At the devious Nürburgring, Johnson had revealed himself to be something of a superhuman. Winning a Grand Prix on a track that was in essence a treacherous fraud, in a March that was some decennia down on development, was indeed something mere mortals could not aspire to.
Talking of mere mortals… Coxon proved to be a fond member of those in Germany; carelessly squandering away all the benefit gathered through a hard fought win in Silverstone by crashing in the first turn of the first lap. As if the Ring were in lack of other turns to go off.
It had allowed Grant Riddall, also not on top of his game at the Nürburgring, to secure a full nine points lead in the championship. Coxon’s margin for error at the Ostërreichring was, as a result, zero. If not, sub zero.
As to Voigt, he crashed his March 701 out of the race while shamefully running dead last on track.
My first reaction to rummy spook Marcelo breaking the news of a phone-call with Maranello, was thus one of disbelief. I even corned the old fool firmly against the door, making it crystal that I was not to be made a fool off.
In all fairness, his reaction puzzled me somewhat. As I tightened my grip on his cervical system, his eyes just kept filling with compassionate pity. Like an old tutor feeling sorry for a pupil failing to get a grip on the knowledge he is trying to pass on.
It took me every ounce of poise in my veins to restrain myself and let go of the old bastard. But I would still not believe the fool’s inconsistent raving. Until we made it to the Fiorano test track and I saw Voigt’s ass belted into a brand new 312B2 with my own eyes.
That’s right. Old Enzo had gotten so fed up with the lackluster results of his drivers over the season, that he had sacked Bruppacher for the no show at the Ring. It was indeed not very smart to expect the Commendatore to show any mercy on those chickening out of the great Nordschleife.
So the Swiss was kicked out and, devoid of any logic, Voigt was asked to replace him in the number 5 Ferrari.
What a brilliant opportunity, we thought. Till it dawned on us that the Scuderia’s poor season results, were probably not solely down to the drivers.
Over at BRM, Jaques had finally gotten his hands on the latest P160. And immediately clocked pole with an astonishing 1 minute 38.421 seconds lap. Only Coxon, second on the grid, and Riddall, third, could more or less claim to belong to the same congregation.
Fourth placed Wilks was already close to a second slower.
Super Austin and David Jundt took 5th and 6th respectively. That Austin’s privately entered CMG March 711 carried about 15 bhp less than Jundt’s factory entered machine, only underlined Austin’s new found status of prodigal son.
Voigt was both a disappointment and a disgrace to the Scuderia; and to all of his ancestors as well. Now in a fabulous Ferrari, he still only achieved a 20th starting spot, over 2 seconds slower than Ryon and nearly 4 seconds slower than Janak, who were driving the other two Ferraris.
As the flag dropped, Jaques seemed to hold on to his top spot. But before they reached Voest-Hugel for the first time, Coxon had pulled alongside. The Brit put the benefit of the inside line to his full advantage and took the lead.
The man with the best start was Johnson however. He rocketed passed both Wilks and Riddall into third before the first turn. Then hooked his car to the rear of Jaques’ BRM and looked dangerously offensive in both the Tirok and the Bosch Kurve.
Riddall was soon back to his senses and joined the frantic trial of strength between Jaques and Johnson. Wilks, relegated to 5th, was at this early stage falling back a wee bit.
The group of four leaders soon seemed to split into a double duo. Jaques was keeping Coxon more than honest for the lead. And Riddall made sure Johnson had his work cut out for him. The Brit had a look on the inside of the Texaco Schikane, which is actually a double left hander, but Johnson held on to third.
Out of the fast Jochen Rindt Kurve, Austin was fighting to keep the rear of his March in line. He lost momentum and the power advantage of the Surtees did the rest. Riddall sailed by on the main straight and was in third.
Behind them, the rest of the maniacs seemed to settle for an Indian file around the track.
Voigt’s start had not been brilliant, the goof struggling to get the power of the Ferrari down. It allowed Jason White, running in Jaques’ old BRM P153, by. Patsy’s get-away was nevertheless better than those of Craggs and Parker. Parker was particularly slow to take off and was slowing Craggs on the left side of the track; on the exact spot where White was pulling ahead of Voigt. The Detroiter cut back across the track, forcing Voigt to slightly lift. JP however made it past both Craggs and Parker and was one spot up. Not bad for lap 1.
