1970 British Grand Prix race report - An RAC Nonsense


Following the Dutch GP and the French GP, both of which are reported elsewhere in this issue, the anticipation of a great race for the British Grand Prix, held on the long circuit at Brands Hatch, was in everyone's mind as the contestants assembled for the Thursday practice.

The 12-cylinder Ferraris and 12-Cylinder Matras had been getting closer and closer to victory, the 12-cylinder BRMs had already had a victory and the Cosworth V8 engines had been through a spate of troubles; the revised Lotus 72 in the hands of Rindt was setting new road-holding standards and the Stewart/Tyrrell dominance of 1969 was fast fading from the 1970 scene.

Jochen Rindt in his Lotus 72 at the 1970 British Grand Prix

Jochen Rindt in the Lotus 72 at Brands Hatch. Photo: Motorsport Images

In addition to the tension and excitement at the top of the field there was a lot of interest at the bottom as well, for the RAC had indicated that there would be no limitation on entries for the race, and no elimination by qualifying; inability to be competitive being the only criterion. Consequently, there were numerous new entries in the official list, Gold Leaf Team Lotus entering Emerson Fittipaldi, the rising Brazilian F3 and F2 driver, in Lotus 49C/R10, while Rindt and Miles had the Team Lotus 72C/2 and Lotus 72B/1, respectively. Gethin was intended to appear with the full McLaren team, but a shortage of engines prevented this so Hulme, Gurney and de Adamich represented the Colnbrook firm with the same cars they had driven at Clermont-Ferrand, namely, M14D/1 for Hulme and M14A/1 for Gurney, both with Cosworth V8 engines, and M7D/1, with an Alfa Romeo V8 engine, for de Adamich. The two usual works Brabhams were entered for Brabham himself and Stommelen, while a third car was entered for Schenken, but it did not materialise. Surtees produced a brand-new car, built in his own factory, designated the TS7/001 and it was a very well-turned-out machine, with a slim angular, riveted aluminium monocoque with rocker-arm front suspension and inboard spring units and a fairly orthodox rear-end layout, with inboard brakes, the Cosworth V8 engine and Hewland gearbox forming the rear of the car, attached to the cockpit rear bulkhead of the monocoque. The rear suspension is hung on a beam across the clutch housing and a plate under the gearbox, and the upper radius rods have their forward ends anchored by brackets attached to the cylinder heads of the Cosworth engine. The forward-mounted radiator is leant forward almost to the horizontal position, giving a very low nose line with air entering under the wedge nose and exiting on top. Team Surtees entered this car for John Surtees himself, and their McLaren M7C/1 for Trevor Taylor, but a shortage of engines kept this extra entry away. Moser entered his Bellasi, but it did not turn up and Bonnier entered an apparently mythical McLaren-Cosworth V8 that remained a myth and did not appear.

Emerson Fittipaldi debuts in the Lotus 49 at the 1971 British Grand Prix

Emerson Fittipaldi makes his Formula 1 debut with Lotus at Brands Hatch. Photo: Motorsport Images

The rest of the teams were to normal strength, the Tyrrell pair, Stewart and Cevert, having the blue March cars 701/4 and 701/7, respectively, with 701/2 as a spare for Stewart. The Ferrari team arrived with their three flat-12-cylinder cars, 001, 002 and 003, and it was Regazzoni's turn to join Ickx, the two of them ringing the changes on the three cars until satisfaction was reached for the race with Ickx in 003 and Regazzoni in 002. The Matra team had rebuilt the car Pescarolo had used at Clermont-Ferrand, as his practice accident had damaged the monocoque slightly and the car was reborn as MS120/01, while Beltoise kept to his French GP car. The Yardley-BRM team of Rodriguez, Oliver and Eaton were present with their usual three cars, while Amon and Siffert had the two works March cars as usual, they were joined by Andretti with the STP Oil Treatment Special March 701/3, returned from America where the Granatelli workshops had made numerous alterations to the water cooling system, the rear suspension uprights and the rear suspension members. Hill was still driving the old Lotus 49C of Rob Walker, there being no sign of their new Lotus 72, Lovely had his own Lotus 49B and Peterson was driving Crabbe's March as usual. The Frank Williams team returned to racing with the De Tomaso 505/38/2 and Redman was signed up to drive it, but in the first day of practice it had not gone many laps before the left-hand rear hub-shaft broke internally and luckily the wheel did not come off. As it was considered to be a design fault failure the car was withdrawn.


