#239 1974 Spanish Grand Prix

2022-08-28 00:00

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#1974, Fulvio Conti,

#239 1974 Spanish Grand Prix

Practice is held on Friday and Saturday before the race and many of the lesser lights did their best to eliminate themselves from the competition by h


Practice is held on Friday and Saturday before the race and many of the lesser lights did their best to eliminate themselves from the competition by having a variety of accidents, while some of the cars tried to destroy themselves, but hardworking mechanics keep slogging away and the charging pace looks the same throughout the two days. From the word go the Ferrari team is in a formidable and confident mood and on the Thursday evening, while many teams were finishing off their new cars, or getting others ready for the first practice, the Ferrari team were paying social visits to the paddock garages in their best suits, watching the activity of the others. As soon as practice get's under way Niki Lauda is setting the pace in a brand new 312B3 Ferrari, with Regazzoni not far behind. The destruction-derby starts with von Opel, replacing Robarts in the Ecclestone Brabham team, having his engine spray oil all over the place and Brambilla spinning off on it and damaging the second of the works March 741 cars. Hulme finds himself understeering off the track on a fast uphill left hand bend, and on his way to hitting the guard-rail he run over a flag marshal who was doing his best to warn drivers about von Opel’s oil and Brambilla’s slight excursion off course. Hulme came to rest against the guard-rail with the right front corner of his McLaren sadly bent. After a few minutes practice resumed and the New Zealander carried on in the spare McLaren while the other one is under sourgery with mechanics all around. Unfortunately for Graham Hill’s his Lola HU2 wreck it's engine so he's forced to continue in the team’s spare car, while Migault’s P160 B.R.M. also broke its engine, but there ain't no spare car in the Bourne team and the Frenchman will be forced to sit and watch for the rest of the day while another engine will be installed in his car.


During the second practice session on the Friday, Ickx is seeing his activities with JPS/10 curtailed when second gear in the Hewland gearbox broke, and Lotus hopes rose when Peterson got JPS/9 round faster than Lauda’s Ferrari, though the new Lotus was by no means going to the satisfaction of Colin Chapman. The short, sharp sessions of practice did not encourage anything very startling in the way of experiments, added to which most drivers are glazed over with their obsession to get on the front row of the two-by-two grid, regardless of whether the car is good, bad or indifferent. This applied only to the top handful who will be capable of a front row position anyway, others are either flogging round hopefully, or trying to learn about Formula One driving, or trying to get brand new cars to function properly. Hunt, with the latest of the Hesketh cars, is not convinced about the braking power of some experimental grooved discs on the front brakes, though the whole car felt nicer than the prototype, but he's of the same opinion as designer Postlethwaite, that the Jarama circuit is not their idea of Grand Prix racing. Another luke-warm aspirant is Hailwood who has no love for scratchy circuits, with first and second gear being constantly in use. However, some of the new boys who have yet to experience everything, like Stuck and Jarier are sliding round the hairpins on full opposite lock and their foot hard on the throttle pedal. Many drivers are finding that the only bit of fun they could have was coming out of the last corner, a downhill right-hander, onto the pits straight, for there they could let the car slide up and over the bevelled kerb while heading downhill. At one point it looked as though they are indulging in a private competition to see who could get their car furthest out of line as it came into sight of the pits.


Peterson was way ahead of everyone in this game, at one point getting all four wheels well beyond the white bevelled kerb, and when questioned about it by Lotus designer Ralph Bellemy, the Swede in all sincerity deny any knowledge of going over a kerb-the ultimate in being glazed over when driving. Scheckter is getting along quite well with the brand new Tyrrell 007, but on Saturday his efforts are coming to a stop when the strap-drive arrangement on the left-front inboard brake broke all its little connecting plates. A similar failure to that experienced in 1973 on earlier cars. The South African will continue his practice in the spare car. The two Ferraris are so dominating in the front of the field, with the exception of sudden inspired spurts by Peterson, that the real competition is among those at the back to avoid being last. Amon’s new car is not making very exciting progress, and even though the air temperature is nothing to get excited about his car is overheating and needing to run without any bodywork shrouds over its side-mounted radiators. While practice is at its height the orange March 741 of Brambilla goes straight on at the end of the long straight and into the strategically placed wire catch fences. The rugged Italian climbed out unhurt but the March had broken its hack and it's a write-off. After a delay to re-erect the wire fences practice restarted but two more cars are off on the same corner, this time with less disastrous results. Beltoise dented the front of the P201 B.R.M. and Depaillier made a bit of a mess of Tyrrell 005. Look like the destruction derby is not over yet today. This time Migault goes off the track in spectacular fashion and writing off three of the four corners of his P160 B.R.M. While Depaillier is not too sure why he went off, both the B.R.M. drivers were simple and honest about their efforts, telling their team-manager we were trying too hard.


