Round Five: LAKESIDE 34th Australian Grand Prix
Date: 2nd February 1969
67 Laps of 2.4kms (160.8kms)
This year there was only one week between the last race in New Zealand and the Australian Grand Prix at Lakeside, Queensland. Unlike previous years when cars were freighted to Australia by sea, they now had to be sent by air, for the South African Grand Prix had forced the Australian three Tasman races forward one week to give to give two clear weeks between the last Tasman and the SAGP.
Only Ferrari and Piers Courage managed to get themselves sorted out in time, while Lotus had all sorts of problems with customs and freight. It was apparent that Ford Australia weren't behind the Lotus effort this year, for they had to do most of their own organising right from administration down to transport for drivers and mechanics. Ferrari, on the other hand, had the services of David McKay's Scuderia Veloce to help them over the tricky spots and this deal also included workshop space and transporters. No wonder the Ferraris were better prepared for Lakeside than Lotus.
The new rear springs were waiting for the two Ferraris in Brisbane, and with these fitted the cars were out on Friday getting in some track time and showing that this was going to be a hard one for Lotus to even make a clean breast of. While Amon and Bell were enjoying their new-found freedom on a clear track, the Lotus team had only just received their cars and found both badly in need of attention. Rindt's engine was misfiring, and Hill's blew up shortly after starting up in the garage. Even with getting their engine back from Courage, it still left them with one very sick car, Rindt's.
At official practice on Saturday, it was Amon taking pole with Courage second fastest. Gardner had fitted a bi-wing set-up like Courage's in unofficial practice but didn't have the time to evaluate it and had to remove the front one and save it for testing the following week in Sydney. Hill broke his wing in practice but still managed fourth fastest time, while Rindt was only able to push his Lotus 49B Cosworth V7 (sic) to fifth fastest time, creditable under the extreme circumstances.
While the flagman was making up his mind about when to drop the flag, Amon and Courage on the front row were having a "freak out", seeing who could out-hesitate the other, Amon won the toss with a good start while Courage was caught on the wrong pedal and he went into the first bend in third place behind Hill with Derek Bell getting a tow from the Brabham-Ford.
It was Amon's race from the start. He didn't even give the mirrors a glance as he streaked off into the afternoon sun while Hill, Courage and Bell lined up for battle behind, followed by Gardner, Rindt and Kevin Bartlett (making his first appearance in the Mildren-Alfa V8 which carried him to the Australian championship last year). Next local out was Niel Allen keeping the 1.6 and 1.5 squads at bay.
Positions remained somewhat static for the next few laps, until Courage closed on Hill and tried to pass on the outside as they ranged under brakes for BMC bend. But Courage didn't quite make it and there wasn't enough room left for both cars. Hill didn't give way, being on line for the corner. The two cars touched and Courage suddenly ran out of track and retired the car on the dirt of the outside of the track with slightly bent front suspension. Hill lost four seconds getting over the incident, which gave Bell his opportunity and he went through into second position to make it a Ferrari 1-2 for the first time in the series.
Kevin Bartlett retired on the following lap with no water and blown head gaskets giving away his position to Niel Allen in the M4A McLaren FVA. This was Allen's first drive on the Lakeside circuit since his crash there eight months previously. Allen overdid it under brakes, the front set locked, and he lost four places in getting things in hand. He picked up one of the lost places immediately and set out on a long hard haul back through the field.
Jochen Rindt made the next move when he displaced Leo Geoghegan on the 13th lap for fifth spot, but Geoghegan was hanging on grimly and didn't let the Austrian get away from him. But Rindt pulled out every horse he could find in the ailing Cosworth V8 and slipped by Frank Gardner on lap 19, making the order Amon, Bell, Rindt, Gardner, Geoghegan, Stewart, Allen, Scott and Guthrie.
Rindt held on to this position, trailed by Gardner, who was becoming concerned over oil pressure. His fears were confirmed when the Alfa Romeo engine blew an internal oil line and he was forced out of the race on lap 12. Gardner's demise brought everyone up a place but Jochen Rindt's forceful run ended when the Cosworth Ford V8 engine lost power and he quickly shut off and headed for the pits.
