The 1978 South African Grand Prix, otherwise officially advertised as the XXIV Citizen & Asseng South African Grand Prix, was the third round of the 1978 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Kyalami Circuit on 4 March 1978.[1] The race, which was the 300th Grand Prix to be staged as part of the World Championship, would see two former teammates duel for victory on the final lap.[1]

Qualifying would see Niki Lauda in a vastly upgraded Brabham-Alfa Romeo take pole position, ahead of Mario Andretti in an older Lotus 78.[1] James Hunt and Patrick Tambay were next for McLaren, while Jean-Pierre Jabouille put his updated, turbocharged, Renault into sixth, just behind Jody Scheckter.[1]

The start of the race would see Andretti surge into the lead ahead of Scheckter, with Lauda powerless to prevent the two running past into the first corner.[1] Jabouille also started well to jump Tambay, with Hunt slipping in behind Lauda as the top six blasted clear of the pack.[1]

However, it was not long before attrition began to depopulate the field, the first major casualty being Hunt with an engine failure on lap five.[1] That allowed Riccardo Patrese to attack and pass Jabouille, before the Italian went on to harass Scheckter as the South African racer challenged Andretti for the lead.[1]

Shortly before half-distance Patrese found himself in the new Arrows in the lead of the race, having passed Scheckter once both had moved past Andretti.[1] The Italian duly pulled clear as Scheckter hit tyre trouble, an issue that Andretti had been battling with since the opening stages of the race.[1]

Their demise allowed Patrick Depailler and Lauda to move back ahead, although the Austrian's race would come to a premature end on the 52nd lap with an engine failure.[1] Patrese, meanwhile, would build a commanding lead in the Arrows, only to suffer an engine failure with fifteen laps to go, handing Depailler the lead.[1]

Ronnie Peterson was, however, the man to watch, with the Swede easing past teammate Andretti to claim second, before swooping onto the back of his ex-Tyrrell teammate Depailler in the closing stages.[1] Indeed, Andretti would drop away for fuel in the final laps, as Depailler began to show signs of vulnerability as his Ford Cosworth engine began to trail smoke.[1]

A wheel banging battle for a third of a lap saw Peterson snatch victory on the final tour, the Swede claiming his first victory for Team Lotus since returning to the team.[1] A smokey Depailler fell half a second short in second, while John Watson survived well to finish third ahead of Alan Jones, Jacques Laffite and Didier Pironi.[1]

Background[edit | edit source]

After a six week break, the Formula One circus rolled into the paddock at the Kyalami Circuit for the third race of the 1978 campaign: the fourteenth South African Grand Prix.[2] Yet while the venue remained unchanged, the previously traditional atmosphere at Kyalami had changed, with the event only viable with sponsorship from a South African newspaper.[2] Indeed, the deal to save the race was made too late for the circuit owners to upgrade the safety standards of the venue, although this was overlooked by the FIA after a successful pre-race test.[2]

Indeed, the substantial break since the Brazilian Grand Prix had allowed most of the teams to complete their new-for-1978 designs.[3] The most comprehensive of these new cars would be the new Ferrari 312T3, which was a completely new car barring the engine/gearbox.[3] Indeed, the Italian firm had completely re-designed the monocoque, suspension and steering to improve their car overall, with Carlos Reutemann completing extensive testing of the car at Fiorano before the Kyalami race.[3]

Most of the Ferrari focus had also been on optimising their car around their new Michelin tyres, which were radial rather than the cross-ply design used by Goodyear.[3] The result was a vastly improved design, with both Reutemann and Gilles Villeneuve optimistic about their chances in South Africa and beyond.[3] The team would also bring along Reutemann's race winning 312T2 as a spare, although it was instantly put in the shade during the pre-race test by the new "Fezza".[3]

Another team with a new car were Brabham-Alfa Romeo, whom would debut the new BT46 with Niki Lauda and John Watson at the wheel.[2] The new Brabham featured a re-designed monocoque, akin to the old BT44, Dunlop developed carbon brake discs, redesigned, shallower, radiators in the front wing and re-engineered rear suspension.[3] The result was a design that Gordon Murray had first proposed back when Brabham and Alfa Romeo had first partnered one-another, but with three years worth of development.[3]

Another team with an all-new car would be in the hands of a brand-new team, with Martini becoming a constructor in their own right having sponsored Brabham since 1975.[3] This new car, the MK24, was fairly conventional, using the almost compulsory Ford Cosworth V8 engine combined with a Hewland gearbox, but packaged very neatly in a smooth bodywork.[3] The new team would also field a new driver in the form of René Arnoux, whom arrived in F1 as the reigning Formula Two Champion with the Martini F2 team.[2]

