, the 312 P and the German 908s alternate at the head of the race, then the Stuttgart cars begin to suffer suspension problems, shaken by the stresses impressed by the track, on uneven cement slabs. First Siffert and Redman, authors of an exciting start, retire, then Herrmann and Ahrens (and for the same reason Hobbs-Hailwood on the other official GT 40 Ford and Donohue-Bucknum on one of the Lola T 701, finally Mitter-Schutz and Buzzetta-Stommelen are forced to make long pit stops for emergency repairs. At the end of the tenth hour the game is over.
The Ferrari, which had suffered some troubles (an engine fire had been extinguished at the pits during the eighth hour: a moment of fear, the flames rose up to four meters in a cloud of smoke), has four laps of advantage, or 24 kilometers and a quarter of an hour, over Ickx and Oliver, who, thanks to the troubles of others and to a very regular conduct have gradually climbed positions on positions. But Amon and Andretti were forced to run at three minutes (in practice they had run in 2'40"14, at an average speed of over 186 km/h), due to problems with the engine cooling system, while Ickx and Oliver ran an average of 2'50"0-2'54"0, and reduced the gap. Then at the beginning of the eleventh hour, Ferrari is forced to stop the car at the pit, losing about ten minutes. The Ford GT 40 takes the lead, finishing the 12 Hours with two and a half minutes on Amon and Andretti. The American car achieves the record average of 166.347 km/h (McLaren-Andretti, on the seven-litre Ford, in 1967 obtained an average of 165.976 km/h), covering a distance of 1989 kilometers. If the new Ferrari 312 P passed its debut brilliantly (once its youthful ills had disappeared, it should be able to assert itself over any rival without too much difficulty), the same couldn't be said of the Alfa 33 of 8000 cc. Three cars from the Milanese company were in the race: all three gave up after just one hour of racing: Nanni Galli lost a wheel, Andrea de Adamich and Nino Vaccarella were forced to retire due to broken radiators. Not a happy debut, but there is time to make up for it. The championship is long.
On Sunday, March 30, 1969 another tragedy struck motorsport. Lucien Bianchi loses his life around 9:00 a.m. while, with his three-liter Alfa Romeo, he was making a series of laps on the Le Mans circuit during the preliminary tests of the 24 Hours, scheduled for Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 June 1969. The accident takes place at the end of the Les Hunaudières straight. It is one of the most dangerous points of the track: about six kilometers long, it allows the cars to be driven at maximum speed. It ends with a slight bump, followed at about 700-800 meters by the narrow Mulsanne curve, which must be taken at about 60 km/h. According to the story of some testimonies, Bianchi's Alfa is still going at 250 km/h, when it skids on the right after the bump. The driver tries desperately to control it, but the car crosses the track and crashes against a telegraphic pole and an electricity substation located few meters from the roadway. The impact is frightening and the car explodes like a bomb, disintegrating into a thousand pieces in the surrounding woods, which immediately catch fire. Bianchi dies on the spot. The causes of the disaster aren't established and probably never will be. Car failure or driver mistake? It is a question as old as motor racing. The examination of the wreckage doesn't help to learn the truth, because it is almost always impossible to establish if that certain piece broke as a result of the impact or was its previous breakage the reason for the accident.
Somebody affirms that, before leaving the track, Bianchi had turned on the right blinker to show his intention to stop; this would make us think that he had found out something wrong with his car. The news of Bianchi's tragic death flew like a flash over Le Mans, throwing the Autodelta team, mechanics, technicians and the poor driver's mates into a state of sorrow. With Lucien Bianchi disappears the most eclectic driver in the world. In seventeen years of racing he had driven the most different cars, from rally cars to Formula 1 single-seaters, to the monsters of the Sport-Prototypes category, always managing to achieve important successes. His roll of honor was formidable: more than 500 successes, including four Tours de France, the Liège-Rome-Liège, the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 1000 Kilometers of Paris, the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1968. Jaguar, Ford, Aston Martin, Ferrari, Lancia, Maserati, Cooper, Citroen, Alfa Romeo had always given him their cars with confidence, because he was a sensitive test driver too. Tall, thin, a tendency to hunch his shoulders, a blond forelock over his eyes, Lucien Bianchi was a sports figure. He lived in Brussels, with his wife and three little girls, Silvana, 13, Cristina, 12, and Fabienne, 8, and many considered him Belgian. He regretted this, and said:
"No, no, I'm Italian, and I care. I was born in Milan, not Brussels".
