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#198 1971 South African Grand Prix

2022-08-31 00:24

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#1971,

#198 1971 South African Grand Prix

Mario Andretti, the three times American USAC Champion, has long been considered by the Grand Prix circus as a potential winner of World Championship

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Mario Andretti, the three times American USAC Champion, has long been considered by the Grand Prix circus as a potential winner of World Championship races and this has been the little Italian-born driver’s big ambition. However, occasional races with Lotus in 1969 always ended in retirement, usually when high placed, while last year’s effort with an STP March was almost completely abortive, apart from a third place in the Spanish GP. During this time Andretti has also driven occasionally for Ferrari in long-distance sports-car races, and when it is announced that he has further extended the deal in 1971 to take in Formula One races with Ferrari as a third member of the team, which already include Ickx and Regazzoni, everyone is very interested to see how he would get on. The answer is provided conclusively at the opening round of 1971 World Championship at Kyalami when Andretti takes his 1970-type flat-12 Ferrari to victory with team mates Regazzoni third and Ickx eighth (after he had been slowed by a puncture). To start three Grand Prix cars in a race and have them all finish on full song is quite an achievement these days. But despite predictions to the contrary it is not all easy sailing for the Maranello team. The Cosworth-engined cars offers quite a challenge but, surprisingly, it is not the Tyrrell of Stewart, complete with the latest 11 series engine, but the new Formula One cars from McLaren and Surtees stables with Denny Hulme and John Surtees driving them. Both are put out of the running by annoying little failures rather than major mechanical disasters, Hulme when he is conclusively in the lead with only four laps to the flag. The organisers of the South African GP, in particular Alex Blignaut, work efficiently and tirelessly to attract a large and representative field for the Grand Prix.

 

This year they spend in the region of £100.000 in appearance and prize money, but on an early reckoning look as if they will have made a small profit when all the sums are done, thanks to a huge 100.000 crowd, which turn out encouraged by a massive publicity campaign in the national newspapers printed in Johannesburg. The race is not directly sponsored but all the papers rally round and give the race enormous space, running stories daily for two or three weeks beforehand culminating in big six-page supplements which are in all the copies of the papers, not just those slip issues sold at the circuit gates. With a few last-minute additions, a field of 25 cars is amassed and all but two of them come over from Europe. Last year the race attracts new models from every team except Lotus and while, this year, brand-new cars are not so numerous there is still plenty of interest around the paddock. Ferrari brings along four cars, the three regular 312B/1s plus a brand-new 312B/2, which is described elsewhere. Sadly this is written off in pre-race testing by Regazzoni so the team has to rely completely on last year’s machines. Both Ickx and Regazzoni have their regular race-winning cars, 001 and 004 respectively, while Andretti takes over 002, which is last raced by Giunti in the Italian GP. Gold Leaf-Team Lotus are little changed from their appearance in the Argentinian GP and late races last season, for they have Fittipaldi and Wisell respectively in the regular Lotus 72s numbers 5 and 3. In numbers of personnel the team is rather more limited than of yore with just the two drivers, four mechanics and Colin Chapman. Racing Manager Dick Scammell has left the company while Competitions Manager Peter Warr is sorting things out at base.

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The March Engineering Ltd. team arrives on the Grand Prix scene just a year ago and the works and private cars are in the hands of such drivers as Stewart, Amon and Andretti. This year these three have deserted them and by a twist of fate they fill three of the first four places at Kyalami. Meanwhile, the Bicester team, whose entrant’s licence now reads STP-March, have rapidly promoted Peterson to team leader and done deals to have two further cars driven by de Adamich and the Spaniard Alex Soler-Roig who, unsuccessfully, attempts to qualify a Lotus 49C in two or three races last year. All three drivers have the new futuristic-looking 711s for the race, although the third car is only finished for the final day of practice and the large aerodynamic engine covers and the ducts to the side radiators are discarded even before practice. Peterson and Soler-Roig have the usual Cosworth power while the Italian has his car powered by an Alfa Romeo T33/3 engine, similar to the ones he uses in a McLaren last year, with noticeable lack of success. The engine is now reputed to be giving 440 b.h.p. following attention to the valve-gear over the winter, and while this figure seems likely the torque is apparently far less effective than that of the Cosworth V8. An even more recently arrived constructor on the Grand Prix scene is that of Tyrrell, although, unlike March, this team have no plans to sell cars to customers. Now running under the title of Elf-Team Tyrrell, the Ripley racing manager has two cars bearing his own name for the first time. Stewart has the choice of the original 001 which he has wrecked in a Kyalami testing accident a few weeks beforehand but now rebuilt, plus a new car, 002, which has several detail differences to the monocoque and is described in our in the Paddock article.

