Notes on the Cars in North America

With two races following on successive weekends in Canada and the United States, most teams hoped that there would not be much heavy work to be done on their cars during the intervening few days separating the end of the race at Mosport with the start of practice at Watkins Glen. The same cars were then scheduled to go on the Japan where the final round of the 1976 Grand Prix season took place on October 24th.

Ferrari came to North America with three 312T2 chassis, Lauda using 026 and Regazzoni using 027 in both races although the Swiss practiced a new chassis (carrying number 028 from Lauda’s Nurburgring wreck) during the second session at Watkins Glen. All three cars were to the same specification as has been seen in Europe and the only alternative to the Ferraris came after practice at Mosport when scrutineers decreed that their oil coolers were mounted too far back and they were rested on the top of the gearbox casing. In the Elf Tyrrell camp Jody Scheckter used his P34/4 six-wheeler which he’d employed to contest at lead at Monza while team-mate to contest the lead at Monza while team-mate Patrick Depailler drove his original P34/2 and the team had the rebuild P34/3-2 standing by as a spare. Scheckter’s car was fitted with the deep rear wing side plates for both North American events which were used on P34/3-2 during one of the practice sessions for the Italian Grand Prix.

Team Lotus had three cars at both races, Mario Andretti choosing between 77/R3 and 77/R1 whilst press-on Swede Gunnar Nilsson was assigned 77/R2. The first two mentioned cars appeared in practice at Mosport fitted with aerodynamic “brush-like” skirts along the bottom edges of their monocoques, this being one of the many ideas currently being developed for the yet-to-be-announced successor to the 77. All three cars were prepared in short wheelbase trim and used the revised front suspension first seen on Andretti’s car, 77/R3, at Monza incorporating geometry changes and freshly designed fabricated top rocker arms operating the spring/damper units as well as new lower wishbones. They also had lower cold air boxes to the engines and revised ducting to the rear brakes feeding through apertures on the body cowling immediately in front of the rear wheels. After a front stub axle broke and Andretti lost one of 77/R3’s front wheels, the American used 77/R1 in the Canadian Grand Prix and subsequently favoured it again at Watkins Glen. Nilsson’s machine went off the course in practice at Mosport, damaging its only set of “brush skirts” and consequently running in the race without them. Another set was provided in time for the Swede to use the following weekend.

Bernie Ecclestone Martini Brabham/Alfa Romeo team had built up a brand new chassis (BT45/5) for Carlos Pace to debut at Mosport, this replacing the “lightweight” BT45/4 which Pace crashed at Osterriechring. The Brazilian team leader was allocated this new car which is slightly lighter than its predecessors, has wishbone rear suspension and was fitted with the carbon fibre brakes first used on the team spare raced by Stommelen in the German Grand Prix. The new car also featured a “tidied-up” rear body section with “faired in” apertures for the cold air feeding both banks of the flat-12-cylinder engine plus oil coolers mounted, steeply angled, immediately in front of the rear wheels. To facilitate access to the fuel metering unit (which frequently needs adjustment on these cars!) there was a neat little rectangular flap on the top of the cover. In order to maintain standardisation of spares in the three crucial final races, McLaren Racing left their M26 at home in England and brought their trio of immaculate six-speed M23s to North America, Hunt using M23/8 to win both the races. Jochen Mass handled his regular M23/9 and M23/6 was the team spare.

March Engineering brought their customary trio of March 761s for Vittorio Brambilla (761/1-4), Ronnie Peterson (761/6) and Hands Stuck (761/2) but they hadn’t been changed since Monza and the same applied to three Shadows which were prepared for Tom Pryce and Jean-Pierre Jarier to drive apart that is from a slightly different airbox on Pryce’s DN8/1A. Jarier drove DN5/4B and DN5/5B was the team spare. The Frank Williams Walter Wolf team came to Canada with two cars for Arturo Merzario (FWO5/3) and Chris Amon (FWO5/2) but after Amon’s practice collision with Ertl’s Hesketh, the team had to ferry out to monocoque from Hesketh-Williams 308C/1 to rebuild a car for Warwick Brown to drive at Watkins Glen. Replacing Ertle’s car posed a similar problem for the Hesketh team, but they shipped out the rebuilt monocoque from 308/3 which Ertl had damaged in the collision with Lauda’s burning Ferrari at Nurburgring. Guy Edwards drove his usual Hesketh 308/4 at Mosport and then handed it to Formula Two driver Alex Ribeiro for the race at Watkins Glen.

Jacques Laffite ran the newer of the two Ligier-Matras (JS5/02) in the Canadian Grand Prix, but a pre-race testing accident at Watkins Glen damages this car quite severely and meant that he had to switch to JS5/01 for the United States Grand Prix. That car subsequently ended up with considerable suspension damage when a tyre disintegrated at high speed during the race, so the French team faced a great deal of work away from its base to get both cars ready in time for Japan. One car that definitely wouldn’t be going to Japan was Morris Nunn’s Ensign MN05 which Jacky Ickx raced at Mosport and Watkins Glen for the Belgian destroyed it in a fiery high-speed accident in the United States race, invaliding himself out of racing for the rest of the year as a result.

John Watson had a brand new Penske (PC4/02) at his disposal for the first time in North America, racing it in both races although PC4/01 was on hand as a spare. Emerson Fittipaldi relied on his familiar Fittipaldi-Cosworth FD04/4 and there were three unchanged Surtees TS19s for Alan Jones (TS19/04), Brett Lunger (TS19/02) and Henri Pescarolo (TS19/01). Otto Stuppacher turned up at both races with his ex-works Tyrrell 007/6-2 but wasn’t quick enough for a start while there was an entry made for Carlos Reutemann in a third Ferrari at Watkins Glen but this was not taken up. A.H.