On Sunday, 31st July 1966 Ludovico Scarflotti is unable to beat his great rival Gerhard Mitter in the uphill race in Freiburg, the fifth round of the mountain car championship, and loses all hope of winning the European title in the speciality for the third time. Mitter finishes the race, divided into two heats, in a total time of 12'08"9, with an average speed of 110.6 km/h, beating Scarflotti by more than two seconds. The German driver, in his 2000 cc eight-cylinder Porsche, also sets a new competition record, completing the best run in 6'02"4, an average of 111.089 km/h. With this victory, Mitter virtually wins the mountain championship, which is awarded based on the five best placings. Mitter moves up in the overall standings to 42 points, leaving Scarfiotti behind, now on 21 points. There are only two races left to the end of the event (the Ollon-Villar, in Switzerland, and the ascent of the Gaisberg, in Austria) and Scarfiotti (absent in two races, winner in one and twice second) no longer has - mathematically - any chance of prevailing over his opponent. On the tortuous course leading to the summit of Schauinsland (it is 11,200 kilometres long, with a difference in altitude of 780 metres, and 172 bends), Ludovico Scarfiotti does his best, but Mitter, as well as being at home on this road, shows that he is driving a car of superior ability. In the Sestriere race it has seemed that the eight-cylinder Porsche does not have sufficient power reserved to beat the more agile and manoeuvrable Ferrari Dino. Only a Scarfiotti in dazzling form and imperfect carburation has forced the Stuttgart car to a halt after the victorious Rossfeld, Mont Ventoux and Trento-Bondone races.
Ludovico Scarfiotti will see an old dream come true on Sunday 7th August 1966, on the German circuit of the Nürburgring: to race in the agile Formula 1 single-seaters in a Grand Prix of the World Drivers' Championship. Ferrari, in fact, decides to flank the two 12-cylinder cars driven by Lorenzo Bandini and Mike Parkes with a 2400 cc six-cylinder, entrusting Scarfiotti to drive it. The likeable driver from Porto Recanati is no newcomer to Formula 1, but he has only competed very few times in this formula, with modest results (at Reims, a few years ago, he went off the road, breaking his leg); today, having demonstrated that he has reached a high level of form and possesses the qualities of a thoroughbred champion, his approach to single seaters is logical and natural. Scarfiotti has won numerous races in Scuderia Ferrari's big prototypes; last year he also won the European Mountain Championship with the Dino and deserved this proof of trust from Ferrari. In addition, for the Modenese manufacturer the problem of replacing Surtees is not yet solved, as the races held so far in the World Championship have made it clear that Bandini is unable to rise above a certain average standard and that Parkes is still very inexperienced. Scarfiotti could be the man. In the meantime, Ferrari's decision to field three cars at the German Grand Prix, the sixth round of a championship so far dominated by Jack Brabham and his Repco-Brabham, indicates that the manufacturer is keen to offer a prestigious performance as consolation for a truly unfortunate season.
The 38th German Grand Prix is being organised in Germany at the Nürburgring. For this competition, the sixth of a total of nine planned for this year's championship, the Automobile Club von Deutschland, responsible for organising the event, fears however, due to the low number of entries, that it will not have enough Formula 1 cars to make up a good starting grid and to keep the 22.8-kilometre circuit busy for 15 laps to satisfy the spectators and, for this reason, invites eleven Formula 2 cars. Not being able to take part in the actual Grand Prix, as they do not conform to Formula One rules, it was at first planned to start them in a separate race after the start of the Grand Prix, but in the end it was decided to have them line up on the starting grid together with the Formula 1 cars, but differentiating the championships. The entry for the Grand Prix was complete, with the only exception of Rob Walker-Jack Durlacher's Cooper-Maserati, which could not accept the AvD starting conditions, so Siffert was left without a driver. McLaren, which had made an entry, does not turn up and at the last minute David Bridges' Brabham-B.R.M. V8 is accepted as a replacement, with John Taylor driving. Team Lotus remains unchanged from Zandvoort, with Clark driving the R14 with Climax 2-litre V8 engine and Arundell driving the R11 with B.R.M. 2-litre V8 engine. After the rubber and steel vibration damper on the front of the crankshaft broke at Brands Hatch and Zandvoort, Coventry-Climax decides to run their engine without the damper. Jack Brabham was supposed to have a new chassis, built in the wake of the #2 single-seater driven by Hulme, but as it was not possible to prepare it in time, Brabham keeps the original car, so that he and Hulme would be like at Zandvoort. The car with the Climax 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine sits in the transporter in case of an emergency.
