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#240 1974 Belgian Grand Prix

2022-08-27 01:00

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#1974,

#240 1974 Belgian Grand Prix

The Belgian round in the World Championship series is taking place on the Nivelles-Baulers Autodrome, south of Bruxelles and the scene is almost ident

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The Belgian round in the World Championship series is taking place on the Nivelles-Baulers Autodrome, south of Bruxelles and the scene is almost identical to that in Spain, reported in detail elsewhere in this issue. Missing from the lists is Chris Amon with his own car, while added to it is Tom Pryce with the neat Token car designed by Ray Jessop, Teddy Pilette with a works Brabham BT42 on loan, Leo Kinnunen with the first of the 1974 Surtees TS16 cars, Gerard Larrousse with the two 1973 Brabhams owned by Moser’s Bretscher sponsored team, and Vern Schuppan with Morris Nunn’s Ensign, now supported by Theodore Yip from Hong Kong, and painted orange. Frank Williams has replaced Tom Belso with Gijs van Lennep in his second car, otherwise the rest are in their usual paces, making a total of 32 drivers. On the mechanical front Tyrrell produced the second car of his 007 series, which is now available for Depaillier , Lotus still have last year’s 72/R8 standing by, March have rebuilt their orange car for Brambilla, Ferrari have their second pair of cars, 011 and 012 with 010 as the hack, BRM replaced Migault’s car with an earlier one, P160/05, while Hill’s Lola team will have no spare this time, the latest car has been sand back to Huntingdon to be uprated! There is an all-time record of 41 cars in the paddock, though not all of them are going to be used, but Brabham’s had to use their spare as Reutemann damaged BT44/1 on the first day of practice, and Regazzoni damaged 011 Ferrari on the same day and used the spare until his own was repaired, and March had to bend 741/1 straight after Stuck tried to destroy it. During the week before the event began officially, two days were set aside for testing, and most teams took advantage of this, but they did not seem to have learnt very much judging by the state of things at the beginning of this qualifying session.
 
Most people’s plans are thrown into confusion as the track is still damp after some heavy rain, we'll if there's going to be any chance for anyone to try slicks tyres before the end of the session. A lot of teams have the wrong driver in the wrong car on the wrong tyres with the wrong suspension and aerodynamic settings at the wrong time, so that the results of the first day of practice did not have a lot of similarity with reality. Things looks better on the second day as it is dry and fine and everyone is whizzling round and round, those at the front setting the pace with laps below the old record of 1'12"12 and those at the back trying not to get left behind, for while there is no limit on the number of starters the odds and sods had to put in a lap not longer than 110% of the average of the three best times, and this i keeping everyone on their toes. There is quite a scratch going on among the leading lights to break the 1'11"0 barrier and Merzario stirred things up by getting closest for quite a time. While Lauda and Fittipaldi are battling away solidly, with Peterson having flashes of inspiration when Team Lotus could get his new car to function properly, Scheckter suddenly appeared amongst them and then broke the barrier, But things are thrown into confusion as an official statement says that Regazzoni managed to go below 1'10"0. A lot of drivers felt they are wasting their time, while the Ferrari team shrugged as if to say: If that’s the way the Belgians want it, who are we to complain? The starting-grid order that is finally published bore some resemblance to reality, A-for-Effort going to Merzario, Stuck, Depaillier, Schuppan and Pryce, while G-for-Gloom goes to Ickx and Reutemann, neither of whom got off the ground throughout the whole meeting.
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The start is incredibly neat and clean, the whole pack surging away up the straight towards the long right-hand curve at the end. Had it been Formula Three or Formula Ford there would have been an almighty accident in the middle of the corner, but because everyone had 450 b.h.p. Formula One cars it is all very exciting and breath-taking and safe, as Regazzoni and Fittipaldi led the 31 strong field round behind the paddock. Only three laps and it look like the scene is splitting up into three races, one for those who are, one for those who have, and one for those that never will. The first group consisting of six cars nose to tail, pressing hard on one another, in the order Regazzoni (Ferrari), Fittipaldi (McLaren), Scheckter (Tyrrell), Lauda (Ferrari), Peterson (Lotus) and Hunt (Hesketh). Then we have Pace (Surtees), Depaillier (Tyrrell), Beltoise (B.R.M.), Hailwood (McLaren) and the rest. Stuck overdid his clutch slip at the start and was last on the opening lap, but he's  charging through the tail-enders .Unlucky for him, after six laps,  the clutch give up the unequal struggle. Depaillier is passing Pace trying valiantly to catch the leading sextet, leaving the rest behind him, so that he's one of the few drivers to run a lonely race. Lauda put Scheckter behind him, and he's now right behind Fittipaldi, but that's the only change to the picture, for the funny little Nivelles Autodrome does not offer much opportunity for passing, unless you can suddenly find another 50 horse-power at the beginning of the straight. For 24 laps it's stale-mate, though good to watch for the leading six are hammering on hard and none is letting up. As we're entering Lap 25 they lapped the first of the tail-enders and a new dimension came into their race, for slow-moving chicanes now being introduced onto the circuit and high-speed traffic driving and judgement and perception are about to play a big part as well as normal steering skill. From the general run of competitors odd ones had dropped out or made pit stops, Reutemann has changed front tyres, Pescarolo retired when he got elbowed off into the barriers, and Pace lost the air from a rear tyre when the split-rim wheel leaked.