On lap 2, White spun the BRM in the Tirok Kurve and took off for the barriers. The Armco pushed the BRM back on the track. Voigt managed to dodge the BRM and moved up to 18th. A recovering Parker however slammed his car into White’s. Both their BRM’s were out of the race.
Up front, Jaques was defending the Bourne-honors. He and Coxon were edging away a bit from the rest of the field. Grant the Faster was trying everything to close the small gap. Which he succeeded in doing by the time they all started lap 3. The Surtees joined in the frantic rhythm of Coxon and Jaques.
On what was the ultimate power track, Austin Johnson was struggling to keep up in his underpowered March 711. It was, as a matter of fact, a near miracle that he was still running 4th.
On lap 4, Paulo Rodrigues smashed the jalopy Ecurie Bonnier McLaren M7A in the barriers of the Jochen Rindt Kurve. His race was over.
The trio Coxon-Jaques-Riddall by now had a cushion of about six cars over fourth placed Johnson. The Californian ace was coming under increasing pressure from Wilks, who benefitted from a sensible power advantage in his Lotus.
Jundt was running sixth and had Bos in the second Lotus behind him. Sabre, an ever improving Janik and Plaçais rounded out the top 10.
Johnson was using all of his skills. And throughout the entire section from Bosch Kurve through the Texaco Schikane up to the Rindt Kurve, he managed to gather a small cushion over Wilks. Then along the main straight and the Flatschach, the Portuguese driver unleashed all the power of his latest generation Cosworth and steamed right back towards the Californian.
Wilks had a first look into Tirok Kurve on lap 6 but Johnson stayed ahead. On lap 7, going into the same corner, the Lotus ace was even closer to the Californian. Too close even. As Johnson shut the door, his rear right wheel crossed over the Hethel manufactured front wing.
The Lotus careened of the track and bumped into the barriers but continued. Johnson seemed to leave the scene without having incurred any damages. But now had Jundt in much more equal machinery to contend with.
At the front of the field, Riddall had adopted his favorite part, that of Maximus Grantus. First, he braked much later than Jaques into Bosch Kurve and simply pulled ahead. Then, on the same lap, he grabbed Coxon’s slipstream on the main straight and conquered the lead through the blindingly fast Voest-Hugel Kurve.
The whole move allowed Jaques to close back in on the Tyrrell-Surtees train and the view of these tree rocketing down the Flatschach towards Tirok Kurve at top speed, almost three-wide at times, was just plainly agonizing.
Coxon had a look under braking for Tirok, but Maximus Grant kept it together. Jaques put some pressure on Coxon but for now the order was: Riddall, Coxon, Jaques.
Things looked grimmer for Riddall the Wiser. He was quietly running his race in 13th position when, along the fast Valvoline Gerade, the Bourne power plant suddenly started pouring very black smoke and then called it a day. Ray’s race was over.
Voigt was meanwhile still running 18th and seemed unable to close the gap to Acerclinth and Ryon. Craggs, in a lesser powered McLaren, was even closing in. It was when I first saw some of the Italian mechanics that worked on the Ferrari, mockingly nodding in old Marcelo’s direction. Europeans think we Americans do not notice these things, convinced as they are that our noses are too smothered with vain material preoccupations. But I had registered their treacherous behind the back little smirks; and started suspecting that something was not quiet right.
His Grace the Duke of Utter Speed was meanwhile inching away from Coxon and Jaques in his trusted Surtees. But Grant then somewhat overcooked it.
He lost the rear of the Surtees through Rindt Kurve and went into a half spin. Grant managed to avoid hitting anything by steering the car into the grass on the inside of the corner and then crossed back to the track.
Coxon and Jaques had however shot away into the distance. And Riddall had lost such momentum that on the main straight, Johnson pulled ahead. Austin was now incredibly running 3rd with a decrepit Cosworth S9 on a track where power was an absolute prerequisite.
Riddall immediately sett out to catch Johnson and did so in typical Grantus Dominus Celeritatis fashion. That is, no holding back what so ever. It only took him about 3 quarters of a lap to pull up to, along side of and passed the CMG March under braking for Dr Tirok Kurve.
Seen from Johnson’s cockpit, the Surtees was then rapidly evolving into just a tiny spot in the distance; while as, in Jaques’ mirrors, the Surtees was growing.
Grant overcooked it one last time however. On lap 10, he entered the Jochen Rindt Kurve a tad wide. The front of the car ended up on the grass, putting the car into an outwards spin. The right front hit the fencing hard, tearing both wheel and suspension from the car. The Lord of Speed’s day was done.
