The John Player Victory Meeting

(Brands Hatch, October 22nd)

In order to celebrate the victory of their car and driver in the 1972 World Championship the John Player cigarette firm sponsored a mixed meeting at Brands Hatch, organised by the BARC. Emerson Fittipaldi, the 1972 World Champion, drove a few laps of the club circuit in one of the black and gold Lotus 72 cars (R7), and then another one (R5) was paraded round the circuit on a trailer, together with mobile advertising displays from many of the people who have helped Lotus to win the Contractors’ Championship, not the least being the John Player tobacco firm who are the financial backers of Team Lotus, and in whose colours the team have appeared all this year. Presentations of plaques from the circuit owners were made by “Great Britain’s own racing driver” Graham Hill (who better to do the job ?) and then racing commenced, or rather, continued, for it had actually begun two days before, with Formula Three heats on Friday as well as practice, and a Formula Atlantic race and a Formula 5000 race on Saturday.

Friday and Saturday had been very sharp and clear and some incredible lap times had been recorded by the BARC time-keepers. The track was perfectly dry, the sun shone and the air temperature was very low so that engines were breathing well, tyres were gripping well and the drivers were confident and Fittipaldi took 72D/R7 round in a remarkable 1 min. 20.8 sec. on Saturday afternoon, the record for the circuit standing at 1 min. 23.8 sec. This performance ties in with the laps he did at just over 1 min. 21 sec. back in July when practising for the British Grand Prix, but which the timekeepers did not admit to, giving him a best of only 1 min. 22.6 sec. This performance put the young Brazilian in a class of his own and made the race look like a foregone conclusion for next fastest was Peterson (March 721G/3) with 1 min. 21.4 sec. This final Formula One race of the 1972 season saw a number of interesting happenings, such as Peterson having his last drive for March before he joins the Lotus team, and Carlos Pace having a drive in a Surtees (TS9B/006) as a prelude to next year. It was no surprise to see Pace making equal fourth fastest practice time, with his new team-mate Hailwood (Surtees TS9B/005). The South African Scheckter was going well in a “works” McLaren (M19A/1) and Redman was in the second Colnbrook “works” car (M19C/2), going well until he caught his foot in the accelerator pedal and crashed wildly on Saturday afternoon. The BRM team were surrounded by their usual “cloak and dagger” dis-organisation which resulted in Ganley not driving, Schuppan being brought in to replace him and Gethin changing cars between the first and second practice. Meanwhile Beltoise was getting on well with the new BRM P180/02. As a “one-off deal” Amon was trying to drive the Frank Williams Politoys FX3/1, and David Purley had hired the Connew PC1/002, with about as much satisfaction. On Friday a brand new March had appeared (721G/5) having been bought by Daniel Rouveyran for hill-climbs, and Migault was down to drive it, but he only completed a lap and a half before he crashed and bent it badly. The reason for this strange accident varied from tyre trouble to broken steering! An interesting new combination was Ulsterman John Watson driving the ex-Eifelland March 721/4, rebodied to look like a 1972 March, and the way Watson was going showed that there hasn’t really been anything wrong with the car all season. A number of F5000 entries were allowed into the race to make up the numbers, and McRae (McRae GM1) was well amongst the Formula One cars, the rest being well back.

The racing on Sunday began with the Formula Three final, run on a very slippery track, for the skies were overcast and drizzling rain, and after just about everyone had spun or gone sideways somewhere, Frenchman Jacques Coulon won with a Martini-Holbay Ford, from Roger Williamson (GRD 372) and Michel Leclerc (Alpine-Renault). The track was still very damp when the seventeen Formula One cars and eleven Formula 5000 cars came out to the start. The Connew expired on the “warm-up” lap, and everyone was gambling on the weather and choosing, right or wrong, “wet-weather” tyres, “dry slicks” or “intermediate” tyres. As a race to fit in the form book the 40-lap event was a bit of a farce, but as an unpredictable motor race it was most interesting and prompted the thought that we ought to have more such “handicap” races. What should have been a Fittipaldi benefit race turned out to be a Fittipaldi disaster race, for Chapman put the Lotus on “wet” tyres, as did Surtees with Hailwood’s car, March with Peterson’s car, and many others, though Parnell put the BRM P180 on “intermediates”. Peterson rushed off into the lead, followed by Hailwood and Fittipaldi and Beltoise lay fifth. Instead of the track getting more slippery with more rain, or even staying constant it dried out, aided by a wind, and all the front runners who were on “wet” tyres just had to give up the unequal struggle and make pit stops to change to dry-track tyres, which left Beltoise and BRM laughing, for in a 40-lap race even the World Champion was never going to make up the time lost at the pits, in spite of equalling the lap record.

Thus it was, the P180 BRM notched up its first victory, to the joy of a great many people, while Fittipaldi tried hard to make up time, but was finally put out of the race when his Cosworth V8 suffered an internal derangement which caused it to lose water, overheat and then lose oil pressure. Having led for 13 laps Peterson had to give best to the BRM, and after his stop at 23 laps he was never in the picture again. Hailwood suffered similarly, and Pace, the new Surtees recruit, saved the day with a first-class drive into second place, followed by de Adamich, for whom everything was going right for once, or to be more exact, everything was going wrong for the opposition, from which he profited. Happiest man of the race must surely have been John Watson with his new Formula One venture, for he was as high as third at one point, and gave Reutemann (Brabham BT37/2) a run for his money for a time. As the March was on “wet” tyres he was handicapped later in the race, not stopping to change, and finished a worthy sixth. Schuppan and Gethin worked their way up the field to finish fourth and fifth, making it a happy day for BRM. Of the F5000 contingent, McRae’s engine was tired, after a gruelling 50 laps of the Club circuit the day before, finishing second to Redman in the Chevron B24, but the Bolton-built car covered itself with glory for after the F5000 race Holland bought the car, started from the back of the grid on Sunday and stormed through the field to win the F5000 section and finish eleventh overall. — D. S. J.

Brands Burbles

The cigarette sponsors are now quits. John Player won the trophy at the Marlboro-sponsored race at Vallelunga, earlier in the season, and Marlboro won the trophy at this John Player-sponsored race.

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There was the usual saloon-car dice, for the Wiggins Teape Paper-chase Championship, in which their driver Brian Muir did the chasing, finishing second to Frank Gardner’s Chevrolet Camaro, with his Ford Capri.

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In a world of its own, Formula Ford had its World Final at this meeting, with entries from eighteen countries as widely spaced as Australia and Canada. Winner was Johnny Gerber from Mexico.

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It was encouraging to hear Colin Chapman say in his speech over the public address that seasons like the 1972 one will make him and Team Lotus stay in racing for ever.

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It was good to see Jack Brabham making a demonstration run in the new F2 Rondel-Motul, driving bareheaded and without goggles.

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Unbiased: It was nice to see Ken Tyrrell in the paddock wearing a John Player Team Lotus World Champions “decal” on his coat. There was no sign of his drivers, but Schenken, Bell, Ganley and others were watching the racing with interest.