Carlos Pace

Charming and personable, Carlos Pace had raw talent and bravery in abundance. However, he was unable to translate this into more than one Grand Prix victory before his untimely death.

Early racing career

It was Emerson Fittipaldi who persuaded Carlos Pace (a school friend of his brother Wilson) to race in British Formula 3 in 1970. When Pace arrived the word from Brazil was he was even better than “Emmo” – a reputation earned in saloons and Formula Vee at home. He began racing in 1963 and was Brazilian Sportscar Champion from 1967 to 1969 with an Alfa Romeo T33/2.

He drove Jim Russell’s Lotus 59-Ford to victory in the Forward Trust British F3 Championship at the first attempt and graduated to Formula 2 in 1971 with Frank Williams’ March 712M. He won a non-championship race at Imola but was frustrated when points were on offer.

Formula 1 with Williams and Surtees

Williams promoted him to his Formula 1 team in 1972 and Pace impressed by scoring points in two of his first four GPs despite driving a year-old March-Ford. That promise was confirmed by podium finishes at both the Osterreichring (for Ferrari) and Watkins Glen (Mirage) in sports cars. A late-season switch to Surtees reaped its rewards for Pace won an F2 race at Interlagos and was second in the final (non-championship) F1 race of the year at Brands Hatch.

He continued with Surtees in F1 and Ferrari’s sports car team in 1973. In a GP campaign often blighted by mechanic issues, his Ford-powered TS14A held together long enough in Germany and Austria to finish fourth and third respectively – Pace recording the race’s fastest lap on both occasions. He also starred as Arturo Merzario’s co-driver and their Ferrari 312PB finished second in that year’s Nürburgring 1000Kms and Le Mans 24 Hours.

Formula 1 success for Brabham

Pace’s F1 career gathered momentum when he suddenly left Surtees and joined Brabham in the middle of 1974. He ran second in Austria before retiring and followed Carlos Reutemann home at Watkins Glen in a 1-2 for Bernie Ecclestone’s team.

It was Pace’s day three months later. He qualified on the front row in Argentina and followed that with victory in his home race – winning the 1975 Brazilian GP after pacesetter Jean-Pierre Jarier retired. Pace qualified on pole position for the next race in South Africa but three accidents blunted his campaign. Third in Monaco and second in Britain (despite crashing in the Silverstone monsoon), Pace eventually finished sixth in the world championship.

Carlos Pace on the Interlagos podium after winning the 1975 Brazilian GP

Interlagos winner: Carlos celebrates victory in 1975 alongside Emerson Fittipaldi (left) and Jochen Mass


A switch to Alfa Romeo engines in 1976 called for patience but pre-season testing suggested an upturn in fortunes for the 1977 season. Now outright team leader following Reutemann’s defection to Ferrari, he finished second in the opening race in Argentina and was on the front row again in South Africa – a race marred by the death of Welshman Tom Pryce.

Two weeks later GP racing was rocked by further tragedy for Pace was in a light plane with two others when it crashed in bad weather 16 miles north of downtown São Paulo. All three lost their lives and the Interlagos circuit at which he had enjoyed his greatest day was later renamed the Autodromo José Carlos Pace in honour of a proud Paulista.

More on Carlos Pace

Non Championship Races