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#217 1972 Austrian Grand Prix

2022-02-01 23:00

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#1972,

#217 1972 Austrian Grand Prix

Already, in only its third year, the Austrian Grand Prix is accept by everyone. Already it is a classic event that no-one wants to miss. Probably it i

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Already, in only its third year, the Austrian Grand Prix is accept by everyone. Already it is a classic event that no-one wants to miss. Probably it is due to there being nothing before, unlike the new Paul Ricard circuit, which has to justify being the replacement for Reims, Rouen or Clermont-Ferrand, or the Belgian Nivelles circuit, which has to justify being the replacement for Spa-Francorchamps. Even the Jarama circuit has to justify its alternate replacement for Barcelona, and the rebuilt Hockenheimring tries to justify being the replacement or Nurburgring and the Solitude circuit. The Osterreichring don’t have to justify itself, its whole conception is right from the start, and the more people who visit it the more people realize that true Grand Prix racing does not have to follow the clinical and dull dictates that originate from America and produce such marvels as the Paul Ricard circuit in France, and the Nivelles circuit in Belgium. Maybe I do bang on a bit on this subject, but I believe in European Grand Prix racing that is born on the road, and I will fight to the last foot of Armco barrier to defend what I feel is right, and for me the Ostereichring is right, in a truly modern context. Not only did everyone enter for the Austrian Grand Prix, but nearly everyone turn up, except Reine Wisell, who is enter by one hand of the Marlboro-BRM complex, and drop by the other hand. The only other non-starter is the new Surtees car, for reasons explain elsewhere. On the Thursday afternoon before the race there is free practice for anyone who want it and it was a rather pleasant and mutely affair, with no time-keeping, nothing to win or lose, the sponsors admen haven’t arrive and everyone is refreshing and relax and almost human. Team Lotus has send a small group with 72D/R5 as an advance guard and Fittipaldi is carrying out experiments with a very neat cover over the engine which deflect air down to the rear oil cooler, and Walker is waiting in vain for a drive in the car. Ferrari has their full team of cars and drivers out practising, and March were experimenting with a new nose cowling. The new Tyrrell 005 is having its front brakes assemble on the hubs, instead of inboard, and meanwhile Stewart is getting in a lot of laps with 003, repair after its mild accident at the Nurburgring.
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The serious business of practice begin at 2:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon, until 6:00 p.m. with a 30 minute break to remove any wreckage and sweep up the mess, as it says in the regulations. Last year Siffert holds the lap record at 1'38"47, a speed or 216.280 k.p.h.. and with twelve months of engine development, chassis development and tyre development, at least one whole second is expect to be chop off this time. During the first part of the afternoon it is incredibly hot, and engines are having difficulty in breathing, but as the sun begins to go down conditions are more favorable and some very fast times begin to appear. As one will expect Stewart is pace setting with the new Tyrrell, but quietly and almost unnoticed Peter Revson is also going incredibly quickly in the brand new McLaren, indicating that the workers at Colnbrook know how to build a racing car. After a lot of hit-and-miss adjustments between rear aerofoil angle and rear wheel camber angle, the Lotus team arrive at a compromise on their spare car, 72D/R5, that suits Emerson Fittipaldi and he records 1'35"97 just before practice finishes, which puts into the shade the 1'36"35 of Stewart with Tyrrell 005, and the 1'36"98 of Revson. As can be seen from the accompanying table of practice times, Peterson, Ganley, Amon, Hulme, Hill, Ickx and Regazzoni all improves on the old lap record, but the pace-makers have already establish times of under 1'37"0 as being in the A category, so beating the old record is child’s play, or should have been. Ganley’s time of 1'37"55 put things into perspective in the B.R.M. team, and Hill is very happy with the new gearbox in his Brabham, as his time of 1'38"14 suggest. Hailwood don’t keep going until the cool of the evening as his clutch gives out, and Schenken is abandon out on the circuit when an electrical fault burn out the ignition unit. Before the afternoon cool everyone’s progress is slow up by the Connew splitting its oil tank and lubricating the circuit, and Gethin’s B.R.M. is spilling liquid on left handers.

