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“It Never Rains, but it Snows: The 1973 BRDC International Trophy”

December 28, 2010

30 pence for a race programme!! © BRDC

An unseasonal cold spell broken, a sodden and wintry base is revealed, as the snow in Ireland and the UK peels away feebly.

The once pretty white sheets, now betray their subtle beauty as they age to a dirt riddled slush. This is what winter in Ireland is supposed to look like – grey.

Motorsport tends not to happen in these conditions. Smaller meets and track days would often be cancelled beforehand, while many Championships are deliberately scheduled to avoid such poor weather systems.

With an eight-week gap between the South African and Spanish Grand Prix on the Formula 1 calendar, it was not unusual for seasons to be filled out by non-Championship meets.
Occasionally drivers would also partake in Formula 2 races, as well as the odd Sportscar or CanAm event – it helped keep them sharp, as well as offering decent entry money (on occasion).

The BRDC International Trophy was no different – a 40-lap run around Silverstone, supported by the Formula 2 fraternity, but this – being the 25th running of the event – was something extra special. However, even the best calendar can have its hiccoughs and no weather forecasters – regardless of their accuracy – can see months in advance.
It is somewhat unlikely, that when a 29-car field rolled out for the International Trophy around the former airfield on the 8th April 1973, no one foresaw a snow flurry approaching, amidst the icy-cold spring day. Admittedly practice and qualifying had witnessed some strong winds and brief bouts of heavy rain; however this was something else entirely.

Silverstone, as it was in 1973. © Copyright unknown.

Filling out the pack for this non-Championship event were thirteen Formula 1 entries, mixed with sixteen of the best Formula 5000 cars from the previous day’s support race.
Although some top names were taking part in their contemporary machines, many of the Formula 5000 cars found themselves manned by pilots who would rarely be seated at Championship races.
On pole was reigning World Champion, Emerson Fittipaldi ahead of his Lotus team mate Ronnie Peterson, with Jackie Stewart’s Tyrrell filling out the three-wide front row. The McLaren pairing of Peter Revson and Denny Hulme swept the second row close behind.

Fittipaldi’s race did not last long. The Brazilian’s clutch gave up on the opening lap, as it did with Jackie Oliver’s Ford-powered Shadow.
The rest of the race was peppered with several more retirements – in fact, six Chevrolet engines blew up, while a further entry, Ray Allen, fell foul a fuel pressure problem; the frailties of the exhausted engines laid bare for all to see.
Carlos Pace also failed to reach the halfway distance when a wheel nut worked its way loose from his Surtees Ford. As the race creaked onward Denny Hulme, Howden Ganley and Mike Hailwood also parked their respective machines thanks to various faults.
Out front, Peterson had made the perfect start, jumping to the head of the pack, yet the Swede was being closely harried by Stewart, eager for the win. When the field came by to complete the second tour, the Scot had assumed the lead from his Swedish rival.

Peterson had snow traction. © Copyright unknown

Normally, in these situations, Stewart would simply have kept his head and ran to a(nother) solid victory, but several laps in, the unthinkable happened.
Under no pressure, Stewart rounded Becketts, only for the grip to disappear from beneath him – the crowd taken aback, as the Tyrrell pilot lost both traction and positions.  By the time he had recovered himself, Stewart had dropped to 6th spot.
With little time to waste in the relatively short race, Stewart deposed the BRM pair of Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni, before relegating Revson and Hulme to garner 2nd place. Half the race was gone and the wired Scot zeroed in on Peterson’s Lotus like a man possessed. Every limit of the Tyrrell was being broken, while the Swede was being drawn in.

Still pushing and pushing, Stewart tested Peterson’s temper with every turn, however the “feel” of the Northamptonshire circuit was soon to change – a chill was noticeably increasing.
Above the track, clouds gathered en masse – not the darkened grey clouds that signal incoming rain; instead, near white mounds collected, bringing with them layers of snow. The surrounding air grew colder still, sending a clear invitation to the skies to open up – within moments, Silverstone in April became a severe black slick.

In the middle of the fast sweeps at Becketts, leaf-like dots of white precipitated the circuit, causing Peterson to helplessly lose both his Lotus and the race lead. Stewart, too, spun in the flurry – his deep blue Tyrrell sliding out of control at Stowe, but the Scot maintained his advantage of being the frontrunner.
Ironically enough, there were only two retirements due to the flurry (both Brett Lunger and David Oxton spun off) – many of the remaining runners got to the end; however a number of spins and harmless slides would cost much time and add skipped heartbeats.

Peterson, not reveling in the snowy conditions. © Copyright unknown.

Stewart continued on to win, some ten seconds ahead of Peterson, with Regazzoni and Lauda 3rd and 5th respectively, sandwiching 4th place Peter Revson. It was indeed a good result for BRM, who mechanics particularly enjoyed themselves in the paddock later on, as they conducted a fierce snowball fight.
American George Follmer brought the sole remaining Shadow home in 6th place.

Gijs Van Lennep was the leading Formula 5000 car, finishing 7th overall and two laps down on Stewart, although with respect the Formula 5000 class was being led easily by Brett Lunger, until he stuffed it on lap 33. Thirteen cars made it to the end, most of whom were lapped.
The snow really hit hard after the race, but died down just enough for several Formula Ford and historic races to be run later in the day, albeit shortened.

