The 1975 South African Grand Prix, otherwise known as the XXI South African Grand Prix, was the third round of the 1975 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged on the Kyalami Circuit on the 1st March 1975. The race itself would see a famous home victory for Jody Scheckter in the Tyrrell, while an accident in practice all but ended the career of Graham Hill.
Qualifying for the third round of the season would see Brabham claim a front row lockout, with Carlos Pace ousting teammate Carlos Reutemann by just 0.07s. Home hero Scheckter would line up alongside Niki Lauda in fourth, while Lella Lombardi qualified at the back of the field for March, becoming the first woman since Maria Teresa de Filippis to qualify for a Formula One level Grand Prix.
Scheckter sent the home fans into orbit at the start, just falling shy of taking pole sitter Pace into the first corner as Reutemann slipped to fourth behind Ronnie Peterson. Patrick Depailler had the second Tyrrell up to fifth ahead of Clay Regazzoni, while a miserable start for Lauda in the new Ferrari saw the Austrian slip to eighth behind Emerson Fittipaldi.
Over the opening laps Peterson's ageing Lotus would gradually fall from the lead pack with a lack of brakes, an issue that would deny Pace the chance to escape up the road out front. The latter's issues allowed Scheckter to sweep into the lead on lap three, while Reutemann was waved past a few laps later once it became clear that the issue was going to last. Reutemann therefore set about hunting down Scheckter, while Pace was left to put an ineffective defensive against Depailler and Fittipaldi once they relegated Regazzoni.
The race settled from that point on, although after twenty laps Fittipaldi developed a misfire and had to pit, having first fallen to the struggling Pace. Scheckter, meanwhile, was just able to maintain a small gap back to Reutemann, while Pace seemed to gain some inspiration from overtaking Fittipaldi, prompting him to put together a late race charge to catch Depailler in third.
Scheckter, meanwhile, remained untroubled as he swept to victory for Tyrrell, still four seconds clear of Reutemann in second. Pace's charge ended half a second shy of the back of Depailler, while Lauda had a quiet drive to fifth ahead of Jochen Mass. The only other man to see the finish on the lead lap was Rolf Stommelen, the German just falling short of the points by nine seconds.
It was a six week break that separated the Brazilian and South African Grand Prix in 1975, which allowed the major teams to test and develop improvements to their cars. It also allowed several locals to make preparations for private entries, while the drivers themselves were allowed to get some rest after a busy winter. As for the circuit there had been no major work or revisions, although there was some discontent from the organisers since losing their status as the season opener.
Into the entry list an it was Ferrari who were making the headlines on the entry list, as they finally fielded their brand new car, the 312T. Both Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni would get their hands on the new car, which Mauro Forghieri had evolved from the tifosi's old 312B3s, the newest of which would serve the team as a spare at Kyalami. As for the new car, Forghieri's team had managed to fit a Trasversale or transverse-mounted-gearbox (which gave the 312T its "T" designation) ahead of the rear axle, a tall airbox and new bodywork, all made from aluminium.
Lotus, in contrast, had gone for an alternative route to their Italian rivals, instead opting to build a new version of the venerable 72E, a design which had been campaigned by the Norfolk squad since 1970. They had atleast settled their driver line-up, with Ronnie Peterson finally deciding to stay with Colin Chapman's team alongside Jacky Ickx, with the promise that he would get the newest car. Alongside the pair of the John Play Special backed factory efforts would be two Team Gunston run cars by ex-F1 racer John Love, who fielded Eddie Keizan and Guy Tunmer in a pair of 72s, one in "A" spec and one in "E" spec.
Tyrrell had been busy during the break, completely rebuilding East London born Jody Scheckter's car, with Derek Gardner also making some modifications. Scheckter's updated 007 now sported a fresh suspension setup, a thinner airbox and repositioned radiators (losely based on those of the failed Lotus 76, much to Ken Tyrrell's personal concern), meaning the car was quite different from the sister car for Patrick Depailler. Like Lotus the Tyrrell squad would also be represented by one of the locals, as Ian Scheckter, older brother of lead driver Jody, got his hands on the spare 007, painted in the colours of Lexington Racing.
