Race Report: Lydden Hill, 20 November 1971
Despite the race being televised on the BBC only 14 cars made it to Lydden in darkest Kent for the non-championship Wills Trophy, under the circumstances two heats and a final seemed a bit much but this format was adhered to.
It was so cold that most drivers were having severe problems getting any heat into their slicks during the two one-hour practice sessions for this first ever F3 race to be held at Lydden.
At the end of the two sessions it was Alan Jones in his Brabham BT28 on pole from Roger Williamson’s March 713M and David Purley’s Ensign LN1. Next up was the Lotus 69 of Rikki von Opel from newcomer,
the “Smiling Dane” himself, Tom Belso who was in Colin Vandervell’s BT35 fitted with a Holbay engine and Firestone tyres. Chris Skeaping (Chevron B17) headed the Brabham BT28s of Stan Matthews and Peter Hull. Back in the Royale RP11, after Bev Bonds Brands Hatch outing, was promising young Welshman Tom Pryce who just outpaced the other new car Andy Sutcliffe in the GRD now fitted with Lockheed brakes. Sutcliffe was in trouble with the GRD continually jumping out of gear, this was traced to a broken rear chassis member which was welded up in time for the race. Final runners were Tim Goss (March 713M) with water pulley problems, Geddes Yeates (Lotus 69), Roger Hurst (March 713M) and Chris O’Brien’s Brabham BT35 which suffered a blown engine.
Heat one had Williamson, Matthews and Hull on the front row and it was Hull who jumped into an immediate lead from Williamson, Sutcliffe, Pryce and O’Brien, Yeates and Matthews were left on the grid and both needed a push start to get going. Williamson moved into the lead at Devil’s Elbow on lap 2 and then proceeded to pull away at a second a lap to win the heat by 16 seconds. Pryce passed Sutcliffe at Devil’s Elbow on lap 3 and started to close in on Hull, Sutcliffe retiring almost immediately with a broken gearbox possibly a legacy of his practice difficulties. Pryce caught up with Hull on lap 7 and once again it was the Devil’s Elbow that saw the overtaking as Pryce slotted ahead of Hull on the next lap, however lap 10 saw Pryce get on the grass at Dover Slope and the Brabham was ahead again. The next lap saw Pryce in front at Pits despite nearly loosing the Royale and he stayed ahead until the last lap when the Royale went wide exiting Pits Bend and Hull was through in a flash to take second place by fractions. Yeates and Matthews completed the finishers after another close battle, Chris O’Brien retired after a couple of spins had damaged his nosecone.
Jones, Purley and von Opel were on the front row for heat two and with Purley in neutral when the flag fell Jones dived into an immediate lead he held to the finish to win by 10 seconds. This time Belso and Hurst were left on the grid and although the Dane was started with a push nothing would coax any life into Hurst’s engine and he was out. Behind Jones von Opel led Skeaping, Goss, Purley and Belso, Purley was past the Chevron almost immediately and chased after von Opel, taking him at the Hairpin on lap 5. Purley was unable to pull away from the Lotus and for the next few laps von Opel harried the Ensign until he went wide at the Elbow on lap 12 and Purley pulled away. Skeaping and Goss completed the finishers after Belso was black flagged when his rear wing started to disintegrate.
It was even colder for the final and Hull and O’Brien opted for wets to try and generate some heat into the tyres, Belso removed the failing wing from his Brabham and Sutcliffe non-started, his gearbox problems being terminal. The grid lined up as follows:
This time the entire field got away cleanly at the first time of asking and it was Williamson ahead of Purley, Jones, von Opel, Hull and Yeates. The first three began to pull away with Purley making occasional moves on Williamson and Jones making serious efforts to wrest second from the Ensign. On lap 5 Jones tried to take Purley on the inside at the Hairpin, there wasn’t enough room, the cars touched and Purley spun with Jones sustaining a badly bent top front link. Williamson was now in an unchallenged lead from Jones, the recovered Purley, Hull, von Opel and Yeates, further back Matthews, Belso and Pryce were having a good battle amongst themselves.
Jones decided his car was handling too badly to continue and retired on lap 7 leaving Purley to pull away from Hull who was being attacked by von Opel and Yeates. Pryce passed Belso at the hairpin on lap 9 and chased after Matthews who in turn was catching Yeates. Up front it suddenly seemed that Williamson, who by now had a commanding lead, was suffering from a misfire and rounding the Elbow on the eleventh lap Williamson pulled off the track got out of the March and discovered a loose wire on the distributor, he quickly replaced it and restarted but he had lost two laps in the process.
Purley was now in front on lap 13 with a comfortable lead from the second place battle which now consisted of Hull, von Opel, Yeates, Matthews, Pryce, and Belso. Hull lost second place to von Opel on lap 16 at the Elbow with Yeates falling away a little from these two. At the finish it was Purley from von Opel, Hull and Yeates. Skeaping in his Chevron was the only retirement after a couple of spins.