1978 United States Grand Prix West: Wikis


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United States  1978 United States West
Race details
Race 4 of 16 in the 1978 Formula One season
Date April 2, 1978
Official name 3rd United States Grand Prix West
Location Long Beach, California
Course Temporary street course
3.251 km (2.02 mi)
Distance 80 laps, 260.08 km (161.60 mi)
Weather Clear, warm
Pole position
Driver Argentina Carlos Reutemann Ferrari
Time 1:20.636
Fastest lap
Driver Australia Alan Jones Williams-Ford
Time 1:22.215 on lap 27
First Argentina Carlos Reutemann Ferrari
Second United States Mario Andretti Lotus-Ford
Third France Patrick Depailler Tyrrell-Ford

The 1978 United States Grand Prix West was a Formula One race held on April 2, 1978 at Long Beach, California.



Carlos Reutemann took over at the halfway mark from Ferrari teammate Gilles Villeneuve, when the Canadian crashed out of the lead, and won by eleven seconds. It was the second American victory for the Argentine, who also won for Brabham at Watkins Glen in 1974. American Mario Andretti finished second to maintain a share of the Championship lead with Reutemann.

At the start of the weekend, though only 22 cars would make the grid, there were 30 entries, requiring a one-hour pre-qualifying session on Friday morning for the eight non-FICA members. From these eight, the fastest four would join the rest of the field in qualifying for one of the 22 starting spots.

Niki Lauda, who had placed his Ferrari on pole for the previous year's race, again set the early pace, this time in a Brabham. Late in the Friday morning session, however, Reutemann suddenly jumped to the top of the sheets with a 1:20.99 and eventually posted the day's best of 1:20.636. As usual at Long Beach, a number of drivers suffered from broken gearboxes, and on Saturday, though the weather was better, no one was able to better Reutemann's time. The first three rows of the final grid were occupied by just three teams, as Villeneuve completed the all-Ferrari front row, Brabham teammates Lauda and John Watson were third and fifth, and the Lotus pair of Andretti and Ronnie Peterson were fourth and sixth.

A beautiful California day and 75,000 paying fans showed up for the race on Sunday. The start had been moved from in front of the pits on Ocean Boulevard to the curving "straight" on Shoreline Drive in order to avoid another first corner tangle. The strategy seemed to work, as everyone got through cleanly, though John Watson's late braking maneuver down the inside caused him to exit wide from the hairpin and force polesitter Reutemann wide with him, so Villeneuve tucked into the lead as they exited.

After one lap, the order was Villeneuve, Watson, Lauda, Reutemann, Andretti, Alan Jones, James Hunt and Peterson. In the lead of a Grand Prix for the first time, Villeneuve was driving superbly, as he began to extend his lead. On lap six, Hunt struck the wall at the apex of the last turn before the pit straight and knocked his right front wheel off. Three laps later, Watson retired from second with a blown engine. Andretti was dropping back in fourth, having chosen the wrong Goodyears and a poor top gear, and Jones was closing on him quickly. On lap 19, the Williams went through and took off after Reutemann.

With Villeneuve's lead at two seconds, Reutemann was pushing Lauda hard for second place. Suddenly, on lap 28, the Brabham went straight on at Turn One, looking as if his brakes had failed. Lauda stopped safely, however, stepped out and removed his helmet. An electrical failure had cut the motor. Meanwhile, Jones had caught up to Reutemann, and the top three were separated by just 2.5 seconds.

On lap 39, just before the halfway point, Villeneuve came up to lap Clay Regazzoni, who was in a battle with Jean-Pierre Jabouille's Renault. Rather than wait until the straight, the Canadian tried to get by in the twisty section leading up to Ocean Boulevard. There simply wasn't room, however, and, when Regazzoni braked earlier than Villeneuve expected, the Ferrari's right front wheel hit the left rear of the Shadow and was launched over the white car into the wall. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

This left Reutemann in the lead, ahead of Jones, then a long gap back to Andretti. Lap after lap, Jones hounded Reutemann, but the Ferrari was too fast down the straight for him to get by. On about lap 47, with Jones still on the Ferrari's tail, the front wings of the Williams strangely flopped down, the result of a fabrication failure. Jones continued to battle, but began losing around a second a lap. Adding to the Aussie's misery, his fuel pressure began fluctuating. His head jerked back and forth as the engine sputtered and, sometimes, cut out entirely. As one car after another passed, the struggling Williams fell all the way to eighth place. Recording the fastest lap of the race on lap 27 and repassing Emerson Fittipaldi on the last lap for seventh place were his only consolations after a spectacular drive.

