#170 1968 Italian Grand Prix

2021-11-22 00:00

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#1968, Fulvio Conti, Giulia Vergani,

#170 1968 Italian Grand Prix

On the morning of Tuesday, 6 August 1968, Giovanni Bracco, one of the best-known gentlemen in Italian motorsport, to which he devoted himself out of p


On the morning of Tuesday, 6 August 1968, Giovanni Bracco, one of the best-known gentlemen in Italian motorsport, to which he devoted himself out of pure passion, achieving major successes between 1947 and 1952, died in Biella hospital. He was 60 years old and had been ill for a long time. At the time of his passing, his wife Ms Melania Guglielminotti, his sister Resi in Grolla and a few other close relatives were at his side. The news of the popular driver's passing caused deep sorrow. The body will be laid to rest the following morning in a funeral chamber set up in the entrance hall of the Automobile Club of Biella. The funeral will take place on Thursday, 8 August 1968, in the morning. Those who experienced the adventures of motorsport in the years following the last war preserved an unforgettable memory of Giovanni Bracco. Because Gióanin was not only a great, unmatched long-distance racing driver, but also a distinctive character, a good, generous and loyal man, used to giving his all, in life as in sport. Born in Biella in 1908, and owner of a wool factory, Bracco had started motor racing in the late 1930s, at the wheel of a Fiat 1500, making a name for himself especially in uphill races. After the conflict, he took part as a privateer in numerous races in the sports category. He had an impetuous but precise style, a courage that appeared reckless to some, whereas his way of driving, was all instinct, but never uncontrolled. His best years were those of 1950-1955, the years of his legendary Mille Miglia.


In the 1951 edition of the great Brescian road race, he stunned technicians and public by placing second overall, in a Lancia Aurelia B 20 (a normal gran turismo with only two litres of displacement), behind Villoresi's big Ferrari sportscar. The following year, Enzo Ferrari entrusted him to drive his cars, and the driver from Biella completed his masterpiece by beating the Mercedes team with an overwhelming finish. In another speciality, uphill racing, he scored countless victories, from his Biella-Oropa to the Susa-Moncenisio to the Aosta-Gran San Bernardo. In his last years, no longer supported by his health, Bracco had retired to his own farm estate, but he had not lost contact with the racing world, even though many things had changed. He could no longer find the almost goliardic, enthusiastic and joyful atmosphere of his days, of the Mille Miglia days. A few weeks later, on Sunday 25 August 1968, Austrian driver Jochen Rindt, at the wheel of a Brabham Formula 2 car, won the seventh edition of the Mediterranean Grand Prix, achieving an astonishing average speed of 229.636 km/h. In second place was the Englishman Piers Courage, also in a Brabham, third the Italian Brambilla (Ferrari-Dino), fourth the Belgian Ickx (Ferrari-Dino), fifth the Englishman Bell (Ferrari-Dino). Jochen Rlndt's success is well deserved, albeit by a narrow margin: at the end of a gripping duel with the most highly-rated drivers of the moment, a duel that held the more than 40,000 spectators gathered at the Pergusa track with bated breath for more than an era, the Austrian driver managed to prevail by a few tenths of a second over the large group of rivals. One hour 2'40"6 was the time it took the winner to complete the 239.880 kilometres of the overall distance of the Grand Prix run on the fast circuit in Enna, at the spectacular record average of 229.636 km/h.


Eighteen cars are present at the start: in the front row are Frenchman Pescarolo and Englishman Courage, who had set the best times during practice. On the second row are Austrian Rindt and Swiss Ragazzoni. They were followed in order by the Frenchman Beltoise and the Belgian Ickx, the Englishmen Hart and Bell, the Italians Mano Casoni, Ernesto Brambilla and gradually all the others. Only the American Brown is missing from the roll-call: the technical commissioners, for safety reasons, did not allow the car, protagonist of Saturday's accident (fallen into the lake and quickly recovered) to take part in the race. Moreover, before the start, the organisers had Ickx drive two laps of the track to test the Ferrari-Dino, which had crashed into a guardrail during practice. In anticipation of the Italian Grand Prix, to be held at Monza on Sunday 8 September 1968, two well-known American drivers made their Formula 1 debuts. One is Bobby Unser, winner of the last Indy 500 and leader of the American championship standings. The official confirmation of Unser's participation came telegraphically from B.R.M. on Sunday, 2 September 1968, the team for which the American driver would race at the wheel of a car equipped with a V12 engine. The other driver making his Formula One debut will be Mario Andretti, a driver from Trieste who is also very popular in America. Andretti is entered by Team Lotus alongside Graham Hill, the British driver who leads the World Championship standings of which the Italian Grand Prix is the ninth round, and Jackie Olivier. As for Ferrari, they will take part in the Monza race with three cars driven by Chris Amon, Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell. There is, however, insistent talk of a fourth car that would be entrusted to the Italian Brambilla, who would thus also make his debut at the wheel of a Formula 1 car.


The name Monza alone evokes speed and memorable Grands Prix, and the list of participants is one of the best seen, with Lotus, Ferrari, Matra and Cooper each bringing three cars, and Honda bringing just two cars. USAC's two American drivers, Andretti and Unser, were signed up to take part in the Italian Grand Prix, the former in the third Team Lotus car and the latter in the second B.R.M., taking the place of Attwood, who had left Bourne's team without warning. The two Americans practised for a long time before the start of official free practice and Andretti showed excellent form, lapping faster than the existing flying lap record. With a total of twenty-six entrants, some will inevitably be excluded, because the regulations stipulate that only twenty cars, the fastest at the end of the practice sessions, are allowed to take part in the Grand Prix. Even before the sporting event begins, two of the entered Coopers are withdrawn because Widdows suffers an accident during the testing of a prototype car for the Gulf JW team, while Alfa Romeo does not grant permission to use the 3-litre V8 engine; therefore, Lucien Bianchi's entry is withdrawn. Moreover, as Bernard White's B.R.M. V12 has all the wrong gear ratios, Frank Gardner is unlikely to qualify his car, and with the busy factory schedule even Silvio Moser has a slim chance of qualifying, so the result becomes quite a foregone conclusion. By contrast, the order of the twenty drivers on the grid is by no means a foregone conclusion, as the free practice sessions show that no team has a higher absolute speed than its rivals. Right from the start of practice, Mario Andretti and Al Unser come out of the pits to run a few laps around the circuit. The McLaren team has three cars, of which number 3 is used as a reserve, and both McLaren and Hulme test their cars without the nose fins and wings.


