Last year the championship was won by Bill Gubelmann, from New York driving a March 722, and he just pipped Britain’s Cyd Williams in a similar car to the post in the last round of the cliff-hanging competition. Thus Williams had to be content with being runner-up for the second year in succession.
STP is to sponsor two major drag racing championships at Santa Pod in 1973. The Championships for the Pro-Stock and Top Street categories are STP’s first involvement with British Drag Racing although they have been part of the American scene for many years.
Steve Sandville, one-time chief Power Train Engineer at Lotus, and now running his own company. Norvie Racing Engines, has announced expansion plans for the firm. His premises at Wymondham, only a stone’s throw from Lotus, are being expanded and a new engine dynamometer is being installed. Joining Sandville as a director is Robert. Ginn, until now Esso’s Regional Manager for Marketing Operations in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Mr. Ginn’s -son Neil is well known in Formula Three circles as the driver of the Y-Front sponsored GRD.
The 1972 Springbok series of sports-car races held in South Africa during November and December resulted in a convincing series victory for Gerry Birrell and his works Chevron B23 2-litre sports car powered by a Brian Hart alloy LIDA engine. The win was convincing on paper at any rate, with four consecutive victories, but the results do not reflect the challenge offered by the brand new March 735-BMW which was making its debut in the series. Frequently the March led or challenged the Chevron but annoying teething troubles always halted its progress.
The opening race in the series was the Rand Daily Mail 9 Hours at Kyalami which always starts the series and has a field consisting of 3-litre and 2-litre sports cars. In fact the only 3-litre cars were two works Ferraris and while Jacky Ickx/Brian Redman retired in the lead after four hours with a damaged engine, team-mates Clay Regazzoni/ Arturo Merzario went on to victory. Second was the No. 1 works Chevron of Birrell and Jochen Mass (thus gaining a class win and maximum Championship points), third was an older Chevron 1321 shared by John Hine and South African F1 Champion Dave Charlton, and, after various problems, the March driven by Jody Seheckter and Niki Lauda was fourth.
The rest of the series was confined to the 2-litre sports cars and saloons. Round two at Cape Town gave Birrell and Mass another win for Chevron but only after Scheckter, driving on his own, put the March on pole position and was leading at half distance until delayed by a broken throttle cable. Chevrons filled the next three places, with Brian Robinson finishing an excellent second ahead of Peter Hanson / Eddie Keizan and John Hine / Dave Charlton who had also led the race until problems intervened.
Round three moved out of South Africa to the neighbouring Mozambique for the Loureneo Marques Three flours. This race featured an exciting battle during which the lead see-sawed between the Birrell/Mass Chevron and the March with Dave Charlton now co-driving with Scheckter. The March had the lead with half an hour to go but then Charlton was put off by an errant backmarker, giving victory to the Chevron with the March second. Third was Peter Collin in the second works Chevron, with the Lola T290-Vega of Guy Edwards/Paddy Driver in fourth place ahead of Brian Robinson.
Round four was the Welkom 3-hours and here Birrell was able to clinch the title, this time with Peter Gethin co-driving as Mass had returned to Germany for a television appearance. Again the March was leading at half-distance but ran into engine trouble, letting the Chevron re-take the lead after a stop for a leaking gearbox had dropped it back. Yorkshire privateer Brian Robinson finished second again ahead of the Edwards/Driver Lola and last year’s Springbok Champion John Love, who shared his Chevron with Birrell who was kept busy jumping from one car to another. The final round was at Natal on December 17th, unfortunately after we went to Press, but before this Birrell was already confirmed as Champion although the March will obviously be the car to watch in the 1973 European 2-litre Championship.—A.R.M.