A splendid motoring garden party
Silverstone, April 6th/7th
One good thing about British sponsors is that they expect their teams to appear at British meetings and because of this there were some hurried returns from Sunny South Africa on the part of Lotus, McLaren, Surtees and Lola and with them came Brabham, BRM and Hesketh, to take part in the 40-lap Formula One race at the annual BRDC motoring festival at Silverstone. The oil crisis in the winter had caused the South African Grand Prix to be postponed until March 30th, a week before the Silverstone event, but air travel being what it is the closeness of the dates did not affect the entry. Ferrari and Tyrrell never had any intention of taking part.
The non-championship International Trophy, organised by the BRDC, has always stood on its own and now in its twenty-sixth year, the entry was well up to previous standards. It is this type of event which is needed for new cars to be made raceworthy and new drivers to gain Formula One experience; the principle of dropping a new driver and new car in at the deep end, straight into a World Championship Grand Prix, is very unsatisfactory and without events like the International Trophy newcomers would never get a chance to join in Formula One racing. Team Lotus used the event to try to get their 1974 car race-worthy, doing the reverse of what they did for the Race of Champions last month. They entered a Lotus 72 and turned up with a Lotus 76—JPS/9 for Peterson, but whereas the old car excelled itself at Brands Hatch (or was it the driver?) the new one did not behave at all well. March Engineering did a Rent-a-Car act with their Beta Tools sponsored car 741/2, with the Japanese driver Noritake Takahara at the wheel. The divided McLaren team produced a brand new car, M23/.7, for Hailwood and his Yardley sponsors, and Hulme had Texaco-Marlboro’s McLaren M23/4 and Emerson Fittipaldi went home after the South African race. Reutemann also returned home, the Argentinian racing supporters waiting to welcome him in a big demonstration of wild enthusiasm over his victory in South Africa. The only Brabham competing was the updated BT42/3 for Robarts, the whole outing being a fairly leisurely one for the Brabham team. BRM. entered Beltoise with their new car, but it was Migault who took number 9 with a P160, accompanied by Pescarolo with a similar car. The Shadow team ran DN3/2A for Jean-Pierre Jarier and used the meeting to sign up Brian Redman for their second entry in future races. Team Surtees had rebuilt TS16/03, wrecked in practice at Brands Hatch, and again Jochen Mass was driving it, and Morris Nunn had two Ensigns in the paddock, his 1973 car and his 1974 car, the newer one having a slightly longer wheelbase achieved by angling the front wishbones forwards. In addition there are numerous small improvements and changes to the suspension mounting points and the geometry. Although von Opel was entered to drive one car, and a last-minute entry was made for Ganley in the second car, it turned out that Brian Redman drove both of them in practice, preferring the handling of the 1974 car even though he went slightly faster in the 1973 car, probably due to it having a better engine.
A new car on the Formula One scene was the Token, a one-off special built by the now defunct Rondel Formula Two team, the new name Token being derived from the Christian names of the two businessmen who are financing the project, Tony Vlassopulo and Ken Grob. Designed by Ray Jessop the car is very small by Formula One standards and is neat and tidy, being orthodox in its construction around a Cosworth V8 engine and Hewland gearbox. The new driver for this new car was Tom Pryce, hut delays in finishing the car off in the paddock limited his practice, and gear-change trouble put him out of the race.
The Hesketh team were in full cry, being virtually on his Lordship’s doorstep, and James Hunt was in great form, making the fastest lap in the two practice sessions with a resounding 1 min. 16.7 sec. on Friday, faster than Peterson’s lap record of 1 min. 17.5 sec., but not quite as quick as the Swede’s practice lap of 1 min. 16.3 sec. at last year’s British GP. Ott Saturday Hunt was still fastest, with 1 min 17.0 sec., his nearest challenger being Mass with 1 min. 18.4 sec. Graham Hill’s Embassy-sponsored team, who enter the Lolas as “Embassy Hill Lola Ford Cosworth DFV” (forgetting Hewland and all the other contributors to the assemblage of pasts that creates a Formula One car), were back from South Africa and at full strength with Guy Edwards in the original car, Hill in the second car and while they practised HU3 was being completed in the paddock in readiness for some testing when the meeting was over. In detail all three cars differed enormously, in things like rear suspension members, radius rod attachment points and so on, the design having yet to be finalised. John Nicholson was giving his Pinch Plant sponsored Lyncar another outing and Chris Amon got as far as first practice with his Amon car, but after 16 rather steady laps the car was taken away for some further development work, a front hub assembly giving trouble.