Chris Amon was busy lapping all but his team mate, Derek Bell, while Leo Geoghegan was sitting in a wonderful position behind Graham Hill in fourth spot. Col Green was in and out of the pits with gearbox and engine problems while Costanzo had retired after a spin over the back of the circuit.
The rear wing on Hill's Lotus 49 had looked shaky for a few laps and finally it broke and folded over his rear wheel. He tried to keep the car as steady as possible so not to be black flagged by officials, and finally pitted to have the offending piece of iron cut from the car. Geoghegan, meanwhile, seeing Hill's problem, had speeded up and went by as Hill was having the operation finished to his wing. He came back into the fray bent on getting his third spot back from Geoghegan, but the Lotus was suffering from oversteer with the now, light rear end and he steadily lost ground.
Niel Allen, working hard to make up for time lost in two spins, managed to catch Max Stewart in the surviving Mildren Alfa 1.6 car and, now in fifth spot, went on to win the ANF2 category. Englishman, Malcolm Guthrie, having sat behind Glyn Scott on the Queenslander's home circuit, finally made a last-minute burst and finished ahead of the Bowin. Scott was still waiting for a set of rods to come from Cosworth for his 1.6 FVA engine, and he was running on a set borrowed from Niel Allen.
Amon's win put him into an almost uncatchable lead. Only Piers Courage, with a bit of luck and by winning the final two races, could take the championship from the New Zealander. Rindt and Hill, equal on 15 points, were now relegated to fighting out second spot.
The Tasman points after 5 rounds were :- Amon 35, Courage 22, Rindt and Hill 15, Bell 13, Geoghegan 9, Gardner 7, Lawrence 3, Allen and Levis 2, Stewart and McRae 1 each.
Grid: (* denotes pole)
Derek Bell Graham Hill
Frank Gardner Jochen Rindt
Kevin Bartlett Leo Geoghegan
Max Stewart Niel Allen
Glyn Scott Henk Woelders
Col Green Alfredo Costanzo
|1||Chris Amon||NZ||Ferrari 246T / Ferrari 2417cc V6||67||60m 12.8s|
|2||Derek Bell||UK||Ferrari 246T / Ferrari 2417cc V6||67|
|3||Leo Geoghegan||Aust||Lotus 39 / Repco 2493cc V8||66|
|4||Graham Hill||UK||Lotus 49T / Cosworth 2491cc V8||66|
|5||Niel Allen||Aust||McLaren M4A / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||63|
|6||Max Stewart||Aust||Mildren / Alfa 1598cc 4cyl||63|
|7||Malcolm Guthrie||UK||Brabham BT21B / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||58|
|8||Glyn Scott||Aust||Bowin P3 / Ford 1598cc 4cyl||55|
|Ret||Jochen Rindt||Aus||Lotus 49BT / Cosworth 2491cc V8||43||Engine|
|Ret||Frank Gardner||Aust||Mildren / Alfa 2472cc V8||37||Engine|
|Ret||Henk Woelders||Aust||Elfin 600B / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||23||Accident|
|Ret||Col Green||Aust||Brabham BT23 / Repco 2493cc V8|
|Ret||Alfredo Costanzo||Aust||McLaren M4A / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||7||Stalled|
|Ret||Kevin Bartlett||Aust||Brabham BT23D / Alfa 2472cc V8||5||Head Gasket|
|Ret||Piers Courage||UK||Brabham BT24 / Cosworth 2491cc V8||5||Accident|
Round Six: WARWICK FARM
Date: 9th February 1969
45 Laps of 3.617kms (162.8kms)
Warwick Farm came as a very crucial race. Amon needed to score a place if Courage won, and Courage needed some good points if he was to stay in the championship running.
The lap record, held by Jack Brabham and Kevin Bartlett of 1m 29.0s, was regarded as slow as the circuit wasn't in the fastest of conditions last year, and the aiming point was Frank Matich's 1m 27.3s set in his SR3 last year.
Although the Ferraris got down to 1m 27.1s on Friday, Saturday was the day of reckoning. Two sessions were held, one morning and one afternoon. The weather was hot and still and Ferrari mechanics had received very little sleep overnight, for Bell had broken the left rear suspension and monocoque of his car when he had a moment and left the track on Friday. The third, fourth and fifth gears on Amon's car were changed as he didn't feel he was pulling enough revs to keep up in the power band.
