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#230 1973 Netherlands Grand Prix

2022-07-01 17:30

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#230 1973 Netherlands Grand Prix

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In the jumble of rumours agitating the world of Formula One at this time about driver transfers from one team to another, the 1974 transfer of Emerson Fittipaldi to McLaren is considered almost certain in London. According to some rumours, there is also the possibility of seeing the Brazilian champion in a Ferrari, but people very close to Emerson have said that the Brazilian driver does not consider the Maranello car to be competitive enough. Relations between Fittipaldi and Chapman, the Lotus owner, are quite strained. Chapman wants to prove that it is his cars that win and that, Fittipaldi or another man at the wheel, the results still come. That is why the British manufacturer is following Peterson more closely, who ends up with better cars than those in the Brazilian's hands. Fittipaldi's contract with Lotus ends at the end of the season. The driver, therefore, is free to look for another team and, indeed, negotiations with McLaren would be close to conclusion. Among other things, the team, which is proving to have a very good car, would be financed by the American tobacco company that currently helps B.R.M. Emerson would then have a princely contract. Meanwhile, in the United States, on Thursday, 19 July 1973, a calm day followed the first series of tests at Watkins Glen. Twenty-four hours of break, in which the mechanics of the various racing teams took advantage to check the cars, replace engines and implement the necessary modifications. A few drivers go to Niagara Falls on a sightseeing trip, such as Arturo Merzario. The training sessions highlight that the difference in performance between Matra-Simca and Ferrari continues.

 

However, the 6 Hours is also an endurance race and other factors may come into play, making it uncertain. By the way, there are also two Gulf- Mlrage for Hailwood-Watson and Bell-Ganley. The surprise of Spa must not be forgotten. In summary, on all three Ferraris the rear brakes are no longer located inboard but, on the wheels, and Ickx's car also has differences in shock absorbers and bodywork. Matra-Simca brings back to the track for Cevert one of the cars used in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with a Porsche gearbox. Two practice sessions are scheduled for Saturday, 21 July 1973, along with those of the cars that will race for the Can-Am Cup on Sunday. The 6 Hours will start on Saturday at 12:00 a.m. Ferrari and Matra-Simca will face each other in an almost decisive challenge for the World Championship for Brands. The calendar and the ups and downs of a duel that has lasted four months have given this 6 Hours so far from Europe a leading role. It is, for this tenth and penultimate round, on neutral ground, and not only in terms of topography. The Americans have very different ideas from the Europeans when it comes to racing and racing cars, echoing, of course, the mass production. Big saloons and berlinettas, then, seven-litre engines, not very sophisticated technology. The nimble little red and blue spiders from Maranello and Paris are a source of curiosity for the spectators and pride for the European, who notes with some pleasure that his cars are superior - performance, mechanical solutions, aerodynamics - to the local ones. It is a relative comparison, however, because no US team has committed itself to the World Championship, which in the United States is regarded as an affair reserved for Old World manufacturers.

 

However, already thousands of fans, especially young people, are expected at Watkins Glen, simply The Glen for the locals. The circuit is located 400 kilometres from New York, in an area rich in hills and forests. A short distance away is Niagara Falls, a must-see destination, although a little disappointing for those arriving from Europe. The track, 5410 metres long, is rather sinuous: a mixed-fast, like the one in Dijon. It, just to stick to the American custom, was designed by the Air Force Computer! Laboratory of Cornell University, the institute well known for its research in the field of automotive safety. The engineers wanted a track that would allow lap averages of 160 km/h or slightly more and, based on this understanding and the characteristics of the 1970 Formula 1 single-seaters, the computer determined the radii of the corners and the length of the straights. But no account was taken of the rapid progress that racing cars, whether Formula 1 or Sport, make every year, so that already last year in the US Grand Prix the fastest pass was made by Stewart, in the Tyrrell-Ford, in 1'41"64 at an average of 192.493 km/h, and in the Six Hours by Ickx, in the Ferrari 312-P, in 1'47"20 (182.026 km/h). It is to be expected that these averages will rise further, starting with the Six Hours, which in 1972 was dominated by the Maranello crews (Ickx-Andretti ahead of Peterson-Schenken) and which now sees two fierce teams like Ferrari and Matra-Simca lined up against each other. On one side three 312-Ps with Ickx-Redman, Reutemann-Schenken and Merzario-Pace, on the other two MS 670s with Cevert-Beltoise and Pescarolo-Larrousse. The same cars and the same men who faced each other for the first time on Sunday 25 March 1975 at Vallelunga.

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It was a bitter day for the Italian team, which now hopes to return it with interest to its French friends-enemies. And a victory was needed to maintain hopes of a final success and to be able to participate with a less tense spirit in that 1000 Kilometre race in Buenos Aires that on Sunday 21 October 1973 would put an end to the World Championship for Makes. To understand the importance of this Watkins Glen race, it is necessary to take stock of the championship situation and review the scoring mechanism. There are eleven races on the calendar, nine already run. From first to tenth place are awarded 20, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1 point, which cannot be cumulated. As the final ranking, which establishes the winning manufacturer, is drawn up considering only the eight best results, Ferrari on the eve of the 6 Hours finds itself with 100 points, as it has to discard the third place at Zeltweg and the fourth at Spa as well as the nil at Targa Florio. Matra-Simca has 104, not counting the three zeros at Daytona, Targa and Nurburgring. If on Saturday the Parisian marque were to impose itself and the Italian to finish second, the voitures bleu would have practically achieved their objective: in Argentina they could be content with a placing (second or third). If Ferrari were to assert itself at Watkins Glen and the Matra-Simca were to come in behind it, truly any solution would be possible, with the red one point ahead of the blue (120 to 119). In this case, the winner of Buenos Aires would also get the prestigious title, given the harshness of the very long challenge. There would be other hypotheses and score combinations, but we would risk becoming boring. Let's wait for Saturday night, as the men of the two teams, who are trying in these days of trials to prepare their roaring weapons in the best possible way, do with apparent calm.

 

"Matra will win. The French have managed to build a better car than Ferrari and they have more enthusiasm. They are a young team, while at Maranello they have fallen asleep a little on the laurels they have won over so many years. In racing it's the worst thing that can happen, whether you're into formula one or sports".

 

This is the opinion of Jackie Stewart on the eve of the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen, the penultimate and very important round of the challenge between Ferrari and Matra-Simca in the World Marque Championship. It may be a somewhat superficial opinion, but it reflects the views of many foreign observers who follow the fortunes of the Maranello team with detached interest. Stewart is here to take part in the Watkins Glen race in a Ford Capri together with Jody Scheckter, the protagonist of the recent frightful car crash at Silverstone. The Scot received a $20,000 signing-on fee: that's how much they value his name in the US as an advertising investment. Jackie, in short, will act as a bright side to this umpteenth battle between the red spiders of Maranello and the voitures bleu of Paris. It is clear that, on the level of pure competitiveness, the MS 670 is also at Watkins Glen superior to the 312-P for the usual reasons, especially better road holding. Driving along the circuit one can see how the Matra-Slmca cars go through the corners in progression, without uncertainty, with the drivers regularly accelerating. The Ferraris, on the other hand, enter the same curves showing slight understeer and tend to roll with the nose; those at the wheel must correct the movement and then accelerate very carefully, otherwise the car risks spinning. The situation, after all, is well known and the work done so far on the 312-P is merely palliative. Unfortunately, it was not possible to use the spacer (an element that is placed between the engine and the gearbox and which, in practice, moves the former forward, modifying the weight distribution) tested recently at Vallelunga. Ickx admits:

 

"We hope to have it soon, because it could contribute greatly to solving our problems".

