South African GP 1976

South African GP, 1976

There were no F1 races in the five week gap between the Brazilian and South African GPs but there were some changes in the lineup. Ronnie Peterson had decided to leave Lotus. As part of the deal March agreed to release its Formula 2 driver Gunnar Nilsson and he joined another new signing Bob Evans. With Peterson joining March there was no room for Lella Lombardi and she disappeared from F1. Surtees reappeared with the new TS19, the car being driven by Brett Lunger in the colors of Chesterfield cigarettes. Frank Williams signed up Michel Leclere to partner Jacky Ickx. Ensign was back with Chris Amon with sponsorship from John Day Model Cars while a revived Hesketh Racing (being run by Bubbles Horsley) ran Harald Ertl. The Stanley BRM team did not appear and there was only one local driver, Ian Scheckter in the Lexington Racing Tyrrell 007. The Shadow cars appeared in Lucky Strike colors for this race.

Practice was dominated by arguments over the legality of the plastic "skirts" being used by McLaren and Penske. These were the first hints of ground-effect aerodynamics.

Qualifying resulted in pole position for James Hunt but again Niki Lauda was right behind him and there was then a two-tenths gap back to John Watson (Penske). Then came Jochen Mass (McLaren), Vittorio Brambilla (March), Patrick Depailler (Tyrrell), Tom Pryce (Shadow), Jacques Laffite (Ligier), Clay Regazzoni (Ferrari) and Peterson.

At the start of the race Lauda beat Hunt away while Mass and Brambilla also overtook Hunt. Depailler was fifth with Peterson sixth. Behind them Ian Scheckter and Leclere collided. Only the Frenchman rejoined.

On the second lap Brambilla, Mass and Hunt all ended up side by side at they battled for second place and it was the brave Italian who emerged ahead. Mass then let Hunt pass and the Englishman attacked Brambilla. It was not until the fifth lap that Hunt found a way past and went after Lauda, who was by then 10 seconds ahead. Mass soon followed and Brambilla later fell behind Pryce as well (the Englishman having moved up when Peterson and Depailler collided). The order at the front remained unchanged as Hunt edged closer to the leader. On lap 44 Pryce had to pit and so Regazzoni moved into fourth place but he went out with engine failure nine laps later leaving J Scheckter fourth.

The order remained the same all the way to the flag although the final laps were exciting as Lauda had a slow puncture and Hunt closed fast. The Austrian finished just over a second ahead. Regazzoni was third, Scheckter fourth, John Watson (Penske) fifth and Mario Andretti (Parnelli) sixth.

Niki Lauda Ferrari 312T 78 1h42m18.400s  
11 James Hunt McLaren-Cosworth M23 78 1h42m19.700s  
12 Jochen Mass McLaren-Cosworth M23 78 1h43m04.300s  
Jody Scheckter Tyrrell-Cosworth 007 78 1h43m26.800s  12 
28 John Watson Penske-Cosworth PC3 77  
27 Mario Andretti Parnelli-Cosworth VPJ4B 77  13 
16 Tom Pryce Shadow-Cosworth DN5B 77  
Vittorio Brambilla March-Cosworth 761 77  
Patrick Depailler Tyrrell-Cosworth 007 77  
10 Bob Evans Lotus-Cosworth 77 77  23 
11 18 Brett Lunger Surtees-Cosworth TS19 77  20 
12 34 Hans-Joachim Stuck March-Cosworth 761 76  17 
13 21 Michel Leclere Wolf Williams-Cosworth FW05 76  22 
14 22 Chris Amon Ensign-Cosworth N174 76  18 
15 24 Harald Ertl Hesketh-Cosworth 308D 74  24 
16 20 Jacky Ickx Wolf Williams-Cosworth FW05 73  19 
17r 30 Emerson Fittipaldi Copersucar-Cosworth FD04 70 Engine 21 
Clay Regazzoni Ferrari 312T 52 Engine 
26 Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra JS5 49 Engine 
17 Jean-Pierre Jarier Shadow-Cosworth DN5B 28 Radiator 15 
Carlos Pace Brabham-Alfa Romeo BT45 22 Engine 14 
Gunnar Nilsson Lotus-Cosworth 77 18 Clutch 25 
Carlos Reutemann Brabham-Alfa Romeo BT45 16 Engine 11 
10 Ronnie Peterson March-Cosworth 761 15 Accident 10 
15 Ian Scheckter Tyrrell-Cosworth 007 Accident 16