Although it meant a lot of extra work for the mechanics, to say nothing of the cost of the bits and pieces, there is a feeling that at least they're having a bit of a go, which is better than trailing along in an uninspired fashion like some drivers. With Brambilla out of the list of possible starters, as there's no chance of repairing the March, the numbers is down to 27 and , as we're into the last part of official practice everyone goes out in a frenzy and there is so much traffic on the tight little circuit that everyone is in everyone else’s way, and hardly anyone will have a clear run for a lap. Consequently it is all a rather fruitless waste of time, and prompted the thought that such circumstances really do call for individual timed runs, in Indianapolis fashion. The whole thing is so confusing and silly that it isn't much fun to watch and it is positively frustrating for those drivers who got anything at stake. As the session ends it is Edwards (Lola) and Belso (Williams) who are left behind, though to look at the B.R.M. of Migault it seemed that he too was going to be left behind, with Edwards taking his place. However, the B.R.M. team emptied their stock of parts and were able to make the car like new, apart from an unimportant dent or two in the monocoque, and on Sunday morning Migault will have a complete car once more. The damage to the P201 was very slight, and it was due to have parts of the steering and suspension changed anyway, as a routine precaution on this new car. The Ferrari team more or less washed and polished their cars and stood around admiring them, so little trouble had they given, while in opposition Team Lotus hardly knew which way to turn. Although Peterson will be on the front row of the grid, alongside Lauda, the two days of practice had been pretty fraught, the problems ranging from a duff brake master cylinder to a split exhaust manifold.


It's Sunday and the scene was sheer misery, with rain falling steadily and the sandy soil around the circuit turning into a muddy porridge. Some untimed practice are allowed, which are surely useful for the Tyrrell team, for Scheckter has he's going to start in the repaired 007 with new parts arrived from England in a quick return-flight by Ken Tyrrell’s son, and Depaillier is taking over the spare car 006/2, while his bent 005 is abandoned in the box. Migault and Beltoise have an opportunity to try their rebuilt cars. Edwards have the chance to try his car out as first-reserve, but  the engine blow up, so there is now a mad rush to get the spare car organised for him, in case anyone should miss the start. The starting grid shows the overall results of the two days of practice, there being three real competitors in the 1'18"0 bracket, a whole bunch of mixed fortunes in the 1'19"0 bracket, a miscellaneous group in the 1'20"0 bracket, and the tail-end Charlies in the 1'21"0 bracket, and had it been a fine sunny day we could have anticipated four separate races. With the rain still falling as the cars are coming out of the pits for some warm-up laps prior to forming up on the dummy-grid, prospects are pretty gloomy, everyone having fitted the deepest and knobbliest tread tyres that either Goodyear or Firestone could supply. From the fall of the flag Peterson shot into the lead, with Lauda and Regazzoni pounding after him, spray and confusion obliterating the whole scene to most observers. Out of the gloom at the end of the first lap came the black and gold Lotus of Peterson, followed by the red and white Ferraris of Lauda and Regazzoni, with Ickx, Fittipaldi, Scheckter, Merzario, Reutemann, Hunt, Jarier, Hulme and the rest following. All official 25 starters have left the line, so Edwards did not get a run, though on lap three the number is reduced to 24 as Beltoise retired with a broken engine in the new B.R.M. Everyone is pussy-footing round, being extremely cautious and little groups of three cars began to assemble from the first lap procession, apart from Stuck, in mid-field who's passing anyone in sight.


Peterson and the two Ferraris lead the way, then came Ickx, Fittipaldi and Scheckter, then Merzario, Reutemann and Jarier, followed by Hulme, Hunt, Stuck and Mass and the others, with von Opel, Migault and Amon bringing up the rear. In the mid-field Redman is forcing his black Shadow past people until he catch Hailwood. The two of them indulged in a spirited little scrap for fourteenth place. while Reutemann is not enjoying the wet conditions as he's spinning off, taking also a long time to get back on the track. The argentinian driver trailed miserably into the pits and gave up. After 10 laps looks like some of the spray is settling and the picture is clearing up a bit, with Peterson still firmly in the lead and looking fairly comfortable, with Lauda keeping him in sight. Regazzoni had dropped back a bit, and Ickx is in a lonely fourth place. Fittipaldi is loosing fifth place to Scheckter, but looks like McLaren had wetted a plug on the starting line and is on seven cylinders, it was not mattering too much in the opening scramble, but now that things are settling down and the loss of one cylinder is proving a severe handicap, even though the track is still slippery. Merzario in the new Williams car is leading the mid-field runners, a fair way back from the leading group, and he have Hulme, Jarier, Stuck, Hunt and Mass following him, with Hailwood and Redman scrapping away behind them. For the record the remainder of the runners went by in the order, Depaillier, Pace, Watson, Schenken, Pescarolo, von Opel (who's losing oil), Hill, Migault and Amon, the last two having been lapped by the leaders. Hulme disappeared into the pints after 11 laps to enquire about something that he's feel scraping on the ground at the back of his McLaren, and as there is nothing obviously amiss the suspension units were screwed up to give him more ground clearance and he rejoin the race. On the fourteenth lap Jarier is lapping Migault’s B.R.M. by diving through on the inside of an hairpin when his fellow country-man carved across in front of the Shadow and ran over its long protruding nose, making it flatter than normal, so that Jarier had to stop for repairs.