 

The new car is intended primarily for the French driver Cevert, who arrive so conclusively on the GP scene last year and he does, in fact, drive it. Bruce McLaren Motor Racing brings along just two cars, the progressive spring-rate suspension M19, described last month, which is to be driven by Hulme, and a last year’s type M14A for Gethin. This car has been modified in the suspension department to accept the latest low-profile tyres and particularly 13-in. rear wheels. Motor Racing Developments, now minus Jack Brabham, are also using 13-in. rear diameter wheels for the first time on their two Brabham BT33s. Graham Hill, driving for the team for the first time, has what is virtually a new car to the 1970 design, for it is built around a new monocoque but still carries chassis plate BT33/1, while the second ex-Brabham car is entrusted to the local driver Dave Charlton, who went so well in last year’s race in a Lotus 49C and subsequently had won the South African Formula One Championship. Charlton has the Brabham deck out in the colours of his recently acquired sponsors Lucky Strike Racing. Still finished in the colours of Yardley but now enter by British Racing Motors, are BRMs for Rodriguez, Siffert and the team’s F5000 recruit Howden Ganley making his Formula One debut. Rodriguez, as team leader, has the new P160 at his disposal as well as an almost new and never-raced P153 number 07, while Siffert has P153/06, which also has very few racing miles on it, while Ganley takes over 03 which uses to be raced by Eaton. True to their word Matra does not replace the presently-banned Beltoise so Equipe Matra is relying completely on recent signing Amon. He has the choice of an almost new car, MS120/04, or Pescarolo’s MS120/02, which remains engineless in a packing case.

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Modifications over the winter include a new nose much resembling that of the Cosworth 4-w-d machine which never races. John Surtees is really blossoming out as a Formula One car constructor these days and his team enter no fewer than three of the angular but attractive machines from Edenbridge. Surtees himself has the choice of his regular TS7/001 or a brand new and lower car (see “In the Paddock”) TS9/001 which arrives for second day’s practice. This proving satisfactory Surtees hands over the older car to Redman, who is presently resident in South Africa. In fact, this is to be the Lancashire driver’s first Formula One drive since his nasty accident at Spa in 1968 when a works Cooper-B.R.M. broke under him. A second Surtees TS7 is entrusted to Stommelen, who goes so well in it in the Argentine. This car is in the colours of the German consortium of Auto Motor and Sport magazine and Eiffelland caravans, while the other two cars are in the Brooke Bond, Oxo-Rob Walker colours. The remainder of the entry is completed by four independents headed by Frank Williams Racing Cars, who have the ex-works test March 701 for ex-Matra man Pescarolo (they have a 711 on order), Bonnier in the ex-works ex-Surtees McLaren M7C with which he crops up from time to time and two cars from the local Team Gunston. These are a March 701 from five times South African Formula One champion John Love, who it will be remembered actually led the South African Grand Prix in 1967, and an ex-works ex-Williams Brabham BT26 for Jackie Pretorius, a local driver with F5000 experience, who has recently taken the car over from Peter De Klerk, who drove it in last year’s race. Kyalami is a very attractive spot about mid-way between Johannesburg and Pretoria and the attraction of the hot summer sun and general fairy-tale world at the posh hotels nearby regularly attract the teams a couple of weeks before the race for test sessions.
 
