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The 1977 South African Grand Prix, officially known as the XXIII South African Grand Prix, was the third round of the 1977 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Kyalami Circuit on the 5 March, 1977.[1] The race would be marred by the deaths of racer Tom Pryce and marshal Frederick Jansen van Vuuren, as the latter went to the aid of Renzo Zorzi.[1]

Qualifying had seen James Hunt claim a third pole position in a row, ahead of Carlos Pace debuting a new Brabham-Alfa Romeo.[1] Niki Lauda claimed third on the grid ahead of Patrick Depailler, with Jody Scheckter next in the new Wolf.[1]

Hunt made the best start to the race from pole, darting into the lead as Pace spun up his rear tyres.[1] That fact allowed Lauda to sprint past the Brabham for second, with Pace cutting in just ahead of a fast starting Jochen Mass.[1]

The opening stages would see Hunt and Lauda escape from the rest of the field, before the Austrian went diving past the McLaren to snatch the lead.[1] Lauda duly pulled clear while Hunt tumbled back towards the pack, falling behind Scheckter as the South African battled his way up the order early on.[1]

Then, at the end of lap 22, the entire race was to be overshadowed by Pryce's accident.[1] The catalyst proved to be Zorzi in the sister Shadow, which had stopped on the exit of the final corner with a split fuel pipe.[1] Two marshals, including 19 year old van Vuuren went sprinting to the scene as flames flashed at the back of the Italian's car, just as Hans-Joachim Stuck and Pryce crested the rise just behind.[1]

Ultimately, Pryce was left with no where to go, slamming into van Vuuren and killing the South African marshal instantly.[1] Yet, as he struck the marshal Pryce himself was slammed in the head by van Vuuren's full fire extinguisher, a blow that proved fatal.[1] The Welshman's car carried on at over 160 mph, collecting an innocent Jacques Laffite at the end of the straight before smashing into the barriers at Crowthorne Corner.[2]

Pryce was declared dead at the scene, while Laffite climbed out very shakily but uninjured from the Ligier-Matra.[1] Several more marshal crews would descend upon the incidents in the following minutes, although the race itself carried on around them, albeit without much change.[1]

Indeed, the only significant revision to the order made on track came when Depailler barged past Hunt for third, with the Frenchman soon chasing down Scheckter.[1] Lauda, meanwhile, would spend the rest of the day managing a wounded Ferrari having collected a piece of Pryce's Shadow which duly punctured the one of the Austrian's water pipes.[1]

Ultimately, however, Lauda would cruise home to claim victory for the first time since his life-threatening accident at the Nürburgring, describing it as the best win of his career until being told of Pryce's death.[3] Scheckter held on to claim second half a second clear of ex-teammate Depailler, while Hunt was a lonely fourth.[1] Mass and John Watson duelled for fifth in the closing stages, although the Brit just fell shy of the German at the line.[1]

Sadly, the deaths of Pryce and van Vuuren would not be the last to be associated with the South African Grand Prix of 1977, as Pace was killed in a plane crash less than a fortnight after the event.[1]


Around six weeks separated the Brazilian and South African Grand Prix, a gap which allowed the field to head back to Europe after two brutal opening rounds in South America.[2] Most would either completely rebuild or build new cars before the long trek to the Kyalami Circuit, which remained unchanged since the visit in 1976.[2] Indeed, the rather forgiving schedule in South African meant the top teams were able to test at the circuit a week before the race, meaning everyone was fighting fit ahead of the third race of the season.[2]

There had been some major changes behind the scenes too, with a major development in the WCR-F.O.C.A. war, with a major party changing sides.[4] The major issue between WCR and F.O.C.A. had been financial, but with most of their members wanting to race in the fly-away races, F.O.C.A.'s threats of a boycott were made null and void by a temporary truce between the two bodies.[5] However, as the European season approached the balanced switched in favour of F.O.C.A., with most of the European rounds holding contracts signed with F.O.C.A. rather than WCR for 1977.[4]

Indeed, the only thing separating F.O.C.A. from victory was the WCR's last remaining "ace card", Ferrari, which had consistently opposed the work of Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley.[4] That would change on 15 February, however, as messers Ecclestone and Mosley met with Enzo Ferrari and the Ferrari board in Maranello to discuss the WCR-F.O.C.A. war.[4] In return for a substantial set of financial benefits, Ferrari declared their support of F.O.C.A. ahead of the European season, leaving WCR without a major manufacturer supporting them.[4] The addition of Ferrari to their ranks meant that F.O.C.A. had all of the major F1 teams on their side, meaning the future races would be staged according to rules in their favour.[4]

With that fight seemingly settled the members of both F.O.C.A., and the last few WCR supporters, headed to Kyalami for the annual visit to South Africa.[2] Leading the charge were McLaren, which had built a brand new car for James Hunt after Jochen Mass crashed the team's old spare.[2] The German's race car was rebuilt around the remains of his car and the spare, while Hunt's old race car became the team's new spare.[2] All three were fitted with M26 style rear suspension, which was set to make its return in South Africa until Hunt crashed it during the test week.[2]

