Around and about: comment on the racing and club scene, March 1972

Formula Three prospects
The 1,600-c.c. Formula Three is now entering its second year and, just as last season, the most prestigious of the three British Championships will be that sponsored by our friends Shell Super Oil and with the Motor Sport Trophy as the prize for the winner. As is recent history last year’s victor Dave Walker has moved up to Formula One and this season there will be some frantic battles amongst those hoping to emulate Walker’s fine record.

There are bound to be many new cars taking part and it is amazing just how many manufacturers have followed the lead, set by Ensign this time last year, and switched to side radiators. Undoubtedly the most exciting new car is the Lotus 73 model which replaces the faithful space-frame Lotus 69 which served Dave Walker so well. The 73 was originally designed by Colin Chapman and Maurice Phillipe to be the 1971 Lotus Formula Two car but was never built. Now it has been completed in Formula Three trim and although, at the time of writing, it has not been officially unveiled some details are known. It is a very small and compact monocoque car with coil spring suspension but with all four brakes mounted inboard as on the Grand Prix Lotus 72. The body will probably resemble its bigger brother and will have side-mounted radiators. The team will be called John Player-Team Lotus and will run two cars, one for Tony Trimmer, and the other for FF British Champion Bernard Vermillio. Trimmer, you may remember, won the Motor Sport Championship in 1970 but last season spent the year in the wilderness driving the odd Formula 5000 and even had two F1 races. Now he has decided to step back into F3 and will obviously be one of the front runners wherever he goes. Lotus will not be building replicas for sale.

Last year Brabham continued their successful space-frame line with the BT35 which was directly descended from the previous year’s BT28. It did not prove nearly as successful as earlier models and works assisted driver Colin Vandervell was never very enthusiastic. This year Brabham designer Ron Tauranac has pencilled a completely new monocoque car with side radiators which could well restore the Weybridge firm’s reputation in this class. It is known as the BT38 and Brabham have a very full order book for the car. Tony Brise who, in his first year of racing, made a tremendous impression in Formula Ford in 1971 will run as the works-backed driver and has already shown that he can handle a Formula Three car. Amongst the other Brabham drivers are Peter Hull and Alan Jones who were rising names last year so should be front-runners this year.

March Engineering really came good in their second year as Formula Three manufacturers and they intend to stay on top. The latest car, the 723, is undoubtedly the most tested and developed F3 and many of the deliveries have already been completed. At the STP press conference back in December it was stated that there would be an STP works March F3 but nothing has been heard since. However, their last year’s driver, the unlucky James Hunt, will probably pick up that spot while works assistance is being given to Roger Williamson who had such a fantastic first year in the category. He will be backed again by Tom Wheatcroft and most people would reckon him to be joint favourite, along with Trimmer, for the Championship. March have plenty of promise amongst the customers including Russell Wood, who finished third to Vermillio and Brise in the BOC FF Championship last season.

Morris Nunn’s Ensign firm have certainly cashed in on the success of last season and have a very heavy order book for their sleek cars. Basically the model remains more or less unchanged from last season’s trend-setting car apart from revised suspension geometry. Nunn says that his is the one firm specialising in Formula Three and thus, he says, he provides a better service. He will run a strong works team of two cars plus an independent but works assisted machine as well. In the number one works car will be former Formula 5000 driver Mike Walker who took over the drive in the middle of last year when Bev Bond left. Walker was a top man in F3 back in 1968 and is all out to show he can still head the pack. His number two will be Ricky von Opel, a wealthy New York-born great-grandson of Adam Opel, who promised well in a private Lotus last season. Also in an Ensign with works assistance will be Colin Vandervell, the former Grovewood Award winner, who is hoping for a bigger share of the victories this year. He will, undoubtedly, be a front runner. Amongst the other Ensign owners will be yet another of the top Formula Ford drivers, Jeremy Gambs.

The GRD firm, which was spawned from the closure of Lotus Racing, seems to have collected a good share of the Formula Three business although many of their customers seem to be unknown Swiss drivers—they must have a good agent out there! However, there are names amongst the GRD recruits and a works car will be run for Andy Sutcliffe who gave the marque their debut late last season. Two more cars will be run with works assistance, one for Mo Harness who won the Johnson Euro Trophy (European FF Championship) last year and another for Pierre Francois Rousselot, who is considered to be one of France’s most promising drivers. It will be interesting to see if GRD can become a successful part of the establishment as quickly as March or Ensign.

Some of the smaller firms will be fielding Formula Three cars as well. Royale, who look to Formula Super Vee for much of their trade, will run a works F3 for F100 Champion Tom Pryce and there will be a customer car for Val Musetti, who is another FF driver and a man with an interesting and appropriate job—he is a film stunt man. With so many 2-litre sports cars to build, Chevron have rather slipped out of the single-seater market but hope to make something of a comeback in 1972. They will be running a Formula Two car for Peter Gethin and will field a similar B20 F3 for the experienced Chris Skeaping, who deserves this break after struggling with uncompetitive machinery for so long. As mentioned last month, the little Elden outfit hope to run a car to be driven by Mike Catlow. Last season Merlyn scored considerable success with Jody Scheckter driving but now that he has moved up to Formula Two as a works McLaren driver, a replacement will have to be announced.

Over in France the works Alpine-Renault team will again be active but the two works drivers Patrick Depailler and Jean-Pierre Jabouille will move on to full-time Formula Two making way for Michel LeClerc and Alain Serpaggi who, in 1971, were the top two names in Formula France. It is hoped that the Alpines will come over to Britain and contest some rounds of the Championship just as they did last year.