Leo Geoghegan appeared with a new rear wing, built in similar fashion to the works Lotuses but more stable. It obviously worked, though, for he quickly came down to 1m 27.9s in the first session. Speeds rose and lap times tumbled. Jochen Rindt was amazing on a track he had never seen before. After only four laps he was down to 1m 28.8s and six laps later stopped the clocks at 1m 26.6s. He finally had a rest with a lap time of 1m 25.6, with still more to come. Amon equaled Rindt's time, Courage settled for a 1m 26.1s and Hill, in turn, equaled this time. Bartlett was eighth fastest with 1m 28.0s. This was the best he could do in the old Brabham and he gave the second session a miss.
A break of three hours was allowed between sessions and both works Lotuses received gear ratio changes, while Ferrari mechanics fitted an extension to the wings of both cars to try for more down-thrust. This was designed to shift the force further back and give more wing effect but a couple of laps in the second session showed it didn't help and the modifications came off again.
The pace of the second session had the crowd on its toes. It was really a two-way affair between Amon and Rindt with the rest filling up the minor grid placings, but practically every competitor bettered his morning time. Amon came down to a 1m 25.3s then climaxed this with a straight 1m 25.0s lap, but Rindt quickly knocked him with a 1m 24.7s. A poker-faced Amon jumped into the Ferrari and replied with a 1m 24.5s and trickled into the pits with a few minutes left in practice, confident he had pole position. But Rindt leapt into the Lotus once more, did two laps, recording a tremendous 1m 23.8s and entered the pit-lane as the bell sounded for the end of practice.
Warwick Farm, usually running a 3-2-3 grid, changed to a 2-2-2 at the last moment, which put Hill, third fastest, back on the second row with Piers Courage. Niel Allen, again showing his worth in the little McLaren, set his grid time under the old race record and was a whole 1.1 seconds faster than his nearest rival, Graeme Lawrence. Lawrence and Levis had missed Lakeside in favour of the final round of the New Zealand Gold Star at Timaru. Levis was fourth fastest of 1.6 FVA's behind Alfredo Costanzo in the Argo Racing McLaren.
It rained the night after practice, and it was still pouring down on race day. It was only the second National race to ever be held in the wet at Warwick Farm. Nonetheless, over 16,000 people huddled under umbrellas and raincoats to see the race. The pits were full of activity with everyone choosing rain gear. Courage looked to have the best combination with the same 226 compound grooved Dunlops that Jackie Stewart used in the 1968 German GP. But Firestone wasn't caught off-guard. Although its wet weather tyres were the same R106 tread pattern, they had a new compound which had never been used before for the Lotuses and Ferraris.
Not all drivers had the chance of three familiarisation laps, some being late out of the gate. Graeme Lawrence found this out when he came bursting around the circuit intent on his three laps to find the grid full of stationary cars.
Alfredo Costanzo raised his arms high as he stalled on the grid, but it was too late and the field went in a huge cloud of spray and left him to restart and trundle off in last position. Amon led Rindt, Courage, Hill and Bell through the Homestead Corner for the first time, but before the New Zealander could come to grips with the wet properly, Rindt stormed down the outside on the long straight and took over the lead through Creek Corner.
Courage wasn't to be left behind and as Rindt headed towards the Causeway, he closed up on Amon and followed him closely across the bridge. Amon went wide on the exit and Courage stormed through but spun the Brabham-Ford on the exit of Polo Corner. Amon could do nothing but hit the spinning car which put both out of the race with broken suspensions. Amon's only consolation to the disheartening incident was that he had just won the 1969 Tasman Championship in the opening lap of the sixth round, and really didn't have to run again at all.
Col Green set the pits into fits, breaking the tension of the wet race, when he trundled in with a yellow flag jammed under the car, one wonders what happened to the marshal at the other end of it. Costanzo came unstuck at the start of the straight on lap 5 and ripped two wheels from the car.
