I thoroughly enjoyed the John Watson article by Adam Cooper on John’s great drive at Dijon in 1977. The combination of the Ulsterman, the beautiful Brabham BT45 and its screaming flat-12 Alfa made you want it to succeed.
I was at Dijon, watching at the downhill lefthander onto the new loop, and the last-lap drama reminded me of the first grand prix I saw at Brands Hatch in 1970. Sir Jack Brabham would have known how Watson was feeling at the end — Colin Chapman might have managed a wry grin too, as Lotus drivers benefited from the Brabham team’s bad luck on both occasions. At least in ’77 Mario’s rear wing was legal. Wasn’t it?
I hitched to the Dijon grand prix from Reims, where I was a student at the time. The ticket booth only sold day passes but, once inside, no-one threw you out, and I slept inside a Marlboro cigarette booth. In the evenings, cheerful circuit workers in pick-up trucks would round us up to ensure we bought tickets for the next day.
With thousands of others, I sat on the high bank overlooking the new loop. By the fence, at the bottom of the slope, was a large British contingent who stood up as the cars came out on their warmup lap. “Assist’ screamed the crowd whose view was now blocked and, when there was no reaction from les anglais, a shower of cans and unwanted fruit rained down on them.
Active spectator participation was not limited to the warm-up either. Local hero Jacques Laffite was going well in the Ligier until he came up behind Watson’s team-mate Hans Stuck, the German way behind after a pitstop. For lap after lap, Stuck blocked the Frenchman, ignoring the blue flags, until they eventually took each other off at the hairpin. The home crowd was furious, and as Stuck made his way to the pits on foot, any sandwiches and rubbish not thrown at English spectators were hurled instead at the lanky German!
I AM, YOURS ETC,
John Winfield, Orston, Notts
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