A series taken from the 162-page Motor Sport special 100 Greatest Grands Prix (other specials are available here).
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From the editor Damien Smith
The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget…
Welcome to this special one-off magazine, dedicated to our love of Grand Prix racing and produced by the same team that brings you Motor Sport each month.
It seemed a good idea: whittle down 107 years of racing history to come up with 100 GPs that could be considered the ‘greatest’ – then rank them in meritocratic order. By week three, the old grey matter was beginning to ache…
Defining greatness was the first task. There were the obvious races – the wheel-to-wheel duels, the comeback classics. But there were also individual performances of supreme dominance, races that might not necessarily have been the most exciting to witness. Greatness goes way beyond thrill-a-minute, we decided.
Then there were those races of prominence, attached to a certain time or place that made them hugely significant. I’m thinking specifically of Belgrade, 1939. Only five entries took the start of a race that didn’t sound particularly scintillating. But as it happened to take place on the very day WWII broke out, we felt it worthy of inclusion. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel’s remarkable maiden GP win at Monza in 2008, for lowly Scuderia Toro Rosso, was left on the cutting room floor. Is that fair? You decide. We also opted to include a few races that weren’t Grands Prix, leastways in name, although the strength of entry was such that they might as well have been…
Choosing which races should make the list was hard enough; ranking the top 100 in some sort of order was even tougher, especially when it came to the crunch: which should be number one? We never did agree unanimously on the ‘greatest’, but if the magazine was to be finished a decision had to be taken. And that’s what I’m here for!
Will you agree with our choice and order? Probably not. But if steam begins to issue from your ears, take a deep breath. In any exercise such as this, there is no definitive list – because there can’t be. Our top 100 is based on opinion, nothing more, designed to be a bit of fun and to spark good-natured debate among fans of the world’s greatest sport.
So turn the page, delve in – and whatever you do, don’t take it too seriously.
1975 Dutch GP
June 22, Zandvoort
With a peer of the realm for a boss, a team manager called ‘Bubbles’ and a public school-educated driver, hard-partying Hesketh Racing was a round peg in an increasingly square sport.
But the team with the silver spoon in its mouth also had a spine of steel: the schoolmasterly ‘Bubbles’ Horsley got the best from the mercurial James Hunt, while designer Dr Harvey Postlethwaite provided him with a handsome white charger: the 308.
Zandvoort, however, was flat-12 Ferrari territory and Niki Lauda, who arrived in Holland on the back of three consecutive victories, grabbed an emphatic pole position ahead of team-mate Clay Regazzoni. Hunt, who arrived on the back of five consecutive retirements, was the fastest of the Cosworth-powered runners: third. James knew, however, that he would have to gamble if he wanted to beat his mate Niki: he would start a wet race on dry settings, with a view to switching to slicks at the first sign of a drying line.
Hunt peeled in first, from fourth place, on the seventh lap. He had done something similar at Monaco only for the team to fumble the stop. This time it was more cautious. Even so, its man took the lead when Regazzoni eventually pitted for dry tyres on lap 14; Lauda had stopped one lap earlier – yet still too late.
From the Archive: “An Englishman wins” by Denis Jenkinson (June 1975).
‘Hunt the Shunt’ had tossed away the leads of GPs before. Not this time. It helped that Lauda had his hands full with the Shadow of Jean-Pierre Jarier, whom he eventually scrambled by for second place on lap 44 (of 75), but although the Austrian was then able to haul Hunt in, he was unable to pass him.
Lauda knew better than most how good the Englishman potentially was and it crossed his mind that he might have freed Hunt’s genie from its bottle. And so he had. PF