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Historical Racing Car :

March 711

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"Coffee table" Formula
   
March 711
     
22/01/2019 -

Introduction

My fancy couldn't help being caught by a single-seater like March 711: my mind was shocked; I couldn't look away from that strange elliptic wing rising over the low and round nose, only supported by a slim small pillar. But what was there: a surf board? May be it was Montecarlo glamour, where for the first time I went near the car, but on it I would have seen well a pin-up girl being intent on dancing electronic rhythms. The English are much more self-controlled and cold in their irony; therefore they gave the strange creature nicknames such as: "coffee table" and "tea tray", which sounded as a harsh criticism. Nevertheless, in the design odyssey born under a settled philosophy and then partially repudiated to find a solution to a series of arisen problems, results were not missing: in fact, it was sufficient to read the classification of constructors' championship at the end of the season to realize that… Tyrrell was first with 73 points, followed by Brm with 36 and March 33, equal to (hear, hear!) Ferrari. Passing to drivers' classification we discovered that at the second place, behind Stewart the ace that takes everything, there was Ronnie Peterson, Bicester factory standard bearer. Obviously, Peterson and his enormous talent for speed, able to make up for the defects of the car, but also partly for the 711 with that strange ovoid shape front wing. After inquiring, curiosity goes beyond shapes, because the 711 history was tinged with Italian colours when English chassis was matched with Alfa Romeo 8-cylinder engine, in its F1 second season. Not a real exciting page, but it was always an episode of our motor sports racing. Finally let us remember that the 711 has been Niki Lauda's mate in his debut in F1.

On the wings of Spitfire

March is the acronym derived from the initials of the four founders of the mark born in 1969: Max Mosley, Alan Rees, Graham Coaker and Robin Herd. The four founders financed March by equal shares of £ 2500 and each of them took one field of activity on his responsibility: Mosley dealt with the commercial side, Herd with the car design, Rees undertook the sports management and Coaker the production management at the Bicester factory. The last will make his exit in 1971 as he died tragically at the wheel of a March F2, given to him as some share payment, while Rees, at the end of same year, will leave the Company to go and fill the same position at the newly formed Shadow. The Project was very ambitious: to construct racing cars to manage on their own account, but above all to sell to other racing teams, with the fashion of what they were already doing: Brabham, McLaren and Lotus. The activity started in the same year of the Company settlement by producing the F3 chassis. Expansion was very quick and in 1970 March also committed itself to doing F2, Formula Ford 1600, Can-Am and F1, where gained the victory in the Champions' Race and in Spanish GP with Jackie Stewart. In spite of an exciting first season for a debuting team, in March they felt up to do better: the 701 was a single-seater designed in a hurry, too traditional and heavy one. Besides, they realised that Herd alone couldn't follow all projects in which the factory was engaged: they increased the staff with Geoff Ferris's arrival from Lotus, where he had worked out the Mk 72 study together with Maurice Phillipe, and Frank Costin (Mike's brother, the founder of the Cosworth with Keith Duckworth), one of Colin Chapman's first collaborators and later on Vanwal designer in the mid 50's. Targets and guidelines of the new single-seater were fixed in the late spring of 1970 by Herd, who took his time to develop all ideas and submit a project to customers with sufficient advance of next season. They started with a monocoque made of panels in the NS4 aluminium alloy (16 outside and 18 inside). Front section was elliptic, like the one of old cigar shaped monoposto (single-seaters), and towards the rear, the sides were lightly arisen, and the section became rectangular and tapered in the area of the engine connections. The structure housed three tanks, one in the middle and two laterally positioned beside the driver, for 227 litre total petrol capacity. But till now there was nothing striking. The matter started interesting with the analysis of mechanical parts and fittings layout. From the technical point of view, the point of reference of that time was certainly Lotus '72, even if many hadn't yet understood its features completely. Geoff Ferris's arrival, who had worked on that project, allowed March designers to quickly acknowledge the experience made by Colin Chapman and Maurice Philippe. Water radiators were mounted on the sides, in the final area of the chassis, permitting the weights to be concentrated round the barycentre and simplifying the cooling circuit. On the contrary, oil radiators were located at the back, in the gearbox area. Another important pouring out of experience was given by the use of front brakes "in board", solution causing problems of cooling and torsion stiffness, but permitting the lightening of suspended masses. Disks were self-ventilated, while callipers were supplied by Girling. Other interesting element was the front suspension: layout was based on conventional double triangles overlapping with tubular elements, but the shock absorbers from Koni were in board, housed in the front rib of the chassis and actuated by the twin arm of the upper triangle, which worked as a balancer. That solution allowed a clean air flow channelled to radiators by the suspension elements. The anti roll bar was mounted on the chassis upper side and linked to the lower triangle by a small connecting rod. On the rear again a double triangle layout with tubular elements and Koni shock absorbers. Brakes from Girling were in board with the use of Ferodo pads, while the axle shafts and couplings were from Hewland that also supplied the FG400 gearbox. The streamlined shape worked out by Costin was the most original and striking part of the 711:" We wanted a very streamlined car with little drag, and we concentrated on that line" Thus Geoff Ferris explained the goal of the 711 design that, practically, meant as much as possible penetration, to compensate the lack of eight-cylinder horsepower with its streamlined features, and in comparison with the 12-cylinder engine exhibited by Ferrari, Brm, and Matra. Therefore, they didn't choose the Mk72 way, with its wedge shaped body, able to generate negative lift, but left this task to the wing tailpieces. The front was inspired by the Spitfire wings, the famous single-seater fighter used by the RAF during the Second World War, having a surface four times bigger than the one of a conventional wing and it only offered double resistance. It was elevated over the round nose carried by a small support and had an adjustable gradient, as it could be noticed by the use of a rubber sheath on the support. The whole nose was carried by an auxiliary chassis secured to the front shield of the monocoque. As for the rear wing at first they studied two solutions: a biplane and a triplane. After first practice on Kyalami circuit they opted for the first one, even if, later on, they used a low load monoplane wing. To guarantee the needed stoutness of the structure, profiles were mounted on a tubular frame bolted onto the car rear axle. From the aerodynamic point of view, the less significant part was around the front suspensions which were left almost uncovered, with in board brakes completely on sight inside the frame. That's why they couldn't find any satisfactory and clear solution in order to supply an adequate cooling for disks. All around the wide and low monocoque there was a leather of fibreglass surrounding the driver and the engine, high up to the driver protection bar and long up to the initial part of the gearbox, where it ended by a truncated section to let heat go out, On the front side of the cockpit, part of the tailpiece was transparent, then enlarged to enhance the visibility, already sacrificed by the front wing. On the same structure we could see air intakes "Naca" behind and on both sides of the driver's head to let the engine breath. Corresponding with the heads they obtained a small inspection door for quick engine repairing. Aerodynamics was studied very carefully also around the driver's head to the point that, to minimize turbulences in that area, the use of Bell Star helmets was hypothetically suggested. The car sides were also clearly outlined, with the radiators coated with fibreglass tailpieces ending before the rear wheels, with only the exhaust manifolds left on sight.

