Motor racing -- and with the first of the 1978 Grand Prix races in Argentina the World Championship battle is on again.
Motor racing -- and with the first of the 1978 Grand Prix races in Argentina the World Championship battle is on again. Starting the new season in cracking form, American driver Mario Andretti in a Lotus was fractionally faster in practice than local hero Carlos Reutemann driving a Ferrari. Andretti took pole position on the starting grid -- and maintained his superiority to win by 13 seconds from the current World Champion Niki Lauda driving this year for Brabham. Patrick Depailler in an Elf Tyrrel was third.
SYNOPSIS: During the pre-race practice sessions drivers and mechanics took the opportunity to greet old friends and inspect both their own cars and those of their rivals. World Champion Niki Lauda was among them -- on his first outing for the Brabham team since leaving Ferrari at the end of last year.
Here's Mario Andretti taking a look at his Ford-Cosworth engined Lotus -- a well-tried car that might give him the Championship.
Britain's former World Champion James Hunt in consultation with one of his mechanics.
But after the final preparations it was time for the serious business of the day. Practice sessions have a dual purpose. The drivers familiarise themselves with the circuit and lap speeds are recorded to decide who will qualify for the race -- with the fastest drivers occupying the best positions on the starting grid. For Niki Lauda it was a delicate moment as he drove the Brabham in competition for the first time.
Sweden's Ronnie Peterson in a Lotus. He clocked third fastest to start in the second row of the grid. And James Hunt in the McLaren -- sixth fastest in practice.
But it was unlucky Friday the thirteenth and after only about half the scheduled practice period had elapsed a torrential downpour radically altered the conditions on the track. Most of the competitors drove for cover -- but the Ferrari team kept going, with drivers Gilles Villeneuve and Carlos Reutemann making waves as they races along the pit straight.
And they stayed out -- perhaps feeling more like aquaplane pilots than racing drivers -- while the rest of the people who make up the international motor racing circus stayed relatively warm and dry in the pits. Happily these conditions were not repeated during the race itself.