Still the rain came down, but Rindt wasn't letting up a bit. In fact, he got faster as the race wore on. Niel Allen went past a surprised Leo Geoghegan while Lawrence dropped back in the melee. Hill's car began to lose power with wet ignition and Derek Bell began to close the gap until lap 9, when he forged through into second spot. The two Kiwis, Levis and Lawrence, took up their Tasman battle again, and Levis splashed past to set the pace for the two 1.6 cars from opposite camps. Hill pitted on lap 12 to have the ignition dried out, but stopped twice on the circuit later, and pitted again to have the coil checked and the roll bars removed. He re-joined the race in last position but went on to set the fastest time of the day with a fine lap of 1m 40.3s, 0.1s better than Rindt.
The order at 20 laps read Rindt, Bell, with a 47 sec gap to Gardner, Bartlett, Geoghegan, Allen, Levis, Lawrence and Scott. It was all over bar the shouting. The wet conditions dampened any enthusiasm for spirited dicing and Rindt had a lead of more than half a minute and kept the crowd on their toes with some wonderfully controlled drifts through the heavy weather. Only four cars were on the same lap after 24 tours and Geoghegan now ran 26 seconds clear of Allen who had the 1.6 brigade strung out behind him. Rindt lapped Gardner on lap 29, Clive Millis retired the Rennmax-Cosworth TC and it was virtually all over.
Tasman points after round six were :- Amon 35, Rindt 24, Courage 22, Bell 19, Hill 15, Gardner and Geoghegan 11, Lawrence, Allen and Bartlett 3, Levis 2, Stewart and McRae 1 each.
Grid: (* denotes pole)
Piers Courage Graham Hill
Leo Geoghegan Derek Bell
Kevin Bartlett Frank Gardner
Graeme Lawrence Niel Allen
Roly Levis Alfredo Costanzo
Malcolm Guthrie Glyn Scott
Clive Millis Col Green
|1||Jochen Rindt||Aus||Lotus 49BT / Cosworth 2491cc V8||45||1hr 18m 12.8s|
|2||Derek Bell||UK||Ferrari 246T / Ferrari 2417cc V6||45||1hr 18m 57.7s|
|3||Frank Gardner||Aust||Mildren / Alfa 2472cc V8||44|
|4||Kevin Bartlett||Aust||Brabham BT23D / Alfa 2472cc V8||44|
|5||Leo Geoghegan||Aust||Lotus 39 / Repco 2493cc V8||42|
|6||Niel Allen||Aust||McLaren M4A / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||42|
|7||Roly Levis||NZ||Brabham BT23 / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||42|
|8||Graeme Lawrence||NZ||McLaren M4A / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||42|
|9||Glyn Scott||Aust||Bowin P3 / Ford 1598cc 4cyl||41|
|10||Malcolm Guthrie||UK||Brabham BT21B / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||40|
|11||Graham Hill||UK||Lotus 49T / Cosworth 2491cc V8||35|
|Ret||Clive Millis||Aust||Rennmax / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||29|
|Col Green||Aust||Brabham BT23 / Repco 2493cc V8|
|Ret||Alfredo Costanzo||Aust||McLaren M4A / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||5||Accident|
|Ret||Chris Amon||NZ||Ferrari 246T / Ferrari 2417cc V6||1||Accident|
|Ret||Piers Courage||UK||Brabham BT24 / Cosworth 2491cc V8||1||Accident|
Round Seven: SANDOWN
Date: 16th February 1969
55 Laps of 3.106kms (170.8kms)
Sandown Park didn't really need to run its Tasman race, except to bring down their financial deficit from past years. And it certainly did that for 30,000 people turned up to watch the International drivers do their stuff. The organisers weren't hiding the fact that Amon had won the title at Warwick Farm the previous week either. Yet the people still came so it must be concluded that suddenly Melbourne is interested in motor racing after all. This is like the crowds they used to get a few years back, but which seemed to be declining over the past couple.
The experiments this time were over gear ratios and air foils, but as it turned out in the end, everyone ran wings, though some had extreme angle for the long, fast straights, and gear ratios only needed the top two cogs varied.
It was a battle for pole again, between Amon and Rindt, although the dark horse of the meeting was Jack Brabham hurriedly arranging a marriage between a Brabham BT31B F3 chassis and the 2.5 twin-cam Repco V8 engine. It was certainly the smallest and lightest of the V8 powered cars at the meeting, and although he fitted a wing to the rear, Brabham was down on horsepower compared to the other Internationals.
