After the Formula 1 race held in Monaco, it is clear that Scuderia Ferrari’s choice to set up five different cars and face a busy schedule with a limited group of men, drivers, mechanics and technicians, does not pay off. Porsche has now won the World Championship for Makes while the Formula 1 drivers’ championship sees the fight between Stewart and Hill. Porsche, however, only takes part in the World Championship for Makes and not in Formula 1 and 2, while Lotus does not even think about participating in the World Championship for Makes. Bad luck or the driver cannot be blamed, because the problem is the car itself. In South Africa and Spain it was the engine that stopped the Ferrari race, in Monte Carlo it was the gearbox. In Monaco both Stewart’s Matra and Amon’s Ferrari ended up with a problem. However, Stewart has already won two Grands Prix in South Africa and Spain, and continues to lead the World Championship with 18 points. Amon instead remains empty-handed, with three retirements in three races. The negative results confirm the difficulties of the car. The race of Sunday, June 1, 1969 is important. On the circuit of Nürburgring is held the 1000 km race. The seventh round of the World Championship for Makes focuses attention on the Ferrari-Porsche fight. Ferrari gives only one 312P to Chris Amon and Pedro Rodriguez while the Porsche has six 908 of 3 litres driven by Siffert-Redman, Mitter-Schutz, Elford-Ahrens, Stommelen-Herrmann, Von Wendt-Caushen and Attwood-Lins. In addition to the 908, Porsche also has a model of the new 917 of 4500 cc, with Hahne and Quester. The lap times of Friday’s practices are clear: Siffert is the fastest, completing a lap of 22.835 kilometres in 8'00"2, at an average of 171.200 km/h, thus beating his last year record of 8'33"0. Behind the Swiss there is Chris Amon with a time of 8'00"3, just 0.1 seconds apart. This made it clear that both Ferrari and Porsche must have some problems.
In the case of Ferrari, the car of Amon and Rodriguez completes nine laps and then ends up in the garage. The problems to solve are those to the radiator and the cooling system so the mechanics will replace the mighty 12 cylinders with another power unit overnight. In addition to Ferrari, the 1000 km race also includes three other Italian teams: Alfa Romeo, Abarth and Lancia. Alfa Romeo, waiting for the new 33 to become competitive, has three 2-litre-cars driven by Vaccarella-De Adamich, Giunti-Nanni Galli and Facetti-Schultz. Lancia has two of the new spiders of 1600 ccs on track in the Targa Florio. As in the Sicilian race, the two cars are driven by Maglioli-Pinto and Munari-Aaltonen. Alfa Romeo and Lancia have only done some set up tests; in particular, the team from Turin has experimented with various types of tyres. As for Abarth, it brought three cars: two sports of 2 litres and a sports prototype of 2000 cc. Unfortunately, the two sports are victims of two accidents that occurred during the morning after a few laps. Bitter goes off the track at a fast point in the circuit. The car flips over and catches fire. Fortunately the driver manages to get out of the car and then is hospitalised in Adenau with minor injuries. The Austrian Hezemans flies off the track. Again the driver is unharmed, but the car is badly damaged. Another problem, for Abarth, arises with Quester, who had been hired specifically for this race by Porsche. The Austrian tries the 917, which he prefers over the small Italian car. The only Abarth left in the race, the prototype sport of 2 litres, is then driven by Ortner and Van Lennep, in place of Quester. In addition to the Bitter incident, there is another serious one. The Lola of the Sweden Bjorn Rothstein makes a scary spin on the straight ahead of the finish line and the grandstand, and almost disintegrates. Rothstein is taken to Adenau and is subjected to x-ray examinations. He has a split lip and chest contusions, but nothing broken. The race begins with a sunny day on the straight and grandstands, and rain and hail at the lower part of the 22-kilometre circuit. Siffert leads on the first lap.
The fight with Amon and Rodriguez’s Ferrari 312 P lasts ten laps. Amon gets stuck at the start in the middle of the Porsches, but at turn three he manages to stay behind Siffert. After ten laps, he hands the car to Rodriguez with a disadvantage of just 15 seconds on the Swiss’ 908. Despite the pressure of the Porsches, which are five behind the Ferrari, the battle seems open, but Rodriguez does not find the pace. He feels a vibration at the front and it seems to him that in braking the car has an irregular behaviour. When he hands back the red 312 P to Amon, the gap has now increased to almost two minutes, and Stommelen and Elford move to second and third place. Ferrari mechanics discover that the left front tyre has the marks of a collision and that the rim is damaged. Plus, on lap 13 Rodriguez suddenly loses forty seconds from Redman, who takes over from Siffert, driving the number 1 Porsche. Rodriguez claims he didn’t hit the car anywhere. Despite this inconvenience, Amon tries a courageous comeback, managing also to achieve the fastest lap, the 28th, in 8'03"3, at an average of 170.100 km/h. The previous fastest lap was that of Siffert in 8'33"0, at an average of 160.200 km/h, set last year. The next lap everyone expects to see Amon, but he does not appear on the finish line: he is stuck along the circuit. It turns out that it is due to the electrical system. Now the 1000 km race is really a triumphant Porsche parade. With Oliver losing a wheel at the Karussell curve and stopping unharmed at the side of the track, Ickx-Oliver’s Mirage Golf is out. The Hobbs-Hailwood pair retires due to the failure of the BRM 12-cylinder engine while the big Lola of Bonnier-Mueller retires due to the axle. The 908s arrived at the finish line without problems. The only problem they face is the ailerons, which are modified following the new rules of the International Sports Commission that prohibits ailerons on single-seaters, unless they are mobile. Sports director Rico Steinemann says:
"It was a danger for the drivers, so we protest and maybe give up Le Mans".
