download

#250 1974 United States Grand Prix

2022-08-17 01:00

Array() no author 82025

#1974, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Michela Petrillo,

#250 1974 United States Grand Prix

Clay Regazzoni and Emerson Fittipaldi look like two boxe champions at the eve of a world match, to be clear a Cassisus Clay and a George Foreman. They

[resizer.in]-63221be73dfaa.jpeg

Clay Regazzoni and Emerson Fittipaldi look like two boxe champions at the eve of a world match, to be clear a Cassisus Clay and a George Foreman. They go around with a following of technicians and friends, they carry out trainings, maybe they meet up and they exchange a few playful jokes. It happens at Niagara Falls. The famous waterfalls are located at the border between Canada and the United States, about halfway between Toronto, where on Sunday Fittipaldi has preceded Regazzoni in the Canada Grand Prix, and Watkins Glen, where on Sunday October 6 of 1974 the two will face each other for the crucial challenge at the United States Grand Prix. At a stop to admire the majestic spectacle, which not even a thousand tourism initiatives in terrible taste are able to affect, not even the Swiss and the Brazilian eluded.Regazzoni is with Niki Lauda, Fittipaldi with Denny Hulme and the new McLaren’s purchase, the German Jochen Mass. On Tuesday September 24 of 1974, Regazzoni and Fittipaldi, joking, are squabbling among themselves.

 

"I will throw you in the waterfalls".

 

Clay Regazzoni says.

 

"I’m ready to pay any amount to get you out of the way".

 

Emerson Fittipaldi replies. And again, mutually:

 

"But why are you going to Watkins Glen? I win anyway".

 

A big hug seals the meeting. Between the Swiss, the Brazilian and the boxers, though, there are some differences. Fittipaldi having done between September 25 and Thursday September 26 of 1974 some tyres’ tests and car tuning tests at Watkins Glen, he will fly to Bahama.

 

"I’m Latin, I love the see, the sun, the bathings. I want to rest for a week, be fresh and rested for the Unites States Grand Prix. Then I’ll also go to Indianapolis, where I’ll try a car for the Indy 500 of next year, to which I want to take part".

 

Regazzoni hits the track with a Lauda for a series of similar tests to Ferrari’s on Thursday September 26 and on Friday September 27 of 1974.

 

"After, I will go to Las Vegas. A friend for whom last year I did an amazing race of Formula 5000 invited me. I don’t like the game, but I can rest in peace: hotel, pool, sun".

 

Bahama, Las Vegas, maybe Cassius Clay and Foreman will be somewhat astonished, in reality the drivers don’t have to set their programmes to the boxers’ parameters. For the first the effort is especially psychic, for the second essentially physical. And there is another small difference: Regazzoni and Fittipaldi fight behind the wheel of a car, and it is this one - the Ferrari 321 B3 or the McLaren-Ford - which has to be prepared in a peculiar way, tailor-made for the american track. Ferrari has sent back to Maranello Lauda’s car. In the crash against the guardrail in the turn-trap of Mosport, a front suspension attachment to the body was damaged. A long and delicate repairing job, which was not convenient to execute on the spot. From the factory it will arrive in Watkins Glen in few days a new car, that will be added to the other two. The engineer Giacomo Caliri affirms, the technical supervisor of Ferrari on track:

 

"These 3 cars have to be bomb-proof. All of us, starting with the mechanics, will do the impossible to give Regazzoni a perfect car. We always tried to do that, but here, in just one race, a world title is at stake.We know very well the track of Watkins Glen, on which we run also with prototypes. Is a track that should allow the 312 B3 to express their skills. The only problem, not new and valid for all the teams, will be the choice of the tyres".

fotor_2023-1-11_17_51_4.jpeg

At Walkins Glen the McLaren has rarely had good tests, while Lotus and Tyrrell dominated: in the last 5 years Lotus has won 3 times (in 1969 with Rindt, in 1970 exactly with Fittipaldi, in 1973 with Peterson) and Tyrrell has won two times (in 1971 with Cevert and in 1972 with Stewart). Regazzoni hopes it will be his turn, now: for the title and for the 50.000 dollars that make the United States Grand Prix the richest and the most tempting of the year.After a few days, on Friday September 27 of 1974 Clay Regazzoni is the victim of a crash while testing his Ferarri on the track of Watkins Glen, in view of the Unites States Grand Prix.Unlike the first news arrived in Europe on the health condition of the Swiss driver, Clay, reached by telephone by the Italian journalists in the hotel in which he is staying, he tells what happened and how he feels really. How is it going?

 

"Good, good, it is nothing. A contusion on the left foot, nothing is broken, as the radiography showed. They put an elastic bandage on me. In 2 or 3 days I should be okay. Now it hurts a little, but I will be ready for Fittipaldi".

 

What happened?

 

"We started testing around 9:30 a.m. After an hour I was doing the third of a series of laps we had programmed, when the crash happened. I was coming out of a slow turn, that you do in second gear, with the car in acceleration. A back tyre got on a spiked stud that works as a kerb for the track and my Ferrari broke down".

 

The car?

 

"The chassis bent over. I don’t think it is repairable. Let’s hope that from Maranello they will send another one".

 

In parallel, on Friday September 27 of 1974, with the presentation of the new F1 car - a piece of high school called 312 T - Enzo Ferrari closes in Modena his traditional annual meeting with the press. The meeting, that precedes the Unites States Grand Prix by a few days and the crucial test for the title between Clay Regazzoni and Emerson Fittipaldi takes place peacefully, not influenced - in the good or bad - by what will the result of the American race be. And it’s because of this that Ferrari desires. From the quick introductive words of the constructor from Modena, who is supported by the commentator Francesco Bellicardi and by the engineer Giuseppe Dondo, and by the subsequent dense following of answers and questions, it’s possible to obtain the programmes of the team from Maranello for the 1975. Programmes that take into account the difficult situation of the automobile, but that include,still, the competitions. To sum up, in the next year the Ferrari will take part in the Formula 1 World Championship, will have Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni, with which the reconfirmation contracts have already been signed, will be alongside the actual 312 B3, brilliant protagonist of last season, the 312 T, maybe will deploy in some races of the Sports car World Championship the spider sport-prototype 312-P, again with Lauda and Regazzoni, and will continue to not sell its engines 3 liters boxer.

 

"For a while now we have been hearing questions: but what will you do in 1975? Because this has been for us a year of clarity, I immediately answer that Ferrari will keep running, and it will until I’m on this planet. When I agreed to transfer my agency, I gave a condition: keep the sport activity. Such condition was accepted,so we go on.The scale of the programmes depends on the general and business situation. We went for the Formula 1 with Lauda and Regazzoni and prepare the 312 T, that will begin the testing on track of Fiorano on October 10, ready to replace the B3 when this won’t be no longer competitive. This means that the B3, with appropriate updates, will again be in Lauda’s and Regazzoni’s hands at least for the first tests of the next World Championship. The car sport-prototype figures in third place in the priority scale. It’s over at 80%. We will soon do some test, but we don’t undertake commitments of running until we know exactly the fate of Group 5 and the nature of the new formule Sport and of the respective championships".

fotor_2023-1-11_17_34_27.jpeg

Ferrari touches the economical aspect of the participations in the races.

 

"Our availabilities for the 1975 will be limited and they will force us to some disclaimers. We can not do whatever we want and we might at well stay in Formula 1, the most sensational expression of our sport. Taking part in the Sportscar World Championship will mean having six drivers of name, seven cars and a dozen of mechanics, with a management that would cost the 45-50% more than the Formula 1 one".

 

The probability of selling a series of engines to other teams of Formula 1 is not accepted by Ferrari.

 

"Yes, it would be great to have 10-12 cars with our 12 cylinders in every Grand Prix, but it is not enough to sell these engines, they also need to be overhauled and extend them any changes.It would be a commitment too onerous for us, we already have to strive to keep up with the needs of our group".

 

The speech on the engines leads to a theme that makes Enzo Ferrari dangerous, and so certain more or less veiled insinuations of the British teams in relation to the Ferrari’s dominance in some races.

 

"I would have liked to win in Monza and immediately after I would have liked to have the 12 cylinders of Lauda and Regazzoni dismantled to demonstrate that they were not increased. Within the association of the constructors of Formula 1 we came across for the engines to be verified after every race, for the car’s weight to be checked and because starting in a Grand Prix would not depend on the membership of a certain caste, but on the times obtained in the tests".

