Grand Prix Classic




The Race of Champions
Brands Hatch, 9-10 April, 1983

Non-championship Formula 1 races had been commonplace in the 1950s and 1960s, and even a steady business in the 1970s. However, as the championship calendar grew they fell by the wayside, and the last had been the Dino Ferrari Grand Prix in 1979 - and even that had been a proving event for the San Marino Grand Prix (though there had since been two races subsequently stripped of championship status).

However, with the British Grand Prix being held at Silverstone in 1983, the Brands Hatch boss John Webb decided to revive the Race of Champions to keep his circuit's revenue up, despite there being a record 17 Grand Prix slated for the championship. The Race of Champions had once been a regular fixture, usually before the start of the season, but it hadn't been staged since 1979. The Formula 1 race would run for 40 laps, just over half the distance of a World Championship event, and was joined by a plethora of support races.


Entry Notes

The weekend chosen wasn't exactly an ideal one, clashing with a major Michelin/Pirelli tyre test at Paul Ricard ahead of the following week's French Grand Prix, and the Monza 1000kms sportscar event. The tyre test accounted for Prost, Cheever, Piquet, Lauda, Jarier, Warwick, Giacomelli, de Cesaris, Baldi and de Angelis, while Patrese, Ghinzani and Alboreto were at Monza. Laffite, Surer, Tambay, Salazar, Winkelhock, Fabi and Cecotto were also absent from the entry - Laffite was actually moving to England, but did appear in the pits.

Arnoux, Watson, Rosberg, Sullivan, Guerrero and Boesel were all present in their usual machinery, but there were some changes elsewhere. Ecclestone hired old driver Hector Rebaque to represent Brabham; Arrows paired Alan Jones with Chico Serra; Silkolene sponsorship gave Brian Henton the chance to drive the second Theodore; RAM gave Jean-Louis Schlesser a run ahead of taking a second car in the French Grand Prix and Nigel Mansell would be driving the spare Lotus-Renault for his first taste of a turbo car.

Even more interestingly was the first appearance of the F2-based Spirit 201, powered by Honda's new V6 turbo. The Japanese giant had signalled its' intend to return to racing with the Spirit team later in 1983, and was currently being courted by several established F1 teams after a supply of turbo engines in 1984. The single machine was driven by ex-Shadow driver Stefan Johansson, and brought the F1 entry up to 13 cars.

[Full Entry]


Qualifying

The only timed practice session was on Saturday morning (after untimed practice on Friday), and produced few surprises. Rosberg - winner of the previous Race of Champions in a Theodore and general lover of Brands - took pole position, edging out Arnoux by around a tenth of a second. Jones was happy with 3rd on the grid in the Arrows, followed by Watson, Guerrero and Sullivan.

Mansell was 8th in the Lotus-Renault, having found a new rear wing to be no real help in combating the car's ongoing incompatibility with Pirelli radials, while a race-rusty Rebaque was only 10th. Honda's decision to make such a low-key comeback was looking smart, though, as the Spirit blew two engines, its' only completed lap 20 seconds slower than Rosberg. Schlesser didn't even complete a lap after spending all the session in the pits with an electrical failure, but was allowed to start from last place anyway.

[Full Grid & Practice Times]


Race

Between the warm-up in the morning (where the Spirit had given a better account of itself, lapping with a second of Arnoux) and the race start there had been rain, but the track dried out in time as the 13 cars lined up to go. Arnoux had the better start, jumping away into the lead, followed by Rosberg, while Watson tapped Sullivan from behind at the first corner, pushing the Tyrrell to third past Jones, who was soon taken by Guerrero.

The Theodore's glory was short-lived as Guerrero's nosecone was pinched by Jones and Johansson at Surtees, and was forced to withdraw to the pits for repairs, costing him a lap. Arnoux seemed to be in control for the first five laps before Rosberg began catching him, and on lap 7 the Ferrari dived into the pits for fresh tyres. By then Johansson was out with a broken oil cooler after the contact with Guerrero, while Mansell had called in to retire feeling he had suspension damage, though thorough examination after the race by Lotus mechanics could find nothing and the handling problems were put down to the Pirelli radials.

Watson would follow two laps later with a bad vibration that again couldn't be traced to anything, much to the disappointment of the crowd, and Rebaque also retired when his ill-handling car fell off the jack in the pits. Arnoux would find his second set of tyres no better, and stopped twice more with no lasting success before retiring due to not having any more tyres, despite setting fastest lap.

All of which left just eight cars still circulating - Rosberg leading, Sullivan second, Jones third, Henton fourth (but with a solid clutch), Boesel fifth after passing Serra, Schlesser seventh and Guerrero a lapped eighth, running well but with little chance of catching the others. There was, thankfully, still some excitement to come as Rosberg's left rear tyre was blistered and at mid-distance Sullivan caught him.

The Tyrrell didn't quite have the speed to pass Rosberg, but Sullivan kept worrying away and provided some entertainment for the crowd, eventually finishing just half a second behind after not quite being able to force his way past after pulling alongside a couple of times on the final tour, notably a brave attempt around the outside of Druids.

Jones, also troubled by a blistered left rear, was a comfortable 3rd, while Henton just staved off Boesel to secure 4th. The understeering Schlesser had been promoted to 6th when Serra's gear linkage broke, with Guerrero the only other finisher. While the event had been entertaining for the 25000 spectators, the small field with several ad-hoc entries showed the problems with running such an event alongside a demanding Formula 1 championship.


Result

Pos.
Driver Car
Laps
Time/Retirement
Grid
1
Keke Rosberg Williams-Cosworth
40
53m 15.253s
1
2
Danny Sullivan Tyrrell-Cosworth
40
+ 0.490s
6
3
Alan Jones Arrows-Cosworth
40
+ 28.642s
3
4
Brian Henton Theodore-Cosworth
40
+ 40.520s
7
5
Raul Boesel Ligier-Cosworth
40
+ 40.971s
9
6
Jean-Louis Schlesser RAM March-Cosworth
39
+ 1 lap
13
7
Roberto Guerrero Theodore-Cosworth
39
+ 1 lap
5
R
Chico Serra Arrows-Cosworth
30
Gear linkage
11
R
Rene Arnoux Ferrari
23
Tyres
2
R
Hector Rebaque Brabham-BMW
14
Suspension
10
R
John Watson McLaren-Cosworth
8
Vibration
4
R
Nigel Mansell Lotus-Cosworth
6
Handling
8
R
Stefan Johansson Spirit-Honda
4
Accident damage
12

Fastest Lap: Rene Arnoux (Ferrari), 1:17.826s