Elsewhere, Renault returned to the fray with Jean-Pierre Jabouille and the turbocharged RS01, albeit with numerous updates having been applied.[2] Indeed, Jabouille would race with a new chassis in South Africa, which sported all new bodywork akin to that of the new Ferrari, with vertical edges to the panels.[3] The new car also sported new, top mounted air intakes to feed the turbocharger intercooler, and appeared to be a stark contrast to the 1977 version of the car that the team brought along as a spare.[3]

Likewise, McLaren arrived with updated cars rather than brand new designs, although only Patrick Tambay would get a brand new chassis for the South African race.[2] Yet, both Tambay and Hunt's M26s would sport new anti-roll bar layouts, without the ability to be adjusted from the cockpit.[3] There was also some minor reshaping done to the car to hold run an oil pipe along the surface to the nose mounted radiator, with the increased surface area for the oil aiding cooling substantially.[3]

Ligier-Matra, meanwhile, would find themselves in a middle-ground, mixing parts of their old and new design concepts to give Jacques Laffite the "new" JS7/9.[3] Indeed, the updated JS7, as used by Laffite in 1977, sported new suspension designed to exploit the updates made by Goodyear to their tyres, an issue that had plagued Ligier since they joined the series.[3] Laffite's spare car was, however, unchanged from its runout in Brazil, although Laffite opted to use the half-and-half car for the weekend.[2]

Arrows were another team that had been busy constructing during the break, bringing along their second FA1 for Rolf Stommelen to use, partnering Riccardo Patrese.[2] A busy few weeks by the Milton Keynes based effort had seen Patrese's debut car completely stripped and rebuilt around a new monocoque, with Tony Southgate deciding to add new winglets around the front of the sidepods.[3] These new winglets were designed to deflect air to the side of the car, with the lower stream getting channelled under the FA1 by a thin side-skirt handing from the bottom of the sidepod.[3]

That design was a near direct copy of the new Lotus 79, although Colin Chapman's squad would race in South Africa as they had in Brazil.[2] Indeed, both Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson would use their battle hardened Lotus 78s in Kyalami, having both tested, and ultimately rejected, the new car after a series of tests back in the UK.[3] Peterson would, however, test out the latest Lotus tuned gearbox, developed to try and gain an advantage over the conventional Hewland units used by everyone else.[3]

Tyrrell would build a new 008 ahead of the race, installed with a full set of electronic monitoring equipment to become the team's new test mule.[3] This was handed to Patrick Depailler for the weekend, while Didier Pironi continued to use the car he had started the season with.[3] Williams had also built a new version of their FW06, although Alan Jones opted to use his original FW06 instead.[3]

Over at Surtees time had been lost rebuilding Rupert Keegan's car, meaning both he and Vittorio Brambilla would use their familiar TS19s.[3] Hesketh, meanwhile, had built a new car, but would only run one driver in South Africa, conducting a pre-race test with Eddie Cheever and Divina Galica.[3] Cheever proved to be the quickest in the new car and so would race at Kyalami, while Galica left the team.[3]

Theodore, meanwhile, would arrive with a new face at the wheel of their rebuilt TR1, hiring promising F2 runner Kaijo "Keke" Rosberg, whom had crashed the car in the pre-race test.[3] Merzario were, in contrast, unchanged, with the eponymous Arturo again at the wheel, as were Shadow with Hans-Joachim Stuck and Clay Regazzoni.[2] ATS decided to swap their cars around, giving Jochen Mass Jean-Pierre Jarier's allegedly superior car, while Emerson Fittipaldi had a choice of two battle hardened Fittipaldis.[2]

Completing the constructor entries would be just the one Ensign, entered for Lamberto Leoni after Danny Ongais decided to end his hopes of a career in F1 and the Wolf of Jody Scheckter.[2] The privateer field was rather more limited, with only Brett Lunger and Héctor Rebaque getting enough funding to make the trip to Kyalami.[2] Of the pair it was Rebaque whom had the more up-to-date equipment, using an ex-factory Lotus 78, although Lunger's BS Fabrications squad had got a reputation for expertly preparing the American racer's McLaren M23s.[2]

Championship wise and victory in Brazil had propelled Reutemann into the top three after two rounds, a single point behind former teammate Lauda. Andretti, meanwhile, continued to lead the way after finishing fourth in Rio, while Fittipaldi took that spot in the Championship by claiming his first podium in over two years. Depailler completed the early top five, while Pironi rounded out the scorers list with Tambay.

In the International Cup for Constructors it was Team Lotus-Ford Cosworth that led the way, leaving South America two points ahead of Brabham-Alfa Romeo. Behind the latter were Ferrari, courtesy of Reutemann's Brazilian victory, while Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth sat in fourth thanks to the aforementioned Emerson. Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth were next ahead of McLaren-Ford Cosworth, while Shadow-Ford Cosworth completed the list of scorers after the South American tour.

