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The 1976 Japanese Grand Prix, officially known as the Formula One World Championship in Japan (F1世界選手権・イン・ジャパン in Japanese), was the sixteenth and final round of the 1976 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Fuji Speedway on the 24 October 1976.[1] The race, which was not officially called the "Japanese Grand Prix" due to an earlier Formula 2000 race, would see James Hunt and Niki Lauda complete their duel for the 1976 World Championship.[2]

It was advantage Hunt after qualifying, although the Brit was beaten to pole by Mario Andretti in for a reinvigorated Lotus.[2] Hunt's McLaren would start from second, with defending Champion and Championship leader Lauda in third, the Austrian knowing that he only needed to finish within three points of Hunt to take the title.[2]

Unfortunately Japan's F1 debut would be marred by near-torrential rain, which prompted much discussion as to whether the race should start at all.[2] Ultimately, and in large part due to the efforts of Bernie Ecclestone to get worldwide live television coverage of the event, the race would be started late in the day, although streams of water and fog coated the circuit.[2]

It was Hunt who made the best getaway from the grid at the start, slithering ahead of John Watson and pole sitter Andretti on the run to the tight first corner.[2] Lauda, in contrast, would slip into the middle of the pack at the start, and would continue to drop away from the leaders throughout the opening tour.[2]

Larry Perkins in the Brabham-Alfa Romeo would be the first to call it a day, deciding to stop due to the conditions at the end of the opening lap.[2] Lauda, shockingly, decided to do the same on the next lap, followed in by Carlos Pace and Emerson Fittipaldi, while Watson slid out of contention down an escape road.[2]

The Championship was seemingly over from that moment on, for Lauda was out while Hunt now had a small advantage over the fight for second.[2] Indeed, Andretti and Vittorio Brambilla would duke it out in the heavy rain until lap 22, the position swapping between them numerous times, before the Italian spun himself out of contention while challenging Hunt.[2] Andretti was then taken by Jochen Mass and Patrick Depailler, although Mass would soon go aquaplaning into the barriers on lap 36.[2]

After Mass' accident the rain finally stopped, allowing the Fuji circuit to slowly dry in patches.[2] This was bad news for Hunt, who had taken a lot of life out of tyres already, and as the race came into its closing stages the Brit was in danger of losing the lead.[2]

Ultimately, with ten laps to go, both Depailler and Andretti would slither past the McLaren, although Hunt was well clear of the next pair, Alan Jones and Clay Regazzoni.[2] However, just two laps later it seemed as if the Championship was over for Hunt, the Brit following Depailler into the pits with a matching pair shredded tyres.[2]

Both Depailler and Hunt would rejoin behind Jones and Regazzoni, with the Brit needing to finish fourth or higher to win the Championship.[2] It took until lap 70 for Depailler's Tyrrell to catch and pass the pair, leaving Hunt just two laps to do so.[2] The McLaren duly went scything past the Surtees and Ferrari on lap 71, although Hunt himself had no idea where he was in the context of the race.[2]

With that the race was run, Andretti cruising home a lap ahead of everyone to claim his first win since the 1971 South African Grand Prix.[2] Depailler came home second a few seconds clear of Hunt, who only found out his position after climbing out of his cockpit in the pits, believing he had failed.[2] Third, however, was enough for Hunt to clinch a maiden World Championship title by a single point, while Ferrari were officially recognised as the International Cup for Manufacturers' Champions.[2]

The race, along with several other key moments from the 1976 season, would be immortalised in the 2013 film Rush.

BackgroundEdit

With just one race to go the 1976 F1 Championship headed to new territory for the season finale, settling into the picturesque surroundings of the Fuji Speedway towards the end of October.[1] Set in the shadow of the inactive Mt. Fuji, the Fuji Speedway had been in existence for around ten years, although the full length circuit, standing at just over six kilometres, had not been in use since 1972 after a fatal accident during a sportscar race.[1] The F1 field would therefore tackle the 4.3 kilometre national circuit, based around a huge kilometre long start/finish straight, several sharp turns and one long, looping right hander.[1]

As ever, there would be some pre-race controversy between McLaren and Ferrari, this time over a gentleman's agreement regarding testing.[1] All teams had agreed not to test at the Fuji circuit ahead of the season finale, although, at the request of the organisers, Hunt had completed a speed restricted run in the rain a week before the race.[1] Ferrari immediately protested, led by team manager Audetto, with the complaints continuing well into the race weekend, although no action could, or would, be taken.[1]

In terms of the teams themselves, McLaren and Hunt arrived knowing that the Brit stood a good chance of taking the title, momentum on his side.[1] Both he and teammate Jochen Mass would use their old M23s, shipped over from North America, at the finale, while a single car was shipped as a spare.[1] It was in that spare car that Hunt had conducted his test, done so to assess the freshly resurfaced circuit.[1]