After the race, Siffert confirms:
"One of the fixed aerodynamic elements on the tail flew away, and I had a bad time. I thought I could no longer control the car".
Nevertheless, Porsche has been able to create a splendid sporting reality with 3000 employees, 14.000 cars sold in 1968, a turnover of 46.000.000.000 lire and a truly amazing competition department. The Abarth of Ortner and Van Lennep stops almost at the end of the 1000 km due to the failure of the gearbox after being seventh overall. Facetti and Schultz conquer seventh place while De Adamich and Vaccarella do not shine due to some problems at the distributor belt. The Fulvia, with Munari-Aaltonen and Maglioli-Plnto easily prevail, repeating the excellent performance of the Targa Florio. Of the seven cars of Porsche, only Mitter-Schuetz arrive late due to the accident at the front end of Mitter - who went off the track - that kept the mechanics busy for 50 minutes, and Piper/Gardner, at their first experience on a 917 of 4500 cc. There is not even time to celebrate the results of the 1000 km, as teams and drivers must prepare to face one of the most important races in the world: the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This race, held for the first time in 1923, had the aim of helping technicians and constructors towards the search for solutions capable on one hand of increasing the mechanical strength of cars and on the other hand of improving the quality and functionality of certain essential accessories. Today there are those who say:
"A race day doesn’t show the qualities of a car anymore. It takes just the 1000 km or the 6 hour races. The dangers are minor, drivers, mechanics, technicians get tired less, and spectators do not disperse their attention. Moreover, even Le Mans, except in very rare cases, is decided in the first half. Then, the positions settle, and a monotonous carousel concludes the race".
However, it is difficult to imagine reducing this competition. Today, after 36 editions and 864 hours of racing, it has turned into a gigantic deal orchestrated by the Automobile Club of the West, the most prestigious of the French ones, with an annual budget of 7.5 million francs. For the 24 hours, an average of 200.000.000 lire are allocated, and these must somehow fit in: spectators (200.000-300.000 people), advertising, hotels, restaurants, drinks. Within the circuit there is a proper village where guests can have fun and spend some money. With 36 editions and 864 hours of racing, this competition has become a real deal, run by the Automobile Club of the West. Inside the circuit there is a temporary village with bars, shops, dormitories, dance halls: the more you stop, the more money flows to the organisers. And the fact that, so far, out of 1670 cars on track only a third has been qualified, is considered a source of pride. The Automobile Club of the West is defined as a state in the state. With time, it has achieved a strong position not only within France motorsport, but also at the International Sports Commission, the supreme authority of the sport of the steering wheel in terms of regulations. Often, it was the leaders of the Aco to condition certain decisions, to dictate some positions. We remember the reduction of the displacement limit to 3 litres for the prototypes, wanted for the 1968 season in the name of safety, of that same safety long ignored in the circuit. And it took the firm protest of the drivers after the accidents of Lucien Bianchi and Henry Pescarolo for the club to decide to adopt the guardrails on the terrible straight of Les Hunaudières. But this year, perhaps for the first time, the Aco was in trouble. First, the problem with the drivers (and the 13 kilometres of safety barriers cost them a hundred million), then the renunciation of Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Abarth and that - ventilated but much more serious - of the new World Champion Porsche. The question is well known: the Csi has banned the use of spoilers on single-seaters and that of movable front wings on prototype cars. The German team, which used them on its 908 of 3 litres and on the new 917 sport of 4500 cc, did not like the initiative and, from the position of strength derived from having now won the title, has given an ultimatum to the organisers of the 24 Hours.
"The wings remain or I do not go on track".
Leaving a certain room of interpretation, it was therefore decided that the wings should not be removed as without them the grip and road holding decrease and racing becomes dangerous. The sports committee of the Automobile Club of the West tried to find a provisional compromise. It allowed the 908 and 917 to be admitted to practices in order to seek the best conditions of stability, but if they want to start the race they will have to conform to the dispositions of the CSI and therefore the wings must be immobilised according to the most suitable inclination for the technicians of Stuttgart. In the end, the 908 have given up the mini-spoilers stabilisers, but this is not then detrimental to the possibilities of the car, as demonstrated at the Nurburgring, while the 917, thanks to the fact of being produced in series (even if limited to 25 units), can use the spoilers. These cars have just three months and only two races behind, the 1000 Km of Spa and the Nurburgring. At Spa, the only car on track stopped after only one lap with a broken engine and in Germany it arrived in ninth place, but the drivers complained that he was too unstable. As in the case of the World Championship for Makes, the 24 Hours of Le Mans puts in the spotlight the duel between Porsche and Ferrari, with Matra and Alpine as dangerous outsiders.
This time Maranello has the chance to conquer its tenth success at Le Mans and to bring back a victory after an unsatisfactory season. The possibility that Amon next year will leave Ferrari for Lotus and the discouraged behaviour of the mechanics demonstrate this need. Amon and Schetty, Piper and Rodriguez on 312 PT will face Siffert-Redman, Mitter-Schutz and Herrmann-Larrousse (908) and Elford-Attwood and Ahrens-Stommelen (917). However, the aerodynamic problems together with the fear that the 908s are less fast than the Ferraris and the 917s do not keep the distance, do not make the Porsche fearless. For example, Stommelen with the 917 succeeds during practices on Thursday night to run a lap in 3'29"9, at an average of 238.976 km/h. This on the circuit of 13,469 metres, with the chicane Ford that, compared to the past, makes you lose about ten seconds. To understand this result it is important to remember that in 1967 Andretti, with the big seven litres Ford, on the 13,461 metres track and without the variant, had completed the lap in 3'23"6, at 238.014 km/h. After a year of interruption, Ferrari will also face Matra, which has four cars driven by Servoz Gavin-Muller, Beltoise-Courage, Guichet-Vaccorcila and Galli-Widdows. An important novelty introduced at Le Mans is the anti-doping test. During the 24 Hours some checks will be carried out on the drivers by doctors of the Federation. The method will be the one in place for cyclists. Some drivers commented on the decision like this:
"Doping in the car is impossible, unless you’re crazy or suicidal".
