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#208 1971 United States Grand Prix

2022-08-21 00:00

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#1971,

#208 1971 United States Grand Prix

What a tremendous season Elf-Team Tyrrell have had in 1971. Their number one driver Jackie Stewart collects the World Championship crown with six vict

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What a tremendous season Elf-Team Tyrrell have had in 1971. Their number one driver Jackie Stewart collects the World Championship crown with six victories to his credit, the marque Tyrrell wins the Constructors Championship by a country mile and to cap it all their number two, Francois Cevert, scores his maiden Grand Prix victory at Watkins Glen after little over a year in Formula One. It is a just reward for the young Frenchman who has proved to be such an excellent shadow of Stewart on the track, who has scored two fine second places and who proved his skill with a shattering lap record at the Nurburgring. The Watkins Glen victory is worth a record sum of over $65.000 for the team run by Ken Tyrrell, with cars designed by Derek Gardner prepared by chief mechanics Roland Law and Roger Hill in premises that many would turn their noses up at. The Tyrrell team is first in practice and the early laps with Stewart, and then for the remainder of the race with Cevert, totally dominates this year’s closing Grand Prix. Everyone tries especially hard to do well at the Grand Prix of the United States for it is here that a season’s profit or loss can be made. First prize is $50.000, the runner-up can expect $20.000, third man $12.000 and from then on downwards to $6.000 for the first man to retire, far more than the teams could ever expect in Europe. The organisers afford it because their publicity machine is able to tempt a genuine 100.000 people to the circuit paying an average of about $12 each for the privilege and because the Grand Prix Corporation is a non-profit-making organisation which, thanks to the enthusiasm of the people concerned, happens to work here. This year is an important one in the history of the race for the circuit has been completely revised so that with new pits, widened track for its complete length and a well designed and difficult undulating extra mile it is very hard to recognise the circuit as the same place.

 

The extra width and length also have the advantage that a larger number of cars can be raced and 29 plus one reserve entry is accepted. Substantially the list is the same as at Mosport Park two weeks earlier but there are some additions plus a driver change or two. Numerically the order is as follows with last year’s winner, Emerson Fittipaldi heading the list at number 2 (No. 1 is left blank in memory of Rindt). Thus Wisell is next up and the pair are in their regular Lotus 72s in D specification although Fittipaldi’s car is built in 1970 and Wisell’s this year. Ferrari brings along the three B2 models for Ickx, Regazzoni and Andretti plus the faithful last of the B1s which both Regazzoni and lckx rush to drive if they have the slightest opportunity. This is rather a touchy subject in the Ferrari camp particularly when a copy of an Italian magazine claiming the older car to be better is produced. In fact lckx races the 1970 B1 in the end just as he has done at Monza. Andretti has something of a problem on his hands for the week before Watkins Glen he is scheduled to drive for the STP team at the USAC Championship race in Trenton, New Jersey and this has been rained off. A new date is fixed for a week later with obvious complications for the commitment with Trenton is more binding than Watkins Glen. Andretti makes it blatantly clear that he would far rather race the Ferrari and turns up tor practice hoping and praying the Trenton race would be rained off for a second week running which, according to the weather forecasters, is a distinct possibility. In exactly the same situation is Mark Donohue who has driven so well in the Canadian GP with the Penske/White McLaren M19A bought from the works but still under their influence. However Penske nominates his British second string driver David Hobbs as a reserve, Hobbs previously having Grand Prix experience in rather uncompetitive machines like the Bernard White Racing B.R.M. of three seasons back.

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Also in a McLaren M19A is Denis Hulme who is in high spirits following his first Can-Am victory for some months the previous weekend. For the first time since 1969 the Tyrrell Organisation decides to run three cars in addition to Stewart in 003 and Cevert in 002, Peter Revson is co-opted into the team to drive Stewart’s usual spare, the faithful 001. Revson is a familiar if not successful face in Formula One in Europe in 1964 and since then has concentrated most of his efforts on American racing culminating in a highly successful association with McLaren Racing this season in both Can-Am and USAC racing. The Matra-Simca team from France is little changed with the regular blue MS120Bs for Amon, whose growth of beard, first seen at Monza, has been shaved off. Perhaps he should have kept growing it until he wins a Grand Prix. Just as in Canada, Yardley-B.R.M. are at full five-car strength with all four P160s and also the last of the P153s. Siffert, Gethin and Ganley are all in their regular cars while Austrian Helmut Marko receives a kind of promotion by moving up from the P153 to the fourth P160, the car driven by George Eaton in Canada. Meanwhile P153 finds a willing pilot in the form of fellow Canadian John Cannon who has been threatening a Grand Prix début for a race or two but who has made his Formula One début at the Questor GP in a March 701 earlier in the year. All the P160s finish up with Mk. 2-headed engines but no short-strokes. There are whispers of Aubrey Woods’ imminent departure from the team but another member of BRM’s engine design staff is present. John Surtees’ Edenbridge firm are fielding three TS9s on this occasion for, following Monza, the latest side-radiator version TS9/005 has undergone a test programme which proves successful. Gone is the cow-catcher front but a different make of radiator plus louvres in the top of the ducts to encourage the extraction of hot air seems to be doing the trick, and Surtees is happy with the car.

