Stretton holds off Cantillon for win in first FIA Masters Historic Formula One race at the Nürburgring

Martin Stretton led from lights to flag to win the first FIA Masters Historic Formula One race at the Nürburgring but the Tyrrell 012 driver was made to work hard for it. Beating pole man Matteo Ferrer-Aza (Ligier JS11/15) off the line, Stretton soon had Mike Cantillon’s Williams FW07C to deal with. Despite being plagued by a loose front wing, the Irishman closed to six tenths at the chequered flag but Stretton had him covered.

“Yes, I had him covered but I had to work harder and harder for it”, said Stretton. “The back end was getting loose, like at Silverstone, and it’s not the tyres, so we’ll have to look into that. It was all about not making mistakes.”

“I really had a go for the win”, said Cantillon, “but he didn’t make any mistakes. The wobbly front wing was giving me a lot of understeer into the first turn. In the second part of the race I pushed again, had another go, but he had the pace. Still, I’m thrilled to be second, we’ll try again tomorrow!”

Ferrer dropped out from third as his Ligier lost a wheel 11 laps into the race, handing the final podium spot to Jamie Constable in the Tyrrell 011. Christophe d’Ansembourg put in a storming race in his Williams FW07C to claim fourth from the fifth row of the grid.

“I never had enough pace to catch Matteo”, said Constable. “He very kindly gave me third place. I got old tyres on, and the car was really vibrating. Tomorrow I will have a fresh set of tyres, so I’m really hoping for that one.”

Henry Fletcher (March 761) kept with the post-78 cars in the first half of the race but then dropped to seventh overall, which was enough to still win the pre-78 class from Jason Wright (Shadow DN8).

“I was pushing hard in the beginning”, said Fletcher about initially keeping with the front-runners. “But then I thought, what’s the point? I had the pace to be quicker but I wanted to save the tyres for tomorrow. I’ll start P2 on the grid, so perfect, job done!”

“Jamie [Constable] sort of spun into the first turn”, said Wright, “and Henry and I both had to brake hard to miss him. I had to brake a bit harder than him, and then Joaquin and Christophe passed me – and Henry was off! I really tried but we always had cars in between us. You get quite a workout here – I did two quick laps, and I was like aaah…”

At the start, Stretton got the jump on Ferrer-Aza, as Cantillon pipped Fletcher into the first corner. Constable remained in fifth, ahead of Folch, but Christophe d’Ansembourg was on his way up, passing Wright and Holtzman to be seventh after one lap.

Two laps down, Stretton was easing away from Ferrer who was busy bealing with the attentions of Cantillon’s Williams FW07C that just like at Silverstone was dealing with a wobbly front wing. It didn’t stop the Irishman to take second into the first corner. Behind them, Constable had passed Fletcher for fourth, but the March 761 was still comfortably leading the pre-78 class. Two seconds further down the road, meanwhile, d’Ansembourg had deposed Folch from sixth place.

On lap 5, the Belgian continued his march up the ranks, now also passing Fletcher for fifth, but he was now trailing Constable by six seconds. At the front, Cantillon was closing on Stretton with six tenths a lap, with Ferrer already in conservation mode in third, having started with an engine that needed saving. The fight looked to be on between Stretton and Cantillon but at the point the Williams had got the gap down to 1.8 seconds, the leader began matching its lap times.

Further back, Jonathan Holtzman (Lotus 87) had taken sixth from Fletcher, who now only had Folch between himself and his pre-78 class rival Jason Wright in the Shadow DN8. Further back, Georg Hallau in the second-placed post-83 Theodore N183 led Austrian Franz Guggemos whose Hill GH2 was third in the pre-78 class.

Ten laps gone, and with seven minutes still to go, Cantillon decided on a final push, chipping away at Stretton’s lead once more, getting it down to 1.1 seconds on lap 11. At the same time, and dramatically so, Matteo Ferrer was seen parking a Ligier JS11/15 that had lost its left rear wheel… This meant that Constable took up third place, 20 seconds down, with d’Ansembourg in fourth, Holtzman in fifth and Folch now up into sixth, the Catalan having passed Fletcher, who was now six seconds ahead of class rival Wright.

With two minutes to go, Stretton’s lead was getting marginal as Cantillon got within a second. Into the 16th and final lap, eight tenths were all that were in it, but the Tyrrell had the Williams covered. Stretton won by six tenths, with Constable a distant third, 25 seconds down on the leaders. D’Ansembourg’s storming race was rewarded with fourth, ahead of Holtzman and Folch. Fletcher kept those six seconds on Wright in hand to win the pre-78 class. Right at the end, Michel Baudoin in the Hesketh 308E pipped Guggemos to third in class.