Supporting the Oulton Park Gold Cup meeting for F1/F5000 cars this race was not only a round of the Shell Super Oils Championship but rather oddly it also counted for the French F3 Championship all of which meant a good entry arrived to do battle on the Saturday with qualifying being spread over two sessions on Friday.
At the end of the two sessions it was a March one-two at the front with James Hunt just having the edge over Roger Williamson, third fastest and probably unaccustomed to being so far down the grid was Dave Walker in his usual GLTL 69. Another Lotus led the second row with Claude Bourgoignie
going well in his 69, alongside the Belgian was Colin Vandervell’s Brabham BT35. Row three consisted of Barrie Maskell who was pleased with his Chevron B18 after some revisions to the front suspension design, Jean-Pierre Rousselot (Brabham BT35) and Jody Scheckter who had a spin at Knickerbrook damaging a rear radius rod which required an overnight trip back to Colchester for repairs. Peter Hull should have been next his Brabham BT28 benefiting from a good sorting by Tony Trimmer at Brands Hatch but a misunderstanding with Bev Bond ended with Hull hitting the Old Hall sleepers removing the suspension from one side of the car and causing Hull to non-start. Peter Lamplough’s Palliser, going better now it was running a Holbay was next from Rikki von Opel who had a restricted practice after going off at Lodge and damaging the nose and radiator of his Lotus 69.
John Bisignano was getting the hang of his March 713M and led Alan Jones (Brabham BT28) and Bev Bond (March 713M). David Purley was out in his usual Brabham as although his new Ensign was ready he hadn’t had any time to test it, he led the similar car of Jose Ferreira. Steve Thompson should have been next but a big off at Old Hall meant that his rebuilt Ensign would have to be rebuilt yet again. Chris Skeaping was upset to loose a lot of his practise after spinning his Chevron B17 and being unable to restart the engine, he still managed to beat the second of the French visitors Patrice Compain in his Martini-Novamotor MW7. Another non-starter followed when Brendan McInerney was another to discover at first hand just how unyielding the Old Hall sleepers are. A surprise late entry was Giancarlo Naddeo who had forsaken his Tecno for the ex-Gerry Birrell Lotus 69, Naddeo only took delivery of the car the night before so unsurprisingly was taking things very easy. Derek Lawrence was next, his Palliser still persevering with a BRM engine and Brian McGuire followed (Brabham BT28) ahead of two more French visitors, José Dolhem and Jean-Louis Lafosse both in Martini MW7s.
F3 returnee Tom Walkinshaw was disappointed to be so far down the grid but he had only managed 5 laps when his high pressure fuel-pump broke. Alan Joy put his Brabham BT28 between Walkinshaw and John Finch’s Chevron B17, next up was Naddeo’s old Tecno now in the hands of Roberto Marazzi who was having his first F3 race after racing in Italian Formula Fords. Various niggling problems explained why both the Martinis of Guy Dhotel and Jacques Coulon were so far back but at least they were better off than Cavan Riley who removed the front suspension of his March 713M after only two practice laps. Last two runners who both qualified out of session were Ronald Rossi (Brabham BT28) and Lucien Guitteny (Martini MW7).
For reasons unknown Alan Joy and John Finch joined the list of non-starters on race day and sadly Barrie Maskell was also out when on the warm up lap his Chevron’s fuel pressure disappeared despite fitting a new Holbay unit overnight.
At the start Williamson led into Old Hall from Bourgoignie, Hunt and Walker, whilst behind a fast starting Skeaping touched Scheckter causing the Merlyn to wiggle which in turn led to contact between Lamplough, who continued sans nosecone and Coulon and Dolhem who both had to retire. Up at the front the four leaders were pulling away from Vandervell who was falling back into the clutches of Rousselot, Bond, Purley, Jones, Lamplough, Bisignano and Scheckter after his earlier moment. Williamson led for three laps until Hunt got past at Knickerbrook but it was only for one lap and then Williamson got back again but only briefly as Walker took a turn at the front. Man on the move was Scheckter who was gaining a position every lap and by lap 8 he was up to sixth his progress helped by Bond spinning his March at Cascades. Alan Jones had been moving up with Scheckter until a seat belt mounting broke and the Aussie found himself moving about too much in his Brabham’s cockpit. Drivers in difficulty were Purley who spun at Esso and beached his car, Bisignano who had to pit with a loose engine cover, Lawrence who was another Esso spinner and Guitteny who had to spin to avoid the Palliser.
Bourgoignie felt it was time he had a look at the front and on lap 10 he moved into first place with Williamson, Walker and Hunt close behind. Bev Bond did his championship chase no good at all when a split tyre caused the March to spin off at Knickerbrook doing quite a lot of damage. Williamson retook the lead from Bourgoignie after the Belgian had led for two laps and after a further two laps it was clear the Lotus driver was in trouble when he missed a gear going past the pits delaying himself and Hunt and on the following lap Bourgoignie pulled into the pits with his gearbox almost seized solid. The delayed Hunt was unable to close the gap on Williamson and Walker and it seemed that the winner would have be one of these two drivers.
Scheckter got past Vandervell on lap 19, aided by setting a new lap record, and began to pull away in fourth, while behind Vandervell Jones led Lamplough and Rousselot. Up front Walker and Williamson continued to take it in turns to lead and starting the last lap it was the Lotus driver with the advantage along the Top Straight and through Knickerbrook, trying to hold Williamson back Walker took a tight entry into Lodge which in turn meant he exited on a wide line, Williamson pushed his March up on the inside and accelerated hard through Deer Leap just getting to the finishing line first. Hunt finished third despite a broken injector nozzle causing a misfire, poor Scheckter fell to seventh in the last 5 laps with suspected broken valve springs allowing Vandervell to take fourth from Jones and Lamplough after an excellent race by the Palliser driver.