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1977 South African Grand Prix

The 1977 South African Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held at Kyalami on 5 March 1977, won by Niki Lauda of Austria. The race is principally remembered for the accident that resulted in the deaths of race marshal Frederick Jansen van Vuuren and driver Tom Pryce. It was also the last race for Carlos Pace, who was killed in an aircraft accident less than two weeks later.

1977 South African Grand Prix
Race 3 of 17 in the 1977 Formula One season
Kyalami 1968layout.svg
Race details
Date 5 March 1977
Official name XXIII South African Grand Prix
Location Kyalami
Transvaal Province, South Africa
Course Permanent racing facility
Course length 4.104 km (2.550 mi)
Distance 78 laps, 320.112 km (198.908 mi)
Weather Sunny
Pole position
Driver McLaren-Ford
Time 1:15.96
Fastest lap
Driver United Kingdom John Watson Brabham-Alfa Romeo
Time 1:17.63 on lap 7
Podium
First Ferrari
Second Wolf-Ford
Third Tyrrell-Ford

Start and first 21 lapsEdit

James Hunt took his third consecutive pole position, with Carlos Pace alongside and Niki Lauda next. Hunt led off at the start, with Lauda and local driver Jody Scheckter following him after Pace struggled. The order stayed put until the seventh lap when Lauda took the lead and was never passed again, with Scheckter taking second from Hunt 11 laps later.

Lap 22 fatal incidentEdit

On lap 22, the Shadow-Ford of Italian driver Renzo Zorzi pulled off to the left side of the main straight, just after the brow of a hill and a bridge over the track. He was having problems with his fuel metering unit, and fuel was pumping directly onto the engine, which then caught fire. Zorzi did not immediately get out of his car as he could not disconnect the oxygen pipe from his helmet.[nb 1]

The situation caused two marshals from the pit wall on the opposite side of the track to intervene. The first marshal to cross the track was a 25-year-old panel beater named William (Bill). The second was 19-year-old Frederik "Frikkie" Jansen van Vuuren, who was carrying a 40-pound (18 kg) fire extinguisher.[1] George Witt, the chief pit marshal for the race, said that the policy of the circuit was that in cases of fire, two marshals must attend and a further two act as back-up in case the first pair's extinguishers were not effective enough. Witt also recalled that both marshals crossed the track without prior permission.[2] The former narrowly made it across the track, but the latter did not. As the two men started to run across the track, the cars driven by Hans-Joachim Stuck and Pryce came over the brow of a rise in the track.[3]

"As we got to the top I suddenly sensed this marshal running across the track from my right, carrying an extinguisher. I took a big chance and I don't know how I got away with it. There was no time, I just reacted on pure instinct."

Hans-Joachim Stuck[4]

Pryce was directly behind Stuck's car along the main straight. Stuck saw Jansen van Vuuren and moved to the right to avoid both marshals, missing Bill by what Tremayne calls "millimetres". From his position Pryce could not see Jansen van Vuuren and was unable to react as quickly as Stuck had done. He struck the teenage marshal at approximately 270 km/h (170 mph).[5] Jansen van Vuuren was thrown into the air and landed in front of Zorzi and Bill. He died on impact, and his body was badly mutilated by Pryce's car.[6] The fire extinguisher he had been carrying smashed into Pryce's head, before striking the Shadow's roll hoop. The force of the impact was such that the extinguisher was thrown up and over the adjacent grandstand. It landed in the car park to the rear of the stand, where it hit a parked car and jammed its door shut.[4]

The impact with the fire extinguisher wrenched Pryce's helmet upward sharply. Death was almost certainly instantaneous. Pryce's Shadow DN8, now with its driver dead at the wheel, continued at speed down the main straight towards the first corner, called Crowthorne. The car left the track to the right, scraping the metal barriers, hitting an entrance for emergency vehicles, and veering back onto the track. It then hit Jacques Laffite's Ligier, sending both Pryce and Laffite head-on into the barriers. Jansen van Vuuren's injuries were so extensive that, initially, his body was identified only after the race director had summoned all of the race marshals and he was not among them.[7]

FinishEdit

Lauda's Ferrari was barely able to finish the race after his car had picked up part of the wreckage from Pryce's accident in the underside of its monocoque. This damaged the car's water system and at the end of the race, the team found that only a third of the usual twelve liters of water remained in the system. Both the warnings for oil pressure and water temperature had been flashing at Lauda for the final 25 laps, in a car which he later described as 'completely gone'.[8]

Despite this, Lauda held on to win his first victory since his near-fatal crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix the previous year. South African Scheckter was second, and Patrick Depailler's six-wheeler took third from Hunt in the closing laps. At first Lauda announced it was the greatest victory of his career, but when told on the victory podium of Pryce's death, he said that "there was no joy after that".[9]

Jansen van Vuuren's injuries were so severe that, initially, his body was only identified after the race director had summoned all of the race marshals and Van Vuuren was not among them.

AftermathEdit

The sport reacted with sorrow at the loss of two young men. Tyrrell mechanic Trevor Foster viewed the incident from a distance, later recalling

David Tremayne, a veteran biographer and motor sports journalist, recalled the feelings of disbelief and horror following the aftermath of the incident;

The event was included in the motor racing film The Quick and the Dead.

ClassificationEdit

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

Championship standings after the raceEdit

  • Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Oxygen pipes were used to prevent drivers being suffocated if they were trapped in the car in a fire.[1]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Tremayne (2006), pp. 232–233.
  2. ^ Tremayne (2006), p. 239.
  3. ^ "South African Grand Prix: Pryce tragedy overshadows Lauda victory". ESPN. 5 March 1977. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  4. ^ a b Tremayne (2006), p. 235.
  5. ^ Dalglish (2012), p. 39.
  6. ^ Tremayne (2006), p. 234.
  7. ^ "Historic Racing – Tom Pryce". HistoricRacing.com. Archived from the original on 5 March 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2006.
  8. ^ Hutchinson, Jeff (1977). Autosport. Haymarket. p. 12.
  9. ^ Tremayne, David (2006). The Lost Generation: The Brilliant but Tragic Lives of Rising British F1 Stars Roger Williamson, Tony Brise and Tom Pryce. Haynes Publishing Group. p. 239. ISBN 1-84425-205-1.
  10. ^ "North East Wales Sport – quotes". BBC. 24 March 2006. Archived from the original on 3 January 2009. Retrieved 27 March 2010.
  11. ^ "1977 South African Grand Prix". formula1.com. Archived from the original on 21 October 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  12. ^ a b "South Africa 1977 - Championship • STATS F1". www.statsf1.com. Retrieved 5 March 2019.


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