Fordsport Day - Mallory Park 1973.
Nigel Bland remembers a few heroes at a favourite venue.
Late last year numerous motor racing magazines ran stories covering the life and career of Francois Cevert. He had died at the 1973 American GP and thus it was the 40th Anniversary of his untimely death. This started me thinking. Jackie Stewart and his team, Tyrrell, were my heroes as a 12 year old, and I remembered a meeting at Mallory in late 1973 with affection.
1973 had not been a good year to be a Formula One follower in the UK as in July we had to endure the tragic death of Roger Williamson in only his second GP at Zandvoort. I clearly remember the appalling scenes being shown on the BBC of David Purley trying to rescue him from his burning March, for which the latter was awarded the George Medal. That Roger was the local celebrity at Mallory Park, and was sponsored by Tom Wheatcroft made the tragedy more real as I had watched him in his Ford Anglia and the Formula 3 March and GRD cars before witnessing his F2 debut at Mallory in 1973; a terrible waste.
We therefore needed something to lighten the tone, and the Fordsport Day 1973 at Mallory Park in August 1973 succeeded in doing that. The highlight was an F1 demonstration by Francois Cevert of the Tyrrell 006 which he and Jackie Stewart had driven throughout 1973 and in which Jackie had almost secured his 3rd World Championship the weekend before in Austria. In those days Ford certainly used Motor Sport as a promotional tool and the whole day was made up of 'Ford' races, be it for Formula 3 (1600cc Ford Twin Cam), Formula Atlantic (Ford BDA Engine), Formula Ford 1600 (Kent), Escort Mexicos, Special Saloons (won by Mick Hill’s 6 litre Capri) and finally the Mexico Celebrity race. Added to this were a Ford Autotest, Pit Stop Competition and a Hot Air Balloon sponsored by Motorcraft, so if you did not understand Ford’s part in UK motorsport before you attended you certainly did by the end! As an aside adult admission was 70p (free if you drove a Ford) and the program cost 20p. Allowing for inflation, these come out at £6.60 and £1.90, so still a bit of a bargain by today's standards.
The Francois Cevert demonstration was of 8 laps of Mallory, admittedly not long but probably sufficient to class as testing in current F1 parlance. From photos he was accompanied at the meeting by Ken Tyrrell. Directly after the race he took part in the Celebrity Escort Mexico race; quite a contrast! Now this is my real memory of Francois, as he started in 16th place on the grid but finished 3rd in a field which included F1 drivers Peter Gethin (1970 Italian GP winner) and Guy Edwards. Keith Holland, Bob Evans and Allan Rollinson were all current F5000 stars, together with recent Le Mans winner Gijs Van Lennop, and the obvious saloon star of Gerry Marshall being the class of the field! While it may only have been a Celebrity Race the performance certainly left a mark on this 12 year old. I suspect that of today’s ‘stars’ only Mark Webber would even think about competing in such an event.
Some final notes from the Mallory program of that day in August 1973; the F3 race was won by Tony Brise (1975 F1 driver for Hill) after future World Champion Alan Jones was penalised 1 minute. For current comparison fastest lap was a 46.2. The Atlantic race was won by the previously mentioned David Purley and included amongst the entry current WTCC entrant Ray Mallock and Cosworth engine builder John Nicholson; fastest lap a 43.6 ;and finally for comparison the FF1600 race needed a qualifying heat to determine the final entry and fastest lap was a 50.6; amongst the field a young Tiff Needell. For reference, Mono records are as follows:
I thought it would also be interesting to see if any of the Monoposto family were there, and sure enough occassional Mono competitor and mentor to Lou Watts Wil Arif is in the FF entry. Amongst the officials, John Atkinson was a scrutineer, reporting to chief scrutineer David Baxter, who was responsible for SUNBAC's sponsorship of our Nova Trophy. CoC was former 500 racer from Walsall, Don Truman, who was steward at many Mono meetings.
Unfortunately the scene darkened again after two more GP’s at Monza and Mosport Park. Cevert’s career ended 6 weeks later in practice for the American GP at Watkins Glen; it was intended to be Jackie Stewart’s last race, ironic in view of the tremendous efforts he made to make the sport safer.
Many thanks to Nigel for the article and to Anthony Fosh via Flicker for his very kind permission to use his very evocative pictures. More of Anthony's pictures (and full size versions of the above) can be seen here.
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