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AUTOWEEK

APRil 3, 1976

A Banner Day For Ferrari


Continued From Page 1 that dropped him back to seventh. A combination of sheer good driving and sheer good fortune put him ahead of the other Fords and he was eigbt seconds back of the second Ferrari at the end. It was merely eight seconds that pointed up what a good racing machine is the Ferrari team. It won in Brazil, in Africa, and now in the city streets of Long Beach, California. "Monaco West" they wanted us to think of it. An ambitious styling, rather in the good old American P.T. Barnum idiom but By George it was a lot like Monaco in Long Beach. There was the weather, mild and bright. There was the sea sparkling nearby. There was the exhaust noise humming off the buildings and the heads peering down from windows and helicopters chopping the air overhead. There was the constant awareness of participating in something distinctly outrageous, so that one had a perpetual feeling of festivity and happy daring. It was the sort of event~ a gathering of people to do something rare, that stays in the memory for a lifetime. It was hard to walk anywhere, for the barriers and the crowds. It was curiously difficul t to find anyone if you were looking for him. It was impossible to see more than a shortish length of race track from anyone location. All this was exactly like being at the Monaco G P . That, and the absolute squadrons of heavily armed and eager policemen (and Policewomen - policepersons?) standing ready everywhere. There seemed to be one security guard added for every credential issued ... . From the driver's point of view, the 2.02 mile circuit was quite a lot like Monaco. Perhaps it wasn't quite as imaginative, but what can you do with a grid-pattern Los Angeles street layout; Monte Carlo dates from Saracen times-but it was somewhat easier to find safe places for overtaking. A brutally hard circuit on machinery, definitely, with all those places that bumped wheels inches into the air. Almost everyone of the 12 distinct corners required that the transmissions and drive lines withstand grinding aCQeleration in second gear. In the interests of safety and commonsense the original race distance of 99 laps was reduced to 80, and the original allowable starting field of 24 was cut to 20. In preparing for the race every team kept uppermost in mind the necessity of simply lasting the distance; speed was secondary, and entirely useless without reliability. Everyone expected a race of attrition, andmore than a few drivers anticipated that, "If I manage to finish, I will probably finish in the points." Compared to the layout of last September, the track had been slowed a little bit (the concensus was between one and two seconds) by asphalt ribs laid radially out from the apexes of certain of the corners, forcing the F-l cars to go wider than the F-5000s had been able to. But certain drivers who had competed in the F -5000 event were of the opinion the F1s wouldn't be able to get around the circuit quite as fast anyway. "The 5000 has this real 'grunt' out of a slow corner," said Amon. "The speed at the end of the straight is about the same," said Andretti, " but the e.t. is less for the 5000." To look at, the F-ls which normally, on the more usual open kind of track, seem light and nimble to drive, in the cramped confines of Long Beach looked heavy and hard to handle. One stood in vain looking for just one drivel' to make just one pass through a corner in smooth, graceful manner. It was all lunges and jerks instead. Really. the track was so tight it made the famous F -1 car look like a blunt instrument. Into mind came the philosophical question, What are we doing here? Is anything about this race going to advance the State of the Art? Isn't it so outside the mainstream of normal GP racing as to count as nothing but an exhibition for the wide-eyed Calfornians? Wad up the top 20 despite a lot of desperate-looking driving that cost a thump into the wall (two bent radius rods to replace) and also a blown engine just before the end of last practice. So poor Frank Williams, whose team had won the Concourse for its immaculate presentation of his pair of cars, wound up with neither of them in the race. It was not much of a surprise that a Ferrari ended up on pole, because the smooth torquey flat-12 engine is at its best coming out of slow corners. It was a little novel to see that the driver was Clay Regazzoni, however, but it was because he was driving smoothly and precisely and didn't have any important car problems. His World Champion teammate by contrast blew an engine on Friday ("It must be a broken liner, there's water in one cyclinder") and broke not one but two drive shafts during Saturday. Niki Lauda thus wound up starting from fourth grid position. The man who was second fastest was even more of a surprise, until you recalled that Patrick Depailler has the kind of precise, gentle style that goes well with Monaco-type tracks. As has often happened, his teammate J ody Scheckter was as slow as Patrick was fast, and spun again and again trying to get around quickly. ''I've been trying it the rough way. That's when you've been seeing me spinning." He was a poor 11th on the grid. James Hunt was third on the grid; he'd had a spin once himself to show how hard he was trying. A close fifth best overall was Tom Pryce, whose Shadow got going properly after several early little troubles-including Tom having a bad reaction to a can of cold fruit juice last Friday afternoon and being sick in the car. It was only the top five drivers who actually did quick-appearing times, but beginning with Ronnie Peterson in sixth best starting place a great mass of 12 drivers did times within three quarters of a second. It looked from that as if maybe it would be a good mid-field struggle, at least-if anybody felt like risking a struggle. This was a race a long way from home for most teams, and the last GP before the modified 1976 regulations come into force. The two reasons were enough to prevent anyone trying anything very new in the way of machinery. They were having, there in the middle of the grid, quite enough troubles with the existing, familiar stuff - there were a lot of broken halfshafts (chiefly on Marches) and several suspension breakages. Thus from the entry point of view it really did look like an exhibition race. After all the buildup, the air displays and the supporting races and bands and hoopla, and Phil Hill doing a couple of laps in the spare 312T Ferrari, and the generally festive air, it was really a bit of a shame the race itself turned out as dull as it did. But we get those from time to time. The start was clean, Regazzoni making a fine getaway as Depailler lagged a bit alongside with wormy wheelspin. In the middle of the pack Brambilla came alongside Reutemann in the braking zone for the first corner and moved over on him, clang; both March and Brabham were out. On the long, curving, flat-out back "straight" a mile later Nillson's JPS suddenly "sat down at the right rear corner." It spun violently into the concrete wall, unfortunately right rear corner first so any evidence of what broke first was pretty well destroyed. Gunnar himself got out OK, although he was a bit dazed and his neck was put into a brace that evening. Thus there were only 17 cars completing the first lap, and it was Regga already leading comfortably from Depailler, who had recovered his initial disadvantage from Hunt. Lauda was fourth, then Pryce, Peterson and Scheckter up from a great start, Jarier, Laffite and Watson as the first ten. Continued On Next Page

