#249 1974 Canadian Grand Prix

2022-08-18 00:00

Array() no author 82025

#1974, Fulvio Conti,

#249 1974 Canadian Grand Prix

In the two weeks between the final European Grand Prix at Monza and the penultimate round of the World Championship series, at Toronto’s scenic Mospor


In the two weeks between the final European Grand Prix at Monza and the penultimate round of the World Championship series, at Toronto’s scenic Mosport Park circuit, an international Court of Appeal set up by the Federation International de l’Automobile in Paris took an unprecedented and highly controversial decision. They reverse the decision of the Royal Automobile Club who has rejected Ferrari’s appeal that Niki Lauda should be reinstate into fifth place in the British Grand Prix, the position he certainly lost when the RAC’s organization fail to allow him back on the circuit after his tyre change late in the race at Brands Hatch. The FIA consequently re-wrote the order from fifth to tenth places, pushing Carlos Reutemann back to sixth place, depriving the hitherto sixth place Hulme of his single point and giving Lauda two extra points to add to his total. The rights and wrongs of such a decision don’t concern this report, but one hopes this unsavory episode is now close for good as it raises serious questions about the validity of any World Championship scoring system and throws the history books into chaos. However, most of the talk in Mosport Park’s paddock don’t concern the Ferrari appeal, for two brand new American Formula One teams are arriving on the scene for their very first race. Perhaps one should emphasize that the teams are only new to Formula 1, for both contain plenty of proven ingredients from other racing categories and both turn out their new cars in such an immaculate condition that they rather out-shone some of the old hands. Technically the most interesting is the Maurice Phillippe designs Parnelli VPJ4 which marks this designer’s return to the Grand Prix scene after three fruitful years spent designing USAC machines for former Indianapolis winner Parnelli Jones.


Sponsored by Viceroy cigarettes, the USAC Parnellis have enjoyed a great deal of success in the hands of Mario Andretti, Joe Leonard and Al Unser, but now the team decide on an audacious move into Formula 1 with a Cosworth-powered British standard kit car. Mario Andretti is the driver, this being his first race in Formula One since 1972. Phillippe’s latest design, unsurprisingly, bears a striking resemblance to the Lotus 72, using as it does the same design of torsion bar suspension, inboard disc brakes front and rear and side water radiators angle in the same way as the later Lotus 76. There are additional refinements such as aircraft-type snap-on joints with one-way valves for the clutch and brake fluid lines which by-passes the need to bleed these systems every time an engine is removed from the chassis and the whole car attracts attention from just about every other designer in the paddock. Even Colin Chapman takes a long look at the Parnelli, doubtless wondering if it's what his team should had designed earlier in the year. The second new Formula 1 car is Roger Penske’s PC1 which, although equally smart in its turn-out, feature a more conservative approach with coil sprung suspension and outboard disc brakes at the front although it does employ side radiators, now apparently standard wear for most Grand Prix machines. The basic design work was the responsibility of Geoff Ferris, formerly a Brabham designer, and the car is tested exhaustively on Penske’s special test track before it ever laps a proper racing circuit. Initial testing have been carried out by former Can-Am Champion Mark Donohue who announced his retirement from racing at the end of 1973, but he decided to return to active participation after Penske’s Formula 1 car is finishes and is on hand to drive it in its very first race.


Facing these two new challengers and their optimistic teams is the usual band of confident, hopeful and apprehensive regulars, some of whom have win races this year, some of whom have come close and some of whom aren’t nearer winning than they are back at Buenos Aires in January. Team Lotus’ success at the Italian Grand Prix has convince them that a couple of narrow track 72s are the answer for North America, so JPS/9 is being brought along as a spare car alongside 72/8 for Peterson and 72/5 for Ickx. Neither driver has a chance of the World Championship, but Peterson at least is determin to try his very hardest to win at Mosport as he does everywhere he steps into a racing car. In a stronger position is the McLaren team, for not only do they lead the Constructors’ Championship prior to the race, but Emerson Fittipaldi is well in with a chance in the drivers’ contest. The Brazilian drives his usual M23/8 with Hulme in M23/6 and German driver Jochen Mass replacing David Hobbs in the Yardley McLaren following a split with Team Surtees. A statement is issue laying down the terms of his departure from Surtees which quite clearly indicate that their split isn’t in any way amicable. Numerically, Brabhams are strongest contenders in the Canadian Grand Prix. Not only do what they having works BT44/1 for Reutemann and BT44/2 for Pace, but the Goldie-Hexagon BT44/4 is completely rebuilt after its Monza accident for Watson to drive and the ex-works BT42/3 is loans to local Formula B driver Eppie Wietzes to drive in his second Grand Prix. He drove at Mosport Park seven years ago in a spare works Lotus 49. Finally, Ian Ashley’s consortium of sponsors got hold of the ex-Watson Brabham BT42/2 to replace the Token which he had driven last at Osterreichring.


