Round Five: LAKESIDE 34th Australian Grand Prix
Date: 2nd February 1969
67 Laps of 2.4kms (160.8kms)
This year there was only one week between the last race in New Zealand and the Australian Grand Prix at Lakeside, Queensland. Unlike previous years when cars were freighted to Australia by sea, they now had to be sent by air, for the South African Grand Prix had forced the Australian three Tasman races forward one week to give to give two clear weeks between the last Tasman and the SAGP.
Only Ferrari and Piers Courage managed to get themselves sorted out in time, while Lotus had all sorts of problems with customs and freight. It was apparent that Ford Australia weren’t behind the Lotus effort this year, for they had to do most of their own organising right from administration down to transport for drivers and mechanics. Ferrari, on the other hand, had the services of David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce to help them over the tricky spots and this deal also included workshop space and transporters. No wonder the Ferraris were better prepared for Lakeside than Lotus.
The new rear springs were waiting for the two Ferraris in Brisbane, and with these fitted the cars were out on Friday getting in some track time and showing that this was going to be a hard one for Lotus to even make a clean breast of. While Amon and Bell were enjoying their new-found freedom on a clear track, the Lotus team had only just received their cars and found both badly in need of attention. Rindt’s engine was misfiring, and Hill’s blew up shortly after starting up in the garage. Even with getting their engine back from Courage, it still left them with one very sick car, Rindt’s.
At official practice on Saturday, it was Amon taking pole with Courage second fastest. Gardner had fitted a bi-wing set-up like Courage’s in unofficial practice but didn’t have the time to evaluate it and had to remove the front one and save it for testing the following week in Sydney. Hill broke his wing in practice but still managed fourth fastest time, while Rindt was only able to push his Lotus 49B Cosworth V7 (sic) to fifth fastest time, creditable under the extreme circumstances.
While the flagman was making up his mind about when to drop the flag, Amon and Courage on the front row were having a “freak out”, seeing who could out-hesitate the other, Amon won the toss with a good start while Courage was caught on the wrong pedal and he went into the first bend in third place behind Hill with Derek Bell getting a tow from the Brabham-Ford.
It was Amon’s race from the start. He didn’t even give the mirrors a glance as he streaked off into the afternoon sun while Hill, Courage and Bell lined up for battle behind, followed by Gardner, Rindt and Kevin Bartlett (making his first appearance in the Mildren-Alfa V8 which carried him to the Australian championship last year). Next local out was Niel Allen keeping the 1.6 and 1.5 squads at bay.
Positions remained somewhat static for the next few laps, until Courage closed on Hill and tried to pass on the outside as they ranged under brakes for BMC bend. But Courage didn’t quite make it and there wasn’t enough room left for both cars. Hill didn’t give way, being on line for the corner. The two cars touched and Courage suddenly ran out of track and retired the car on the dirt of the outside of the track with slightly bent front suspension. Hill lost four seconds getting over the incident, which gave Bell his opportunity and he went through into second position to make it a Ferrari 1-2 for the first time in the series.
Kevin Bartlett retired on the following lap with no water and blown head gaskets giving away his position to Niel Allen in the M4A McLaren FVA. This was Allen’s first drive on the Lakeside circuit since his crash there eight months previously. Allen overdid it under brakes, the front set locked, and he lost four places in getting things in hand. He picked up one of the lost places immediately and set out on a long hard haul back through the field.
Jochen Rindt made the next move when he displaced Leo Geoghegan on the 13th lap for fifth spot, but Geoghegan was hanging on grimly and didn’t let the Austrian get away from him. But Rindt pulled out every horse he could find in the ailing Cosworth V8 and slipped by Frank Gardner on lap 19, making the order Amon, Bell, Rindt, Gardner, Geoghegan, Stewart, Allen, Scott and Guthrie.
Rindt held on to this position, trailed by Gardner, who was becoming concerned over oil pressure. His fears were confirmed when the Alfa Romeo engine blew an internal oil line and he was forced out of the race on lap 12. Gardner’s demise brought everyone up a place but Jochen Rindt’s forceful run ended when the Cosworth Ford V8 engine lost power and he quickly shut off and headed for the pits.
Chris Amon was busy lapping all but his team mate, Derek Bell, while Leo Geoghegan was sitting in a wonderful position behind Graham Hill in fourth spot. Col Green was in and out of the pits with gearbox and engine problems while Costanzo had retired after a spin over the back of the circuit.
The rear wing on Hill’s Lotus 49 had looked shaky for a few laps and finally it broke and folded over his rear wheel. He tried to keep the car as steady as possible so not to be black flagged by officials, and finally pitted to have the offending piece of iron cut from the car. Geoghegan, meanwhile, seeing Hill’s problem, had speeded up and went by as Hill was having the operation finished to his wing. He came back into the fray bent on getting his third spot back from Geoghegan, but the Lotus was suffering from oversteer with the now, light rear end and he steadily lost ground.
Niel Allen, working hard to make up for time lost in two spins, managed to catch Max Stewart in the surviving Mildren Alfa 1.6 car and, now in fifth spot, went on to win the ANF2 category. Englishman, Malcolm Guthrie, having sat behind Glyn Scott on the Queenslander’s home circuit, finally made a last-minute burst and finished ahead of the Bowin. Scott was still waiting for a set of rods to come from Cosworth for his 1.6 FVA engine, and he was running on a set borrowed from Niel Allen.
Amon’s win put him into an almost uncatchable lead. Only Piers Courage, with a bit of luck and by winning the final two races, could take the championship from the New Zealander. Rindt and Hill, equal on 15 points, were now relegated to fighting out second spot.
The Tasman points after 5 rounds were :- Amon 35, Courage 22, Rindt and Hill 15, Bell 13, Geoghegan 9, Gardner 7, Lawrence 3, Allen and Levis 2, Stewart and McRae 1 each.
|1||Chris Amon||NZ||Ferrari 246T / Ferrari 2417cc V6||67||60m 12.8s|
|2||Derek Bell||UK||Ferrari 246T / Ferrari 2417cc V6||67|
|3||Leo Geoghegan||Aust||Lotus 39 / Repco 2493cc V8||66|
|4||Graham Hill||UK||Lotus 49T / Cosworth 2491cc V8||66|
|5||Niel Allen||Aust||McLaren M4A / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||63|
|6||Max Stewart||Aust||Mildren / Alfa 1598cc 4cyl||63|
|7||Malcolm Guthrie||UK||Brabham BT21B / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||58|
|8||Glyn Scott||Aust||Bowin P3 / Ford 1598cc 4cyl||55|
|Ret||Jochen Rindt||Aus||Lotus 49BT / Cosworth 2491cc V8||43||Engine|
|Ret||Frank Gardner||Aust||Mildren / Alfa 2472cc V8||37||Engine|
|Ret||Henk Woelders||Aust||Elfin 600B / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||23||Accident|
|Ret||Col Green||Aust||Brabham BT23 / Repco 2493cc V8|
|Ret||Alfredo Costanzo||Aust||McLaren M4A / Cosworth 1598cc 4cyl||7||Stalled|
|Ret||Kevin Bartlett||Aust||Brabham BT23D / Alfa 2472cc V8||5||Head Gasket|
|Ret||Piers Courage||UK||Brabham BT24 / Cosworth 2491cc V8||5||Accident|