It is virtually a sine quo non of motor racing that the driver who wishes to get to the top of the tree in single-seater racing must, at one time or another, drive a Formula Three car. Of the current Grand Prix regulars, Beltoise, Courage, Ickx, Miles, Oliver, Servoz-Gavin and Stewart have all campaigned F3 machines, while Hulme, Rindt and Siffert all had successful seasons in Formula Junior, which was very similar to, and preceded, the present Formula Three.
Although the drivers frequently complain that the 1,000-c.c. limit imposed by the F3 regulations does not give them as much sheer horsepower as they would like, there is no doubt that they can learn a great deal of track-craft and visit many of the better-known Continental circuits which they would otherwise not see if they did not take part in this form of racing. Among the many lesser-known venues used for F3 events are real road-racing circuits like Chimay in Belgiun, Opatija in Jugoslavia, Pau in France and Vila Real in Portugal. Organisers in Britain are not permitted to close public roads for racing, so instead the BRSCC’s Northern Centre decided to use the tight 2¼-mile privately-owned motorcycle track of Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire for Formula Three this year, and the meeting, which was held on September 28th, was the first International car-racing event to be promoted at this challenging little circuit.
Cadwell Park is rather narrow, so the RAC will not permit cars with a capacity of more than 2-litres to race there. Yet nothing could be more spectacular than the closely-matched Formula Three machines, which came into their own here, lapping at an average speed of more than 85 miles per hour, faster in fact than any other class of car.
The meeting was truly International, with entries from American, Swedish, French, Japanese, Irish, Australian and British drivers. Because the circuit has previously only been used at club level for cars, very few of the F3 men present had any knowledge of it, although one or two had taken the opportunity of spending a day reconnoitring the track a couple of weeks earlier. They found an intriguing mixture of tight corners and gradients which kept them very busy, for the only decent piece of straight is less than half a mile long. The circuit is bounded with trees and ditches, lakes and an occasional building, and the spectators have a grand overall view from the many excellent vantage points. A better site for Formula Three can hardly be imagined, all though our present Grand Prix drivers would probably be horrified.
The racing itself, organised in two 10-lap heats and a 25-lap final, was typically close. In the first heat, the Swede Ronnie Peterson—who has won more F3 races this year than anyone else—came through from a poor start in the new March to challenge Australian Tim Schenken in his works-supported Brabham for the lead. Peterson’s car is the first to be produced by March Engineering Ltd., company which has ambitious plans for Formula Two and Formula One cars in the coming year, and it looked for a moment as though the March might be making a successful bid on its first-ever racing appearance.
But a puncture brought an end to Peterson’s efforts, although he trailed in fifth behind Schenken, Cyd Williams (Chevron B15), Mike Beuttler (Brabham BT28) and the veteran Frenchman Jean-Pierre Jaussaud in his Tecno.
The second heat was equally exciting. Newcomer James Hunt unfortunately tipped a back wheel of Roy Pike’s Gold Leaf Team Lotus 59, the very experienced American restarting well out of the running in last place. Hunt led briefly, being passed before the end by the two Chevrons of Reine Wisell (another quick Swede) and New Zealander Howden Ganley.
Twenty-two cars lined up for the final, which can only be described as gripping. Schenken had an early lead taken away from him by Wisell, and then Charles Lucas also passed the Australian. But there were only fractions of a second between them all and when Lucas’s engine blew up, Ganley closed on the two leaders. Hunt and Peterson were engaged in a close-quarter duel for fourth place, changing places all round the track.
Wisell and Schenken, who have sparred throughout the season, took turns at leading until the Swede made a mistake on lap 21 and spun off, assuring his great rival of a fine win, with Ganley very close behind him. Peterson brought the March home third, fractions ahead Hunt, and the timekeepers could not split them, with Wisell sixth after recovering from his spin. Hunt and Wisell shared a new track record with the winner at an average speed of 86.91 m.p.h.
It is worth recording that although every competitor was using a Ford-based engine, there was a good variety of individual tuners represented, many of whom manufacture such important components as crankshafts, connecting rods and valve gear. Peterson and Wisell for instance, were powered by Italian Novamotor units, manufactured entirely in Novara. They are recognised as the most powerful engines at the present time, although on this occasion the British Lucas units were used by the first two men home.-M. G. D.