Ferrari dominated the new Long Beach Grand Prix, although it was Clay Regazzoni who led home team-mate Niki Lauda. The result meant Lauda opened up a 14-point gap over Patrick Depailler.
Ferrari's one-two came a day after the firm's sports director, Daniele Audetto, described staging the race in a town as "mad", adding: "Ferrari is against it." He slammed the state of the roads, angrily pointing out that the noses of the cars were hitting the uneven surfaces." Lauda was more pragmatic. "We have to come to terms with all the problems which face us all."
James Hunt was more upbeat. "It's a different test, a more technical, thinking type of race than on a regular open course. It's going to be great fun." However, the build up to the race was against the backdrop of press speculation over his wife's relationship with Richard Burton and the stress seemed to be telling.
On a confined circuit the start was always likely to be chaotic and it was no surprise when Vittorio Brambilla and Carlos Reutemann collided at the first corner. Gunnar Nilsson wrecked his Lotus a little further round the first lap.
Hunt's enthusiasm for the street circuit was dented after he was eliminated on the third lap when he collided with Depailler as they battled over second place. "That was sheer brainless stupidity which could have killed us both," he shouted at the Frenchman. "You should learn to drive. You drove straight at me and forced me into the wall." Depailler was apologetic. "I am desolate at what happened," he told Hunt. "I am sorry."
Hunt also angered other drivers as he stomped back to the pits on the circuit used for the race. "I couldn't believe my eyes when I came round a corner and there was James walking just off my racing line," said Jody Scheckter. "It was very foolish."
Scheckter's day ended prematurely as well. He was lying in third when he raced up an escape road with smoke pouring from his Tyrrell. He was drenched in petrol but the car did not catch fire and he was washed down with water to prevent skin burns.
Despite his contact with Hunt, Depailler was still able to keep Lauda honest to the line as Regazzoni won by over 40 seconds. Behind them came Jacques Laffite, Jochen Mass and Emerson Fittipaldi who scored the first point for the Fittipaldi team.
More than 72,000 people paid to watch the race, with another 30,000 finding vantage points outside the perimeter.