Brands Hatch, September 25th
One thing we now know is that the South of England is still a rich and plentiful part of Great Britain. Back in the spring Brands Hatch held the Race of Champions as a one-off non-Championship Formula One event to give the enthusiasts in the South a chance of seeing the 1983 Formula One cars in action as the British Grand Prix was due to be held at Silverstone. At that time there were 17 Grand Prix events scheduled for the 1983 World Championship series and Mr Ecclestone, speaking on behalf of FOCA who do the Grand Prix financial negotiations, stated emphatically that any rumours about races being cancelled were nothing more than malicious rumour; there would be no cancellations, he said. The Swiss Grand Prix due to be run at Dijon-Prenois was cancelled, the Grand Prix in the car park at Las Vegas was cancelled and the New York Grand Prix never even got started, so, in spite of “little Bernie’s” words, the World Championship series was reduced from 17 to 14 events and one or two of the sponsors who pour money into the Formula One teams said “Just a minute, we paid for 17 events and now there are only 14.” A number of other sponsors are now paying per race rather than a lump sum at the start of the season, and others are paying on results. There is still a great deal of money involved in Formula One but these days you have to earn it, as well as earning your start-money based on grid position and results money which FOCA pay out on behalf of the organisers. It’s tough at the top! Actually it’s much tougher at the bottom.
With a shortage of races on the calendar, John Webb of Brands Hatch went smartly into action with the RAC and the result was that FISA and FOCA agreed to there being a Grand Prix at Brands Hatch as well as at Silverstone. As Silverstone had the RAC title of the British Grand Prix, we could not call the proposed race the British Grand Prix 2, so the title of Grand Prix of Europe was resurrected and given to the Brands Hatch race. When all the Grand Prix races were in Europe, each year one of them was “honoured” by being given the title Grand Prix of Europe but it was a meaningless title and it eventually disappeared from use but remained on the statutes. I suppose we could have suggested the Grand Prix of London (SE) or the Grand Prix of Kent, or even the Isle of Sheppey Grand Prix, but Grand Prix of Europe was acceptable to everyone and it left John Webb and the RAC a bare three months to get organised. By a nice gesture of mutual agreement, so rare in Formula One circles, it was agreed that no publicity for the Grand Prix of Europe would begin until the British Grand Prix at Silverstone was over and thus it was. But now the question arose as to whether the paying spectator could afford to attend another major Grand Prix event so soon after Silverstone. Most people had got through at least £120 (for a man and his wife) at Silverstone and it was hard to see how they could afford to do it again in three months time, while there were other problems such as un-paid enthusiastic marshals, helpers, officials and so on taking off yet more time from work and the Trade and Industry and Advertising world which fills and pays for the back-cloth to a World Championship event had misgivings about finding a second helping from the kitty.
The 1982 British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch had been sponsored by Marlboro cigarettes so that everything that could be painted was painted Red and White. Now John Player agreed to sponsor the Grand Prix of Europe so everything that could be painted had to be painted Black and Gold. Even the toilet rolls changed colour, I am told! It was a monumental task and while certain sections of British industry are losing contracts because of saying “It can’t be done”, Brands Hatch management got on and did it. The result was a highly successful Grand Prix of Europe to which something like 65,000 people turned up on race day to enjoy a very full day of racing and entertainment. In fact there was so much going on that you could have been excused for missing the two hours that it took torso the Grand Prix.
When Bernie Ecclestone says “come” the Formula One troops act as one man and all the teams were present ready for the Friday practice with a few minor alterations. The entry for the second Theodore car was withdrawn and Johnny Cecotto was there “on holiday” and the Williams team entered an extra car for Dr Jonathan Palmer as a one-off drive in return for all the test-driving he has been doing for the team during the summer. There had been a vague hope that the first Honda powered Williams would be tried out in practice, but nothing transpired.
One notable thing that did appear in practice was a crop of vast rear aerofoils copied from the Ferrari. All season Ferrari has been using these very large rear aerofoils known in the paddock as the “tea tray” and the opposition has been saying that the Ferrari engine must have a lot of surplus horsepower if it could afford the drag of this large device, even if it did create a lot of down-force. The ATS team made a copy of it, which they have been using for most of the season and now these large “tea trays” appeared on the Renaults, the Brabham-BMWs and the McLaren-Porsches, the theory being that down-force was more important than maximum speed on the twisty, undulating, Kentish circuit, which seemed reasonable enough.