Practice starts on Friday at 12:00 a.m. and the first session lasts an hour and a half in sunny weather. During the first period from the series of downhill bends at Hatzenbach, one can see how the drivers divide into four categories on this part of the track: those who know what they're doing and where they're going enter the series very quickly, maintain speed throughout and exit the last left-hand bend at a very high speed and only just under control, needing all the way and a little bit of blocking on the right; those who enter slowly and fail to get into the rhythm of the right-left-right-left sequence and continually lose speed, so much so that they come out of the last corner at a lower speed than they could have achieved; those who enter too fast, or on the wrong line, get stuck and trudge along in a disorderly fashion; and those who are so aggressive that they have to change and start all over again halfway through. Surtees, in the Cooper-Maserati seems to be in great shape even though he hasn't done many laps as opposed to Anderson who seems to be spinning all the time, driving smoothly but not very fast. Stewart, Clark, Bondurant and Scarfiotti are all impressive, while Brabham and Rindt appear only once, very late in the session and Gurney, Hulme and Taylor do not appear at all. The Brabham team does not arrive with its usual efficiency because Brabham's car was still being rebuilt when practice began and Hulme's engine exploded before the lap even started. Gurney's and Taylor's cars are not yet ready and Ligier's has not yet arrived, but all the F2s are running.
Last year, in a 1.5-litre Lotus-Climax, Clark had set a lap record of 8'24"1 in the race, and during practice he had lapped in 8'22"7; so it was a surprise to find out that the fastest lap in this first practice was only 8'26"0, but it was no surprise to find out that it was Stewart who recorded it. Clark was second fastest and Scarfiotti third, in line with the way they had gone at Hatzenbach. The F2 cars struggled on the steep hills, as the 1-litre engine is not powerful enough to cope with the Nürburgring, but some drivers made up for the handicap on the downhills and tight corners. At 4:00 p.m. the second practice starts. From the Flugplatz, the fastest cars can be seen venturing up the edge of the steep hill, to see how they land, and in the same area, the fastest cars can be seen on the edge of the next hill and on the fastest part of the circuit, which is the long descent on a steady left-hand bend towards Schwedenkreuz and the tight right-hand bend at Aremberg. As soon as practice began, it started to rain, and although it didn't rain for the entire hour and a half of practice, the roads were always wet and the surface incredibly slippery; even the Formula 2 cars got sideways at any opening of the throttle. Surprisingly, everyone took to the track for practice, but no times worth recording were achieved. However, Gurney makes sure to run his qualifying laps in the Eagle, as does Hulme. Ligier starts the first lap in his blue Cooper-Maserati V12 and spins out in the woods a short distance from the start. He is thrown from the car and suffers a fractured knee and other minor injuries, an accident that will probably put him out of action for some time.
The pace of this last practice session was very brisk and one car after another was passing at the limit of grip, with the drivers working overtime, with the front wheels off the ground, coming out of the concrete ditch, the rear wheels touching the banks and the engines being exploited to the max. It was no surprise to find that ten drivers fell well below 8'30"0. and that eight of them were below the existing lap record. Clark was his usual outstanding self, with 8'16"5, followed by Surtees, Stewart, Scarfiotti, Brabham, Bandini, Parkes and Gurney. Among the other drivers, Bondurant's time does not correspond to the way he tackles the corners, and in Formula 2 Beltoise is slower than he looks. Jacky Ickx is superior to the rest of the F2 drivers. Shortly before the end of practice Scarfiotti went off the road in his Ferrari V6, without sustaining too much damage, and Graham Hill suffered a broken engine part in his B.R.M. In the garages therefore no time for rest on Saturday evening. The morning of the race, August 7, 1966, was cloudy and wet and, although the rain had stopped during lunchtime, it started again before the scheduled 2:00 p.m. start. As a result, there were headaches with the tyres and the Ferrari team arrived in the pits with Dunlops instead of the usual Firestones; the Lotus team cars that were on Dunlops also switched to Firestones just before the start; B.R.M. split up: Hill fitted Goodyear and Stewart Dunlop, while the Cooper team stuck to Dunlops. The Brabham team and Gurney had no problems: they signed up with Goodyear and never showed any inclination to try anything else, being well satisfied with the tyres supplied. Gurney had some tyres cut by hand to get more drainage, but in the end decided to stick with the standard model.
