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#199 1971 Spanish Grand Prix

2022-08-30 00:00

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#199 1971 Spanish Grand Prix

For the second time in the current Formula One, the Spanish Grand Prix is held on the remarkable circuit in the Montjuich Park in the heart of Barcelo

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For the second time in the current Formula One, the Spanish Grand Prix is held on the remarkable circuit in the Montjuich Park in the heart of Barcelona, the first time being in 1969, when front and rear aerofoils are at their greatest height and lots of them fell off, some right in front of officialdom, so that an instant rule is passed which banned high aerofoils and movable ones. Consequently the lap record is considered by some to be an ultimate, they feeling that the new aerofoil rules are stunting progress. That is nonsense, of course, and two years of development and progress in engine-power, brakes, road-holding and handling have more than made up for any advantages that the high aerofoils might have given. The 1969 lap record is left at 1'28"3 by Rindt with a Lotus 49, and practice in 1971 is barely half-way through before anyone who is anyone in Grand Prix racing is way below this figure, and everyone is there to have a go, right from the moment that practice begins on the Thursday evening before the race. As the paddock gate is opened the cars and drivers came out one by one and set off for practice, and it is a sight to enthral any regular racing enthusiast, let alone the thousands of locals who probably have not seen or heard a Grand Prix car engine since 1969. Amon (Matra V12), Andretti (Ferrari flat 12), Stewart (Tyrrell V8), Rodriguez (BRM V12), Regazzoni (Ferrari flat 12), the Lotus 72 cars, the March 711 cars, the Surtees cars, they are all there, and are all ready to go, all that is except Gethin whose McLaren M14A is in the paddock with leaking fuel tanks. The way the numerous 12-cylinder cars move away up the hill from the pits, with the relatively flat-sounding V8s intermingled with them, is stirring stuff and starts the whole meeting off on a keen note, like the first bull into the ring being a real brave one. Some are really ready to go, like Amon with the first of the 1971 Matras, and Stewart with last year’s Tyrrell which he is using as a spare car having a brand-new Tyrrell car all ready for him whenever he wants it, this being the third car from the Tyrrell team.
 
At the opposing end of the field are numerous newcomers, who are not only feeling their way along in the Grand Prix scene, but are also discovering the twists and turns, up and downs, humps and bumps of the Montjuich circuit for the first time, and others like Stommelen, who is sitting in his brand-new Surtees for the first time and finding that nothing really fits him, though the car is basically all right as Surtees has bedded it in at the Easter meeting at OuIton Park. The Lotus team has converted both of their 72 models to the new arrangement of oil tank, single-piece aerofoil and twin oil radiators at the rear, and has built aluminium ducts to scoop air into them, as Ferrari does on his 1970 models and B.R.M. on this year’s models. Fittipaldi is in 72C/R5 and has alternative nose cowlings available, last year’s with the NACA ducts taking air to the front brakes, and the 1971 nose with a smooth top and waisted sides taking cooling air into the inboard brakes from the sides. Wisell is in 72C/R3 with the 1971-type nose. The strong Ferrari trio of Ickx, Andretti and Regazzoni are all in 1970 Ferraris, respectively #3, #2 and #4, and are expecting a 1971 car the following day. Hill has the odd-looking Brabham BT34 with the outrigger radiators, and Schenken has the BT33 he has driven for the team at Brands Hatch. Hulme has the 1971 McLaren and Gethin the 1970 model he has driven so well at Oulton Park. Stewart’s official car for the race is a brand-new Tyrrell, making its first appearance, and he has the original car as a training car, while Cevert is in the rebuilt second car. The BRM team has four cars, two 1971 models and two 1970 models, with Rodriguez in P160/01, Siffert in P160/02 and Ganley in P153/03, with P153/07 as a spare in case anyone does any serious damage to his own car. The STP-March team are out in force with three 711 models, all with the front brakes mounted on the hubs instead of inboard, and all lacking the fancy covers over the side radiators and the engine.
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Andrea de Adamich has the first car, with an Alfa Romeo V8 engine, Peterson has the second car, with a Cosworth V8 engine, and Soler-Roig has the fourth car built, also with a Cosworth V8, all three being painted STP red, (but not Reflectagto red). The third 711 to be built is being driven by Pescarolo for Frank Williams, and it has been severely modified with stronger front wishbones, strengthening gussets here and there, a stronger rear suspension frame under the gearbox, and hub-mounted front brakes, and is painted in its usual dark blue. The Matra team has their two 1971 cars, designated MS120B, with Amon in the first one, which has a very similar monocoque to the 1970 model, and Beltoise, back in the fold after having his licence returned, following the unfortunate Buenos Aires crash incident, in the second one. Their numbering follows on from 1970, being 04 and 05, respectively, the second car having smooth, sloping sides to the monocoque instead of the angular, shelf-like layout of the earlier cars. Amon has one of the 1970 cars as a spare, and both the new cars are using the high intake duct that looms over the driver’s head like a bird’s beak. The final team is the Surtees duo, with the owner in TS9/001 and Stommelen in TS9/002. This race should have seen the whole entry carrying their obligatory red rear lights, but for some obscure reason the idea has been postponed until July. Practice sees the usual business of some drivers and teams being switched on and others being very switched off, or just lacking in preparation. Surtees and Hulme have hardly begun to practise before their Cosworth engines break, and Fittipaldi stops his Lotus 72 out on the circuit with a lack of fuel pressure, and when a mechanic goes and gets him going again he is then troubled with the brakes not being to his liking. The Montjuich circuit is an extremely hard one and a testing one, very similar in character to Monte-Carlo, but amid trees lined with double Armco barriers all the way round, instead of the houses and hotels of the Monegasque circuit.

