Divina Galica and Susie Wolff illustrate the difference between quick and competitive lap times. Quite a lot of drivers can manage decent back-of-the-grid laps in a well set-up racing car. I have done it myself. And inside the five laps which, they say, shows you could go faster.
Jim Clarks and Sebastian Vettels, who have some magic ingredient that always makes them point something of a second a lap faster – or the Michael Schumachers who take risks on skis.
When it gets to actual racing wheel-to-wheel a driver needs an unusual degree of self-confidence, or maybe lack of imagination. It must get the adrenalin-flow that makes them face danger if not with equanimity at least with resolve. At that point it doesn’t much matter which sex you are.
Divina Mary Galica MBE held the British women's downhill skiing speed record at 125 mph so she could cope with speed. She took part in her first Olympic games at Innsbruck in 1964 aged 19, competing in downhill skiing and slalom. She was in the next two winter Olympics, at Grenoble in 1968 and Sapporo in 1972, both times captain of the British Women’s Olympic Ski Team, finishing in the top ten of the Giant Slalom. Aside from Olympic competition, Divina achieved two World Cup podium finishes downhill, taking third place at both Badgastein and Chamonix in 1968. She even returned to skiing at the 1992 Winter Olympics, representing Great Britain in speed skiing.
Divina was cross with me for downplaying her chances in Formula 1 although I tried not to buy into the idea that her reputation on snow and her looks engaged the sponsors. Yet even the staid old Guardian took any opportunity to carry her picture. She certainly had the right stuff and really was only a few fractions of a second off the pace.
Divina Galica, the former Olympic skier, is to try and qualify for the John Player British Grand Prix on July 18. She could be the first British girl to drive in a world championship Grand Prix should she lap the Brands Hatch Grand Prix track in around lmin.23sec in the Surtees TS 16, with which she broke five British speed records last week.
John Surtees is trying to complete a new TS 19 car for her to take part in the biggest test of her two-year-old career at the wheel, but she will probably still use the car in which she lies fourth in the Shellsports 5000 European Championships,
The chances of Divina reaching the starting grid in the Grand Prix are slim. There are 30 entries, 26 places on the grid, and it will only be if some cars fail to turn up, or have trouble during practice, that she is likely to take part in the Grand Prix - round nine in the 1976 World Championships.
Two years ago Lella Lombardi, the Italian girl driver who subsequently took part in a full season’s Formula One, was entered for the same race and managed a lap at 1min. 23.3sec. Although there were five cars slower, she failed to qualify for the race by a full second. Recent alterations to the track have slowed it slightly, and James Hunt’s pole position for the Race of Champions in March was 1min. 20.4sec., so Divina will need to aim for something between 1min. 23sec. and 1min. 23.sec., to reach even the back row of the grid.
Yesterday I asked what her best time in private practice had been round the undulating 2.61miles, but she confessed she had not yet driven the full course. Her longest race so far has been only three quarters of an hour, to the two gruelling hours a Grand Prix would take.
Imperial Tobacco Ltd will take their cigarette brand insignia off the cars they have entered in the Grand Prix, which means the John Player Lotuses will appear in plain black and gold, without the J.P.S. logo. This follows an undertaking given to Dr David Owen, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Social Security last November.
Throughout their two cigarette manufacturing units, John Player and Sons and W. D. & H. O. Wills, Imperial Tobacco are one of the largest sponsors of motor racing in the country. No similar undertaking has so far been given by Phillip Morris, the American company who sponsor the Marlboro World Championship team.
Divina Galica had a narrow escape from injury when she crashed her Hesketh on the first day of unofficial practice for Sunday’s Argentina Grand Prix. She went off on one of the fastest parts of the course, a 150 m.p.h. bend, and wrecked one side of her car against the safety barrier.
“I was trying out some suspension modifications,” she said later. “The car just turned round on me. It was very quick, and there’s really no explanation. We are getting the spare car ready for practice tomorrow.” Miss Galica had been having trouble getting down to a competitive practice time, and her accident might make it difficult for her. She needs to improve by seven or eight seconds - a big margin - to reach a qualifying speed.
She has been in Buenos Aires for several days, and so far has not posted a lap speed that would qualify her for the race. Mario Andretti (John Player Lotus), James Hunt (McLaren), and Niki Lauda (Brabham Alfa Romeo) were among the fastest drivers yesterday in good conditions, with a light breeze taking a little of the heat out of the strong sun.
Miss Galica was not the only driver who went off the road. Didier Pironi, the new member of the Tyrrell team, collected some catch fences on the right hand corner at the end of the pits, but damage was superficial.
Practice proper starts today with 24 starting places at stake for the 28 cars entered. It is already apparent that the winners will be those who pace themselves best on Sunday. Driving on the limit in this heat would, mean cars would be unlikely to survive two hours’ racing, even if the drivers did.
Tyres have gone soggy within a few laps, not so much from the influence of the hot asphalt, as the absence of the usual stream of cool air to keep their working temperature correct
Lap times until now must be treated with caution, because yesterday’s tests were more in the nature of a shake-down. Brake pads must be bedded-in, the gloss abraded off new tyres water and oil run through engines to make sure things are done up, but already there are signs to show who will be fast and which teams have tpo worry about starting places.
The military remains the biggest worry to the Grand Prix Circus. Like many other things in Argentina. The track officials take second place to the masses of heavily armed soldiery who stand about, taking on roles usually the preserve of police at European tracks, or as in Britain, volunteer marshals.
Good piece by Beverley Turner in The Telegraph today