Strong challenge from lotus in Daily Mail "Race of Champions" Pacesetter. Sensational lap record to Rindt

PRACTICE, two cars were available to Stewart, last year's MS 10 and the new barrel-like MS 80. The new car is very much more stable than the old, and did not have the corkscrew motion which looked so frightening at the 1968 Race of Champions. Most of the testing session was spent in trying different tyres and aerofoil settings, although some difficulty was experienced with the gearbox which was not breathing due to an incompletely bored hole in the casing. The nose flippers on the new car work independently, and are operated through a complex linkage from the anti-roll bar. Difficulties were. also experienced with the fuel system, the engine cutting out intermittently at 8,500 rpm. Lotus had two cars for Hill and Rindt, the latter's having the latest 10,000 rpm Cosworth engine. This lost oil pressure in the first qualifying runs through being run hard with cold oil; it was changed for Saturday practice, when Rindt had a very nasty moment coming out of Clearways as his rear aerofoil collapsed. Hill spun off and tore the lead off the primary fuel pump and was unable to restart for some time.

Brabham had two cars for himself and Ickx the young Belgian's first day of practice was cut short when his crown wheel and pinion broke, while the team leader found that the automatic rev limiting device on his 10,000 rpm Ford engine was cutting in too soon. In spite of this, and a too-rich mixture, Brabham was putting in some astonishingly quick times.

BRM had a miserable time, for on the first day Surtees went off the road in a big way on the outside of Westfield Bend when .his left rear tyre blew out. The new four-valve engine was transferred to the spare car, an all-night job for the mechanics, but this was to none avail, for on the second day of practice a ball bearing came out of the top link joint of the rear suspension and was sucked in through the no.1 cylinder intake, smashing the valve seat and causing irreparable damage. Oliver had the second car, which was Rodriguez last-year car with the Hewland gearbox.

Mclaren had two cars for himself and Hulme. Mclaren's engine broke on the first day when the timing mechanism became deranged, and both cars had overnight engine changes. Mclaren had M7A 3, the interim model, which has two enormous wings, front and back, while Hulme had the car that was at the Racing Car Show, which has a rear aerofoil and nose flippers at the front. He also had one of the latest Ford engines.

The field was made up with the private entries from the Walker-Durlacher team, a lotus 49 B for Siffert, Parnell's BRM for Rodriguez, which had a broken bottom wishbone on the first day and a badly mis-aligned front brake caliper on the second, and Pete lovely in his own new lotus 49 B; Frank Williams' Brabham-Ford for Courage and Smith's Brabham-Climax for Pike did not turn up for the first day of practice, . while Amon's Ferrari and Gethin's BRM did not turn up at all.

The Indy-style qualifying runs were considerably hampered on the first day, for several drivers did their runs before it rained. The track was then thrown open for general practice, and a certain amount of confusion existed from then on. But this system, if persevered with, must be a success, even if only from the spectators' point of view, for the duel between Hill and Stewart for the 100 bottles of champagne put up by the Evening News was really most exciting.

When the rain stopped and the track dried, Siffert was first out and recorded 1 min 29.7 sec, with Brabham's 1 min 29.5 sec from the first runs being the time to beat. Then Stewart did a 1 min 28.7 sec which he lowered to 28.3 sec on his next lap. It seemed as if this time would be impossible to beat, Siffert's lap record standing at 1 min 29.7 sec, but Hill took up the challenge with his typical, never-say-die manner and to the cheers of the crowd put in two brilliant laps at 1 min 28.2 sec. Les Leston's comment was "at least we'll get a drink now!"

Stewart and Siffert tried to beat this time, but without success; Hill still had another run to come, but trying out some different tyres his times were slower.

The weather for the second day's runs was simply dreadful, being damp, cold and very foggy. Although a large crowd had turned out to watch the qualifying runs they had to be cancelled and the first day's times were used to form the grid.

The Race

Although bitterly cold, there was no fog to spoil race day, the track was dry, and a large crowd turned out to watch the Daily Mail Race of Champions.' They were perhaps, rather disappointed by the field, and certainly Amon's red Ferrari was sadly missed.

The cars were late lining up on the dummy grid, an unusual occurrence at Brands Hatch, but then, with a certain amount of last minute panic with the cars of Courage and Pike, the grid moved up to the flag. The first two rows were very orderly but there was some creeping in the third, with Oliver moving up on the left. Then the flag was down and Stewart edged ahead, with Hill and Siffert level pegging as they headed for Paddock Bend. Oliver was already up with the second row, but was unable to keep his place up the hill to Druids. As the pack hurtled along the bottom straight it was Stewart (Matra). Hill (Lotus). Rindt (Lotus). who had edged ahead of Siffert (Lotus). with McLaren and the rest strung out behind.

At the end of the first lap Stewart had established a lead that he was never to lose, with Hill and Rindt in close attendance, then Siffert, Mclaren, Brabham, a slight gap to Hulme, Oliver (BRM). Ickx (Brabham) and then a bigger one to Rodriguez and Lovely bringing up the rear. Courage was left behind having the gear change lever adjusted and he was pushed back into the pits. .He joined Pike whose fuel pump was playing up and he never got started.

Stewart was really piling on the pressure, pulling away from Hill every lap. On the sixth, he established a new lap record at 1 min 27.5 sec' leaving Hill and Rindt battling for second place. Some way behind Siffert was having great difficulty with his car under braking, as it was weaving about all over the place; this allowed Brabham, who was going great guns and had already passed McLaren, to catch up and get past on the sixth lap. McLaren's transistor box was playing up and the engine would not rev above 8,500 rpm. He was unable to cure this at a pit stop, and he retired a few laps later.