Jundt heard a soft knock of opportunity on the bodywork of his factory March. Along the fast Valvoline Gerade in the back of the circuit, he used the extra power of his Cosworth S10 to close in on Johnson. Once there, the clever Swiss benefitted from the CMG March’s slipstream to pull ahead.
Johnson seemed surprised by Jundt’s braking point for the Bosch Kurve, which was obviously earlier than what the Californian phenomenon was used to. Austin took avoiding action and ended nudging the barriers on the outside of the curve, allowing Bos through. Super Californiac was down from an unearthly 3rd to a still awesomely impressive 5th in little more than one lap.
With 10 of the 54 laps covered, the running order was thus: Coxon leading the race for Ken Tyrrell but with a clear and present danger named Jaques’ BRM constantly on his back. Jundt, factory March, was running through somewhat calmer waters in third. Bos held 4th for Lotus, but expectation was that Johnson, now in 5th with his CMG bucket of bolts, would take 4th back rather sooner than later. And Colin Chapman must have had a field day at this point as Wilks was clinching the last point running 6th in the second Lotus.
Lap 10 had been particularly clement on Wilks as Sabre, who had held 7th up to that point, spun his Matra exiting the second lefthander at Texaco – the Brit would continue in 12th to work his way back up – promoting the Lotus to 7th. Then, merely one turn later, Riddall’s ordeal handed Wilks 6th.
Completing the top 10 were Janik in a Brabham that still looked like having escaped the rusty waters of Maine, Plaçais in the first Matra, Canola in a Frank Williams March 711 and Petr Hlavac in the first of the McLarens.
Voigt was meanwhile about three highways behind Acerclinth and had Craggs still closing in. And the grinning and sniffing of the Italian mechanics only increased. It even started to get somewhat on my nerves.
The race was down to 18 contenders. All of them were pretty much minding their own business and behaved like brave but wise warriors in their iron horses. Except for the two protagonists in the lead.
They again were at it like two complete nutters. Jaques was showing his front wing to Coxon’s inside rear wheel in almost every corner. Then they sped along the Österreichring’s blindingly fast straights with nearly enough space between them to house two mosquitos.
On lap 12 they dashed by poor Bruno Chacon who was nearly scared out of his wits by the aberrance of the two madmen’s speed.
Wilks passed Johnson for 5th merely on the back of the Lotus’ power advantage.
Coxon struggled a bit to get the power down out of the Bosch Kurve. Jaques grabbed the opportunity to force the Tyrrell on a suboptimal inside line for Texaco. And then went ahead through Texaco. The BRM was in the lead.
Jaques even pulled a little gap to the Tyrrell.
Coxon however attacked in Tirok, not too much avail. He then tempted Jaques into braking very late, too late probably, for Bosch. It put Jaques on a delicate outside line and there went Coxon back in the lead on the inside.
They were back to their initial silliness and almost looked like two dunces who had foolishly decided to gamble their race away.
Voigt by now started noticing Craggs in his mirror. And the goof obviously did not possess the nerve to remain cool under the circumstances.
Wilks had some looks at maybe pulling ahead of Bos. Which allowed an extraordinary Johnson to reduce the gap with the Loti to very little. It had Colin Chapman nervously jiggling on his chair. The Hethel chief knew the risks of engaging in such flings whilst on a racetrack.
And old Colin was proven right. Bos, anxiously trying to escape the jaws of both Wilks and Johnson, braked too late for Texaco and went of. Wilks and Johnson speared off into the distance.
Plaçais had made it past Janik somewhere and was now in 7th. Only one spot to gain and the Matra would finish in the points.
Wilks was slowly running away from Johnson. But if Bos had thought that he would easily power by the old March again, he had been sorely mistaking.
Hlavac had been steadily working his way back to Canola and on lap 17 was on the Williams March’s ass. The Czech then simply pulled alongside the March on the Valvoline Gerade. By the time both cars started braking for Bosch, Canola’s retaliation was just a losing proposition.
At the front, things still looked very insane from a mental perspective. Would both Coxon and Jaques have been reading that Ken Kesey bloke’s novel, I wondered? I was pretty convinced that Marcelo nor Voigt were capable of reading, but then Coxon and Jaques obviously were cut from another kind of cloth.