Elsewhere, Championship leaders McLaren had a long wheelbase design for lead driver Emerson Fittipaldi, while Jochen Mass continued to use the standard M23 design. An addition, original M23 would also be in the hands of South African F1 Championship Champion Dave Charlton. Surprise package Brabham were unchanged, South African designer Gordon Murray hopeful that their pair of BT44s, now in Martini colours, would be enough to see either Carlos Pace or Carlos Reutemann take victory. Shadow, meanwhile, had been busy over the break, completing work on a second DN5 for Tom Pryce, giving him parity with Jean-Pierre Jarier, who was unbeaten in qualifying in 1975.
The Frank Williams Racing Cars effort was unchanged after the break, with Arturo Merzario and Jacques Laffite happy enough with the under developed cars. Hesketh had only the one car for James Hunt to use, unchange since the last race in Brazil, while Lola had been working hard to get their new car up to speed, with one new T371 for Rolf Stommelen. Lola/Embassy Racing team leader Graham Hill would use his old T370 for the time being, just like Mario Andretti's Parnelli and Wilson Fittipaldi's Fittipaldi. The other American entry of Penske, entered for Mark Donohue had been lengthened by five inches and widened by three to combat its less than stable handling, although the changes were untested prior to the weekend.
Into the disappointments and BRM continued with their single car entry, this time with Bob Evans (a Formula 5000 champion) at the wheel after Mike Wilds disappointed in South America. Surtees looked to be on the verge of a renaissance since John Watson joined the team, but even the month long break had not been enough for anything bar minor revisions to be made to the TS16. Meanwhile, March had re-expanded up to a two car effort in South Africa, partnering Vittorio Brambilla with Italian lass Lella Lombardi, whose backers were determined to make Lombardi the first woman since Maria Teresa de Filippis to start a race.
His first World Championship victory was enough to see Pace leap into second place in the Drivers' standings. The man denying him the lead would be defending Champion Fittipaldi, whose advantage was already up to six points after a win and a second place finish after the opening two rounds. Hunt had dropped to third ahead of Regazzoni, while Mass was up to sixth after his first podium.
McLaren-Ford Cosworth led the way in the International Cup for Manufacturer's standings after the visits to South America, leading the charge with fifteen points. Brabham-Ford Cosworth were technically closer than before, closing the gap to two points, while Hesketh-Ford Cosworth slipped to third. Ferrari and Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth remained the only other scoring manufacturers.
The full entry list for the 1975 South African Grand Prix is outlined below:
One major change for the South African Grand Prix of 1975 compared to the rest of the season was the reduction in the number of practice/qualifying sessions, with just two runs on Wednesday and Thursday lasting for most of the day. The weather was also unlike most of the rest of the season, with soaring temperatures and dawn to dusk sunshine baking the circuit. As for a target time it would be the retired Denny Hulme's pole time from 1973 in the sights of the top teams, meaning the top challengers would have to get under a 1:16.28.
The first quick time would come early on during Wednesday's running, with Niki Lauda putting the new Ferrari through its paces to record a 1:16.83 inside the opening hour. This, incredibly, was the same time as the Austrian had managed in 1974, and yet the new car had managed it in under an hour of running. The searing pace he set early on was soon replaced by long running, for Ferrari opted to focus on long running as the heat of the day began to build up.
Elsewhere Graham Hill suffered a weekend ending crash at the end of the first hour, his Lola suddenly spearing off the circuit at the Jukskei Kink while at full speed. His mechanics would diagnose a tyre failure as the cause of the crash when the car was retrieved, but its trip through the catch fences had imparted enough damage to the chassis to deny any hopes of the car being repaired for the race. Others in less dramatic, but potentially more significant strife included Ronnie Peterson who spent most of the day in the garage with an oil leak, only to have brake trouble when he did make it out onto the circuit.
Come the end of the day Lauda would be ousted from top spot, as Carlos Reutemann wound himself up to claim a 1:16.61 in the Brabham, a time which suggested that Hulme's time could fall. Teammate Pace recorded a 1:17.00, while home hero Jody Scheckter ended the day a provisional fourth, just ahead of Emerson Fittipaldi and Clay Regazzoni. Notably absent from the top of this list were the recently dominant Shadows, with both Jean-Pierre Jarier and Tom Pryce struggling to get anything out of the DN5.
