“There is a house on old Montjuich
They call Mies’ Pavilion
And its been the ruins of many a poor boy
And god I know I’m one.”
The words hover from my lips, soundless. As I watch the decisive gait of the young man descending down towards Avenida del Parallel. Where one can see musicals in Teatre Condal. Even if it’s mostly just watered down versions of the magnificent spectacles on Broadway.
The young man had transpired the energetic decisiveness proper to those who had not yet known defeat. Gerard Ducarouge was his name. Should he have been German, he would have been called a wunderkind. But then nature made him French. Which did not prevent him from designing the Matra MS10 before he even turned thirty. A car that would guide Jackie Stewart to his first driver’s world championship.
Should he not have been such a gifted engineer, he could as easily have been a chansonnier. With that typical French combination of a cunning sneer around the mouth and eyes filled with ages of melancholic surprise. His white shirt unbuttoned till just above his bellybutton. A chain with some kind of talisman wearily hanging over his tanned torso. It almost felt as he walked straight off a stage where he sung: “Les chiens perdus, les incompris. On les connaît, on leur ressemble.”
With the ragged anger of a hungry dog, we had been trying to get Voigt behind a wheel for the Spanish Grand Prix. When Ducarouge’s regular driver Plaçais turned out sick during the week leading up to the Spanish Grand Prix, lunatic Marcelo and I arranged for Voigt to do some practice laps around Montjuich in one of the Matra’s. Having an easy access to certain hard to get substances often helps in obtaining favors from French romantics at heart.
Then, Plaçais miraculously healed, and any chance we had to secure Voigt a drive, went out the door. That reality dawned on me as I watched Ducarouge disappear. Leaving behind the perfect equilibrium of reason and wisdom that reigns over Mies’ pavilion. His slender figure blurred into the hectic potpourri of the city below.
I wondered whether our boy not racing Montjuich was necessarily an entirely bad thing? Man has this inexplicable tendency to consider things as exclusively bad or good. While reality was often a jigsaw of very different colored facets.
Let’s take Mies and fascism for instance. Fascism is generally considered as having resulted in only and nothing but sadness, misery and atrocity. But would Mies ever have moved to the United States of America without the leaders of fascism rendering his life in Europe impossible? And should he not have fled to the U.S., would Europe have provided him the opportunity to create gigantic masterpieces like the Chicago Federal Complex, 860-880 Lake Shore Drive or the Seagram Building?
Europeans have this mantra about them being the motherland, the cradle of civilization and progress. But for some reason, they always seem to need us Yanks, the new kids on the block, to extract the best out of their genius. Just like the Arabs fable about their oil, but need our Exxon engineers to even get it out of the ground.
With that consolation, I got up and started up the hill. Where the engines were already up to the nervous revving that precedes every Grand Prix start.
If there was one start I would not want to miss for anything, it was this. On a track that was not really a track, but a madman’s disillusion screaming up and down the hill of Montjuich. The cars came screaming up the hill over a jump that lead straight into the slowest left hand hairpin on earth. From it, they rushed down to a right hand hairpin, to speed up towards yet another hairpin turning left. Followed another selection of slow left and right handers, till the cars finally got onto the Recta de las Fuentes.
That is were the madness really starts. Sweeping left and right back up the hill, with ever increasing speed. Finally jumping back over the crest just behind the start-finish line, hoping to brake in time for the hairpin.
Chaos was guaranteed at this track, that much was for sure. There already was some before the starting flag had even dropped. Ending the formation lap, David Sabre drove his Matra into the pit. His car’s nosecone had gone missing in action somewhere during the warm-up lap. The Brit would be starting his Matra out of the pit.
As the starting flag dropped, the expected mayhem however never occurred. On the contrary, all drivers behaved ridiculously civilized and an entire field negotiated the first hairpin without serious incidents.
Surtees’s drivers Coxon and Riddall, who had taken the two top spots in Kyalami, started from pole and second place in the Montjuich race. They capitalized on it and immediately worked on an early lead.
Behind, Lotus-driver Wilks managed the best start, shooting from fifth to third in the first turn. Behind the Lotus, it was just a giant blur of cars squirming and wriggling through the first hairpin. Many of them flew 3 or even 4 wide in to the turn, then faced the considerable narrowing of the track following the turn. As by miracle, they all made it through without a scratch.
