The 7th November, 1969 had been a day to be remembered in British motor racing. At that date March Engineering Ltd. had been founded at Bicester near the old university town of Oxford. The founders had been Max Mosley ( M. ), Alan Rees ( A. R. ), Graham Coaker ( C. ) and Robin Herd ( H. ). Mosley, both a studied physicist and lawyer, had been a former Formula 2 driver as well as Alan Rees, who once had been competing at the side of famous Jochen Rindt at the not less famous Roy Winkelmann team. Coaker, who was killed at Brands Hatch in 1971, had been a businessman and club racing driver, while engineer Robin Herd (second best exam in the history of Oxford University) had been working at the Farnborough aircraft plant (for the Concorde supersonic passenger plane), at Cosworth (for their 4WD Formula 1 car for Jim Clark) and at McLaren (for the M7 Grand Prix car). But the whole project originally had been installed around Austrian star Jochen Rindt. Rindt had been fed up driving for Team Lotus especially after the rear wing collapse accident of Barcelona-Montjuich in the spring of 1969. Rindt had contacted his British friend Robin Herd to make him design both a two-wheel -drive and a four-wheel-drive Grand Prix car for him with the goal to make the charismatic driver becoming world champion finally. The position of the team principal should be fulfilled by Bernie Ecclestone, team manager´s position was scheduled for Alan Rees and the second driver should be Spaniard Alex Soler-Roig to be bought into the team by private or sponsor money. The things had gone very far in the middle of 1969, but then Robin Herd Herd decided to change the sides. He had made Max Mosley, the polyglot strategist, get involved in the enterprise and also Alan rees had changed his mind. This gang had not been interested in making their idol Rindt a world champion any longer. No, doubt, they had wanted to enter Grand Prix Racing, but there also had been the burning desire for earning money by becoming commercial racing car manufacturers as Lola, Brabham and partly Lotus had done before. For this reason Rindt had renewed his contract with Team Lotus, died at the 1970 Monza qualifying and became world champion a few weeks later inspite of that.

With the money they had won at a bet Jackie Stewart to become 1969 world champion (around £ 3000) Mosley, Rees, Coaker and Herd had entered a brick made factory at Bicester´s Murdoch Road. Very soon they presented the first ever racing car of their own. The prototype March 693 had been made, as it can be seen from it´s model designation for Formula 3. Swede Ronnie Peterson became March´s first works driver, with the 693 he made a spectacular crash at Paris-Montléry in autum 1969 after a fine third place at March´s debut race at Cadwell Park. Only a short time later the board of directors of March declared, they wanted to enter Grand Prix Racing in 1970 with works cars constructed by their own. Nobody dared to believe that announcement, some guys simply smiled about that. The deeper was the shock, when the entire world of motorsport had to accept, that five March Grand Prix cars were at the grid of the first round of the 1970 worldchampionship at South African Kyalami. Chris Amon, a highly qualified talent from New Zealand, had left Ferrari to join March as their number one driver. Title sponsorship had come from STP Oil Treatment, one of the most famous automotive equipment brands of the USA including their Italian native enterpreneur Andy Granatelli, a self-made millionaire. Porsche paid for the second March making their sportscar star driver Jo Siffert from Switzerland not lose to arch rival Ferrari. Additional sponsorship from STP made Italo-American Mario Andretti a separate Grand Prix car, as the Amon and Siffert entries under the model designation 701. Two further 701s were brought to the grid by Ken Tyrrell for reigning world champion Jackie Stewart and his French comrade Johnny Servoz-Gavin with the sponsorship of France´s national oil company elf. The woodcutter also had bought a 701 spare car from the Bicester facilities, and Tyrrell´s designer Derek Gardner was able to give the private cars some deciding modifications. Success did not wait to come March´s way a long time and so Chris Amon won the 1970 Daily Express Trophy at Silverstone (his only career Formula One victory), while Jackie Stewart succeeded in the same year´s Race of Champions at Brands Hatch and the Spanish Grand Prix at Madrid-Jarama. His team mate Johnny Servoz-Gavin had sustained an eye injury during a spare time activity and had decided to retire from active competition after the Monaco Grand Prix, so he was replaced by young and very promising Frenchman Francois Cevert for the Dutch Grand Prix held in Zandvoort. From the Monaco Grand Prix on Colin Crabbe entered a sixth 701 for Ronnie Peterson under the licence of his company Antiques Automobiles. Later that year German Formula 2 driver Hubert Hahne decided to buy another 701 for himself with sponsor money of newspaper magnate Axel Springer, owner of Germany´s leading tabloit newsaper Bild Zeitung. But when Hahne had not been able to qualify for the 1970 Hockenheim Grand Prix, because he both was short of money and neccessary equipment, he took legal action against March and especially against the lawyer Max Mosley. Then Hahne retired from active motorsport a few days later. In 1970 March also had a works entry in CanAm and Interseries with a mighty, also STP sponsored, March Chevrolet 707 driven by Chris Amon and Helmut Kelleners of Germany. This year they had sold four Formula 2, 14 Formula 3 and also 14 cars of other Formulas, but at the end of the year the board of directors had to notice, that they had not been able to earn really money. "Walter Hayes of Ford had warned us not to enter Formula One so early. We should have signed a three years lasting contract with Ken Tyrrell, who had been ready doing so, to save the unprofitable works cars," was the comment of Max Mosley for the early mistakes made by his company.

