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"Bloody meddlers," said Mayer after the CSI took the British GP away from his driver.
So Watkins Glen was a crucial race for Hunt if he was to keep his championship hopes alive. As things turned out, Ferrari, having recently hired the Argentine Carlos Reutemann, passed up the opportunity to gang up on Hunt with three cars at Watkins Glen and kept Reutemann in Italy to test next year's car. That left Lauda and Regazzoni, who had so blatantly blocked Emerson Fittipaldi's McLaren last year at the Glen as Lauda sped to his first title. Since Regazzoni started 14th and Hunt first—grid positions were taken from Friday's damp practice session, Saturday's having been drowned out—the possibility of a Ferrari squeeze on Hunt was slight.
Good thing. If he had been balked by a Ferrari running interference. Hunt surely would have reacted more strongly than Fittipaldi, who shook his fist and swore a bit at Regazzoni, but let it go at that. "I've almost got to win this one, now don't I?" said Hunt before the race.
Starting on the front row beside Hunt was Jody Scheckter, driving the mechanical oddity of the season, a six-wheeled Tyrrell-Cosworth. At the green flag Scheckter outdragged Hunt into the first turn, and for 36 of the 59 laps Hunt hounded Scheckter as Lauda, after moving into third on the sixth lap, eyed his chief rival from five seconds back. But the champion lost sight of Hunt when his Ferrari began to oversteer.
On the 37th lap Hunt passed Scheckter in traffic, then four laps later Scheckter repassed as they exited the chicane, where Scheckter had been bouncing over the curbs as often as not, his helmeted head visibly snapping back from the impact. With 13 laps remaining, Hunt gained the lead for good and spread the margin to 8.03 seconds at the finish.
Lauda, meanwhile, was losing ground to Hunt's teammate, Jochen Mass. "The oversteer was getting worse and worse," said Lauda. "I was not slowing because I was tired." On the last lap Mass made a charge at Lauda, and they crossed the finish line only half a car length apart. Had Mass been able to catch Lauda it would have meant one less point for Hunt to make up.
Fifth place was also settled by a whisker—two-tenths of a second, to be exact—as Britain's John Watson, driving the U.S.-owned Penske-Cosworth, made an unsuccessful stab at Hans Stuck's March on the last turn.
Two American drivers in British cars had a chance at becoming the first from this country to win our Grand Prix. But the ignition on Mario Andretti's Lotus-Cosworth went on the fritz, which slowed him, and then his front suspension was damaged when he hit the chicane's curb, which stopped him. The other American, Brett Lunger, drove a smooth race from 24th to 11th place in a Surtees with a tired Cosworth engine.
After Lauda had come off last season's championship to win four of this year's first six races, the question was: Can anyone stop him? Now Hunt has won four of the last six, and six on the year. The question is the same; only the names have changed.