Due to the South African GP being changed to March 30th and the industrial shambles in Britain the teams, whose real objective is to win the important races, found themselves behind with preparation. For this reason the two 1974 Lotus F1 cars, after testing in Spain, were being shipped to South Africa rather than Brands Hatch. However, the old Lotus 72 that did arrive was really very new, being R5 which was re-incarnated from the original R5 and was sporting a new banana-shaped rear aerofoil and a new oil tank. Last year the Lotus 72 had a very neat arrangement of an oil tank forming a back-bone strut from the top of the gearbox, supporting the rear aerofoil. The CSI outlawed this arrangement by bringing in new laws limiting the aerofoil to a maximum overhang of one metre *from the rear axle line, and forbidding the oil tank to extend beyond the rear end of the gearbox. The new Lotus oil tank was wide and flat, straddling the gearbox and comprising the main tank and a reserve tank operating on a weir system to keep the level topped up through a special valve.
The “banana” aerofoil was introduced last year by Gordon Murray on the Brabham BT42, the theory being that an air-bubble forms in the centre of the wing, with high-speed air passing over it and creating more down-thrust than a conventional aerofoil shape. The McLaren Team, in its various guises, were very well equipped, with two red and white cars for Texaco and Marlboro, and their drivers Hulme and Fittipaldi, and an orange and white one for Yardley’s man Hailwood. The first two cars had an extra long wheelbase, with a large spacer between the engine and gearbox, and the third car had a medium length wheelbase, with a spacer of half the length. All three sported new “winkle-picker” nose cowlings in place of the usual chisel-noses, and had improved rear aerofoils and mountings.
There was a brand-new Brabham BT44, the third in the series, started up for the first time just before practice, and driven by Reutemann, and Graham Hill was in one of the new Lolas, making its British debut. A brand new name in Formula One was the Lyncar, driven by John Nicholson, and Morris Nunn had the second of his Ensign cars for von Opel. Last and least was a repainted BRM P160, a lonely single entry from Bourne after the much trumpeted four-car, five-car and even nine-car entries promised a couple of years ago by the BRM big white chief. The lone green and white car with the words MOTUL and Team BRM on the front was driven by Pescarolo.
In spite of the appalling wet weather there was some impressively fast motoring going on during the Friday morning, with average speeds of well over 100 m.p.h. in conditions in which normal people would not want to do 100 m.p.h. down the straight, let alone average that speed round the 2.65-mile twisting circuit. By the end of the morning Revson was fastest with 1 min. 33.5 sec., but right at the last moment Lauda pipped him for the prize of 100 bottles of champagne, with a lap in 1 min. 32.0 sec. Almost at the same time Robarts collided with Mass, having not seen him hidden behind another car, and both the Brabham and the Surtees were damaged as they went off the road.