1978 United States Grand Prix West

The 1978 United States Grand Prix West (officially the Long Beach Grand Prix[2]) was a Formula One motor race held on April 2, 1978, at Long Beach, California.

1978 United States Grand Prix West
Race 4 of 16 in the 1978 Formula One season
Long Beach 1978.jpg
Race details
Date April 2, 1978
Official name Long Beach Grand Prix
Location Long Beach, California
Course Temporary street course
Course length 3.251 km (2.02 mi)
Distance 80 laps, 260.08 km (161.60 mi)
Weather Scattered clouds
17 °C (63 °F)[1]
Pole position
Driver Ferrari
Time 1:20.636
Fastest lap
Driver Australia Alan Jones Williams-Ford
Time 1:22.215 on lap 27
First Ferrari
Second Lotus-Ford
Third Tyrrell-Ford


Carlos Reutemann took over at the halfway mark from Ferrari teammate Gilles Villeneuve, when the Canadian crashed out of the lead, and won by eleven seconds. It was the second American victory for the Argentine, who also won for Brabham at Watkins Glen in 1974. American Mario Andretti finished second to maintain a share of the Championship lead with Reutemann.

At the start of the weekend, though only 22 cars would make the grid, there were 30 entries, requiring a one-hour pre-qualifying session on Friday morning for the eight non-FICA members. From these eight, the fastest four would join the rest of the field in qualifying for one of the 22 starting spots.

Niki Lauda, who had placed his Ferrari on pole for the previous year's race, again set the early pace, this time in a Brabham. Late in the Friday morning session, however, Reutemann suddenly jumped to the top of the sheets with a 1:20.99 and eventually posted the day's best of 1:20.636. As usual at Long Beach, a number of drivers suffered from broken gearboxes, and on Saturday, though the weather was better, no one was able to better Reutemann's time. The first three rows of the final grid were occupied by just three teams, as Villeneuve completed the all-Ferrari front row, Brabham teammates Lauda and John Watson were third and fifth, and the Lotus pair of Andretti and Ronnie Peterson were fourth and sixth.

A beautiful California day and 75,000 paying fans showed up for the race on Sunday. The start had been moved from in front of the pits on Ocean Boulevard to the curving "straight" on Shoreline Drive in order to avoid another first corner tangle. The strategy seemed to work, as everyone got through cleanly, though John Watson's late braking maneuver down the inside caused him to exit wide from the hairpin and force polesitter Reutemann wide with him, so Villeneuve tucked into the lead as they exited.

After one lap, the order was Villeneuve, Watson, Lauda, Reutemann, Andretti, Alan Jones, James Hunt and Peterson. In the lead of a Grand Prix for the first time, Villeneuve was driving superbly, as he began to extend his lead. On lap six, Hunt struck the wall at the apex of the last turn before the pit straight and knocked his right front wheel off. Three laps later, Watson retired from second with a blown engine. Andretti was dropping back in fourth, having chosen the wrong Goodyears and a poor top gear, and Jones was closing on him quickly. On lap 19, the Williams went through and took off after Reutemann.

With Villeneuve's lead at two seconds, Reutemann was pushing Lauda hard for second place. Suddenly, on lap 28, the Brabham went straight on at Turn One, looking as if his brakes had failed. Lauda stopped safely, however, stepped out and removed his helmet. An electrical failure had cut the motor. Meanwhile, Jones had caught up to Reutemann, and the top three were separated by just 2.5 seconds.

On lap 39, just before the halfway point, Villeneuve came up to lap Clay Regazzoni, who was in a battle with Jean-Pierre Jabouille's Renault. Rather than wait until the straight, the Canadian tried to get by in the twisty section leading up to Ocean Boulevard. There simply wasn't room, however, and, when Regazzoni braked earlier than Villeneuve expected, the Ferrari's right front wheel hit the left rear of the Shadow and was launched over the white car into the wall. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

This left Reutemann in the lead, ahead of Jones, then a long gap back to Andretti. Lap after lap, Jones hounded Reutemann, but the Ferrari was too fast down the straight for him to get by. On about lap 47, with Jones still on the Ferrari's tail, the front wings of the Williams strangely flopped down, the result of a fabrication failure. Jones continued to battle, but began losing around a second a lap. Adding to the Aussie's misery, his fuel pressure began fluctuating. His head jerked back and forth as the engine sputtered and, sometimes, cut out entirely. As one car after another passed, the struggling Williams fell all the way to eighth place. Recording the fastest lap of the race on lap 27 and repassing Emerson Fittipaldi on the last lap for seventh place were his only consolations after a spectacular drive.

Reutemann cruised to the finish, maintaining a twelve to fifteen second gap over Andretti, who had a similar cushion over Patrick Depailler in third.



Pos No Driver Constructor Time Gap
1 36   Rolf Stommelen Arrows-Ford 1:23.540
2 35   Riccardo Patrese Arrows-Ford 1:23.840 +0.300
3 37   Arturo Merzario Merzario-Ford 1:24.729 +1.189
4 30   Brett Lunger McLaren-Ford 1:25.076 +1.536
DNPQ 32   Keke Rosberg Theodore-Ford 1:25.785 +2.245
DNPQ 25   Héctor Rebaque Lotus-Ford 1:26.128 +2.588
DNPQ 39   Danny Ongais Shadow-Ford 1:26.150 +2.610
DNPQ 24   Derek Daly Hesketh-Ford 1:26.615 +3.075


