F2 review

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Formula Two win for STP-March-BMW

A FEW MONTHS ago in the Around and About column we highlighted the forthcoming battle between the Ford Motor Company and BMW at several levels of motor sport. At Mallory Park on March 10th the first Formula Two clash between the two big rivals took place and, though their position looked a little precarious at one time, the German BMW outfit came out most definitely on top. The man who delivered the goods for them was the relatively unknown French driver Jean-Pierre Jarier, a former economics student, who had started the season with three uninspiring drives in the works March Formula One.

It proved to be a very different story in Formula Two with Jarier paired in the works March-BMW alongside Jean-Pierre Beltoise. While Beltoise’s engine exploded massively in the opening laps Jarier’s unit gave no problems at all and he romped home to a half-minute victory over Mike Hailwood’s Ford BDA powered Surtees TS15 in the first heat and scored an even more resounding victory over HaiIwood in heat two. Into an excellent third place overall came the private Surtees TS15 of Canadian newcomer to Formula Two—David McConnell. Prepared by a former McLaren F1 mechanic McConnell’s Surtees never missed a beat but few of the other cars were healthy when the 100 laps were over.

Heading up the entry of just over twenty cars (some new F2s are still not ready) were the brand new works March 732—BMWs all decked out in the STP colour schemes and with BMW engineers rushing around like mad. Also in the paddock were two similar privately run cars both for former F3 drivers. One was entered by Ecurie Filipinetti for Jacques Coulon to drive and it was being managed by Mike Parkes and the other was for Colin Vandervell and was being run by the very professional Brian Lewis Racing outfit. Vandervell’s car was painted as near as Vanvall green as he could obtain. Unfortunately Coulon never got on the track as the team managed to run the engine bearings by starting it before the oil pressure had been primed.

Last year’s Formula Two Champions, Team Surtees, had two of their smart new cars for P2 Champion Mike Hailwood and their recently signed apprentice driver, Jochen Mass. Also with a Surtees was James Hunt in the team sponsored by colourful young Lord Alexander Hesketh, while similar cars were in the hands of Robert Salisbury (sponsored by former Grand Prix driver Bob Gerard) and David McConnell while Peter Wardle had another TS15 although this was in Formula Atlantic trim. All the F2 Surtees were powered by Brian Hart Ltd. tuned Ford BDA engines, this firm being rather closer to Ford than any other similar company. Chevron Cars, under the racing direction of former BARC General Manager Graham White, will be running three Formula Two cars from the works this year but only one new B25 for Peter Gethin was ready and that with a hastily built engine. But a similar private car was in the hands of David Morgan, sponsored by Ed Reeves and run by former Firestone F2 engineer Roy Forster. John Lepp had another new B25 but in Atlantic trim.

Bernie Ecclestone’s Motor Racing Developments firm were giving their junior driver, John Watson of Belfast, his first works drive with the new Brabham BT4o and there was a similar car for privateer John Wingfield.

Formula Three Champion Roger Williamson had a brand new GRD sponsored by his mentor Tom Wheatcroft but tended by works mechanics as the actual works car intended for former Lotus man Dave Walker was not present. Walker is currently suffering from a broken leg sustained in a road accident and his place was to have been taken by Scottish driver Tom Walkinshaw. Unfortunately he damaged the car during testing. A private GRD was in the hands of Swiss hill-climber Jo Vonlanthen.

A new Formula Two chassis was the Scott. Formula Two regular Richard Scott, who ran a Brabham BT38 last year, turned up with a new car commissioned by himself and designed by former Lola man Patrick Head. The immaculate though conventional red and white machine unfortunately crashed in practice.

All the cars mentioned above were brand new and had never raced before, one was still being built in the paddock during practice, and the field was completed by a couple of older Marches for Vern Schuppan and Vittorio Brambilla, David Cole’s Brabham BT38 and Brian Robinson’s last year’s Ensign Formula Atlantic.