 

On Merzario Ferrari he says:

 

"Merzario has confirmed that for him Ferrari is a closed chapter. We take note. I believe I have defined his skills when I said that, if he had stayed in F1, he could have been in Regazzoni’s position and I, who brought him in F1, would have been very happy. But him, on September 12 of 1973, pointed out that moving to Alfa Romeo and to another team of F1, He would have realized 3 times more than what Ferrari was offering him".

 

Some mention of other topics of the meeting.Granturismo: regarding productions cars, each eventual programme will be launched with Bellicardi and Dondo. Lenders: no at the societies of perfumes o cigarettes. Breakdowns B3: it is about inevitable facts when racing. Engine progress: with various changes (pistons and cylinder heads) 490 CV have been obtained at lower speeds than in the past, with lower utilisation. Autodromo Modena: it won’t happen, ACI’s fault.In the end, reaffirmed its full trust in the technical troika formed by Forghieri, Rocchi and Bussi and his assistent Luca Montezemolo, Ferrari hints at this electrifying season.

 

"If Regazzoni will become World Champion, it will mean that we are going to have an official one and an other, Lauda, who could have been; if he won’t manage, we will keep the convition of having two drivers and a car worthy of the title.I have no criticism to made, no regrets. Of course, in the end of 1973 I never tought I would arrive that high. Out of 14 Grand Prix, we were ahead for 1900 km on 4100, we obtained the fastest lap ten times and we started in the first row on twelve occasion. Now, I would go to the sea, I would like not to think. But it is not possible. The wait is our work".

 

Then, all around the new 312 T, with #11 and the name Clay Regazzoni painted on the right sid and a great Niki Laudaon the left. The news of the accident of Regazzoni during the tests of the Unites States Grand Prix, arrived at finished meeting, stimulates Enzo Ferrari even more, who is still in the office at 8:00 p.m., in Maranello, thinking about the remedies to take. On Thursday October 3 of 1974, at Walkins Glen it’s polar cold. During the night a dusting of snow falls.

 

"It means that on Sunday we will run with studded tyres".

fotor_2023-1-11_17_16_49.jpeg

Say the drivers, joking, while waiting for the beginning of the tests that will lead to the Unites States Grand Prix.In fact, the weather forecast for the weekend id decent. Clay Regazzoni and Niki Lauda are back from the short holidays at New York and on Thursday they assist with the last touches to their cars. From Maranello a new body has arrived at Watkins Glen to replace the damaged car during the off the track of Regazzoni and the mechanics are working to prepare it as for the tests that start on Friday. Regazzoni is calm. The left foot is still a bit sore, especially the heel and the Swiss walks curiously on the toes.

 

"The heel hurts but at least I don’t have to use it while driving. I feel ok and I did’t even want to go to the doctor: it was useless. I’m going to get a padding on the car floor to have soft material under my limb. But I’m sure that everuthing will be fine.What really matters is to obtain a good time and start well. The game,so, will be almost completed".

 

By the way a special padding will be placed on the floor of his Ferrari to decrease the fatigue of the limb. The test is crucial. In this moment of truth I am facing Clay Regazzoni, 35 years, Swiss, driver for Ferrari, and Emerson Fittipaldi, 28 years in December, Brazilian, driver for McLaren. The important role that the tests of the Unites States Grand Prix will play is understood also by Fittipaldi.Indeed, the McLaren team, apart from having at disposal a series of new engines Cosworth, they have also installed in the helmet of the Brazilian a two-way radio to make the times  communications easier and to accelerate the tuning of the car.Emerson, back from the holidays at the Bahamas, is calm and tanned.

 

"Who will arrive is going to win, and I always arrive".

 

The 14 races held until now, 4200 km and over 24 huors of races have not yet designed the heir of Stewart. Also Jody Scheckter, 24 years old, Soutafrican, driver for Tyrrell, can win this crazy championship, but he should have incredible fortune on his side. Regazzoni and Fittipaldi have 52 points, Scheckter has 45: the gap,at least in theory, seems unbridgeable. The challenge recalls great sport events of the past and leaves you breathless.Two men, or maybe 3, who fight on the 300 km/h edge for a title that assures prestige together with considerable economic advantages and that reverberates, directly or indirectly, his reflexes on the motor industry of a country rather than another, arousing a shiver of fear. One would like to tell him to be cautious, but it would be ridiculous; and then in their own way, they are, because racing is for them a profession. It rages, instead, that the World Champion is still at this point, with all to be decided after a lot of races. It rages because a team, with one of its drivers, should have deserves the title a long time ago: it’s Ferrari, that with Niki Lauda and Regazzoni has demonstrated a clear superiority, being protagonist of an exciting season. On the aspect of competitiveness and organisation techincal-sporting not one team was better. Yet we are here, at Walkins Glen, looking for, in two hours of a Gran Prix that will be confusing, nervous, entrusted to fortune, a final imprimatur. Observing the develpoment of the season, it’s easy to consider that Lauda or Regazzoni should have already delivered to Maranello that title that Enzo Ferrari received the last time in 1964 thanks to John Surtees. The Austrian, with the 312 B3 renewed by the techinicians Forghieri, Bussi and Rocchi, formed the queen couple of Formula 1, the one destined to the natural succession of the binomial Stewart-Tyrrell. Lauda exalted the qualities of his car, first by restoring dignity with the long testing work held during the winter, then by driving it with cold skill in test and in the race. Niki Lauda conquered nine times pole position, performance that shows the level of the man and of the car, he conquered 3 times the fastest lap, two times he stood out. This has been the trouble:at least in 4 occasions Niki has been stopped by absurd inconveniences when he was destined to victory. And Regazzoni? Less fast in the tests- even because of less finesse in tuning the car-he fought with tenacity in every Grand Prix, managing with prodigious starts talking about timing to gain the lost positions, or better not conquered, during practice. And also for the Swiss, author- defined for years as a car breaker - of a balanced and cautious season, bitterness of a lot of points lost for nothing. Like that, this dominance of the Italian cars,back in the limelight after bitter years, risks of not finding the logical seal, the most obvious prize.

fotor_2023-1-11_17_23_43.jpeg

Because Fittipaldi is a tough opponent, with a strong team, directed by people with a lot of courage and well prepared. The Brazilian had fortune, he knew how to take advantage of every occasion, he showed - it must be recognised - a great ability of driving a car not always on point, not always valid on every track as Ferrari. And Scheckter could hit the big time in this United States Grand Prix that is similar to a crazy roulette. If in the sport these certain situations follow the logical wire, if the ones who mostly deserve receive the right prize, ther won’t be doubts: on Sunday Regazzoni and Ferrari will conquer the 1974 World Championship. But, sadly, the things often go different, and it’s because of this that the Italians - came from all America at Watkins Glen - gnaw in anticipation. It’s cold and on Wednesday also snowed: a almost wintery Grand Prix, if the fight for the title had not been until now quite busy. Watkins Glen, the 3.7-mile road circuit in the north of New York state, has been the scene of the World Championship’s final round ever since 1971, the Mexican Grand Prix having been dropped from the calendar that year. This year there is an added interest attached to the United States Grand Prix, for this is the event which will decide both the drivers’ World Championship as well as the constructors’ title and most of the cars which are present at the Canadian Grand Prix stayed in North America for the second race. Such is the intensity of competition at Watkins Glen, this intensity foster by the added attraction of a first prize totalling 50.000 dollars, that many teams took the opportunity to test at the circuit during the two-week break between races. However, an unexpect bout of cold weather a couple of days before the start of official practice made it seems as though the race might have to be canceled, but fortunately sunny skies and higher temperatures returned before the serious business got under way. Last year Ronnie Peterson led the United States Grand Prix from start to finish, so his Lotus 721R8 looks as though it would be a suitable mount for a second year running, Particularly after his impressive showing at Mosport Park. Ickx handled 72/R5 as usual, while a third entry was made for the former Brabham and Surtees Formula 1 driver Tim Schenken who has had a bleak season this year driving the Ron Tauranac-designed Trojan-Cosworth T103. Schenken was assigned to the Lotus 76/JPS 9 on condition that he would have to give the car up to Peterson should the Swede damage his 72 or suffer some last-moment mechanical failure. Elf Team Tyrrell is busy preparing 007/2 for Scheckter to drive, this car being flown out from the team’s Ripley headquarters to replace 007/3 which sustained very serious damage in the Mosport Park accident.