Since last year on the race track there is another new element: before the straight of the grandstands there is a chicane that significantly limits the average speed. At Le Mans, the first victory was in 1923 by a French car, Chenard & Walker. The distance covered was 2209 km, at an average of 92.064 km/h. The 3000 kilometres were exceeded in 1931 by Howe-Birkin on Alfa Romeo. The 4000 kilometres in 1953 from Rolt and Hamilton on Jaguar while the 5000 kilometres in 1961 from Gurney and Foyt on Ford. Ferrari won the race nine times, four times Jaguar as well as Alfa Romeo and Ford while La Lorraine and Lagonda won twice. Chenard & Walker, Lagonda, Delahaye, Talbot, Mercedes and Aston Martin won once. If we look at the countries, thirteen victories went to Italy, twelve to England, seven to France, four to the United States and one to Germany. There are 45 cars in the race. At 2:00 p.m. it starts. A few minutes after the start, towards the end of the first lap, the Porsche 917 of the English driver John Woolfe goes off the track at the Maison Blanche turn and catches fire. John Woolfe dies instantly. The accident also involves Ferrari, which catches fire too, but Chris Amon miraculously manages to save himself. With Amon’s accident, Ferrari loses half of its chances of victory, and this demoralises the Maranello team. The race plans have drastically changed and the other 312 has some troubles and moves jerkily.
Stommelen-Abrens' Porsche 917 dominates the race. At the third hour another German car, driven by Elford-Attwood, takes the lead. The only official Ferrari left in the race, with Rodriguez-Piper, is behind. During the night, the race continues without surprises: halfway through the race three Porsches are in the lead, followed by the Fords of Ickx-Oliver and Hobbs-Haywood, and the Matras of Guicnet-Vaccarella and Beltoise-Courage. The advantage of Elford-Attwood is four laps. The average speed is 216 km/h. At the fourteenth hour the Porsche 908 driven by Schutz-Mitter, in second place, goes off the track on the straight of Les Hunaudières and catches fire. Fortunately the driver is saved with only minor injuries. At the sixteenth hour the race is always led by the pair Elford-Attwood while the only surviving Ferrari, driven by Rodriguez-Piper, retires for some troubles at the gearbox. With four hours to go before the end of the race, the 917 in the lead has some difficulties while the 908 of Kaushen-Lins, who was in second place, retires. The Ford of Ickx-Oliver thus has the possibility to progressively reduce the gap from the first. Herrmann-Larousse on Porsche are third. At the twenty-third hour Elford retires and Ickx jumps in the lead, followed by Herrmann. At 11:30 a.m. at the front there are the Ford GT 40 of 5.000 cc and the Porsche 908. A thrilling fight begins. In the last hour of the race the young Belgian Ickx and the 41-year-old Herrmann climb inside the car. It is a continuous alternation in the lead between the blue Ford and the white Porsche between the frantic signals of their respective boxes and the shouts of the crowd cheering for Ford. In 35 minutes, Ickx and Herrmann overtake each other about 15 times.
The German moves in the lead on the long straight of Les Hunaudières, with the Belgian in the slipstream, then Ickx overtakes him in the mixed section from the Mulsanne curve to that of Maison Blanche. This behaviour is quite unexpected because, between the two cars, people would expect to see the opposite: the GT 40 is in fact more powerful and faster than the 908 (490 hp against 360 hp and 330 km/h against 320) but less agile. People can therefore attribute this fact to a difference of driving style between the drivers. Ickx, for example, tends to brake as the curves approach with a few moments of delay gaining a few metres on the rival. At the end of the 24th hour, the two arrive at the finish line with a difference of 120 metres. Ickx, in fact, covers 4998 kilometres, Herrmann 4997 kilometres and 880 metres. Hans Herrmann, who had already gone on track at the Sarthe circuit on twelve occasions with Porsche, proves that he can’t be compared to Ickx. The Ford of the Belgian and the Englishman set the new average record of the circuit of 13,469 metres with the chicane Ford. The 1968 winners, Luciano Bianchi and Rodriguez, on the Ford GT 40, covered 4452 kilometres and 536 metres, at an average of 185.536 km/h. This year Ickx and OIiver, at the wheel of the same Ford GT 40, have covered 548 kilometres more, bringing the average to over 203 km/h. The two drivers therefore give Ford the fourth consecutive victory at Le Mans, and above all the satisfaction of an important success on the Porsche that this year dominates the World Championship for Makes. The Porsche was defeated in this competition for essentially two reasons: the failure of five out of six official cars and the magnificent driving of Ickx in the final part of the race. The Porsche however has the lap record with a time of 3'27"2 obtained in the first hour by Elford, on the 917. In addition, Gavan’s Porsche wins the standings at the energy performance index.
