The South African Grand Prix was won on Saturday (5 March) by the Austrian, Niki Lauda, driving a Ferrari.
The South African Grand Prix was won on Saturday (5 March) by the Austrian, Niki Lauda, driving a Ferrari. But his victory was marred by the death of the young Welsh driver, Tom Pryce, whose car crashed after hitting and killing a fire marshal.
SYNOPSIS: Tom Pryce--here at Brand's Hatch in 1975--was one of the more popular figures among the Grand Prix drivers and greatly respected for his forceful driving style.
The reigning World Champion, James Hunt of Britain, took an early lead in his McLaren-Ford. He stayed there until the sixth lap when his old rival, Lauda, pulled ahead in a 12-cylinder Ferrari. lauda was nearly killed in a crash at Nurburgring last August during the West German Grand Prix. Since then, he has made a rapid recovery to return to international motor racing as a leading driver. James Hunt has not faired so well this year in a car that cannot match the power of the Ferraris.
Tom Pryce was lying in thirteenth place when his team-mate, Renzo Zorzi tried to get out of his Shadow car, it caught fire. Pryce hit a 19-year-old fire marshal who was running to quench the flames. His car went out of control, struck the Matra of Jacques Lafitte and ploughed into the banking at the Crowthorne bend. Some reports said that Pryce was hit on the head by the fire extinguisher carried by the fire marshal. When track officials reached the car, Pryce and the marshal were both dead.
Most of the drivers were unaware of the Welshman's death, and the race continued. South Africa's Jody Schecter, in a Wolf-Ford finished second. Third was Elf-Tyrrell driver Frenchman Patrick Depailler, and fourth James Hunt.
Nobody could match the driving power of Lauda. But the victory was a hollow one for the Austrian. He was near to tears when he mounted the winner's rostrum shortly after hearing of his colleague's death.