Entry list[edit | edit source]

The full entry list for the 1978 South African Grand Prix is outlined below:

No. Driver Entrant Constructor Chassis Engine Model Tyre
1 Austria Niki Lauda United Kingdom Parmalat Racing Team Brabham BT46A Alfa Romeo 115-12 3.0 F12 G
2 United Kingdom John Watson United Kingdom Parmalat Racing Team Brabham BT46A Alfa Romeo 115-12 3.0 F12 G
3 France Didier Pironi United Kingdom Elf Team Tyrrell Tyrrell 008 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
4 France Patrick Depailler United Kingdom Elf Team Tyrrell Tyrrell 008 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 Ronnie Peterson United Kingdom John Player Team Lotus Lotus 78 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
7 United Kingdom James Hunt United Kingdom Marlboro Team McLaren McLaren M26 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
8 France Patrick Tambay United Kingdom Marlboro Team McLaren McLaren M26 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
9 Germany Jochen Mass Germany ATS Racing Team ATS HS1 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
10 France Jean-Pierre Jarier Germany ATS Racing Team ATS HS1 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
11 Argentina Carlos Reutemann Italy Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 Ferrari 015 3.0 F12 M
12 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Italy Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 Ferrari 015 3.0 F12 M
14 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Fittipaldi Automotive Fittipaldi F5A Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
15 France Jean-Pierre Jabouille France Equipe Renault Elf Renault RS01 Renault EF1 1.5 V6t M
16 Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck United Kingdom Shadow Racing Team Shadow DN8 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
17 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni United Kingdom Shadow Racing Team Shadow DN8 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
18 United Kingdom Rupert Keegan 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 Italy Lamberto Leoni United Kingdom Team Tissot Ensign Ensign N177 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
24 United States Eddie Cheever United Kingdom Olympus Cameras/Hesketh Racing Hesketh 308E Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
25 Mexico Héctor Rebaque Mexico Team Rebaque Lotus 78 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier Gitanes Ligier JS7/9 Matra MS76 3.0 V12 G
27 Australia Alan Jones United Kingdom Williams Grand Prix Engineering Williams FW06 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
30 United States Brett Lunger United Kingdom Liggett Group/BS Fabrications McLaren M23 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
31 France René Arnoux France Automobiles Martini Martini MK23 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
32 Finland Keke Rosberg Hong Kong Theodore Racing Hong Kong Theodore TR1 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
35 Italy Riccardo Patrese United Kingdom Arrows Racing Team Arrows FA1 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
36 West Germany Rolf Stommelen United Kingdom Arrows Racing Team Arrows FA1 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
37 Italy Arturo Merzario Italy Team Merzario Merzario A1 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
Source:[4]

Practice Overview[edit | edit source]

Qualifying[edit | edit source]

Qualifying for the 1978 edition of the South African Grand Prix was set to be staged across Wednesday and Thursday, with the race scheduled, as usual, for the Saturday of race week.[2] Four sessions were set to be staged across the two "qualifying" days, with one session on Thursday morning given over to race practice, rather than qualifying.[2] As for a target time, the circuit record of 1:15.96, set by James Hunt during qualifying in 1977, was expected to fall, having been demolished during the pre-race test by several drivers.[2]

Wednesday Qualifying[edit | edit source]

The first session on Wednesday morning was set to get underway at 10 in the morning, but the Formula One Constructors Association decided to hold a late track inspection ahead of the session.[2] The result of the inspection was that F.O.C.A., represented by Curt Schild and Robert Langford, refused to sign a document confirming that the circuit was safe to use.[2] Their concerns centred on the amount of catch fencing around the circuit, which had not been increased since 1977, although F.O.C.A. had been happy to send their drivers out for a test in the exact same conditions.[2]

Schild was adamant that the changes were made, with the Swiss official declaring that all F.O.C.A. members would leave the circuit, despite the fact that everyone was ready to run.[2] Fortunately, the organisers managed to come to an arrangement, promising that the requested upgrades would be made ahead of the second session.[2] The circuit was duly ready an hour before the 2:30pm deadline agreed upon, although Wednesday's running would be reduced to just a single one and a half hour session.[2]

Once practice did get underway on Wednesday it quickly became clear that there were no driver based concerns about safety, with everyone pushing the moment the pits opened.[2] Indeed, Niki Lauda and Mario Andretti were first out, and duly engaged in exchanging a barrage of quick laps, quickly dipping below Hunt's old mark.[2] Andretti's Lotus teammate was one of the few to not be thrashing about early on, the Swede instead told to do some development work with the new Lotus gearbox, only for it to fail early on.[2]

The McLarens would also join the fray early on, with Patrick Tambay sitting in the wake of James Hunt for much of the session, before swapping towards the end.[2] The result were two largely identical best efforts for the pair, with Hunt the faster by 0.16s on a 1:15.14.[2] Yet, this was not enough to put the Brit on pole, for a stunning effort by Lauda saw the Austrian record a 1:14.65, with Andretti the only other man to break the 1:15.00 barrier.[2]

