An entry of 49 cars arrived at Silverstone to fight for the 36 grid positions available for round 10 of the BP Championship. The size of the entry was due to the race not only being a support event for the British GP but also because the Formula 1 Constructors Association had added a £2500 bonus to the normal BP prize money.
Practice was initialled scheduled to be held over two sessions on the Thursday afternoon with the fastest 18 runners from each session making the grid, however torrential rain that flooded the track ruined the second session. The session was rescheduled for late Friday and although it began on a damp surface it soon dried out completely. It was then decided on race morning that the grid would actually be decided on the fastest 36 runners overall, the majority of these runners coincidentally coming from the second group of drivers.
It was the two works Marches of Alex Ribeiro and Gunnar Nilsson who took the first two places on the grid, Ribeiro’s car featured the alloy bulkheads that had appeared on Nilsson’s car at Cadwell the previous week Additionally Ribeiro was trying F2 type deformable side pods which were supposed to be beneficial to the straight line speed, since Nilsson set the same time as Ribeiro without the pods any advantage was a moot point. Third fastest and only fractionally slower than the Marches was the works Safir of Patrick Neve who just ahead of Monza winner Larry Perkins in the works Ralt. Yet another works car was fifth, the Ray of Stephen South which featured a full width bluff nose that was reckoned to give another 300 revs at top speed.
Further back Terry Perkins was going well in what would be his first F3 race with the second works Ralt, he had practiced for a couple of other races but various circumstances had stopped him starting. Mike Wilds was making a one-off return to F3 but his practice was curtailed by a broken battery master switch that stranded him on the circuit. Danny Sullivan was not happy with some rear suspension modifications that had been made to the Modus so the car was returned to original specification for the race. Also Modus mounted was American teenager Eddie Cheever in his first F3 race, his car had to be fitted with works bodywork when his own would not fit, Cheever was taking things easy and was happy to qualify. Japanese driver Shaw Hayami was having an outing in the works GRD but was plagued with both engine and tyre troubles during practice, there was some thought of scratching for the race but it was decided in the end to take part.
Amongst the non-qualifiers was F Ford man Donald MacLeod in the GRD formerly driven by Ian Taylor, a blown Scholar engine saw him fail to make the cut as did Monaco GP F3 winner Renzo Zorzi. The Italian was now running a Novamotor Toyota Ford twin-cam in his GRD as the Lancia engine he had used at Monaco was suffering from continued head gasket problems. Had the original plan of taking 18 cars from each heat been followed, Zorzi would have made the race.
The two Marches were beaten away from the front row at the green light by Patrick Neve who timed his start to perfection, as the field arrived at Copse Nilsson slotted into second ahead of Larry Perkins and Ribeiro. As the cars completed the first lap through Abbey and into Woodcote it was still Neve from Nilsson, Ribeiro, Dick Parsons, Terry Perkins, South, Larry Perkins, Conny Ljungfeldt, Richard Hawkins, Anders Olofsson, Giancarlo Brancatelli, Piercarlo Ghinzani and the rest. Neve continued to lead for the next few laps and on lap 4 Ribeiro managed to find a way past Nilsson into the Woodcote chicane. Also on lap 4 at the chicane Parsons managed to get his Modus sideways, Terry Perkins had to lift to avoid him and was punted up the gearbox by his brother. The Ralt of Larry Perkins spun and in the melee Stephen South had the nose on his Ray damaged which saw him forced to retire. Larry Perkins was able to continue albeit down in fifteenth place whilst the three leaders found they had been given a useful lead from the now fourth place Terry Perkins. Richard Hawkins was chasing the Ralt hard in fifth followed by Brancatelli, Ingo Hoffman, a clutchless Ljungfeldt, Danny Sullivan, Ghinzani, Dieudonné and Olofsson. Parsons found the handling on his Modus beginning to deteriorate and he soon fell away from the leaders. Chris Barnett was out on lap 6 when he missed the chicane in his March and ripped off his rear wing. Neve’s lead lasted until lap 8 when Ribeiro demoted the Safir to second and on the following lap it was third as Nilsson also found a way through.
Nilsson decided to try for the lead on lap 10 and the two Marches came to the chicane side by side with the Swede outbraking the Brazilian and moving to the front. For the next few laps the two Marches swopped the lead regularly as they used each other to tow themselves clear of the chasing Neve. Ribeiro then held the lead for several laps as Nilsson was content to sit on his tail and see if the Brazilian’s reputation for making errors under pressure would once again apply. Behind the leading three Terry Perkins was beginning to find his brakes going away and was having to drive defensively to hold Hawkins back which, in turn, was allowing Brancatelli to home in on the pair of them.
Next up it was Hoffman who was under considerable pressure from Sullivan who was really flying now that he was happy with the handling of the Modus. On lap 12 Sullivan managed to outbrake Hoffman into the chicane but in an effort to stop the Brazilian, who had a faster exit speed, from retaking the place he chopped the March and the two cars banged wheels along the main straight. Unfortunately for Sullivan he badly buckled one of his rear rims causing him to retire although Hoffman got away without damage.
As the two leaders entered the last lap it was still Ribeiro ahead of Nilsson and as the two cars sped along Hanger Straight the Swede went for the front, Nilsson dived out of Ribeiro’s slipstream and took the lead under braking for Stowe. Ribeiro fought back and tried to regain the position at Club, Nilsson blocked him but lost a little speed. The Brazilian slipstreamed Nilsson through Abbey and dived for the inside as the two cars approached Woodcote, sadly for Ribeiro he had misjudged the space and with Nilsson already on the optimum line he dropped a wheel onto the grass and in an instant went spinning out of second place. Ribeiro tried to restart his engine but the battery was flat so that was it for the frustrated Alex, his only consolation being a new lap record.
A delighted Gunnar Nilsson therefore took the chequered flag ahead of the Safir of Patrick Neve, Richard Hawkins finished third after he had managed to get ahead of the brake troubled Terry Perkins at the chicane on lap 17. Perkins held onto a well deserved fourth from Giancarlo Brancatelli’s fast closing March whilst Ingo Hoffman was sixth just holding off Pierre Dieudonné. Mike Wilds F3 return was an unhappy one, his engined suffered from electrical problems and he could do no better than fifteenth at the flag.