1979 European Formula Two Championship
|1979 European Formula Two season|
Champions in 1978, March expanded to seven works cars, all new ground effects 792 models powered by BMW 4-cylinder engines and running on Goodyear tyres. 1978 runner-up Marc Surer started as pre-season favourite; his team-mates would include Beppe Gabbiani, Ricardo Zunino, Miguel Ángel Guerra and Teo Fabi. Others were provided for guest drivers, ranging from Formula One stars like Clay Regazzoni and Hans-Joachim Stuck or promising Formula Three stars like Andrea de Cesaris or Stefan Johansson. ICI Racing's cars were looked after by Ron Dennis' Project 4 outfit, with Derek Daly and Stephen South driving while Bob Salisbury entered a car for Juan María Traverso.
Ralt had handed over their team to Toleman. They struck a deal with Brian Hart to run his 420R 4-cylinder engine for the experienced Brian Henton and Rad Dougall. Osella would be running a BMW-engined in-house car (albeit using a four-year-old design penned by Giorgio Stirano, renamed the FA2/79) for Eddie Cheever; their main strength was an exclusive deal for Pirelli tyres. Chevron hired experienced Formula 1 designer Tony Southgate to create the B48 ground effects car with Paul Owens, based on the 1978 B42 chassis. Bobby Rahal drove the works car (with a Hart engine) with machines also sold to privateers Siegfried Stohr (BMW engine) and Huub Rothengatter (also Hart). AGS continued to run their 1977 car, with Alain Couderc driving; Pilbeam's MP42 would be driven by Patrick Nève, Maurer employed Armin Hahne and AMS ran Piero Necchi.
Round 1 - SilverstoneEdit
The race - now bearing the BRDC International Trophy name - took place in heavy rain, allowing Cheever to demonstrate Pirelli's wet weather superiority in the well-tested Osella-BMW. He dominated until a multiple accident involving Stohr at the Woodcote chicane caused a race stoppage after two laps. After the restart Henton and Daly pushed the American hard until Henton suffered gear selection problems and Daly span. The latter recovered strongly after the rain stopped and the track dried out to take the lead, only to suffer gear linkage problems, allowing Cheever through to take victory on the last lap by only three-tenths of a second. Henton held on to take 3rd ahead of Rahal, with South (despite twice leaving the track at Woodcote) and Columbo completing the top six. The fancied March cars proved a disappointment - the 792 was overweight and generated too much grip, resulting in a machine with heavy handling. Surer failed to start the race after sliding off on the parade lap and being hit by team-mate Gabbiani.
Round 2 - HockenheimEdit
The two-heat race was named as the Jim Clark Memorial Race in honour of the Scottish legend killed at the circuit in 1968. Standing in for the absent Daly (driving for Ensign at the US West Grand Prix), Keke Rosberg started 3rd and took a dominant win some 27 seconds ahead of Dougall, Guerra, Henton (struggling with damaged rear suspension), Cheever (having chosen the wrong tyre compound) and Fabi; . Surer span out after dicing with Rosberg early on in the first heat as dislodging a skirt from his car. South set fastest lap but retired with a puncture.
Round 3 - ThruxtonEdit
Dougall took a shock victory in the BARC Philips Car Radio International - and the points lead of the series - despite having to switch to the Toleman team's old March 782 after problems with the new Ralt. The other scorers were Daly, Columbo, Guerra, Rahal and Rothengatter in a race that only yielded eight classified finishers. Five of the front-runners - Henton, South, Warwick, Gabbiani and Fabi - were eliminated in a pile-up at the first corner. Cheever led until retiring mid-distance, while Surer dropped out with engine trouble.
Round 4 - NürburgringEdit
Surer scored his first points of the season with a daring victory, having started on slicks despite half of the daunting 14-mile circuit still being wet when the race started. A late challenge was mounted by spirited pole-sitter Rosberg (again covering Daly's F1 commitments), who approached the track's F1 lap record before his throttle jammed open and his ICI March was destroyed at the same corner which claimed team-mate South. Instead Henton took 2nd in another old March, Manfred Winkelhock (making a one-off appearance in a BMW-engined Ralt) took 3rd ahead of Stohr, Rothengatter and Dougall.
Round 5 - VallelungaEdit
Surer won a second successive race in the troublesome March to join Dougall at the top of the championship table. Stohr came 2nd in one of the equally difficult Chevron cars, guest driver Maurizio Flammini was 3rd, Rahal 4th, Dougall 5th and another guest - Italian Formula Three star Andrea de Cesaris - 6th. Henton had led in the March before picking up a puncture. He lapped swiftly after getting repairs only to collide with an abandoned car which had not been removed correctly by the marshals.
Round 6 - MugelloEdit
The Ralt finally worked properly, getting Henton through to victory, allowing 'Superhen' to take the series lead. Gabbiani came home 2nd and Elgh 3rd - their first points of the year - ahead of Fabi, Warwick and the consistent Rahal. Daly qualified on the front row alongside Henton but was taken off in a first-corner collision with Surer and guest-driver Regazzoni.
Round 7 - PauEdit
Wet weather again allowed Cheever's skill and Pirelli's grip to come to the fore, the American taking a comfortable victory after colliding with Daly when challenging the Irishman on lap 30; the March was forced into retirement. Stohr took 2nd while 3rd for Surer saw him share the title lead with Henton (who retired on the first lap, sliding off the wet track). Gabbiani, Patrick Gaillard and Guerra completed the top 6.
