Race of my Life – Pierre Dieudonnè

BP Super Visco Static Formula 3 Race – Snetterton, 15th June 1975

This article appeared in the November 15th edition of Autosport magazine

This event was the most important of my career, maybe not the greatest all-out race but in retrospect it was certainly the most influential.

1975 was the first year of Formula Three for me and really the first time in my career that I had what I call a ‘proper drive’. I was with the Bang & Olufson Team Michel Vaillant in a BMW-powered March and my team mate was Hervè Regout. Brian Lewis ran the operation and they also had a team in F2 that year, it was a nice set up and very professional which after many years of hand-to-mouth racing was nice for me. We were up against top talents like Gunnar Nilsson and Alex Ribeiro in the works March team, Danny Sullivan (works Modus) and Patrick Neve (works Safir), so some serious competition.

Pierre Dieudonne – Photo by Patrick Hecq

The Toyota Novamotor engine was the dominant force that year but during the season the BMW units were coming on strong, despite it being the first season they had supplied F3. A month prior to the Snetterton race, my team heard that BMW had a new development engine and tried to get it for the biggest race of the year which was of course Monaco. But there was some resistance from BMW because we were such an unknown quantity at that stage and I had only competed in four F3 races. Instead, they gave it to Freddy Kottulinsky in a Modus-BMW, who was a far more seasoned F3 driver.

At Monaco I was quicker than Fredy in qualifying but had an electrical issue with the car in the heat and didn’t make the main event. Still, it made the BMW people sit-up and take notice. Based on this race they agreed to give us the engine for Anderstorp, supporting the Swedish Grand Prix.

On the way to Sweden I stopped off at the BMW tuners, a company called Schrick, to pick the engine up. I had it riding with me on the passenger seat of my hire car all the way up to Anderstorp. Motorsport logistics was a little different in those days!

Ironically after all this there was an installation problem with the unit and because there were new development parts we could not fit it. Just as well, because in qualifying I destroyed the car! My mistake, I got a major bollocking from the team but the tub was finished and I got an official warning!

So, I arrived for the next race at Snetterton, which after Monaco and Anderstorp, was not the highest profile race but after Anderstorp felt like a pivotal one for me and my career.

It was a one-day meeting so everything happened quickly. This time we had the engine fitted and we could really show what we were about. Ribeiro took pole and I was in 7th place, Gunnar Nilsson was just ahead of me in 5th. It rained just before the start and I think it was even delayed slightly while we all changed to wets.

Ribeiro crashed in to Stephen South on the first lap and it was the usual very wild first few laps of an F3 race. Suddenly I found myself in 2nd place just behind Gunnar. I could match his pace and actually see he was struggling at some corners as the rain had stopped and the wet tyres were going off. In my mind I was asking; “What do I do? It’s my sixth F3 race, I’ve already destroyed one tub, got a warning from the team and now I can a great result, if I just keep calm and out of trouble.” By this time I was really close to Gunnar but I could see that he was going to defend the position aggressively. That, added to the fact it was so slippery off-line made the decision for me. I came in second to Gunnar. The team were delighted and it was my best result in F3, which in those days meant that Frank Williams, Ken Tyrrell, Max Mosley, etc would take a lot of notice.

Of the top eight drivers in that year’s championship points table, seven made it to F1 (Nilsson, Ribeiro, Neve, Cheever, Perkins, Hoffman and Sullivan). I was in that eight and the only one not too make it on to a Grand Prix grid.

The circumstances dictated that I had to finish that race at Snetterton. In retrospect, maybe if I had taken a huge risk and gone for it, my career might have taken a different path? But I was a rookie and to put it all in to the context of what happened at Anderstorp, I did what felt right at the time and sometimes in racing that is what you have to do.

Pierre Dieudonnè – Profile

Pierre Dieudonnè competed in Super Vee, F3 and F2 during the 1970’s before turning his attention to Touring Cars which yielded the 1976 European Touring Car title in a BMW 3.0CSL and Spa 24-hours win with Tom Walkinshaw in 1981.

Pierre (centre) with Alan Docking (left) and Yojiro Terada (right) at the 1984 Le Mans 24 Hours – Photo: John Brooks

Equally adept in sports cars the Belgian took three consecutive Le Mans IMSA class wins in rotary-powered Mazda designs from 1987-89. Following retirement from professional driving in the early 1990’s, Dieudonnè took up management roles with Mazdaspeed and ORECA. In recent years Pierre (65) has worked as the sporting manager for Audi Sport Belgium Team WRT, overseeing this seasons Blancpain Endurance Series title win.

Race Result from Snetterton, 15th June 1975 – With thanks to Pierre Dieudonne

 

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