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UP, DOWN AND ALL AROUND TOWN
Robert F. Jones
April 05, 1976
Twenty racers rolled away in the Grand Prix West at Long Beach and only 12 came home. But between breakdowns and crashes the best battle of all was a controversial cutoff at the pass
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April 05, 1976

Up, Down And All Around Town

Twenty racers rolled away in the Grand Prix West at Long Beach and only 12 came home. But between breakdowns and crashes the best battle of all was a controversial cutoff at the pass

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Hunt stood in the road as corner workers fretted, waiting for Depailler to pass again. Other race cars whipped past, like bulls at a matador's knees. His blond hair wet with sweat, his usually placid, almost small-boyish features twisted with anger, Hunt waited for Depailler. Then he shook his fist at him.

Regazzoni led from start to finish. Mario Andretti, who had started 15th in his Parnelli Jones machine, made a valiant charge to seventh place before a water hose burst, drenching both him and his chances. South Africa's Jody Scheckter, in his Elf-Tyrrell, ran up to third place from 11th, but then locked his brakes and ticked the wall in the escape road out of Ocean Boulevard. The impact ruptured the gas tanks and Jody received liquid gasoline burns on the place where he sits. He went into a convenient pub, pulled off his pants, wrapped himself in a blanket and had an angry drink.

Lauda, meanwhile, kept close watch on his teammate's flank, preparing to stave off enemy attacks, although less obviously than Regazzoni had done for him during last October's U.S. Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. Depailler held on for third. And that was it.

After the race, which verged on full-bore boring after the fourth lap, Hunt came into the press room, loaded for Frog. He drew a beer from the journalistic tap, bummed a cigarette from a journalistic friend and vented his spleen.

"He saw me. I could see his eyes on me in his mirror. He knew I was trying to get round him and he bloody well shut the gate."

Could Hunt have given Regazzoni and Lauda a run for the winner's share of the $265,000 in prize money?

"Bloody right."

Was there any sense in protesting Depailler's moves?

"None at all."

Still, it had been a fascinating weekend, full of Americana and European panache, good organization by the sponsors and odd developments both on track and off. Pity that the race hadn't been more exciting after the fourth lap. That was bad luck, wasn't it, James?

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