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.
1973 British GP
July 14, Silverstone
The monumental pile-up at the conclusion of the first lap overshadowed all else. True, it was a humdinger, eliminating in one fell swoop and a loop eight of the original 29 starters.
All three Surtees, a works Shadow, a BRM, a works March, the McLaren of perpetrator Jody Scheckter and the Brabham of its sole casualty: Andrea de Adamich, whose broken ankle counter-intuitively proved the wisdom of the new crash-resistant structures mandatory for every car.
The race, when finally it was restarted, was not without merit or incident, however. Jackie Stewart, who earlier had grabbed the lead from the second row with a typically mind-managed opening lap, suffered an out-of-character spin when attempting to again wrest the lead from the Lotus of the ever-spectacular Ronnie Peterson on lap seven.
A tricksy clutch caused the Scot to muff a downchange at Stowe Corner and he fishtailed into, through and out of the infield’s corn, clogging his radiators and damaging his nose-cone.
Peterson, adopting angles that took the breath away at this still chicane-less venue, held sway for a further 31 laps – until suave New Yorker Peter Revson, his smooth driving groomed on America’s ovals, eased his oh-so-stable McLaren, a design that owed a great deal to the team’s recent successes in Indycars, into the lead after a brief squall.
In contrast, newcomer James Hunt was elbowing his way towards the front – and into his country’s affections – aboard jolly Lord Hesketh’s privateer March. Third for a time, he set the race’s fastest lap, but ultimately the McLaren of Denny Hulme nudged him back to fourth.
This quartet was covered by fewer than four seconds at the finish. Crash? What crash? PF