 

The new Tyrrell have the air scoops to the side oil radiators extend with sheets of aluminium, and the Ferrari engineers are very distraught as vapour-locking occure in the most unlikely places in the fuel system, and air bubbles in the Lucas fuel injection unit do not make for a clean pick-up. Henri Pescarolo crashing Frank Williams’ March 721 is no longer news, whatever the cause, and it goes almost unnotice, while Ickx abandons his Ferrari with a dead fuel system and continues with the spare car. Fittipaldi is fast all the time, but fastest of all with the spare-car, and Revson is either exceptionally good, or the others are all exceptionally bad; it is difficult to decide. On Saturday the heat is greater than ever, and practice is bringing forward from 2:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m., ending at 4:30 p.m., instead of 6:00 p.m. Consequently there is no hope of anyone doing any super-fast laps, due to the high temperature. Hulme and Revson both use the spare McLaren, and Beltoise uses the spare B.R.M., but March don’t use their experimental car anymore. Everyone is struggling to get below 1'38"0 and as the afternoon heat continues it is clear that most of the starting grid positions have been decide. Once again Revson is smoothly fast, confirming the previous day’s impressions, and Fittipaldi is fast in both his cars. Right at the end of practice Regazzoni is running on some well establish Firestone tyres, and the fuel system stops playing-up for a short time, which allows him to get a lap in 1'36"04, fastest of the afternoon. By the time he see the pit signals requesting him to stop so that the well-worn tyres can be put on lckx’s car, practice finishes, which don’t make him too popular in some circles. With the Tyrrell pit being at the beginning of the row of pits, Stewart is able to do some fantastic practice starts as he set off out of the pit lane, but the tyre marks from the spinning back wheels will have depress a drag-racing enthusiast, and should have cause the designer of the rear suspension some worrying thoughts on geometry, for the rear wheels appeare to ride up onto the outside edges of the tyres. Beltoise has his B.R.M. engine break on him and Beuttler spin off and damage the rear end of his March, necessitating robbing the spare works car of bits to made the Stock-broker Special race-worthy.

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Apart from Pescarolo, whose March can’t be repaire, everyone is in the race, and on Sunday morning there is a free-for-all practice session for those who want it. The engine in the new Matra blows up, necessitating some frantic work in the paddock to install another one, while the injection system on Beuttler’s Cosworth engine go wrong when the car start up, preventing him trying the-car after its rebuild. Stewart was out in Tyrrell 005 wearing the vast air intake over the engine with which he intende to race, and the funny handling on Pace’s March is traces to the wrong tyres being use. The start is due at 3:00 p.m. so the morning is take up with a Formula Super Vee race win by the Lichtenstein driver Manfred Schurti in a Royale, some publicity parades by the Austrian motor trade and aerobatics by the RAF Red Arrows and their Folland Gnats. For three days people have been pouring into the Zeltweg plain many of them camping in the fields around the circuit, the beer tents, the hot-dog stalls and the fair-ground doing enormous trade from them, and by the time the Grand Prix cars come out into the pit road the crowd estimates vary from 100.000 to 150.000, and whichever limit you accept there are a lot of people about the place. The grid is due to line up in offset pairs and whatever choice he makes Fittipaldi is on the front row for he is fastest on Friday in R5 and second fastest on Saturday in R7, Regazzoni being between the two Lotus times. The Brazilian decides to use his spare car R5, as he feels happier with it, and he takes pole position without any Fleet Street writers weeping tears into their Telex machines because he has to use his older car and suffer a handicap. After a warm-up lap the cars assemble on the dummy grid with mechanics and team-managers protecting their cars and drivers from the heat of the sun with umbrellas and sheet, and at the signal from the time-keepers the 25 cars moved forward to the starting line, ready for 54 laps of the undulating and extremely hot 5.911 kilometres of the Osterreichring.