Ferrari, meanwhile, would arrive with just the two entries and no testing, with Carlos Reutemann left in Europe to ensure that Lauda had access to a spare car.[1] The Austrian would therefore have priority over soon-to-be ex-teammate Clay Regazzoni, whom had secured a drive with Ensign for 1977, with both using the newest of the 312T2s.[1] They both left the shouting to team boss Audetto regarding the Hunt/McLaren test, with Lauda only focusing on himself ahead of the finale.[1]

Elsewhere, Tyrrell arrived with their usual compliment of three six-wheeled P34s for Patrick Depailler and Jody Scheckter, the latter racing for them for the last time.[1] The three cars were unchanged ahead of the finale, and would be supported by an ex-factory 007 run by Japanese privateer Kazuyoshi Hoshino.[1] Running under the Heros Racing Corporation banner, Hoshino would be using Bridgestone tyres for the race, marking the Japanese rubber company's first F1 entry, rather than the Goodyears upon which the car had originally been developed.[1]

More native talent could be found at Surtees, where Brett Lunger had stepped aside to allow Noritake Takahara to get a drive in his home race.[1] The Japanese racer had previously driven a Formula One car at the 1974 International Trophy meeting, but was making his full World Championship debut in Fuji.[1] He would be partnered by Alan Jones, who was considering his future with the team after falling out with several key members of the crew.[1]

Also making their debut in the World Championship would be Masahiro Hasemi and the Kojima Engineering team, based next to the Fuji Speedway.[1] Their car, named the KE007, was their first attempt at a F1 car, built by ex-Suzuki moto-cross rider Matsuhisa Kojima, and conformed to the now standardised Ford Cosworth engined "kit-car" template.[1] The car therefore appeared with a mix of designs inspired by other Cosworth cars in the field, but with Dunlop rubber mounted on the wheels.[1]

The fourth and final Japanese entry should have come at RAM Racing, but the British squad ultimately decided to withdraw from the race having hired local talent Masami Kuwashima.[1] The Japanese racer subsequently secured a drive at the Wolf-Williams team, partnering Arturo Merzario, although that was subject to a large cheque as Hans Binder had originally been set to race the car.[1] The team would ultimately decide on Saturday whom to run, with Kuwashima getting the whole of Friday to prove his speed.[1]

The final piece of Japanese representation came in the form of the inconsistent Maki team, which brought their underdeveloped, underfunded "kit-car" for Tony Trimmer.[1] Their "new" chassis, christened the F102A, was not expected to impress, with Trimmer himself having failed to qualify the old car more than three times back in 1975.[1] As such there was little confidence in the small firm making it to the grid, with at least one of the 27 entrants set to miss out on a grid slot.[1]

Elsewhere, Lotus arrived determined to show their improved pace, both Mario Andretti and Gunnar Nilsson confident of a strong result despite the 77s recent fragility.[1] Brabham-Alfa Romeo were courting Regazzoni ahead of the winter, wishing to partner the Swiss racer with Carlos Pace.[1] The Brazilian himself was not expecting a strong result given the nature of the Fuji Speedway, while teammate Larry Perkins was yet to fully settle in to the team he looked set to be ousted from.[1]

March had their familiar trio of Ronnie Peterson, Vittorio Brambilla and Hans-Joachim Stuck in the paddock, all three using unchanged cars.[1] Shadow arrived with their mix of old and new for Jean-Pierre Jarier and Tom Pryce, while Hesketh were down to just a single entry for Harald Ertl.[1] The rest of the field was likewise made up of single entries, with John Watson in the Penske, Jacques Laffite with the Ligier-Matra, and Emerson Fittipaldi in the lone Fittipaldi.[1]

In terms of the Championship it was down to just two drivers heading into the final race, both of whom would take the title with victory. Lauda held a three point advantage heading into the finale, and would win the title if he finished ahead of Hunt, or was a place behind the Brit if the McLaren racer failed to win. Hunt, in contrast, would either have to win the race, finish on the podium with Lauda absent, or finish fourth with the Austrian failing to score at all. If their points tallies ended up equal, then Hunt would be declared Champion with six wins to Lauda's five.

In contrast, the International Cup for Manufacturers' hunt was over, Ferrari-CON having secured their second successive crown with a round to spare. Closest to them were McLaren-Ford Cosworth, eleven points behind, leaving them in a fight to finish runner up with Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth just five points further back heading to Japan. The season finale would also decide who would finish fourth, with Penske-Ford Cosworth, Ligier-Matra and Team Lotus-Ford Cosworth all level on points heaving upon arrival in Fuji.