Italian and English horsepower

To give birth to the March new creature there were two engines: traditional and tough Ford V8 Cosworth and Alfa Romeo with the same structure. The first was very well-known, as it represented an almost compulsory option for those who couldn't construct an engine at their own factory or avail themselves of direct support of a factory. During the 71' season, the English engine ended by being the centre of attention for its performance. At the beginning of the year it was rated 450 bhp approx., therefore, on paper, in a disadvantageous position to the 12-cylinder ran by Ferrari, Brm and Matra, that delivered 470 bhp. But when the Tyrrell Cosworth driven by Stewart started hammering competition with impossible race rates, journalists began to rack their brains over the main reasons for such performances: over irregular petrol or the displacement not in accordance with the regulations (it should be mentioned that controls didn't almost exist at those days). Everything was examined carefully, even the possibility that the English manufacturer had produced a super engine able to be compared with the 12-cylinder performances. Peterson himself, who started to send his March 711 flying, was "suspected" of using this powerful engine. As a matter of fact, during the season Keith Duckworth revealed that as for horsepower they achieved 447-448 bhp, but the real increase was in the rpm, which were breaking the barrier of 10000 rpm. Therefore, if the 12-cyl.cars were not running it was because of their poor-quality chassis which didn't let tyres run adequately, main factor in that season. We know much less about the V 90° eight-cylinder of Alfa Romeo. Eng. Marelli, ex Ferrari and at that time the sports technical manager of the Arese racing department, helped us to go into the maze of the engine history. Derived from the similar engine of the 33/3 multi-winner sport prototype, it had a capacity of 2993 cc and a rating of 420 bhp under no more than 9600 rpm. Changes to make it more fitted for F1 mainly affected the improvement of the spark advance curve of the distributor and a different profile of camshafts. In comparison with its direct competitor Cosworth, the Italian engine, besides being less powerful, was also heavier, longer and its carter being lower involved a less extreme set up and many engine attachments points. At the beginning they thought of matching the engine also with the Alfa gearbox, but later on they gave up the idea because the Italian transmission was built unlike the traditional Hewland used in the max formula: actually gearbox devices were located before the differential, making complex the ratio replacement, the real strong point of the English units. The engine made its debut in Formula One in 1970, matched with a McLaren chassis. The author of that operation was Andrea De Adamich, the driver standard bearer of Alfa-Romeo cars in endurance races; with a past in Ferrari. The driver, born in Trieste, wanted to be for ever in Formula One, and used all his influence so as to be supported by the Snake Company that, on its side, had no longer been present in F1 since 1951, the days of the 159's success. Perhaps a success that should have been revived and, in fact, the news of the Alfa return to the top was greeted by the national press with exultation. It was said that the McLaren English engineers were amazed by the Italian engine for its acceleration qualities, but they soon got over their hangover after the effects of first results. It couldn't be otherwise, due to the shortage of horsepower and troubles caused by the oil suction lift from the sump. Moreover, the V8 Alfa wasn't stiff enough to perform the work completely, involving torsion problems that often ended by the engine failure. At the end of the season McLaren asked Alfa to invest more on the engine development, above all McLaren asked for money to mount the engine again on its chassis: the agreement fell through and they turned to March, which was on the contrary structured to sell single-seaters and at the moment was obtaining a good financial support from STP of Andy Granatelli. It was just Granatelli's team to introduce the March 711 with the Alfa engine for De Adamich. During the 1971's season the engine went on suffering from usual troubles and De Adamich had always to run in the back positions, but on the occasion of the Austrian GP a modified version made its debut with only three main bearings instead of five: results seemed encouraging and Nanni Galli, who entered it for the competition, managed to scale up the starting grid to gain some positions. Reliability was still lacking, but they seemed on the right road and eng. Marelli went back to Milan having in mind to redesign the eight-cylinder according to that solution. However, he was blocked because money wasn't enough to do it and because V12 project had by then started, absorbing the resources of the Alfa racing car department.