 

The fresh car fits with slightly larger fuel tanks, for the Watkins Glen race, at just over 199 miles, is one of the longest Grands Prix of the season and with Scheckter retaining an outside chance of winning the World Championship, Tyrrell isn’t going to take any chances. This longer-range tankage has originally been built into Depailler’s new car (007/4), but the spare chassis (007/1) retains its original fuel capacity. Four McLaren M23s came to Watkins Glen, all having appeared at Mosport Park. These are M23/8 for Firtipaldi, M23/6 for Hulme, M23/4 for Mass and M23/5 as a spare chassis which in fact don’t get used by either driver all weekend. This event is going to be Hulme’s last, for the craggy New Zealander has decided to retire from motor racing after the United States Grand Prix although he isn’t destined to make his decision public until the following Monday. Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham team had BT44/1 on hand for Reutemann and BT44/2 for Pace, while John Watson’s BT44/4 is successfully repaire following the damage it sustains to the underside of its monocoque when it slides off the circuit at Mosport Park. All three 1974 Brabhams are completely unchanged and they are backed up by Ashley in Watson’s old BT42/2 who is trying for the last time this year to get to grips with Formula 1. A totally new monocoque is required for Vittorio Brambilla’s March 741, but the rebuild is successfully complete after a great deal of hard graft on the part of his team’s mechanics who have a lot of time for the plucky Italian as he isn’t in any way averse to rolling his sleeves up and giving them a hand. Stuck drives the second car as usual although he has a rather hectic schedule in the intervening ten days since Mosport, rushing back with Depailler to drive against each other at an F2 event at Hockenheim. Similarly, in the B.R.M. and Shadow team Beltoise, Jarier and Pryce came back home to Europe for another race but rushed back in time to practise B.R.M. P201/03, Shadow DN3/2A and DN3/3A respectively. Chris Amon is down to have his second drive as a member of the Bourne organization and although he is singularly unimpressed with his car’s performance in the Canadian Grand Prix, he is at least happy to know that an engine mounting is find to have broken so the apparent handling deficiency isn’t just in his mind. In the Surtees team, Koinigg is continuing to drive TS16/03-3, but Derek Bell’s place in the second car is taken by Jose Dolhem, the French driver who tries unsuccessfully to qualify at both Dijon-Prenois and Monza. Merzario and Laffite are representing the Williams team as usual, Wilds drove Morris Nunn’s Ensign and Rolf Stommelen rounded off the season as temporary team-mate to Graham Hill in the Embassy Lola T370. Having finish second in the Hesketh March 731 last year, James Hunt is hoping for great things from the Hesketh 308/2 complete in the same side radiator trim which takes him to fourth place at Mosport and the team buy along 308/3 as a reserve car once again.

[resizer.in]-63221a4e2ad68.jpeg

Undoubtedly the most popular entries in the race as far as the American crowd is concerne, Mario Andretti and Mark Donohue are taking part in their home Grand Prix in the Parnelli VPJ1 and the Penske PC1 for the very first time. Both cars have taken part in the pre-practice test sessions at Watkins Glen and each team feels confident that it can improve on its Mosport Park result. Finally, the one team with a chance of beating Fittipaldi and McLaren Racing to the World Championship, Ferrari, has run into a host of problems whilst testing the previous week. Regazzoni has crash 312B3/016 very heavily and completely written the car off against the guard rail but the Swiss is fortunate to escape from the wreckage with an uncomfortably bruise leg. The damage Ferrari is flown home to Italy and the Maranello workers have to put in many extra hours getting 011 ready to be dispatch to the United States as a replacement, this unfortunate incident interrupting the development work which is be carry out on the revise 312T model which features a transverse gearbox cast into the back of the engine block amongst other refinements and is to be test in Italy the week after Watkins Glen. Official practice takes place on the Friday and Saturday prior to the race, it being apparent from the word go that everyone is working as hard as they possibly can to secure a decent grid position. The heroes are looking as heroic as ever, the triers are trying probably harder than ever before this year and the also runs are even looking quick for a change as they all strive to get a place on the last Grand Prix grid of this season. Unfortunately B.R.M. are in trouble almost before the session is under way with Beltoise crashing his P201 on an uphill right-hand corner on the new section of the circuit after trying too hard too early on cold tyres and a filthy dirty track surface. The little Frenchman escaps from the twist B.R.M. with a slightly chip bone in his ankle, but neither the mechanics nor Tim Parnelli looks particularly please with Beltoise because he ought to have known better than to go so fast so quickly on very cold tyres. Whilst all this drama is being enact in the B.R.M. pit, Carlos Reutemann is busy underlining the fact that his Brabham BT44 is one of the best Grand Prix cars currently racing by lapping in 1'39"26 which top the practice lists until Andretti goes 0.01 sec. faster in the afternoon. The Italian-born American made his Formula One debut at Watkins Glen back in 1968 at the wheel of a Lotus 49 and he put it on pole position, a fact which raised a few eyebrows at the time. Since then he has concentrated on American USAC events and only had intermittent races in Europe with Formula One Marches and Ferraris. However, it has always been one of his ambitions to go back into Formula One with an American team and, albeit with a car designe by an Englishman, that is just what he has done and the whole demeanor surrounding the Parnelli team at Watkins Glen is very similar to that surrounding Ferrari at Monza, or that which used to surround the Matra-Simca team at the French Grand Prix. 

 

It is a contagious feeling of confidence and by the end of the first day, everyone in the team from Parnelli Jones and sponsor Vel Miletich right down to the most junior mechanic is grinning fit to bust. It seems that the first practice hurdle to clear is the 1'40"0 barrier, this being successfully manages by Andretti, Reutemann, Scheckter, Pace, John Watson and the two Ferraris. But even though the Italian cars are near the front all is far from well as both drivers are complaining that their cars understeer acutely and Lauda’s is ruining its rear shock-absorbers at a very fast rate. Out on the circuit the red cars’ familiar stability has vanish and both their drivers wrestl hard with the Ferraris as they weav disconcertingly under braking and their rear ends vibrates violently under harsh acceleration. Lauda’s best ends up as 1'39"32 while Regazzoni just slips in 1'39"73 lap when the engine of his car blow a hole in its crankcase. So that is that. Nevertheless, Ferrari can perhaps draw some small consolation from the fact that Team Lotus are having one of their most shambolic weekends since they drop the Lotus 76 project. Peterson looks depress, Ickx merely resign to the fact that neither of them can cure the two Lotus 72s of their massive understeer problem and although Ickx just breaks into the 1'40"0 barrier, the usually cheerful Swede is very glum after failing to break 1'41"0. This air of gloom quickly spread through the team because one of the really good things about having a driver like Peterson in the team is that he tries hard all the time, so you don’t have to bother about wondering: Is he having an off-day? Everyone can see that Peterson is trying as hard as he knows to get the car going well, so there is only one conclusion to be drawn and that is that the fault lay with the car. This is underline on the second day when he laps appreciably quicker than his team mate, and the grim sight of the two Lotus 72s lining up on the starting grid in 16th and 19th position out of 25 cars was very depressing for Colin Chapman. Just to complete their anguish, Schenken fails to qualify for the spare 76. Emerson Fittipaldi encountere braking problems with M23/8 which necessitate his mechanics stripping down the front brakes on the spare McLaren and transferring the discs to the Brazilian’s regular car. Once that is carry out, Fittipaldi records a 1'39"85 lap which stands him in good stead at the front of the grid. Hulme wears a relax, unconcerne look on his face while Mass, in contrast, don’’t understand why he can’t get the Yardley car going faster than he does. Penske’s teamare learning all about Formula One the hard way as they spend most of Friday’s session attempting to come to terms with a mysterious misfire on Donohue’s car. After trying every remedy they can think of, they are all a little bit perplexe and embarrasse to find that the battery has a loose earth lead. Despite this trivial fault, at least the Penske team is following the Parnelli team up the grid and passing a lot of season regulars as they do so.