The Matra International team, headed by Ken Tyrrell, has completely rebuilt the first MS10 car. This will be used by Jackie Stewart. The French team also prepared the second one, winner of the German Grand Prix, for Johnny Servoz-Gavin to drive. Jean-Pierre Beltoise drives the Matra previously used in Germany, with an electrically operated wing. Scuderia Ferrari brings four cars to Monza, with the numbers 0007, 0009, 0011 and 0015, to be driven by the three official drivers, Chris Amon, Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell. All four cars are equipped with movable ailerons, electro-hydraulically controlled automatically by the brakes and gear lever, or manually by the driver. The two Brabham racing cars are equipped with a wing mounted high up on the nose and a larger one on the tail of the car; the rear wing can be adjusted by cable from the cockpit. On Rindt's car the control lever is not calibrated, as it is left to the driver to adjust the mechanism. On Brabham's car there is an indicator mechanism to detect the effect of aileron movements; the idea is that, once the best is found, this adjustment can be applied to Rindt's car. Honda Racing presents itself with John Surtees, who will have at his disposal the car he raced with for the entire season, as well as a brand-new car equipped with an air-cooled V8 engine, more or less identical to the unfortunate car of Rouen. While David Hobbs will have at his disposal a new car equipped with a V12 engine with the same design as the previous model, but with small touches due to Surtees' experience. The new car with the V8 engine was not used during the first test session, having previously developed some serious oil leaks during unofficial testing. Gold Leaf Team Lotus rebuilt the car crashed by Oliver in Rouen, and it is now practically new but still with the number 49B/6. The other two cars being 49B/2 and 49B/5.


All three are equipped with redesigned radiator cowls, in which air from the radiator exits upwards through two large openings at the top of the nose, in the same way as the McLaren cars. These new front-ends are divided horizontally: the lower part carries the nose fins, while the upper part fits the radiator and the pedal box. The official Lotus 49Bs are joined by the Lotus of the Walker-Durlacher team, driven as usual by Jo Siffert. Except for the latter car, all Cosworth V8 engines from McLaren, Matra and Lotus are equipped with new exhaust systems where the four manifolds from each bank of cylinders are joined in a group in the exhaust manifold, instead of two manifolds in two and the two in a single exhaust manifold. This new system, together with other engine improvements, grants an additional 15 bhp at 9,900 rpm, instead of the previous 9,500 rpm, albeit at the expense of some loss of power at low revs. But at Monza this is not important, because it is the top speed that is crucial on the Italian track. Dan Gurney drives his Eagle V12, while Vic Elford is the only Cooper driver, having only two official cars to choose from. The first Cooper is equipped with a moving aileron designed in collaboration with Vickers, in which the aileron is pushed into a horizontal position by air pressure at maximum speed. Two small levers compress coil springs so that when the speed decreases, the aileron returns to its maximum downward thrust position: a quite simple yet effective mechanism. The B.R.M. team brings a new car, called the P138, but it is not used during the first practice session. The main change in this car is the installation of a B.R.M. made five-speed gearbox, replacing the Hewland gearboxes used on the P126 and P133 cars. The rear of the monocoque is improved, being extended beyond the rear bulkhead to accommodate the suspension mounts, instead of having a tubular structure bolted to the bulkhead. Rodriguez and Unser use the team's previous cars during early testing, while Courage drives Parnell's P126 B.R.M. V12.


The record on the Monza circuit is 1'28"5, set the previous year, 1967, by Jim Clark in a Lotus 49, but this limit was further reduced in private practice, demonstrating the progress made by Grand Prix designers in twelve months. All the top factory drivers are well below this limit, and Surtees even drops to an astonishing 1'26"1, actually showing immense pleasure at the way the Honda V12 engine is finally working. With very few tests completed, Graham Hill posted a time of 1'26"57, which earned him second place, while Hulme, Ickx and Amon were so close that lap times of 1/100th of a second were needed to separate them. Gurney is very unhappy, because his V12 Eagle engine, which performed very well on the test bench with megaphone exhausts, cannot run properly. Most of the more experienced drivers run times that could be expected of them, but there are also some very good times from the newcomers, notably Derek Bell in the third official Ferrari, Servoz-Gavin in the Matra-Cosworth V8, Hobbs in the brand-new Honda V12 and Siffert in the Lotus 49B of Team Walker. In the short tests run by Mario Andretti, the Italo-American driver achieved a very representative time of 1'27"2, while Al Unser was not even as fast as Piers Courage and did not exceed the 1'30"0 limit. Stewart runs a few laps in the Servoz-Gavin car and records a time only 0.1 seconds slower than that obtained in his own car, demonstrating an excellent degree of preparation on the part of the team led by Ken Tyrrell. Jackie Oliver only started practice late in the afternoon, as his car was not yet complete when it arrived at Monza, while Graham Hill started practice even later because the gearbox on his car had broken the day before. All the Lotus Team's efforts are put into preparing Mario Andretti's car during this first day of practice, so that the Italian-American driver can start as soon as the track is opened for official practice, which takes some of the effort away from preparing the other two official cars. Mario Andretti and Bobby Unser will not take part in the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday. The Italian-American driver and the Indy 500 winner prefer to leave for the United States this afternoon, where they will take part in a US championship race on Saturday. As a result, the sports commissioners of the Italian Grand Prix decided not to admit the two riders to the starting list. This is the statement issued after a long meeting:


"The stewards of the 39th Italian Grand Prix, informed that Bobby Unser and Mario Andretti would be taking part in a race in the United States, which will take place on Saturday, starting at 12:00 a.m. local time, corresponding to 6:00 p.m. Italian time, decided not to admit the aforementioned drivers to the Italian Grand Prix, should such an event occur. The decision is motivated by Article 11 of the special regulations of the race, according to which competitors are strictly forbidden to take part in any competition outside the Autodromo di Monza, which takes place within twenty-four hours prior to the time set for the start of the Grand Prix”.