The Surteeses immediately set about at what could hardly be called anything but humiliating all the rest on track. As they rounded Teatro Griego for the very first time, they had already secured an almost entire straight on third placed Wilks. Even at this early stage, the race seemed set to turn into a Surtees versus also-rans showcase.
As Coxon and Riddall came jumping over the crest on the start-finish straight, the Lotus was already over 2 seconds down.
The only one not ready to lay down and accept the might of the Surtees at this stage, seemed Greg Goissen. He was charging as only the Frenchman can. Attacking Jereb for 11th into La Pergola, even slightly touching the March of Jereb. It would not stop him ascending the racing order in these opening laps.
Meanwhile, Sabre’s misery continued. After the early stop for a new nose cone, race control now called him in for a drive thru penalty. His race seemed lost before it had even started. I could not help myself thinking, “Well Mr Ducarouge, my guy would have done better.”
Which was actually far from certain. But then, people like me do not care too much for the truth. The result, just the result matters.
At this stage of the race, two situations were worthwhile following up.
First, the two Surtees boys upfront seemed to have no real team understanding, as Riddall attacked Coxon and they swapped places. Which in turn allowed Wilks to reduce the gap to the two Surteeses.
Further down, Greg Goissen was still on a mission. He was now charging hard on Michal Janak in the Ferrari and Juha Bos in the second Lotus. Both Janak and Bos are very good, if not brilliant, drivers. Let’s agree on that. But they are no match for an unchained Goissen.
Goissen is one of those rare drivers who can make a car go faster than it ought to go. He has the rare skill of finding speed in even the most dilapidated jalopies. So here he was at Montjuich, running 11th in the old Brabham BT-33, well ahead of Brian Janik in the newer BT-34.
The French ace seemed to underestimate the speed difference with Janak, slightly bumping into the Ferrari at Vias. It unsettled the Italian car enough to allow Goissen through. It was a move that was heavily debated during and after the race. And more were to follow from the Frenchman whose guts by now seemed on fire.
Starting lap 4, Gerard Ryon blew the engine of his Ferrari. Race over.
Goissen meanwhile was looking for a way past Bos. It did not take him long to find one. Pull up inside the Lotus out of the first hairpin, and brake later than the Lotus at the second hairpin. Smoking the tires to underline the drama of the action. Out of the hairpin, as he was on a roll now, he immediately dispensed with Peter Hlavac in the McLaren. Goissen was running 8th.
Dana Schurer misjudged the strength with which the crest leading to the first hairpin would launch her car. As she touched down, she failed to brake sufficiently and hit Acerclinth’s Tyrrell in the butt. It sent the Tyrrell spinning wildly into the barriers and retirement. Even if, understandably, extremely disappointed, Acerclinth stated post race that it was just one of those racing things. Underlining what a true gentleman he is.
One to not get distracted by all that action was leader Riddall, who promptly clocked fastest time. And slowly gathered a small advantage of about 1.5 seconds over Coxon. Wilks’ Lotus was already trailing by over 6 seconds.
A new battle was by now raging. The one for 6th place, between Plaçais in the first of the Matra’s and Lacina in the Alfa Romeo-powered March. The might of the French V12 allowed Plaçais to pull away slightly on the fast section up the hill. But as soon as the track got to its twisty collection of hairpins, Martin was straight on the blue car’s exhausts.
Adding to their worries was an unleashed Goissen growing larger and larger in their mirrors. Tagging wheel-sticker Hlavac along.
Goissen was not wasting time with Lacina. Starting lap 7, on the approach of the first hairpin, Greg threw the car to the inside, braked way deeper into the corner again lightning his tires, and was past. The March, maybe slightly surprised, just turned in and hit the Brabham on its rear right wheel.
There would later be much debate over Goissen’s offensive style in these opening stages of the race. It would even earn him an official warning for overly aggressive driving. Now, the admins are saints. That is for certain. But you can’t but say this: given the chance, any manager in his right mind would hire Goissen for his team. And that on every day of the week, and twice on a Sunday. He has the nerve and the skill that marks the truly great ones of this sport. And understands that searching for the limit, sometimes slightly crossing it, every lap and every turn, is what sets true blooded racers apart from the mere fast drivers. When a driver like Goissen is on a track, there never is a dull moment. And that, in the end, is what it is all about.