Saturday’s earlier practice sessions were just for qualification purposes and only the final afternoon session of three-quarters of an hour counted for the grid. It developed into a pretty hectic struggle between the works Marches and Surtees and the old F2 lap record soon looked pretty sick. In the end both Beltoise and Jarier lapped the little 1.3 mile Leicestershire circuit in 42.5 sec. with Beltoise achieving it first to take pole position while Surtees driver Mass completed the front row with a time of 42.6 sec. On row two were two more Surtees cars with Hunt and Hailwood both recording 42.7 sec. On row three Watson lapped the new Brabham in 43.2 sec. despite various engine dramas, Williamson’s GRD recorded 43.6 sec. and Morgan’s Chevron 43.7 sec. while on row four were Vandervell in his March-BMW and McConnell in his Surtees on 43.9 sec. and 44.0 sec. respectively. Then there was a halfsecond gap to the rest of the field with Gethin well back due to engine problems and he decided to scratch.

On Sunday a sizeable crowd ventured to the circuit, despite fog which had held up the practising for the supporting events. When the flag dropped for the start of the first heat the two works March-BMWs wound off the line and went into an immediate lead chased by the three Surtees with Watson, Williamson, Morgan, Vandervell, Schuppan and the rest in pursuit. Beltoise led his junior team-mate but as he passed the start line for the third time the engine exploded and a part of it even smashed a control tower window! Vandervell’s engine followed suit some time after, the hits of his motor landing in the Stebbe Straight crowd. So now there was only one BMW engine left and that was powering the leader. In fact, it was an older unit with a different type of connecting rod (the others were said to be faulty) and it ran sweetly to the end of the fifty laps despite the air box dropping off at one stage. The Surtees of Mass and Hunt failed before half distance with engine and suspension failures respectively leaving Hailwood to fend off a hard-trying Watson in the Brabham. Williamson came home fourth, a lap behind, with McConnell a sensible fifth.

In heat two it was the same story all over again with Jarier pulling away immediately from the early struggle for second place between Watson, Hailwood and Morgan, who had made a pit stop in the first heat. Watson’s engine soon overheated with head gasket trouble leaving Jarier to win by almost a lap front Hailwood with Morgan a lopped third and McConnell another lap down but claiming an excellent third place on combined times ahead of Morgan. Fifth on aggregate was John Lepp’s Formula Atlantic Chevron which ran smoothly throughout and sixth was the Italian Brambilla with his old 712 March.

While some of the Formula Two racing had been rather processional the supporting events provided plenty of fun and excitement, particularly the Formula Atlantic race. There was a full field of twenty plus several disappointed reserves and they put a tremendous show in their chase for points in the new upgraded Yellow Pages Championship. The eventual winner was former F2 driver David Purley in his last year’s March but he only took the lead three laps from the end when Tom Pryce’s works Royale went sick. Pryce had to be content with second place ahead of Lepp’s hard-worked Chevron and American Jas Patterson, who was driving the March 722 in which Bill Gubelmann won last year’s championship. There were several saloon car races including one for modified cars which was won by Gerry Marshall’s Vauxhall Firenza, fitted for the first time with a Lotus twin cam head as used in the Jensen-Healey. Another Firenza was second. In the Group 1 race for larger cars there was another Ford versus BMW confrontation but they both got beaten by a Chevrolet Camaro driven by Richard Lloyd. Tony Lanfranchis BMW 3.0 Si was second ahead of Roger Bell’s similar car and the Capri of Gordon Spice. Barrie Williams won his class with it Vauxhall Firenza while the other Group 1 race, for the lower priced cars, went to Ivan Dutton’s Escort Sport.

Finally the day was rounded off by a Formula Ford race in which the experienced Bob Arnott triumphed with his new Merlyn Mk. 24 over John Crowe’s older model and Mike Taylor’s old Palliser. Incidentally Mike is the son of Geoffrey Taylor of Alta fame. The new Rayrace FF went very well in the hands of former karting driver Stephen South but he was penalised for jumping the start.—A. R. M.

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