British manufacturer and Formula One constructor, March Engineering in the 1970s-80s was successful in more classes, except for the F1 program, than any other manufacturer. Their products appeared in Formula 2, Formula 3, Formula Ford 1600, IndyCar and CanAm. The team’s first Formula B/Atlantic car was the 705 built in 1970m based on Type 693 Formula 3 racer. The company’s next Formula B/Atlantic car was the 712B/71B. These had a monocoque chassis based on the 712M Formula 2 car and the 713M Formula 3 car. In 1972 the company introduced the 722 for Formula Atlantic competition in the European market, and the 72B for Formula B competition in the US. This basic naming sequence was used until 1982, when March ended their production of Formula Atlantic/B racers. The 1976 Formula Atlantic car, March 76B, was powered by 1.6-litre Ford BDA engine, and was raced by many teams and drivers in the 1976 North American Formula Atlantic season.
Formula Atlantic can trace its origins to the SCCA’s 1600cc Formula B which began in 1965, utilising the widely available and cost-effective Lotus-Ford twin cam engine. The name Formula Atlantic was adopted when Formula B started in the UK in 1971. It was aimed to sit between F2 and F3. Formula B boomed and dominated the larger but hamstrung Formula A until the latter was allowed to use 5-litre stock block engines in 1968. A professional Continental Championship began for Formula SCCA in 1967 and a ‘Pro’ series for Formula B continued until 1972. A parallel Canadian series boomed in the early 1970s before changing its rules to Formula Atlantic, a UK-born derivative of FB, since 1974.
The first professional races run under Formula Atlantic rules in North America were conducted in 1974 by the Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs (CASC) in Canada. IMSA in the United States took advantage of the large number of teams and organized its own series in 1976. So in the 1976 racing season two parallel Formula Atlantis series – CASC and IMSA were run. CASC and IMSA were one-make engine formula all drivers had to utilize Ford engines. Their races were held on different dates, so some drivers took the advantage to participate in both CASC and IMSA championships. Gilles Villeneuve drove the March76B for Ecurie Canada and won both series winning four out of six rounds in each of the series.
A final race of the season was a non-championship event, Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres, held on the streets of the city in Quebec. The series attracted many guest drivers from Europe, including Formula One, to race at Trois-Rivieres. Guest drivers included James Hunt, Vittorio Brambilla, Alan Jones, Patrick Tambay and Jose Dolhem. World Champion James Hunt driving March 76B – Ford BDA Morris for Ramada Inns/Ecurie Canada was third in that race behind Gilles Villeneuve and Alan Jones and ahead of Vittorio Brambilla, Bobby Rahal and Patrick Tambay.
|1976||CASC Formula Atlantic||Trois-Rivieres GP|
|James Hunt||96||Ramada Inns/Ecurie Canada|