 

From the outside of the second row Stewart make the sort of start of which Regazzoni will have be proud. The blue Tyrrell left the Line like a rocket, dived across to the right behind Regazzoni’s Ferrari, in front of Revson’s McLaren and join the front row on the inside almost before some of the slower backmarkers have got their clutches home. Three abreast, Fittipaldi, Regazzoni and Stewart accelerate up the steep hill from the starting area, and it is the blue Tyrrell that take the lead over the brow. The racing driver in J. Y. Stewart has complete hold, and it is a superb display of what we all enjoy seeing, and his lead at the end of the opening lap brings forth gasps of admiration from everyone. Regazzoni is in second place with a howling mob behind him, many of them undecide about their immediate future! The red Ferrari is in trouble with its injection system and is hesitating out of the corners, giving those behind some anxious moments, and the order of the queue is Fittipaldi, Hulme (after a super start almost matching Stewart’s), Reutemann, Revson, Amon, Schenken, Hailwood, Peterson and Hill. For four laps Fittipaldi sat a discreet distance behind Regazzoni and then on lap five he see his chance and dive past, into second place, but already the fleeing Stewart was nearly out of sight. Slowly but surely the black and gold Lotus begin to close the gap on the blue Tyrrell, and the rest are left behind still trying to find a way round Regazzoni’s Ferrari that is far from being on top form. The other Ferrari is running equally badly and poor lckx is down in fourteenth place, only just ahead of the Tecno. Hulme got by Regazzoni on lap 9 and then everyone go by and at the end of eleven laps the Ferrari is in the pits having water pour over the petrol cooler and the petrol pumps, to try and cure the vapor locking. Apart from the excitement among the leaders in the first ten laps all manner of happenings are going on with the rest of the runners. Walker’s engine in his Lotus blew up in a cloud of smoke on lap seven.

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Stommelen stops for repairs to the Eifelland bodywork on his March. Wilson Fittipaldi find a “foreign object” kicking about among the pedals, and stop to throw it out. Pace has his fuel pressure gauge burst and cover him in petrol, necessitating a long stop for repairs and a change of overalls, and de Adamich is in trouble with a plug lead that don’t want to stay fasten. With Regazzoni out of the way things sort themselves out, with Stewart conscious that the chisel nose of the Lotus 72 is getting ever closer, Hulme in third place and Peterson up into fourth place from seventeenth position on the opening lap. Charging past the tail-enders seems to be the Swedish driver’s good point; passing the faster drivers is another matter altogether. Hailwood has consolidate himself in fifth place, ahead of Reutemann and Revson. The American driver’s McLaren is coughing at the wrong moments which is making things difficult for him. Regazzoni rejoin the race for a few laps but then give up the unequal struggle, and at twenty laps, after he has been pass by the Tecno and then by Lauda, poor Ickx joins his team-mate in the paddock and 30.000 Italian spectators begin to drift away from the circuit with a feeling of having been cheate. Reutemann has been force to give up when the fuel injection system on his Cosworth engine goes wrong, and Hill’s Cosworth engine begin popping and banging. Migault is running in last place with Connew but quietly getting on with his first Grand Prix, and is lap by the leaders at 13 laps. By 23 laps Fittipaldi has closes right up on Stewart, but Hulme has also closes up on indicating that Stewart is somehow slowing the pace. As the Connew finishes its twenty-second lap part of the left rear suspension breaks away from the chassis and the car swoops across the road and this takes everyone’s attention so that they hardly notice that Fittipaldi has taken the lead from Stewart, and Hulme is challenging for second place.

