Sunday, 23 January 2011

1973 British Grand Prix - Silverstone

July 14, 1973

Outside of motor racing Peter Revson led quite a privileged life. He was the nephew of Revlon Cosmetics magnate Charles Revson and heir to a fortune of over one billion dollars. Young, handsome and single he definitely fit the glamorous image of an F1 racing driver. However, Revson was not in Formula One to bolster his image, nor was it simply a hobby to him. He was very serious about racing and worked very hard to find his place within the Grand Prix circus.

After establishing himself in America racing one of Roger Penske's McLarens at the Indianapolis 500 Revson found a place with Team Yardley McLaren in Europe for the 1972 season. He performed admirably, alongside former World Champion Denny Hulme, becoming a reliable points scorer with a pace that surprised many.  When the McLaren M23 was made available to him in 1973. Revson was ready to prove that he was not happy just scoring points.

Free Spirit - Peter Revson 1973
At Silverstone the pre-race betting was on either Jackie Stewart (Tyrrell) who had thus far dominated the season or Ronnie Peterson (Lotus) fresh from his victory at Paul Ricard a couple of weeks earlier. However Revson bet on himself, actually placing a wager of 100 British Pounds on himself for victory.

Peterson made it look like he was indeed the odds on favourite by duly taking the pole position with the elegant Lotus 72. The Swede was to share the front row with the McLarens of Denny Hulme and Revson. The fourth and fifth grid positions, on the second row, were occupied by Stewart and Emerson Fittipaldi (Lotus). The third row was led by fast, but wild Jody Scheckter in the third Mclaren entry.  Scheckter drove superbly in France and despite it being only his third F1 start led most of the race before an incident with Fittipaldi forced him to retire. At Silverstone, McLaren was ready to give him another chance to shine and Scheckter was eager to impress.

Peterson made an excellent getaway at the start to take the lead. However, he was not to retain the lead for very long. Stewart had his Tyrrell directly behind the Lotus and going into Becketts he timed a truly brilliant overtaking maneuver down the inside of Peterson.  With the pass complete Stewart began to build a sizable lead and the die appeared cast for the afternoon. Peterson now coming under pressure from Carlos Reutemann (Brabham) followed the Tyrrell through to complete the first lap. Then came Scheckter, who had just moved past team-leader Hulme, going into the ultrafast Woodcote corner, but he was off-line and drifted wide, looping into a spin. He came back across the track, narrowly missing those immediately following him, one of whom was Revson his other McLaren teammate, before colliding with the pit wall and collecting the midfield runners. Eleven cars including Scheckter, Roger Williamson (March), Follmer (Shadow), Beltoise (BRM), and all three of the Team Surtees drivers, Carlos Pace, Jochen Mass and Mike Hailwood, were eliminated in an instant. Incredibly only Andrea de Adamich (Brabham) was hurt, though not seriously. Unfortunately, he would never race in Formula One again, mainly due to injuries sustained in this accident, he would however, spend several years competing in saloon car racing.

Andrea de Adamich
The race was red flagged and halted for over an hour. When the race was restarted, Peterson led from Niki Lauda (BRM), Stewart, Fittipaldi, Hulme and Revson. Stewart, who looked set to dominate the race before the red flag, dropped back after gearbox trouble forced a spin at Stowe and Lauda began to struggle for pace and slipped down the order. Revson moved up to third behind Peterson and Fittipaldi. He was relaxed, his McLaren was handling superbly and he was on the right tyre compound.

Revson closed on Fittipaldi and together they were catching Peterson, whose handling was deteriorating. However, with 30 laps to go, Fittipaldi retired with a transmission failure. To add to Peterson's woes a light rain began to fall making a difficult task impossible. Within two laps Revson was past. But while he might have been expected to pull away, he didn't and, although he was in control, he found himself only a second or two ahead of a titanic scrap between Peterson, Hulme, and James Hunt who was for the first time bringing himself to the notice of the fans with a stirring drive in a privately entered March.

1973 British GP - Revson withstanding the pressure at the front
Hunt managed to get by Hulme, who was experiencing a degrading tire issue, but with 12 laps to go the New Zealander closed again on Hunt.  With the added pressure Hunt, with Hulme in direct pursuit, found his way to the tail of Peterson's Lotus. Ronnie, in turn, was scarcely more than two seconds from Revson in the lead. Hulme sliced by Hunt with just over ten laps to go, and began pressing Peterson.  Though, in the end, he could not find a way past the Swede it was not for want of trying. Into the last corner, the trio was absolutely together. Peterson went wide and came frighteningly close to duplicating Scheckter's accident. Hulme dipped for the inside, hoping to take advantage of the mistake, and Hunt was looking for a way past both. At the line it remained Peterson-Hulme-Hunt. The three were separated by a mere 0.6 seconds. Revson in the lead, was only 2.8 seconds ahead of the intense battle, but he had captured his first F1 victory. Another win followed in the confused and wet Canadian race of that year. 

McLaren signed Fittipaldi on for the 1974 season. With the 1967 and 1972 World Champions on the McLaren roster, Revson found that he was offered only a third car that year. He decided to leave and switched to the Shadow team. Regrettably, he was killed at Kyalami, during practice for the South African Grand Prix, when the front suspension failed and his car struck the Armco barrier. Fittipaldi went on to win the Championship that season.

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