Matra, who has been focusing a lot on the 24 Hours, also delaying the preparation of Formula 1, manages to bring to the finish line three of its cars and to place two cars in the top five with Beltoise-Courage, Guichet-Vaccarella, and one in the seventh place with the pair Galli-Widdows. The other French team, Alpine Renault, does not get good results. Its four 3000 cc cars have to retire. Only one Italian car finishes the 24 Hours, the Ferrari 275 Le Mans of the American NART team that arrives eighth, with Teodoro Zeccoli and the American Sam Posey. It is the same car that triumphed at Le Mans in 1965 with Gregory and Rindt. Out of the 45 cars that started, only 14 finished the race. Second place went to Hermann-Larousse (Porsche 908), followed by Hobbs-Haywood (Ford GT 40), Beltoise-Courage (Matra), Guichet-Vaccarella (Matra), Kelleners-Jost (Ford GT 40), Galli-Widdows (Matra), Zeccoli-Posey (Ferrari), Poirot-Maublanc (Porsche 910), Gaban-Deprez (Porsche 911S). Since 1951, Porsche has been trying to establish itself at Le Mans, moving from the 356 four-cylinder berlinetta of 1086 cmc and 44 hp (speed 160 km/h) to the powerful 917 with 12 cylinders (over 350 km/h). Not even this time the Stuttgart car constructor can achieve the desired result. Someone says:
"We would have needed Siffert".
The Swiss driver, whose teammate is Redman, was theoretically better, but was then beaten on track. This statement reveals how envy Porsche was. To Porsche’s consolation, next year these terrible GT 40s will no longer be there, they will be replaced by a new model, but always with the Ford eight-cylinder of almost five litres. For the Stuttgart team it was a bitter 24 Hours also for the controversy that preceded and followed the test of the 917. The indecision of the International Sports Commission, the pressure of the Automobile Club of the West to make the cars run with ailerons, and the elegant solution of the problem have unnerved the environment. The disaster in which John Woolfe died increased the discussions, but on another level. It has raised two major issues: can a car constructor sell to a customer of uncertain experience a difficult and, therefore, potentially dangerous car like the 917? And is it permissible for the organisers to admit at the start of a race as hard as the 24 Hours a driver who is almost unknown? The first question is answered by Porsche, and with a lot of logic.
"Woolfe had already driven big cars. No regulation forbade us to sell him one of our cars, moreover homologated, nor can we be responsible for the subsequent use that he would have made of it".
And, in fact, Martland, Woolfe’s usual coequipier, had preferred not to drive the 917 thinking that this was beyond him. The second question deserves only one answer: no. But at Le Mans Aco prefers to strictly select the cars, showing instead to be very liberal towards the drivers. This is a frightening mistake, again for financial reasons. The 24 Hours draws every year about 110 drivers (two for the 55 cars, admitted as the maximum number to the race), but the show (and therefore the collection) decreases if you drop below that amount. And finding 110 steering axles is very difficult, also because champions like Graham Hill or Stewart disdain the race, just for the excessive and potential danger. Now, it seems that the French Automobile Federation intends to clarify this problem in the coming weeks by modifying the regulations. These are, today, the real enemies of the sport because old and outdated, as old and outdated are the drivers of motorsport, which is already struggling among many difficulties. The telegram sent by Enzo Ferrari is a fair cry of protest. It is not believed, however, that Scuderia Ferrari intends to outlaw itself. Meanwhile, with the tragic accident of Woolfe, Ferrari has seen its chances halved at Le Mans. Perhaps with two cars things could have been done differently. The fact remains that the only 312 P of 3000 cc remained in the race has suffered many inconveniences and retired after a painful ordeal. For a long time, something is wrong, and the environment itself of the mechanics is shaken. Someone whispers quietly, with the sadness of the enthusiast:
"We work hard, but the results don’t come. Why?"
If you look closely at the Zandvoort circuit you can see that many of the shortcomings of the track and the Dutch organisation are not improved, or are accepted as part of the scene. The Zandvoort circuit is artificial, built in sand dunes. The track surface is covered with a thin layer of sand along the starting line caused by the landing of Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. The air inflow of the helicopter has lifted the sand from the surface of the runway creating a small storm, but previously the track seemed completely dry and smooth. This sandy property of the track invariably changes the handling of some cars and some drivers, who were satisfied with their car in Monaco and then discovered that the car feeling in Zandvoort wasn’t the same. The shape of the circuit, like many, is very fun and satisfying to drive if you race alone, but tiring if you are behind a competitor who goes at the same speed because if the man in front does not deliberately create space there is nowhere to overtake. The only options are along the finish straight or under braking in the wide hairpin bend at the end of the straight.
The result will then be decided by braking at the end of the finish straight as you can clearly see by observing Siffert, Hill, Rindt or Stewart braking well beyond the 170 mph 200 metre sign. So every year there’s someone pulling a bunch of cars round after turn to create a tight line, until some driver is brave enough to overtake under braking after the pits.The wide curves on the back of the circuit are such that you can only follow your leader through them since there are no straight lines between the curves to allow overtaking. Another problem of the Zandvoort circuit, for which nothing can be done, is the perpetual wind. Being in sight of the North Sea, the wind can blow from the sea, which crosses the finish straight from left to right, from the ground from right to left, or rotate 90 degrees and blow directly along the straight with enough force to affect the times on a fast lap. This year’s race follows this pattern. Most of the fastest times are made on Friday morning with the wind turning from the sea to the ground; when it changes, there are few chances that Rindt loses the pole position. Another interesting aspect of Zandvoort is that the timing of the lap time is performed electrically from a ray along the track that times the lap time of a car to two decimal places. Observation by timekeepers establishes the order of the cars that pass while other timekeepers analyse the instrument’s timing and attribute them to each car. But almost every year, this system doesn’t work. This year it doesn’t really work. In the second practice session, on Friday morning, with the wind in the stern, Rindt set the best record ever of 1'20"85, showing everything he got and all his determination.