In order to add substance to the field of 15 Formula One cars, the faster Formula 5000 competitors were allowed to join the list, the selection being from the results of a 20-lap race held on Saturday afternoon. Each group had its own practice sessions so that they only came face-to-face, or nose-to-tail, when they assembled on the grid on Sunday afternoon for the 40-lap International Trophy, so that neither group had had an opportunity to get to know one another at racing speeds. Not being hamstrung by GPDA and World Championship roles the BRDC were able to assemble a reasonable grid with three cars on the front row, and the rest in alternate rows of two-three-two. Hunt was firmly on pole position with 1 min. 16.7 sec., with Peterson alongside him in JPS/9 with 1 min. 18.4 sec. and Mass (Surtees TS16) on the far left with an identical time. Then came the “motley McLarens” with the equal time of 1 min. 18.5 sec., with Hailwood on the right and Hulme on the left, followed by Migault (BRM), Hill (Lola), and Pescarolo (BRM) and behind them Redman (Ensign) and Jarier (Shadow). Gethin in the first of the Formula 5000 cars was next, ahead of Robarts, Takahara and Edwards in Formula One cars, and Nicholson was behind amongst the remainder of the F5000 cars, while Pryce (Token) was alone on the back row. Although Redman had won the Formula 5000 race with a Lola-Chevrolet V8 he elected to start in the Formula One section with the latest Ensign.
The start of the main race was at 3 p.m. on Sunday, before a crowd of 32,000 spectators, in dry, sunny conditions with a sharp breeze blowing, and as the flag fell Hunt shot off the line and then the Hesketh hung fire as the clutch started to slip, and Mass and Peterson took the lead, followed by Hailwood and the rest. Easing his foot off the accelerator, Hunt cruised along as far as Becketts, when the clutch cooled off and gripped properly and he could start racing from way at the back of the field. Drivers with a lot more experience have been known to burn their clutches out completely once they started to overheat, so full marks to Hunt for having a sensitive right foot and the ability to think clearly under duress.
For one lap Mass had a moment of glory in the lead and then Peterson went by and the new Lotus drew away into a commanding lead, looking very sleek and purposeful. The electrically-operated clutch mechanism and bifurcated brake pedal had all been removed before practice and Peterson was driving normally, but the general balance and handling Of the car had taken a long while to come near to his liking, and even now was not perfect. Hailwood took second place on Laps 3 and 4 and then disappeared into the pits with trouble in the new experimental clutch that McLaren’s are trying and before half-distance Hulme had joined him for the same reason, although he had stopped because everything was vibrating and shaking about. Hunt disposed of all the Formula 5000 cars as if they weren’t there, and picked off the Formula One cars at the rate of one a lap until he was in third place on Iap 8. It took him a few laps to deal with Mass, and then he set his sights on the two rear aerofoils of the Lotus and by half-distance was within striking distance. By Lap 22 he was right behind Peterson and was finding out that to catch the leader is one thing, but to overtake him is another matter altogether. Peterson’s left rear tyre was developing nasty bubbles due to overheating, as had other Goodyears on other cars already, and the knobbly effect was giving the Swede a bad time. On Lap 28, to the cheers of the crowd, Hunt took the lead, a British driver in a British car in the lead (one could even say an English driver in an English car). For two laps the Lotus lay in second place and then it failed to come round, the engine having seized, and a disappointed Peterson left it where it died and disappeared. Hunt sailed on to a resounding victory, recording the fastest race average of any International Trophy race with 133.58 m.p.h., but missing the lap record by one-tenth of a second.
