I RATE THE Nurburg Ring and the Targa Florio as the two most interesting and difficult circuits in Europe. They are both hard on the cars and are also extremely challenging to the drivers. Nurburgring, which is a picturesque circuit with trees along the road and the ruins of an old castle high up on a hill, is only 15 miles around, with about 150 turns compared with the Targa's 45 miles and 770 turns, but the surface is much better, the road is wider and it is consequently much faster. I had driven at the Spa circuit in Belgium, the week before, however, and as it was comparatively smooth and flat, the Nurburg Ring felt very rough when I got out on it again. For transportation between races I had rented a Mercedes 220 before Spa so I used it again as a practice car. Now I understand why some of the rental cars you get in Europe seem so clapped out.
As this was my first time back at the Ring since last season, I was curious as to 'how much of the' circuit I would remember. Surprisingly, I found I remembered the circuit almost exactly-even the braking and shut-off points. At the Ring these reference points are very important, for if you misjudge one turn, you usually don't get a second chance. You find yourself sitting in a tree or lying in the woods.
We had the same two Shelby-American Cobra Daytona coupes we had run at Spa. These were being run and managed by Alan Mann, a young Englishman who owns Alan Mann Racing, Limited, and who would be taking care of the Cobras during this year's championship races. Alan also brought along a Cobra roadster to use 'as a test car and as a spare if we needed it. In one coupe, the drivers would be Jack Sears from England and Frank Gardner, on loan from the Willment team, while Jochen Neerpasch and I would be in the other. Neerpasch drove with me here last year in the roadster and goes very quickly without being hard on the car. He does a lot of racing at the Ring and also acts as a driving instructor for a school that is held there twice a year. So he knows the circuit really well.
Official practice for the 1000-km race starts on Thursday before the Sunday when the race is held. This gives everybody a chance to crash or wear the car out and still get it rebuilt in time for the race. On the first day, Alan Mann gave each of us four laps at reduced rpm because both cars had been, fitted with new engines since Spa. Using 5000 rpm, I turned a 9 min 48 sec lap, and the others went between 9:56 and 10 min. .
The cars rode very hard this first day and it was decided to remove one leaf from the rear springs. This seemed to make a new car out of it the next day when each driver did two sets of three practice laps each. This time Alan told us we could go to 6000 rpm in the gears and 6500 on the up and downhill straight. The lap record for GT cars at the Ring was set last year by Mike Parkes in a Ferrari GTO at 9 min 37 sec. In the Cobra roadster last year, I'd gone 9:39. During this second day's practice sessions, Jack Sears turned a 9:36 and his co-driver Gardner was a bit slower as he was still sorting the car and himself out on the circuit. My co-driver Neerpasch did a 9:38, which was excellent considering that he hadn't even sat in a Cobra since the Tour de France rally last year. -Then I went out to do my three hot laps. My standing lap was 9:26, my second lap was 9:21 and. on the third lap I got around in 9:18.5, a new GT class record.
It's always interesting to a driver to see the expression of his pit crew when he comes in. It's even more interesting to watch the expression of the team manager, because he's either partly pleased and partly displeased ("Please, you went quick, but don't wear the car, out.") or plenty displeased (because you didn't go quick and yet the telltale reads 7000). .
So I thought I'd probably done a pretty quick lap when I came into the pits and found a smile on Alan Mann's face along with the comment about not wearing the car out. My mechanic was grinning from ear to ear, as was his helper and the mechanics' on Sears' car as well. Neerpasch was happy, Sears and Gardner both congratulated me, and I could hardly believe that I'd done a 9:18.5: I felt about ten feet tall.
We tested both Goodyear and Firestone tires in practice at the Nurburg Ring. During the first series of tests I went three seconds a lap quicker on Firestones. The Goodyears we were testing were their new rain tires and this was the first time we'd tried them. On the third day of practice it was decided that we would do a more lengthy series of tests on the two tires. These were to be done on the Cobra roadster in order to save the coupes for the race.
In the morning each of us was sent out to do a certain number of laps on each set of tires. We were told to go as fast as we felt safe. Then we were asked to give our, impressions of the tires before we saw our lap times. Which is the only way to get a true comparison.
I managed a 9 min 32 sec lap, which was seven seconds quicker than I had gone last year in the same car. I think this 7 -sec improvement was partly due to better tires and partly to my having more experience on the circuit. As for the tires, all of us felt better on Firestones, although they were only two to four seconds a lap quicker than the Goodyears. And in a IS-mile lap, that isn't very much. After the tests were over, Alan Mann decided we would use the Firestones for the nice, mainly because it looked like rain and the new Goodyears were thus far untried in the wet.