Twenty-seven cars line up for the start, missing out are Moser and Mitter, who do not start in the F2 section, as the German Lotus driver is still suffering from a foot injury and felt the strain of testing was too much. It is the 3-litre cars that win the drag race up to the South Bend and back behind the pits to begin the first of what will apparently be 15 very tricky and difficult laps as the rain falls steadily. Surtees is in the lead ahead of Brabham, Bandini and Rindt and, as the field emerges from the Hatzenbach woods to reach the bottom of the Quiddelbacher-Hohe descent, someone catches the front of John Taylor's car, which spins out and crashes in flames, forcing a badly burned Taylor to rush to hospital. Ickx, who is immediately behind Taylor, is forced to perform a violent avoidance manoeuvre that takes him off the road, but he still manages to restart after helping the unfortunate Taylor in whose wrecked car Anderson passes. The rain fell steadily as the leaders completed the first lap and, although Surtees had remained in the lead for most of the way, is Brabham who first appeared over the edge of the Tiergarten, chased by Surtees and Rindt. Then Clark, alone, followed by Gurney, Stewart, Bandini, Parkes, Hill, Hulme and Bondurant, with Beltoise leading Formula Two and already ahead of Bonnier, Arundell and Lawrence. At the back of the field comes Anderson, delayed by Taylor's accident, and long after everyone was in place on the second lap Ickx comes into the box to retire, with his Matra-Cosworth ruined by the off-track. An idea of the slippery conditions can be gleaned from Brabham's lap from a standing start, which takes 9'28"2, more than a minute longer than the average time on a dry track.
On the contrary, Surtees is far from happy: the Cooper's clutch had stopped working for some time, the pedal remained depressed, so he was forced to make gear changes without a clutch and as the fuel was consumed the car's centre of gravity changed and the handling got worse and worse, so much so that he could no longer keep up with Brabham and the gap went from 5 seconds after 13 laps, to 17 seconds on lap 14 and 44.4 seconds at the finish, while an exultant Brabham won the German Grand Prix. Rindt remains firmly in third place and, when Gurney's fourth place seemed assured, his engine dies and he stops on the descent to Adenau. Bad blow for the Eagle team to see Gurney's car fail so close to the end. The B.R.M. team took a not very deserving fourth and fifth place and Bandini was the last to finish on the same lap as the leaders. As the race seemed to be over and the timekeepers had already stopped their watches, Gurney suddenly arrives and completes the 15 laps to place seventh. The clip holding the capacitor inside the distributor had broken, allowing the capacitor to detach. It took Gurney a long time to find the fault and reattach the loose part, but he managed it and finished the last half lap. Obviously, his seventh place in the results does not tell the true story of a first-class drive that should have resulted in fourth place. Jack Brabham is, of course, very pleased to have won his fourth consecutive Grand Prix, in France, England, Holland and now Germany, but he is even more pleased to have won a race at the Nürburgring. The young French driver Beltoise dominated the Formula 2 race, finishing eighth, after Gurney, but first in his race ahead of Hahne, Schlesser, Hermann and even ahead of Formula One driver Arundell. However, the Formula Two race did not turn out to be as good as the organisers had hoped, perhaps because all the top drivers who normally monopolise Formula 2 were working on Grand Prix cars.
