The 1973 Grand Prix of South Africa, officially recorded as the Seventh AA Grand Prix of South Africa (Afrikaans: Sewende AA Suid-Afrikaanse Grand Prix), was the third round of the 1973 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Kyalami Circuit on the 3rd of March. The race would be remembered for the heroic actions of Mike Hailwood, who saved the life of Clay Regazzoni by pulling the unconscious Swiss racer clear of his burning BRM after a huge accident on lap three.
Qualifying had seen Denny Hulme claim pole for the first time in his career, the New Zealander piloting the new McLaren M23 to a maiden pole. Emerson Fittipaldi would start from second ahead of home hero Jody Scheckter, who would race Hulme's old M19C, while Ronnie Peterson and Regazzoni would share row two.
The start of the race saw Hulme streak into an early lead, quickly joined by teammate Scheckter after a strong start. Peter Revson was another fast starter to make it a McLaren one-two-four, having just been edged out by Fittipaldi through turn one, while local racer Dave Charlton shot up the order to end the opening lap in seventh.
Unfortunately, it would be the fast starting Charlton that caused Regazzoni's firey accident on lap three, with the South African racer losing control while attempting to make a move on Carlos Reutemann. Charlton's slithering Lotus smacked into Hailwood's car, which was then struck by an unsighted Regazzoni, who was battling with Jacky Ickx.
The BRM burst into flames upon impact, hitting with enough force to knock the Swiss racer unconscious, while Hailwood was sent skating down the circuit. Yet, moments later, the Brit was out of his car and sprinting towards the burning BRM, disappearing into the flames to try and help his fellow racer. A horrific few seconds followed before Hailwood emerged dragging the unconscious, and only minor burned, Regazzoni clear of the scene, with marshals quickly descending on the pair to aid the Swiss racer.
The rest of the race would pass without major incident, with Jackie Stewart scything past Scheckter on lap seven to take the lead. The South African would then be denied a home podium by tyre wear, allowing Revson and Fittipaldi to pass, before a late-race engine failure dumped him out of the points. Arturo Merzario, Hulme, whose race was ruined by a puncture picked up from the Regazzoni accident, and George Follmer completed the points.
The third round of the season saw the F1 circus make its annual trip to South Africa, a race which would usually have hosted the season opener but for the recent switch to South America. The popular Kyalami Circuit remained unmodified in 1973, while race organiser Alex Blignaut arranged a huge prize fund to attract as many people as possible to his event. The entry list would therefore look to be on the healthy side for the final race before the European season, with several projects set to see their completion in time for the battle around Kyalami.
Arguably the biggest of these projects to be completed was that of American constructors Shadow, whom had finally completed and tested their new DN1s after missing the first two races of the season. The new cars, which were to be piloted by Jackie Oliver and debutante (but very experienced) George Follmer, had been put through their paces at Paul Ricard while the rest of the field were out racing, and had shown a fair amount of promise during their shakedown. The two black, UOP sponsored, DN1s would be wheeled out before the press ahead of the weekend, while the third car, paid for by ex-World Champion Graham Hill was still being built back in the US.
The other major programme completed in time for the South African Grand Prix would be the McLaren M23, which would make its debut in the hands of Denny Hulme. A beautifully engineered car, which took a lot of design cues from the dominant Lotus 72, had been tested at Goodwood ahead of the Kyalami weekend and revealed to the press, before being packed up and shipped to South Africa for its debut. Hulme's old M19C was therefore freed up to allow local racer Jody Scheckter a drive at his home race, while Peter Revson continued on in the second M19C as usual.
Of the other projects in development, very little could be said of them as all failed to materialise in time for the South African race. Brabham were still building their new car, the BT42, leaving Carlos Reutemann and Wilson Fittipaldi Júnior with their rather battered BT37s, while Ferrari had got as far as testing their new 312B3, only to withdraw it before the weekend. They were therefore forced to field Jacky Ickx and Arturo Merzario in their pair of aged 312B2s. Ensign, meanwhile, had suffered a major blow when a move to a bigger facility fell through, leaving them with a half-completed car scattered around a rather small workshop.
Elsewhere, Lotus arrived with the newest of the Lotus 72Ds, their regular cars being rebuilt back in Norfolk in preparation for the new safety rules that would come into force in Spain. Their drivers Emerson Fittipaldi and Ronnie Peterson were issued #1 and #2 once again, with the pair once again favourites to claim victory. A third 72D, one of the original cars, had been bought by a local racer, with Dave Charlton hoping that some modern equipment could put him in contention for a win.
