Mallory Park, March 14th
Formula Two racing returned to Mallory Park, for the first time in almost four years, with a vengeance in the middle of the month despite the entry list dwindling from over 40 hopefuls down to the 19 starters on the grid. As only twenty were going to be allowed to start it didn’t matter much anyway and though some F2 names were missing the field was certainly representative of what we can expect during the coming season.
The nimble Formula Two cars with their high revving and noisy 1600-c.c. Cosworth FVA engines created a fine spectacle around the tight 1.3 mile Mallory Park circuit and kept the crowd on their toes for both of the 40-lap races. The new March 712Ms, which proved fast but unreliable in the two races in January at Bogota, were much in evidence for this opening European F2 race of the season which, incidentally, did not count for F2 Championship points.
Under a beautiful spring sky with one of the best crowds seen at the Leicestershire track for many a day, the French driver Henri Pescarolo driving one of Frank Williams’ Marches came home the very competent winner after victories in both parts. Each time he was followed home by the Scottish driver Gerry Birrell in a Lotus 69 sponsored by the accessory firm of J. & J. Stanton. Birrell’s performance in beating many more experienced drivers was particularly noteworthy due to the fact that it was only his third race in F2.
Many of the other fancied runners either had trouble or were involved in incidents during the fast and furious racing. Ronnie Peterson, the Swedish works March driver, dominated practice and his spectacular style was undoubtedly the high spot of the meeting. He was well in the lead of the first race when, four laps from the end, his car left the road at the Esses and very nearly somersaulted into the crowd. Miraculously Peterson escaped from the twisted wreck unscathed and later there was talk of something, possibly a shock absorber, breaking on the car before he crashed.
The mechanical carnage whittled down the number of drivers who, at one stage or another, looked set for third place overall. Another former 1970 Formula 3 top-liner Mike Beuttler seemed the most likely and was acquitting himself particularly well in his March, when he was rammed from behind at the incredibly tight hairpin causing a tyre to deflate. After the results of the two parts had been added together the honour of third place finally went to the very experienced driver Brian Hart who paced himself well throughout in the Gerard Racing Brabham BT30. Furthermore, Hart’s company was responsible for the preparation of well over half the engines on the grid. Fourth place went to another experienced F2 campaigner, Peter Westbury in his Brabham BT30, followed by the Japanese Tetsu Ikuzawa (Lotus 69) and former sportscar driver, Jeremy Richardson (Brabham BT30).
Jo Siffert who went so well in Bogota with the new Chevron B18 had a thoroughly miserable time thanks to an untraceable misfire although this was more or less cured for the second part and the Swiss came through to fifth place. Argentinian driver Carlos Reutemann was another to prove exceptionally fast but his Brabham BT30 suffered engine trouble while Derek Bell, in the second Williams March, had an unhappy time with the throttle spring bracket breaking in part one and a spin delaying him in part two.—A. R. M.