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#184 1969 Mexican Grand Prix

2021-11-10 23:00

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#184 1969 Mexican Grand Prix

Martedì 7 Ottobre 1969 Peter Schetty, campione europeo della montagna con la Ferrari 212E, rinnova l'accordo di collaborazione con la Scuderia Ferrari

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On Tuesday 7th October 1969 Peter Schetty, mountain European Champion with the Ferrari 212E, renews the contract with Scuderia Ferrari for the next season. Schetty will be used by Scuderia Ferrari for every type of car (besides the new sport 5 litres, also on single-seater car?). it is also confirmed the transfer of Arturo Merzario, revelation of the year, from Abarth to Ferrari. Eventually, Mike Parkes, who didn’t race since 1967 (crash at the Belgian Gran Prix), will be back behind the wheel of a racing car on Sunday 12th October 1969 at the 1000 km of Montlhéry. He will be paring up with Piper on a Lola-Chevrolet. The two of them, probably, will race in 1970 on one of the new Ferrari 5000. It became definite the great team of Scuderia Ferrari for 1970, the year of the revenge, as the fans of the Maranello team are hoping. To unsettle the environment, though, come rumours arrive from Great Britain and USA about Chris Amon. The New Zealander driver, who is in the United States for the Can-Am cup, is wants to leave Ferrari. They are talking about dissatisfaction of Amon for the difference in economic treatments between him and the new driver Ickx, it is said that Chris wants to drive for a new formation team. Lots of whispers, but no sure data. Surely, it is only known that in Maranello everyone is sorry for this rumours, so much that Amon, during the practice of the Italian Gran Prix, signs the renewal of the contract for 1970. The New Zealander, so far, acted as a professional: it can happen everything in the motorsport, but in general the drivers care about their fame, the honesty to their friends and rivals it is an important element.

 

Head shots are rare. In any case, Amon was already protagonist of invented interviews: until he will come back to Italy, or he will announce officially his decisions, he remains always of Ferrari. Everything else is a conjecture. On Sunday 12th October 1969 Bruce McLaren confirms again the supremacy of his car and the one made available by him for Danny Hulme, conquering the field of the Gran Prix of Monterey, valid for the Canadian-American Cup. The two orange cars of the New Zealander, the McLaren M8B with Chevrolet engine, repeated the bravery done in eight of the last nine races of the Can-Am, flying in first and second place in front of the flag of the race director, at the end of a triumphal gallop. Besides the glory there is money for McLaren because the Canadian-American Cup is the richest motor racing trophy in the world. The true hero of the day is Chris Amon, for his huge bad luck. The driver qualified himself for the race with his twelve-cylinder Ferrari, but during the last lap oof the practice before entering the track he breaks the oil pump, and he is forced to abandon the hope to try the shot with the Maranello car. So, McLaren loans Amon their reserve car, the T car, and with that, even though he starts from the back of the grid for complex regulations matters – even though the car had already qualified in the previous days – Chris Amon climbs back gradually the grid accomplishing a little masterpiece of know-how, comforted by the extraordinary performances of the car. When the third place is already secured the differential gear breaks forcing him to retire.

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With the Mexican Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday 19th October 1969 on the circuit of the Mexican capital city, ends the Formula 1 championship. The title was already appointed to Jackie Stewart; so, at least about this, the race will not offer any emotions. The previous year, instead, it was precisely in Mexico City that Graham Hill won the title of World Champion exploiting a problem to Stewart’s car. 1969 is the year of Stewart and Matra: out of ten Gran Prix, six successes, a second place and three retirements, two of which in Canada and in the United States, that is when the fight for the tile was already over. Stewart wanted to break the record of Jim Clark in 1963, who confirm himself in that season in seven races of the World Championship. Now, Jackie only must try, to equal the record, to prove once more to be the right heir of the great Jim Clark. With Stewart, on the voitures bleu, there will be Beltoise and Servoz-Gavin, champion of European Formula 2; during the 65 laps of the circuit of Magdalena Mixhuca, equal to 325 kilometres, the French-British trio has to face their usual rivals: Rindt and Miles (this one replaces the injured Graham Hill) for Lotus, McLaren and Hulme on McLaren, Ickx and Brabham for Brabham (flanked by Courage, who is driving the car of the Australian contractor bought by Fank Williams), Surtees and Oliver for B.R.M. Plus, if they don’t withdraw at the last moment, a group of privates: Rodriguez on the old Ferrari (the Mexican is applied to the American team NART), Moser on Brabham, Lovely and Bonnier with Lotus. The list, from next year, will probably be revolutionised. The driver market is moving, hypothesis and rumours collect without any reason.