At Tyrrell, Jackie Stewart and François Cevert had their usual cars, with no changes, or indeed work, carried out on either before the weekend, while an older 004 had been entered by Eddie Keizan. March were still limping along with their one and a half car entries of Jean-Pierre Jarier and Mike Beuttler, while BRM had their familiar trio of Clay Regazzoni, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Niki Lauda.
Completing the entry list would be familiar entrants Frank Williams and John Surtees, although the two arrived in very different circumstances. The Frank Williams Racing Cars run Iso-Marlboros arrived without any changes, although Howden Ganley would be partnered by experienced local Jackie Pretorius after Nanni Galli broke his leg in an accident while testing for Abarth. Team Surtees, meanwhile, arrived with four cars and drivers, with regular peddlers Mike Hailwood and Carlos Pace joined by Andrea de Adamich, who took over the older TS9B that Luiz Bueno had raced in Brazil. The fourth car was a prototype TS14A, entered for the boss himself to use, although it soon became clear that a four car effort was too much for the team to sustain.
Two victories in the opening two races meant that defending World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi had made the perfect start to the season, eighteen points already on the board for the Brazilian racer. Stewart left Brazil with ten points, the only driver able within striking distance of the Brazilian racer, while Cevert sat in third, level with Hulme. Ickx sat in fifth ahead of teammate Merzario, while Regazzoni and Wilson Fittipaldi Júnior completed the scorers.
Lotus-Ford Cosworth had maximum points after the opening two rounds thanks to Fittipaldi's victories, six clear of arch-rivals Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth. Ferrari and McLaren-Ford Cosworth had six points apiece in third, the latter effort ahead, while Brabham-Ford Cosworth and BRM shared fifth with a single point each.
The full entry list for the 1973 South African Grand Prix is outlined below:
Practice/qualifying would be staged over three days, with a combined running time of seven and a half hours, although most of the teams had been at the circuit conducting private tests since the Brazilian Grand Prix. Wednesday and Thursday would both play host to three hours of running, starting mid afternoon, while Friday's running was limited to just an hour and a half, all in brilliant sunshine. The target time for the top teams would be the lap record, set by Dave Charlton in a South African Formula One Championship round in 1972, at 1:18.74, although Lotus had recorded a 1:16.70 during testing prior to the weekend.
Wednesday's running started with Denny Hulme entering the circuit at precisely 2:30pm, the New Zealander going for an early blast in the new McLaren. Almost instantly, the 1967 World Champion went under the old lap record, before getting down into the 1:16.00s, with the rest of the field slowly emerging from the pits. This came as little surprise, with McLaren confirming that they had recorded a 1:16.2 during testing, with Hulme ending the day on a 1:16.42.
But, it was not just the new McLaren that was impressing, for both Peter Revson and Jody Scheckter were into the 1:16.00s within a few laps, making it McLaren one-two-three at the end of the session. Everyone else was either in the 1:17.00s or slower, the two Loti coming closest after a day spent slithering through every corner on opposite lock. Jackie Stewart kept swapping between cars before recording the sixth best time, while Shadow had a rather less then auspicious debut, with Jackie Oliver sustaining an engine mount failure, while George Follmer suffered an engine blow-up.
Thursday's session would run much like Wednesday's, with home hero Scheckter spending the day fastest as temperatures soared. Indeed, the South African racer was among a rare few to improve during the session, until a sudden drop in temperature during the final ten minutes. A nearby storm was drawing cool air over the circuit, and amid the dropping temps, the two Loti of Emerson Fittipaldi and Ronnie Peterson managed to get among the McLarens at the top of the timesheets, Peterson just falling shy of Hulme's best time from Wednesday.
Otherwise, Thursday was a rather testing day, with more drivers spending time swapping between cars to try and find improvements. The two Ferraris were renumbered after Jacky Ickx found three seconds while using Arturo Merzario's, while Stewart was really struggling with his rear wing setup. Shadow failed to appear as they strengthened their two chassis after Oliver's failure, while Mike Hailwood spent most of the day sliding around the circuit without much to show for it.