Such was his performance that he overshadowed anything else that was happening, but Mass drove a good race, finishing second after Peterson retired and Jarier out-drove Pescaralo to snatch third place by a fifth of a second. Migault, Hill and Redman had a good scrap until the Ensign crossed the Lola’s slipstream in the middle of Woodcote corner and, completely off-balance, Redman found himself on the grass and the nose of the Ensign was badly damaged. He continued to the finish, but the front of the car lost adhesion and he had to run at a reduced speed and dropped two places in consequence. Hill’s chase of the Frenchman in the BRM ended when he went off the road, the broken ball-joint on the left front upright being the cause or the effect, it was not quite clear. All this let Nicholson up into sixth place, he having to try hard to get ahead Of Gethin’s F5000 car, while Edwards and Takahara never did get near the faster F5000 cars.
Looking back on the history of the International Trophy race in 1952 when Britain was struggling to get a foothold in Formula Two, Lance Macklin won with an HWM, giving our morale a good boost. In 1956 when we were struggling to get a foothold in Formula One, Stirling Moss won with the Chapman-inspired Vanwall, which really started things going in the right direction, Coming as it did only a few Months after Tony Brook’s great victory at Siracuse with the B-type Connaught. In 1970 the “Pechvogel” of Grand Prix racing, Chris Amon, had his one and only victory and new, Mien every race winner seems to he a foreigner or a colonial, English James Hunt, in M’Lord’s English racing car has had a very popular victory, greatly appreciated by all those who live south of Hadrian’s Wall.
While the International Trophy was the main event of the meeting, it was by no means the only one, for on Saturday there were three separate 7-lap heats for Formula Ford cars, with as many as 28 cars in a heat so that there was some close racing and not a little touching. The winners of the three heats were John Murphy (Hawke), Jim Walsh (DuIon) and Gordon Smiley (Merlyn) and they went into the final, which was held on Sunday, along with 33 others who had finished well up in their heats. The final was held near the end of the day, over 12 laps, and it saw the usual multi-car accident with bits of Formula Ford cars all over the place, but through it Gordon Smiley emerged the winner, with Richard Hawkins (DuIon) second and Patrick Neve (Lola) third, with Hawkins being credited with fastest lap in 1 min. 41.0 sec., a speed of 104.33 m.p.h.
Immediately after this final there was a 10-lap race for Historic racing and sports cars in the JCB series, which Neil Corner won in a brand new 1959 front-engined 2.1/2-litre BRM, built and entered by Tom Wheatcroft’s Donington Collection, and the BRM’s fastest lap was also in I min. 41.0 sec. This was equalled by Green’s Lister-Chevrolet, but his pursuit of Corner was marred when the bonnet fixing straps broke. Among the entry in this “parade of old cars travelling at characteristic speeds” were some very pleasant machines, such as Potter’s 4.4-litre Ferrari 121LM, a vast 6-cylinder from 1955, Mann’s 3-litre 4-cylinder Monza Ferrari, driven on the road from London to Silverstone and home again afterwards, Weldon’s Connaught B2 owned by Rodney Clarke, the originator of the Connaught car, and a rare Jaguar XKSS.
The other races held over this garden-party weekend were a 20-lap event on Saturday afternoon for Formula 5000 cars, which Brian Redman won from Peter Gethin and David Hobbs, at the respectable speed of 130.23 m.p.h., with a fastest lap in 1 min. 19.5 sec., and on Sunday there were events for Formula Atlantic and saloon cars. The Formula Atlantic cars opened Sunday’s day of speed and excitement, with a 17-lap race, won by Tony Brise in a March from Choularton and Nicholson, and the saloon car race, also over 17 laps, was a four-class affair for Group 1 cars which included everything normally seen on the public roads (or so I am told!) from Chevrolet Camaro to VW Passat. 1 From this vast variety of saloon cars four were picked out as winners, racing motorcyclist Stuart Graham in a Castiol-sponsored Camaro being overall winner of this round in the Castro’ Anniversary Championship which was very fitting.
With superb weather over the whole three days Silverstone was at its best and the whole of the centre of the airfield was like a vast relaxed garden party, with groups of people occasionally dashing off for a dice round the outside of the field, and when it was all over the new one-way traffic system appeared to disperse the sizeable crowd very smoothly.