#220 1972 United States Grand Prix

2022-01-29 23:00

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#220 1972 United States Grand Prix

Jackie Stewart completed the 1972 World Championship with one of the most convincing wins of his career. Driving the Derek Gardner-designed Tyrrell he

Practice for the race is schedule in three sessions, one long four-hour stint on Friday plus sessions of 1½ and 2½ hours the following day. American weathermen seem to be far more accurate in the USA, the reasons for which meteorological friends will no doubt be able to explain, and they are predicting rain for Saturday. They are correct too, and both sessions are drastically affect, not only by a slippery surface in the morning session but by a thick mist which gradually blew away in the freezing winds. Many members of the Grand Prix circus is heard to remark that they are glad they are sleeping in local motels and not camping out with the 25.000 enthusiasts. This Saturday’s two sessions haven’t bearing on the grid at all, save for the fact that Schenken qualify the new Surtees on the back of the grid. Perhaps in anticipation of the predict bad weather, the teams mainly seem to got down to business very soon. One exception is John Player Team Lotus, for Emerson Fittipaldi isn’t sure whether to race 72/7 or the older 72/5. Meanwhile Dave Walker has to wait around for the Brazilian to make up his mind. Once a decision is make and Walker is about to go out and attempt to find some of that confidence that bring him so much success in Formula Three in 1971 when Fittipaldi come in with a rear upright which is starting to fracture. So Walker again has to give the car up to Fittipaldi, and finally fitt eight laps in when 72/5 is repaire at the end of the session. One fact is obvious front the first quarter of an hour and that is the superiority of Goodyear tyres over Firestone. That very morning the engineers from Firestone has tell that the decision to close down the European Racing operation is reverse and so they tackle their tasks with renew enthusiasm, if not bewilderment at company decisions. But in the interim period they have certainly lost out to their rivals and the Goodyear-equip cars all have an appreciable margin.

By the end of the first hour this is plain to see, with the Nos. 1 and 2 drivers from both Team Tyrrell and McLaren Racing setting the pace and, for that matter, the No. 3s are not very far behind either, particularly Jody Scheckter who is handling the spare McLaren like a veteran. When the four hours are over there are seven Goodyear runners in the first eight. Stewart is the fastest throughout the session except when he stops for the mechanics to fit a different set of gear ratios. All timing at Watkins Glen is to one-thousandth of a second, which seems unduly complicate, and Stewart’s best is given as 1'40"481, well under his last year’s pole position time here of 1'42"642. But it is slower than the fastest Can-Am time of 1'39"187 set in practice in July by Peter Revson. Readers may remember that the nearby Corning University is consult when the track is extend, and when various factors are fed into its computer it tells us that a bogey lap time for Watkins Glen, assuming the driver is perfect and driving the machine on the limit everywhere, is 100 seconds. So Stewart is approaching the perfect although it should be remember that since then the grip of the tyres has increase (the computer is given 1.6 G sideways force.) and perhaps the latest Tyrrell’s aerodynamics and engine are improve over last year although not a great deal. Following his pole position at Canada, Peter Revson again make the front row, this time being just fractionally off Stewart’s best with a 1'40"527 Interestingly this will have make him equal fastest on Brands Hatch-type watches but, as it happens, Stewart has record the time first so his pole position is fully justify. The McLaren team is looking strong once again, for Denny Hulme is third fastest just under half a second slower than his team-mate but, in turn, a similar amount in front of Tyrrell no. 2 Francois Cevert who loves his new 006. Right up near the front is Carlos Reutemann with his Brabham BT37 although once again the talent Argentinian is new to the circuit. He is fifth latest and share row two of the grid with Cevert.