Reutemann cruised to the finish, maintaining a twelve to fifteen second gap over Andretti, who had a similar cushion over Patrick Depailler in third.


Pos No Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 11 Argentina Carlos Reutemann Ferrari 80 1:52:01.301 1 9
2 5 United States Mario Andretti Lotus-Ford 80 +11.061 secs 4 6
3 4 France Patrick Depailler Tyrrell-Ford 80 +28.951 secs 12 4
4 6 Sweden Ronnie Peterson Lotus-Ford 80 +45.603 secs 6 3
5 26 France Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra 80 +1:22.884 14 2
6 35 Italy Riccardo Patrese Arrows-Ford 79 +1 Lap 9 1
7 27 Australia Alan Jones Williams-Ford 79 +1 Lap 8
8 14 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Fittipaldi-Ford 79 +1 Lap 15
9 36 Germany Rolf Stommelen Arrows-Ford 79 +1 Lap 18
10 17 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni Shadow-Ford 79 +1 Lap 20
11 10 France Jean-Pierre Jarier ATS-Ford 75 +5 Laps 19
12 8 France Patrick Tambay McLaren-Ford 74 Accident 11
Ret 20 South Africa Jody Scheckter Wolf-Ford 59 Accident 10
Ret 19 Italy Vittorio Brambilla Surtees-Ford 50 Transmission 17
Ret 15 France Jean-Pierre Jabouille Renault 43 Turbo 13
Ret 12 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari 38 Accident 2
Ret 1 Austria Niki Lauda Brabham-Alfa Romeo 27 Ignition 3
Ret 3 France Didier Pironi Tyrrell-Ford 25 Gearbox 22
Ret 37 Italy Arturo Merzario Merzario-Ford 17 Gearbox 21
Ret 9 Germany Jochen Mass ATS-Ford 11 Brakes 16
Ret 2 United Kingdom John Watson Brabham-Alfa Romeo 9 Gearbox 5
Ret 7 United Kingdom James Hunt McLaren-Ford 5 Accident 7
DNS 18 United Kingdom Rupert Keegan Surtees-Ford Practice Accident
DNS 16 Germany Hans Joachim Stuck Shadow-Ford Practice Accident
DNQ 30 United States Brett Lunger McLaren-Ford
DNQ 22 Italy Lamberto Leoni Ensign-Ford
DNPQ 32 Finland Keke Rosberg Theodore-Ford
DNPQ 25 Mexico Hector Rebaque Lotus-Ford
DNPQ 39 United States Danny Ongais Shadow-Ford
DNPQ 24 Republic of Ireland Derek Daly Hesketh-Ford
Previous race:
1978 South African Grand Prix
FIA Formula One World Championship
1978 season
Next race:
1978 Monaco Grand Prix
Previous race:
1977 United States Grand Prix West
United States Grand Prix West Next race:
1979 United States Grand Prix West


  • Lap Leaders: Gilles Villeneuve 38 laps (1-38); Carlos Reutemann 42 laps (39-80).
  • Keegan and Stuck set the 22nd and 23rd fastest qualifying times but neither could take the grid due to practice accidents. Pironi, who was 24th fastest, moved up into the grid.
  • The win brought Reutemann even with Andretti in the title standings after just four races, but Mario would ride the brilliant Lotus 78 to six wins and the Championship before the series returned to America at Watkins Glen in the fall.


  • Rob Walker (July, 1978). "3rd United States Grand Prix West: Road Show". Road & Track, 135-140.


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