This pole position has a certain margin of advantage since the best time before is that of 1'21"50 set by Stewart on Thursday with cross wind. Just before the end of the Friday morning session, Stewart left with the second MS80 Matra to try to recover his position. After a number of laps at just over 1'21"0, his mechanics signalled him the time of 1'20"9, so the Scottish driver decided to return to the pits. The official lap times have to appear some time after a car has stopped since timekeepers have to do the calculations. Once these calculations have been made, the timekeepers give Stewart the time of 1'20"41. A time that is greeted with disbelief by all, including Stewart and Matra. After this announcement comes the rain and with it the lunch break. The timekeepers then retired the time of 1'20"41 for Stewart, and replaced it with a time of 1'21"14, leaving Rindt with the pole position. On another technical issue, the Dutch organisers have to make a difficult decision. With the cancellation of the Belgian Grand Prix, the Dutch Grand Prix is the first Formula 1 event after the decision taken in Monaco by the CIS on wing profiles. All teams have therefore interpreted the regulation which provides summarily that any aerodynamic assistance must be fixed and part of the bodywork. The Dutch timekeepers have had difficulties because the rules of the CIS are very free and therefore accept the interpretations they deem appropriate and reject those which are a blatant mockery. It seems that the members of the CIS have no idea of the complexity of the thinking of racing car designers nor of their ingenuity and cunning.
McLaren and Matra have honestly interpreted the rules as well as the B.R.M., but Ferrari, Lotus and Brabham have gone further. McLaren are equipped with a large flat tray above the engine and have sides and a raised tail, so they are like a big air shovel. The wedge element more than half a metre wide gives the New Zealander yellow single-seater the curious look of a bathtub. Hulme also begins to fit an old wing profile on the masts instead of the tray, but placed as close as possible to the engine and rear suspension. However, this aileron is rejected by the stewards. B.R.M. has curved aluminium foil on the back of the car, near the device, with the four exhaust pipes protruding from an empty space in this air deflector. This is accepted, but when they begin to mount a pure airfoil on short uprights, the tellers do not accept it. Lotus, Matra and Brabham mount on the back of the extensions which are small wings. That of the Brabham can be adjusted to different positions, but not in racing, because moving parts are prohibited. Matra does the best version, that is a fairing of the complete engine that moves at the end in a wing profile through the tail, all beautifully modelled fibreglass and placed around the oil cooler. Brabham has a similar idea, made of aluminium on a tubular frame, with the part of the aerodynamic profile bolted and the Lotus does the same. The only difference is that it doesn’t cover the engine. Ferrari has a simple cover on the oil cooler and on the exhaust pipes that have a flat area for the wind with a rolled tail. It is perhaps the team closest to the rules of the CIS, even in substance. Therefore, the men of Maranello declare:
"And what has come of it, if not less exploitation of the benefits of these devices?"
And during the night leading up to the race, Scuderia Ferrari publishes a leaflet about temporary aerodynamic profiles and air spoilers saying:
"Someone is cheating".
And that is not all: on the Zandvoort circuit could debut a group of Formula 1 single-seaters with all-wheel drive, that is, on four wheels. This system has so far been adopted on vehicles intended to work off-road, in fields or on mountain mule tracks. Ten years ago, Ferguson, a tractor constructor, was the first to design and build a four-wheel drive racing car, the P 99. Already at the beginning of the year it was known that Matra, Lotus, McLaren, Ferrari and B.R.M. had cars with four-wheel drive in the studio or at an advanced stage, but it was believed that their appearance was not imminent. On the one hand, the technical problems and on the other hand the huge financial commitment have delayed their start, but the abolition of ailerons, wanted by the CIS, has accelerated the time. While the power of the three-litre engines is constantly increasing (now we are on the 410-430 hp) and the weights tend to the minimum limit allowed by the current Formula 1 (500 kg), the aerodynamics of today’s single-seater accentuates its instability. The ailerons did not improve the penetration of the car, but were opposed to the vehicle’s high-speed lift and friction losses caused by air turbines. If the wings broke, as happened in the Spanish Grand Prix, the driver suddenly lost control of the car. With the elimination of ailerons, all that remained for the constructors was a second chance to improve the car: the four-wheel drive. It offers great pickup and excellent roadholding, especially in slow curves and on slippery or wet tracks. On the straight, however, it offers an additional resistance for the heavy mechanical losses due to the presence of three differentials, necessary to share the torque between the two sets and between the wheels of the same set, in the presence of four half-axles instead of two (one pair of which, the front one, is fitted with homokinetic joints) and a transmission shaft. These components absorb power in the straight at maximum speed, when the car is no longer subjected to significant accelerations, which can find a limit in the possibility of transferring the horsepower to the ground.
In slow curves and low-speed accelerations the absorption remains, but in this case the four-wheel drive gives more than they require, and with a clear advantage on the two-wheel drive. In these situations, an all-wheel-drive car also takes advantage of a part of the grip of the front tyres that at low speeds are not overloaded and can therefore gain throughout the curve to present itself faster on the next straight. You come to Zandvoort to admire the new four-wheel drive single-seaters and, instead, ailerons are back again. It is the surprise of the Dutch Grand Prix, the fourth round of the Formula 1 World Championship. The four-wheel drive cars, two Lotus-Fords and one Matra, except for last minute changes, will remain in the pits, because the technicians and drivers of the British and the French team do not think that they are ready yet. Graham Hill, who has been driving for a long time on Lotus, has limited himself to describing its behaviour as disconcerting. And then the ailerons return to the scene. They all have them but, let’s be clear, they are not the huge wings supported by the thin joints of the past, but aerodynamic elements of various shape and size, which are formally part of the regulations of the International Sports Commission, but which resoundingly betray its spirit. The CSI, after the accidents of Graham Hill and Rindt at the Spanish Grand Prix, met on the eve of the Monte Carlo race on 15 May 1969, banning the use of spoilers on all types of racing cars, but allowing the use of the front whisker and other elements provided they do not protrude in height and width from the body of the car over twenty centimetres and are part of the bodywork. The constructors, waiting to definitively launch the four-wheel drive, have made up a series of aerodynamic solutions, which certainly do honour to their imagination and their abilities, but not to their correctness. A stewart claims:
"We should disqualify them all, but how do we do it? And then, from a strictly technical point of view, they are clean".