 

"We have a fifty per cent chance each. Maybe, he gets something for the chassis here, we get something for the engine. But if we both stop and Scheckter doesn't win, he's fine, because he has more wins than me in the championship and he takes the title".

fotor_2023-1-11_17_43_20.jpeg

Clay Regazzoni, calm and serene, analyses his situation and that of his great rival Emerson Fittipaldi on the eve of Sunday's challenge, of that United States Grand Prix that will close the most uncertain Formula One World Championship in recent years. Next to Clay Regazzoni are Niki Lauda, technicians Mauro Forghieri and Giacomo Caliri, and Luca Montezemolo, Enzo Ferrari's assistant. Says Regazzoni:

"In this title I believe and hope. I would like it for Ferrari, for the team, for all the guys but also for me, because I would have really earned it. We worked so hard and I had to fight like never before in my life, in practice and in the races. Nobody has given me the points I have in the championship. I'm only sorry that I lost a lot of them because of silly things, because we wouldn't be arguing about who is going to win on Sunday now".

 

Montezemolo takes word:

 

"Fittipaldi found a few points in his pocket as gracious gift, instead...".

 

Clay Regazzoni replies:

 

"Yes, that's right. Last year Emerson would have deserved to win the title, but he was unlucky and Stewart took advantage. Remember when he had that accident, through no fault of his own, in Holland and had to sit out for a long time, or when at Monza Peterson didn't help him? But he has made up for it this season, and plenty. Of course, and I'm not saying this out of bias, Fittipaldi has never thrilled me. He drives well, he does what the car allows him to do, but so far he has never had any momentum, he has never taken any risks, as Stewart himself did".

 

Also Lauda gives his opinion on Fittipaldi.

 

"Emerson is a really clever man, who know how to wait and how to be satisfied. If the car supports him, he is really strong. Beating him is really a great deed. I hope it’s Clay himself to make it,because his success will reward all of us. On Sunday I will work for him, if the situation will allow me".

 

By situation, the Austrian driver intends to refer in particular way to his position,Regazzoni’s and Fittipaldi’s in the starting grid.It’s clear that, making an apology, if Lauda and Fittipaldi were in first row and Regazzoni in third or fourth, it would be impossible for Niki to help his teammate.This last one explains:

 

"If in the early laps Lauda was in the lead, followed by Fittipaldi and myself, he could slow down and favour my eventual rejoining. If, on the other hand, I was in the lead, Lauda could act as a veil and let me increase my advantage over Emerson. It is enough for me to go a fraction slower in the bends: in three or four passes I could immediately have at least a two-second margin".

 

Regazzoni's words do not find Forghieri's approval According to the engineer, it is very difficult to make such a play, also because the Watkins Glen circuit is wide and facilitates overtaking. 

 

"All it takes is for Lauda to enter the corner too slowly and Emerson will take advantage of it to overtake him on the exit. It's a bit of a problem".

fotor_2023-1-11_17_21_40.jpeg

Regazzoni cuts in: 

 

"That may be, but I know the time you lose passing certain lapped drivers. Besides, this is the only kind of help he can give me".

 

Lauda replies: 

 

"Yes, OK, but it will be necessary for my Ferrari to be a little stronger than Fittipaldi's McLaren".

 

The Austrian driver pauses for a moment, and adds laughing: 

 

"The ideal would be if in a very slow corner I touched with Emerson and sent him off the track".

 

A joke, of course, but certainly on Sunday there will be those who will help Regazzoni (certainly in addition to Lauda, Mario Andretti and Arturo Merzario, who told Clay I'm only doing it for you) and those who will give Fittipaldi a hand (Hulme and Mass, McLaren's new driver, who already caused Clay trouble in Canada, and probably some other element of the British teams, linked to economic and advertising interests). Says Regazzoni:

 

"Everyone will have to risk a little more on Sunday. It is the last race, there will be no more chances. The crucial moment could be the start. If I can get ahead of Emerson, I almost win the title and vice versa for him. Whoever is in front, controls the race better, sets the trajectories calmly, can adjust with more serenity. Whoever is behind, has to think about overtaking and is forced to risk more and force the car. In a word, he is subject to more risk. However, if I am behind Fittipaldi, I will not wait for him to break the engine or something else, as he does with the others. I will try to pass him".

 

Regazzoni's generous and combative spirit comes through in these words. The Swiss driver has always been a fighter, someone who never gives up, and it is with the calmness of the strong that he goes into battle with Fittipaldi. 

 

"I'm not even excited, I've seen a lot by now...". 

 

The accident the week before, in the three tests, did not shake him. 

 

"On the moment I was scared, but I would have raced even with my foot in plaster. It's the left one, the clutch one, that doesn't have to make any heavy movements. There's a haematoma under the sole of the limb that bothers me a little. But let's not dramatise: it won't be what makes me win or lose the title".

 

Naturally, the entire Ferrari team is lined up at Regazzoni's side to offer him every possible help. Scuderia Ferrari's sporting director Luca Montezemolo says:

 

"I agree with Clay, we have a fifty-fifty chance. In any case, however it ends, ours was a splendid season, above all expectations. No one can argue otherwise, even if people tend to look at the result above all".

fotor_2023-1-11_17_39_56.jpeg

Every look is today for Clay Regazzoni and Emerson Fittipaldi, but the two, struggling with brake problems, did not shine on this first day of practice for the US Grand Prix. The Italian-American Mario Andretti in his new Parnelli and the usual Brabham duo of Reutemann and Pace, as well as Lauda, stood out; however, the Ferrari and McLaren mechanics didn't care much about the fact: winning the title on Sunday counted. The two teams devoted themselves to tyre tests and tried to solve brake problems. For Regazzoni and Lauda it was a matter of carrying out those tests that the Swiss driver's accident in practice had interrupted. The Austrian, as always, was a little faster than Regazzoni, who in the final part of practice was blocked by the failure of his Ferrari's engine. It was the same engine that he had already raced in Canada and which, in any case, the Maranello mechanics would have replaced in the course of the evening. And, however, the McLaren team would also fit Fittipaldi's car with a new engine for Saturday's practice. Regazzoni, after an hour or so of practice, felt the pain in his left foot increase. 

 

"It's the vibrations that are transmitted to the limb. Let's see how it goes on Saturday. At most I'll get a painkilling injection. It's Fittipaldi that worries me, not my foot".

 

The mechanics put a rubber support, a kind of padding, on his footplate and the situation improved. The Swiss, however, did better than the Brazilian (albeit by a little), which encouraged those at Ferrari. The tests, which saw Andretti emerge also thanks to the superiority of the tyres used by Parnelli, were enlivened by an accident in which Beltoise wrecked his B.R.M., suffering a severe contusion to one foot. Perhaps the Frenchman will race anyway, taking the car away from Amon. Merzario also had a bad time: on Arturo's Iso the hub-carrier of the left rear wheel broke at the end of a straight, while he was travelling at 260 km/h. The car performed a frightening series of spins, but stopped without damage. 

 

"I had never been so lucky".

 

In the course of the evening, Mario Andretti laughs with satisfaction. 

 

"Did you see? I beat them all".