Was it evolution or design rejection?

March 711 with its original configuration lasted the time of its debut. First chassis was the one equipped with the Alfa engine, intended for De Adamich. As soon as finished, it was forwarded to South Africa, to Kyalami circuit for traditional tests and first development works. First the car was made run without wing tailpieces, obtaining 1'23"4, and then lowered to 1'22"with complete aerodynamics; while top speed achieved 285 km/h. Everything considered a positive response, even if after good news a bad news arrived: troubles came out of the cooling of front brakes and engine. Soon they also realised that air flow channelled by Naca air intakes on the bonnet, was too scarce to let engines breathe sufficiently. To solve the first problem they had to wait for the Race of Champions that took place at Brands Hutch, shortly before the Spanish GP, when the car driven by Peterson had the breakage of the shaft connecting the hub with front brake disk. A rather serious structural failure, also happened with Lotus 72 in the previous season: due to obvious safety reasons Herd decided to take a step backward and the front brakes returned to be the on board usual position. That solution allowed to better seal the area around front suspensions, which before appeared uncovered. As for the engine cooling they designed new and larger radiators, which have been mounted since the Monaco GP, and new streamlined covers, much more open, shorter and rectangular shaped. Things improved, but very often they did without them, preferring to let water radiators completely free. To solve the problems concerning the air flow to the engine they eliminated the bonnet, leaving uncovered the inlet trumpets. However, they didn't give up testing different kinds of air box: one conventional with a squat and square air intake, which only held inlet trumpets and left uncovered the cylinder heads of the engine. Always on that typology, they studied one version with an ovoid and thin intake and another with a rectangular and elevated mouth, according to the fashion that was spreading over that time and it saw more and more exaggerated air scoops put in circulation. They also tried to return to a major integration between aerodynamics in the roll bars area and the one of the engine, like in the preliminary project, with a drop air scoop involving both parts: this last evolution will be also proposed on the 721, deriving from the 711. The hard reality of the circuit upset a good part of the pillars which the March 711 technical study was based on: only the front wing held out unperturbed, even if some trouble gave it as well, because the device of the slope adjustment was rather rough one and it didn't allow light adjustments. On the ultra fast circuit of Monza they also decided on doing without it, lining up cars with round nose only. Some trouble was also caused by Firestone tyres, but in that case trouble shared is trouble halved: the new tyres with low shoulder produced by the American tyres constructor caused strong vibrations involving the chassis heavily. To those technical problems March answered with a strengthening of the body and in the long run the new tyres turned the situation to advantage. To improve the cooling system of rear brakes they also added purposely studied air intakes, while on the occasion of the German GP, Peterson and Pescarolo were testing new Bilstein shock absorbers, fitted with a decompressed gas chamber which integrated the conventional hydraulic system. It all came to nothing and they will go on with the Koni ones. Observing the 711s still circulating it is clear that each one is different from the others except for general features, the sign of a technical development, rather approximate, that losing its initial way, had difficulty in finding a new way to increase its performance.