Practice took place on Friday and Saturday mornings at the regulation time of 10 am to 11.30 am and each afternoon there was an hour in which to qualify for grid positions. To anyone watching from a distance or by remote control, like television, the pace during the qualifying hour is not apparent, but to those lucky people watching from the pits it is a different story, especially for those vying for the front of the grid or for the last place on the grid, for three of the 29 drivers were not going tube in the race. It seemed that Team Lotus were inspired by the Black and Gold scene surrounding them and with the cars giving minimal trouble both de Angelis and Mansell rose to the occasion and dominated both qualifying hours. In spite of de Angelis trying to upset the equilibrium by crashing the spare car (94T/3) on Saturday morning, Team Lotus were undismayed and their Italian driver made fastest time in both qualifying sessions, content to use only one set of his qualifying tyres on Saturday afternoon, as no-one got close enough tubes time of 1 min 12.092 sec to worry him.
For once there was no moaning and whining about the Pirelli tyres they were using and such tyre bleating as there was came from the Goodyear runners this time. All was not perfect in the Pirelli camp, however, as the Toleman-Hart cars were hardly any better on soft qualifying tyres as they were on hard race tyres. Rubber continues to be a “black art”, continually misguided and misdirected by the opinions voiced by the drivers, when their problems could well be something entirely different, but tyres are the easiest things to blame for not being an “ace-driver” or taking pole position on the grid. Everyone was trying very hard, especially those at the front of the grid, for Brands Hatch is an awful circuit for overtaking so that every place you can gain on the grid is a useful bonus. Apart from the minor accident that de Angelis had, his compatriot de Cesaris had a pretty major one and Rosberg had a minor one and added to this there were a few blown up engines, including the Porsche V6 in Lauda’s McLaren, and a few harmless spins from drivers like Piquet.
Although the pace seemed to be fast and furious, the pole-man’s time was a long way off that of 1982 which was surprising as at most of the circuits this year lap times have come remarkably close to 1982 times. The point being that this year “ground effect” has been banned in an attempt to slow things down and this was the first time the new cars could not approach the lap times of the old ones. It is just possible that only Team Lotus had all the variables correct and their times represented what would normally have been the second and third rows on the grid and that had the combinations of Arnoux / Ferrari, Tambay / Ferrari, Prost / Renault or Piquet / Brabham got things right then pole-time would have been 1 min 11 sec or even 1 min 10.5 sec, which would have compared favourably with the 1982 time of 1 min 09.54 sec.
Something had to be blamed and it varied from the 1000 kilometre sports car race of the previous week-end leaving a lot of rubber on the surface, to the Black and Gold aura created by John Player sponsorship getting into the electronics of the Longines automatic timing apparatus! Whatever it was there was no gainsaying the fact that de Angelis was on pole-position with Manuel third, Patrese lining up his Brabham-BMW in second place, but Nelson Piquet was alongside Mansell and the Brazilian’s presence is sufficient to disturb any aspiring race winner. As if that wasn’t enough the two Ferraris of Arnoux and Tambay were on row three and nobody in their right mind discounts a Ferrari. On the back row of the grid was Jonathan Palmer about to have his first Formula One race and alongside, in 26th place was the unusual sight of Alboreto, in a Tyrrell 012. The Tyrrell team had produced a second 012 model, which Sullivan qualified comfortably, while Alboreto only just scraped in with his 012, and was far from happy with it, so on race morning Ken Tyrrell changed his two drivers over, or rather he changed the two cars over, Sullivan having 012/1 and Alboreto 012/2. Another team in trouble on race morning was the Spirit-Honda for they found the fuel consumption of the Japanese engine to be astronomical, so the turbo pressure was reduced to lower the temperature and improve the consumption but, of course, this meant reducing the power down to little more than a Cosworth DFY. In practice the new Spirit 101/1 was tried but the short exhaust pipes between the engine and the turbochargers gave rise to too much heat, which the inter-coolers could not combat and the car had to be abandoned in favour of 201C/5, the middle one of the three cars built by Spirit. The Honda engine men had assured John Baldwin that the short exhaust pipes would be all right, but they were wrong! Watching the cars line up for the start was a chastened Jacques Laffite, a philosophical Corrado Fabi, and a sad Kenny Acheson, all three having failed to qualify.
