This round of the John Player Championship unfortunately clashed with the Nogaro round of the French championship which resulted in the absence of any of the French drivers, nevertheless a good entry still arrived at Brands Hatch to do battle over two heats and a final.
Practice for Heat 1 saw Brian Henton fastest, Superhen was having another outing in the works development Ensign that this week featured new wings, font and rear, and the engine cover was missing. Next up was Sweden’s Conny Andersson with Mike Wilds completing the front row. Buzz Buzaglo was showing good form now that he had a new rev counter fitted, his old one had been running 1200 rpm too fast so the Australian was now able to make better use of his engine.
Alan Jones should have been in Heat 1 but on leaving the pits and approaching paddock his left front wheel locked and the GRD hit the sleepers. It was decided rather than to rush things and to allow Jones to receive treatment for a sore neck he should take over Pedro Passadore’s car in Heat 2. It was perhaps then a little surprising to see Jones put his troubles behind him and take the fastest time in his heat ahead of Hakan Dahlqvist and Tony Brise despite not fitting into his team mates car too well. Times in the second heat were quite a lot slower than the first due to a heavy coating of oil around most of its length. Larry Perkins found himself at the back of the grid when a driveshaft broke on his Brabham before he had been able to set a competitive time. Barrie Maskell, despite a recent spell in hospital with a virus infection,was out again in a heavily revised Dastle which he felt was a definite step in the right direction.
Brian Henton and Conny Andersson made the best starts when the flag fell for Heat 1 but it was Henton who had the edge and he pushed the Ensign into the lead from Andersson, “Teleco”, Buzaglo, Wilds, Taylor, Kuwashima, Rouff, Nordström, Robarts, MacDonald, Santo, Vejlund, Elton, Musetti, Moffett and Lewis, the latter suffering from a bent fin following contact at Druids. Henton and Andersson were now involved in a fraught battle for the lead with Andersson taking over at the front on lap 3 when he passed Henton at Druids and the Ensign lost more ground when Henton understeered wide at Clearways but within a lap Henton was right back on Andersson’s tail. On lap 9 as the two leaders entered Kidney Henton aimed for a very small gap on the inside of Andersson and made it through and back into the lead. Once back in front Henton was determined to stay there and he hung on for the remaining lap and a half to take the win by 0.4 seconds. Third place had initially belonged to “Teleco” hotly pursued by Buzaglo, Wilds, Taylor, Robarts and Kuwashima. On lap 8 Wilds passed “Teleco” and the Brazilian dropped away to finish a second away in fourth with Buzaglo a similar distance back in fifth but 0.6 seconds up on Taylor in sixth. The only retirement was Barrie Maskell with a blown head gasket whilst Randy Lewis lost a couple of laps in the pits.
It was Dahlqvist from the middle of the front row who led the rest of the field on the opening lap of Heat 2 followed by Jones, Harness, Friedrich, Brise, Wood, Lombardi, Rousselot, Maskell, Perkins, Lawrence, Svensson, Zetterstrom and Preussen. Jones took the lead at Druids on lap 2 opening out a small advantage over Harness who was now up to second with Dahlqvist almost immediately loosing two more places to Brise and Friedrich. Harness and Brise then moved up to challenge Jones and although the positions did not change in the final laps this wasn’t from lack of trying by any of them. Jones found his damaged neck beginning to trouble him in the closing stages of the race but he hung on to win by 0.2 seconds from Harness with a similar gap back to the third placed Brise. Dahlqvist just headed Friedrich over the line for fourth and fifth with a battling Wood and Rousselot next up. Larry Perkins had made good early progress from his back of the grid start but then found himself bogged down in amongst midfield runners, Lella Lombardi had been running seventh but a spin at Clearways on lap 2 dropped her down the field.
The final consisted of the fastest 20 cars overall and the grid lined up as follows:
Alan Jones was still being troubled by his sore neck and had to receive a painkiller injection before the start of the race but despite this it was his GRD that took the lead towards Paddock but he suddenly seemed to miss a gear allowing Henton to gain the advantage. Ian Taylor found himself pushed off and into the bank at Paddock and the luckless Jones had a spin at Druids resuming in last place. The order at the end of the first lap was Henton, Andersson, Wilds, Brise, Harness, Friedrich, Rousselot, Wood, Dahlqvist, Buzaglo (with a one minute penalty for a jumped start), “Teleco”, Kuwashima, Nordström Robarts, Rouff, Perkins, Maskell, Lawrence and Jones.
By lap 5 Henton had eked out a small gap over Andersson who was under heavy pressure from Wilds, Brise, Harness, Friedrich, Rousselot and Dahlqvist there was then a gap of a couple of seconds to Buzaglo, Kuwashima and Robarts then another gap to a battling Wood and “Teleco” next the similarly duelling pair of Rouff and Perkins. Jones had caught up with these last two but spun again on lap 8, he made up the lost ground again but after another spin on lap 16 he called it a day in too much discomfort from his injured neck.
Henton had opened up a reasonable lead by lap 10 and Andersson who had been clear in second now came under renewed pressure from Mike Wilds and on lap 11 Wilds tried to overtake into Kidney. Both drivers braked a little too late and Andersson ran wide causing Wilds to spin in avoidance, the closely pursuing Brise, Harness and Freidrich managed to make it through as Wilds resumed now down to fifteenth place. Andersson had only dropped to fifth but his nose had been damaged and he retired his March on lap 15.
By half distance, 20 laps, Henton had five seconds in hand over Brise, Harness and Friedrich all of whom were a couple of seconds apart. Next came a big group consisting of Dahlqvist, Robarts, Rousselot, “Teleco”, Perkins, Buzaglo, Wood and Wilds all fighting over fifth. Kuwashima had been with this group but he retired his March with handling problems. Not much happened over the next ten laps but on lap 28 it looked as if Brise had began to close on Henton as the gap dropped to three seconds but the Ensign driver soon opened up his lead again. Harness lost third place on lap 26 when he made contact with the GRD of Nordström when lapping him, he lost enough time for Friedrich, who had been dropping away, to catch and pass him. For the next fourteen laps there would be a tough battle between the two men over third position.
Larry Perkins was making good progress from his lowly starting spot, he was now up to seventh having started seventeenth but he had a battling group right behind him consisting of Rousselot, Buzaglo, Wilds and Woods. Robarts had been with them but he retired after a couple of pit stops failed to cure an electrical fault that caused his engine to misfire.
For the final ten laps nothing happened to the two leaders and Henton led Brise home by some six seconds. Third was not so clear cut, Friedrich, Harness and “Teleco” were all battling for the spot and entering Paddock for the last time there was pandemonium, what happened wasn’t clear but the track was certainly oily, some of it from Friedrich who had a leaking oil cooler. If the cause wasn’t clear the result was, Harness made heavy contact with the banking and Friedrich and “Teleco” had big moments allowing Perkins and Dahlqvist to go through. Thus it was Perkins who took third by 0.2 seconds from Dahlqvist, Friedrich should have been next but a half spin at Bottom Bend allowed “Teleco” to take the place, Friedrich recovering to sixth despite a puncture and no oil. One final incident saw seventh placed Buzaglo lock up on the oil at Druids, the following Wilds got sideways avoiding him and was rammed by Rousselot, Mike Wilds happily overtook all of them to gain the place.