The 1969 South African Grand Prix, otherwise known as the XIV South African Grand Prix, was the opening round of the 1969 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged on the Kyalami Circuit on the 1st of March 1969. The race would be remembered for the dominance, both in number and performance, of the Ford Cosworth DFV engine, with all of the point scorers using the Anglo-American badged unit.
Qualifying would see Brabham-Ford Cosworth take pole, as Jack Brabham put his updated car onto the prime spot on the grid for the first time since 1966. He would share the front row with ex-teammates Jochen Rindt and Denny Hulme, who had survived two days of wing failures across the field.
When the flag fell on race day it would be Brabham who leapt into the lead, shadowed by second row starter Jackie Stewart for Matra-Ford Cosworth. Those two would battle for the lead throughout the opening lap, although it would take a move early on during lap two for Stewart to finally take and hold the lead.
Brabham would stalk Stewart over the following laps until he suffered a complete collapse of his rear wing and was forced to stop. Rindt inherited second but would soon tumble down the order, falling to defending Champion Graham Hill, Hulme, Jo Siffert and Mario Andretti over the following laps.
Yet, out front, Stewart was in supreme form, ultimately taking victory by almost twenty seconds from Hill in second. Hulme, Siffert and Andretti battled for third until the latter dropped out with a transmission failure, with the New Zealander steadily pulling clear of the Swiss racer soon after. Bruce McLaren and Jean-Pierre Beltoise would complete the points scorers.
Tradition dictated that the South African Grand Prix would be staged on the weekend closest to New Year's Day, meaning that almost every race had seen the older cars entered by the locals battling a mix of the previous season's machinery and developmental cars. For 1969, however, the FIA had decided to move the opening round to March, allowing teams to fully focus on developing new cars over the winter, meaning the entry list featured a lot of new equipment and major updates. Otherwise, the Kyalami Circuit was unchanged for 1969, although there were plenty of different faces in different places among the entries.
Lotus-Ford Cosworth arrived in South Africa with three cars featuring updates and two new drivers to support defending World Champion Graham Hill. Colin Chapman had opted to drop Jackie Oliver after a largely anonymous season, favouring two younger talents: Jochen Rindt and Mario Andretti. All three drivers would get redesigned front-wings, which could be moved from the cockpit by a pedal, on-board fire extinguishers and redesigned timing gear mountings as Cosworth attempted to remedy their poor reliability. The Rob Walker Racing Team had also received upgrades for their privately entered 49B, once again fielding Jo Siffert to create a four pronged "works" effort from Norfolk.
McLaren-Ford Cosworth had taken a split approach for the opening round, fielding different spec cars for their two drivers Denny Hulme and owner Bruce McLaren. The former went into South Africa unchanged, using the same chassis as he had used in Mexico, although the car did have a new aero setup copied from Team Lotus. McLaren, meanwhile, had an updated car with fuel tanks running along the body of the car, attempting redistribute the weight of the car, as well as a brand new rear wing.
Ken Tyrrell had the semi-works Matra International squad out in South Africa, fielding two drivers for the opening round, both using season old cars. Jackie Stewart would run two chassis, the MS10, marginally updated with new aero, and a brand new MS80, which had a completely redesigned monocoque, brake system, suspension and rear wing. Jean-Pierre Beltoise would only have use of the second of the MS10s throughout the weekend.
BRM had made their way out to South Africa with three cars on offer, two for the works team with a third for Reg Parnell Racing. They had been busy over the winter, securing John Surtees and Jackie Oliver to drive their factory cars, having dropped Pedro Rodríguez to their customer Tim Parnell. Surtees' Honda deal had broken down completely over the winter, while Oliver was a free agent after being dropped by Chapman. In terms of the cars there had been little change over the winter, although Surtees did get an upgraded, lighter, engine as the former Champions looked to regain their former fortunes.
Brabham had a change of engine ahead of the first round of 1969, owner Jack Brabham ditching Repco after a difficult season in favour of the Ford Cosworth DFV unit. The Australian also had two new cars built in time for opening round, identified as BT26As with various modifications to fit the new engines. Brabham also secured the signature of Jacky Ickx to replace Rindt, the Belgian also bringing Gulf sponsorship to the team after being persuaded to leave Ferrari.
Speaking of the Italians, and it had been a difficult winter in Maranello, who were only able to get one car ready for the opening round. It would be the unlucky Chris Amon in the hot seat, getting a new nose section and an upgraded engine, based off the design of their sportscars, meaning that the budget could be shared by the two programmes. Minor aero details were also made, but Amon would have to be careful not to damage the only car the team had shipped over.
