#247 1974 Austrian Grand Prix

2022-08-20 00:00

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#1974, Fulvio Conti,

#247 1974 Austrian Grand Prix

There are quite a lot of changes to the Grand Prix scene in the lower echelons, caused by accident, changes of heart, re-organisations, general muddle


There are quite a lot of changes to the Grand Prix scene in the lower echelons, caused by accident, changes of heart, re-organisations, general muddle and openings for newcomers. With Mike Hailwood still in hospital following his Nurburgring accident the Yardley McLaren team rebuilds the works original spare car, number M23/4, paints it in Yardley colours and employs David Hobbs to drive it. The Hesketh team blossomes out into a two-car affair, with Ian Scheckter, elder brother of the Tyrrell driver, in 308/1 supporting Hunt with 308/3. John Surtees farmes out his car TS16/05 to the Austrian driver Dieter Quester and Graham Hill takes Rolf Stommelen into his Lola team as a temporary replacement for Guy Edwards, whose damaged wrist gets worse instead of better. The Italian-owned Brabham BT42/6 of the Finotto/Bretscher team is hired to the young Austrian Helmut Koinigg while Morris Nunn’s original Ensign MN01 rebuilt and rebodied has Mike Wilds driving it in place of Vern Schuppan, Nunn has split up with Schuppan’s sponsor from Hong Kong, Teddy Yip. Jochen Mass finally splits with Team Surtees and is nowhere to be seen and his place is taken by Jean Pierre Jabouille supporting Derek Bell, while the team’s transporter is covered in sticky tape obliterating all signs of Bang & Olufsen who are sponsoring Team Surtees and who have now come to legal blows. The sad B.R.M. team has reduced themselves to two cars and one driver, Beltoise having P201/02 and P201/03 to play with while Pescarolo and Migault are forced to sit in the sun and wait for the management to sort themselves out.


Among the serious Formula 1 teams all is happiness and bright, with Team Lotus back to a full complement of four cars, both Peterson and Ickx having a Lotus 72 and a Lotus 76 at their disposal, Peterson with 72/R8 rebuilt since its Nurburgring crash with parts from R9 which looks as though it is not going to get completed, and his original JPS/9 brought up to date with the 72 rear suspension. Ickx has his usual 72/R5 and JPS/10 which Peterson has raced at the Nurburgring. The Elf Team Tyrrell are in good form, Scheckter and Depailler having their usual 007 cars and the latest 007/3 with all the latest mods is on hand as a spare. McLaren’s mainstream team of Fittipaldi and Hulme had M23/8 and M23/6 with M23/5 as a spare, all three having the latest form of parallel link rear suspension and 23/8 and 23/5 had plastic skirts hanging down from the monocoque to try and discourage air from getting under the car. The three works Brabham cars are BT44/1 and BT44/2 for the drivers Reutemann and Pace, with BT44/3 as a spare for both of them, while the works-blessed BT44/4 of Hexagon is driven by John Watson. The Ferrari team arrives in confident spirit with three cars, 014 for Regazzoni, 015 for Lauda and 011 the T Car, while in addition they have four spare engines in special carrying frames. Just to confuse things they have rear aerofoils with the vee at the front, others with the vee at the back and yet more with no vee at all. Stuck and Brambilla have their usual works March cars, while Jarier and Pryce have the works Shadows they have been driving all season, with DN3/4A as a communal spare. The Williams cars are driven by Merzario and Laffite, the Trojan by Schenken, the Token by Ashley and Kinnunen has his Finnish sponsored Surtees TS16/01.


In superb weather conditions practice takes place on Friday and Saturday in three-hour sessions, with a half-hour break midway to collect any broken down cars. The results are pretty simple for the Brabham team are on top form, their drivers and cars more suited to the circuit than anyone else, and Reutemann is fastest in both parts of Friday practice, while Pace is fastest in the first part of Saturday practice. Almost as the last gasp on Saturday Lauda just manages to snatch pole position away from Reutemann, while Fittipaldi gets between the two Brabhams, but at the expense of a blown-up engine. Team Lotus does not seem to know whether they are coming or going and when a 72 is right a 76 is wrong and vice-versa, neither of the drivers getting very impressive results. The elder Scheckter is cruising round feeling his way along in the Hesketh when the engine blows up in a big way, which ends his first day’s practice before it has really begun and the Ferrari team are not setting the pace like they usually do. Lauda’s engine brakes very violently and the car is towed in during the interval and he then goes out in the spare car in the second session. By the end of the day nobody is going as fast as they expected, a lot of people are frustrated by fuel vaporisation due to the intense heat and very few drivers are content with their car’s handling, the biggest complaint being a tendency to understeer off the road on the fast downhill corners, which is a fairly natural thing for a car to want to do. Reutemann is undisputed fastest, with Scheckter next, followed by Hunt and Fittipaldi and then the two Ferraris. If anything it is even hotter on Saturday, as practice starts at midday once more, and among the also-rans there is a lot of scuffling and panic for only twenty-five of the thirty-one aspiring aces are allowed to start.


