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The 1979 Race of Champions was a non-championship Formula One race, held on the 15th of April at Brands Hatch.[1] The race, which consisted of entrants from both the Formula One World Championship and British F1 Series, was won by Gilles Villeneuve for Ferrari, having fought back from an early mistake to pass Mario Andretti in the closing stages.[1]

The 1979 edition of the Race of Champions was also expected to be the last (to compete under F1 regulations at least), with the race not scheduled in 1980. Yet, the Race of Champions did appear on the calendar once more, this time in 1983. Keke Rosberg claimed what became the last Race of Champions and non-championship F1 victory.

BackgroundEdit

With the field returning to Europe a week after the 1979 United States Grand Prix West, many teams were not able to attend the Race of Champions at the Kent circuit, with both cars and personnel still in transit. As such, only seven cars were entered from the World Championship, although the entry list did include championship leader Gilles Villeneuve (fresh from his victory in the States).[1] His Ferrari was joined by two brand new Brabham BT48s (for Niki Lauda and Nelson Piquet) and a Lotus 80 for Mario Andretti (although he would only try the new Team Lotus creation in qualifying).[1]

With Elio de Angelis (Shadow), Jochen Mass (Arrows) and John Watson (McLaren) the only other entrants, the organisers were forced to allow the British Formula One Series cars (which were originally to compete in a support role for the race) into the Race of Champions.[1] This gave the British F1 Series an opportunity to advertise itself (as well as it's talent) on a bigger stage, with several past and future F1 names, such as Rupert Keegan and even motorcycle legend Giacomo Agostini, allowed to compete against some of the best names in the business.

EntriesEdit

The table below displays information about the entrants in the 1979 Race of Champions. Bold information indicates an entrant in the 1979 Formuia One World Championship.

No. Driver Entrant Constructor Chassis Engine Type Tyre
1 United States Mario Andretti United Kingdom Team Lotus Lotus 79 Cosworth DFV V8 G
5 Austria Niki Lauda United Kingdom Motor Racing Developments Ltd. Brabham BT48 Alfa Romeo 1260 3.0 V12 G
6 Brazil Nelson Piquet United Kingdom Motor Racing Developments Ltd. Brabham BT48 Alfa Romeo 1260 3.0 V12 G
7 United Kingdom John Watson United Kingdom Marlboro Team McLaren McLaren M28 Cosworth DFV V8 G
12 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Italy Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari 312T3 Ferrari 015 3.0 F12 M
18 Italy Elio de Angelis United Kingdom Shadow Racing Team Shadow DN9 Cosworth DFV V8 G
30 Germany Jochen Mass United Kingdom Warsteiner Arrows Racing Team Arrows A1B Cosworth DFV V8 G
41 South Africa Desiré Wilson United Kingdom Melchester Racing Tyrrell 008 Cosworth DFV V8 G
42 United States Gordon Smiley United Kingdom Melchester Racing Tyrrell 008 Cosworth DFV V8 G
43 Spain Emilio de Villota United Kingdom Madom F1 Team Lotus 78 Cosworth DFV V8 G
44 United Kingdom Guy Edwards United Kingdom RAM Racing Fittipaldi F5A Cosworth DFV V8 G
45 Belgium Bernard de Dryver United Kingdom RAM Racing Fittipaldi F5A Cosworth DFV V8 G
46 United Kingdom Tiff Needel United Kingdom Graham Eden Racing Chevron B41 Cosworth DFV V8 G
47 United Kingdom Val Musetti Privateer March 781S Cosworth DFV V8 G
49 Italy Giacomo Agostini United Kingdom David Price Racing Williams FW06 Cosworth DFV V8 G
51 Ireland Dave Kennedy Hong Kong Theodore Racing Team Wolf WR4 Cosworth DFV V8 G
52 United Kingdom Phillip Bullman United Kingdom Team Surtees Surtees TS20 Cosworth DFV V8 G
56 United Kingdom Rupert Keegan United Kingdom Charles Clowe Racing Arrows A1 Cosworth DFV V8 G
62 Austria Gerd Biechteler West Germany Walz-Toj Racing March 781S Cosworth DFV V8 G
63 United Kingdom Robin Smith United Kingdom Smith & Jones Ensign N174 Cosworth DFV V8 G

QualifyingEdit

As was, rather predictable, with new equipment and experience at the top level of motorsport, the seven F1 drivers took the first seven places on the grid.[1] Andretti took pole with the new Lotus 80, although he opted to switch back to the Lotus 79 for the race (a move that had already been cleared with the organisers), with Lauda pushing the new Brabham into second alongside him.[1] Villeneuve claimed third ahead of the second BT48 of Piquet, while Mass claimed fifth ahead of de Angelis and Watson.[1]

Of the British F1 cars, Keegan was the biggest pusher, taking ninth (eighth place was left empty to separate the two sets of cars) ahead of Desiré Wilson.[1] Former F1 driver Guy Edwards was next up in eleventh, while other highlights included Agositini in sixteenth (beaten by promising rookie Tiff Needell in fifteenth), while Gerd Blechteler was the only man whom failed to qualify.[1]

