Moments In Motorsport (21): J-Scheckter-McLaren M21 F2

In May 1972 the small south London circuit, Crystal Palace, hosted one of the 14 rounds of the European Formula 2 championship. Due to the compact nature of the track only 16 of the 37 entries would take the start so a number of qualifying heats were held. The entry list included several grand prix drivers as well as potential future champions; Graham Hill, Niki Lauda, Carlos Reutemann, Jochen Mass, Francois Cevert and Patrick Depailler were just a few of the top drivers prepared to risk their reputations at the notoriouslly tricky circuit.

J-Scheckter-McLaren M21 F2-Palace 1972

Crystal Palace 1972

But pole postion went to Mike Hailwood driving a Surtees TS10 and alongside him on the front row was the South African driver Jody Scheckter. Having made a name for himself in his home country, Scheckter arrived in the UK during 1972 with a contract to race for the new Bruce McLaren Racing Team Ltd. In the Formula 2 championships, driving the new McLaren M21 that was powered by a Ford-Cosworth BDF engine. The photograph shows Scheckter during the 50-lap race where he passed Hailwood and went on to win by just over two seconds. This was to be his only European Formula 2 win of the year out of the eight entered although he won one further race in the British Formula 2 championship. However his driving skills impressed the team sufficiently for him to be awarded a Formula 1 drive at the USA grand prix later in the year. He then signed to drive for the McLaren F1 team in 1973 but his early races were not without controversy as his forceful approach came in for considerable criticism from his fellow drivers, not least when a huge spin at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone caused a huge accident. Despite this, he became a regular competitor in Formula 1 and his penultimate season saw him win the driver’s title when he joined the Ferrari team.


From ‘Moments in Motorsport’ by Trevor Legate.