The 1970 South African Grand Prix, officially known as the XV South African Grand Prix, was the opening race of the 1970 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged on the 7th of March 1970. Held at the Kyalami Circuit near Johannesburg, the opening round of 1970 saw a relatively large entry list, despite a rather turbulent winter for the top teams.
There was a surprise at the front of the field in qualifying, as new constructor March claimed a maiden pole position on their debut, courtesy of defending World Champion Jackie Stewart. The Scot, racing for privateer entrants Tyrrell, would be joined on the front row by a factory March piloted by Chris Amon, and veteran racer Jack Brabham.
Raceday would see one of the Marches removed from contention early on, with Amon getting tangled with a frustrated Jochen Rindt, sending both into a spin that collected Brabham, sending all three down the order. Stewart, in contrast, managed to shoot away into an early lead, aided by the contact behind, with Jacky Ickx, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Jackie Oliver and Bruce McLaren slotting in behind.
The opening laps would see Brabham recover through the field, his move on ex-teammate Ickx on lap six seeing him up into second. The Australian legend's work was not over, however, and a fourteen lap run would end with the Brabham cruising past Stewart for the lead, before pulling clear of the Scot in the subsequent few laps.
As Brabham attacked Denny Hulme was charging, climbing up to third as the Australian snatched the lead. The New Zealander's charge carried him onto the back of Stewart, and a lap long scrap saw the orange McLaren put the blue March down to third.
That was that for the race order, attrition having removed a fair number of the pack, including McLaren and fastest lap setter John Surtees. Brabham therefore won from Hulme and Stewart, Beltoise claimed fourth as the only other man not to be lapped, while John Miles and Graham Hill completed the scorers. John Love deserved an honourable mention, the Rhodesian racer ending the day as best of the "locals" in eighth, after a long battle with factory racer Henri Pescarolo.
The Kyalami circuit had only been changed in detail since 1969, although revisions did include a line of Armco to divide the pitlane from the start/finish straight. The FIA had also made the decision to host a pre-season tyre test in South Africa before the weekend, allowing most of the teams to complete a fair amount of running in the South African summer. This was good news for the engineers, with both cars and drivers expected to get quite the workout to start the season. Kyalami sits at 1,500 m (4,920 ft) of elevation.
The major headline over the winter had been the fallout between Matra and team manager Ken Tyrrell, owner of the Tyrrell Racing Organisation that had run factory Matra cars since 1968. The issue had been Matra's dictation that Tyrrell would have to use the French firm's V12 engine if they wanted to use their cars, an option vetoed by World Champion, and Tyrrell's greatest asset, Jackie Stewart, who decided the engine was inferior to the V8 Ford Cosworth design dominating the field. As a result, Tyrrell and co. would have to find an alternative, although with an increasing trend away from supplying "customer" chassis by most of the teams, an alternative was difficult to come by.
Tyrrell were therefore somewhat fortunate that a new firm had entered the Grand Prix racing world, formed by a triumvirate of Max Mosley, Alan Rees and Graham Coaker, all experienced in the realm of Formula One. This trio had formed March in 1969 to design a Formula 3 car, although when Robin Herd agreed to work for the trio, a move to Formula One came to the fore. The British firm's first chassis, the 701 was the result, with two bought by Tyrrell, while three were produced for the factory team to be shod with Firestone tyres.
Yet, the five Marches would not be of the same spec come the start of the season, with Tyrrell's deal including a clause that allowed his engineers to modify the design. His engineers, after a winter of testing for Stewart and second driver Johnny Servoz-Gavin, who both had less than favourable responses to the design, saw heavily revised front ends on both of the Tyrrell cars, as well as a move to Dunlop tyres. The factory cars, in-contrast, came fresh from the factory, with Ferrari refugee Chris Amon joined by impressive privateer Jo Siffert, the Swiss racer finally getting the chance to race for a full blooded factory team. A third factory blessed effort was to run under the banner of STP, March's major sponsor, with American star Mario Andretti listed as the pilot for the weekend.
Ferrari had had a busy winter off the field too, with Enzo Ferrari completing a deal to sell the entire firm to Italian car manufacturer FIAT, on the basis that he could run the racing business. The Scuderia were to receive a vastly improved budget, courtesy of a partially scaled back Sportscar programme, although there would only be one scarlet car on the grid at Kyalami. Amon's decision to leave the team at the end of 1969 had pushed Ferrari into signing Jacky Ickx back to the effort, the Belgian also bringing funds from major sponsor Gulf Oil. Their car was also a vast improvement on the old, the new 312B, which Amon had had a major part in developing, was simple and elegant, and powered by an F12 engine producing around 460 hp.