Entry ListEdit

The full entry list for the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix is outlined below:

No. Driver Entreat Constructor Chassis Engine Model Tyre
1 Austria Niki Lauda Italy Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T2 Ferrari 015 3.0 F12 G
2 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni Italy Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T2 Ferrari 015 3.0 F12 G
3 South Africa Jody Scheckter United Kingdom Elf Team Tyrrell Tyrrell P34 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
4 France Patrick Depailler United Kingdom Elf Team Tyrrell Tyrrell P34 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
5 United States Mario Andretti United Kingdom John Player Team Lotus Lotus 77 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
6 Sweden Gunnar Nilsson United Kingdom John Player Team Lotus Lotus 77 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
7 Australia Larry Perkins United Kingdom Martini Racing Brabham BT45 Alfa Romeo 115-12 3.0 F12 G
8 Brazil Carlos Pace United Kingdom Martini Racing Brabham BT45 Alfa Romeo 115-12 3.0 F12 G
9 Italy Vittorio Brambilla United Kingdom Beta Team March March 761 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
10 Sweden Ronnie Peterson United Kingdom March Engineering March 761 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
11 United Kingdom James Hunt United Kingdom Marlboro Team McLaren McLaren M23 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
12 West Germany Jochen Mass United Kingdom Marlboro Team McLaren McLaren M23 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
16 United Kingdom Tom Pryce United Kingdom Shadow Racing Team Shadow DN8 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
17 France Jean-Pierre Jarier United Kingdom Shadow Racing Team Shadow DN5B Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
18 Japan Noritake Takahara United Kingdom Durex Team Surtees Surtees TS19 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
19 Australia Alan Jones United Kingdom Durex Team Surtees Surtees TS19 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
20 Italy Arturo Merzario Canada Walter Wolf Racing Wolf-Williams FW05 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
21* Austria Hans Binder Canada Walter Wolf Racing Wolf-Williams FW05 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
21 Japan Masami Kuwashima Canada Walter Wolf Racing Wolf-Williams FW05 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
22 Belgium Jacky Ickx United Kingdom Team Ensign Ensign N176 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
24 Austria Harald Ertl United Kingdom Hesketh Racing Hesketh 308D Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier Gitanes Ligier JS5 Matra MS73 3.0 V12 G
28 United Kingdom John Watson United States Citibank Team Penske Penske PC4 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
30 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Copersucar-Fittipaldi Fittipaldi FD04 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
34 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck United Kingdom March Engineering March 761 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
51 Japan Masahiro Hasemi Japan Kojima Engineering Kojima KE007 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 D
52 Japan Kazuyoshi Hoshino Japan Heros Racing Tyrrell 007 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 B
54 United Kingdom Tony Trimmer Japan Maki Engineering Maki F102A Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
Source:[3]
  • * Both Binder and Kuwashima were entered for the #21 Wolf-Williams entry.
  • Kuwashima was originally entered for RAM Racing in a Brabham BT44 but the entry was withdrawn.

QualifyingEdit

Practice/qualifying would be staged across Friday and Saturday, split into the standardised format of three "timed" sessions with an additional "untimed" session.[1] Friday would host two of the "timed" run-outs, while Saturday would see qualifying conclude in the morning ahead of the single "untimed" period.[1] As it was the first time that Formula One, in any form, had tried out the Fuji Speedway, there was no real referenced for a target time.[1]

ReportEdit

The undoubted star of the opening session of the weekend would be local racer Masahiro Hasemi in the equally local Kojima, the Japanese racer topping the timesheet for most of the morning.[1] Hasemi's effort of 1:13.88 would only be beaten late in the session, James Hunt being the outright fastest, although the Brit would require an extra soft set of Goodyear tyres to do so.[1] The Brit headed to the lunch break with a 1:13.76, while title rival Niki Lauda, also issued a set of soft Goodyears, ended the morning in second just a hundredth behind.[1]

Elsewhere, Carlos Pace was a happy third in the Brabham-Alfa Romeo, having spent the morning swapping between his and teammate Larry Perkins' cars.[1] Mario Andretti ended the morning fifth fastest behind Hasemi, and the last man to break into the 1:13.00s, with Jochen Mass just behind.[1] Tony Trimmer, meanwhile, seemed to be on the bubble already in the Maki, although he would at least complete a lap, unlike Harald Ertl whose Hesketh crawled to a stop at the end of its first trip out of the pits.[1]

Into the afternoon session and Hasemi's strong running came to a rather expensive end, the Japanese racer getting out of shape on the long, flat-out right handed final corner, before being spat out into the barriers on the exit.[1] The Kojima was left with a twisted monocoque, although Hasemi himself was completely unscathed, climbing out of the wreckage unaided, the session stopped to allow bits of Kojima to be dragged to their workshop a few yards away from the scene.[1] Indeed, it seemed as if all the stars of the morning run were struggling, Hunt failing to improve after encountering some untreatable understeer, while Lauda could only scrape a couple of extra hundredths from his morning time.[1]