 

At Matra-Simca they are serene. Cevert and Beltolse have an MS 670 with Porsche gearbox and ventilated inboard rear brakes, Pescarolo and Larrousse a conventional model. George: Martin, who heads the French team, says:

 

"Our only real concern is always about the engines. If they don't give in, we should beat our friends at Ferrari".

 

On Saturday two practice sessions were scheduled, which didn't bring any particular change to the situation, which saw the Matra-Simca cars ahead of the Ferrari cars and the two Gulf-Mlrage cars of Bell-Ganley and Hailwood-Watson. In the first part of the practice sessions Merzario showed himself to be the fastest of all in 1'44"2.

 

"And I was slowed down by the need to do a lot of overtaking, otherwise I could also have done better".

 

Reutemann performs a spectacular spin, slightly damaging the right side of the front of his car: a problem that the Ferrari mechanics quickly rectify. Those at Matra-Simca took Beltolse's car back to the garage for a leak of lubricant from the oil pump and changed the engine - which was new - with the unit used by Pescarolo and Larrousse in practice on Thursday. The fact saddened the French team's mechanics, and the Italian fans, who had descended on Watkins Glen from nearby Canada and New York, hoped - with much sincerity - that it would be repeated in the race.

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Sunday 22 July 1973 Henry Pescarolo and Gerard Larrousse achieved their fifth consecutive success, demonstrating exceptional continuity of performance. A sign of harmony, of balance, of always reasoned driving. The same cannot be said of Cevert and Beltolse, who are competitive in practice and run into trouble in the race. Cevert gave up due to a trivial failure of the electrical system, but earlier in the race he crashed into Ickx, losing four laps and compromising any chance of victory. There is some suspense at the start of the race due to the weather conditions, which seem grim and threatening. Until a few minutes before the start, the circuit is wet with sprinkles of rain, to the delight of the Gulf-Mirage men, who have the best wet-weather tyres, and the concern of the Ferrari and Matra-Simca men, in particular. They feared that their MS 670s' increased competitiveness would be cancelled out by the water. Instead, even the sky seems to favour the voitures bleu, gradually brightening as a light wind dries the track. The Gulf-Mirage's chances soon faded, with BelI-Ganley and Hailwood-Watson struggling with a thousand problems (front bonnet, battery, brakes and tyres) and it was up to the two Velizy spiders and the three from Maranello to revive the interest of the spectators, among whom were many Italian-Americans and many Frenchmen from Canada. The challenge is only uncertain in the early stages. Merzario, as he had promised on Friday, is the fastest at the start and surprises Larrousse and Cevert. But after fifteen laps the Frenchman, taking advantage of the confusion created by some American competitors at the wheel of slow and cumbersome cars, mocks Arturo Merzario. From this moment on the Matra-Simca imposes its law, even if the gap between the MS 670 of the two winners and the 312-P of Merzario and Pace is rather small. Then, between the third and fourth hour, the Italian and the Brazilian are forced to stop in the pits to change tyres and lose contact with the rival car. Merzario is very annoyed about the matter and does not spare the Goodyear service any criticism.

 

"We risked a tenth of a second and they hesitated and didn't listen to the drivers' impressions, causing us to lose three laps in an instant. I don't know if we could have regained the lead in the race; I honestly don't think so, but perhaps Pescarolo and Larrousse would have felt more threatened".

 

All three 312-Ps exhibit the now well-known phenomena of understeer and oversteer. Driving is very difficult and tiring. It seems pointless at this point to repeat the usual arguments on the subject. The cars are more or less the same as seen from Vallelunga onwards and so the final result cannot be different unless of course there is a Matra-Simca failure. But the reliability card was not successful, in fact even the Maranello team had a few problems with Ickx-Redman's engine failing to exceed 11,000 rpm, Merzario Pace's brakes malfunctioning and above all the breakage of the ignition distributor on Reutemann-Schenken's car. It was also noted that the Matra-Simca engineers fitted the MS 670 with a special type of brake pads that lasted until the end of the 6 Hours. This gained the French team about a minute and a half, but it can hardly be claimed that this advantage was decisive. But as engineer Giacomo Caliri of Scuderia Ferrari says:

 

"The truth is simple, they ride in peace, we have to pull like mad to keep up that pace".

 

The essence of the Watkins Glen 6 Hours, like previous European races, is just that. Ferrari has in the 312-P a car of considerable ability with similar returns for each example, but Matra-Simca has managed to make a more competitive and now sufficiently reliable car.

 

"Between now and 21 October we have a lot of time. I don't know if we will go to Argentina, but what is certain is that we can work around our car".

 

The prospects for the world title are rather weak. Today, the 312-P cannot beat the MS 670 barring exceptional events, yet every miracle can be expected from Ferrari. The task is difficult, almost impossible, and whatever the outcome, Italian sportsmen and women will have to be grateful to the Maranello team for the lesson in courage and loyalty offered by coming to Watkins Glen. In such dry times Enzo Ferrari did not back down.

 

"It is not true that the world championship is over. We will go to Argentina with two or maybe three cars. If Ferrari prefers to stay in Italy, well that's its choice".

 

So says Georges Martin, who directed the victorious Matra-Simca expedition at Watkins Glen. The blue men are rightly elated because, apart from Martin's diplomatic words, they realise that they have the situation in hand. A second or third place in Buenos Aires on Sunday 21 October 1973 was enough to bring home the title, and it would be the first time in twenty years for a French brand. We must recognise that Matra-Simca won with full merit this 6 Hours on American soil, the penultimate episode of the World Championship. The voitures bleu reconfirmed their superiority over their Italian rivals, once again plagued by the usual road holding problems.

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Sunday 22 July 1973 Clay Ragazzoni is in Lesolo on holiday with his wife. The Swiss confides to some friends that he has had enough of racing for some time. It seems that Clay is angry with his team, the B.R.M., and is determined to leave as soon as possible. But Ragazzoni is not the only driver to have problems. Many others are entering into negotiations for next year and, according to the rumours gathering in the pit lane, there would be a lot of news. The good opportunity to talk about transfers, projects, the car market (which is not that of second-hand cars but that, far more interesting for sportsmen, which concerns Formula 1 cars and drivers) comes from Misano Adriatico where, for the Marlboro Formula 2 championship, two drivers from international motor racing also arrived: the Swede Ronnie Peterson and the reigning World Champion, Emerson Fittipaldi. The Brazilian had promised the organisers of the Santamonlca circuit that he would arrive for this test, and he kept his word.