In the event, at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. Theoretically, Andretti and Unser could still race at Monza, but only at the price of forgoing the American round, the 100-mile (160-kilometre) Indianapolis Hosier. The two, however, leave Monza determined to take to the track in the United States, as Mario Andretti admits:


"This race is too important for us, Unser is leading the championship and I am behind him. Besides, $70,000 is up for grabs: I am a professional, and I don't feel like giving up the chance to win".


The richest car race in the world, from the point of view of prizes, is only a hundred miles, but there is a lot of money at stake. Mario Andretti, winner of the previous two editions, earned in the last edition a prize of $28,100 for winning, plus $12,900 for leading the majority of the laps of the circuit. That makes a total of $41.000. The total prize money for the race amounts to almost $70,000. The Hosier 100 is reserved for cars competing in the American championship: six more races are scheduled after this one, before the title is awarded. Another Indianapolis winner, A.J. Foyt, will also start. Unser leads the standings with 3250 points, ahead of Andretti with 2458 points. Between now and the end of the American championship there are still 2800 points up for grabs for first place, but Sunday's race is particularly important because it reserves 200 points for the winner. Andretti and Unser were still hoping to race at Monza. They had prepared a very complicated plan. After completing a few practice laps at 3:00 p.m. to qualify, they jumped on a helicopter and headed for Malpensa airport. A jet transports them to Geneva and from Switzerland another plane is ready for New York. In New York, a third aircraft, chartered by a tyre company, has Indianapolis as its destination. After the race, similar route, back. As soon as the race is over, Andretti and Unser start the return journey, with a whole series of coincidences that could also fail. They will leave Indianapolis aboard a private jet plane to catch the Twa 754 flight leaving Boston at 9:40 p.m. local time (3:40 p.m. Italian time). They will arrive in London at 8:50 a.m. local time (9:50 a.m. Italian time) and depart at 9:55 a.m. local time (10:55 a.m. Italian time) on Air France flight 022, which will arrive in Milan at 1:00 p.m. Sunday.

Then, fresh (they say), they would like to get into their racing cars for the Italian Grand Prix at the Monza track. It would be a real tour de force, a very tiring journey. And there has been no shortage of controversy in this regard over the past few days. What if one of the drivers, tired, had an accident at Monza? There is a lot of discussion about the danger of the race and the safety of the drivers. Many, rightly, felt that Andretti and Unser, although accustomed to touring the world and competing in numerous races, could have risked more than was permissible. The decision of the stewards ended the affair with a wise aut-authority: either Monza or Indianapolis. Just as well, whatever if on Sunday there will be a few less spectators at the autodrome and if the Grand Prix will lose two possible protagonists. Too bad, especially for Andretti, who would have been the only Italian driver (he took American citizenship, but was born twenty-eight years ago in a town near Trieste) competing in the Grand Prix. The entry list for this ninth round of the Formula One World Championship bears only foreign names. There are twenty-six of them, including Americans, Belgians, British, New Zealanders, Austrians and Frenchmen. Twenty, after qualifying on Friday and will hit the track on Sunday on the 5750 metre road course (sixty-eight laps for a distance of 391 kilometres). For the first time the only ones missing are the Italian drivers. With Bandini and Scarfiotti gone, Andrea De Adamich still not fully fit after the April accident, no team entrusted a car to an Italian racer. Enzo Ferrari himself preferred to entrust the three single-seaters to as many foreigners: the New Zealander Amon, the Belgian Ickx and the Englishman Bell. It is a delicate moment, which could be overcome by having a lot of patience and trust in two or three of the young Italian drivers.


For once the weather conditions are auspicious: bright sunshine and blue skies persist throughout the day on Saturday 8 September 1968, when rehearsals begin at 3:00 p.m. and last until 6:30 p.m., without anyone complaining about the lack of time. Scuderia Ferrari continues to juggle with its four cars and three drivers, often with two cars with the same number, while the competition juggles with ailerons and fins, as there is a growing feeling that the increased drag of the various set-ups is a greater handicap than the increased power in corners. Vic Elford has the two standard Cooper cars to experiment with: car #1, marked 22T, with the movable wing, and car #4, marked 22, without the wing. Having forgotten his driving boots, the British driver borrows a different pair but doesn't manage to complete many laps before jamming his right foot into the pedals, overshooting the braking point at the South Bend and crashing into the barriers, destroying the rear left corner of the #4 Cooper. Not his day, nor that of the Cooper team, because later the British driver entered the track in car #1 but the engine of the B.R.M. exploded. Thus, the Cooper team is left with a wrecked car but with a good engine, and a good car but with a wrecked engine. Seeing the top speed that all the drivers are recording during practice, Elford is outclassed and seems destined to be on the exclusion list, should the mechanics fail to assemble a single-seater for the race. Jo Siffert tests the Walker-Durlacher team Lotus without wings and ailerons and gets to make the final decision to use them or not by flipping a coin.


Stewart's Matra-Cosworth mounts the rear wing on tubular struts, from each end to the suspension struts, while the second car retains the original layout, with the wing mounted on the chassis. The team led by Jack Brabham is in trouble due to engine failure, and Rindt does a lot of testing with the reserve car, while the Honda team seems very well organised, with the two V12-powered cars being competitive and Surtees being satisfied with the performance of his car. There is also time for the Japanese team to do a few exploratory laps with Honda's brand new air-cooled V8 engine, with most of the engine joints covered in a hideous jollop to try and keep the oil inside. With the first day's testing giving a good indication of the expected pace of the race, fuel consumption remains a rather critical point; the Matra V12s have extra tanks on each side of the cockpit, while the Matra V8s have collection tanks and bulging fairings in front of the cockpit. The McLaren team is preparing extra tanks to be mounted on the sides of the cockpits. The Ferrari team is carrying out consumption tests and trying to bring their cars up to speed with the Hondas and Lotuses. In an attempt to improve their lap times, both Amon and Bell ran out of fuel; the New Zealander on the opposite side of the circuit, so much so that he had to be rescued, while the Englishman managed to reach the pits. The B.R.M. team seemed to be in trouble, suffering numerous engine failures, and as a result the team came to the track with the new P138 car very late to take part in the last practice session. Regardless of the characteristics desired at other circuits, Monza requires a lot of speed, and this depends on pure power, as none of the corners require sophisticated power or medium-range torque values.


