The annual support race for the Monaco GP was also a round of the BP championship which assured a healthy entry of UK based team in addition to a large contingent of Scandinavian and Continental runners. A total entry of 66 cars would have to battle for the 36 places in the two heats, the first nine from each heat would then qualify for a place in the final, qualifying took place on late Thursday and first thing Friday morning with all the races on Saturday.
Fastest of all the runners was Larry Perkins in the works Ralt who apart from a few minor adjustments was very happy with the car which would duly take up pole position in Heat 1. Second quickest and thus pole sitter for Heat 2 was Tony Brise who was running his F Atlantic Modus converted back to F3 specification, other than a few minor problems Brise had a smooth time during qualifying. Conny Andersson and Gunnar Nilsson were second and third on the grid for Heat 1 in their March 753s again neither man had any major problems other than traffic to report.
Second on the grid for Heat 2 was the surprise package of Italian Renzo Zorzi in his GRD 374 unusually powered by a Repetto-tuned Lancia Beta engine, many people, a little uncharitably, felt the timekeepers had made an error with his fastest time. Alex Ribeiro took third fastest in Heat 2 with the second of the works Marches.
Of the other runners Heat 1 man Mike Tyrrell had a big shunt when a clevis broke on his 733 putting him in the Armco, the non-qualifying Ken Silverstone kindly allowed his March 743 to be cannibalized to provide the parts to allow Tyrrell to race. Also in Heat 1 experienced Freddy Kottulinsky would normally expect to be at the front but problems with his new BMW engine saw him qualify well down the field.
In Heat 2 Danny Sullivan had to have his Modus rebuilt using parts from non-qualifier Reudi Gygax’s car after the American hit a tree (!) after encountering someone else’s oil. Rupert Keegan had a couple of spins without any damage to his March whilst South lost most of the second session when a burnt out coil/distributor stopped his Ray starting. Derek Cook was pleased to make the race, he was having his first F3 race in the ex-Ribeiro GRD 374 hired from Brian Henton.
Of the non-qualifiers, in addition to the aforementioned Ken Silverstone who wasn’t used to his “new” March 743 the other UK based runners out of luck were Robert Joubert in his Lola T350 who had an engine bend a valve two laps into the second session after having problems in the first period. Terry Perkins was still sorting out the second Ralt RT1 while Graham Hamilton just couldn’t get the Ecurie Ecosse March 753 within 2 seconds of making the cut.
Bob Arnott was late arriving for Heat 1 after there were problems starting his car, the organisers said Alessendro Pesenti-Rossi could take his place as first reserve, when Arnott arrived he wasn’t allowed to take his rightful grid position and Pesenti-Rossi took the start. Some behind the scenes arguing saw Arnott allowed to race in Heat 2 (after Giorgio Francia broke a driveshaft as he motored from the paddock to the track) although it would be from the back of the grid.
Larry Perkins took an immediate lead chased by Conny Andersson and Gunnar Nilsson but the unfortunate Nilsson was out almost immediately with a broken gear lever. At the end of the first lap it was Perkins and Andersson out in front with a gap back to Patrick Neve, Pierre Dieudonné and Marcello Rosei. Perkins and Andersson gradually pulled away from Neve and for a while Perkins opened out a gap to Andersson but in the closing stages the Swede closed the gap again and the two cars crossed the finishing line a third of a second apart. Neve stayed in third for the whole race initially chased by Dieudonné until the Belgian lost time with a pitstop to secure a loose coil. Rosei moved up to fourth chased hard by the Marches of Gaudenzio Mantova, Hervé Regout and Ingo Hoffman until Hoffman spun on lap 6 and then the Lancia in Rosei’s March began to fail blowing out a lot of smoke so Mantova and Regout finished fourth and fifth. Mike Tyrrell and Freddy Kottulinsky looked like qualifying but as they entered Mirabeau Kottulinsky tapped a backmarker, the German’s Modus then hit Tyrrell pushing the Antiguan off the track and out of the race. Kottulinsky lost several places and damaged his nosecone but he still managed to make the final.