 

"For me, every opportunity is good to try a new track, to measure my strengths, even in Formula 2. And I must say that this was an interesting experience. The circuit is good, and it must be acknowledged that it was made with the most modern criteria, with all the most up-to-date safety guarantees. It's a track that's good for us four-wheelers as well as for motorbikes; perhaps it would also be possible to eliminate some of the guardrails. Safety issues are pressing, and I have to say that we motorists feel the same as our motorbike colleagues. Perhaps it would be necessary for us to join together to study in depth all our problems, which, although technically different, are the same in terms of organisation".

 

Fittipaldi then talks about himself, while about Ferrari and possible contacts with the Maranello team he doesn't want to mention any more.

 

"I have to think about the ongoing World Championship. The fight with Stewart is very tough, but it is not excluded that other drivers could enter. The next races will be very important".

 

Some Brazilian journalists following the champion say that there are several solutions in sight for Emerson for next year. If Lotus, as it seems, were to leave, the choice could fall to McLaren or B.R.M. It is not excluded, however, that Texaco, which now sponsors Emerson Fittipaldi in Formula 2, will decide to take a step forward. But in that case a car other than Lotus will have to be found. Maybe Ferrari with Texaco as sponsor? It is only a hypothesis. The fans would love a Fittipaldi-Ferrari pairing, just as they would welcome (and this possibility is not ruled out either) the return of the Swiss driver to the Maranello team's cars. But both drivers want competitive cars. As far as lckx is concerned, there is even speculation that the Belgian, under pressure from his wife, will leave racing. However, all these are pure conjecture, nothing is official yet. If there was a market, perhaps more would be known. But in the car business, negotiations are secret, and many factors play a part in them. In the round of changes there are, however, many names: from Carlos Reutemann to Niki Lauda to Jackie Stewart himself. For the Scot, it is rumoured that if he wins the World Championship he might even retire, but it is more likely that he will continue to race one more season.

 

Speaking of the race, Wilson Fittipaldi took victory in the first Coppa Santamonica, valid for the Marlboro Formula 2 Championship. However, it must be emphasised that the Brazilian's success was propitiated by luck, as the real ruler of the race was the rising star of motor racing, Englishman Roger Williamson, who had already won the Lottery Grand Prix of Monza twenty days ago. The British driver, in his March-Bmw, proved to be faster than all his rivals, setting the fastest lap in both heats. But while in the second heat, he started on the penultimate row ahead of only Vittorio Brambilla and managed to catch up one by one with the nine competitors in front of him, in the first heat he was stopped while he was clearly ahead, by an electrical system failure caused by a track outage that was immediately remedied. At a time of ousted or almost ousted kings, see Agostini in motorbikes and Ferrari in the world championship of makes, O Rey of motor racing, Emerson Fittipaldi, does not seem to worry much. At least apparently, he does not fear a coup. The Brazilian allowed himself a quiet weekend on the Adriatic Riviera where he gave his brother Wilson a good helping hand to win a fine round of the Marlboro Formula 2 Championship.

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If the family doesn't support you, where does it end? The only drawback, Emerson had with the heat. If he had only had to take baths with his wife Maria Helena, everything would have been fine. But Fittipaldi also had to race his white Texaco-Star. Up to this point it was business as usual because the task was certainly not one of the most difficult, especially as nothing was at stake but a bit of prestige for the World Champion. The Texaco, on the other hand, made Emerson suffer, forcing him into a fairly heavy sweat bath. In fact, it happened that the front brakes of Fittipaldi's car got hotter than expected, turning the cockpit into an oven. All this, added to the ambient heat, under a relentless Romagna sun, wearing asbestos tights, overalls and a full helmet, made the Brazilian sweat more than expected. And what's more, the car betrayed him five laps from the end of the second heat (when he had already done 25), depriving him of the place of honour behind his little brother Wilson, who was delighted with his success. This was the only disappointment of the Italian trip for Emerson Fittipaldi, who returned immediately after the race to Lausanne, where he lives, to prepare for the final battles of the World Drivers' Championship.

 

"We have to work hard to regain lost ground. The attacks are not only coming from my traditional rival, Jackie Stewart, but also from everyone else. In this situation I need to have a competitive car and that is why I, the engineers and mechanics at Lotus have to work hard. If I had to make a prediction, though, I'd give favourite Stewart, who wants to finish his career with a world title. For me there is still time to make up for it".

 

Fittipaldi is already thinking about the future and, while the smiling Ronnie Peterson (also at Misano, for a fleeting appearance on the track, after little more than half a lap he was immediately stopped by a fault) remains mute, a few things can be extracted from him. First a flattering judgement on the Santa Monica circuit:

 

"A beautiful track, on which one could race in Formula 1. I don't understand why the San Marino Grand Prix is not given the green light. In my opinion it is safe and spectacular. And I think that with the retraction of some guardrails, it could also be exceptional for motorbikes. We car drivers follow the battles of our two-wheeled colleagues with great interest, and we hope that as soon as possible all the necessary measures will be taken to make their racing safer".

 

At the mere mention of the name Ferrari, the Swedish driver has a strange reaction, the reason for which is not clear. There is no doubt that the Brazilian would love to drive Mannello's cars if only for the sake of prestige. Perhaps Ferrari's shares are in a downtrend, but the name i always impressive. Fittipaldi is probably waiting to see the results of the 312 B4, which is supposed to replace the 312 B3, according to what was heard in pit circles yesterday. The problem is difficult to solve. Many issues are at stake, not least that of sponsors, i.e., money. And perhaps the World Champion is waiting for some decision from Texaco, if the oil company decides to enter the Formula 1 field more forcefully. One thing is certain: should the driver leave Lotus, or should Lotus leave, Filtipaldi will want to drive a car capable of winning the World Championship. Ferrari, B.R.M., McLaren or some other name, or a new Lotus? This is the most important question. The Brazilian is busy defending his title, but he is certainly already putting his hands out for next season.

 

Monday 23 July 1973 Scuderia Ferrari announces that it will not participate in the Formula 1 Dutch Grand Prix, the tenth round of the World Championship. The race is scheduled on the circuit of Zandvoort, Sunday 29 July 1973. The reason for the decision is not disclosed. Jacky Ickx and Arturo Merzario will spend a Sunday off. It is likely, however, that they would have preferred to be on the track together with Fittipaldi, Stewart and colleagues: a driver reluctantly gives up racing. Especially Merzario was hoping for a good race after having already had to skip the British Grand Prix. Ferrari did not want to specify the reasons for this break. It is a somewhat delicate moment for the Maranello team, which sees the world marque title slipping away at the hands of Matra-Simca, which is unable to get satisfactory performance from the new 312 B3 in Formula 1 and which maintains relations with its number one driver, Ickx, that are now lacking in cordiality. The less said, the less controversy is ignited. However, one can try to guess the reasons for the decision, which did not take the engineers by surprise, especially after the disappointing race at Silverstone. In England, Ickx finished eighth after a rather colourless race and after obtaining very modest times in training, so much so that he was on a par with the Ensign of German driver Von Opel. Unacceptable performance for Maranello, so much so that it was said: "It would be better not to run".

