34 cars arrived for the latest round of the John Player Championship and for some odd reason the first 20 cars were put into Heat 1 and the remaining 14 into Heat 2 instead of splitting them equally. Heat 2 was however reduced to 13 when the unlucky Neil Ginn shunted his GRD, unlucky because he had been toiling hard to build up the car around a borrowed tub and he crashed when trying the car out in a F Ford session.
Tony Brise took pole position in the damp conditions for Heat 1 using the rear end of his last year’s 372 chassis grafted onto his 373 tub to overcome the accident damage sustained at Oulton Park. The March 733s of Ian Taylor and Russell Wood completed the front row ahead of the Ensign of Mo Harness and the year old March of Roger Keele.
It was raining harder for Heat 2 and Alan Jones was out in the best of the conditions and took pole by nearly two seconds from Damien Magee’s Brabham, Magee took practice carefully with his Novamotor engine suffering from a blown head gasket. Equalling the Irishman’s time was Uruguayan Pedro Passadore in his 1972 GRD whilst Mike Wilds headed the second row from American Tom Hilliar whose time raised some eyebrows amongst the other runners.
Brise leapt into the lead from the start of Heat 1 but entering the hairpin on the first lap Ian Taylor outbraked the GRD and the March took the lead it would hold to the finish, Taylor beating Brise over the 10 laps by 1.4 seconds. Harness held third for the entire race although he came under heavy pressure in the closing stages from Wood who had moved up from sixth on lap 1 demoting Dahlqvist and Freidrich along the way. Dahlqvist took a lonely fifth with Freidrich in sixth, the Brazilian had his hands full keeping Carlsson and Keele at bay. Of the other runners Kuwashima and Tyrrell both spun at Gerards, the Japanese driver had to pit for a clean visor and Tyrrell took a long time to get going again, neither would make the final.
Heat 2 was a fairly processional affair, Alan Jones lead from start to finish to win by over 10 seconds from Damien Magee who took it easy as his engine still wasn’t right despite a post-practice rebuild. Passadore finished third ahead of Wilds who had overtaken Perkins early in the race, Perkins lost another place to Maskell’s Dastle on the last lap.
The final consisted of the first 12 from Heat 1 and the first 8 from Heat 2 and as the cars came onto the grid it was still very wet although not raining so all the finalists started on wets. Alan Jones was on pole due to his faster heat time and he led away at the fall of the flag, he was followed by Ian Taylor and Damien Magee with Tony Brise in fourth, next up came Harness, Passadore, Dahlqvist, Carlsson, Wood, Freidrich, Maskell, Wilds, Perkins, Henton, Bülow, Keele, Nordström, Robarts, Svensson and Sheldon. Lap 2 saw Taylor loose his March at Gerards, fortunately the other runners managed to avoid the errant car and Taylor resumed in sixth place. Taylor’s mishap allowed Jones to make a break from Brise who was now up to second ahead of Magee in third, Brise set off after the leader and by lap 15 the two cars were nose to tail. Brise forced his GRD into the lead on lap 16 and immediately began to open out a lead of a couple of seconds over the Australian.
As the track began to dry out Jones found the handling of his GRD improving whilst leader Brise found that his GRD was suffering from understeer especially at Gerards, Jones slowly whittled down Brise’s lead and on lap 26 Jones was back in front again. It was now Jones turn to pull out a lead and despite his best efforts Brise could do nothing about it and Jones took the chequered flag some three seconds ahead of Brise.
Meanwhile behind the leaders it was Russell Wood who was making the best progress, 10th on lap 2 by lap 29 he was up to fourth and sitting on the tail of Taylor who had recovered to third after his earlier indiscretion. Like Brise Taylor was suffering from understeer and one lap later Wood moved up to third spot, Taylor now found himself under pressure from Harness but the Ensign driver spun at the hairpin. Harness continued in fifth but under attack from Magee and Freidrich he spun again damaging the nose of the Ensign, he finished a disappointed tenth.
Magee now moved up to challenge Taylor but although he set fastest lap the Irishman was unable to find a way past. Freidrich took sixth despite a last lap spin at the Esses. Passadore had been sixth ahead of Carlsson but the Swede had to retire with valve damage and Passadore hit the sleepers at the Esses on lap 31 possibly due to a puncture. Other retirements were Dahlqvist who lost a wheel from his Merlyn on the Stebbe Straight and Keele who hit the bank at Gerards after making contact with Bülow who was able to continue.