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From the skid marks it looked as though Fran�ois might have slid a little bit too far, tried to correct and hit the upper railing of the Armco barrier. The barrier collapsed, and the car disintegrated and rolled over on its cockpit, killing Fran�ois.
The next morning the Tyrrell team withdrew from the race in tribute to Fran�ois, so we started without Stewart and Amon. My chance to win was faded right on the starting line. I couldn't disengage my clutch. That made the second time this had happened in four races. But this time, instead of holding the car on the brake I just stuck it in neutral and threw my arms in the air, waiting for everyone to go by. Then I jammed it into gear and took off, but of course my clutch wasn't working for the rest of the race.
When you realize you've lost the race before you even start, a lot of adrenalin and enthusiasm drains out of your system. It becomes harder to concentrate and harder to bear down. As the race wore on I got back into the swing of things, but it was too late. Ronnie Peterson won it; I ended fifth behind my teammate, Denny Hulme. It was an unsatisfactory end to an unsatisfactory weekend.
What with the death of Fran�ois, my own disappointing performance and the pressure over contract negotiations, it was one of the most difficult weekends of my life.
MANDEL: Revson had arrived at the Glen Motor Lodge in Watkins Glen with Marji Wallace on Thursday. Marji had come from nearby Binghamton, where she had just won Miss U.S.A. on her way to the Miss World title.
It is crisp in October in the Finger Lakes region of New York. There is no other part of the country so splendid in the fall. The glacially worn hills roll softly beneath the greens and yellows and reds of the foliage. Most of the roads are ancient two-laners, and they break startlingly around a wooded corner above Lake Cayuga or Lake Seneca again and again as they weave through the region. The countryside is quiet and content.
There is a deceptive laziness to the atmosphere of a Grand Prix practice/qualifying session. Unlike the system used in many American races where the cars go out one at a time to turn official qualifying laps, the Formula I cars are all out together. They are timed on every lap. The morning unwinds slowly and gently, despite being punctuated by the bark of race-car exhausts.
Then on Saturday morning at Watkins Glen there was a sudden stillness. A racetrack is not meant to be quiet on a busy weekend. When it is, the quiet suddenly turns into a terrible chill. It means everyone on the track has stopped, and cars at work stop for only one reason.
Jackie Stewart, in his dark blue Elf Team Tyrrell, was one of the first drivers in. His whole crew, along with members of other crews, closed in on his car. His wife Helen offered her hand to him as he stepped out. He pushed her aside, pushed away the crowd in front of him and walked to the pit counter. "Where's Helen?" he asked, as though at that moment he was only just returning to consciousness. Helen took his hand and led him around to the back of the pit. Somebody gave Stewart a sedative.
Revson was one of the last to come in. Immediately, Teddy Mayer asked him what had happened, and there was a brief conference after Revson pulled off his helmet with the lollipop shapes painted on it. Then he walked slowly to the pit counter where a terrified Marji was sitting. "Cevert," he said. "It's a bad one. It really is a bad one."