Sports news

Formula One has always been an expensive sport and when you find a munificent sponsor you are also disposed to worship the ground on which he walks. Therefore, no wonder, if STP managed to give March the names of cars: the ones fitted with the Italian engine were christened STP March Alfa and the others, with Cosworth engine, STP Oil Treatment Special. The press and fans will not give a damn about it and they will go on talking of March 711 Alfa or Ford. Due to the same reason (the usual beloved money) March Company gave up looking for an English driver (there was some talk of Oliver) and surrendered to Spanish Soler Roig's rich sponsors. At the beginning of the season the situation of the teams using the new chassis 711 was more or less the following: two cars for March Engineering Ltd, one for Ronnie Peterson and the other for Alex Soler Roig, managed by Alan Rees on track. The two single-seaters used Firestone tyres and BP petrol. The second team was STP Oil Treatment Corp. that lined up the March Alfa for Andrea De Adamich and Nanni Galli that, at the beginning at least, alternated in the same car. At that time there was also a rumour about a possible agreement with Dieter Quester who should have brought a dowry of the BMW engine, but the negotiations came to nothing. The car was handled on track by Alan Rees, assisted by Vince Granatelli, Andy's brother, and it was fitted with Firestone tyres, and BP fuel. The last team was Frank Williams Racing that ran the single-seater Ford powered for French driver Henri Pescarolo. The Company was sponsored by Motul and Politoys, the tyres were supplied by Good Year and fuel by Elf. First meeting of the season was the South Africa GP. Pescarolo didn't yet dispose of the new car and had to get by on the old 701. Therefore, the chassis 711 were only three. Stewart captured the pole at the wheel of the new Tyrrell, the best way to celebrate the English team's debut as the constructor. March cars ran unsuccessfully behind as they were prey to the set up trouble: the best was Peterson who managed to finish 13th, while Soler Roig was only placed 25th. De Adamich did a little better placing 22nd, but the driver had already understood that he would have had a hard time, due to not perfect efficiency of his car chassis and the engine failures. At the start Regazzoni at the wheel of Ferrari scoffed at everybody and jumped into the lead. Later on, he had to let Hulme overtake him because of his V12 whims. Peterson and Soler Roig missed the start and had to tag along behind the others. The Spanish driver found himself with an engine failure at the third passage, while his teammate tried to recover positions gaining the 10th place, two laps from the Ferrari driven by Andretti, the winner. De Adamich was skilful in driving his "monoposto" up to the finishing line, closing 13th, but Franco Lini, in his GP reportage, already wondered whether it would have been worth for Alfa going on with such dull performances. For the second GP they went to Spain, to the Parque de Montjuich: the highest performance car among the 711s was the Pescarolo's most up-to-date car that, running at 1'27"5 on the wet track, gained the 11th place. A little slower was Peterson, 13th recording a time of 1'27"8. De Adamich passed Soler Roig, in the 18th place (1'29"5) against the 20th place (1'29"8) of the Spanish. The race was a complete failure, as none of the four cars held up to the finishing line: Peterson was the first one to say good-bye to the race, who, while he was struggling with the over steer to keep the 11th position, he found himself without alternator at the 24th round. After two rounds it was De Adamich's turn, betrayed by the gearbox. At the 46th passage it was Soler Roig's turn, whose engine died, while 7 rounds later it tolled the knell for Pescarolo, whose wing support gave away when he was still struggling against his Cosworth whims. The GP was won by Stewart, who since one year exactly hasn't tasted the champagne from the winner's bottle. Against the Scotsman, Ickx's efforts at the wheel of Ferrari and Amon's, restored to life, in his Matra came to nothing. For your information, since the Spanish GP the single-seaters had been marked with fixed numbers valid for all the season: the Monaco circuit was the stage of third meeting and, as usual, the Principality of impossible gave surprises. The first protagonist was the bad weather that raged throughout qualifying practices and, given that at Monaco only first 18 recorded times were allowed to start, the fight for qualifying was to the bitter end. Above all, those who were lacking of experience paid for it: like Soler Roig that lost a wheel at Sainte Devote and, beginners like Nanni Galli, who for this GP took the March Alfa from De Adamich, and Skip Barber at the wheel of a new March 711 lined up by Gene Mason Racing. It was ok for Peterson who qualified eighth and Pescarolo 13th. On the contrary, pole was gained by Stewart before Ickx. Before the race it was still the weather to be master of the situation and to weigh on teams' decisions. The sky was grey and for the teams using Firestone tyres it was necessary to decide what kind of mix to mount: the very soft B26s at the risk of melting them under the sun, or the relatively hard B24s less competitive at low temperature? Ferrari chose the second ones, but there were many who took the risk of choosing the first solution, among them Peterson. The only one who had no doubt it was Stewart in a Tyrrell with Good Year. At the start the Scotsman flew away, followed by the Brm with Stiffert, who