Evans and Redman win Formula 5000 titles
The world of the 5-litre V8-powered single seaters, Formula 5000, has been dominated this year on both sides of the Atlantic by British drivers and Lola cars. The Rothmans sponsored European Championship was not finally resolved until the very last race at Brands Hatch in October with the title eventually being won by 27-year-old Bob Evans in his McKechnie Wines/Henley Forklift Lola T332.
Although the two contenders for the Championship, Evans and Peter Gethin, started from the front row of the grid, it was Vern Schuppan who dominated the 35 lap race over the 2.65 mile Grand Prix circuit, the Australian driving a third works entered Team VDS Chevron B28. Schuppan took the lead on the first lap as the leaders crowded round Druids hairpin and any potential competition evaporated when Evans’ Lola blew up its engine after just four laps. With Gethin opting for an unsuitable tyre compound, Schuppan pulled steadily away into the distance and comfortably outpaced Ian Ashley’s Lola T300 which finished second.
Gethin managed to finish third ahead of Tom Be!so’s Lola, the similar car driven by Clive Santo and the third Team VDS Chevron driven by Teddy Pilette. Evans watched the remainder of the race from the pits hoping against hope that Ashley wouldn’t break down for, had he done so, it’s virtually certain that the Chevron pit would have signalled Schuppan to concede first place to Gethin. As it was, no such eventuality arose and Schuppan was allowed to score a worthy win, his first in F5000.
A week after Evans clinched his title, Brian Redman made certain that he was winner of the SCCA’s Formula 5000 Championship in North America by finishing a fine second to Mario Andretti’s similar Lola T332 at Riverside, California. Redman’s Jim Hall/Carl Hass entered T332 won three of the seven qualifying races and, whilst Andretti won four, the British driver was a more consistent finisher and thus beat his American rival in the points standings.
Practice at Riverside provided a great surprise for, although Andretti secured pole position, Bobby Unser was second quickest driving one of Dan Gurney’s USAC Eagles powered by a four-cylinder turbocharged Offenhauser motor. Unser, who won this year’s USAC title, jumped straight into the lead when the flag dropped and stayed in front until lap eight when the Eagle’s engine blew up.
This left Andretti in a lead over Redman which he maintained to the finish with promising Australian Warwick Brown making it a Lola 1-2-3 with a fine third place. Vern Schuppan’s Lola and James Hunt’s Eagle had been disputing third place before colliding, but although both continued neither finished in the results. The final points score in the North American series was Redman with 105, Andretti with 97 and David Hobbs with 55.
Frenchman on top
While British drivers were dominating the 5-litre world, October was very much a French month as far as 2-litre racing was concerned. Patrick Depailler, rushing back from the United States GP at Watkins Glen, won the final round of the European F2 Championship at Rome’s Vallelunga circuit to clinch that Championship and thus become the fourth Frenchman to win it since its inception back in 1967.
Depailler dominated both parts of this two-heat race, beating his team-mate Hans Joachim Stuck on aggregate. Third was Jacques Laffite in his BP sponsored March ahead of Patrick Tambay’s Elf Alpine and Tom Pryce’s Chevron. This victory for Depallier means that a March driver has now won the European Championship on three occasions. The first was Peterson’s victory in 1971 and the second was Jarier’s last season.
In the 2-litre Sports Car Championship, the Elf sponsored Alpine-Renault V6 cars completed a grand slam when Jean-Pierre Jabouille won the seventh and final race in the series at Jarama. The fast French cars won all seven rounds to clinch the title and their Alain Serpaggi won the drivers’ title with 85 points. The measure of their success can be gauged by the fact that Gerard Larrousse finished second with 75 points and Jabouille third with 73 points. However, yet another FIA scoring system could be argued as showing itself to be rather deficient when one considers Serpaggi, the champion, to have taken one victory while both Larrousse and Jabouille won three each!
RAC Saloon Final
The Castrol Anniversary Saloon Car Championship finished with a bang, literally, at Brands Hatch during the same meeting at which Evans secured his F5000 title. While Stuart Graham, the former motorcyclist and son of the late Les Graham, won the race outright in his Chevrolet Camaro, considerable mechanical carnage was taking place in his wake. In the smaller classes, Andy Rouse needed to win at the wheel of his Triumph Dolomite Sprint to retain a chance of beating Bernard Unett to the drivers’ title, but he spun at Druids and left victory in the 1,601-to-2,500 c.c. class to Barrie Williams’ Mazda. One lap later Rouse repeated his indiscretion and couldn’t restart. Hardly had the dust settled from this incident than a multiple collision between Bernard Unett’s Avenger, Jenny Birrell’s similar car and Tim Stock’s Vauxhall Magnum triggered off a mass pile-up round at Hawthorns which resulted in the chequered flag being waved two laps early. With neither Unett or Rouse finishing, the former won the drivers’ title while Tony Dron’s fifth place in the Broadspeed Dolomite, second in class behind Williams, was sufficient to ensure that Triumph became the winning make.
Stuart Graham just won the race, just as he won the Tourist Trophy and more outright Group I victories than anyone else this year — all he got was a class victory for his efforts!
Volkswagen wins Rallycross title
One hardly associates the familiar old Volkswagen Beetle with competition these days even though Motor Sport’s Editor was an avowed enthusiast ten years or so ago and they amassed a worthy record on international rallies. But 27-year-old Austrian Franz Wurz recently became European Rallycross Champion at the wheel of a “Beetle”, admittedly one fitted with a 2.4 Porsche motor! The final round of this Embassy sponsored championship took place at Lydden Hill in early November, and although the title was won by Wurz, his claim to fame in that particular round was rolling the VW onto its roof. Impressive winner of the final round turned out to be Tom Airey, whose 1.4 Mini Cooper proved ideally suited to the slippery conditions and beat Dick Reifel’s Porsche and the accomplished Bjorn Waldegard (Porsche 911S) into second and third places. Eventual runner-up in the Championship was Waldegard who scored 245 points, ten less than Wurz, while the 1.8 Saabs of Stig Blomqvist and Per Eklund finished third and fourth in the points table.
E-types almost make it
The name of Jaguar doesn’t crop up very frequently in competition either these days outside club modified sports cars and historic sports car events, but British Leyland show a keen interest in the competition application of the 5.4-litre V12 model in the United States. In consequence it may be of interest to those of our many readers who recall the halcyon days of the mid-1950s to record their success in North America.
Sponsored by British Leyland, Lee Mueller and Bob Tullius completely dominated their divisions in the Sports Car Club of America’s Pacific division, regularly beating Chevrolet Corvette Stingrays in so doing. Every year, despite the regional results, the national titles in the various SCCA categories are decided at a national championship final held at Road Atlanta. This year’s took place last month and it is disappointing to report that, having started first and second quickest in their race, the two BL E-types ran into trouble. Mueller retired when a tyre deflated and Tullius found himself overwhelmed by a local Corvette on the very last lap and lost the title by eight-tenths of a second. Nevertheless, it’s good to know that this excellent British car, which owes so much of its ancestry to the famous Le Mans winning D-type, is still making its mark in the road-racing world.—A.H.