Success for Craft at tragic Interserie race

Report and photos by EDDIE CUBA

Chris Craft gave Ecurie Evergreen a much-needed win at the Norlsring 200 last Sunday. Driving the team's 7.6-litre McLaren-Chevrolet M8E, he finished this fourth Interserie round just over 1 min ahead on aggregate of Peter Gethin with the Sid Taylor/Castrol 8.1 McLaren-Chevrolet M8E. The event was completely overshadowed by the tragic accident of Pedro Rodriguez. After his Herbert Müller Ferrari 512M had crashed while leading the first heat, the race was stopped. Rodriguez was rushed to hospital, but later died.

The entry for the Norisring 200-mile race, fourth round of the Interserie, was much as seen the previous week at Hockenheim. There were three Porsche 917 Spyders, for Jurgen Neuhaus (chassis No 031), Leo Kinnunen (021) and Michel Weber (007). Among the more fancied runners were the McLaren M8Es for Chris Craft (7.6 Evergreen), Georg Loos (8.1 Gelo Racing) and Peter Gethin with the Sid Taylor/Castrol 8.1-litre monster. Siegfried Rieger had his McLaren, which was originally an M12 converted to an M8C with a 7.6-litre motor.
Jo Bonnier had his Lola-Chevrolet T222 (chassis No 4) with a 7.6-litre motor; Bonnier denied that it was an 8.1-litre unit. In Ferrari 512Ms were Franz Pesch (Gelo Racing), " Pam " (Scuderia Brescia) and Pedro Rodriguez in a car from Herbert Muller, who also had his Zeltweg car repaired,
Hans-Dieter Weigel was in Team Usdau's Porsche 908/2 and Ernst Kraus in his own similiar machine. There was an older 908/1 entered by Heimken Automobiles for Alexander Nolte. Other interesting cars were the Lola T70 Mk. 3s for Bernd Seidler and Stefan Sklenar, Harald Link's 2.2-litre Porsche 906 and Barney Barnes' similar 2-litre car. A Porsche 910 2-litre was converted into a spyder and driven by Kurt Hild. Oldenkott Tobacco's Chevron B19 was present for Clemens Schickentanz and Hans-Schulze Schwering was in the Lehmann Racing Lola T210.
There were several non-starters, among them the Felder Team's March 717, for Helmut Kelleners (blown engine), VDS's M8E (engine not ready) and Giampiero Moretti's Lola T222, which was written off at Zolder. Willy Kauhsen's Porsche 917K was damaged after its transporter had been involved in a road accident on the way back from Vallelunga. The car was repaired but was not found to be race-worthy. The BRM P167 was not present after its Chevvy engine had blown apart on the test bed. Gesipa's McLaren M8E for Helmut Krause was ready, which was certainly not true of the long overdue Motschenbacher engine.

With exceptionally hot weather (as is usual at this circuit) only 15 cars turned up for Saturday morning's first practice session. Rodriguez was in the pits waiting for a car to arrive after Race Manager Genmot Leistner had arranged for Muller to bring along his 512Ms. Rodriguez had been at Silverstone testing the BRM the previous day and arrived at Nuremberg late that evening. Keith Greene was busy bedding in the brakes of Ecurie Evergreen's McLaren. Few cars were seriously testing, the times being :
Neuhaus, 1 m. 16,5 s; Gethin, 1 m 18,3 s;
" Pam," 1 m 20,0 s; Bonnier, 1 m 20,5 s; Weber. 1 m 20,7 i; Kinnunen, 1 m 22.1 s: Nolte 1 m 22.5 s; Krause, 1 m 22.5 s; Greene (for Craft) 1 m 24,4 s; Rieger and Dubler 1 m 27.5 s.

Rieger, who had promised Dubler a drive, was in trouble with his car. The left head gasket had blown and Bradley Racing mechanics helped cure this. Also present were top Trojan people, including John Bennett, and the owner of the Evergreen car, Alain de Cadenet. " Should we win," he said (which everyone doubted), "then we'll be able to pay back the money we borrowed and maybe afford to go to Finland as well."
Rieger's car was still in engine trouble as the second session (on Saturday afternoon) began. Gethin's car was overheating because of the hot weather and Craft had similar problems, plus some ignition trouble. Kinnunen's rev counter broke and Bonnier kept having the big rear wing adjusted. Muller, who was complaining about the rough state of the track, arrived back at the pits without any brakes. "I almost arrived in the town centre when I found out at the end of the long straight." he reported. After a few laps Gethin was in once more with fuel pressure problems. Loos and Pesch kept changing their cars, unable to decide who was to drive which.
Times for the second practice period were :
Neuhaus 1 m 16.5 s; Craft 1 m 16.9 s; Bonnier 1 m 17.0 s; Rodriguez 1 m 17.3s; Muller 1 m 17.7; Weber 1 m 17.9 s; Loos 1 m 18.2 s; Gethin 1 m 18.3 s.