Thursday's running would be constantly punctured by mini-breaks, many of which were required to retrieve potentially pole challenging cars from the circuit. First to go was Fittipaldi, whose McLaren expired in a cloud of smoke at Sunset Corner, an engine failure at 140 mph dumping oil right across the circuit. Yet, before the organisers saw fit to stop the session, an un-informed Lauda came charging through Sunset and hit the Brazilian's slick, sending the new Ferrari spinning off the circuit at full speed. The Austrian's car was left in a sorry state, the catch fencing removing half the bodywork on one side while badly bending the rear-end, although a determined Lauda dragged the car out of the fences and back to the pits for repairs.
After the break Lauda headed straight back out onto the circuit, albeit in the newest of the old 312B3s as his team swarmed to rebuild the new car. Fittipaldi's mechanics were doing likewise, building up the spare with new suspension parts as the original got a fresh engine, although the Brazilian would not get out on circuit again until the second of the day's major accidents. The cause would be home hero Jody Scheckter, whom had recorded a 1:16.64 to go third fastest, only to slide off at Barbeque Bend after misplacing his car on entry. Unusually for a Grand Prix driver Scheckter openly blamed himself for the accident, as his mechanics charged about getting the spare car built-up and arranged to use his brother's car if misfortune befell the sister car of Patrick Depailler.
At the end of practice/qualifying the pace was surprisingly slower than Hulme's old record, with Carlos Pace fastest overall with a 1:16.41 as teammate Reutemann failed to improve at all. Depailler quietly got on with things to claim a 1:16.83, matching Lauda but behind on the grid because he set the effort later on in the session. Vittorio Brambilla, meanwhile, had been for a trip to the catch fencing but still claimed a 1:17.05, just ahead of an unhappy Peterson in the Lotus. Shadow were still scratching their heads as to why they had a lack of pace, while Ian Scheckter ended the afternoon fastest of the locals, and ahead of regular runners Jacky Ickx and Mark Donohue.
There was also a little bit of history made at the back of the field, as Lella Lombardi did enough to qualify for the race in the second March, ousting the new Fittipaldi in the hands of Wilson Fittipaldi.
The full qualifying results for the 1975 South African Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||8||Carlos Pace||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:17.00||1:16.41||—|
|2||7||Carlos Reutemann||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:16.61||1:16.48||+0.07s|
|3||3||Jody Scheckter||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:17.17||1:16.64||+0.23s|
|5||4||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:17.47||1:16.83||+0.42s|
|6||27||Mario Andretti||Parnelli-Ford Cosworth||1:17.91||1:16.89||+0.48s|
|7||9||Vittorio Brambilla||March-Ford Cosworth||1:19.60||1:17.05||+0.64s|
|8||5||Ronnie Peterson||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:18.20||1:17.14||+0.73s|
|10||18||John Watson||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:17.72||1:17.19||+0.76s|
|11||1||Emerson Fittipaldi||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:17.22||1:17.67||+0.81s|
|12||24||James Hunt||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||1:17.44||1:17.30||+0.89s|
|13||17||Jean-Pierre Jarier||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:17.37||1:17.32||+0.91s|
|14||23||Rolf Stommelen||Lola-Ford Cosworth||1:17.55||1:17.47||+1.06s|
|15||20||Arturo Merzario||Williams-Ford Cosworth||1:17.53||1:17.58||+1.12s|
|16||2||Jochen Mass||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:18.01||1:17.79||+1.38s|
|17||32||Ian Scheckter||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:18.01||1:18.23||+1.60s|
|18||28||Mark Donohue||Penske-Ford Cosworth||1:18.68||1:18.28||+1.87s|
|19||16||Tom Pryce||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:18.58||1:18.36||+1.95s|
|20||31||Dave Charlton||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:19.14||1:18.51||+2.10s|
|21||6||Jacky Ickx||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:19.03||1:18.68||+2.27s|
|22||33||Eddie Keizan||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:19.01||1:19.16||+2.60s|
|23||21||Jacques Laffite||Williams-Ford Cosworth||1:19.15||1:25.81||+2.74s|
|25||34||Guy Tunmer||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:19.88||1:19.52||+3.11s|
|26||10||Lella Lombardi||March-Ford Cosworth||1:20.27||1:19.68||+3.27s|
|DNQ*||30||Wilson Fittipaldi||Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth||1:19.73||1:19.87||+3.32s|
|DNQ||22||Graham Hill||Lola-Ford Cosworth||1:21.45||No Time||+5.04s|
- T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car to set their best time in that session.
- Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
- * Wilson Fittipaldi was listed as first reserve.
- * Wilson Fittipaldi was listed as first reserve and was allowed to join the back of the grid.
Race morning dawned bright with clear skies, although after the warm-up the mood was anything but sunny at Tyrrell, who had already spent the entirety of Friday rebuilding Jody Scheckter's wrecked car. Indeed, it was during the final moments of the half-hour warm-up that Scheckter's engine expired, throwing his entire home race into doubt as the team had to complete a full engine change in record time, a little over four hours. Fortunately for them, and the hoard of home fans, the mechanics did so, meaning Scheckter joined the 25 other qualifiers, and first reserve Wilson Fittipaldi, on the grid for the start.
When the flag dropped at precisely 2:00 that afternoon it was pole sitter Carlos Pace who shot into the lead, streaking clear of teammate Carlos Reutemann on the run to Crowthorne Corner. Indeed, Reutemann made a comparatively awful start, much to the delight of the home fans for that opened the door for Scheckter's blue Tyrrell to charge into second, bringing along the ever fast starting Ronnie Peterson. Reutemann briefly challenged the latter but had to slot in behind the Swede for fear of getting relegated further down the order, with the rest of the field led by Patrick Depailler in the second Tyrrell.
Come the end of the opeing lap it was still Pace leading from Scheckter, Peterson and Reutemann, with the front two already beginning to gap the rest of the field. Behind the latter pair came Depailler, Clay Regazzoni, Emerson Fittipaldi, Niki Lauda, Vittorio Brambilla and James Hunt, while Mario Andretti duelled with the two Williamss. At the back, meanwhile, Lella Lombardi had made fair progress on the opening tour, taking two locals in the form of Eddie Keizan and Guy Tunmer, while Wilson Fittipaldi dragged his self-built car into the pits, his chance to join the fight lost when the entire 26 car field pulled away from the grid without incident.
Immediately clear was the determination from Scheckter in the opening stages, for the South African racer was getting the nose of his Tyrrell alongside the leading Brabham of Pace at every opportunity in the opening stages. By the end of lap two the Brazilian had already swatted away a couple of challenges, but coming into Crowthorne Corner to start lap three it seemed inevitable that Scheckter would take him sooner rather than later. Moments later and the inevitable happened, as Scheckter shot past Pace with ease on the brakes into Crowthorne, a move dripping with both confidence and calculation.
Without Pace in his way Scheckter was soon out of reach of the rest of the field, almost instantly building a four second advantage before settling into a commanding rhythm out front. This was partially due to the fact that Pace was struggling with his brakes, a certain "spongy" feeling meaning he lacked any of the confidence that was pouring off of Scheckter out front. A lap later and the Brazilian was seen waving teammate Reutemann past to try and challenge the South African out front, the beginning of a slow plummet through the field for Pace and the #8 Brabham. In that he would join the fast starting Peterson, whose frail old Lotus was suffering from terrible understeer which Peterson could only partially cure with some exuberant use of the throttle.
The freshly promoted Reutemann soon set about the task of making Scheckter's afternoon difficult, getting within a couple of seconds of the Tyrrell before the pair settled for a tense truce for the following laps. Behind them, and surprisingly close, were Depailler and Fittipaldi in the McLaren, before a gap back to the two Ferraris, which had just blasted past the consistently sideways Lotus of Peterson. Andretti was next and on his own ahead of Jochen Mass, fighting with his compatriot Rolf Stommelen, with Ian Scheckter was carving through the back markers, recovering from a self-inflicted mistake in his original Tyrrell 007.
Away from the leaders and there were already some significant retirements, with Brambilla's March out with a split oil radiator, while John Watson had had to retire the Surtees with a clutch failure. Peterson, meanwhile, had had to slither his understeering Lotus into the pits for a fresh set of tyres already, while teammate Jacky Ickx was limping around at the back of the field, unable to go to Peterson's lengths to combat his understeering Lotus. That left the two black-gold cars to run in the middle of the local pack, either side of Lombardi in her debut race in the sole surviving March.