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Sandwiched between Silverstone and Zandvoort was the onerous commitment of the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen for the Makes Championship. Both Ickx and Merzario spent the week in the USA and only returned on Sunday morning. There was, therefore, no time to do any further testing of the 312 B3, to verify any modifications. In practice, the single-seaters for the Belgian and the Italian were due to start on the same day and so the situation, more or less, would remain the same as always. We are therefore faced with a technical break. It is said that the most effective way to improve a car is to race it. True, provided, however, that there is a whole series of tests and trials beforehand. For example, at Watkins Glen Lauda was seen with the B.R.M.: in these days the Austrian will run tests in view of the Grand Prix to be held in October. It is hoped that the interval will be useful, and that Ferrari will return to the race on Sunday, 5 August 1973, at the difficult Nurburgring circuit with a better 312 B3. This car has an excellent engine, it has a monocoque chassis like its British rivals, it has attention to detail, yet it cannot match the performance of a McLaren or a Tyrrell or a Lotus. There are perhaps problems with weight distribution and suspension, as well as shortcomings in testing on the part of Ickx, who did not even try too hard in England, perhaps believing it pointless to risk not to win but to gain a position or two. And from Ferrari one always expects a victory, not a placing. That is the destiny of this team, whose role is that of a protagonist and not an obscure extra. Better to suspend the play for one evening if there is hope of applause for the next.

 

On Thursday 26 July 1973 the Scuderia Ferrari carries out a series of tests with Merzario on the single-seater 312 B3. The test and verification programme wanted by Enzo Ferrari to improve the car and prepare its return to Formula 1 after the break this week and the absence from the Dutch Grand Prix is thus implemented. The tests lasted the whole day. Merzario drives both the usual 312 B3 and another model with some modifications. The rain, which falls at times on the private Fiorano track, prevents the Italian driver from setting sufficiently indicative times, although a few hints have emerged. Practice will continue on Friday. The much-discussed 312 B3 runs at Fiorano, and, at the wheel, it is not Ickx but Merzario. The usual Merzario, who in silence, with great professional honesty, has been carrying out a real tour de force for Ferrari for months. Even for himself, agreed, but the Italian driver knows no timetable and gives all his commitment to the car he feels honoured to drive. Ickx, unfortunately, is absent. We have to say unfortunately because at Maranello there is a great esteem for the Belgian. An exceptional driver, both in sports and single-seaters. But Jacky Ickx does not like tests. He himself admits this. Yet it is precisely the training that is the basis for the development of the cars, and thus for racing claims. Both Stewart and Fittipaldi know this. This time everything seemed to be arranged. Ferrari had suspended its participation in the Dutch Grand Prix precisely to allow its technicians to calmly assess the possibilities of this 312 B3 Ickx had agreed. Then, on Wednesday, a telex from Brussels:

 

"I am sick, I cannot come".

 

Unlucky for the Maranello team, whose number one driver, who was just fine at Watktns Glen, falls ill on the very eve of the Fiorano test. Patience. Merzario continues to run disciplined. He is a man with his own ideas, maybe some people don't like him. However, he is consistent with himself and with Ferrari. Will they remember this at Maranello when, black on white, the 1974 team is made? Practice is due at 12:30 a.m. on Friday and the rain starts to fall, and it goes on raining all day. Some places are almost tolerable in the rain, but Zandvoort is not one of them for you are always conscious of the gloomy North Sea just behind the grandstand and the depressing wind that is always blowing makes rainy conditions bad. Hunt in the Hesketh March and Stewart in the experimental Tyrrell are among the first to brave the elements, the wedge-nose on the side-radiator Tyrrell having less of a point at the front, with a protruding lower lip. Follmer would have liked to have joined in with his UOP-Shadow rebuild after its Silverstone accident, but while the engine is being warmed up the camshaft driving belt broke, so that he never does get out in the rain, even though there are two sessions of practice. Under cover of the large tent attached to the side of the transporter the UOP mechanics are finishing off a brand-new car with a completely new rear suspension on more orthodox lines than the normal Shadow layout. Instead of the integral lower wishbone and rearward running radius rod, there is now a simple wishbone locating the bottom of the upright and a separate radius arm running forwards, with a parallel one above it to the top of the upright. Although the car is worked on all day it never got running and the other team member, Oliver, is using his usual car, it is having been straightened out after his Silverstone starting-line accident. Others who has fully recovered from the Silverstone multiple accident are March, who has rebuilt their car completely for Roger Williamson; Surtees who has straightened out Hailwood’s car and given Pace the spare one; BRM who produces Regazzoni’s old car for Beltoise, while McLaren has a brand new M23 with them, but only two entries, and Brabham has no need to repair BT42/4 as de Adamich is out of racing until his broken ankle and leg mended.

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They had BT42/5 standing by as a spare for Reutemann, although on this first practice day Wilson Fittipaldi does a few laps in it. In the pouring rain Lotus puts their two spare cars away, conscious of the fact that the German Grand Prix is only one week away from the Dutch Grand Prix, so Fittipaldi has to concentrate on R5 and Peterson on R6. The McLaren team are not interested in practising in the wet, though Revson relented and goes out in the second session, but Hulme stuck to his principles and does not go out at all. The most unusual thing about the meeting is the complete lack of any Ferraris, the Commendatore having withdrawn his team until they can make the new cars go a bit better. The other muddled team from Italy, the Martini-Tecno group are just as unhappy as they are at Silverstone. The new Goral-design car spends all day having a new engine installed, while Amon practises with the McCall-design car. Due to the appalling weather conditions the drivers of underpoared 12-cylinder cars are having an easier time than those with V8 engines and less flexibility, so that by the end of the day Lauda is fastest with a B.R.M., followed by Regazzoni, also in a B.R.M. and Amon is third with the McCall-Tecno, but none are fooling themselves with this freak result. Other things noticed in the pouring rain are that Beuttler is sporting a Postlethwaite-designed air box on his March, like the one on Hunt’s car, the Embassy sponsored Shadow has new bodywork designed by Graham Hill, which does away with the channel effect along the sides to the radiators, Gijs van Lennep is driving the second Iso-Marlboro car for Frank Williams, both Williams cars sporting new wedge noses and the Ensign never appears as the engine is being changed. Hailwood has a miserable day as his engine will not run properly, and Stewart has a bit of a fright when his cockpit fire-extinguisher suddenly fired itself off as he is travelling down the main straight.

 

The new corners introduced into the circuit are received with mixed feelings, nobody being quite sure of their function and some not liking the stop-start characteristic following a fast-sweeping section of track. On Saturday the sun appeare and for Northern Europe it is not a bad day, and it means that the serious business of vying for the best positions on the starting grid has to be crammed into one afternoon, divided into two sessions to allow a break for collecting anyone who has fallen by the wayside. The new Tecno appeares briefly and does a slow lap and is then worked on for the rest of the first session, while the old one is used. B.R.M. tries a new air-box on the engine of Regazzoni’s car, aimed at improving the airflow over the rear aero-foil, and Lotus has new air-boxes with much larger openings for their cars, but does not use them for a time. The newest McLaren M23 is brought out for Hulme to try and then Fittipaldi skates off into the guardrail when the left front wheel breaks its centre, just as he is entering the long straight. The Lotus is very badly crunched against the iron wall and as the broken wheel and suspension are crushed into the cockpit structure the Brazilian’s feet are trapped and his ankles are badly bruised. A look at the wreckage afterwards gives cause to think he gets off very lightly indeed. There is a pause to clear things up, during which time Ganley’s Williams-Special is towed in, a wheel nut having come loose and allowing the driving pegs to get chewed up, and there is time to review the situation briefly. On the dry track Stewart is fastest with a time of 1'20"28, closely followed by Hulme, who is driving very smoothly and in a determined fashion; followed by Fittipaldi before he crashed. Hailwood is still having a bad time, his engine popping and banging with an untraceable electrical fault, so that the only flying lap he managed is so slow the time-keepers does not bother to record it.

