1977 South African Grand Prix

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South Africa  1977 South African Grand Prix
Race details
Race 3 of 17 in the 1977 Formula One season
Kyalami 1968layout.svg
Date 5 March 1977
Official name XXIII South African Grand Prix
Location Kyalami
Gauteng, South Africa
Course Permanent racing facility
4.104 km (2.550 mi)
Distance 78 laps, 320.112 km (198.908 mi)
Weather Sunny
Pole position
Driver United Kingdom James Hunt 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 Austria Niki Lauda Ferrari
Second South Africa Jody Scheckter Wolf-Ford
Third France Patrick Depailler Tyrrell-Ford

The 1977 South African Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held at Kyalami on 5 March 1977. The race is principally remembered for the fatal accident that claimed the lives 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.

Report[edit]

James Hunt continued his streak of pole positions, with Carlos Pace alongside and Niki Lauda next. Hunt led off at the start, with Lauda and 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.

During lap 21, two marshals ran onto the track after the Shadow of Renzo Zorzi suffered engine failure. The second marshal, Fredrik Jansen van Vuuren, was hit by the car of Tom Pryce and killed instantly by the collision; the fire extinguisher he was holding flew from his hands and hit Pryce in the face, killing and nearly decapitating him.

The race continued, however, and Lauda won, his first victory since his own horror crash the previous year. South African Scheckter was second, and Patrick Depailler's six-wheeler took third from Hunt in the closing laps.

Classification[edit]

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

Accident[edit]

On lap 22, the Shadow car of Italian driver Renzo Zorzi retired from the race with engine failure and moved off the track on the left side. Moments after the car came to a halt on a blind brow, the engine caught fire. Reacting to the emergency, two fire marshals carrying fire extinguishers ran across the track to put out the blaze as the race continued. At that very moment, Pryce, in the other Shadow car, and Hans-Joachim Stuck, driving a March-Ford car, suddenly crested the rise. Stuck's leading car swerved, narrowly missing the first marshal, but Pryce, who was unsighted behind the German, had no time to react before hitting the second marshal, Frederick Jansen van Vuuren, who was killed instantly.

At the moment of impact of the car with the marshal, the fire extinguisher that Jansen van Vuuren had been holding smashed into Pryce's head, cracking the driver's hard-shell helmet. The impact tore off the remnants of Pryce's protective helmet and caused the chin strap to almost decapitate the driver. The Shadow car then continued down the main straight at speed with Pryce still seated behind the wheel. The car finally left the track at the first corner taking the Ligier of Jacques Laffite out of the race in the process. The entire incident was filmed by a broadcast crew covering the race.[1]

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.

Aftermath[edit]

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

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.[2]

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

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.

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

Standings after the race[edit]

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

References[edit]

  1. ^ Formula 1: List of Deaths 11 May 2009. Accessed 2009-05-11. Archived 2009-05-13.
  2. ^ "North East Wales Sport - quotes". BBC. 24 March 2006. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 


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1977 Brazilian Grand Prix
FIA Formula One World Championship
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1977 United States Grand Prix West
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