Time after time, Jaques would come along the inside of Coxon on the run to that seriously fast Voest-Hugel and it looked as if he would snatch the lead. But then Coxon always managed to brake so very very late and keep a small advantage. They would round Voest-Hugel partially side-by-side but Coxon always managed to come out first for the run down to Tirok.
Bos had narrowed the gap to Sonic Boom Austin. But getting past was an entirely different matter. It looked pretty much like an accordion. Bos would pull up on the straights. Then, through the turns, Johnson edged away again.
On lap 20, Jaques, almost out of left field, slid passed Coxon on the inside of the second Texaco lefthander.
The brave Canadian then messed up his entry of Tirok. The rear of the BRM looked like wanting to go super trampy, Jaques clearly struggling to keep the beast straight. It was all Coxon needed to slip back into the lead.
By this stage, it also looked as if silver fox Jundt was slowly but oh so steadily closing in on the two leaders. Did Super Swiss still have a surprise up a hidden sleeve somewhere?
Craggs could now smell Voigt. And Voigt did not like the taste of it. The fast Londoner then, very courteously, made tons of room to allow the leaders through. It also allowed Voigt to pull away. Patsy boy obviously felt obliged to go one better than Craggs. So, as the leaders approached, he went onto the grass on the outside of Texaco. Leaving the leaders a free passage, but also losing al regained advantage on Craggs.
It might get him a recommendation from the race officials, but back at our home base, it was only going to earn him a spanking. That much was for certain.
This seemed to become the race of people slowly but steadily catching back those in front of them. Chapman joined the ranks by crawling back to Ryon in one of the other Ferrari’s.
As Coxon crossed the start-finish line to start his 25th lap, his lead was still precarious as, right behind him, Jaques’ BRM was blowing a 12 nutcrackers in the madhouse symphony in V minor. Jundt looked solid in third but appeared to have fallen back a bit.
Wilks seemed safe in 4th. Johnson in 5th, incredibly, looked like he was actually edging away from Bos in 6th.
Plaçais was in 7th, abiding his time to snatch the last point. Janik was frugging and rocking in 8th with a lobster Brabham.
Hlavac and Canola rounded out the top 10; in that order.
Voigt was preparing to lap Chacon. The first time ever that Voigt would lap a car… He almost bollocksed it up but finally pulled of a clean pass.
The best action on the track was provided by Sabre. He had caught up with Canola and was now looking for a way passed. The Brit overcooked it on the approach of Texaco and went very wide over the grass. Everything was to be done over.
The Cosworth in Craggs’ McLaren bought the farm. The Londoner had no option but to park the car in Texaco and made it back to the pits on foot.
All the manic action up front finally seemed to yield some success for Jaques. He managed a better exit out of Texaco and kept the momentum through a kink called the Raiffeisenhügel. And benefitted from late braking on the optimal inside line through Rindt Kurve to grab the lead.
The BRM then even seemed to pull away from the Tyrrell.
As Johnson and Bos lapped Voigt while exiting Tirok Kurve, Bos managed to get ahead of Johnson. Nitwit Voigt then made Johnson lose some time and Bos immediately enjoyed a safe gap. With the power advantage of the Lotus over Johnson’s March, it seemed unlikely that Johnson would recover his position.
Jaques seemed to inch away from Coxon and his grip on the lead grew firmer as the race progressed.
On lap 32, a nasty meandering trajectory clenched Plaçais’ Matra as it went over the Raiffeisenhügel, launching the rear right into the fencing. The car skidded up the grass banking and Plaçais then engaged into something that looked very much like grass skiing to rejoin the track. Which he did in 11th spot.
His teammate Sabre had now truly made it passed Canola and Plaçais’ misery elevated Sabre to 9th.
The French daredevil valiantly soldiered on. But it was clear to all that his car had become a handful. The next time round, the driver from Angers steered his car into the pits, where the mechanics found the damage irreparable. The race had one less Matra.
Where it at first looked as if Jaques’ move had knocked the stuffing out of Coxon, the Brit, back to his senses, now at times seemed to be brooding on a counter. On lap 36, Jaques got blocked for a fraction of a second behind a backmarker in Tirok Kurve.
It was all Coxon needed to pull up and enjoy a perfect tow along the Valvoline Gerade. The Tyrrell pulled up on the inside for Bosch Kurve. The BRM would not cede. So both cars rounded Bosch almost entirely side-by-side. Jaques’ outside line was slower though and he could not prevent Coxon from sneaking through.