During the three days of practice, four cars had been written off and many more had been bent, had broken engines, gearboxes and so on. John Surtees, who seems to be the master of the Ring in both Formula I and sports cars, set a new lap- record of 8:53.1 in a P2 Ferrari. Two more Ferraris were second and third fastest, then there was Phil Hill in one of the Ford GT-40s at 9:00.2, followed by Ronnie Bucknum and Chris Amon in the other Ford GT-40. Our Daytona coupe, which was the fastest GT car with my 9:18.5 lap, was the 15th fastest qualifier overall.
Le Mans StartThe 1000 km race at the Nurburg Ring begins at 9:00 A.M. with a Le Mans start. Last year I had made the mistake of fastening my seat belt before I took off, which cost me a lot of time. This year I didn't want that to happen again, so I concentrated on what I was going to do when the flag fell. Saturday night I stayed awake for about an hour going over the procedure in my mind. I did it over and over until I was satisfied with the procedure I thought would work best, then I slept like a baby. When I got out to the circuit the morning of the race, I did four practice starts to check out my procedure and it seemed to work all right.
- When the countdown was over and the German flag dropped, I ran like hell, got to the car, jumped in, fired up and was the first car to pull away. As we were lined up by qualifying time and I was 15th in line, I had a lot of ground to make up trying to be the first car into the first turn. I didn't quite make it, but I was fourth in the first turn just behind Amon's Ford GT-40, Mike Parkes' Ferrari and the leader, Surtees. Phil Hill was just behind me going like crazy, and finally went tearing by. I held off Mairesse's Ferrari and Bandini's Dino for three laps and then let them by and settled down to lap at 9 min 30 sec.
For the next few laps, everything was peaceful. Then as I came around the small Karussel, I saw the Radford Team Cobra roadster piled into the embankment. Several laps later I came over a rise and saw Phil Hill's Ford GT parked off the right side of the road and Phil walking back to the pits. A few more laps and I saw Graham Hill's P2 Ferrari parked at the end of the straight.
Meanwhile, my Cobra was working beautifully. The engine sounded great, there was good oil pressure, normal temperatures, fuel pressure and so on. According to my pit signals, we were well ahead of the second-place Cobra, which was the Sears/ Gardner coupe. They were having a battle with the Ford France Daytona coupe driven by Jo Schlesser and Andre Simon. At the end of my first stint in the car, I told Neerpasch where I thought it was best to go fast and best to go slow and he took off.
Everything stayed about the same for us during Neerpasch's turn in the car, then he came in, said everything was working fine and I went back out. On my fourth lap, I suddenly noticed there wasn't any oil pressure. I quickly checked the oil and water temperature. They were normal. I kept a close check on everything for the next two or three laps. Nothing else seemed to be wrong. The oil temperature stayed normal, as did the water temp. So I wrote the trouble off to a faulty gauge and carried on.
The next thing I knew, the tach wasn't working. When that happens, you have to drive by the exhaust note, which, by now, I was used to. A little later the tach started to work again, then it quit altogether.
By now, the Nurburg Ring was starting to show its effect on the ill-prepared and there were eight or ten cars parked along the road around the circuit.
Watching the Spectators
As you settle down to a steady lap time in a long race like this, you begin to notice the spectators around the circuit. Spectators are allowed to camp on the grounds at the Nurburg Ring, so there are hundreds of orange and blue tents and these add to the color as you drive around the course. The spectators are a varied lot. Some of them sit stony-eyed, not looking at anything; others are busy eating. Others will wave to you and will wave lap after lap if you wave back. Some of them cheer and wave you on when you're catching another car and this is one way to tell how close you are getting before you have even seen the car that you're catching.
On one deserted section of the circuit, I noticed a good looking girl in a red sweater who was really making out with some guy. That went on for about three, or four laps, say half an hour, then they disappeared from my view. Ah well.
. Our car was still running without problems and our pit stops went off like clockwork. On the last lap of my final turn at the wheel, I counted 14 cars abandoned around the circuit.
Neerpasch took over for the last hour and a half. We refueled, changed the two rear tires and cleaned the windshield which really needed it by this time. We were still first, with Sears and Gardner second and Schlesser/Simon third in the GT class. We continued that way until the finish and we wound up seventh overall and first in GT.
It was a great win for both of us, as it was the one race I wanted most to win and it was the first big race that Neerpasch had won in his own country. It was also a good win for Shelby-American, as it put the Cobras well ahead of Ferrari for the manufacturers' championship.
Immediately after the race all the class winners are called up to the podium, where they are presented with a beautiful
wreath. While this is being presented, the national anthem of the driver's country is played and this gives you a great thrill. In the evening they have a colorful trophy presentation along with money, which is always much appreciated.
I think I'll remember this race for a long time.
WATKINS GLEN F1 race 1965 in a Ferrari
A HILLCLIMB IS DIFFERENT
OUT AFTER NINE HOURS