60's racing
Hill Climb '67
THE DECISION CAME at Gaisberg, Austria, the last climb of the championship. The drivers arrived in nearby Salzburg the Monday before the event, Porsche teammates Gerhard Mitter and Rolf Stommelen in private 911s, BMW pilot Dieter Quester in his immaculate silver TI, Abarth challenger Peter Schetty in a now well worn Porsche 911.

They had come directly from Ollon Villars, Switzerland, where reigning champion Mitter had again beaten his young teammate. Nerves were taut as the drivers faced the twisting 5.3-mi Gaisberg ascent. Mitter and Stommelen were nearly equal in points. The older, more experienced champion was a bit anxious about the challenge from the young, eager Stommelen, having his first chance at money and fame. Stommelen needed a win to be champion, and it was quite possible that he would have the fastest climb-he had already beaten Mitter three times in the previous seven events. Mitter had to have at least the second best time to retain the title.

Hillclimbs were extremely popular with the Europeans in the Thirties. when Austrian star Hans Stuck's big supercharged Auto Union howled up Grossglockner, its double rear tires spinning as he tried to put more than 600 bhp on the road. In those days the underpowered family cars could hardly climb the mountain roads at all and the hil1climb, drivers were really adventurers in the eyes of the crowd. Today the Mountain Championship cars are smal1 and light, their engine noises less impressive, but they rush up the hills in times the Old Guard would never have believed.

Porsches have dominated this type of racing since 1958, taking the title six times. Ferrari, with hillcJimb expert Lodovico Scarfiotti, was able to win it twice, while the now defunct Borgward firm had put up a serious challenge. The 1967 European Mountain Championship started as it had in years past. with several factories sending out press releases saying. "We're out to beat Porsche!" Ferrari and Abarth again intended to compete. Alfa Romeo had its new Type 33, and BMW had a special Lola chassis for its 4-cyl 16-valve engine.

This year it was nearly impossible for Ferrari to get a car ready. With machinery being prepared for Formulas 1 and 2 as well as Prototype events, the Mountain Championship had to come last. The factory 2-liter V -6 Dino, unchanged from Proto~ type .form, appeared at only one event, Trento-Bondone, with Scarfiotti and Gunther Klass driving. With the 3-valve heads. power was 225 bhp at 9000 rpm; at 1230 lb the Dino was the heaviest of all the hillclimb cars.

Viennese-born, Torino-based Carlo Abarth had competed without success up through 1965 and in 1966 had not run at all. This year he had two different cars. One was a 1600-cc 4-cyl developing about 180 bhp not a lot of power but the car was very light at 925 lb. The driver was Austrian Johannes Ortner. The second car was a very strong 2-liter, also a 4-cyl, putting out 238 bhp at 8200 rpm. It had a partial monocoque, partial tubular chassis and a total weight of 1130 lb. Its driver was the young Swiss, Peter Schetty, who had run a huge Ford Mustang the year before but managed to place second in the European GT championship. Schetty is a highly talented driver, able to learn all the curves and braking points after only a few practice runs on a course new to him.

The Alfa Romeo 33 was thoroughly described in August 1967 R&T. From the beginning there were road-holding problems, but the engine was powerful, giving 240 bhp at 8500. Weight was 1200 lb. The Type 33 only ran two events, Rossfeld and Cesana Sestriere, with drivers Andrea de Adamich and Gianfranco Nanni Galli.

BMW had the promising 16-valve ApfeJbeck-designed 4-cyl engine, which in 2-liter form had produced a startling 265 bhp (R&T, May 1967). Development head Klaus Steinmetz (formerly with Abarth) and Rennleiter Alex von Falkenhausen had Eric Broadley design them a 2-seater chassis (BMW and Lola already had a cooperative agreement in Formula 2). After trying a number of German and Austrian drivers they selected Viennese Dieter Quester, former motorboat champion and Austrian Touring Car Champion in a BMW 2000 TI. True, Quester had married Falkenhausen's daughter, but it was his astonishing lap times at Hockenhcim that got him the job. The Lola Ti 10 chassis was tubular with fuel tanks at the rear; initially the weight was 1190 lb, latcr reduced to 1090 lb. In a minor early-season Austrian hillclimb event Quester lost the car in a big way-its road-holding was terrible at first-and completely demolished it but escaped uninjured.

Porsche has had the most successful hillclimb team for years. Before Mitter, the late Edgar Barth had an almost monotonous series of championships. This year Porsche had two different Bergspiders. one much like last year's weighing 1100 Ib, the second only 905 lb. The plastic hood of the latter was so thin you.

could read a newspaper through it! The only instrument in the car was the tachometer, The second, lighter Porsche was developed after Quester's BMW got a bit too close to the Porsche times. It had a monocoquc center section with tubular front and rear assemblies. After problems with frame stiffness, they had to add a diagonal brace above the engine. To keep the real' end on the track, a spoiler was added-made of balsa wood! The engine in both cars was a flat 8 with four camshafts and fuel injection, giving 242 bhp at 9200 rpm.

The first event was on the excellent 8.07.mi Montseny course in Spain. Mitter did well in both practice and the official climb, beating Stommelen. The young driver from Koln got closer and closer to Mitter's times and might have beaten him if there had been one more run. As it was, the difference was only 1.4 sec. Rudi Lins, a Porsche dealer from Austria, won the Sports Car category in a Carrera 6, beating the experienced German, Sepp Greger.

