WINNING WITH SCHENKEN IN THE FERRARI
WHILE RONNIE PETERSON was occasionally the subject of flirtations from Ferrari in a Formula 1 context, he did have a successful season with the Prancing Horse’s endurance sportscar team in the 1972 World Championship for Makes. Alongside fellow rising star Tim Schenken, he won the 1000km races at Buenos Aires and the Nurburgring aboard the 312 PB, and added four second places and two thirds. Had there been a drivers’ championship, the young duo would have trailed team leader and acknowledged sportscar maestro Jacky Ickx by just 12 points.
While Ickx usually partnered Mario Andretti, and the Belgian’s F1 team-mate Clay Regazzoni joined the rapid and reliable Brian Redman in the other car, it was an interesting choice by Ferrari to partner Peterson with fellow youngster Schenken.
But they complemented each other perfectly.
“The thing with Ronnie was that he wasn’t very good in setting a car up,” says Schenken, “so in the first couple of races I did he’d go out and put a time in very quickly, and then I’d get in and I found it very difficult to drive. So I would get the car nicely balanced and working properly and I’d think, ‘Oh my God he’s going to annihilate me’. And in fact he never really went any quicker. What he’d tend to do was take it out of the car and the tyres and drive around whatever the problem might be.
“We were both about the same size, the seat was the same. We got on well. We alternated who started first. But the blokes to beat were Andretti and Ickx. That was an incredible combination.”
Schenken lived near Peterson in the Maidenhead area (“Ronnie was just a regular guy, he’d be mowing the lawn, or messing around with his fish tank – he was mad on tropical fish”) and saw the Swede in his new Monaco home just before his fatal accident: “It was our son’s birthday. Our son and Ronnie and Barbro’s daughter Nina were great friends. We were staying in Monaco and celebrated our son’s birthday on September 5. Brigitte [Schenken’s wife] and I went back to London, and Ronnie drove to Monza, and that was the last time we saw him. He was just a regular nice guy, not affected at all by his fame.”