The two works March 741s are on hand as usual for Stuck and Brambilla, while Ferrari bring along a trio of 312B3s for Lauda (015) and Regazzoni (016) while relying on 014 as the T-car. In the Tyrrell team things change round with Scheckter using 007/3 and Depailler being entrusted with a brand new 007/4, the two Elf back men having Scheckter’s Grand Prix winning 007/1 as spare. At Team Surtees, Derek Bell stays on to drive TS16/0402 but Austrian Formula Ford and saloon car driver Helmuth Koinigg has recruite to drive the second car in place of Mass. The Embassy Lola team for Stommelen and Hill is unchange as is the UOP Shadow organization while Merzario and Laffite continue to drive for Frank Williams. B.R.M.’s recent spell in the doldrums resulte in the suspension of Pescarolo and Migault from driving and the inclusion of Chris Amon in the team alongside Jean-Pierre Beltoise. Amon is given the newest car, B201/04 to drive, while Beltoise handles 03 and there isn't any sight of anything new in the engine department from Bourne. Rounding off the entry is Hesketh’s Dijon-damaged 308/2 now rebuilt with side water radiators, flatten nose and full width front wing for James Hunt, these modifications be incorporate simply for evaluation purposes to see if they are an improvement on the original arrangement and to provide pointers for the team’s 1975 chassis. Lastly Mike Wilds is on hand to drive Morris Nunn’s Ensign MN02. Mosport Park’s bumpy 2.4-mile lap has partially resurface since the 1973 race in response to appeals from the drivers, but the circuit is still pretty demanding and there are several vantage points at which one can watch Formula One drivers really working hard for their money as their cars dance about over the ripples on the surface.


When practice opens on Friday morning, the first quick times are record by the works Brabhams, emphasizing their performance over bumpy circuits. Pace head the charts by the end of the first hour and a half, lapping his BT44 confidently in 1'14"1 with Reutemann right on his tail one tenth of a second slower. Regazzoni gather it all together to equal Reutemann’s time, but the Swiss looks as though his Ferrari is on the brink of disaster most of the way round the circuit as he strives to do so. Lauda, Scheckter and Hunt are all lapping in the 1'14"0 bracket, but anyone who don’t got into that area on the first day wasn’t really in with a chance. While the Ferraris scrapped with the fastest Cosworth power competitors at the front of the field, there are plenty of other teams in trouble. Peterson is trying as hard as he knows in his Lotus 72, but can only manage 1'15"3 which is equally by Beltoise, so clearly there is room for improvement there, but Jacky Ickx is having a thoroughly miserable time. First he run his Lotus 72 gently off the circuit, inflicting damage to its suspension and steering and then he has to sit and wait for his mechanics to repair a brake which has seize on in the Lotus 76, leaving him only a few minutes at the end of the session to got in any serious laps. The Shadow mechanics are pondering over a seriously damage engine in Jarier’s car and Amon is busy telling everyone that there is, in fact, very much wrong with the B.R.M. and it’s virtually undrivable. However, Andretti in the new Parnelli looks distinctly promising. Despite his new car showing a mark reluctance to warm up its tyres properly in the cool conditions the former Ferrari driver laps in 1'15"6 during the first session and opine that there is still plenty more left to come.


By the end of Saturday’s session, Andretti is down to 1'14"9 although Donohue, who had only been one tenth of a second slower than Andretti on Friday, encountered problems on Saturday which ensured that he was unable to improve. After just three laps, Donohue brings the car into the pits complaining that it will not maintain its fuel pressure and has start to burble at several points all-round the circuit. Penske’s mechanics work furiously for about twenty minutes to coax the car back into healthy life before pushing it back to the garage and examining their charge in more detail. They eventually diagnose a broken belt to the mechanical fuel pump, change the belt and are extremely disappoint when the car still fails to run smoothly. In consequence they are obliged to spend the rest of Saturday fitting a fresh fuel pump which means that Donohue can only got out for the final few minutes of the session. Having foiled all the apparent problems send to hinder them on Friday, Team Lotus are faring scarcely any better on Saturday. Peterson spend the first session looking very glum, sitting on the pit wall watching his rivals fighting for grid positions as the Lotus mechanics sweat blood changing an engine oil seal in the garage and Ickx’s 72 stand for much of the time in the pit lane as Chapman, Peter Warr and two mechanics endeavor to trace the source of its fuel pressure shortage. Peterson eventually gots out and works his way down to 1'14"34, good enough for a sixth row start, but the best Ickx can manage after all his tribulations is over one full second slower. Team Lotus fortunes have varies alarmingly all through the season, and this is definitely one of their worst moments, but it is a measure of the standards that this organization generally maintains that they think of this season as something of a failure.