Fastest of the Firestone runners is Clay Regazzoni although all three drivers are fairly close. Regazzoni lap in 1'41"951 to share the third row with Chris Amon’s temperamental Matra, which seem to be working well, and South African Jody Scheckter. This is a remarkable performance for Scheckter’s only previous experience in a Formula One car is one afternoon at Silverstone and some laps earlier in the week at Watkins Glen. He is taking the whole thing very much in his stride and it seems hard to believe that it is just two years since he has his first ever Formula Ford race. So Scheckter finds his mirrors on the starting grid full of World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi, whose Lotus is on Firestone’s of course and is almost two seconds slower than pole position. He shares the fourth row with Mario Andretti’s Ferrari, the American superstar going well but overshadowed by fellow countryman Revson. Not only did McLaren have their trainee No. 3 well place but so did Team Tyrrell, for Patrick Depailler, having his second ever drive in Formula One (the first is at the French GP), is eleventh fastest overall in the older Tyrrell. He shares the fifth row of the grid with Jacky Ickx’s Ferrari which have a few minor problems and yet another #3 driver coming to the fore. Emerson’s older brother Wilson Fittipaldi, who seems to be getting the hang of Formula One very nicely now. The two special $6.000 awards of course go to Scheckter and Depailler. All this must are very depressing for some of the other experiences Grand Prix drivers taking part, particularly those on Firestone tyres. On row six is Mike Hailwood’s Surtees TS9B and Carlos Pace with the Williams March 711. Hailwood briefly try the new TS14 but don’t seem to fit very well so decide to carry on with his own car while Surtees persevers with sorting out the new car. Through all this, Schenken sat on the pit wall and watch, because his regular TS9B has mysteriously be hand over to the American Sam Posey (runner-up in the US Formula 5000 series with a Surtees), leaving Schenken miserable and unemploy.


While Surtees fortunes is higher, B.R.M.’s have rarely been lower. Last year at Watkins Glen the team enter five cars and finish all five. Of course, Howden Ganley, in particular, is competitive enough to pick up World Championship points. This is one of the reasons cit for the massive Marlboro team this year, and we seem to remember their joint Managing Director saying at the announcement press conference that he see no reason why we shouldn’t run eight or nine cars in America. Well, in fact, there are only four and Ganley in a P160 (despite a wheel breakage which throw him into a fence) and Beltoise with a P180 shares row seven with Reine Wisell’s Lotus, which is interesting as WiseII is driving a B.R.M. until recently. Apparently the B.R.M. engines are simply not as powerful now as they are twelve months ago and the drivers are telling to use less revs. in an attempt to keep the V12s in one piece. Of the drivers, Gethin is particularly peeves as his car is on 11 cylinders in the Canadian GP and is still doing the same for most of practice. On one occasion he comes into the pits and rev it loudly in front of Tim Parnell in an attempt to got the message home. Redman, who is driving for the team for the first time, comments the engine will not pull the skin off a rice pudding. There is a lot of work to be done at Bourne over the winter. On row eight are de Adamich with his Italian-sponsored Surtees and Skip Barber’s private March, this being a good effort by the American. Then come Beuttler, happier than ever before with his March, Pescarolo and Posey follow by the remainder of the grid. Peterson’s lowly position is explain by the fact that his first engine blow within minutes of the start of practice and the second one, which is fit in time for the end of the session, do likewise. This left March low on engines so a deal is done with Tyrrell to borrow the engine that have come out of Stewart’s Canadian GP winning car. As explained earlier, the Saturday’s sessions don’t help towards the grid. The morning period is effectively reduce to little more than half an hour and only 14 hardy souls venture out. Peterson naturally wants to make sure his third engine actually


