Chevron win as favourites fail

European 2-Litre Sportscar Championships — Le Castellet, April 8

The opening round of the 1973 European 2-litre Sportscar Championship was held at the ultra-modern, and for many, "plastic" Circuit Paul Ricard at the beginning of April, and it provided Chevron Cars of Bolton, with a comfortable, if not somewhat lucky victory. On aggregate, John Lepp driving one of the Red Rose Racing Chevron B23s, finished a lap ahead of his team mate John Burton, both drivers making their debut in the team run by John Bridges.

Prior to the event, there had been much speculation and guarded optimism surrounding the 1973 Championship, for new marques were scheduled to appear, challenging the "old campaigners", Chevron Cars, Lola Cars, and the Italian Osella Abarth equipe, each of whom had previously won the series.

Of the new cars at Le Castellet, the March 73S seemed the most likely candidate for victory, showing well in the Springbok series in South Africa, and powered by the sixteen valve, 285 b.h.p. BMW engine also used in F2. As with other English constructors, March Engineering will not be running a full works entry for the series, instead they will be giving assistance to Dutchman Toine Hezemans who supplies the engines, with the Bicester company supplying the chassis and know-how.

There were in fact two March BMWs in France, the aforementioned together with another for the Italian driver Gabriele Serblin. Unfortunately, neither car ran very well, Hezemans bare chassis being delivered the day before practice, and needing a great deal of sorting in the handling department. During the race the car was holding a steady fifth place until delayed by overheating, this same complaint affecting the other machine. However the biggest asset that the March possesses is the BMW engine, which is more powerful, and has more torque than its counterparts, and once the fragile connecting rods become more reliable, the March will be an obvious contender.

The Griston-based GRD company was also making its first sortie into the realms of European sportscar competition, with the works-backed car being driven by John Miles, and entered under the DART banner. Although much testing had been carried out in England, Miles was disappointed with the car's performance, being outsped by other cars with the Chevy-Cosworth engine, Cosworth Engineering spent much time during the winter on the engine in an effort to find more reliability to match the engine's speed. Miles however was soon out of the race with electrical problems.

1972 Championship-winning manufacturer Sig Vincenzo Osella brought along two of his new Abarth PA1 models for regular driver Arturo Merzario, with rally driver Jean-Claude Andruet driving the second. Even the hard-trying Merzario found the new car difficult to handle, the wiry Italian being hard-pressed to make the second row of the grid, and before the first heat was half over, both cars were back in the transporter suffering from severe overheating. Doubtless Osella will effect changes to improve the handling before the next round at Vallelunga.

Lola Cars had up-dated their T290 chassis with various modifications to the suspension, together with a new striking body shape, and the works car was in the hands of Guy Edwards with sponsorship from Barclays International. Aided by the Cosworth Chevy engine, and some pre-race testing, Edwards completely dominated practice and the first heat, until an oil filter sealing ring fractured, and the unfortunate Edwards was out of the race he looked certain to win.

Other new T292 Lola models were on hand from Chris Craft in the Cosworth BDG-engined Crowne Racing car, but he retired with gearbox problems, whilst Gérard Larrousse had what must be the best combination of chassis and engine, the T292 powered by a BMW engine. Unfortunately the Frenchman joined the long queue of unemployed at Paul Ricard, when his Schnitzer-tuned engine poked a connecting rod through the side of the engine.

Revisions to the front suspension of the Chevron B21 in order to accommodate lower profile tyres, and a change of marque number to B23, was the Chevron challenge for this race, and as the results show, Messrs Lepp and Burton with their Smith FVC engines finished first and second in the two-heat event, Lepp recording his first ever international win. After all the leading lights had gone out, Frenchman Jacques Henry in his Lola finished third, with Serblin fourth, and the Venezuelan Marcotulli fifth.

One of the biggest disappointments of the meeting was the non-appearance of the new Alpine-Renault, which apparently blew-up its engine during testing.—H. G. W.

Results:
Trophee Paul Ricard – 2 x 45 laps – 293.670 kms.
1st: J. Lepp (1.9 Chevron FVC B23) ... 2 hr. 13 min. 20.0 sec. – 89 laps

2nd: J. Burton (1.9 Chevron FVC B23) ... 88 laps

3rd: J. Henry (1.8 Lola FVC T290) ... 88 laps

4th: G. Serblin (2.0 March BMW 73S) ... 88 laps

5th: M. Marcotulli (1.8 Chevron FVC B23) ... 81 laps

No other classified finishers
Fastest lap: G. Edwards (2.0 Lola Chevy-Cosworth T292), in 1 min. 16.3 sec. – 153.991 k.p.h.