Those drivers with brand-new cars obviously had to do some “bedding-in” of components or acclimatise themselves to the new cars, while others were able to press-on madly and set the pace. Brabham’s old chassis/new engine combination would not start, so he practised with the brand-new car, but he did not intend to race it and before the end of the day the recalcitrant engine was being removed from the old chassis, prior to being replaced. Hill was having the pedals of the new Lotus fiddled about with to suit his feet and Clark was finding out about his new car. During the lunch break both cars had the gearbox changed, for similar ones with different ratios.
It was Gurney and Graham Hill who began to stir things up towards the end of the afternoon, with the new Lotus 49 coming out on top on its first public outing, much to the displeasure of a lot of people. Clark was about to extend his Lotus and make a bid for fastest time when he was conscious of a feeling of instability. Nothing could be seen to be wrong, but he was convinced that something was not as it should be and the only likely thing seemed to be the front wheel bearings, which had been brand-new and being taper rollers had probably settled and needed re-adjusting.
Jim Clark Lotus 49
Friday practice ended with Hill recording 1:25.6, but Gurney was right behind with 1:25.8 and as both the Cosworth V8 and the Weslake V12 engines were new to Zandvoort, each with well over 400 bhp, this was reasonable and natural as the standards from last year were set by low-powered engines. The performances of these two engines also made a lot of people much more conservative in their bhp estimates, even compared with their 1966 quotes. Before the Saturday practice Clark’s suspension and steering was checked closely and slight play in the front wheel races seemed the only suspect thing, Gurney had a different engine fitted into his lightweight Eagle chassis, Brabham had the good 1967 engine taken from his new chassis and installed into his 1965 chassis, and the rest hoped that they could keep up with the Lotus and Eagle cars and searched around for excuses such as wrong tyres, wrong plugs, wrong springs, etc., reluctant to admit that the two really powerful engines did have over 400 bhp.
Clark had barely started to practise before the trouble he had been sensing, which Chapman could not locate, revealed itself forcibly; a ball-race in the right-rear hub broke up and split the hub carrier, and it was the first roughness that Clark had sensed the day before. Until it was all taken apart there was a gloom in Team Lotus as it looked as though it was a design failure in the hub casting, but it proved to be a faulty race, so the gloom lifted. While a new hub assembly was prepared and fitted, which took most of the afternoon, Clark had to stand and watch Hill fend off any attacks on the fastest lap. Brabham was very happy with his old chassis and was putting in some really fast motoring, equalling Hill’s best time, while Gurney was still not far behind. Hulme felt he was lacking in brakes and his discs certainly looked frail and puny compared with the Lotus and BRM discs.
During the race on Lap 44 the devastating Jim Clark in the new Lotus 49 lapped the mighty Honda and was eleven seconds ahead of Brabham and still gaining, while Danny Hulme in third place was still being hounded by Amon in the first of the Ferraris. Jackie Stewart was down in 5th place but ahead of Parkes, but on Lap 45 the BRM was lacking effective front brakes and it had to pit. The brake fluid had mostly gone from the reservoir and seemed to be running down the pedals, so the container was topped up and Stewart rejoined the race. He only did six more laps before it had all gone again, so he stopped once more and this time retired. The all-conquering drive by Jim Clark in the new Lotus 49 continued unabated and unchallenged, his driving being smooth and effortless, while the Cosworth V8 engine never missed a beat with Jim going on to win the race.
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