It is to be expected, however, that the CIS doesn’t want to be fooled and will react soon with further measures to this factual situation. The Lotus, Matra and Brabham have mounted extensions on the back that are small wings (that of the Brabham can be adjusted to different positions, but not in racing, because the moving parts are prohibited and no one has managed at least to bypass this ban). McLaren mounted a wedge element more than half a metre wide, which gives the yellow single-seater of the New Zealander the curious appearance of a bathtub. Ferrari has also prepared a similar solution, but with much more limited measures. It is perhaps the team which is closest to the rules of the CIS even in substance.
"And what has come of it, if not less exploitation of the benefits of these means?"
Chris Amon, driving the only Italian car in the race (the Mexican Pedro Rodriguez has retired with the second car, and Pedro is really dark in his face), ran in 1'22"69. It’s the fourth lap time, about a second and a half faster than Jackie Stewart, who was the fastest, followed by Graham Hill and Rindt. The Scotsman did a lap in 1'21"14, while the Englishman and the Austrian set, respectively, 1'21"50 and 1'21"65. In last year’s tests Amon had been the best with a lap time of 1'23"5 (at an average of 181.600 km/h), which back then was the record for Zandvoort. During today’s practice session, a slight accident occurred to the Belgian Jackie Ickx, the winner of the recent 24 Hours of Le Mans. Ickx went off the track with his Brabham-Ford in a mixed section of the circuit, ending up in the hollow of a dune.
"The most difficult thing was to get back on track. I was half-sunk in the sand. Fortunately, neither I nor the car was damaged".
Ferrari has hope. No one now wants to hazard predictions: it has already gone wrong too many times, and the opponents are always the same, that is very strong. A rethink of the technicians of Lotus and Matra on the use of single-seaters with four-wheel drive could take place if it rains heavily in the race. This scenario cannot be excluded. Zandvoort, the Alassio of Holland, is about twenty kilometres from Amsterdam, on the shores of the North Sea. The track (4193 metres long, which drivers will have to cover 90 times for a total distance of 377.370 kilometres) winds through sand dunes with a single straight that allows peaks of 270.280 kilometres per hour. Often, the wind drags puffy clouds of water and brings on the track grains of sand, just to complicate the life of those who are driving. The start of the Dutch Grand Prix will take place at 2:45 p.m., the arrival is scheduled two hours later. The circuit of Zandvoort is safe and quite easy for cars and drivers, and sees the introduction of some new cars. The South African race takes place at the beginning of the year, Monaco is not a good place for a new design as a driver can easily do some mistake and destroy the car, and Spa, which normally precedes Zandvoort, is a test circuit and if something goes wrong with a new design, both the driver and the car are at risk. This makes Zandvoort the first great race suitable for experimentation, so it is no surprise to see Matra and Lotus launch their new cars at 4WD during the first practices. With two regular 1969 MS80 cars, for Stewart and Beltoise, the Matra team’s plan is simple. The Frenchman goes quietly ahead with his MS80 and Stewart prepares in the first free practice session his MS80 for the race and does the best lap time. Once satisfied, he could focus on the all-new MS84 four-wheel drive. However, on Thursday, June 19, 1969 the MS84 is not used while on Friday morning, at the start of the engine there are many problems with the engine fuel system and does not start.
With Rindt in second place, the Scotsman has other things to think about, so Beltoise tries to qualify with the MS84, but the narrow cockpit does not suit him and he cannot move the deformed arm properly. In the afternoon the rain comes and the 4WD is expected to have recovered, but apparently the track is not wet enough. The Lotus team has different ideas about its debut in 4-wheel-drive Grand Prix racing, having had a lot of experience in Indianapolis. Lotus was counting on Andretti’s arrival in Europe to drive the Lotus 63, leaving Rindt and Hill to concentrate on the old two-wheel-drive Lotus 49 because none of the European drivers had taken the right approach towards the 4WD. Andretti is convinced of the layout and no longer wants to waste time with the two-wheel drive. After optimistically asking for £4.000 for Andretti in the 4x4 car, Lotus accepts the organisers' amount of £1.500, but when the team arrives at Zandvoort the Italian-American driver does not show up. His engagements with the USAC prevented him from taking part in the Dutch Grand Prix, although he might have come for the practice sessions. In the interest of experimentation and progress it would have been interesting to see him do the first or second session of free practice because the 4WD on the Zandvoort circuit would have undoubtedly paid off with a driver with the right approach. There are two Lotus 63, the first appearing during free practice on Thursday; it is recognisable by the exhaust pipes of the Cosworth V8 engine that pass over the rear suspension and have an unpretentious smooth tail section of aerodynamics. This is the R63-1 and towards the end of the afternoon Hill takes it out for a few laps, but the springs are too soft and the nose continues to scrape the ground, especially in case of sudden braking.