Apart from Jarier breaking the transmission of his Ligier actually on the grid, the field got away to a good start, de Angelis suffering from being on the lower side of the sloping start area, and Mansell trying to win before the first corner. Patrese led de Angelis, Mansell, Piquet, Cheever, Winkelhock, Arnoux, Prost, Tambay and Warwick at the end of the opening lap and already it was obvious that there was something wrong with Mansell or his Lotus, for he was holding everyone up and Patrese and de Angelis were fast disappearing. It later transpired that Mansell could feel something wrong with his Pirelli tyres and did not have the confidence to “lean” on them as he should have done. One by one his followers elbowed their way by until the “Brummie” was down to seventh place and the race could get under way properly.
Piquet was hard after the two Italian drivers, pulling away from the rest and on lap 11 he must have grinned inside his helmet, for ahead of him at the entrance to the climbing left-hand turn leading out of the stadium onto the fast back part of the circuit, he saw the leading Brabham and the Lotus spinning in all directions. De Angelis had tried a run up the inside of Patrese’s car as they braked for the corner, the right front wheel of the Lotus hit the left rear of the Brabham and round they both went. As Piquet went by Patrese gathered himself up and set off in second place, but poor de Angelis was well out on the grass and revving and wheel-spinning his way back onto the track while Prost, Cheever, and Arnoux went by.
As a race the Grand Prix of Europe was now all over, for Piquet had a clear road ahead of him and he simply drove away from the opposition, just as he had done at Monza two weeks before. Patrese lost confidence in his Brabham as the thump from the Lotus had deranged the rear suspension slightly and de Angelis trickled into the pits on lap 13 with a sick Renault engine. Prost was very comfortably in second place, but could do nothing about Piquet, and the Frenchman was fairly happy to be where he was anyway, for practice had been depressing, not due to trouble but simply due to the Renault not getting to grips with the Brands Hatch circuit. Behind the winners there were one or two interesting scenarios. Watson and Lauda were running smoothly in the McLaren-Porsches, holding on to, Warwick’s Toleman-Hart, which was going well on Pirelli race tyres, and further back Johansson in the Spirit-Honda was struggling to stay ahead of Alboreto and Sullivan in their DFY-powered Tyrrells. Palmer had moved up a couple of places and was following Thierry Boutsen, the Belgian newcomer from Formula 2 driving his usual smooth and fast race in his Arrows A6. At the end of all the fast turbocharged cars, and ahead of Giacomelli and Baldi, was the irrepressible Rosberg, hopefully driving with Cosworth power for the last time, before starting afresh in South Africa with Honda power. Unbeknown at the time, it was to be the last race for the Spirit-Honda, for during the following week Honda were to make the decision to withdraw their engines from the team for 1984, concentrating all their efforts on the Williams team.
Lauda’s race ended on lap 26 when his Porsche engine suffered an internal breakage, and then Sullivan went out in a cloud of smoke and flame as an oil leak onto the engine ignited, and caused him to spin due to the oil on his rear tyres. The race was over the usual Brands Hatch distance of 76 laps and as the halfway point approached pit stops began, Watson being brought in early as part of the rear aerofoil was coming adrift. While the car was refuelled and the tyres changed, the loose bits were ripped off and he was sent on his way while preparations were made to bring him in again and replace the rear aerofoil. This never happened, for on the fastest part of the circuit, approaching Westfields corner the whole aerofoil structure began to break up and a large part detached itself upsetting the balance of the car and throwing it off the road and into the tyre barriers, a bemused Watson being carried along as a passenger. He was quite unhurt, but the left front suspension was smashed as well as there being damage to the rear.
