Race Report: Crystal Palace, 9 September 1972
This would be the last F3 race held at the Crystal Palace and a good entry arrived to fight over the two heats and a final of this Forward Trust event.
Although not raining it was wet for both practice sessions and wet tyres were the order of the day. Jochen Mass took pole position for the first heat with a time over a second quicker than anyone else, hurling the red STP-March around the South London track to great effect. Second quickest was Mike Walker in his usual Iberia Ensign, Mike was feeling a bit under the weather due to a sore throat. Next up and going well was American Randy Lewis in his Wrangler Brabham BT38 just ahead of the works Chevron B20 of Chris Skeaping and the newly turned professional Mike Wilds in his Dempster Developments Ensign.
The track was a little drier for the second session and it was Tony Brise, delighted with his new GRD 372, who set the fastest time, next up was Russell Wood’s STP March who was looking confident. Row two consisted of Peter Hull’s Brabham BT38 and the GRD 372 of Alan Jones. Further down the grid Ronnie Mackay was going well in the ex-Russell Wood March 723 whilst Damien Magee only managed 4 laps before his Holbay self-destructed and Peter Lamplough did all his running on slicks.
The track had pretty much dried out for the first heat except for under the trees at Glade which would cause some tricky moments during the race. It was Lewis who got away the best in his Brabham but by the end of the first lap Mike Walker had put the Ensign into the lead and then proceeded to dominate the race quickly leaving the rest behind to win comfortably by 12.4 seconds. By lap 3 Wilds was in second place but Mass went inside him at North Tower which forced the Ensign wide dropping a couple of lengths on the March that Wilds was unable to claw back. There was a big fight for fourth between Lewis, Bisignano, Trimmer, Skeaping and McInerney, Trimmer soon began to show his experience by fighting his way through the group getting ahead of them all by lap 6. The Lotus then set off after Wilds closing the gap very quickly, the two cars crossed the finishing line together and were given the same time although Wilds was given the third spot.
Bisignano left the group when he spun out at New Link on lap 11 resuming in eighth place and a lap later Lewis did the same dropping to tenth, this left Skeaping and McInerney fighting for fifth, the Chevron just getting the verdict at the flag.
It was a very tight first lap to the second heat with half the field trying to lead into North Tower, in the event it was Wood who had a slim lead over Williamson who was already up to second ahead of Brise and Jones. At the end of the first lap it was the familiar sight of Williamson out in front were he stayed until lap 4 when a moment at Glade allowed Wood back in front again, next up came Brise, Jones and Evans all fighting for third with von Opel and Hull a littler further back and also battling hard. There was a big group fighting for the lower places with Matthews leading Gambs, McDonald, Mackay, Patrick and Tyrrell, Magee was well down after a spin at Glade on the opening lap.
Wood seemed to be edging away on the sixth lap with Williamson coming under pressure from Brise for second, as they came up to lap Magee the two leaders, Wood and Williamson, got through without trouble but Brise, Jones and Evans were briefly delayed. Brise soon clawed his way back up to the leaders but Jones and Evans weren’t able to make up the gap. Williamson tried a number of times to regain the lead but Wood wasn’t to be denied coming home the winner by 0.2 seconds, Williamson was second his water temperature sky high which he reckoned was costing him some power and Brise was third another 0.8 seconds down. Fourth and fifth were Jones and Evans less than a second back with the still battling von Opel and Hull in sixth and seventh.
It was judged that the conditions had been different between the two races so the final was made up of the first six from each heat with the next two fastest from each heat making sixteen in total.
It was four abreast into North Tower on lap 1 of the final with Wood, Walker, Williamson and Wilds all trying to lead, unfortunately for Wilds he was on the dusty outside line and under braking the Ensign slid into Williamson riding over the back wheel of the GRD and smiting the sleepers a heavy blow. Wilds clambered out unhurt but the Ensign was looking very secondhand. This left Walker leading at the end of lap 1 with Wood, Williamson, Mass, Trimmer, Brise, Jones, Evans, Hull, Skeaping, von Opel, McInerney, Lewis and Tyrrell all in one enormous squabbling group. Val Musetti was an early retirement with the throttle cable snapping on his Royale.
Lap 2 and Wood was pressing Walker hard whilst Mass had got ahead of Williamson who was to loose another place to Trimmer on lap 4. Walker and Wood were edging away by lap 5 and Williamson found himself in more trouble as his engine was loosing more power (It was unchanged from the heat) and Brise, Jones and Hull all went past. Further back Skeaping, von Opel, McInerney and the others were beginning to drop away from the main bunch. On lap 6 Walker suddenly appeared on his own, Wood had lost it at Glade writing the March off against the sleepers. With no more pressure on him Walker concentrated on setting clean fast laps and at the end of the 20 laps he came home the winner by 17.4 seconds.
Second place however wasn’t so clear cut, it was Trimmer from Mass, Brise, Hull, Jones, Williamson and Evans, lap 8 saw Mass come through to lead the group and lap 9 it was Trimmer again although further back there had been a major change. Coming into Ramp Brise was forced wide and clipped the barrier, the GRD came back across the track, Jones braked hard to avoid Brise and was hit by Williamson who was in turn struck by Evans. Brise and Jones were out whilst Williamson and Evans were able to continue with minor suspension and bodywork damage. This left Trimmer, Hull and Mass fighting for second until Mass lost several places on lap 12 after a moment on some of the debris left from Woods accident, Hull moved up to second with Trimmer trying to outbrake the Brabham at North Tower on every lap to no avail. Mass caught the pair on the last lap and it was three abreast into South Tower, at the line Hull got the verdict over Trimmer although they shared the same race time, Mass got fourth, the STP-March 0.4 seconds further back. Williamson held onto fifth further handicapped by handling problems to add to his engine woes and Bob Evans took the final point in sixth, just pipping Brendan McInerney.