In this regard, Dan Gurney is increasingly discouraged by the poor performance of his Eagle, perhaps feeling the loss of Weslake's influence on the V12 engine and makes a deal to borrow the McLaren-Cosworth back-up, but it is too late, and the organisation cannot accept this kind of car swap. With several people testing the effect of the absence of wings or ailerons, and with the McLaren team deciding to run without them, even Scuderia Ferrari's engineer Forghieri has the aileron removed from the 0007 during testing and has Chris Amon try it out, later reverting to the original layout with the movable wings. Jacky Ickx complains that his aileron does not seem to do the right things at the right time and that the system pressure light comes on at the wrong time, but the engineers believe that the Belgian driver simply got confused with the controls. However, both Ickx and Amon set exceptional times, but Surtees remained the fastest driver with his time of 1'26"1 set during Friday practice. It is precisely the British driver who, during practice, picks up his Honda and gets between the two McLarens. Taking advantage of Hulme's slipstream, pulling away and overtaking him at the crucial moment, the former World Champion lapped in 1'26"07, leaving the McLarens in the middle of a large crowd of cars that developed into a last-minute tussle which made it seem as if the race had already begun. There are six or seven cars in the pack, moving in and out of the slipstream trying to judge the right moment to improve their time. In the middle of it all, a puff of blue smoke signals the failure of Jackie Oliver's Cosworth engine. As the chequered flag prepares to announce the end of practice, Bruce McLaren scores a time of 1'26''11, setting the second fastest time overall. As Graham Hill crosses the finish line at the end of practice, his engine shuts down completely and he goes out of the race in complete silence, due to a broken fuel metering unit.


It is a good thing that the race does not start until 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, 9 September 1968, because the mechanics have a lot of work to do: Lotus, Cooper, B.R.M. and Brabham have engines to repair, as well as the B.R.M. engine of the Parnell team, while Ferrari is not happy with the functioning of the engine mounted on Derek Bell's car. The spare engines are running out, and although everyone expected Monza to be a critical stage for mechanical parts, nobody expected to face so many problems. Team Lotus has only one usable car left, the #18 of Mario Andretti, and with little hope of a change of decision by the organisers regarding the Italian-American driver's presence at Sunday's race, the mechanics set to work, assembling all the parts of Oliver's car and making all the necessary adjustments. Graham Hill's car is fitted with another engine, while Oliver's car is pushed over the truck that is used to transport the material. The Cooper team mechanics fitted the engine of the crashed car into Elford's F1-1-68 and removed the wing, while those of the Brabham team had so many other problems to solve that they had long since abandoned any kind of experiment regarding the possible layout of the double wing, reverting to the classic fins on the nose and the small low wing at the rear of the car. Both Brabham and Rindt use their original BT26 cars, the last of which was left in the paddock. McLaren and Hulme also returned to using their cars from the start of the season, with seven-gallon tanks fixed to the right side of the cockpit and an electric pump that transferred petrol to the main system when needed. The two Matra-Cosworths use nose and high aero fins, Stewart with those mounted on the suspension and Servoz-Gavin with those mounted on the chassis, while Team Lotus has never shown any intention of wanting to remove the aero assist from their cars. However, Siffert decided to race without wings, as did the McLarens, while all three Ferraris were in full aerodynamic trim.


Rodriguez has the wing installed on the suspension of the new B.R.M., while Courage has a similar arrangement on Parnell's car, which has the engine of a spare production car to replace the one that exploded at the end of Saturday's practice. The two Honda V12s also mount rear winglets. John Surtees and his Honda remained the fastest at the end of practice for the Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix: Surtees, in the last of his practice laps, exceeded by a whisker, just three centimetres, the record set on Friday: 1'26"07 at an average speed of 240.500 km/h. Behind him in this purely indicative ranking are Bruce McLaren, in the car he built and which dropped from a time of 1'27"4 to 1'26"11 in the last tests, and Chris Amon in the Ferrari: the New Zealander completed a fine series of laps, finishing with an excellent 1'26"21. We then find six other racers, all under 1'27"0, namely the Belgian Ickx in the second Ferrari, Graham Hill in the Lotus, Stewart in the Matra, reigning World Champion Denny Hulme in the McLaren, Bell in the third Ferrari and the Swiss Siffert in his private Lotus. Nine riders packed into a second, the Italian Grand Prix promises to be one of the most spectacular in recent years. The race is the ninth episode of the World Drivers' Championship that is at the heart of motorsport: the results of the races held so far prove that there is a balance of values between men and machines. The current single-seaters have reached almost insurmountable limits. All manufacturers have come very close to the regulatory minimum weight of 500 kilos, while with eight- and twelve-cylinder engines, manufacturers have exceeded 400 horsepower.


This levelling out is prompting teams to look for new solutions in the field of tyres and aerodynamics: thus, the fashion for stabilising ailerons placed above the engine and air deflectors placed on the sides of the car's nose has appeared. The ailerons gave a new face to Grand Prix cars, an almost science fiction-like face: attached by support rods to the rear hub carrier or the chassis, they are of variable inclination, a necessity to be able to make certain turns as fast as possible. The ailerons are an artifice adopted to ensure more grip on the drive wheels, but it is an artifice that has not yet been perfected, so much so that during testing at Monza, the drivers continued to test with or without these devices and placing them in different positions. On a fast circuit such as this they are acceptable at certain points (such as on the bend at the end of the grandstands straight, now being tackled at over 260 km/h), but hinder at others (for example, right at the start of the straight itself) or turn out to be useless. Chris Amon, for his part, states that he prefers driving with ailerons. There are even three types of control to use them: with a manual stick, in synchronisation with the gearbox, and with a brake pedal. In order to give the driver, the best chance, on the Matras even a motor commonly used on missiles is used to operate the system. The practice sessions held on Saturday were enlivened by two spectacular accidents, but fortunately ended without the slightest consequence for the drivers. The Swiss driver Silvio Moser, in a Brabham, lost his left front wheel in the parabolic curve and stopped in the grass after a series of pirouettes. Then, at the beginning of the bend, the Englishman Vic Elford, at his first experience in Formula One, and Siffert touched: Elford's Cooper had gone sideways and Siffert could not avoid it. The two cars ended up on the embankment, Elford walked back to the pits while Siffert managed to continue. Elford states following the accident:


"My foot got caught between the brake and accelerator, the car spun, and before I could straighten it Siffert grazed me, both of us were fine".


