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European Formula 3 1976

The profile of the European Championship rose significantly in 1976 thanks to a memorable battle between Italy's Riccardo Patrese and Sweden's Conny Andersson. It was also a struggle for supremacy between two of Britain's biggest constructors: 36-year-old veteran Andersson was driving for March Engineering, and Patrese, still only 21 when the season started, was in Pino Trivellato works-supported Chevron B34.

Andersson won the opener in Germany and was ahead of his rival at the next race at Zandvoort, only for his engine to fail after two laps, allowing Patrese to dominate the race. Andersson was on pole at Mantorp Park and won his heat, but it was his teammate Gianfranco Brancatelli, also in a works-backed March 763, who took the lead and held on to win after both Andersson and Patrese spun. Andersson had a dominant win at Avus two weeks later to move back into the championship lead, but the next two rounds were in Italy and Patrese won both, with Andersson second in each. The championship next moved to Croix-en-Ternois where Andersson again won, beating Patrese very easily in the heat, and again in the final. Andersson then took pole at Kassel-Calden in August but was troubled by a stomach upset and could only watch from third place as Patrese won narrowly from Brancatelli. Patrese now had a three point lead with two races left, one in Sweden and one in Italy.

Knutstorp saw high drama as Patrese hit another car at the start of the heat and his Chevron was badly damaged. The Italians blamed the Swedes for the accident and, with their man unable to qualify for the final, Trivellato were accused of offering bribes to slower competitors to stand down from the final to let him in. Their efforts failed but Brancatelli almost did them a favour when he forgot whose side he was on, and t-boned Andersson while they fought for the lead in the final. Brancatelli continued in the lead, and Andersson managed to restart his engine and hold on to second place, inheriting a dramatic victory when Brancatelli's tyre deflated. Andersson led by two points when the teams arrived for the final race at Vallelunga, with the Italians now in a state of near hysteria. Andersson was initially quickest in practice but Trivellato acquired softer Goodyears and Patrese secured pole position. Andersson made an excellent start in the heat to lead Patrese and kept his cool as the Chevron was all over his gearbox. The Italian organisers then decided that Andersson had jumped the start and gave him a one-minute penalty, ensuring he could not qualify for the final. The Swede calculated that he still had a chance, so started to delay Patrese, allowing Brancatelli to take the lead and win the heat. A frustrated Patrese was livid after the heat and allegedly tried to punch the Swede. However, Andersson's efforts were all in vain. Patrese did not need to win the final, and was happy to follow Brancatelli in second place and secure the title, while Andersson watched from the sidelines. It may not have been pretty but the column inches did F3 no harm and Italy had a new star. Patrese would jump straight into F1 in 1977.

The races

04 Apr 1976 > Goodyear-ADAC-300-km-Rennen at Nürburgring

19 Apr 1976 > Easter Races at Zandvoort

09 May 1976 > Mantorp Park F3 Race

23 May 1976 > ADAC-AVUS-Rennen at Avus

13 Jun 1976 > Gran Premio di Pergusa at Enna-Pergusa

27 Jun 1976 > Gran Premio della Lotteria at Monza

25 Jul 1976 > Trophée d'Arras at Croix-en-Ternois

22 Aug 1976 > ADAC-Hessen-Preis at Kassel-Calden

05 Sep 1976 > Kvällspostens Newsrace at Knutstorp

04 Oct 1976 > Gran Premio Campidoglio at Vallelunga

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