Tony Brise made a slow getaway from pole in Heat 2 and it was the unfancied Zorzi that took the lead, Ribeiro moved into second ahead of Ulf Svensson’s Brabham and Brise next with the engine on his Modus misfiring. At the end of the lap Brise pitted to have a plug lead refitted, he resumed well down the field, some 34 seconds behind the ninth place he needed to qualify for the final. Zorzi, showing his practice time had not been a timekeeping error, lead the race from start to finish with Ribeiro gradually falling away in second. Svensson was still in third and during the closing laps he moved onto Ribeiro’s tail loosing out on the runner-up spot by less than half a second at the flag. Fourth was Jac Nelleman who fought of the attentions of Danny Sullivan with Rupert Keegan finishing a few seconds behind in sixth.
As for Brise he flew after his pit stop catching those ahead of him at the rate of several seconds a lap. So fast was his pace that when he caught Richard Hawkins in ninth, the final qualifying place, Hawkins assumed he was being lapped and moved over to let Brise through! Of the other UK runners neither Cook nor Parsons qualified and Arnott’s back of the grid start saw him move up to twelfth.
Larry Perkins seemed to make a good start from his pole position in the final but Conny Andersson appeared to make an even better one rocketing past Zorzi and passing Perkins at the Casino. In fact the stewards deemed Andersson’s start a little too good and he was docked a minute for anticipating the starter. At the end of the first lap the penalised Andersson led from Perkins, Ribeiro, Zorzi, Neve and Svensson with a gap back to Mantova and the rest of the field, at the back a determined Tony Brise was carving his way through the slower runners in an effort to get at the leaders. Lap 3 saw Andersson gradually pulling away from Perkins who in turn was dropping Ribeiro and Zorzi.
Brise had made great progress and was already in tenth by lap 4, 25 seconds behind Andersson at the front. Danny Sullivan was out, he had a moment on the first lap and then when Rupert Keegan dived up his inside on lap 4 at St Devote the American was taken by surprise and lost the Modus hitting the Armco hard.
By lap 8 Andersson had increased his lead to two seconds over Perkins, there was a gap back to Ribeiro who was still battling with Zorzi with Neve just behind in fifth, next up it was Svensson and Brise who seemed unable to make any impression on the gap to Andersson. On lap 11 the stewards announced Andersson’s penalty and Perkins’ pit crew passed on the information to Larry, perhaps he relaxed a little for as he entered the swimming pool his foot slipped from the brake to the accelerator and the Ralt spun slowly into the Armco damaging the rear wing.
Andersson now had a 20 second lead over Ribeiro and Zorzi whilst Brise was closing in on Neve and Svensson. On lap 17 Brise passed Svensson and a lap later he was ahead of Neve at the Gasworks. Still racing hard Brise then took care of Zorzi which just left Ribeiro who was effectively leading after Andersson’s penalty.
Entering the Mirabeau Brise pulled out from behind Ribeiro as both cars overtook a lapped backmarker Ribeiro seemed to keep to the racing line whilst Brise kept his line as he braked down the inside, there wasn’t the space for two cars and Brise hit Ribeiro who spun round, Brise’s Modus mounted the March and both cars were out on the spot.
Zorzi was now in the lead but Neve was trying hard but although he closed in on the March he was unable to find a way past, so at the flag it was surprise package Zorzi in his March-Lancia that took the win with Neve less than a second behind. Svensson took third with Andersson dropping to fourth after his penalty was applied, fifth went to Gianfranco Brancatelli who just held off Mantova in sixth.
South had been ahead of Brancatelli but he went straight on at the hairpin and then rejoined the track without the marshalls permission, he was shown a black and yellow “reprimand” flag, thinking this was the same as a black flag South pitted and lost what might have been fourth. Rupert Keegan should have been sixth but he lost third gear and dropped back to finish ninth.