Simon's snapshots #14


British Saloon Car Championship, Brands Hatch, July 16 1978

The support package at a modern Grand Prix meeting is a homogenised beast, with precious little diversity. This isn’t always a bad thing – the GP2 Series is one of the most consistently entertaining spectacles in any sporting sphere, thanks to a cocktail of cutting-edge talent, raw ambition and occasionally wayward testosterone – but it’s a bonus when something different is added to the mix.

Then again, rose-tinted spectacles can’t mask the fact that the British GP tended to have a familiar feel 30 or 40 years ago, with British F3 and British Saloon Car Championship races propping up the main act, and perhaps a celebrity race thrown in. Back then, mind, British F3 often required two heats and a final, rather than having no cars at all…

It is getting on for 20 years since the BSCC/BTCC supported the British GP and the shot above shows how things used to be, with the nation’s premier tin-top series serving as a warm-up act. While the schedules of the day might have been fairly regimented, however, entry lists were anything but when it came to the highest-profile fixture of the season. Extra drivers would often pop up, just because it was a GP support race, and it wasn’t unknown for production saloon racers to join in by simply sticking a set of slicks on a car that had absolutely no chance of being competitive.

BSCC fields varied significantly in the early part of 1978, with 27 cars for the opener at Silverstone and only 18 by round three at Thruxton, but Brands Hatch attracted a healthy 28-car field that’s here being led by Gordon Spice (Ford Capri), from Andy Rouse (Capri), Brian Muir (Capri), Gerry Marshall (Capri), Tony Dron (Triumph Dolomite Sprint), visiting French star René Metge (Dolomite), Barrie Williams (Vauxhall Magnum), Peter Lovett (Dolomite), Richard Lloyd (VW Golf GTI) and Derek Bell (Dolomite). Jeff Allam (Capri) won the race from Muir and Tom Walkinshaw (BMW 530), with Dron, Lloyd and Richard Longman (Mini 1275GT) scoring class wins. Longman would go on to take the title – the first Mini driver to do so since Alec Poole in 1969.

The field included four drivers with at least one F1 world championship start to their names – Bell, Chris Craft, Mike Wilds and Dieter Quester – and another who would go on to contest 158 Grands Prix, promising young Toyota racer Martin Brundle.

Quite a distinguished cast, all told.

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