The latest round of the John Player Championship once again visited the Paul Ricard Circuit ensuring that all the top F3 runners from both France and the UK would again do battle over the shorter club track.
The entry was split into two practice sessions with the fastest 30 making the race, the risk of non-qualifying meant some of the lesser lights from the UK stayed at home and the clashing Swedish Championship round at Knutstorp kept the Scandinavian contingent away.
The French teams dominated practice by taking the first nine places on the grid, Christian Ethuin’s Martini taking the pole from the similar cars of Jacques Lafitte and Alain Cudini. Fifth placed Alain Serpaggi had an engine failure in his Alpine during the Saturday morning session and required a new motor for the afternoon’s race. Alan Jones was quickest of the UK runners following a precautionary engine swop and Ian Taylor got up from his sick bed to set the twelfth fastest time. Tony Brise was still suffering from a kinked tub following his Silverstone accident the week before and Mo Harness overheating problems whilst Danny Sullivan had a CV joint break.
Several cars jumped the start although only Mike Wilds and Luciano Pavesi were actually penalised, the officials admitting there were several more guilty parties. It was Lafitte who took an immediate lead followed by Ethuin and Cudini with Jones the best of the English runners down in ninth place. Several midfield cars spun at the right hander on the back straight on lap 2, Passadore and Sullivan were eliminated in trying to avoid the spinners and Taylor had to pit for repairs to a damaged nosecone. Ethuin and Cudini then managed to make contact with each other on lap 3 dropping Ethuin to sixth and Cudini to last.
Mike Wilds gained a place at the expense of Alan Jones on lap 5 and Kuwashima followed suit on lap 7, one lap later everyone behind Ethuin gained a place when the Frenchman was out with a broken throttle pedal. Lafitte still led on lap 10 but his Martini was beginning to suffer from falling fuel pressure and the Martini’s lead was beginning to diminish. Michel Leclere’s Alpine was now in second place ahead of Bernard Beguin’s Martini, Jean Ragnotti’s March, Alain Serpaggi’s Alpine, Mike Wild’s penalised March and Jean Max’s March. Max lost his place to Kuwashima on lap 11 and on lap 15 the Japanese driver took Wilds for sixth.
Lafitte finally lost the lead to Leclere on lap 17 but Jacques was well clear of Beguin and Serpaggi and the leading positions remained unchanged for the rest of the race. Leclere finally took the flag 6.3 seconds ahead of Lafitte who in turn lead Beguin home by some nine seconds. Of the UK runners Kuwashima took sixth whilst Brise had been eighth with one lap to go but misread his pit board and thinking the race was over eased off, he was passed by Wilds, Jones and Max before he realised his mistake. Wilds jump start penalty eventually dropped him well out of the results.