GRD 273 car-by-car histories
The 1973 GRD 273 was the peak of GRD's brief involvement in Formula 2, winning one early race with Reine Wisell but fading away as the season progressed.
Described by Autosport as a "logical development of the 272", GRD's 1973 Formula 2 car had a low full-width nose, side radiators, and completely conventional outboard suspension. A works car was due to be raced by former Lotus GP driver Dave Walker and entered by "DART racing with GRD", a tie-up between Mike Warner's GRD and Scottish industrialist Dennis Dobbie, but Walker was involved in a road accident in early February and still had a leg in plaster as the season was due to start. The DART car was tested by Tom Walkinshaw but he wrecked it in a test session at Snetterton just before the opening race at Mallory Park. The other high-profile sale was to Tom Wheatcroft, who bought a pair of 273s for his driver Roger Williamson. Williamson, like other GRD customers Hiroshi Kazato, Tetsu Ikuzawa and Brendan McInerney, was run by GRS International, GRD's in-house team led by chief mechanic Alastair Dimock. Picko Troberg's Team Pierre Robert operation was also running GRDs, with three 273s for drivers Reine Wisell and Sten Gunnarsson, generous funding from Scandinavian underwear maker Pierre Robert, and using Alan Smith's Cosworth FVD engines. Other GRD 273s were sold to Walkinshaw and Swiss dealer Jo Vonlanthen and the season looked very promising for GRD. In late February, the GRD factory was reported to be producing five cars a week, with 16 delivered so far out of the 48 sold, which included a massive order of 17 cars from Jörg Obermoser in Germany.
Williamson put his car on pole position for his heat at Thruxton and won the heat after the leading March 732 retired. He also led the final, until a puncture dropped him out of contention. Wisell then won at the Nürburgring a week later, but the Cosworth FVD was then banned by the CSI, and the Pierre Robert team struggled to find a replacement source of reliable engines. By the time the FVD was homologated, it was rather too late. Walker never did drive the F2 car. After recovering from his February accident and getting back to racing with the GRD S73 sports car, Walker was involved in a second and much more serious road accident on 23 August which severely injured one arm, punctured a lung and bent the pin that had been put in his ankle in February. He would be out for the rest of the season. The lack of a works car meant that Mike Warner and the GRD factory were less involved with the F2 programme, and as the season progressed the 273s were unable to compete with the dominant March 732s. Two 273s were built for Formula Atlantic and called B73s, but are included here as they were effectively the same car.
New to Tom Wheatcroft for driver Roger Williamson in F2 in 1973, and used as a T-car at the opening race. The two cars travelled in Wheatcroft's transporter, but at the start of the season were looked after by GRS International chief mechanic Alistair Dimmock. By June, the cars were run by the team's own mechanics, Rick Olivant, formerly with Surtees, and Trevor Foster from Gerard Racing. If it is correct that chassis 052 was destroyed in Williamson's accident in practice at Nivelles-Baulers, then 051 was the team's unused spare after Wheatcroft bought a new March 732. To Doug Thomson for 1974, and fitted with a Ford BDA for Formula Atlantic and hillclimbs. Badly damaged when crashed in practice at Oulton Park in October 1974, and Thomson recalls that the tub was a write off. He acquired a new tub from GRD over the winter and rebuilt the car. It was then sold early in 1975 as a rolling chassis to dealer Mike Gue, who Doug believes sold the car to someone in South Africa. It appears however, that the car went to North America, where it was next seen being raced by Russell Thomson (Vancouver, BC, Canada) in the ICSCC's Formula B class in 1979. It then passed to Graeme Hutton (Vancouver, BC) who raced it in one late-season 1979 event and at least once in 1980, again in ICSCC Formula B. Bought from Hutton in 1990 by Robert Morris (Seattle, WA) and stored at his workshop since then. Still with Morris in November 2021.
Driven by: Roger Williamson, Doug Thomson, Russ Thomson and Graeme Hutton. First race: Nivelles-Baulers (R7), 10 Jun 1973. Total of 20 recorded races.
New to Tom Wheatcroft for driver Roger Williamson in F2 in 1973, and used as the race car at the opening race. Presumably the car destroyed in Williamson's accident in practice at Nivelles-Baulers in June.
