The Rothman's Trophy

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Oulton Park, 9th April, 1971.

The best way to win a motor race is to have a good, strong, reliable car, well prepared, properly screwed together, driven by a hard-charging courageous driver, and to lead from start to finish, and that is exactly what the Yardley-BRM team did at Oulton Park on Good Friday. Add to this a modicum of misfortune in your rivals and your job becomes a little easier. Rodriguez led all 40 laps of the Rothmans Trophy, his lead varying from one and a half seconds to six seconds, but at no time did the second man, Gethin, get his McLaren-Cosworth V8 dangerously close to the V12 BRM, though he drove a splendid race and kept the pressure on throughout.

Stewart trailed home in a strong, but not menacing, third place, his 1970 Tyrrell not handling at all well on right hand bends and even though the second-place McLaren had a Hewland gearbox that was not functioning right, the Scot had no hope of getting his Tyrrell into second-place. Refreshingly, in these days of excuses and complaints, Rodriguez was delighted with the 1971 BRM P160 and it went perfectly, his only misdemeanour being a few laps before the end when he missed a gearchange at the Esso hairpin and had an excursion onto the grass, all entirely his own fault, the car being blameless.

This first victory for the new BRM V12 was most encouraging for all the BRM and Yardley supporters and the engine ran really crisply throughout the 40 laps, Rodriguez using it to the full all the time and giving the 45,000 spectators a splendid demonstration of hard driving and opposite-lock slides through the corners that was impressive to watch. The P160 was still not using the original design of rear aerofoil with the oil cooler in the leading edge, but instead had oil coolers on each side of the gearbox with big forward-facing ducts on them. The McLaren that Gethin drove was M14A/2 with both front and rear suspension geometry revised to take advantage of the latest low-profile Goodyear tyres, the front suspension also having a new design of lower wishbone.

Right from the start of the meeting Gethin had been on form and was in the centre of the front row of the grid with a lap in 1 min. 25.8 sec., equalling Stewart’s best practice lap. Stewart had the choice of the original Tyrrell car, number 001 or the 1971 car, number 002, rebuilt after its South African crash, and he opted for the first car, but at no time did he feel that everything was right about the suspension and handling of the car. Although he improved his fastest lap to 1 min. 25.06 sec. in the race it was not fast enough to challenge the BRM or the McLaren.

Surprisingly, for a small meeting both BRM and Lotus fielded three-car teams, the Bourne team having last year’s P153/06 for Siffert and P153/03 for Ganley. The Swiss driver arrived on the dummy-grid with a nail sticking out of a rear tyre and as there was no time to change it on the start line, while the rest of the field took off, poor Siffert had to drive into the pits for another tyre and join the race when the leaders were more than half-way round the first lap. He made no impression on them and eventually retired with ignition trouble. The third BRM, which was P153/03, was driven steadily and sensibly into fourth place by Ganley.

The Gold Leaf Team Lotus trio were a different story altogether. It was Wisell’s turn to drive the turbine car and round the twists and turns of Oulton Park it was even worse off than at Brands Hatch. After running trouble-free during practice and for 17 laps of the race, it suffered a punctured left rear tyre and was withdrawn. E. Fittipaldi drove the Lotus 72C, number 5, with a new shape of oil tank over the gearbox and a new type of rear aerofoil without the three-tier slots as used previously. His run was short, for the spark unit expired and by the time a mechanic took a new one out to the car and got it going again, it had lost too many laps to feature in the race at all, but nevertheless, Fittipaldi carried on to the finish. The third Lotus was 49C/R6 driven by Trimmer, but he had an accident in practice which damaged the rear end. Luckily, 49C/R10 was in a Lotus dealers’ showroom in Bradford so it was hastily retrieved and the rear end grafted on to R6, so that Trimmer could start in the race. On the second lap the throttle stuck open and after this was cured at the pits he carried on, but later had to make another stop when the fuel metering unit cam got out of adjustment, so that the car finished in a lowly sixth place.

Other runners were, Alan Rollinson, having his first Formula One drive in the March 701 owned by Siffert, and he drove neatly and tidily and kept out of trouble to finish fifth. Beuttler, in the new yellow March 701 that made its debut in the Race of Champions, was going well until the tubular framework, holding the nose cowling on, broke and let the nose on the which forced him to retire.

The other retirement, and the first of the race, was Surtees whose first 1971 TS9 car broke its engine. In practice Cyd Williams had his first try with 400 b.h.p. in Frank Williams March 701/6 and before the day was out it was a complete write-off after hitting the infamous Bailey Bridge, C. Williams being very lucky to escape with a severe shaking up. The second F. Williams/Motul entry should have been the new March 711 for Peterson, but it was still at the factory being re-designed after the lessons learned at Brands Hatch and Ontario by the March team.

Among the supporting races was a 20-lap event for 2-litre sports cars which became a benefit run for Chris Craft in the works B19 Chevron “Spyder” with 1.8-litre Cosworth FVC engine, when such opposition as there was fell by the wayside after collisions.—D. S. J.