Voigt had climbed up to 15th as a result of Plaçais abandoning. And the idiot still had a car that was as pristine as a car could be this deep into a Grand Prix. Still, I was getting the nasty impression that his Ferrari was slower in a straight line than those of Janak and Ryon.
Ken Tyrrell was now standing on the pit wall with a slingshot; launching valium tablets direction Jaques’ cockpit. And it worked as the BRM had to cut the Tyrrell in front some slack.
Fifth place, and the two points that come with it, had been handed to Bos almost on a silver platter. But the Belgian lost the rear of his Lotus entering Texaco and spun. Johnson sped by and it would be near impossible to coax the Californio out of 5th a second time.
Jaques made a small mistake exiting Bosch, allowing Coxon to run away. The Ockham team could now really start hoping for the victor’s spoils.
On lap 42, the Raiffeisenhügel jinx got hold of Acerclinth. Just like Plaçais’ Matra had, the Swede’s March 711 inexplicably fanned wide of the track, hitting the Armco and tearing the entire right rear suspension from the car. Jonatan’s day at the track was done.
The jinx was so powerful that an oncoming Voigt spun at almost exact the same spot. But the evil eye had wasted the best of its forces on Acerclinth. And Voigt avoided hitting anything. He continued his race. As Chacon was by now a lap down on our car and teammate Ryon was out of reach, the incident did not really matter. Acerclinth’s demise would even promote Patsy to 14th.
With 10 laps remaining, the situation was as follows. Coxon lead from Jaques and even enjoyed a small gap. Then followed a considerable gap to Jundt in 3rd, then another considerable gap to Wilks in 4th. And more large gaps followed: between Johnson in 5th and Bos in 6th, and between Janik in 7th and Hlavac in 8th. Sabre in 9th and Canola in 10th ran close to each other, but Thiago did not really look like making a move.
Janak was in a lonely 11th, Chapman in a lonely 12th. Voigt was running 14th and had Ryon, in 13th, within eyesight. But Gerard had a lap to spare over our car.
In a nutshell: fierce racing had left the track at this point.
Voigt, the damned idiot, felt the urge to play with fire. He spun his Ferrari in Tirok Kurve. Again, he was lucky enough to not hit anything and was swift to be on his ways again.
Bos went for another spin in Bosch, giving away the last point in the race to Hlavac. The McLaren driver had caught up with Janik and to his surprise saw the Brabham stopping in Bosch with what appeared to be a blown engine. The Czech went into 7th and, merely a split second later, even 6th as he also dispensed with a slowly recovering Bos.
Voigt moved up to 13th.
With only about 3 laps remaining, Jaques increased the pressure again. But, in all honesty, it all looked much less frantic then in the opening stages. And somehow, everyone got the impression that the Canadian had accepted his share in this race; the attacks missed Jaques’ usual determination.
Sabre had another off-track excursion in Texaco, leaving Canola into 8th, a remarkable achievement in the underdeveloped Frank Williams’ March.
On the very last lap, Coxon exited Tirok a tad wide, putting his right wheels on the grass. He lost some momentum, but his advance was sufficient to avoid Jaques having a real run towards Bosch Kurve.
Jaques closed up, but Coxon covered the inside lines throughout the infield section. And did what the Chopper had ordered him to do: win.
Jaques possibly was the best second at the finish ever.
Jundt was by far the best of the rest, coming home in 3rd.
Wilks again scored some points for Lotus, although it is unlikely that these 3 points will save the Lotus-season.
An incredible Johnson came home fifth in a car powered by a ramshackle Cosworth S9 on this absolute power track.
Hlavac kept a cool head to overcome a low 18th-place starting position and still take a point home.
It was more than could be said from Bos. The Belgian had qualified an excellent 7th. Then had looked like certain to finish in the points for the best part of the race, only to gamble it all away through some spins.
Canola, Sabre and Janak rounded out the top 10.
Voigt finally came home 13th, just behind Ryon who finished 12th; the Ferraris thus all finished, something that had not happened since Kyalami. Both Janak and Ryon were however a lap down on the winners. And Voigt, king of the Modena-heap, was even 3 laps down on Coxon.
Championship-wise, the man hitting the jackpot was without a doubt Coxon. He scored 9 points while Riddall went home empty-handed. Which has both roosters tied on 39 points each. It promises to become a hot fall in Formula 1.