March 31st/ April 1st
Yet another season of racing at the Nürburgring started on March 31st with the opening round of both the Interserie, and the European GT Championship as well as a Formula Three race. The Interserie was the main attraction, this European version of Can-Am racing entering its third year, hopefully with better grids and more exciting racing in 1973. The entry was limited although there were four turbocharged Porsche 917/10s amongst the entry. Reigning Can-Am Champion George Falter actually had the championship-winning Penske car from last year although it is now owned by Bobby Rinzler Racing, an American team backed by Royal Cola. Also with his last year’s 917/10 was reigning Interserie Champion Leo Kinnunen, both 1972 cars having been updated to the latest Stuttgart specification. There were also two brand new 917/10s in the hands of Willi Kauhsen and the wealthy but little-talented George Loos. Ernst Kraus had a normally aspirated 917/10.
The McLaren challenge was somewhat limited to Hulme’s last year’s Can-Am car, the M20, now entered and prepared by the Felder Racing Team for their regular driver Helmut Kelleners and powered by an 8.3-litre Chevrolet. The Belgian Team VDS had an older but much-modified McLaren M8F fitted with Porsche-like bodywork and a Morand-tuned Chevrolet fitted with a turbo-charger and reputed to give 930 b.h.p.—about the same as the Porsches. The rest of the team was completed by various make-weights including several 2-litre cars including the quick Chevrons of Twaites and Raymond.
In practice Kauhsen showed he would be difficult to beat by posting fastest time at 7 min. 31.5 sec.—faster than his own Interserie record. Kelleners was second fastest some 10 sec. behind, while Reinhold Jöst in his well-used 3-litre Porsche 908 was third fastest ahead of George Follmer who was busy learning the ‘ring and trying to combat bad handling and various other problems. Kinnunen and Pilette both failed to break the 8 min. mark while Raymond made the likes of Loos look rather silly.
The race was split into two parts – 7-lap heats on Saturday and Sunday. Kauhsen dominated the first while the only interest was the battle for second place between Kinnunen and Kelleners which was resolved when the latter’s McLaren blew up. Follmer completed the first lap with a puncture and re-started almost a lap behind, just in front of Kauhsen who never actually caught and lapped him. So the order was Kauhsen, Jöst and Pilette with Raymond’s 2-litre Chevron taking fifth place ahead of Loos. The second heat started with drama when Follmer hit a Chevron on the warming-up lap and promptly retired with body damage. Kelleners’ McLaren had a new engine fitted but this promptly blew in the warm-up lap so it was simply left for Kauhsen to cruise round for victory ahead of Kinnunen who failed to offer a challenge. Pilette made a pit stop to check bad handling and lost third place to Jöst who was being challenged cheekily by Raymond until the British driver lost it on a wet patch at Hatzenbach and hit the Armco. Twaites thus inherited the 2-litre class only to crash leaving victory to Obermoser’s GRD—the first time the Griston firm has won in sports car racing. So the final order was Kauhsen, Kinnunen, Jöst, Pilette, Kraus and Loos.
The GT race was also held in two parts and produced something of a lucky win for the Frenchman Claude Ballot-Lena, in one of the many Carrera RSRs which made up the competitive entries. Last year’s Champion John Fitzpatrick had his new Kremer-prepared Carrera on pole position but he over-revved on the first lap and retired. This left the race to Gunther Stekkonig and Clemens Schnickenstanz who were having quite a battle before the former crashed at Hatzenbach and the latter blew his engine in his attempt to miss his rival. This left victory to Ballot-Lena. In heat two Fitzpatrick made amends by tearing through from the back of the grid to victory with the Frenchman second, thus giving him overall honours.
The Formula Three race also belonged to the French with the works Alpine-Renaults of Serpaggi and Leclere dominating the proceedings. Serpaggi went on to win and Leclere made a pit stop. Second was F3 newcomer Jean-Pierre Paoli from France with a Martini with promising Swede Gunnar Nordstorm third in his brand new GRD. Britain’s Russell Wood (March) was sixth. There was quite a scene after the race due to several cars being found to be underweight but the final results stood after some initial disqualifications.
Nürburgring 300 Kms. – Group 7 – 2 x 7 laps – 319.45 kms.
1st: W. Kauhsen (Porsche 917-10 turbo) … 1 hr 49 min. 36.3 sec. – 175 k.p.h.
2nd: L. Kinnunen (Porsche 917-10 turbo) … 1hr. 51 min. 32.9 sec.
3rd: R. Jöst (Porsche 908/3) … 1 hr. 56 min. 20.8 sec.
4th: T. Pilette (McLaren M8F-Chevrolet turbo) … 2 hr. 3 min. 32.8 sec.
5th: E. Kraus (Porsche 917-10).
6th: G. Loos (Porsche 917-10 turbo)
Fastest lap: W. Kauhsen (Porsche 917-10 turbo), 7 min. 32.8 sec. – 181.6 k.p.h.