The Thursday practice got off to a bad start when the scrutineering was late in getting underway, the Chief Scrutineer got huffy, practice period times were all revised and actually started later than scheduled. Rindt was the pacemaker, with the Lotus 72, knocking a whole second off the record that Brabham established at the Race Champions, with a time of 1 min. 24.8 sec. and this set a pretty severe standard for the battle for the front row of the grid. Oliver, lckx and Hulme were the only ones to get into the 1 min. 25 sec. bracket, but none of them could approach Rindt's time. All the March cars were clearly not happy on the bumpy and undulating Brands Hatch circuit, as had been obvious at the Race of Champions, and though revised geometry had been built into the rear suspension they were far from right, Stewart being the fastest with a March in 1 min 26.1 sec. In addition to the hub failure putting the De Tomaso out of the race Stommelen crashed his Brabham at Clearways, hitting the bank with his left front wheel which creased the monocoque beyond repair, he, too, was out of the race.

"Lotus newcomer Fittipaldi deserved a medal for perseverance, for the Cosworth engine in his Lotus 49C ran on seven cylinders for the whole race, at times getting really bad, but he kept it going right to the end, having been told 'no fireworks, just finish'"

Friday morning practice was again run to a revised time schedule, which confused a lot of people, and the final hour saw everyone who was capable vying for the front row the grid. Oliver was leading the BRM attack, being on his home ground, which he likes, but Rodriguez was in continual trouble with engines and was making very little progress. Regazzoni was backing up Ickx splendidly, equalling the existing lap record, while Ickx was holding securely to a front row position with 1 min 25.1 sec. Rindt had to waste a lot of practice time due to a leaking fuel tank and did not repeat his Thursday performance, but Brabham was in his usual strong Brands Hatch form and equalled the fastest time, to take the central position on the front row. Stewart and Andretti were driving their March cars as hard as they could but were not in the running and Miles got the second Lotus 72 ahead of both of them, which caused Stewart, in particular, much anguish. Apparently the March was showing a tendency to steer itself by its rear end over some of the bumps and vertical direction changes, which made it difficult to keep on the accurate line needed for fast laps round Brands Hatch. Peterson in the Antique Automobiles March was faster than both of the works cars from Bicester, which must be good for customer confidence even if it was depressing for the works drivers. On both practice days the skies had been overcast and grey, but it kept dry and warm, and when official timed practice ended at noon on Friday it was Rindt's Thursday time that gave him pole position on the grid.

Jochen Rindt leads the field away at the start of the 1970 British Grand Prix

Jochen Rindt gets a great start to lead the field at the start of the British Grand Prix before Jacky Ickx takes the lead. Photo: Motorsport Images


A record crowd of 56,000 paying customers filled the Brands Hatch circuit on Saturday under bright and sunny skies, and the 11,000 who had turned up the day before had been able to see two Formula Three heats and a final as well as the Grand Prix practice. At noon on Saturday a saloon-car race took place, followed by an historical parade of Jaguar cars powered by the 21-year-old XK 6-cylinder engine which made people hope that it was a swan-song before the arrival of the long-awaited V12 Jaguar engine. Then the drivers were paraded round the circuit in a variety of Jaguars, from XK120 to 1970 E-types, and shortly before 2 pm, the Grand Prix cars left the assembly paddock and appeared in the arena from the tunnel, forming up in the crowded pit road. Just as Cevert's March was about to be driven out of the assembly paddock it sprung a petrol pipe leak and caught fire, but the Tyrrell mechanics soon had it under control and got it repaired. The McLaren team were not so lucky, for the Alfa Romeo-engined car had been sitting in the paddock for two hours with its petrol tanks full and all ready to go. As it was about to be taken to the assembly area one of the rubber bag tanks split, just like that, and though the mechanics worked feverishly to change the tank it was too late and the car was a non-starter. Shortly after 2 pm the first car set off on a warm-up lap and it was Rodriguez with his BRM, followed a moment later by Oliver, and then Pescarolo with his Matra V12. The cars were appearing one at a time on what was almost an individual demonstration lap; and the Matra was superb, the shrill scream from its two long tail-pipes must have made the entrance money worthwhile for a lot of spectators, as it swept round the circuit on its own. It was followed by Beltoise in the second Matra, and it made you realise how dull motor racing would be without any exhaust noise. After these four V12-engined cars, Stewart's Cosworth V8-powered March sounded flat and dull by comparison when it followed them and the following line of V8-engined cars was broken by the two flat-12 Ferraris with their own special sound. With everyone except de Adamich on the "dummy-grid" and so many people that you could not see the cars, a fine fanfare of trumpets heralded the start of the 80-lap British Grand Prix, with the first five cars on the grid holding lap times under the existing lap record.

