“My first ever circuit race was at Mallory, and I went on to be quite successful there in my Mini Cooper S. It was always a very good circuit for me.
For the F2 race I had Ed Reeves’s Formula Atlantic Brabham. I’d raced it once, at the end of 1971, at Oulton Park. Then Ed said. ‘How do you fancy doing F2?’ He got David Wood to do an 1860cc engine far more reliable than the 2-litres but less powerful. We went off to test at Snetterton it was pouring with rain and at the left-hand curve onto the Norwich Straight the car got away from me. Because of that I was a bit wary of the performance.
“At Mallory I was surprised to see how competitive the car was, and I was alarmed to find myself on the front row against all those illustrious names. I went into the clubhouse after qualifying feeling pretty smug. Everyone was so kind, giving me advice, but all I wanted to do was take some points so we’d get our entries accepted for the foreign races. Nobody outside England knew me from a bar of soap!
“The Firestone YB26 tyres that the others had were far too soft for Mallory, but in the cold they actually wouldn’t have been that bad. The harder tyres we had suited the Brabham. which was designed around them, but if I’m going to take any personal credit it’s that the soft tyre would have benefited the others in qualifying, while I had to stay on the track for 15 laps to get a good time.
“In the second heat I was trying to gauge my deficit to Lauda. Two seconds felt like half an hour! A few laps from the end Wilson Fittipaldi blew an oil line, and the oil was down at the Devil’s Elbow. For two laps we all eased off, but then the only outrageous thing I did was thinking, ‘I don’t want to lose’. On the last lap I went through there flat-out and got a huge slide, knowing that at this corner, if you lose it you don’t crash until you’ve crossed the finish line. It took me the whole straight to get back in control, and John Surtees said he nearly fell over trying to get away from the pit barrier.
“I was in awe of all those guys I was racing against, so this was the best day at a racetrack I’ve ever had. We stayed in our caravan in the paddock on Sunday night, and we woke up freezing cold on Monday morning, with dust and debris blowing around. In the caravan there was condensation, empty bottles of champagne and trophies all over the place. The van was low on fuel and we didn’t have any money to get home, but then I realised that part of my prize for winning the Man of the Meeting award was some fuel vouchers. So we filled up at the local BP station – and then I had to quickly aspire to an international image!