burnt Ickx. Behind the first three, Rodriguez (Brm), Peterson, Hulme (McLaren), Beltoise (Matra) were following and then another little train led by Pescarolo. Peterson started pressing Rodriguez as a damned soul, but the Mexican driver was a too tough nut to crack and overtake: it was providential his pit stop to change a tyre which let the Swedish driver free. In few laps Ronnie cancelled the gap which separated him from Ickx and on the passage 30 he overtook him, repeating it on next lap with Siffert. Only Stewart remained, but the Scottish driver wasn't disposed to be threatened by a young "greenhorn" Swede, and with some fast laps cancelled his opponent's comeback and restricted himself to control him up to the finishing line. More wavering it was Pescarolo's race: who was first passed by Surtees, and then he realized that a tyre wasn't working well and went back to the box for a check, losing other positions to Amon's and Fittibaldi's (Lotus) advantages. The play of retirements took him back from the tenth to the sixth position, but by the end he was again overtaken by Surtees and finished seventh, out of store. The week before the Holland GP many teams went to Paul Ricard new circuit, to the South of France, on the development session: March, STP and Williams teams entered as well. On that occasion, Peterson tested the Alfa engine, but he didn't exceed the time of 1'56", while Pescarolo ran at about 1'55". Some comparative acceleration tests between Galli's March Alfa and Soler Roig's 711 Ford, repaired after the incident at Monaco and driven by Peterson: it was surprising how the Italian engine had the better of the English one. The Alfa engineers pressed the Swedish driver to let their engine enter a race hoping for his positive judgement. The operation seemed to be realized on next Holland GP, where Peterson tested the Italian eight cylinders and the result wasn't too bad: 13th at 1'19"73 and, in any case, before the other 711s: but the Swede wanted again his Cosworth for the race. Pescarolo was placed 15th recording the time of 1'20"01, while Soler Roig managed to be placed 17th. Little behind, Nanni Galli was 20th in his March Alfa and Skip Barber 24th the last in the line-up. Obviously, competition proceeded at a different rate: pole was gained by Ickx with the tine of 1'17"42. On Sunday the weather was getting worse: rain made the track, already difficult, much more treacherous. At the start Ickx and Rodriguez flew away and ran a race by themselves, fighting till the last round. The Belgian will have the better of it notwithstanding the Mexican's efforts who was in the lead of the race from the 9th to 29th lap and still during the 31st. Peterson started well and at the end of first lap he was already ninth, then there was the attack of the Lotus driven by Reine Wisel, who after a long struggle had to give in. Ronnie found himself 5th, retirements were his ally, and moved in to attack of Surtees, who had to avail himself of all his expertise to maintain the completely wild Swedish driver behind: his effort lasted 20 rounds, then "Big John" made a small mistake and opened the door to the opponent, who started running after Regazzoni who was late because of his going off the track in which he had spoiled the car nose; but this time Peterson had to be content with his 4th place keeping. As for the others, things were going in a less rousing way. Galli went off the track on account of a mess caused by Hulme and he found himself covered with sand in the escape way. Soler Roig, after an about-face at the first round, recovered and lived his moment of glory tailing after Stewart, who was running in mid-classification and passing through a crisis with his Good Year wet type, much less good than Firestone. The Spanish driver had to surrender at few laps from the end when he broke a connecting rod. Pescarolo compromised by himself the race spoiling the front wing in a going off the track: he was obliged to stop and take it off, but without that important tailpiece, the car couldn't be handled and, even though he saw the finishing line, didn't manage to complete a sufficient number of rounds, so he wasn't classified. Skip Barber had the same destiny. On next French GP, Paul Ricard's racing circuit, Peterson found a March powered Alfa Romeo, waiting for him; 12th in the qualification, once again he was confirmed as the best one among the drivers running in the 711. In fact, Pescarolo was 18th, De Adamich 20th, Soler Roig 23rd, while Nanni Galli, whom had been given the March powered Ford, didn't managed to be qualified. The race was a massacre of engines: first victim was Soler Roig, who took leave of the company already at the third passage. Afterwards, on the 12th lap it was Peterson's turn at the wheel of Alfa, while De Adamich's one still held out for twelve rounds before breathing its last. Pescarolo, the only one who seemed to hold out, was betrayed by the gearbox. After the French session, it was the time for the English teams to play at home, on Silverstone fast circuit. It had always been a dream of not English teams to capture the Angle-Saxon stronghold and Regazzoni with his pole seemed to stake a claim to the race. But the Swiss driver had around him disreputable people like Stiffert, Stewart, Fittipaldi and Peterson: in fact, the Swedish driver running with the time of 1'19" clean, managed to settle in the second row, in the 5th place. The other 711s were decidedly less fast with Pescarolo in the 17th position, Nanni Galli (Ford engine) 21st, while De Adamich, running with the time of 1'23"2, had a narrow