TEAM DREAM - WHAT DID IT MEAN ?

The Eifelland Ford team of 1972 survived only a few Grand Prix

Rolf-Johann Stommelen had become Germany“s first Grand Prix driver for a decade since Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips had died during the 1961 Italian Grand Prix. Stommelen had joined the Brabham works team at the side of Sir Jack for a pretty successful maiden Grand Prix season in 1970 with a fine third place in the Austrian Grand Prix at Zeltweg to his credit. But for 1971 Sir Jack Brabham had not only declared his retirement from active competition, but also from the position of the team owner to return to his home country of Australia.

For this reason Stommelen and his German sponsors, caravan manufacturer Eifelland from Mayen near the Nuerburgring and Stuttgart based motor magazine auto motor und sport, Europe“s greatest automobile publication, decided to switch to another experienced driver & constructor. So Stommelen had entered Rob Walker Team Surtees sponsored by tea brand Brooke Bond Oxo as the teams“s second regular driver. But Stommelen had scored only 3 points in 1971 bringing a lot of frustration both to John Surtees and his German driver. Confronted with a lot of negative critics in the German media, Stommelen“s main supporters Eifelland and Ford Cologne had not wanted to spent resources into a British team anymore.

They wanted to have full control both of the money and the equipment they had invested and so they had decided to found a >German Grand Prix team< with a >Germany made car<. The only mistake was, that no racing car industry had existed in Germany at that time. Open wheel racing cars only were built in the McNamara facilities at Bavarian Lenggries and that shop was owned by a US-American, who very soon went bankrupt. Both in the pre and the post war era German Grand Prix cars (Auto Union, Mercedes-Benz) had got an excellent reputation, but after the retirement of Porsche in 1962 for financial reasons, the single-seater racing scene had no real supporters in a country, every seventh employče has got his job in the automobile industry. Only the owner of the Eifelland caravan company Guenther Hennerici was a real racer in the sense of British greats like Rob Walker, Ken Tyrrell or Sir Frank Williams. Hennerici had got an advertisement budget of 2 million D-Marks (5 million Euros in 2002), he completely invested in single-seater motorsport such as the Formulas 2 and 3. He also had spent a lot of money in Rolf Stommelen becoming a Grand Prix driver.

Hennerici was fascinated by the idea of constructing the first German Grand Prix car since the legendary Porsche 804, that had won the 1962 French Grand Prix with US-American star driver Dan Gurney behind the wheel. After the bankruptcy of Francis McNamara his Austrian designer Jo Karasek wanted to stay in Germany instead of switching to the USA. No doubt, Karasek had been the engineer for producing a successful Formula One car, but the man from Vienna had exact ideas how to manage that. In September 1971 negotiations started between Hennerici, Karasek, Ford Cologne and Ford Europe in Britain with the aim of installing a team for the 1972 season. Things looked promising, not at last, because Hennerici was not only able to supply the project with sufficient money but also with motorsport facilities beside his Mayen based caravan plant. But the ideas of the partners involved were too different to find a consensus, so the only companies remaining onboard were Eifelland and Ford Cologne Ltd. Another factor was, that time threatened to run out for building a 1972 car. To buy Stommelen into a competitive team with Eifelland sponsor money was nearly impossible at that time and so Hennerici and his partner of Ford in nearby Cologne (who paid for the Cosworth engines) did, what others had done before (and would do in the following years): To buy a car from March Engineering at Bicester near Oxford.

At March their chief designer and co-owner Robin Herd had created the revolutionary 721X type for the first European round of the worldchampionship, the Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama. For the overseas rounds held Buenos Aires and Kyalami and the non-championship event of Interlagos earlier that year, the March Ford 721 was brought to the grid for the works drivers Ronnie Peterson and Niki Lauda. Another 721, which in fact was only an interim type, was sold to Frank Williams for French driver Henri Pescarolo (while his young team mate Carlos Pace drove the 711 of 1971). Eifelland also bought a 721, but they wanted to establish theirselves as constructors in their own rights (what they never really managed). In the Eifelland workshop at Mayen a conventional bodywork, inspired by the 1971 worldchampionship winning Tyrrell Ford, was designed and the car was named Eifelland Ford 21. Exactly that was a thing, the Britons really got angry of, because no doubt, the car basically was a British March Ford and no German Eifelland Ford the propaganda wanted to make the people believe.

