Jack’s BT33 Trumped by Chunky’s 72…

Posted: May 24, 2018 in F1, Features
Tags: , , , , ,

(Getty)

Jochen Rindt’s winning Lotus 72C Ford in the Brands Hatch paddock at the end of the British Grand Prix, 18 July 1970…

Its a top shot of the rear of a great, long lived racing car. Chapman’s latest masterpiece, the detail design of which was the work of Maurice Phillippe was only several months old- it made its debut at Jarama in mid April, but such were the changes needed to get the concept working as intended, only several months later it was already in ‘C’ specification. I wrote an article about the early 72 and it’s development a while back; https://primotipo.com/2017/05/19/designers-original-intent/

You can see how Chapman was putting more weight on the rear of the car in search of traction- the engine oil tank and cooler and upright Varley lightweight aircraft battery mounted aft of the endcase of the Hewland FG400 gearbox. Look closely either side of the gearbox and you can see the ends of the round tubular torsion bars which provided the spring medium on this car- the two vertical wing stays lower ends pick up on the brackets which support the torsion bars.

I know a bit about the 1970 international season. 1971 was the year of my motor racing awakening, which, having not yet been to a race meeting, was aided and abetted by the 1970 Australian Motor Racing Yearbook and Automobile Year 18 which cover the 1970 season. I borrowed and returned Automobile Year 18 dozens of times during the 1971-1974 period from the Camberwell Grammar School library in Melbourne. I’m such a sick little unit that all these decades later I can pretty much rattle off the winners of each GP and World Endurance event that season!

Keen students of 1970 and thereabouts will know that Jochen Rindt had a shocker of a year with Brabham in 1968- the BT26 Repco was fast but the ‘860 Series’ 32 valve Repco V8’s were fragile so the great Austrian decamped to Lotus for 1969- he finally archieved his breakthrough first championship Grand Prix win at Watkins Glen at the seasons end having comprehensively blown off the reigning World Champion, Graham Hill, from the time he first popped his butt into a Gold Leaf Team Lotus 49 during the Tasman Summer of ’69.

Rindt, Brabham BT26 Repco ‘860’ V8, French GP, Rouen 1968. The ’68 Brabham’s were fast- Jochen started from pole, but the engines were as unreliable as the 1966/7 motors were paragons of reliability. Such a pity Repco and JB didn’t race on into 1969- the ‘860’ 3 litres would have been competitive with development. Ickx’ Ferrari 312 won in France, Rindt DNF with a leaking fuel tank (B Cahier)

Jochen wasn’t a happy Lotus camper at all though, concerned as he was about the fragility of Chapman’s cars, not that his enormous Spanish Grand Prix accident, his worst of the year, was his only component failure or worry. He had raced Brabham F2 cars for years, had enjoyed his season with Jack and Ron Tauranac in 1968 despite the dramas and had agreed terms with Jack verbally to return to the Brabham Racing Organisation for 1970. Jack had told him of the teams plans to build their first monocoque Grand Prix car which promised to have all of the attributes for which Brabhams were justifiably famous- with the added strength, torsional stiffness and  safety afforded by such a design. With an ace secured, Jack planned to retire from driving at the end of 1969.

When Rindt told Chapman of his plans Colin put together a deal funded by John Player and Ford- an offer Jochen simply could not afford to refuse. Jochen put the situation to Jack, the ultimate pragmatist graciously did not hold Jochen to the agreement struck and allowed Rindt to stay at Lotus, win the World Title using a mix of Lotus 49 and 72, and, sadly, die in a Lotus 72 as a result of a brake driveshaft component failure at Monza.

Jack and Ron with Brabham BT33-2, Jack’s 1970 chassis. Car tested at Riverside prior to its South African GP debut win. This photo is at the cars ‘press launch’ at MRD, 9 Januray 1970, no frills for the boys from Brabham- start of the final year of such a successful and enduring partnership between two like-minded men (W Vanderson)

With all the best drivers committed for 1970 Brabham raced on for one final year with Rolf Stommelen bringing money from Ford Germany to secure the other Brabham BT33 seat.

Its interesting to look at the ‘Jack and Jochen F1 races’ of 1970, filled as they are with luck, misfortune and fate…

Jack started the season like a youngster, putting the new car third on the grid together with the new March 701’s of Jackie Stewart and Chris Amon.

