No less than 63 cars arrived from an original entry of 87 for this the final round of the Shell Super Oil Championship. Due to the number of starters the race was held on a two heats and a final format with the first 12 from each heat plus the next fastest 12 lap times qualifying for the final. There were practice sessions of Friday and Saturday morning, for the latter session the track was slightly damp especially under the trees.
It was Barrie Maskell’s Chevron on pole for heat one despite breaking a camshaft on Friday, the engine was repaired in time to allow Maskell to run it in on Saturday. Next up were usual British runners James Hunt and Colin Vandervell ahead of visiting French runner Patrick Depailler who took a corner off his Alpine at Druids. Of the other runners Williamson and von Opel needed engine changes
had fuel feed problems, Hull had water in the engine, McCully and O’Brien had shock absorbers break. Natividade was very lucky when four wheel studs sheered going through Hawthorns, he managed to bring the Lotus under control without damaging himself or the car, less fortunate was Bertoni who planted his Brabham in the Clearways bank and was a non-starter. Of the two newcomers, the Royale and the GRD, both drivers were pleased with the progress they were making.
It was Claude Bourgoignie setting the pace in heat two although he had an off at Bottom Bend on Saturday and his Lotus was only just repaired in time for the race, next came Mike Walker, Peter Lamplough and, once again going very well, German newcomer Jochen Mass. For the rest of the runners it was fairly uneventful, there were some spinners on Saturday but the only casualty was Phillipe Albera who damaged his Martini beyond immediate repair.
It was Hunt who lead away at the start of heat one hotly pursued by Vandervell, Maskell and Williamson. At the end of the first lap it was still Hunt with a small gap back to Vandervell with a further larger gap to Williamson, Maskell, Sutcliffe, Purley, Ashley, Jabouille and Jones. Williamson soon closed in on Vandervell who in turn joined Hunt and it was these three who began to pull away from the rest, in fact Williamson was going so well he took the lead on the third lap. Hunt started to fall away slightly as engine began to sound a little rough, sounding worse was Maskell’s unit and the Chevron driver found himself dropping away to tenth at the finish. Vandervell was pressing Williamson hard but it was the Brabham’s turn to suffer with a flat engine and he dropped back as Hunt moved forward. Williamson found himself under heavy pressure from Hunt during the last two laps but he held on to win by 0.2 seconds, Vandervell held on in third from Purley and Jones. Of the two new cars Sutcliffe was forced to retired the GRD when his Holbay cried enough and Pryce spun the Royale down to 13th at the finish when his handling deteriorated with a slow puncture.
It was Mike Walker in his Ensign from start to finish in heat two but it wasn’t as easy as it sounds as Scheckter was only 0.4 seconds back at the end with several other cars on his tail and the South African had put the Merlyn in the lead several times on the back half of the circuit. It was Lamplough behind Walker at the start but Scheckter was soon up to second and on lap three Depailler and Bourgoignie joined in the fun, Mass, Coulon and Bond were also with this leading group and any of them were in with a chance of victory. The eight cars would stay together for the ten laps of the heat and at the chequered flag there was only 2.6 seconds between them in the order: Walker, Scheckter, Bourgoignie, Depailler, Lamplough, Mass, Bond and Coulon. Drivers with problems were McInerney who had to retire his March with dubious handling after he had shunted the car in the morning session, Lafosse who blew an engine and Cinotti whose de Sanctis came off second best in an argument with the Clearways banking.
Everyone got away smoothly as the flag fell and at the end of the first lap of the final Williamson led from Scheckter, Vandervell, Hunt, Mass, Lamplough, Walker, Bourgoignie, Depailler, Bond, Purley and Jones. Maskell was in trouble when someone gave him a shove off the track at Westfield and he continued well down, also in difficulties was Jabouille who retired his Alpine with a puncture. Scheckter took the lead at Paddock on lap 2 with Vandervell, Williamson, Hunt and Mass close behind, Vandervell then moved his Brabham into the lead on lap 3 but it was Scheckter again on the next lap. For the next four laps the Merlyn pulled away from the pack until the South African had a three second lead, suddenly Scheckter had his arm in the air as his car picked up a puncture just as he was passing the pits and he sadly had to retire.
Other retirements at this stage were Purley who was nudged into a spin at Stirlings on lap 7, unfortunately Guitteny in his Martini was too close to avoid the rotating Ensign and both cars were out. O’Brien abandoned his Brabham at Stirlings whilst Pryce damaged the Royale in a collision with Pankl and Svensson damaged his Brabham with a grassy trip at Stirlings.
Depailler moved into the lead on Scheckter’s retirement but it seemed as if he had made up places under the yellow flags caused by Purley’s mishap, Hunt and Williamson followed the Alpine in second and third. Vandervell was next and falling away with a repeat of the engine dramas he had suffered in his heat whilst behind the Brabham it was Mass, Lamplough, Walker, Bond, Jones and Bourgoignie. Although he was almost last after being elbowed off at Druids on lap 1 Andy Sutcliffe was really flying in the new GRD after a new ’72 spec Holbay engine was fitted to the car to replace the unit that was blown up in the heat.
Depailler was edging away at the front from Hunt and Williamson who were now well clear of the chasing pack of Mass, Lamplough, Vandervell, Walker, Bond, Jones and Bourgoignie. Walker was a retiree from this group when he put the wheels of his Ensign on the grass at Westfield and the car hit the bank and Mass lost time, and delayed Vandervell, with a spin at Druids. Two more were out on lap 14 when Jones and Lamplough tried Paddock side-by-side, the Palliser locked its brakes and pushed Jones into the bank, Lamplough spun resuming between Mass and Vandervell. Lamplough was later reprimanded by the Stewards for his driving.
Depailler’s lead was now out to a couple of seconds but the two Marches of Hunt and Williamson were battling furiously over second place, Williamson moved up to second on lap 18 but Hunt was back ahead on the following lap. For the remaining half a dozen laps the first three places remained unchanged and Depailler led Hunt over the line, Williamson nearly threw it all away with a spin at Westfield on the last lap his March hitting the Armco. Luckily his lead over fourth placed Bourgoignie was enough that he had time to recover and get his battered car across the finishing line. Bev Bond was very unfortunate to loose fifth place on the last lap when his engine blew up, Lamplough was the lucky recipient of the fifth place. Sutcliffe eventually bought the GRD home in 12th and he would have finished much higher if it hadn’t been for his opening lap problems.
Drama struck almost as soon as the race was over when first of all Depailler was disqualified by the Stewards for overtaking under yellow flags and then the new winner Hunt was also out when his air restrictor failed its vacuum test in the scrutineering bay. Despite later appeals by both drivers the disqualifications stood and Williamson was declared the winner.