This was the first round of the Shell Super Oil Championship widely regarded as the most prestigious of the UK championships so it was not surprising that nearly 40 cars arrived to race on the Brands Hatch GP circuit. The fact that it was also one of the support races for the F1 Race Of Champions helped as well as it would give the F3 drivers a chance to show what they were made of in front of the F1 Team Managers.
Practice was on Friday and Saturday, several drivers weren’t ready for the Friday session but they didn’t miss a lot when much of the circuit was liberally covered in oil after Mo Harness lost an oil line on his Brabham through bottoming. Tom Pryce was going very well in the Royale RP11 looking both smooth and fast and by the end of practice, despite limiting the number of laps done to save his only engine, it was the Welshman who took pole position. Lining up next to Pryce on the front row was Barrie Maskell,
again going very quickly in his Lotus 69 despite an off at Westfields and James Hunt who was much happier in his March after some midweek testing. Row two saw the second Royale of Ian Ashley sitting next to the new Ensign of Colin Vandervell whilst row three had Mike Walker’s Iberia Airlines Ensign from Tony Trimmer who was still getting used to the Lotus 73 and Peter Hull who missed Friday’s session to go testing at Goodwood and was reaping the benefit. Hull’s Brabham BT38 had been more badly damaged than first realised at Mallory and the car had to go back to the factory to have the tub rebuilt. Bob Evans who had discovered his March had been incorrectly fitted with F2 springs and anti-roll bars was much happier now the correct items were installed led row four from Peter Lamplough who was pleased with the new Merlyn.
Row five occupants were David Purley who lost time in his Ensign with a split radiator, Chris Skeaping in the works Chevron and Andy Sutcliffe who lost a lot of time with a gearbox offering only second and third gears. The next row had Geddes Yeates (Lotus 69) from a brake troubled Damien Magee and Rikki von Opel who hadn’t done himself any favours when after being black-flagged for a loose nosecone he took a shortcut over the Clearways grass which damaged his radiator and bodywork. The second Lotus 73 of Bernard Vermilio suffering from an incorrectly adjusted clutch pedal sat on row seven with the disappointing Rousselot who couldn’t seem to get his GRD running as quickly as he had managed to pedal his Brabham the previous year.
Mo Harness was next, after curing his oil pipe problems, and was going well in his first F3 outing, and was followed by Bengt Radmyr (Lotus 69). Neil Ginn (GRD 372) who split an oil tank sat on row nine along with Patrice Compain who was still sorting his new March and Paul Butler (Brabham BT28). Stan Matthews should have been next but a big off at South Bank resulted in a badly damaged March and a broken big toe. Moving up a place as a result was Roger Williamson who set his time in the slow Friday session, on Saturday when by his own admission he was going too quickly on cold tyres Roger lost the March at Westfield badly damaging a rear corner. A quick trip back to the March factory at Bicester saw the car ready to race on Sunday as good as ever with a new Holbay also added. Final qualifiers were Reg James (Brabham BT28) who had piston problems, Matt Spitzley (March 713M), Val Musetti (Royale RP11), a very unhappy Brendan McInerney (March 723), Jeremy Gambs (Ensign) who had an run in with John MacDonald and Davy Powers (March 723).
Fastest non-qualifier and first reserve was Tony Brise who only managed five laps in his new Brabham BT38, next up was the slow Eifelland 23 of Willi Deutsch which was actually a March 723 with a new nosecone from the March 713M of John MacDonald who had suffered engine problems on Friday and only done three laps and then on Friday made contact with Gambs damaging his suspension. Final runners were the second, and even slower, Eifelland of Hannelore Werner, the Alpine of Linguard Goulding, the very slow March 723 of Robin Smythe and the appallingly slow Merlyn of Dalqvist.
The fastest 30 lined up on the grid for the 20 lap race but before the flag fell Maskell threw his arm in the air, a lead had fallen off his starter motor and his engine was silent, further back on the grid von Opel was also in starting difficulties. The rest of the field took off managing to avoid the stricken Maskell who received a push and a 60 second penalty, Pryce took the lead into Paddock and held on so that at the end of lap one it was the Royale with a slight lead from Vandervell, Hunt, Ashley, Evans Sutcliffe, Lamplough, Hull, Trimmer, Yeates, Walker and Purley. At the very back McInerney found his misery compounded by a one minute penalty for jumping the start. By lap 3 Pryce already had a five second lead over Vandervell, Ashley, Hunt and Evans who seemed more concerned about squabbling for second than chasing the fast disappearing Royale, Lamplough was next ahead of Sutcliffe, Hull and Trimmer. In the middle of the field Williamson had pulled up to 13th with strict instructions from Tom Wheatcroft to take it carefully when overtaking, nonetheless the March was progressing well.
Lap 5 saw Hunt pass Vandervell and Trimmer, despite not having a clutch, had moved the Lotus up to sixth but had Lamplough and a fast closing Hull to contend with. Over the next few laps Pryce continued to consolidate his lead but behind him the battle for second was getting closer as more cars joined in. Hunt and Vandervell were constantly swopping second and third but then Ashley took second to make it a Royale one-two for a few laps, also in the group were Hull, Trimmer, Walker and Purley with Lamplough beginning to fall away. Williamson and Sutcliffe were only a short distance behind this bunch and both were making determined efforts to join in the fun. Further back Magee led Vermilio, Yeates and Skeaping from von Opel who was shortly to retire with overheating, Maskell was next up, making good progress after his startline problems.
The final ten laps saw more arguing over second although Pryce continued out in front on his serene way. There were yellow flags at South Bank on lap 16 as the Ensigns of Walker and Vandervell made contact, Walker was out with radiator damage and Vandervell dropped to eighth, second now was Evans from Ashley, Hull, Hunt (a few lengths back), Trimmer and Williamson. Nothing was going to stop Pryce and at the end of 20 laps he took the chequered flag some 15 seconds up on Hull who took an excellent second on the race debut of his BT38, Evans took third despite gearbox problems from Ashley, Trimmer, Hunt and Williamson.
There was more drama to come after the race in the scrutineering bay, the first three cars were weighed and found to be underweight, fourth placed Ashley was then checked, his GRD was underweight and his airbox was leaking. Trimmer and his Lotus had gone home but anyway his car was ineligible for points since the Lotus didn’t carry Shell stickers (a requirement to score points) due to a sponsorship clash. All this meant that sixth place Hunt whose car was checked and found legal should have been declared the winner. However after a lot of argument it was decided that it would be impossible to find 6 legal cars as most of the teams had by now gone home and with all the checking and rechecking over a three hour period cars could have been tampered with. It was decided to fine the entrants of the illegal cars £25 each and let the results stand with the exception of Ashley who was disqualified because of his faulty airbox. It was also decided to get the weighbridge certified just to be on the safe side which was just as well for a week later it was officially checked and found to be inaccurate so the results were declared as below with a lot of official red faces.