The final entries were made by the locals, headlined by John Love and his Team Gunston, who would race a Lotus 49 with his own aero-kit and an older Cosworth engine. Love would also support countryman Sam Tingle with a Brabham-Repco, whose car did not have any wings at all. Basil van Rooyen and Peter de Klerk completed the field, using a McLaren-Ford Cosworth and a Brabham-Repco respectively.
The full entry list for the 1969 South African Grand Prix is outlined below:
The first round of the season would have ample time for the teams to practice and qualify, with three, three hour sessions scheduled across Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. All three days would be hot, although Friday's running would be affected by a storm caused by the humidity that had built across the week. Target times would be the circuit record of 1:21.6, set by Jim Clark en-route to his final pole and victory in 1968.
There would be several absentees from the opening session of the meeting, with Ferrari still making their way south, while several of the privateers had trouble persuading their cars to start. Those who did make it out, however, would hit the circuit as soon as possible, the two orange McLaren-Ford Cosworths of Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme hitting the tarmac as soon as possible. Hulme was soon setting the pace, recording a 1:20.5 after a few aborted attempts, before both he and McLaren set about completing some long distance runs.
Elsewhere, Lotus-Ford Cosworth had all three of their cars running different aero-setups, although World Champion Hill would be outclassed by both Jochen Rindt and Mario Andretti by the end of the session. BRM, meanwhile, were having serious troubles, a complete rewire required for all three of their race worthy cars due to a mistake when the cars were built before being shipped out to South Africa. Jackie Stewart was trying out both of the Matra-Ford Cosworths available to him, while Basil van Rooyen got up among the professionals to be the best of the local privateers.
Thursday would see hotter temperatures, leading Jack Brabham to bolt on a radiator to the rear of his car, although the experiment concerned drag rather than temperature. McLaren, meanwhile, were looking very happy, with Hulme and McLaren once again going out as soon as possible to start a series of long runs, although only the boss could improve his time from Friday. BRM had a delayed start as their parts arrived in the morning, while Ferrari were in strife as Chris Amon's car was suffering from numerous issues.
Things at Team Lotus were looking more promising, until Hill suffered a failure on his wing adjuster, leaving him out of action as the team worked to fix the issue. He, however, would be fortunate, as teammates Andretti and Rindt both suffered identical failures within moments of each other. The two drivers were coming towards the pits when their rear wing struts failed, allowing the towering wing to come crashing down onto the rear of the car, although it was only when Andretti reported that the rear wheel had touched the upright while cornering that Colin Chapman and co. had any idea what to do.
With Lotus out of action, the rest of Thursday would be about who could topple Rindt, whom had just gone fastest before his failure with a 1:20.2. Hulme was trying hard but unable to improve, while Amon suddenly got some clean running to record a time good enough for fourth, just shy of Stewart who was trying out both cars once again. Yet, they would all be beaten by a veteran, for Brabham had removed his rear radiator and gone out in the closing minutes, before going to the top of the times with a 1:20.0 as the chequered flag brought the session to a close.
Friday saw only thirty minutes of timed running in the dry before the storm hit, although most of the field missed the window or simply opted not to push. Lotus arrived just after the start of the storm to tryout their shortened wings, the front and rear wings now sat at the same height, although Andretti would run without a front wing at all. After the storm the circuit would steadily dry, with the officials allowing an extra half an hour of untimed running after 5:30pm on the completely dry circuit.
The full qualifying results for the 1969 South African Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||14||Jack Brabham||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:21.3||1:20.0||1:26.0||—|
|2||2||Jochen Rindt||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:20.7||1:20.2||1:26.6||+0.2s|
|3||5||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:20.3||1:20.5||1:21.5||+0.3s|
|4||7||Jackie Stewart||Matra-Ford Cosworth||1:20.4||1:20.8T||1:21.3||+0.4s|
|5||9||Chris Amon||Ferrari||No Time||1:20.5||1:23.1||+0.5s|
|6||3||Mario Andretti||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:21.1||1:20.8||1:24.6||+0.8s|
|7||1||Graham Hill||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:21.1||1:21.6||1:24.4||+1.1s|
|8||6||Bruce McLaren||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:21.3||1:21.1||1:22.2||+1.1s|
|9||18||Basil van Rooyen||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:21.8||No Time||1:24.4||+1.8s|
|10||16||John Love||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:22.1||1:22.9||No Time||+2.1s|
|11||8||Jean-Pierre Beltoise||Matra-Ford Cosworth||1:23.6||1:22.2||1:25.0||+2.2s|
|12||4||Jo Siffert||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||No Time||1:33.1||1:22.2||+2.2s|
|13||15||Jacky Ickx||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:25.0||1:23.1||1:24.1||+3.1s|
|15||12||Pedro Rodríguez||BRM||No Time||1:25.2||1:26.7||+5.2s|
|16||19||Peter de Klerk||Brabham-Repco||No Time||1:32.5||1:27.2||+7.2s|
|17||17||Sam Tingle||Brabham-Repco||No Time||No Time||1:50.4||+30.4s|
- * Surtees' times were excluded from the results as the timekeepers were not informed of his use of the spare car.
