The 1974 South African Grand Prix, otherwise known as the VIII South African Grand Prix, was the third round of the 1974 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Kyalami Circuit on the 30th March, 1974. The race meeting would be overshadowed by the death of Peter Revson in the build-up to the weekend, who had crashed his Shadow during testing.
Shadow withdrew from the weekend before practice began, although their absence was made up for by additional entries by South African privateers. The best of the locals would be Ian Scheckter, down in twenty-second, although brother Jody would start up in eighth. Pole had gone to the Ferrari of Niki Lauda, sharing the front row with an equally impressive Carlos Pace, while Arturo Merzario stunned the field by claiming third.
At the start it would be Lauda who sprinted into the lead, with Carlos Reutemann elbowing his way past Pace and Merzario to claim second into turn one. Another man to make a stunning start would be the younger Scheckter brother, as Jody surged into fourth behind Clay Regazzoni. Further back there was to be a catastrophe for Lotus, with Ronnie Peterson suffering a throttle jam and slamming into the sister car of Jacky Ickx, effectively forcing both cars to the pits for repairs as the rest of the field swept into the distance.
Lauda and Reutemann managed to pull away from the field over the following laps, with the Argentine pushing his way past the Austrian on lap ten. Behind, Regazzoni was being harassed by Jody Scheckter, while James Hunt and Emerson Fittipaldi duelled for fifth a few yards behind. Unfortunately for Hunt, his race ended prematurely with a driveshaft failure, while the home fans were dismayed when Jody Scheckter began to fall down the order after picking up a vibration.
For the majority of the race the order remained stable, the only notable change coming when Fittipaldi was relegated to fifth by Mike Hailwood, whose McLaren got stronger as the race wore on. They, however, were being drawn in by another hard charging driver, with Jean-Pierre Beltoise taking the pair of them a few laps later in the new BRM, which already seemed a huge step-up from their old P160s.
Into the closing stages and the two Ferraris were out within nine laps of each other, both Lauda and Regazzoni suffering from identical engine failures. That left Reutemann with a cruise to the finish, while Beltoise claimed second in the new BRM, much to the delight of the experienced British crew, while Hailwood just avoided a late charge from Patrick Depailler to claim the final podium spot. Hans-Joachim Stuck had a quiet race to fifth, ahead of Merzario, while Jody Scheckter ended the day in eighth, just keeping on the lead lap.
Two months after the last World Championship round in Brazil, which had seen the Race of Champions race staged, the field gathered at the Kyalami Circuit to battle in South Africa's biggest sporting event. The circuit, and indeed the event, had been spared from the South African government's ban on motor racing after quick work by Alex Blignaut, who steered the South African authorities away from turning the Kyalami circuit into a housing estate. The late victory for Blignaut and his team also prompted him to enter his own team, fielding two cars in association with Embassy Cigarettes.
Before the race an unofficial test session was staged at Kyalami, part of a display to the local authorities that the circuit was viable, although the entire week would end in tragedy. In the closing stages of the final day, Peter Revson crashed heavily at Barbeque and suffered fatal injuries, in spite of efforts of Denny Hulme, Emerson Fittipaldi, Graham Hill and local racer Eddie Keizan to get him out of the ruined Shadow. The accident was attributed to a suspension failure, which had caused the car to suddenly shoot sideways and slam into the barriers, with Shadow deciding to withdraw their second entry for Jean-Pierre Jarier as a mark of respect.
Catch fences were installed at the point where Revson crashed at the request of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, with President Graham Hill in action for the Embassy Racing Lola effort. The second car of Guy Edwards was not in attendance at either the test or the race after his issues in Brazil. The other entry that failed to arrive was that of Rikky von Opel, whose Ensign was still proving problematic.
Elsewhere, Lotus arrived with two of their new 76s for Ronnie Peterson and Jacky Ickx, the latter arriving fresh from winning the Race of Champions. The first of the 76s would be handed to Peterson, having been unveiled at a big-budget press event staged by sponsors John Player in February, while Ickx had the newer of the pair fresh out of the Norfolk factory. The two cars also arrived with electronic clutches, although Ickx decided to have his replaced by a more conventional design ahead of the first practice session, while Colin Chapman held a single 72E in reserve.