works for more than ten minutes and prove this conclusively with fastest time of the session at 2'05"288, including a desperate display of opposite-lock motoring out on the course. lckx isn’t far behind, while the only other two to better 2'10"0 are the Brabhams of Reutemann and Hill, the latter unable to explain his poor time from the previous day with any tangible reason. The fog cleares away for the afternoon session and the dump track starts to dry out towards the end, making it as much as ten seconds faster. Fastest overall in the session is Carlos Pace’s in Williams’ older March, while Emerson Fittipaldi and Regazzoni are only slightly slower. Redman is remarkably well up the list compare with the previous day and Revson looks good again. Towards the end of the session a few competitors start to try slicks instead of the groov rain tyres. This is the undoing of Peterson who, after a pit stop to have a new rear slick fit, promptly forget about it and lost control at a slight kink and finish up with the March looking very sorry against the Armco. The left-hand side radiators are wrap neatly against the side of the monocoque, denting it, and the rear radius rod pick-up points, quite badly. The rear suspension is also knock about and, on first appearance, one will have says the car isn’t immediately repairable. But Peterson’s mechanics set about the task and, not only do they give the Swede a runner, but a car that is to enable him to give a superb display. Starting with a slow trickle early in the week the crowd is building up and by the end of practice it is estimate that there are more than 25.000 residents at the circuit, it looks like the scene of a pop festival. Many are in the comfort of mobile homes and caravans but the majority are in tents ranging from tiny ones, with hardly enough room for a sleeping bag, to those of near marquee proportions. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves without causing very much trouble but we will wager some have such sore heads after Saturday night that watching the race is agony. Schenken finally got a go in the TS14 and, although he isn’t within the 110% regulation, is allow to start.

By Sunday morning the nasty weather has blown away and there is a beautiful crisp autumn morning. The Watkins Glen circuit is set in beautiful wood country in the Finger Lake region and everything looks ready for a fitting finale to what is, in the main, an excellent year of Grand Prix racing. So heavy is the traffic that the drivers and team managers, etc., come in twos and three by helicopter from the hotel where they are staying. Sad to relate, but by midday it is cold and overcloud once again, with a hint of rain in the leaden sky. A longer warnings-up session is arrange so the time-table is put back 50 min., causing some National newsmen to panic. Everyone are able to practice for half an hour or so just an hour before the off. There aren’t supporting events although, prior to the practice, there are some dancing (or are they prancing ?) girls, and the drivers are parade in Chevrolet Corvettes of various ages. Some sat on the back waving to the crowd, others huddle inside not wanting to got cold and remaining almost as anonymous as they are its their all-enveloping helmets. Bad marks for those men. That final warm-up session all but put pay to the chances of Amon’s Matra and Bell’s Tecno, which don’’t have much chance anyway. The Matra go on to 11 cylinders, which is thought to be cause by a worn or damage cam lobe, and there is no time to change the engine. Amon, who must be uses to such disappointments by now, elects to start on the back of the grid alongside Schenken. Bell’s Tecno blow a head gasket and become little more than a starting-money special. It must be a new experience for Team Manager David Yorke, connect with so many successful combinations, to run a back-marker entry. But the hope is that Tecno will have learn from this year and will come back bigger and stronger in 1973. Peterson’s March appeares to be handling satisfactorily following its bump but there are still worry faces in the STP pit as the engine is playing up and not running smoothly, but this is fix.


At the end of the warming-up lap the cars assemble on the grid and first Ken Tyrrell, and then a mechanic, brushed the path in front of Stewart’s car. This shows the absolute thoroughness of the team and, as the getaway path is off the usual line, it is very dusty because earlier in the morning, the crowd is allow to swarm over the track. There is a gap on the grid between Scheckter and Regazzoni where Amon should be and he is alongside Schenken at the back. When the flag fell Stewart makes what he later describes as one of his best ever starts and streaks into the lead. Behind there are all sorts of antics, particularly at the first corner when a Ferrari comes charging through under late braking and clash with Reutemann, while Revson also got involve. By the time the field have complete a lap, the order is considerably different to that of the grid. Stewart is in the lead and has three clear seconds on Denny Hulme—and that is the nearest the rest ever got to him. Fittipaldi has also make a good getaway and is in third place, follows by rookie Scheckter, then the three Ferraris in convoy with lckx leading Regazzoni and Andretti. Reutemann is eighth with his nose cone looking crumple. Cevert, Wilson Fittipaldi, Ganley. Hailwood, Pace, Beltoise, Barber, Revson (rushing down the pit road to have a nose wing straighten) follow in a blur of colour. Then come Peterson (already up to 17th place and obviously about to make up more), Pescarolo, Depailler, Wisell, de Adamich, Beuttler, Gethin, Lauda, Schenken, Posey, Redman, Walker and Hill completes the healthy runners, then there are Bell and Amon. Revson is out of the pits again before Stewart appeares for the second time but now with an incredible 5-sec. lead, while Scheckter has simply the audacity to pass Fittipaldi. At the end of lap 2 Reutemann has stop at the pits for a new nose cone and resume a lap down, but after that the handling is never too good and he is just starting to pick off the back-markers when his engine blow up after just over 30 laps.