Already in the middle of 1970 Ken Tyrrell had decided to construct a car of his own for not being a Bicester customer any longer, because he and Jackie Stewart had not been satisfied with the March car at least. But Mosley was able to extend his contract with STP for 1971 for the construction of the 711 powered both by Ford Cosworth or Alfa Romeo V8 engines. While Robin Herd had designed the mechanical side of the 711, Frank Costin (former Vanwall and Costin Protos F2) gave it it´s typical aerodynamic shape with a front wing in surfboard style. Ronnie Peterson had joined the March works team as their number one driver also bringing additional money from his personal sponsors Vick and SMOG (Halstabletter from Sweden). The Alfa Romeo powered cars for the Italians Andrea de Adamich and Nanni Galli were paid by the Milano based car maker, while the remaining 711s were available for local drivers on a rent a car base. This opportunity was used by Alex Soler-Roig and Mike Beuttler (with money from the brokers Clarke, Mordaunt and Guthrie). In Zeltweg Niki Lauda gave his debut for an extraordinary career in Grand Prix Racing supported by an Austrian bank credit and in de Adamichs chassis combined with Mike Beuttler´s spare engine. All cars appeared in red livery, also the privately entered 711 of US-American Skip Barber, who had bought his car with sponsor money of RRR Oil Filters and the Politoys backed Frank Williams car for Frenchman Henri Pescarolo. 1971 again was a good sporting year for the Bicester based company. Ronnie Peterson showed a spectacular style of driving, very sideways, and therefore being considered as the new Jochen Rindt became vice champion at the end of the year. In his yellow March Ford 712M he also was able to conquer the title of a European Formula 2 Champion. March sold 60 cars for the lower formulas in 1971, but the overall profits of the company remained pretty poor.

For 1972 the things both on the racing and commercial sector looked very promising. Ronnie Peterson and Niki Lauda had become works drivers both for Formula 1 and 2 in cars of the meanwhile traditional red STP livery. Niki Lauda had bought into the team by a credit of the Raiffeisen Bank, because there had not been sufficient sponsor money available in Austria of those days. When Peterson had got other duties, he was replaced by young German Jochen Mass in the 722 Formula 2 car with the sponsorship of Cologne motor magazine Auto Zeitung. For the 1972 Grand Prix season, that began very early in January at Argentine Buenos Aires, March had presented the 721 model, a in more than 100 details modified version of the successfull 711 of the year before. Two further 721 chassis were sold to Frank Williams (later modified by former Brabham chief designer Ron Tauranac) for Henri Pescarolo and to Günther Hennerici from German Eifelland racing (a caravan manufacturer) for Rolf Stommelen; the white, later white and blue car was modified on the aerodynamic sector by popular German industrial designer Luigi Colani. A complete new works car called 721X was announced for April that year, it really appeared under Ronnie Peterson for the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch. All elements of great weight were concentrated between the axles in the style of the Porsche 908 sports car being especially very successful at the Targa Florio in Sicily and Germany´s Nuerburgring to give the car an excellent handling. For that purpose March had constructed a gearbox of their own being installed in front of the rear axle, not behind it, as it was done by the usual Hewland units. The mechanical parts of the gearbox had been delivered by former engine supplier Alfa Romeo. Dampers and springs had got horizontal positions combined with very special wishbones and also a revolutionary exhaust system with the pipes reaching directly under the rear wing. Ronnie Peterson was very exciting about the 721X, but the Swede was a brilliant racing, but not a good test driver. He always said good things about the revolutionary car, but when he was not quick enough, Max Mosley made Niki Lauda test it. After a few laps the Austrian was very frustrated about the whole project with a very bitter prognosis: "This thing will never succeed." STP had got the exclusive rights for the 721X only used by the works drivers Peterson and Lauda, so Mike Beuttler as a private entry of Clarke Mordaunt Guthrie and Durlacher Racing had to use the 721G, a 722 Formula 2 chassis with additional lateral fuel tanks and the usual Ford Cosworth DFV V8 engine. Niki Lauda convinced Herd and Mosley to copy this type for the works Grand Prix team and not to go back to the older 721 that was used by Pescarolo and Stommelen. From the French Grand Prix of Clermont Ferrand the 721Gs were a clear step forward, but March was not able to continue the successes they had reached in the seasons before. Peterson only scored 12 points in the 1972 worldchampionship (position 9 in the final standings), March finished sixth of nine teams in the constructors´championship. While works driver Lauda and the private drivers Beuttler, Pescarolo, Stommelen remained pointless, novice Carlos Pace in the old 711 at Frank Williams (modified by Ron Tauranac, in black livery and sponsored by Politoys and a Brazilian bank) scored three fine points to the credit of March Engineering Ltd. In the STP March Ford 722 Niki Lauda won the John Player British Formula 2 Championship, but the more important European championship in this category went to Mike Hailwood from the rival Matchbox Team Surtees. That year, the first of the 2-litre-Formula 2, March had got only not reliable engines available. Stommelen´s Eifelland team went bankrupt after the Austrian Grand Prix, while Frank Williams had begun to produce Grand Prix cars of his own (in 1972 under the name of Italian toy company Politoys, in 1973 & 1974 supported by sportscar maker ISO Rivolta, also coming from Italy). Stommelen`s chassis was sold back to Britain to Hexagon racing making Ulsterman John Watson give his Formula One debut at the Worldchampionship Victory Race of Brands Hatch at the end of the year. That was the time, when Peterson was so frustrated of the situation at March, that he decided to accept an offer of Colin Chapman of Team Lotus as an equal number one to reigning world champion Emerson Fittipaldi for 1973. Niki Lauda had got available no bank credits anymore, so he had to join B.R.M. for the following year. The only March man to stay for 1973 was Cairo born Mike Beuttler in his yellow car (the homosexual died of Aids at the age of only 45 years in Californian San Francisco in 1989). The greatest success of 1972 was to sell 40 cars of the 722 type (for Formula 2 and B).

