On this day… August 13th 1978
Along with Sir Stirling Moss, Ronnie Peterson is considered one of the best F1 drivers never to win a championship, and he won his last race on August 13th 1978.
The race was held at the Osterreichring – old style. The circuit had been constructed to replace the rather dull and bumpy Zeltweg airfield track. Situated in the spectacular Styrian mountains this was a high speed challenge for the drivers. Every corner was very fast and sweeping and in the 5 speed gearboxes of the day – third gear was the lowest selected during racing.
The track was one of the fastest on the calendar but it was also one of the most dangerous. The Hella-Licht chicane was installed for the 1977 race after Mark Donohue died following a practice crash two years earlier and while there was plenty of run-off elsewhere, it did little to prevent a number of other highs-speed shunts.
The Bosch Kurve, a 180-degree downhill right-hand corner with almost no run-off area was considered the biggest challenge and by the mid 1980’s when the F1 Turbo’s were pumping out 1400 bhp, the cars were approaching this epic bend at over 200 MPH.
On this day, the Austrian circuit was packed with Lauda fans, but Niki had qualified just 12th and the two Lotus cars once again filled the front of the grid with Peterson claiming pole position from Mario Andretti.
(And here’s a view from a car doing a lap at this fearsome circuit)
This Peterson’s victory moved him to within nine points of Andretti in the World Championship but as the American was the team leader there was no chance that he would lose the title to the Swede.
Ronnie Peterson claimed ten F1 victories in an eight year career but tragically died after this win from complications which arose following straightforward surgery on broken legs sustained during a crash at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.