That opened the door for Andretti to hit the top of the timesheets, a rarely trouble free afternoon for Lotus allowing the American to record a 1:13.29 to claim provisional pole overnight.[1] Pace was up to second come sessions end, the Alfa F12 enjoying the long start/finish straight, just ahead of the F12 engined Ferrari of Clay Regazzoni.[1] Elsewhere, Patrick Depailler emerged as the best of the Tyrrell drivers, while there was some fallout at Wolf-Williams as Masami Kuwashima's refused to pay for the Japanese racer's spot.[1] There were also some mechanical dramas in the field, John Watson and Ronnie Peterson both stopping out on circuit with engine and gearbox failures respectively.[1]

Saturday morning would see the unseasonably warm autumnal weather carried over, meaning that the fight for pole was well and truly on.[1] The entire hour was spent with Hunt and Lauda exchanging times at the top of the timesheet, before Hunt seemingly settled the issue with a 1:12.80 to Lauda's 1:13.08.[1] It seemed then as if the Brit would start the season finale from pole, until Andretti shot across the line in the final moments of the session to record a 1:12.77 and his second pole position.[1]

Fourth behind Lauda would go to Watson, whose Penske received a brand new Ford Cosworth engine and some of the Goodyear softs.[1] Jody Scheckter moved into fifth ahead of Pace, while Regazzoni and Vittorio Brambilla were unable to repeat their Friday afternoon exploits.[1] Hasemi, meanwhile, would see himself slip to tenth after sitting out of the final session, although his mechanics had the car rebuilt around a fresh monocoque just after the start of the "untimed" session.[1]

Elsewhere, Jean-Pierre Jarier seemed to have found some form in the old Shadow, only to suffer a high speed tyre failure at the end of the start/finish straight.[1] The Shadow went skating off the circuit, with a radiator and the floor receiving severe damage from their mutual 150 mph contact with the tarmac runoff.[1] He would take over the spare Shadow for the race having escaped uninjured, while Hans Binder was allowed to join the fray in the second Wolf-Williams, taking over from Kuwashima.[1] The Maki, meanwhile, would fail to qualify despite the fact that there were only 26 runners in qualifying, the officials deciding that Tony Trimmer had lapped too slowly to be deemed safe.[1]

Qualifying ResultsEdit

The full qualifying results for the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix are outlined below:

Pos. No. Driver Constructor Time Gap
Q1 Q2 Q3
1 5 United States Mario Andretti United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 1:13.91 1:13.29 1:12.77
2 11 United Kingdom James Hunt United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 1:13.76 1:13.95 1:12.80 +0.03s
3 1 Austria Niki Lauda Italy Ferrari 1:13.77 1:13.74 1:13.08 +0.31s
4 28 United Kingdom John Watson United States Penske-Ford Cosworth 1:14.67 1:14.67 1:13.29 +0.52s
5 3 South Africa Jody Scheckter United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 1:15.17 1:14.26 1:13.31 +0.54s
6 8 Brazil Carlos Pace United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1:13.81 1:13.43 1:13.65 +0.66s
7 2 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni Italy Ferrari 1:15.01 1:13.64 1:13.90 +0.87s
8 9 Italy Vittorio Brambilla United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 1:15.29 1:13.72 1:13.88 +0.95s
9 10 Sweden Ronnie Peterson United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 1:14.88 1:15.48 1:13.85 +1.08s
10 51 Japan Masahiro Hasemi Japan Kojima-Ford Cosworth 1:13.88 1:18.42 +1.11s
11 26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier-Matra 1:14.90 1:14.45 1:13.88 +1.11s
12 12 West Germany Jochen Mass United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 1:14.07 1:14.17 1:14.05 +1.28s
13 4 France Patrick Depailler United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 1:15.52 1:14.15 1:14.57 +1.38s
14 16 United Kingdom Tom Pryce United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 1:16.27 1:14.23 1:14.50 +1.46s
15 17 France Jean-Pierre Jarier United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 1:16.22 1:16.12 1:14.32 +1.55s
16 6 Sweden Gunnar Nilsson United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 1:15.59 1:15.43 1:14.35 +1.58s
17 7 Australia Larry Perkins United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1:15.30 1:14.38 1:14.73 +1.61s
18 34 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 1:22.11 1:14.80 1:14.38 +1.61s
19 20 Italy Arturo Merzario Canada Wolf-Williams-Ford Cosworth 1:16.16 1:15.28 1:14.41 +1.64s
20 19 Australia Alan Jones United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 1:15.92 1:14.94 1:14.60 +1.83s
21 52 Japan Kazuyoshi Hoshino Japan Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 1:14.94 1:14.95 1:14.65 +1.88s
22 24 Austria Harald Ertl United Kingdom Hesketh-Ford Cosworth 10:53.11 1:16.51 1:15.26 +2.49s
23 30 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 1:16.20 1:15.71 1:15.30 +2.53s
24 18 Japan Noritake Takahara United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 1:16.71 1:17.25 1:15.77 +3.00s
25 21 Austria Hans Binder Canada Wolf-Williams-Ford Cosworth 1:17.36 +4.59s
26* 21 Japan Masami Kuwashima Canada Wolf-Williams-Ford Cosworth 1:17.90 1:19.27 +5.13s
DNQ 54 United Kingdom Tony Trimmer Japan Maki-Ford Cosworth 1:36.84 1:30.91 +18.14s
WD 22 Belgium Jacky Ickx United Kingdom Ensign-Ford Cosworth Withdrawn
Source:[1][4]
  • Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
  • T Indicates a test/spare car.
  • * Kuwashima was unable to start the race as his sponsors withdrew, meaning Binder took his seat.