At Tyrrell the South African Grand Prix arrived just too early for them to debut the new 007, leaving Patrick Depailler and home hero Jody Scheckter with the older pair of 005 and 006 respectively. The McLaren effort had some minor revisions for their trio of M23s, with Fittipaldi and Hulme on hand in the two "Team Texaco Marlboro" cars, while Mike Hailwood continued to use the "Yardley" car. Surtees also had some minor revisions for their pair of TS16s, after a major deal with Bang and Olufsen was signed, with Carlos Pace and Jochen Mass in action.
Brabham arrived with optimistic hopes of a strong result, particularly as lead designer Gordon Murray had his two BT44s on home soil. Those two cars appeared completely blank in the paddock, matched by the pristine race suits of drivers Carlos Reutemann and Richard Robarts, although after practice both sported small Texaco logos. This was not the sign for a big money deal by the oil firm, merely a spot of free advertising after Brabham boss Bernie Ecclestone lost a game of gin rummy to Texaco's PR man in the paddock.
A pair of Marchs arrived in the paddock for Hans-Joachim Stuck and Vittorio Brambilla, the latter making his debut in Formula One after an aborted effort to race for Tecno in 1973. Brambilla came in to replace Howden Ganley, who had left to join the new Maki project from Japan, while the familiar older car of James Hunt and Hesketh Racing failed to appear. Indeed, Lord Hesketh's team had finally finished work on their own charger, the Harvey Postlethwaite designed Hesketh 308, which followed well established trends in F1 car design. Hunt had impressed on the car's debut at the Race of Champions, taking pole, although many were quick to note similarities between it and the McLaren M23, cited as the best car in the current F1 field.
Early season leaders Ferrari headed to South Africa with their pair of 312B3-74s for Clay Regazzoni and Niki Lauda to use, both of which would sport new cockpit designs, which provided some more cooling to the drivers in the South African sun. BRM had their new P201 in action for Jean-Pierre Beltoise to use, the new car sporting all new body work and chassis design, but followed the "old faithful" P160's trend for excellent road holding. Budget restrictions meant that only one P201 was available for the race, meaning Henri Pescarolo and François Migault would use two of the old P160Es as usual, with all three cars awaiting the newest BRM V12 engine.
An expanded Iso-Marlboro effort run by Frank Williams Racing Cars arrived in South Africa, with Tom Belsø joining Arturo Merzario for the weekend in the newest of the FWs. The locals then completed the rest of the field, with Blignaut fielding a Tyrrell 004 for friend Eddie Keizan, while Rhodesian veteran John Love fielded a pair of Lotus 72Es for Ian Scheckter, older brother of Jody, and Paddy Driver in Team Gunston colours. A final pair of cars were sported by Scribante Lucky Strike Racing for Dave Charlton and John McNicol, the former using a McLaren M23, while the latter was set to use a Lotus 72A.
A home victory for Fittipaldi had kick started his season and put him ahead of teammate Hulme after the Brazilian Grand Prix, although it was not enough for the Brazilian to leave Brazil in the lead of the World Championship. Indeed, it was Regazzoni who led the charge into South Africa after scoring two podiums at the opening two rounds, although the Swiss racer only had a single point in hand. Lauda slipped to fourth ahead of Hailwood, while Ickx, Pace and Peterson had added their names to the scorers list.
McLaren-Ford Cosworth had two wins from two races in 1974, and therefore headed to South Africa in the lead of the International Cup for Manufacturers on eighteen points. Second place was occupied by Ferrari, who had already matched their tally from 1973 after two second place finishes, while Lotus-Ford Cosworth were up to third. Surtees-Ford Cosworth had also got on the board, with BRM and Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth completing the top six.
The full entry list for the 1974 South African Grand Prix is outlined below:
Practice/qualifying in Kyalami would be staged over Thursday and Friday afternoons, with just the two sessions held, albeit lasting for almost three hours apiece to allow for six hours of running. This was a hastily rearranged scheduled after some crossed communications during the build up to the race, with the all important marshals arriving too late on Wednesday, the first scheduled day, for any running to take place. The new timetable was therefore hastily created that evening, meaning the drivers would have to wait until Thursday for the chance to hunt down Denny Hulme's circuit record of 1:16.28, set by the Kiwi on his way to pole in 1973.
When the field hit the circuit on Thursday afternoon the biggest intrigue would be the performance of the reignited Firestone tyre effort, particularly as everyone was familiar with the circuit after the recent week's testing. The earliest man to set a quick time proved to be Carlos Pace, who spent almost the entire day sat at the top of the timesheets with a 1:16.63. Unfortunately for him this was a time that he himself could not match, causing many to question whether the timekeepers had recorded the wrong time for the Brazilian.