Pos No Driver Constructor Time Gap
1 11   Carlos Reutemann Ferrari 1:20.636
2 12   Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari 1:20.836 +0.200
3 1   Niki Lauda Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1:20.937 +0.301
4 5   Mario Andretti Lotus-Ford 1:21.188 +0.552
5 2   John Watson Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1:21.244 +0.608
6 6   Ronnie Peterson Lotus-Ford 1:21.474 +0.838
7 7   James Hunt McLaren-Ford 1:21.738 +1.102
8 27   Alan Jones Williams-Ford 1:21.935 +1.299
9 35   Riccardo Patrese Arrows-Ford 1:22.006 +1.370
10 20   Jody Scheckter Wolf-Ford 1:22.163 +1.527
11 8   Patrick Tambay McLaren-Ford 1:22.234 +1.598
12 4   Patrick Depailler Tyrrell-Ford 1:22.414 +1.778
13 15   Jean-Pierre Jabouille Renault 1:22.491 +1.855
14 26   Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra 1:22.630 +1.994
15 14   Emerson Fittipaldi Fittipaldi-Ford 1:22.790 +2.154
16 9   Jochen Mass ATS-Ford 1:23.106 +2.470
17 19   Vittorio Brambilla Surtees-Ford 1:23.212 +2.576
18 36   Rolf Stommelen Arrows-Ford 1:23.291 +2.655
19 10   Jean-Pierre Jarier ATS-Ford 1:23.419 +2.783
20 17   Clay Regazzoni Shadow-Ford 1:23.454 +2.818
21 37   Arturo Merzario Merzario-Ford 1:23.589 +2.953
22 18   Rupert Keegan Surtees-Ford 1:23.677 +3.041
23 16   Hans-Joachim Stuck Shadow-Ford 1:23.733 +3.097
24 3   Didier Pironi Tyrrell-Ford 1:23.792 +3.156
DNQ 30   Brett Lunger McLaren-Ford 1:23.795 +3.159
DNQ 22   Lamberto Leoni Ensign-Ford 1:24.008 +3.372


Pos No Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 11   Carlos Reutemann Ferrari 80 1:52:01.301 1 9
2 5   Mario Andretti Lotus-Ford 80 +11.061 secs 4 6
3 4   Patrick Depailler Tyrrell-Ford 80 +28.951 secs 12 4
4 6   Ronnie Peterson Lotus-Ford 80 +45.603 secs 6 3
5 26   Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra 80 +1:22.884 14 2
6 35   Riccardo Patrese Arrows-Ford 79 +1 Lap 9 1
7 27   Alan Jones Williams-Ford 79 +1 Lap 8
8 14   Emerson Fittipaldi Fittipaldi-Ford 79 +1 Lap 15
9 36   Rolf Stommelen Arrows-Ford 79 +1 Lap 18
10 17   Clay Regazzoni Shadow-Ford 79 +1 Lap 20
11 10   Jean-Pierre Jarier ATS-Ford 75 +5 Laps 19
12 8   Patrick Tambay McLaren-Ford 74 Accident 11
Ret 20   Jody Scheckter Wolf-Ford 59 Accident 10
Ret 19   Vittorio Brambilla Surtees-Ford 50 Transmission 17
Ret 15   Jean-Pierre Jabouille Renault 43 Turbo 13
Ret 12   Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari 38 Accident 2
Ret 1   Niki Lauda Brabham-Alfa Romeo 27 Ignition 3
Ret 3   Didier Pironi Tyrrell-Ford 25 Gearbox 22
Ret 37   Arturo Merzario Merzario-Ford 17 Gearbox 21
Ret 9   Jochen Mass ATS-Ford 11 Brakes 16
Ret 2   John Watson Brabham-Alfa Romeo 9 Engine 5
Ret 7   James Hunt McLaren-Ford 5 Accident 7
DNS 18   Rupert Keegan Surtees-Ford Practice Accident
DNS 16   Hans-Joachim Stuck Shadow-Ford Practice Accident
DNQ 30   Brett Lunger McLaren-Ford
DNQ 22   Lamberto Leoni Ensign-Ford
DNPQ 32   Keke Rosberg Theodore-Ford
DNPQ 25   Héctor Rebaque Lotus-Ford
DNPQ 39   Danny Ongais Shadow-Ford
DNPQ 24   Derek Daly Hesketh-Ford


  • Lap leaders: Gilles Villeneuve 38 laps (1–38); Carlos Reutemann 42 laps (39–80).
  • Keegan and Stuck set the 22nd and 23rd fastest qualifying times but neither could take the grid due to practice accidents. Pironi, who was 24th fastest, moved up into the grid, avoiding the embarrassment of becoming the first driver to fail to qualify an official Tyrrell car.
  • The win brought Reutemann even with Andretti in the title standings after just four races, but Mario would ride the brilliant Lotus 79 to six wins and the Championship before the series returned to America at Watkins Glen in the fall.

Championship standings after the raceEdit

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


  1. ^ "Weather History for KLAX – April, 1978 – Sunday, April 2, 1978". Weather Underground. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  2. ^ "1978 Formula 1 World Championship Programmes". The Programme Covers Project.
  3. ^ "1978 USA West Grand Prix". formula1.com. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  4. ^ a b "United States West 1978 - Championship • STATS F1". www.statsf1.com. Retrieved 21 March 2019.

Further readingEdit

  • Rob Walker (July, 1978). "3rd United States Grand Prix West: Road Show". Road & Track, 135–140.

Previous race:
1978 South African Grand Prix
FIA Formula One World Championship
1978 season
Next race:
1978 Monaco Grand Prix
Previous race:
1977 United States Grand Prix West
United States Grand Prix West Next race:
1979 United States Grand Prix West
Preceded by
1977 United States Grand Prix West
Grand Prix of Long Beach Succeeded by
1979 United States Grand Prix West