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The Cellnet Super Prix Formula 3
Brand's Hatch, 11th October 1987

Ending the drought...

This is an extract from a full report on the Cellnet F3 Superprix which appeared in the 15 October 1987 issue of Autosport. Many thanks to the magazine and the writer, Tony Dodgins.

We had torrential rain, a cancelled day, dry, wet, and damp all in the course of the second Cellnet Superprix. We had minor incidents, major incidents, re-started races and red flags. Through it all, three drivers stood out: Johnny Herbert, Bertrand Gachot and Martin Donnelly. Martin was ultimately unable to stay with Johnny and Bertrand in the final, the latter turning in a brilliant performance after finding himself ninth on his semi-final grid. His efforts in that twice halted three-lap semi were nothing short of sensational and he looked fair set in the Final until tapped at Druids by Danielsson. Johnny then seized the initiative and thereafter countered every move to score a faultless win, emphatically ending that barren spell that has afflicted him since June.

First semi-final

Totally dry conditions greeted drivers for the first time during the weekend as the field assembled for the first semi-final. With the British championship decided, that confident edge seems to have returned to Johnny Herbert's driving and he made no mistake off the line to head the field through Paddock. If he had managed starts like that all year, he may have bagged even more successes, but clearly nobody could hold a candle to him in this race. With the programme running behind schedule, the race had been reduced to 15 laps and Johnny romped away unchallenged, 12secs to the good by the chequer.

Many had anticipated a battle with Danielsson, but the Swede, although comfortable in second spot, could offer no threat. Herbert was 1 sec clear by Westfield second time round and 3secs up after three tours.

We then looked to Damon Hill. Could he oust Danielsson for second? The answer to that was a very firm 'no' as the RT31 made very firm contact with the tyres at Westfield. Exit Hill, or so we thought... Damon was later found sitting in the front of the Intersport transporter/hospitality suite. He was in the front - you know, the bit reserved for debriefs, chats, coffees and the like.

"You see that metal plate over there," he said, pointing to a piece of aluminium not in keeping with the general decor, "well that's covering a hole where Monti put his fist earlier in the year. It's been well used today..." Meanwhile Glenn Waters' crew readied the car just in case there were not enough left to fill the final grid.

Back on the circuit, the race had settled into a pattern, with not a great deal happening. Herbert ran out a comfortable winner with Danielsson an equally secure runner-up and Dave Coyne untroubled in third. Frank Biela drove a steady race to claim fourth, clear of a delighted Beto Jimenez, still oozing the delights of his new engine.

Behind the Mexican, Osvaldo Negri was doing a fine job with his TechSpeed Reynard. This lad, with a budget and some testing is going to need watching most carefully.

The problematic practice brigade was flying, too, headed by Peter Kox. At two- thirds distance I put a watch on the gap between Herbert and Kox. It went out by just half a second between laps 9 and 10, Peter in traffic. Bancroft, too, was making good progress until halted by a recurrence of his battery problem.

The race's main interest was now Negri, Rosso, Rydell and the flying Kox in combat over sixth spot. With the semis deciding the final's grid slots, nobody was about to pussy foot. Rydell, in particular, was impressive, diving inside Rosso at Paddock after the classic feint to the outside. It was a move you expect from a Brands Hatch veteran not a 20 year old Swede having his first experience of the circuit.

More heroics were coming from young Raphael del Sarte, storming along in a clear B class lead and taking a new lap record to boot. Terrific.

Of the rest, we had lost Robert Amren with a drive shaft failure, Gerrit van Kouwen who was off at Stirlings, while Peter Hardman was just outside the top 10, lacking a rhythm that comes with racing miles.