Gethin's car was still having its ignition worked on and the Craft car was fitted with an additional oil cooler. Bonnier had the gear ratios of his Lola changed and Loos was very pleased with his Ferrari, which apparently produces over 600 bhp.
Before the afternoon's final session two mechanical fuel pumps, a pressure release valve, new temperature gauge and new pads were fitted to the Gethin McLaren. However the car was still overheating and pulled into the pits, producing a large puddle of hot water. Despite the work on Craft's car the temperature was still too high. Rieger's engine was still "not right" and Weber complained about the brakes on his Porsche (new ones were fitted overnight)

After practice, an extra 15 min session was arranged, which produced some really hot times. Rodriguez did 1 m 15.3 s, Bonnier 1 m 15,5 s and Craft the pole-position-winning l m 15.1 s. The full grid was as follows :

Rodriguez - Craft

Neuhaus - Bonnier

Weber - Kinnunen

"Pam" - Muller

Pesch - Loos

Schickentanz - Gethin

Nolte - Kraus

Rieger - Weigel

Hild - Schulze-Schwering

Barnes - Link



On race day it was even hotter than before. Sid Taylor's McLaren had had a blown oil filter replaced and in doing so an additional oil leak was discovered. Gethin was allowed to do an extra five laps to run in the re-worked engine.
As the pace car pulled off at the start of the first heat Rodriguez forged ahead. He was soon passed by Craft and the two cars became locked in combat for the next four laps. On lap 4 Muller and Weber had big moments when their cars touched going into the Esses. Weber was away quickly for a check at the pits, losing four laps while the damaged wheels were repaired. Muller's engine cover had come off, and some marshals helped him put it right. On the following lap Rieger, his water and oil temperature now right, retired with a broken clutch.

  Rodriguez was pulling out in front as Craft had slowed considerably. The back markers were already being lapped by the 10th tour, when the order was : Rodriguez, Kinnunen, Craft, Neuhaus, Gethin, Loos, Bonnier, " Pam " and Pesch.
On lap 12 Rodriguez, closely followed by Kinnunen, braked very late for the sharp right-hander leading on to the back straight. Either he made a mistake, or a tyre was losing air, for the car suddenly hit the Armco barrier, which now surrounds the circuit. It struck tail-first, shot across the road, head-on into a wall and bounced back on to the left-hand side of the track. The car immediately caught fire and the race was stopped.
The fire brigade was on the scene immediately and, within minutes, the ambulance. Kinnunen just missed the crash but Hild's 910 was not so lucky and was written off. Although both these drivers were able to get out safely Rodriguez was hopelessly trapped in the wreckage. When the fire was extinguished, which took several minutes, Pedro was pulled out. He was rushed to hospital in Nuremberg, where he later died from his multiple injuries.

The Ferrari was just a hunk of metal and it took a long while for the track to be cleared. It was later decided not to continue the heat. Instead, the total laps for the two heats (11 plus 41) were split into equal parts and thus, there were two 26-lap heat results.

After two hours the second heat was started. Non-runners were Kinnunen— Rodriguez's co-driver last year—and Muller. There was little excitement in the second heat, except that leader Gethin suddenly slowed and was overtaken by Craft. Gethin's car had succumbed to fuel feed problems and lack of gears.
The first half of the race took the pattern Gethin, Craft, Weber, Bonnier, Neuhaus (who had just been passed by Bonnier), Loos, " Pam " and Nolte. On lap 23 Neuhaus, after letting other cars by, came into the pits. The mechanics could find nothing wrong with the car but Neuhaus was unable to re-start it. After much delay an angry Jurgen called it a day.

Weber, meanwhile, was on top form and even went by Bonnier. In the last 26 laps he was faster than anyone else, which gave him a heat win. With the exception of Weber's immaculate performance the rest of the race was a procession.


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