John Harvey was having his first competitive drive in the Bob Jane Repco Brabham V8 since his Easter accident at Bathurst in 1968, and was using the outing as an extended test session for the coming Gold Star rather than trying to drive a hard race first time out. This was born out by Harvey's practice time which put him 14th on the grid among the 1.6 F2 cars.
Rindt got the start and led the field through Shell Corner and held it through the very slow Peter's Corner, but Amon used his better gearing for the straight and took the Austrian as they headed over the hill and down toward the Esses. Hill had started in third position but dropped back sharply on the first lap when his throttle linkage came adrift, and Courage broke a previously twisted half shaft down the back of the circuit.
Amon and Rindt started to open a gap to Brabham, who was holding off Bell for third place. Kevin Bartlett pulled sharply into the pits on lap 5 with a broken exhaust which threatened to set fire to exposed oil and fuel lines while Hill re-joined the race and set about climbing back up through the field. John Harvey spun when his Repco engine overheated and poured out scolding water at Dandenong Corner and he retired with a very sore neck from the results.
Meanwhile Hill was forcing his way back up and he took Levis on lap 33 for sixth place but couldn't get any higher after his four lap deficit after the start. Garrie Cooper drove steadily throughout the race to finish eighth and first resident Australian home in his own Elfin 600B. Leo Geoghegan hadn't started as mechanics found a leaking fuel cell in the Lotus 39 Repco V8 and they couldn't repair it in time.
Niel Allen hit the news again, although the FVA machinery wasn't as competitive as it had been in 1968. He lost time in the pits in the early laps but came back to set the fastest time for the 1.6 FVA cars with a lap of 1m 08.5s, faster than Courage had run at Sandown last year in the same car.
And that was the Tasman Series for 1969. The final points were Amon 44, Rindt 30, Courage 22, Bell 21, Hill 16, Gardner 14, Geoghegan 11, Brabham 4, Lawrence, Allen and Bartlett 3, Levis 2, McRae and Stewart 1 each.
Grid: (* denotes pole)
Graham Hill Piers Courage
Jack Brabham Derek Bell
Leo Geoghegan Frank Gardner
Kevin Bartlett Graeme Lawrence
Niel Allen Alfredo Costanzo
John Harvey Roly Levis
Garrie Cooper Henk Woelders
Malcolm Guthrie Glyn Scott
Maurie Quincey Col Green
|1||Chris Amon||NZ||Ferrari 246T / Ferrari 2417cc V6||55||1hr 0m 10.6s|
|2||Jochen Rindt||Aus||Lotus 49BT / Cosworth 2491cc V8||55||1hr 0m 17.9s|
|3||Jack Brabham||Aust||Brabham BT31B / Repco 2493cc V8||54|
|4||Frank Gardner||Aust||Mildren / Alfa 2472cc V8||54|
|5||Derek Bell||UK||Ferrari 246T / Ferrari 2417cc V6||54|
|6||Graham Hill||UK||Lotus 49T / Cosworth 2491cc V8||52|
|7||Roly Levis||NZ||Brabham BT23 / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||50|
|8||Garrie Cooper||Aust||Elfin 600B / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||50|
|9||Glyn Scott||Aust||Bowin P3 / Ford 1598cc 4cyl||49|
|10||Malcolm Guthrie||UK||Brabham BT21B / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||48|
|11||Niel Allen||Aust||McLaren M4A / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||46|
|Ret||Graeme Lawrence||NZ||McLaren M4A / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||31|
|Ret||Maurie Quincey||Aust||Elfin 600B / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||24|
|Ret||Henk Woelders||Aust||Elfin 600B / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||Valve|
|Ret||Alfredo Costanzo||Aust||McLaren M4A / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||21||Engine|
|Ret||John Harvey||Aust||Brabham BT23 / Repco 2493cc V8||Engine|
|Ret||Col Green||Aust||Brabham BT23 / Repco 2493cc V8|
|Ret||Kevin Bartlett||Aust||Brabham BT23D / Alfa 2472cc V8||5||Exhaust|
|Ret||Piers Courage||UK||Brabham BT24 / Cosworth 2491cc V8||2||Half-Shaft|
|DNS||Leo Geoghegan||Aust||Lotus 39 / Repco 2500cc V8||0||Fuel Tank|
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