Japanese GP 1977
OCTOBER 23, 1977
Japanese GP, 1977
The final round of the World Championship saw a much-reduced field with Fittipaldi, Hesketh, Williams and Renault Sport all deciding not to bother. March ran only one car after Ian Scheckter had troubles with his visa and could not get into Japan. Ligier expanded to run two cars Jacques Laffite being joined by Jean-Pierre Jarier and there were three local drivers: Kunimitsu Takahashi in a Muritsu Tyrrell and two Kojimas: one being run for Noritake Takahara by Kojima and the other for Kazuyoshi Hoshino by Heroes Racing.
Mario Andretti took pole in his Lotus with James Hunt alongside in his McLaren while the second row featured the Brabham-Alfa Romeos of John Watson and Hans Stuck. Laffite was the third row with Jody Scheckter's Wolf while the fourth row featured Carlos Reutemann (Ferrari) and Jochen Mass in the second McLaren. The top 10 was completed by Vittorio Brambilla (Surtees) and Clay Regazzoni (Ensign), Alan Jones (Shadow) and Hoshino.
In the race Hunt took the lead but Andretti made a terrible start and dropped behind Scheckter, Mass, Regazzoni, Watson, Laffite and Stuck. Andretti began a recovery drive but on the second lap collided with Laffite and was out. A wheel from the Lotus caused both Hans Binder (Surtees) and Takahara to spin off.
On lap six Villeneuve missed his braking point at the end of the main straight and went into the back of Ronnie Peterson's Tyrrell. The Ferrari cartwheeled off the track and although the Canadian escaped unhurt a marshal and a photographer were killed and others injured. The race was not stopped.
At the front Mass and Watson (who had overtaken Regazzoni) both went ahead of Scheckter and the order remained stable until the 29th lap when Mass's engine blew and Watson suffered a gearbox failure. That put Scheckter back up to second place but he was soon overtaken by Regazzoni although the Ensign then went out with an engine failure. Reutemann then took the place (having passed Scheckter) but he was overtaken by Laffite. The Frenchman looked to be on his way to second but he ran out of fuel on the penultimate lap and so Reutemann ended up second with Patrick Depailler (Tyrrell) third and Jones fourth. Laffite was classified fifth with Riccardo Patrese (Shadow) sixth, scoring his first World Championship point.