Since peace reigns temporarily in Grand Prix auto racing, today's race through the streets of Long Beach, Calif., will be run.
There have been several major disputes in this world championship series, and action on the latest--which centers on whether drivers can use water as ballast--is expected after the Long Beach event.
The dispute involves alleged attempts by some teams to counter the powerful, turbocharged engines of Renault and Ferrari by making their vehicles lighter.
Grand Prix cars must weigh at least 1,280 pounds with lubricants and coolants aboard. Some cars now carry water tanks for "brake cooling," with the water's weight helping to meet the minimum weight. During the race, the water evaporates or can be dumped. Ferrari and Renault maintain their rivals don't have to carry water, since all racers have air-cooled brakes.
The dispute over ballast is only one of several disagreements in the last several months.
The season began with the superlicense strike at January's South African Grand Prix. All but two of the 30 entered drivers staged a one-day walkout to protest provisions of this permit, which Grand Prix drivers must hold. The major issue was a requirement that drivers remain all season with the teams signing them as of Nov. 15.
Drivers also objected to restrictions on public criticism of and legal action against The International Federation of Auto Sport (FISA). They had agreed to these provisions in writing, but said they had done so only because they wanted to be sure of being able to drive.
Led by two-time world champion Niki Lauda, back from a two-year retirement, the drivers claimed the licenses were illegal and signed under duress. The owners reacted strongly. "Sack them all," said Lotus chief Colin Chapman. Bernie Ecclestone of Brabham, leader of the owners association, said, "People can't see them (the drivers). They never make themselves available to the press. What assets are they?"
The South African race was held after meetings by representatives of both sides. After a series of hearings and appeals, all 28 drivers were fined $5,000 each, and were told that any drivers who subsequently went on strike would be suspended for one race.
Assuming the controversy over ballast can be resolved and no other major disagreements arise, a Grand Prix race will be held in downtown Detroit June 6 and another in Las Vegas Sept. 26.
The Local Scene
Hagerstown and Winchester speedways, both dirt tracks, are now open. The Sunday afternoon Hagerstown races feature winged sprinters and stock cars; Saturday night races at Winchester feature sedans.
Old Dominion in Manassas opens April 17. The 3/8-mile paved oval has added a hobby class to its three older stock car divisions--late models, minis and streets.
The first sports car road-racing meet this season is April 24 and 25 over the two-mile Summit Point, W. Va., raceway near Charles Town.