 

In the car raced by Surtees in Canada is Mike Hailwood fresh from his excellent showing for the team at Monza but the Eifelland-sponsored car poses a problem. Rolf Stommelen has gone down with a jaw infection and is under doctor’s orders, thus ending his unsuccessful association with the team a race early, and Surtees decides to nominate a replacement driver. He has two in mind, Dutchman Gijs van Lennep who has done such a good job in the rent-a-TS7 at Zandvoort in the rain and American Sam Posey who has finished runner-up in the Continental Championship driving one of Surtees’ TS8 Formula 5000 cars. In the end Surtees brings them both to the circuit to try the car and delays a final decision until after final practice. Despite trying hard, Ron Tauranac’s first season without Jack Brabham has brought little reward for the hard work. The team is headed as usual by Graham Hill in the unique Brabham BT34 while Tim Schenken is in his regular BT33. In between the two North American races the pair has been back to Europe for the Formula Two race at Albi where driving the Rondel team Brabhams they have come into contact with each other when contesting the lead—thus they are eyeing each other rather suspiciously. A third entry under the Motor Racing Developments banner is made for Chris Craft in Ecurie Evergreen’s Brabham BT33 although Tauranac is leaving them mainly to their own problems which are considerable although Craft uses an engine borrowed from the works in practice. The STP-March outfit are obviously hoping to finish the season on a bright note and have a trio of 711s for Peterson, Galli, and de Adamich. De Adamich’s 711/1 is back with an Alfa engine in the rear following its use by Beuttler in Canada, and this latest V8 from the Italian firm seems the best yet although there is little incentive with de Adamich announcing he would be driving a Surtees-Cosworth next season. Again Peterson has the new shovel nose to try and again it does few laps but a new one-piece rear-wing lasted throughout.

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Pescarolo has recovered from his neck-damaging accident in practice for the Canadian GP. The Williams team, having suffered the ignominy of all three of their F2 cars failing to qualify at Albi, are hoping for better things with their 711, while a similar private March 711 is entered for Skip Barber by the Gene Mason Racing/Triple R Oil Filters outfit. Barber is the first and only reserve and is guaranteed a run if it doesn’t rain at Trenton. Finally Pete Lovely comes along with his hybrid Lotus Special, the jovial 46-year-old American’s crew all wearing Pete Lovely Fan Club tee-shirts (someone cares), and Jo Bonnier makes another of his spasmodic Grand Prix appearances with the almost vintage McLaren M7C. It is unlikely either of these two cars have the fuel tankage to take them through the race without a stop but Lovely at least has taken the precaution of fitting a special quick release filler for his car and plans a stop. Practice is planned to span the two days prior to the race with a four-hour session starting at 1:00 p.m. on Friday and at mid-day on Saturday, while there has been a free-for-all on the Wednesday although at that stage contractors still have work to finish off including white-lining the sides of the new track, erecting fences and generally building the new timing and press stand. On both official days practice would be stopped if a car becomes immobile out on the circuit and then recommence when it has been towed in but no allowance made at the end of the session for time lost, which upset some teams a little although with all the time available there is little excuse for not setting up a car. The main problem in practice is one of tyres for the new section’s bends are all banked and graduates at nearby Cornell University has estimated that a lateral force of 1.74 g is probable on these corners compared with the normal 1.4 g estimate of the latest Formula One’s cornering force.

