Peter Gethin’s Chevron connection began in 1966 with a successful test at Oulton Park of its groundbreaking prototype GT. The Bolton cotton mill-based outfit was a friendly face – particularly after the politics of Gethin’s Formula 1 rejections by (post-Bruce) McLaren and BRM in 1971 and ’72.
Formula 5000 suited this fun-loving, Epsom-born son of a famous jockey, too: fast and loose. He’d earned his stripes by winning its inaugural European Championship of 1969 and successfully defending the title – in semi-works McLarens run by Church Farm Racing and Sid Taylor.
Though not without success in junior formulae – ‘Geth’ reckoned a 1972 Formula 2 win for Chevron at Pau the best of his career – the little fella suited these Chevy big-bangers. Surplus to the requirements of Louis Stanley’s three-car circus at BRM, his focus for 1973 was America’s lucrative L&M F5000 Championship. But not before he’d shaken down his brand new F2-based B24 – and shaken up the F1 brigade – at Brands Hatch in March.
The car was finished on the Wednesday before but Gethin immediately found its sweet spot. On Saturday he not only won at a canter the opening round of the Rothmans 5000 European Championship but also qualified eighth – amid the F1 cars – for the Daily Mail Race of Champions. Its Lola rival would ultimately prove superior – except perhaps in top speed – but for now, the Chevron was the F5000 to have.
Gethin must, however, have cast a keen eye over an unusually perky BRM. For its Firestone-shod P160Ds of Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Niki Lauda and Vern Schuppan had grabbed the first three places on the grid. Schuppan was subbing for Clay Regazzoni, who had been injured – and grabbed and dragged from the flames by Mike Hailwood – at Kyalami two weeks prior.
Between Gethin and those BRMs lay Jody Scheckter’s McLaren M19C – just two years since the South African’s sensational Formula Ford debut at the same meeting – Mike Hailwood in the prototype Surtees TS14 and the John Player Specials of Ronnie Peterson and Emerson Fittipaldi.
Behind Gethin lay Denny Hulme in McLaren’s new M23 – the pacesetter of Kyalami having broken a driveshaft during practice – and Howden Ganley’s Iso-Williams FX3. Other notable F1 scalps included James Hunt – 13th on the grid in the TS9B that Lord Hesketh had hired for his category debut – and John Watson. The latter had decided to start from 18th in Gordon Murray’s first F1 design – this was the debut of his pyramidal Brabham BT42 – despite having qualified a tenth faster than Gethin in a BT37.