The 1971 Woolmark British Grand Prix has come and gone, providing Jackie Stewart with yet another runaway win. He left the rest of the field behind and romped home, giving a superb display of fast driving. Yet to me the whole thing was rather an anti-climax.
The motoring press had, quite rightly, built up this race to be the showdown of the season between the V12s and V8s, and on paper any one of half a dozen drivers stood an excellent chance of victory. The vast crowd that arrived at Silverstone were all, no doubt, anticipating a really great race….
The day got off to a tremendous start with the 30-lap Formula Three race. With valuable Shell Super Oil/Motor Sport points at stake all the top F3 boys were present, and we were treated to a first-class motor-race. The lead changed at least once in any one lap and at the end of a breath-taking race, any one of four drivers might have won. They were followed home by the next bunch which comprised of seven cars all fighting for fifth place.
Couple this with a low retirement rate and you have success. Tremendous stuff; the sort of thing that makes people come back again.
Then we came to the main event of the day. By the end of the second lap three cars were already out, and as if it were doomed, the race never really recovered from this disastrous start.
The Ferrari challenge never materialised and eventually both Ferraris retired. The BRM challenge unfortunately faded after a good start, while McLaren, Matra and Surtees were never really in the hunt. The last scrap was the Peterson/Fittipaldi/Schenken battle which unfortunately faded as the race progressed and finally died completely when Schenken had to retire. (He must rate highly as motor racing’s Mr. Unlucky 1971 if some of his recent F1 and F2 results are anything to go by.) At the end of 68 laps most people must have been quite glad that the chequered flag was hung out to terminate what had turned into a high-speed procession.
The patriotic crowd were obviously delighted that Stewart had won the home Grand Prix; but to the enthusiast the race seemed to lack a certain keenness, hence, in my mind, the anti-climax. It might not be a bad idea to run the next Grand Prix to be held at Silverstone over 30 laps; we might find more cars will be able to last the pace. And while we are about it, put the Formula Three race on as the main event, run over 68 laps. At least we would be assured of a far more competitive race and I would think with fewer casualties into the bargain.
D. M. Churchouse.