1975 British at Silverstone
How did you end up finally getting your Formula One chance so long after your famous Formula Two victory at Mallory Park back in ’72?
Sometime in 1974 I had contacted John Surtees and asked why I had never been given the opportunity to test an F1 car. The next week I was down at Goodwood, running around sitting on a wooden plank. My sponsor, Southern Organs, stayed in touch with the team and then put together a deal for ’75. I would do the British, German, Austrian and Italian Grands Prix in a TS16 and maybe the North American races.
Qualifying initially went well for you. What went wrong after that?
I was quite chuffed with the first session. I was 21st and ahead of people like Mario Andretti and not far off my team-mate John Watson. I remember coming out of Abbey, hearing this fearsome noise and diving straight into the pits. All I’d done was hit the rev limiter. After that we messed around with the gears, which turned out to be a disaster, and I didn’t improve my time.
Did you get the chance to improve the car for the race?
I let John (Surtees) persuade me to put the F2 wing on for the warm-up, but I didn’t get out because the clutch was slipping its head off. John thought I should still run the new wing in the race. I was kind of in awe of him, but I wasn’t really happy to go out in low-downforce trim. I knew from F5000 that Silverstone requires a lot of downforce.
What happened in the race?
I couldn’t even see the lights from where I was and I wasn’t even inclined to put the car in gear because I was so beside myself that I had qualified so badly. The gearing was still wrong and the braking was terrible because of the lack of downforce. I made a pitstop because it started to rain, then came back in for slicks and eventually the heavy rain came and I aquaplaned off at Club.
Not a rewarding experience then…
I’ve never been so disinterested in a motor race in my life. I was embarrassed to be out there. After going off I walked back to my caravan sure I had done my last-ever race.
How come the Surtees deal ended?
Southern Organs went bust the week after Silverstone when the government introduced a luxury-goods tax. The bosses staged their own disappearance at one point. It was a shame because I was so looking forward to the German GP, having got a grip on the Nürburgring in one of the two sportscar races I did with John Lepp to prepare for F1. I really fancied myself against Watson.
Why did you not race for five years?
I went to see Peter Warr about getting a test with Lotus, but nothing came of that. I more or less retired, though I should have done a Brian Redman and gone to the States. — GW