IT WAS HARD TO ENVISAGE A DAY WHEN Brands Hatch might ever be scratched from the Formula 1 schedule. In 1972 it was the Kent circuit’s turn to host the British Grand Prix, a job it shared with Silverstone from 1964 until its final such race 22 years later, plus there were two non-championship events – the Race of Champions in March and the World Championship Victory Race in late October.
In addition, there was the Rothmans 50,000, a madcap Formule Libre race that attracted 58 entries, everything from factory F1 teams to Formula Atlantic drivers via assorted sports cars (the £50,000 prize fund probably helped). It was one of four opportunities to see that season’s world champion Emerson Fittipaldi in action at Brands Hatch – and he scored three wins.
The shots here are from the first two of those four events, plus a solitary interloper from 1973, captured by 19-year-old racing fan Geoff Mitchell.
Mitchell was working at the time at the British Aircraft Corporation at Brooklands as a technical illustrator (he remembers Barnes Wallis arriving at 10am every morning and parking his dove-grey Morris 1100 between two display bombs outside the clubhouse) and would drive down to Brands with friends and girlfriends for a weekend of camping and racing.
“I just wandered around meeting people and taking pictures,” he remembers.
“Everything was so open. You paid extra to get into the paddock but there were no motor homes like today. I always remember the Ferrari team getting the trestle tables out and a bottle of Chianti, and the drivers – Jacky Ickx and Arturo Merzario – sitting down with the mechanics. Didn’t matter if the engine needed changing. Lunch came first!”
Different times, all while Slade, T Rex and others battled for the No1 slot in the UK’s official Top 40: the world’s axis has shifted slightly over the past half-century.