Since Jody Scheckter’s appearance in the Race of Champions in March very little has been seen of the fast-rising South African star on the European scene. In fact he has not raced in Formula One since then. But Scheckter has been far from idle over the past two months. At the start of the season McLaren Racing told him that they were committed to running F1 cars for Denny Huline and Peter Revson and would only be able to run a third car occasionally.
Scheckter was naturally keen to move into Formula One full-time and seriously considered an offer from March Engineering Ltd. which would have meant a split with McLaren —hardly a wise move. Fortunately while all this negotiating was going on he received offers to drive a works Ford of Cologne Capri in selected races, a Formula Two Motu! Rondel and then Sid Taylor came up with an offer for Jody to race one of the new Trojan T101-Chevrolets in the rich American L & M series. This particular deal fitted in very well with McLaren for, while Trojan have split with the McLaren firm as regards manufacturing agreements, relations continued to be cordial.
The Trojan T101 certainly bore similarities to the McLaren M21 Formula Two raced by Scheckter last year, so everything fitted in very well. Furthermore, Sid Taylor runs a very professional operation and in the past has run works backed cars for McLaren Racing in Formula 5000.
After a couple of less than successful preliminary outings in Britain, the car which is powered by the very latest Alan Smith of Derby fuel-injected Chevrolet—giving around 500 b.h.p.—was shipped to America for the opening round of the series at Riverside, California. Several days’ intensive testing followed so that by the time practice for the race came round Scheckter was much happier with the car. The result was a second place behind Brian Redman, who was driving a Lola T330-Chevrolet, run by Carl Haas, the Lola importer and his new found partner, Jim Hall of Chaparral fame.
Since Riverside there have been three further rounds of the nine race series (at the time of writing) and every one has been won by Scheckter in a very impressive manner. At round two at Laguna Seca, the beautifully situated track on California’s Monterey Peninsula, his victory was the first win for Trojan as a manufacturer in their own right. Round three was held at the huge Michigan International Speedway facility near Detroit and this time Scheckter really dominated the race. He was fastest in practice, led the heat from start to finish, and did the same in the final. The only real challenge came from David Hobbs in one of Carl Hogan’s two Lola T330-Chevrolets but he retired in the final. The other Hogan Lola was being driven by Brett Lunger, who unfortunately crashed, although he is undoubtedly one of the men most likely to otfer Scheckter a challenge.
Round four at Mid-Ohio was held at the beginning of last month and provided the South African with yet another win although this one was harder fought. After missing the two previous rounds due to Ferrari sports car commitments Brian Redman returned to the fray with the Haas/Hall Lola which Derek Bell drove to second place at MIS. And it was Redman who provided the main challenge to Scheckter, although Lunger was right in there as well. The race has been described as the most exciting ever held in the five-year history of the series, for the three had a fantastic dice. Lunger unfortunately understeered off into a barrier, leaving Scheckter and Redman to scrap it out. The pair collided on the last lap but both continued to the finish with the Trojan’s nose just in front. But Redman got the fastest lap which equalled the outright record set in the Can-Am last year.
Finishing third, somewhat eclipsed by this battle, was Mark Donohue in Roger Penske’s Lola T330 powered by an American Motors engine, rather than the usual Chevrolet. This was the car’s debut as the Penske team’s F5000 programme was delayed after a disastrous fire destroyed their original car. Roger Penske does not like being beaten and they will surely be looking for ways of gaining more power from the AMC engine before the next round.
Although Peter Gethin won the Race of Champions in Britain with the Marathon Oils Chevron B24 and was expected to be a leading contender in the series, various problems have thwarted his efforts so far and at Mid-Ohio he had a serious bout of ‘flu and had to retire from the race. March Engineering Ltd. are also fielding a car being driven by Skip Barber and entered by Gene Mason Racing. So far the project has been far from successful despite March’s development engineer spending several weeks in the States. In fact the latest story is that March would like Derek Bell to drive rather than Barber who is contracted to Mason.
Undoubtedly 1973 is the best year ever for Formula 5000 (in the British Rothmans Championship there have been seven different winners in seven races). For Scheckter the L & M series is providing valuable experience of powerful cars—his next Grand Prix will be at Silverstone where he is bound io be a leading contender.
At last—the Ensign F1
Our recent Grand Prix reports have made reference to the non-appearance of the Ensign Formula One to be raced by the ambitious American born driver Rikki von Opel. Early last month the little Walsall team finally completed the car way behind schedule, but still only seven months after the first drawings were complete, and testing commenced at Silverstone.
As can be seen from the photograph the end result is a very professional job although no one expected anything else from Ensign constructor Morris Nunn, who has been responsible for the design and build of the car. Nevertheless there is a very big gap between Formula Three, for which Nunn’s cars have been leading contenders for two seasons now, and Formula One. It remains to be seen how the car performs on a circuit in company with other Grand Prix cars.
Obviously von Opel has got a good deal to learn about controlling Formula One power. His previous experience is confined to Formula Ford and Formula Three. Last year he was undoubtedly one of the faster and safer F3 men and he won the club Lombard Championship in an Ensign. But since then he had not sat in a racing car until the Silverstone test day. Von Opel is the grandson of Adam Opel and, as such, came into a sizeable fortune so he has been able to finance Nunn adequately in this project. A second car, which will be used as a spare and for testing, has already been built and a third will be completed by the end of the season.
A technical run-down on the Ensign MNO1 shows that it is fairly conventional with front radiator and outboard wishbone and link suspension. The bodywork was designed in association with Specialised Mouldings at their wind tunnel in Huntingdon. SM boss Peter Jackson is delighted with the end result. One feature which makes the car instantly recognisable is the fared-in side plates to the rear wing which extend all the way back from the rear body section.
The car is scheduled to make its Grand Prix debut at the French Grand Prix—we will watch its progress with interest. Incidentally it is painted British Racing Green.
• The final entry list for the Avon Motor Tour of Britain contained no fewer than 100 acceptances. So great was the demand that the figure was upped from the original plan of 80 starters. Our article last month listed some of the top names but latest entries include Chris Craft, Bill McGovern and many other top saloon car names. Ford announced that their four crews on the event would be Roger Clark/Tony Mason, Dave Matthews/Charles Reynolds, and Nigel Clarkson/Prince Michael of Kent in Capri 3000s plus Grand Prix driver Vern Schuppan/Ed McDonough in a Consul GT. Latest news is that the start will now be from the centre of Bath rather than the Avon factory on Friday, July 6th. Our Midland readers will be able to see the cars in Birmingham on Saturday evening.
• Peter Connew’s brave, but sadly under-financed Formula One effort, is not completely dead. Since the car made its only Grand Prix appearance in the hands of Francois Migault in Austria last year it has been convened to a Formula 5000. A Chevrolet engine is being used and Connew’s ingenious inboard rear suspension has been replaced by an outboard system. The car should race in this new form within the next few weeks but a driver has yet to be named.