The second car, the R63-2, arrives late and ends up in the paddock, but Rindt refuses to drive it because he is unable to take a drive test and very worried about the position. On Thursday night the second Lotus 63 was disassembled and the engine was fitted to the Lotus 49/6, which Rindt had driven, complaining that it was not working properly. The second 4-wheel drive car has exhaust pipes that slide under the rear suspension and a very neat tail section that has been blown away in an air spoiler, so these components are mounted on the 63-1 that Hill is still interested in driving. The second car was completed only thanks to superhuman efforts by Lotus. Friday morning it must have been irritating for the Lotus Team mechanics to leave what was left in the box and bring the old car 49/6 on the circuit for Rindt. However, the Austrian apologised and more than justified all the work by setting a lap time of 1'20"85. After carrying out this test, the car is set aside and is used again only to make some break-in of the new brakes and new tyres. Hill continues to drive the 4WD Lotus, but the setup is not at all correct and nothing can be done on the spot; even so, the British driver records a remarkable lap time of 1'25"75. Lotus cannot be too sad for its first performance in this new era of Grand Prix cars. On race day neither team uses the new cars. The motivation of the Matra team lies in the fact that they consider the MS 80 quite competitive while Lotus believes that the new car is not worthy of a race. Meanwhile, the B.R.M. has produced a new chassis, the P139-01, which has a much smaller mono-shell section and the 1969 engine with four valves per cylinder. This chassis, Bourne’s latest product, tapers inwards very close to the engine in the rear, and in the space obtained are mounted oil radiators, unlike previous radiators that were mounted over the gearbox.
The new suspensions follow a similar pattern to previous B.R.M. cars, but the front hubs are different and the 13-inch tyres are used at the front. The radiator of the B.R.M. is tilted forward and the oil tank is moved to the rear, wrapped around the gearbox a bit like a Lotus 49. One advantage of the redesigned single-shell chassis is that there can be more fuel tanks with the total capacity of 170.3 litres instead of the 144 litres of previous cars, which had to have extra tanks on each side of the cockpit. The interest for the 4-wheel drive overshadows this new B.R.M. that should be able to take full advantage of the 456 CV claimed for the 48-valve engine. Surtees is the one driving this new car. However, his performance is pathetic or he is not using all the power shown. The difference in race between him driving the older car, P138-01, and Oliver, driving the P133-01, is negligible. Anyway, they only manage to run faster than the private drivers, Moser and Elford, none of whom have 456 hp or official cars. Although not everything that happens is important, free practice sessions are always full of interest and enthusiasm and many people prefer them to the real race since many drivers are committed to winning good positions on the starting grid and then are content to stay in that same position for the duration of the session. On Saturday, June 21,1969 the Dutch Grand Prix is held. The event, supported in style by the Heineken brewery, takes place on a Saturday to attract more spectators. If Friday the wind turned 180 degrees and prolonged the rain in the afternoon making practices end in a boring way, Saturday the weather is clear. On the grid, Lotus has two cars in the front row, with Stewart’s Matra inserted between them. The race starts. From the starting grid to the first corner of Zandvoort is pure drag-racing: Hill is the author of one of the best starts in the history of Formula 1, taking the right turn from the left side of the road and blocking Rindt and Stewart completely.
On the first lap, the Lotus team has Hill leading the race, followed by Rindt and Stewart. Driving together, the two Team Lotus drivers may be able to contain Jackie Stewart’s attacks. However, Hill and Rindt prefer to fight each other so much that they rub and push each other as if they were in rival teams. At the start of the third lap Rindt overtakes his teammate and proves to everyone, especially himself, that he is faster than Hill, quickly creating a ten-second lead. On the fourth lap, Stewart overtakes Hill and gets second place. After entering the wide Van Tarzan hairpin bend at the end of the straight on lap 14, Siffert is quick enough to go wheel to wheel with Hill and overtake him round the outside by a few inches as they enter the next corner. Once passed, Siffert secures third place. The first sixteen laps determine the winner’s name. On lap 16, Rindt’s Lotus goes into the pits due to the failure of a cardan joint of the crankshaft, thus marking the end of the Austrian driver’s race. At this point Stewart leads the rest of the group, even though he is losing almost a second per lap to Rindt. The Scottish driver has full control of the situation and gives a wonderful demonstration of fast driving in full reliability, running with great regularity and lapping the slower drivers, including Surtees, driving his B.R.M.. Now the focus is on the battle for third place, disputed between Hulme, Amon, Brabham and Ickx, who are head to head behind Hill, but they are not brave like Siffert so a procession is created until the Lotus of the British driver heads to the pits. At this stage, Bruce McLaren is forced to retire on lap 24 when a front hub fixing bolt breaks, while Jackie Oliver leaves the race on lap 9, as a selector arm breaks in his Hewland gearbox. Piers Courage, on Williams Brabham-Cosworth V8, also retires on lap 12 due to the burning clutch. At the end of lap 27, Hill feels that something in the front suspension or steering is loosening.
The British driver returns to the pits but his mechanics find nothing that does not work, so the Lotus driver returns to the race always on the same lap of the leader, far behind, but not as much as Surtees on B.R.M. With clean air, Hulme, Amon, Ickx and Brabham can engage in an intense battle for third place and give spectators an exciting show. Although on the starting grid Ickx was slowed down by a problem with the clutch, the Belgian driver manages to impose himself on the last drivers, Moser, Elford, Surtees and Beltoise, and to join the queue behind the hill. The fluctuation of the fuel pressure, which makes his engine waver during the long fast curve on the straight, does not prevent him from racing with great spirit and aligning with Brabham to complicate the race to Amon or Hulme, depending on who stands in their way. This battle continues until lap 54, when Hulme begins to have an obvious advantage over the other three. Ten laps later, two distinct pairs form, consisting of Hulme and Amon, and Brabham and Ickx. On the sixty-ninth lap, Ickx overtakes Brabham and approaches the other two cars. Hulme, Amon and Ickx are equal, Brabham retires, but Hulme’s Cosworth engine loses its advantage, with the oil pressure dropping. The cheering for Amon are so strong that he seems to be in contention for first place. On lap 83, Amon, with the car 0019, overtakes the McLaren of Hulme and takes third place. Just at the end of the race, while Stewart is completing his last lap, Surtees returns to the pits surprising his mechanics, asking for more fuel, even if his car is equipped with external tanks. At this point, the British driver is three laps from the winner and starts again to finish penultimate with the same disadvantage. The race of Moser is instead ruined by ignition problems and him going off the track and in the sand that clogs the steering. At the Race of Champions last March, Stewart and Matra International had shown that they would set the pace in 1969, and at Zandvoort they reconfirmed this impression.
