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A day of Firsts

Chris Amon (1)Silverstone. 1970. The Daily Express BRDC International Trophy in association with GKN.  A non-championship F1 race, true enough – but an F1 race nonetheless.  BRM and Ferrari stayed away but the field still included such names as the 1969 World Champion, Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt, Chris Amon, Jack Brabham, Piers Courage, Denny Hulme, Bruce McLaren and Graham Hill. Even more significantly, Jackie and Chris were both racing irascible March 701s, Jackie on Dunlops, Chris on Firestones. No driver felt comfortable with the handling of the new Robin Herd-designed March that year but there was no turning back: Ken Tyrrell had bought 701s for Jackie and Johnny Servoz-Gavin/Francois Cevert as stopgaps prior to the late-summer completion of Derek Gardner’s prototype Tyrrell; and Chris had left Ferrari for what he perceived to be the better reliability of the Ford Cosworth DFV. He signed for March long before he knew that Jo Siffert, Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson would also be racing 701s – and that was in addition to the two Tyrrell March drivers.

By any standards, then, the racing was going to be close.  No-one doubted Jackie Stewart’s talent; finally, though, we were going to see Chris Amon up there in direct competition with him, their difference in tyres notwithstanding. Chris had won big sports car races for McLaren in 1965/66, had won Le Mans for Ford in 1966 and had been a major front-runner at Ferrari from 1967-69.  Always, though, with an F1 victory in sight, a mechanical drama had intervened – particularly in 1968, when the Ferrari V12 had been truly quick.  Thus Chris’s desire to race in 1970 with the three-year-old (and very proven) DFV engine design.

It had been tense from the start.  In South Africa, on March 6, Chris and Jackie qualified second and third behind Jack Brabham’s rapid new Cosworth-powered BT33. The lap times of the two March drivers were identical but Chris took the honour because he had been out on track first.  Jackie then scored two wins in a row – at Brands Hatch on March 22 and then in the Spanish GP at Jarama on April 19. On both occasions, Jackie’s Dunlops had had the edge and Tyrrell’s preparation and organisation had proved vastly superior to the unwieldy factory March set-up. With the new Ferrari showing lots of promise in the hands of Jacky Ickx, Chris was wondering again if he was ever going to win an F1 race.

Then came Silverstone where, as at Brands, March entered just one works car for Chris Amon. Tyrrell did likewise with Jackie. It would be something of a showdown…

Thanks to the AP Archive, we now have a brief video taste of what happened next.  In its original form this hithertoo-unseen film had no sound and so I hope you enjoy the comments I’ve added, together with some freeze-frame analysis of Amon, Stewart, Rindt and Courage. I was also delighted to discover a little F3 footage in the opening sequence so I’ve included that, too.  F3 was brilliant back then and David Walker was on the threshold of a golden period that stretched through to the end of 1971.  I first saw Dave race at Catalina Park, Katoomba, Australia, in 1964 and quickly became a fan. I liked to think I was the only guy with a “Dave the Rave” Walker GLTL tee-shirt this side of Avalon Beach, NSW, and I spent many happy hours with Dave in 1972, when we were both experiencing a full season of F1 for the first time (he as Emerson’s team-mate at JPTL, I as a young journalist working for David Phipps).GLTL F3 team

Like Chris, Dave never achieved F1 results commensurate with his talent.

Both drivers, though, would not forget this day:

 

 

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5 thoughts on “A day of Firsts

  1. Matthew Porter on said:

    Awesome – wonderful coverage and commentary!

    Matt Porter

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. Very interesting analysis of the cornering and the talent of top drivers. The behaviour of Stewarts March is fascinating, but more so Stewarts ability to catch it. I wish I had that car control………….

  3. Matthew Porter on said:

    Is it possible to reproduce your report on Carlos Reutemann’s victory in the British Grand Prix in 1978? My recollection is that it was published in Autocar and written from Carlos’s perspective. Fingers crossed….

    Matt Porter >

  4. Pingback: A day of Firsts - A Las Carreras

  5. Kevin Jones on said:

    Ah, dear Chris Amon. Waiting in a long line of cars for a qualifying session to end on that chilly October Saturday so my father and I could drive across the track and on into the infield to set up camp I saw you snake down into Clark Corner, power out and soar up Graham Hill. (cheezy Americans!) The next day, Oct. 5, 1967, you were flying. Dan Gurney’s Eagle had yet another outsourced part fail. You were catching Graham and Jim. Their 49’s were weakening. I was about to witness your first World Championship Formula One victory. The first of many. But you put on one Hell of a show and lived for 49 more years. RIP

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