The Iberia Trophy was a non-championship race held in conjunction with the European Cup, many drivers took part in both events although a number used qualifying as a way of getting additional track time for the European Cup and subsequently scratched from the race. Due to the number of runners the entry was split into two ten lap heats to qualify for the 10 lap final.
Pole position for heat one went to Jody Scheckter in his newly painted Lucky Strike Merlyn from surprise second fastest John Bisignano (March 713M), completing the front row was Roger Williamson in another 713M. Conny Anderson’s BT35 was ahead of Richard Longman’s Lotus whose Novamotor was running a standard cam after engine problems. Of the other drivers not competing in the European Cup Peter Lamplough was suffering low fuel pressure in his Palliser whilst Mike Walker was
having his first F3 outing for three years in the works Ensign that was now using a Vegantune mill in place of the previous Holbay. Right at the very back John MacDonald was in dire trouble with a very badly misfiring BRM engine in his March 713M.
Qualifying for heat two was largely undramatic, Alan Jones was going very well to get pole position in his Brabham BT28 from the March 713M of James Hunt and the Alpine-Renault of Depailler who withdrew from the race. Best of those not running in the European Cup was Tim Goss who was running a Middleton rebuilt Holbay and was going far better than of late, his times being 2 seconds a lap better than he had done before. Also going well was Ray Mallock in the U2 which was running a Palliser type nosecone although he broke his special 5-speed gearbox.
It was Scheckter who jumped straight into the lead from Williamson, Bisignano, Longman and Purley, as the cars arrived at the complex Andersson punted McGuire off the track and the Aussie resumed almost last. Most of the field made it through the chicane at the end of the lap but Lee Kaye braked impossibly late, tried to take the escape road, missed and hit the straw bales injuring two photographers and a marshal who were, perhaps unwisely, standing behind them. It was almost total chaos then with ambulances and Land Rovers emerging on the track and yellow and white flags being waved everywhere, the leaders came on the scene apparently totally unaware of what was happening. Inevitably some slowed quicker than others and much “overtaking” ensued. When the music stopped it was Scheckter from Bisignano, Longman, Purley, Williamson, Lamplough and Lafosse. Most of the rest of the race was run under the yellow although that didn’t prevent some place changing, during this period Williamson retired with piston failure and Lamplough dropped a lap when he lost a split-pin from his metering unit. The yellow flags were lifted on the penultimate lap and at the finish it was Purley from Scheckter, Longman and Bisignano with a gap to Andersson, Lafosse and Walker. Once the observers had reported Purley, Lafosse, Andersson and McGuire were disqualified for passing under the yellows.
Heat two and it was Jones in the lead from the flag but Hunt was soon past at the chicane whilst behind the two leaders it was Maskell, Rousselot, Coulon and Mallock. By lap 2 Thompson, Bond, Lawrence and Goss had caught up with the leading six. Hunt’s lead was short lived, on lap three yet another piston failed in his Holbay and it was Frenchman Rousselot who took over at the front for the next six laps with Maskell, Jones, Thompson and Coulon looking for a way past. It was Jones who took the lead again at Club on lap 9 and immediately tried to break away from his pursuers, Maskell was having none of this and stayed glued to the Brabham’s gearbox. Into the chicane on the last lap and Maskell forced the Chevron ahead of Jones to take a narrow win with Thompson in third ruing his too-low top gear with Coulon and Rousselot ahead of Lawrence who just beat Mallock as the U2 blew its head gasket.
The final was made up of the top ten from each heat plus the next best ten lap times although a few were unable to take their places due to various problems. The grid lined up as follows:
As the cars left the grid in was Steve Thompson in his Ensign who grabbed the lead but by Church it was Longman from Goss, Scheckter, Thompson, Walker and Purley, Williamson and Lawrence both had to take to the grass loosing several places in the process. As everybody settled down it was a seven car train at the front with Jones, who was doing most of the leading, heading Scheckter, Thompson, Walker, Purley, Williamson and Lamplough this group having pulled away from the rest of the field. Every lap there was furious activity going into the chicane as everyone sought to find an advantage however small on the others. Further down the field both Maskell and Mallock had to retire when their engines cried enough at the furious pace. For the entire race the front runners were changing place all round the track and it all came down to the chicane on the final lap, Jones had eked out a small gap of about 20 yards but all round the back section Scheckter was using the Brabham’s slipstream to pull himself closer and the South African braked very late into the chicane, the Merlyn went sideways forcing Jones wide and onto the concrete. Jones managed to regain the track as Scheckter exited the chicane and they raced side-by-side to the finish line with Scheckter just getting the verdict as the nosecone fell off Jones’ car. Purley took third from Walker, Thompson and Williamson whilst Coulon lost a good finish with a trip into the straw bales at the chicane.