Away from the headline times and Alan Jones looked to be in trouble, his Williams' both suffering from high oil and water temperatures, north of 120°C.[2] Jacques Laffite, meanwhile, would get stranded out in the heat with a transmission failure in the Ligier-Matra, leaving him to walk back to the pits to take the spare.[2] The new Ferraris also seemed to be having some niggles, allowing Gilles Villeneuve to run slightly faster than Carlos Reutemann, while Rupert Keegan spent most of the session trailing oil smoke.[2]

There was a brief bust-up after qualifying, for Hunt was suddenly credited with a 1:14.14 to claim pole, prompting an en-masse lunge to the officials for Tambay, whom had been trailing his teammate all afternoon, had only set a 1:15.30.[2] That issue was soon resolved as a discrepancy of a second was found with Hunt's time, putting the Brit back behind Lauda and Andretti, although the McLaren team were still happy with third and fourth.[2] Others highlights included Jean-Pierre Jabouille in the Renault, whom outpaced the Ferraris, while Lauda made a small error by bumping into the back of Jean-Pierre Jarier towards the end of the session.[2]

Thursday Qualifying[edit | edit source]

The "untimed" race practice on Thursday morning would see a lot of action, with most of the field ignoring the fact that the session was for race work as usual.[2] Jones was among those with issues, throwing his newer Williams off the circuit, while Andretti managed to break the steering on his Lotus.[2] Elsewhere, Riccardo Patrese had a nose failure that blocked his radiator, causing his engine to boil over, Jabouille and René Arnoux suffered engine failures, while the Ferraris continued to suffer from a collection of new car niggles.[2]

Most of those issues would be cured ahead of the final qualifying session on Thursday afternoon, although a small delay to the session meant that a strong head-wind down the back straight developed to limit any hopes of beating Lauda's time.[2] Indeed, the Austrian, knowing that his time would go unbeaten, simply cruised about all afternoon, occasionally putting in a quick lap to end the session second fastest, but on provisional pole.[2] His 1:15.50 was matched by Villeneuve in the #12 Ferrari, while Patrese set the fastest time of the day with a 1:15.48 to put his Arrows ahead of the two Ferraris.[2]

Arturo Merzario got his self-built creation into the race. Just.

Elsewhere, there would be a brief pause to proceedings when John Watson stopped on track with an engine failure, the Ulsterman coming to a stop in the middle of the back-straight amid a pool of oil.[2] Peterson, meanwhile, had a more reliable Hewland gearbox installed in his car, and duly began to dance his Lotus around Kyalami in search of a spot in the top ten, but to no avail.[2] At the back, the Shadows seemed to lack any pace at all, meaning both Clay Regazzoni and Hans-Joachim Stuck failed to qualify, joined by Arnoux in the new Martini and Lamberto Leoni's little Ensign.[2]

Otherwise it proved to be a fairly tame conclusion to qualifying in Kyalami, with a huge storm drifting over the circuit moments after qualifying concluded.[2] Regardless, Lauda was on pole ahead of Andretti and the two McLarens, with three and a half seconds covering the field.[2]

Qualifying Results[edit | edit source]

The full qualifying results for the 1978 South African Grand Prix are outlined below:

Pos. No. Driver Constructor Time Gap
Q1 Q2
1 1 Austria Niki Lauda United Kingdom Brabham-Ford Cosworth 1:14.65 1:15.50
2 5 United States Mario Andretti United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 1:14.90 1:16.61T +0.25s
3 7 United Kingdom James Hunt United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 1:15.14 1:15.65 +0.49s
4 8 France Patrick Tambay United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 1:15.30 1:16.33T +0.65s
5 20 South Africa Jody Scheckter Canada Wolf-Ford Cosworth 1:15.32 1:15.74 +0.67s
6 15 France Jean-Pierre Jabouille France Renault 1:15.36 1:16.09 +0.71s
7 35 Italy Riccardo Patrese United Kingdom Arrows-Ford Cosworth 1:16.08 1:15.48 +0.83s
8 12 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Italy Ferrari 1:15.89 1:15.50 +0.85s
9 11 Argentina Carlos Reutemann Italy Ferrari 1:15.52 1:16.03 +0.87s
10 2 United Kingdom John Watson United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1:15.62 1:16.03T +0.97s
11 6 Sweden Ronnie Peterson United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 1:16.29 1:15.94 +1.29s
12 4 France Patrick Depailler United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 1:15.97 1:16.05 +1.32s
13 3 France Didier Pironi United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 1:16.38 1:16.98 +1.73s
14 26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier-Matra 1:16.40T 1:16.91 +1.75s
15 14 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 1:16.47 1:16.61 +1.82s
16 9 West Germany Jochen Mass West Germany ATS-Ford Cosworth 1:16.60 1:17.20 +1.95s
17 10 France Jean-Pierre Jarier West Germany ATS-Ford Cosworth 1:19.72 1:17.12 +2.47s
18 27 Australia Alan Jones United Kingdom Williams-Ford Cosworth 1:17.97T 1:17.16 +2.51s
19 30 United States Brett Lunger United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 1:17.30 1:17.83 +2.65s
20 19 Italy Vittorio Brambilla United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 1:18.12 1:17.32 +2.67s
21 36 West Germany Rolf Stommelen United Kingdom Arrows-Ford Cosworth 1:17.49 1:17.96 +2.84s
22 25 Mexico Héctor Rebaque Mexico Lotus-Ford Cosworth 1:17.74 1:17.50 +2.85s
23 18 United Kingdom Rupert Keegan United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 1:17.72 1:17.57 +2.92s
24 32 Finland Keke Rosberg Hong Kong Theodore-Ford Cosworth 1:17.62 1:18.20 +2.97s
25 24 United States Eddie Cheever United Kingdom Hesketh-Ford Cosworth 1:17.83 1:18.13 +3.18s
26 37 Italy Arturo Merzario Italy Merzario-Ford Cosworth 1:19.67 1:18.15 +3.50s
DNQ 31 France René Arnoux France Martini-Ford Cosworth 1:18.24 1:18.21 +3.56s
DNQ 17 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 1:18.51 1:18.30 +3.65s
DNQ 22 Italy Lamberto Leoni United Kingdom Ensign-Ford Cosworth 1:20.47 1:18.38 +3.73s
DNQ 16 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 1:18.87 1:18.45 +3.80s
Source:[2][5]
  • Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
  • T Indicates a test/spare car.

