• United States Grand Prix West

Andretti capitalises on Scheckter's misfortune

ESPNF1 Staff
April 3, 1977
Jody Scheckter leads Mario Andretti and Niki Lauda before his late puncture © Sutton Images

Mario Andretti achieved a hugely popular victory at Long Beach, passing Jody Scheckter in the closing stages to complete his ambition of winning on home turf.

When the teams arrived in America for the United States Grand Prix there was a feeling of sadness in the paddock. Not only had the sport lost Tom Pryce in South Africa but Carlos Pace had been killed in a plane crash two weeks later. The fatalities meant a number of changes to the entry with Alan Jones in a Shadow and Hans Stuck replacing Pace at Brabham.

The start was eventful with a huge pile-up behind the three leaders - Scheckter, Andretti and Niki Lauda - as fourth-placed Carlos Reutemann braked late going into the first corner and skidded. "I saw Carlos coming through like an express train," Andretti said.

In the melée behind, James Hunt climbed over Jacques Laffite's Ligier and hit John Watson. Remarkably, Hunt was able to restart at the back of the field but, dogged by a bent suspension, could do no better than a seventh-place finish. "You can't put 22 guys, all of them pumping adrenalin, into 500 horsepower cars and then try to funnel into that right-angle corner and not have an accident," Hunt said.

Scheckter led Andretti and Lauda with Watson fourth from Emerson Fittipaldi but Reutemann and Jochen Mass had to pit at the end of lap one with damage. There was little action at the front until two laps from the end when Scheckter suffered a deflating tyre and fell to third as Andretti and Lauda finished first and second.

Watson came home fourth but was disqualified after he received help from a mechanic out on the track, breaking a local rule which allowed only the driver to work on a car outside the pits.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
ESPN Staff Close