Stewart jumped into the lead from the off leaving Rindt’s Lotus 49C Ford and Amon to collide at the first corner, with Jochen winging Jack on his way through but not damaging the car. Ickx Ferrari 312B, Beltoise Matra MS120, Oliver BRM P153 and McLaren McLaren M14A Ford got in front of the Australian as a consequence of all this- but Jack quickly recovered and had passed all four of them by the end of lap 6. In a great, spirited drive Jack set off after Stewart and took the lead on lap 20- and held it to the end winning from Denny Hulme’s McLaren M14A Ford and Stewart’s Ken Tyrrell run March 701 Ford.

No doubt Jochen reflected upon the speed of his friends new car as he awaited Chapman’s wedged wonder!

JB, BT33, Zeltweg, Austrian GP 1970. Q8 and 13th 4 laps behind after a troubled run. Ickx won in a Ferrari 312B, Rindt started from pole in his home race but raced behind Ickx and Regazzoni’s Ferraris before popping an engine. Note the ally monocoque tub, fuel filler, shift for the Hewland DG300 and simple ‘non-structural’ dash (B Cahier)

Jochen was frustrated, the Lotus 72 made its debut at Jarama, Spain- unsurprisingly with a somewhat radical car the 72 was not to have the debut wins of the 25 in 1962 and 49 in 1967, both at Zandvoort.

It was clear the 72 needed substantial work (as detailed in the linked article above) so Chapman also tasked his Team Lotus engineers to tweak the 49 one last time to ‘D’ specification, including changes to the suspension geometry and adoption of the 72’s wing package, to provide Rindt with a more competitive car for Monaco.

So Jochen approached this race with a very negative frame of mind. Nigel Roebuck wrote in a MotorSport article about the 1970 Monaco GP weekend that Colin Chapman said “If Jochen felt there was no chance of winning, quite often he just went through the motions…”

Despite the changes to the ‘old girl’ in the first session his 49 was ‘sixth fastest, but his time – 1m 25.9s – was almost two seconds slower than Jackie Stewart’s March; in the second it poured, and Rindt, disinterested, was slowest of all; in the third he felt queasy, and was two seconds off his Thursday time. The problem was seasickness. That weekend Rindt was sharing a private yacht with his good friend and manager Bernie Ecclestone, and while the future ruler of Formula 1 slept soundly through a choppy Friday night, Jochen did not, and that merely added to his despondency about the race. “No chance,” he said to his wife Nina. “I’ll just drive around…” Roebuck wrote.

Brabham in the Monaco pitlane wearing his ‘Jet Jackson’ aircraft type helmet a few of the drivers tried that season- Stewart and Courage also (unattributed)

The front two rows comprised Stewart from Amon, then Hulme and Brabham with Jochen way back in 8th slot. Stewart took the lead from the start and led Amon, Brabham, Ickx and Beltoise.

What about Jochen? In the early laps he seemed to be in ‘cruise and collect mode’, on lap 3 he was passed for seventh place by Henri Pescarolo’s Matra and there he propped with his position gradually improving by attrition. Ickx and Beltoise’ Ferrari and Matra disappeared early, putting Rindt up to sixth, which became fifth when Stewart’s March stopped with engine failure. At this stage, though, 28 laps in, he was already 16 seconds behind Brabham.

‘At least, though, his interest was awakened. On lap 36 he repassed Pescarolo, and set off after Denny Hulme, whom he got by on lap 41: third now, with only Brabham and Amon ahead.’

With a whiff of possible victory, 15 seconds behind the leaders, Rindt now kept pace with them, closing a little and when Amon’s March retired on lap 61- yet another GP win eluded the luckless Kiwi there was only his old employer in the car he could have driven, Brabham ahead.

Look at that crowd, 1970, protection still basic, Brabham BT33 (LAT)

Rindt bearing down upon Jack- second last lap (Deviantart)

Jack was unconcerned though. With Amon gone and Jochen still 13 seconds back, he seemed set for his first Monaco win since 1959 with only 4 laps to run, his lead was still nine seconds.

‘Then everything began to unravel. On lap 77, at the top of the hill, he encountered Siffert’s March, stuttering along with a fuel feed problem, Seppi paying little attention to his mirrors. Obliged almost to stop, Brabham instantly dropped five seconds to Rindt’ Roebuck wrote. ‘Three laps to go, and the gap was 2.4, with Jochen now inspired. On lap 78 Jack ran his fastest lap, 1m 24.4s, but even this was useless, for the Lotus went round in 1m 23.3s.’

