Posted 20 October 2019 - 12:38
The Rothmans 50,000 turned out to be just another of the major disappointments of my teenage years…
I remember being gripped by thrilled anticipation from the moment this event was announced - until it happened… It was shown, in part at least, on TV, but it was a very dull race, with the commentator (Murray?) repeatedly doing his best to heighten the possibility of excitement by suggesting that Brian Redman’s endurance experience might be a factor.
It clearly did not prove attractive to all of the Grand Prix circus - though had it done so, it would have really been just another F1/F5000 (plus maybe a few F2s) non-champ race (however welcome that might have been). But as for attracting entries from other high profile series…
The World Sportscar series was over for the year, so one might have hoped that more of those cars would appear - but why would they bother? The cream of the crop that year, Ferrari 312P, had won at Brands earlier in the season, but if my arithmetic is correct, such a machine would have had to lap constantly at BOAC fastest-lap-pace for near-on three hours (without stopping) in order to finish a lap or more down on Fittipaldi (who really wasn’t pushed very much) - so in reality I reckon they’d have finished down among the F2s.
Race day was Bank Holiday Monday, wasn’t it? The day after Elkhart Lake Can Am… But I’m not sure why those guys would have bothered anyway. Can Am was paying well for winning; even if you were one of the very, very few competitors capable of getting close to F1 pace (and just occasionally bettering it in practice) why would you haul your machines across the Atlantic only to get beaten? And McLaren were under pressure in the US, with the Porsche threat already being realised.
It also clashed with an Interserie round at Keimola - a series that had three adequately funded and driven 917-10s (plus various older McLarens and the Alcan BRM), but the only rough comparisons I can make (based on the faster Osterreichring) put the Interserie cars a touch slower than the G6 machines.
Early hype around the event must have fed to some extent on thoughts of the speed of the big sportscars at Spa and the notion that Can Am cars were the ‘fastest cars in the World’, which is demonstrably nonsense. It is not easy to compare as there are so few times that F1 and Can Am raced on the same circuits, in similar conditions, in the same season. There are, however, a handful of occasions on which just the very, very sharp end of a Can Am grid had practice times a touch above F1 pace (the bulk of the field being nowhere near), but I don’t think there was ever a Can Am race won at a race average speed to match that of a Grand Prix.
I don’t think even Donohue (one of my few heroes) in the 917-10 would have matched Emerson’s 72.
Sadly, the race was only ever going to be a benefit for whichever was the best F1 entry.
Having said all that, the spread of practice times (by percentage) from pole to 20th (a 2-litre F2 car) appears to be only fractionally greater the spread from front to back at this year’s British Grand Prix.