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PAGE 18 AUTOWEEK

s. , African GP
Continued From Preceding Page
seemed to be every reason to anticipate
the same sort of result as Brazil: the
euphoria of pole turning to the bitterness
of mechanical failure. (In Brazil a fuel
injection trumpet had corrie loose, putting
the engine onto seven cylinders, and
finally the flopping trumpet fell down
behind the engine and j the
throttle slide wide open, causing Hunt to
crash).
Meanwhile, what was happening
behind those ominous puffs of smoke?
Mass had taken up the Brambilla
problem, and found that if Vittorio had
had a small twinge of conscience about
the way he'd treated Hunt it had quite
cleared by the time J ochen tried the same
maneuver. With a preliminary feint out of
the slipstream on lap 8, J ochen did it for
real on lap 9-and Vittorio responded
with another lurid swing of the axe. This
time, though, he stomped so hard on the
brakes that the March's front wheels
locked up in a burst of smoke, and he
found himself arriving into the corner
just a bit faster than the poor rubber could
cope with. On ahead of the McLaren's
bows he went, scratching around the
corner in the gravel off the outside of the
racing line, and Jochen simply drove
tidily through on the inside. Then he
pulled away almost as rapidly as James
had done.
Brambilla, his "front tires having gone
off', thereafter slipped backwards
through the pack. Pryce managed to get
by on the 19th lap, taking up a fine and
energetically helti fourth place, and then
Regazzoni and a charging Scheckter
came through in turn to contest fifth
place.
Pryce, very disappointingly, picked up
a puncture and had to stop in the pits.
Regga, having preserved his place ahead
of Jody until the 28th lap, suddenly
slowed and crawled around to retirement
with the engine knackered. Peterson, who
MARCH 13, 1976
Lotus' new drivers were plagued by a host of ills despite the presence of Colin Chapman. This is ex-BRM
driver Bob Evans. ' .
had been fifth untll the fifteenth lap, fell
foul of the rearward brake , bias of
Depailler's car; Patrick, trying to
overtake into Crowthorne, got into
another waggle which turned into a spin
and Ronnie in trying to go around the
outside spun on the gravel. He emerged'
from the confrontation with his rear
suspension smashed.
Of the others who had featl'ed in the
good mid-field dice, Reutemann came in
from the middle of it to report his oil
pressure was gone. That was'because his
oil itself was gone, blown out the back of
the Alfa (a revised, lightened design since
Brazil with some new castings made of
magnesium) onto all the other cars
behind. After two more laps he retired for
good ("Good!" is what all the drivers
behind said) and was presently joined in
the garage by Carlos Pace who reported
the same problem and for the same cause.
But at least the Anglo-Italian cars had
shown better speed this time than in
Brazil. Andretti, Laffi te and Watson ran
together for a long while, Mario dropping
back with his engine going,off song afte.r
about quarter distance and Watson
slowly losing out to the Matra engine and
to unsettling oversteer both. Laffite
eventually found himself with Brambilla
in his sights and after a lot of near-misses
in the braking zones-the Ligier's front
wheels locking up several times-
Jacques made a banzai run out of the
March slipstream just by the pits. The
blue nose forged alongside the orange
one, just touching sixth place on lap 49-
and at that instant the V12 went bang. The
driver said "Eet make a 'orrible noise and
I sweetch off quickly!" The huge plume of
smoke suggested a broken piston.
It was left to Watson to slowly close on
Brambilla, and the two were coming up to
the finish of the race, the two leaders
around their ears with only a couple of
laps to go, when the March engine
stumbled, drew up the last of the fuel, and
Brambilla had to go off into the pits for a
refill. Watson, third on the grid, was just
lapped by the winner before the checkered
flag fell.
At the same moment his teammate was
retiring with his engine gone Lauda was
lining up to lap Andretti. There were only
now five other machines on his lap, and
four of.them were no problem. But Hunt's
McLaren, contrary to mid-race
appearances, was beginning to be a
threat.
Motor racing success hangs by so many
threads; there had been the threads of the
8mm bolt in the rear suspension which,
during the testing a week before, had
broken and buckled the Ferrari's rear
suspension crossmember. Not even
World Champions are immune to trouble,
and trouble was hover).ng over Niki
Lauda. On the lap he had
comfortably established the fastest race
lap; on the 20th, or thereabouts, with Hunt
fallen to about 10 seconds disadvantage,
he felt the Ferrari's handling beginning to
fade. "I think it was a rear shock absorber
going soft," he said later-this has
happened to his car before more than
once-but for whatever reason the
admirably neutral 312T began going wide
at the tail. No longer was it the quickest
machine on the track, and lap by
inexorable lap the McLaren began to
gain.
It was slow work, but going into the last
ten laps Hunt was down to six seconds;
suddenly with eight to go he had closed to
4.2 seconds. People all around the hillside
circuit were coming to their feet, trying to
figure out if at that rate there were enough
laps left, and programs and hats and beer
bottles were beginning to dance in the air
over the tops of the spectator fences.