His father worked at Alfa Romeo, in the experience department. He moved to Belgium in 1950, working with the famous Johnny Claes on the relaunch of Formula 1 in the days of Fangio and Farina. Lucien and his brother Mauro, almost naturally, became mechanics and racers. A difficult beginning, then the first successes. At the age of eleven, Lucien won, together with Claes on a Lancia, that fabulous rally-marathon of the road that was the Liège-Rome-Liège. He had returned to racing about ten days earlier. In the 12 Hours of Sebring, after two months of absence from competition following the terrible accident in December, in Australia. He was about to triumphantly conclude the London-Sydney marathon and his Citroen was 60 kilometers from the finishing line: a car with two young Australian fans on board who were following the rally hit the Citroen. Lucien sustained injuries to his face and legs. At Sebring he had to stop almost immediately, his brand new Alfa Romeo three liters, short of testing and experience, after a quarter of an hour abandoned the race with a broken radiator. Alfa Romeo had sent him to Le Mans for the preliminary tests of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. On Saturday, Lucien had achieved the sixth fastest time overall, he had been the best of the Milanese team. He was happy, because with him was his brother Mauro too, who was returning to the track after his accident in September. The car had caught fire, Mauro had suffered many burns, on his face and hands. Lucien was in the lead with his Ford GT 40, started with Rodriguez to the most beautiful success. He had passed through an hell of fire, he had recognized his brother's car. Long terrible minutes, then from the box he had been told that everything was fine, that Mauro was safe. This time the opposite happened, but nobody could tell Mauro that Luciano was saved. Two weeks later, and exactly on Sunday, April 13, 1969, after many disappointments, Porsche conquers a splendid success in the 6 Hours of Brands Hatch, third round of the World Championship for Brands.
Three cars of the Stuttgart Company reached the first three places with Siffert-Redman, Elford-Attwood and Mitter-Schutz. The Ferrari of Amon and Rodriguez, after a blazing start, had to be content with the fourth position, while the Fords and the Lolas clearly gave up. The new Mirage-B.R.M. of Ickx retired halfway through the race due to a broken drive shaft. Two accidents happened, fortunately without serious consequences for the drivers. The German Rudi Lins ended up with his private Porsche in an excavation: the car almost disintegrated, but Lins remained unhurt. Almost at the end of the race, Jo Bonnier arrived long in a corner; his Lola overturned off the track, hitting an earth embankment. Bonnier was taken by ambulance to a mobile hospital on the edge of the circuit. The Swede suffered bruises and a suspected fractured arm. The race had started at noon, with thirty-four cars. Amon is the author of a very fast start, but Siffert reaches and overtakes him after five laps. The Swiss (whose Porsche had made the mechanics despair until a few minutes before the start due to problems with the ignition system) will not lose the first position anymore. Elford and Mitter are placed behind Siffert, while Bonnier loses ground with his engine in trouble. Hulme retires due to a failure of the lubrication system. Amon tries to make a comeback and at the halfway point of the race he is third. The positions seem not to change anymore. Instead, in the last stages. Mitter and Schutz manage to overtake the Ferrari of Amon and Rodriguez and to give the final touch to the success of Porsche. For Siffert the victory obtained at Brands Hatch is the second on the British circuit after the one in the Formula 1 British Grand Prix, obtained in the 1968 season. The next round of the World Championship will take place in Monza on April 25, 1969: it is the 1000 Kilometers Caracciolo Trophy.
And it is just in view of the next Grand Prix that Ferrari obtains the absolute best lap time in the first round of official tests for the 1000 Kilometers of Monza. Wednesday 23 April 1969 the best performance is recorded by Chris Amon with a time of 2'48"2, at an average speed of 216.171 km/h, which is the new record of the complete track of the autodrome. The previous record (2'53"8, average 209.205 km/h) belonged to the Chaparral driven by Hill and Spence, and had been obtained during the official practice of the 1000 km two years earlier. Chris Amon took the prestigious record almost at the end of the tests, after the Ferrari mechanics had fixed the car, damaged by his teammate Mario Andretti in an exit from the track at the variant that precedes the North elevated curve. Mario Andretti, having arrived at the chicane of the grandstands, quickly downshifted the gears and braked, but the car, also because of a light layer of dirt that covered the asphalt, didn't react and went straight, jamming the right side of the front end under the guardrail. Andretti restarted with a damaged nose and a radiator leaking water. Coming out of the high-speed bowl on the straight edge of the grandstands, with a very dangerous maneuver that none of the marshals present dared to reproach him for, he crossed the adjacent straight stretch of the roadway diagonally and entered the pit lane. With an hour of work, the mechanics replaced the radiator and the torn up mu, putting the car back in perfect order, thus allowing Amon to conquer the new circuit record. After the Ferrari's standard bearer, the fastest was Jo Siffert, once again revealed to be the best Porsche driver, who remained at more than two seconds from the New Zealander.