The Italian Grand Prix took place over 391 kilometres, equal to 68 laps of the 5750-metre road course; absent from the race were Andretti and Unser, who were engaged in the United States, and Moser and Frank Gardner, after qualifying. Graham Hill, who currently leads the World Championship standings with 30 points, will try to increase his lead over his immediate pursuers, Stewart and Ickx. It will be up to the Belgian and team-mates Amon and Bell to bring the Ferraris to success. Saturday 8 September 1968, during the evening it rains on the Monza circuit, but on Sunday 9 September 1968, at 12 noon, everything is ready, and the temperature is typical of Monza, with the sun shining on the large crowd of spectators, estimated at over 90,000. The two US drivers arrived at Monza in the early afternoon, but only attended the race as spectators. Mario Andretti, proving that his flight plans were well thought out, managed to return to Monza from the USA in time for the Italian Grand Prix. However, the popular Italo-American champion is forced into the unusual role of spectator. The Italian-American driver will watch the race from the Lotus pits, in the company of his wife Diana, whom he had left in Italy last Friday.


"Everything went well in Indianapolis. I finished second, while Unser, my rival for the American championship, had to retire. It did not go well, however, in Monza. I was hoping, I believed I could race. I had received assurances to that effect. No one then informed me that I would not be able to race".


Andretti is very bitter. On the other hand, the sporting regulations are clear, and the stewards did well to apply them. Besides, even if Andretti had won at Monza, he would have earned 2.000.000 Italian lire, while second place in America earned him, according to rumours, around 10,000 dollars. Shortly before 3:00 p.m. the twenty Formula 1 cars come out of the paddock in a rather haphazard and disorganised order and assemble on the dummy grid, and when the driver lowers the Italian flag to start the first of the 68 laps, all the cars start in unison. From the front row, John Surtees' Honda runs away, with Bruce McLaren immediately alongside, while Chris Amon's Ferrari gives off a thick cloud of smoke from the rear wheels when the New Zealand driver opens the throttle too much. When switching to second gear, Bruce McLaren takes the lead from Surtees and leaves all competitors behind. At the end of the first lap Bruce McLaren is in the lead, greeted by the cheering crowd. At the end of the second lap, the situation did not change, with Hill, Surtees, Amon, Stewart, Hulme, Ickx, Oliver and Rindt chasing McLaren at very high speed. On lap three Bruce McLaren is still in the lead, but he is now followed by Jackie Stewart, John Surtees, Graham Hill, Chris Amon, Jo Siffert and Denny Hulme, while, a cloud of dust rises from the Parabolica Sud corner, caused by Vic Elford leaving the track and going straight under braking for the umpteenth time and consequently being forced to retire, while Rodriguez returns to the pits due to a problem with the throttle linkage. On the next lap John Surtees took his Honda into second, behind Bruce McLaren, followed by Chris Amon's Ferrari and Graham Hill's Lotus, while Jackie Stewart slipped to fifth. But as the top nine cars are all very close together, being first or fifth at this point in the race makes little difference. On lap four, the engine of Derek Bell's Ferrari shut down shortly after passing the grandstands and the pits; the power cut is attributed to a problem in the fuel system. In the meantime, Jo Siffert moved up one position and on lap six gained another, moving into fourth place, while the pursuers began to fall back.

At the end of lap seven Surtees was in the lead, followed by McLaren, Amon, Siffert, Hill, Stewart, Hulme and Oliver. As the leading group broke away from the rest of the competitors, Ickx, Servoz-Gavin and Rindt were in close company, followed by Gurney and Hobbs, the latter in his first serious participation in a Grand Prix with a competitive car, Brabham (very unhappy to have a poor engine at his disposal), Courage, Beltoise and Bonnier. The eighth lap saw a further turnover between the leaders, with Bruce McLaren again taking the lead, while Chris Amon moved up to second and pushed John Surtees into third. At the same time, Jackie Stewart passes Graham Hill. Then, in the middle of lap nine, general panic ensues as Chris Amon goes over the limit allowed by his car in the Lesmo corners and is the victim of a spin, while Surtees is forced to avoid the manoeuvre and hits the guardrails. The Ferrari crashed into the guardrails, as did the British driver's Honda; fortunately, neither driver was hurt, but those immediately behind experienced dramatic moments, with Jackie Oliver forced to spin and lose three positions. Before this unfortunate accident, Oliver was credited with the fastest lap and a new record, set in 1'26"5 at the end of the seventh lap. The accident of Amon and Surtees allowed Bruce McLaren to gain an appreciable advantage, but Stewart and Siffert again set off in pursuit of the New Zealander, followed by Hill and Hulme. Then there is a wide gap separating the leading cars from Ickx, Servoz-Gavin and Rindt. Rodriguez joins the leading group of cars, but with a full lap delay due to the pit stop; however, more generally the new B.R.M. does not prove to be extremely fast. During the tenth lap Hill goes through a cloud of dust caused by the breakage of a rear wheel, at the height of the centre of the hub.


