1978 Belgian Grand Prix

Terlamen-Zolder, May 21st

The Belgian Grand Prix seems to have settled down into the smallness and anonymity of the Terlamen-Zolder circuit, just off the Antwerp-Liege autoroute. What was once the Grand Prix de Belgique on the magnificent Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the forests of the Ardennes, with lap speeds of 160 m.p.h. or more, is now resigned to being a simple Formula One event among three days of practice, saloon-car racing, mini-car racing and all the fun of the fair. As the Zolder circuit, of 4.262 kilometres in length, can only allow 24 starters there had to be some weeding out before the race took place on Sunday May 21st at 3 p.m. In addition to Mr. Ecclestone’s “chosen twenty” (or F1CA members), invitations were given to Renault (Jabouille), Frank Williams (Jones), Arrows (Patrese) and Hesketh (Daly), not to take part in the race necessarily, but to be allowed to join in the official practice on Friday and Saturday. The previous week the rest of the hopefuls who wanted to take part had a qualifying session all to themselves, all running on a “regulation” type of Goodyear tyre and the result was that Bruno Giacomelli (third works McLaren M26/7), Rolf Stommelen (Arrows), Rene Arnoux (Martini MK23/1) and Keijo Rosberg (Theodore) all qualified to go forward into the official practice days, though not necessarily into the race itself; that depended on official practice times, so there were still four drivers who were not going to take part in the race. Those left behind on the Thursday before race week were Rebaque (Lotus 78), Merzario with his own car, and Lunger (McLaren 964 M26/6). When this initial weeding out had taken place the Belgian organisers tried to infiltrate two of their own drivers into the system, these being Patrick Neve and Bernard de Dryver, but Bernard de Obergruppen- fuhrer Ecclestone would have none of it, so the two Belgian hopefuls became spectators. There are times when you wonder if the Belgians are running their own Grand Prix or not!

After this initial weeding out the serious business (if racing on the little Zolder circuit can be considered serious) began, with the regulation two practice sessions on Friday, one and half hours in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. The paddock seemed to be very full of Tyrrell racing cars, for in addition to 008/3 (Depailler) and 008/4 (Pironi) the test car 008/1 was being prepared between test sessions at Anderstorp in Sweden and Paul Ricard in southern France, and 008/2 re-appeared all brand new and shiny after a comprehensive rebuild with a reskinned monocoque so that it was actually 008/2-2. The Brabham-Alfa Romeo team were unchanged from Monaco, with Lauda (BT46/4) and Watson (BT46/3) and BT46/5 as the spare, all of them still on normal disc brakes, the special carbon-fibre ones undergoing development work. Team Lotus had finished off their Lotus 79 which appeared briefly at Monaco, and it was now Andretti’s foremost car, his earlier car 78/3 standing by as a spare. Peterson was still in 78/2, until such time as another Lotus 79 is completed, when he will take over the Andretti car, the team-leader having the new one. Hunt’s McLaren M26/4 was fitted with new discs to its front brakes, with many more cooling slots in the periphery, and Tambay’s car M26/5 was ready, but the driver was not; his left ankle and foot were suffering badly from skin burns caused by a fire-extinguisher going off in the cockpit of his Formula Two car during the recent race at Pau. McLaren M26/3 was the spare for the team, but with Tambay having to go to England for treatment to his foot, the McLaren team were down to one driver with three cars! This meeting was the debut of Bruno Giacomelli in a number of races this season, with a brand new McLaren M26/7, tailored to fit the plump little Italian, who is a protege of Marlboro. When it was obvious that Tambay was in no state to drive, Giacomelli was upgraded temporarily into number 2 position in the McLaren team. Normally he will run as a full works-supported entry, but separate from the Hunt, Tambay duo.

Race Results


Circuit - Zolder




Heusden-Zolder, Limburg


Permanent road course


2.648 (Miles)


Rene Arnoux (Ferrari 126C4), 1m19.294, 120.221 mph, F1, 1984

First Race

1963 Zolder ETCC