It was a magnificent start at 2:30 pm, with Ickx and Brabham side-by-side into Paddock Hill Bend, just ahead of Rindt. Up the hill to Druids, lckx forced his Ferrari to the right of Brabham and dived to the inside under braking and snatched the lead. On that opening lap Ickx pulled out a visible lead, pursued by Brabham, Rindt, Oliver, Hulme, Regazzoni, Stewart, Beltoise, Miles and the rest, with Andretti having crumpled his right-side nose fin on someone's tyre. It was a pretty desperate follow-my-leader game for the first few laps, for Brands Hatch is a difficult circuit for passing, the corners coming too soon after each other, and Ickx led the procession with an ever-increasing lead, only Brabham and Rindt staying with the Ferrari. Rodriguez never really got going for his BRM was bouncing about at the back end in an uncontrollable fashion. He stopped at the pits but nothing could be seen to be wrong so he went out for a lap and returned to have the rear wheels changed, whereupon the bouncing disappeared and he could start racing, though too far behind to hope to get anywhere; he kept going for 59 laps when he under-steered gently off the road and into the bank at Druids hairpin. As Ickx entered Paddock Hill Bend to start lap 7, his lead was much smaller and the Ferrari suddenly slowed almost to a stop as something went amiss in the gearbox and at the precise moment, Rindt had decided to dive to the inside of Brabham as they braked for the corner. They went down the steep hill side-by-side, wheels almost touching, and to their surprise swept by the Ferrari still neck-and-neck, the Lotus 72 taking the lead up the hill. It was the end of the Ferrari's brief moment of glory and Rindt now led Brabham by a length or two, with Oliver some way back in third place, comfortably ahead of Hulme, Regazzoni, Stewart, Beltoise, Miles, Pescarolo, Andretti, Peterson, Siffert and the rest, Lovely bringing up the rear.

Graham Hill heads up the group with Dan Gurney, Francois Cevert and Chris Amon behind at the 1970 British Grand Prix

Graham Hill leads a group of four with Dan Gurney, Francois Cevert and Chris Amon chasing behind. Photo: Motorsport Images

A cat-and-mouse situation now arose with Brabham tailing the Lotus 72 and nothing Rindt could do would shake the Australian off. It was obviously going to be a long and tedious business, for Brabham made no attempt to pass, merely sitting behind, looming large in the Lotus mirrors the whole time and just waiting for Rindt to make a mistake. As an example of tenacity and patience, it was a fine example but as a motor race it was a bore, and one began to wish it was a long-distance sports-car race with refuelling stops, tyre changes and driver changes, for then it would have had terrific potential. From lap 7 to lap 65 Brabham just sat there poker-faced, scowling into Rindt's mirrors, but the Austrian was not put off and even when they lapped the slower cars the situation did not change. On lap 66, Brabham showed signs of pressing just that little bit harder and on lap 69 Rindt muffed a gear-change out on the back part of the circuit and that was that, Brabham was past and with a fastest lap at 1 min 25.9 sec on lap 70, he pulled out a commanding lead.

For the procession of cars behind these two, it was a test of patience as one by one they broke, got punctures, made pit stops or had accidents. Oliver held third place with no opponents until his BRM broke descending Paddock Hill on lap 55, Pescarolo's Matra-Simca had to stop at the pits because of a puncture, and with another wheel fitted he was pressing on when he crashed at Clearways corner, while his team-mate Beltoise also suffered a puncture, then a misfitted wheel, and having a bad cold and feeling awful he gave up. Siffert disappeared from the back of the field when an experimental bracket bolted to the left rear upright to lower the pick-up point, broke and Andretti suffered a similar failure. Stewart was leading all the March cars, but only in 5th place, when he also got a puncture, and at the pit stop to have it changed his clutch-operating hydraulic pipe burst, the fluid sprayed on to the exhaust pipes and caught fire, but no damage was done. Peterson had been going well, as usual, when he had to stop with a punctured right front tyre and at the same time have his clutch hydraulic line bled. Surtees in his new TS7 got hung up with Hill, Gurney and Amon, and was handicapped by running a higher gear ratio than desirable in order to try and save a tired Cosworth engine. When he finally got free of them he began to go quite quickly and it was as Rindt and Brabham were about to lap him, but for six laps they made no impression on the red Surtees car. He was driving with an eye on a sagging oil pressure needle and switched off as it fell dramatically and just prevented a major breakage in the engine. Another driver who had one eye permanently on the oil pressure gauge was Gurney, and he, too, gave up when things got desperate before there was an expensive explosion.