 

By everybody, Andretti is referring to the European teams, who have a kind of monopoly on the World Championship. In fact, Andretti made a remarkable exploit on the first day of practice at the US Grand Prix, although - looking at the list of the best drivers - one can see that the top ten drivers are within the space of a second. So, it is fairer to say that among the usual names is the former Ferrari driver. For the rest, everything is normal in this tense eve of the race that will have to award the world title. At the top, with Andretti, are the Brabham drivers, namely Reutemann and Pace, who have always played a leading role in recent races, and then Niki Lauda. The Austrian was unable to get the best time due to the not yet perfect set-up of his Ferrari. Regazzoni and Fittipaldi, indivisible to the last, lapped in similar times, and, a fact that can be explained by the characteristics of the circuit (fast stretches and very slow corners), they too complained of brake trouble. The Swiss and the Brazilian would even start on the same row, the fourth, if a violent downpour broke out and the situation did not change. To be honest, neither Ferrari nor McLaren have shone, but it is also logical. The two teams are trying to fine-tune in the most suitable way. After a rather pointless demonstration race by three UOP Shadow Can-Am cars, wins by George Follmer, Saturday’s session got underway with Reutemann establishing fastest time in his Brabham. The way in which this swarthy Argentinian has come to the fore and develops his driving ability this year is quite outstanding. Last year he was never quite as determined in the Brabham BT42, but this year, with Gordon Murray’s BT44, he has developed into an impressive driver. He records an excellent 1'38"97 lap to take pole position for the 59 lap race and never look as though he is having to work hard to do so. Alongside him on the front row of the grid sit James Hunt in the Hesketh after a fine 1'38"99 which is aid by the excellent tyres produces by Firestone’s Akron, Ohio factory for their last major international event.

fotor_2023-1-11_17_44_50.jpeg

This is the first time Hunt has manage to put Hesketh onto the front row of a Grand Prix grid and provides a degree of consolation for the English team who expect to do so well this year and end up having a rather disappointing season. Andretti is all set to retain his place at the front of the grid on Saturday afternoon, but he spins at the same corner which has claim both Beltoise and Regazzoni. The Parnelli revolves a couple of times and the American is unfortunately unable to prevent his car hitting the guard rail with a front wheel, slightly bending the suspension and steering. Practice is halt as the damage car is towes back to the pits and, although the entire Parnelli team falls on the car and work like slaves to repair it in order to continue practising, Andretti only makes it back out onto the circuit with just over five minutes left to go. This meant that he was unable to improve on his Friday time, so he faced the start from the second row of the grid alongside Pace’s Brabham which has record 1'39"28. On the inside of the third row, Niki Lauda is flankes by Scheckter in Tyrrell 007/2 although his time is establish in 007/1 after an engine has fail in his newer car while John Watson’s speeds in the brown Hexagon car is repaid with a grid time quicker than Emerson Fittipaldi, the Brazilian not being unduly worry by this because he is ahead of Regazzoni on the grid and realizes full well that he is in the strongest position as far as the outcome of the World Championship is concern. Two rows behind Fittipaldi there is a great A for effort award earn by Chris Amon who is driving the B.R.M. on its door handles' so to speak to record 1'40"7 although it is very difficult to decide whether this is more meritorious than Laffite’s 1'40"59 which put the Frenchman’s Williams-Cosworth ahead of the B.R.M. one place. On the seventh row of the grid are Depailler, feeling crestfallen on 1'40"7 and Donohue, feeling encourages, on 1'40"8. Behind this center point of the grid things are much as usual with one or two major upsets.

 

Neither of the Lotus 72s should be down in the positions they are, but things fail to improve for them on Saturday, Pryce and Mass are rather disappointing while both the Lolas are slow perhaps understandably in this case for Stommelen’s last visit to Watkins Glen ends with minor burns after a serious accident in the Alfa Romeo T33/12 and Hill’s car blow two DFVs during the course of practice. Its nice to see that Mike Wild’s persistence in the Ensign has pay off and he manages to gain a place on the grid ahead of Koinigg, Hill and Brambilla, the last-name having a slight brush with a barrier in the final session and slightly damaging the March’s monocoque. Dolhem ends up as first reserve, just as he has been at Monza, while Schenken, Stuck, Ashley and Beltoise are the others who fail to get a place at the start. Emerson Fittipaldi won his first battle with Clay Regazzoni. On Sunday 6 October 1974, in the United States Grand Prix, the decisive challenge for the Formula 1 World Championship, the Brazilian started on the second row and the Swiss on the third. This meant that, at the start, barring miracles, Fittipaldi would precede Regazzoni, who would then, in the race, have to do everything possible to overtake him. And Lauda, out of anger, is behind his team-mate, he who is used to taking pole positions as in previous races of the season. It is one of the worst starting grids for Ferrari in the World Championship, and it had to happen on this occasion. The suspense and excitement for the Maranello fans continued right up to the last. The fact that Reutemann, in the Brabham, and Hunt, in the Hesket, are ahead of everyone, with record times (1'38"978 the Argentine and 1'38"995 the Englishman) is certainly not a problem, the problem is Fittipaldi placed on the second row, alongside Pace, right in front of the Ferrari of Regazzoni, who will be in the company of Andretti and his Parnelli. The Ferrari was betrayed, in the decisive effort, by its single-seater engine. Lauda had to interrupt practice after only a few laps, due to the failure of his engine, and get into the reserve car, which was obviously not as well tuned as the other. But a few laps were enough for the Austrian to realise that even the T-Car's engine was not brilliant. And Regazzoni reported a similar verdict on that of his 312 B3.

 

"They are sluggish, slow, they reach the best regimes with difficulty. The performance is definitely insufficient".

 

The two Ferrari drivers tell the mechanics. Among the various hypotheses to explain the reasons for the crisis, a fictional one creeps in. During the night, the usual unknown people would have opened the tank with the petrol reserved for the Ferrari, taking a certain amount away. Had they been up to some other tricks as well? In reality, the mechanics had used fuel from another drum during the morning, adding fuel only in the final part of the first practice session from the tampered tank. A rather relative mystery, therefore, which the Maranello technicians resolutely rejected, limiting themselves to taking petrol from another refuelling point for the second and final practice session. In this final hour and a half, when all the drivers pushed hard trying to improve their positions (and there came the excellent performance of Reutemann, whose Brabham continued its positive series, and Hunt, whose Hesketh benefited, like Andretti's Parnelli, from tyres very well suited to the Watkins Glen circuit) Lauda and Regazzoni struggled at the wheel of their recalcitrant cars. The Austrian gave up even before practice was over. 

 

"The engine got progressively worse, it was useless to continue. I'm really sorry to be behind Regazzoni. I should have been in front of Fittipaldi. What anger".

fotor_2023-1-11_17_38_33.jpeg

The Swiss, in a slightly better situation, insisted, and somehow managed to touch up Friday's time and bring himself close to Fittipaldi, who, in turn, was faster than on the first day: 1'39"033 for the Brazilian, 1'39"320 for the Swiss. Fittipaldi, of course, is happy. 

 

"My McLaren went well. To be ahead of Clay is important, and it is also important to be ahead of Scheckter. If we get to the finish line like that, I'm World Champion on Sunday. I don't know if I can explain myself".

 

Regazzoni also says he is satisfied. 

 

"For me, at this point it was very important not to start too far behind Emerson". 

 

Any particular tactical plans? Regazzoni, who is actually far less happy than he would like to pretend, has a smile: 

 

"But what tactics... Tomorrow I just have to attack, from start to finish. I certainly can't play for the world title by lying in wait for someone to break".

 

The final point of this eagerly awaited eve comes from the words of Luca Monzemolo: 

 

"It did not go well. There's no point in hiding it. But with the troubles we've had since we've been in America, Lauda in Canada and Regazzoni in free practice at Watkins Glen, and Lauda's engine failure this morning, you couldn't expect more. Regazzoni did his duty in full: Lauda was missed. And not through any fault of his own. By Sunday morning both of them will have new engines. And then, God send us good luck".

 

On the eve of the US Grand Prix, talking about the title fight, Jackie Stewart declares:

 

"Emerson Fittipaldi has a better chance than Regazzoni of winning the world title: both because of the situation tonight and because he is more talented and experienced than the Swiss driver, and has already been in similar situations. However, and I don't know why, maybe it's instinct, maybe it's flair, I'm sure it will be Clay who succeeds me tomorrow".

 

In the course of the evening, Sante Ghedini, the ubiquitous Scuderia Ferrari assistant, says to Niki Lauda:

 

"Go to bed, Niki".

 

It is 10:00 p.m., and Niki recalcitrates. But Ghedini urges: 

 

"Mo' vai (Now go), come on, tomorrow I'll give you four new tyres". 