 

When Hulme got past the Tyrrell with little opposition on lap 27 it is obvious that all isn’t well with the blue car. It is beginning to steer at both ends. Suggesting that something is aiming adrift in the rear suspension, and from a dominant leading position Stewart has dropes to third place with not much hope of holding on to it, as Peterson isn’t far behind. At 30 laps Fittipaldi’s first place look secure enough, except that Hulme isn’t losing any ground, and there is an ominous solid look about the McLaren as it follows the Lotus round, and Revson in the second McLaren is beginning to put the pressure on Peterson’s March as they close up on the stricken Tyrrell. Among the “non-winners” there are all manner of troubles arising. Schenken got a puncture in his left front tyre and stops to have it change, and then imagine he has a puncture in his left rear tyre on the next lap. Both rears are change and he is send on his way. GaIli stops with the Tecno, after an excellent wheel-to-wheel race with Cevert’s Tyrrell, which amuse the Italian driver immensely but depresses the Frenchman. An oil cooler on the Tecno is coming adrift from its mountings, and after it is fixs he rejoin the race, but it had not been noticed that an oil pipe had also cracked, so he was destined to visit the pits again bit later on. Wilson Fittipaldi was in trouble with a broken brake pipe and Hill retired when his injection system made the engine impossible to keep going. During the time they were lapping a lot of the slower cars Revson found a way past Peterson, and Stewart was gamely struggling to hold fifth place, but he was fighting a losing battle as the Tyrrell just would not corner properly so he was losing speed down the straight that followed. With 40 laps gone it was painfully clear that Hulme had got the measure of Fittipaldi, the McLaren cornering much better on left hand bends than the Lotus, but the Lotus being faster on top speed.

 

Lapping at 134 m.p.h. the two cars circulated barely one and a half seconds apart, the swarthy Hulme pushing relentlessly, but knowing there was no possibility of getting by unless the young Brazilian make a mistake. Similarly Fittipaldi knows he is safe providing his Lotus don’t go wrong, but he has little in hand and the gap fall as small as half a second with ten laps still to run. Colin Chapman and his crew are looking very worry and ill at ease as the McLaren got closer and closer, but they under-estimated their protégé, driving in only his third season of Grand Prix racing as though he has doing it for ten years. As the laps tick off on anxiously study lap charts, and stop watches measure the gap that is so small that telling Fittipaldi he is 0.6 ahead seems pointless, but Team Lotus has to tell him something each time he passes the pits, as he can't tell them anything. If he can, he will have probably said something like: I wish that the New Zealand bear will go away. The McLaren pit is all smiles, with their cars in second and third places, as well they may be, but the Tyrrell pit is a sea of gloom, for in the closing laps Stewart is being overtaken by everyone. Hailwood goes by, then Amon in the Matra and then Ganley in the first of the B.R.M.s. To add to the Tyrrell despair Cevert has been lap, and after his battle with Galli in the Tecno he is struggling to stay ahead of Lauda, and the Frenchman hadn’t been switch on all weekend. They got some consolation when they find they aren't alone in trouble, for Peterson’s Cosworth engine fuel system starts playing up with the fluctuating fuel pressure, and he falls back rapidly, being pass by Hailwood, Amon, Ganley and even Stewart. The last car on the same lap as the leaders is the B.R.M. of Beltoise, and when he go by the ailing March, Peterson give up and stop at the pits with only three laps to go, and then stagger off again to limp to the finish. The Tecno is also creeping round as its water temperature is sky high and Galli is keeping going with his fingers cross. 

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The relief in the Lotus pit can be feel as the black and gold chisel nose appears out of the Jochen Rindt curve and Fittipaldi crosses the line, arm held-high in salute as he chalks up yet another Grand Prix victory in his outstanding 1972 season. The great crowd of Italian spectators may not have enjoy the day, but the Austrian, German and Swiss spectators all seem to be having a great day, as did the small, but growing band of enthusiasts who have make the long journey out from Britain to see a real Grand Prix event. Although the race is over by 4:30 p.m. there is still a lot of the glorious day left and at 10:00 p.m., long after dark, the beer tents are still busy, the fairground is still going strong, huge flood lights play on the paddock where the teams are finishing packing, and over the whole scene the great Steyr-Puch illuminates sign on the top of the paddock buildings, revolve slowly, silently and majestically, bidding the whole of Austria and people from far away to come back in 1973.

 

Rebecca Asolari

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