Grid[edit | edit source]

Pos Pos
Driver Driver
______________
Row 1 ______________ 1
2 Niki Lauda
Mario Andretti ______________
Row 2 ______________ 3
4 James Hunt
Patrick Tambay ______________
Row 3 ______________ 5
6 Jody Scheckter
Jean-Pierre Jabouille ______________
Row 4 ______________ 7
8 Riccardo Patrese
Gilles Villeneuve ______________
Row 5 ______________ 9
10 Carlos Reutemann
John Watson ______________
Row 6 ______________ 11
12 Patrick Depailler*
Ronnie Peterson* ______________
Row 7 ______________ 13
14 Jacques Laffite*
Didier Pironi* ______________
Row 8 ______________ 15
16 Jochen Mass*
Emerson Fittipaldi* ______________
Row 9 ______________ 17
18 Jean-Pierre Jarier
Alan Jones ______________
Row 10 ______________ 19
20 Vittorio Brambilla*
Brett Lunger* ______________
Row 11 ______________ 21
22 Héctor Rebaque*
Rolf Stommelen* ______________
Row 12 ______________ 23
24 Rupert Keegan
Keke Rosberg ______________
Row 13 ______________ 25
26 Eddie Cheever
Arturo Merzario ______________
  • * Rows 6, 7, 8, 10 and 11 all had their positions reversed after Lauda demanded that pole be moved to the opposite side of the grid.[5]

Race[edit | edit source]

Race day dawned warm but with dark skies over Kyalami, although as the 2:15pm start time approached the sun burned through to ensure it was a typical South African summers day.[2] However, while the pre-race entertainment and weather passed without issue, there was major confusion on the grid as Niki Lauda demanded to have pole position placed on the right, rather than left, hand side of the grid.[2] This had previously been arranged after qualifying, but a mistake when marking the grid slots on the Friday before the race meant that the positions had been reversed.[2]

This issue would not be fully resolved, however, with half the field lining up on the wrong side of the grid once the parade lap was completed.[2]

Report[edit | edit source]

Mario Andretti leads Jody Scheckter on the opening lap of the 300th F1 World Championship race.

Regardless of the confusion in the grid slots, the start of the race came and went at precisely 2:15pm, with Lauda instantly surging clear, only to mistime his change from first to second gear.[2] That allowed Mario Andretti to leap ahead ahead of Crowthorne Corner, with James Hunt trying to line-up a move on his arch-rival into said corner.[2] Indeed, those two were so distracted by one-another that they failed to notice Jody Scheckter, whom danced his Wolf around both of them to claim second, with Andretti escaping a few yards ahead as a result.[2]

The rest of the opening tour passed without much other interest, meaning Andretti could establish a sizeable advantage at the head of the pack over Scheckter, Lauda and Hunt.[2] They were chased by Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Riccardo Patrese and a fast starting John Watson, the Brit having leapt into seventh from tenth on the grid.[2] Carlos Reutemann and Gilles Villeneuve were next, while Patrick Tambay had been left stranded on the grid with an overheated clutch, although the Frenchman did join the fray once the rest of the field had charged off.[2]

The early laps would see Andretti ease away at the head of the field, leaving Scheckter, Lauda and Hunt to fight for second, while Patrese muscled his way past Jabouille for fifth.[2] That would soon become fourth when Hunt's Ford Cosworth engine expired, although Patrese was not keeping pace with either the Wolf or Brabham ahead.[2] At the back, meanwhile, Tambay was on the warpath, catching and passing the backmarkers, with a spectacular double overtake through Crowthorne Corner the best of the bunch.[2]