Tyrrell too had been forced to build a brand new car after the Brazilian Grand Prix, handing the new chassis over to Ronnie Peterson after the Swede's car was written off.[2] Patrick Depailler, meanwhile, was given the team's oldest surviving P34, which had just been retired from racing to be the team's main research and development mule.[2] Both cars would be updated to the team's newest spec, however, with reinforced wishbones and a redesigned dashboard, as well as the team's new one-piece bodywork.[2]

Likewise, Surtees returned to their headquarters in Edenbridge, England, to build a new car, handing Vittorio Brambilla the wheel to the updated TS19 in South Africa.[2] This car featured new radiators, which multiplied in number during the test week at Kyalami, as well as revised air intakes and front bodywork.[2] Teammate Hans Binder, meanwhile, continued to use his original TS19, rebuilt after Brazil, while the spare car had been sold to provide funds.[2]

Over in Surrey, but still in the U.K., Brabham-Alfa Romeo had gone to less extreme efforts to repair their cars, although Ecclestone's squad would still arrive in South Africa with a new car.[2] This car would be an updated version of the BT45, dubbed the "BT45B", built around the remains of the first BT45 crashed by Carlos Pace in Argentina.[2] Pace would be given the new car, which sported a revised braking layout, redeveloped suspension and modified air-intakes, while John Watson used his rebuilt BT45 from Brazil.[2]

Following Brabham's lead, Ligier-Matra had also decided to abandon their lead driver Jacques Laffite's old car, building an updated version of the JS7 for Kyalami.[2] This new car sported revised engine mountings after issues regarding the team's updated Matra V12, with new bracing bars sprouting throughout the test week.[2] The design was otherwise unchanged from the previous iteration.

Elsewhere, the single entrants Wolf and Ensign had completed work on brand new cars, with Jody Scheckter and Clay Regazzoni getting their hands on them respectively.[2] The new Wolf featured an elongated wheelbase and revised rear-suspension, although Scheckter decided to have the new car returned to the original spec during the Kyalami test.[2] The new Ensign, in contrast, arrived looking like a copy of the old Ensign, although it ultimately failed to leave the paddock during the test.[2] Another team with two cars and only one driver would be Fittipaldi, with Emerson Fittipaldi serving as the lone driver.[2]

There would be a surprise in store at Shadow, meanwhile, with their cars appearing in a rather startling white rather than their traditional black.[2] This was due to the fact that Renzo Zorzi's sponsor AVS had become a major sponsor of the team, and duly decided that the team's new DN8s should be branded it their colours.[2] As such, both Tom Pryce and Zorzi would receive new white cars, sporting a new radiator layout and minor bodywork detailing.[2]

Over at March there had been no major damage to repair for a change, meaning their two 761Bs arrived as they had raced in Brazil.[2] The team would have a revised driver line-up, however, with Hans-Joachim Stuck returning to the team after Ian Scheckter broke an ankle during a Formula Atlantic race.[2] The German would partner Alex Ribeiro, while two more Marches were entered privately for Boy Hayje and Brett Lunger.[2]

Aside from their political machinations, Ferrari had been busy developing their 312T2s, which had been alarmingly off-pace in spite of Carlos Reutemann's victory in Brazil.[2] Both the Argentine, and lead driver Niki Lauda's cars would receive substantial changes at the rear of the car, with the battery, oil tanks and roll-hoop moved forward to allow smaller bodywork to be mounted at the back of the car.[2] This streamlining was expected to improve the 312T2's straight-line speed, having been tested on a new chassis debuted by Lauda during the test-week.[2]

Lotus had decided to spend their break since the Brazilian Grand Prix building a new 78, having already rebuilt Mario Andretti's car twice after the Argentine Grand Prix.[2] The new car would not feature in South Africa, however, meaning both Andretti and Gunnar Nilsson would use their original 78s from Brazil.[2] Their cars were not without minor changes, however, with new reinforced skirts mounted to the underside of the side-pods to promote a stronger "low-pressure" zone under the car, as well as new "vortex generators" on the top of the pods.[2]

Finally there came the lone BRM of Larry Perkins, although this time the team appeared to have gone back in time.[2] Indeed, the Australian and his crew arrived in the paddock almost a full week before their car, a three year old P201 arrived off the back of a train, having been shipped from Bourne in the U.K. by boat rather than plane.[2] As such, having missed test-week and reverted back to 1974, there was little hope of a BRM revival in South Africa, with most of their rivals feeling sympathy for a team that had fallen so far in less than a decade.[2]

Into the Championship and victory for Reutemann in Brazil had been enough to propel the Argentine racer to the top of the standings, four ahead of Jody Scheckter in second. Three drivers arrived in South Africa level on six points, Pace ahead of Hunt and Fittipaldi by virtue of count-back, with Lauda two behind in sixth. Other drivers to add their name to score sheet at Interlagos included Nilsson and Zorzi, meaning there were ten drivers with points to their name after just two races.

