51 cars from a total entry of 73 arrived at Silverstone for this round of the Shell Super Oil Championship that was one of the support races for the British GP. The race would be decided over two heats and a final and qualifying took place on the Thursday with each heat getting an hour’s track time. Some of the runners were taking part in the race at Magny Cours the day before and they were allowed a ten minute session on Friday morning in order that they could qualify.
Heat one pole went, perhaps surprisingly, to Richard Longman who was a lot happier with the handling on his Lotus 69 after a switch to Koni dampers, Andy Sutcliife in his Lotus, David Purley’s Brabham BT28 and Jody Scheckter’s EMC were the other front row occupants. Row 2 was an all Brabham BT35 affair
with Swedes Conny Anderson and Ingvar Petterssen leading American Chris O’Brien. Geddes Yeates (Lotus 59/69), Peter Lamplough (Palliser), German Lothar Schorg, using a BMW engine in his BT35, and Jose Ferreira (BT28) made up the third row. Dave Morgan was making an appearance in one of James Hunt’s early season March 713S, it was claimed the only original component was the chassis plate 713S-1. Morgan’s practice was curtailed by a broken wheel bearing. Also in trouble amongst the tail-end Charlies was Sandy Shepard was only managed 3 laps with a slipping clutch. Final runners were Magny Cours latecomers Alan Jones (Brabham BT28), Jean-Louis Lafosse (Brabham BT35) and the Martini MW7s of José Dolhem and Phillipe Albera. The Renault powered March of Freddy Link was listed as being an F2 chassis 712M.
Heat two was very much faster and was headed by the inevitable Dave Walker and his GLTL 69 who was nearly 3 seconds faster than the heat one pole, a new Novamotor was fitted for the race as there was some concern about the head gasket in the practice unit. Next to Walker was Roger Williamson in his usual March and Colin Vandervell’s Brabham BT35 who was pleased with the latest Dunlop slicks and his new Vegantune motor replacing the Rowland he had used to date. Bev Bond was the final front row occupant with the works Ensign LN1 but an off at Club badly damaged the chassis and left hand suspension. Row two was composed of James Hunt (March 713) who was another driver requiring an engine change after practice, Steve Thompson (Ensign LN1) and Freddy Kottulinsky (Lotus 69). Bob Evans (Puma) headed row 3 from Barrie Maskell (Chevron B18) whose practice was shortened when he burnt a piston in his Holbay, the engine was removed from the car, flown to Holbay’s, rebuilt and reinstalled in the chassis for Friday, next up was Alan McCully (Lotus 69) from Ulf Svensson (Brabham BT35). Row 4 was Rikki von Opel (Lotus 69), Torsten Palm, who was unhappy with the handling of his new Brabham BT35 (his old chassis being driven by team mate Ingvar Petterssen) and Brian McGuire’s Brabham BT28. Amongst the final runners were Giancarlo Naddeo in his Tecno who was learning the track and Brendan McInerney who only managed 7 laps due to a late engine change, the rest of the grid were Magny Cours competitors Pierre-François Rousselot (Brabham BT35), and the Martini MW7s of François Migault and François Rabbione. Terrance Peterson was in trouble when, after being delayed in Scrutineering, he shunted his Chevron B17B (a converted Formula B chassis) at Copse knocking two corners off after one lap.
Scheckter and Sutcliffe got the best starts in heat one but at the end of lap one it was Sutcliffe leading from Ferreira, Scheckter, Purley, Longman and Morgan, late away was Italian Mimo Bertoni who needed a push start to get his engine running. Lap two saw Ferreira take the lead at Becketts but Morgan came through at Woodcote to lead for two laps with Purley and Ferreira swopping second and third places. Albera retired his Martini on lap 2 with a holed piston whilst Jorge Pinhol spun his Brabham at Copse continuing last. It was Ferreira’s turn to lead on laps 4 and 5 and then Scheckter had a go on lap 7 but anyone of the leading group could be in front depending on which corner you were looking from. Randy Lewis (Brabham BT35) was a spinner at Stowe taking Richard Longman (Lotus 69) with him, both continued down the field although Lewis managed another rotation at Copse on the following lap and needed a push to get going again. On lap 10 it was Purley in front from Morgan, Ferreira, Sutcliffe Andersson, Dolhem, Scheckter, Yeates and Jones, trailing behind were Link, Petterssen, O’Brien and Longman. Sutcliife led on lap 11 from Scheckter, lap 12 it was Purley, 13 and 14 Ferreira.