After his early sprint out front, Andretti found that his Goodyear tyres were blistering badly, forcing him to ease his pace.[2] That allowed Scheckter, Lauda, and a resurgent Patrese, to begin to inch onto the back of the Lotus, those three breaking clear of Jabouille who was nursing the Renault early on.[2] Indeed, Jabouille was putting up a furious rear-guard action from really the moment Hunt went out of the race, although Patrick Depailler and John Watson would require several laps to pass the turbocharged machine.[2]

Andretti's sudden loss of pace would scare those behind him, with Scheckter and Lauda, both using the softest compound supplied by Goodyear as was Andretti, would keep glancing at their front left tyres.[2] That gave Patrese a chance of moving further up, the Arrows racer only able to access the "second grade" Goodyear tyres, while Depailler was catching at a rapid rate for the Tyrrell was not punishing its tyres too badly.[2] Indeed, the Frenchman's appearance in his mirrors prompted Patrese to force the issue with Lauda, with the Italian duly squeezing past as Andretti, still struggling, eased off his pace even more.[2]

By lap 21 Scheckter was in position to take the leading Lotus, and duly did so with a dive into Sunset Bend, heralded by a huge cheer by the home crowd.[2] Patrese and Depailler would also nip past the Lotus in short order, as did Lauda once the Austrian decided to finally start pushing again.[2] However, having snatched the lead from the Lotus, Scheckter found that he had caused his front left tyre to blister, meaning he, like Andretti, had to dramatically ease off his pace.[2]

Riccardo Patrese would dominate a large part of the race in his Arrows.

This, yet again, handed the advantage to Patrese, whom duly swept past the Wolf to claim the lead on lap 27, a lunge on the brakes into Crowthorne getting the job done.[2] Depailler would follow through a short while later, with the South African racer also slipping behind Lauda, while Andretti was still cooling his tyres after his sprint.[2] All of that combined to give Patrese a perfect chance at claiming a maiden victory, with the Arrows disappearing out of sight in just a few laps.[2]

As Patrese began to seize control out front, the Jabouille train was still hard at it, with Ronnie Peterson, Alan Jones and Jacques Laffite all jostling around behind the rolling road block that was the Renault.[2] Indeed, those three were being stalked by the two Ferraris, Villeneuve now ahead of Reutemann, while Tambay had joined the group after his made sprint through the back-markers.[2] Elsewhere, Eddie Cheever was out with an oil leak, Emerson Fittipaldi had gone with a driveshaft failure, and Keke Rosberg's debut was over with a clutch failure.[2]

Back with the leaders and Lauda had had enough of touring around cooling his tyres, and duly pulled onto the back of Depailler whom had eased off having claimed second.[2] Andretti was likewise bored of setting a mundane pace, with a move on Scheckter on lap 44 putting him back into contention for second.[2] Indeed, it seemed as if the four veteran racers had misjudged the pace of young Patrese out front, for the Arrows racer had built a fifteen second advantage as the others nursed their tyres.[2]

Indeed, the only man whom seemed to have any hope of challenging the Italian on pace was Peterson, whom was ominously closing onto the back of Watson having finally broken clear of the Jabouille jostle once the Renault engine inevitably failed.[2] In a blink of an eye, Watson had fallen to the #6 Lotus, before Peterson caught and passed Scheckter with ease on lap 52.[2] That move ultimately put the Swede into fourth as Lauda's engine failed spectacularly a lap later, with Peterson quickly closing in on teammate Andretti and Depailler.[2]

Another driver on the warpath would be Tambay, whom was now scything through the remains of the Jabouille train having dealt with Didier Pironi.[2] Indeed, an easy move for the Frenchman on compatriot Laffite left him on the back of Reutemann, before an excellent double move on the two Ferraris through Crowthorne put the McLaren just behind Jones in eighth.[2] In the middle of this fight Villeneuve would disappear from the action, dumping oil on the inside of Crowthorne.[2]

Next time through Tambay, now at the head of the group, managed to avoid the oil left by Villeneuve, only to hit a second oil slick left by Rupert Keegan's dying Surtees.[2] The Frenchman duly crashed out of the race, followed by Reutemann as the Argentine hit Villeneuve's slick in-stead.[2] Laffite, meanwhile, would manage to miss the slicks and carry one, while Tambay extracted his car from the catch fencing to try, in vain, to get repairs made in the pits.[2]

Scheckter proved to be the next casualty, the Wolf picking up a fuel injector issue that ultimately caused the engine to cut-out when the South African slid off at Crowthorne on lap 60.[2] Elsewhere, Watson had a rather lazy spin while chasing Peterson, with the Swede right on the back of Andretti as the American waited for Patrese to make a mistake up ahead.[2] However, there would be no mistake coming from the Italian, who was now cruising around with only twenty laps to go and holding a quarter of a minute lead.[2]