Fittipaldi continue in fourth place but have drop back from Scheckter and almost into the clutches of the Ferrari trio. They soon has Cevert mixing it with them, the Frenchman soon finding out why his throttle is sticking and how to stop it. A piece of upholstery padding from the side of his monocoque has come un-press stud, slip down into the cockpit and is tangling with the pedals. Many drivers will have stop but the Frenchman is a charger and he is having to hook the throttle back. It all sound rather dangerous but he has the hang of it and, by lap five, he is fifth and look as if he will soon he challenge Scheckter. Meanwhile Fittipaldi has pass the pits at the start of the fifth lap at reduce pace and has to complete the lap slowly as a right rear tyre is going flat and chunking badly-a soft experimental compound is chosen. The wheel is change and he continues in last place completing nine more laps before he come in again with the same problem but this time it looks as if a wheel is damage as well. He go out again but make a third and final pit stop three laps later. There is obviously something amiss with the rear suspension and the car is retire. Fittipaldi is the second retirement, Bell has already stops, the Tecno boiling away all its water as expects. Lauda has make a couple of stops to have attention pay to the metering unit and is never in the running again and then Schenken bring the new Surtees in when a wishbone locating lug in the rear suspension broke. That is on lap 23, and by then Stewart has increase his lead to a huge 21 secs, opening out almost a second a lap on Hulme who now has Cevert starting to close on him ominously. Scheckter has settle ourth place and is some 25 secs ahead of Ickx. Meanwhile Peterson is on top form and his charge through the field is one of the most exciting aspects of the race. He has just dispose of Andretti, whose Ferrari’s handling has deteriorate, his decision of different compounds for each side proving the wrong one, and is now after Ickx. Regazzoni’s Ferrari has lost considerable power as its exhaust system has start to fall apart and he is now in 11th position behind Wilson Fittipaldi and Hailwood who are having quite a battle.


A superb effort by Revson has already moves up to thirteenth place and he is challenging Pace whose March is handling badly. The rest, including all the B.R.M.s, are out of it, Ganley showing up better than the rest but then de Adamich trips over him. The Surtees is out and the B.R.M. make a pit stop for a flat tyre. He later stops with engine problems, probably a slip liner, and to complete the B.R.M. sadness Beltoise has his throttle return springs break and then his distributor follow suit, Redman, who never look the same man as he do when he drive the occasional McLaren earlier in the season, has his BRM throw a rod and Gethin’s engine also do something fairly drastic inside. Just on half distance Cevert manages to find a way round Hulme’s McLaren so the order is now Tyrrell, Tyrrell, McLaren, McLaren with Peterson now fifth but with Ickx hanging on well and certainly not letting the Swede got away. A few laps later there is the odd spot of rain and then, on lap 40, a sudden two minute shower just on turn 1, a tight 90 degree right, which makes it very slippery. Scheckter, who has just works his way through the happy little group dicing for sixteenth place led by Beuttler, is the first to arrive and spin round and up onto the earth bank and is promptly follow by Beuttler and Hill who actually touches the McLaren which don’t want to fire up again. If the truth be known he push start by the marshals and resume having lost the best part of two laps in fifteenth place just behind Posey. A couple of laps later Wilson Fittipaldi retires when his engine blow up. He is lying sixth and still doing a great job of holding off Hailwood. Meanwhile lckx had re-pass Peterson and Andretti’s tyre problems seem to be help by the shower of rain and he starts to lap much quicker. All this time Stewart is opening out his lead and work it up to 40 secs at one stage but, with Cevert his nearest rival, he is able to relax. Dave Walker retire from an uninspiring drive at the back of the field when his engine, which is blowing out oil for a while, stop altogether and Pace retires when his throttle linkage fall apart and there are no spares to fix it.


