Amidst three days of fun and games in the Brands Hatch Stadium the British Grand Prix take place over 76 laps of the full circuit, and thanks to John Player Ltd. and a very large crowd of paying customers, the whole affair is considered a great success by all except those who have to work and live in the grotty paddock, or try and operate from the mini-pits, and those drivers who crashed or got punctures due to the stones and gravel that over-enthusiastic drivers threw on the track when they let their wheels stray of the edge of the road. For the whole three days the weatherman produce a superb summer that make up for the icy winds in Spain and the rain in Monte-Carlo. With only two weeks since the Grand Prix of France there isn’t much time to repair the wreck cars that result from errors on the Charade circuit, but the Tyrrell team manage to get their new car 005 back in shape, and B.R.M. repair Gethin’s car; Frank Williams concentrate on finishing his Politoys Special for Pescarolo, rather than repair his bent March 721 and the McLaren team reduce their entry to two, dropping Redman. So have’t real need to repair M19A/2 in a mad rush. Stewart began practice with Tyrrell 005, having car 003 as a reserve, and starts well by making the fastest time in the second half of Thursday’s practice, but then something broke in the chassis or suspension and he go off the road and into the barriers, damaging both ends of the car. Ken Tyrrell is so busy with other things that by race day morning he has’t discover what broke. The wreckage is sent off home by Thursday evening and Stewart continues practice on Friday with the 1971 car 003 and also uses it for the race. Team-mate Cevert is in his usual car, Tyrrell 002, but seems to he lacking the inspiration that the French crowds give him in his home country. The March team are a bit handicapped by the loss of designer Robin Herd, who is laid up in bed with a high temperature, and last minute work on the new 721G model for Lauda meant that it isn't finish until the end of Thursday’s practice.
Peterson is driving the 721G March he drive in France and Beuttler still has the original of these F2 based F1 cars. The Ferrari team enter Ickx, Galli and Andretti with the red and white cars from Maranello, and at the last moment Galli was required to drive the Tecno so Merzario took his place, while Andretti become a non-appearing myth once more. The Ferraris are the same ones as used in France, Ickx racing #5 and using #6 as a spare, and Merzario has No. 7, all three have the front mounting of the rear aerofoil modify to give a steeper angle of incidence. The Lotus team are in good fettle, with Fittipaldi and Walker with the three black and gold Lotus 72s as they are in France, except that R5, the spare car, has the tapered oil tank, single oil radiator and smaller aerofoil layout as well as R7. The giant all-conquering (by their words last winter) B.R.M. international complexity seems to have come to its senses, for after entering five cars for Beltoise, Gethin, Oliver, Wisell and Marko, dropping Ganley from the list, they reduce this to three for the actual event. Marko’s accident in France kept him out, though reports are saying there is hope for his eyesight recovering, after some incredible surgery in the Clermont-Ferrand hospital. Wisell is dropps for this race and Oliver takes on under the impression that he is a Brands Hatch Super Star, though how anyone can expect him to return from America where he is racing Can-Am cars and NASCAR Stock Cars, and jump straight into a light and nervous Grand Prix car and shine, is difficult to understand. Some clear and rational thinking at the top of the B.R.M. family-tree would help this long-suffering team, and make the B.R.M. supporters a lot happier. Beltoise was back in P160/01, which damage its transmission just before the Grand Prix of France, and in search of better air conditions for the rear aerofoil the oil radiators are move from the sides of the gearbox to pods attach to the sides of the engine, rather close to the exhaust pipes.