Apart from those already mentioned there are bound to be plenty of other competitors in the rounds of the Championship and it could well be that from their ranks will spring another new name with champion potential just as Roger Williamson did last year.

The regulations for Formula Three remain almost the same as last year with the cars being powered by 1600-c.c. engines (mainly Ford twin-cam based) with an inlet restrictor of 21.5 mm. Holbay, Vegantune and Novamotor will have the lion’s share of the engine preparation market while Broadspeed may also move in as well. One change has been on tyre width size with a very sensible maximum being imposed for the first time. This will limit drivers to 8 in. front and 10 in. rear wheels and generally narrower tyres than they ran last season. It should produce more exciting cornering from the racers and make them rather harder to drive.

There are, at present, 14 rounds of the championship on the schedule and the possibility of a further two being added. The dates are as follows:

March 19th, Brands Hatch Race of Champions meeting; March 31st, Oulton Park F2 meeting; April 3rd; Bank Holiday Mallory Park; April 9th, Le Mans; April 22nd, Silverstone International Trophy meeting; April 30th, Zandvoort; May 13th, Monaco; May 29th, Bank Holiday Mallory Park; July 1st, Paul Ricard; July 14th, Brands Hatch GP practice day; September 16th, Oulton Park Gold Cup meeting; October 1st, Mallory Park; October 8th, Snetterton; October 29th, Motor Show Brands Hatch.

The two possibles are at Anderstorp in Sweden probably in August and at Ingliston in Scotland on October 15th while the Paul Ricard date only stands if the French Grand Prix moves from Clermont-Ferrand to Ricard of which there is, apparently, some possibility.

A British racing champion
An idea devised by John Webb of Motor Circuit Developments will be used to determine, for the first time in 1972, a British Racing Champion. This was announced last month at a function to award the prizes for the Tarmac Formula F100 Championship. This category of racing is to be discontinued in 1972 and so Tarmac, the road building and engineering firm, will back the new scheme with a prize at the end of the year of £2,000.

The thirty most important meetings of the year in Britain have been selected as qualifying rounds and every race at that meeting counts. The points will be 9-6-4-3-2-1 plus 2 pts. for Fastest Lap awarded to the first six in the overall placings of each event but only if that particular driver holds a British or Commonwealth passport. Various categories are included from Formula One to Saloon cars and the champion could come from any one of these. Looking through the list we calculate that if the competition had been run last year Dave Walker would have been the winner and it looks probable that an F3 driver could win again, although a saloon car driver who wins regularly in Group 2 is another with a chance. In fact the competition looks very open but we are glad that we haven’t been entrusted with the task of keeping the score!

• We have received a flood of enquiries regarding the Porsche 917 paper mentioned briefly by D.S.J. in last month’s issue. The paper on the development of the model was by Hans Mezger, Chief Engineer, Racing Car Design, Porsche. and is available from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 1 Birdcage Walk, London SW1H 9JJ at price 50P, Quote—Proceedings 1972 Volume 186 2/72.

• Formula One, Two and Sports Car entrants all have their own associations run by Andrew Ferguson and now the 2-litre Sports car people have joined together to form yet another association but with the Motor Racing Consultants firm being in charge of administration. Already the association seems to have come up with a better deal for its members for, at a recent meeting in Paris at the FIA, a scale of starting and prize money was agreed for the European 2-litre Sports Car Championship.

• Readers visiting Scandinavia will be interested to learn of a Racing Car Show to be held at Stockholm from March 11th-19th and in Goteborg from March 28th-April 3rd. Later in April there will be shows in Helsinki and Oslo and all four exhibitions are organised in association with the International Racing Show Association.

• We recently enjoyed an excellent new film about John Surtees and his organisation called “Big John” which has been made for the Firestone Tyre and Rubber Company by Tony Maylan of Cygnet Films. The film which runs for 20 min. and is in 16 mm, with an optional sound track is available on free loan from Firestone at Great West Road, Brentford, Middlesex. Maylan has also just completed a film called Andretti & Friends which is scheduled to be transmitted on the ITV network in the near future.

• Scuderia Hanseat will again be running two of their International Sports Drivers’ Courses on the Nurburgring this year, one in the Spring from May 3rd-6th and another in the Autumn from September 6th-9th. Special groups will be formed for English speaking participants and the complete price including hotel accommodation and meals will be DM445. For further details contact the Scuderia at 2 Hamburg 50, Kieler Strasse 20, Germany.

• The 10 race British Saloon Car Championship is to be known as the Wiggins Teape Paperchase ’72 during the coming season and permanent numbers will be issued to all the drivers. Thus, anyone wishing to take part in any of the rounds should register with the RAC immediately.

• The Jim Clark Foundation has announced a second set of finding regarding racing drivers’ overalls. They say that in the past twelve months there has been an “incredible improvement” in the fire resistant qualities of these garments. The report recommends overalls from Racemark Performance Products, an American firm run by racing driver Mark Donohue and also the International Wool Secretariat’s TT Wool overalls which are marketed by Les Leston. Also recommended are overalls of Nomex with a Kynol quilting inside but a manufacturer is not named.

• Production Car Trialling is a branch of motoring sport that does not receive very much publicity. Nevertheless the RAC’s Championship this year is to be sponsored by Duckhams Oils who recently also announced that they would be backing Team Surtees in Formula One during 1972. They say they like to help sport at both club and international levels.—A. R. M.