GridEdit

Pos Pos
Driver Driver
______________
Row 1 ______________ 1
2 Mario Andretti
James Hunt ______________
Row 2 ______________ 3
4 Niki Lauda
John Watson ______________
Row 3 ______________ 5
6 Jody Scheckter
Carlos Pace ______________
Row 4 ______________ 7
8 Clay Regazzoni
Vittorio Brambilla ______________
Row 5 ______________ 9
10 Ronnie Peterson
Masahiro Hasemi ______________
Row 6 ______________ 11
12 Jacques Laffite
Jochen Mass ______________
Row 7 ______________ 13
14 Patrick Depailler
Tom Pryce ______________
Row 8 ______________ 15
16 Jean-Pierre Jarier
Gunnar Nilsson ______________
Row 9 ______________ 17
18 Larry Perkins
Hans-Joachim Stuck ______________
Row 10 ______________ 19
20 Arturo Merzario
Alan Jones ______________
Row 11 ______________ 21
22 Kazuyoshi Hoshino
Harald Ertl ______________
Row 12 ______________ 23
24 Emerson Fittipaldi
Noritake Takahara ______________
Row 13 ______________ 25
26 Hans Binder
Masami Kuwashima* ______________
  • * Kuwashima was unable to start as his sponsors withdrew on race morning.[4]

RaceEdit

Unlike the two practice days, raceday dawned dark, foggy and incredibly wet, with pools of water forming all around the Fuji Speedway.[1] The half-hour warm-up session provided evidence that the conditions were poor at best, prompting several meetings between the drivers that would last well beyond the original start time.[1] Another warm-up was staged, after which the majority of the drivers voted against starting, only to be told by the organisers and teams that they were to head to the grid anyway.[1]

ReportEdit

It was still very dark, very damp, and incredibly foggy when the starter's lights flashed to green, with the entire field struggling to get off the line amid the spray.[1] A few drivers seemed to hook up their starts well, James Hunt immediately slithering past pole sitter Mario Andretti, while John Watson slipped his Penske up to second.[1] However, their starts paled in comparison to that of Kazuyoshi Hoshino, who shot into the top ten in the old Tyrrell having started down in twenty-first.[1]

Come the end of the opening tour it was Hunt leading with a huge gap back to Watson in second, with Andretti just visible in the Penske's spray.[1] Jody Scheckter was next in the queue with Vittorio Brambilla, Clay Regazzoni and Patrick Depailler, while the remarkable Hoshino had made even more ground to settle himself into eighth.[1] Hans-Joachim Stuck was next ahead of a rather miserable Niki Lauda, who could see his crown draining away, while Larry Perkins crawled into the pits at the back of the field to retire, citing the weather and a lack of control.[1]

The second lap followed much the same pattern as the first, Hunt pulling further and further ahead, while Watson slipped back behind Andretti.[1] Lauda, meanwhile, would continue to slide down the order, and, having been relegated out of the top ten, the Austrian decided it was not worth the risk of continuing.[1] The defending World Champion duly brought his perfectly healthy car into the pits at the end of the second lap, declaring that the conditions were unsafe to continue.[1]

On track, meanwhile, the Austrian's arch-rival Hunt continued to pound around at unabated speed, while Andretti slithered on in second.[1] Watson continued on in third for another lap before being elbowed back by Brambilla, while Ronnie Peterson dropped out with an electrical short, caused by water getting into the system.[1] However, Brambilla's moment in the (vacant) sun would be short lived, the Italian pitting a couple of laps later to have a disintegrated front left tyre replaced.[1]