With Graham Coaker dead and Alan Rees (as team manager) switched to US-American UOP Shadow, Max Mosley and Robin Herd remained alone as the founders of March Engineering Ltd. They needed another star driver to make STP stay as their title sponsor, and when Chris Amon had lost his job after the retirement of Matra from Grand Prix Racing, they signed him up as their only 1973 works driver. But the contract with the New Zealander coming back to March after two years in France, was very complicated. He had founded an engine shop of his own some time ago, but it was typical for the bad luck personality of Amon, that this company became bankrupt after a while. So Amon and March became equal partners in that engine business (mainly for Formula 2) , the Bicester company paid the depth for Amon, so the Kiwi could not expect the high salary he had been used to in the past at Ferrari and Matra. The only money Amon had been given by Mosley were per cents of the starting and prize money, before he went to winter holidays to his home country of New Zealand. In a letter written to Mosley before his departure he had told the lawyer Mosley to accept this regulation only for the first Grand Prix of 1973 to demand parts of the sponsor money the following rounds. When reading this letter, Mosley got so angry, that he sacked Amon immidiately. Amon heard that news in the radio when having breakfast. Meanwhile STP had cut back their sponsor money for March. So it was the easiest idea to replace Amon by Jean Pierre Jarier, Mosley´s champion elect for the 1973 Formula 2 European title, who was sponsored by his friend, French furniture maker ARNOLD. In the middle of 1972 March had signed a very promising contract with BMW for a new Formula 2 project both on a works entry and a commercial basis. BMW supplied the STP March 732 with their powerful 2-litre-4-cylinder engines and they also delivered the engines for the exclusive use of the many March customers in Formula 2. The only condition was BMW´s works driver, young Hans-Joachim Stuck (the son of the former Grand Prix driver and hillclimb champion Hans Stuck), to drive the second STP 732 at the side of Jarier. While Jarier won the Formula 2 title in a superior manner, he did not so well in Grand Prix racing with the sole STP 731G again based on the corresponding F2 chassis and in reality only an uprated 721G from 1972. With a Grand Prix and a Formula 2 race at the same date, Jarier was replaced by his fellow countryman Henri Pescarolo and later that year by Briton Roger Williamson, backed by Donington Grand Prix Collection owner Tom Wheatcroft. But 1973 became the sadest year in the history of the March Grand Prix team, not only because the works drivers did not score a single point, but above all, because promising Roger Williamson had to die under tragic circumstances in the fire inferno of Zandvoort. The marshalls were badly equipped and cowards, too. No points also were scored by the other March private drivers Mike Beuttler and David Purley (who had bought into the team by money of LEC Refrigeration Ltd. owned by him and his family for five Grand Prix). All 14 points for March (final position 5 in the constructors´table) were collected by rising star James Hunt in the white 731G of Lord Alexander Hesketh from Towcester near Silverstone. The young millionaire, a close friend of late Williams de Tomaso driver Piers Courage, had begun to build up a factory of his own in his castle together with his team manager Bubbles Horsley and designer Dr Harvey Postlethwaite (also former March) with the intention of constructing a car of theirown the following year. At the end of 1973 Andy Granatelli, who once had started his career as a poor immigrant boy by collecting empty cola bottles in Chicago, completely withdrew his sponsor money from the Bicester facilties. This was a very bad experience for Mosley and Herd and meant very mixed emotions considering the fact, that they had scored extremely good results in Formula 2 partnered by BMW both on the sporting and the commercial field.

Jutta Schmitt

 

Literature:

Mike Lawrence
THE STORY OF MARCH
Foreword by Robin HERD, CBE
Aston Publication Ltd.
Bourne End, Bucks 1989
ISBN 0-946627-24-X

 

 

Creator: Klaus Ewald, Graphics by project * 2000

 

 

© 2004 by researchracing

 

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