That being said, one started to wonder whether Greg was not overestimating the longevity of his tires. These were no longer the hard tires as used last season. Who were almost immune to wear and tear. Contemporary F1 cars had adopted the so called slicks, a tire first used for drag-racing. It is a softer tire with a smooth tread and no groove at all, offering much better grip. But also wearing off much faster when abused. Greg did not really seem to grasp that. And was giving his tires an almost constant beating.
Sooner or later, he would have to pay the price for that. Or would he have a secret?
Whatever, the French champion was now running seventh. Just one spot shy of earning points, which, in his old underpowered car, was a remarkable achievement by any standard.
Richard Wilks provided for some entertainment spinning his Hethel war dog in the Miramar-hairpin. Fredriksson and Steve Parker went by. The Portuguese driver managed to get going just in time to clear the track for the Plaçais-Goissen-Hlavac blizzard rushing his direction.
Goissen was now on top of Plaçais, with Hlavac right behind. Plaçais seemed to let the pressure get the better of him and touched the inside of La Pergola. Greg hit the brakes to avoid the worse. An opportunistic Hlavac benefitted and sailed past the Brabham in a rather meritless action.
It did not discourage Goissen in the least. On the next approach to Miramar, he showed the Czech driver what real champions are made off. Once more braking late and reclaiming his spot.
Goissen now seemed on a roll and at Guardia Urbana dispensed with Plaçais’ Matra. Hlavac in the McLaren opportunistically followed suit. The French driver was now running sixth in a car that should not even have qualified. It was a lesson in racing for everyone around.
Hlavac now however started to mount some real pressure on Goissen. One started wondering whether the Czech driver had not smartly been managing his tires, while as Goissen had by now ruined his. Leaving Hlavac with a much more drivable car.
It did not take the McLaren driver long to deliver a definite answer. At the start of lap 13, Goissen’s worn tires pushed him wide in Miramar. Hlavac simply drove past on the inside line.
Goissen was however not ready to leave it at that. One lap down the road, he was again ahead of Hlavac. The French driver however seemed to face a permanent grip problem in Miramar. And next time round, Hlavac again passed the Brabham through the inside.
Just one turn further, at Rosaleda, the Brabham however slipped ahead again. This was now turning into a fight on the ragged edge. So much ragged as a matter of fact, that many a bystander felt a certain anxiety grow. How could this ever end well?
Hlavac pulled along side once more on Recta de las Fuentes, only to back off in Pueblo Espanol. The duel was now nearing sheer madness. Somewhere in Stretford, Lancashire, a 15 year old young man might have been watching the race on television. Instinctively writing down “something must break” on a piece of paper.
The driver from Hossegor kept a controlled inside line in Miramar on their next passage. Preventing Hlavac from passing him as well as holding an advantage through the next hairpin. Exiting Rosaleda, the Brabham’s rear was again sliding wildly however. Indicating that the tires were suffering.
Hlavac now seemed to back of slightly. Possibly allowing his own tires to cool off a bit. Goissen merrily continuing to smoke his tires in about every other turn.
Further down the field, Detroiter Janik was eyeballing the 11th position of Juha Bos. And made a successful move for it going up the hill. The clever Belgian however gently bode his time, simply recapturing the position into the first hairpin. Janik then seemed to gently touch the Lotus under braking for Font del Gat, the third of the three consecutive hairpins following the start-finish straight. It was all Ferrarista Janak needed to get the better of the lobster clawed Brabham.
Janak then also shot by Bos as the latter backed off a bit when yellow flags indicated trouble in Miramar. It was a pass under yellow, and therefore questionable. Yet, the stewards did not seem to take offense.
Goissen had by now gone completely berserk. He had left Hlavac behind and was catching Wilks, driving a state-of-the-art Lotus. It seemed the French driver had decided to redefine the notion alien all by himself.
Jacques meanwhile crashed the BRM out of contention, apparently somehow involving Plaçais. The Matra continued without nose cone and promptly transformed itself into a rolling chicane. Janak, Bos, Janik and all where hot on its tail.
Hlavac had now joined Goissen in a shared attempt to rewrite alien history. There antics by times started to look remarkably much like planet of the Apes. With Wilks a kind of George Taylor trying very hard not to face Lady Liberty.
On lap 23, Wilks exited Vias poorly, allowing Goissen to pull up inside on the approach to Guardia Urbana. The Brabham took over fifth from the Lotus. The race was now really starting to look like science-fiction. It got even crazier on lap 24 as Hlavac also dispensed with the Lotus. Lady Liberty started looming over Montjuich for Wilks.