 

Fixed points: Rindt, Miles and Graham Hill – if he will recover – will remain to Lotus; McLaren wants to retire, only to be a constructor, Hulme remains; Brahbam, received appropriate loans, has changed his opinion, and continues his career in Formula 1, while Ickx goes to Ferrari; Oliver is confirmed by B.R.M., Surtees comes back to Honda. Uncertain remain Stewart and Amon, that is Matra and Ferrari. Matra left to build a French car. The previous year their ran a twelve-cylinder car built in their factory in Vellzy and the other, through the team of Ken Tyrell, with the eight-cylinder of ford Cosworth. This year, the twelve-cylinder engine has never hit the track and Stewart won the championship with Matra-Ford. But Vellzy technicians built another twelve-cylinder engine, and they want only the Matra-Matra to join the Gran Prix in 1970. The Cosworth should be set aside. On this point Stewart and Tyrell don’t agree much. The Scottish - he said it - is convinced that on current circuits the eight-cylinder engine is better that the twelve-cylinder, moreover he doesn’t trust the new engines. The divorce between Matra and Tyrell seems imminent. Which car is Stewart going to drive? Rejected some invented options (to understand it, how can we think that the Scottish wants a Ferrari, since it has a twelve-cylinder engine, also this one new?), Tyrell aspires to Brabham. Then there is Amon’s case, a true dilemma. Someone swears that the New Zealander driver signed materially the contract, and someone claims the opposite. In any case, Ferrari says yes, so it only remains, logically, to abide to the team’s version. Amon, though, in Can-Am cup drove, without any permissions from Ferrari, a McLaren, and many claim that Chris has now agreed with his compatriot.

 

Ferrari was very generous to him: in the middle of the season, nobody would have bet on Chris’ reconfirmation. Maybe, neither him; so, it is possible that the driver searched for some stock solutions. If he goes away, Ferrari is going to have the problem of searching for someone to put alongside Ickx. With the certainty of having Amon (and, who know, maybe Amon will really stay), in Maranello nobody searched for changing solutions. Now it is too late, but the solution can also be found at home. As for example Peter Schetty. Besides the market, there is another argument in the Motorsport. Will Europe and United States agree for the regulations? The Motorsport is ruled by formulas and rules – too many, for someone – that change after some years. For example, the current rules, that regulate Formula 1 (engines size not larger that 3000cc, single-seater car with a minimum weight of 530 kilos) and the Supercar World Championship (prototype cars without any limit in weight and three litres engines, sport cars of five litres, built in a minimum of twenty-five example, with a weight not shorter than 800 kilos) are going to expire on 31st December 1971. The International Sporting Commission (ISC), that manage the professional activities, has moved up a year, with a certain levity, the deadline of Formula 1aligning it to the one of Supercars World Championship. The ISC should now decide, by December at the latest, the details of the new regulations. The ISC is trying to hook the American sporting activity to the European one. How?

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Picking up in a single formula the various regulations that rule the competitions, to create two World Championships, one for Formula 1 and the other for contractors. It is an ideal position, that would like to unite on a basis of an engine size of 4000cc Formula 1, American cars (with a current engine size of 4200cc), sport cars and the prototypes, and eventually the Can-Am cars. Many think that this is a beautiful illusion, because it doesn’t take into account neither the different conditions of the American factory (that works in a market where the common model for excellence - the Chevrolet - has an engine of 4 or 5 litres) and the European one (that is addressed to an audience for which the medium is a model between 1300 and 1700cc of size engine) nor the needs of the organizers, in particular the American one, nor the conditions of European circuits. And, indeed, the representers of the Can-Am cup has already said that they don’t want to hear about united formulas and that, for them, are ok the seven litres engines. Nor, so far, have arrived explanations from other American organizations. In this situation, in which there are opposite opinions, and the interested managers are acting like diplomats, a strong position is taken by the sporting championship of Bureau Permanent International des Constructeurs d’Automobiles (Bpica) that unite the car companies from all over the world. The Committee, stimulated by the Italian proponents, has faced the themes of Formula 1 and Supercars World Championship, making suggestions and proposals. This is only its seem, since the ISC deliberates in isolation, but it must be evaluated with attention, given the industries that represents. In Formula 1 the constructors would like to keep the current regulations. To accommodate the needs of ISC they don’t oppose to the introduction of the 4000cc engine size. Stefano Marsaglia says president of the sport cars group:

 

"In any case, in a moment in which it is talked about the hazards of racing, we pointed out to ISC the problems of security and the responsibilities linked to the increase of the engine size: already now we are at the limits both for the drivers and the circuits especially in Europe. The tracks should be improved and moreover it would be more difficult, and so more expensive, hire drivers able to drive the new cars. It is clear, indeed, that the increase of the power would bring to a remarkable increase of the cars’ performances. Naturally, it would also increase the prizes to build the cars, already extremely high. It is known that a Formula 1 car costs around 20.000.000 lire. Matra pays 900.000 lire for a support build with a special alloy. With three litres engines it would be enough easy to bear the costs and the security, increasing for example the minimum weight. The one of the Formula 4000, anyway, should be between 625 and 650 kilos. The ISC, an important detail, doesn’t want to launch a unique type of engine, but rather a formula of equivalence: on one hand a free twelve-cylinder, of 4000cc, on the other hand probably one of 5000, with shafts and rocker arms, from a series engine. The opinions of the constructors are negative. Formula 1 is like a thoroughbred. It would create a lot of confusion in the audience and moreover they would change too often the cards on the table, with that updates and revisions of regulations that are the inevitable, shoddy consequence of any formula of equivalence".