The leading group now includes McLaren, Siffert, Stewart and Hulme, all of whose cars are powered by Cosworth V8 engines, and then Servoz-Gavin, lckx and Rindt, for whom Cosworth engines are present in the first five cars. Oliver is ninth, alone, ahead of Hobbs, Gurney, Courage and Brabham, while Beltoise and Bonnier come in behind. The leading quartet did not settle for any particular order, passing and overtaking each other every chance they got, while the average speed steadily increased, far exceeding 230 km/h and now separating them by less than a second. Bruce McLaren is in the lead, followed by Stewart, then Siffert, then Stewart and Siffert side by side for a couple of laps, then Hulme. A similar struggle is going on between Ickx and Servoz-Gavin, with Rindt always in the slipstream, and behind them Gurney and Brabham are harassed by newcomers, Hobbs and Courage. On lap 16, Bonnier was lapped, but the battle for first position continued with Siffert dropping out of Stewart's slipstream as the two crossed the finish line. It is lap 19 when Hulme takes the lead and, despite the other three circling him, manages to finish each lap in the lead until lap 27. A little later Dan Gurney's Eagle went out in a haze of blue smoke as he came into the pits at the end of lap 20, and two laps later Rodriguez came back into the pits with the engine of the new B.R.M. having mechanical problems. On the same lap, Bruce McLaren slots in behind Hulme and manages to stay there. With Stewart and Siffert close behind, the two New Zealand drivers do everything they can to help each other, but fail to exploit any particular team tactics. Just when it seemed that a stalemate had been reached, with the two McLarens in the lead but unable to take the lead, the classification was shaken up again and Bruce McLaren found himself in fourth position, while Jackie Stewart took first. The Scottish driver remained at the front of the race for one lap, as Hulme soon after returned to lead the pack.


All this while Bruce McLaren begins to lose contact with the top three. Then, on lap 30, when Stewart takes the lead again, Hulme has no one to help him as McLaren is visibly falling back. Behind them, the Ickx, Servoz-Gavin, Rindt trio is still engaged in a tough battle and keeps changing positions, with Rindt eventually managing to squeeze in between his two rivals as they are about to overtake Beltoise in the Matra. Hulme continued to swap the lead with Stewart, while Siffert was never too far behind, despite the fact that his lower-powered Cosworth engine was unable to challenge the two factory cars. The Swiss driver still managed to stay in the wake of the first two drivers. At the end of the thirty-third lap Bruce McLaren returned to the pits with oil leaking from the front of the engine through a hole where a bolt had detached and fallen out; although the New Zealand driver ran another lap to make sure of the perceived damage to the engine, his race was over. In the meantime, Jochen Rindt returned to the pits enveloped in a cloud of blue smoke that he carried with him from the exit of the Curva Parabolica, the point showing the exact moment when the Repco engine started to catch fire. With the exit of these two drivers, the course of the race changed: Hulme began to lengthen his pace at the front of the race, although he was unable to pull Stewart and Siffert out of his wake, unlike Ickx, who instead pulled away from Servoz-Gavin. When Rindt gets in their way, forcing the Matra driver out of the Ferrari's slipstream, Jean-Pierre Beltoise tucks in behind the Frenchman and exploits his slipstream. However, the effect of this move goes against the wishes of the French driver, as it only creates the effect of slowing down the Cosworth-engined car. With the exception of lap 40, Hulme is now leading the race, but the advantage is still limited, as only 1.1 seconds separate the first three cars, while the average speed rises to 233.2 km/h. Ickx and Servoz-Gavin are the only two not to have been lapped by the leaders, while Hobbs, Courage and Brabham have had to give way and now find themselves a lap behind.


Suddenly, and without warning, on lap 42 the Cosworth engine of Stewart's car exploded and the Scottish driver returned to the pits in a haze of smoke. As soon as this happened, the engine on Hobbs' Honda also broke down and the British driver was forced to return to the pits with steam rising and water pouring out of where it shouldn't have gushed. The latter events leave Hulme and Siffert alone; the Swiss driver does everything he can to keep in close contact with the reigning World Champion, but his Lotus does not have the same speed as the New Zealand driver's car. Siffert can do no more than try to keep up with the McLaren ahead of him. With Stewart's exit from the scene, Ickx moves up to third place and the Italian crowd comes alive, releasing great shouts of joy. With a Ferrari in third place, hope is rekindled, because Ickx could catch up with Siffert and, with two Cosworth-powered cars already retired, there is a chance that this could happen again for one of the two leading drivers, if not both. Ickx is pushed and encouraged by the crowd and drives faster and faster, slowly but surely gaining ground on the two leading drivers. Meanwhile, Hulme pulls away from Siffert. The first fifty laps having been completed, with eighteen still to go, the average race speed rises to 234 km/h and Hulme leads by 5.8 seconds over Siffert, while Ickx is 39.4 seconds off the lead. The Ferrari reduces the gap by a second and sometimes two seconds a lap and, now that Siffert has lost the slipstream of Hulme's McLaren, he finds himself powerless to counter the challenge of the young Belgian driver.


On lap 57 Hulme leads by 9 seconds and Ickx is only 21 seconds behind the Lotus; meanwhile Jack Brabham retires after noticing his oil pressure is getting low, stopping before the Repco engine finally breaks down. As Hulme finishes the fifty-ninth lap, the grandstands are buzzing as Siffert pits, which means Ickx moves into second place: and a Ferrari in second place means a Maranello car could win the Italian Grand Prix. As Siffert brakes to negotiate the South Bend, the lower eye of a rear shock absorber-spring assembly breaks and forces the Swiss driver to stop with his lower arm hammering on the end of the spring assembly. For the mechanics, however, there is nothing to be done and his race ends like that. Shortly afterwards, however, panic breaks out in the stands: Ickx's Ferrari no longer seems as competitive as it used to be. Jacky Ickx, thinking he has run out of fuel in the tank, waves the car down the straight to get the petrol flowing in the tanks. In reality, the car is not running out of fuel, but the temperature is causing the vapours to lock up and the main fuel pressure is dropping, affecting the injection system. Meanwhile, Hulme overtakes Servoz-Gavin, who is in third position. On lap 61, screams of anguish are heard coming from the grandstands as Ickx's Ferrari is seen heading towards the pits, where fresh petrol is poured into the tanks, in the hope of lowering the overall temperature and eliminating vaporisation. Once operations are over, as Ickx's Ferrari accelerates down the pit lane, Servoz-Gavin's Matra passes to the accompaniment of the Press-on signal from the French team's pits.