‘Still it seemed as though Brabham would hold on, but even on the last lap the fates conspired against him. At Tabac, before the long drag down to Gasworks, he came upon three backmarkers, lost more time, and probably it was this, more than anything else, that unsettled him when he came across Courage.’ In 1970 Piers raced Frank Williams’ De Tomaso 505 Ford, rather than the Brabham BT26 Ford he raced so well for Frank in 1969- he had been in and out of the pits with the recalcitrant car since the start of the race.

You can see Jack’s track down the inside of Piers’ De Tomaso and onto ‘all the shit and corruption’ off line (unattributed)

‘Into the final hairpin Jack went off line – into the marbles – to get by Piers, and when he put the brakes on, his car understeered straight on, thumping into the barrier, right at my feet.’

‘Rindt, meantime, flicked into the hairpin, looking across at the stricken Brabham, shaking his head in disbelief. Finally Jack got on his way again, and managed to cross the line without losing second place. When he stopped finally, he stayed in the cockpit a long time.’

ka-boomba but not fatally so- the marshall referred to by Jack has not appeared- yet! (unattributed)

Moments after the shot above with Jack furiously hitting the starter button, simultaneously, a marshall sought to push the stricken BT33 clear of he armco, into certain disqualification. As Jack released the clutch in reverse the marshall fell onto the Brabham’s nosecone- once the marshall decamped quickly from the car Jack headed for home and second place, crossing the line 23 seconds after the staggered Rindt.

What was I thinking?! The normally unflappable Brabham close to the finishing line (unattributed)

‘Once the course car had been round, I ran the length of the pit straight, arriving in the area of the Royal Box just as Jochen climbed the steps, shook hands with Rainier and Grace, and accepted the garland and the trophy. Trembling, and with tears rolling down his face, he looked like a man coming out of a trance, and probably he was. After the national anthems, the French commentator excitedly announced his time for the last lap: “Une minute vingt-trois secondes deux-dixiemes!” For the first 40 laps of the race, Rindt’s average lap time was 1m 27.0s; for the last 40 it was 1m 24.9s – a full second faster than his qualifying time…’ Roebuck wrote.

‘I can’t believe my luck!’ Rindt, Lotus 49D Ford (B Cahier)

After the Gala Ball at the Hotel de Paris, Jochen came down to the Tip-Top Bar, as drivers did in those days. At midnight he and Nina arrived, swinging the trophy between them. At the Tip-Top they used to run a book on the race, and Rindt wanted to know what had been the odds on him. “Seven to two,” someone said. “Ha!” Jochen grinned. “Was anyone stupid enough to bet on me?”

The Belgian GP at Spa saw ‘BT33-2′ qualify fifth but its intrepid pilot was sidelined first by an off at Malmedy induced by an oily rag in the cars footwell- and then after he passed Rindt and Stewart, by clutch failure on lap 19. That was the epic race made famous by an incredible high speed dice between the BRM P153 of Pedro Rodriguez and Chris Amon’s March 701- Pedro won by just over a second from Chris. To my mind the 701 is a much maligned machine if you look at the number of times those chassis’ were in winning positions that year.

John Miles Lotus 72B, Jochen’s 49C and Jack’s BT33 in the Spa pitlane (unattributed)

In testing at Zandvoort prior to the Dutch GP Jack suffered a sudden left-rear Goodyear deflation. The car ‘…entered a vicious slide, and the deflated tyre left the wheel-rim, which then hit the road. The car broadsided into the sand, the wheel-rim dug in and we flipped, rolling over and over into the wire catch-fencing in which it wrapped itself up, trapping me inside my cockpit, trussed up like the Christmas turkey. I might not (quite) have been stuffed, but I was terrified I might yet get roasted. Had any leaking fuel caught fire, there was no way I could have escaped’ Jack recalled in his memoir written with Doug Nye.

The BT33 came to rest inverted over a ditch, with Jack hanging from his seat belts. ‘Here I was in another test session – on a deserted circuit – out of sight of the pits, trapped in a crashed car. I really was getting too old for this. I’d have needed wire cutters to make my way out. I could smell petrol. My finger was poised (over the extinguisher button). At last I heard running feet and voices. Hands began to yank the wire away. I took that as my cue to twist my safety belt release – forgetting I was hanging by it – and dropped on my head, with my entire weight twisting my neck. The Dutch spectators then managed to raise one side sufficiently for me to wriggle out…I would have a stiff neck for a while’. The car was virtually undamaged, but after two more punctures during the GP itself the Brabham combination finished twice-lapped, He was eleventh in the awful event in which Piers Courage was burned to death in a most gruesome fashion.