Another team to arrive in South Africa after a testing winter were BRM, whom had finally completed their personnel shuffling originally started in the summer of 1969. An unfortunate heart attack had seen Sir Alfred Owen decided to end his time in charge of the team, his control handed to Louis Stanley. Stanley hired new designers to replace the already sacked Tony Rudd, with Tony Southgate taking over chassis design, while Aubrey Woods took charge of the V12 engine, moves which had resulted in the new P153. BRM would also see a change in driver line-up for the new season, with freshly hired Team Manager Tim Parnell promoting Jackie Oliver to lead driver, while also hiring Pedro Rodríguez having previously fielded the Mexican at his privateer entry Reg Parnell Racing. Canadian racer George Eaton was handed the third car, a P139, and told not to crash it in case the other two drivers needed it for the race.
Having lost arguably the best current team manager in the racing world, Matra threw their entire budget behind their new factory effort, to be lead on track by Jean-Pierre Beltoise. The Frenchman, and impressive endurance racing teammate Henri Pescarolo, would use the new MS120, a heavily revised version of the old MS80. Their V12 design had also been through a huge development programme, courtesy of designer Georges Martin, and seemed to be a respectable effort, although practice soon revealed that the engine was under powered and the car overweight.
Into the Cosworth powered side of the field and Brabham had had a fairly quiet winter, despite the fact that "the gaffer" had decided to sell his shares in the team to business partner Ron Tauranac and retire. The team had also developed the new Brabham BT33, producing two examples for drivers Ickx and the freshly promoted Rolf Stommelen, whom had driven for the team's Formula Two entry. However, Ickx's decision to return to Ferrari meant that they were a driver short, so 44 year old Jack Brabham was forced to unretire to lead the team into the 1970s, his car getting hastily re-painted to the familiar turquoise-gold of before.
Lotus had also been a hive of activity over the winter, the huge accident suffered by Graham Hill during the closing stages of the 1969 season seeing them rethink their driver line-up. Jochen Rindt had had it out with Colin Chapman, threatening to leave the team, only the sign up as lead driver for the Norfolk squad after some lengthy negotiations by manager Bernie Ecclestone to get the Austrian "Jim Clark status". Chapman himself had had other priorities over the winter, designing the all new 72, although the South African race arrived just a little too early for the design to break cover. Rindt, and new teammate John Miles, promoted from the now defunct Lotus 4WD programme, would therefore go to battle in a revised version of the formidable 49, officially entered as 49Cs.
As for Hill, a winter of rehabilitation had seen the double World Champion recover from his leg breaking accident enough to drive a Grand Prix car, although he was still struggling to walk. With no seats in the factory team, however, the Brit had been left without a drive, only for Chapman agree to get him a seat at privateers Rob Walker Racing Team, Lotus' long-term partner. Rob Walker's team would get parity with the factory team as part of the deal, something which Lotus prided themselves on, although Walker did invest in bringing Brian Redman to Kyalami should Hill find it too much to drive the team's blue-white 49C.
Frank Williams presented another interesting angle in the F1 paddock at the start of the 1970 season, the Brit having made the step-up to run a factory backed team. A deal had been signed with Italian car manufacturer De Tomaso to build Williams a car, designed by Gian Paulo Dallara, built alongside the road car, and to be raced by the highly rated Piers Courage. Unfortunately early promise disappeared well before the start of the season, with Dallara's design taking a long time to produce, meaning there had been very little testing, while the final result was over 100kg overweight. Very little was expected of Courage in the red De Tomaso.
In stark contrast to all of their competitors, McLaren had had a very quiet winter, the only thing of note being the new McLaren M14A, a heavily revised version of the M7C. The two orange cars were to be piloted by familiar faces in Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme, although the former was looking into retirement despite being a relatively young 33 years of age. Rumours had circulated that McLaren had offered Stewart a drive in the wake of the Tyrrell/Matra split, an offer that was obviously rejected, with McLaren looking for an alternative to start in 1971. Behind the scenes McLaren were building a third M14 to carry an Alfa Romeo 33 V8, the result of a deal with heavily funded Italian racer Andrea de Adamich, although the opening round arrived too soon for the project to be completed. There were hopes that de Adamich could race an updated M7D using an Alfa engine, but the Italian would not appear at the opening round.