Ultimately, Pace would be denied provisional pole by someone on track rather than a protest from the pits, and by a man who looked consistently quick. That man was Niki Lauda, whose Ferrari quickly got up to speed at Kyalami, with the Austrian instead focusing on race setup until the late afternoon. When he did push the result was a 1:16.58, fifth hundredths faster than the Brazilian, while teammate Clay Regazzoni looked marginally slower with a 1:17.20.
Things were less healthy in the Lotus pit box, where Ronnie Peterson set a faster time in his old 72E than he managed in the new 76, although it was later circulated that the new car had an issue. This was in stark contrast to teammate Jacky Ickx, who seemed to have instantly bonded with his new car and would end the day with a 1:17.18, without any issues at all. Indeed, Peterson was an anomaly in the fact he had suffered a major issue across the board, with everyone, including the locals, completing over half the race distance before the end of Thursday.
Things did not improve on Friday for the Norfolk squad, as Ickx's car developed a misfire, while Peterson's refused to leave the garage with a clutch issue, which was then solved before it developed its own misfire. Both cars spent most of the afternoon in the pits to have various ailments cured, with Peterson failing to break into the 1:17.00s at all, and recording just nineteen timed laps in the 76. They were joined in the back of the garages by Tom Belsø, whose new Iso-Marlboro was suffering from gearbox and electrical gremlins throughout.
Elsewhere, Carlos Reutemann and Emerson Fittipaldi entered the fight for pole, but it quickly became clear that Lauda's time was not to be displaced, with Fittipaldi far happier after an overnight fight to sort his suspension. Indeed, the only man to seriously threaten the Austrian was a shock, for Arturo Merzario and his older Iso-Marlboro were flying in Kyalami, with the Italian sweeping into third overall after an excellent lap. Everyone, including Frank Williams' team were surprised by the effort, regardless of the fact that he had nicked a set of Belsø's "quali" tyres to set the time.
Elsewhere, Jody Scheckter was the best of the South African contingent up in eighth, having spent both days drifting sideways around every corner in the Tyrrell. Best of the "locals" would be Dave Charlton, who qualified alongside a few of the full time efforts, albeit down on the tenth row. He, like the rest of the locals were affected by the six month ban on motorsport in South Africa, meaning they took most of the practice session to just get familiar with their cars, let alone go for broke.
The full qualifying results for the 1974 South African Grand Prix are outlined below:
- T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car to set their best time in that session.
92,000 people came to watch the South African Grand Prix of 1974, in spite of the South African government's ban on the sale of petrol from Friday to Monday each week. There would also be a unique sighting lap ahead of the race, during which the drivers were trusted to go around on their own, without a safety car to control the pace. Whether or not their had been swapping positions around the back of the circuit, the field did manage to line-up on the correct grid slots for the start.
After a long pause the starter released the field, with pole sitter Niki Lauda flying off the line and into Crowthorne Corner. Carlos Reutemann challenged the Austrian into the first corner, having ducked past a slow starting Carlos Pace, while Clay Regazzoni and home hero Jody Scheckter followed the former pair through. Further back, meanwhile, Ronnie Peterson found his throttle stuck open, and as he ran wider and wider through Crowthorne he collected teammate Jacky Ickx.
With the two Lotus cars trying to untangle themselves from the catch fencing, the rest of the field shot away in pursuit of Lauda. Other casualties from Peterson's throttle recovered quickly, Henri Pescarolo having jinked out of the path of Peterson, and removed most of the nose from Jochen Mass' car. Pace had then tried to avoid that accident and suffered a half spin, causing Denny Hulme to slam on the brakes, destroying his tyres in the process.
By the time the rest of the field came charging past the pits the damaged cars were gone, Peterson having been the last of those to escape and make his way back for repairs. Ferrari fans were overjoyed at the sight of Lauda and Regazzoni running one-three, with Reutemann just managing to keep the pair from running together through the opening tour. Scheckter was next, and keeping hopes of a home win very much alive, while James Hunt led the rest of the pack through.