The French GP at Clermont-Ferrand resulted in a win for Jochen on this glorious undulating road circuit, together with his joyless victory at Zandvoort he was well on the way to putting a championship winning season together. To further underline his speed Jack finished third and set fastest lap in France, BT33 was as fast on open road circuits as the twists and turns of stop-start Monaco.

By the July British GP Rindt had told Chapman of his intention to retire at the end of the season, that decision no doubt in part due to the deaths of his friends and colleagues Bruce McLaren and Piers Courage at Goodwood and Zandvoort respectively.

In fine weather Rindt took pole from Jack and Jacky Ickx Ferrari 312B- this machine one of the other cars of 1970- the Lotus 72 Ford, Brabham BT33 Ford, Ferrari 312B and BRM P153 the four supreme machines of the year.

Lap 1, the grid exits Druids Hill on the run to Bottom Bend, Brands, British GP 1970. Amons March 701 in shot, from Q17- wonder what happened to him in practice? 5th place (GP Library)

Jack and Jacky got away best from the start with Ickx holding the lead from Brabham until differential failure outed the Ferrari at the start of lap 7 at Paddock Hill bend. At the same time Jochen lunged for the lead and got through Jack’s defences. Jochen didn’t get away from the BT33 though, the guys were close together throughout the race. Oliver’s BRM held 3rd until lap 55 when the big V12 cried enough promoting Denny Hulme’s McLaren M14 Ford to third.

Rindt and Brabham were this close for much of the race- a nice visual compare and contrast between the brand new edgy, wedgy 72 and brand new front-rad ‘old school’ BT33- both equally fast mind you (Getty)

Sex on wheels- 72 visually about as good as a GP car gets- current GP cars can trace their fundamental layout and looks back to this baby, or more particularly the ’68 Lotus 56 Pratt & Whitney Indycar anyway. Rindt Brands 1970 (unattributed)

On lap 69 of 80 laps Rindt muffed a gear change and Jack was through into a lead he promised to keep until on the very last lap the car ran out of fuel on the run to the line- Brabham was able to coast home second with Denny third and Clay Regazzoni’s Ferrari 312B fourth.

 

Jack glides to the line DFV in silence, but still in 2nd place (Getty)

It was an incredibly lucky win for Jochen and proved to the world, yet again, that at 44 Black Jack- he of the permanent ‘five o’clock shadow’, still very much had his elite level racing mojo.

As Brabham coasted to a stop after finishing, Jack spotted Ron Dennis sprinting along behind him. ‘I thought I bet I know what’s happened, the silly bugger’s left the injection set to ‘Full Rich’ – the setting used to start the engine from cold’ – he shrugged off his belts and leapt out determined to check the setting first. ‘Sure enough, it was on ‘Full Rich’. For thirty years Sir Jack would blame Ron Dennis for the oversight, but at dinner with another team mechanic – Nick Goozee – in 2002, owned up: ‘That wasn’t Ron – it was me’.

Ron Tauranac, Ron Dennis, Nick Goozee? and Jack, Brands pits 1970 (B Cahier)

Rindt won again at Hockenheim and in a season of many different winners- Ickx, Rodriguez, Stewart, Regazzoni, Fittipaldi, Brabham and Jochen, had amassed enough points by the time of his death at Monza in September to win the drivers title posthumously from Jacky Ickx who had a serious shot to overtake Rindt’s points haul in the final three rounds but ‘karma prevailed’, the dominant driver in the fastest car of the year won- albeit he had a bit of luck. Just ask Jack!

‘Cor Jochen, we nicked another one off ‘ole Jack!’ Chapman, Nina and Jochen Rindt (Popperfoto)

One of the many fascinating things about motor racing are its ‘ifs, buts and maybes’- the greatest of 1970 was Rindt winning a World Title in a Brabham BT33 Ford and retiring at the seasons end, alive…

Brabham BT33 Ford cutaway by (Bill Bennett)

Brabham BT33 Etcetera…

Where is that DFV? Never a clearer expression of the structural role played by that particular engine than this one! Austrian GP weekend, Zeltweg (B Cahier)

Ron Tauranac preferred the lightweight, easily-repairable, highly-tuneable, multi-tubular spaceframe chassis construction into 1969, albeit his 1968-69 BT26 and BT26A designs were spaceframes with partially stress-skinned, sheet aluminium to augment the designs rigidity. Whilst the approach could be said to be ‘old school’ compared to the monocoque, the modern expression of which was the Lotus 25 which made its debut at Zandvoort in 1962- the BT26A Ford was one of the fastest cars of 1969 with Jacky Ickx winning at the Nurburgring and Mosport.