 

There is plenty of aviating over the brow of the hill after the pits, and a lot of hectic braking and locking of wheels going into the two downhill hairpins and the downhill right-angle bends. The 12-cylinder cars are setting the pace, especially the Ferrari of Ickx, and his Formula Two Montjuich experience is helping, as is Stewart’s, for he has the new Tyrrell among them all the time, and by sheer brilliant driving he has the Tyrrell ahead of them all at the end of the day. Pescarolo’s Formula Two experience on the circuit is proving invaluable, and he has the Williams March 711 up among the fast runners, but that is his ultimate, for he improves no further, while almost everybody else does in the second evening of practice. Andretti is not being outstanding as he does not feel really at home among the close confines of the Spanish guard rails, being used to a run-off area of loose stuff before the steel barriers on most of the American circuits. All the way round the Montjuich there is little or no opportunity to overdo things, a few inches off line meaning violent contact with solid steel. It is all rather like the old street races of Naples, Bari, Siracusa, Bordeaux, Angouleme, and so on, where minimal error means a wheel broken in contact with a kerb or brick wall. Andretti does in fact make violent contact with a guard rail after a spin and shatters the left-rear wheel. All the Firestone users have a new type of tyre available, which is a pure drag-racing slick of solid rubber with no tread whatsoever, there merely being a few small holes for measuring rubber depth as on drag-racing tyres, and most drivers are finding them very good, on both front and rear wheels. Late evening practice is all very well, but it means finishing with the street lights on, and while everyone is packing up, darkness fell. On Friday the practice session is again in the evening, and the Ferrari team produces a 1971 car for Regazzoni to use experimentally, and Amon starts to use his spare Matra but it dies on him. The pace is really warming up, and even some of the new boys are approaching the old lap-record, which must have pleased designers of new cars, and development people.

 