squeak in the 24th last grid position. We have to report Soler Roig's going out and Mike Beuttler's entering, the Formula Three's star who made his debut in Formula One with the March 711 chassis managed by the Clarke-Mordaunt-Guthrie-Racing. The young driver hit the qualification and settled in the 20th place. At the start Regazzoni's hopes vanished: Stewart prevailed and killed the race in his way. After the first lap Peterson was 6th, then paased Schenken and then he moved in to attack Ickx, who, however, paid attention not to open him the door. Luckily the Belgian had to go back to the box leaving his position to the Swedish driver, who started tailing Stiffert, until the BRM driver was in urgent need of going for a stroll to the pit lane and look for his mechanics. Now, ahead of Ronnie there was Regazzoni who had soon to give it to him because of engine failures. Thus, Peterson inherited the second position, but to fetch Stewart not on your life: moreover it had been a quite lucky day for him. Quite well also for Pescarolo, who with a race moved in to the attack managed to climb up to the fourth place, behind the Lotus driven by Fittipaldi. Galli finished second-last at 3 rounds from the winner, while beginner Beuttler felt first disappointment in his adventure in F1, with the engine failure at the 21st round. On the contrary, De Adamich was out of classification. Then, the moment came to face the ugly beast: Nurburgring and its woods, where the country legends located mythic Wahlalla, the reign where German heroes rest. There, more than in any other circuit there was the necessity of courage and talent because everybody knows that heroes are rather demanding people as regards sports events and they couldn't have a small insignificant circuit in front of them, of the same type where Formula One is run off today. On a track of 22 kilometres and a bit it was Stewart to stand out above the others, the driver captured the pole at exactly 7'19" clear. Peterson was seventh at 7'26"5, while Pescarolo gained the ninth position with the time of 7'26"3. More back and in sequence De Adamich (20th), Galli (21st) who, on such occasion, had also at his disposal the Alfa Romeo engine, and Beuttler (22nd). On Sunday, Stewart ran away as usual, leaving the troubles to the others for reserve positions: Peterson kept his position at the tricky moment of the start, then attacked Hulme, and found himself fifth. When Ickx parked his Ferrari against barriers, in the attempt to keep in contact with Stewart, the Swede found himself fourth, but he could do nothing against Cevert that threw him one position back. The ill-gotten gains were paid him back when Siffert went off the track with his BRM, but destiny scoffed at Peterson, who lost a piece of the body and was obliged to go back to the box to have his car repaired, leaving his position to Andretti by inheritance. However, he finished fifth, behind the Ital-American. The other March was the one driven by Galli, who finished his race 12th, two rounds from Stewart, the winner. As for the others, they had only problems: Beuttler left the track at the 3rd round because of a puncture, Pescarolo smashed one suspension at the fifth round and went off the track; De Adamich was in trouble for fuel which obliged him to retirement during the seventh lap. In Austria, on Zeltweg fast circuit, BRM P160 dominated with Siffert who gained pole with Stewart behind, always dangerous. Peterson didn't climb over the 11th position because of a not very cool engine. On the contrary, Galli had the new 8-cylinder Alfa with only three main bearings and the difference was evident as he arrived 15th. Beuttler was 19th, while Pescarolo managed to climb up to the 13th position. But the novelty was the young and unknown Austrian driver's debut, Niki Lauda, who drove his March Ford 711 STP to the 21st place, before Oliver in McLaren. The race was dominated by Siffert, who made the fastest lap. The brightest 711 was the one driven by Pescarolo, who closed 6th with an excellent race. Peterson, less challenging than his usual, was only 8th, while Galli closed 12th. As for Beuttler and Lauda, there was, on the contrary, a trail of engine failures, but the F1 future "bookkeeper" did not give in and on next season he tried again the adventure in the March 721 having less performance than the 711. Monza was the last European GP before the final rash overseas: pole was gained by the Matra with Amon, who passed Ickx and Siffert. Peterson was sixth beside Cevert, while Pescarolo placed his March 10th. Beuttler was 16th while two Italian drivers Galli (Ford engine) and De Adamich shared 19th and 20th positions respectively. As for the driver from Trieste it was a hopeless race, because on the long straights of Monza circuit the lack of the Alfa horsepower was heavily felt. The race was like a carousel of overtaking, favoured by the play of trails: at the start there was a magnificent sprint by Regazzoni who, from the third row, took the lead of the race. Peterson wasn't less than him, from the mess of the first lap went out second, behind the Swiss, tailed by the small train of bad pursuers as Siffert, Ganley (Brm), Ickx and Amon. The battle was like a hell and on the lead Regazzoni, Peterson, Stewart, Cevert, Hailwood (Surtees), Siffert and Amon were alternating in a crazy sequential way. The difficulty of the course was demanding too much from cars and started their selection. In the Tyrrell driven by Stewart something was finally broken down: the engine breathed his last on lap 15 and for the Scottish driver was the end. Then