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Follmer is also in trouble and does not record a flying lap, though he keeps going round stopping and starting. With the dry track the Cosworth V8-poared cars are back on top and all the aces are up at the front. As all the aces run on Goodyear tyres it makes it look as though they are vastly superior to Firestone’s, but when you realise that Stewart, Hulme, Fittipaldi, Peterson, Cevert, Revson and Reutemann, all run on Goodyear tyres the results should not be a surprise to anyone. The new corners added to the circuit seemed to nearly equal the overall racing development of two years, in terms of seconds per lap, for the 1970 lap record stood at 1'19"23, set up by Ickx in a Ferrari, and Stewart has done 1'20"28. However, the fastest time recorded before the rebuilding of the circuit is 1'17"42, which lckx set up in practice in 1971, also in a Ferrari. Consequently, the final practice session holds much in store, for it is an all-out effort and Lotus wheedled some special short-duration tyres out of Goodyear for their front runner, who is now Peterson, as Fittipaldi is in no state to be competitive. The Swede rose to the occasion, as he always does, and went round in 1'19"47, but Stewart is in cracking good form and did 1'19"97 without the aid of special sprint tyres, and these two are the only ones to break the 1'20"0 barrier, so that the new corners win the day, but not by as much as is expected. There is a certain amount of muttering among some of the drivers on Goodyear tyres because Peterson uses the good Goodyears. Fittipaldi’s Lotus is quite beyond repair so his spare one is brought out, but he is unable to drive very comfortably. Hulme and Revson both have a go in the brand-new McLaren, and Amon gets out in the new Tecno. Hailwood’s miserable meeting comes to an inglorious end when his engine catches fire and he drives the Surtees to a marshal’s post and asks them if they would mind helping him to put out the flames. He has already actuated the on board mandatory fire extinguisher system and all that has done is to fill the cockpit, it not being piped to the engine department.

 

In the Shadow camp there is a certain amount of puzzlement for Oliver has thrown away all the niceties of text book driving and hurled his car at the corners in a most unruly fashion, with the result that he at last records an excellent lap time which puts him on the fourth row of the grid, just behind all the ace drivers! Lauda, who drives his B.R.M. like that anyway, is not getting results relative to the effort he is putting in and comes to a stop when his latest-type V12 engine with the improved crank-case oil scavenging, blows up and there is a lot of water coming out of the lower left-side exhaust pipe. Williamson is not having a very happy time with the works March, for having got the tyres and springs and things more to his liking, the clutch packed up before he can have a real go. Up amongst the fast drivers, as is becoming embarrassingly frequent, is James Hunt with the Hesketh March, looks after and fiddled with by ex-March technical man Harvey Postlethwaite. M’Lords pristine white car, devoid of any advertising stickers, is carrying patriotic red, white and blue stripes across the bodywork, and Hunt, who cannot be more English if he tries, is having a good old go, much to the embarrassment of many old pros and healthily paid works drivers or publicity-backed drivers. The small Ensign group are making quiet but impressive progress, unaccompanied by any bally-hoo or sensational journalistic following, and von Opel is discreetly in midfield, just behind the BRM team. When practice is all over it is found that Hailwood has not gone fast enough to qualify, under a CSI rule aims at keeping out hopeless cases, but everyone agree that it would be ridiculous to leave him out because of a technicality, so he is re-instated on the back of the grid by a Steward’s decision, backed whole-heartedly by the rest of the entry. All that Team Surtees has to do is to rebuild the car after its fire, hoping that the elusive electrical problem has gone up in the flames.

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A big question mark over the Formula 1 Dutch Grand Prix: the Zandvoort circuit, on which this tenth round of the Drivers' World Championship is scheduled to take place on Sunday, is being battered by fierce winds and torrential rain. The situation - according to weather reports - is not expected to improve in the next few days. On Friday, 27 July 1973, visibility was reduced to only 100 metres and the wind carried sea spray and sand all the way to the track, which lies on the coast. This was especially a problem for the organisers, who spent two and a half million guilders (580 million Italian lire) to improve the circuit and meet the demands of the drivers, who did not consider it safe enough, so much so that the race was not held. A possible cancellation of the race would postpone the challenge between Stewart and Fittipaldi to the German Grand Prix. The Scot leads the classification with 42 points against the Brazilian's 41. The two are chased by Cevert (on 33), Peterson (25) and Hulme (23). The race is of special importance for Stewart, who is chasing the absolute record for victories in Formula 1 races: he now boasts 25, like Jim Clark, and a victory at Zandvoort would take him to the absolute record. Illustrious absentees will be Ferrari, victorious with Jacky Ickx in the last edition of the Dutch Grand Prix in 1971. Sunday is dull and overcast, but at least it is dry, and a very good crowd pours into the circuit, Zandvoort being one of those rare circuits where you park out in the town and walk to the vantage points, the fittest presumably getting the best view from the tops of the sand hills. There is supposed to have been an untimed session of practice in the morning, but Dutch law forbids the making of a commotion before 1:00 p.m. on a Sunday, and the local police enforces this law. The test session is reduced to a bare 15 minutes, as soon as noise is allowed, and it cannot be any longer as a national saloon car race is due to take place before the Grand Prix.

 

The organisation has got itself in a bit of a twist over the starting grid, insisting that international rules credited the individual driver with a lap time, not the driver/car combination. In consequence they put Emerson Fittipaldi in the third row with the time he has done in the wrecked Lotus R5, even though he is going to drive R7. Then they climb down and re-read the rules and the reigning World Champion is put in his proper place, back on row seven, with the time he has recorded in Lotus 72/R7. Both Team Lotus cars are race-prepared with the new enlarged airboxes and Regazzoni’s B.R.M. is using the new-look from Bourne on its engine. The Test-Session may have been short, but it is enough for Lauda’s B.R.M. and Beuttler’s March to die out on the circuit with electrical problems, and for Hailwood to find out that his car is not much better than it has been in practice. Emerson Fittipaldi soon realises he is not going to do any racing, for his swollen ankles are giving him great pain and preventing him from pressing on the brake pedal, but he bravely agrees to start in the race. During the morning the unfortunate Ensign team discovers that the rear suspension mounting is about to fail, and wisely withdraw rather than cobble it up. The original 1973 Tecno is race-prepared, using the term loosely, while the nice new car is once more put to one side, and there is a complete lack of happy, smiling faces in their pit. The race organisers let loose a remarkable collection of saloon cars in their National race, while leaving some of the Grand Prix cars being worked on in the pit lane, and when the lone works BMW of Hezemans runs into trouble with its front suspension the Dutchman shoots into the pits, looking for help, and runs into the rear wheel of Follmer’s Shadow, knocking the car off its jack and nearly injuring mechanics working on it. The start of the Grand Prix is due at 2:30 p.m. and the cars are driven round the circuit to the dummy-grid, in all twenty-two of them setting off, for the works March will not start and is delayed in the paddock.

