Fittipaldi wins after Hailwood retires
Silverstone, April 23rd.
In years gone by the Silverstone International Trophy meeting was THE non-championship Formula One event of the season. The entry was often comparable with almost any Grand Prix and Silverstone’s fast circuit provided some fierce and memorable battles. It just isn’t like that any more and this year’s event attracted the smallest field of Formula One cars that the BRDC have ever seen. As last year, the Formula 5000 brigade also got in on the act and bolstered up the field adequately. But, unlike last year, the event was not split into two heats, much to our relief, so everyone understood that when Emerson Fittipaldi crossed the finishing line with his John Player Special Lotus 72: he had won and that was that.
The fact that this year the BRDC and Silverstone chose a date only eight days before the Spanish Grand Prix and two days before the Monza 1,000 km. did not help at all. Thus only ten 3-litre Formula One cars turned up to do battle, most in deference to British Sponsors’ wishes.
Team Lotus, at least, seemed to be taking the race seriously and turned up with two of the John Player Special Lotus 72s. Emerson Fittipaldi had his new car, first seen in Brazil, while Walker had his regular ex-Wisell car. Bruce McLaren Motor Racing showed up with a pair of McLaren M19s for Denny Hulme and Peter Revson and in fact Hulme was giving a brand new chassis a new airing. This was numbered M19C/1 although it only differed over the two previous cars in minor details. Both McLarens were fitted with new drive shafts.
In the week preceding the race, BRM had done some fairly extensive testing with the new rear-radiator P180 but the results were not altogether promising. Thus for Silverstone, Ganley’s entry was scratched and the Marlboro team simply fielded cars for Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Peter Gethin, both in P160s to the latest specification. There was a third similar car but this was being used exclusively for a Gravinar fire extinguisher demonstration.
Team Suttees brought along two of their latest TS9Bs—Mike Hailwood having his regular machine in Brooke Bond Oxo-Rob Walker colours while John Suttees made his first Formula One appearance of the year. He was using Tim Schenken’s regular car. Sehenken himself was at Monza taking part in the 1,000 km., and this carried advertising for Matchbox toys, the Surtees F2 sponsor.
The most interest was undoubtedly provided by Motor Racing Developments who turned up late on Friday night, after practice, with a brand new Brabham—type named the BT37—for Graham Hill to drive. This car is to a design originally conceived by Ron Tauranac before he left the firm and completed by Ralph Bellamy. It bears many similarities, particularly the monocoque chassis, to last year’s BT34 but eschews the use of the split front mounted radiators in favour of a single conventionally mounted front radiator. The suspension breaks no new ground being essentially the same as the BT34. Arriving at Silverstone the car was brand new and totally untested and with only Saturday’s practice session to sort out the car one could hardly expect it to be a race winner.
Finally, completing the sparse line-up, was the Frank Williams team with their March 721 now fitted with the latest nose. Although Carlos Pace was originally scheduled to drive the car it was Henri Pescarolo who took over the task.
As at the Race of Champions there was a round of the Rothmans Formula 5000 Championship on the eve of race day which had a dual purpose in that it also served as an eliminator of the F5000 cars for the main grid. But, just as at Brands Hatch, when it came to it, practically any car in a fit state to run on Sunday did so. Again the F5000s proved to be good value with Graham McRae again coming out the victor after a tough scrap with Brian Redman (still in the old McLaren M1OB) and Gijs van Lennep in the Speed International Surtees TS11. Once McRae’s Leda had found a way round Redman’s wide McLaren, he ran to a convincingly easy victory, lapping within one second of a decent Formula One time. Redman held off van Lennep for second place while fourth was the interesting new March of John Cannon. This was basically a Formula Two chassis with a tuned Rover/Oldsmobile engine fitted in the back. It had qualified fastest in practice for the Nivelles F5000 race a week earlier (its maiden outing) and at Silverstone, where it was expected to be outclassed, it again proved competitive. The car is much lighter than most other F5000s, including the Leda, and certainly seems to handle better and stop quicker than any other although it is down on power at present.
Practice for the International Trophy was on Friday and Saturday, and Fittipaldi showed he was in a class of his own. On Friday he lapped in an impressive 1 min. 18.1 sec. to take pole position, thus equalling the similar times recorded by Regazzoni and Stewart in practice for last year’s British GP and beating the official lap record of 1 min. 19.9 sec. set in the same race by Stewart. On Saturday he had one or two niggling problems but still topped the list at 1 min. 18.5 sec. Altogether, however, the Saturday session was not a happy one for Team Lotus. Walker, bedding in new pads, one new disc and running on a full tank of fuel tried too hard too soon and locked-up under braking for Club Corner early in the session. He was unable to get out of the resultant situation and finished up with the car severely dented against the sleepers although without personal hurt. However, he took no further part in the proceedings.
With only two cars about which to worry the Marlboro-BRM fortunes took a turn for the better and both Gethin and Beltoise put their cars on the front row of the grid with Fittipaldi. Gethin’s best was 1 min. 18.7 sec., Beltoise’s 0.1 sec. slower. Surtees and Revson were on row two with 1 min. 19.2 sec. while, on row three, were Hailwood (1 min. 19.4 sec.), Pescarolo (1 min. 19.7 sec.) and a space where Walker should have been thanks to a promising 1 Min. 20.1 sec. recorded before the accident.