- T Indicates use of a test/spare car.
|Basil van Rooyen||10|
|Peter de Klerk||17||______________|
Raceday dawned hot and sunny, although as the start time of 3:00pm approached, storms had begun to gather in the nearby valleys, a little over five miles from the circuit. Yet, everyone would settle for dry tyres, and most of the teams would be fighting fit after a morning practice session to help clear sand from the circuit, a symptom of the storm from the day before. With that seventeen of the eighteen starters pulled from the dummy grid onto the proper grid, Sam Tingle stranded with a silent engine, awaiting the flutter of the flag at exactly 3:00pm.
Pole sitter Jack Brabham leapt away from the grid when the flag fell to take an immediate lead, although Jackie Stewart managed to squeeze past the veteran Australian into the second corner. Graham Hill had followed his compatriot through to the back of Brabham off the line, only to get beaten into turn one by teammate Jochen Rindt, while Denny Hulme slotted into fifth. Come the end of the first lap Stewart would be a second clear from Brabham, who had the rest of the runners, bar Tingle, hanging on in his wake.
It soon became clear that Stewart was not out for a fight, the Scot simply driving off into the distance in the opening stages, breaking the old lap record as early as lap three. Brabham remained a stubborn second and was holding up the field, allowing Jo Siffert to move past John Love and Mario Andretti with ease. Pedro Rodríguez, in contrast, was dropping through the order, a good start seeing him run as high as eleventh, before Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Jackie Oliver, Jacky Ickx, Basil van Rooyen and John Surtees, who had been forced to start from the back of the grid, all made their way past.
Brabham began to push on after the first few laps, but his attempts to catch Stewart would immediately be curtailed when the Australian suffered a collapsed rear wing. With Brabham stopping to have the remains of the rear wing, and the healthy front wing, removed, Rindt and Hill moved into second and third, working together to break away from the rest of the runners. Hulme and McLaren led the chasers, dragging along Siffert, Andretti and Amon as that quintet began to move away from the back markers, aided by the fact that Love was putting up a ferocious defence from Beltoise and Ickx.
Stewart eased his pace once Brabham dropped into the pits, holding a seven second margin over the second placed Hill, who moved past Rindt with relative ease on lap eight. In truth, the Austrian was struggling with a worsening misfire, and would soon drop behind Hulme, Siffert and Andretti over the following laps. Brabham, meanwhile, was back in action and battling with Amon, the Australian having to lift off down the straights in his wingless car to avoid going over 10,000 rpm.
Indeed, the Australian's car was proving so potent down the main straight that he was able to hit 176.33 mph, leaving Amon with little hope of challenging. Yet, when the two came to a corner Brabham's pace fell dramatically, his car proving horribly unstable and constantly darted from side to side. This too was enough to deny Amon, with the New Zealander unwilling to risk a sideswipe from the tank slapping Aussie, only to lose the place again down a straight.
Back with the leaders and Stewart was still holding his seven second gap back to Hill on lap twenty, as Siffert and Andretti managed to move past Hulme and began to close on their fellow Lotus pilot. Hulme was running with teammate McLaren in his wake, the latter having had to battle past Rindt, who was still losing pace with every lap. Ickx, meanwhile, had just broken into the top ten when he suffered a wing collapse, identical to that of his teammate, and when the Belgian tried to get going after stopping in the pits to have it remove, the Ford Cosworth engine refused to start.
With the race approaching half-distance things began to settle down, although only after Andretti moved past Siffert and began hunting down teammate Hill. Siffert himself was struggling with fading brakes, leading to a steady decline in pace, and would slowly fall into the clutches of Hulme. Elsewhere, Love and Beltoise were enjoying a spirited duel at the lower end of the top ten, the Rhodesian proving more than a match for the factory backed Frenchman, while BRM looked a sorry state as lead driver Surtees was lapped well before the halfway point.
Andretti was on Hill's tail within ten laps of passing Siffert, although the American was hesitant to overtake his senior stable mate and instead opted to match the Englishman's pace. Yet, he soon over came his initial hesitance, but before Andretti could get on with the job of overtaking, the Lotus' gearbox failed, leaving him stranded out on the circuit without any gears. That left Hill with a sizeable gap over Hulme in third, although Stewart had taken Andretti's charge as a motive to press on, stretching his advantage to twelve seconds when the American dropped out.