Despite causing the first corner collisions, Peterson charged past the pits trying to catch the back of pack, where Ickx was carrying on minus his nose. Tom Belsø, meanwhile, had been push started back into the race after an issue on the grid, but would only complete the opening lap before he was disqualified for having received outside assistance. The other casualties were in the pits for repairs, with Hulme quickly sprinting back into action and catching Peterson.
Back with the leaders and Reutemann was trying everything he could to get past Lauda over the first few laps, with an increasing sense that the Austrian was on the limit. On lap nine the #12 Ferrari's resistance faltered, as the Brabham got a good exit out of Leeukop Corner, pulled past the Ferrari, and snatched the inside line into Crowthorne, taking the lead. The Argentine racer then established a small advantage over the Austrian over the rest of that lap, with the pair pulling clear of third placed Regazzoni.
By this stage, Scheckter's hopes of a home win were fading in the Tyrrell, the South African finding himself slipping away from the second Ferrari, and under intense pressure from Hunt. The Brit himself was having to fight on two fronts, with Emerson Fittipaldi and Mike Hailwood right on his tail, while Arturo Merzario drifted away from them. Elsewhere, Hans-Joachim Stuck battled clear of the backmarkers, taking Graham Hill and Dave Charlton with a sensational double move at Crowthorne, while Peterson limped out of the race with broken steering.
Scheckter's resistance from Hunt and co. appeared to be fading as the race hit lap thirteen, with Hunt getting the new Hesketh alongside the Tyrrell down the start/finish straight. Fortunately for the South African, the Brit was on the outside line for the upcoming Crowthorne, although Hunt tried to hang on around the wrong side of the Tyrrell. Yet, on the exit, the Brit began to lose drive, and by the time the group came to Clubhouse Corner the Hesketh was out with a driveshaft failure.
Yet, Scheckter's fourth was still not secure, with Fittipaldi taking over Hunt's pursuit and duly launching a series of attacks at the South African, all of which were resisted. Yet, all was not well with the Tyrrell, for Scheckter had picked up a vibration on a rear wheel, and it was getting worse as the race wore on. Ultimately, on lap 21, the combination of Fittipaldi pressure and vibration caused Scheckter to relent, with the Brazilian and teammate Hailwood flashing past. Fortunately for Scheckter the threat from behind was now very minimal, as Merzario was running on his own and lapping slower than the wounded Tyrrell.
At the back of the field, meanwhile, there were interesting tussels between locals and regulars, with the Hill/Charlton fight rather stealing the show, the latter ducking and diving around the Lola, but with little success. John Watson, meanwhile, was fighting with Ian Scheckter and Vittorio Brambilla until his Brabham suffered a bearing failure on the front wheel, leaving the Italian to elbow his way past the South African a few laps later. Patrick Depailler, meanwhile, had leapt past Merzario and was hunting down the younger Scheckter, Jody, while Hulme finally cleared the back markers.
Then, Jean-Pierre Beltoise became the start of the show, the Frenchman suddenly starting to climb the order after an excellent dive past Hulme, just before the Kiwi caught the back of Merzario. The new BRM seemed to have excellent race pace, and it was not long before Beltoise went charging past Merzario and began to hunt down the two Tyrrells. It was not long before Depailler fell to the BRM, which was avoiding the slipstream effect after fears of overheating, with Scheckter falling a lap later.
Next in the Frenchman's sights were the scrapping McLarens of Fittipaldi and Hailwood, both of which were struggling with vibrations. The Brit was being held up by the former Champion, and on the 48th tour managed to barge past his teammate, moments before Beltoise tagged onto the back of the them. Fittipaldi would resist the BRM for a couple of laps before finally giving up on fifth place, a battle which had lasted just long enough for Hailwood to pull a few seconds up the road.
Back with the leaders and Reutemann had long since established himself in the lead, with Lauda working incredibly hard just to keep the Argentine in sight. A few seconds behind ran Regazzoni in the sister car looking set to extend his Championship lead, with a huge gap back to Hailwood, who was just about to be pounced on by Beltoise. On lap 63 the BRM surged past the best of the McLarens and into fourth, although it seemed as if the Ferraris and Reutemann were simply too far ahead for the Frenchman to gain a podium finish.
Yet, on lap 66 the picture dramatically changed, for Regazzoni suddenly lost oil pressure as he exited Leeukop Corner, leading him to switch off the engine. The Swiss racer was out, cruising to a stop in the pits to find nothing could be done to get him back in action, leaving all hopes of a Ferrari podium in the hands of Lauda. Yet, the Austrian's pace was suddenly falling, an engine issue becoming more and more noticeable as the leaders came charging past the pits as the race entered its final throes.
