The purpose of this European Cup race was to bring together the cream of the European F3 drivers together in one race. Each country would have a team of three drivers, the better represented countries could have an “A” team and a “B” team. Twelve teams were entered but the tragic events at the Avus meeting on the weekend before meant the Brazilian team which would have included Ferreira and Rossi had to withdraw.
The two Alpines representing France “A” had arrived at Thruxton during the week and indulged in a lot of testing, in addition both of the drivers had raced previously at Thruxton in F2 so it wasn’t a major surprise when Patrick Depailler set the fastest time from team-mate Jean-Pierre Jabouille. Joining the Frenchmen at the front was England “A” driver Roger Williamson
who was hampered by a blown engine and his Dunlops splitting. The second of the three England “A” representatives was James Hunt, he too had engine problems requiring two engine changes and he also had a split oil tank to worry about, Hunt lead row 2. Next to the Briton was the Brabham BT35 of Pierre-François Rousselot for France “B”. Row three saw Conny Andersson for Sweden “A”, his Brabham BT35 running a “low frontal area” nosecone ahead of Barrie Maskell (Chevron B18) for England “B” and Brian McGuire (Brabham BT28) for Australia. The third France “A” driver headed row 4, François Migault in his Martini MW7 with German “A” driver Manfred Möhr with his Lotus 69. France “B” driver Jacques Coulon lead the fifth row, Coulon’s Martini MW7 was sporting a bluff Tyrrell-like nosecone. The second Australian, Alan Jones (Brabham BT28) was next from the similar car of New Zealand’s Peter Hull. Jochen Mass in only his second F3 race was on row 6 for Germany “A” with David Purley (England “A” reserve) who was running a Vegantune for the first time in his Ensign LN1, David had some tyre problems and a huge spin in the complex during his qualifying efforts.
Row 7 saw Jean-Louis Lafosse (Brabham BT35) for France “B” heading England “B” representative Andy Sutcliffe (Lotus 69) who had a broken clutch, a broken engine and a broken fuel metering unit on his new engine! Also on this row was German “B” driver Willi Somner in his March 713S. American driver John Bisignano (March 713M) and third England “A” driver Steve Thompson were the row 8 occupants. Thompson had a handling imbalance in his Ensign that defied all attempts to correct it as well as a too low top gear. Next were a pair of Swedes, Jorgen Jonsson for the “B” team and Torsten for the “A” team, both were in Brabham BT35s, alongside them was New Zealander Alan McCully in his “new” ex-Purley Brabham BT28. Hannelore Werner (March 713M) for Germany “A” and Ingvar Peterson (Brabham BT35) for Sweden “B” were on row 10. Two very disappointed drivers were to be found on row 11, Ulf Svensson (Brabham BT35) for Sweden “A” and Bev Bond (March 713M) for England “B”. Bond was in dire handling problems until a faulty wishbone and incorrect castor angles were diagnosed. Final occupant was Australian Bob Muir who was getting the Lee Kaye 713S running much faster than it normally went.
The grid was completed by Matt Spitzley (March 713M) completing the USA team, Wolfgang Bülow (March 713S) for Germany “B”, Jan Persson (Brabham BT35) for Sweden “B” and Cavan Riley as the third New Zealander in his March 713M. Chris Skeaping and Randy Lewis also practised but Skeaping as England “B” reserve blew an engine in his Chevron B17 and a 1460cc replacement proved too gutless for the job. Randy Lewis (Brabham BT35) should have been the third USA representative but he was unlucky enough to be the first driver to discover the oil from James Hunt’s broken tank and the Brabham slid off into a marshals’ post. The rear of the BT35 was too badly damaged to be fixed for the race, luckily Lewis was uninjured.
A number of drivers had also entered the Iberia Trophy race and took part in the qualifying heats and probably wished they hadn’t. Disaster befell James Hunt who blew up his third engine of the meeting and with no more spares he had to withdraw from the race, David Purley took his place. Roger Williamson broke a piston but a frantic engine change saw him ready for the race. Torsten Palm blew his clutch and there was insufficient time to replace it, Alan McCully was in trouble with his engine cutting out, it could only be cured by running his Brabham with full tanks.
The obvious plan for the two Alpines was to try and work together and pull away from the rest unfortunately any such plan went out of the window at the chicane on lap 1 when Jabouille in fourth place tried to outbrake everyone. The Alpine ended up in the escape road and by the time Jabouille had regained the track he was last. This left Depailler, who had outbraked Williamson into the chicane, in first place from the March with Lafosse in third, next came Andersson from Maskell, McGuire, Migault, Coulon, Purley, Rousselot, Jones, Bisignano, Mass, Möhr, Hull, Thompson and Bond. Out almost immediately was German “B” runner Somner who holed the radiator on his March after a spin at Village.
By lap 3 it was Depailler from Williamson, Lafosse and Maskell then a small gap to Andersson, McGuire, Migault, Purley, Coulon, Rousselot, Mass, Jones, Bisignano and Hull. The latter two were out soon after when Bisignano spun at the chicane and Hull couldn’t avoid him, Hull retired with a broken upright and Bisignano a lap later with a holed radiator. Behind the leading runners it was Thompson, Möhr, Jonsson, McCully, Bond and Muir, then there was a big gap to Werner, Deutsch and Sutcliffe followed by a fast recovering Jabouille. The rest were now some distance back.
On lap 4 Williamson and Rousselot got themselves in a bit of a tangle at the chicane which allowed Depailler to get a lead which he gradually increased as the others lost his tow. Next retirement was McCully with several problems and Mass lost a lap after having a flat tyre replaced on lap 6. Depailler continued to increase his lead and by lap 10 it was out to 6 seconds but behind him there was a nine car fight for second between Purley, Lafosse, Rousselot, Andersson, Maskell, Williamson, McGuire, Coulon and Migault. Further back Sutcliffe and Jabouille had got together and were towing each other forward at a great rate, Purley inadvertently joined them when a huge spin at Church dropped him back from the leaders.
Up at the front Depailler’s lead was shrinking, partly due to the Frenchman being delayed by lapping backmarkers but also because the group behind were beginning to concentrate more on catching up than fighting amongst themselves. Lap 20 and Depailler’s lead was down to three seconds and he was being hotly pursued by Rousselot, Coulon, Maskell, Migault and Andersson. Williamson was beginning to fall away with a down on power engine, McGuire was just behind the March, next up were Jabouille, Purley and Lafosse. Möhr was a retirement at this point with a very smoky engine.
Depailler was getting more and more delayed by the backmarkers and on lap 27 Rousselot outbraked Depailler into the chicane whilst Coulon and Maskell tried to get by as well. Behind them Andersson, Williamson, McGuire and Migault were fighting just as hard but then McGuire lost it at Church and was out on lap 30 as was Purley with engine problems. Unfortunately the lapped Mass got involved with the leaders allowing Rousselot and Depailler to get away from Coulon and Maskell. Rousselot seemed to have the edge over Depailler in the braking department and he held on through the chicane on the last lap to beat the Martini by 0.2 seconds, Maskell outbraked Migault into Club and took third place to stop a French clean sweep. Fifth was an almighty battle between four cars, Andersson lead into the chicane but went sideways pushing Williamson out onto the concrete and grass, nothing daunted the Brit kept his foot hard down and came out ahead of Migault, Andersson managed to recover to finish seventh whilst Jabouille trying to get past everyone launched the Alpine over the kerbs and into the air, after touching down again he finished eighth.