 

For what is Supercars World Championship concerned, they count in terms of security the same regulations as Formula 1. The car companies think about cars with three litres engines without a minimum of examples (actually, the abolition of the differences between sport cars and prototypes) but also with a minimum weight (from 700 to 800 kilos). In case of 4000cc cars, they weight should be between 800 and 900 kilos. Also in this case, not to the formulas of equivalence. On another point the contractors agreed in asking the respect for the integrity of the current regulations until their due date. Stefano Marsaglia underlines:

 

"It means that the regulation that nowadays impose the building of 25 examples for the five litres sport must be applied until 31st December 1971. If the abolition is anticipated, it will happen that the huge investments done by Ferrari to join in 1970 sport cars of five litres they will only be productive of a year. In 1971, anyone can compete also building only one example of 5 litres, example clearly more updated as regards the technical aspect. An inexcusable measure, sportingly and financially".

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The 1969 Mexican Grand Prix, also known as the VIII Gran Premio de Mexico, is the eleventh and final round of the 1969 FIA Formula One World Championship and is the final Grand Prix to be held in the 1960s. The race, held at the Autódromo Magdalena Mixhuca on October 19, 1969, saw sixteen drivers battle it out for victory. Ciudad de Mexico is in a high valley in Mexico's central plateau. The combination of the elevation (2.285m) and the latitude (19.4°) makes for unique problems with temperature, a factor not aided by a high level of air pollution. Nearly all participants take action to combat these factors, including the use of a new cam design on metering units for Ford Cosworth teams, while fuel suppliers have provided a proven blend that can cope with the intense heat. The entry list was identical to that of the U.S. Grand Prix a fortnight earlier, and the organizers did not bother to change the numbering. That said, some unsurprising withdrawals will occur before the weekend, largely due to the battle at the Glen, leaving seventeen potential starters compared to the initial nineteen entries. Lotus-Ford Cosworth is the only team to make actual changes to their line-up, enforced upon them after the huge accident suffered by their out-going World Champion. Graham Hill broke both legs in the accident in New York State, so he remains in the hospital as the Formula 1 circus heads south to Mexico. Jochen Rindt is therefore the team's only full-time entry in the field, using his usual 49B, while John Miles was back to race the 63, Mario Andretti undertaking his U.S.A.C. duties once again. Additional Loti are to be found with Jo Siffert and the Rob Walker Racing Team, and with Pete Lovely and his self-run 49B. Elsewhere, B.R.M. are down to three cars ahead of the Mexico weekend, allowing their demonstration car to go back out on an advertising campaign, although they continued to field a trio of drivers. John Surtees seems happier with his B.R.M. P139 having nick a podium in the US, while Jackie Oliver is more confident in the car despite his run of retirements.

 

The third car is back with George Eaton, although the Canadian's chance to race would depend on the two regular racers getting their cars through practice without major damage. Brabham-Ford Cosworth and McLaren-Ford Cosworth arrive in Mexico with little change, the former boosted by the fact that Jack Brabham is back at full fitness. Ferrari sees the participation of two cars from the North American Racing Team, although Chris Amon's failure to arrive in the new Ferrari 312B is no surprise. Privateers Piers Courage (Frank Williams Racing Cars) and Silvio Moser complete the entry list without any factory backing. A major development ahead of the weekend in Mexico City is the conformation that Ken Tyrrell would run a car built by the new March Engineering firm. The agreement between Tyrrell and Matra implies the use of a V12 engine built by Matra in 1970, a move that had been vetoed by principal driver, and World Champion, Jackie Stewart, who preferred the V8 Ford Cosworth. Tyrrell is therefore forced to buy a pair of March 701s for the upcoming season, with major backing from French firm Elf. But there is still one more race for Matra International to run a trio of cars, with Stewart in his MS80, Johhny Servoz-Gavin's MS84, wane Jean-Pierre Beltoise in a second MS80, the latter set to headline the factory Matra effort in 1970. With Jackie Stewart already declared Champion it is the fight for second that had taken precedence in the US, with victory propelling Jochen Rindt right into the fight. The Austrian driver enters the season finale in fourth place, nine points behind runner-up Jacky Ickx, with Bruce McLaren in between. Graham Hill and Jean-Pierre Beltoise are out of the fight in fifth and sixth, as seventeen drivers on the board ahead of the season finale. Matra-Ford Cosworth have already won the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers back in Monza, meaning the fight for second between Lotus-Ford Cosworth and Brabham-Ford Cosworth is the only significant battle for prize money. Rindt's victory have push Team Lotus up into second, although their advantage over Brabham is just two points heading to Mexico. Elsewhere, McLaren-Ford Cosworth is out of the fight but secure in fourth, Ferrari only have seven points in a miserable fifth, while B.R.M. round out the scorers with six.