Next, at Rossfeld, near Berchtesgaden, M itter was well ahead of his rivals in practice, beating the record for the 3.73-mi course. In the firsC official heat he was a bit nervous and ran off one corner, ending up <1 second slower than Stommclen. He became more disturbed when Stommelen joked with him between the heats, sO much so that he not only went off the road again but ended up third overall behind Stommelen and De Adamich's Alfa 33. Quester was right behind the Porsches' practice times but broke a haJfshaft a quarter-mile before the finish. "Nanni" was fourth overall in the second Alfa. Greger took the Sports Car category.

Stommelen beat Mitter again at Mont Ventoux in Switzerland; the difference on the 13.04~mj run was a startling 27 sec. Third was Quester's LoJa-BMW. Mont Ventoux is. a fast climb, not being as twisty as the other courses, but even so Stommelen's average speed was only 73.9 mph, slower even than Monaco.

One of the most dangerous hills in the series is the l0.56-mi Trento-Bondone, with one hairpin leading into the next and over 130 curves in all. Most drivers came a week early to study the course. With two Dinos, two Abarths, two Porsches and the Lola-BMW, Trento-Rondone had the best entry yet. In practice Mitter and Scarfiotti had the best times, experience telling on this difficult course. On the official runs the results were the same; the young drivers, Stommelen and Quester, both went off the road and diminished their championship chances. After Mitter and Scarfiotti came Peter Schelly in his first outing with the 2-liter Abarth, followed by Gunter Klass (unfortunately killed at Mugello two weeks later) in the second Dino and Ortner in the 1.6-liter Abarth. Lins beat Greger again, as he had at Mont Ventoux. Greger was followed by local driver Carlo Pacetti and the Spaniard Alex Soler-Roig, both in Carrera 6s. Soler-Roig turned in consistently good times in the Sports Car category throughout the season.

Cesana-Sestriere saw Stommelen fight to win back his lost ground at Trento. He led both in- practice and on the official 6.21-mi run;, behind him came Mitter, "Nanni," Schetty, and Mario Casoni in his private Dino, so 'there were four different makes in the first five. If Quester hadn't crashed the Lola-BMW again, it would have been five different makes in the first six.

The 6.83-mi, 172-curve Freiburg-Schauinsland run is an extremely difficult climb, with sudden changes from fast to very slow sections. Mitter proved his knowledge by leaving Stommelen 13 sec. behind; Schetty was third another 2 sec. back. On German home ground, BMW gave Formula 2 driver Hubert Hahne a chance, but he trailed Schetty by nearly 30 sec. to take fourth.

At Ollon Villars the other competitors were not at all pleased to see the new, lighter Porsches, but their appearance was a compliment to the BMW challenge. Quester was still not far behind the Porsche times in practice, running 4:02.0 to Mitter's 3:58.0 and Stommelen's 3:59.2. In the two 4.97mi heats Mitter came out 7 sec. ahead of Stommelen; Quester had trouble in the second run with his fuel injection but still took third ahead of Schetty. Lins took the Sports Car class to make up for Greger's win at Freiburg.

So the situation before the final event at Gaisberg was: If Stommelen won and Mitter did not manage second place, Stommelen would be champion. In the Sports Car class, the winner at Gaisberg would win that championship. The drivers practiced all week long, keeping to themselves and not talking to the others between runs. Mitter knew the course well, having competed there many times in Porsches and Formula Juniors. After practice he led with 3:55.8, followed by Quester at 3:58.1 and Stommelen at 4:00.2. Before the runs the Porsche mechanics stripped down both cars back at Stuttgart. It was said that a further 6.5 Ib was removed from Stommelen's car, but Mitter was not worried since he knew the road so well.

The first heat on race day was the absolute best of the whole season, Stommelen beating Mitter by just 0.37 sec. Quester-who had brake trouble-was 5.25 sec. behind Mitter. Schetty was not really competitive, being almost. 9 sec. slower than Quester. In the Sports Car battle, Lins margin over Greger was only 0.09 see!

Then came the final heat. Gerhard Mitter ran through-silence-3:42.93, three seconds slower than his first run. "The sun blazes directly into the cockpit and there is also oil on the track!" he said. Then came Stommelen at 3:42.16, making him the Gaisberg winner by 1.14 sec. Photographers and autograph seekers crowded in around him. But could he be champion? No, Quester would have to do the impossible to beat Mitter for second place and his time turned out to be 6 sec. slower anyway. So it was Stommelen, Mitter, Quester and Schetty at Gaisberg and Mitter again champion. In the second heat of the Sports Car class Lins did 4:03.07 to Greger's 4:03.45 to win Gaisberg and the championship by only 0.47 sec.

Mitter will not run on the hills any more. He'lI try his luck in Formula 2 racing. Who will be No.2 to Stommelen at Porsche next year? Even Rennteiter Huschke von Hanstein doesn't know. Abarth and BMW will continue their fight against Porsche, and perhaps Alfa Romeo and Ferrari as well. Colin Chapman spent some hours talking to Surtees about the Lola~BMW. He told me he thought a Lotus chassis with a modified Formula 2 Cosworth would be quite interesting. We think so too.


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Author: ArchitectPage