RACE OF CHAMPIONS
A Dramatic Finish
BRANDS HATCH, March 22nd
AN unfortunate clashing of dates with the Sebring 12-hour race robbed the Race of Champions of such drivers as Siffert, Andretti, Servoz-Gavin, Rodriguez, Courage, Pescarolo and Stommelen, so that the BRSCC were hard put to assemble a strong field, and two practice accidents reduced the starters to 12. Most of the of the cars had only just arrived back from South Africa so there was only time for hasty preparation and any faults that had shown up at Kylami could not be rectified properly. In spite of the difficulties the entry was very competitive and an enormous crowd poured into the Kentish stadium in spring sunshine on the Sunday morning of race day. Their appetites were whetted by a Formula Ford race which saw a great battle between newcomer Vandervell (Merlyn), son of Tony Vandervell, who pioneered Britain's supremacy in Grand Prix racing, and the experienced Formula Three driver, Trimmer (Lola), victory going to the former after a race-long battle, with the Lola driver going off the track on the last lap. This was followed by part one of a saloon car event which was dominated by Gardner in a Ford-sponsored Boss Mustang of fearsome demeanour. The second part followed the Formula One race and the Mustang broke its shock-absorber mountings and let Craft win with a 1,600 c.c. Broadspeed Escort.
The Formula One practice had begun on Friday afternoon, when the Evening News, who sponsored the meeting with the Daily Mail, gave 100 bottles of Champagne to the driver making fastest practice lap during the afternoon. Although Oliver set the pace in the 1970 BRM, wearing its new Yardley-perfume colours for the first time since the £50,000 advertising tie-up, it was Brabham who collected the bottles with his South African GP winning car, though he would probably have preferred the money. His lap time was 1 min. 26.0 sec., which improved on the existing record held by Rindt at 1 min. 26.8 sec., but most people were slower than last year's record, which puzzled the designers of the new cars, new engines and new tyres. Some of this was put down to the circuit deteriorating and becoming bumpy, while a brand-new section of resurfacing on the main straight by the pits was too new and shiny and in consequence was slippery. On Saturday morning practice continued and disaster struck, for Bell crashed Wheatcroft's Brabham-Cosworth V8 beyond immediate repair, and Beltoise spun off in the lone Matra and tore off both left-side suspensions and crinkled the monocoque. The Matra team had only the one car with them, hurriedly fitted with the latest front suspension uprights which incorporate the brake caliper and using large-diameter hollow-front stub axles, these being fitted since the return from South Africa, and the crash did more damage than could be repaired so the car was posted a non-starter. Brabham had trouble with rear wheels that were not fitting properly, even though they looked all right, and one came off, sending him bouncing over a kerb and damaging the suspension. Although repairs were effected he had to miss the final practice on Saturday afternoon and, ironically, on the previous day he had Stommelen's car with him as a spare but left it behind on Saturday. Nobody approached Brabham's time of Friday, but Hulme showed improvement and Gethin was doing well in his first Formula One drive, using the McLaren that Hulme had raced in 1969.
The much-vaunted March cars were not proving to be the wonder machines that the popular press imagined, and Stewart was discovering that its limitations were not so much the Dunlop tyres, as he thought in South Africa, but an inherent instability of the back end, due to geometry that was not sympathetic to Dunlop or Firestone tyres. What a pity the tyre companies control Grand Prix racing, for it would have been interesting to see what a March 701 would have done on Goodyear tyres. Neither Stewart (March-Dunlop) or Amon (March-Firestone) were at all happy with their cars, and it was all the more frustrating because Oliver (BRM-Dunlop) was still going very quickly. On Saturday afternoon the BRM was really singing round and Oliver was making full use of his local knowledge; and equalled Brabham's best time. With practice almost finished Stewart went out in desperation and managed 1 min. 25.8 sec., to take pole position, but it was Stewart who did it rather than the March car, and it was a tine demonstration of World Championship character.