Doubtless, nowadays a race would almost instantly be stopped should snowy conditions prevail, although it is unlikely that simple things like snow would bring a halt to the World Rally Championship at any stage.
But that just makes me sound old, doesn’t it?

——–
1973 BRDC International Trophy of Silverstone (8 April, 1973; Non-Championship Event)
Qualifying

Pos Driver Car / Engine Time Diff Speed (km/h)
1 Emerson Fittipaldi Lotus-Cosworth 1’16.4 - 221.984
2 Ronnie Peterson Lotus-Cosworth 1’16.6 0.2 221.405
3 Jackie Stewart Tyrrell-Cosworth 1’16.9 0.5 220.541
4 Peter Revson McLaren-Cosworth 1’17.1 0.7 219.969
5 Denny Hulme McLaren-Cosworth 1’17.2 0.8 219.684
6 Carlos Pace Surtees-Cosworth 1’17.4 1.0 219.116
7 David Hobbs Lola-Chevrolet 1’17.5 1.1 218.834
8 Clay Regazzoni BRM 1’17.5 1.1 218.834
9 Niki Lauda BRM 1’17.6 1.2 218.552
10 Brett Lunger Lola-Chevrolet 1’18.2 1.8 216.875
11 Mike Hailwood Surtees-Cosworth 1’18.3 1.9 216.598
12 Tony Dean Chevron-Chevrolet 1’19.2 2.8 214.136
13 Keith Holland Trojan-Chevrolet 1’19.2 2.8 214.136
14 Jackie Oliver Shadow-Cosworth 1’19.4 3.0 213.597
15 Steve Thompson Chevron-Chevrolet 1’20.0 3.6 211.995
16 Vern Schuppan BRM 1’20.4 4.0 210.940
17 George Follmer Shadow-Cosworth 1’20.4 4.0 210.940
18 Teddy Pilette Chevron-Chevrolet 1’20.9 4.5 209.637
19 Tom Belso Lola-Chevrolet 1’21.0 4.6 209.378
20 Graham McRae McRae-Chevrolet 1’21.3 4.9 208.605
21 Bob Brown Chevron-Chevrolet 1’21.4 5.0 208.349
22 Howden Ganley Iso Marlboro-Cosworth 1’21.4 5.0 208.349
23 Bob Evans Trojan-Chevrolet 1’21.5 5.1 208.093
24 David Oxton Begg-Chevrolet 1’21.5 5.1 208.093
25 Gijs van Lennep Lola-Chevrolet 1’22.1 5.7 206.572
26 Clive Santo Surtees-Chevrolet 1’22.4 6.0 205.820
27 Ian Ashley Lola-Chevrolet 1’23.1 6.7 204.087
28 Ray Allen Surtees-Chevrolet 1’24.3 7.9 201.181
29 Jock Russell McRae-Chevrolet 1’26.0 9.6 197.205

Race Classification

Pos Driver Constructor Laps Time/Ret.
1 Jackie Stewart Tyrrell-Ford 40 52:53.2
2 Ronnie Peterson Lotus-Ford 40 + 10.4 s
3 Clay Regazzoni BRM 40 + 22.7 s
4 Peter Revson McLaren-Ford 40 + 28.6 s
5 Niki Lauda BRM 40 + 50.0 s
6 George Follmer Shadow-Ford 39 + 1 Lap
7 Gijs Van Lennep Lola-Chevrolet 38 + 2 Laps
8 Tom Belsø Lola-Chevrolet 38 + 2 Laps
9 Vern Schuppan BRM 38 + 2 Laps
10 Keith Holland Trojan-Chevrolet 38 + 2 laps
11 Tony Dean Chevron-Chevrolet 38 + 2 laps
12 Clive Santo Surtees-Chevrolet 37 + 3 Laps
13 Bob Brown Chevron-Chevrolet 37 + 3 Laps
Ret Brett Lunger Lola-Chevrolet 33 Accident
Ret David Oxton Begg-Ford 27 Differential
Ret Mike Hailwood Surtees-Ford 27 Differential
Ret Howden Ganley Iso Marlboro-Ford 24 Oil pressure
Ret Denny Hulme McLaren-Ford 24 Oil pressure
Ret David Hobbs Lola-Chevrolet 23 Engine
Ret Bob Evans Trojan-Chevrolet 17 Engine
Ret Jock Russell McRae-Chevrolet 21 Engine
Ret Steve Thompson Chevron-Chevrolet 17 Engine
Ret Carlos Pace Surtees-Ford 16 Wheel nut
Ret André Pilette Chevron-Chevrolet 10 Engine
Ret Ray Allen Surtees-Chevrolet 6 Fuel pressure
Ret Graham McRae McRae-Chevrolet 5 Engine
Ret Ian Ashley Lola-Chevrolet 4 Accident
Ret Jackie Oliver Shadow-Ford 1 Clutch
Ret Emerson Fittipaldi Lotus-Ford 1 Clutch

*Drivers in italics ran Formula 5000 machinery.

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