With the four-wheel drive cars in the pits, the traditional single-seaters, with their bizarre ailerons, were the ones to battle in the Dutch Grand Prix, the fourth round of the Formula 1 World Championship. And from the fight emerged the Matra-Ford of Jackie Stewart. The Scottish driver took the lead on lap 16 and then drove without worries until the end. He also set the fastest lap (new record) in 1'22"94, at an average of 181.995 km/h. Behind Stewart came Jo Siffert, in a Lotus-Ford, and Chris Amon, in a Ferrari, followed by Hulme, with McLaren-Ford, and Jacky Ickx and Jack Brabham, in Brabham-Ford. The Lotus of Jochen Rindt went into the pits for the failure of a joint, and the car of Graham Hill, who finished seventh with a lap behind, suffered the usual trouble with the suspension, forcing the World Champion in charge to a cautious driving. The Englishman did not score points for the 1969 title, while Stewart, who had already won the South African and Spanish Grand Prix, is moving further and further away with his 27 points. It was an exciting race, divided into several stages, from which Stewart, Siffert and Amon emerged as protagonists, a tenacious and combative Amon as never before, and who had the satisfaction of finishing a Grand Prix well after the previous ones. The first sixteen laps defined the winner’s name. At the start, with a shy sun and a cold wind that filled the North Sea with white ridges and brought on the circuit of Zandvoort some sand vortex, the drivers that made a good start were Graham Hill and Rindt, followed by Stewart, Hulme, Amon, McLaren, Brabham and Siffert, while Ickx was delayed by a slight inconvenience to the power supply.
Rindt, who is back in a Grand Prix after the serious accident in Madrid, is driving like a fury, progressively detaching Stewart, who had overtaken Graham Hill on lap four, and the others, including Siffert and Ickx, who quickly recovered. Rindt flies on the circuit, Stewart chases him, Siffert, at the beginning eighth, manages to reach third place during the thirteenth lap by putting Hill in trouble at the Van Tarzan curve, which follows the straight of the grandstands. Then, the end of the race for first place. Rindt pulls his Lotus inside the Van Tarzan and, between the photographers he walks back to the pits, to reach Oliver, who had retired just before for the broken gearbox of his B.R.M.. With seventy-four laps to go, Stewart is first and Siffert second. The two complete their race with the calm of precision employees, while behind them the fight is crazy. Graham Hill stops to allow the mechanics to take a look at the front suspension and finishes in the last positions, McLaren retires (due to the alternator); a small group formed by Hulme, Amon, Ickx and Brabham remains to battle. In the final stages, Amon and Hulme remain to fight. The two New Zealanders perform stunts in the dunes, the spectators are uninterested by Stewart and Siffert as they follow McLaren and Ferrari. They are rooting for Amon as if he is in contention for first place. He finishes third, with Hulme, at the end of the race, who compliments him, apologising for having obstructed him. It is a good result for the future after so many disappointments. This is also said by Prince Bernard of the Netherlands, who congratulates Amon and the managers of Ferrari, begging them to greet their old friend Enzo. Ferrari fans are everywhere. And while in Holland the Scuderia Ferrari gets an important third place, in Italy Fiat releases the following statement:
"Following the meeting of the president of Fiat, Dr. Giovanni Agnelli, with Engineer Enzo Ferrari, it has been decided, in the pre-eminent attempt to assure continuity and development to Ferrari Automobili, that the current relationship of technical collaboration with Fiat will be transformed within the year into equal participation".
This is the laconic announcement that confirms the long-circulating rumours about closer links between Fiat and the Sefac-Ferrari. Between the top Italian company and the small prestigious Emilian company very cordial relations existed for many years: we remember the financial support given by Fiat to Ferrari in the quinquennium 1955-1959; and subsequently the technical collaboration agreement for the construction and development of the Dino engine designed in Maranello. The basis of the latter contract was on the one hand the possibility of allowing Ferrari to participate in Formula 2 races (for which the adoption of engines derived from production cars produced in at least 500 units is required), and on the other hand, the construction by Fiat of a grand tourer equipped with an engine that expresses the most advanced technical experiences in the field of competitions: the Fiat Dino model. The agreement for the Ferrari-Dino engine expires these days, but there was no doubt that it would be renewed. It has gone further. The size of the company (500 employees, 700 to 750 cars built each year) and the kind of highly specialised production that is typical of Ferrari - high-performance cars and special class, with bodies designed and largely built by Pininfarina - in the current phase. A phase in which the technological development of the automotive industry would have posed major management problems for the Maranello team, all the more so because it is a personally-run company.
Furthemore (and it is another almost unique feature of Ferrari), Enzo Ferrari must also take care of the racing department, which if it is of indispensable propaganda and technical support to normal production, requires a continuous, heavy financial effort and a constant commitment to renewal in the design and construction of cars. These are a few examples each season - single-seater Formula 1 and 2 for Grand Prix, prototypes for endurance races - but of very high unit cost determined by research, experience, construction, testing and participation in racing. The new agreement with Fiat should radically change the situation. Not only it will allow Enzo Ferrari to dedicate himself with greater serenity and renewed momentum to the beloved field of competitions in which for almost a quarter of a century is one of the major protagonists and that has given to Italy many victories, but it will also be of valid contribution to the same development of the production of series cars with the Ferrari brand. In an industrially limited but highly prestigious context, the contribution of Fiat represents a very important event, with indirect benefits for the entire Italian automotive industry.