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Brands Hatch retrospective: Rindt’s joy, Brabham’s misfortune

Monday, December 21 2020

This year marked the 50th anniversary of Jochen Rindt's crowning as Grand Prix racing's only posthumous World Champion. Rindt won five Grands Prix in 1970, four of which came back to back in a glorious summer run behind the wheel of Colin Chapman's revolutionary Lotus 72, before tragedy struck and he lost his life at Monza.

Rindt's five wins - the other coming in a Lotus 49 at Monaco - accounted for all 45 of the world championship points he scored that season, with nine points only for a win in those days. And, that was enough for him to still win the title, despite not contesting the final four races of the season following his death.

The third of his four successive summer victories came on the legendary full Grand Prix circuit at Brands Hatch on 18 July, an 80-lap race for which the Austrian started on pole alongside Jack Brabham, racing in his final season.

Writing in Motor Sport Magazine at the time, Grand Prix reporter Denis Jenkinson reported that "record crowd of 56,000 paying customers filled the Brands Hatch circuit on Saturday under bright and sunny skies". And that was the race day, as this pre-dated F1 racing's exclusive switch to Sunday afternoons.

At the start of the race it wasn't Rindt or Brabham that seized the initial lead, it was Jacky Ickx in the Ferrari 312B that seized the initial advantage, roaring into what looked like a comfortable lead early on. Sadly for the Belgian, his forward momentum was short-lived as he slowed to a crawl after just six laps with transmission problems.

The slowing Ferrari presented an opportunity for Rindt, who'd been jumped by Brabham at the start, as he took the chance to dive past the Australian as they manoeuvred past the stricken Ferrari on lap seven. For more than 50 laps, Brabham sat in Rindt's wake biding his time, never falling far behind, waiting for an opening to strike.

The longer the race went on, the more Brabham pushed. And then, with just 12 laps remaining, Rindt had a poor gear change on the Grand Prix section of the circuit, and that allowed Brabham in his own eponymous BT33 past and begin to establish a notable advantage.

From there Brabham seemed for the entire world to have the race under control and the ovation was already beginning as he began his 80th and final lap. It's never over until you've passed the chequered flag though, and as Brabham emerged from the woods at Clearways for the final time his car spluttered as he ran out of fuel.

Rindt emerged from the final corner and passed the coasting Brabham on the final run to claim victory, whilst the unfortunate three-time champion was consigned to second. This was the second time that year that Brabham had ceded a race to Rindt at the last corner, also locking up to allow the Austrian past at Monaco.

1970 British Grand Prix, Brands Hatch, result
1, Jochen Rindt, Lotus 72, 80 laps
2, Jack Brabham, Brabham BT33, +32.9s
3, Denny Hulme, McLaren M14D, +54.4s
4, Clay Regazzoni, Ferrari 312B, +54.8s
5, Chris Amon, March 701, +1 lap
6, Graham Hill, Lotus 49C, +1 lap
7, Francois Cevert, March 701, +1 lap
8, Emerson Fittipaldi, Lotus 49C, +2 laps
9, Ronnie Peterson, March 701, + 8 laps
No other drivers were classified

Sky Sports F1 produced a documentary about Rindt earlier this year which can be viewed here.