Driven by: Roger Williamson. First race: Mallory Park (R1), 11 Mar 1973. Total of 5 recorded races.
New to Hiroshi Kazato, and run for him in 1973 F2 events by GRS International. Kazato used Racing Services alloy Ford BDA engines at first, then moved to Cosworth BDG, and then had a new car built to take a Schnitzer BMW, retained chassis 054 as a spare. Chassis 054 is thought to have been sold to Chris Oates for 1974, and the "ex-Kazato" car that he ran in Formula Atlantic for Richard Morgan and then Frank Sytner, but this may have been an older car. Chassis 054 reappeared in 1976 when it was run in libre racing by Alan Clennell, described as a B73 and using Swindon BDA engines. Retained by Clennell for sprints and hillclimbs in 1977 and 1978. Advertised by Clennell (Southam) as an ex-works 273 in November 1978. Subsequent history unknown.
Driven by: Hiroshi Kazato, Richard Morgan, Frank Sytner and Alan Clennell. First race: Hockenheim (R2), 8 Apr 1973. Total of 31 recorded races.
Sold to Picko Troberg's Team Pierre Robert and identified by Autosport at Kinnekulle in May 1973 as the regular car of Sten Gunnarson. Presumed to be his car at all races in 1973. In October 1974, Pierre Robert Racing Team advertised chassis 061 as a rolling chassis updated to 1974 specification, together with two BMW F2 engines and a racing transporter. Subsequent history unknown.
Driven by: Sten Gunnarson. First race: Hockenheim (R2), 8 Apr 1973. Total of 9 recorded races.
Sold to Picko Troberg's Team Pierre Robert and identified by Autosport at Kinnekulle in May 1973 as the car driven on that occasion by Reine Wisell. Presumed to be his car at all races in 1973 except at Hockenheim in April where he drove the spare and at the Nürburgring where he drove 063. Also presumed to be the BDA-powered car used by Mikka Arpiainen for two races in 1974. The car then sat in a museum in Sweden until it was acquired as part of a package of five or six by Chris Halford in 1999. He sold it to Andrew Butcher, a Brit then living in Germany in 2000, and he sold it on to Jonny Dimsdale in 2006. Dimsdale restored the car for historic racing with a Gathercole BDG and advertised it in late 2014. In early 2019, it was sold to Glenn Eagling who raced it at Silverstone in May 2019.
Driven by: Reine Wisell, Torsten Palm, Gunnar Nilsson and Mikka Arpiainen. First race: Pau (R5), 6 May 1973. Total of 8 recorded races.
Sold to Picko Troberg's Team Pierre Robert and identified by Autosport at Kinnekulle in May 1973 as the car driven there by Håkan Dahlqvist but previously by Reine Wisell to win at the Nürburgring in April. Presumed to be the spare third car at other races so also the car driven by Wisell at Hockenheim earlier in April and by Gunnar Nordström at Mantorp Park. Also presumably the car driven by Rolf Skoghag in practice at Nivelles-Baulers. This was identified as the BMW-engined car for Wisell at the start of 1974 and then presumably for Torsten Palm at later races. This car remained with Team Pierre Robert until the 1990s, when it was acquired by Ulf Lindberg. By this time many of its components had been removed for use on a sports car, but Lindberg was later able to find replcement components from a GRD that had been crashed in the UK. In 2017, the car was displayed at a Picko Troberg memorial, having been cosmetically restored by Zetterman Engineering.
Driven by: Reine Wisell, Håkan Dahlqvist, Rolf Skoghag, Gunnar Nordström and Torsten Palm. First race: Hockenheim (R2), 8 Apr 1973. Total of 10 recorded races.
Jon Vonlanthen (Frauenfeld, Switzerland) moved up to F2 in 1973 with a new GRD 273. He raced the car in the European series and in the Swiss Championship, using Alan Smith and David Wood BDA engines. For 1974, the car was sold to Jurg Dubler (Oberhasli, Switzerland) but other commitments meant that he did not race it until October. He continued with the car in French hillclimbs in 1975, appearing at Saint-Pierre in April, Turckheim-Trois-Epis in June and Poissons in August. Otto Stuppacher also drove Dubler's GRD at the Bergrennen Bad Mühllacken in 1975 and 1976. Many years later, this car was fully restored with Marc Widmer (Eiken, Switzerland) in 2014. Still owned by Widmer in August 2021, when Vonlanthen drove his car at Hockenheim.
