Race Report: Brands Hatch, 21 October 1973


This was the final round of the 1973 John Player Championship and over 40 cars arrived at Brands Hatch to do battle over the Grand Prix circuit. Any one of four men were in with a chance of the JP title: Alan Jones, Tony Brise, Masami Kuwashima and Jacques Lafitte the latter being many peoples favourite due to the general competitiveness of the Martini chassis and Lafitte’s consistency throughout the year.

There was a single 45 minute practice session for the cars that was somewhat delayed due to the late arrival of some fire-fighting equipment and when the cars did get out they found a wet and slippery track in front of them.

By the time practice was over it was the Baty March of Ian Taylor that had set the best time to take pole position from the March of Tony Brise and the Alpine-Renault of Michel Leclere who both set identical times to complete the front row. Championship hopefuls Alan Jones and Masami Kuwashima filled the second row in their GRD and March respectively, the Vegantune engine in Jones car was swapped after practice as a precautionary measure.
Of the other runners Brian Henton nearly stuffed the works Ensign into the bank at Druids and lost a lot of time removing the car from the ditch and pitting, he then found his clutch almost inoperative. Alain Serpaggi did not appreciate the conditions at all and had several spins in the works Alpine-Renault which helped explain his lowly grid position. Mike Wilds hit the sleepers very hard at Paddock and although personally unharmed this could not be said of the Dempster March, some hard work by his crew saw it fit for the race but with several bent pick up points on the tub it was unlikely to handle well. Both Leonel Friedrich and Hakan Dahlqvist crashed before they had completed the requisite three qualifying laps so were excluded whilst Matt Spitzley and Rod Smith were out with engine problems. First and second reserves Danny Sullivan and Per-Olof Zetterstrom got in the race but there was no room for Bernard Chevanne, Buzz Buzaglo and Alain Cudini.

There was some indecision amongst the drivers before the start as to what tyres to wear, most used wets or intermediates for the warm up lap but switched to slicks on the grid the exceptions being Leclere, Max, Harness, Lafitte and Serpaggi.
As the flag fell Leclere led from the front row, his wet tyres warming up faster and giving him more grip, Brise took second from Taylor, Perkins, Kuwashima, Max, Jones, Wood and the rest, and as the cars entered Hawthorns for the first time Brise dived past Leclere into the lead he would hold for the rest of the race. At the end of lap 1 it was Brise from Leclere, Taylor, Kuwashima, Max, Perkins, Jones, Wood, Ethuin, Robarts, Andersson, Paoli, Wilds, Rouff, Lafitte and the rest.
By lap 3 Brise was beginning to pull away from Taylor and Kuwashima who had passed Leclere who had Perkins, Max, Jones, Wood, Ethuin, Harness, Roberts and Andersson behind him. Lafitte was next a bit down the road followed by Nordstrom until the latter hit the barriers at Bottom Bend, next up was Lawrence, Rouff, Beguin, Paoli, Maskell, MacDonald, Svensson, Rousselot, “Teleco” and Albera. At the back Lombardi led Wunderink, Serpaggi (who had pitted to to swop to dries), Sullivan, Lewis (who had to have a push start), Fuller and Zetterstrom. Major retirements were Mike Wilds who spun at Westfield from thirteenth when his fuel pressure disappeared and Brian Henton who bent a front wishbone when he understeered off the track at Hawthorns.

As Brise continued to lead the battle for second was between Taylor and Kuwashima with Perkins, Jones, Wood and Ethuin squabbling over fourth. Wood soon began moving up and by lap 7 he was up to fourth and closing in on the second place fight, soon after Ethuin also demoted Jones and Perkins. Wood passed Kuwashima on lap 11 but the Japanese March driver stayed on his gearbox and regained the place two laps later also demoting Taylor and immediately pulling away. The Australian duo of Jones and Perkins were still at it and the two cars made contact at Hawthorns loosing Perkins quite a lot of ground. Kuwashima’s good run came to an end when he damaged a wheel following an off at Dingle Dell, this moved Wood up to second followed closely by Taylor with Ethuin in fourth and Jones in fifth which would be enough to secure him the championship.
Perkins was fired up after his run in with Jones and he soon clawed back the deficit and as Jones engine began to go off the Brabham passed the GRD for fifth on lap 23. Jean Max was next out when he retired his Martini with handling problems and Leclere retired his Alpine with a punctured wet tyre. Conny Andersson was lucky to escape injury when something on his March appeared to break, possibly as a result of contact with Lafitte at Bottom Bend, the car turned suddenly into the bank on the main straight. Lafitte himself was battling for ninth with Robarts and when Serpaggi tried passing Robarts to unlap himself at Stirlings he touched the Myson March and Robarts spun allowing Lafitte through. Lafitte made up another place shortly when Harness spun at Kidney whilst Robarts dropped further back into the clutches of “Teleco” as his engine began to go off.
As the race entered its last three laps Brise began to slow as his fuel pressure began to drop in the corners and Brise began to use a higher gear where possible to conserve petrol. From 6 seconds the gap dropped to 1.8 seconds but the chequered flag was out and Brise took the win and the championship with Wood leading Taylor home by 0.6 seconds. Ethuin just held on for fourth from a fast closing Perkins who lost out by 0.4 seconds, a frustrated and disappointed Jones took sixth loosing out to Brise in the end by just two points. Jacques Lafitte came home in seventh handicapped by his choice of intermediate tyres and thus ruling himself out of the championship race.



Race Report: Brands Hatch, 21 October 1973

Race Heat 1

1 Vittorio Brambilla

Birel Alfa Romeo 20:09.40

2 Fabrizio Noe

Lotus-Ford 69 20:09.50

3 Luigi Fontanesi

Tecno-Ford 20:13.10

4 Carlo Franchi (Gimax)

De Sanctis-Alfa Romeo 20:23.40

Race Heat 2

1 Giovanni Lo Voi

Brabham-Ford BT28 15:05.00

2 Adelmo Fossati

Brabham BT28 15:05.00

3 Patrice Compain

Martini-Ford MW7 15:21.00

4 Manfred Möhr

Lotus-Ford 15:34.10

5 Marcello Gallo

Brabham BT28

Race Final

1 Vittorio Brambilla

Birel Alfa Romeo 30:44.30 144.318

2 Marcello Gallo

Brabham BT28 30:44.34

3 Fabrizio Noe

Lotus-Ford 69 30:45.10

4 Adelmo Fossati

Brabham BT28 30:55.40

5 Patrice Compain

Martini-Ford MW7 31:08.00

6 Carlo Franchi (Gimax)

De Sanctis-Alfa Romeo 31:11.50

7 Manfred Möhr

Lotus-Ford 31:59.60

8 Giovanni Lo Voi

Martini-Ford MW7 31:08.00