68 cars arrived at Monaco from an original entry of 82, from these the fastest 48 would qualify for the two heats that would decide the 20 runners that would make up the final. The cars were split into two groups each of whom would have two 40 minute sessions to set a qualifying time.
At the end of all the sessions it was Michel Leclere that set the best time, the works Alpine’s featuring a new 1 inch widened track front and rear. Both Leclere and Serpaggi were delighted with the feel of their newly modified cars. Second fastest was Jacques Lafitte in his works Martin MK12, although over a second slower than Leclere Lafitte was happy as he set his time in the slower second sessions that were affected by dropped oil. Making it an all French trio at the front was the Shell France Martini of Bernard Beguin. Fourth fastest time was given to Italian runner Claudio Fransisci although even his own team hadn’t got him within two seconds of the official timekeepers. Masami Kuwashima was looking very quick and set fifth fastest time despite several spins although his second session was abruptly halted when the March hit the harbour wall very hard, the car was repairable for the heat but it would still have a kinked tub. Also showing well was the Cowangie Kid, Larry Perkins, in his ex-Alan Jones GRD 372, he had tested at Magny Cours and a repositioned rear wing and some De Carbon dampers were making the car fly.
Of the other runners Tony Brise was not happy with the handling of his GRD and Alan Jones lost a lot of time with a broken wheel rim when he was forced off-line by a slow Tecno. Jean Max had a large accident at Portier which removed one side of his car rendering him a non-starter and Hakan Dahlqvist was disqualified for ignoring a black flag when his Merlyn was dropping oil. Ian Taylor was hampered by a broken differential that lost him time in his second session and one-off F3 returnee Bob Evans was not happy with the handling of his STP-March 723. Jacques Coulon was also returning to F3 from F2 and was having a run in the spare DART GRD, he took a corner off the car in qualifying and seemed to be uninterested in the whole proceedings.
Of the non-qualifiers Mo Harness was disappointed not to be allowed to take Max’s place, the organisers not believing in reserves, Harness had an off at Piscine which interrupted his qualifying. Danny Sullivan, whose Ehrlich was running on Dellorto carburettors, was never going to make it after loosing third gear and Val Musetti had a shunt on Thursday, an all nighter to rebuild the Royale proving fruitless when a ball joint failed on the second lap of Friday’s practice.
After all the practice sessions the qualifying times were put into chronological order and first, third, fifth etc. went into one heat with second, fourth, sixth etc. into the second. The final would be made up from the first ten in each heat.
Bernard Beguin was in trouble before the flag fell with the engine in his Martini sounding very rough during his warm up lap. It was Michele Leclere who made the best start to lead from Masami Kuwashima, Christian Ethuin, Jean-Pierre Paoli who had made a great getaway from the fourth row, then a gap back to Bruno Pescia, Alain Serpaggi, Tony Brise, the ailing Beguin, Leonel Friedrich, Carlo Giorgio, Ian Taylor and Damien Magee. However Paoli only made it as far as St Devote on lap 2 where he hit the Armco removing three wheels from his Martini, this accident giving Leclere a good lead over Kuwashima who was fighting off the attentions of Ethuin. Brise had moved up to fourth on lap 3 and Pescia who had been well placed spun his March down to the back of the field on lap 5. Pescia’s problems held up several of the drivers allowing Brise to pull away from his pursuers led by Serpaggi from Giorgio, Friedrich, Taylor, Magee and Wilds.
Lap 6 saw Ethuin pass Kuwashima at the chicane but almost immediately there were problems at Tabac. Down at the lower end of the field there had been an intense battle between Salminen, Sassi, Svensson and Lewis, suddenly there were cars flying off the track in all directions almost blocking the track. Lewis was the only one of the group to be able to continue, his Brabham now less its nosecone, in the confusion a Tabac marshall began waving a red flag and many drivers expected the race to be stopped. Both Leclere and Ethuin picked their way through the wreckage but Kuwashima slowed down on seeing the red flag and lost quite a lot of time, the rest of the field also made their way past the carnage and the man with the red flag gave up and put it away. Next to leave the fray was Ian Taylor was out on lap 7, his March clipped the kerb at Station Hairpin, flew across the track and hit the opposite kerb doing substantial damage in the process.
Tony Brise had managed to pull up onto the tail of Kuwashima in the confusion but he clipped the kerb at Casino bending a top link and then on the ninth lap he did more damage to the GRD at the chicane causing him to retire a lap later with one of his wheels pointing at a very odd angle. Meanwhile back at the front Ethuin began to close the gap to Leclere but the Alpine had enough in hand to win by some 4 seconds despite a big sideways moment at Casino on the last lap. Kuwashima also came under heavy pressure from Serpaggi in the last 5 laps but at the line he took third by a tenth of a second. Giorgio managed to keep Friedrich at bay for fifth despite the Brazilians best efforts over the second half of the race with Magee taking seventh despite a broken gear lever.