This year, however, there are fewer takers than usual, although March arrives very early followed by Ferrari, while the majority of teams are running a couple of days before the start of official practice and so are ready to go when the first of the three three-hour sessions start on Wednesday. Indeed, this is very much the case for the two fastest times of the nine hours total of practising come within the first three hours. The heat at Kyalami is something that has to be taken into consideration and most of the faster times are usually turned in in the closing half-hour from about 5:00 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. when everything is getting a little cooler. Tyres also have a considerable effect on practice for Goodyear’s G24 compound is proving to be very fast but not to have durability in the heat. Hence the tyres are good for qualifying with a low load of fuel on but not for the race. Meanwhile, Firestone has tyres in some experimental compounds which prove very quick on Fittipaldi’s car but due to the politics of only having one set decided not to supply them for the race. Although Kyalami’s official record stands at 1'20"2 to local driver Charlton, during his extensive testing programme with Goodyear a few weeks earlier, Stewart has lapped the Tyrrell in 1'18"1. However, on Wednesday he surprises even himself by getting down to 1'17"8, which put him firmly on pole position. Amon has the Matra going nicely on full song to record 1'18"4 and this time is never bettered, either. Meanwhile, the Ferraris of Regazzoni, Andretti and Ickx respectively record 1'19"1, 1'19"3 and 1'20"1 and are only split by Peterson, who is giving the Ford-engined March 711 its first run and records an excellent 1'19"9, but unfortunately fails to improve on the time and slips on the grid. Despite having three No. 1 drivers on their strength there seem to be few emotional I-want-the-good-engine-and-new-tyres type dramas in the Ferrari pit. Each car is managed separately by Ings Forgheiri, Ing Ferrari (no relation) and Peter Schetty, who are looking after Regazzoni, Andretti and Ickx respectively.
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The McLaren team are having an interesting time sorting out Hulme’s new M19 with its unusual suspension design and once they find that the wing and roll-bar changes seem to have the opposite effect to that which would be expected from a conventionally suspended car, they find that they are making good headway. Surtees is concentrating on his older car while Stewart has tried both the new and old Tyrrell and decides to remain with the older car. During Thursday’s practice Stewart’s engine blows up early on while he is still engaged in testing the car on full fuel tanks so he is out of the top times. It is Regazzoni who heads the list, having lapped impressively at 1'18"7, which put him firmly on the front row. Andretti in the second Ferrari is little slower at 1'19"0, but Ickx, in his, seems to be rather overshadowed. Emerson Fittipaldi, having learned the tricky circuit for the first time, again shows what a fast car the Lotus 72 is by recording 1'19"0. Stewart’s time, before the engine failure, is 1'19"4, just 0.1 sec. faster than team-mate Francois Cevert, who is driving a Tyrrell and racing at Kyalami for the first time, so his speed is most creditable. Also on 1'19"5 is Rodriguez, who has the new B.R.M. going well, and Amon who reckons his engine is off form. Stewart, Amon and Ickx all have fresh engines fitted for the final day’s practice on Friday, the Scot’s being the first of the new 11 series motors. However, the front row is not altered, although Stewart is by far the fastest on Friday with 1'18"1. The big improvements come from the two new cars of Hulme and Surtees and both get down to 1'19"1 to finish up on row three with Ickx, who finally get down to 1'19"2. Row four is comprised of Cevert and Rodriguez with their Thursday times and on row five come Gethin in the older McLaren, Charlton who works hard and put lots of laps in to take the Brabham round in 1'19"8 (after reverting to 15-in. rear wheels) and Peterson. The rest are ranged out behind as per the grid.

 

Amon is unhappy as his new engine does not seem very good, while Stewart also comments that his new engine is not anything particularly special. The large South African crowd filter into Kyalami early as a full programme has been laid on for them, including saloon, Formula Vee, Formula Ford and even a vintage race. A half-hour non-timed setting-up session for the Formula One cars have several takers, amongst them Francois Cevert whose engine blows up and the Tyrrell team has to rush through a last-minute change. However, there is a very healthy grid of 25 cars lined up for the start and once they have rolled forward from the grid the starter raises and drops the South African flag very quickly, catching out both Stewart and Amon. However, Regazzoni gets away very quickly and both Fittipaldi and Hulme tuck right in behind him, several others are held up by the two front row men, while Hill and Soler-Roig are very slow away from the back of the field. The opening laps are very confusing indeed and even the most experienced lap charters have trouble following the progress of a huge mass of cars dicing out the middle positions. Anyway, it is Regazzoni definitely in the lead with Fittipaldi, Ickx and Hulme in his wake, then Rodriguez, Andretti, Stewart, Surtees, Siffert, Cevert, Charlton and the rest. Soon there are some retirements with both Bonnier and Soler-Roig going out on lap 5, the former with suspension trouble and the latter with engine trouble, although no one really miss them. Next to go is Gethin, whose McLaren has been fitted with badly out of balance front wheels and he can hardly hold the steering wheel, and even a mirror shakes off. To add to his problems a fuel leak starts from the tanks so he retires on lap 7. By this time Hulme is already starting to show that he is going to be a major contender by moving into second spot behind Regazzoni, while Fittipaldi is third dropping back into the clutches of a furiously dicing bunch comprising Rodriguez, Stewart, Andretti, Surtees, Ickx and Siffert.

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Hulme is obviously on top form, the new McLaren working well, and it is obvious that he would soon catch the leading Ferrari, something we have not seen in Grand Prix races for some time now. This he does and he flashes by into the lead on lap 17, while Surtees moves up to third position by displacing Rodriguez. Meanwhile, Ickx has made a pit stop to have a wheel changed as a front tyre has gone flat and this effectively drops him out of contention, although he does work his way up from last position. Pretorius’ Brabham retires on lap 22 with a broken camshaft. Once into the lead Hulme starts to pull away from the Ferrari while Surtees has likewise moved ahead of the fourth place scrap which is really keeping the crowd on their toes. Andretti is racing wheel to wheel with the two BRMs, for Siffert has moved up smartly to join Rodriguez while Stewart has dropped back to watch this frantic dust-up. Lotus team-mates Fittipaldi and Wisell are now running nose to tail in the next two positions and being hounded by Cevert. Peterson in the new March has pulled up to 11th spot, after a shaky start, and is starting to leave behind him the battle raging between local drivers Charlton and Love as well as Redman and Amon, who are also in there pitching. The pits have been quiet for too long and on lap 30 there is a sudden rush of business. Siffert’s B.R.M. engine has objected to a sustained bout of slipstreaming and has boiled itself dry and he steams to a halt as he pulls into the pit road. Charlton also comes in to complain that his engine is well down on power and broken valve springs are diagnosed so he retires. Peterson is also in as his progress has been hampered by a puncture and he drops to the bottom of the field before rejoining. Then a couple of laps later B.R.M.’s chances of a good placing totally expire when Rodriguez comes in with the rear of his car doused in oil, and the little Mexican is suffering badly from burned feet. In fact, the body section has moved allowing the hot air from the radiator to pass into the cockpit instead of being ducted out and roasts both its driver and the engine.
 