It was therefore a cruel sight to see when the Arrow's Ford Cosworth engine erupted in smoke with fifteen laps to go, a distraught Patrese pulling off at Clubhouse Corner to gift Depailler the lead.[2] Indeed, it now seemed as if the Frenchman was going to claim victory, for Andretti was unable to get close enough to the Tyrrell to launch a realistic move, while Peterson was told to hold station for the time being.[2] Watson was now a lonely fourth, well clear of Jones, while the sudden surge in retirements had allowed Rolf Stommelen to drag the second Arrows into the points.[2]

Into the closing stages and Depailler's victory looked to be in danger, for the Tyrrell was now trailing an ominous trail of blue smoke, a sign of an oil leak.[2] Yet, before Andretti could force the issue, the #5 Lotus dramatically slowed, the American having drained his fuel tank three laps earlier than he should have done.[2] Peterson duly shot past to challenge Depailler, while Andretti slithered into the pits to get a very small top-up, although it took long enough to drop him out of the points.[2]

Onto the final lap and Depailler was having to defend heavily from Peterson, who launched his first attack on the Tyrrell into Crowthorne, although that was swatted aside.[2] Peterson then got a good run out of Barbeque Bend, gracefully slid through the Jukskei Sweep in the Tyrrell's wake, before duly sending his Lotus diving around the outside of the Tyrrell into Sunset Corner.[2] Depailler did his best to squeeze the Lotus, the two touching wheel-to-wheel several times as they hit the brakes and took the corner.[2]

The former teammates were still side-by-side on the exit, and duly went through Clubhouse Corner at full chat, remaining almost physically locked together.[2] Peterson, however, would have the better line through the Esses, and duly pulled ahead of Tyrrell before the pair hit the brakes into the Leeukop hairpin.[2] The Swede therefore claimed victory from the Frenchman by under half a second, with Watson a few second back in third.[2]

Results[edit | edit source]

The full race results for the 1978 South African Grand Prix are outlined below:

Pos. No. Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 6 Sweden Ronnie Peterson United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 78 1:42:15.767 12 9
2 4 France Patrick Depailler United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 78 +0.466s 11 6
3 2 United Kingdom John Watson United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 78 +4.442s 10 4
4 27 Australia Alan Jones United Kingdom Williams-Ford Cosworth 78 +38.986s 18 3
5 26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier-Matra 78 +1:09.218 13 2
6 3 France Didier Pironi United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 77 +1 Lap 14 1
7 5 United States Mario Andretti United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 77 +1 Lap 2
8 10 France Jean-Pierre Jarier West Germany ATS-Ford Cosworth 77 +1 Lap 17
9 36 West Germany Rolf Stommelen United Kingdom Arrows-Ford Cosworth 77 +1 Lap 22
10 25 Mexico Héctor Rebaque Mexico Lotus-Ford Cosworth 77 +1 Lap 21
11 30 United States Brett Lunger United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 76 +2 Laps 20
12 19 Italy Vittorio Brambilla United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 76 +2 Laps 19
Ret 35 Italy Riccardo Patrese United Kingdom Arrows-Ford Cosworth 63 Engine 7
Ret 20 South Africa Jody Scheckter Canada Wolf-Ford Cosworth 59 Accident 5
Ret 8 France Patrick Tambay United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 56 Accident 4
Ret 11 Argentina Carlos Reutemann Italy Ferrari 55 Accident 9
Ret 12 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Italy Ferrari 55 Oil leak 8
Ret 18 United Kingdom Rupert Keegan United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 52 Oil line 23
Ret 1 Austria Niki Lauda United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 52 Engine 1
Ret 9 West Germany Jochen Mass West Germany ATS-Ford Cosworth 43 Engine 15
Ret 37 Italy Arturo Merzario Italy Merzario-Ford Cosworth 39 Suspension 26
Ret 15 France Jean-Pierre Jabouille France Renault 38 Vapor lock 6
Ret 32 Finland Keke Rosberg Hong Kong Theodore-Ford Cosworth 14 Engine 24
Ret 14 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 9 Transmission 16
Ret 24 United States Eddie Cheever United Kingdom Hesketh-Ford Cosworth 8 Engine 25
Ret 7 United Kingdom James Hunt United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 5 Engine 3
DNQ 31 France René Arnoux France Martini-Ford Cosworth
DNQ 17 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth
DNQ 22 Italy Lamberto Leoni United Kingdom Ensign-Ford Cosworth
DNQ 16 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth
Source:[6]

Milestones[edit | edit source]

Standings[edit | edit source]

Despite failing to score it was still Mario Andretti whom led the Championship hunt after the South African race, joined at the head of the field by race winning teammate Ronnie Peterson. The Swede, a point behind his teammate, was also a point ahead of Patrick Depailler and Niki Lauda, with Carlos Reutemann a further point back in fifth. Elsewhere, John Watson was on the board in seventh ahead of Alan Jones and James Hunt, while Patrick Tambay remained the final scorer having slipped to thirteenth in the table.

