July 1979, the first corner at Enna, Sicily: my life as a freelance reporter covering the European Formula 2 Championship was about to take a different turn – much like title contender Brian Henton’s Ralt RT2.
Anticipating the chaos that normally ensued at the Vivalo corner at the start of a race, we’d made our way there to witness the inevitable fun and games. Beforehand, Henton had voiced concerns about those around him crashing into each other and, with a victory putting him into a strong position to win the European title, he had one eye on the escape road in an effort to steer clear of the melée.
Henton’s fears proved to be right. He got pole position but was allowed to choose the opposite side of the track to start, thereby giving Beppe Gabbiani in one of the works March 792s the better track position for the first corner, which was a tight left then right combination. Brian was convinced that by having Beppe on the dirty inside line he’d lock up on the dust and grit and “have an accident”. But it didn’t work out like that. Brian made a good start and moved over to the racing line, and yet Beppe still came barrelling up on the inside, locked up and slewed sideways across Henton’s path. Brian had little option but to take the escape road as the customary Enna first-corner chaos ensued.