 

The leaders are lappeing Migault and the tempo changed slightly, for Lauda is held up and he's losing contact with Fittipaldi’s McLaren and Scheckter is also taking advantage of the situation, overtaking the austrian. On Lap 33 the swinging sextet is all fouled up with a whole bunch of slower cars and the rhythm of the race is slowing down too. Regazzoni still leading with Fittipaldi right behind, then there is a small gap to Scheckter who's having Lauda right behind, and then another small gap to Peterson and Hunt. They are now catching up with more and more traffic, and it's not going quite as slowly as the real tail-end Charlies and on Lap 39 it happened. Regazzoni makes a slight error of judgement, as regards what another driver was going to do, and he's boxed in as Fittipaldi and Lauda are going through on the other side, Lauda already having jumped Schekcter in the traffic just before this. Peterson is disappearing into the pits at the end of Lap 38 with his front tyres changed for some that he hoped would grip better. The sextet is now reduced to a quintet as the dust of the overtaking scrimmage settled. In the order we have Fittipaldi, Lauda, Regazzoni, Scheckter and Hunt, with Depaillier next along on his lonely drive keeping well ahead of the rest. Hailwood is forcing his way clear of the midway miscellany and he's going well, but a spin at the hairpin puts him back among his old race-mates once again. Hunt spins off onto the grass with a ball-joint on the right-rear suspension of his Hesketh broken and the corner collapsed. That's the end of the race for him , after 46 laps. In the leading group stale-mate has returned as we are on lap 50 and Fittipaldi is leading Lauda, followed by Regazzoni leading Scheckter. Lap 54 and Depaillier is in the pits, but it's not just a pit stop for him, as the well-known Tyrrell brake problem - a broken strap drive on the left-front inoard brake - force him to retire. The midfield-miscellany is dwindled a bit and now with Beltoise in the 1974 B.R.M. ahead of Hulme, Hailwood and Jarier. Their situation is suffering the same stale-mate as the leaders. Team Lotus are excelling themselves once more, with both their new cars in the pits together with a variety of troubles including brakes being bled, fuel leaks, oil leaks and tyre indecisions, as well as a spot of over-heating for luck.

 

While the leading four cars cruising round and round, Hailwood is getting all worked up at the sight of the rival sponsor’s McLaren in front of him, and he went by on Lap 69. Jarier is equally inspired and follows Hailwood along. Schuppan had been having a good run on his first try with Ensign, almost avoiding being lapped by the leaders, but now he's car is going real slow. Looks like his fuel system went on the blink and refused to pick up from the left-hand tank, so he's forced to stop to take on petrol and Pryce is having the same trouble with the Token. While he's spluttering his way back to the pits Scheckter ran over him with the result that the Tyrrell now have large grinch on its right rear wheel and the Token a broken top wishbone on the left front corner. While some are having fuel system problems, probably caused by the excess of right-hand centrifugal force over left-hand on the circuit, others are having tyre troubles, among them being Watson, whose front tyres are so badly out of balance and he's forced to stop for a change. That drop him further down the results than he should have ben. With five laps to go Jarier’s Shadow suffered from fuel starvation and a certain sixth place is lost while he's stopping in the pits for a top up. With three laps to go Hailwood' hard-earned fifth place disappears. His McLaren suffered the dreaded fuel starvation and he could only creep along hoping to finish, while Beltoise and Hulme go by again. On the very last lap Regazzoni is also suffering of the Nivelles disease, only this time there was no technical reason, the Ferrari simply ran out of petrol and, as it coughed and spluttered, Scheckter get's up into third place. Since Lap 39 Lauda has been behind Fittipaldi and it is difficult to see how true situation is going to change on the last lap. Fittipaldi is coming down to the finishing line and lifted off a fraction early and Lauda is right alongside him but didn't make it for just 0.35 seconds! So all was well for the brazilian sponsors. The final results did not reflect the true picture of the race, for Regazzoni, Hailwood, Watson, Jarier and Schuppan did much better than the figures would imply, while Pilette lost most of his 4 laps by continual pit-stops with a variety of troubles. Regularity and consistency paid off for Hill, Brambilla and Schenken.

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Luca Flaminio


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