Beltoise’s Formula 2 Love Lesson

Ken Tyrrell made a point of proving how effective his new Formula 2 Matra was to South Africa’s Formula 1 regulars back in ‘68

While shooting the breeze after the 1968 South African Grand Prix at Kyalami, Ken Tyrrell laughingly taunted South African champion John Love, that Jean Pierre Beltoise this 1.6 litre Cosworth FVA-powered Formula 2 Matra MS7 ‘would clean them all up’ at the following weekend’s Cape South Easter Trophy at, Killarney in Cape Town.

The debate had started when Beltoise qualified the F2 machine 18th for the Grand Prix. He lined up behind Cave Charlton in 14th Love in 17th, both of them in Brabham Repcos, and ahead of Sam Tingle’s LDS Repco V8 in 22nd. Love and Tingle’s cars were notably also the first F1 cars ever to carry sponsor branding from Gunston Cigarettes, some five months before Player’s sponsored Lotus.

Beltoise rose to finish a remarkable sixth, albeit three laps adrift of Jim Clark in his final F1 victory in the grand Prix, as he stole a championship point. Love struggled to ninth another two laps down, while Charlton, Tingle and the other two locals, Jackie Pretorius, Basil van Rooyen all retired.

The story goes that Tyrrell tried to convince Love and the locals, that their dated F1 machinery had no chance against the newer generation Formula 2 cars. Especially on a tighter circuit. He suggested that Love and his peers were relying purely on brute power, just a year after Love had quite sensationally almost beaten the world’s finest in his little Cooper. Such was the pace of race car progress at the time.

So Tyrrell and Beltoise headed to Cape Town with the little Matra in tow. They were once again up against Love, Charlton and Tingle’s Repco V8s at Killarney, as well as Pretorius’s Brabham and Mike Harris’ ex-Love Cooper T79, both with 2.7-litre Climax power. And a gang of assorted older 1500 F1 machinery.

The Frenchman immediately delivered on Tyrrell’s promise as he topped the practice times and then beat Love to pole position. That in spite of carrying ballast to meet the local class’ heavier the minimum weight limit. The modern little Matra seemed far better suited to the tighter, twistier and bumpier Killarney circuit than his F1 rivals’ dated chassis. Charlton and Love had after all been faster in qualifying at Kyalami.

Beltoise then just walked away with the race, leading from the start with Love in vain pursuit as Chariton and Tingle’s efforts wilted in the searing Cape heat. Then to run salt in the wound, the Frenchman was nearly a lap up on Love when he pitted to have paper removed from the radiator. And again a few laps later, for a quick sip of water.

He emerged from he pits ten seconds behind the Rhodesian’s V8 Brabham. And retook the lead within four laps. Love’s Repco V8 then cried enough, leaving Pretorius to trail home second, over a lap behind Beltoise and ahead of the troubled Tingle.

The South African scene was about to change however as Formula 5000 was introduced alongside Formula 1 in the SA series. Love soon acquired a F1 Lotus 49 Cosworth, with Charlton opting for an F5000 Lola, before also switching to a Lotus 49 in the local series, which evolved splendidly for another seven years before it became too expensive to sustain…

%d bloggers like this: