Race Report: Chimay, 21 May 1972
The general carnage at Monaco meant that the entry for this the 41st Grand Prix des Frontières was some what depleted and several top names were missing, nevertheless it was a good field that arrived for the 12 lap race. Practice was split into two sessions, the first was damp to wet but the second was completely dry and all the best times were set in the latter session. One casualty of the first qualifying was Jorgen Jonsson who tried going out with slicks on his MUM for Men Brabham BT38, he lost control exiting the town hairpin and hit a telegraph pole tweaking the monocoque and rupturing the fuel tank.
It was Andy Sutcliffe who took pole position, the works GRD was really flying and Andy had a troublefree qualifying until the final lap when his engine broke. Second fastest was James Hunt who had fallen out with the works team as a result of the various problems at Monaco, and he was again in the La Vie Clare March 713M showing there was nothing wrong with the year-old car. Two time Chimay winner, and looking for the hat-trick, David Purley in his Ensign F372 completed the front row. The second row contained Pierre-François Rousselot who was at last getting the hang of his GRD and John Bisignano who was delighted with his new Martini Mk9 which he had first used at Monaco.
Manfred Möhr headed row three, the German had been fastest in the opening wet session but fell away in the dry, next to him were Bev Bond in the Ehrlich and Michel Leclere in the fastest of the two Alpines. Row four saw Stan Matthews put his March ahead of the second of the Alpines driven by Alain Serpaggi, next up were Christian Ethuin in the Narval that had gone so well at Monaco, Conny Andersson who was suffering from overheating in his Brabham BT38 and Neil Ginn in his white GRD 372. Of the remaining runners Tony Brise was in all sorts of difficulties with his Brabham BT38, Barrie Maskell missed most of the dry track time with a broken engine and Richard Croucher was learning about his Lenham Hurst.
Non-starters for the race were Jonsson whose car couldn’t be repaired, Horsley who blew his engine in the first session and Munier and his Martini who left for reasons unknown.
It was Michel Leclere who made a superb getaway from the third row to lead at the end of the first lap with a huge group of slipstreaming cars sitting on his tail, already out was Andy Sutcliffe whose new engine lasted about a quarter of a mile. More seriously whilst travelling flat out along the long straight Neil Ginn hit the rear of the Ehrlich of Bev Bond sending both cars cartwheeling through the air, Bond ending up temporarily trapped in his upturned car. Both drivers were lucky to escape with no more than a severe shaking, also caught up in the accident was Davy Powers who lost a rear wheel when he hit one of the cars.
Tony Brise moved up to lead lap 2 from Bisignano and Rousselot, the French GRD driver then took his turn on the third lap relegating Brise to second and Bisignano to third. This leading group now consisted of 13 furiously slipstreaming cars with the two favourites for victory, Purley and Hunt, keeping out of trouble in the middle of the pack. By lap 4 the positions were Brise, Rousselot, Bisignano, Hull, Ethuin, Andersson, Hunt, Purley, Svensson, Leclere, Evans, Möhr and Serpaggi, there was then a gap to a lonely Matthews followed by Deutsch, de Henning, Musetti, Tyrrell, Maskell, Croucher, Crenier, Nelleman, Hurst and Moger.
It was still Brise on lap 5 from Rousselot, Hull, Ethuin, Bisignano and Andersson until at the hairpin Leclere struck Svensson’s Brabham in the rear, both cars staggered round to the pits and retired, Svensson with misaligned suspension and Leclere with bodywork damage. Lap 6 saw de Henning retire his March with engine problems. Brise kept the lead for the next couple of laps but Bisignano and Hull were out of the leading bunch when the American braked too late for the hairpin and his Martini broadsided Hull’s Brabham. Hull was less than pleased with Bisignano’s driving and at the end of the meeting made a formal protest but the organisers rejected it, saying it was a simple racing accident. At the front on lap 8 it was now Rousselot from Ethuin, Brise, Purley (moving up towards the front), Hunt, Andersson and Evans. Trailing a few seconds down after being delayed in the Bisignano/Hull incident were Serpaggi and Möhr with the rest nowhere.
Purley showed his hand by leading on lap 9 with Hunt, Rousselot and Brise right behind, lap 10 and it was Ethuin’s Narval whilst lap 11 it was Andersson’s turn to put his Brabham into first. Lap 12 and the last lap and into the hairpin and around the back of the circuit it was still Andersson until the corner before the downhill descent to the finish when his engine suddenly died, Evans who had moved up to second behind the Swede got boxed in and fell back into the rest of the pack. Down the hill and it was Rousselot in front until at the bottom the leaders came across two slow backmarkers, Croucher and Nelleman, Purley cleverly used their slipstream to pull himself ahead of Rousselot and take the third victory he had set his heart on. Rousselot held onto second 0.4 seconds behind with Ethuin taking a very good third from Brise, Hunt took fifth with a flat tyre from the disappointed Evans down in sixth.