Gethin is in his repaired car, P160/03. and Oliver had P160/04, while P160/06 is a spare for the trio of drivers. After the terrific showing at Clermont-Ferrand the Matra team are very happy with their new car and they have the old one, MS120C/04 as a spare, which turns out to be just as well, for Amon crash the new one beyond immediate repair during practice. The McLaren team are their usual happy selves, though HuIme is feeling a bit grey and taking things easy after a high-speed inversion in his 8.1-litre Can-Am car the previous weekend, during which the whole plot skate along upside down for a considerable distance. Revson is in good form and even though he has to use the old original M19 McLaren, he is taking over the job of temporary team-leader with great enthusiasm and determination. The John Surtees trio of Schenken, HaiIwood and De Adamich haven't had great problems and have an enthusiastic local following, being only a few miles from home. The three cars, TS9B/004, 005 and 006, are tidily and neatly prepare as always. The orthodox British Grand Prix kit-car that Frank Williams has had built for the Italian Politoys Company at last made its first appearance, having only run a few laps at Goodwood before arriving for practice, and while not at all inspiring, or even interesting in design, it looks to be nicely make following three-year-old principles, of monocoque rivet construction, classical suspension back and front with coil-spring damper units, front mount radiator and inboard rear brakes on a standard Hewland gearbox, the Cosworth V8 forming the rear half of the car. Finish in dark blue it was a worthy replacement for the wrecked March 721/3, and is a suitable companion to the team’s March 711/3 which Pace is driving. Following the experiment of parallel-links instead of lower wishbones on Reutemann’s Brabham for Clermont-Ferrand, the other two cars of the Ecclestone team are modify in the same way, but Wilson Fittipaldi isn’t happy with the feel of BT34/1 during practice, and has the wishbone layout put back for the race.
Just before the start of the Grand Prix of France the Tecno is discover to have some cracks radiating from the bolt holes in the fabricate cross-member at the rear of the cockpit, where the engine is bolts to the monocoque, so it is withdrawn from the race. When the car is dismantle back at the Bologna factory the cracking is found to be worse than it appeare, justifying David Yorke’s decision to withdraw the car. A new cross-member is designe and make and as the same time York enliste the help of Ron Tauranac to improve the geometry and general structural stiffness and effectiveness of the rear suspension, while the Pederzani brothers concentrate on the flat-12 cylinder engine development. Nanni Galli is back in the cockpit for the Brands Hatch race and the car continues to show progress forwards, rather than backwards or sideways like some other 1972 designs. South African Dave Charlton is having another go at a British Grand Prix with his ex-works Lotus 72 and Stommelen has the blue and white Eifelland March 721. Two hopeful entries are make for the Brands Hatch proteges Trimmer, with a Lotus and Allen, with a March, but neither materialise, though the one-off special of Peter Conner appeare briefly on the first day of practice, driven by Frenchman Francois Migault whose Darnval Company put up some finance. This nicely make special, with inboard rocker-arm front suspension and unusual rear suspension relying on wishbone members to locate the hubs without any radius rods and semi-inboard damper/coil spring units, is power by the standard British Kit-Car pack of CosworthV8-Hewland gearbox. During its one practice session it bottoms badly on the Brands Hatch dips and damages the underside, so is withdrawn while some more thinking go on. The undulations of the Brands Hatch circuit, especially the dips at the foot of the rush from South Bank Corner to Hawthorns, and the exciting sweep down into Dingle Dell on the back leg of the circuit are known hazards to regular runners, and the Lotus team fit aluminium skids under the cars to take the effect of the inevitable grounding if the driver is really trying.
These relieve the shock-absorbers of the strain of bottoming and of the loads be transfer to the fabricate member over the clutch housing on which they are mounte. During practice Chapman is puzzle by the lack of marks on the aluminium skids, when his drivers seems to be going fast enough to bottom-out. He then found that some distance pieces had been fitte unbeknown to him above the shock-absorber bump-rubbers, to help them; this is disastrous for the steel frames carrying the shock-absorbers are not designe to take such loads and on both cars use by Fittipaldi and Walker they are crack, which mean a lot of stripping and re-welding in the paddock, Fittipaldi’s car R7 has an extra problem in that the oil tank developes a leak in the internal piping and the breather catch-tank is pressurise. Fortunately the spare car is fit so the Brazilian uses it to notch up fastest practice lap at 1'22"9, in the first session on Thursday and win himself 100 bottles of Champagne present by The Evening News. Lap times in this first session are surprisingly slow, bearing in mind that the circuit isn’t new to anyone, and only Fittipaldi, Ickx and Revson, got below the existing record of 1'23"8 set up by the Brazilian driver last March, and no-one beat the practice times of Gethin and Siffert of 1'22"8 set up last October. After a break while the champagne is present to Fittipaldi, practice restars and times begin to improve. Stewart is really getting underway with the new Tyrrell, getting down to 1'22"4, when it fall apart and threw him into the barriers, so that is that. There is a short break while the wreckage is remove from the top of Pilgrims Rise and he continue in 003. Unlike so many organisers the RAC accept spare cars as complete entities in themselves, and give them their own numbers, so there can be no confusion amongst the timekeepers. Tyrrell 005 is the number 1 and Tyrrell 003 is number 41, in the same way that Lotus 72D/R7 is racing number 8 and Lotus 72D/R5 is number 40.
Putting a T on the spare car, as the Continental organisers do, causes so much confusion that the CSI will do well to make a ruling on this matter. During this first afternoon Lauda is waiting for his new March to be finish and in the second half do a few laps in Beuttler’s car and Hulme go out for a few exploratory laps and feel in pretty good shape afterwards, but hasn’t intention of indulging in any heroics, as his doctor has told him to take it easy, if a lap in 1'24"4 with 430 b.h.p. of Cosworth V8 pounding away behind your head can be call taking it easy. Revson is really making up for Hulme’s greyness, even though he has to use the old car, and every time he go out it is to hammer away and try really hard, unlike some drivers who seem to be swanning round and never really trying. Revson’s 1'22"7 put him among the aces, just behind Stewart and in front of Ickx and Fittipaldi. During the second half of the Grand Prix practice a gullumphing great Formula 5000 car appeare among the 3-litres, driven by McRae and one can only hope that the RAC kows what it is all about. The records for learning go to Graham Hill in the first session with 31 laps to his credit and to Cevert in the second session with 42 laps. All day Thursday the weather is going to getting better and better and on Friday it continue, making everyone happy and tolerant as the organisation fumble its way through a vast programme of practice, minor races and demonstrations, surround by the biggest fair-ground of sponsorship ballyhoo and PRO promotion a Grand Prix has ever seen. Thursday’s programme run so late that a spectator is heard to mutter as he leave the circuit if they go on like this they’ll finish Saturday on Sunday. However, the sun continue to shine and 16.000 people find they don’t have to work on Friday so the day is a huge success, with two more practice sessions for Formula One cars, and the day ends with a Formula Three race, win by Roger Williamson in a GRD. For the Grand Prix the numbers are reduce, for the Connew has gone home, as have the new Tyrrell, but Lauds’s new March is ready. Stewart has his racing number 1 transfer to the spare car, and the round continue with Gethin doing some laps in the spare B.R.M.
Hulme is feeling a lot better and while circulating in close company with Revson the two McLaren drivers got Oliver trape between them, much to the embarrassment of the driver from Rumford in Essex. Galli is being very courageous with the Tecno and trying to tail Emerson Fittipaldi, the Italian flat-12 engine sounding very good, but the strain must be too much for shortly afterwards the engine broke and the car is wheel away to the paddock and take apart in order to install a new engine. The dry weather mean that the ground beyond the track limits is becoming very crumbly and anyone, putting a tyre over the edge threw up clouds of dust and earth. At 2:00 p.m. there was a 15 minute pause, and the weather by this time is really hot and fast times are becoming impossible, though a lot of people are still trying very hard, and some like Amon, a bit too hard, for he spin off at Druids Hairpin and crumple the new Matra beyond immediate repair. Practice stops while it is remove and the New Zealander continue with the old car which he is going to have to use for the race, putting him at the same disadvantage as Stewart. During the last three-quarters of an hour of practice Team Lotus sent Fittipaldi out with only 5 gallons of petrol on board, whereas he is doing all his practice and last times on full tanks and in race-trim rather than practice-trim. The fastest lap of all to this point is by Ickx, with 1'22"2, and the fastest in this final session is by Stewart with 1'22"9, with Revson impressively close at 1'23"0. After some trouble with the Firestone tyres not feeling right when warm, another set is put on Lotus 72D/R7, takes off Walker’s car, and Fittipaldi tries again. After being baulked Lotus signal him a lap in 1'21"7, and after two more baulks over-taking slower cars, they signall him 1'21"4, and with nobody believie it practice ends and the time-keepers give him a best lap of 1'22"6. As this put him on the front row of the 2x2 grid, up the climber on the left of the start line, instead of down the camber on the right, where lckx is with pole position, and much better place for the opening rush into Paddock Bend, nobody complaine.
On Saturday morning there is a short untime session of informationstraining and then preparations are make for the 2.30 p.m. start, and those with nothing to do, having lunch in the sponsors’ hospitality tents, while the spectators consume jumbo-size Brands Hatch Hot-Dogs and watch a number of circus acts. Well before the start is due the cars come out of the paddock, through the ridiculous tunnel into the infield of the Stadium Bowl and along to the pits, many of them wearing knobbly rain-tyres to combat the bad surfaces on the way, the delicate tread-free racing tyres being carry to the pits. Ferrari have their spare car at-the-ready for Ickx, in case of any last minute trouble with #5, and Stewart and Amon are in their spare cars, Revson also in effect being in the spare car but not complaining about it being uncompetitive. After a quick dash round the Club Circuit the field of twenty-six cars line up on the dummy-grid behind a military band and are then wheel forward to the starting grid behind the marching soldiers. The ceremonial opening of the 25th post-war British Grand Prix, the John Players Grand Prix, the Grand Prix of Europe, the 75th Anniversary of the RAC, or the Brands Hatch Formula One race, or whatever you like to call it, took place to the strain of God Save the Queen. One by one the cars left the grid on a warm-up lap of the full circuit and arrive back on the dummy grid which cause one or two harden motor racing marshals to mutter another line-up. The track is floods with troupes of dolly-birds dress in the various sponsors’ colours, with the lovely PR lads trying to display them around the appropriate cars in the hope that some unsuspecting photographer will take a photograph, and meanwhile the Surtees mechanics are sweating blood trying to stop a leak in the radiator of Hailwood’s car, and some of the Goodyear runners are trying to scrape gunge off their tyres, that have being pick up off the well-use track, and Revson’s mechanics are holding a board over the car to keep the hot sun off the driver.
There isn’t a cloud in the sky, in fact the only thing in the sky was the Goodyear airship, quietly and elegantly being use as a television camera platform, which is a nice change from the usual irritating TV helicopters that bug most Grand Prix starting lines. Suddenly it is time for the serious business to begin, the Pixies and Fairies are pop back into their pens, the mechanics give their drivers a thumbs-up to start the engines and a potential 10.000 b.h.p. move forward to the starting grid and got off to a splendid start with a noise that shook the Grandstands that are pack to overflowing. The Ferrari of Ickx got its sleek narrow nose into the lead as he and Fittipaldi race for Paddock Bend and the whole field power down the hill and up to Druids, with a certain amount of bumping and boring going on among the back-markers, from which Galli emergs last with a puncture right front tyre. Round the back of the circuit Ickx led Fittipaldi, the chisel nose of the Lotus not too close to the blaring exhaust pipes of the Ferrari, for the Brazilian driver doesn’t have too much confidence in the Belgian driver. Beltoise has jump neatly from the third row of the grid into third place ahead of Revson, Stewart and Schenken and the rest are following more or less in grid order. When they have all gone by at the end of the opening lap the Tecno arrives at the pits for a new front wheel and tyre and then rejoin the race. At the end of the second lap the Ferrari and the Lotus have pull out quite a lead and it is obvious that Beltoise can’t justify his third place and is holding up quite a pack of cars behind him, but Brands Hatch is a hopeless circuit for overtaking if someone is in the way. On the third lap Stewart forced his way past Revson and begin pressing the B.R.M., but there is no way by, and meanwhile Ickx and Fittipaldi are getting away. At the end of lap 4 Walker coasts into the pits and half a lap later Gethin’s B.R.M. engine spew out oil and smoke as it blow up on South Bank Bend and left a trail of oil up under the bridge, fortunately not on the racing-line.
Almost unnotice de Adamich has disappear out in the country, and on lap 7 Stewart find a way by the troublesome B.R.M. and set about catching the leaders. Revson got by Beltoise on the next lap, and then Schenken got by. At 10 laps a stalemate seems to have set in between Ickx and Fittipaldi and it is a case of waiting for something to happen, while Stewart is holding his distance, neither gaining nor losing. As the Politoys Special have pound down into Dingle Dell something broke on the suspension or chassis and it landed up a wreck and slightly on fire against the barriers, Pescarolo getting out unscathe, and while the leaders are on lap 12 the Tecno slid off the track and into the ditch at Clearways, possibly due to a rear tyre deflating. With the race hardly beginn the field is already reduce to 22 cars, and one hopes the attrition-rate isn’t going to continue. Schenken has a slight moment on the loose stuff on the edge of the track, which let Beltoise snatch fifth place back, but apart from that the scene is becoming a bit processional. Ickx (Ferrari) led from Fittipaldi (Lotus), then come Stewart (Tyrrell) close enough to see them but not close enough to touch them, follow by Revson (McLaren), Beltoise (B.R.M.), Schenken (Surtees) and then Hailwood, Cevert, Peterson, Reutemann and Pace in a very tight line, undecide whether they are playing follow my leader or trying to keep up with each other. Behind this line are Oliver (B.R.M.), Merzario (Ferrari) and Hulme (McLaren), after a gap come Hill, Wilson Fittipaldi, Beuttler and Amon, while at the back are Stommelen, Lauda and Charlton, with Walker back in the race, but a lap behind. For a few laps nothing much happen, except that Oliver drops back behind Merzario and Hulme, and it is noticeable that Fittipaldi can close right up on Ickx on the section of track between the start and South Bank Bend, but lose ground on the fast section out in the woods, so once more stalemate have set in, though the Lotus driver feel he can bide his time as he can see the Ferrari is losing oil and trouble is beginning.
Beltoise suddenly thought his B.R.M. feel peculiar and slow right up, letting everyone go by him on lap 20 and at the same time Hill is into the pits with a punctured tyre. At 22 laps Beltoise stops to see what is going wrong with his car and at the same time Charlton has trouble with his gearbox and turns smartly into the pits through the back door from the bottom straight. On the twenty-third lap the leaders lap Walker and has a bit of trouble getting by and this allow Stewart to close right up on them and going into Druids Hairpin on the twenty-fifth lap Ickx got his braking a bit wrong, which threw Fittipaldi off balance and while he is sorting himself out Stewart is by into second place. Now the first three are very close together, but nose-to-tail rather than side-by-side and they stay that way for a number of laps. The rest of the field are in a pretty orderly procession and look like staying that way until mechanical problems interven, and the first to suffer is Hailwood, whose gearbox go wrong which drop him from sixth place on lap 27 to tenth place on lap 30 and into the pits and out of the race on lap 31. Merzario is into the pits on the same lap with a puncture, after staying ahead of Hulme in mid-field from the start, and with a new wheel and tyre he rejoin the scene with great enthusiasm, determine to make up as much ground as possible in the second half of the race. Right at the back of the field Amon is battling with Beuttler, which indicate that something is wrong somewhere, and on lap 34 the leaders lap the Matra. As they disappear under the bridge at South Bank Fittipaldi has squeezes past Stewart and the situation returne to square one, with Ickx still in the lead. By lap 40, with the race is going for just on one hour, stalemate have settle in again at the front as Ickx, Fittipaldi and Stewart circulate in formation watching each other and waiting for something to happen. In the mid-field the scene have all come apart at the seams for Reutemann and Pace have a coming together and stop at the pits for a check, and Oliver has come to rest out on the circuit when the lower radius rod on the left rear suspension tore off the hub-carrier.
There are now only eight cars on the same lap, the leaders unchange, Revson in a secure fourth place, but a fair way behind, with Schenken following him, but not challenging; then come Cevert and Peterson and is going to be lapped is Hulme, while Amon is already lapped. Fittipaldi now begin to put on a bit of pressure and closes up on Ickx, leaving Stewart a bit behind and as they lappe Hulme he take advantage of the situation on lap 47, but Ickx is in trouble and on lap 48 the three leaders are very close together, for the Ferrari is slowing, which is delaying the Lotus and letting the Tyrrell close up. The continual loss of oil from a split cooler is taking its toll and as the oil pressure sagge on lap 49 Ickx is force to shut off and let Fittipaldi and Stewart go by. Having led from the start it is a bitter blow for the Belgian driver, but nothing can be done and in addition he says that he feel the transmission is giving up. The scene is now settle with Fittipaldi calmly leading Stewart, knowing the Scot is unlikely to indulge in any do-or-die attempts to got by and providing the Lotus keeps going there is nothing to stop the Brazilian notching up another victory. Revson is now a very commendable third, and Schenken lost a certain fourth place when he has a big moment on the loose stuff at Druids Hairpin and stalls the engine of his Surtees, luckily being able to coast down the hill after the corner and get restart, but by this time Cevert, Peterson and Hulme have go by. With 20 laps still to go it is a question of survival rather than racing, for all except Merzario, who is pressing on as hard as he can go, staying with Revson for a time and then overtaking him, even though he is a lap behind. As the leaders are lapping Hill he moves over going into Paddock Bend to leave them by and promptly loses control on the marbles on the outside edge and thump the Armco barrier at the bottom of the descent, bending the left side suspension and ending his race there. As he says afterwards:
"From a gentleman to a twit in a tenth of a second".
A few laps later on lap 61 Cevert got wide at the same point and come to a sudden stop against the Armco just a bit short of where Hill’s Brabham is. This accident to the Tyrrell leave Peterson into fourth place just before he is lap by Fittipaldi and Stewart, so now there are only three cars on the same lap, and when Schenken give up it leave Hulme and Amon into the picture The Australian’s Surtees is beginning to steer at both ends, for the thread on one of the locations of the rear suspension is pulling out, and as he explains:
"It’s a good idea to have the steering wheel couple to the wheels that are steering, and there is no way. of coupling it to the back wheels".
After a thoroughly dull and frustrating race Amon suddenly find himself in sixth place and the hard-charging Merzario is now seventh, charging so hard that he nearly collects Revson at one point. As the last six laps run out Stewart can do nothing except follow the black and gold Lotus home, both cars running perfectly, both drivers driving immaculately, but a complete deadlock with the advantage to the Brazilian driver. Revson is in a very nice third place but Peterson is in a shaky fourth place as his March is running low on petrol and the engine is popping and banging. In a last minute flash of brilliance Amon had passes Hulme, to take fifth place, and as the leaders are finishing their seventy-sixth lap, Peterson is destine not to finish his seventy-fifth. As he change down for Paddock Bend the engine of his March die as he is in neutral and he can't got into a lower gear; going too fast into the corner, with no power to help it round the March run wide onto the grass, smash into Cevert’s derelict Tyrrell and then struck Hill’s derelict Brabham, and of the three cars the Tyrrell come off worst. This let a surprise Amon into fourth place, followe by Hulme, with a delight Merzario into sixth place, while Peterson has covere sufficient distance to be classify seventh. In these closing stages Wilson Fittipaldi has a big moment out on the back of the circuit when a radius arm anchorage on the rear suspension of his Brabham has broken, and while he is skating to rest in a cloud of dust his young brother is bringing happy smiles to the faces of Colin Chapman and all his mechanics, but above all bringing satisfaction to John Player & Sons who not only put a lot of finance and support into Team Lotus, but are sponsoring the British Grand Prix to the point of monopoly. The unruffle way in which Emerson Fittipaldi is winning races in only his third year of Grand Prix racing is beginning to depress and demoralize a lot of people, but an equal number are smiling contentedly and enjoying every minute of it.