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While everyone is formed up in rows of three-two-three, with Peterson (Lotus) and Stewart and Cevert (Tyrrells) on the front row, Roger Williamson shoots out of the paddock and is just in time to join on the back of the field as they prepare to move up to the starting grid. It is Peterson who gets to the first corner first and as the pack poured round the first hairpin and along behind the paddock to the downhill hairpin of Hunzerug, they are in a solid mass. Braking for the hairpin Ganley’s Iso-Marlboro Williams nudges Lauda’s B.R.M., sending it off into the dirt on the inside of the corner, and while everyone roars away over the hill the poor Austrian is desperately trying to get some wheel-grip with his slick rear tyres. He eventually gets back on the road and roars off in pursuit, while Ganley is preparing to head for the pits as the nudge has dislodged the nose cowling. Peterson, Stewart, Pace (who has made a meteoric start from the third row) and Cevert are already away from the pack at the end of the first lap, the rest of the field being led by Hunt. As they stream round the Hunzerug hairpin for the second time Oliver’s Shadow slides gently into the guard-rail with a crunch, right in front of designer Tony Southgate, who turns and walks off in despair. The unfortunate Oliver climbs out unhurt, trying in vain to explain how the throttles has stuck open. Next time the field appears Emerson Fittipaldi stops at the pits, having felt he has gone far enough to keep the faith, and in some pain, he is helped from the Lotus. The bright yellow March of Beuttler is not seen again as the engine dies once more out on the circuit, with a failure of the electrics, so that the field is dwindling rapidly. By five laps a pattern is beginning to emerge, with Peterson still leading Stewart, Pace and Cevert and with Hunt, Hulme and Reutemann keeping in touch.

 

After a short gap come Revson, Regazzoni and Beltoise, then Wilson Fittipaldi and van Lennep, the Dutchman going well in only his second Grand Prix, then come Williamson and Purley in very close company, followed by Graham Hill leading Follmer, Lauda, Amon and Hailwood, the B.R.M. driver in the process of making up time after his excursion into the dirt. A long way back Ganley brings up the rear delayed by his pit stop on the opening lap. On the next lap Cevert passes Pace and Lauda moves up a place. At the end of lap 8 everyone goes by according to plan, until after van Lennep has gone by, and then there is an ominous gap before Graham Hill and his followers arrive. Williamson and Purley are both missing, and an ominous column of smoke can be seen rising over the sand dunes, and bad memories of Piers Courage cloud the thoughts. While the leaders comes round again, with the gap between Peterson and Stewart longer than before, few people at the circuit realise that Roger Wiliamson has crashed and is pinned in the March which is upside down and on fire, and that David Purley stops and is desperately trying to turn the car over on its wheels to release the driver, and unaided is trying to put the fire out. No-one in the pit area realised what is happening, and even as Hulme slows right down and gesticulates to the officials few people realise what he is trying to convey. The works March has gone off the road on a 130 m.p.h. fast right-hand bend, due to something going wrong mechanically, and has hit the guard-rail at a 45-degree angle. The newly installed rails have collapsed and formed a launching ramp which projected the March through the air a fantastic distance and it has crashed back into the road upside down and skates along as far again until it comes to rest. Roger Williamson dies in the accident and David Purley is completely overcome by the tragedy and the fact that there are no suitably equipped Marshals on hand to help him.

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Meanwhile the rest of the drivers drive through the smoke and dust at speeds they feel are safe, and some will have liked the race to have been stopped, while others used their discretion. The gap between Peterson and Stewart opens out dramatically, while Cevert is close behind the Tyrrell team leader, but Pace and Hunt drop quite a long way back. On the lap after this tragedy begins, Reuteman is passing the pits when his Brabham throws the tread off its left front tyre, the bits flying high into the air while he brings the car to rest just round the Tarzan Hairpin. While Hulme is slowing down on each lap to gesticulate wildly to the organisers, Revson, Regazzoni and Beltoise close on him, and through it all Lauda continues to pick off the slower cars one by one, and Ganley has a moment of joy when he catches and passed Amon in the Tecno. The Italian car is suffering from fuel starvation, just as it has done at Silverstone for the simple reason that the Tecno people do not believe what Amon has told them in England, so has done nothing about it. Peterson is well on his way, lapping the tailenders, as are the two Tyrrell cars, and is the full length of the main straight ahead of Stewart by lap 18. Meanwhile Pace is in trouble with a pounding front wheel, for the balance weights has come off, and Hunt and Hulme go by him, and on lap 19 he is heading for the Armco Avenue into the pits to have his front wheels and tyres change. Amon gives up the unequal struggle and the Tecno joke is put away while everyone scowls at each other in this happy little team, and the race settled down into a rather gloomy procession with the knowledge of the disaster on the far side of the circuit hanging over the grey scene. Peterson is piling on more and more lead and Stewart is obviously not trying all he knows for Cevert is sitting all the while in his slipstream, occasionally being unnecessarily close.

 

Hunt is firmly in fourth place, with Hulme behind him, followed by Revson and Beltoise; then comes Regazzoni with Lauda closing on him, and amongst them is Pace, back in the race but one lap behind. Hulme can do nothing about Hunt, and on lap 31 can do nothing about anything at all, as his engine blows up and he coasts into the pits to retire. By 40 laps there is a slight change of scene, for not only is Stewart closing on Peterson, but the Lotus is showing signs of failing and is losing speed. Regazzoni has been into the pits due to tyre troubles, Lauda is in bother with the fuel pump on his B.R.M. engine and Graham Hill is making frequent stops for water, the Cosworth V8 engine in his Shadow having an internal leak. By 45 laps Peterson is in obvious trouble and the two Tyrrells are closing on him rapidly, but Hunt cannot keep pace with them as the clutch has gone on his March and he is having to make all his gearchanges without its help. As his fourth place is not in any danger, Revson and Beltoise being well behind him, he is not unduly worried. As the two Tyrrells close on the leading Lotus Hailwood’s unhappy weekend ends when his Surtees dies quietly out on the circuit, still suffering from an obscure electrical failure, while his team-mate Pace is still going strongly in company with Beltoise. At the front of the race Peterson cannot only see victory slipping from his grasp, but he can feel it, for his gearbox is breaking up and he is having to overstrain the engine in his endeavours to keep his lead without all five available. On lap 63 the two Tyrrells are ready to pounce on the black and gold Lotus and on lap 64 they are right behind it. Lap 65 and they are first and second and the Cosworth engine in the Lotus has gone very flat, and next time round Peterson freewheeled into the pits with all sorts of nasty bits coming out of the exhaust ports, the engine well and truly broken. Stewart completes the 72 laps to win his fourth Grand Prix this season, and his twenty-sixth all told, but it is an unhappy victory.