 

At the idea of a set of new tyres, Niki Lauda's face lights up. He smiles, tries to repeat, in a Hapsburg accent, Ghedini's phrase in Modenese ('quater gom novi') and goes to bed. It is the night before the most important race of the Formula One World Championship of the 1974 season, set in the cold, green state of New York, where the winds of Canada, which is a few miles further north, can already be felt. It is the most important Grand Prix in the world for the result (only once before has the World Championship been decided at the last race), the biggest for the volume of prizes (about $50.000), the most impressive for the crowd: 150.000 people are expected for the race on Sunday, 6 October 1974, 50.000 are already camped in the forests around the racetrack. If it weren't for the roar of the engines making their way through the curtain of trees, you'd think you were at Woodstock, or in California, at one of those universal hippie conventions that dot America. Caravans, trucks with stereos, super-erotic water beds and weeks' supply of marijuana, have been lurking behind the circuit's guardrails for days, especially at the spots where François Cevert died last year and Clay Regazzoni left a car in practice this year. The American public, accustomed to the carnage of Indianapolis, the beating of stock-cars, is demanding big thrills from this Formula 1. And hopefully they are disappointed. The New York Times writes: 

 

"This is the only car race in America that the whole world is interested in".

fotor_2023-1-11_17_25_50.jpeg

Watkins Glen is a tiny town in the middle of a beautiful region of lakes, full of absurd names: just a few miles away are Athens, Syracuse, Ithaca, Troy, Sparta. It looks like the Grand Prix of Magna Graecia, and the village is now four-fifths populated by this strange circus that has come from overseas with anoraks full of ponies, advertisements for tyres, petrol and deodorants. The boys are mobilised along the streets to sell programmes and peanuts, because the editorial of the local newspaper, the Leader, has called on the entire citizenry to make the most of this huge economic opportunity. But America always has its own serene and refractory bottom line, despite everything. The assembly centre for the organisation is in the totally inadequate gymnasium of a Catholic high school, St. Mary's, and journalists, drivers and mechanics find themselves in the shadow of a portrait of Pope Pacelli autographed for the beloved St. Mary's school. But Sunday's race appears above all to be an Italian-Hapsburg affair: Regazzonl, a representative of Switzerland, and Lauda, an Austrian, and both in a Maranello car, battle it out. And then Fittipaldi (who is Italo-Brazilian), whose father, originally from Basilicata, predicts Lauda first, Fittipaldi second, Regazzoni third. Talking to Lauda and Regazzoni, one notices how calm both appear: the former shy and polite, the latter seemingly aggressive, with that moustache of an unlikely Ticinese Genghis Kahn. There is talk of disagreements in the Ferrari household: if there are any, they will be forgotten in the crucial hours. They will explode, if anything, later, if things have not gone right. 

 

"But why do you want me to lose weight again?"

 

Exclaims Luca di Montezemolo, Ferrari's technical director, now made transparent by the anxiety of this World Championship that the Maranello team should have been winning for at least two months and now has to snatch by the teeth, on the last lap of the last race. On the surface, everything works well in the Ferrari team. There is, just like in the engines, some sudden rise in pressure, some slackening of the brakes, some snapping. Minor things. And if the pressure really builds up, you phone the Commendatore, Enzo Ferrari, in Maranello. And everything quiets down. The longest day of the World Championship starts early. While caravans of cars with number plates from all the American states join the gigantic car park that has sprung up around the Watkins Glen racetrack, on Sunday 6 October 1974 technicians and mechanics from the various teams reach the garages to finish preparing the cars. Ferrari mechanics worked until midnight to replace the engines of Regazzoni and Lauda's 312 B3. At 1:00 p.m. the Ferrari drivers took to the track for the warm-up. At the end of the twenty minutes of practice, Regazzoni and Lauda are satisfied. 

 

"These look like good engines".

 

The Swiss runs with a full tank of petrol (about 195 litres). He is calm and jokes with Montezemolo. The start is given at 3:40 p.m. Sunday’s untime warming up session bring last-moment problems for several teams; Hunt’s Hesketh stops on the circuit with fuel pressure problems, Laffite’s Williams break a wheel stud and Andretti’s car runs into a bout of misfiring which is trace to the electrical system. However, some feverish work by the mechanics got everyone ready in time, even though Andretti has to squeeze in three warming up laps before his Parnelli will run properly. All 25 cars line up in front of the lavender-suited starter, Tex Hopkins, with both Schenken and Dolhem waiting optimistically at the back should anything go wrong. And Dolhem is to be reward for, as the grid moves forward to take the flag, Andretti can’t starts the Parnelli and the whole grid surge away leaving the fuming American stationery, Reutemann just beating Hunt to the first corner with Pace and Lauda tucks tightly in behind. Dolhem waves into the race as a replacement and Schenken joins in as well after misinterpreting the official signals. He completes six laps before he is blackflag and disqualify. Meanwhile, as Reutemann led Hunt round the first lap, mechanics push Andretti’s car to the end of the pits where Dick Scammell bled the apparent vapor lock in the car’s fuel system and then send his driver out into the race. Unfortunately there isn’t alternative but to black-flag the unfortunate Andretti and disqualify the car for receiving assistance outside the pits after it has completed four trouble-free laps. Reutemann and Hunt cross the line comfortably together at the end of the first lap leading Pace, Lauda, Scheckter and Fittipaldi with a gap already opening to Regazzoni, Watson, Depailler, Laffite, Jarier and Merzario. It doesn't take long for the leading duo to pull away from their pursuers, Hunt hanging on in fine style but not really looking as though he is about to pass the Brabham, while Pace similarly begins to move away from the next bunch.

fotor_2023-1-11_17_32_15.jpeg

Lauda is trying hard to keep in front of Scheckter and Fittipaldi, the Brazilian apparently perfectly content to keep the Tyrrell just in front of his McLaren for he knows that Scheckter has to win to take the Championship and then only if the McLaren driver falls to fifth or below. Regazzoni on the other hand is holding up his pursuers in typical fashion, pulling away from them on the straights and holding them up in the corners with the result that there is a nine-car bunch behind him with five laps of the race completes although Merzario isn’t messing about with any nonsense from the Swiss and elbow past on the second lap to chase off after Watson. Jarier drops back from the front of this group chasing Regazzoni as his Shadow’s tyres start to lose their grip and Koinigg’s Suttees go missing on the tenth lap on the far side of the circuit. It is only much later that the majority of people in the pit area receive news that the young Austrian has been killed when his car leaves the track at the same corner as the two practice accidents occure, ploughing headlong through two catch fences before striking the guard rail at right angles. As has so often happen in the past, the guard rails split and allow the car to pass between them so there isn’t chance of survival for its driver. A sheet is laid over the Surtees wreckage and the race continues with the shatter car lying under the guardrail with Koinigg still inside it. With the first three remaining in the same order and Lauda still keeping the Tyrrell and McLaren behind him, interest is focused on the speed with which Merzario catches Watson and the tenacity with which both Mass and Peterson dispose of Regazzoni’s understeering Ferrari. By lap 15 the Swiss virtually concede any hope of winning the Championship when he rolls into the pits to complain about his car’s impossible handling. The only solution was to replace the front tyres, so the Ferrari is sent back into the race with some fresh rubber at the front only to return later with the same complaint.

 

While the order at the front of this high speed precision remains very much as one might expect bearing in mind the grid positions, the one in the woodpile turn out to be Merzario. By lap 22 he is right on Watson’s tail and challenging the Ulsterman as hard as he knows only to let enthusiasm get the better of his judgment and elbow Watson into a spin three laps later as they jostle for position going into the tight right-hand corner after the pits. Watson handbrake turns his Brabham with a dexterity that raises cheers from the crowd, but by the time he is pointing in the right direction, Merzario has vanished into the distance in pursuit of Fittipaldi. Regazzoni feels his Ferrari handling just as badly within a few laps and, after a second stop to change the front suspension adjustments, charge back into the race and all but knock Jochen Mass straight out of the contest as the Yardley McLaren laps his Ferrari on lap 28. At the tail of the field Dolhem’s Surtees TS16 is withdrawn after the accident to Koinigg and Donohue’s race, which is hamper ever since the opening stages by spongy brakes, end with a broken rear suspension link on the Penske at the point where it attaches to the bottom of the upright. In bleak contrast to last year’s race, Team Lotus are having an absolutely soul-destroying race. Peterson is fighting his way through the mid-field runners and struggle up to ninth place, his Lotus 72 understeering like mad all the way round the circuit and even the Swede’s brand of determination don’t seem enough to overcome the problems on this occasion. In the pits Colin Chapman wears a grim expression on his face for not only has Schenken hauls off the track, but Ickx has brush a crash barrier on his seventh lap and driven slowly in to retire with derange suspension on his 72. But there is plenty more misfortune in store, for the sole surviving 72 suddenly starts to sound desperately rough and on the 32nd lap Peterson drives into the pits where it is find that an exhaust pipe has come away from one bank of the DFV right up by the cylinder head. After a brief checkover he is send on his way but eventually stops for good when a fuel line becomes detached. Ferraris prepare for right-hand turns. Caliri explains:

 

"Normal wear was detected in the tyre, but it's not a question of the tyres. Now we have changed the shock absorber calibration". 