it was the turn of Regazzoni in Ferrari, because of the failure of the coupling between the transmission and the engine, same problem that obliged Ickx to leave the track. On the lead group the struggle was above all between Cevert and Peterson: two cocks of the walk that overtook and re-overtook respectively without ever taking a significant lead to keep their position. On final sprint in order of arrival there were Peterson, Cevert, Hailwood, Gethin who had taken his BRM to the lead position, Ganley and Amon. The Swede seemed to be able to control his position up to the finishing line, but at Parabolica he arrived a little long and the group was upset. Gethin, in spite of his car running ten metres with the left wheel on the grass, went out better than the others, ready to spoil his 12-cylinder horsepower and rush into the finishing line. Peterson's despairing effort was of no use to take again his ill-gotten gains; the Swede closed second placed for 0.01 sec. Cevert, perhaps, the most mortified by that final, ended third 0.09 sec from Gethin, closely threatened by Hailwood, the ex-motorcycle champion. As for the other 711 cars there were the usual disappointments: after a good start, Pescarolo was obliged to retire because of the breakage of the gearbox support frame, being satisfied with his fastest lap at 1'23"6. There were also problems for Beuttler and Galli, the former who had the failure of the engine and the latter the electric system, while the race ended for De Adamich at lap 37 due to the progressive gear shifting loss. After Monza, there was Mosport Park for the Canadian GP: Stewart didn't want to break the habit of pole positions, which slipped out of his hand in the last races, and recording the time of 1'15"3 he resumed his dominium. Peterson was 6th beside Reine Wisel in the Brm, while Pescarolo didn't take part in the race because of an accident occurred during free practices: the French driver lost the control of his "monoposto" that crashed against barriers. Henri was injured; a deep cut on his chin, a strain of his neck muscles and a bruise on his shoulders, but it could be worse considering the completely smashed car. Not even the March Alfa driven by De Adamich took part in the race, while Galli in a Ford powered car arrived 20th. On the contrary, Beuttler and Skip Barber were banished to the 22nd and 24th positions respectively. At the start it was raining, but that event didn't prevent Stewart from taking the lead of the race. Behind, Peterson was already stuck to him. Peterson, in his turn, was threatened by the Matra of Beltoise who succeeded in passing the Swede in a close contest. Ronnie answered after three laps and started hunting Stewart and on lap 18 he overtook him. Peterson was leading for thirteen laps, but by doubling he ran into George Eaton's BRM and damaged the front of his car. Meanwhile it stopped raining and on the track that was getting dry Stewart found again his right feeling with his tyres: on lap 31 he passed the Swedish driver, who was unable to match Stewart's pace in the damaged March and had to be content with his position up the finishing line. As for the others Nanni Galli finished 16th, while Mike Beuttler wasn't either qualified and Skip Barber suffered the umpteenth retirement due to a breakdown. Here we are at the last act of the championship on the Watkins Glen circuit in the United States, but by then that was it for the world championship. Peterson, who was second in the classification, was too far to make his last attempt, and in his turn he knew that nobody could threaten his palm of the Scot's deputy. If anything, there could be a struggle for the third place among Ickx, Cevert and Fittibaldi. Stewart once again placed on the pole, ahead of Fittibaldi and Hulme. Peterson was only 11th, but always the best among the March drivers: in fact, Pescarolo was 20th, while Galli, who disposed of a rather worn-out Cosworth engine, couldn't get over the 23rd position. Barber and De Adamich shared the last row. At the start Stewart took advantage of his pole position, but after few laps in the lead he realized that something didn't work in his Tyrrell: all he could do it was to give space to his team mate Cevert, who chased by then close to him, and to try and check the rivals, but Ickx, Siffert and Regazzoni found, however, the way to force the passage. By then behind Stewart there were Hulme and Peterson, with the Swedish driver who had already worked hard to pass Hailwood. When Hulme had to hasten back to the box because of a breakdown, here a fighting broke out between Stewart and Peterson, like what was happening in the lead between Cevert and Ickx. While this last duel was ending with the Ferrari driver's retirement due to the alternator failure, the fight for the fourth place was resolved in favour of Peterson, who after a while inherited the third place from Regazzoni who was grappling with a drop in power engine. As for the other 711s was a suffering; at lap 17 Galli had to leave the track because his engine breathed its last. Then it was Pescarolo's turn, who retired at lap 25 for the suspension, while Skip Barber wasn't even classified. The only other 711 that crossed the finishing line was the one driven by De Adamich, who after a good race saw at last the finish line in the 11th position. Thanks to the victory in the United States GP, Cevert overtook Ickx for the third position in the Drivers' Championship, while the last score brought by Peterson would have allowed March to draw level with Ferrari for the third place in the Constructors' Championship.