A second victory of the season for Lotus-Ford Cosworth ensured that the Norfolk based squad had a small lead in the International Cup for Constructors table, leaving South Africa with a seven point advantage. Closest to them were Brabham-Alfa Romeo, looking more competitive overall with their new car, while Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth were in third after a strong weekend. Ferrari slipped to fourth ahead of Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth, while Williams-Ford Cosworth found themselves level McLaren-Ford Cosworth in sixth.

Drivers' World Championship
Pos. Driver Pts. +/-
1 United States Mario Andretti 12
2 Sweden Ronnie Peterson 11 ▲6
3 Austria Niki Lauda 10 ▼1
4 France Patrick Depailler 10 ▲1
5 Argentina Carlos Reutemann 9 ▼2
6 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi 6 ▼2
7 United Kingdom John Watson 4 ▲6
8 Australia Alan Jones 3 ▲9
9 United Kingdom James Hunt 3 ▼3
10 France Jacques Laffite 2 ▲4
11 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni 2 ▼4
12 France Didier Pironi 2 ▼3
13 France Patrick Tambay 1 ▼4
International Cup for Constructors
Pos. Team Pts. +/-
1 United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 21
2 United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 14
3 United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 11 ▲2
4 Italy Ferrari 9 ▼1
5 Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 6 ▼1
6 United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 3
7 United Kingdom Williams-Ford Cosworth 3 ▲4
8 France Ligier-Matra 2 ▲1
9 United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 2 ▼2

References[edit | edit source]

Images and Videos:

References:

  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 'South African GP, 1978', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr300.html, (Accessed 03/08/2018)
  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 D.S.J., 'The South African Grand Prix: Peterson saves the day for Lotus', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/04/1978), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/april-1978/46/south-african-grand-prix, (Accessed 03/08/2018)
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 3.19 3.20 3.21 3.22 3.23 3.24 3.25 3.26 D.S.J., 'Notes on the cars at Kyalami', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/04/1978), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/april-1978/99/notes-cars-kyalami, (Accessed 03/08/2018)
  4. 'South Africa 1978: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/afrique-du-sud/engages.aspx, (Accessed 03/08/2018)
  5. 5.0 5.1 'South Africa 1978: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/afrique-du-sud/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 03/08/2018)
  6. 'South Africa 1978: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/afrique-du-sud/classement.aspx, (Accessed 03/08/2018)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 '3. South Africa 1978', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/afrique-du-sud.aspx, (Accessed 03/08/2018)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 '1978 South African GP', chicanef1.com, (Chicane F1, 2018), http://www.chicanef1.com/racetit.pl?year=1978&gp=South%20African%20GP&r=1, (Accessed 03/08/2018)
V T E 1978 Formula One Season
Teams Arrows • ATS • Brabham • Ensign • Ferrari • Fittipaldi • Hesketh • Ligier • Lotus • March • Martini • McLaren • Merzario • Renault • Shadow • Theodore • Tyrrell • Williams • Wolf
Engines Alfa Romeo • Ferrari • Ford Cosworth • Matra • Renault
Drivers Andretti • Arnoux • Binder • Bleekemolen • Brambilla • Cheever • Colombo • Daly • Depailler • de Dryver • Ertl • Fittipaldi • Gabbiani • Galica • Giacomelli • Gimax • Hunt • Ickx • Jabouille • Jarier • Jones • Keegan • Laffite • Lauda • Lees • Leoni • Lunger • Mass • Merzario • Nève • Ongais • Patrese • Peterson • Piquet • Pironi • Rahal • Rebaque • Regazzoni • Reutemann • Rosberg • Scheckter • Stommelen • Stuck • Tambay • Trimmer • Villeneuve • Watson
Cars Arrows A1 • Arrows FA1 • ATS D1 • ATS HS1 • Brabham BT45C • Brabham BT46 • Brabham BT46B • Brabham BT46C • Ensign N175 • Ensign N177 • Ferrari 312T2 • Ferrari 312T3 • Fittipaldi F5A • Hesketh 308E • Ligier JS7 • Ligier JS7/9 • Ligier JS9 • Lotus 78 • Lotus 79 • March 781S • Martini MK23 • McLaren M23 • McLaren M26 • Merzario A1 • Renault RS01 • Shadow DN8 • Shadow DN9 • Theodore TR1 • Tyrrell 008 • Williams FW06 • Wolf WR1 • Wolf WR3 • Wolf WR4 • Wolf WR5 • Wolf WR6
Tyres Goodyear • Michelin
Races Argentina • Brazil • South Africa • United States West • Monaco • Belgium • Spain • Sweden • France • Britain • Germany • Austria • Netherlands • Italy • United States • Canada
Non-championship Races International Trophy
See also 1977 Formula One Season • 1979 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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