Dutch Grand Prix Zandfoort 1968
After the British Grand Prix, the next was the Dutch Grand Prix was at Zandfort near Haarlem. It took place on June 23rd 1968. I met up with local cameraman and local sports presenter, Piet van Strien. Piet took me to a pub in Amsterdam where, for the first time, I sampled sate, pronounced satay. Which is a small kebab of shrimp or chicken covered in a peanut sauce. It originates in Indonesia and came into Holland when Indonesia was one of their colonies.
Pit took me on to a restaurant that he was part owner of and we had a nice meal of Pork Kebab cooked on swords resembling foils.
He told me an amusing story about getting home late from the said restaurant. You can find the story in this article on Piet Van Strien.
The memorable things about the Dutch Grand Prix was that it pelted down with rain. The circuit is placed within the great sand dunes near the North Sea and it would seem that no car in the race had the right tyres on as the rain turned to sunshine and back to rain. Every time the cars changed tyres in the pits, the weather would change.
Jackie Stewart won the race, Jean-Pierre Beltoise was second in the Matra and Pedro Rodríguez was third in the BRM, while John Surtees retired after 50 laps with suspension problems. Jackie Steward moved into second place in the Drivers’ list behind Graham Hill. Eight cars retired during the race, two spun off the track and there were two accidents and I suspect these were due to the heavy rain.
Ron E. Collins had brought along his Novoflex lens which was a still camera lens which had been adapted to fit an Arriflex movie camera. What made the Novoflex different was that its focussing was controlled by a trigger in a pistol grip.
While the rest of our crew were located around the circuit, Ron and I set up station along the straight called the Huntzrug where we could look down the track for about two hundred yards and see the cars round the corner called Hugenholtz.
During practice, I observed the exact line taken by each car. At the corner, there was a large Dunlop sign and I was able to take notes which recorded that Jackie Stewart, for example, would pass through the “L” of Dunlop, while John Surtees would pass through the “O”. During the race, once it had settled down, it was possible to predict which car would be the next into the corner, so Ron was able to set up his camera on the Dunlop sign and see the various cars drive into the centre of his frame. He would start shooting a few seconds before the arrival of the particular car which we would have seen twenty seconds before it reached the corner. We got it right at least half the time.
With his Novoflex, Ron could hold focus on the approaching car which would pass us at over 150 miles an hour. The resulting pictures were amazing, upholding Ron E Collins reputation for his skill in operating telephoto lenses. It made for a wonderful shot that I have never seen repeated elsewhere.
Ronnie went on to found his own company, Optical and Textile (Optex) which would sell specialist camera equipment for the next forty years.
We got very wet at Zandfoort.
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