Into the privateer field and headlining the non-factory efforts was former Champion John Surtees, who had left BRM to reform Team Surtees with plans to build his own car. However, time had been against him before the start of the season, so the Brit would campaign with Hulme's old McLaren M7C for 1970, painted red/white instead of the factory orange it had been delivered in. The local field also sported some ex-factory equipment, John Love having purchased a 1967 race winning Lotus 49B for himself and Frank Williams' old Brabham BT26A for teammate Peter de Klerk at Team Gunston. The third and final local would be Dave Charlton, whom had bought Jo Bonnier's yellow 49B, repainted it orange and blue, and gathered enough money to upgrade it to "C" spec in time for the opening round.
The full entry list for the 1970 South African Grand Prix is outlined below:
Most of the teams had been present in South Africa for pre-race tyre testing, which had ended on the Tuesday before the race, meaning everyone was up to speed in the heat. The official practice/qualifying sessions would start on Wednesday, lasting through until Friday, although climbing temperatures would make it difficult for the drivers to improve. The target time for the top runners would be the pole time from 1969, set by Jack Brabham with a 1:20.0.
The first development of official practice actually happened the day before, when Mario Andretti crashed his March. Due to the damage involved, and the distance from England for replacement parts to arrive, and it was Friday before he returned to practice. The large number of new models meant that a great deal of sorting was going on. Fastest on Wednesday were Denny Hulme and Jochen Rindt at 1:20.1, just slower than Jack Brabham's 1969 pole time of 1:20.0. Jackie Stewart was delayed by low fuel pressure after the team replaced his engine in the morning. The March officials were huddled with the Tyrrell mechanics while they tried to solve the problem, as this was the first ever engine change 'under fire' for a March car. Graham Hill could barely walk, still recovering from his accident at Watkins Glen five months before, but managed an impressive 1:22.0. Jackie Oliver broke his second stub axle in two days, causing both BRMs to be called in, and heralding a problem that would plague BRM for several races. Others with problems included Piers Courage (ignition), Rolf Stommelen (broken anti-roll bar) and John Love (engine).
Thursday saw Stewart hop out as soon as the green flag waved, and in less than five laps had turned a 1:19.3. After which, he retired to the pits to watch the progress of his rivals. By the end of the session, Chris Amon had equalled his time, and Brabham was only 0.3 behind. Hill had put on another impressive showing, lowering his time to 1:21.6. The cars of Love, Andretti, Oliver and Pedro Rodríguez never made it out. All of the cars were out and running on Friday, but a slick track along with very hot temps prevented most of the drivers from improving their times. But both Jochen Rindt and Jacky Ickx managed to do so, filling the second row on the grid with 1:19.9 and 1:20.0, respectively.
The full qualifying results for the 1970 South African Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Redman did not take the start as he had shared the #11 car with Graham Hill.
|Peter de Klerk||22||______________|
The full results for the 1970 South African Grand Prix are outlined below:
- First race for March.
- Denny Hulme entered his 50th Grand Prix.
- Maiden pole position for a March chassis.
- Fourteenth and final victory for Jack Brabham.
- McLaren claimed their first fastest lap.
- Eleventh and final fastest lap by John Surtees.
- Twentieth podium for Jackie Stewart.
Victory ensured that Jack Brabham took an early lead in the Championship, the Australian taking nine points away from Kyalami. Denny Hulme would start the season in second, while Jackie Stewart opened his title defence with four points for third. Jean-Pierre Beltoise, John Miles and Graham Hill completed the first scorers list.
Brabham-Ford Cosworth had an excellent start to the season with "the gaffer's" victory, heading the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers standings after the opening round. McLaren-Ford Cosworth sat in second, with new constructors March-Ford Cosworth sat in third. Completing the scorers list were Matra, while Lotus-Ford Cosworth had two points.
Images and Videos:
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: SOUTH AFRICAN GP, 1970', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr185.html, (Accessed 11/02/2017)
- ↑ 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 '1: South Africa 1970', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1970/afrique-du-sud.aspx, (Accessed 11/02/2017)
- ↑ 'South Africa 1970, statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1970/afrique-du-sud/engages.aspx, (Accessed 11/02/2016)
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 D.S.J., 'The Grand Prix of South Africa: A good season opener', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/04/1970), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/april-1970/30/grand-prix-south-africa, (Accessed 11/02/2017)
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