When the first drawings of the Eifelland March“s bodywork were published by the German motorsport press, Berlin industry designer Luigi Colani, who had made his basic experiences in aeronautics at one of the German capital“s airports during the Soviet blockade of 1948, decided to contact Eifelland“s team manager Heinz Koblitschek. Colani considered himself an undiscovered genius on the aerodynamic sector knowing everything better than the established Grand Prix designers. Without hesitation Colani bought one of Ronnie Peterson“s March Ford 711s of 1971 (with a defect engine) for the very low price of £ 2.500 (60.000 Euros in 2002) from March managing director Max Mosley. He used the car, that is the basic type for the 721, for creating a very futuristic bodywork for the Eifelland car. While other Grand Prix teams needed weeks for doing so and already wind tunnel tests were used at that time, Colani and his crew of six workers did that job within 100 hours of working day and night. The same time Colani also negotiated with March Engineering about future CanAm and Indianapolis projects to be realized with the support of March“s title sponsor STP Oil Treatment from the USA.

While the March Ford 721`s original aerodynamics with it“s round shapes had been created by Frank Costin, Luigi Colani“s outfit looked like a sportscar with open wheels. Very special also was the cockpit cover with the engine“s air intake in the front and one great rear view mirror in the centre.

Already at the car“s roll-out at a very wet Hockenheim Luigi Colani presented himself as a very good entertainer playing with the media. He also attacked the other Formula One designers and accused them of having not the slightest knowledges about aerodynamics. The show went on, when the Eifelland March“s presentation took place in Germany“s leading tabloid newspaper, the BILD Zeitung, instead of the country“s motoring magazines. The testing sessions before the South African Grand Prix in the heat of Kyalami Colani entered wearing fashionable boots up to his knees. The cars of the other designers he simply called >Eierkisten< (= box to carry in eggs), but no Briton really gave him the pleasure to answer to this massive provocation. The only comment came from March star driver Ronnie Peterson. He called the Eifelland crew >Team Dream<, but what did it really mean? A team so wonderful, you can only dream of ? Or a team of daydreamers ?

Surely, the Eifelland March was quick with the Colani bodywork during the first testing session, nearly as fast as Denny Hulme“s later winning McLaren Ford M19. But in the tropical heat the overheating of the engine again became the number one problem. That had been shown already during the Hockenheim roll-out and that happened during the cold German winter ! Now in Kyalami it became really clear, that the car was a March Ford designed for March aerodynamics and nothing else. For the Colani bodywork an absolutely different chassis with a completely new design of suspensions and radiators had became neccessary. So it was no wonder nearly all parts of the Colani bodywork were taken away from the car to be replaced by original or re-designed March produced ones. Only the Colani cockpit cover remained.

Guenther Hennerici did not attend the debut of his car in far away South Africa. He had to stay at home in the Eifel mountains, because three of his factory buildings had become the victim of flames. That was a very sad thing for Germany“s biggest motorsport sponsor of that time, because it marked the beginning of the end of a successful era in German single-seater racing so far. Very soon before the the European Grand Prix season had begun, there were rumours about financial difficulties at Hennerici, who was married to his lady Formula 2 driver Hannelore Werner.

Not belonging to the fastest in the field a brave Rolf Stommelen, again critized by the German media, made the best out of the situation and showed proper reliability, a thing also was suppported by a clean preparation of the Eifelland mechanics under the management of team manager Heinz Koblitschek. At it`s debut the Eifelland March had come home 13th place being also classified in the following 5 Grand Prix. In only 2 out of 8 races overall, it had to retire by technical failures and that were the last ones in Germany and Austria. Otherwise it was classified in the positions 10 to 16, not bad for a team being in troubles from their very beginning.

At the time of the French and British Grand Prix in summer 1972 the Eifelland caravan factory was sold to window manufacturer Meeth from Trier at the Luxemburg border lying also in the Eifel mountains. For the first time the Meeth sticker was seen on the Eifelland March“s engine cover at the British Grand Prix held at Brands Hatch. But the new Eifelland owner was absolutely not interested in motorsport and he wanted to get rid of the deficit spending Grand Prix team. So he simply gave it to Rolf Stommelen as a gift ! Stommelen, now driver and team principal in personal union, found sufficient equipment and money to take part both in his home Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring and in the Austrian round at Zeltweg. But in spite of a good reliabilty record, a pretty good appearance in the public and a lot enthusiasm within the team, no other sponsor could be found in Germany or in another country. So Stommelen had to withdraw the Eiffelland team after only eight Grand Prix competing in.

For the following two month the shining blue March Ford 721 was not seen publicly. Than it appeared again on the scene at the John Player Worldchampionship Victory Meeting at Brands Hatch at the end of October 1972. In the cockpit sat a 26-year-old man from Belfast in Northern Ireland driving his maiden Formula 1 race finishing a fine 6th place for the privately runned London HEXAGON team: The world career of John Watson had just begun.

J H

 

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Graphics: project * 2000

 

 

© 2002 by researchracing

 

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