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A grand total of eight hours of practice/qualifying is scheduled for the Mexican Grand Prix of 1969, four hours apiece on the afternoons of Friday and Saturday. The weather proves to be steady, although a slight change in wind direction overnight causes temperatures to rise during the day on Saturday. As far as times are concerned, the goal is to beat the circuit record set in 1968, with Jo Siffert having taken pole position with a time of 1'45"22. Overall, Friday turns out to be the best of the two days for the drivers who manage to extract the best out of their cars, thanks to the lower temperatures that allow the drivers to run smoothly the whole time. However, one must wait until the last moments, with the sun beginning to set, for the best times to emerge, as the lowering of the air temperature allows the cars to breathe better. In the final moments, provisional pole is taken by Jack Brabham with an extraordinary time of 1'42"90, while his closest challenger is teammate Jacky Ickx with a time of 1'43"60. Friday's pace held a surprise, as most of the experts had revised their targets following a major change in the curbs, now designed to prevent cutting corners. Most of the front-runners came close to Siffert despite the changes, but the final jump in times required a significant drop in temperature. Otherwise, there are no major problems throughout the field, although Pete Lovely and George Eaton cannot test due to repair work after the U.S. race. Rising temperatures on Saturday meant that the pace was less impressive until the end of the session, although a fair number of drivers managed to fall below the old circuit record at the end of the session. Ickx ends the day at the top of the timesheet, despite being nearly a second slower than Brabham's best time on Friday, while most drivers focus on fighting the heat over race distance rather than pace. 

 

Jochen Rindt is an exception to this, somehow finding two seconds despite the high temperatures. In previous seasons, the combination of altitude and heat had played havoc with driver reliability, so insiders are surprised when the session ends without detecting mechanical failures. Both Lovely and Eaton solve their problems overnight, putting together a series of long runs each to qualify, while the B.R.M.s run smoothly, albeit at the back of the field. Pedro Rodríguez finished 15th in the only Ferrari, having beaten only Lovely and Eaton, in contrast to John Miles who qualified the Lotus 63 4WD in 11th place. Sunday afternoon was a slightly cooler day, though still much hotter than normal for most drivers. The pre-race program is marred by an accident during a road car display, parts of which flew over the fence and hit a marshals' pole, seriously injuring a police officer and an official. The small delay allowed the McLaren team to discover a major problem on Bruce McLaren's car, although the repair would not prove successful as, during the parade lap, the boss got stuck at the back of the circuit before the race could even begin. The front row is green-gold, with the two Brabham-Ford Cosworths lined up next to each other, although when the flag drops a blue stripe is created between them as the field pulls away from the grid. The blue stripe relates to Jackie Stewart's outburst: the Scotsman puts in an excellent getaway, with no wheel slip, to dart into the lead, not even bothering to defend himself in the tight first corner. Jacky Ickx started marginally better than teammate Jack Brabham, moving into second, while Jochen Rindt followed Stewart's wake into the first corner, eventually having to settle for fourth when the two Brabhams blocked him. The first two laps saw the first six cars break away from the rest of the field, with Piers Courage battling with John Surtees for seventh place, locking out the rest of the racers. Up front, Stewart is assailed by Ickx, with the Belgian attacking without fear of being overtaken by the Brabham boss just behind.

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At the start of the second lap, Rindt loses ground to Denny Hulme; the orange McLaren immediately attacks the green/gold Brabham in front of him, while Jean-Pierre Beltoise lines up with the rest of the top six for the time being. The battle between Stewart and Ickx diverts attention from the work of Jo Siffert, who is slowly moving up the order in the early laps after a bad start. The Swiss driver was 11th at the end of the first lap, but on lap five he managed to lunge on the inside of Courage to take seventh place in turn five. Unfortunately, Siffert's move is too optimistic, so he goes wide, hits the curb, and bounces off Courage's side, sending them both into a spin. Courage scraped the wall and continued, leaving the scene without damage but at the back of the field, while Siffert's car slammed into the barriers, with the Swiss driver climbing out of his ruined Lotus. A lap later, Stewart and Ickx found themselves at the scene of Siffert's accident; the Scot was caught off guard by the yellow flags displayed, so he stalled and went wide. The moment is in Ickx's favour, with the Belgian accelerating past the Scot as he exits the corner, before successfully escaping onto the road through the Esess. A few moments later, Brabham makes the same mistake as Ickx, allowing Hulme to slip into third position and line up with Stewart. The next lap Hulme attacked and passed Stewart again in the same corner, although Siffert's ruined Lotus was dragged far enough away that it was no longer a problem. Jack Brabham's Brabham, meanwhile, made an ignition error at Esess, allowing Rindt to pass, but the veteran Australian made a sensational overtake in the fearsome Peraltada corner at the end of the same lap. These two drivers soon settled down to challenge Stewart, with the top five now dropping Beltoise, although the Frenchman already had a comfortable lead over seventh-placed Surtees. Up front Hulme trailed Ickx, and on lap 10 the New Zealander came out strong from Peraltada and passed the Belgian on the main straight. Moments earlier Stewart's pace had begun to drop, with the Dunlop tires struggling in the heat. Brabham took advantage at the last corner to snatch third place, although Rindt could not get past him as his Lotus began to struggle with an as-yet undiagnosed problem.