After his poor opening laps Mansell had settled into sixth place, moving up into fifth place when Arnoux spun his Ferrari at South Bank Bend (Surtees Corner) on lap 20 for no obvious reason other than inattention, and while all the pit stops were in progress Mansell was momentarily in second place until his own stop. The Lotus lads excelled themselves with a routine stop in 9 .62 seconds, the fastest ever recorded, and Mansell responded by rejoining the race full of “tiger”, especially when he found the car handling the way he wanted it to on its new Pirelli tyres. In contrast the Brabham pit stops went all wrong, a misfitted rear wheel delaying Patrese for more than 25 seconds and a faulty wheel-nut gun delaying Piquet for more than 19 seconds.
Patrese dropped from third to tenth place, from where he never really recovered, but Piquet had such a commanding lead before he stopped that the delay did not worry him. By lap 45 all the routine stops were over, but Cheever then made an unscheduled one as his helmet visor had come adrift and needed patching up with sticky tape, so the race order was Piquet (Brabham-BMW), Prose (Renault), Tambay (Ferrari), Mansell (Lotus-Renault), de Cesaris (Alfa Romeo), Warwick (Toleman-Hart), Giacomelli (Toleman-Hart), Patrese (Brabham-BMW), Winkelhock (ATS-BMW), Arnoux (Ferrari), Surer (Arrows), Cheever (Renault) and Alboreto (Tyrrell). The rest had been lapped by Piquet, and were in the order Boutsen (Arrows), Guerrero (Theodore), Palmer (Williams), Johansson (Spirit), Boesel (Ligier) and Ghinzani (Osella). It wasn’t Rosberg’s weekend, for after a very uncharacteristic accident in practice, his engine blew up in the race on lap 44.
As far as the leader was concerned it really was all over and Nelson Piquet only had to cruise home at his ease, for Prost was no menace at all and the Brazilian demonstrated once again his very capable ability to ease right back on the power and still maintain his lead. Tambay looked secure in third place, even though Mansell was going well in fourth place, but in the closing stages the Ferrari rear brakes began to fade and the Lotus closed the gap dramatically, passing into third place as they started lap 66, Tambay moving over to let Mansell through on Paddock Bend in gentlemanly fashion once he realised he could not keep ahead any longer. Two laps later, while trying to defend fourth place from de Cesaris, Tambay had his right front brake lock on going into Druids Hairpin and he slid gently off the track, across the grass, into the tyre barrier and out of the race. Mansell was now well and truly wound up and he set the fastest lap of the race on lap 70. Piquet had made his own fastest lap on lap 38 and thereafter had not needed to try desperately hard, whereas Prost made his fastest lap on lap 73, just in case Mansell’s momentum became dangerous to his second place. Warwick was running in fifth place, behind de C,esaris’s Alfa Romeo and had serious designs on passing the Italian, but before he got the chance his cockpit fire-extinguisher began to leak and for a couple of laps he drove round in a CO2 mist, suffering low-temperature burns on his right hand and on one leg. Although this prevented any further thoughts of fourth place it did not upset his fifth place and he led his team-mate Giacomelli over the line to give the Toleman team a very satisfying 5th and 6th.
Piquet’s win was very popular with the British crowd and they also applauded Mansell and Warwick most warmly for putting Britain well into the Grand Prix picture, while the Team Lotus record pit-stop gave the boys in Black and Gold something to be proud of. It had not been an exciting Grand Prix of Europe (or British Grand Prix 2) but it had been an eminently satisfactory one from all points of view, not least the weather which had been a real Indian Summer type of day. — D.S.J.
Grand Prix of Europe – Formula One – 76 laps – Brands Hatch – 4.206 kilometres per lap – 319.656 kilometres – warm and dry
1st: Nelson Piquet (Brabham-BMW BT52B/5) 1 hr 36 min 45.865 sec – 198.214 kph
2nd: Alain Prost (Renault RE40/05) 1 hr 36 min 52.436 sec
3rd: Nigel Mansell (Lotus-Renault 94T/2) 1 hr 37 min 16.180 sec
4th: Andrea de Cesaris (Alfa Romeo 183T/03) 1 hr 37 min 20.261 sec
5th: Derek Warwick (Toleman-Hart TG183B/04) 1 hr 37 min 30.780 sec
6th: Bruno Giacomelli (Toleman-Hart TG183B/04) 1 hr 37 min 38.055 sec
Fastest lap: Nigel Mansell (Lotus Renault 94T/2) on lap 70 in 1 min 14.342 sec – 203.683 kph