The double podium for Ferrari last time out had been enough to put them atop the International Cup for Constructors standings, leaving South America with thirteen points to their name. Wolf-Ford Cosworth slipped to second ahead of Brabham-Alfa Romeo in third. The latter squad found themselves level on points with McLaren-Ford Cosworth and Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth, with Team Lotus-Ford Cosworth a couple behind in sixth.

Entry list[]

The full entry list for the 1977 South African Grand Prix is outlined below:

No. Driver Entreat Constructor Chassis Engine Model Tyre
1 United Kingdom James Hunt United Kingdom Marlboro Team McLaren McLaren M23 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
2 West Germany Jochen Mass United Kingdom Marlboro Team McLaren McLaren M23 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
3 Sweden Ronnie Peterson 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 78 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
6 Sweden Gunnar Nilsson United Kingdom John Player Team Lotus Lotus 78 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
7 United Kingdom John Watson United Kingdom Martini Racing Brabham BT45 Alfa Romeo 115-12 3.0 F12 G
8 Brazil Carlos Pace United Kingdom Martini Racing Brabham BT45B Alfa Romeo 115-12 3.0 F12 G
9 Brazil Alex Ribeiro United Kingdom Hollywood March Racing March 761B Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
10 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck United Kingdom Team Rothmans International March 761B Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
11 Austria Niki Lauda Italy Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T2 Ferrari 015 3.0 F12 G
12 Argentina Carlos Reutemann Italy Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T2 Ferrari 015 3.0 F12 G
14 Australia Larry Perkins United Kingdom Rotary Watches Stanley BRM BRM P201B BRM P202 3.0 V12 G
16 United Kingdom Tom Pryce United Kingdom Shadow Racing Team Shadow DN8 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
17 Italy Renzo Zorzi United Kingdom Shadow Racing Team Shadow DN8 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
18 Austria Hans Binder United Kingdom Durex Team Surtees Surtees TS19 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
19 Italy Vittorio Brambilla United Kingdom Beta Team Surtees Surtees TS19 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
20 South Africa Jody Scheckter Canada Walter Wolf Racing Wolf WR1 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
22 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni United Kingdom Team Tissot Ensign with Castrol Ensign N177 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier Gitanes Ligier JS7 Matra MS73 3.0 V12 G
28 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Copersucar-Fittipaldi Fittipaldi FD04 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
30 United States Brett Lunger United States Chesterfield Racing March 761 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
33 Netherlands Boy Hayje United Kingdom RAM Racing/F&S Properties March 761 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G

Practice Overview[]


Practice/qualifying would be rather more convoluted in South Africa, with the four sessions scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday before the race on Saturday.[2] Thursday would host two "timed" sessions either side of a lunch break, while Goodyear decided, on Thursday morning, that the first Thursday session would be a non-qualifying session.[2] As such the drivers would get three attempts to beat the target time, a 1:16.10 set by James Hunt in 1976.[2]


It soon became clear that there would only be one session in which the drivers would truly get to challenge Hunt's old record, for Wednesday proved to be uncharacteristically damp.[2] As such, there was very little action on track during the first hour and a half of running, with only a handful of cars heading out.[2] Indeed, with none of the "aces" in the field heading out for more than a reconnaissance lap, it was left to the returning Hans-Joachim Stuck to set the fastest time, a 1:33.13.[2]

The lunch break saw the drizzle continue to coat the Kyalami Circuit, with the locals around the circuit stating that it was likely to continue for the rest of the week.[2] That threat prompted most of the field to head onto the circuit, although neither of the Tyrrells ventured out of the garage.[2] A few of the drivers opted to use their spare cars rather than risk their race cars, an example set by Niki Lauda and Emerson Fittipaldi.[2]

At the end of the day it was Tom Pryce who had set the fastest time, the Welshman's white Shadow slithering around the circuit to record a 1:31.57.[2] Only the aforementioned Lauda came close, but was only just within a second of the Shadow, while Stuck's morning time was good enough for third overnight.[2] Jody Scheckter was next a few thousandths clear of Carlos Pace, while Hunt and teammate Jochen Mass only really recorded reconnaissance laps.[2]

Fortunately Thursday dawned without any water falling from the skies, although the clouds remained thick and the conditions unseasonably cool.[2] Because of this, and the lack of running on Wednesday, there was a lot of discussion as to whether the morning run on Thursday should be considered as part of qualifying.[2] Indeed, the officials at the circuit would go so far as to publish a full list of results at the end of the session, although both the FIA and WCR declared that the session effectively counted for nothing.[2]

Regardless, all of the drivers would use the "untimed" session as practice for the final qualifying session, a stark contrast to the wishes of Goodyear, who wanted some long running on their tyres.[2] Indeed, most would only complete three or four laps runs before stopping to make setup changes, aiming to find a balance between straight line speed and cornering grip.[2] Ultimately it was Hunt and McLaren who found the best balance ahead of the final session, the Brit claiming an unofficial session best of 1:16.23.[2]