The Portuguese driver was not at the end of his surprises though. Braking for Miramar, Lacina braked later and also passed the Lotus. Wilks had been relegated from 5th to 8th in less than two entire laps. Yet, in motor racing, the prices are only awarded at the finish. And that finish still lay some 50 laps ahead.
While all the madness went on, Grant Riddall had not been wasting his time. Almost like a thief in the night, he had steadily driven away from his Surtees’ teammate Coxon. And, with a third of the race driven, was enjoying a comfortable 11 seconds advantage. Fredriksson followed in third, fully honoring his fast reputation by conceding barely 2 seconds to Coxon.
An excellent Steve Parker followed in fourth, saving the honors for the Owen Racing Organisation. Then followed the string of madness with Goissen, Hlavac, who seemed set on reeling Goissen in as soon as possible, and Lacina in the March-Alfa Romeo. Wilks, Janak and Janik, who again had made it passed Bos, completed the top 10.
The action was further upfront however, with Zira Hlavac hard on Cornelius Goissen’s gearbox. And Cornelius did not stop blocking his wheels, permanently pouring smoke from his tires and sliding from north to south.
The earlier concern for the state of the Brabham’s tires was concretizing. Greg overcooked it in one of the hairpins, leaving Hlavac through and having to watch out for Lacina. The second Czech driver indeed seemed able to tap into some additional reserves in the March if required.
On lap 27, the tires finally got the better from Goissen. He had a half spin into Rosaleda, leaving Lacina through. Then, while desperately trying to put up a fight, spun backwards into the armco’s in Font del Gat. One of the rear wheels was ripped from the Brabham, ending the valiant French driver’s race. But what a race it had been. One for the legend books without doubt.
With the hottest property driver out of contention, the race now settled into a more relaxed rhythm.
Wilks seemed to be struggling with a damaged Lotus, the rear apparently lacking grip and sliding out of control at repeated occasions.
With 30 laps gone, only 14 cars were left running. And they were quiet spread out over the track. Where the first third of the race had provided for an excess of thrilling action, real racing now seemed to abandon the track at a quick pace.
Spectators and commentators alike were left wondering about how worn Hlavac’s tires were, and whether Lacina would catch him? Or whether Coxon was still planning on a late charge back to Riddall? Merely hypothetic mesmerizing that did not involve burning rubber or screaming engines. Nor any of the other stuff that gets gearheads pumped up.
Reporters were down to speculating about the possible impact of fatigue. It were all admirable efforts to pretend we had a race on our hands. But it could, in reality, not disguise that the race had turned into a bore.
Janik was valiantly trying to provide some thrills by catching Wilks’ Lotus. But the Portuguese remained well out of the reach of the lobster claw. Sabre ran into yet another drive thru penalty… Cucumber time had however reached the track.
The Spanish have a way of considering certain things sacred. Their siesta is one such thing. And so, to not disturb the siesta, the race started at 11h 30 in the morning, rather than the usual 2h 00 pm. We were therefore, by now, well past the time that could respectably be considered as appropriate for an aperitif. Guzik thus served us just that. Few things are better than a Hendricks and tonic to digest cucumbers anyway.
The commentator’s box was by now indulging in praise for how last placed man Fitch was gaining valuable experience. Which would benefit him in future races. I could not agree more. And so felt compelled to head for the box and venture into some more physical arguments to convince the world to give my Jonny boy Voigt a chance. But Guzik calmed me down with a third Hendricks and tonic.
I was learning, from first hand experience, that the monotony of racing, combined with Spanish heat and icecold booze instigates certain instincts in man. Turning him into as big a stud as the boys in their cars on the track.
Janik was now close to Wilks, but never really got a shot at a decent move. The pressure was however undeniably growing on Wilks.
The race was getting so tedious, that vital information was being missed and only picked up several laps after the facts. Lacina for instance suddenly was down to ninth, without anyone having noticed anything. And then was completely out of the race. It was as if we no longer wanted to witness the action. The first third of the race having indulged an overdose, we now just slumped further into the monotony of cars turning in circles.
Lacina’s woes meant that Wilks was back to sixth and Janik was actually chasing a point. Besides opportunity, the Detroiter now also had motive.
More drama went by unnoticed. Parker was suddenly loosing place after place and slumped into an anonymous retirement. The entire electronic system of his BRM had gone AWOL. Putting both Wilks and Janik in the points. Fitch retired inexplicably, reducing the number of running cars to barely more than ten. Maybe Jenny Hanley striding onto one of the Catalonian beaches could save the day.