Also Siffert, dragged by his impetuosity, went off the track later on the North variant, crushing the front part of his 908 against the guardrail, but it was immediately put back on track. There is no doubt: the 1000 kilometers of Monza, the fourth round of the International Championship of Makes, will live of the duel between Ferrari and Porsche. At Monza the Ferraris will travel in pairs. One will be driven by Chris Amon and Mario Andretti, the other by Pedro Rodriguez and Peter Schetty. Amon, who has always been more at ease on prototypes than on Formula 1 single-seaters, has already given a clear demonstration of his and the 312P's qualities. Pedro Rodriguez did well too, while Mario Andretti caused some perplexity. The Italo-American, as we know, is an impetuous and intrepid driver who spares neither himself nor the car. Friday, April 25, 1969, at 11:00 am, on the complete track of the Autodromo di Monza, the 1000 kilometers Trofeo Caracciolo, the fourth round of the International Championship of Makes, will start. Absent the new Alfa Romeo 33 of three liters and the Ford GT 40, the race will live the duel between Ferrari and Porsche, with the big Lola and Matra prototype in the role of outsiders. Ferrari should line up two examples of the 312 P (12-cylinder engine of 2989 cc and 420 horsepower at 9800 rpm, weight 630 kilos, 320 km/h top speed), entrusting them to Chris Amon and the Italian-American Mario Andretti and to Pedro Rodriguez and Peter Schetty. It should, because a new accident, after the one happened to Andretti (who on Thursday makes two spins), happens during the Thursday afternoon test to Schetty. The Swiss driver was traveling at about 300 km/h on the stretch of road between the Ascari curve and the entrance to the parabolica, when the tread of the left rear tire came off and the tire burst. A frightening moment.
"I was able to control the car, I don't know how either, and stop on one side of the roadway. It went well".
Unfortunately, the suspension and rear end, the lubricant tank and part of the spider's bodywork are damaged to a greater or lesser extent. The Ferrari technicians immediately phone Modena (around 4:00 p.m.) asking for spare parts to be sent. During the night, the mechanics work around the car. Long hours of vigil, trying to get the car back in order by Friday. Will they succeed? They think so, and that's what everyone hopes. It's one thing to participate in a race with just one car, and another with two or more. This was seen in the previous races at Sebring and Brands Hatch, where the Maranello team had only one 312 P. The car, at Sebring, had a magnificent debut, it was in the lead, then, because of a piece of sheet metal lost from another car and ended up in the radiator, it had to give up the victory to the Ford of Ickx-Oliver. At Brands Hatch, Amon had to face a crowd of Porsches, with the one driven by Siffert playing the part of the fugitive hare and the others behind, on the run. He held up well, but, thanks to a puncture, he lost ground and had to settle for fourth place. Monza could rebalance the terms of the dispute, but only if the Maranello cars will be in two. In the meantime, the Porsche 911Ts are admitted to the race after risking exclusion for a type of intake and exhaust manifolds considered non-compliant with the homologation form. A long series of phone calls with Stuttgart allowed to solve the problem. Friday, April 25, 1969 the great duel between Ferrari and Porsche in the 1000 kilometers of Monza is resolved in favor of the Stuttgart House. As at Brands Hatch, three German cars reach the first three places. Jo Siffert and Brian Redman win in the 908 three-liter long-tail, ahead of teammates Herrmann and Ahrens and the 2200 cc 907 of Koch and Dechent, two drivers from a German team.
Siffert and Redman finish their race in 4 hours 53'41"2, at an average speed of 206.342 km/h, setting a new race record. In 1967 Bandini and Amon, on board the Ferrari P4, had obtained the average record of 196.934 km/h. It is the first time that on the 10,100 meter circuit, with the two S-shaped variants, the average speed of 200 km/h is exceeded. It wasn't enough for Ferrari to line up two cars, the three-liter 312Ps. Both of them weren't able to finish the 1000 kilometers: the first one, driven by Amon and Andretti, stopped after 380 kilometers, while it was in the lead, because of the engine failure, while the other one, with Rodriguez and Schetty, ended up off the road during the 66th lap because of a tire blowout. Rodriguez, at the wheel at the time of the accident, fortunately remains unharmed. The Maranello car was in second place, one lap behind Siffert's Porsche. The moments of the retirement of the two 312s are really exciting. Andretti and Rodriguez had started the race at an infernal pace. The duel then develops between Andretti, Rodriguez and Siffert, but after 140 kilometers Andretti is forced to stop at the pits to change a tire. It is the alarm signal for the Ferrari: the tires don't hold up to the stresses of the track, in particular to those of the high speed bowl. The Italian-American loses time (38 seconds) and is therefore forced to throw himself into a furious follow. Lap after lap Andretti subtracts seconds from Rodriguez and Siffert and, when he leaves the car to his teammate, Chris Amon, during the 38th passage, he is very close to the leading couple. But Andretti had probably demanded too much from his Ferrari. Amon gets into the car, runs a lap and doesn't pass in front of the stands anymore.