[resizer.in]-6322194eb5ea7.jpeg

Regazzoni re-enters the race, but by now it all seems to be over. Whilst all this drama is unfolding for their rival teams, both works Brabhams continues to lap steadily and progressively, Pace taking great chunks out of Hunt’s second place advantage as the race progresses to the lap 45 mark and Hesketh begins to experience fuel-pick-up problems. Encourage by the obvious plight of his immediate rival, Pace speeds up and establishes a new Formula One record of 1'40"6 on lap 54 prior to snatching second place one lap later. From that point on it is all over and the two smart white Brabham BT44s sped confidently on to a convincing 1-2 result at the end of 59 laps’ racing, Reutemann leading Pace over the line by slightly less than 11 seconds. Hunt drops away substantially over the final two laps, but he just manages to keep the Hesketh spluttering round for long enough to beat Fittipaldi by five seconds, the Brazilian not takes any chances whatsoever and cruising gently round those final laps to clinch his second World Championship and the very first for McLaren Racing. By sitting on Scheckter’s tail all the way, he knows that the Tyrrell driver hasn’t chance of taking the title, but when the blue car drifts to a standstill with fuel-pick-up problems on lap 45, the contest is all over. It is only leave for Watson and Depailler to finish in strong fifth and sixth places, Merzario having stops his Williams with an electrical fault which discharge the car’s fire extinguisher into his face and then causes the engine to cut out, while Mass has driven very hard from near the back of the grid to take seventh place. Ferrari has lost everything, but the biggest tragedy at this cursed Watkins Glen circuit is the death of yet another driver: Helmut Koenigg, a 25-year-old driver from Salzburg (Austria), Niki Lauda's best friend. On hearing the news of Koenigg's death (killed by the same guardrail that killed François Cevert last year and against which Regazzoni's Ferrari in practice and Beltoise's car crashed this year), Niki Lauda, already struggling with his car, and clearly detached, retired. Montezemolo, Scuderia Ferrari's sporting director, declared:

 

"We would have liked to continue a few more laps to find this fault that stopped us today, but Niki Lauda was devastated by the news of his friend's death".

 

Helmut Koenigg went off the road in the terrible downhill S, losing control of his car; he passed under the net that delimits the track and got stuck under the guardrail, having his head severed. An atrocious death, but even this will not, we fear, help to convince these American organisers that a few hundred dollars, a few expenses to abolish the guardrail at that point are well worth a man's life. When four professional drivers all go off at the same point, and two of them lose their lives there, one can no longer speak of a fatality: it is, more or less, murder. On Saturday night all the drivers had noticed the danger of that spot, but there was nothing they could do. In the Ferrari team, scrambling all day around the cars undermined by a new evil, the shock absorber crisis, an obvious depression reigns, but Ferrari's defeat, which fills the hundreds of Italians who have flocked here with desolation, is little compared to Koenigg's tragic end. A cursed day, to be forgotten as soon as possible, not a day of sport. Forghieri and Montezemolo, together with the Ferrari men, scrambled around the drivers' cars, loosening the shock absorber, hardening it, changing it, but without finding a solution. Regazzoni racked up his useless laps, Lauda, with despair in his face for the death of Koenigg, his closest Austrian friend, stood by looking on dejectedly. Montezemolo, the sports director, sat with his head in his hands on the pit wall. He was right: at the most important race of the year Ferrari had arrived, through a series of glaring misfortunes, unprepared. With the race over, murmurs a mechanic:

 

"To us, bad luck never forgives one".

fotor_2023-1-11_17_28_44.jpeg

During the course of the race, as drivers and mechanics burnt their last energies in the agony of defeat and the ecstasy of victory, dense columns of smoke rose around the racetrack. In a collective fit of vandalism, cars, trucks, buses were set on fire by groups of drugged hippies, drunk with exhaustion and excitement. It was the final ritual, emblematic of the civilisation of the automobile, this era that many would like to see come to an end: within a racetrack enclosure the high priests, outside the heretics, the desecrators, but all united in the same religion. During the evening of Monday 7 October 1974 Emerson Fittipaldi and his wife Maria Helena celebrate with a group of friends their second world title; on Tuesday Emerson will leave Watkins Glen to travel to Indianapolis, where he will test a McLaren for the 1975 Indy 500, in which he intends to participate: he will then make a trip to Paraguay for a promotional programme of one of the companies financing the team and on Sunday 11 October 1974, finally, he will be in Brazil. Fittipaldi is over the moon, not least because he did not expect to win Jackie Stewart's sceptre so easily. 

 

"There was no fight; Regazzoni had a dart at the start of the race, then disappeared, Scheckter was ahead of me and Reutemann, Hunt and Pace, were travelling at a higher pace than Jody and myself. Perfect, I had nothing more to fear. I feel sorry for Clay, but if he stops and I don't, it's not a matter of luck. I didn't earn the title in the United States, but in all the other races, because my McLaren often had problems with road holding and the Ferraris were really strong. In 1975, if the friends at Maranello will still allow me, I will aim for the trio".

 

Fittipaldi laughs, and he is right. He always raced with a lot of intelligence and was supported by a very efficient team, who made only one mistake at the beginning of the season, in South Africa, when they made the wrong choice of a set of tyres, Emerson knew how to take advantage of every opportunity, making the most of others' troubles and conceding nothing to the adversaries. He did not exalt, nor did the McLaren prove to be an exceptional car, nevertheless step by step, he built his great success. Ferrari, on the other hand, found itself in crisis in the decisive test. Regazzoni and Niki Lauda took to the track with unrideable cars and could not fight. It was infuriating to see the Swiss trudging along at the back while Fittipaldi drove calmly, it was infuriating to observe the Austrian swaying in the Watkins Glen bends as if his 312 B3 were rolling on a stormy sea. What happened? Regazzoni, Lauda and Mauro Forghieri, one of the engineers who contributed to Ferrari's rebirth this year, a real rebirth - as an organisation, as drivers, as cars - which only lacked the final seal. Says Regazzoni:

 

"It was a black day, I had never driven such a crazy single-seater. At one point I asked myself why I kept racing. It was humiliating and also risky as the car was pointing all over the place. But it bothered me to give up, it wouldn't have been serious. And to think that the Grand Prix had started well, because in the first five hundred metres I had managed to overtake Fittipaldi. It's done, I thought, this won't pass me anymore. I slipped into the S-curves and goodbye. Terrible understeer".

 

On Lauda's 312 B3 the phenomenon manifested itself later, around lap 30. 

 

"For me it was excessive oversteer. I could no longer keep up with Scheckter or Fittipaldi's pace, there was a risk of going off the track. At a certain moment, I preferred to stop and have the suspension checked. Who would have thought about the shock absorbers?"

 

Intervenes Forghieri. 

 

"Mind you, the fault in itself is not with the shock absorbers, but with how we unintentionally operated them. On Saturday, the last day of testing, we had engine trouble and didn't make it in time to do the usual tests with a full tank of petrol. We only did it on Sunday morning, in the twenty minutes of free practice, and no problems emerged. Evidently it was too short a test and the defect came out when it could no longer be remedied, during the race. The shock absorbers closed and were no longer performing their function. Everything happened to us in fifteen days. It bothers me a lot to talk about bad luck, but in practice for the Canadian Grand Prix, Regazzoni went off the track because of a sudden downpour and in the race Lauda, in the lead with a large advantage, ended up off the track because of dirt thrown on the tarmac by another competitor: in the US pre-trials Regazzoni risked a lot by crashing against a guardrail and we had to interrupt training and send other bodies from Italy. In Europe it would have ended differently. It was the result in Canada that conditioned the fight for the title. Personally, I considered the game closed at Mosport. We only came here because of Enzo Ferrari's sportsmanship. However, there is no point crying now. Ferrari has two great drivers and a good team. We will upgrade the 312 B3 and, at the same time, test the new 312 T. For us the championship continues".

fotor_2023-1-11_17_30_18.jpeg

Battling intentions are also expressed by Lauda. Niki says while smoking a cigar, the first concession he allows himself in honour of the close of the 1974 season:

 

"No chatter, we will immediately start working again to bring the 312 T to a very high level of competitiveness. I hope this car will be ready for the Argentine Grand Prix, the first race of 1975".