Qualifying ResultsEdit

Pos. No. Driver Constructor
1 1 United States Mario Andretti Lotus-Ford Cosworth
2 5 Austria Niki Lauda Brabham-Alfa Romeo
3 12 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari
4 6 Brazil Nelson Piquet Brabham-Alfa Romeo
5 30 Germany Jochen Mass Arrows-Ford Cosworth
6 18 Italy Elio de Angelis Shadow-Ford Cosworth
7 7 United Kingdom John Watson McLaren-Ford Cosworth
8 Not Awarded
9 United Kingdom Rupert Keegan Arrows-Ford Cosworth
10 South Africa Desiré Wilson Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth
11 United Kingdom Guy Edwards Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth
12 Spain Emilio de Villota Lotus-Ford Cosworth
13 Ireland Dave Kennedy Theodore-Ford Cosworth
14 United Kingdom Phillip Bullman Surtees-Ford Cosworth
15 United Kingdom Tiff Needell Chevron-Ford Cosworth
16 Italy Giacomo Agostini Williams-Ford Cosworth
17 United States Gordon Smiley Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth
18 Belgium Bernard de Dryver Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth
19 United Kingdom Val Musetti March-Ford Cosworth
20 United Kingdom Robin Smith Ensign-Ford Cosworth
DNQ Austria Gerd Biechteler March-Ford Cosworth

RaceEdit

With Brabham only expecting to use the race as a test session for their new car, and Gilles Villeneuve in impressive form, it was expected that the Canadian would take an easy victory, with his only real challenger in the form of Mario Andretti. Interest would also lay in the British Formula One series drivers, and whether they could keep up with the World Championship cars over the fourty lap race. Dave Kennedy was the only man not to start, suffering a gearbox failure on his way to the grid.

ReportEdit

A poor start for Andretti saw him slip to third, as Niki Lauda swung around the American to take the lead, beating Villeneuve into the Paddock Hill Bend.[1] Nelson Piquet quickly got onto the back of the Lotus, while Lauda began to build a small lead over the trio.[1] By lap eight, however, the trio caught up to the leading Brabham, with the quartet now battling at every turn for the lead.[1] Their battle would only last a lap, however, as Lauda came into the pits for minor maintainence, with Piquet following him in a few laps later.[1]

Villeneuve inherited the lead, although Andretti remained on his gearbox, putting pressure on the Ferrari for the lead.[1] The pressure proved too much for Villeneuve, as he ran wide at Hawthorn on the eleventh lap, allowing Andretti to pass.[1] Jochen Mass was also showing his pace, as through the Brabham stops and lead squabbles, he had pushed the Arrows into a comfortable third place.[1]

On lap eighteen the only British interest (from the World Championship perspective) fell, as John Watson suffered a gearbox failure, while the British F1 cars battled over seventh place, Guy Edwards and Rupert Keegan leading the group.[1] Meanwhile, the order at the front of the race remained the same, although the Brabhams were slowly drawing in Mass' Arrows.[1] Villeneuve was also pushing hard, slowly closing the four second gap that his mistake had given Andretti.[1]

With fourteen laps to go, Villeneuve made his move, sweeping inside the Lotus through Paddock Hill Bend, before completing his move at Druids.[1] Andretti lacked a response, and soon fell into the hands of Piquet, whom took Mass at around the same time as Villeneuve took the lead.[1] With a few laps to go, the Brazilian was second, with Andretti continuing to fall away, although the chequered flag dropped before Mass could catch him.[1] For Villeneuve, the victory was his second in a week and first at Brands Hatch, while Piquet and Lauda (whom finished fifth) showed that the new Brabham would be a force to be reckoned with.

But what of the British Formula One series cars? Well Keegan, whom had dominated the pack, taking Guy Edwards with him, fell away with just five laps to go with an engine failure. This handed victory to Edwards, whom kept the final World Championship car of Elio de Angelis in sight for most of the race.

ResultsEdit

Pos. No. Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid
1 12 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari 40 53:17.12 3
2 6 Brazil Nelson Piquet Brabham-Alfa Romeo 40 +14.07s 4
3 1 United States Mario Andretti Lotus-Ford Cosworth 40 1
4 30 Germany Jochen Mass Arrows-Ford Cosworth 40 5
5 5 Austria Niki Lauda Brabham-Alfa Romeo 39 +1 lap 2
6 18 Italy Elio de Angelis Shadow-Ford Cosworth 39 +1 lap 6
7 United Kingdom Guy Edwards Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 39 +1 lap 11
8 Belgium Bernard de Dryver Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 38 +2 laps 18
9 South Africa Desiré Wilson Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 38 +2 laps 10
10 United States Gordon Smiley Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 38 +2 laps 17
11 Italy Giacomo Agostini Williams-Ford Cosworth 38 +2 laps 16
12 United Kingdom Val Museti March-Ford Cosworth 36 +4 laps 19
13 United Kingdom Robin Smith Ensign-Ford Cosworth 36 +4 laps 20
Ret United Kingdom Rupert Keegan Arrows-Ford Cosworth 35 Engine 9
Ret Spain Emilio de Villota Lotus-Ford Cosworth 34 Engine 12
Ret United Kingdom Phillip Bullman Surtees-Ford Cosworth 24 Spin 14
Ret 7 United Kingdom John Watson McLaren-Ford Cosworth 18 Gearbox 7
Ret United Kingdom Tiff Needell Chevron-Ford Cosworth 16 Accident 15
DNS Ireland Dave Kennedy Theodore-Ford Cosworth Gearbox 13

MilestonesEdit

ReferencesEdit

United Kingdom Race of Champions
Circuits Brands Hatch (1965 - 1983)
Brands Hatch
Races 1965 • 1967 • 1968 • 1969 • 1970 • 1971 • 1972 • 1973 • 1974 • 1975 • 1976 • 1977 • 1979 • 1983 
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