Further early retirements would include Carlos Pace and Emerson Fittipaldi, both citing the conditions, although the huge home crowd were all focused on the circuit.[1] This was because local racer Hoshino was picking his way up the order, passing both Regazzoni and Scheckter to climb into the top three.[1] He would remain there for a couple of laps before a barnstorming Brambilla reclaimed the position, the Italian having rejoined from the pits in eighth.[1]

Indeed, Brambilla now became the centre of attention for the crowd, with the Italian soon seen sweeping past Andretti a couple of laps later before charging off after Hunt.[1] By lap twenty the #9 March was within striking distance, with Brambilla duly sending his car slithering up the inside of the McLaren at the hairpin.[1] Unfortunately the move was for too optimistic, with Brambilla missing the nose of Hunt's McLaren by millimetres, before spinning to a stop on the outside of the circuit.[1]

Jochen Mass, whom had quietly picked his way up the order as others hit trouble, and Depailler moved past the Italian before he rejoined, with Brambilla citing an engine issue as the cause of the spin.[1] By this stage several drivers had had to stop for fresh tyres, as the circuit was beginning to dry in certain places as the rain stopped shortly after the start.[1] McLaren team boss Teddy Mayer spotted this and began to signal to his drivers to stay off the "racing line", with the Goodyear wets known to overheat quickly on even damp tarmac.[1]

Mass, however, would ignore the advice of his team boss, sticking to the racing line as he reeled in teammate Hunt out front.[1] Yet, just as the German seemed set to stab his British teammate in the back, Mass ran into one of the large puddles lying on the outside of the final corner, aquaplaning straight into the barriers.[1] Mass climbed out of the now noseless McLaren, leaving Hunt with a comfortable lead over Tom Pryce, who was another silently picking his way up the order.[1]

Indeed, Pryce would continue to close onto the back of Hunt as half-distance came and went, before the Shadow expired in a cloud of oil smoke.[1] Depailler was duly promoted back into second ahead of the chasing Andretti, while Brambilla's second comeback came to an end with electrical issues.[1] He joined a steadily growing list of retirements, with both of the Wolf-Williamss on the sidelines which had suffered unrelated failures.[1]

With thirteen laps to go Hunt was seriously beginning to struggle with his heavily worn front left tyre, awaiting a call from his pit crew.[1] They, however, were waiting for Hunt to come in on his own before leaping to action, meaning that the Brit was steadily losing both time and grip as the race wore on.[1] That allowed Depailler to close right onto the back of the McLaren, while Andretti decided to cruise and conserve his wets.[1]

Fate, ultimately, dictated the end of the race, as first Depailler, then Hunt, suffered tyre failures in the final stages, relegating them down the order.[1] Depailler dropped first, sprinting past Hunt to take the lead, only for his left rear tyre to disintegrate with ten laps to go.[1] Quick work by the Tyrrell crew got the Frenchman back out on a fresh set of wets, the circuit too dangerous for slicks, with Depailler rejoining in fifth.[1]

Two laps later and Hunt's front left tyre fell apart in the final corner, moments after the Brit had fallen behind the cruising Andretti.[1] Fortunately the McLaren pitcrew had been ready to receive their lead driver for some time, and were quick to get the rear wheels changed, before manually lifting the front of the car to allow the fronts to be changed.[1] Hunt was soon back in the fray but had dropped to fifth behind Regazzoni, Alan Jones and Depailler, a disaster in terms of his title bid as the Brit needed to finish fourth at worst to overhaul Lauda.[1]

The final few laps were nothing short of spectacular, with both Depailler and Hunt scything towards the Ferrari and Surtees as the laps ticked away.[1] The Tyrrell caught them first and blasted through without issue, his fresh wets meaning it was impossible for either Regazzoni or Jones to defend.[1] Hunt would catch them at the start of the penultimate lap, passing both en-route to third place to send the McLaren pitcrew into the atmosphere.[1]

All that was left was for Andretti to cruise through the final lap, the American duly crossing the line a lap clear of the field to claim victory for Lotus.[1] Depailler was next across the line in second, while Hunt flashed through in third, believing he had failed to win the title.[1] Jones overcame Regazzoni's late pressure to claim fourth, while Gunnar Nilsson complete the points in the second of the Loti.[1]

With that the 1976 season was over, Hunt arriving in the pits despondent, only to be told by team boss Mayer that he was the World Champion.[1] As the McLaren celebrations got underway, Lauda was seen climbing into a plane at a nearby airport, en-route to Italy for a post-race briefing with Enzo Ferrari.[1] The Italian team would have to be satisfied with just the International Cup for Manufacturers for their work, knowing that Lauda would likely have won the title without his fiery accident at the Nürburgring.[1]

