Posts Tagged ‘Ronnie Peterson’

(bilsportarvet.se)

Ronnie Peterson in the style which made him a famous crowd favourite ahead of a gaggle of other karts at Laxa, Sweden circa 1965.

3,000 people watched the Laxa Motorstadion’s – Sweden’s first Kart track – first race meeting in 1961, a venue that can take some of the credit for Sweden’s seventies and eighties motor racing successes.

Ronnie regularly practiced and raced there together with his father Bengt ‘Bagarn’ Peterson, a skilled car builder/fabricator. His competitive instinct was there from the start, but Laxa pit-pundits bet on Ronnie hitting the straw-bales on either lap one or two in his early days.

Prize presentation at Laxa circa 1964 (bilsportarvet.se)
Ronnie, Robardie Parilla circa 1965 (federicascarscelli.com)

By 1964 Ronnie had made a clean sweep of Laxa events, two years later, in September 1966 he place third in the World Kart Championships at Kopenhamm, Denmark in front of Toine Hezemans and one Keijo Rosberg.

While all the hotshots raced Parilla powered Tecnos and Birels, Ronnie’s Robardie was built by his dad. Bengt’s Robardies were good enough to win world kart titles for Tomas Nilsson in 1968 and Francois Goldstein in 1968-69.

By mid 1966 Peterson father and son had progressed to Formula 3, racing the Swebe Ford (most references have it as Svebe but the name on the original steering wheel says Swebe) which was built by Bengt and engineer Sven Andersson. It was essentially a Brabham BT15 clone fitted with Brabham like suspension, uprights and other components.

Ronnie’s best result in a half-dozen mid-year Swedish events was a third at the Dalsland Ring (below) in July.

Ronnie’s car control was legendary from the very start. He was never the best at working with the engineers to get the best out of a car, preferring to just drive around the problem
Ronnie, BT18, on the grid of the Danmarksmesterskab final at the Jyllandsringen, Denmark in October 1967 – second behind Reine Wisell’s BT18

By the Karlskoga meeting in October Ronnie raced a Brabham BT18 Ford in advance of a full campaign at home in 1967. He was fourth in the Swedish F3 Championship won by Reine Wisell, Ronnie then took back-to-back titles in 1968-69.

The 1969 F3 win which vaulted him into consideration for Colin Crabbe’s privately run F1 March 701 Ford in 1970 was victory over Europe’s cream-of-the-racing-crop at Monaco in May.

That field included fellow future F1 drivers Reine Wisell, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Tim Schenken, Patrick Depailler, Howden Ganley and Mike Beuttler. Ronnie won his heat and Wisell the other, with Ronnie nine-seconds in front of Reine in the final.

Happy and exhausted, Peterson after winning the 1969 Monaco F3 GP, Tecno 69 Ford Novamotor (LAT)
Quayside at Monaco. Tecno 69 chassis #TO334 won 16 F3 races in 1969 in Sweden, Italy, France and of course Monaco (unattribured)
SuperSwedes both; friends and rivals Ronnie and Reine Wisell at Anderstorp in June 1969 (LAT)

Even more impressive was that all of his F1 compatriots, with the exception of Howden Ganley, raced works or quasi-works cars, while Ronnie’s Squadra Robardie Tecno 69 Novamotor was spannered by Ronnie and his mechanic.

The world was on notice.

Nascent March Cars co-owner Alan Rees chased Ronnie’s signature at Crystal Palace the following weekend to drive the very first March, an F3 machine designated 693.

Ronnie at Karlskoga, Tecno Ford on the way to a win in May 1969
(MotorSport)

In September Peterson had his first F2 drive for Roy Winkelmann Racing (above) in the Albi Grand Prix.

Ronnie finished fifth aboard the unfamiliar Lotus 59B Ford FVA, in front of him were GP drivers Graham Hill, Johnny Servoz-Gavin, Jochen Rindt and Henri Pescarolo. It was his first Lotus drive, but far from his last!

Ronnie was on his way, and the rest, as they say, is history…

Credits…

‘Laxa-The country’s first Go-Kart Track’ Anders Bjork, bilsportarvet.se, olaussonphoto.com, federicascarscelli.com, LAT, MotorSport, F2 Index

Tailpiece…

(MotorSport)

So often Ronnie had his cars all cocked up well before the apex of a corner, as here at the Osterreichring aboard his March 721G Ford in 1972.