At the same time, flames and smoke rise from the south corner of the speed bowl. Moments of fear followed, then it was discovered that the brushwood had caught fire from the usual cigarette butt, and Amon returned to the pits with his helmet in his hand. The New Zealand driver confines himself to saying that the engine had burst. For him, the 1000 kilometers lasted only ten kilometers. That leaves Rodriguez and Schetty. But the two, while Amon retires, are delayed at the pits during the refueling operations (the engine, flooded, doesn't want to start again) and lose a lap. We arrive to half race with Jo Siffert in head and the two of the Ferrari to the pursuit, with a lot of courage. And the second fact happens. During the sixty-third lap Pedro Rodriguez stops to change the rear tires. Whoever is at the Ferrari pits notices on the nose of the Mexican's car the signs of a light impact, in particular the bodywork presents a tear in front of the right front wheel. Rodriguez explains before leaving:
"A tire blew out, I touched a guardrail".
The Mexican driver runs three laps and the problem is repeated on the straight of the road track, just after the grandstands. Pedro Rodriguez runs at 230 km/h: the car almost rears up, makes a frightening series of caroms and spins, crashes on a small wall on the left and bounces on the right, losing pieces of the bodywork, finally stopping beyond the safety barrier. The driver gets out and asks for mineral water to quench his thirst. Limping slightly. Rodriguez walks back to the Ferrari pits.
"The tire again".
To some, however, it seemed that the air, due to an aerodynamic phenomenon, had torn the bodywork at the already deteriorated point, causing the car to lift and then the accident. In any case, Ferrari paid the price today at Monza for a wrong choice in terms of tires and also for a certain internal situation among those in charge of the racing team. Already in practice it should have been clear that the tires weren't suitable for the car, at least on this track that has jumps and joints in the bowl that are very noticeable between the concrete slabs that make up the bottom. And, if ever, just not being able or willing to renounce to this kind of tire (that also on Siffert's Porsche, even if lighter - 630 kilos against 750 kilos - and, maybe, less committed gave just sufficient results), couldn't they calibrate suspensions and shock absorbers in a different and more appropriate way? The 312 are splendid cars, exceptional, that - in theory - should have inflicted at least three or four seconds of detachment for every lap to the very valid 908 produced in Stuttgart. For this reason, the defeat in the 1000 km of Monza is even more regrettable. Of course, with the withdrawal of the two Maranello cars, the Monza race loses interest. Jo Siffert and his Porsche march regularly, dragging Herrmann and Koch in their wake. Elford retires, coming out uninjured from an accident similar to that of Rodriguez (the usual tire), while French driver Patrick Depailler, in the three-liter Alpine-Renault, gives the final thrill to the 50,000 spectators in Monza. At the hundredth and last lap he collides with the Ford GT40 of Kelleners (who continues the race), skids and crashes against the escarpment that borders the track, at the Serraglio turn.
The car disintegrates, Depailler is transported by helicopter to the Niguarda hospital in Milan and hospitalized with a rib fracture: he will recover in twenty-five days. The prize-giving ceremony, temporarily suspended, can therefore take place. Once the first commitments with the sport-prototypes championship were over, the attention of technicians and drivers was turned towards the Spanish Grand Prix, which was run on Sunday 4 May 1969 on the Montjuïc Circuit, in parallel with the fifth race of the Marche Championship, the legendary Targa Florio race. This street circuit, which is created near the center of Barcelona, was first used in 1933, but due to the civil war it was only in 1966 that the enthusiastic Real Automovil de Cataluna decided to revive motor racing on this 3,791-meter test track. Formula 2 races had been held that year and in 1967, while an additional 6-hour sports car race was added to the program in 1968. But the club's ambition was to run the Spanish Grand Prix, and given the unpopularity of Madrid's Jarama track, the people of Barcelona wasted no time in staking their claim for this year. Then the Spanish Grand Prix moves north, on a circuit that has been significantly upgraded to GPDA standards. The road has been resurfaced in many places, while the entire length of the track, both inside and out, is bordered by an Armco barrier. The Spanish Grand Prix has been raced spasmodically over the years, starting in 1913 on a road course in Madrid. Then for a while in the late 1920s and early 1930s the race was held in San Sebastian.