ResultsEdit

The full results for the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix are outlined below:

Pos. No. Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 5 United States Mario Andretti United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 73 1:43:58.86 1 9
2 4 France Patrick Depailler United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 72 +1 Lap 13 6
3 11 United Kingdom James Hunt United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 72 +1 Lap 2 4
4 19 Australia Alan Jones United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 72 +1 Lap 20 3
5 2 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni Italy Ferrari 72 +1 Lap 7 2
6 6 Sweden Gunnar Nilsson United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 72 +1 Lap 16 1
7 26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier-Matra 72 +1 Lap 11
8 24 Austria Harald Ertl United Kingdom Hesketh-Ford Cosworth 72 +1 Lap 22
9 18 Japan Noritake Takahara United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 70 +3 Laps 24
10 17 France Jean-Pierre Jarier United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 69 +4 Laps 15
11 51 Japan Masahiro Hasemi Japan Kojima-Ford Cosworth 66 +7 Laps 10
Ret 3 South Africa Jody Scheckter United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 58 Overheating 5
Ret 21 Austria Hans Binder Canada Wolf-Williams-Ford Cosworth 49 Wheel 25
Ret 16 United Kingdom Tom Pryce United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 46 Energy 14
Ret 9 Italy Vittorio Brambilla United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 38 Electrical 8
Ret 34 Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 37 Electrical 18
Ret 12 Germany Jochen Mass United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 35 Accident 12
Ret 28 United Kingdom John Watson United States Penske-Ford Cosworth 33 Engine 4
Ret 52 Japan Kazuyoshi Hoshino Japan Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 27 Tyre 21
Ret 20 Italy Arturo Merzario Canada Wolf-Williams-Ford Cosworth 23 Gearbox 19
Ret 30 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 9 Withdrew 23
Ret 8 Brazil Carlos Pace United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 7 Withdrew 6
Ret 1 Austria Niki Lauda Italy Ferrari 2 Withdrew 3
Ret 7 Australia Larry Perkins United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1 Withdrew 17
Ret 10 Sweden Ronnie Peterson United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 0 Engine 9
DNS 21 Japan Masami Kuwashima Canada Wolf-Williams-Ford Cosworth
DNQ 54 United Kingdom Tony Trimmer Japan Maki-Ford Cosworth
WD 22 Belgium Jacky Ickx United Kingdom Ensign-Ford Cosworth
Source:[5]

MilestonesEdit

StandingsEdit

The dramatic events of the final laps ensured that James Hunt won the 1976 FIA Formula One World Championship by a single point from Niki Lauda, the Austrian ultimately gracious in defeat. Jody Scheckter held onto third ahead of teammate Patrick Depailler, while Clay Regazzoni completed the top five. Mario Andretti, the seventh different winner of the season, moved up to sixth, with twenty drivers on the board come seasons end.

Ferrari had been declared as the International Cup for Manufacturers' Champions last time out in Watkins Glen, ending the season with 83 points. McLaren-Ford Cosworth were declared as runners up with 74 points, having equalled the Italian firm's number of wins, while Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth completed the top three. Lotus-Ford Cosworth leapt up to fourth on the final day, overtaking Penske-Ford Cosworth and Ligier-Matra.

Drivers' World Championship
Pos. Driver Pts +/-
1 United Kingdom James Hunt 69 ▲1
2 Austria Niki Lauda 68 ▼1
3 South Africa Jody Scheckter 49
4 France Patrick Depailler 39
5 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni 31
6 United States Mario Andretti 22 ▲3
7 United Kingdom John Watson 20 ▼1
8 France Jacques Laffite 20 ▼1
9 West Germany Jochen Mass 19 ▼1
10 Sweden Gunnar Nilsson 11 ▲1
11 Sweden Ronnie Peterson 10 ▼1
12 United Kingdom Tom Pryce 10
13 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck 8
14 Brazil Carlos Pace 7
15 Australia Alan Jones 7
16 Argentina Carlos Reutemann 3
17 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi 3
18 New Zealand Chris Amon 2
19 Italy Vittorio Brambilla 1
20 West Germany Rolf Stommelen 1
International Cup for Manufacturers
Pos. Team Pts +/-
1 Italy Ferrari 83
2 United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 74 (75)
3 United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 71
4 United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 29 ▲2
5 United States Penske-Ford Cosworth 20 ▼1
6 France Ligier-Matra 20 ▼1
7 United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 19
8 United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 10
9 United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 9
10 United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 7
11 Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 3
12 United Kingdom Ensign-Ford Cosworth 2
13 United States Parnelli-Ford Cosworth 1

ReferencesEdit

Images and Videos:

References:

