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The Ex-Ronnie Peterson, Vittorio Brambilla, Lella Lombardi
1976 March-Cosworth 761 Formula 1 Racing Single Seater
Chassis no. 761-3
Engine no. 157

March Engineering Ltd of Bicester, Oxfordshire, emerged as a powerful new Formula 1 force in 1970 – immediately fielding no fewer than five of their formative Type 701 Cosworth DFV-engined cars in their debut season – two works team cars, one for the associated STP-March programme and two in dark Scots blue for the Tyrrell Racing Organisation. Drivers that first season included such superstars as Jackie Stewart, Mario Andretti, Jo Siffert and Chris Amon.

By 1976 Ronnie Peterson had rejoined the March programme – having given the new marque its initial debut with the Formula 3 prototype car designed by ex-McLaren technical director Robin Herd in 1969. Now this March 761 is offered here with Ronnie Peterson history, having been campaigned by the legendary pace-setting Swedish hero in the 1976 South African, Long Beach (USA East), Spanish and Belgian Grand Prix races, before it was taken over by Italian team-mate Vittorio Brambilla for the subsequent Swedish, French, British, German, Austrian, Dutch, Italian, Canadian, and Japanese GPs that season.

Despite spirited driving by Peterson best results were achieved by Brambilla, who finished sixth in the Dutch GP and qualified strongly at the end of the season, third on the grid in Canada and fourth on the grid at Watkins Glen for the US Grand Prix.

As one might imagine with two such committed, fast and furious drivers as Peterson and Brambilla – the latter respectfully known throughout the motor racing world as 'The Monza Gorilla' – the Formula 1 March entity known as '761-3' had a hectic career.

Peterson's friend and March mechanic Ake Strandberg, relates an incident in practice for the 1976 Belgian GP, in 'Memories of Ronnie Peterson', by Joakim Thedin and Tomas Haegg, published by Poletext, Copyright 2006... 'Ronnie crashed the car. He came back to the pits carrying his seat cushion and reported that it wasn't too bad. He said, 'Bring a jack and a front tyre along and you can drive it back again.' The mechanics went off to find the car, 'the first thing we saw was the rear wing. The rest of the car had a chain-link fence wrapped around it. No wheels were left on, the car was totally trashed.'

It was rebuilt around a new monocoque chassis tub after the crash in Belgium, and at the German GP did not start the race following a Brambilla practice crash. It was rebuilt again around a fresh tub – which we understand was numbered '10' – and in the Austrian and Dutch GP reports it was contemporarily described as '761-10' while wearing its original chassis plate stamped '761-3'. After the Dutch GP at Zandvoort the car was again reported as '761-3'.

During the following winter of 1976-77, the car was equipped with Robin Herd's experimental design of four-wheel drive rear end, emerging as a six-wheeled test hack. It would never be raced in that configuration – which was shared contemporaneously by the rival Williams Formula 1 team – triggering a ban on more than four wheels for Formula 1 use. The car was then sold to John Macdonald's RAM Racing organization, and it was campaigned by them in standard March 761 four-wheeled configuration with Marlboro and F&S Properties backing as a 1977 season private entry.

The car was driven by Dutchman Boy Hayje and (once) by the British hopeful Andy Sutcliffe. Hayje qualified for one race only, the Brands Hatch Race of Champions event, qualifying 12th and finishing seventh. The car was then sold during 1977 to F & S Properties for entry in the Group 8 ShellSport International Championship of minor-league Formula 1 racing, and modified by Tiga Engineering. Modifications included longer wheelbase, wider track, front radiator, new bodywork and changes to the oil and water systems. It was subsequently sold to British owner Graham Eccles and was available to rent-a-drivers in the 1979 Group 8 Aurora-AFX national Formula 1 Championship series.

We are advised that, in 1982 March 761-3 now offered here passed into a private European museum, and in 1983 to specialist dealer Roger Cowman. The rolling chassis was restored to original March Engineering specification, back to side radiators with standard wheelbase, track, oil system and bodywork. Ken Moore acquired the car in 1986 and in 1987 it was owned by Bob Howlings, before passing as a non-runner to Luc Behar in France. In 1999 it passed to the current vendor, a collector, 1970s competitor in F5000 and great enthusiast for 1970s racing cars. Who took further steps towards its restoration and race preparation including- engine pulled apart and line bored by J and F Engines (formerly March Racing Engines) ready to be rebuilt around new parts, the FG400 Hewland gearbox (believed to be original to the car) similarly pulled apart by BPA Engineering, stripped, and checked ready to be fitted with new parts, brakes rebuilt by BG Developments, instruments rebuilt, radiators rebuilt by Serck. The car is offered with spare wheels, nose, and drive shafts and with old FIA papers. Described by the vendor as in "lovely original condition" with excellent chassis, bodywork and paintwork, this represents a terrific opportunity to buy one of the most charismatic of 1970s Grand Prix racing cars and complete the restoration and race preparation, as befits a car raced by two true firebrand drivers of the period.

Bonhams 1793
101 New Bond Street
United Kingdom
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Bonhams Collectors’ Car department