In 1951 it was held on the Pedralbes road course in Barcelona and the same venue was used again in 1954. Montjuich Park is located on the side of a hill and is a well-known tourist attraction. From the top of the Park, which itself has undergone considerable renovation during the last year, you can see Barcelona spread out below: a truly magnificent sight. Within the confines of the Park itself you can find a model Spanish Village, a rather dilapidated Olympic Stadium, a huge new amusement park and much more. The race track is made up of public roads that run around the park, much like the Regents Park carriage road in London. From the starting line, the road climbs gently, then dips quickly until it meets a left turn. A couple of turns take the road steeply downhill to another hairpin turn. Again steeply downhill, the road descends to village level through three difficult switchbacks. The road then goes straight past a huge building, and then resumes climbing through a quick left turn. A similar right turn is immediately followed by another longer left turn that continues to the top of the hill, before a right-hand knot brings the cars back to the starting line. Although the pits aren't permanent, they are as good as can be erected on scaffolding, and behind them, in the large paddock, a new press building has been partially constructed that even has a swimming pool. The participating drivers and even the press are unanimous in their approval of this new addition to the World Championship circuit ranks. The only downside is that Spanish customs officers still make it very difficult to get a race car into the country.
The number of people who can afford to take part in the Formula 1 World Championship races seems to have decreased this year, in fact only six official teams and three private cars are entered. At the beginning of the year it was expected that both Lotus and Matra would produce their respective four-wheel drive cars for this race, but this wasn't the case and most teams brought 1968 models. One exception is Ken Tyrrell's Matra International team, which is showing two 1969 MS80 models. Jackie Stewart has to drive the car in which he had won the Brands Hatch Race of Champions, but a new - if identical - car is also brought to Spain for Jean-Pierre Beltoise. An MS10 from last year, the car used by Stewart at Silverstone, is brought into the pits as a backup car. The MS80s have flatter fiberglass nose sections than before, but other than that they are the same because the French rocket company that builds the cars is working full steam ahead on the 4wd car. The Gold Leaf-Team Lotus shows up in Barcelona with the two regular 49Bs for Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt more or less with the same set-up as previously seen, although a third car used by the Austrian driver in the Tasman series is kept in reserve. Much of the activity is focused on extending the Lotus' wing profiles during these tests as well. Scuderia Ferrari decides to concentrate all its efforts on one car, that of Chris Amon. Scuderia Ferrari is spending a lot of time on development, both on the new external exhaust engine and on the chassis, and in fact now Chris Amon can run the V12 engine up to 11.500 rpm. The Ferrari team remains the only one to use rear airfoils mounted on the chassis, rather than the suspension.
The Owen Racing Organization experiences some initial problems with the new 48-valve V12 engines, but a meeting between engineers comforts the team. For the first time, the B.R.M. team fields two cars equipped with the new engines, and for the first time the 48-valve engine takes the start in a race. The cars still mount last year's chassis. The team gives the latest P 138 to John Surtees, and the oldest P 133 to Jackie Oliver. Oliver's car is fitted with a Hewland gearbox, although the Surtees car retains a B.R.M. box, as the Hewland, which Surtees prefers, cannot be fitted without modifications to the rear of the chassis. Ron Tauranac and the Motor Racing Developments team have made some useful detail changes to their two 1968 Brabham BT 26s. The Hewland FG gearbox is replaced by the heavier DG and the combined water and oil cooler by a full-width water cooler. Oil cooling is now taken care of by a gearbox-mounted oil cooler with a fiberglass duct around it. The front suspension on Ickx's car is brought up to the same specifications as the one used by Brabham at Silverstone. McLaren Racing, perhaps technically the most advanced of the British Formula 1 racing teams, has nothing new to show other than a modified front wheel. The stable brings its three cars but uses only the two seen at Silverstone. The original M7A is again available to Denny Hulme, while the 1969 provisional car, based on the Formula A monocoque and first seen at Silverstone, is available to Bruce McLaren. The three private participants all show up with their normal cars: so there is a Lotus 49B for Jo Siffert from the Walker/Durlacher team, a Brabham BT 26 for Piers Courage from Frank Williams' team, and a B.R.M. P 126 for Pedro Rodriguez, from the disconsolate Tim Parnell, whose car still has a rather undersized 24-valve B.R.M. engine.
The tests are limited to three shorter than average sessions on the afternoons of Thursday, May 1, 1969, Friday, May 2, 1969 and Saturday, May 3, 1969. During the first day, Chris Amon's Ferrari looks very competitive. The lap record is set by Jochen Rindt, who in 1968 had recorded a time of 1'33"3 aboard a Formula 2 Brabham, but Chris Amon, who knows the circuit, manages to lower the limit and sets the new record with a time of 1'27"6. Graham Hill also goes under the limit of 1'30"0, as does Jackie Stewart. Jacky Ickx's tests last only half a lap, due to a blocked fuel pressure valve. Jochen Rindt hits a stray dog after about three laps, and the accident damages the suspension of his Lotus. Piers Courage's car leaves England late and may not arrive in time for practice, while the B.R.M. is plagued by gear selection problems that are eventually resolved. During the tests that take place on Friday, May 2, 1969, Chris Amon shows once again the speed of the Ferrari doing exactly the same time as the previous day. Graham Hill is at the top of his form and equals Chris Amon's time, while teammate Jochen Rindt isn't satisfied with the handling of his car and has the shock absorbers checked, but Armstrong finds nothing wrong with it. Jackie Stewart is also well below 1'30"0. Jack Brabham crashes against the Armco barrier, so his car is out of action for a while. In this second practice session both B.R.M.'s seem to improve steadily. But the action is mainly seen in the practice session that takes place on Saturday, May 3, 1969. Each driver improves on the times set in the previous sessions.
