Tasman Championship
Australian GP 1969

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Lakeside Queensland:

Ferraris have a field-day

Chris Amon and Derek Bell (Ferrari-Dinos) one-two in Australian GP- GL TL Lotuses, Courage's Brabham, Gardner's Mildren troubled- Leo Geoghegan (Lotus-Repco) third

CHRIS AMON all but secured the 1969 Tasman Championship last Sunday when he won the fifth round, and the first in Australia, the 34th Australian Grand Prix at the Queensland circuit of Lakeside. The Ferrari team-leader took his Scuderia Veloce-entered 2.4-litre Dino V6 to a decisive 23.9 sees win over his team-mate Derek Bell, having led from start to finish. Australia's Leo Geoghegan was third a lap down after a steady race in .he Lotus-Repco 39, having inheri'ed places as first Courage, then Rindt, Gardner and Hill ran into trouble.

Courage and Hill tangled on the fourth lap and the Frank Williams-entered Brabham-Ford V8 was forced out with damaged suspension; Hill continued, only to slow later with a broken wing which was probably weakened in the incident. Jochen Rindt in the other Gold Leaf Team Lotus 49 retired with what felt like an imminent engine seizure, and Gardner's Mildren-Alfa broke an oil line. Hill's wing eventually collapsed and he lost a lap in the pits, finishing fourth

With two rounds of the Tasman Championship remaining, Amon has scored 35 pts out of a possible 45, and only Courage, with 22 points, can still catch him.

Entry

THE SHIFT from New Zealand to Australia naturally brought a change in the supporting entries, but no' first-line alterations to the Tasman field. Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt had the two GLTL Lotuses, Hill his 49T and Rindt the 49B which had replaced the T wrecked at Levin. Scude Veloce entered the two 2A-litre V6 Ferraris. Chris Amon and Derek Bell, and Frank Williams Piers Courage's Brabham-Ford DFW BT24 and Malcolm Guthrie's Vegantune twincam Brabham BT21 B.

Leo Geoghegan had his Lotus-Repco 39, as raced in New Zealand; this car is now doing its fourth Tasman Series. The only other. car to have raced in New Zealand was the Frank Gardner driven, Alec Mildren entered, Alan Mann built 2.5 Mildren-Alfa V8. Alec Mildren backed up this car with two further entries, Australian champion Kevin Bartlett in the 1968 Gardner Tasman Brabham-Alfa BT23D V8, and Australian 1.5-litre champion Max Stewart in Mildren's four-valves-per-cylinder 1.6-litre Mildren-Alfa, a car built in Australia by Bob Britton and Mildren's team. There was one more full 2.5-litre Tasman car, the ex-Mildren/Gardner 1967 Brabham-Climax BTl6 of Col Green.

F2 McLaren-FV A M4As were entered by Neil Allen (both car and driver having recovered from theicfrightful accident at Lakeside six months ago) and Tony Osbourne, whose car was driven by Alfredo Constanzo. The only driver from Queensland in the race was Glyn Scott in his FV A-powered Bowin P3. The final entry was by 1961 Australian champion Bill Patterson, for his latest protege Henk Woelders, whom he had provided with a twin-cam 1.6-litre Elfin-Ford 6OOB.

Practice

The Australian customs proved to be a large obstacle for some of the cars: the Ferraris got through quickly but the Lotuses were held up. Without the usual two-week break between the last NZ race and the first in Australia, the time lost was vital, and while the Ferraris were being prepared for Lakeside at Scuderia Veloce Motors the Lotuses were out of reach. As a result the Ferraris were ready for practice on the Friday before the race, when the track was made available, although marshalling and other facilities weren't really provided.

Amon's Ferrari was fitted with a solenoid operated device to give him control over his wing, but Bell had to make do with the fixed set-up. In all the Ferraris did a little over 150 laps on the Friday, with Amon quickest at 52.5 s, 102.86 mph, 1.8 secs quicker than the outright circuit record, held by Leo Geoghegan and Kevin Bartlett. Bell got down to 53.3. and other times recorded were 54.6 by Bartlett, 54.9 by Gardner, and 55.5 by Allen.

There were two official sessions counting for grid positions on the Saturday. The first missed by the Lotuses; they were playing permutations with engines, Piers Courage's going into Hill's car, Hill's old engine into Rindt's, and Rindt's old one out altogether.