Friday's shorter session looked set to belong to Stewart in the Tyrrell, with the Scot finally getting comfortable with his rear wing position before pushing as hard as he could. His first flying lap took him into the 1:16.00s for the first time, while his second put him on provisional pole, a 1:16.33 being the fastest time of the weekend. Yet, just as Hulme emerged to try and best the Scot's time, Stewart was seen heading backwards through some fencing at the first corner, a total brake failure seeing the Scot go flying off the circuit at 175 mph. Stewart emerged from his rather second-hand Tyrrell unharmed, having reacted instantly to throw the car into a spin before flying backwards into the catch fencing, before completing the final few moments of the session in François Cevert's car.
The on track action would wait until the final moments, with Hulme retaking pole position early on with a 1:16.28, before sitting out the closing stages with a water leak. Scheckter then went second fastest, only to be denied the position by Fittipaldi when the Brazilian found just 0.02s on the South African's best time. Clay Regazzoni was also impressing for BRM, joined by teammates Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Niki Lauda, while Peterson got onto the second row with a late lap. Stewart would qualify down in sixteenth using Cevert's car, while the Frenchman would use Stewart's car if it could be repaired, although he would have to start from the back of the grid.
The full qualifying results for the 1973 South African Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||5||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:16.42||1:16.79||1:16.28||—|
|2||1||Emerson Fittipaldi||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:17.00||1:16.65||1:16.41||+0.13s|
|3||7||Jody Scheckter||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:16.87||1:16.77||1:16.43||+0.15s|
|4||2||Ronnie Peterson||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:17.04||1:16.44||1:16.55||+0.16s|
|6||6||Peter Revson||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:16.72||1:16.87||No Time||+0.44s|
|8||18||Carlos Reutemann||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:17.66||1:16.94||1:17.32||+0.66s|
|9||11||Carlos Pace||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:17.56||1:17.06||1:17.60||+0.78s|
|12||10||Mike Hailwood||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:18.00T||1:17.17||1:27.24||+0.89s|
|13||25||Dave Charlton||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:30.29||1:19.73||1:17.18||+0.90s|
|14||22||Jackie Oliver||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:17.64||No Time||1:21.56||+1.36s|
|16†||3||Jackie Stewart||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:17.18||1:17.59||1:17.65T||+1.37s|
|17||19||Wilson Fittipaldi||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:19.11||1:17.95||1:18.17||+1.67s|
|18||14||Jean-Pierre Jarier||March-Ford Cosworth||1:19.14||1:18.01||1:17.98||+1.70s|
|19||21||Howden Ganley||Iso-Marlboro-Ford Cosworth||1:18.58||1:18.89||1:18.07||+1.79s|
|20||12||Andrea de Adamich||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:18.66||1:18.66||1:18.89||+2.38s|
|21||23||George Follmer||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:23.39||No Time||1:18.82||+2.54s|
|22||26||Eddie Keizan||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:18.92||1:19.37||No Time||+2.64s|
|23||24||Mike Beuttler||March-Ford Cosworth||1:20.56||No Time||1:20.37||+4.09s|
|24||20||Jackie Pretorius||Iso-Marlboro-Ford Cosworth||1:22.26||1:20.54||No Time||+4.26s|
|25‡||4||François Cevert||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:17.52||1:16.98||1:17.85||N/A|
|WD||27||John Surtees||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||Withdrawn|
- T Indicates a driver used a test/spare car to set their best time in that session
- * The two Ferraris of Ickx and Merzario were swapped between the drivers after qualifying.
- † Stewart would race with teammate Cevert's car.
- ‡ Cevert was to race in Stewart's car if it could be repaired.
|Andrea de Adamich|
Raceday proved to be another warm affair, although the intense heat did little to deter 91,000 fans from descending upon Kyalami for South Africa's premier sporting event. The start time was set for 3:00pm, although as the field was being wheeled out onto the starting grid, a bolt of lightening shot across the sky, signalling the start of a nearby storm. A 40 minute delay was called by the Clerk of the Course until the storm moved away from the circuit, having only thrown a few spots of water on the track, before the entire field lined up properly for the start.
When the South African flag finally dropped to signal the start of the race, it would be a three way scrap into turn one, with Emerson Fittipaldi taking an initial half-car length lead away from the line. Unfortunately for him both Denny Hulme and Jody Scheckter were braver on the brakes at Crowthorne, and so the two McLarens surged ahead of the Lotus. Elsewhere, Clay Regazzoni went backwards down the field after a terrible start, joined by teammate Jean-Pierre Beltoise with a slipping clutch, while Jackie Oliver had to take to the grass when Jacky Ickx similarly struggled to get away from the grid.