As such, it was Hunt who proved to be in the best position come the end of the final qualifying session, the Brit improving to a 1:15.96 after an hour long battle for pole.[2] Indeed, first blood had gone to John Watson before his Alfa Romeo engined expired, meaning the Ulsterman fell to eleventh while sat on the sidelines.[2] Lauda, meanwhile, briefly appeared in the fight before an alleged "tyre pressure issue" caused him to stall at a 1:16.33, while Mario Andretti would be another to suffer an engine failure while fighting.[2]

It was therefore down to Carlos Pace to go toe-to-toe with Hunt for pole in the final moments, the Brazilian ending the day a close second with a 1:16.01.[2] Indeed, the #8 Brabham-Alfa Romeo was so close to the McLaren that Pace was initially declared as the pole sitter, only for McLaren to challenge the timekeepers by proving that Hunt had recorded his 1:15.96.[2] At the back, meanwhile, there would be no qualifying "failures", although neither Larry Perkins in the BRM, not Boy Hayje looked particularly impressive, over five seconds off the ultimate pace.[2]

Qualifying Results[]

The full qualifying results for the 1977 South African Grand Prix are outlined below:

Pos. No. Driver Constructor Time Gap
Q1 Q2 Q3* Q4
1 1 United Kingdom James Hunt United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 1:34.94 1:16.23 1:15.96
2 8 Brazil Carlos Pace United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1:40.48 1:33.27 1:16.97 1:16.01T +0.05s
3 11 Austria Niki Lauda Italy Ferrari 1:37.36T 1:32.38T 1:16.27 1:16.29 +0.33s
4 4 France Patrick Depailler United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 1:16.45 1:16.33 +0.39s
5 20 South Africa Jody Scheckter Canada Wolf-Ford Cosworth 1:46.87T 1:33.23 1:16.46 1:16.35 +0.41s
6 5 United States Mario Andretti United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 1:39.37 1:16.51 1:16.38 +0.44s
7 3 Sweden Ronnie Peterson United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 1:39.68 1:16.88 1:16.44 +0.48s
8 12 Argentina Carlos Reutemann Italy Ferrari 1:54.09 1:17.15 1:16.54 +0.58s
9 28 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 1:34.81T 1:19.03T 1:16.64 +0.68s
10 6 Sweden Gunnar Nilsson United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 1:34.44 1:17.25 1:16.65 +0.69s
11 7 United Kingdom John Watson United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1:35.79 1:16.70 1:16.71 +0.75s
12 26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier-Matra 1:39.33 1:17.90 1:16.74 +0.78s
13 2 West Germany Jochen Mass United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 1:54.61 1:35.05 1:17.06 1:16.99 +1.03s
14 19 Italy Vittorio Brambilla United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 1:34.48 1:33.91 1:17.51 1:17.08 +1.12s
15 16 United Kingdom Tom Pryce United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 1:40.01 1:31.57 1:17.42 1:17.11 +1.15s
16 22 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni United Kingdom Ensign-Ford Cosworth 1:41.42 1:35.43 1:16.90 1:17.21 +1.25s
17 9 Brazil Alex Ribeiro United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 1:37.05 1:17.65 1:17.44 +1.48s
18 10 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 1:33.13 1:53.68 1:18.12 1:17.49 +1.53s
19 18 Austria Hans Binder United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 1:43.76 1:35.51 1:17.70 1:18.07 +2.11s
20 17 Italy Renzo Zorzi United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 1:19.43 1:18.42 +2.46s
21 33 Netherlands Boy Hayje United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 1:19.15 1:19.59 +3.63s
22 14 Australia Larry Perkins United Kingdom BRM 1:59.40 1:25.57 1:21.77 +5.81s
23 30 United States Brett Lunger United States March-Ford Cosworth 1:52.43 1:38.94 1:19.63 1:24.35 +8.39s
  • Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
  • T Indicates a test/spare car.
  • * Times for the Thursday morning session (Q3) did not count as qualifying times.


Pos. Pos.
Driver Driver
Row 1 ______________ 1
2 James Hunt
Carlos Pace ______________
Row 2 ______________ 3
4 Niki Lauda
Patrick Depailler ______________
Row 3 ______________ 5
6 Jody Scheckter
Mario Andretti ______________
Row 4 ______________ 7
8 Ronnie Peterson
Carlos Reutemann ______________
Row 5 ______________ 9
10 Emerson Fittipaldi
Gunnar Nilsson ______________
Row 6 ______________ 11
12 John Watson
Jacques Laffite ______________
Row 7 ______________ 13
14 Jochen Mass
Vittorio Brambilla ______________
Row 8 ______________ 15
16 Tom Pryce
Clay Regazzoni ______________
Row 9 ______________ 17
18 Alex Ribeiro
Hans-Joachim Stuck ______________
Row 10 ______________ 19
20 Hans Binder
Renzo Zorzi ______________
Row 11 ______________ 21
22 Boy Hayje
Larry Perkins ______________
Row 12 ______________ 23
24 Brett Lunger


It proved to be a rather relaxed atmosphere ahead of the race, with Friday traditionally left clear of on-track action meaning teams could complete their pre-race work without needing to work overnight.[2] Furthermore, the warm-up session staged early in the morning went past without issue, while a long programme of air-displays kept the 80,000 strong crowd entertained until the Grand Prix cars were wheeled onto the grid.[2] Conditions were also relatively pleasant given it was late summer, with the cloud cover keeping temperatures on the cooler side as the field completed the parade lap.[2]


The start of the 1977 South African Grand Prix.