Semi-Final 1: 15 laps - 39.20 miles

1 Johnny Herbert (Reynard-VW 873), 21m 36.31s, 108.87mph
2 Thomas Danielsson (Reynard-Alfa Romeo 873), 21m 48.29s
3 Dave Coyne (Reynard-VW 873), 21m57.85s
4 Frank Biela (Reynard-VW 873), 22m 01.01s
5 Gilberto Jimenez (Reynard-VW 873), 22m 08.34s
6 Osvaldo Negri (Reynard-VW873), 22m l1.80s
7 Peter Kox (Reynard-Toyota 873), 22m 12.29s
8 Rickard Rydell (Reynard-VW 873), 22m 12.33s
9 Victor Rosso (Ralt-VW RT31), 22m 12.79s
10 Tim Davies (Swallow-VW 387), 22m 1 3.66s
11 Peter Hardman (Reynard-VW 873), 22m 23.42s
12 Raphael Real del Sarte (Ralt-VW RT30), 22m 35.88s
13 Phil Andrews (Reynard-Alfa Romeo 8733), 22m37.34s
14 Jo Zeller, (Ralt-VW RT30), 22m 42.92s
15 Peter Boutwood (Ralt-VW RT30), 22m 43.16s
16, Hers Hillebrink (Reynard-VW 23m 00.08s
17 James Shead (Ralt-VW RT30), 23m 05.25s
18 Paul Sebburn (Ralt-VW RT30), 14 laps
Fastest lap: Herbert, 1m24.94s, 110.77mph.

Final

The previously scheduled 30 laps were reduced to 20 amid very real fears that should anything hold up the final, then the impending gloom would close in.

A look at the front two rows of the grid had everyone rubbing their hands in expectation; Herbert, Donnelly, Danielsson, and Gachot. They lined up in their current Lucas British F3 championship positions, hard, uncompromising men all.

At the green Danielsson shot left and contact with Gachot looked inevitable. The Belgian braved it out around the outside of Paddock and momentarily we had them three abreast. Gachot was forced out on to the old circuit but chopped across behind Donnelly to claim second on the run up to Druids with Danielsson third and Herbert contemplating the wonders of the Brands Hatch pole. Phew!

McCarthy, meanwhile, shot his bolt with an attempt to at Herbert going into Surtees. The pair made contact and Pel spun across the kerbing. There he sat till everyone had gone by.

The quartet was still as one as it streamed across the line, already well clear of Galvin and Coyne. At Druids, however, it was all change. Gachot was clipped up the rear by Danielsson and did an impromptu 360 degree rotation as the Swede tried to miss him and ended up in the tyres and out of the Super Prix. Thomas explains: "Martin and Bertrand went in together and Bert ran a little wide. I figured if I got the power on I might be able to pass on the inside but I slid into out his side pod. It's a real shame because Dave (Morgan) and the boys had done a great job with the wet settings - my car was terrific." Herbert gratefully went by into second and Gachot resumed third.

It soon became apparent that Martin Donnelly was not entirely happy: "We softened the settings after the semi, but the extra roll in the corners aggravated the slides and meant I could not get the power down so early."

Johnny quickly closed in for the kill and shot up the inside of the Ralt at Dingle Dell. It was not to be a Cellnet win. Herbert was driving quite beautifully, balancing the car on the throttle as it tried to get away from him on the treacherously slippery exit to Graham Hill Bend.

The recovering Gachot was now right with Donnelly and needed to get by as soon as possible. The problem Donnelly described was never so apparent as now, Gachot with the power down so much earlier out of Graham Hill Bend. Martin moved left to block, Gachot flicked back right to give himself the optimum line through Surtees, gained better traction and was through.

At this point, Herbert was almost three seconds to the good and there were 16 to go. A Benetton test was at stake...

Watches on the gap revealed a constant margin of 2.5s for the next couple of laps, but suddenly the Marlboro car was reeling in the Stelrad one and the gap was down to 1.3s. Next time round, however, it was back to 2s and there it stayed for a while until the pair began to get in among traffic. It then extended to 3s for the first time and the most worrying time for Johnny passed without incident as he dealt magnificently with the traffic. Bertrand, meanwhile, encountered a car at paddock on successive laps and could not close the gap own. So evenly matched were the pair that they recorded fastest race laps identical to the hundredth. Gachot adding: "I could have won if it were not for the clout from Danielsson at Druids. We were very even and whoever was ahead was going to win."

Herbert, though, never put a foot wrong and like his semi-final performance, this was faultless. Leading in such tricky conditions is always difficult and he took the chequer having turned in super drives in both wet and dry conditions. Clearly the team had solved any trouble they had with wet settings, and Saturday morning seemed long way away...

Behind Gachot, there was an epic tussle between Galvin, Coyne and Biela, with Mark finding his car very difficult to drive but nonetheless doing a sterling job: "I really was having to do some very nasty things to people to keep them behind..."

At half distance Coyne eventually made it by and Mark's valiant defence then seemed to wane, Biela through as well next time round.

Behind the German, Brabham, Simmiss and Schonstrom were locked in combat over seventh, Victor Rosso having also been in their before spinning out at Stirlings. This spoiled a fine effort from the Argentinian, up from 18th to 8th in five laps.

Rosso's progress, however, had been assisted by a number of spins and excursions. Harrington and Favre were first lap casualties at Druids, Rydell's hopes ended at Surtees on that first lap, and Jiminez locked up and went off at the headline way while remaining a finer 74 on lap four, to be joined their two laps later by Peter Kox.

John Pratt, meanwhile, fell foul of a clout up the rear from Damon Hill, Brands Hatch's favourite son charging through the field after indeed being permitted to start from the back.

Galvin was now falling into the clutches of a frantic Brabham, Simmiss and Schonstrom, Craig going like never before. With five to go Niclas went inside Simmiss beautifully at Paddock and next time tried the same move on Galvin. The pair touched, Galvin spun and rejoined behind Brabham, and Simmiss gratefully seized sixth and headed off up the road after Biela. To give you some idea of how quickly the Kiwi was going, he finished just 0.3s behind the German having recorded fastest lap of the race, 0.03s quicker than Herbert and Gachot!

Further down Raphael real del Sarte did it again, claiming a place on the rostrum with 16th overall, the Class B winner by a clear 8 seconds from Swede Hans Hillebrink and then Peter Boutwood. this trio were the only one as remotely in it.

With the chequer only just pre-empting darkness, summer fireworks managed to be dry enough to crackle spectacularly into action. There had been so much water last weekend that they somehow seemed rather incongruous.

Final Results - 20 laps, 52.20 miles

1 Johnny Herbert (GB), EJR/Stelrad + Gemini + RfB (Reynard-VW873) - 34m 41.27s
2 Bertrand Gachot (B), West Surrey/Marlboro (Ralt-Alfa RT31) - 34:44.14
3 Martin Donnelly (GB), Intersport/Cellnet + Ricoh (Ralt-Toyota RT31 - 34:48.11
4 Dave Coyne(GB), Bross/Konig (Reynard-VW873) - 35:11.53
5 Frank Biela (D), ACE/Rifle Jeans (Reynard-VW 873) - 35:13.17
6 Craig Simmiss (NZ) , Wheeltorque (Reynard-VW873) - 35:13.52
7 Niclas Schonstrom (S), Swallow/Mobira (Reynard-VW873) - 35:16.03
8 Gary Brabham (AUS), Jack Brabham/Panasonic (Ralt-VW RT31) - 35:19.10
9 Mark Galvin (IRL), Docking/Shorehill Investments (Reynard-Alfa 873) - 35:23.73
10 Damon Hill (GB), Intersport/Cellnet + Ricoh (Ralt-Toyota RT31) - 35:37.01
11 Osvaldo Negri (BR), TechSpeed/Amigos do Brazil (Reynard-VW873) - 35:51.80
12 Perry McCarthy (GB), Madgwick/Hawtal Whiting (Reynard-Alfa 873) - 35:56.05
13 Tim Davies (GB), Bob Salisbury/Autowindscreens (Swallow-VW387) - 36:04.89
14 Peter Zakowski (D), Schafer/Amdahl (Ralt-VW RT31), 19 laps
15 Peter Hardman (GB), EJR/Whitehouse (Reynard-VW873), 19 laps

Many thanks to Autosport and the writer for the above report. All rights reserved.
The series of historic reports comes to you from the archives of fan Harry Lythgoe
This page prepared 31st December 1997.