Here on the hill, the flies meanwhile seemed to be massively going for the jam jar. At this rate even nitwit Voigt would have scored points.
After yet another gin and tonic, I was now so drunk that not only every woman looked like Bo Derek, but so did every man. Enticing me to some romantic proposals towards Gerard Ducarouge. Terminally ruining any scarce chance Voigt ever had at driving a Matra.
Ducarouge’s reaction was so distracting that everyone missed Janik finally making it by Wilks. For about an hour everyone was thirsting for action and when it finally presented itself, we all missed it. I started wondering whether I was actually developing a case of early dementia. Then just blamed it on the booze. Which was quiet a comforting thought really.
Up front, everything remained unchanged through. With about 15 laps of racing left, the Surtees’ boys had firmly seized control over the race. Riddall still leading Coxon with the gap between them seemingly set in stone. Fredriksson held on to the last podium spot in the March. Followed Hlavac in a McLaren, Janik in a Brabham and Wilks clinging to the last point in the Lotus.
Wilks’ struggling with his car however seemed to increase without end. With about ten laps to go, he spun his car at Teatro Griego. And now needed to start worrying about Jundt, who was running 7th in an old March 701.
Even if Jundt is, by times, very Swissish, even for a Swiss, his performance in this race was remarkable. Fully crediting his reputation of being the one driver able to extract the best out of inferior machinery.
Further back, Chapman in a third Surtees was increasing pressure on Martinelli in the sole remaining Tyrrell. Their battle was for ninth spot. Even though the Briton seemed faster than the Frenchman, he failed at finding a true opportunity to attempt a pass.
Then some drama struck at the front of the field. With less than ten laps to go, Coxon came into the pits with some rear suspension damage. The Surtees crew did an excellent job of getting their driver back on track in no time. But it was sufficient to let Fredriksson in the March grab second. The battle for the silver medal was on. And with barely 10 laps to go, everyone suddenly burst with excitement again.
At the look of the timetables, it was an impossible mission. Coxon was about 9 seconds behind, with only 9 laps to go. But the Surtees started flying around the track nevertheless. With 6 laps to go, the Brit had the deficit to the Swede down to less than one second. The game was fully on.
Coxon challenged for second twice in a row, braking very late on the outside line of Miramar. Without success. So far.
On lap 72, number 2 and 3 prepared to lap Dana Schurer. The American driver moved out of the way very loyally and Coxon now had the slipstream storming up the hill. But lost the car in one of the sweepers. Possibly due to the reduced aero pressure on his front wing as a result of running straight behind Fredriksson’s March. The Surtees slid wide and gently hit the armco barrier. Coxon was warned. Winning back a place was not the only possible outcome. He could also loose it all.
In lap 72, tragedy struck Fredriksson. Under increasing pressure from Coxon, he braked late in the second hairpin. His worn tires could no longer cope with it and the March went straight into a hay bale, losing a wheel in the ordeal. The Surtees reign was reestablished, but how merciless had faith been on the Swedish driver. Being deprived an almost certain podium finish with only 3 laps to go.
With only ten or less cars still running, the race now really just slumbered on to the finish. Riddall took his first win of the season, and Coxon completed the second one-two out of two races for the Surtees’ team.
The late retirement of Fredriksson promoted Hlavac to the podium in his McLaren. A just reward for the man who survived the heroic first third of the race, not succumbing to an almost inhumane pressure from Goissen.
Janik brought the lobster claw Brabham home fourth, a fantastic result taking into account that this was the car’s first race. Wilks was fifth in the Lotus.
And the last point went to an incredible Jundt, who drove his jalopy March 701 to sixth place. A result few other drivers, if not none, would be able to achieve in that car.
Championship wise Riddall and Coxon now share the first spot with 15 points each. Behind them, the dessert reigns. Fredriksson and Hlavac sharing third with only 4 points each, already 11 points behind the Surtees’ boys. David Jacques and Brian Janik are joint 5th with 3 points each. Lacina, Wilks, Janak and Jundt conclude the drivers having scored points up to now.
Having dominated Kyalami, a fast power track, and now Montjuic, a twisty city circuit, the question really is where the Surteeses will not be dominant. One thing is certain: the other teams have work on their hands. And would better get on with it or the Surteeses might end up with a very solid, if not an unassailable, lead.