On this day in... 1985

24th March 2017
Henry Hope-Frost

After 18 seasons – between 1967 and 1984 – as the final rung on the treacherously steep ladder to Grand Prix racing, the FIA European Formula 2 Championship was killed off.

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.  

At the start of the 44-lap race on the super-fast Silverstone Grand Prix layout, it was Onyx March racer Emanuele Pirro who burst away from the second row to lead, but the Italian, starting on slicks on the wet track, was passed by Thackwell before the lap was out.

Poleman Ferté gave himself a lot of extra work by making a slow getaway. He would charge back to catch and pass leader Thackwell as the track dried, only for the rain to return and give the Bridgestone-shod Ralt the advantage once more. A late off for Ferté put the result beyond doubt and handed a distant second place to Thackwell’s team-mate, the slow-starting John Nielsen. Ferté, minus his front wing and sporting mud-splattered side pods as a result of his excursion, completed the podium.

Thackwell’s historic victory in the inaugural FIA F3000 European Championship race was his third International Trophy win at Silverstone – to add to his F2 successes for Ralt in 1981 and ’84.

XXXVII BRDC International Trophy, 1985 – 44 laps

1. Mike Thackwell (NZ) – Ralt Racing Ralt RT20, 1h07m41.01s

2. John Nielsen (DK) – Ralt Racing Ralt RT20, 1h08m13.35s

3. Michel Ferté (F) – ORECA March 85B, 1h09m09.77s

4. Christian Danner (D) – BS Automotive March 85B, 43 laps

5. Gabriele Tarquini (I) – Sanremo Racing March 85B, 42 laps

6. Roberto Moreno (BR) – Baron Tyrrell 012, 42 laps

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