 

Hulme pushed incredibly hard to try to pull away from Ickx but managed to gain only a fraction of a second with each lap as the two pulled away from the rest of the top five. They are aided by the fact that the Brabham's misfire is proving unpredictable, dropping the veteran Australian back every few laps, only to recover, while Stewart can fend off Rindt's dull Lotus. Indeed, the Austrian's car is increasingly difficult to control, and after 21 laps the Lotus is out of the race, Rindt having suffered an irreparable suspension failure. The gap between Hulme and Ickx remained about two seconds after the New Zealander's move, although it would suddenly rise to more than five when the two found themselves in traffic. The decisive move came when the two approached Surtees' rear end, with Hulme managing to lap the B.R.M. before the trio entered the Essess. Ickx must follow the less-than-spectacular B.R.M. into the flat section, and by the time he passes the former World Champion on the stretch to Peraltada, Hulme is too far ahead to be challenged. The rest of the race saw Ickx slowly make up ground on Hulme, only to lose quite a bit in traffic once he got within a couple of seconds. Brabham, meanwhile, slips further and further back, although Stewart's lack of pace makes the Australian comfortable in third. The only major changes in the order occur in the rear, with Pedro Rodríguez overtaking Johnny Servoz-Gavin, before dragging the Frenchman ahead of Surtees moments later. In the final laps Ickx suddenly increased the pace, having dropped to fifteen seconds from Hulme with only ten laps to go. An incredible series of laps saw the Belgian make up more than ten seconds in the space of eight laps, bringing him to within three seconds of the New Zealander as the two began the final lap. Hulme, however, seems to pace himself, a signal from the McLaren garage indicating that Ickx is within reach. However, time ran out before Ickx had a chance to challenge Hulme, despite setting a new lap record of 1'43"05 on the penultimate lap. Brabham moved up to third after his misfire disappeared, well ahead of Stewart, who became the face of Formula 1 during the year he won the World Championship. Beltoise finished the lead lap, narrowly escaping the clutches of Hulme's McLaren in the closing stages, while Oliver quietly moved up to sixth. Rodriguez has Servoz-Gavin attached to the rear of his exhaust when they both take the flag.

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On Sunday 19th October 1969 it was expected from the new champion a brilliant race, but Jackie Stewart – after leading for five laps – surrounded to the fast pace imposed by Hulme and Ickx. And they were these ones to become the protagonist of the race, creating a fascinating duel in which the older New Zealander performed a come back to the younger Belgian and during the tenth lap, taking the lead to keep it until the end. Ickx tried to reduce the distance, and at three quarter of the race the distance was only three seconds, but Hulme replied without any hesitations and on the finish line he was ahead by seven seconds. Proving the high pace of the race only the first five drivers (after Stewart in fifth place there is the French driver Beltoise on the second Matra-Ford) have completed the 65 laps of the circuit. A week later, on Sunday 26th October 1969 Scuderia Ferrari says that they reached an agreement with Ignazio Giunti and Nino Vaccarella for the next season. Both, this year, they raced for Alfa Romeo. From Milan to Modena went the news that Alfa Romeo, from its side, hired Rolf Stommelen and Toine Hezemans. The German driver left Porsche and the Dutch driver Abarth. De Adamich and Galli were confirmed. Italian drivers are back to Ferrari: this is a fact that is going to like very much to the fans from Maranello and to the fans of the sport. To Merzario (by the way, where is Brambilla?) join now Vaccarella and Giunti. For the Sicilian it is a great come back after a small period in Alfa. Vaccarella, who gave Ferrari a 24 hours of Le Mans, was put aside for a while. Vaccarella wasn’t happy with that, like a betrayal: first, he has always been a fan of the team from Maranello.

 

The next year he will race with the great 512 sport of five litres. The experience, the passion of the great Sicilian driver is only going to help Ferrari, busy in the revenge season. For Giunti, instead, the arrival in Maranello it could mean the debut in the Formula 1 Gran Prixes. The young driver trained at Alfa, demonstrating on the 33 of two litres his talent. But Ignazio always wanted to compete with the single-seater cars of Formula 1, and Alfa couldn’t give it to him. It is logic thinking, if he agreed with Ferrari, that the next year he will drive the three litres 312 B. now, Ferrari can count on a great team: Ickx, Vaccarella, Giunti, Merzario, Schetty and (maybe) Amon. Had been years since reading so much Italian names, especially young names, like Merzario and Giunti. Ferrari, rightly, has always been cautious choosing Italian drivers, but, today, its action was surely appropriate and likable. As for the other Italian team brilliantly involved in the races, Alfa Romeo, it ran for cover with Stommelen and Hezemans. Two relevant elements, especially the first one, as he proved with Porsche (on the mountains and on the tracks). On Thursday 30th October 1969, from United State arrives to Europe a particular news: Chris Amon’s Ferrari and the car of an American driver have been sabotaged before Riverside Gran Prix, valid for the Canada-America Cup. It is revealed by an American journalist, Derek Houlgate, from Orange Coast Daily Pilot, that says that the brakes of the Ferrari have been rigged before the start of the race.

