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GP South Africa 1978: One can too little gasoline

GP No. 300 - South Africa 1978
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D he 300th Grand Prix in history staged a worthy race for the anniversary. His story had to be rewritten all the time. There was a surprise winner who came from 11th on the grid and only completed the crucial overtaking maneuver 1.5 kilometers from the finish. Before that, Ronnie Peterson was never at the top.

Peterson gave Lotus a victory that had been stolen from Mario Andretti because Colin Chapman once again had a can or 15 liters too little fuel in the tank. Andretti and Chapman had discussed the 15 liter difference on the grid. With three laps to go, Andretti had to refuel. He slipped from second to seventh place.

Six candidates for victory, one winner

There are many candidates for victory in this race. Of course, favorite Andretti, who accelerates Niki Lauda who is fastest in training in the Brabham-Alfa Romeo and stays at the top for 21 laps. The left front tire overheats and blisters. Yes, that already existed back then.

The second front runner in the race is Jody Scheckter, who is still sitting in Wolf's car from last year. The group at the top has now grown to five cars. Jody Scheckter in Wolf, Riccardo Patrese in Arrows, Patrick Depailler in Tyrrell, Niki Lauda in Brabham and Mario Andretti in Lotus. No trace of the eventual winner Ronnie Peterson yet.

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Mario Andretti missed the win because he did too little Had gasoline in the tank.

This patrese in particular is a sensation. The 23-year-old Italian rides in an Arrows, a team that made its debut in Brazil just one race before, and is competing in a car whose design was stolen from Shadow. Patrese takes the lead in the 27th round. Ronnie Peterson, John Watson and Alan Jones swim in midfieldfree and slowly catching up with the leading group.

There is constant movement there. While Patrese carefully settles down, Andretti's tires have recovered. The Lotus driver overtook Scheckter and took a waiting position behind Patrese, Depailler and Lauda. On the 53rd lap, Lauda got out with engine failure. Seven laps later, Scheckter's wolf is parked in the gravel. There are problems with the fuel supply. Many engines suffer from the heat with vapor lock formation in the fuel.

Decision 1.5 kilometers to go

Ronnie Peterson only joins the leading group 20 laps before the end, after he had Jones, Scheckter and Watson left behind. A PS fairy tale ends in the 64th round. The engine goes on strike in Patrese's Arrows. He was already in the lead by 7 seconds. Arrows only got that close to a GP victory 19 years later in Hungary. Now Depailler is ahead of Mario Andretti, Peterson and Watson.

As everyone is waiting for Andretti's decisive attack, the Lotus suddenly turns into the pits. He urgently needs gas. His team mate Peterson benefited on the last lap from the fact that Depaillers Tyrrell also had problems with the fuel supply.

An engine misfire brings Peterson alongside in the last corner in the Jukskei corner. The fight side by side goes over three corners. In the Esses, Peterson prevails. The old 78 model from Lotus landed its second win of the season. Depailler saved himself from Watson in the second Brabham.

Alan Jones falls behind in the final third. He's got a bad flu. Frank Williams won his 4th place. His team last scored points in 1975. Mario Andretti makes Chapman bitter accusations. ā€œColin's fight for every gram of weight is already paranoid.ā€ 7th place is a bad consolation prize for the eventual world champion.

78 laps of 4.104 km=320.112 kilometers

auto motor und sport celebrates the 1,000th Formula 1 races this season with a large series in 100 parts. In the daily countdown we provide you with an exciting story and interesting video features from the history of the premier class. You can find all previous articles on our >> Overview page for the big anniversary Grand Prix.

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