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Rosberg's Race of a Champion at Brands Hatch

Tuesday, December 27 2016

Newly-retired Formula One World Champion Nico Rosberg may have missed out on competing at Brands Hatch, but his father Keke won an F1 race at the Kent circuit in 1983.

The then reigning World Champion had been fast in the opening two rounds of the 83 season, but was disqualified from second place in Brazil after receiving a push start in the pits, and crashed out of the Long Beach event.

Just before the third Grand Prix of the year, some of the teams arrived at Brands Hatch for the Race of Champions, which would turn out to be the final non-championship race for contemporary F1 cars. With the French Grand Prix just one week away and a tyre test being held at the Paul Ricard circuit at the same time, just 13 cars were entered for the race.

ROC83Keke was eager for a race win, however, and headed to Brands Hatch. He set the qualifying pace for the Williams team, from Ferrari's Rene Arnoux and 1980 World Champion Alan Jones, two races into an abortive comeback with Arrows. British representation came from John Watson and Nigel Mansell, fourth for McLaren and eighth for Lotus respectively.

In 12th place on the grid was Stefan Johansson with the new, turbocharged Honda-powered Spirit team. Although he would retire after just four laps with engine problems, by the end of the year Williams had signed a deal with the Japanese manufacturer, who would go on to dominate the latter half of the decade.

Meanwhile Rosberg and Arnoux were dominating the early part of the race, but the Frenchman's attack would falter with tyre troubles. Rosberg would also struggled with the Goodyear tyres in the cold spring weather and Tyrrell's Danny Sullivan, a future Indy 500 winner, began to trouble the Finn.

Sullivan had run tyres scrubbed in the morning warm-up and had much more grip than the World Champion. It was clear that he had more pace than Rosberg, but Keke was no fool and placed his Williams in just the right places to counter anything the American had to offer. Incredibly, it was only the Finn's second F1 win, his first coming at the Swiss Grand Prix (held in Dijon, France!) the previous autumn.

Rosberg's followed this up with a famous victory in a wet-and-dry Monaco Grand Prix a month later, but would have to wait until he had the Honda engine for his next one. He retired from F1 in 1986, and whilst he only scored five Grand Prix wins, is remembered as one of the fastest of his era, as well as part of only two father-and-son F1 World Champions.

Watch the tense final laps of the 1983 Race of Champions below:


You can read about Brands Hatch's history in Chas Parker's book, available in the MSV shop. Click here for more details.