 

The car, then, couldn’t race because for a push start - forbidden by the regulations - it has been disqualified. The other car, the MK 12 Chevrolet of Lothar Motschenbaker - according to the journalist - would have been found with the brakes pipes broken, a few minutes before the start. Fixed up the car, the driver couldn’t join the race, having reached the starting line ten minutes after the start. Houlgate, in his article, also talks about possibilities of sabotage to the car of John Surtees, forced to retire after four laps for engine problems. In fact, an inquiry is opened, but in Maranello there aren’t news about the presumed sabotage to Amon’s car in the United States. The New Zealander didn’t say anything about it to Ferrari. From the other side, the relationship between the driver and the team are reduced. Even though there isn’t already an official confirmation, it is sure that Chris Amon and Ferrari are going to divorce: Amon will race in Formula 1 with a new formation car, the March, in the constructor championship with the Porsche 917 of John Wyer (but only for short distance races, like the 1000km and not Le Mans) and he will join the Indy 500 with McLaren. Now he is in the United States where attends the last race of Can-Am (9th November 1969) doing tyres tests. With Ferrari the relationship began to break in July in Clermont-Ferrand, during the French Gran Prix; then they came back to normal apparently thanks to the comprehension of the direction based in Maranello, flown into the renewal of the contract. Chris Amon has now broken the links (also in a rude way) with its managers, who meanwhile wait for him to show up.

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There is only one person who knows something about Chris Amon. She is Christine Chambonnet, a young and good-looking French girl who followed Chris around the world. She lives between Milan and Paris, during these days she is in Turin for the Motor Show. Model, mannequin, she has fun doing the stand-girl in the big international events. Just to remain in the automotive environment. Christine, generally reserved in giving information about the New Zealander, has leaked many rumours, maybe because she knows that, by now, the relationships between the driver and Ferrari are broken, so she can talk freely, maybe - as someone suspected - because Chris begged her to do it. A sort off press-agent with a skirt. Christine said:

 

"Amon leaves Ferrari. Next year he will race in Formula 1 with March. He also wants to race with the Porsche 917 of John Wyer’s team. He will not join, though, all the races of the Supercars -world Championship, but only to the shorter ones, like the 1000 km of Monza or the one of the Nürburgring. Surely, he will not go Le Mans. He already had two crash on that circuit, and now he prefers to stay away from it. Chris will try the adventure in Indianapolis, in the Indy 500 Miles. His friend McLaren will give him a car. Soon he will start to train for the qualifications of the race. Chris didn’t get along with Ferrari anymore. He wasn’t happy amongst lots of things: the arrival of Ickx, economic issues. He didn’t have a lucky season, poor, and he didn’t earn lots of money. Now, he tries to get his own back in the United States between one race and the other of the Can-Am doing tyres tests".

 

But how did she have this information?

 

"Easy, he phoned me, and we talked for a long time".

 

Chris Amon, instead, forgot the phone number of Maranello or the one of telex (there are two, even, one in Maranello and the other in Modena) it is said that some weeks ago had a secret meet with Enzo Ferrari. Surely, it doesn’t seem that his behaviour towards the team was correct. If he had the intention to change, nobody would have impeded it. He only had to talk, without so many mysteries. So, by the way, he damaged doubly Ferrari, that had to run for covers to search for a valid replacement (whose name is still unknown). Ferrari treated the New Zealander with extreme gentleness. Maybe, Chris didn’t understand that. Now, it seems that Ferrari complained with his friends. The constructor would have said:

 

"It was right who charged us with being too kind with Amon".

 

The relationships between Amon and Ferrari ended, also at the contract level. But also, without Amon, the team for 1970 is strong, most of all it will have two new cars, the five litres 512 S and the 3000cc 312 B, that have the technical means to renew lots of splendid affirmations of Scuderia Ferrari. On 6th November 1969 Ferrari shows in Maranello the new five litres 512 S, the racing car born by the agreement with Fiat. A short and compact sedan, that when it comes to the line it can score points for the coach cars: as sometimes happens, the perfect technical building becomes also beautiful in terms of aesthetic. The car reaches 350 km/h, so it is the quickest Ferrari ever built. The next year it will compete against the Porsche 917 in the Supercars World Championship, while the single-seater car 312 B, development of which continues, will join the Gran Prixes of Formula 1. At the show of the 512 S participates Enzo Ferrari, president of the society, the commander Francesco Bellicardi, agent of Ferrari, the general director, engineer Giuseppe Dondo, sporting and technical directors, the drivers Brambilla, Giunti, Merzario, Regazzoni and Schetty, who, then, at Autodromo of Modena, completes with the new car a series of practice laps.