 

The first tests of the new Maranello-produced car will take place on Thursday, 10 October 1974 at Ferrari's private facility in Fiorano, then continue at Vallelunga and Le Castellet. Regazzoni, on the other hand, dwells on the past. 

 

"I lost the title between Austria and Italy. This American trip, which is always tough, would have been faced with another spirit, with greater serenity. I'm sorry it ended like that, and not so much for me, who had my satisfactions this year and I'm not complaining, as for Enzo Ferrari, for the mechanics who gave their souls, for our fans. We will see if we can satisfy them in 1975, even if, perhaps, the competition will be tougher".

 

The Swiss, like Forghieri, calmly analyses the year. 

 

"We came out of an extremely bad 1973, starting 1974 in an excellent way. Then, the others improved and a certain levelling was created. The B3 has the best engine-gearbox unit in Formula 1, but it has to be modified in the front end and made lighter. We all made mistakes and the one who took advantage of them was Fittipaldi, who, after all, only won the title by three points. On Sunday, on the track, I felt helpless. An ordeal”. 

 

The difficult day at Watkins Glen did not dampen spirits. On the contrary, it spurred them on to a strong commitment for the next championship. The redemption that began this year will continue and let us hope that it will receive that prize that has now been missing and that has landed in the greedy hands of a perhaps astonished Emerson Fittipaldi. Tuesday 12 November 1974 marked the beginning of a new chapter for Ferrari. Greeted by a splendid sunny day, the 312 T makes its appearance on the Vallelunga track, giving Scuderia Ferrari great hopes of redemption. Alongside the new bolide produced in Maranello is the B3 still capable of world-class performance. As assistant to the presidency Luca Montezemolo explains, Ferrari is currently working on two precise programmes: to rejuvenate the B3 that will still be engaged in the next Grands Prix in Argentina and Brazil, and to get to know the limits of the 312 T (which on the three kilometres of the Fiorano circuit has gained half a second on the track record), whose competitive baptism is planned for South Africa or Spain. For two class cars, one on the verge of demobilisation after so many glorious tests, the other set to revive them, two world-class drivers such as Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni, who came to Vallelunga to personally test the cars' progress, could not be absent. The nerve-wracking tests, which lasted until late afternoon, the contributions of the technicians during the pit stops, the heated exchanges of ideas: everything takes place in an atmosphere of compact commitment and enthusiasm that gives the impression of the punctilious, revengeful tone that animates, from the drivers to the last mechanic, the Maranello team. Lauda and Regazzoni often exchange impressions after a few test laps, in a spirit of friendship and collaboration that also seems to constitute one of the most valid working platforms on a psychological level. As Lauda gradually forces the engine of the 312 T, Luca Montezemolo declares:

 

"If a good day dawns we must be satisfied. We have come to Vallelunga, that is to say to a nervous, difficult track, in a different atmospheric climate to begin the thorough testing that we intend to carry out. With us is also the Goodyear truck that came especially from England with an engineer. This is a valuable collaboration that is part of the programmes we have set ourselves. We test new tyres, different types of wings, in sum all those details that should bring the new car to the performance we expect". 

fotor_2023-1-11_17_18_56.jpeg

Stepping out of the cockpit after about ten laps, Lauda is enthusiastic about the 312 T: 

 

"Already at Fiorano I thought it was fantastic, now we have come to Vallelunga to get confirmation of those first impressions, on a circuit that I think is suitable, considering its difficulties. For now I can say that the car has extraordinary road-holding". 

 

Referring to the bitter end of the racing season, Lauda comments: 

 

"I learned a lot. They were negative experiences that will serve me well, I think that when things go wrong they make the character stronger".

 

Lauda does not take long to make clear, even on the practical terrain, the punctiliousness with which he prepares the new car, which is only tested by him while Regazzoni devotes himself to tuning the B3. In fact, Lauda beats the overall Vallelunga record by seven tenths of a second, covering a lap in 1'07"7 at an average speed of 169.946 km/h. Regazzoni also records an excellent time (1'09"9) with the B3 that appears less pot-bellied in its bodywork and adopts front suspension similar to that of the 312 T. To conclude, says Montezemolo, the new car will only run when Ferrari is sure it can attempt big goals. For now it is off to Argentina with the B3. 

 

"Probably four or five days in advance, to avoid the discomfort that the change in climate could cause us". 

 

The 1974 season for the Scuderia Ferrari ended with Ferrari's initiative in favour of young Italian drivers. To the rambling proposals of some ex-Italian drivers returning from the pseudo-democratic convention of the Italian Automobile Sports Commission, held recently in Genoa, to the poisonous written polemics of a certain Bolognese environment, to the empty chatter of the representatives of this tottering CSAI, Ferrari responds with facts. On Wednesday 4 December 1974 Scuderia Ferrari issued a communiqué on the subject. 

 

"Following conversations with Ferrari S.p.A., the Scuderia del Passatore will be able to use the Fiorano track for F2 testing with drivers Serblin and Leoni. It will also have a Ferrari Formula 1 type B3 in the second half of 1975. This single-seater will be used for induction tests at the Santa Monica circuit in Misano for those young drivers that the team deems suitable. At a later date other tests will be carried out at the more demanding Dino Ferrari circuit in Imola".

 

Ferrari was attacked and punished because it does not employ Italian drivers in the Formula 1 team and because it does not work to create a school for young people. Always easy to reason in someone else's skin. In this case, then, the Maranello team should act out of patronage or by looking at its passport. Yet the English B.R.M. employed three Frenchmen, Lotus a Belgian and a Swede, and so on. But useless polemics aside, this extremely nice and interesting initiative remains. Ferrari is keeping its very good team, its Lauda and Regazzoni, it is aiming at the 1975 title with a compact team and a limited financial budget, but it is thinking seriously and within its possibilities about young Italian drivers. The agreement with the Romagna-based team of Passatore concerns 20-year-old Lamberto Leoni, from Ravenna, and 26-year-old Gabriele Serblin, from Vicenza. The former has made a name for himself in Formula Italia, the latter in Formula 2. The agreement will offer Leoni and Serblin numerous advantages: driving at Fiorano, a model track, with a television system, photoelectric cells, breathing the Maranello air (contacts with technicians, drivers, etc.); driving - with other youngsters chosen by the Scuderia Ferrari - a single-seater 312 B3 without obligations and commitments, without anxiety, first at Misano and then at Imola. A progressive test, an experience more unique than rare. This is no small offer, in fact it is a practical and concrete initiative. Ferrari is moving, but as Enzo Ferrari wants. The rest is just talk. On Christmas Eve 1974, Scuderia Ferrari is in Kyalami, fine-tuning the 312 T. During testing, the oil tank shows significant problems in fast corners. The mechanics, therefore, find themselves in the position of having to make a new oil tank on site with makeshift means. A tin can abandoned in the pit comes to the rescue, which, with the necessary adaptations, turns out to be a far better tank than the one for which engineer Forghieri had spent sleepless nights designing. Mounted on the single-seater-with excellent results on the track-the Maranello team takes every precaution to ensure that it is not photographed, as Ferrari's tests are closely followed. Before leaving Kyalami to return to Italy, Forghieri telephones Enzo Ferrari, and informs him of the outcome of the test, which is positive thanks to the fact that he has built an all new tank that works perfectly. When the team returns to Maranello, Enzo Ferrari waits for the mechanics and Forghieri with enormous perplexity and curiosity to see the new construction: 

 

"But what is this stuff here?"

 

Enzo Ferrari exclaims in disbelief upon seeing a large aluminum Coca-Cola container, modified and adapted for use for a Formula 1 Ferrari; that was actually the real reason the team did not want it photographed. An alternative way to prepare for the 1975 World Championship.


instagram
twitter
youtube
whatsapp
tiktok
spotify

©​ 2022 Osservatore Sportivo

Contact us

Team

Info

Create Website with flazio.com | Free and Easy Website Builder