The oil coming out of the back of von Open’s Brabham is from a split cooler, caused by a nudge up the back by someone in the opening melee, and he retires at the same time as Jarier is having his new nose cowling fitted. The leaders are already lapping the mid-field runners and, in doing so, the traffic got faster and heavier,  Peterson is delayed a bit, which allowed the pursuing Ferrari to close up, but it's only temporary. After 17 laps the rain seems to stop and the track is now drying incredibly quickly. First to be conscious of this and the likely outcome of overcrowding in the pits when everyone realized that a change to dry-weather tyres would be called for, is the March team, who promptly called Hans Stuck in from his eight place and quickly changed all four wheels, but even so it dropped him to the back of the field. Then Watson is in, followed by Amon, Regazzoni and then chaos broke loose as everyone heading for the pits to change over to dry-weather tyres. As Peterson eased off to prepare to stop Lauda took the lead, and when he's called in Ickx led for a brief moment, before it was his turn to stop for slick tyres. The ensuing confusion in the pits, recorded elsewhere, is playing havoc with the pattern of the race, but sharp and clear was the fact that the two Ferraris are now firmly in the first and second places, with no-one within striking distance. Peterson is no where near the two Ferrari's. That's because his Cosworth engine had been losing water, and shortly after he rejoined the race on dry-weather tyres the engine blew up and we can see him returning to the pits by his feet. Also Amon is force to retire as a front-brake shaft broke and he nearly lost control of his new car, while Migault’s B.R.M. engine blew up and left him out of the race. Mass have the Hewland gearbox on his Surtees break second gear and jam everything in fourth gear, so he also have no option but to retire. Merzario crashed in a spectacular manner and, just a few laps later Graham Hill goes quietly out of the picture with a broken Cosworth engine.


It's his team’s third broken power unit at the meeting. The rest of the runners are driving madly round and round wondering exactly where they are in the race. Because it had looked as through the whole race was going to be run in pouring rain, and the scheduled ninety laps would have taken more time than today’s professionals are paid to work, the rule book allowed the race to be run for two hours. Consequently the only thing anyone knows now is how many more minutes are left to run, for in the confusion of the pit stops most teams lost control of the patterns of the race. While the two Ferraris are circulating sounding fit and healthy, their first and second places being beyond doubt, it's gradually becoming clear that Fittipaldi is making relentless progress, for during his tyre change stop the wetted sparking plug had been changed, his rear anti-roll bar coupled up and he is in good form. Stuck is well placed by reason of not getting involved in any of the pit stop chaos, and Hulme seems to be going well now that the track is dry. Hunt is having a miserable time as his Hesketh is running out of front brakes, and he can no longer join in the uninhibited racing that is taking place amongst most of those still in the race, but not knowing exactly where they were, and towards the end of the two hours Stuck is forced to ease off as a front tyre starts to lose pressure. As the chequered flag comes out and the two hours were up everyone lifted off and relaxed waiting for timekeepers to officialize the results. They came out with some quite reasonable and acceptable results, in which everyone is fairly well satisfied. However, it's not quite clear how Redman lost a whole lap on Hulme, nor is it quite clear how Hulme was so well placed after having made two pit stops to most people’s one, but as everyone had enjoyed themselves the whole situation is accepted philosophically, the only blot on most people’s landscape being the complete domination by the Ferrari team; with first and second places, and fastest lap, and with only two cars you can’t improve on that. 


Among the finishers Depaillier and Schenken are not too impressed with their cars, but afterwards it was found that the Tyrrell had got a broken coil spring on the left-rear suspension, and the Trojan had got a broken rear anti-roll bar mounting. In addition Schenken was having trouble making his clutch free, and when he spun on the last lap, trying to out-do Pescarolo, he stalled the engine and could not restart, but as the two hours were up he was classified a finisher.


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