To add to the team’s troubles Ganley also stops from sheer physical exhaustion and sickness, finding that Grand Prix racing takes a lot more out of a man than Formula 5000, and the acquisition of a new Bell Star helmet is not helping the cause either. He returns to the race but later the exhaustion forces him to retire, while Love has retired with a broken gearbox. Regazzoni is finding that he is getting a tremendous vibration from his front wheels and is slowly dropping back and first he is passed by Surtees, driving better than for many a year in the brand-new TS9, and then by team-mate Andretti, who is really piling the pressure on. At the half-way mark Hulme is looking every inch a winner with a lead of some six seconds over Surtees and the two Ferraris while Stewart is now fifth, although, surprisingly considering his superiority during practice, looks unlikely to improve his lot other than by default of others. The two Lotus 72s have been split by Cevert with Wisell moving ahead of Fittipaldi, whose car is, apparently, oversteering very badly. Amon is ninth and also not showing practice form and has Hill, who seems to have really got the hang of his Brabham, and Redman, who likewise is getting to terms with the Surtees, hard on his heels. Up at the front Surtees’ strong run starts to fade as an oil pipe to the gearbox oil cooler fractured and the lubricant starts to leak away and Surtees progressively slows, dropping to fifth place before the box finally seizes solid on lap 55. There are several other retirements around this time with Fittipaldi’s engine blowing up in front of the pits, while Cevert crashes at the difficult Leeukop corner damaging the Tyrrell quite severely. It appears all this safety clothing can sometimes be quite a hazard. Apparently Cevert is perspiring profusely under his balaclava Nomex hood and Bell Star helmet, the sweat gets in his eyes, he blinks at the wrong moment and-crash. By three-quarters distance Hulme is still in a good lead, although there is no doubt that Andretti is racing as hard as he can to attempt to catch the orange McLaren.
 
Meanwhile, Stewart is closing on Regazzoni for third, while Wisell is running a sound fifth. Hill’s good run is halted when his rear wing starts to fall off and he is called in the pits to have it fixes and this elevates Amon, Redman and Ickx up a place. Despite Andretti’s hard charging and the fastest lap of the race on lap 73 (although it is not a new record), Hulme has answered the challenge by speeding up and feels really good to reel off those remaining laps to score his (and McLaren’s) first Formula One victory since Mexico 1969. But, with just under four laps to go, Hulme suddenly feels the McLaren lurch as he accelerates out of a corner and the car starts to weave all over the road. A bolt holding the top right rear radius rod has either broken or pulled out and hence the back wheel is no longer properly located. Hulme decides to soldier on at much reduced pace while Andretti sweeps by into the lead. Poor Hulme limps on making desperate signs at his pit, who can not understand what the trouble is thinking that perhaps the car is stuck in gear or running out of fuel. In fact, as Andretti reels off the remaining laps, he actually overtakes Hulme again and slows as he passes him waving as much as to say bad luck you had me beaten and then accelerates to take the flag and win his first but almost certainly not his last World Championship race. Stewart has passed Regazzoni in the closing stages and so comes into second place and gives the marque Tyrrell its first ever championship points. Behind Regazzoni comes Wisell after an excellent and well-calculated drive, while in fifth place, a lap down, is Amon in the Matra with Hulme limping into sixth place. So there are five different makes in the first six using three different engines. There are also plenty of finishers out of the points with Redman seventh in his Surtees ahead of the three pit stoppers, Ickx, Hill and Peterson, while the final three, Pescarolo, Stommelen and de Adamich, have all plodded along steadily and reliably without any great fireworks.
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Although the Alfa-powered March 711 is four laps down on the winner the Alfa Romeo engine has at last finished a race; something it fails to do last season when installed in a McLaren. So with Spain coming up in April and a couple of non-championship races in between, the scene looks set for a very interesting and exciting season. It is surprising that the Ferraris have not won from the front but they still have the new car up their sleeve. No doubt Stewart will offer more of a challenge in the coming races; it is pleasing to see that both Surtees and McLaren have come up with very competitive designs for the 1971 season, while the Matra will also be a challenge when the engines are set up just right.
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Giulia Noto

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