1 J. Stewart (March-Cosworth V8) 701/2 1 min. 25.8 sec
17 J. Brabham (Brabham-Cosworth V8) BT33/2 1 min. 26.0 sec
11 J. Oliver (Yardley-BRM V12) 153/01 1 min. 26.0 sec
8 J. Rindt (Lotus Cosworth V8) 49C/R6 1 min. 26.2 sec
5 D. Hulme (McLaren-Cosworth V8) M14A/2 1 min. 26.4 sec
4 B. McLaren (McLaren-Cosworth V8) M14A/1 1 min 26.6 sec
3 C. Amon (STP-March-Cosworth V8) 701/1 1 min. 27.0 sec
9 G. Hill (Lotus-Cosworth V7) 49C/R7 (1 min. 27.4 sec
6 P. Gethin (McLaren-Cosworth V8) M7A/2 1 min. 27.6 sec
7 J. Surtees (McLaren-Cosworth V8) M7C/1 1 min. 27.8 sec
12 G. Eaton (BRM V12) 139/02 1 min. 30.8 sec
10 P. Lovely (Lotus-Cosworth V8) 49B.R11 1 min. 31.0 sec
It was not Brabham's weekend, for as he drove round on the warming-up lap a tyre punctured and there was a hurried change of wheel while the cars were lining up for the start. As a precaution Stewart had practised in Tyrrell's second March 701, but on race-day it remained in the paddock. Oliver shot away from the start and the BRM took the lead, but in its new colours of white with a Yardley Y across its nose many people probably did not realise it was a car from Bourne and it did not get the patriotic cheer that the BRM used to get when it led a race. Stewart and Brabham were right behind Oliver in the opening sprint, and Rindt was back in fourth place with the rest trailing along behind. For eight laps Oliver kept the BRM in front, and it was very obvious that both Stewart and Brabham wanted to get by, but the twisty nature of Brands Hatch did not allow any opportunities. Oliver had no intention of giving way and the scene recalled Ginther in a similar situation at Zandvoort with the V12 Honda and Hawkins in the BOAC 500 in a works prototype Ferrari, when both drivers were obviously holding up those behind, but not badly enough to justify a blue flag. Stewart had so little reserve of road-holding in the March that he could not apply forcing tactics, so Brabham took the initiative, moved up into second place on lap 8 and next lap forced his way by Oliver and motored off into the middle distance, relatively speaking. On lap 13 the BRM expired with a broken rear hub-shaft and Stewart was left chasing Brabham in vain, while Rindt was quite close in third place thanks to the opening laps hold-up. As Brabham reeled off the laps at his leisure, Stewart was driving all he knew to keep pace, the March 701 looking a real handful on some parts of the circuit and the Scot's determination was admired by everyone. While he could not gain on Brabham he was keeping pace and staying ahead of Rindt, the Lotus 49C beginning to look rather antiquated. Hulme had made a slow start but when he got going his brand-new 70 series Cosworth engine started misfiring, it having been installed the night before the race and not tested, so all he could do was to hold on to a rather dreary fourth place. McLaren was in trouble with low fuel pressure, but Gethin in the third works car was doing a nice job and keeping out of trouble. Surtees was never in the picture, suffering from sticking throttle slides, on his McLaren, and Eaton's BRM was having electrical trouble. Lovely crashed his Lotus when his mind wandered from the job in hand, and when McLaren rejoined the race he, too, suffered a moment of inattention and crashed at Clearways, a most unusual happening for the New Zealander. Amon had gone out early on with an engine breakage in the works STP-March and Hill was slowed by a troublesome Hewland gearbox on Walker's Lotus 49C.