Chris Amon soon drops to the minimum level of 1'27"0, since the night before his Ferrari has been equipped with a new engine that is said to have 5 more horsepower available. Chris Amon returns to the pits, Jochen Rindt takes to the track and sets a record time of 1'26"0, while teammate Graham Hill remains behind. As soon as the two Lotus return to the pits, Chris Amon goes out again and this time he records a time of 1'26"2. Satisfied, the Ferrari team brings the car back to the paddock. In the meantime, however, the Lotus team hasn't yet finished testing and while the mechanics work on Graham Hill's wing, Jochen Rindt returns to the track and lowers his record time, taking it to the incredible limit of 1’25"7. No one could do better at this point. Jackie Stewart doesn't live a happy session because the problem afflicting his car is still present, so the Scottish driver tries the car of Jean-Pierre Beltoise, which seems better under this aspect. In the meantime Beltoise does some laps with the MS10, but the team directed by Ken Tyrrell decides to rely on the original cars for the race and to mount during the night a slightly less powerful Series 8 engine. Nevertheless, Jackie Stewart finishes the practice sessions with the fourth fastest time. Jack Brabham also works and lowers his time to 1'27"8. Jo Siffert, Jacky Ickx and Denny Hulme make up the third row. The two B.R.M. drivers, John Surtees and Jackie Oliver, make up the next row, although Surtees lost a lot of time changing gears during the final session. Several teams mount additional side tanks on their cars, as in some cases the capacity of the original tanks seems to be marginal.
The race has interesting prospects, because in the front row there will be two drivers who haven't yet won a World Championship race lined up against a two-time World Champion. The weather turns out to be good, if not for the stifling heat, and a large number of Spanish people show up to watch the race. The formalities are limited to a few girls parading with national flags. The cars are lined up on the dummy grid before the warm-up lap, when a mechanic suddenly discovers a puddle of oil present under Jackie Oliver's car. An oil pipe from the collection pump has broken, but Oliver doesn't know this and a policeman keeps the mechanic from telling him. So the British driver sprints from his position with the damaged car, spilling oil along the track, and then goes straight into the pits hoping to make a repair. In the meantime panic breaks out around Jackie Stewart's car: the newly assembled engine doesn't run smoothly, so a new transistor ignition box is fitted, and both spark plugs and mixture are changed. A second warm-up lap is then carried out and at the end, half an hour late, the cars are invited to proceed to the main grid and start with Jochen Rindt taking the lead. Only twelve cars start the race, as Jackie Oliver's car is still in the pits, while the starter motor of the engine mounted on Piers Courage's car locks up and doesn't allow the British driver to start the engine, until it is decided to push it. After the initial excitement, Jochen Rindt passes the pits with a considerable lead over Chris Amon, who has Jo Siffert, Graham Hill and Jack Brabham in the wake of his Ferrari. After all the initial drama, Jackie Stewart doesn't get off to a very good start: the Scottish driver is sixth, ahead of Jacky Ickx, Denny Hulme, John Surtees, Bruce McLaren, Pedro Rodriguez and Jean-Pierre Beltoise, with Piers Courage arriving at the finish line half a lap behind his rivals.
Jackie Oliver's car comes out of the pits late, but returns at the end of the first lap to the pits to retire, because the oil pump pipe needs more time to be repaired. Jochen Rindt tries from the start to exploit his advantage and during the third lap has an advantage of about two seconds over Chris Amon. This advantage gradually increases with each lap, so that by lap seven it is about four seconds. Chris Amon pulls away from the group behind him, now led by Graham Hill. But the British driver's lead is short-lived, because on the next lap, while he is overtaking the climb to the first corner, the car goes out of control and Hill ends up wrecked against the Armco barrier, fortunately getting out of the car unharmed. Something is obviously broken, although Graham Hill isn't sure what could have happened. Meanwhile John Surtees stops in the pits to make an adjustment to the fuel metering unit because the engine isn't working properly, and returns to the race a few laps later. This time the transistor ignition unit is replaced and when the car re-enters the race, after losing about four laps, it runs the rest of the distance making a smoother sound. Piers Courage, who was recovering some positions at the end of the pack, retires on lap 18 with a broken valve spring on his Cosworth engine. A lap passes and almost in the same place where Graham Hill had lost control, Jochen Rindt's Lotus is the protagonist of exactly the same accident, with the Austrian driver suddenly losing control. This time, however, the cause stems from the fact that the British car lost its rear airfoil before the crash. Jochen Rindt's car, traveling at over 160 km/h, crashes into the Armco barrier, then bounces off the wreckage of Graham Hill's car and eventually flips over, trapping the unfortunate Austrian driver inside the cockpit. Jochen Rindt manages to survive this incredible accident and is taken to the hospital with cuts and abrasions on his face.