With Amon's Friday time as a goal, official practice began. Courage's Brabham-Ford looked and sounded good, and in the absence of the Lotus team he was the only one who looked like getting close to the Ferraris. Amon was again the only one to beat 53 secs. and he put in half a dozen laps under that time, his best being 52.3. Bell impressed with a lap at 53 dead, while Courage was 0.3 sec slower than Bell and 0.4 sec quicker than Gardner. .

The rest of the times for the first session were as follows: Bartlett, 54.2; Geoghegan, 54.7; Allen, 55.2, quickest of the four-cylinder cars; Stewart, 55.3; Constanzo, 56.2; Scott, 57.0; Woelders, 57.1; Green, 59.1; and Guthrie, 60.7.

About 2.5 hours later the second practice session began, and the Gold Leaf Team Lotus cars arrived just in time. Amon once again slipped under 53 secs, and lapped consistently better than this, repeating his earlier 52.3, 103.25 mph. Courage had an alarming moment while passing Allen on the Dunlop straight, was not particularly consistent in this session, but nevertheless he took the spot next to Amon on the grid with a time of 52.5.

The Lotus 49s were soon circulating, Rindt's engine sounding rather rough, but Hill's somewhat better. This showed up in the lap times, as the World Champion took third place 0n the two-by-two grid with a time of 52.6. Rindt could only equal Bell's first session time of 53 dead, but the latter was a little slower than before. Gardner took the Mildren (Alan Mann's FA/F5000 prototype?) round ;n 53.4, 0.4 sec ahead of Geoghegan, who was the quickest of the local drivers in the only Repco-powered car in the race. Bartlett could not improve on his first session's time in the Brabham-Alfa, but almost everyone else did manage to do so. Next quickest after Bartlett was Allen's McLaren, again quickest of the F2 cars at 54.8.

Right at the end of practice Hill had a moment when his wing support broke, and he came into the pits via a cross-country route to have it removed. The left-hand support had given about a foot up from the bottom, and the whole thing was leaning back at a very non-standard angle. After practice the mechanics had to search for an elusive misfire in Rindt's engine, and they replaced the big 49B-type wing on Hill's car which had broken with the earlier narrow 49 wing he had used in New Zealand. There wasn't enough time to make the wing adjustable and so, with Amon also using a fixed wing despite the system that had been rigged on his car, only Rindt had a flapper.

The Ferraris had obviously benefited from their extra days out of the clutches of the customs and were in good shape, while the l.otus team were struggling to get everything finished. The Ford engine situation was more than a little desperate as, between the three cars of Courage, Hill and Rindt, there were three engines, and Rindt's was really sick. There was talk of flying an engine man out from Cosworth with a baggage load of bits to get them all going again.

Practice troubles diagnosed and hopefully fixed in the various other camps included some fuel pump fiddling on Gardner's Mildren, a new pressure cap for the cooling system on Bartlett's Brabham-Alfa, a wing and fuel injection adjustment on Constanzo's McLaren, and little more than routine checking on the Ferraris and Courage's Brabham, although Amon had a larger radiator fitted. Much experimenting with springs on the Amon Dino had given improved handling the car had not been at all right at Teretonga and the springs used for the race would, it was hoped, allow a little more benefit to be gained from the wing.

The grid for the 34th Australian Grand Prix was made up of 15 cars: see below

The Race

RACE day was warm and mostly sunny, although early threatening cloud probably helped to keep the crowds away. Before the race the cars were given two warming up laps, but some drivers thought they had three, and there was very nearly a nasty accident as officials stopped a couple of cars rather suddenly in front of others who were expecting another flying lap; Constanzo had to brake very hard and narrowly avoided hitting Geoghegan.

While all this was going on the grid lined up with Amon on pole position on the right. There was further drama when Hill's car was found to have sprung an oil leak, and some desperate tightening of lubricant lines ensued as the one-minute board went up.

Down went the flag, and into the fast left hander after the pit straight swept Amon, who had pulled out a lead of several car lengths by the end of the first lap. Hill lay second, holding off Courage, and then came Bell, Gardner and Geoghegan, followed by Rindt, Bartlett, Allen, Stewart and Woelders. Constanzo, Scott and Green were the next three, with Guthrie last.

