Stretton converts pole to win in first FIA Masters Historic Formula One race at Magny-Cours

Martin Stretton led from start to finish to claim his second FIA Masters Historic Formula One win in three races, the Tyrrell 012 driver holding off local hero Soheil Ayari whose Ligier-Matra JS17 hounded the winner all the way. Matteo Ferrer-Aza was third in his Ligier JS11/15.

Soheil made me work very hard”, said Stretton. “His car was the faster, especially when the oil was still down [from an earlier race]. Then he got a bit of unlucky break with a backmarker. A shame about the safety car but I had it all under control.

I really enjoyed it!” said Ayari about his FIA Masters Historic Formula One debut. “With the backmarker, he just managed to make his way past, and I had to wait one or two corners – and then he was gone.

It was lonely”, said Ferrer about losing ground on his two rivals. “It was not my choice, but rather my obligation. Engine temperatures were on borderline, and I decided to choose caution over valour. It’s nice to race but not a cost of an engine.

Mike Cantillon (Williams FW07D) and Steve Hartley (McLaren MP4/1) fought over fourth all race, Hartley moving in front on lap 5 but losing the place back to Cantillon shortly before the safety car was called on lap 14. Christophe d’Ansembourg (Williams FW07C) and Jamie Constable (Tyrrell 011) had been battling over sixth when they touched, leaving the latter stranded out on the circuit. The race finished under the safety car.

Me and Steve had a great fight”, said Cantillon. “He took me with a nice clean pass on the inside, and then three laps before the end he outbraked himself at the second hairpin, and I went through on the inside. It was great fun.

Equally, Henry Fletcher (March 761) led the pre-78 class all the way, initially running sixth overall before seeing D’Ansembourg and Constable move past. Patrick d’Aubréby (March 761) and Jason Wright (Shadow DN8) completed the pre-78 podium, the Frenchman and the American never more than a second apart.

I can’t fight those ground-effect cars”, said Fletcher about his initial fights with D’Ansembourg and Constable. “In turns 1, 2 and 3 I’m crucified! It’s always to be able to race in the beginning, but after that, there was nothing to prove.

“It was a good race, and I really like this circuit”, said D’Aubréby, “and the heat didn’t trouble me very much.”

“No way!” said Wright when asked if he could have passed D’Aubréby. “Right at the beginning I did what I did at Paul Ricard – got too excited and missed a gear. At that point, they were gone…”

After a single lap behind the safety car to allow for the removal of Antoine d’Ansembourg’s Brabham BT49 who had stalled on the grid, the field was sent away. The order at the top remained unchanged, poleman Stretton leading former French F3 champion Ayari, Ferrer, Cantillon and Hartley, with Fletcher leading the pre-78 class in sixth overall. From his lowly grid position, Jamie Constable was the man on the move, charging up to eighth on lap 4.

Stretton in the lead kept on being hounded by Ayari, the Frenchman knibbling tenths off the Tyrrell’s already slender lead, while Ferrer dropped away to trail by 4 seconds on lap 5. On the same lap, Hartley passed Cantillon for fourth, their battle happening five seconds in arrears of the Italian in third. In the next two laps, Christophe d’Ansembourg and Jamie Constable pushed Fletcher down to eighth, who now had no more buffer between himself and his class rivals Patrick d’Aubréby and Jason Wright, the pair trailing Fletcher by eight seconds. Fletcher wasn’t bothered, though, and controlled the gap quite easily. Meanwhile, Jonathan Holtzman’s Lotus 87 had dropped out of eighth with brake problems.

At the front, Stretton had opened up a gap to Ayari, growing his lead from nine tenths on lap 8 to two seconds on lap 10, a backmarker dropping the Frenchman out of contention. Stretton’s lead on Ferrer, who was nursing his engine home, had increased to 13 seconds, while Cantillon had moved back in front of Hartley. On the next lap, however, the safety car was called after the warring duo of D’Ansembourg and Constable had touched. The Belgian was able to continue but Constable was left stranded out on the circuit. This required the arrival of another safety car, and it stayed out there until the chequered flag.

With Ayari in the invitational class, Stretton was joined on the podium by Ferrer and Cantillon while Fletcher, D’Aubréby and Wright formed the pre-78 podium. Mark Hazell (Williams FW08) and Georg Hallau (Theodore N183) completed the top-three in the post-83 class for flat-bottomed cars, with Stretton its winner. An hour after the race, Hartley was penalised for overtaking under the safety car, a penalty that dropped him to eighth overall. On the upside for Hartley, this meant pole on the top-eight reversed grid for Sunday’s second race…