The last lap and it was anyone’s race as they entered Woodcote 5 or 6 abreast. It looked for a second as if it would be Conny Andersson but Scheckter took the EMC round the outside of the Brabham to win by 0.2 seconds, Morgan was third from Purley whose fuel pump was failing, fifth and sixth were Ferreira and Sutcliffe.
With insufficient spares for his Ensign Bev Bond was forced to scratch from heat two but everyone else lined up on the grid. For a moment it looked like Vandervell was in trouble when his Vegantune wouldn’t start on the grid but luckily it fired at the last minute and it was the Brabham driver who led away from Williamson and Walker. All the rest got away without problems except for Guitteny who needed a push to get his Martini running. By the end of the first lap Walker had moved to the front from Thompson and Vandervell, there was a slight gap back to Williamson, Maskell, Evans, McCully, Svensson, Naddeo, Radmyr, von Opel and Palm. Back at the front it was Walker and Vandervell taking it in turns to lead with Thompson happy to bide his time in third. James Hunt had a disastrous getaway when he cooked his clutch at the start and he pulled over at Copse to retire when as the clutch cooled it bit enough for him to select top. For the rest of the race, except for a few times when he risked dropping a cog, he kept it in top and he was soon picking up places and he managed to work his way up to the second group with some help from Rousselot when the pair each used the other’s slipstream to pull up on the group.
Ten laps down and it was Vandervell from Walker and Thompson, a gap then Maskell, McGuire, Svensson, Evans, McCully, Naddeo, Williamson, Kottulinsky, Rousselot and Hunt. Man on the move was still Hunt and over the next few laps he moved up to fifth, while at the front Thompson led the last two laps but Vandervell and Walker were playing with him. As the last lap was running out the Brabham and the Lotus sat in the Ensign’s slipstream and as they went under the Daily Express bridge they pounced, both drivers passed the Ensign and headed for Woodcote as one but it was Walker who had the edge and he took the flag by 0.2 seconds from Vandervell with Thompson a similar margin down in third. Surprisingly the next bunch all made it through Woodcote without incident and it was Naddeo’s Tecno taking fourth from Maskell, Hunt and the rest. When the cars came out to the grid Lothar Schorg and Rikki von Opel were missing, von Opel deciding his engine was just about to fail and he didn’t have the luxury, like Walker and Hunt, of fitting a new one.
Once again it was Vandervell who made a storming start leading away the rest followed by Naddeo and Thompson. It was clear the top drivers wanted to try and make a break to avoid the mad slipstreaming lottery and at the end of the first lap it was Walker from Vandervell and Thompson with a small gap to Scheckter, Hunt, Williamson, Evans, Purley, Svensson, McCully, Ferreira, Morgan and McGuire. Barrie Maskell should have been up there but someone shoved him off at Becketts and he was well down the field. By lap 6 everyone had caught up with everybody else and it was Thompson ahead of Walker, Vandervell, Naddeo, Williamson, Evans, and Hunt, there was a tiny gap back to Purley and Scheckter, then another space back to Rousselot, Ferreira, Shepard, Morgan, McGuire and Link.
Laps 8 and 9 saw the demise of the works March team, first out was McInerney with a holed radiator and the following lap Hunt was out when his Holbay’s metering unit seized. At 10 laps it was Williamson from Walker, Naddeo with Vandervell a few car lengths back but ahead of Thompson, Purley, Rousselot, Evans and Purley. Alan Jones was out with a broken throttle cable and team-mate Brian McGuire was out in an accident involving Andersson and Morgan at Woodcote, Andersson managed to continue with a broken nosecone.
Lap 14 saw Walker ahead of Thompson, Williamson and Naddeo. Vandervell was out at Stowe with a holed radiator and the leaders were starting to open a gap on the rest of the field except for Rousselot who was really flying and he soon attached himself to the leading quartet. Drivers in trouble were Palm and Radmyr who spun out at Woodcote, Migault had a pit stop with a broken roll bar link and then a second one with a leaking fuel union, Dolhem was out when his Martini shed its air box and Link was out at Chapel with a broken throttle linkage.
As the race entered its closing stages it was clear that, barring a disaster, the winner had to come from Walker, Naddeo, Thompson, Rousselot and Williamson whilst the point for sixth was the aim of the next bunch, Svensson, Evans, Morgan, Purley, Scheckter and McCully. The last lap and it looked like Rousselot had broken away as he had a 30 yard lead but Walker wasn’t beaten, he was closing up as they exited Stowe and they were level at Woodcote and by the flag it was the Lotus by 0.1 seconds from the French Brabham, Naddeo took third from Williamson and Thompson with David Purley managing to outmanoeuvre the other group to take the final point.