With three laps to go, the Austrian was seen shaking his head as he passed the pits, the Ferrari now sounding very sick, with Beltoise belting past just a few seconds later. Next time through and the BRM was second, with a long wait before Hailwood limped past in third, a surprise to most of the observers. The reason for this was that Lauda's engine had expired around the back of the circuit, the Austrian having suffered an identical issue to teammate Regazzoni, although Lauda had completely trashed his engine by trying to battle on.
With that, the race was run, as Reutemann cruised home to record his first Grand Prix triumph, having been so close in the first two rounds. Beltoise was delighted with second, providing BRM with a huge boost in confidence, while Hailwood claimed a lonely third for McLaren. Fittipaldi's pace had collapsed during the second half of the race, leaving him to join Scheckter in a tumble out of the points, meaning Depailler, Stuck and Merzario completed the points.
The full results for the 1974 South African Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Lauda was still classified despite retiring as he had completed 90% of the race distance.
- † Some sources state Belsø as having been disqualified for receiving a push start.
- Denny Hulme started a World Championship race for the 100th time.
- 50th Grand Prix start for Ronnie Peterson.
- Maiden Grand Prix start for Vittorio Brambilla.
- Hesketh entered a race as a constructor for the first time.
- Niki Lauda claimed a maiden pole position.
- Maiden victory for Carlos Reutemann.
- Reutemann also set his first fastest lap.
- Brabham claimed their fourteenth victory.
- Engine supplier Ford Cosworth claimed their 69th win.
- Jean-Pierre Beltoise claimed his eighth and final podium finish.
- BRM earned their 61st and final podium as a constructor.
- It would also be the last of BRM's 65 visits to the rostrum as an engine supplier.
- Second and final podium for Mike Hailwood.
Despite failing to score, and yet to claim a win, Clay Regazzoni would head into Europe leading the World Championship, and was the only driver in double figures after the opening three rounds. Victory for Carlos Reutemann put the Argentine racer in second, level on points with Emerson Fittipaldi and Denny Hulme, each three having a win apiece, while Mike Hailwood completed the quartet on nine with his podium finish. Jean-Pierre Beltoise remained in sixth after his best finish of the season, while Hans-Joachim Stuck and Arturo Merzario added their names to the board.
In the International Cup for Manufacturers it was another successful afternoon for McLaren-Ford Cosworth, as they pulled ten points clear of nearest challengers Ferrari at the top of the table. Brabham-Ford Cosworth were up to third thanks to Reutemann, Beltoise kept BRM in the game after his podium, while Lotus-Ford Cosworth just held onto a top five place after their double DNF. Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth were now level on points with their arch-rivals, while Surtees-Ford Cosworth and Iso-Marlboro-Ford Cosworth were also on the board, either-side of March-Ford Cosworth.
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: SOUTH AFRICAN GP, 1974', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr238.html, (Accessed 16/03/2017)
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 2.30 2.31 2.32 2.33 2.34 2.35 2.36 2.37 2.38 2.39 2.40 2.41 2.42 2.43 2.44 2.45 2.46 2.47 2.48 2.49 2.50 2.51 2.52 2.53 2.54 2.55 2.56 2.57 2.58 2.59 2.60 2.61 2.62 2.63 2.64 2.65 2.66 2.67 2.68 2.69 2.70 2.71 2.72 2.73 2.74 2.75 2.76 2.77 2.78 2.79 2.80 2.81 2.82 2.83 2.84 2.85 2.86 2.87 2.88 2.89 2.90 2.91 2.92 2.93 2.94 2.95 2.96 2.97 2.98 A.H., '8th South African Grand Prix: A popular win for Reutemann', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/05/1974), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/may-1974/25/8th-south-african-grand-prix, (Accessed 16/03/2017)
- ↑ D.S.J., 'New Formula One cars', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/04/1974), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/april-1974/33/new-formula-one-cars, (Accessed 16/03/2017)
- ↑ 'South Africa 1974: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1974/afrique-du-sud/engages.aspx, (Accessed 16/03/2017)
- ↑ 'South Africa 1974: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1974/afrique-du-sud/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 16/03/2017)
- ↑ 'South Africa 1974: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1974/afrique-du-sud/classement.aspx, (Accessed 16/03/2017)
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