Peterson has won three Grands Prix, but the Lotus idea of a successful season is to win most of the races and take the Constructors’ title. By the end of Friday’s session all the experts are predicting a Ferrari walkover, for Lauda has laps in 1'13"62 and Regazzoni has records of 1'13"80 and they are heading the grid at that time. But, although Ferrari himself have instruct his team to allow Regazzoni to win the race, he clearly hadn’t taken into consideration the determination of Fittipaldi, Reutemann and Scheckter. The final official practice session on Saturday afternoon provides a fine opportunity to see some really first-class exhibitions of bravery by some leading Formula One drivers. There are times during the season when one is tempted to accuse certain drivers of failing to give their best consistently, preferring a steady and tactical race in third or fourth position and hoping that their faster rivals in front will fail. But on this occasion, with the World Championship so delicately hanging in the balance, this isn’t a time for tactics or soft-pedaling and everybody is out there on the circuit scratching away as hard as they possibly can. Regazzoni takes the opportunity to take out the spare Ferrari, the Swiss chasing his Austrian team-mate round in tight formation and both drivers using more of the stone kerbing on the edge of the track than usual. Jody Scheckter is using the stone kerbing and a bit more in his Tyrrell, working his way down to a fine 1'13"30 which at one time looks good enough for pole position. But then Lauda comes back with a spectacular 1'13"23 and Fittipaldi counters this with a stupendous 1'13"18 in the closing few minutes before a slight rain shower douse the circuit and that is the destiny of pole position put beyond doubt.


Regazzoni looks a little bit depressed by the end of the afternoon, for the chargers are giving him a lot of trouble and he finds that his 1'13"55 is better by Reutemann and Jarier, so he is pushes back down to the outside of the third row. Just as the rain starts to fall, Regazzoni skid the spare Ferrari straight into the catch fences on the outside of the first corner, knocking the nose cone off the car and slightly damaging the suspension in the process. Depailler tries hard not to be left behind by Scheckter, but he is panting a bit to work his way down to 1'13"63, While Hunt, who finds the revise Hesketh preferable to the original car over the Mosport bumps, is the only other competitor to break the 1'15"0 barrier. Amongst the others; Peterson and Watson look a little further back than they should be, the Swede for reasons stats, while Watson isn’t one hundred percent happy with his repaired car and is suffering from a bout of sinus trouble. Hulme looks as though he is trying harder than of, late, Andretti deserves an A for effort considering his two years’ absence from the Grand Prix scene and his team’s inexperience in Formula One while Beltoise is still working as hard as ever to no avail in his B.R.M. Derek Bell fails to qualify once again, this time after an injector has fallen into his Surtees’ engine on Saturday morning, but Koinigg acquits himself quite promisingly and Ickx simply looks as though he is ready to give up. Brambilla crashes his March beyond immediate repair and Stuck looks uninspire while Amon at least has the consolation to know he isn’t quite last on the grid after the organizers agree to allow Wietzes’ Brabham to start the race. 


Sunday morning unfortunately shows up one or two organizational problems. Although the Mosport organizers are willing and obliging, the circuit’s crowd control is very poor and the schedule of supporting events isn’t run off very promptly although it must be admit that a multiple accident in the saloon car race hardly helps matters. However, the Grand Prix didn’t get under way until well over an hour after its appointed starting time, leaving most people wondering whether the bitterly cold wind will be bringing along snow rather than the rain predicts by local weather forecasters. When the Canadian flag drops, both Ferraris make their customary fast starts, Fittipaldi managing to slip in between them both as they stream round the first right-hand corner with Scheckter harrying Regazzoni hard in fourth place. By the end of the first lap Lauda, Fittipaldi, Regazzoni and Scheckter have already open up a slight gap back to Hunt’s Hesketh who in turn is at the front of a tight bunch containing Jarier, Reutemann, Pace, Depailler and Peterson. Then follow the triers in the form of Stommelen, Andretti, Mass, Pryce, Watson, Hulme, Beltoise, Laffite, Merzario, Ickx and Koinigg while Donohue finds himself box in by the tail-enders and Amon is running a solid last, driving the B.R.M. in a spectacular fashion which seem to have no effect whatsoever on his position in the race. By lap three Scheckter can see that the two leaders are beginning to get away from Regazzoni, so he charges past the third placed Ferrari and starts to try and haul in the leaders. Hunt is sliding the Hesketh all over the circuit as he strives to stay in front of Jarier, while further back, Andretti forces his path ahead of Stommelen and leaves Mass to lead the queue round behind the German’s Lola.


