When Postlethwaite tried to nose ahead of the opposition
Back in 1973, James Hunt was perhaps the sensation of the Formula 1 season for his exploits in Alexander Hesketh’s virgin-white March. This combination of man and motor car finished sixth in the French GP behind the likes of Peterson, Cevert, Reutemann, Stewart and Ickx (not bad company), fourth in the British beaten only by the works McLarens of Revson and Hulme with Peterson’s Lotus 72; third in the Dutch to the Tyrrells of Stewart and Cevert, seventh in the Canadian, and second – headed only by Ronnie’s 72 – in the United States GP at Watkins Glen.
The March had been carefully rebuilt, continuously modified and impeccably prepared under the technical direction of Harvey Postlethwaite PhD. The ex-March engineer talked long and, I would assume, listened longer to Hunt’s likes, hopes and dislikes. When Harvey asked Hunt what advantage he would most like in his F1 car, James apparently replied “Doc, just make it quick in a straight line, and I’ll block ’em all off round the corners”. The record confirms how, with a succession of Postlethwaite mods – including the forward bodywork section which the team celebratedly christened ‘Silly Nose’ – the Hesketh March proved to be not only quick down the straights, but also – with Hunt’s emergent skills as a driver – equally competitive round the entire lap.
But it’s Hunt’s typically blunt comment about shared duties on straights and corners which spring to mind as I gaze at a rare Brands Hatch photo lying here on my desk. Had regulation leeway to adopt the same solution been available to ‘Doc’ Postlethwaite back in ’73, I have little doubt he and Hesketh would have explored it… if only to wind up their rivals.