Ferrari supporters flags were starting to
wave with anxiety; Hunt fans were trying
to signal with their hands how little he
had to gain. But the McLaren man knew
better than they.
The oil leak had come to nothing. The
original understeer had smoothed into
neutrality, and with a perfectly running
motor car James was slashing around
and around the track on the finest of
edges. There were occasional jumps of
the back wheels sideways, caught by the
videotpe all around the circuit to prove
how hard he was trying, but the tape also
showed one of the neatest, most
consistent and precise drives ever seen.
Both men were flat out. Lauda, the
Ferrari at uncharacteristically high slip
angles, the back wheels twitching out
toward the curbs more often than modern
Ferraris are supposed to, wasin the final
few laps holding the gap steady. With
seven laps to go it read 3.8, and again it
was 3.8; then it squeezed down to 3.6 but
with four laps to go it was 3.8 again.
Minus three laps and it was 3.6 as Hunt
came powering up out of Leeukop and
watched the Ferrari racing up into the
kink before the pits ahead. It was going to
be a second place by that amount, clearly.
Motor racing success hangs by threads;
now it was the cords in the tire on the left
rear corner of Lauda's car. It was just
now, apparently, that some foreign object
either on the track or just off the edge of it
cut about an inch of them. On the next-to-
last time out onto the straight the gap had
reduced to 2.9 seconds, and all around the
final lap Hunt was closing visibly. The
fl urry of waving over the fences bec,ame a
storm, and sunburnt spectator faces were
red with shouting. Into the loop of
Leeukop for the last time and the Ferrari
led by mere yards: 1.1 seconds was the
measured gap as the McLaren stormed
out onto the straight in pursuit. It was
less than half a mile to the flag.
But Ferraris these days, softening tire
or not, beat Fords in drag races and as the
two whipped arund the kink to the line
below the timing tower the gap had
expanded to 1.3 seconds. It wasn't until
Crowthorne, both men decelerating their
cars and their bodies too down from
racing speed, that Hunt closed with
Lauda. Pulling alongside, he sent a jaunty
salute over. The Champion how had three
times the number of points of the
challenger, but James' smiling face after
he took off his helmet was promising that
it 's a long way still to the end of the
season. If he has anything to do with it.
Niki's lower lip is going to be sore all
summer!
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a I u J

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FT. WORTH, Texas-Blown here by
gusty winds, 162 entries gathered under
cloudy skies to seek national points at Ft.
Worth's Greater Southwest Raceway 28-
29 Feb. The turnout wa:; double the size of
the SWDiv opener three weeks earlier,
with many drivers towing from as far as
California, Minnesota, and Florida to
compete.
The Dattex Challenge, a race-within-a-
race series for Showroom Stock "c"
Datsun 71,9's made its first appearance,
with a lone Fiat X1/9 holding a two-
seconds-a-lap advantage over the fastest
of the nine Datsuns. Although originally
looking for a way to beat the spiralling
cost of club racing, the Dattex Challenge
drivers have their eyes fixed on the 1977
Champion Spark Plug Runoffs, when
Showroom Stock classes will be
I
represented for the first time.
Bob Marshall's Quasar-Suzuki DSR so
dominated the small-bore race that he
was able to start from the back of the grid
::J
0 and jump to the overall lead in lust four
ENTS a laps. C Sedan winner Norman Dodson's
116 Victor / Detroit. Michigan 48203 Austin Cooper was ' found to be
6109 Lankershim Blvd. / N. Hollywood. California 91606 underweight, and a two-minute penalty
"'_IWA ___ r Me _ .... -_
dropped him to second.
________________ .,---_______ ,State, ____________ ,
UTOMOTVE U
Denver's Bill Henderon took his
Crossle to the FF winner's circle when
Don Guillett's ditto bled out all its oil after
just five laps. Gerry Knapp, Jim Hall, and
National Champ Mike Frankiser went
wheel-to-wheel for 19 laps of the FV race
until Hall and Frankiser bumped
together, giving Knapp the win and
relegating Frankiser.all the way back to
13th.
Houston's Joe Locario made it two
nationl wins in a row in his DP Alfa, but
he had to struggle to hold off the Porsche
of Californian Dale Hersh. .
N ostalgia buffs were drooling as two
evenly matched ex-CanAm McLarens
fought it out for the overall win in the big-
bore race. After swapping the lead three
times, Nebraskan E.A. Arnold took the
checker over Dallas' Charles Nearburg.
Wiley Doran lost the BP win when the
engine in his scaldingly quick Corvette
let go in the biggest possible way at the
end of the main straight. In the Datsun-
dominated cl> struggle, Dan Burch
surprised Don Kearney at the start and
led for fifteen laps until his clutch gave
out.-Jim Gandy