Driven by: Jo Vonlanthen, Jürg Dubler and Otto Stuppacher. First race: Mallory Park (R1), 11 Mar 1973. Total of 30 recorded races.
New to M & S Racing (Santa Clara, CA) as a GRD B73 and raced by Jon Milledge (Mountain View, CA) and Archie Snider (Los Gatos, CA) in Pro Formula B events in 1973. Raced by the pair in SCCA Nationals in 1974, when it was also driven by Archie's brother Don Snider in SCCA Regionals. Fitted with a BDA engine for Formula Atlantic in 1975, again with its original driving partnership. It was later sold to Bunny Ribbs (San Jose, CA), and may have been raced by his son Willy T. Ribbs early in his career, then to Frank Briggs in 1980, and then to John Treder (Santa Clara, CA) later in 1980. He raced the car in 1981 and 1982 but it was badly damaged in an accident at Laguna Seca. The wrecked was acquired by John Hafkenschiel (Sacramento, CA), then sold to Lou Pavesi (Los Altos Hills, CA) in 1981, then Brad Moore (Martinez, CA) in 1996. Still owned by Brad Moore in October 2021.
Driven by: Jon Milledge, Archie Snider, Don Snider and John Treder. First race: Westwood (R1), 27 May 1973. Total of 17 recorded races.
Raced by Tetsu Ikuzawa in F2 in 1973, entered by GRD's racing offshoot GRS International. When Ikuzawa had returned to Japan in August, the car was used briefly in practice by Hiroshi Kazato in practice at Enna and was then taken over by GRS teammate Brendan McInerney whose own car had been wrecked at Karlskoga. Revamped in DART colours for Noritake Takahara to race at Estoril at the end of the season. Subsequent history unknown.
Driven by: Tetsu Ikuzawa, Hiroshi Kazato, Brendan McInerney and Noritake Takahara. First race: Hockenheim (R2), 8 Apr 1973. Total of 10 recorded races.
Unidentified GRD 273s
Between the last known 1972 car, chassis 038, and the earliest known 1974 car, chassis 084, there are 45 chassis numbers that are likely to belong to GRD's 1973 production. Most of these are known F2, F3 or sports cars, but the 17 numbers that are not known are: 039 and 040, both of which could relate to late-1972 production or to 1973 prototypes; eight numbers 042, 046, 058, 065, 066, 067, 068 and 075, which must be 1973 production; and a further seven numbers 077 to 083 which could have been late 1973 or early 1974 cars. Somewhere among these 17 will be the five Formula 2 GRD 273s for which chassis numbers are not known: the works/DART car intended for Dave Walker, the GRS car of Brendan McInerney, Tom Walkinshaw's Formula Atlantic car, Harry Stiller's car for Bev Bond, and the late-season car built for a BMW engine for Hiroshi Kazato. The Formula Atlantic car advertised by Allen Karlberg could be a sixth. Also somewhere in that 17 will be two or three GRD S73 sports cars and between three and six GRD 373 F3 cars.
'the DART car'
The works Formula 2 entry intended for Dave Walker to drive in 1973, entered by "DART racing with GRD", a tie-up between GRD and Scottish industrialist Dennis Dobbie. Walker was injured, and the car was due to be raced at Malory Park, the opening F1 race, by Tom Walkinshaw, but he wrecked it in a test at Snetterton a few days before the race. The car was repaired later in the season and hired by Fred Opert for his driver Bertil Roos to race at Mantorp Park in July, and at three later races at Karlskoga, Albi and Estoril. Subsequent history unknown, but a "little used", "ex-Bertil Roos" GRD 273 rolling chassis was advertised from Northampton in March 1981 and this is the only GRD Roos raced.
Driven by: Tom Walkinshaw and Bertil Roos. First race: Mantorp Park (R11), 29 Jul 1973. Total of 4 recorded races.