It was the pole sitting James Hunt who claimed the lead as the starting lights switched to green, the Brit's McLaren leading clear of the rest of the field.[2] His start was made to look all the more impressive as Carlos Pace was slow to react, meaning it was Niki Lauda who led the charge after Hunt into Crowthorne Corner.[2] Pace himself would tumble behind Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler, while Vittorio Brambilla was left on the grid with a clutch issue.[2]

Another man to make a poor getaway was Tom Pryce, who, like Brambilla, was having to fight back up the order for the rest of the opening tour.[2] Both the Welshman and the Italian would complete the lap behind the BRM of Larry Perkins, which had already been dropped from the pack, as the rest of the field chased after Hunt.[2] He flashed through just ahead of Lauda, Scheckter, Depailler and Pace, with Jochen Mass leading the rest.[2]

The following laps would see Hunt and Lauda pull clear of the field, while, in a near carbon copy, Brambilla and Pryce would begin scything through the back markers.[2] In the middle of the field, Scheckter and Depailler would build a small gap over Pace, leaving the Brazilian to fight off the attentions of Mass and Mario Andretti, who both pulled clear of the bulk of the pack.[2] At the very back, meanwhile, the BRM would continue on on its own, while Ronnie Peterson went out of the race early with a lack of fuel pressure.[2]

At the end of lap six the fight for the lead turned decisively in Lauda's favour, the Ferrari cruising past Hunt's McLaren as the pair screamed towards Crowthorne Corner.[2] Hunt was defenceless against the Ferrari's sudden spurt, with Lauda a full car length ahead of the pair hit the brakes into Crowthorne Corner at the end of the straight.[2] The Austrian soon established a lead over the Brit, leaving Hunt to race on alone in second.[2]

Behind, Scheckter was putting up a furious defence against former Tyrrell teammate Depailler, the Wolf drifting from corner to corner, and along most of the straights.[2] A few seconds behind came Pace, defending somewhat less enthusiastically then the South African, from Mass and Andretti, while Carlos Reutemann was reeling them in after breaking clear of the main pack.[2] Emerson Fittipaldi was now the man at the head of the train encompassing most of the field, with Brambilla and Pryce solidly among them, while Renzo Zorzi, Boy Hayje and Brett Lunger enjoyed a private scrap at the back of the field.[2]

Hunt would steadily be reeled in by Scheckter over the following laps, the McLaren seemingly carrying a problem that denied the Brit full power down the start/finish straight.[2] Aiding Scheckter's charge was the fact that Reutemann had got in between Depailler and Andretti, with John Watson also joining the fight for fourth.[2] Brambilla would soon do likewise, vaulting past the remains of the Fittipaldi train, while Pryce found himself caught behind Hans-Joachim Stuck, with Jacques Laffite and Gunnar Nilsson in close attendance.[2]

At the start of lap 15 the BRM was lapped by Lauda for the first time, with Hunt and Scheckter catching Perkins towards the end of the lap.[2] The Brit was unusually indecisive while passing the Australian, however, and so the Wolf went charging into second by flying up the inside of the pair of them.[2] Hunt soon followed through but found that Scheckter was already out of reach while, even further up the road, Lauda caught the small fight at the tail end of the field.[2] However, just a few laps after the leaders lapped the Zorzi/Hayje/Lunger fight, the race would take a very dark turn.[2]

The Accident[]

Warning: Text contained within this section contains graphical imagery.

At the end lap 22, Zorzi's Shadow rolled to a stop on the outside of the start/finish straight, a split fuel pipe causing the Italian to come to an immediate halt, just after the crest.[2] However, as the Shadow came to a stop the hot exhaust ignited some fuel that had sprayed onto the bodywork, with Zorzi doubling his efforts to get out of the cockpit as the fire flared.[2] The Italian would scramble out without issue, with the fire briefly extinguished by the onboard extinguisher, although Zorzi was still trying to examine why the engine had stopped.[2]

Having seen the Italian's struggles two marshals, William, 25, and Frederik Jansen van Vuuren, 19, sprinted across the track, believing it to be clear.[2] However, as they came up to Zorzi's Shadow, Stuck and Pryce crested the rise almost as one, Pryce tucked right in behind the German.[2] Stuck, being the lead car, had just enough time to swerve around the errant marshals after seeing them for the first time having climbed over the crest, but for Pryce it was another matter.[2]

Having no reaction time, Pryce slammed into van Vuuren, who was thrown into the air having been killed on impact.[2] Indeed, van Vuuren's injuries were so severe that the race director was unable to identify the body, immediately, with the mystery of whom had died lasting until the end of the race.[2] It was only after all of the marshals had been gathered that it was noted that van Vuuren was absent.