For three and half laps the positions remained unchanged; then Courage tried to take Hill on the inside of the sweeping left-hander, which used to be called the Karussel but has since gone commercial and been renamed BMC Bend. The cars touched and Courage lost control on the dirt, shooting across in front of Hill and going off the road and over a bank. Damage seemed to be confined to a broken wishbone, but the Brabham was out of the race; Hill was sufficiently delayed to lose his second place to Bell, so Ferraris now lay first and second. Their healthiest threat, Courage, had been removed, and Rindt was obviously in trouble with his engine and didn't have the power to get by Geoghegan and Gardner.

Amon's second and third laps occupied just 52,8 s, 102.27 mph, a new outright record, but as soon as Hill and Courage dropped from his mirrors Chris relaxed his times by about half a second a lap and settled down to an immaculately consistent drive to the flag. With six laps gone Bell was 10 secs behind, but still impressing as he held off Hill. Graham was finding things a little lacking in the roadholding department, and the reason was apparent to all who could see the angle of his wing gradually deteriorating. Bartlett came slowly into the pits to retire a very hot Brabham-Alfa: a head gasket had gone, so his practice trouble evidently hadn't just been the pressure cap. .

The pattern of the race now seemed set, with Amon still pulling away and Bell holding his position ahead of Hill; then behind him came the Gardner-Geoghegan-Rindt group, Jochen eventually getting past the Lotus-Repco after 12 laps. Neil Allen had run into trouble under braking at the Karussel and lost 30 secs in a spin; the leading F2 car was Stewart in Mildren's Alfa Romeo-powered machine, which was lying seventh overall just inches ahead of Woelders' Elfin. Hill's wing was now waving visibly and it was all he could do to keep within 4 secs of Bell. Others in trouble were Scott, whose Bowin-FV A was misfiring; Guthrie, whose engine was sounding very rough; and Green, whose old Climax motor was not very healthy either.

Just before one-third distance it was Amon, Bell, Hill and Rindt, who now had disposed of Gardner and Geoghegan. F2 leader Stewart, had been lapped but was still just ahead of Woelders-until the latter crashed. Allen was steadily making up ground after his mistake, with Scott, Guthrie and Green still circulating erratically. Woelders' accident came on lap 22 when he moved over to let a faster car lap him, got off line and hit the safety fence. He was able to limp his car back to-the pits to retire. Rindt, despite his engine bothers, now had his sights on Hill, and got to within 3.4 sees of him before the motor got sicker.

By the half-way mark Amon was keeping his lead constant at 23 sees, with Hill still 4 secs behind Bell and now 8.4 sees ahead of Rindt. Gardner's Mildren was pouring smoke: an oil line had broken, and three laps later he was out. He was followed on lap 44 by Rindt, whose engine hadn't been right from the beginning and, after gradually getting worse, suddenly started to make very strange noises. Jochen hastily called it a day and coasted in to retire-leaving two serviceable Ford V8s between the three Ford-powered cars in Australia.

Rindt's demise put Geoghegan in fourth place a lap behind Hill but two laps ahead of Stewart and Allen. Still the Ferraris circulated in neat and relentless fashion, with Bell lapping just as consistently as Amon; the intense close-season practice he is getting in the Tasman Series can't be doing him any harm. Amon was obviously driving well within his limits, but there was nobody around to make him prove it.

Poor Graham Hill was now battling with wavering oil pressure and a broken rev-counter as well as the floppy wing, and his troubles became manifold on lap 48 when the wing collapsed and came down across the back of the car, resting an inch or so above the left wheel. He continued for four laps with the car in this state, and then came in for a quick hacksaw job on lap 52. In the process he dropped from a lap and some yards ahead of Geoghegan to 2 sees behind him, and the Ferraris were now a lap ahead of the rest.

In the Formula 2 division things were happening too, as Allen moved up to pass Stewart and then spun once again in the Karussel. This lost him 10 sees, but he set out at undiminished pace to make up the ground again, which he managed to do before the end.

Hill's Lotus was behaving badly without its wing and was losing oil into the bargain, so he had no hope of catching Geoghegan to add insult to injury he was lapped by Amon for the second time as the race ran out.

Derek Bell drove a steady race to make it a Ferrari One-two. Here the Dino nosedives heavily under braking and the front wheels adopt alarming angles.