The rest of the opening lap passed without incident, with Hulme streaking across the line ahead of Scheckter and Fittipaldi, while Peter Revson crossed the line in fourth to make it a McLaren one-two-four. Then came Carlos Reutemann and Dave Charlton, the latter having made a stunning start in his Lucky Strike sponsored Lotus, and looked likely to move further up the order in the following laps. Mike Hailwood, Wilson Fittipaldi Júnior and Arturo Merzario completed the top ten, while Jackie Stewart was already in eleventh after a strong start.
The field was rather settled on the second lap, with Hulme extending his lead to three seconds at the front of the field, while Charlton looked to try and pass Reutemann but to no avail. The South African's attack continued into lap three, and a lunge down the inside of the Argentine into Crowthorne Corner almost paid off, until the Lotus snapped sideways. Out of control, Charlton could do little to avoid bouncing into Hailwood, who was himself thrown into a spin, ending up facing backwards as the rest of the field charged past the scene.
Most of the field would filter past the stricken Surtees of Hailwood without issue, until some of the lower running cars came to the incident. One of those was Regazzoni, who arrived out of control, thought to have been caused by earlier contact with Ickx, with the Swiss racer slamming into the stranded Hailwood. The impact with the Brit's rear wheel split the BRM chassis and ruptured the fuel tank, causing the car to burst into flames. Hailwood's car also set itself alight, although that was quickly extinguished by the onboard extinguisher, with Hailwood scrambling out of the car to try and help Regazzoni.
The Swiss racer was unconscious when Hailwood entered the blaze, and in a tense few moments the Brit managed to undo Regazzoni's belts before, with the aid of a rather slow marshal, dragged his fellow competitor clear. Hailwood's race suit caught alight during his rescue attempts, an issue solved by a marshal armed with a fire extinguisher a few seconds later. The ambulance and fire engine arrived on the scene a few moments after Regazzoni was pulled clear, with the Swiss racer whisked away to hospital. Before the end of the race it was reported that the Swiss racer was awake with only minor burns, while Hailwood returned to the paddock to report what had happened.
Debris littered the circuit as a result of the accident, with Ickx pulling aside with a broken wheel as Hailwood rescued Regazzoni, while Charlton limped back to the pits before retiring. The race carried on as the clean up commenced, although the circuit was cleared too late for race leader Hulme, who picked up a puncture after running over a piece of ruined Surtees. The New Zealander was dumped to the back of the field, only to pick up another puncture, while Howden Ganley suffered a similar fate lower down the order.
Scheckter duly inherited the lead with Hulme's double puncture, while Stewart had leapt up the order to second, although some believed that he had ignored yellow flags around the incident in order to do so. The officials, however, believed everything to be above board, with the Scot taking Scheckter for the lead on lap seven, before pulling a second clear before the end of the lap. With Stewart disappearing up the road discontent over his progress emerged, with Ronnie Peterson, Revson and Scheckter all indicating that they had been passed by the Scot under suspicious circumstances.
Having lost the lead, Scheckter was left with a fight for second with Fittipaldi, with a tremendous rearguard action backing the Brazilian into Revson and Peterson behind. On lap eleven Revson was able to claim third from Fittipaldi, before a move on Scheckter promoted him to second, although the American was not allowed to escape. Indeed the two Loti were putting tremendous pressure on the two McLarens, while Hulme caught and passed the entire quartet, albeit two laps down on the rest of the field.
Elsewhere, Niki Lauda made a brief appearance in the points after a move on Reutemann, only for his engine to blow, with Carlos Pace inheriting the position only to have an issue. Merzario duly inherited sixth in the Ferrari, with Reutemann dropping out of contention after a slow puncture. Pace returned to the action in seventh ahead of the debuting George Follmer, who was nursing an engine issue in his Shadow, while Hulme was flying through the lower orders with his race-leading pace.
At half distance the second place battle had begun to break apart, Revson pulling clear with the tow from Hulme. Without the aid of his teammates Scheckter was vulnerable to Fittipaldi again, with the Brazilian relegating him soon after Revson disappeared up the road. That left the South African in a duel for fourth with Peterson, although the Swede would be unable to attack Scheckter, who was struggling with tyre wear, when his throttle linkage broke, forcing him into the pits.