As for Pryce, the Welshman had been hit in the head by van Vuuren's 18kg (40lb) extinguisher which, combined with the fact that the Shadow was travelling at 270km/h (167mph), leaving him nearly decapitated but certainly dead.[2] His Shadow hurtled on, however, easing into the side of Laffite, whom had been behind a few yards behind the Welshman as they entered the back straight.[2] The Shadow would then drift off the circuit, rebound off a barrier and collect the Ligier-Matra heading into Crowthorne Corner, taking the Frenchman out of the race.[2]

Laffite scrambled out of his cockpit with only minor bruising before going to Pryce's aid, only to find that the Welshman was dead.[2] Both cars were left tangled in the fencing for the rest of the afternoon, with Pryce left in his race seat until the end of the race.[2] The remains of van Vuuren were, meanwhile, were covered over having landed at the side of the circuit, while the extinguisher that had struck Pryce landed on top of a car parked behind the grandstands.[1]

Racing On[]

In spite of the horrible accident the race would ware on, with Lauda carefully picking his way through the scene a few moments later, allowing Scheckter, Hunt and Depailler to catch back up.[2] Yet, in spite of his careful driving, the Austrian's Ferrari would hit a stray piece of the Shadow's anti-roll bar, which duly pierced one of Lauda's water pipes before lodging itself in the floor.[2] It was only a small hole and Lauda was able to continue, but the Austrian had to manage his engine temperature for the rest of the race.[2]

Indeed, it seemed as if the damage was going to be a costly distraction for the Austrian, with Scheckter weaving around in Lauda's mirrors for the next few laps.[2] Yet, ever in control, Lauda waited for his temperatures to settle before pulling smartly away from the Wolf over the space of a couple of laps, ending up almost ten seconds clear at half distance.[2] Scheckter was therefore left to maintain second, although his attempts to catch the overheating Ferrari would constantly be hampered by backmarkers.[2]

Behind, Andretti gained revenge on Watson having been passed by the second Brabham-Alfa Romeo just before the accident, leaving the American on the back of Reutemann.[2] They toured around together for the time being with Brambilla a few yards behind, as Nilsson, who had been in the midst of the Pryce accident, was forced to stop the other Lotus with a puncture.[2] Stuck, meanwhile, had continued to fight on having come so close to trading places with Pryce, the German currently fending off the attentions of Clay Regazzoni for twelfth.[2]

The Andretti/Reutemann fight would get increasingly aggressive as the race wore on, the American ultimately ramming his Lotus into the back of the Ferrari as they exited Leeukop.[2] In truth, Andretti had been weaving around behind the Argentine for several laps, and as he tried to cut across the back of the Ferrari on the exit of the hairpin he found himself closer than he thought.[2] Reutemann, meanwhile, was seemingly startled by the impact and jerked sideways, allowing Andretti, Watson and Brambilla to pass.[2] However, the incident would come back to bite the Lotus, with Andretti retiring at the end of the lap with a broken steering arm.[2]

As the race came to its closing stages Lauda found himself able to cruise, fortunate as his Ferrari F12 was burning through its oil reserve at an alarming rate due to the water leak.[2] Behind, Scheckter, Hunt and Depailler continued to run nose-to-tail, constantly getting baulked by backmarkers, so much so that it took the trio several laps to elbow their way past Alex Ribeiro and Hans Binder.[2] Behind, Pace and Mass were squabbling over the final points, with Watson closing in after Andretti disappeared into the pits to retire.[2]

Towards the end of the race there came a major change at the top of the field, Depailler elbowing his way past Hunt into Crowthorne Corner as the trio came to lap Brett Lunger for the second time.[2] It was an excellent piece of tactical driving from the Frenchman, who used the slip stream of the Wolf, which had just moved ahead of the March, Hunt and Lunger to draft past the McLaren.[2] The McLaren and the Tyrrell exited the corner side-by-side, with Depailler using his customary aggression to force his car ahead after several tyre-to-tyre touches.[2]

With that the race was run, the only other change to the order coming when Pace disappeared into the pits to have his tyres changed.[2] That meant that it was Lauda, who switched off his engine on the run to the chequered flag with only 1.5 litres of oil (having started with 20 litres), who claimed victory, with Scheckter and Depailler shooting across the line a few seconds later.[2] Hunt was next well clear of teammate Mass, who just managed to keep Watson at bay on the final tour.[2]


The full results for the 1977 South African Grand Prix are outlined below:

Pos. No. Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 11 Austria Niki Lauda Italy Ferrari 78 1:42:21.6 3 9
2 20 South Africa Jody Scheckter Canada Wolf-Ford Cosworth 78 +5.2s 5 6
3 4 France Patrick Depailler United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 78 +5.7s 4 4
4 1 United Kingdom James Hunt United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 78 +9.5s 1 3
5 2 West Germany Jochen Mass United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 78 +19.9s 13 2
6 7 United Kingdom John Watson United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 78 +20.2s 11 1
7 19 Italy Vittorio Brambilla United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 78 +23.6s 14
8 12 Argentina Carlos Reutemann Italy Ferrari 78 +26.7s 8
9 22 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni United Kingdom Ensign-Ford Cosworth 78 +46.2s 16
10 28 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 78 +1:11.7 9
11 18 Austria Hans Binder United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 77 +1 Lap 19
12 6 Sweden Gunnar Nilsson United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 77 +1 Lap 10
13 8 Brazil Carlos Pace United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 76 +2 Laps 2
14 30 United States Brett Lunger United States March-Ford Cosworth 76 +2 Laps 23
15 14 Australia Larry Perkins United Kingdom BRM 73 +5 Laps 22
Ret 9 Brazil Alex Ribeiro United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 66 Engine 17
Ret 10 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 55 Engine 18
Ret 5 United States Mario Andretti United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 43 Accident 6
Ret 33 Netherlands Boy Hayje United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 33 Gearbox 21
Ret 26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier-Matra 22 Accident 12
Ret 16 United Kingdom Tom Pryce United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 22 Fatal accident 15
Ret 17 Italy Renzo Zorzi United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 21 Fuel leak 20
Ret 3 Sweden Ronnie Peterson United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 5 Fuel system 7

Post race[]

On the podium after winning the race Lauda would remark that it was the greatest victory of his career, having been the first since his near-death at the 1976 German Grand Prix. However, moments after his statement, the Austrian was told of Pryce's demise, causing Lauda to pause. After his hesitation the race winner simply remarked "there was no joy after that."[3]

After the race more witnesses would report on the incident, although the most notable remarks would be saved for later years:

"I can remember quite vividly [Pryce's] teammate's car had already pulled off to the side of the track and it had started a small fire. Then the next thing I can remember is seeing Tom's car coming down the straight. I can almost remember now a momentary lift of the throttle much earlier than you would have expected and I looked and I saw something fly up from the car, which tragically turned out to be the marshal." - Trevor Foster (Tyrrell mechanic)

"The tragedy itself – the sheer randomness of it – is so hard to take and still is. You tend to focus your anger on someone and for a long time it would be focused on a 19-year-old kid, called Jansen van Vuuren, who ran across the track." - David Tremayne (motor sports journalist)[3]

The Quick and the Dead, a film released in 1978, would immortalise the incident, which was one of a number of fatal F1 accidents to have been caught on film.



In spite of the tragic circumstances of the race, it was Jody Scheckter who emerged atop the World Championship standings, his podium finish putting the South African racer two ahead of Carlos Reutemann. The Argentine found himself now tied for second with race winning teammate Niki Lauda, who had jumped to sixth with victory. James Hunt held onto fourth, while Carlos Pace dropped to fifth, level on points with Emerson Fittipaldi.

Ferrari continued to lead the way in the International Cup for Constructors standings, leaving South African five clear of Wolf-Ford Cosworth. McLaren-Ford Cosworth moved up into third ahead of Brabham-Alfa Romeo, with Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth completing the top five. Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth and Lotus-Ford Cosworth were next, with Ensign-Ford Cosworth and Shadow-Ford Cosworth completing the scorers list.

Drivers' World Championship
Pos. Driver Pts +/-
1 South Africa Jody Scheckter 15 ▲1
2 Argentina Carlos Reutemann 13 ▼1
3 Austria Niki Lauda 13 ▲3
4 United Kingdom James Hunt 9
5 Brazil Carlos Pace 6 ▼2
6 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi 6 ▼1
7 France Patrick Depailler 4 ▲7
8 Sweden Gunnar Nilsson 2
9 United States Mario Andretti 2 ▼2
10 West Germany Jochen Mass 2 ▲3
11 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni 1 ▼1
12 Italy Renzo Zorzi 1 ▼3
13 United Kingdom John Watson 1 ▲2
International Cup for Constructors
Pos. Team Pts +/-
1 Italy Ferrari 22
2 Canada Wolf-Ford Cosworth 15
3 United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 9 ▲1
4 United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 7 ▼1
5 Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 6
6 United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 4 ▲4
7 United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 4 ▼1
8 United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 1 ▼1
9 United Kingdom Ensign-Ford Cosworth 1 ▼1

Only point scoring drivers and constructors are shown.