The driver responded magnificently, overtaking Hulme, who had relaxed as the danger had now passed. In doing so, however, at the end of the 62nd lap Hulme found himself between the Matra of Servoz-Gavin and the Ferrari of Ickx, with the French car matching the race leader, but almost a lap behind, and the Italian car being one lap behind Hulme's McLaren. The New Zealand driver seems to be certain of triumphing, also because the Cosworth engine mounted on his McLaren works perfectly. Therefore, Hulme decides to lower the pace even further, allowing Jacky Ickx to split to have a better chance of chasing down the French driver's Matra. Taking advantage of the never-ending series of retirements, Piers Courage now finds himself in fourth position, having driven from the start with the clutch not working, as the movement of the pedal did not free it at all, but he still enjoyed himself and did full justice to the borrowed engine. As the Ferrari approached the Matra, the crowd was in delirium and at the end of lap 64 Ickx was again in second position. But it's not over yet, because Servoz-Gavin has no intention of surrendering and keeps his Matra within striking distance of the Abelga driver's Ferrari, while Hulme follows the fight between the two at a fair distance. When the Ferrari and the Matra of Ickx and Servoz-Gavin finish the 67th lap, with only one more to go before the end of the race, all the eyes of the public are on them, and hardly anyone notices Hume taking the chequered flag as he follows them down the pit straight. At the Lesmo corner the Matra of Servoz-Gavin is in front, but on the back straight Ickx's Ferrari takes second again.


Attention is therefore directed towards the exit of the Curva Sud, as Hulme completes his slow lap after winning the Italian Grand Prix. Understandably, no one is interested in the passage of the New Zealand driver, even though he deserves respect for the victory he has just achieved: it is the fight for second place that keeps the interest of all the spectators present along the circuit alive. Once again, the noise and clamour make it clear who is leading the Curva Sud: Jacky Ickx drives the Ferrari down the straight to the left of the grandstands, but Servoz-Gavin decides to take a more central line and is just a few metres away. In view of the chequered flag, which marks the end of the race, the Ferrari's engine hesitates in delivering power, as steam has again infiltrated the injection system, and acceleration speed is reduced. That's all Servoz-Gavin needed: the French driver launched himself in the Matra into the slipstream of Ickx's Ferrari to gain the necessary speed to overtake the Belgian driver and cross the finish line in second place with a lead of only 0.2 seconds. The manoeuvre was so smooth, fast and precise that thousands of Italians were still applauding Ickx for his second place, before realising that Servoz-Gavin had relegated him to third place right at the finish line. It was a fantastic finish, in which Denny Hulme won the race after fighting a splendid battle throughout the opening stages, and after dominating for more than half the race distance. As mentioned, Servo-Gavin and Jacky Ickx finished second and third, followed by Piers Courage, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Jo Bonnier, who finished sixth.


The 39th Italian Grand Prix lived up to the forecasts. It was exciting, spectacular, almost an elimination race, so much so that only six of the twenty drivers who took to the track finished on the 230 km/h line. There was no shortage of crashes, giving the overflow crowd that packed the Monza racetrack a thrill. But, fortunately, no racer suffered the slightest injury, and that is what counts above all. The winner, at the wheel of the McLaren-Ford, was Denny Hulme, the 32-year old reigning World Champion, who had not yet managed to assert himself this year. The New Zealand driver covered the 68 girls of the road course, a distance of 391 kilometres, in the record time of one hour 40'14"8, at the exceptional average of 234.022 km/h. Last year, John Surtees had won at an average speed of just over 226 km/h. Behind Hulme came two youngsters, French driver Servoz-Gavin, in the Matra-Ford, and Belgian Jacky Ickx, in the Ferrari, followed in turn by Courage (B.R.M.), Beltolse (Matra) and Bonnier (McLaren-B.R.M.). Ferrari, who had lined up three cars, entrusting them to Ickx, New Zealander Chris Amon and Englishman Derek Bell, had to be content with third place, when with a bit of luck, they could certainly have at least taken the place of honour. But Bell was stalled on lap four by a fuel pump failure, Amon was involved with Surtees in a scary off-road crash on lap eight, and Ickx was overtaken right at the finish line by Servoz-Gavin. Juan Manuel Fangio, at the end of the race, is perplexed. The former World Champion narrates:


"The course of the race was upset by an incident that had nothing to do with the ability of the drivers. I am referring to the incident that removed from the race, after only eight laps. Chris Amon and John Surtees. I was able to talk to the Englishman who told me about the episode. Even he could not convince himself that the race was over so soon. Amon,' John told me, 'skidded on an oil slick, spun several times and ended up off the road; the Englishman also skidded on oil and to avoid being hit by the Ferrari he swerved and ended up in the grass".


There will be much debate as to why Ickx, having taken the lead on the straight, by then second after Hulme, succumbed to the Frenchman's impetuous comeback. The Belgian spoke of vapor-lock in the petrol lines, i.e., a kind of vapour buffer that would have prevented the smooth passage of fuel. But it seems that, in reality, Ickx got confused when operating the aileron control switch: instead of activating the device, he would have touched the lever concerning the petrol pumps, interrupting its operation. The Ferrari had a jolt, slowed almost abruptly with a few hundred metres to go, and Servoz-Gavin sprinted ahead in his blue Matra. Chris Amon, however, went off the track, as in the previous German Grand Prix. The driver, however, was not much to blame. On the eighth lap, Amon was in second position, behind Bruce McLaren's McLaren, pursued by Surtees' Honda. Up to that point the race had been led almost uninterruptedly by McLaren, at the head of a group that included, in addition to Amon and Surtees, the Swiss driver Siffert and Graham Hill in the Lotus, and Hulme. At the entrance to the first of the two bends known as Lesmo, Amon and Surtees ended up together on an oil slick. The Ferrari and the Honda went sideways, Surtees crashed against the guardrail, while Amon did a sort of somersault and found himself on the other side of the barrier.


"I was very lucky".


Said the New Zealand driver as soon as he returned to the pits, and Graham Hill, with a smile, touching his shoulder, confirmed this. Amon was also very good, for while he was still in the air, he thought about turning off the engine contacts. Graham Hill, who was at the start of his 100th Grand Prix, was also very lucky. On the tenth lap an incident happened to him to which Lotus cars seem to have long been accustomed: the loss of a wheel. This time, the front left wheel flew off; it splashed in front of the nose of Ickx's Ferrari, which avoided the sudden obstacle with violent braking. The manoeuvre delayed the Belgian, at that moment the only one of the three Ferrari drivers remaining in the race. Ickx lost contact with the leading group, consisting of McLaren, Hulme, Stewart and Siffert. These four drivers stayed together for twenty-four laps, with a lead of around 34 seconds over Ickx, Servoz-Gavin and the young Lotus racer Oliver. For the spectators, more than 100,000 people crowded in the meadows around the track, in the grandstands, some clambering up to the billboards, it was a real treat, with this continuous whirlwind of twists and turns. The only one who found everything easy was Hulme himself, who arrived safely at the finish line. Interesting detail: no aileron was installed on the McLaren of the New Zealand driver. The wing, the big loser. Hulme's McLaren-Ford did not have the device, and his team-mate's identical single-seater also lacked it.