The whole thing had developed into a rather uninspiring procession, enlivened only by the grim determination that Stewart was showing with the poor-handling March car. With "old man Brabham" out in front one wondered what was wrong with everyone else and the thought occurred that perhaps the standards of Grand Prix driving have fallen, for Brabham, while always good, was never a great Grand Prix artist. With three laps to go the rather dreary procession seemed all over, when suddenly Brabham's engine went rough and he slowed right down. A surprised Stewart swept by into the lead, his determined struggle with the March paying off unexpectedly. Brabham limped into the pits, knowing that the coil ignition unit in the vee of the Cosworth engine had gone wrong. A new unit was fitted in double-quick time, but Rindt and Hulme had gone by and all the luckless Brabham could do was to rejoin the race and finish fourth. Stewart brought the blue March 701 home to victory in only its second race, albeit a lucky victory but it illustrated the old adages that a race is never won until the chequered flag falls, and that it pays to keep trying until the bitter end, because you can never know what is going to happen. As I remarked earlier, it was not Brabham's weekend.-D. S. J.
THE DAILY MAIL “RACE OF CHAMPIONS”-Formula One-50 laps
1st: J Stewart (March 701/2) .. 1 hr. 12 min. 51.8 sec – 175.591 k.p.h (109.11 m.p.h.)
2nd: J. Rindt (Lotus 49C/R6) .. 1 hr. 13 min. 28.0 sec
3rd: D. Hulme (McLaren M14A/2) .. 1 hr. 14 min. 14.2 sec
4th: J. Brabham (Brabham BT33/2) .. 49 laps
5th: G. Hill (Lotus 49C/R7) .. 49 laps
6th: P. Gethin (McLaren M7A/2) .. 49 laps
Fastest Lap: J. Brabham (Brabham BT33/2), in 1 min. 25.8 sec – 178.939 k.p.h.(111.19 m.p.h.) (new record).
Retirements: J. Surtees (McLaren M7C) on lap 11, sticking throttle mechanism; C. Amon (STP-March 701/1) on lap 11, engine breakage; P. Lovely (Lotus 49B/R11) on lap 12, accident; J. Oliver (Yardley-BRM 153/01) on lap 12, broken rear-hub shaft; B. McLaren (McLaren M14A/1) on lap 22, accident; G. Eaton (BRM 139/02) on lap 24, electrical trouble.
Non-starters: J-P. Beltoise (Matra MS120/01), accident in practise .. 1 min 27.6 sec
D. Bell (Brabham BT26/4), accident in practise .. 1 min 35.4 sec
12 starters – 6 finishers.
FORMULA FORD-10 laps-42.7 kilometres
1st: C. Vandervell (Merlyn) .. 17 min. 56.2 – 142.699 k.p.h. (88.65 m.p.h.)
2nd: I. Forster (Merlyn) .. 18 min. 00.8 sec
3rd: R. James (Lotus) .. 18 min. 03.6 sec
4th: R. Allen (Royale) .. 18 min. 04.0 sec
5th: B. Sharp (Merlyn) .. 18 min. 04.6 sec
6th: T. Belso (Hawke) .. 18 min. 16.4 sec
Fastest lap: C. Vandervell (Merlyn) and T. Trimmer (Lola), in 1 min. 46.0 sec – 144.841 k.p.h. (90.60 m.p.h.)
SALOON CARS-Two Heats of 20 laps each-Total 170.6 kilometres
1st: F. Gardner (Boss Mustang Ford V8) .. 1 hr. 11 min. 54.0 sec – 143.363 k.p.h. (88.46 m.p.h.)
2nd: C. Craft (Ford Escort 1.600-c.c. Broadspeed)
3rd: J. Hine (Ford Escort 1.600 c.c.-Vegantune
Fastest lap: F. Gardner (Mustang), in 1 min. 45.0 sec – 146.225 k.p.h.(90.86 m.p.h.)
Up to 1,000 c.c.: M. Freeman (Hillman Imp).
1,001 c.c. to 1,300 c.c.: R. Longman (BMC-Mini).
1,301 c.c. to 2,000 c.c.:C. Craft (Ford Escort TC).
Over 2,000 c.c.:F. Gardner (Boss Mustang)