In this way Chris Amon goes from being seven seconds behind Jochen Rindt, to finding himself with an advantage of about 25 seconds over Jo Siffert. The New Zealand driver quickly increases his advantage but Siffert has Stewart behind him. The Scottish driver, however, cannot easily catch up with the Swiss driver. However, luck is on Stewart's side, since during the thirtieth lap Jo Siffert's Lotus stops due to the breakage of the oil pump. The classification order now sees Chris Amon leading the race, with a large advantage over Jackie Stewart, followed by Jack Brabham and Jacky Ickx, and Bruce McLaren in fifth place. The New Zealand driver runs with teammate Denny Hulme a short distance behind. Hulme, however, in the following laps makes a pit stop to investigate the management of his car, and so he climbs behind the entire group of competitors, except John Surtees. The race reaches the halfway point with few changes, if we exclude the increase of Chris Amon's lead over Jackie Stewart. During the fifty-first lap Jack Brabham's race is interrupted when on his engine a connecting rod breaks and punctures the cylinder block, then Bruce McLaren rises to fourth place behind Jacky Ickx. Immediately afterwards Jean-Pierre Beltoise makes a couple of pit stops to have his gearbox checked but doesn't lose positions, while further back Denny Hulme drives with great determination. Chris Amon's lead seems to stabilize around 40 seconds, so the New Zealand driver decides to slow down to preserve the mechanics of the car. This is until he crosses the finish line on the fifty-sixth lap, as suddenly the sound coming from the engine changes, and a big puff of smoke is seen coming out, making the Ferrari stop on the edge of the road. Many Italians become concerned and think that the problem is due to damaged bearings, which cause the engine to seize up. So Jackie Stewart becomes the third leader of the race, even if with an inferior engine.
Jacky Ickx rises to second place, ahead of Bruce McLaren, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Denny Hulme, Pedro Rodriguez and John Surtees. But these positions do not last long. While passing by the pits, the section of the fiberglass wing mounted on Jacky Ickx's car flies and breaks into pieces; the Belgian driver makes only one more lap, before returning to the pits, where another fiberglass wing is mounted. But Jacky Ickxk, in addition to losing time waiting for the repair, is also delayed by the fact that to restart the car must be pushed by hand. The Belgian driver returns to the race losing - fortunately - only one position in the standings. In the meantime Jackie Stewart's lead is over a lap, but the Scottish driver approaches Bruce McLaren and overtakes him, increasing the gap to two laps. Denny Hulme seems on the verge of joining Jean-Pierre Beltoise for fourth place, but the French driver manages to accelerate considerably and rejects the challenge. But the surprises aren't over yet, because eighteen laps from the end the engine of Pedro Rodriguez's B.R.M. explodes in front of the pits, due to a broken piston. Jackie Stewart completes the remaining laps to finish the race with regularity, and there seems to be no doubt that the order of arrival behind him will be Bruce McLaren, Jacky Ickx, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Denny Hulme and John Surtees. But with only five laps to go Jacky Ickx returns to the pits, because on one side of the lower rear swing arm of his Brabham a weld has broken, and on the other side the strut is breaking. Unable to repair the car, it is retired. The remaining laps are completed without any further surprises, with Jackie Stewart winning the Spanish Grand Prix and taking nine valuable points for the World Championship, which are added to the nine he had already won in South Africa, at Kyalami. Bruce McLaren arrives at the finish line second. The New Zealand driver is the second and only one to have covered the circuit without stopping at the pits. Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Denny Hulme and John Surtees complete the top five, while Jacky Ickx isn't ranked. Also in this case, apart from Matra International and McLaren Racing, the cars prove to be fragile.
Eighty thousand spectators attended the Spanish Grand Prix, the second race of the Formula 1 World Championship, held over 90 laps of the Montjuich circuit. Of the four favorites on the eve of the race, two - Graham Hill and Jochem Rindt, both in a Lotus-Ford - were put out of the race by accidents that occurred on the ninth and nineteenth lap and the third - Chris Amon in a Ferrari - was stopped by a trivial mechanical failure during the 57th lap, when he was in the lead with a 42-second advantage over his immediate pursuer, Jackie Stewart. The latter, at the wheel of a Matra-Ford, saw all his most dangerous antagonists eliminated one by one and with a final sprint he secured the victory. Hill disappeared from the scene almost immediately, spinning off the road and abandoning the car at the edge of the track. His teammate Jochen Rindt, who was leading the race from the start, was the victim of a singular and frightening accident on lap 19: the Austrian hit Graham Hill's car and, skidding fearfully (his car had lost a wheel in the crash), ended up off the track. Immediately rescued Rindt is transported in hospital where the doctors find a fracture to the nasal septum, a light concussive state and various hematomas to the face and to the body. Three days later, Wednesday, April 9, 1969, Jochen Rindt writes a letter addressed to Colin Chapman, warning him about the fragility of his cars.
