Although not one of the big names of Formula One, March had a decent pedigree in the sport. Formed in 1969 by four friends; Max Mosley, Alan Rees, Graham Coaker and Robin Herd, March built customer cars across a variety of formulae as well as works F1, F2 and F3 teams. The F1 team began well, with Chris Amon and Jo Siffert steering them to third place in the constructors’ championship in 1970, and Ronnie Peterson and a selection of other drivers steering the bizarre-looking March 711 to fourth place the following year. Results dropped off as the 1970s progressed, however, and – despite making a little bit of history when Lella Lombardi became the first woman to score F1 points for the team in 1976 – the team eventually gave it up at the end of 1977 following a string of retirements and failures to qualify, though their customer cars were doing well for privateers. After three years concentrating on Formula Two, March made a comeback with the team now managed by Mike Ralph and John MacDonald of RAM Racing, a privateer team around since 1976. Chilean Eliseo Salazar and Irishman Derek Daly would pilot the black cars for March’s comeback.
Cheerful Dubliner Daly had come into racing relatively late, having spent some time tin mining in Australia to finance his career. He made his way through the junior formulae in Britain and Europe and won the 1977 European Formula Two championship and, while driving in F2 during 1978 made his F1 debut with the struggling Hesketh team, and continued in 1978 in Formula Two with Ron Dennis’ Project Four team while picking up F1 drives where possible, for Ensign and at the end of the year in a third Tyrrell. This last led to a full-time contract with Uncle Ken’s team for 1980, where he managed two fourth places but is better remembered for two nasty accidents; one at the first corner in Monaco where his car was catapulted over two others, and one at Zandvoort where he was flung over the barriers.
Born in the Chilean capital of Santiago, Eliseo Salazar was a good fit with Derek Daly and March – a cheerful, fun-loving driver at a laid-back, friendly team. Salazar would make his World Championship debut in Long Beach with the March team, but did have experience in a Formula One car, having competed in the 1980 domestic British Formula One series in a customer Williams FW07 following a season in Formula Three.