DANC­ING TO TECNO BEAT

Autosport (UK) - - INSIGHT -

RON­NIE PETER­SON’S CA­REER RE­ALLY TOOK OFF IN 1968. Af­ter hood­wink­ing his bank man­ager to give him a loan to buy “a house, or some­thing”, he set off for Bologna with friend, ri­val and former in­struc­tor Reine Wisell, and they re­turned to Swe­den with a Tecno 68 For­mula 3 car apiece. While Wisell be­came Europe’s top-rated F3 driver that sea­son, Peter­son fo­cused on a hugely suc­cess­ful sea­son in Scan­di­navia, and also took his first two vic­to­ries away from the Nordic coun­tries in slip­stream­fests at Hock­en­heim and Monza.

For 1969, Wisell was snapped up by the Chevron team while Peter­son used new-found spon­sor­ship from Swedish cough-sweet man­u­fac­turer Smog to up­grade to a Tecno 69. This was a ti­tanic sea­son of F3 com­pe­ti­tion, Peter­son win­ning all over the con­ti­nent, with the high­light a fa­mous bat­tle in

Monaco against Wisell. The young up­start won, and he was on his way to the top. “He drove ev­ery­thing very fast, you know,” re­mem­bers Wisell. “What­ever you gave him he put it to the limit. Some­times I’m not sure he was too safe. I had to be very care­ful driv­ing against him! He was very brave, you know.”

It wasn’t just the Swedes – there were also two very strong driv­ers from down un­der com­ing to the at­ten­tion of For­mula 1 teams: Aus­tralian Tim Schenken and New Zealan­der How­den Gan­ley. Both would be­come firm friends of Peter­son’s. “I met him in 1968,” says Schenken. “We were at Brands Hatch, and he came and asked for some help with gear ra­tios. Nor­mally, when some­one asks you that, you just give them the gear ra­tios for Sil­ver­stone. But for what­ever rea­son I gave him the right ra­tios. In ’69 we raced against each other a lot. Reine, Ron­nie, Emer­son [Fit­ti­paldi, who joined F3 mid-sea­son] and my­self, I think we were the prin­ci­pal race win­ners.”

While Wisell would race for Lo­tus in F1 be­fore Peter­son did, the un­der­rated Gan­ley would be­come a big help in his March days. “When­ever we needed any test­ing done and Ron­nie couldn’t do it, we would get How­den along,” says March’s Robin Herd of a driver who raced briefly in F1 for his team in 1974. “People don’t re­alise how tal­ented a driver and a per­son How­den is. He was very im­por­tant to me and Ron­nie.”

“WHAT­EVER YOU GAVE HIM HE PUT IT TO THE LIMIT. SOME­TIMES I’M NOT SURE HE WAS TOO SAFE. I HAD TO BE VERY CARE­FUL WITH HIM”

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