Clay Regazzunl. on his way to a convincing Win . cocks a wheel up on the curbing of the long Beach street circuIt.

money and run. Brabham designer Gordon Murray had an interesting angle on that. "Actually, I'd like to see a few more circuits like this. We've become just a little complacent, I think, we 've had such a generally good reliability record over the past couple of years and we've gotten the cars to perform so well on our regular circuits. I think we'd be better for a little stirring up with this sort of challenge .. ." A total of 27 driver s were entered, and there were 32 cars available to them in all; the strongest entry field of the year so far, for the race the farthest from Europe (eight time zones away) and with the most restricted grid. Seven drivers would have to suffer failure-to-qualify no matter what happened. As it turned out, these were the unhappy ones: Brett Lunger, whose Surtees (in the absense of Big John) took a long time to set up and which gave several mechanical problems, and which also

brushed a wall at one stage. Harald Ertl, who had trouble making his Hesketh handle and hit the wall early on, and who was slowed by a misfire as well. Jacky Ickx, whose Williams did only two laps on Friday with gearbox trouble and only two more on Saturday morning before a CV joint failed; he thus had to pack a complete practice-and-setup session into the final hour. Bob Evans, who like Ickx had ha rdly any practice until the last hour because of several problems with his JPS. Arturo Merzario, coming back to F-l in a brand new, fourth March after six months away; he had clutch trouble and three broken half shafts. Ingo Hoffman, whose new Copersucar was also brand new and which cost him half an hour at one critical point when the oil tank split. Michel Leclere, whose Williamswas on the list as first alternate, just outside the

James Hunt showed promIsing speed early on. but a fourth-lap crash put him out. Here he leads Jochen Mass.