Back with the leaders and Reutemann was throwing everything at Scheckter to try and take the lead, but the #3 Tyrrell refused to be moved by the Martini liveried #7 Brabham. Only once did Reutemann truly get alongside Scheckter into Crowthorne Corner, although a determined Scheckter simply hung on around the outside of the Argentine to hold the lead, denying Reutemann his best opportunity to take the lead. The Argentine continued to half threaten the South African after that chance, consistently getting part way alongside the Tyrrell, with both now well clear of third placed Depailler who was on his own once Fittipaldi picked up a misfire.
Indeed Fittipaldi's misfire had promoted the two Ferraris up the order, with Regazzoni and Lauda lacking the pace to truly challenge the leaders, although some thought Lauda had a shot if he was willing, or allowed, to move past his Swiss teammate. Fittipaldi continued to limp on in sixth, well clear of teammate Mass, although the German was slowly catching, before another sizeable gap back to Stommelen, who was having to fend off the elder-Scheckter who was completing an excellent recovery drive. Unfortunately for him his charge would end on the back of Stommelen, as the veteran South African racer misjudged his braking into Crowthorne on lap 56 and duly sent himself sliding into the catch fencing, a locked rear axle the cause.
Scheckter's accident was the latest of a recent batch of retirements, led onto the sidelines by Lombardi with a fuel pressure issue, before Jean-Pierre Jarier's Shadow cooked its engine. Hunt's Hesketh was also out with a fuel metering unit failure, although the Brit had been a non-factor after needing a new nose after the original was bent in a first lap clash, unseen by the cameras. The rest of the field was still running, although Fittipaldi was losing laps hand over fist with multiple visits to the pits, while Jacques Laffite spent a long time in the pits with an unspecified issue. Regazzoni and Andretti would also retire before the end of the race, but their respective races came to an end within the minimum race distance to still be classified.
With those last retirements the race was run, with Scheckter coming home to record a memorable home win, four seconds clear of Reutemann whose challenge faded in the closing stages. Depailler had a relatively quiet drive to third, making it a Tyrrell one-three, while Pace managed to battle his way back past the Ferraris for fourth, aided by Regazzoni's demise. Lauda cruised to fifth ahead of Mass, while Stommelen was just nine seconds off the back of his compatriot, desperately close to a maiden points finish after a difficult weekend for Lola. Best of the locals proved to be Tunmer in eleventh, two laps down but ahead of the race winning Lotus of Ickx.
The full results for the 1975 South African Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Regazzoni and Andretti were still classified despite retiring as he had completed 90% of the race distance.
- † Laffite and Fittipaldi, in contrast, were not classified as they failed to complete 90% of the race distance.
- Maiden Grand Prix start for Bob Evans.
- Lella Lombardi became the first woman since Maria Teresa de Filippis to qualify for a Grand Prix.
- First and only pole position set by Carlos Pace.
- Third victory for Jody Scheckter.
- Tyrrell claimed their 19th win as a constructor.
- Engine supplier Ford Cosworth powered a car to an 81st triumph.
- Pace claimed a fifth and final fastest lap.
Although he had failed to score, it was still Emerson Fittipaldi who held the lead in the World Championship, although his advantage had been cut to three points. Carlos Pace was the man who made the cut, as his teammate Carlos Reutemann leapt back into the top three. Home hero Jody Scheckter moved into the top four with his victory, while James Hunt continued to slip down the order to fifth.
There were still only five scorers in the International Cup for Manufacturers, with Brabham-Ford Cosworth now leading the charge as McLaren-Ford Cosworth failed to score. Three points was the margin between first and second, before a five point gap back to Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth as they became the third different team to win in the opening three races. Ferrari were yet to break double figures in fourth, just a point ahead of Hesketh-Ford Cosworth, while Lotus-Ford Cosworth were yet to score at all.
Images and Videos:
- ↑ 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 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: SOUTH AFRICAN GP, 1975', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr253.html, (Accessed 11/07/2017)
- ↑ 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 A.H., 'The South African Grand Prix: Scheckter is the new national hero', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/04/1975), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/april-1975/36/south-african-grand-prix , (Accessed 19/06/2017)
- ↑ 'South Africa 1975: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/afrique-du-sud/engages.aspx, (Accessed 19/06/2017)
- ↑ 'South Africa 1975: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/afrique-du-sud/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 20/06/2017)
- ↑ 'South Africa 1975: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/afrique-du-sud/classement.aspx, (Accessed 08/07/2017)
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