OTT STP boss Andy Granatelli, having at last conquered Indy in 1969, turned to Europe and to March – and brought super-keen Mario Andretti along for the ride.
Porsche, keen to keep its sportscar number one from Enzo Ferrari’s clutches, agreed to fund Jo Siffert’s F1 ride with March.
And then the topper, the ever-loving Lulu of all times: world champion Jackie Stewart came a-knocking. He was less keen but in desperate need of a ride.
The Scot had been forced from his beloved Matra by big-industry politics – new owner Chrysler would not countenance reliance on a Ford-backed engine – and his loyalty to Ken Tyrrell, Cosworth and Dunlop had stymied potential deals to run a Brabham, BRM or McLaren. Smoke-and-mirrors March was his only ‘realistic’ option.
Suddenly March had no machine shop, one lathe and 10 F1 monocoques to build – plus spaceframes for formulae 2, 3 and Ford, oh, and a couple of Group 7 big-banger sportscars. Luckily anything seemed possible: the Man in the Moon was, well, a man; The Beatles were, in public at least, giving peace a chance still; and Sir Alf Ramsey had yet to unwisely substitute Bobby Charlton during a World Cup knockout match.
Mario Andretti, here at the 1970 South African Grand Prix, was an early March recruit
March caught what remained of that mood. Bicester was happening suddenly and an expanding workforce – two dozen or so by Christmas – read like a supergroup: Bob Dance, John Thompson, Roger Silman, Peter Briggs, Dave Sims, John Gentry, Nigel Stroud, Keith Leighton, Pete Kerr.
“Some had worked with Alan, knew and trusted him,” says Mosley. “The same went for Robin. One or two had worked for me. Very young, they were attracted by something completely different. The right atmosphere.”
“All our suppliers thought we were extremely rich and I didn’t feel it was my job to say that this wasn’t true”
Overblown progression wasn’t to everyone’s taste, however, and the ‘Much Advertised Motor Racing Car Hoax’ copped flak from the media. March no doubt was stretching the bounds: F1’s ‘Kit Car Era’ was not yet a thing – indeed some reckoned Cosworth’s DFV long in the tooth already; a mystery backer was neither confirmed nor denied – with good reasons both; and that F3 car turned out to be a bit of a duffer.
March was surviving on extended credit, counting the days until the deposits arrived in early November.
“That winter was fine because everybody paid,” says Mosley. “Plus all our suppliers thought we were extremely rich and I didn’t feel it was my job to say that this wasn’t true.
“We were charging Tyrrell £6000 per chassis and Walter Hayes of Ford told us to charge £9000. ‘We can’t. We’ve done the deal.’ He replied, ‘Leave Ken to me.’ Actually Walter was putting up the money and he realised that it wasn’t enough. We would have been out of business but for that.”
Thus there were several disbelieving ghouls at the big reveal at Silverstone on 6 February 1970. Also present were: Stewart, Tyrell, Amon, Granatelli, Andretti (clearly suffering from the cold), Firestone, Dunlop, Duckworth and Hayes.
“That was the key moment,” says Mosley. “The whole of F1 turned up. Nobody thought we would have an F1 car there; maybe a mock-up at best. In fact we had two. And both were runners.
“Granatelli pitching up with Mario was a complete surprise for the press, too. An extraordinary day.”