 

It follows the building schemes introduced by the team of Maranello with the P4 and the next 312 and Can-Am. 5 indicates the engine size of five litres, 12 indicates the number of the cylinders and the letter S represents the belonging to the Sport category (engine size not higher than 5000cc, 25 examples built in twelve months). The engine - with indirect injection and electronic ignition like Dinoplex - is a twelve-cylinders of 4993.5 cc, with a power of 550 cv and 8.500 rpm. A jewel of high mechanic, with driveshaft on seven supports on piston rods flanked on thin shell bearings, head valves arranged as a V and commanded by 4 camshafts. The gearbox has five speeds plus reverse, self-locking differential, independent wheel suspensions, ventilated disc brakes on the four wheels, with two separated circuits. Chassis of construction, truss in pipes of various diameters reinforced by riveted aluminium panels. The side beams are tanks for the fuel (120 litres capacity). The front chassis allows the connection of the suspensions and the placement of the spare wheel, mandatory by the international regulations. The occasion of the show of the 512 S is good to ask Enzo Ferrari about Amon, about the racing team, about the programmes of 1970, and the questions arrive on repeat. The constructor from Modena replies to every questions, also to the meanest ones, using humour and grit, even though now it looks like he wants to play the role of the retired. Ferrari starts with a promise.

 

"Maybe, this is the last meeting with the press, because to Ferrari, after the agreement signed in June with Fiat, have followed directors that have the honour to conduct the factory. I only do and advisory activity".

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Immediately replied Bellicardi with a tender call:

 

"No, no, it’s not the last time. The agreements are clear: the sporting direction is in your hands. In this field, we feel unqualified. But we will give you the possible support".

 

The speech immediately went on Chris Amon, the driver of the mystery, at least towards the team of Maranello. The New Zealander on 4th October 1969 signed a contract in collaboration with Ferrari for 1970; then, he went to United States for the race of the Canada-America Cup, raced at the beginning of October with McLaren without asking any permissions to Italy, he came back to Modena on 15th October 1969 for a shot meeting with Enzo Ferrari, he left again for United States. Since then, no news.

 

"I, nowadays, only know what the newspaper have written, that is that Amon is committed to others. In my hand, I have a letter from Chris, written by him on 15th October 1969. It says: back in Italy, I read on some newspaper and publications that I would have declared of having received offers form Ferrari but not having signed any agreement. I confirm what I declared on 4th October in Monza and that was also officially published by Ferrari to the press: the same day I signed in Maranello the agreement of collaboration in 1970. Signed: Chris Amon. Now, I ask: what does his signature mean?"

 

So, it is asked Ferrari: now what it Chris’ situation? If he showed up in Maranello, what would you do?

 

"The New Zealander, for now, until his official opposite statement, is with us. About the race he did with McLaren, he justified saying that he asked for permissions to the directors of Shell and Firestone, his sponsors. We wait to know if it is true. In any case, it seems that Amon doesn’t have the courage of his actions: in September he was granted in his requests, there weren’t negotiations. If then he changed his mind about the collaboration with us, well, at least he could say it to us. If he will show up, I don’t know if we will keep him with us. He will belong to Ferrari only if we need him. And I will know about this only after trying other drivers".

 

The situation is clear. Ferrari has enough of Amon and his behaviour. He also said:

 

"The only one who gave us satisfactions in Formula 1 is Ickx, who won in Rouen the Gran Prix of France. Amon, instead, when he had competitive cars, he couldn’t shine, especially with rain. It is better not to talk about it. Now, in Formula 1 we will try two or three young drivers, in particular Giunti, Schetty and Regazzoni, to whom I advised to agree with Tecno for the Formula 2 single-seater cars. To Brambilla, instead, we will give under conditions a F2 Dino. When we need him, we will call him for testing".

 

Ferrari has also given some judgement on Mike Parkes:

 

"Since he is a friend, I advised him to race, offering him a sporting-technical task. He doesn’t agree, but I, sincerely, can’t take the responsibility to put him on track after the heavy crash he suffered".

 

And on the Mexican Pedro Rodriguez:

 

"I don’t hire him, since in Formula 1 he already touched his limit and, in the prototypes, there are also in Italy excellent drivers".

 

Other secrets of Maranello discovered: in 1970, Ferrari will line up in Formula 1 two single-seater cars 312 B, while in the Supercars World Championship it will line up three 512 S, entrusted to Ickx, Vaccarella and Merzario. Giunti, Shetty and Andretti (the Italian-American will join only the Daytona and Sebing practices and the 1000 km of Monza). The seventh driver, without counting Amon, can be Brambilla. Ferrari gave up on Piers Courage because the English driver only wanted to race with them in Supercars World Championship and not in Formula 1.

 

"The drivers go on being paid by the accessories companies. Fiat has nothing to do with it".

 

Engineer Dondo, Ferrari’s general director, gives a lot of details about the new 512 S:

 

"Six will stay with the team for the direct sporting activity. The other nineteen will be sold at a basis prize of 24.000.000 lire. For them we will create a service centre, that will work both in the factory (fixing after the race, development, technical updates) and on tracks. The 512 S, even though the delays caused by the labour unions, will be homologated by the end of December".