The two cars always remained in the top positions. Bruce McLaren retired three quarters of the way through the race, but for an engine failure. In practice on Friday and Saturday, the two cars were fitted with wings. McLaren and its engineers, however, preferred to leave them in the pit: a wise decision, which - according to some - was perhaps decisive. The wings are not yet in place, we are in the field of experimentation. To be precise, fourteen cars had wings, namely the three Ferraris, the three Matras, the two official Lotuses of Hill and Oliver, the two Hondas, the two Brabhams and the two B.R.M.'s. Besides McLarens and Siffert, the Cooper of Englishman Vic Elford and the Eagle of Gurney were without wings. Nevertheless, with his win at Monza, the first of this year, Hulme is back in the running for the 1968 title: there are still three races to go (Canada, USA and Mexico), his gap to the leader of the standings, Graham Hill, is only six points. It is another candidature in addition to that of Hill (who has thirty points), Ickx (twenty-seven points) and Stewart (twenty-four). The situation becomes increasingly complicated. Johnny Servoz-Gavin. a 26-year-old from Paris, is one of the new generations of French drivers. He was French Formula 3 champion two years ago, has also done a few rallies, and shares the nickname of driver-helmet with his colleague Beltoise. Both have luxuriant hair, which tends to overflow out of their helmets. For Servoz-Gavin, which was the first major placing in Formula 1. Mario Andretti, it is known, was a spectator at Monza. He has promised, however, that he will be a driver next year and probably, given how things have gone, Lotus sporting director Colin Chapman hopes so too.


"Let us hope that the calendar does not coincide American races with Monza, or, at least, that the fight for the US championship is already resolved, not forcing me, as on this occasion, to engage outside Italy".


After the Italian Grand Prix, constructors, drivers, technicians and race organisers were in Milan on Tuesday 10 September 1968 to attend a conference organised by the International Sports Commission (CSI) at the Circolo della Stampa. Theme: formulas, i.e., the regulations governing the sport of driving. This is a meeting of a purely consultative nature, a meeting to take stock of the situation, to make suggestions on technical problems that have not yet been resolved or need improvement. But it also addresses the issue of driver safety, which many tragic incidents have unfortunately brought to the fore in recent times. A general trend is emerging: the minimum weight of Formula 1 single-seaters must be increased. An Italian engineer, Alessandro Ba, suggests based on a complex study that Formula 1 cars should weigh 500 to 600 kilos, and Formula 2 cars 420 to 480 kilos. The manufacturers, including Enzo Ferrari, who clarified his thoughts in a written statement, presented a series of measures to be included in the regulations. The cockpit should be protected by one or more safety tubes (roll-bars), the fuel tanks should be made of self-sealing rubber to resist shocks and lacerations as much as possible, the electrical system should be fitted with circuit breakers. There are also calls for on-board fire extinguishers that can go into action on their own in the event of a fire, a review of the position in which the pilot is forced to drive, and greater protection for water, oil, and petrol lines.


The CSI is likely to implement some of these proposals very soon. The French delegates insist on at least making the use of seat belts, devices to limit or stop the flow of fuel and automatic fire extinguishers compulsory as of 1 January 1969. For the other items on the agenda, however, a more distant application is envisaged. For example, everyone agreed to keep the three current international formulas, 1, 2 and 3. Interestingly, Formula 3, on which much criticism had been levelled for the dangerous limits reached by the current single-seaters, has found many supporters again. In reality, it is a formula for novice drivers (at least in intentions, since experienced and reckless racers have been taking part in races lately), which needs to be revised. It will expire at the end of the year and will probably be maintained with some variations (1300 or 1500 cc engines). For Formula 1 and 2, the most important points touched upon concern duration (planned for 5 and 3-4 years) and cylinder capacity. For the former, still yes to the three-litre capacity limit, for the latter an increase from 1600 to 2000 cc, to open the formula to a greater number of manufacturers. There is some doubt about the number of cylinders. For reasons of cost, Duckworth suggests four cylinders, while others would be inclined to raise the limit to eight. In any case, the engines should be derived from production units with a displacement of even more than two litres.


The last important topic: the manufacturers' world championship. Ferrari again insists that the Sport and Prototype cars have the same three-litre capacity. In fact, today's Sport cars are 5.000 cc and are larger than Prototypes, which is not fair to small manufacturers like Ferrari: in fact, for a car to fall into the Sport category, at least fifty of them must be produced today. Everything, then, comes down to a question of capacity and cost. The conference has quiet tones, and there is a remarkable closeness of ideas between representatives from all over the world. In attendance are Colin Chapman, the famous manufacturer and owner of Lotus, American racing driver Dan Gurney, delegates from car manufacturers and racing teams, such as B.R.M., Japan's Honda, and New Zealand's McLaren. There is also talk of the Italian Grand Prix, held on Sunday at Monza and won by Denny Hulme in the McLaren-Ford. Unanimous opinions: deserved success at a record average, defeat of the wingers, perhaps decisive errors by the young Belgian lckx in the Ferrari. Ickx operated the aileron on his Ferrari in the wrong way (but why didn't anyone from the pits think of a way to clearly signal such a situation?), and at the end he got confused with the controls, interrupting in the final sprint with Servoz-Gavin for second place the flow of petrol to the engine. But Ickx will have time to make up for it. Says Dan Gurney in this regard:


"The world championship is long. The tests in Canada, the USA and Mexico are still to come. In the challenge with Graham Hill, who is only three points ahead of him in the standings, and with Stewart and Hulme, Ickx has a chance for a resounding success. And I'm not saying this for Ferrari, but for his age".


The Belgian is twenty-three years old, which would be very young for a World Champion.


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