It wasn’t always the quickest way of course but car control exhibitions like this was the best part of a weekend for many spectators.

He ran as high as third from Q11 in Austria, finishing 12th. Colin Chapman liked what he saw, Ronnie had a Lotus seat in 1973 and gave Emerson Fittipaldi, the reigning World Champ a serious run for his money. Emerson won three GPs, and Ronnie four, which gave Lotus the constructors title but Jackie Stewart won the drivers championship with five wins…

Finito…

ronnie

Monaco Panorama; Ronnie Peterson eases his March 711 Ford around the hairpin at Monaco in 1971 on the way to second place, Jackie Stewart won in a Tyrrell 003 Ford…

Monaco was a happy hunting ground for the Swede, his brand of ‘balls to the wall’ driving was not necessarily the style that was rewarded in the principality but he took wins in the F3 Grand Prix in 1969 in his Tecno 69 Ford and in the F1 event in a Lotus 72E Ford in 1974.

He had a great year in the 711, an excellent Robin Herd design, he finished second to Jackie Stewart in the 1971 drivers championship, not bad for a driver in his second GP season!

The more radical 1972 March 721X made conceptual sense but was not so successful…Ronnie was then snaffled up by Lotus for ’73…

ronnie 2

Close up of Ronnie in the 711, Dutch GP 1971, he was 4th in the race won by Ickx’ Ferrari 312B2. Front suspension; top rocker, lower wishbone, inboard coil spring/Koni damper and adjustable roll bar all clear and beautifully fabricated by the Boys From Bicester (unattributed)

A couple of other posts on ‘Mad Ronald’ to look at…

His first GP season in 1970;  https://primotipo.com/2014/05/15/blue-cars-rock/

With Colin Chapman;  https://primotipo.com/2014/08/03/the-gentle-art-of-driver-seduction-colin-chapman-and-ronnie-petersen-clermont-ferrand-1972/

Photos…unattributed

 

 

ronnie & col

Colin Chapman and Ronnie Peterson ‘chewing the fat’ on the French GP grid, Clermont Ferrand 1972. Car is a March 721G Ford, Peterson finished 4th in the race won by Jackie Stewart (Pinterest)

‘C’mon Ronnie, its time to move to Hethel?! Other than Bernard Charles Ecclestone there were few people with Lotus boss Colin Chapmans’ charm, and powers of  pursuation when it suited him…

I doubt the weather was the topic of conversation! Ronnie learn’t his F1 stuff with March, starting with a quasi-works 701 in 1970, but the 721G, on which he is leaning, was an F2 car onto which a Ford Cosworth engine was grafted after the failure of its 721X and not as quick as the Lotus 72 Chapman is talking to Ronie about!

Ronnie replaced Aussie Dave Walker at Lotus in 1973, Peterson proving quicker than Emerson Fittipaldi, the 1972 World Champion. As is usually the case, these ‘Dream Teams’ usually end in tears.

Chapman refused to apply team orders later in the season, costing Fittipladi, the better placed driver, his second title, Lotus did pick up the Manufacturers Championship however.

Fittipaldi decamped to McLaren at the years end and a second title in ’74, Ronnie and Jacky Ickx were quick in the Lotus 72 in ’74 but it was getting long in the tooth and Lotus missed Emerson’s testing and development skills, neither of which were Petersons’ forte…

photo (2)

Ronnie Peterson, ’70 Belgian GP, non-classified with too few laps. Pedro Rodriguez won the closely contested race in his BRM P153 by a second from Chris Amon’s March 701 Ford. (Rainer Schlegelmilch)

Ronnie Peterson and Colin Crabbe…

This superb shot is of Ronnie Peterson at La Source hairpin, Spa 1970 aboard privateer Colin Crabbe’s ‘Antique Automobiles’ March 701 Ford.

In the good ‘ole days one could, if one had the ‘readies’, buy a car, pay the entry fees and race in Grands’ Prix.

Perhaps the greatest in ‘modern times’ was Rob Walkers Team (he of the whisky company) which scored the first championship victories for Cooper and Lotus (in Stirling Moss’ hands) and the last victory for a privateer team when Jo Siffert triumphed in Walkers Lotus 49 in the 1968 British GP.