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In the afternoon the Swiss Peter Schetty brings the 512 S on track in Modena. Two hours of tests, 33 laps with the tearing sound of the twelve-cylinder that tears the calm of the land. Meanwhile, from Great Britain arrives the news that Jackie Stewart will race in 1970 with the new British team March. For uncontrolled sources, he will line up next to Chris Amon. Why don’t we also build a Formula 1 car, they asked themselves, at the beginning of the year with some former young drivers and British technicians. The idea shaped, in which Chris Amon was interested, and on 1st October 1969 was born the March Engineering Ltd, with headquarters in London. March, from the initials of the founders: M for Max Mosley, A for Amon, R for Alan Rees, C for Graham Coaker, and H for Robin Herd. The new team seems to be lucky: it hasn’t finished yet a car (the first examples, initiated by the common eight-cylinder Ford-Corsworth, will be tested in December in South Africa), but, directly or not, already has an impressive drivers’ line up. The list, besides Amon, includes the world champion Jackie Stewart, the Swiss Jo Siffert, the Swedish Ronnie Peterson, revelation of the year and, maybe, Graham Hill and the French Johnny Servoz-Gavin. it is also said that one car, bought by the Milanese team Picchio Rosso is for Tino Brambilla, to whom Ferrari will not give a Formula 1 car. To March have flown so many drivers after a series of different events. In particular, Stewart because he wanted to know nothing about Matra with twelve-cylinder engine and because Brabham and B.R.M. denied him a chassis; Siffert because – through Gulf-Porsche for which he races in the Supercars World Championship – is linked to a tyre manufactory and couldn’t buy a Brabham; Amon because he wanted to find a new team in which he could excel. About this, there are some interesting voices.

 

Chris, now worried about enduring the competition of Stewart and Siffert (as in Ferrari he would have endured the one of Ickx) would have in extremis the intention to make another rethink and go to Matra. We know that Amon is in Paris for a first meeting with the French directors. Waiting for official news, only one comment: the New Zealander is really a good type. March, in any case (like Ferrari), could easily do without Amon. The British society, for the basic concept of the founders, has an expert for all the four sectors in which a team can be divided: design, manufacturing, administration, and drivers’ sector. The designing field goes to Robin Heard; 30 years old, graduated in physics and engineering. Herd, who also worked to the super car Concorde, entered McLaren Cars in 1965: to him are the statements conquered by McLaren and Hulme in thee Can-Am Cups of the past years. Herd, designer of the single-seater McLaren of 1968, built for Cosworth a vertical traction car that for now hasn’t hit the track. To Graham Coaker, engineer, former Formula 1 driver, is entrusted the manufacturing. Coaker obtained important tasks, in the aeronautic society Hawkers Syddeley. Max Mosley is the administrator. Born in 1940, educated in France, Formula 2 driver, Mosley graduated in physics at Oxford, nut also worked as lawyer. Alan Rees, 31 years old, English champion of the Formula Junior in 1961, is an expert organizer. He has the task of sporting director. This year, the team, the Winkelmann, had under management the official Formula 2 Lotus. Rees graduated in history and economics. As you can see, a well-matched group, of passionate and experts. The plans are ambitious. March wants to build Formula 1, Formula 2, and Formula 3 cars, and also a car for the Can-Am Cup of 1971. At the South African Gran Prix, on 7th March 1970, we will know if March is competitive. Waiting to know the destiny of this team, on Saturday 6th December it is released that Chris Amon will not be part of the Ferrari team in 1970. The official news is spread in the late afternoon by the team of Maranello.

 

"After today meeting between Ferrari directors and the driver Chris Amon, it was decided that with 31st December 1969 will finish the current collaboration agreement, since he will not have the agreement for 1970".

 

Enzo Ferrari received yesterday, Chris Amon. A long interview lasted about five hours, at the end of which the constructor spread the information. The situation, now, is clear, at least for Ferrari; Amon leaves Maranello, the new agreement for the next season will not take place. Chris, until 31st December 1969, stays for the team of Maranello. As it is known, Amon presented himself to Ferrari in the guise of the white lamb. He denied all the rumours of the past months (but, in some cases, they were some actions made by him, not words), affirming to be linked to Ferrari. Not March, so not Matra, Alfa or Porsche, not McLaren. It seems that Ferrari was baffled in front of the behaviour of the New Zealander driver.

 

"I don’t even know if Chris is a guy or a man that can’t find the way".

 

An official judgement?

 

"I prefer not to do any of them".

 

Would have also said Ferrari. In conclusion, Chris Amon, before leaving the team of Maranello, asks Shell to be paid in British money (pounds) to invest some of it in the new March. But right in the same week the New Zealander driver is paid, the pound loses the 18% of its value on the market of the change of currency...

 

Mariachiara Sica

 

Translated by Caterina Fioretti​

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