  1. 1.000 1.001 1.002 1.003 1.004 1.005 1.006 1.007 1.008 1.009 1.010 1.011 1.012 1.013 1.014 1.015 1.016 1.017 1.018 1.019 1.020 1.021 1.022 1.023 1.024 1.025 1.026 1.027 1.028 1.029 1.030 1.031 1.032 1.033 1.034 1.035 1.036 1.037 1.038 1.039 1.040 1.041 1.042 1.043 1.044 1.045 1.046 1.047 1.048 1.049 1.050 1.051 1.052 1.053 1.054 1.055 1.056 1.057 1.058 1.059 1.060 1.061 1.062 1.063 1.064 1.065 1.066 1.067 1.068 1.069 1.070 1.071 1.072 1.073 1.074 1.075 1.076 1.077 1.078 1.079 1.080 1.081 1.082 1.083 1.084 1.085 1.086 1.087 1.088 1.089 1.090 1.091 1.092 1.093 1.094 1.095 1.096 1.097 1.098 1.099 1.100 1.101 1.102 1.103 1.104 1.105 1.106 1.107 1.108 A. H., 'The Japanese Grand Prix: A Lotus wins, but Hunt paddles to the Championship victory', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/12/1976), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/december-1976/34/japanese-grand-prix, (Accessed 26/03/2018)
  2. 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 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: JAPAN GP, 1976', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2014), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr280.html, (Accessed 26/03/2018)
  3. 'Japan 1976: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1976/japon/engages.aspx, (Accessed 26/03/2018)
  4. 4.0 4.1 'Japan 1976: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1976/japon/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 26/03/2018)
  5. 'Japan 1976: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1976/japon/classement.aspx, (Accessed 27/03/2018)
V T E 1976 Formula One Season
Constructors Boro • Brabham • BRM • Ensign • Ferrari • Fittipaldi • Hesketh • Kojima • Lotus • Maki • March • McLaren • Parnelli • Penske • Shadow • Surtees • Tyrrell • Wolf-Williams
Engines Alfa Romeo • BRM • Ferrari • Ford Cosworth
Drivers Lauda • 2 Regazzoni • 35 Reutemann • 3 J. Scheckter • 4 Depailler • 5 Peterson • 5 Evans • 5/6 Andretti • 6 Nilsson • 7 Reutemann • 7/77 Stommelen • 7 Perkins • 8 Pace • 9 Brambilla • 10 Lombardi • 10 Peterson • 34 Stuck • 35 Merzario • 11 Hunt • 12 Mass • 13 Galica • 14 Ashley • 15 I. Scheckter • 16 Pryce • 17 Jarier • 18 Lunger • 18 Andersson • 18 Takahara • 19 Jones • 20 Ickx • 20 Merzario • 21 Zorzi • 21 Leclère • 21 Amon • 21 Brown • 21 Binder • 21 Kuwashima • 22 Amon • 22 Nève • 22 Binder • 22 Ickx • 24 Ertl • 25 Edwards • 25 Stommelen • 25 Ribeiro • 25 Zapico • 26 Laffite • 27 Andretti • 28 Watson • 30 Fittipaldi • 31 Hoffmann • 32 Kessel • 32 Evans • 33 De Villota • 33 Nève • 33 Nellemann • 33 Magee • 33 Lombardi • 37/40 Perkins • 37/39/40 Pesenti-Rossi • 38 Pescarolo • 39 Hayje • 39 Stuppacher • 40 Wilds • 51 Hasemi • 52 Hoshino • 54 Trimmer
Cars Boro N175 • Brabham BT44B • Brabham BT45 • BRM P201B • Ensign N174 • Ensign N176 • Ferrari 312T • Ferrari 312T2 • Fittipaldi FD03 • Fittipaldi FD04 • Hesketh 308D • Kojima KE007 • Ligier JS5 • Lotus 77 • Maki F102A • March 761 • McLaren M23 • McLaren M26 • Parnelli VPJ4B • Penske PC3 • Penske PC4 • Shadow DN3 • Shadow DN5B • Shadow DN8 • Surtees TS16 • Surtees TS19 • Tyrrell 007 • Tyrrell P34 • Williams FW04 • Williams FW05
Tyres Goodyear • Dunlop • Bridgestone
Races Brazil • South Africa • U.S. West • Spain • Belgium • Monaco • Sweden • France • Britain • Germany • Austria • Netherlands • Italy • Canada • United States • Japan
See also 1975 Formula One Season • 1977 Formula One Season • Category
V T E Japan Japanese Grand Prix
Circuits Fuji (1976–1977, 2007–2008), Suzuka (1987–2006, 2009–present)
SuzukaCircuit2005
Races 197619771978–1986 • 19871988198919901991199219931994 • 199519961997199819992000200120022003200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018
See also Pacific Grand Prix
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