Merzario and Pace became the main battle on the circuit, although the Italian's defence was far from impressive as he threw himself into a spin by being too aggressive. He recovered just ahead of a very lonely Follmer, who was now on the edge of the points, while numerous other drivers were nursing ailments behind, leaving them to be picked off by the still charging Hulme. Fittipaldi then began a charge to try and catch Revson, as the race entered its final throes.
The final laps saw Fittipaldi close right onto the back of Revson, although the American's resistance was excellent right from the get go. Pace, meanwhile, suffered a front-right puncture while heading though Sunset Bend, sending him barrelling into the catch fencing with ten laps to go. The Brazilian emerged unharmed, although his Surtees looked rather second hand, a retirement that promoted Follmer into the points.
Hulme duly blasted back into the points with a late move on Follmer, a charge that also carried Reutemann onto the back of the limping Shadow, although the Brabham was not in the prime of its life. That, and the duel for second, were the last remaining scraps on the circuit leaving the order otherwise settled, until a heartbroken Scheckter ground to a halt in the pits. The South African's race was brought to a premature end with a ruined engine, and as he climbed out of the cockpit, Follmer moved back into the points for Shadow.
The final lap saw both Fittipaldi and Reutemann thrown last ditch efforts at Revson and Follmer to try and move up the order, although both were swatted away before the flag. As those battles came to an end, Stewart swept home to claim his first win of the season, with Revson and Fittipaldi charging across the line together thirty seconds later. Next came Merzario, a lap clear of the charging Hulme, who somehow missed out on fastest lap, while Follmer claimed an excellent debut point for himself and Shadow. Reutemann was seventh ahead of Andrea de Adamich, while Scheckter was classified ahead of Ganley and Peterson.
After the race Teddy Mayer, boss of the McLaren team, launched a protest against the result, claiming that Stewart's passes on Revson, Scheckter and Peterson had all been made under yellow flags. The stewards decided to act quickly, handing Stewart a severe reprimand, before just as speedily handing off the issue to the FIA, particularly when Ken Tyrrell got involved. Two days later and the reprimand was reversed by the FIA, leaving Stewart as the race winner.
The full results for the 1973 South African Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Scheckter was still classified as a finisher despite retiring.
- † Keizan, Jarier, Cevert and Beuttler could not be classified as they failed to complete 90% of the race distance.
- Shadow started a Grand Prix for the first time.
- Debut for George Follmer.
- Denny Hulme earned his first (and only) pole position.
- 23rd career victory for Jackie Stewart.
- Tyrrell earned their twelfth win as a constructor.
- Peter Revson earned McLaren their 30th podium finish as a constructor.
- Both Shadow and Follmer earned points on their mutual debut.
- Ferrari made their 200th start as a constructor.
Victory saw Jackie Stewart close the gap to early Championship leader Emerson Fittipaldi, the Scot now trailing the Brazilian by three points. There was then an eleven point gap back to Denny Hulme, who looked a new man now he was armed with the new McLaren M23, while Peter Revson, François Cevert and Arturo Merzario all headed into the European season with six points apiece. Jacky Ickx sat in seventh, while Clay Regazzoni, Wilson Fittipaldi Júnior and George Follmer all had a point each at the back of the scorers list.
The International Cup for Manufacturers fight had also closed up as the field headed to Europe for the first time, with Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth cutting Lotus-Ford Cosworth's gap down to just a single point in South Africa. McLaren-Ford Cosworth were sat in third, nine behind Tyrrell, while Ferrari left Kyalami in fourth, yet to get into double figures. Brabham-Ford Cosworth, BRM and Shadow-Ford Cosworth were also on the board with a single point apiece.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: SOUTH AFRICAN GP, 1973', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr223.html, (Accessed 15/02/2017)
- A.R.M., '7th South African Grand Prix: Controversial Stewart Victory', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/04/1973), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/april-1973/50/7th-south-african-grand-prix, (Accessed 15/02/2017)
- 'South Africa 1973', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/afrique-du-sud/engages.aspx, (Accessed 15/02/2017)
- 'South Africa 1973: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/afrique-du-sud/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 15/02/2017)
- South Africa 1973: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/afrique-du-sud/classement.aspx, (Accessed 15/02/2017)
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