Images and Videos:


  1. 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 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: SOUTH AFRICAN GP, 1977',, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015),, (Accessed 01/04/2018)
  2. 2.000 2.001 2.002 2.003 2.004 2.005 2.006 2.007 2.008 2.009 2.010 2.011 2.012 2.013 2.014 2.015 2.016 2.017 2.018 2.019 2.020 2.021 2.022 2.023 2.024 2.025 2.026 2.027 2.028 2.029 2.030 2.031 2.032 2.033 2.034 2.035 2.036 2.037 2.038 2.039 2.040 2.041 2.042 2.043 2.044 2.045 2.046 2.047 2.048 2.049 2.050 2.051 2.052 2.053 2.054 2.055 2.056 2.057 2.058 2.059 2.060 2.061 2.062 2.063 2.064 2.065 2.066 2.067 2.068 2.069 2.070 2.071 2.072 2.073 2.074 2.075 2.076 2.077 2.078 2.079 2.080 2.081 2.082 2.083 2.084 2.085 2.086 2.087 2.088 2.089 2.090 2.091 2.092 2.093 2.094 2.095 2.096 2.097 2.098 2.099 2.100 2.101 2.102 2.103 2.104 2.105 2.106 2.107 2.108 2.109 2.110 2.111 2.112 2.113 2.114 2.115 2.116 2.117 2.118 2.119 2.120 2.121 2.122 D.S.J., 'The South African Grand Prix: Ferrari and Lauda back on form',, (Motor Sport, 01/04/1977),, (Accessed 02/04/2018) Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "MM" defined multiple times with different content
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Tremayne, David, The Lost Generation: The Brilliant but Tragic Lives of Rising British F1 Stars Roger Williamson, Tony Brise and Tom Pryce, (Haynes Publishing Group, 2006), p.239
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 (trans.), '3: South Africa 1977',, (Stats F1, 2014),, (Accessed 02/04/2018)
  5. Max Mosley, Formula One and Beyond: The Autobiography, (Simon and Schuster, 2015), pp.
  6. 'South Africa 1977: Entrants',, (Stats F1, 2016),, (Accessed 01/04/2018)
  7. 'South Africa 1977: Qualifications',, (Stats F1, 2016),, (Accessed 02/04/2018)
  8. 'South Africa 1977: Result',, (Stats F1, 2015),, (Accessed 02/04/2018)
V T E 1977 Formula One Season
Teams Apollon • Brabham • Boro • BRM • Ensign • Ferrari • Fittipaldi • Hesketh • Kojima • LEC • Ligier • Lotus • March • McGuire • McLaren • Penske • Renault • Shadow • Surtees • Tyrrell • Wolf
Engines Alfa Romeo • BRM • Ferrari • Ford Cosworth • Matra • Renault
Drivers Andersson • Andretti • Ashley • Binder • Bleekemolen • Brambilla • Depailler • de Dryver • Edwards • Ertl • Fittipaldi • Francia • Giacomelli • Hayje • Henton • Heyer • Hoffmann • Hoshino • Hunt • Ickx • Jabouille • Jarier • Jones • Keegan • Kessel • Kozarowitzky • Laffite • Lauda • Leoni • Lunger • Mass • McGuire • Merzario • Nève • Nilsson • Oliver • Ongais • Pace • Patrese • Perkins • Peterson • Pilette • Purley • Pryce • Rebaque • Regazzoni • Reutemann • Ribeiro • I. Scheckter • J. Scheckter • Schuppan • Stuck • Sutcliffe • Takahashi • Takahara • Tambay • Trimmer • Villeneuve • de Villota • Watson • Zorzi
Cars Apollon Fly • Brabham BT45 • Brabham BT45B • Boro 001 • BRM P201B • BRM P207 • Ensign N177 • Ferrari 312T2B • Fittipaldi FD04 • Fittipaldi F5 • Hesketh 308E • Kojima KE009 • LEC CRP1 • Ligier JS7 • Lotus 78 • March 761 • March 761B • March 771 • McGuire BM1 • McLaren M23 • McLaren M26 • Penske PC4 • Renault RS01 • Shadow DN5B • Shadow DN8 • Surtees TS19 • Tyrrell 007 • Tyrrell P34 • Wolf WR1 • Wolf WR2 • Wolf WR3
Tyres Bridgestone • Dunlop • Goodyear • Michelin
Races Argentina • Brazil • South Africa • United States West • Spain • Monaco • Belgium • Sweden • France • Britain • Germany • Austria • Netherlands • Italy • United States • Canada • Japan
Non-championship Races Race of Champions
See also 1976 Formula One Season • 1978 Formula One Season • Category
V T E South Africa South Africa South African Grand Prix
Circuits Prince George Circuit (1934–1963), Kyalami Circuit (1965-1993)
Rsa 1066372-k5.jpeg
Championship Races 1962 • 1963 • 1964 • 1965 • 1966 • 1967 • 1968 • 1969 • 1970 • 1971 • 1972 • 1973 • 1974 • 1975 • 1976 • 1977 • 1978 • 1979 • 1980 • 1982 • 1983 • 1984 • 1985 • 1986–1991 • 1992 • 1993
Non-championship races 1934 • 1936 • 1937 • 1938 • 1939 • 1960 • 1960 • 1961 • 1966 • 1981
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