By lap nine Stuck has make his first pit stop, retiring three laps later with fluctuating fuel pressure on his works in March. Right at the back Amon’s B.R.M. is beginning to have trouble with sticking throttle slides while Peterson is biding his time at the back of the second bunch. The first real incident of the race came when Mass tried to push inside Andretti at one tight right-hand corner only to have the American move over on him in determined style, causing the Yardley McLaren to slide broadside. This contretemps forced Watson to spin his Brabham into the guard rail, the Ulsterman resuming the race only to stop immediately at his pit to check the front of the car for any trouble. He continued the race but later made a second stop during which it was found that a rear wheel lint had been distorted in the collision with the guard rail, so his mechanics changed it and sent him on his way. Mass stopped a few laps later to complain about acute oversteer on right-hand corners, returning many laps later to have the McLaren’s rear damper’s tightened up and a fresh left rear tyre fitted. Meanwhile Niki Lauda just drives round and round at the front of the field, while Fittipaldi drives as hard as he can to keep the Ferrari in sight and Scheckter did his best to keep pace with the pair of them. Pryce pushes his way past Stommelen by the simple expedient of bashing the nose of his Shadow against the tail of the Lola, both cars staying on the road, and the Welshman quickly pulls away from this bunch. Pace works his way into the leading group only to stop his Brabham BT44 at the pits with a rear tyre having gone off while Reutemann ison lap 25 to change both front wheels for a similar reason. Holding down third place, Scheckter looks certain to collect enough points to keep it clearly in contention for the World Championship. But by the time the race has run to 45 laps, the South African is beginning to feel something wrong with the feel of his brakes.


They aren’t exactly fading, in fact Scheckter can only describe them as feeling funny. By lap 48 he is just turning over in his mind whether he should stop and tell Ken Tyrrell or not when he suddenly find that there aren’t brakes on the front wheels as he tries to slow for the hairpin, so Tyrrell 007/3 charges the guard rail at unabate speed and seriously damages its monocoque. On closer examination it seems that the feeling Scheckter experiences is the straps securing the shaft to the inboard front disc breaking up, but since their early season failures Derek Gardner has designed in a fail safe mechanism which doesn’t allow the shaft to come away completely when the straps break. Unfortunately it seems that Scheckter fails to heed the warning given to him when the brakes start to feel funny and drive on until the fail safe mechanism also fails. The Tyrrell team leader’s retirement from the race left Regazzoni in an undispute third place, but not for long. An increasing amount of interest is focuses on Ronnie Peterson’s Lotus 72 which is now hounding Hunt unmercifully for fourth place despite the left nose fin dragging on the ground, a legacy of slight contact with Mass’ McLaren which is a bit tardy in moving out of the way when the black and gold Lotus looms up in his rear view mirrors. By lap 60 Peterson has dispose of Hunt and is chasing Regazzoni’s Ferrari as hard as he can so it don’t take long before the Swede is right on the Ferrari’s tail. It is a tremendous display by Peterson again proving just how serious a racing driver he is, whether it be when dominating a Grand Prix from the front or climbing up through the field as he did at Mosport Park. He pressures Regazzoni relentlessly and the Swiss is becoming progressively more and more reggae as Peterson clung hard to the tail of his Ferrari. However, if Regazzoni feels rather embarrase, his plight is nothing to that experienced by Niki Lauda on his 69th lap.


Shortly before Lauda arrives at the right-hand turn three, John Watson loses control of his Brabham as he swings into the corner. A lower ball joint on the front suspension fracture, that in turn sever a brake pipe and all that is left for its luckless driver is to scrabble his way onto the apex of the corner in an effort to scrub off enough speed to negotiate the corner. Watson successfully manages this and coast to a halt a little further round the track, unfortunately having shower the circuit with dust, mud and grit as he completes his spectacular manoeuvre. The next car to appear at the corner, where no warning flags were waving, was Lauda’s Ferrari. He hit the mess on the track and skidded straight ahead into the protective barrier on the outside of the corner, smashing in the front of his car, handing the lead to Fittipaldi on a plate. A few seconds after Lauda’s unfortunate incident, Fittipaldi successfully negotiates the same corner and took over a comfortable lead which he successfully maintained until the finish, the Brazilian being too far ahead of Regazzoni for the Swiss to mount any realistic challenge and, in any case, he has his hands more than full in the closing stages of the race as Peterson come at him with a rush. Despite almost losing control on the corner before the pits, Regazzoni manages to get Donohue in the laps of Penske between hint and the tenacious Peterson on the last lap which allow him to scrape home in second place by just over one second. As the Ferrari mechanics are busy commiserating with Lauda, the entire McLaren team is grinning a communal grin of self-satisfaction as Fittipaldi finishes a very worthy first after avoiding the snares and pitfalls which catch out his young Austrian rival. Fourth is Hunt ahead of Depailler, while Hulme refuses to be ruffled by Andretti’s presence right on his tail and beats Parnelli by a matter of feet to round off the top half-dozen.



©​ 2023 Osservatore Sportivo


Contact us


Create Website with | Free and Easy Website Builder