Although this FFSA Formula Three Trophy race supported the French GP there were surprisingly few foreign entries and the majority of the field was made up of domestic runners. This was possibly partially due to the fact that there was no start money on offer and also that the grid was restricted to 25 starters.
Fastest in qualifying was Roger Williamson in his usual GRD 372, he soon came to terms with the difficult track and his pole time was less than 12 seconds away from some of the slower F1 boys. F3 returnee Jean-Pierre Jabouille set the second fastest time in Depailler’s Monaco winning car, it was thought that Alpine wanted the F2 driver in one of the cars to continue their run of success in the French championship races. Two more Alpines were to be found on the second row of the 2X2 grid, the works car of Michel Leclere and the 1971 ex-Depailler car now handled by Lucien Guitteny.
Row three was Jean-Pierre Jarier, once again going very well in the La Vie Clare March 713M and the first of the numerous Martini Mk9s this one driven by Jacques Coulon. Further down the grid the man who builds the Martinis, Richard Knight, who had semi-retired was out giving a customer’s car a run. Both of the works Dastles arrived for James Hunt and Bubbles Horsley but worn out engines and wheel bearing problems afflicted both cars, Horsley did not qualify and although Hunt made it a broken upright meant he non-started. Bev Bond was initially first reserve in the Ehrlich ES1 but Hunt’s withdrawal meant he made it onto the back of the grid. UK non-qualifiers were John MacDonald (March 713M), David Powers (March 723) and Brian McGuire (Brabham BT38), Tony Brise could have expected to make the race but his BT38 was stuck at Calais due to problems with the French Customs.
It was Williamson who led Jabouille into the first corner at the start and once in front he was confident that he could keep the other cars behind him due to the problem of overtaking at this circuit. Two drivers were out immediately, somebody moved over on Ulf Svensson who then hit Bernard Beguin’s Martini, both cars spun and retired. Ascending the hill behind the pits Ethuin spun the Narval and was struck by Knight’s Martini which reared up over a low guard rail and dropped down a 50 foot ravine, Knight suffered a broken collar bone but more seriously the spectating wife of a photographer received serious chest injuries.
Behind Williamson and Jabouille it was Guitteny, Jarier, Rousselot, Rabbione, Leclere and Coulon. Mike Walker was down in eleventh after being delayed at the start and out were Stan Matthews with broken throttle slides, Alain Serpaggi with no third or fourth gears and Rikki von Opel with a broken clutch. Despite Jabouille’s best efforts Williamson continued to lead and the two drivers were pulling away at a second a lap from the chasing pack. Rousselot moved up to third outbraking Guitteny and Jarier into the pits hairpin, Jarier and Leclere then had a great battle until a bit of a misunderstanding saw Leclere leave the track under braking and hit a course marker which damaged the Alpine’s suspension and causing its immediate retirement.
At half distance Williamson still led with Jabouille indulging in some fist-waving in second, third was Rabbione whose Martini had lost its airbox and as a result was flying, next came Rousselot, Guitteny, Jarier and Coulon. Further back Lacarrau was ahead of the Dhotel/Walker battle followed by Wood, Andersson, Lewis and Bond all of whom were spread out from each other. Next retirements were Lacarrau and Dhotel who hit each other when they were blinded by the dust raised by the helicopter dealing with the injured from the Richard Knight opening lap accident, Mike Walker was lucky to avoid the two colliding Martinis.
On lap 8 Williamson suddenly appeared on his own as Jabouille had hit the rear of the GRD under braking and had fallen back into the middle of the third place battle. Williamson was now able to relax and so at the end of the 10 laps it was the Englishman in first from Rabbione who was immediately disqualified for his lack of airbox this moved Rousselot up to second making it a GRD 1-2. Guitteny took third from the disgruntled Jabouille with Jarier fifth despite his March having lost most of its oil. At the end of the race all the leading cars were scrutineered and weighed in public, much to everyone’s relief, and happily they were all declared fully legal.