Since the early 1980’s the FIA have mandated that F1 entrants own the intellectual rights to the chassis they enter, in essence meaning the entrant builds the car and races it ending the long tradition of private entrants buying and racing cars built by others in the sports highest echelons.

Crabbe’s ‘Antique Automobile’ business entered Vic Elford in a Mclaren M7 in 1969. March’s Max Moseley offered Crabbe/Peterson a 701, all Colin needed to provide were the engine and ‘box both of which he happened to have from the previous years campaign with Elford. And the ‘readies’ of course which he was confident of securing through trade support.

Peterson jumped from the F3 ruck in ‘69 winning the European F3 Championship including the Monaco F3 race in a Tecno. At the end of the the year he raced the very first March, the 693 F3 car which James Hunt also raced that winter.

ronniw monaco 69

Ronnie on his way to winning the ‘XI Grand Prix de Monaco-F3’ 1969. Car is a Tecno 69 Ford, he won from Reine Wisell Chevron B15 Ford and Jean-Pierre Jabouille Alpine A360 Renault. The field also included future F1 drivers Schenken, Depailler, Jaussaud, Ganley and Beuttler. (unattributed)

The Birth of March…

Due to unusual circumstances March’s first year in the sport resulted in them supplying customer F1 ‘701’ cars to the reigning world champion Team Tyrrell who were unable to run Matras’ with a Ford Cosworth engine as they had in the previous 2 years. The French concern wanted their own V12 to be used exclusively in their cars.

Jackie Stewart tested the MS120 but was convinced the DFV remained the superior engine, Lotus and Brabham were not prepared to sell Tyrrell cars so off to Bicester Ken went; no pressure on designer Robin Herd in designing a car for the reigning world champ!

Matra never won a GP with their own V12 engined car, despite going very close with their single car Chris Amon entries in 1971/72, that  Matra honor going later to Ligier with Jacques Laffite’s first GP win in Sweden ‘77.

That Tyrrell couldn’t buy a competitive car was the reason he became a manufacturer rather than a privateer, he set designer Derek Gardner to work on the first Tyrrell which appeared in late 1970.

But I digress. March also sold a ‘privateer’ 701 driven occasionally by Mario Andretti in addition to the March ‘works cars’ for Chris Amon and Jo Siffert, a remarkable roll call of drivers in a constructors first year, not the full list either!

Aussie rival, friend and ’72 Ferrari 312P sports car teammate Tim Schenken nicknamed Peterson ‘Mad Ronald’, observing up close one of the sports ‘automotive acrobats’ sublime car control, tail out ‘balls to the wall’ style in the mould of Nuvolari, Rindt and Gilles Villeneuve.

The 701 was not the ‘cream of the 1970 crop’ but it was good enough to win the Spanish GP in Stewart’s hands.

peterson

Peterson at Monaco 1970, Q12 and 7th place a mighty fine GP debut. March 701 Ford. Jochen Rindt’s Lotus 49C Ford won a famous last lap victory after pressuring Jack Brabham into an error in his BT33 Ford. (The Cahier Archive)

Ronnie did well in his car ‘701-08’ justifying March’s faith in him and the rest , as they say, is history, Petersen won 9 Grands Prix for Lotus as well as March’s only factory team win, their ‘prodigal son’ returned in mid 1976 frustrated by the uncompetitiveness of his Lotus 76 and took the Italian GP in a March 761 Ford.

Peterson, racing a Lotus 78 was an innocent victim of an accident at the start of the 1978 Italian Grand Prix and died of his injuries the following day.

watkins

Ronnie Peterson , March 701 Ford ,US GP, Watkins Glen ’70. 11th in the race won by Emerson Fittipaldi’s Lotus 72, his first GP win. (unattributed)

march cutaway 701

March 701-08 cutaway drawing. Aluminium monocoque chassis, Ford DFV 3 litre V8, Hewland DG300 gearbox, classic and very effective ‘British F1 Kit Car’ of the period. Car first raced at Monaco in May 1970. 11 March 701 chassis’ built.

Photo Credits…

Rainer Schlegelmilch, The Cahier Archive, oldracingcars.com