Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler Jennie Mowbray
– 1976: The Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
Ferrari arrived at Jarama on the ascendance. They had won the first three races of the season, with James Hunt in his McLaren failing to finish two of those races. After qualifying James Hunt and Niki Lauda were on the front row of the grid but they were both distracted. Lauda had rolled his tractor the week before and had broken two ribs and though he was driving with a nerve block and strapping to support them he admitted he could still feel them grinding together when he moved. Hunt’s marriage had reached the point of final destruction with his wife having a very public dalliance with Richard Burton.
The Spanish Grand Prix of 1976 illustrated two of the different approaches that the Formula One teams have to rules. Tyrrell showed up with the attitude that if there wasn’t a rule against it then it was legal. They proceeded to push the envelope of car design with the first six-wheeled car. The McLaren team relied on the fact that ignorance would be counted as innocence when their car was found to be marginally wider than the regulations permitted.
The new six-wheeled Tyrrell was looked at in astonishment as it appeared for the first time, its tiny front wheels almost invisible compared to the other cars, and this was only increased when Patrick Depailler managed to get it onto 3rd on the grid. Depailler’s team mate Jody Schechter, driving the conventional four wheeled Tyrrell, was back in 14th. Although it looked like it was going to manage a podium finish it unfortunately had brake failure and crashed half way through the race.
Lauda initially took the lead off the start but the pain caused by his broken ribs during cornering and braking exceeded his will to win and Hunt passed him on lap 32 for the lead and an easy victory and his first win for McLaren. Hunt’s McLaren teammate Jochen Mass also passed Lauda but McLaren were denied a 1-2 victory when Mass’s engine expired 10 laps from the end. Lauda managed to hang on to finish second despite his pain.
McLaren were stunned when the measurement of their chassis after the race showed it to be 18 mm larger than the rules allowed. It was rumoured that it was Ferrari who had tipped off the scrutineers which had resulted in the re-measurement of the McLaren chassis. Hunt was promptly disqualified and the win was given to Lauda. The McLaren team immediately appealed as the new rules that had just come into force at Spain for maximum car width had actually been based on their car’s measurements and their car had passed scrutineering prior to the race with no problem.
The ultimate conclusion at the court case two months later was that the extra width was due to tyre expansion of the new soft-walled Goodyear tyres which was greater than expected due to the heat in Spain and James Hunt was given back his win while McLaren were fined 3000 pounds. McLaren rapidly re-designed their suspension so their car would have no difficulty passing the new regulations with the new tyres. Ferrari were livid as they thought McLaren had got away with no penalty for breaking the rules and this would only be the first of many confrontations that would occur between Ferrari and McLaren, not only in 1976, but in the years to come.
Jennie, I really like your historical featurettes where you review some epic moment in the sport’s history, and I think it’s such a useful practice to embed videos in the text (and, unrelatedly, also appreciate the Judge’s now embedding actual Tweets and not just screen shots).
I’d never before seen footage of the 6-wheeled car in action, let alone bird’s eye/POV – let alone at Monaco!
Thanks Joe:) That Tyrrell did look amazing! It makes you wish there were a few less regulations now so teams could be more imaginative in their design…
Nice piece Jennie, thank you and especially for that magic video of my favourite piece of GP engineering. Watching those gear changes….
Thanks Peter – I’m amazed anyone actually ever thought of making a car like that!
The Tyrell p 34. My all time favorite f1 car. I’ve always had a thing for extreme stuff. And this is the most extreme f1 car ever in my opinion.
Amazing car:) I read that Ferrari were designing an 8 wheel car but they changed the rules…
Thanks Jennie. I really enjoy your historical features and having the judge13 as 1 of my #F1extra partners, i’m always happy to share these kind of articles with the world.
Thanks so much:)
I am so loving your reports! filling in so many experiences I never had!
all of my live F1 experiences have been quite awhile ago at Mosport and the Glen. saw the Tyrell at Mosport. pretty kewl stuff. so much good stuff back n the day. had 16fps film of Jimmy in the Lotus 49 exiting Moss Corner – with each frame clearly showing the front wheels pointing in opposite directions while watching live seemed to be a stroll in the park! being woken up one morning to BRM breaking in a new H-16 – so sweet! watching the cars get airborn at the top of the long straight and then landing to turn right. Jochen being totally out of control about 5 times each lap in the 150mph right hander – and us fans being allowed to stand merely 50′ away on the outside of the turn with nothing but a cattle fence beween us! still brings pleasant chills to the spine…
those days also represented when I tossed ALL the race driver technique books aside. Grand Prix drivers ignored all the book stuff to go REALLY fast 🙂
unfortunately, as many here have written about these times, I also witnessed too many trajedies – McDonald & Sachs at Indy and Cevert & Koinigg at the Glen. while I suppose their demise never carried the same global weight as that of Jimmie or Ayrton, it was always devastating to those nearby.
keep bringing the memories, Jennie!
Wow! I think you’re the one with the memories! I just track down all the old footage I can but I’ve only been to one live race..
And you’ve seen my favourite driver in my favourite car – Clark in the Lotus 49 – so jealous!
Thanks so much for your amazing reply:) Maybe you should write something for TJ13!
thanx for the kind words, but being well and truly retired, I do not do “boxes” or deadlines very well anymore 🙂 will be happy to make the occassional comment to the bestest racing site in the World!…
after all, it is you and many others who do all the hard and incredible work to provide “us” with SOOO much content.
for sure, my fav race car of all time was the 49. have seen a few young guns putting it thru the paces recently – they did not have a whole lot of good things to say about it. but Jimmy & Graham drove in lock-step and made it look so easy until it likely broke…
Jimmy was my ONLY hero besides my Dad. only got to see him live at the ’64 and ’65 Indy 500, ’66 Indy quali and ’67 Mosport GP.
check out some of his other extraordinary drives: like him and Sir Jackie racing “stolen” dump trucks on 2 wheels at Brands Hatch – or his results driving Cortina sedans while being a GP star, or the praise he got while quailifying for the Daytona 500 when a RF tire blew, or where he finished at the big block Riverside Can Am driving a tiny Lotus 4 cyl 23, or his making up a whole lap at the REAL Monza.
here is a good one: Ford used to have a yearly celebration for its’ drivers/movers/and shakers… mid ’60’s, they went to the Olympic bobsled runs at Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy and drove a Ford Cortina down the bobsled run until Colin Chapman left the track (airborne) and totalled the car. check this out and tell me you don’t get goose bumps!
unlike some mere worshipped “maestros” of some cheap single string guitar, Jimmy went to ANYBODY’S house ANYTIME and showed them how it was done…
good choice of fav car and driver, Jennie!!!
Thanks so much Rich:)
I just watched the Cortina Auto-bobbing on u-tube – I have never seen anything like it! It looks incredibally dangerous and I”m not suprised about Chapman’s accident…obviously not many health and safety rules back then..
I love the bit where Clark recommends it as the most exciting sport he’s ever done and says everyone should get a Cortina and plane tickets to Italy for themselves and their doctor – lol:)
The first article I ever wrote for TJ13 (thought it was the second one published) was about the Lotus 49…though it was the 1968 season when they were the first car to have a rear aerofoil and front wings…
Just loved reading all your comments and memories – thanks so much for your contribution:)
What’s always intrigued me with the P34 was where development could have gone with the front – an effectively closed front wheel system?
There were several other teams that designed 6 wheel cars after the Tyrrell but they all had the extra two wheels on the back instead of the front, because then they could have four wheel drive without having the weight and hastle of getting the extra drive to the front wheels…unforunately none of them ever saw the race track…