After the race the first eight finishers were scrutineered in a comic-opera fashion typical of the 1976 season of Grand Prix racing. The 80 ems. maximum height from the lowest part of the chassis was in the throes of being changed to 90 ems. to the ground and after a lot of silly time-wasting the Penske was declared illegal because the side-plates of the rear aerofoil were too high at their front end and the Stewards disqualified John Watson from his third place. This is so much official poppycock, because less than 24 hours later the McLaren appeal to the FIA over their disqualification after the Spanish Grand Prix was upheld by a court of inquiry and Hunt was re-instated as the winner of the Spanish Grand Prix and McLaren Racing were re-instated as the winning manufacturers. This decision clearly condones racing with an illegal car, so if you can win with a car that is too wide you can presumably win with an engine of more than 3-litres capacity.
The scrutineers and the stewards of the French Grand Prix were prepared to turn a blind eye to the misdemeanour of the Penske team on the adjustment of their rear aerofoil, and merely give them a reprimand, but one of their “friends” in the Formula One Constructors Association put in an official protest, because it meant that he could claim third place for his car. If the little “entrepreneur’s” team had not protested Peter Warr was going to protest on behalf of Lotus and Alan Rees would have done the same for the Shadow Team if Warr had backed out. Nice friendly lot the Grand Prix teams!
For you and I who enjoy Grand Prix racing (or used to enjoy it and are trying hard to keep the faith), Watson’s drive into third place was one of the highlights of the French Grand Prix, and the Penske team deserved the boost it gave their morale. As far as I am concerned, and Motor Sport and its readers are concerned, John Watson (Penske PC4/01) was third in the 1976 French Grand Prix, just as in the June issue of Motor Sport you will see in the results Chat James Hunt (McLaren M23/)0. was first in the Spanish Grand Prix and Jacque Laffite (Ligier-Matra J55 /01) was twelfth.
I have been campaigning for Formula Libre racing for a long time, it now looks as though the FIA tribunal decision has decided it will he the easiest answer to all the prohlems.—D.S.J.