Heat 2 was all Jacques Lafitte, he took an immediate lead at the start whilst the rest of the field found themselves boxed in behind Giorgio Francia. Conny Andersson’s March took third at the start ahead of Larry Perkins, Gunnar Nordström, Alan Jones, Alberto Colombo and Russell Wood. As Lafitte increased his lead Andersson and Perkins were involved in a tense battle that caused Perkins to give the chicane a heavy clout that launched his GRD in the air which cost him some time but no places. Also battling hard were Nordström and Jones until they made contact at Piscine on lap 2, Jones struck the Armco and retired immediately. Andersson and Perkins finally found a way past Francia on lap 6 but for Perkins it was to no avail as on the following lap he hit the chicane and bent a top link and had to retire after falling down the field with his wheel now misaligned.
This left Lafitte with a comfortable lead over Andersson who in turn was well ahead of Francia who had Nordström close behind although with an eye to the final the GRD did not attempt to pass the Brabham. Gaudenzio Mantova’s Lotus 69 was next and pulling away from a battle between Russell Wood and Jurg Dubler, the Lotus pulling up to within a second of Nordström at the finish. Dubler got ahead of Wood on lap 9, the engine of the Chequered Flag March not running cleanly due to fuel pressure problems. Alberto Colombo’s Brabham BT41 had been in seventh but the Italian dropped out on lap 10 with a damaged front wheel. Lucien Guitteny’s Alpine passed Johnny Gerber’s Brabham for eighth on lap 8 and the Mexican was further demoted by Lella Lombardi at the chicane on lap 13. The Brabham BT41 of the Italian lady made contact with Gerber’s works version bending a front wing and delaying Gerber by quite a large amount.
Gerber now found himself dicing for tenth (and the final qualifying spot) with Jac Nelleman and Alessandro Pessenti-Rossi and on the last lap in an amazing manoeuvre Nelleman passed both Brabhams as they entered Casino Square and as they reached the chicane Gerber dropped another place to Pessenti-Rossi. The Italian then tried to pass Nelleman at La Rascasse which nearly ended in tears with both cars making heavy contact although Pessenti-Rossi recovered first to take the final qualifying position. Retirements from the race included Coulon who capped a lacklustre weekend with a collision with Pessenti-Rossi on lap 1 from which he immediately retired and Roelof Wunderink who badly damaged his car at St Devote on lap 10. Brian Henton had a miserable race, from his lowly grid position he ran towards the rear of the field, he lost his nosecone on the Pit Straight and was black flagged, he then spun after hitting a car at La Rascasse and he finally finished last in the heat.
Lafitte’s heat winning time was a couple of seconds quicker than that of Leclere’s so the Martini took up the pole position with the runners from his heat lined up behind, Leclere and his fellow Heat 1 runners took the opposite side. Andersson’s March was unable to take part in the warm up lap when it refused to fire up in the pits but it was started in time to join the grid. When the flag fell it was Andersson who accelerated into an immediate lead from the second row, in fact many people felt he had jumped the start. At the chicane it was still Andersson from Lafitte and Leclere, then it was Francia, Kuwashima, Serpaggi, Ethuin, Giorgio, and Nordström. Andersson was quickly demoted on lap 2 by both Lafitte and Leclere and they both began to pull away from the rest of the runners. Leclere was trying to pass the Martini all round the track and on lap 4 the Alpine punted the Martini up the gearbox exiting the left hander behind the swimming pool, the Martini snapped sideways but Lafitte held the moment. Leclere found that he had damaged the steering on the Alpine and cracked a wheel and he immediately began to drop down the order. Andersson moved up to second although some way behind Lafitte and the Swede found himself under heavy pressure from Kuwashima and Serpaggi, the Alpine driver demoting Kuwashima to fourth on lap 7. The March of Kuwashima was out three laps later when a stud on a wishbone failed and the car ground to a halt on the hill up to Casino. Ethuin moved up onto Serpaggi’s tail and both Frenchmen were trying to get past the wide March of Andersson, however Ethuin only lasted in fourth briefly as he went off at Tabac damaging the suspension on the Martini.
On lap 18 Andersson and Serpaggi arrived at the chicane side by side, Andersson ran wide on the exit and made contact with the Armco and at Tabac the March spun bending a radius rod and damaging the bodywork, the Swede motored round to the pits and retirement. Serpaggi now had a clear run on Lafitte and with six laps remaining he set off after the leader but Lafitte had enough of a lead and despite Serpaggi flinging the Alpine all round the track the Martini came home the victor by 1.5 seconds.
Nordström had moved up to third by passing Giorgio and Francia but he was disqualified in post-race scrutineering due to a leaking airbox. Francia had been in fourth holding up a bunch consisting of Magee, Friedrich, Giorgio and Mantova, Magee got ahead of Francia on lap 18 but was unable to pull away but Francia was unable to retake the Irishman and the remaining positions remained static to the finish allowing Magee to claim an excellent third spot after Nordström’s disqualification. Jurg Dubler had been running with this group until Mantova passed Dubler at the chicane launching the Swiss Brabham into the air, Dubler later went up the escape road at the chicane on lap 19 and then pitted with locking brakes. Russell Wood had been making good progress up the field and had been with Mantova when his fuel pressure problems struck again and he had too retire at La Portier. Mike Wilds had been chasing Wood but when he encountered the slowing Leclere he tried to pass him at the chicane on lap 8, the two cars touched and Wilds flew up into the air and landed heavily, the resulting puncture causing him to leave the track at Tabac badly damaging the Ensign. Leclere was also a disappointed retirement as a result of all his various problems, the accident being the final straw.