Despite this being the third F3 race in four days over the Easter weekend an excellent entry of 40 cars made it to Mallory for the Easter Monday meeting. The race was run on a two heats and a final basis with the heats being made up from the alternate fastest times in practice.
Fastest for heat one was Barrie Maskell who was once again flying in the Travisco Lotus 69, sitting next to him was Roger Williamson in his March 723, Williamson being less than happy with his March as he was finding, like several other drivers, that he was suffering very badly from tyre scuffing especially through Gerards. Final front row occupant was Tom Pryce in his Royale RP11 which had required extensive rebuilding after his Oulton dramas. Leading row two was James Hunt in his works March 723, this was a new tub as March had found the Oulton chassis too badly damaged to be repaired. Also keeping March busy was Bob Evans who was going well, equalling Hunt’s time until a tyre went down at Gerards and the 723 hit the sleepers rendering it unfit to race. Row three saw Bernard Vermilio’s Lotus 73 heading Pierre-François Rousselot’s GRD 372 and the second Travisco Lotus 69 of Geddes Yeates whilst
on the next row it was Stan Matthews (March 723) from Ian Ashley (Royale RP11) who had also needed repairs after Oulton.
The fifth row saw the second works March of Brendan McInerney ahead of Val Musetti in another Royale RP11 and the old Brabham BT28 of Mo Harness, behind them came Damien Magee who had reverted to a Novamotor for his Palliser and Jorgen Jonsson’s Brabham BT35. Bringing up the rear were John Littler, getting used to his new Ensign F372, John MacDonald (March 713M), Jan Persson (Brabham BT35), Matt Spitzley (March 713M) and Alan Edgar in the ex-Dave Walker Lotus 69 who was going very slowly for reasons unknown.
Heat two had Mike Walker’s Iberia Ensign F372 from Peter Hull’s Brabham BT38, with newly rebuilt gearbox, and Ken Mackintosh in the ex-Steve Thompson Ensign F371 on the front row. It had to be said there was some surprise at the time given to the American Mackintosh due to his inexperience of the car. It was Tony Trimmer (Lotus 73) and Rikki von Opel (Ensign F372) on row two ahead of the GRDs of Neil Ginn and Andy Sutcliffe (who had lost first and second gears) and Colin Vandervell’s Ensign F372 on row three. Vandervell was hampered by broken piston rings which necessitated an engine change for the race. Row four contained Chris Skeaping (Chevron B20) and Tony Brise (Brabham BT28) with Peter Lamplough (ex-Jody Scheckter Merlyn Mk21), Mike Tyrrell (Ensign F372) and Ken Sedgley (ex-works Ensign F371) a row further back. Paul Butler’s Brabham headed row seven despite an accident at the Esses, the car was repaired for the race, next to him was Russell Woods March 723. Final runners were Australian Ross Ambrose in the third Travisco Lotus 69, the Ensign of Jeremy Gambs and the Lotus 69 of Bengt Radmyr who had a 10 second penalty after missing practice with a first lap accident at the hairpin. Non-starters were Reg James who blew a piston in his Brabham BT28 and Robin Smythe’s March 723 which was out after a practice accident.
Roger Williamson took the lead at the start of heat one and held it until the third lap when Maskell swept by into first place, the position he would hold to the flag. Williamson fell back into the clutches of Tom Pryce but the Welshman was under orders to take it easy in the heat so he made no serious effort to get past the March. Next up were Hunt and Yeates but the March driver found his engine loosing power and lap 8 saw Yeates move his Lotus up to fourth. Next up were Vermilio in the works Lotus who just headed Ashley across the finish line. The only retirements were Musetti who parked his Royale in the banking at Gerards on lap one and Magee who was out with falling oil pressure. Into ninth place and thus qualifying for the final was Bob Evans who had been loaned, in a very sporting gesture, the Ensign of Jeremy Gambs since his own March could not be repaired for the race. However in a far less sporting gesture several rivals protested this and Evans found his racing was over for the day.
Other than for half a lap it was all Mike Walker in heat two, however this doesn’t mean it was easy for the Ensign driver as Sutcliffe made a super start in his GRD and hounded Walker for the entire 10 laps finishing only a few feet behind at the chequered flag. Initially it was Hull in third but the Brabham began to suffer more and more from understeer and Hull had to give best to Tony Trimmer and Rikki von Opel. Next up were Neil Ginn and Tony Brise ahead of Mackintosh which perhaps indicated that the American’s practice time was a little generous although with only a season in F Ford behind him he still did well to qualify for the final. Only retirement was Paul Butler who threw his car at the hairpin barriers to complete an unhappy day for his BT28.
James Hunt had a new engine fitted for the final and attempts were made to install new ratios to Williamson’s gearbox but the cogs wouldn’t fit so the original ones were quickly reinstalled. The grid lined up according to the finishing times from the two heats which resulted in second heat winner Walker starting from the third row. The field got away cleanly but this lasted only to Gerards when some general bumping and boring saw Ashley being sent spinning off the track. The Royale was push started by the marshals but this resulted in Ashley being shown a black flag and he retired. The end of lap 1 saw Pryce leading from Maskell, Williamson, Hunt, Yeates, Sutcliffe, Trimmer and Walker. Maskell dived inside Pryce at the Esses to take the lead on lap 2, the Lotus soon pulling out a lead, Williamson and Hunt also found a way past the Royale and by lap 5 the order was Maskell pulling away from Williamson, Hunt, Pryce, Trimmer, Sutcliffe, Yeates and Walker.
On lap 6 Hunt, who was much happier with his new engine, took second from Williamson at the Esses whilst a lap later Trimmer got ahead of Pryce and set out after Hunt and Williamson. Lap 9 saw several front runners out when Walker tried to pass Pryce at the hairpin, the Ensign hit the Royale up the rear causing both serious suspension damage, both cars were out on the spot as was Geddes Yeates who was innocently involved in the incident. It was Trimmer who was making real progress, on successive laps he passed Williamson and Hunt and started hauling in Maskell, eight laps later the Lotus 73 was on the tail of the Lotus 69 and lap 17 at the Esses saw Trimmer through into first place. Maskell wasn’t about to give up his hard earned lead and for the rest of the race he harried the works Lotus even taking the lead again briefly on lap 24 when Trimmer stumbled over some backmarkers. The two Loti remained tied together to the flag with Trimmer crossing the line 0.2 seconds ahead of Maskell, the battle for third was just as intense with Williamson pulling almost level with Hunt on the line, they were given the same race time but the works car got the nod over the privateer. Tony Brise driving his Brabham with increasing confidence only just failed to catch the Marches on the line and Vermilio in the second works Lotus was pulled along in his wake. Sutcliffe came seventh his car’s handling deteriorating with a slow puncture and von Opel threw away a good placing with a spin at the hairpin.
Although Trimmer had clearly won the race he would receive no points towards the Shell British F3 Championship as the rules for the event stipulated that to score points competitors had to carry Shell stickers. Since Lotus were sponsored by Texaco who understandably baulked at their cars wearing a rival’s logo insisted the Lotus did not carry any such advertising so for Trimmer and Vermilio no stickers = no points.