A very large number of cars arrived to contest this round of the Shell Motor Oils F3 Championship and with only 30 starters allowed and no heats there were a lot of disappointed drivers after practice.
After the two sessions on Friday afternoon it was Frenchman Jacques Coulon who surprised many by grabbing pole position 0.6 seconds under the lap record and 0.8 seconds quicker than current F3 king Roger Williamson who was second quickest, Peter Hull had his Motor Auctions Brabham BT38 going well to be the final front row occupant. Row two had the works Ensign of Mike Walker sharing the same time as the works Alpine of Alain Serpaggi. Mike Tyrrell caused a stir by heading the third row after getting a good tow from Jochen Mass and he led the second works Ensign of Rikki von Opel and the second works Alpine of Michel Leclere.
Of the other runners Chris Skeaping planted his Chevron B20 in the barriers rendering the car a non-starter, Colin Vandervell only managed two laps before his clutch failed and Tom Pryce was in engine difficulties with his Royale RP11. Peter Lamplough’s Merlyn Mk21 was allowed in at the back of the grid to replace the missing Skeaping. F Ford front-runner Ian Taylor in a GRD was disappointed not to qualify in his first F3 race.
As the flag dropped Hull missed second gear, Williamson was forced to slow and was nudged by Walker, in the general confusion there was more contact and Mass found himself eliminated whilst Rousselot had to retire after a few laps with bent suspension and Lamplough damaged the nose of his Merlyn. Coulon took advantage of the melee and jumped into the lead from Serpaggi, Hull, von Opel, Leclere and Williamson. Coulon edged further away on lap 2 as Hull moved past Serpaggi into second but one lap later he was back to third as Williamson, making up for the startline incident, took second at Knickerbrook. A few positions further back Walker found himself in trouble when his Ensign understeered off the road ripping off a couple of wheels.
The field was now beginning to split up with Coulon, Williamson, Hull, von Opel, Leclere, Serpaggi, Evans, Tyrrell and Brise pulling away from Magee, Kuwashima, Jones and Vandervell who was hampered by a lump of the Mass bodywork lodged in his suspension and restricting his steering lock. Lap 5 saw Hull passed by von Opel and Leclere whilst at the front Williamson was gradually reeling Coulon in and on the next lap at Lodge the GRD was ahead of the Martini although Coulon had no intention of giving up the fight. Leclere got ahead of von Opel on lap 8 whilst Maskell found himself understeering off at Knickerbrook hitting the Armco with his Lotus, also out were Jarier and Pryce both with no oil pressure.
By 10 laps Williamson and Coulon were comfortably ahead of the rest led by Leclere who had opened up a gap from the fourth place battle between von Opel, Hull, Evans, and Serpaggi, next up were Magee, Tyrrell, Vandervell, Kuwashima and a recovering Brise who had spun at Esso. Coulon was still trying to pass Williamson and on lap 12 he was level with the GRD along Top Straight but Williamson had the better line and stayed in front, Hull lost places to Evans and Serpaggi when he ran wide at Lodge and Alan Jones was out with no oil pressure. Rikki von Opel began to drop back as he found the brakes disappearing on his Ensign moving Serpaggi back to fourth and Hull took Evans for fifth. Vandervell had moved his Ensign up to fifth but with only two laps remaining a piston failed dropping Colin to sixteenth at the finish, also out was Brise with front suspension damage after contact with Kuwashima.
There were no further incidents over the remaining laps and Williamson led Coulon across the line by 0.6 seconds with the two Alpines in third and fourth with Hull, Evans and von Opel filling the next few places