60 cars arrived for this round of the Shell Super Oil Championship with two heats on Saturday sorting out the 36 qualifiers for Sunday’s final. The large entry, including several French F3 teams, was probably due to the race being a supporting event for the F1 International Trophy.
Practice was split into two sessions, the first for 45 minutes on Friday and the second for 30 minutes on Saturday. Heat one pole went to Barrie Maskell who, after finding he couldn’t get a tow from anyone on Friday, borrowed a helmet from F Ford racer David Loring. With everybody now thinking Maskell’s car was driven by a slower team-mate Barrie had no problems finding a good tow! Next up was Alan Jones in his new AIRO Brabham BT38 from Sweden’s Conny Andersson in the earlier BT35 and Andy Sutcliffe who had a cracked block to contend with on Friday. All the other heat one drivers had fairly uneventful sessions except for Patrick Depailler who was much further down the grid than was to be expected, he, like all the works Alpines, was in head gasket difficulties seemingly as a result of trying a new blend of ELF fuel.
Fastest in heat two was the Ensign of Mike Walker with the similar car of Colin Vandervell second quickest. Completing the front row were Pierre-François Rousselot’s GRD and Tony Trimmer’s JPS Lotus. Once again the rest of the field were mostly drama free.
It was Sutcliife who got the best start in heat one with Maskell right behind him but as they completed lap one it was Conny Andersson who had been a little slow off the line who was in the lead from Sutcliffe, Williamson, Evans, Maskell, Purley, Jones, Wood, Lamplough, McCully, Pryce, von Opel, Yeates and Magee with the rest in a blur of colour behind. MacDonald was a first lap retirement, suffering severe damage when his March was pushed off the track by Mackintosh’s Ensign. By lap three Williamson was in front from Andersson and these two were edging away from the battle for third. Lap 5 and it was still Williamson and Andersson out in front but slipstreaming each other furiously for third were Sutcliffe, Purley, Maskell, Evans, Jones and Lamplough. Further back a similar dice was going on between Pryce, Sedgley, McCully, Wood and Mackintosh until Sedgley lost it at Woodcote on lap 5 fortunately without involving any of the other runners although the Ensign was out.
Andersson and Williamson continued their battle for the lead for the entire ten laps and although the Swede managed to get in front a couple of times Williamson always seemed in command and the March took took the inside line through Woodcote and won by 0.2 seconds. The next six crossed the line with just two seconds between them, Bob Evans coming out best through Woodcote moving from seventh to third with Maskell and Purley inches behind. Next up were Sutcliffe and Maskell after Alan Jones spun out and hit the bank hard badly damaging the front end of the BT38.
At the start of heat two a group of seven cars quickly detached themselves from the rest with Trimmer in front from Mass, Walker, Harness, Hunt, Hull and Rousselot, behind these a second group formed consisting of Brise, Ashley, Vandervell (a very poor start), Ginn, Ambrose, Coulon and Leclere. Walker moved his Ensign into first on lap two and Brise took his Brabham into the leading group with Vandervell looking to do the same. Gradually Walker, Mass and Harness began to edge away from the rest of the group which had Rousselot heading Hull, Trimmer, Vandervell (moving up well), Hunt and Brise. Mo Harness was next to try the front when he pushed his Brabham into first on laps 4 and 5 whilst Mass tried to get past Walker for second, behind them Vandervell was now up to fourth and pulling the rest of the group towards the three leaders. Lap 9 and one to go, it was Walker back in front with Vandervell flying in second from Harness, Hull, Trimmer, Rousselot, Mass and Brise. Final lap and it is still Walker in front and actually gaining on the rest, the Ensign managing to pull out to a 1.3 second win, the next seven were covered by a second with Harness coming out best on the inside line at Woodcote with Trimmer, Vandervell, Rousselot, Hull, Mass and Brise crossing the line almost as one.
The 36 car final was made up from the first ten in each heat with the next fastest sixteen lap times, the grid lined up as follows:
Andersson and Mass got away first but as the field reached the Motor Bridge Harness found himself in trouble after receiving a push up the rear, the Brabham veered back and forth across the track and was struck by Walker who then hit Purley. Harness was out immediately with a broken wishbone and a split radiator, Walker was out at Copse with a puncture whilst Purley managed one more lap with his Ensign leaving a oil smoke screen before he had to retire. At the end of lap one it was Williamson in the lead, the GRD taking first place at Stowe and that would be the last the rest of the field would see of him, even without the aid of a tow he left the rest of the field behind at a second a lap. Fighting over second place were Maskell from Andersson, Evans, Mass, Trimmer, Sutcliffe, Vandervell, Ashley, Hull, Mackintosh, Rousselot, Lamplough, Wood, Albera and Pryce. Vandervell moved up to second on lap 3 but a tap sent him off onto the grass where he had both radiators on the Ensign punctured by rocks, he also sent more rocks flying one of which hit the steering arm on the Royale of Tom Pryce bending it which caused the Welshman to retire with dodgy handling.
The next big change came on lap 4, behind Williamson it was Maskell, Mass, Anderson, Sutcliffe, Hull, Ashley, Evans, Mackintosh, Lamplough and Rousselot. As the next group crossed the finishing line Wood spun on someone else’s oil and spun off into the bank, Albera trying to avoid the March also put his Martini into the bank ripping off his wheel, this bounced back onto the track hitting the front of McCully’s Brabham, the Australian in trying to pull off the track was then hit by Auvray’s Martini which sustained a puncture. Also in trouble was Trimmer who lost a lap with a pit stop to replace a punctured tyre following a nudge at Woodcote and Maskell who was out when fourth gear exploded.
By lap 10 the field was down to 20 cars and this was further reduced when Deutsch retired with rear suspension damage after contact with Ambrose at Stowe, next out were Brise with a blown head gasket and Ashley with a broken metering unit. Meanwhile Williamson was still out in front, the second place group were still at it hammer and tongs and further back Magee, Hunt, Bond, Ginn and Mackintosh were having their own private duel.
Things quietened down for the final ten laps, the only additional retirements were Mackintosh and Hunt, the Ensign driver spinning at Becketts taking Hunt off with him much to the annoyance of the March driver. At the end of the 20 laps it was clearly an easy win for Williamson but who would finish second, it was four abreast under the Daily Express Bridge and as they entered Woodcote Mass dived inside Hull grabbing second place by inches. Evans and Sutcliffe crossed the line together with wheels almost interlocked, Sutcliffe got the verdict although many observers though it should have been Evans, Andersson came in sixth after loosing out at Stowe, next up were von Opel narrowly from Rousselot, the rest of the field coming home at a more sedate pace.