"Dear Colin, I Just got back to Geneva and I am going to have a second opinion on the state of my head tomorrow. Personally I feel very weak and ill, I still have to lay down most of the day. After seeing the new Doctor and hearing his opinion we can make a final decision on Monaco and Indy. I got hold of this incredibly picture which pretty much explains the accident, I didn't know it would fly that high. Robin Herd apparently saw the wing go, but could not see the accident, since it happened around the corner. Now to the whole situation, Colin, I have been racing F1 for 5 years and I have made one mistake (I remember Chris Amon in Clermont Ferrand) and I had one accident in Zandvoort due to gearselection failure otherwise I managed to stay out of trouble. This situation changed rapidly since I joined your team, Levin, Eifel race F2 wishbones and now Barcelona. Honestly your cars are so quick that we would still be competitive with a few extra pounds used to make the weakest parts stronger, on top of that I think you ought to spend sone time checking what your different eployes are doing, I sure the wishbones on the F2 car would have looked different. Please give my suggestions some thought, I can only drive a car in which I have some confidence, and I feel the point of no confidence is quite near. Best regards".
Amon, the New Zealander driver of the Ferrari, took the lead of the race and started a hard duel with Jackie Stewart, who passed in second position after Jo Siffert retired. At the fifty-fifth lap another twist of fate: Amon is forced to abandon the race due to an oil pump failure that shuts down his engine. The Formula 1 World Championship started the European season with the full confirmation of Jackie Stewart and his Matra on the Barcelona circuit. This success, which repeated the success obtained in South Africa, did not, however, have the same peremptory effect. Jackie Stewart was favored by the accident to Jochen Rindt, and by the withdrawal of Chris Amon, due to yet another mechanical failure of the Ferrari's engine, and his car's only merit was its endurance, which means only perfect tuning. In Monaco, on the tortuous city circuit, the discourse reopens. In the meantime, in Palermo everything goes as expected. Porsche dominates the Targa Florio, the fifth round of the World Championship, bringing to the finish line in Cerda four of its cars. The Germans Gerhard Mitter and Udo Schutz win, ahead of their teammates Elford-Maglioli (winners of the last edition), Herrmann-Stommelen and Wendt-Kausehn. Mitter and Schutz obtain the new average record of the Madonie circuit: 720 kilometers in 6 hours, 7'45"3, at 117.469 km/h. The previous one was by Elford-Maglioli (6 hours 28'47"9, 111.111 km/h). Only Larrousse-Lins (delayed by gearbox problems) and Redman-Attwood (retired due to mechanical failure) prevent Porsche from finishing the race on parade, in front of President Ferry Porsche.
When a team manages to bring four cars to the first four places, comments are superfluous. It is the fourth consecutive success of Porsche in Sicily: the ninth in the history of the Targa Florio, certainly the easiest achieved by the white Stuttgart cars. The Ferraris are not there. The Alfa Romeos are content with a reduced participation, waiting for the new three liters. The 33 of Ignazio Giunti and Nanni Galli and the one of Nino Vaccarelle and Andrea de Adamich are present. The two Italian crews fought with great courage before surrendering their weapons. If the withdrawal of Vaccarella and de Adamich is within the logic of a competition (a valve of the eight-cylinder engine broke, probably due to an initial over-revving caused by Vaccarella to clean the dirty spark plugs), that of Nanni Galli was more adventurous. Giunti is third after Mitter and Herrmann. But then Galli gives him the change and he is twenty kilometers away from Cerda, at the Solafam crossroads, when Elford crashes behind him. The English driver crashes into the Italian, spins around and continues. Galli is therefore forced to stop to change a wheel, damaged in the collision, but the trouble is more serious, the hub-carrier is also broken, and, after another spin, this time caused by the burst of the replaced tire, the young Alfa driver prefers to continue slowly until he returns to the pits. Galli and Giunti aren't really happy about the way they have been eliminated, and at the end of the race they go to the Porsche pits, where a lively exchange of jokes takes place. Eiford claims that Galli didn't give him the way. He says that the Italian driver had to move, as if it were legal to send a rival off the road, just to pass. Not only that. Asteinemann, Porsche's sporting director, adds:
"When you're spinning as fast as the Porsches, you can't lose time".