You Were There Brands Hatch British GP special

It might be glitz and glamour at the British Grand Prix today, but back in the early 1970s Brands Hatch gave a young camera-wielding enthusiast close access to F1 stars and their cars



1973 Race of Champions: Peter Gethin in thoughtful mood beside his factory-run Chevron B24 on a remarkable weekend, when he won the supporting F5000 round and took outright victory in the main race, the only time an F5000 car would win a combined F1/F5000 event


The factory-run Surtees TS9B of motorcycle convert Mike Hailwood at the Race of Champions, who dovetailed a full season of F1 with a successful tilt at the European F2 title at the wheel of a TS10


The March 721X (X for ‘experimental’) made its debut at the Race of Champions. Innovations included rear suspension incorporating high-mounted springs and a gearbox between the engine and rear axle. The idea was to optimise weight distribution, but the car proved a flop


Ferrari entered a brace of 312 B2s in the British Grand Prix for Jacky Ickx, who qualified on pole, and Arturo Merzario. Failing oil pressure forced Ickx to retire


Although he had scored some decent F2 results, Niki Lauda’s full potential was not yet appreciated. He finished ninth in the F1 race


Matra had filtered its entry down to one car by 1972, its last season in the world championship as a full constructor. Chris Amon took his MS120C to fourth


BRM team manager Tim Parnell chats to drivers Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Howden Ganley at the Race of Champions. They would finish 6-7 respectively

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.


Tecno mechanics wrestle with the cumbersome flat-12 that powered the PA123 chassis at the F1 GP. Engine changes were something to which they were well accustomed


There were three F1 races at Brands Hatch in 1972 – and Emerson Fittipaldi backed up his Race of Champions (psychedelic poster, below) success in March by winning the British Grand Prix


Its bodywork was reworked at the behest of caravan-manufacturing team owner Eifelland, but it was a March beneath the surface


After an incredible 1971, when he won the Euro F2 title and took second in the F1 World Championship, Ronnie Peterson’s fortunes faded in the March 721


Alan Rollinson raced McKechnie Racing’s Lola T300 twice over the weekend, finishing third in Saturday’s Rothmans F5000 round and ninth overall (but first in class) in Sunday’s combined F1/F5000 Race of Champions


Built in a small Essex garage, Peter Connew’s short-lived F1 project was one of the most romantic – and remarkable – F1 stories of the 1970s