Lauda is back in his proper Ferrari with a new engine installed, and Ian Scheckter is ready to try again. Pryce is in the spare Shadow, Jarier used it the day before, and Beltoise is still playing with the two B.R.M.s. Fittipaldi’s McLaren is wearing its plastic skirt away as it rubbed on the ground under braking, and Laffite loses a lot of time while a drive shaft is replaced on his Williams car. Pryce goes off the road in the spare Shadow and crinkles it beyond further use, and Wilds is in trouble with the Ensign as its Cosworth engine would not run on eight cylinders. Due to the heat part of the road surface in the braking area of the final bend on the circuit is deteriorating and Regazzoni goes out of line and off into the fences damaging the front of his Ferrari slightly, and Wilds loses the Ensign and damages it quite badly. Hunt’s gearbox broke a bearing which let the gears chew themselves up and Bell and Jabouille are in engine trouble with the works Surtees cars. The McLaren team are dripping oil from every corner as first Hulme’s engine blows up in a big way, then Fittipaldi’s speeds out all its oil and Hulme then has the spare car wreck its engine. It is amidst all this trouble that Lauda is credited with the fastest lap of the meeting, gaining him pole position on the grid with Reutemann alongside him. Laffite earns an A-for-effort with his position alongside Watson on row six and Ickx got a B-for-black with his position on row eleven alongside Graham Hill. There are no real surprises among the non-qualifiers. The only unusual thing on the starters list is that Ickx decides to drive the Lotus 76 in place of the Lotus 72, feeling that the modified 1974 car gives him feel, though it is not very fast.


Whereas practice is hold at the heat of midday the race is due to start at 3:00 p.m. when the sun is more civilised, though still very hot. Ickx is very late in leaving the pits as the fuel pressure on JPS/10 is much too high, and the relief valve has to change, and when Laffite finishes his warm-up lap he feels there is something wrong with a front tyre. While his mechanics are changing it the small centre retaining nut jammed on its thread and the car is wheeled back into the pits to have the nut chiselled off. This left 24 cars on the grid, and in the acceleration match away from the line Reutemann’s Brabham out-drags Lauda’s Ferrari and leads away up the hill. The Argentinian leads the opening lap with Lauda, Pace, Regazzoni, Hunt and Scheckter hard after him. Regazzoni quickly moves into third place behind his team-mate and Reutemann is then hounded by the two red cars. It is something of a high-speed procession with Lauda’s Ferrari closing up on the Brabham under braking at the end of the top straight, but losing out on acceleration and through the mid-field swerves. Regazzoni is firmly in third place with a long line of nervous drivers back-pedalling a bit so as not to get too close to him, so that the overall race speed is not unduly high. Pryce calls in at his pit after three laps with a misfire, and has the ignition unit changed and Graham Hill is in after nine laps in trouble with his front tyres. Scheckter disappears quietly on this lap when his engine tightened up, passing Pace for fourth place. Hunt is in the pits on lap 13 for a left front tyre change and Watson does likewise two laps later. All this time Reutemann is unruffled in first place but the red car behind him changes, for on lap 13 it is Regazzoni in his mirrors for Lauda is slowing as his engine goes off song.


He struggles round until lap 16 when he calls at the pits and after a bit of fiddling with the ignition unit he does one more lap and then retires. The engine develops valve trouble and that is it. At this point Laffite joins the race, after the offending wheel nut is cut off and a new one fits and from then on he has a non-stop and fast drive, losing only one lap to the race leader in the remainder of the 54 laps. It is a performance that would almost certainly have netted him seventh place had he started with the rest of the field. At 20 laps, Reutemann’s situation is unchanged, his lead being in no danger, while Regazzoni is a firm second, with Fittipaldi, Peterson and Pace following. Then come Depailler, Hulme and Ickx with Brambilla doing well to keep pace with them, and then the odds and ends, with Hunt and Watson fighting their way through them making up for their pit stops. Pryce spins off the track and can not get started again, Merzario gives up with a loss of fuel pressure, Beltoise disappears out on the circuit with engine trouble and Reutemann continues his domination of the scene holding a two second lead over Regazzoni. Behind the swarthy Swiss, Fittipaldi, Peterson and Pace are very close, but no-one is making an attempt to do any overtaking of the Ferrari. At 38 laps Fittipaidi drops out of the race when his engine brakes, and at 40 laps the scene in Reutemann’s mirrors becomes very pleasant for Pace who passes Peterson and with Fittipaldi’s disappearance he tales third place, and now passes the Ferrari. Peterson also passes the red car so obviously something is wrong, and then Reutemann sees the black and gold Lotus in his mirrors, with no sign of his team-mate. After holding second place for only two laps the unfortunate Carlos Pace is coasted to a stop with a fuel leak.


Now a long way behind, Ickx passes Hulme and is close behind Depailler, and the Frenchman is getting very tired and making mistakes. On lap 43 he gets sideways on in the midfield swerves and while trying to correct the car goes the wrong way and Ickx hits the Tyrrell amid-ships eliminating them both from the race, the Lotus limping back to the pits. On the next lap Regazzoni is into the pits to have his left rear tyre changed and the Ferrari team makes a complete nonsense of the job, losing him valuable time. At 45 laps Reutemann has 6.5 seconds lead over Peterson with Hulme in third place a long way behind, followed by Hunt, Brambilla and Watson. From the start Reutemann has an ever-changing scene in his mirrors and once more it changes, this time to no-one in sight at all, for Peterson’s Lotus brakes a universal joint in a rear driveshaft and the Swede slides gently off the track and out of sight. This is on lap 46 and for the first time the Argentinian could relax a little, apart from the knowledge that Hulme is in second place more than half a minute behind. Although the Brabham BT44 is running perfectly Reutemann is worried that something is going to break for he had been in this position in the Argentine Grand Prix and Hulme had coasted home the winner when the Brabham failed in the last miles. This time all is well and a very relieved Reutemann takes the chequered flag and stops almost immediately from sheer relief, rather than keep going on a cooling-down lap. After his pit-stop Regazzoni rejoines the race with renewed vigour and chases after Watson, but the Irishman is going well and is not to be caught, actually passing Brambilla with three laps to go, and Regazzoni catches the March driver on the penultimate lap to snatch fifth place. The huge crowd, estimated at around 150.000, is obviously badly cheated, the Austrian fans by the failure of Lauda, the Swiss fans by the failure of Regazzoni and the Italians by the failure of Ferrari. 



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