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From the Motor Sport Archive
The sun came out
Osterreichring, Knittelfeld, August 15th
Those who travelled from England to Austria for the Grand Prix on the Osterreichring discovered where all the rain had gone. There is no shortage of water in central Austria and violent thunderstorms rang through the mountains as the teams assembled in the paddock on the day before official practice. Some had already been indulging in some pre-race testing and Hunt (McLaren) and Watson (Penske) had been putting in some very competitive times, while Hunt also gave the brand-new M26 McLaren an airing. True to his word Enzo Ferrari did not send any cars to the Austrian GP, his withdrawal for the remainder of the season due to general dissatisfaction with the Formula One "circus" causing the Austrian organisers much anguish. With Niki Lauda still in hospital following his Nurburgring accident, the interest for Austrian spectators had dropped off badly. With a complete absence of any Ferrari cars there was little incentive for the usual thousands of Italians to pour across the Dolomites, and with Regazzoni being prevented from taking part there was little incentive for Swiss followers to journey from the Alps. Certain irresponsible branches of the Italian media, notably Television, were putting out suggestions that without Ferrari the Austrian GP would be cancelled. This was so far from the truth that it was absurd, but the gloomy weather covering central Austria did little to arouse much enthusiasm. One member of the organising club summed up the situation when I met him and said, "Hello, how are you ?" His pertinent reply was, "Personally I am very well, but as an organiser I am far from well." One did not need to be a clairvoyant to see that the Austrian organisers were going to be lucky to attract 50% of their normal crowd, yet the Formula One Constructors' Association were still demanding their full payment, even though it was one of their own members who was the prime cause of fading interest by the spectators. As the Raiffeisen Bank of Austria were sponsoring the event one presumes they were going to cover any losses; it was certain that Mr. Ecclestone and his cohorts were not going to accept less money, even though they were not honouring their contract due to the defection of one of the members of the Formula One Constructors' Association.