Many of its 18 champions – Jacky Ickx, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Johnny Servoz-Gavin, Clay Regazzoni, Ronnie Peterson, Mike Hailwood, Jean-Pierre Jarier, Patrick Depailler, Jacques Laffite, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, René Arnoux, Bruno Giacomelli, Marc Surer, Brian Henton, Geoff Lees, Corrado Fabi, Jonathan Palmer and Mike Thackwell – went on to achieve plenty of success in international racing (eight would win a Grand Prix), but none was crowned Formula 1 World Champion.
For 1985, a new formula, the FIA Formula 3000 International Championship, was introduced. The cars would again come from F2’s most successful chassis manufacturers Ralt and March, joined by AGS, Lola and, after a few years, Reynard. All the cars would be powered by the ubiquitous 3-litre (3000cc) Cosworth DFV engine, hence the series’ title.
The new dawn for F1’s feeder formula broke at Silverstone on March 24, 1985, when 17 cars lined up to contest the 37th BRDC International Trophy, the British circuit’s traditional international curtain-raiser.
Pole position, in dry conditions, went to Frenchman Michel Ferté in the ORECA March 85B, ahead of factory Ralt driver Mike Thackwell, the Kiwi having lifted the final F2 title for Ron Tauranac’s squad the season before.
Conditions were more tricky on race day after heavy rain had played havoc with team strategists and tyre engineers during the build-up. Would the drivers play it safe and start on wet-weather rubber or gamble on a dry line appearing and use slick tyres? Mixed reactions to the forecast led to a variety of choices, with front-row men Ferté and Thackwell opting to run grooved tyres.