The undisputed hero of the race was Regazzoni, who kept his Ferrari up with Beltoise, Stewart and Hulme right from the start and when the first two dropped out he latched on to the tail of Hulme's McLaren and gave the New Zealander a hard time. On lap 74 he actually got in front of Hulme going up to Druids corner but overshot slightly, got on the loose gravel on the outside of the hairpin and had an almighty moment, which he controlled admirably and set off in pursuit once more. From a bunch of cars that started at the back of the field, Amon and Hill were the only survivors and they had a race-long battle which gradually brought them up to 5th and 6th positions as others fell by the wayside. Once past Rindt there was nothing to trouble Brabham and he cruised round with the race in his pocket, but for the third time this year fate took a hand. As he went round on his last lap, receiving a very popular ovation from the crowd, all was under control, but as he appeared back into the stadium at Clearways corner his engine coughed and died. He had run out of petrol and for the second time this year, Rindt rounded the last corner of a race content with 2nd place only to find he was winning, for as Brabham coasted towards the finish the Lotus 72 flashed by to get the chequered flag. And to think that Hollywood spends millions of dollars making phoney motor racing films. The cries of anguish for Brabham must have been heard all over Kent, but there was no argument, Rindt had won, it being the third consecutive victory for the new Lotus 72 and the press-on Austrian driver. On the same lap, Hulme was 3rd with Regazzoni still pressing him hard, only 0.4 sec behind, which was a terrific performance in his second Grand Prix. The Lotus newcomer Fittipaldi deserved a medal for perseverance, for the Cosworth engine in his Lotus 49C ran on seven cylinders for the whole race, at times getting really bad, but he kept it going right to the end, having been told "no fireworks, just finish".

Jochen Rindt stands on the podium with the winning trophy after the 1970 British Grand Prix

Jochen Rindt celebrates his win atop the Brands Hatch podium. Photo: Motorsport Images

After the parade of honour lap the Lotus 72 was taken to the scrutineers' bay for the regulation after-race check, and Chief Scrutineer Cecil Mitchell thought the rear aerofoil was not to regulation height as the rear support struts were bent, whereas they had been straight before the start, the inference being that the car had raced with the aerofoil above regulation height and someone had bent the struts to lower the trailing edge before letting the scrutineers have the car after the race. An announcement was made that Rindt was disqualified from 1st place pending an enquiry, and it took three hours to sort it all out. The Lotus wing struts were straightened, the wing was put at maximum angle, everything was tried and in no way at all could it be measured to be illegal, so Rindt was re-declared the winner to cheers from the waiting crowd, who also showered derision on the RAC and its officials for lowering Grand Prix racing to the level of an International Rally. — Denis Jenkinson


Results: 23rd RAC British Grand Prix—Formula One - 80 laps - 341.2 kilometres. Warm and dry

1st: J. Rindt (Lotus 72C/2) .. 1 hr. 57 min. 02.0 sec. - 174.90k.p.h. (108.69 m.p.h.)

2nd: J. Brabham (Brabham BT33/2) .. 1 hr. 57 min. 34.9 sec.

3rd: D. Hulme (McLaren M14D/1) .. 1 hr. 57 min. 56.4 sec.

4th: G. Regazzoni (Ferrari 312B/002) .. 1 hr. 57 min. 56.8 sec.

5th: C. Amon (March 701/1) .. 1 lap behind

6th: G. Hill (Lotus 49C/R7) .. 1 lap behind

7th: F. Cevert (March 701/7) .. 1 lap behind

8th: E. Fittipaldi (Lotus 49C/R10) .. 2 laps behind

9th: R. Peterson (March701/8) .. 8 laps behind

10th: P. Lovely (Lotus 49B/R11) .. 11 laps behind

Fastest lap: J. Brabham (Brabham BT33/2) on lap 70, in 1 min 25.9 sec — 178.73 kph (111.06 mph)

Retired: J. lckx (Ferrari 312B/003) on lap 7, transmission; G. Eaton (BRM 153/03) on lap 11, engine; J. Miles (Lotus 72B/1) on lap 16, engine; J. Siffert (March 701/5) on lap 20, rear suspension; M. Andretti (March 701/3) on lap 21, rear suspension; J-P. Beltoise (Matra-Simca MS120/03) on lap 24, hub trouble; H Pescarolo (Matra-Simca MS120/01) on lap 42, accident; J. Surtees (Surtees TS7/001) on lap 52, engine; J. Stewart (March 701/4) on lap 53, clutch operation; J. Oliver (BRM 153/04) on lap 55, engine; P. Rodriguez (BRM 153/04) on lap 59, accident; D. Gurney (McLaren M14A/1) on lap 61, engine.

22 Starters — 10 finishers

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