Jack Brabham wins the German Grand Prix in the car of which he is also the constructor, and practically become World Champion. The 40-year-old Australian driver has already won the French, British and Dutch Grand Prix this season, but it is unthinkable that his Brabham-Repco, the least powerful and heaviest of the new Formula 1 8-litre cars, would be able to assert itself even on a circuit like the Nürburgring, made for agile cars and drivers of great class. Instead, the likeable Jack shows that he has just enough class to give all his colleagues a run for their money, he shows that in a small workshop it is possible to build racing cars at least not inferior to those of famous names. But back to the Nürburgring race. Behind Jack Brabham comes John Surtees and Jochen Rindt in a Cooper-Maserati, then Graham Hill in a B.R.M. 2000 and Jackie Stewart also at the wheel of a B.R.M. Sesto Bandini in a Ferrari. Surtees performs magnificently, and for almost a lap, he manages to get ahead of Brabham. It must be said that the Brabham-Repco seems more stable on the wet asphalt (it rained for almost the entire duration of the race, which explains why the race record set last year by Clark was not improved), so the two Cooper drivers do not seem able to exploit the great power of the Maserati engines. World Champion Jim Clark, who has lapped at an average speed of over 165 km/h in practice, is never in the leading positions, and retires on lap 11. Of the Ferrari drivers, apart from Bandini's modest sixth place in the 12-cylinder 3000, there is little to say: Scarfiotti, in the 6-cylinder 2400, and Parkes, race for a while in the middle positions only to drop out, the former due to engine failure, the Englishman for ignition problems.
Fourteen of the most famous drivers in the world of Formula 1 line up at the start according to the results of the times obtained during practice. At that moment on the winding Nürburgring circuit the sky is full of clouds. The distance to be covered is fifteen laps, totalling 342.150 kilometres. Right from the first lap a lively fight for the top positions begins to emerge. It is immediately Brabham who takes the lead, followed closely by the powerful Cooper-Maserati of Surtees and in third position by the Cooper-Maserati of Rindt. Unfortunately, at this point the rain begins to fall, forcing the drivers to reduce their speed considerably. Shortly after the first lap Surtees manages to take the lead to the enthusiastic applause of the crowd, but the lap is not yet completed when Brabham again takes the lead. On this lap a frightening accident occurs when Englishman John Taylor, at the wheel of a McLaren-B.R.M. that has originally been assigned to New Zealander Bruce McLaren, collides with a Formula 2 car driven by Belgian Jacky Ickx. Taylor's car goes off the track and catch fire: the driver is pulled out of the driver's seat just in time and rushed to the hospital in Koblenz, where his condition is considered quite serious due to the second-degree burns he suffered. As time passed, the Brabham-Surtees duel becomes increasingly close. On lap five, just 0.7 seconds separates the Australian's car from Surtees' Cooper-Maserati, still trailed by team-mate Jochen Rindt. But every time the Australian is reported from the pits that Surtees' threat is becoming dangerous, Brabham pushes hard to restore his lead to a consistency of four to five seconds.
On lap nine the Ferraris of Parkes and Scarfiotti are forced to retire. On the eleventh, Jim Clark also quits the race due to mechanical problems. In the last five laps, Surtees desists from all efforts not to lose sight of Brabham, who is on his way to a well-deserved triumph. At the same time, a fatal accident disrupts the running of the 4th Coppa Città di Enna, a speed race for sports cars and prototypes. During the sixth lap of the competition, as the car exits the bend leading to the grandstands straight, the Alfa Romeo Giulia T2 driven by Palermo doctor Franco Lo Dico, racing under the pseudonym Crui, skids off the road, hits a rocky ridge above the track and overturns several times, crawling on the asphalt. As soon as the service ambulance arrives on the scene, the rescuers find the unfortunate driver unconscious amidst the wreckage of the car: taken at great speed to the hospital in Enna, Dr Lo Dico passes away shortly after being admitted. The mournful misfortune brings a shadow of sadness over the competition, which seems destined for the best technical and organisational success. The race, divided into several classes, has its most interesting episode in the duel between the Ferrari-Dino of Brescia driver Marsilio Panetti and Nino Vaccarella and Casoni's Ford GT40. The fight goes on for many laps, then Vaccarella is forced to abandon due to a fire start, and later Casoni stops in the pits to repair a fault, leaving the way clear for Panetti. Casoni himself restarts the race and set the fastest lap time at an average speed of 223.144 km/h.
Noemi di Benedetto
Translated by Alessandro Gambirasio