Round two of the John Player Championship suffered from several non-starters but there were still enough to mean that two heats were required to decide who would take part in the final.
Tony Brise and Russell Wood both set the same time to head the grid for the first heat, their time of 1:36.2 equalling the lap record held jointly by Jody Scheckter and Jacques Coulon. The GRD of Japan’s Masami Kuwashima completed the front row ahead of Hakan Dahlqvist in the Merlyn and the Ensign of Mo Harness.
The GRD of Alan Jones set the quickest time in Heat 2 ahead of Ian Taylor and fellow Australian Larry Perkins. Brian Henton headed row two despite an off at Cascades that removed a corner from his GRD, alongside him was Sweden’s Gunnar Nordström. Less fortunate runners were Mike Wilds whose engine broke a jackshaft in the first session, a replacement Holbay not arriving until qualifying was over, Mike Tyrrell with a slipping clutch and Danny Sullivan who also suffered an engine failure after only a few laps of practice.
Tony Brise lead Heat 1 from start to finish with Russell Wood trying everything to catch the flying GRD but missing out by 0.2 seconds at the flag. Damien Magee made a great start and clung onto the back of Woods on the opening laps until a moment at Cascades on lap 4 saw the Irishman lose the tow from the March and his engine lacked enough grunt to allow him to close up again. Masami Kuwashima nearly caught the Brabham of Magee on the last lap, the two cars crossed the finish line side by side with Magee getting the verdict. Of the retirements Per-Olof Zetterström hit the sleepers at Lodge on lap 1 with his BT41 as did the similar car of Johnny Gerber a few laps later when his throttle stuck open, John Sheldon retired his Royale with bent valves in his Vegantune.
Alan Jones dominated Heat 2 in the same fashion as Brise in the first although his cause was helped by Brian Henton and Ian Taylor colliding at the entry to Old Hall, Henton continued while Taylor pitted and then continued a couple of laps down in order to qualify for the final. Larry Perkins held second spot behind Jones although he came under pressure from a recovering Henton in the closing laps, a half spin by Henton at Esso saw Perkins safely home. Retirements were Ken Sedgley with an off at Cascades on lap 4, Svensson with a blown head gasket and poor Mike Wilds who retired on the warm up lap with a big end failure.
It was raining for the final although there was still some doubt about whether wets were necessary, in the end all the field opted for grooved tyres except for Pedro Passadore who retired after one very fraught lap. Barrie Maskell non started when his engine failed in the paddock whilst Nick von Preussen and Tom Hilliar did not come to the grid for reasons unknown. Neil Ginn only managed the warm up lap when his GRD left the track at Old Hall and hit the sleepers.
Brise made the best start in the slippery conditions and led from Wood, Magee and Jones who promptly lost a place to Perkins when he touched the Armco at Deer Leap but regained it immediately when Perkins left the track at the next corner. First lap retirements included Jeremy Gambs and Ingvar Carlsson, both out at Esso and Mike Tyrrell with drowned electrics, Jose Santo was also out within a few laps.
Meanwhile back at the front Brise had opened a bit of a gap to Wood although the March was closing up again and the pair of them had moved well away from third place man Alan Jones. Brise began to find his visor misting up and when he lifted it a little to let some air in the slipstream ripped it off and Brise now had no protection from the spray. As the leaders came up to lap Friedrich and Musetti (the latter for the second time) along Top Straight Brise missed the Royale with his limited vision as he concentrated on the March and in a second Brise hit Musetti. The leader was out on the spot with suspension damage and Musetti had to stop to replace a punctured tyre. This left Wood with a comfortable half lap lead over Jones although since he hadn’t seen Brise’s accident Wood he was a little surprised to receive the chequered flag as the winner. Second man Jones also lost his visor during the race and had a battle in the closing laps with a fast closing Masami Kuwashima. Magee took fourth from Friedrich despite having dropped behind the Brazilian for a while, Ian Taylor took sixth from his back of the grid start despite a couple of spins. Mo Harness had been running well in fifth but his Ensign aquaplaned off at Old Hall and hit the Armco.