- Spanish Grand Prix
Stewart hands March first victory
Jackie Stewart took March to their first grand prix victory at the Jarama circuit near Madrid, after winning the Spanish Grand Prix with such ease that he lapped everyone else taking part at least once, in a race that at times was fraught with chaos.
In the build-up to the race, Stewart had slammed the circuit. "It's the most tiring circuit I have driven on," he said. "My bet is the majority of the drivers will fade out through physical exhaustion before it's two-thirds through." The circuit was not the only problem facing teams: Spain was still under the fascist rule of General Franco and they all had immense difficulties with border control officials bringing their machines into the country.
There was considerable interest in the new Lotus 72, even though Colin Chapman warned it was a work in progress, but it was Jack Brabham, who had won the season-opener in South Africa, who posted the fastest practice time.
Stewart surged through from the second row to take the lead into the first corner, but the drama happened behind him as Jacky Ickx's Ferrari and Jackie Oliver's BRM collided when an axle on the BRM broke - both cars burst into flames. Oliver scrambled clear unharmed while Ickx sustained minor burns. Such was the intensity of the blaze that the wrecks were still burning at the end of the race.
"As I came round on the second lap I saw the smoke but was travelling too fast to do much about it," Stewart told reporters. "I actually drove through the flames … I think I had a miraculous escape."
His pre-race prediction about the attrition rate was spot on as a succession of cars retired. For two-thirds of the race Brabham harried Stewart but that contest ended when Brabham retired on the 61st lap, and after that Stewart's dominance was such that he lapped all other finishers - there were only five.
Bruce McLaren and Mario Andretti, who drove most of the race without a fourth gear, took second and third by virtue of keeping going while all around failed, and Graham Hill, still running the 1968 Lotus 49, took fourth, another remarkable result given the injuries he was still suffering from the previous year's US Grand Prix.