Rodriguez had his rear aerofoil collapse on lap 6 and he lost two laps having it removed: From then on the car was thoroughly unstable and he could barely keep pace with Lovely at the back of the field. Ickx was having a very nasty time in seventh place with a throttle slide that kept sticking open and called in at the pits on lap 15. If anything, the trouble got worse and he retired seven laps later.

Brabham was beginning to catch up with Rindt which in turn made Rindt increase the pressure on his team mate Hill in second place. For several laps they were nose to tail, with Rindt looking for a way past. Then Brabham disappeared from the scene when his transistor box cut dead, putting an end to a very spirited drive that had been complicated by a cracked fuel line spraying petrol over the rear tyres.

Siffert now moved up to fourth place, but Hulme was catching him up. He was baulked badly by a back marker at South Bend, but finally managed to pass the struggling Siffert on lap 32. The pattern of the race was now set, for it was on this lap that Rodriguez retired with ignition troubles. Rindt had dropped some way behind Hill, but caught up after a great effort when he set a new lap record at.1 min 26.8 sec. But in spite of some fist waving, he was unable to get past and then he had to retire on lap 38 when he lost his oil pressure.

This left only six runners, with Stewart 10 sec ahead of Hill, Hulme now in third place followed by Siffert 12 sec behind. These four were on the same lap, with Oliver two laps down and Lovely two behind him. With two laps to go Stewart's Matra sounded very rough indeed, but it was just a broken exhaust pipe, and he stayed comfortably ahead to win his first major race at Brands Hatch.

Previous winners of this season-opening race have experienced a disappointing Championship series; it is to be hoped this will not be the case for Stewart and the Tyrrell team. 


Guards Trophy

FIRST HALF of the Guards Trophy Race for Group 5 special touring cars opened with Roy Pierpoint, in Bill Shaw's Ford Falcon, taking his outside front row position on the grid at the last moment, and then outdragging second man John Fitzpatrick's 1,297 c.c. Escort GT and Frank Gardner's 185 bhp Group A Escort from pole position. Gardner hoped to have been using a 2,230 c.c. supercharged engine but had to be content with a "reasonably standard" Ford twin cam. ''Yogi'' Muir in another Falcon, thundered past Gardner into second place on lap 4 and the three drew way ahead of the rest of the field to finish in that order.

Farther down, the Charles Lucas and Nick Faure Porsche 911 s were having a spirited dice with the Britax-Cooper-Downton Mini S of Steve Neal and John Handley's BLM Mini Cooper S. They later took.. their attention elsewhere and formed sandwiches with Escorts of Roger Taylor and Barry Pearson. (Handley's team mate John Rhodes gpt sideways right after the' start and collected Chris Crafts Team Broadspeed Escort GT, putting them both out of the running.)

The race developed into a processional affair, with class records falling to fourth man John Fitzpatrick's 1,297 c.c. Escort GT (class C) and Roy Pierpoint (class A).

With the finishing positions of the first heat deciding the starting grid for the second Guards Trophy saloon car race, it only remained for the saloons to provide some warming entertainment after the processional, but very fast, main race of the day; unfortunately they disappointed in this respect.

The two Falcons immediately pulled clear again by some 300 yards, this time-backed up by the Escorts of Frank Gardner, Mike Crabtree and Roger Taylor. The Porsches were again enjoying shuffling places, this time with the Britax-Cooper-Downton Minis of Steve Neal and Gordon Spice, a Porsche showing its heels to a Mini on the straight only to lose out on the bends.

At the halfway mark, second man Muir closed right up to challenge Pierpoint, but his way was blocked by backmarkers. The gap thereafter progressively lengthened to around 10 secs at the finish. Laurie Hickman had the misfortune to break a half shaft, which inverted his Anglia at South Bank. Fitzpatrick's Mini also caught fire here, both drivers being unhurt.

Results were decided on the aggregates of both heats, making Roy Pierpoint an easy winner once again.

The Britax Minis' efforts secured first and second places in Class, C, with the 999 c.c. Equipe Arden Mini-Cooper S driven by Alec Poole coming first in class D on aggregate.

Formula Ford

THE SUN was determined not to shine on the opening Formula Ford, 10 lap Star of Tomorrow race. Not only was this the opener for the day's meeting, but also was the first round, of the new European championship for FF cars. The driving mist which had interrupted Saturdays practice session, gave way on Sunday to a stiff, very cold breeze blowing against the top straight for the start of the race.

Track conditions appeared good, but the first two cars out spun on their warming-up lap, to give an indication that the back of the circuit still had some very slippery patches. One car, the Merlyn of David Morgan, slid backwards into a bank, fortunately without damage,

At the flag, the favourite, Ray Allen, in the Motor Racing Stable's Merlyn, nosed into the front from the second row, but it was Gerry Birrell (Titan) who established a 25-yard first lap lead over Ian Ashley (Alexis) followed by pole position man Roger Keele (Merlyn). Tony Trimmer (Titan) very soon pushed .into third place.

By the halfway mark the leaders had closed right up, Ashley took Birrell at Paddock Bend and Trimmer took second from Birrell, with Keele now forth. With two laps to go Ashley was well placed with a 100 yard lead, but a very good last lap spurt had Trimmer alongside through Hawthorne's bend to take the chequered flag first, with Ashley running wide at Clearways to lose second place to Birrell.

Tony Trimmer in the Frank Williams' car drove a splendid race to establish himself as a driver to be watched in the future. As a foretaste of possible things to come, he was presented with the garland, a kiss and a crate of Kriter sparkling wine by Miss Kriter.