 

Thus, and with the added ingredient of hot weather, the softer compounds are proving marginal and both Goodyear and Firestone have harder than usual compound tyres on hand if necessary and for once seem to be keeping their own information very much to themselves. But briefly back to the Cornell University Aeronautical Laboratory’s computer which has been used to assist in the design of the new section of the circuit. The computer has forecast a lap time for the new course of 100 seconds but the interesting booklet published by Cornell on the survey points out that, assuming the figures of cornering force, acceleration and deceleration are correct, then this target lap time can only be achieved by the completely fearless driver with perfect anticipation and the ability to place his car exactly on a geometrical line. In practice Stewart laps just 2.642 sec. slower than the perfect driver and one wonders what kind of figure would have been obtained by the computer for the Nurburgring under the conditions when Moss is in his hey-day. The computer also gives target speeds for the various corners and using all this information the Penske team actually gear their McLaren for the ultimate but soon have to drop the ratios. Practice starts with Stewart, Hulme, Amon and Peterson setting the pace but whereas Stewart keeps improving to finish up the fastest of the day the others run into trouble. Amon’s Matra goes off-song and both the other cars require engine changes. Hulme’s mechanics claim to have broken the engine-changing record, for under an hour-and-a-half later, the car is circulating. However, what is impressive, is that subsequently nothing falls off and Hulme finishes up seventh fastest. Peterson’s mechanics take it easier replacing the team’s now damaged and only 11 series engine and the car is not practising again that day.

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All the times are being recorded to the 1.000th of a second which only serves to confuse most people. So in this text we will refer to the nearest tenth only although our table indicates all those tiny fractions. Stewart it is who finishes fastest of the day at 1'42"9 while Regazzoni is heading something of a Ferrari revival by being second fastest at 1'43"2. Fittipaldi and the Lotus team in general seem to be in good form although Wisell does run out of fuel on the circuit. The Brazilian finishes up third fastest at 1'43"9 and going noticeably deeper into the tricky corner after the pits than anyone else. Andretti helps Ferrari spirits with a 1'44"1, Cevert is going well at 1'44"3 to head Hulme, while Howden Ganley surprises and delights everyone with a 1'44"6, but says convincingly that he isn’t personally all that satisfied. However he very much overshadows the rest of the B.R.M. team, with Siffert further down the list than usual but not really knowing why (an engine has been changed overnight), Gethin who just scratches his head, Marko whose engine develops an oil leak and soaks his back-side in the process and Cannon who finds the P153 rather a handful. After Ganley in eighth, ninth and 10th spots come Beltoise, Surtees and Schenken who seems reasonably happy. Of the non-regulars Hailwood is working hard and going almost as quick as Surtees but van Lennep (with Posey watching his progress carefully) does not impress, Revson is going quite well with Tyrrell’s oldest and most tired engine and Hobbs only does a few laps before the DFV motor loses its flywheel. Conditions on Saturday are similar to the previous day with the circuit still dusty in places from contractors lorries and so on but not worryingly so. By this time a huge crowd have already assembled, the great majority of them young people who spurn the costly motels in the vicinity and set up camp in their tens-of-thousands, just as they do at the Nurburgring but very few other places.

 

The weather is perfect for this outdoor life and while the evening brings beer and other things in excess and we witness one bloody brawl, the gathering is on the whole very peaceful. However the peace is shattered at 12 noon by the sound of Formula One racing engines running in anger and soon Stewart and Cevert are out proving the Tyrrell superiority in the opening hour. However Peterson, frustrated by the previous day, soon puts himself in the 1'44"0 bracket and into the top five or six, and Fittipaldi is proving a threat once again. Donohue appears dressed in his overalls although Hobbs is allowed the first couple of hours in the car, while likewise Posey is in his Nomex but he has the first go in the Surtees he appears to be sharing. Almost immediately he starts lapping 3 sec. quicker than the Dutchman’s best. Again the tyre engineers rush up and down the pit road with worried expressions on their faces, particularly when the teams are doing full-tank tests. With chunking to worry about the vibrations seem to be forgotten. Incidentally at this circuit Goodyear are using Wolverhampton-made tyres again as they suit the Watkins Glen circuit better than the Akron tyres which have proved successful in Canada. The last hour of practice is undoubtedly the most exciting with most of the fireworks coming from Fittipaldi who, in a display of tremendously mature and determined driving, carves his time down into the high 1'42"0 bracket and looks like snatching pole from under Stewart’s nose. With an extra $2.000 at stake the Scot has something to aim for and Tyrrell has immediately picked up the Brazilian’s impressive laps so the World Champion goes out and coolly and calmly defends pole position. At any other circuit the pair would have been given equal times but when they are announced officially Stewart has lapped in 1'42"642 and Fittipaldi in 1'42"659.