'the Allen Karlberg car'
Allen Karlberg, originally from Seattle, WA, but then resident in Mulbarton, Norfolk, advertised a new Formula Atlantic GRD in early March 1973. He described the car as having been sorted by Dave Walker but never raced and now available as a rolling chassis with Hewland FG400 gearbox and F2 fuel tanks. Nothing more known.
'the Brendan McInerney car'
Raced by Brendan McInerney in F2 in 1973, entered by GRD's racing offshoot GRS International. McInerney crashed the car heavily at Karlskoga in August and it was "totally destroyed". He then took over the ex-Tetsu Ikuzawa car as Ikuzawa had returned to Japan.
Driven by: Brendan McInerney. First race: Nürburgring (R4), 29 Apr 1973. Total of 6 recorded races.
'the Tom Walkinshaw car'
Having wrecked DART's GRD 273 in testing at Snetterton just before the start of the season, Tom Walkinshaw then appeared at Thruxton, the opening race of the F2 season, in his own GRD 273, completed on the morning that practice began. He did not appear again in F2 after this race, and was next seen in May when the car had been converted to Formula Atlantic specification and was entered by Myson Racing Team. He only appeared at four Atlantic races, starting only one. The car was not seen again.
Driven by: Tom Walkinshaw. First race: Thruxton (R3), 23 Apr 1973. Total of 2 recorded races.
'the Harry Stiller car'
Harry Stiller ran a GRD 273 (or B73) for Bev Bond in British Formula Atlantic in 1973. Bond had a dreadful season in the car, and Stiller later told Bryan Miller that "it handled like a haunted shithouse". He said he "ended up hanging it on the wall of a large pub he owned at the time". It was eventually found in a pub by Steve Holland (Sittingbourne, Kent) and recommissioned for libre racing at Lydden, using a 1600cc Connaught BDA engine, where it was very successful in 1987 and 1988. The car was crashed heavily at some point, when the throtttle stuck open approaching Paddock Bend. Holland later used a GRD 272 in historic racing in the early 1990s, but it is not known whether this was the same car. Subsequent history unknown.
Driven by: Bev Bond and Steve Holland. First race: Brands Hatch (R4), 27 May 1973. Total of 13 recorded races.
'the Hiroshi Kazato BMW car'
A "brand new" GRD 273 built in time for the Mantorp Park race in August 1973 and fitted with a Schnitzer BMW engine for Hiroshi Kazato, entered by GRS International. The car was then an unused spare at Karlskoga as no engine was available, after which Kazato drove the car at Enna and Albi. Subsequent history unknown but two "ex-Kazato" GRD 273s are known later, one run by Alan Clennell in hillclimbs and one on display in Japan. One of these will be chassis 054, but the other is likely to be this ex-BMW car.
Driven by: Hiroshi Kazato. First race: Mantorp Park (R11), 29 Jul 1973. Total of 3 recorded races.
GRD 273s from 1974 onwards
'the Les Edmunds car'
Les Edmunds (Biggleswade, Bedfordshire) raced a GRD 273 with 1600cc Ford BDA engine in the British Sprint Championship in 1982 and 1983. He had earlier appeared on the entry list with the car at Harewood in June 1981, when it had a 1600cc Holbay engine. Nothing more known.
Driven by: Les Edmunds. First race: Lydden Hill (R2), 15 May 1982. Total of 6 recorded races.
'the Franz Guggemos car'
Franz Guggemos raced a GRD 273 in Historic F2 in 2004. In September 2004, he was seeking information on chassis 077, adding that he thought that it was Hiroshi Kazato's car. Kazato's first car was chassis 054, but his second car, built for the BMW engine, would have had a number somewhere around 077. Nothing more known.
Thanks to Adam Ferrington, who had paid close attention to GRDs in period, and to Chris Townsend and David McKinney for their work on the broader subject of GRDs. Thanks also for contributions from Bryan Miller, Philippe Demeyer, Alan Brown, Steve Bay, Tony Nicholson, Dan Rear, Michael Oliver and Richard Page, from Ekkehard Krause, who had also explored this subject, from owners Doug Thomson, Johnny Dimsdale and Phil Creighton, from Robert Morris's son Ian, and from Tim Barry. Thanks also to Enrico Spaggiari for his information on the three Team Pierre Robert cars.
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