Ninth fastest was McRae with the Leda F5000, 0.1 sec. faster than fellow New Zealander Hulme, who was having the odd sorting out of his new McLaren. Brian Redman was next up at 1 min. 20.6 sec. in the old McLaren, showing he would still be welcome back to Formula One, while Hill lapped the all new Brabham in his very first outing at 1 min. 20.8 sec. Van Lennep„ Rollinson, Cannon and the rest of the F5000 boys made up the grid.
Sunday turned out to be bitterly cold and miserable and in these conditions, it was surprising that even 35,000 spectators turned up at what is often one of the best attended meetings of the year. But at least they had a packed day’s racing to watch with plenty of thrills and spills in the Formula Three and Formula Ford finals. When the flag dropped for the start of the International Trophy meeting, and the 22 cars roared off towards Copse, a little bit of history was made. Two Marlboro-sponsored BRMs took the lead, Beltoise in front of Gethin after a superb tyre smoking start from the outside of the front rank. They were still there at the end of the first lap and also the end of the second but we all asked just how long could it last ? Fittipaldi, in third place, was challenging hard and Hailwood, after an indifferent start, was also hot in pursuit. At the end of lap three Fittipaldi had split the BRMs but the game little Frenchman held him off until lap 7. Immediately he started to pull away and meanwhile Hailwood was now starting to challenge Beltoise. On lap 8 Gethin spun his chances away and never did recover fully, having dropped to tenth place.
By lap 14, Hailwood was right on Fittipaldi’s tail, the former motorcycle champion pleasing the crowds with his somewhat hairy style in the Surtees. But passing the Brazilian was no easy matter and their nose-to-tail battle continued for ten laps until Hailwood slipped inside at Copse. Beltoise was still running third, not having lost very much distance but, nevertheless, had Surtees pressing him quite hard. Hulme was far from happy in fifth place and had Revson in tow, the American seeming as if he felt he should not pass his team leader. McRae was in seventh place enjoying quite a dice with Hill and Gethin. Further back the F5000s of Cannon, Pilette van Lennep and, until he crashed, Allen, were staging an exciting four-car battle. Incidentally Redman, was giving the race a miss, having flown off for practice at Monza.
Hailwood’s lead was somewhat short-lived for, almost, immediately he passed Fittipaldi the car started to smoke slightly. On lap 30 this suddenly became a great trail and Hailwood brought the car into the pits to retire. The cap for the water system, just like a radiator cap, had disintegrated, the centre part holding the relief valve having broken away. Thus the car started to lose water and subsequently overheated with the resultant disaster.
The remaining ten laps saw Fittipaldi run into another non-championship victory although, in the closing stages, Beltoise started to close rapidly and, at the finish, was only 1.8 sec. behind. Into third place a further 9 sec. behind, was John Surtees while much further back were the two Yardley McLarens of Hulme and Revson.
Peter Gethin finished sixth just ahead of Hill while McRae had an excursion onto the grass, three laps from the end, but was still the winner of F5000 class and the last person not lapped. Van Lennep was ninth ahead of Cannon and Pilate with the remaining four F5000 runners dragging their heels somewhat.
After the race it was discovered that Fittipaldi finished with a broken radius rod, exactly the same fault that put him out of the Argentine GP. Some would have you believe that this was the reason that Hailwood was able to pass him although, it seems more likely that the part did not break until the closing three or four laps when Beltoise caught up such a considerable distance. Whatever, it was Hailwood who recorded a new lap record of 1 min. 18.8 sec. while McRae set a new F5000 record at the impressive figure of 1 min. 19.6 sec.
The meeting was very well supported and sponsored by the giant GKN industrial concern who help motor racing in so many ways and particularly the Vandervell section of the group. It was therefore disappointing that the late Mr. Vandcrvell’s son, Colin, retired his Ensign from the F3 final early on while lying second. However the race provided Roger Williamson, now switched from a March to a GRD, with a convincing win and the first major victory for the new Norfolk firm, although the Marches of Jochen Mass and Bob Evans took the next two places at the head of a hectic slipstreaming bunch. Almost a third of the field retired either because of, or resulting from, accidents. The story was much the same in Formula Ford in which works Titan driver Derek Lawrence was in the right place to lead a big slipstreaming bunch across the line on the last and vital lap.
Further fun was provided by another round of the Wiggins Teape Paper Chase saloon car championship. This provided Frank Gardner with an easy win in the older of the two Chevrolet Camaros that the SCA Freight team has, while Brian Muir was second in Wiggins Teape Ford Capri RS. Dave Matthews was third in the Broadspeed Escort RS followed by the usual hoard of Camaros, Escorts, et al.
In the second round of the JCB Historic Car race there was no less than 33 starters and all but four of them finished. They provided a first class spectacle with Willie Green in Anthony Bamford’s Maserati Tipo 61 Birdcage holding off the similar long-tailed Tipo 61 of Hexagon of Highgate by Nick Faure. In the early stages Neil Corner, in his Maserati 250F, passed Green but later dropped back to take fifth place overall but still win the Racing Car category. In the under 2-litre sports car class victory went to Peter van Rosem’s Lotus-Bristol after a spirited dice with Chris Drake’s similar machine. Green and Faure were both credited with a new historic sports car record of 1 min. 46.8 sec. (100.07 m.p.h.). Green now leads the JCB Championship.
Further nostalgia was provided by Stirling Moss who did three demonstration laps in the same Vanwall that Tony Brooks drove last year. Unfortunately Moss’s finher had died the previous day so he did not provide the fireworks that some expected. Nevertheless it was fantastic to see the famous combination again. The International Trophy meeting continues to be one that, on leaving, almost every spectator can say that they had a good day. — A. R. M.
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