The 12-cylinder cars are beginning to dominate things, but always Stewart is driving harder and harder and staying with them, but this time he is relegated to fourth fastest, with Ickx out in front, followed by Amon and Regazzoni, while Rodriguez and Beltoise are just behind the Scot. If it hasn’t been for Stewart, the outlook of the Cosworth brigade would have been distinctly gloomy. HuIme and Surtees have changed their broken engines, and Gethin is having his first practice and driving in a very smooth and relaxed manner, in strong contrast to some of the new boys who are supposed to be the future aces. A car driven smoothly, with no heroics, is often much faster than it looks, and this is the case with Gethin, for at the end of practice there is only one Cosworth-powered car ahead of him, and that is Stewart’s Tyrrell, which is no mean achievement in one practice session. As the practice draws to a close there is every sign that someone is going to break 1'26"0, and it is Ickx who does, with 1'25"9. Right behind him are Regazzoni, Amon, Stewart, Rodriguez and Beltoise, seven-tenths of a second covering them all. Regazzoni does some running with the new car, but it is clear that the team is going to rely on the 1970 cars. Everything is working up nicely to a final fling on Saturday evening, when there would obviously be a bunch of cars below 1'26"0, and even the slowest ones would be approaching the old lap record of 1'28"3, but the weather gods have other ideas. During the Formula Three race which precedes the final practice, the rain comes down in a big way, and thunder and lightning sweep across the skies. The Formula Three race becomes a farce, and though the storm passes, the roads never drie up and the final Grand Prix practice is a dead loss, especially for some like Surtees, who has finally got his new engine to run reasonably well and gets his gear ratios right. Stewart does enough to weigh up the wet conditions and is fastest with 1'37"0, just ahead of Hulme and Surtees, and the first 12-cylinder car is Beltoise’s Matra in fourth place.

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The race is due to start at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, by which time the skies are very clear and the sun is blazing down on the enormous crowd that line the circuit. After some confusion and chaos in the marshalling area the cars are wheeled out, and along with the drivers are presented to the grandstands of honour, before being sent away one at a time on a warm-up lap. Ickx uses the opportunity to try his Ferrari as if in the race, and he can not have breasted the hill after the start any quicker had he been racing. The twenty-two starters line up on the grid, there only being two Cosworth V8-powered cars in the first three rows, Stewart’s Tyrrell in the second row and Gethin’s McLaren in the third row, ready for the start of the 75-lap race, a long and gruelling 284 kilometres round the difficult and exacting 3.79 kilometre circuit, with little or no room for error, under a blazing sun. Up and over the hill the whole pack roar, with Stewart hard on the heels of the Ferraris of Ickx and Regazzoni, the young Belgian boy obviously being out to win. As they all crowd up at the first hairpin the leaders sweep round, but in the mid-field someone chops across the front of Hill’s Brabham and clouts a front wheel so hard it takes the steering wheel out of his hands and he finds himself almost stationary on the apex of the hairpin. This causes a chain-reaction among the tail-enders, and Surtees, Stommelen, Soler-Roig and one or two others are forced to stop completely, while Schenken and Wisell go round the outside. This little fracas derange the steering on Hill’s Brabham, and Surtees crumples a nose tin. Hill is forced to give up, Surtees later stops and changes his crumpled cowling for the one off Stommelen’s car, as the second Surtees would not run properly due to bits of metal finding their way through all the filters and jamming the fuel pressure relief valve open, so the German driver has retired. Siffert comes in to retire with damaged gear-change linkage on the gearbox, thought to be due to being involved with someone on the first hairpin nonsense. Meanwhile, Ickx and Stewart are soon out on their own and there begins one of the better Grand Prix races.

 

The old lap-record goes almost instantly, and Stewart is hounding Ickx mercilessly and gets by on lap six, but his lead is neglible. For the whole race these two battle it out, lapping faster and faster, and Stewart was on the limit all the time, with Ickx driving equally as hard and keeping Stewart right on his toes. Diving, twisting and turning round the park these two keep at it in a masterly display of driving, leaving all the opposition behind, and lapping all the slower cars, some of them twice. In and out of the traffic Stewart tries all he knows to get rid of the Ferrari, but there is no hope, Ickx keeps pressing all the time, but towards half-distance Stewart’s stamina begins to tell, and little by little he opens up a gap and it gets to as much as nine seconds, but then Ickx seems to get a second wind, and as the fuel load is going down the Ferrari is handling better and better. The gap now begins to close and bit by bit Ickx is closing it, all the while the lap-record being broken time and time again by both drivers. There is no relaxation for Stewart, he is driving at his absolute best, on the limit of everything all the time, and the brand-new Tyrrell is holding together. Closer and closer the red Ferrari gets, until Ickx has the dark blue Tyrrell in sight down the twisty hill. As the Ferrari lands after the jump at the top of the hill past the pits, Ickx gets a broadside view of the Tyrrell driving into the left-hand hairpin. They are both lapping faster than ever they have gone in practice, running consistently around 1'25"5, and on lap 69 Ickx records 1'25"1, an all-time record lap. In the closing laps they blast past some back markers, but Stewart makes no mistakes, and he finishes the 75th lap going as hard as he has ever had to drive, with the red Ferrari in hot pursuit. Both cars have been driven to their absolute limit and both have responded perfectly, neither one missing a beat or failing in any way. It has been a memorable battle which keeps everyone on their toes the whole time, and has completely overshadowed the rest of the runners, some of whom are doing good things, while some are best overlooked.