Thus its left to Stewart to complete the remaining laps although he don’t slow down too much as the sooner he got his hands on all those dollars the better. Cevert follows just over half a minute behind while Hulme is third for the third Grand Prix running. The fourth place battle isn’t decide until a couple of laps from the end. lckx’s Ferrari starts to throw off an exhaust which drag on the ground showering sparks for a lap. Probably more out of gamesmanship rather than anything else, Peterson points at this when he is almost alongside lckx and finally beat the Ferrari to the line by a scant 0.4 sec. Sixth man Andretti are lap, although he actually carries on to complete all 59. Tragically Revson, who has pass Andretti with nine laps to go and then a lap later take Hailwood, don’t make the finish. Five laps from the end an ignition wire break off behind the dashboard and the car will only run when the starter motor button is depress. Hailwood don’t finish either. Three laps from the end he got involves with a spin Mike Beuttler is having and in which Lauda also participate. Both the Marches continue but Hailwood makes for the pits with his rear suspension links snap. Hailwood is all set for sixth place at the time and isn’t very happy about it. Patrick Depailler finishes an excellent seventh, steadily working his way up the field after a slow start which has left him 19th at the end of lap 1. During the slowing down lap all three Tyrrells close up and come to the pits to receive the accolades in formation. A nice touch. Regazzoni’s almost exhaust systemIess Ferrari is a sick sounding eight ahead of Scheckter. Reine Wisell’s Lotus finish tenth, two laps down, losing fourth gear towards the end while Graham Hill led home Posey, Beuttler, Pescarolo, Amon (whose Matra run roughly throughout but finish) and Barber who has hung onto de Adamich early on until his brakes Start to fade away. Hailwood and Revson are classify 17th and 18th and Lauda is the remaining finisher with 49 laps to his credit.

Jackie Stewart completed the 1972 World Championship with one of the most convincing wins of his career. Driving the Derek Gardner-designed Tyrrell he is in a class of his own and led from start to finish in a tremendous demonstration of speed and skill. Just as in Canada two weeks earlier, no one can stay with him, but this time he led from the drop of the starting flag and is never head. The trials and tribulations of the Mk. 2 Tyrrell are obviously over for Francois Cevert make it a great day for Team Tyrrell by finishing a convincing second in 006, and the team’s trainee driver, Frenchman Patrick Depailler, toils well for seventh place. The result don’t go unreward. In total Ken Tyrrell picks up just a fraction under $100.000, which must constitute some kind of record for road racing. In terms of numbers of cars the United States Grand Prix is always the biggest and the best in the World Championship. Since the organizers extende the track and completely modernis the pits and facilities last year they have a track to live up to the big fields and big money-this year the prize find available is at a record of $275.000. How is this done? For a start, the event is superbly promote and attracts a far larger crowd than almost any European GP apart, perhaps, from the Nurburgring. Secondly the American race spectator will pay more to watch his motor racing and will probably stay longer, camping at the circuit so that he can take in practice as well. The Watkins Glen Corporation is a non-profit-making organisation so that, as well as giving money to local charities, they can also plough the profits back into the track. Motor racing can undoubtedly do with more such philanthropists. This year race director Malcolm Currie has hope for 35 cars, although he only has 31 cars at the final count. Twenty-three of these are seed entries and automatically receive $6.000 starting fee; there are two additional amounts of $6.000 for the fastest two qualifiers excluding the nominate 23. The remaining runners have to race for the generous prize money. Most of the cars come direct from Mosport Park, the journey taking only a short time for, although there is a national border between Watkins Glen and Mosport Park, the distance is relatively short and everyone have plenty of time to bring their cars back up to scratch.

Rebecca Asolari

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