The second visit to Hockenheim saw an impressive lights-to-flag victory for South in both heats, ahead of ICI team-mate Daly. Gabbiani finished 3rd from Gaillard, Surer (two points seeing him move ahead of Henton in the table; the British driver fell out of contention in the race with gearbox trouble) and Rahal. Guest driver Stuck had pushed South hard in the first heat before engine failure.
Round 9 - ZandvoortEdit
Hastily arranged as a replacement for the cancelled race at Nogaro, the Dutch track's abrasive surface handed an advantage to the Pirelli-shod Cheever, who promptly won his 3rd victory of the year to leapfrog to the top of the table. Fabi took his best result yet in a strong 2nd place, while 3rd for team-mate Surer kept the Swiss firmly in title contention. Columbo finished 4th with a tyre-troubled Henton 5th and Elgh 6th.
Toleman's Rory Byrne had substantially revised the Ralt over the summer break between rounds 8 and 9, and it looked like his work had borne fruit with Henton winning at Enna after a furious battle with Elgh. However, Tiga protested the result as Henton had used an escape road on the first lap avoiding a crash. The race organisers agreed and disqualified the British driver; his appeal would not be concluded until after the season had finished. Elgh was followed home by Daly (delayed by the first corner incident), South (despite a stop to replace a damaged nosecone), Fabi, Cheever and Dougall promoted to 6th after Henton's disqualification.
Round 11 - MisanoEdit
The modified Ralt once again starred, Henton this time taking victory without controversy from Gabbiani, Surer, Traverso, Stohr (now in a March) and Cheever. Daly had provided the strongest challenge to Henton before his gear linkage fell apart. The race was marred by a poor track surface.
Round 12 - DoningtonEdit
The championship was finely balanced ahead of the final race. Henton led by a single point with his appeal against the Enna disqualification still to be heard, with Surer and Cheever equal 2nd. Fabi and Daly took the front row of the grid. Henton was 3rd after crashing twice in practice, with Surer - also suffering an accident - 4th. Cheever could only manage 10th. Daly dominated much of the race, chased hard by Henton, leaving Surer to battle over 3rd place with South. Cheever, struggling in the heavy Osella with Pirelli tyres that didn't suit the warm conditions, was never a factor, eventually finishing 7th. The title looked like it was Henton's until two laps from the end when he suffered brake failure at the Old Hairpin and slid off the track, allowing Surer and South through. The Swiss took the title by two points, a result confirmed when Henton's appeal was thrown out a few weeks later. Daly's victory was enough to take him to 3rd overall ahead of Cheever despite the Irishman only contesting nine of the twelve rounds.
|Race No||Circuit||Date||Laps||Distance||Time||Speed||Pole Position||Fastest Lap||Winner|
|Rd.1||Silverstone||25 March||40||4.719=188.76 km||1'01:42.52||183.533 km/h||Eddie Cheever||Derek Daly||Eddie Cheever|
|Rd.2||Hockenheim||8 April||20+20||6.789=271.56 km||1'20:27.1||202.527 km/h||Marc Surer||Stephen South||Keke Rosberg|
|Rd.3||Thruxton||16 April||55||3.792=208.560 km||1'04:10.31||195.001 km/h||Rad Dougall||Marc Surer||Rad Dougall|
|Rd.4||Nürburgring||29 April||9||22.835=205,515 km||1'12:46.7||169.431 km/h||Keke Rosberg||Manfred Winkelhock||Marc Surer|
|Rd.5||Vallelunga||13 May||65||3.2=208.0 km||1'16:34.9||162.963 km/h||Stephen South||Brian Henton||Marc Surer|
|Rd.6||Mugello||20 May||42||5.245=220.290 km||1'15:46.8||174.418 km/h||Brian Henton||Beppe Gabbiani||Brian Henton|
|Rd.7||Pau||3 June||73||2.76=201.48 km||1'54:30.00||105.579 km/h||Marc Surer||Eddie Cheever||Eddie Cheever|
|Rd.8||Hockenheim||10 June||20+20||6.789=271.56 km||1'20:56.57||201.298 km/h||Stephen South||Alberto Colombo||Stephen South|
|Rd.9||Zandvoort||15 July||50||4.226=211.30 km||1'09:37.86||182.074 km/h||Brian Henton||Eddie Cheever||Eddie Cheever|
|Rd.10||Pergusa-Enna||29 July||45||4.95=222.75 km||1'11:02.9||188.111 km/h||Brian Henton||Stephen South||Eje Elgh|
|Rd.11||Misano||5 August||60||3.488=209.28 km||1'14:29.0||168.585 km/h||Brian Henton||Brian Henton||Brian Henton|
|Rd.12||Donington Park||19 August||65||3.150=204.75 km||1'11:53.20||170.864 km/h||Derek Daly||Derek Daly||Derek Daly|
Race 2 and 8 were held in two heats, with results shown in aggregate.
Race 1 originally scheduled over 47 laps, but stopped after 2 laps and restarted due to an accident involving Siegfried Stohr.
For every race points were awarded: 9 points to the winner, 6 for runner-up, 4 for third place, 3 for fourth place, 2 for fifth place and 1 for sixth place. No additional points were awarded. The best 10 results count. No driver had a point deduction.
- "1979 European F2 Championship". motorsportmagazine.com. Motor Sport Magazine. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
- Wood, Tristan (1984). Drive It! The Complete Book of Formula 2 Motor Racing. Haynes.
- 'M. T.' (1979) Motor Sport Vol LV No. 5 May 1979 - "Formula Two Review".
- 'M. T.' (1979) Motor Sport Vol LV No. 9 September 1979 - "Formula Two Review - A British Champion?".