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Regazzoni’s initial spurt fizzles out when the low-pressure fuel pumps down by the gearbox cracked and let the fuel pressure fluctuate, with a result that the engine runs on a weak mixture and begins to seize up, so it is pulled out of the race before it wrecks itself completely. Andretti gets into a good three-cornered battle with Rodriguez and Hulme, battling it out for fourth place behind Amon’s Matra. This goes on until lap 43, when Andretti has to stop with a small fire going on at the back of the car. His fuel pump has also cracked, and sparks from the pump have set fire to the leaking fuel, but luckily with the power on the petrol is sucked away from the leak and the fire goes out, but on the over-run into corners it would leak out and ignite again. Hulme can see this happening and finally manages to alert Andretti’s attention to the hazard, and he stops at the pits. Another pump is fitted and he goes off again, but as with Regazzoni’s car, the weak mixture has been playing havoc with the inside of the engine, and as it is about to break Andretti stops, with yet another fire starts from the replacement pump. A well-meaning fireman covers everything with foam, including the driver, and that is the end of the American’s race. Rodriguez runs right through in a steady fourth place, with Hulme fifth after a very satisfactory afternoon’s drive, except that he doesn’t win. Amon has taken third place from Regazzoni on the third lap, and he holds that position throughout the race, never looking like losing it, nor improving on it, the Matra running strongly apart from a hesitant pick-up from the slow corners. Gethin profits from his good starting position but gradually drops back, and is relegated to a steady eighth place behind Beltoise and Cevert. The Matra driver goes well, but Stewart’s young team-mate drives even better, and gradually closes on Beltoise until he gets to the point of making a bid to snatch sixth place. Just at that moment, on lap 64, Stewart appears behind him, at the height of his battle with lckx, so dutifully Cevert gets out of the way to let Stewart by and loses all hope of taking sixth place from Beltoise.

 

As at the Race of Champions, Schenken in a Brabham, and Ganley in a B.R.M. are remarkably evenly matched and ran in close company throughout the race, even recording identical fastest laps at 1'28"9. This time Schenken leads all the way, and makes no mistake at the end, so that they finish ninth and tenth. The Lotus pair are never in the picture, Fittipaldi having no faith in his brakes, especially after the warning light has come on, indicating low fluid level, but a stop at the pits makes no improvement after bleeding them and adding more fluid. The car continues to swoop about under heavy braking, and after the race a break is found in part of the rear suspension cross-member assembly. Wisell is equally unimpressive, suffering most of the time with a recalcitrant gear-change, due possibly to it being out of correct adjustment after repositioning the gear lever, when he decides in practice to adopt a different driving position. Pescarolo’s apparent burst of speed in the first practice does not develop into anything better, and in the race his engine is never on full song. In the opening stages he is in twelfth place and just about hanging on to the mid-field bunch, but can not have been too pleased when he is lapped first by Beltoise on lap 47, and then by Cevert, on lap 49. Shortly after that the front mounting of the rear aerofoil brakes, and that is sufficient to call it a day with the dark blue March. The three red March 711 cars end the day spread round the circuit, Peterson’s engine dying from electrical trouble quite early in the race, when he is just ahead of Pescarolo, while the Alfa Romeo-powered March wrecks its final drive unit and Soler-Roig is in twelfth place when a fuel pipe brakes and brings him to rest. For the first two cars it has been a brilliant race, hard-fought and won by sheer driving ability on Stewart’s part, for the other twenty cars it has either been steady and dull with unsatisfactory results, for everyone would like to win or be an honourable second, or it has been disastrous and a miserable failure. For the huge and excitable crowd it has been a day to remember, with sights and sound they may not see again until 1973.

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Giulia Noto

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