From 711 to Eifelland

The competitive history of 711 didn't ended with the 71's season, but it went on next championship. In fact, the Gene Mason Racing lined up the usual 711 for Skip Barber in Canada and the United States GPs, collecting one retirement and a 16th place, while Team Williams Motul launched a F1 young Brazilian talent, Carlos Pace, the future Brabham driver, destined to die before his time in the 1977 aeroplane accident. Pace, entered motor races for eleven times, saw the finishing line five times, gaining the best results with the 6th place in South Africa and the 5th place in Belgium. Most of retirements were concentrated in the second part of the season because of the very old materials, but the Brazilian's results exceeded all the ones obtained by his team mate Henri Pescarolo, who, on the contrary, drove the 721, a 711 development, modified in more than one hundred parts, among which the tracks enlarged and differentiated between the two axis (1550 mm front, 1575 mm rear against 1524 mm of the 711). The new 721 could count on the new "shoes" Good Year, which had been in the past season steadier than the Firestone ones. They constructed four 721 cars in all: one for Pescarolo, two for Niki Lauda and Ronnie Peterson, the March team's standard bearers for 72's season. The Austrian and the Swede drove the new car only in the first two GPs of the season, Argentina and South Africa. From next Spanish GP, in fact, Bicester factory has entered the fray with the revolutionary 721X: Robin Herd's creature had the chassis (derived from the 711's one) reinforced by a tubular structure in the cockpit area for the driver's protection, the rear suspension with horizontal shock absorbers, and the gearbox, derived from prototype sports cars, mounted with the crown wheel and pinion before the differential, This last solution should have permitted to overload the weight round the barycentre with much more car directional control and stability. As mentioned before, attempts had been already made by Alfa Romeo, and in fact the inside mechanical parts of the new transmission unit had been supplied just from the Italians. Herd's ambitious ideas were not successful and the 721X turned out a real dud, to the point that Lauda succeeded in convincing March top managers of dropping the project in order to fall back on the 721G, a Formula Two chassis 722 equipped with Formula One mechanical parts, in which Mike Beuttler was already running. The 721G turned out a second-rate car and the most disappointed in that disastrous season was the Austrian driver, who asked for a credit from the Raiffeisen Bank to try the March adventure. To come back to the 721, the fourth chassis was sold to the Eifelland Company owned by Gunther Hennerici and here the story came close to a light comedy. Hennerici was a caravan's constructor who had a mania for races; with his team he entered the F3 and F2 single-seaters for races, besides sponsoring Rolf Stommelen, the first German driver after Von Trips. After a bright season in Brabham, in 1971 Stommelen ran into the Surtees bad luck and at the end of that season his main sponsors, Eiffeland and Ford Colonia decided to keep the budget expenditures under a major control. To found a Formula One team seemed the only possible way, but Hennerici went further, dreaming of the first German Formula One construction since Porsche times, at the early 60's. To make an agreement among possible partners was complicated, moreover poor economic resources weighted on it: time was wasted and the 72's season was round the corner without a plan. They decided to buy a March 721, but the Germans didn't drop the idea of laying their hands on it: Austrian engineer Jo Karasek designed a new streamlined form inspired by the Tyrrell that brought the title to Stewart in 1971. The new single-seater was shown to the German press as a monoposto born, in all respects, in Germany and that was enough to arouse the English's anger. Suddenly Luigi Colani made his entrance, a Swiss engineer who had settled in Germany. He was nicknamed by some people as the guru of the industrial design and by others as the aesthete of ephemeral things. Backer of soft and rounded forms, with a past experience of designer at Fiat's and BMW, Colani was deeply convinced of the incompetence of F1 engineers who knew very little about aerodynamics. After seeing the drawings of the conventional Eifelland 21, he joined the fight by purchasing the ex Peterson 711 chassis, and in only 100 hours of work and 0 hour of wind gallery he fitted a new aerodynamic body to be mounted on Hennerici's new car. Practically, Colani constructed a prototype sports car, with uncovered wheels, featured by an air intake in front of the driver's cockpit, the air being guided around the cockpit to the engine. A small view mirror was mounted right over the driver, held up by a thin support splitting his view in two. Apart from Stommelen's inconvenience of having that "whatsit" before his nose and being forced to raise his head to let himself see what was happening behind his shoulder, at the beginning the car turned up to be rather fast. The problem is that its aerodynamic form sacrificed mechanical parts too much and under that fiberglass coating the engines overheated, even in the Nurburgring winter climate. The car wasn't the only one to suffer from temperatures, given that also Colani, behind his showy moustache, changed his mind very often by describing the opposing single-seaters as "cartons for eggs". Nobody got upset before these statements, also because in the meanwhile the Eifelland 21 needed significant changes: already on the occasion of its debut, made in the South Africa GP, the single-seater entered with parts belonging to the original 721. Later on they used parts derived from the 721G, replacing the elliptic wing with a more conventional nose. The only part not rejected from Colani's initial design was the area around the cockpit, with its characteristic air intake and periscope-inspired rear view mirror. The car was mediocre and Stommelen had so much to do in order to maintain the car quite well-placed. In the meanwhile Hennerici was faced by a fire causing heavy damages to his caravan industry and got involved in increasing finance difficulties. After few GPs, the German entrepreneur had to wind up his company by selling it to Meeth, a window frames factory that had no interest in racing cars, and after the Austrian GP put an end to the adventure. This story is useful to make us understand how the borderline between the original design, March 711, and the peculiar one, Eifelland 21, was very faint. It's on such faint borderline that difference between victory and defeat plays an important role, but even in the second hypothesis, there remains, however, the poetry of those men who dream of covering themselves with glory by means of a racing car started off at full speed on the asphalt tape.

 

 

We want to thank Eng. Marelli, whose enthusiasm helped us to throw light on the competitive events of the Alfa Romeo eight-cylinder, and Car Museum "Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia" that put its valuable archive at our disposal.

 

TECHNICAL DETAILS

RESULTS

Bibliography

  • A.A.V.V. - Autosprint, 1971. Conti Ed. Bologna
  • Bolster J., March's radical new 711, Autosport, January 1971, (www.marchives.com)
  • For information on the March history we referred to www.marchives.com and www.research-racing.de that also reported the Eifelland detailed story.
 
article by Stefano Costantino
Photo Giacomo e Marco Zanello
 

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