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On the day of Roger Williamson's tragedy, Jackie Stewart makes it en plein on the Zandvoort circuit in the Dutch Grand Prix, the tenth round of the Formula One World Championship. The Scot won the race, followed by team-mate Cevert, taking his twenty-sixth win in a Formula One race. Thus, the record of poor Jim Clark, who had won twenty-five races, fell. In addition, Stewart increased his lead over Fittipaldi in the World Championship standings to 10 points. The Brazilian, who is going through an unlucky period, had been injured in Saturday's practice session, going off the track. Today Emerson attempted to take part in the Dutch Grand Prix. He was introduced by the mechanics in his Lotus and set off. One lap was enough for him to realise that it was impossible to continue. He returned to the pit, saying that his right foot hurt too much. The second Lotus man, Ronnie Peterson, tried to take over from the World Champion. With a fabulous start the Swede took the lead in the race, followed by Stewart, Pace, Cevert, Hunt, Hulme and Revson in the McLarens. Peterson quickly increased his lead over his rivals: two seconds after six laps. Pace was forced to stop in the pits to change his tyres. Shortly after halfway through the race, however, Peterson's lead began to diminish, shrinking to just four seconds by lap 56. Eight more laps and Stewart managed to overtake his despondent rival, who prematurely ended his fine race by pulling into the pits with a smoking engine. In the final stages the Dutch Grand Prix did not reserve any more emotions, with Stewart's solitary flight towards the supremacy in the company - at a due distance - of Cevert. To be underlined once again was the performance of Hunt, who worked miracles with the March, and that of Beltoise, who was the best of the B.R.M.

 

Disappointing was the performance of Amon and Tecno, who soon disappeared from the scene. Ferrari were absent from the race. In front of millions of television viewers a young man died at Zandvoort. His name was Roger Williamson, he was British and 25 years old. He perished in the fire of his car which went off the track during the first laps of the Formula One Dutch Grand Prix, the tenth round of the Drivers' World Championship. Television brought the tragedy into homes. The lens fixed moment by moment the shocking phases of the accident: the overturned car enclosing Williamson in the narrow cockpit, the rush of another driver, David Purley, trying to rescue his colleague, the unstoppable flickering of the flames. We all witnessed the inefficiency of the fire-fighting services prepared by the race organisers. He timed the drama: from the moment Williamson's March appeared on the TV screen to the moment the first fire truck arrived, three minutes and 55 seconds elapsed. Helmet and fireproof suit withstand the action of the flames for an average of one minute. And all the millions of viewers sitting in front of the television on this lazy summer afternoon witnessed the ineptitude of three circuit officials. They walked around the overturned car, one had a fire extinguisher in his hand, and did not know what to do. Only Purley - and it was not his job - attempted a desperate intervention. This tragedy, which hits motor sport hard, brings up old problems again. The risk of competition, the spectacle that becomes drama, the looming threat of fire, the inadequacy of many circuits. Zandvoort like Monza. Formula 1 single-seaters start the race with 180-200 litres of petrol in their tanks. They have better protective systems than they used to have. They are not enough. They race on tracks that stretch between steel ribbons. Whoever makes a mistake, through his own human error or that of others, through the failure of the car, pays.

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It is not right, although no one forces a man to be a pilot. Racing is an area of sport that should be preserved. But certain mentalities need to be changed, to adapt to the times. A horrendous, dramatic spectacle, which is an indictment of the organisers of the Dutch Grand Prix. It is the eighth lap of the race, Williamson's March skids, flips over, hits the guardrail flanking the left side of the track, at one of the fastest points of the Zandvoort circuit: the drivers are going at 250-260 km/h. Purley sees the scene and with a magnificent gesture stops to help his colleague. Purley gets out of his car, another March, looks around, waits for a moment, then crosses the carriageway as the race continues and runs desperately towards Williamson's car, which is lying with its wheels to the sky, its tail towards the guardrail. Purley approaches, tries to overturn it by pressing against a wheel with his hands and body. At this moment - and it has already been several seconds since the impact against the barrier - the flames are not yet blazing. Three stewards appear, one of whom is carrying a portable fire extinguisher. They look inebriated or frightened. They fear, probably, that the March will explode. No one has special flame-resistant clothing, there is no fireman in a special fireproof suit. Purley takes hold of the fire extinguisher and directs its jet at the single-seater. The others watch. The - obviously limited - charge runs out and it is the fire. The minutes pass very slowly as the flames envelop the car and its poor human burden. Purley, who makes desperate gestures, is rudely removed. A service car arrives, while smoke envelops the scene and the other competitors' single-seaters parade past at reduced speed. After almost four minutes, as mentioned, a fire engine appears with four or five firemen in overalls. They attack the flames, almost cautiously. No one tries to overturn the March immediately. Andrea de Adamich, commenting for Swiss television, makes a very good point: And the cable with the special hook for turning over a car, required by safety regulations, where is it?

 

The fire goes out, the single-seater is finally put back on its wheels. It is a wreck. A tarp is spread over the cockpit. About fourteen minutes have passed. The tragedy has been accomplished. A huge white stain remains on the asphalt, formed by the dust from the fire extinguishers. The firemen leave. All that remains is the wreckage with the battered body of Williamson, which Stewart, Peterson and their comrades skim over in their fight for victory. These are the facts, as seen on television. Images that brought back memories of another drama: that of May 1967, starring Lorenzo Bandini at Monte-Carlo. Six years have passed since then and, apparently, very little progress has been made if a driver can still die like Williamson. Risk is an inevitable constant in racing, but it should be contained, above all the consequences of an accident should be reduced. For some time the Formula 1 drivers, united in an association (the Grand Prix Drivers Association), have been campaigning for safety and some results have been achieved: the single-seaters have been made heavier, there are fire extinguishing systems on board, special tanks enclose petrol; some circuits have been challenged and had to make changes to their layout, such as the Nurburgring or Zandvoort itself, where no racing took place last year. Clearly, what has been done so far is not enough. And since you can't turn the cars into tanks (you can't even do that with normal, everyday cars), you have to do something about the circuits. The solution is not even complicated: the asphalt ribbon must run between two large areas free of all obstacles, in sand or grass, to allow harmless deceleration for those leaving the carriageway. Then, retaining nets, capable of gently absorbing the impact, and finally the guardrail. The rigid barrier serves to prevent the car from flying into the crowd, but it cannot prevent the violence of the impact. Even, it can throw the single-seater back onto the track, turning it into an obstacle for the other cars. This type of track already exists, including those at Le Castellet or Nivelles or Misano Adriatico.

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In addition, there is a really good fire service, with vehicles and firemen stationed at key points, able to cover every metre of the track with very fast movement, on service roads at the side of the track. At Zandvoort, on the other hand, the guardrails are very close to the track, except at a few cleverly designed bends. And the fire brigade is missing. Those who came to Williamson's aid were coming from the place next to the pits, so they had to cover two or three kilometres of track. It is unbelievable that an additional place had not been provided at that point. And one does not object that it was not possible to foresee that Williamson would have crashed there. The spot is known to all for its danger: in 1970 Piers Courage died there in a similar fire. For pilots there is simply no forgiveness. One mistake is fatal. A machine organ breaks down, a colleague hits you, or you make a mistake: the line between life and death hangs by a thread. A thread that can be broken very easily. We love racing, but it has to be organised by professionals. Change is needed, action is needed, before the usual higher authority decides one day to impose a no-no. But the worst enemies of competitions are those who operate within them badly, like the organisers of Zandvoort. The reactions in Great Britain to the tragic death of Roger Williamson in the Netherlands are violent. All British commentators are accusing the Grand Prix organisers, the stewards and the fire brigade of negligence, cowardice and incompetence when they intervened so late at the scene of the dramatic fire. In particular, tones of terrible accusation take on the Daily Mail, which reports an interview with David Purley, the British driver who stopped to help Williamson and was the only one to do anything to save his unfortunate colleague. Purley, still distraught over Williamson's atrocious death, calls race officials cowards.