The other battles in the field were also to be broken up by mechanical fatigue rather than the chequered flag, meaning the second half of the race became a procession. First, Love dropped out with an ignition failure, while the wayward Brabham went out having given up hope of keeping his car in check with the handling getting worse the lighter the car got. Amon was therefore released to attack Rindt, only to retire with an engine failure a lap after taking the Austrian, while BRM lost their two best placed cars just after half-distance to engine issues.
The closing stages saw Rindt finally succumb to a series of issues on his Lotus, the fatal blow proving to be a broken fuel pump, while de Klerk stopped to have his clutch fixed, returning to the race too far back to be classified. McLaren eased his pace once as soon as he could, allowing Stewart to put a lap on him, while Beltoise lost a cylinder from his engine as he limped on in sixth. Oliver was his biggest threat over the closing laps, but the seemingly healthy BRM simply lacked the pace to challenge a sick Matra.
Eventually, 80,000 fans greeted a dominant Stewart across the line, the Scot holding an eighteen second margin over Hill by the time the race finished. Hulme cruised home third, the New Zealander having had little trouble in passing the ailing Siffert, who would be grateful that McLaren opted to nurse his car early on. The New Zealand based teamowner finished fifth ahead of Beltoise, with Oliver and Tingle completing the classified finishers.
The full results for the 1969 South African Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||7||Jackie Stewart||Matra-Ford Cosworth||80||1:50:39.1||4||9|
|2||1||Graham Hill||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||80||+18.8s||7||6|
|3||5||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||80||+31.8s||3||4|
|4||4||Jo Siffert||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||80||+49.2s||12||3|
|5||6||Bruce McLaren||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||79||+1 lap||8||2|
|6||8||Jean-Pierre Beltoise||Matra-Ford Cosworth||78||+2 laps||11||1|
|7||11||Jackie Oliver||BRM||77||+3 laps||14|
|8||17||Sam Tingle||Brabham-Repco||73||+7 laps||17|
|NC*||19||Peter de Klerk||Brabham-Repco||67||+13 laps||16|
|Ret||2||Jochen Rindt||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||44||Fuel injection||2|
|Ret||14||Jack Brabham||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||32||Wing||1|
|Ret||3||Mario Andretti||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||31||Gearbox||6|
|Ret||16||John Love||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||31||Fuel injection||10|
|Ret||15||Jacky Ickx||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||20||Starter ring||13|
|Ret||18||Basil van Rooyen||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||12||Brakes||9|
- 33rd and final race entry for a Repco engine.
- First time since the 1957 Italian Grand Prix that a Cooper chassis has not been entered for a Grand Prix.
- Brabham claimed their tenth pole position as a manufacturer.
- Sixth win for Jackie Stewart.
Victory left Jackie Stewart at the top of the Championship after the opening round, continuing his strong form from the second half of the previous season. Defending Champion Graham Hill opened his defence with a safe second, suggesting that he would be a threat for a third title, while Denny Hulme claimed a promising third. Jo Siffert, Bruce McLaren and Jean-Pierre Beltoise were also on the board.
Matra-Ford Cosworth were on top of the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers' Standings after the opening round, with Stewart's victory backed up (although not on the board) by Beltoise's sixth place. Lotus-Ford Cosworth would have been second even if Siffert's tally had been added to Hill's second place, with the Lotus 49B getting more wings over the weekend. Completing the scorers would be McLaren-Ford Cosworth with Hulme and McLaren both in the points.
Images and Videos:
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: SOUTH AFRICAN GP, 1969', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr174.html, (Accessed 16/12/2016)
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 2.30 2.31 2.32 2.33 2.34 2.35 2.36 2.37 2.38 2.39 2.40 2.41 2.42 2.43 2.44 2.45 2.46 2.47 2.48 2.49 2.50 2.51 2.52 2.53 2.54 2.55 2.56 2.57 2.58 2.59 2.60 2.61 2.62 2.63 2.64 2.65 2.66 2.67 2.68 2.69 2.70 2.71 2.72 2.73 2.74 2.75 2.76 2.77 2.78 2.79 2.80 2.81 2.82 2.83 M.J.T., 'Grand Prix of South Africa: Stewart the Master', motorsportmagazine.com, (MotorSport Magazine, 01/04/1969), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/april-1969/46/grand-prix-south-africa, (Accessed 17/12/2016)
- ↑ 'South Africa 1969: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1969/afrique-du-sud/engages.aspx, (Accessed 16/12/2016)
- ↑ 'South Africa 1969: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1969/afrique-du-sud/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 18/12/2016)
- ↑ 'South Africa 1969: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1969/afrique-du-sud/classement.aspx, (Accessed 18/12/2016)
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