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1978 Auto Racing Highlights

Grand Prix/Formula 1

The world championship was won at the Italian Grand Prix (at Monza on September 10) by Mario Andretti, making the final two races of the season somewhat anticlimatic.

The Grand Prix season began with a Mario Andretti victory at Buenos Aires, Argentina, on January 15. Andretti, driving a Lotus, started on the pole and led all the way to the checkered flag. Niki Lauda, who started fifth, finished in 2nd, and Patrick Depailler, who started tenth, finished in 3rd.

Mario Andretti cruises to an easy victory at Buenos Aires.
Mario Andretti at Buenos Aires

In the Brazilian Grand Prix at Rio de Janeiro, on January 29, Carlos Reutemann's Ferrari beat the Copersucar F5A of Emerson Fitipaldi, with Niki Lauda's Brabham coming in third.

Ronnie Peterson snatched victory from Patrick Depailler at the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami, on March 4. John Watson finished third in his Brabham.

Carlos Reutemann handily beat Mario Andretti and Patrick Depailler at the U.S. Grand Prix West at Long Beach, California, on April 2.

Patrick Depailler got his first win with the Tyrell-Ford team at the Monaco Grand Prix, on May 7. Niki Lauda finished second, in front of the Ford-powered Wolf of Jody Scheckter. Lauda set a new lap record of 83.667 mph (134.649 kph).

Patrick Depailler leads the field at Monaco.
Patrick Depailler at Monaco

In the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder, on May 21, Mario Andretti brought the Lotus' new, skirted Type 79 across the finish line first, followed 49.9 seconds later by teammate Ronnie Peterson, who made the fastest lap, 114.727 mph (184.635 kph), in a Lotus 78.

Lotus annihilated the field at the Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama, on June 4. Mario Andretti, driving a Type 79 car, had the fastest lap, 93.531 mph (150.523 kph), and finished 59.56 seconds ahead of teammate Ronnie Peterson, also driving a Type 79.

Niki Lauda won the Swedish Grand Prix at Anderstorp, on June 17.

The French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard, on July 2, was won by Mario Andretti, with Ronnie Peterson again finishing second and James Hunt, in a McLaren-Ford, coming in third. Carlos Reutemann set a new lap record of 119.674 mph (192.597 kph).

The British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, on July 16, featured a number of lead changes. It was won by Carlos Reutemann's Ferrari, followed by Niki Lauda and John Watson.

Ther German Grand Prix was held at Hockenheim on July 30. Hot weather proved too difficult for many cars to handle, as 13 of the 34 entrants failed to finish. Mario Andretti won the race, with Jody Scheckter's Wolf WR5 second and Jacques Laffite's Ligier J59 third. Ronnie Peterson had the fastest lap, 131.329 mph (211.354 kph).

The Austrian Grand Prix, marred by rain, was won by Ronnie Peterson, on August 13. Patrick Depailler came in second.

Lotus again reigned supreme at the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, on August 27, with Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson again finishing first and second, respectively, ahead of Niki Lauda, who set the fastest lap, at 118.806 mph (191.200 kph).

The Italian Grand Prix at Monza, on September 10, was marred by a fiery crash at the starting line involving Ronnie Peterson, Vittorio Brambilla, and seven other drivers. Both Peterson and Brambilla were sent to a hospital in Milan. The race was restarted almost three hours later, but a crash during the formation lap caused the race to be stopped again, this time for a barrier repair. As it was almost 6 pm when the race was ready for another restart, the race length was shortened to 40 laps. Niki Lauda ultimately finished ahead of John Watson and Carlos Reutemann, but Mario Andretti clinched the driver's championship. Andretti also set a lap record of 132.080 mph (212.562 kph). Peterson, who had suffered severe leg injuries in the first lap crash, died of an embolism the following day; Brambilla recovered.

Ronnie Peterson is tended to by fellow drivers (in the middle of the track) following the first lap crash at Monza.
Italian Grand Prix crash aftermath

Carlos Reutemann won the U.S. Grand Prix East at Watkins Glen, New York, on October 1.

The season finished with the Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal, on October 8, which was won by Gilles Villeneuve's Ferrari.

USAC

Tom Sneva, driving a Penske-Cosworth, captured the Indianapolis 500 pole with a record speed of 202.156 mph, but Al Unser drove his turbocharged Lola-Cosworth at an average speed of 161.363 mph to win the race, on May 28.

Al Unser (#2, in the center) on the way to his third Indianapolis 500 victory.
1978 Indianapolis 500

NASCAR

Cale Yarborough and his First National City Travelers Checks Oldsmobile won ten Winston Cup races, including the Winston 500 at Talladega, and the Southern 500 at Darlington, en route to his third championship.

SEE ALSO
In the Year 1978

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The Robinson Library >> Recreation >> Automobile Travel and Racing

This page was last updated on August 15, 2017.