1970 revised Formula 1 regulations demanded greater protection for F1 car fuel tanks- bag tanks, which in effect dictated the adoption of fully stressed-skin monocoque construction. Tauranac first monocoque chassis was Brabham’s 1968/9 Indianapolis contender, the BT25 powered by the Repco ‘760 Series’ quad-cam, 32 valve 4.2 litre Lucas fuel injected V8.

Jack’s 1970 BT33 chassis under construction at MRD, Weylock, Weybridge, Surrey 8 January 1970. Technical comments as per text below (Getty)

Motor Racing Developments built three BT33 chassis during 1970- BT33-1 was the car raced by Rolf Stommelen until he damaged it in practice for the British GP. Rebuilt, it was raced by Graham Hill, Tim Schenken and Carlos Reutemann in 1971.

BT33-2 was Jack’s 1970 chassis.

BT33-3 was built after Rolf damaged his car too badly to race during the British Grand Prix meeting- used by him for the balance of 1970, it was raced very competitively in 1971 by Tim Schenken, and by Graham Hill and Wilson Fittipaldi in early 1972.

All of the BT33’s were sold by BRO after the end of their useful frontline racing lives.

The BT33 chassis is an aluminium ‘bathtub’ monocoque with strong bulkheads providing a structure of great strength and structural integrity. Front suspension (see photo above) is inboard by front rocker, lower wishbones and coil spring/damper units. At the rear single top links, an inverted lower wishbone, twin radius rods and outboard coil spring/dampers are used. Adjustable sway bars were fitted front and rear. Steering is MRD rack and pinion, uprights cast magnesium front and rear.

At this stage of its development the 3 litre Ford Cosworth DFV V8 gave around 420 bhp @ 9500 rpm, the gearbox was a Hewkand 5 speed DG300. The engine, as you can see from the colour shot above is a stressed member- it is a part of the cars structure, it bolts to the rear chassis bulkhead.

Whilst far less exotic in its conception than the Lotus 72, Tauranac’s BT33 didn’t give an inch to Hethel’s finest. Jack got every ounce of performance available from that car but Rindt would have squeezed even a smidge more. Oh to have seen him in a Brabham that year…

Credits…

Popperfoto, Getty Images, LAT, Bernard Cahier, William Vanderson, Deviantart, Bill Bennett

Bibliography…

Automobile Year 18, MotorSport Magazine May 2013 article by Nigel Roebuck, ‘The Jack Brabham Story’ Doug Nye, oldracingcars.com

More 1970 Reading…

Brabham’s 1970 season; https://primotipo.com/2014/09/01/easter-bathurst-1969-jack-brabham-1970-et-al/

Lotus 72; https://primotipo.com/2014/09/08/flowers-mark-the-apex-jochen-rindt-lotus-72-ford-dutch-gp-1970/

Ferrari 312B; https://primotipo.com/2016/02/26/life-is-all-about-timing-chris-amon-and-the-ferrari-312b/

Matra MS120; https://primotipo.com/2014/07/06/venetia-day-and-the-1970-matra-ms120/

March 701; https://primotipo.com/2014/05/15/blue-cars-rock/

Spanish GP; https://primotipo.com/2015/11/14/spanish-barbecue-1970-gp-jarama/

Belgian GP; https://primotipo.com/2014/10/03/ferrari-312b-jacky-ickx-belgian-grand-prix-spa-1970/

The one that really did get away: Brabham, BT33 Brands 1970- leaping out to check the DFV’s fuel injection settings…

Finito…

 

Comments
  1. David Thompson says:

    “Chunky.” I’d never heard that Chapman nickname. Apparently, he didn’t hear it often, if the nicknamer knew what was good for him.

    • markbisset says:

      Yes David,
      I believe you are right, the nickname pops up in quite a bit of the Lotus literature all the same! I do like a play on words for my article titles if I can manage it, maybe ‘Chunky Trumps Black Jack’ is a more literal expression of Jack getting ‘the short end of the stick’ in the battle for Jochen?!
      Mark

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