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This makes a previously very excited Colin Chapman rather upset. However, in the closing stages Denis Hulme has also got into the groove and he hustles the orange McLaren round to complete the front row at 1'42"9 with Regazzoni barely slower at 1'43"0 and he makes up the second row with Cevert who has been paced by Stewart. The third row produces an interesting line-up of different 12-cylinder engines. Mario Andretti seemes heartened by the stories of showers in the Trenton area and works hard to get his Ferrari as high up the grid as possible in the event of him starting but seems a little mystified that he is 0.2 sec. slower than Regazzoni but nevertheless good for the third row. Following his disappointing first day Jo Siffert is happier although not completely satisfied with his performance at 1'43"5. Jacky Ickx has walked back from an abandoned B2 which has suffered an engine disaster, jumps in the spare B1 and, as if to prove a point, immediately starts lapping it quicker than the newer car and finally records 1'43"8. Chris Amon takes a while to get his Matra running the way he likes but finally succeeds and just before he puts in the quick one, the session ends. Amon has expected an extension of the session for the couple of halts and walks back to the garage looking very black indeed. His best, 1'44"0, is good enough to keep him just ahead of Reine Wisell (who is driving hard to attempt to keep himself in the Lotus team for next year) and team-mate Beltoise. After his fast laps early in the session Ronnie Peterson fails to show any significant improvement because of/or despite various juggling of tyres and suspension settings by the March crew and he has to be content with an unaccustomed eleventh fastest. Ganley is next, and second fastest B.R.M., despite an engine blow up before the end of practice while John Surtees and Mike Hailwood seem happy with the TS9 and return almost identical times.

 

Tim Schenken fails to improve over the previous day thanks to a persistent mis-fire but still remains quicker than Graham Hill. Schenken ends up on the same row as a spectacular Marko and skilful Posey who has not only eclipsed van Lennep, but several other noteworthy and experienced Grand Prix drivers. Unlike Andretti, Donohue does not seem to be taking a start at Watkins Glen as much of a possibility and Hobbs does most of the driving in the Penske McLaren without making much impression but in his few laps Donohue laps in 1'45"4. Revson is still using the tired engine and all plans for him to get a good tow from Stewart go wrong although in the last half hour he does a fine job of kicking up stones at Can-Am team-mate, Denis Hulme. The rest of the field lines up as per the grid, Cannon having suffered an early engine blow up, Gethin hardly showing Monza form, and Craft finding Formula One perhaps a little more difficult than he anticipates. The thoughtful organisers produce two completely separate grids, one in the event of rain over in New Jersey, which includes Andretti and Donohue but without Hobbs or Barber, and another assuming that Andretti and Donohue would not make it. Incidentally the Penske Lear jet is available to transport the drivers the 250 miles to Watkins Glen at the last moment. It isn’t needed and Trenton is on as planned, this mismanagement amongst the rival American racing factions robbing the huge crowd of sight of their best two road-racing drivers in action. Race day brings a fair amount of ballyhoo but no supporting races and agonising decisions whether to run softer compound tyres and risk them chunking or the harder ones and play it safe but lose in speed. Of the potential front-runners Peterson is one of the few who decides discretion is the better part of valour. The three warm-up laps produce some drama for Surtees who has to have a sticky pressure relief valve fixed while the two slim-line B.R.M. P160s are topped up with fuel.

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Tex Hopkins, that extrovert starter, does his stuff in his now rather faded lavender suit and while he is still in the air there is a crescendo of sound and out of it all Denny Hulme gets the jump on the rest with Cevert snaking through into second place and Stewart into third. Stewart is in no mood to be headed and by the end of the first lap he bursts past the pits ahead of Hulme, Cevert and Regazzoni. Then there is the briefest gap to Siffert, then Ickx, Amon, Fittipaldi, Wisell, Beltoise and then Pescarolo, who must have made a tremendous start. As everyone strain to see up the road and watch the rest come through there is a great screech of tyres and Craft spins at the kink before the pits fortunately being avoided by the followers. He stalls the car and has to push it back to the pits, continuing on his way later. Barber has also started late and Cannon has a first lap spin in the country and re-joines half-way down the field on the second lap, which makes lap charting very difficult. Revson slowly comes into the pits at the end of lap one for his Tyrrell’s clutch is slipping badly due to an oil leak and his car is immediately retired. The opening ten laps give the race a very Tyrrell complexion for Stewart is establishing a reasonable lead and Cevert seems to be in command of second place. Hulme is third but being pressed hard by the Ferraris of Regazzoni and Ickx with Fittipaldi, Siffert and Hailwood all giving good chase. Surtees has made a longish stop with ignition trouble which drops him to the end of the field although the car sounds good after that while Wisell suffers some brake problem and hits the Armco barrier after five laps and he has to walk back to report to Chapman. The next few laps brings something of a surprise for rather than pull away from the rest of the field it is noticeable that Cevert with the others in tow are pulling the Scot in. Apparently the Goodyear tyres are starting to lose their effectiveness and the car starts to understeer badly.

