One off Grand Prix winners: José Carlos Pace, Interlagos 1975
Some say that winning your first Grand Prix is one of the most difficult aspects of being a successful GP driver, but over the next few weeks we will showcase seven drivers from the 1970′s who might argue that getting your second win is the really hard part…….
Brazilian Grand Prix: Interlagos 1975
José Carlos Pace was one of a clutch of Brazilian drivers who followed Emerson Fittipaldi over to Europe at the beginning of the 1970s. Early GP drives in an uncompetitive Frank Williams March showed enough promise for a move further up the grid with John Surtees‘ team before Bernie Ecclestone took him to Brabham part way through the 74 season to join his other South American Carlos, Mr Reutemann. A second place finish in the US GP pointed towards a promising 75 season.
Gordon Murray’s Brabham BT44B looked gorgeous in its new Martini colour scheme and Pace put his car on the front row in the season opening Argentina GP. Next came José Carlos’ home GP in Interlagos and, once again, the Brabhams were looking good. Only an on-form Jean Pierre Jarier in the new Shadow DN5 looked better – at least in practice. Jarier had been on pole in Argentina, but the Shadow had broken before the race even started. In Brazil he was on pole again with local hero Fittipaldi alongside him and Pace on row three. Luckily for Pace, his mechanics spotted a gearbox oil leak in time to repair it just prior to the start.
When the flag fell Fittipaldi got too much wheel spin, but both Brabhams made excellent starts and Reutemann led Jarier and Pace at the end of lap 1. Reutemann soon realised that he had made the wrong tyre choice as Jarier not only overtook him, but pulled away. However, Pace’s tyre choice was correct and he was soon past his team mate in pursuit of the French Shadow driver. It seemed to be a vain chase as the Shadow appeared to have the same sort of pace in the race as it had in practice, until just after half distance. Suddenly the gap from Jarier to Pace began to diminish. The Shadow’s fuel metering unit had begun to seize, the engine cutting out and misfiring. With only 7 laps to run, the Shadow stopped for good and Pace’s Brabham took a lead that it was never to give up. The crowd went berserk at the sight of a Brazilian one-two as Fittipaldi joined Pace on the podium.
José Carlos carried on with the good results throughout the 1975 season without quite managing to win again. At the end of the season the Brabham team finished as runners up to Ferrari in the Constructors Championship. Unfortunately, this success could not be carried into the 76 season as Ecclestone entered into an agreement for Alfa Romeo to supply engines for his cars. Reutemann jumped ship to Ferrari following Niki Lauda‘s awful Nurburgring accident, but Pace stuck with the team and early performances in 1977 seemed to indicate that his loyalty would be rewarded with a competitive car again.
March 1977 will long be remembered as one of the worse months ever in the history of GP racing. First Tom Pryce was killed in the most ridiculous and unnecessary accident at the South African GP and then, just two weeks later, the news broke that José Carlos Pace had been killed in a light aircraft crash near his home.
by Mel Turbutt