 

"There were five or ten people in the vicinity. None of them dared to approach the burnt-out car. Three spectators jumped over the barrier, but the police with dogs did not let them approach. I tried to bring the overturned car back into line. If only four other people had helped me, we would have got it out of there. I couldn't think they would be so insensitive and cowardly. If they had helped me, we would have got Roger out".

 

Purley reported that Williamson was still alive inside the overturned car and added that the driver himself tried to pull himself out of the cockpit without succeeding.

 

"When the fire brigade arrived ten minutes later, they were afraid to get too close to the flames. I was so furious that at one point I ripped the hydrant out of the hands of one of them and hit an officer in anger".

 

In Belgium, newspaper and radio commentators almost unanimously criticise the organisers of the Dutch Grand Prix for Williamson's death. The newspaper Les Sports writes:

 

"The incompetence of the organisers had already come to light in the accident that cost Piers Courage his life in 1970, but the proof was lacking. Now they can only be disappointed and embarrassed: thousands of television viewers saw how the race officials and fire brigade were totally inefficient".

 

French newspapers unanimously condemned the lack of safety facilities along the Dutch circuit. The editor-in-chief of L'Equipe, Douard Seidler, writes:

 

"On Sunday a man died who could have, who should have been saved. The lack of life-saving equipment, the bewilderment of race officials unable to cope, the deplorable slowness of the fire-fighting services, all of this dismayed the millions of television viewers who followed with bated breath the agony of Roger Williamson and the pitiful lonely efforts of David Purley to extract him from the burning vehicle".

 

In the meantime, Jackie Stewart says he hopes that the horrific tragedy that befell the Dutch Grand Prix will give new impetus to initiatives to improve circuit safety.

 

"In general, they all lack fire-fighting equipment and personnel; if we can extinguish a burning Boeing 707 at an airport, we should also be able to extinguish 200 litres of petrol from a racing car".

 

However, Stewart adds that the $900.000 spent to modify the Dutch circuit had, in his opinion, made it a safe track.

 

"Williamson's death was a classic motorsport tragedy that could have happened on other tracks. Motor racing will never be safe".

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Stewart also rejects the criticism levelled at the drivers who continued the race after the tragic fire.

 

"We were not in a position to judge what was happening, the people on the ground were in the best position to decide. We had to abide by whatever decision they made".

 

Enzo Ferrari was also sitting in front of the television set. His cars were not racing, but the Modenese manufacturer was equally interested in following the competition.

 

"What can I say about the 1973 Dutch Grand Prix? As far as I was able to observe from the television footage, it can be deduced and repeated: need for clearances, depending on the speed limit, fifteen to twenty metres of grass, preferably sandy ground. Also, box hedges, nylon netting. The guardrail should only be considered as a last means of defence for the public and therefore placed as far back as possible. Its presence at the edge of the track leads to the car bouncing back onto the track and the possibility of chain accidents, as happened at Silverstone in the recent British Grand Prix. Absolute incompetence of the track personnel stems from the fact that they normally do not have a specific professional competence but are recruited by the organisation according to opportunity or environmental needs. A Total lack of rescue vehicles in terms of number and effectiveness. Given the approximate knowledge of the time limit for the life of a pilot, in the event of a fire, there should be a fire-fighting-equipped vehicle at least every 500 metres, plus flying positions every 100 metres, thus making intervention times of good effectiveness at a maximum of thirty seconds. One should demand the organisation of a multinational specialised corps at the base, moving from circuit to circuit, as well as competing teams, sized in proportion to the length of the individual circuits. In the case of Zandvoort, shortcomings of all kinds were seen. Powder fire extinguishers were used instead of highly effective liquids such as fluobrene, and the hostility of the stewards to intervene was noted, despite repeated entreaties from driver Purley. The race had to be stopped immediately, as it can only be described as a miracle that the drivers continued to pass through a bend totally obscured by black and white clouds. The International Circuit Safety Commission, an emanation of the CIS, the GPDA, which endorses, after inspection, the decisions of the former, must be convinced that one can no longer trade technically unquestionable measures for hospitality and preferential treatment. The most obvious example of this is the Monaco Grand Prix, which is run, after the sacrifice of our Bandini, between two steel rails and pavement corridors, without the slightest space of defence for the driver who overflows. The prevarication of economic interests over technical and sporting ones is now clear, and repeated denunciations and protesting abstentions have been to no avail. The big races, the Formula 1 Grand Prix, are now in the hands of those who have no interest in listening. We arrive at Monza, where, after years of political discussions, only one variant has been granted in conjunction with the 1978 eviction. Has consideration been given to the responsibilities in which the Automobile Club of Italy will find itself if it wants to organise its annual Grand Prix there? Certainly not. It is now up to the GPDA and the Formula 1 constructors' association to impose everything that is humanly, technically, predictable and pre-ordained for the safety of the drivers. If the accident happens, we can then speak of a fatality, one that the organisers of Zandvoort certainly cannot invoke today".

 

The controversy becomes bitter and nasty as the minutes pass. The organisers of the Dutch Grand Prix claim that the rescue was swift and reply, to those who question them as to why they had not stopped the race, that there was sufficient visibility at the scene of the drama, so much so that the drivers had continued to race. The drivers reacted by claiming that it was not their turn to stop. A series of useless words, with falsehood and cynicism on the part of those who rule the fortunes of the Grand Prix and a weak, very weak defence on the part of those who were at the wheel while Williamson burned in his single seater. The only true hero of this dramatic affair is David Purley, who first had the courage to stop his car - giving up all dreams of glory, all ambitions, all funding, all prizes in dollars and florins - and then to throw himself into the flames. Racing, at this point, is under indictment. It is no longer possible to speak of chance, of fatality, as Enzo Ferrari says. And in the rush of feeling, of disgust at what appeared on the video, many are calling for the abolition of racing. It is almost a cry of pain, but an addition must be made: no more racing, but racing administered in this way. Formula 1 is in the midst of a crisis, a renewal is needed, and it must start with all the bodies that make up the sector: organisers and circuit owners (in most cases the same bodies), constructors, drivers, and legislators. It is the latter, with the power they hold, who are the first to have to intervene. But, more or less, they are all bound together by multiple interests, and so breaking certain ties and imposing other ways becomes difficult. There are many proposals to be made. Something has been done, too much remains to be done. But time is running out. People, public opinion, cannot remain insensitive to what they see with their own eyes. They are no longer enchanted. The spectacle is beautiful, it can arouse emotions, but it must not become atrocious drama.

 
Fulvio Conti

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