 

Cevert is on exactly the same compound so one can only assume that Stewart’s car is either set up so differently that it affects them, or that his driving style has something to do with it or that there is a fault in one or more of the tyres themselves. No one from the Tyrrell camp is keen after the race to suggest which alternative is nearest the truth. The bare facts, however, are that on lap 14 Cevert overtakes his team-mate and goes into a lead he is not to lose while Stewart does his utmost to hold off the pursuing bunch who, in turn, starts to slip by. Of these Fittipaldi has made a pit stop with a jamming throttle and after that runs into tyre problems and is never again in the running while Ickx is showing some of his top form and is setting off in chase of Cevert. Stewart is third when lap 20 comes around, Siffert has moved to fourth ahead of Regazzoni and Hulme while Hailwood and Peterson are engaged in a furious battle with Ganley getting a grandstand view of it all from ninth place. Galli has gone when someone throws up a huge rock which puts a bow into a steering arm, dentes the chassis tub and then buries itself in one of the side radiators, while Posey’s race only lasts 15 laps when his engine expires. Pescarolo has slipped down the field after his initial good start and is soon destined to retire with top end trouble in his engine. The racing amongst the first ten is as furious as we have seen it for some time and, although Cevert has a healthy lead, the rest are scratching like mad for every inch of road. As it approaches half-distance the race maintains this pace for Ickx is making a very strong effort to haul in Cevert and undoubtedly seems to be making up ground when lapping back-markers. The advantage of six seconds is gradually chiselled down to two-and-a-half. In another couple of laps we think it would be wheel-to-wheel and Cevert would really carve his name as an ace if he can hold off Ickx. But it just isn’t to be and the Ferrari starts to slip back for the alternator driven from the rear of the gearbox has fallen apart, the battery is providing electricity for the moment but not for long and the engine seems to be leaking oil.

 

HuIme has spun off on the oil and clobbered the Armco, bending the front suspension, and now Siffert is third, Stewart fourth with Peterson, Hailwood and Ganley all urging to pass the Champion. Regazzoni has spun, lost time and with 20 laps remaining re-starts in eighth place. Hill has methodically moved up and just passed Gethin for ninth position. Marko is tenth ahead of Beltoise and this group is about to be lapped. Both Brabham BT33s have retired, Schenken with fuel pressure trouble and Craft with a broken chassis at the rear. Despite his problems Ickx clings gallantly on to second place until ten laps later when the old and tired Ferrari would take no more and he free-wheels into the pits as Siffert passes the start/finish line. Siffert’s second spot is insecure for the B.R.M. is mis-firing at peak revs, and has been doing so for some time. Peterson moves up to third having passed Stewart and loses the shadow of Hailwood who has fallen back with a deflating rear tyre which five laps from the end sends him into a barrier. Ganley moves up to fifth and he too is hard on Stewart’s tail now that the Tyrrell’s tyres are almost through to the canvas. Bonnier runs out of fuel but no one notices. Cevert’s lead is now over 30 sec. despite a brush with a guard-rail which can so easily have spelled disaster but doesn’t. Luck is on the young Frenchman’s side and he reels off those last few laps and when Hopkins brings down the chequered flag Cevert flings both arms high in the air. Siffert’s mis-fire is worse but he is a sound, if a little disappointed, second. Ganley’s great drive almost takes him past Peterson but the slim line B.R.M. is preciously short of fuel and, like Marko has done a lap before him, he comes in for a quick gallon. Parnell waves him on and the gamble pays off for he completes the last lap weaving wildly to pick up the last drop and just holds his fourth place a fine finish to a promising first season. Fifth is Stewart almost catching the B.R.M. while Regazzoni takes sixth spot. A lap behind come Hill, Beltoise, Hobbs and de Adamich who has gone somewhat faster than usual. 

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He heads Amon’s sick Matra, the B.R.M.s of Marko and Cannon while Surtees, Barber, Fittipaldi and Lovely complete those still running. For Ickx there is the consolation of the lap record and a prize of $5.000 that goes with it. Francois Cevert has arrived.

 

Giulia Noto

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