1977 U S Grand Prix-Watkins Glen

Harry Kennison is a fan with a camera and a gift for telling good stories. This another in a series of wonderful Harry Kennison Postcards that are archived on our site. We hope you enjoy them.

For the second year in a row, I’d conveniently arranged another business trip back east the week of the U S Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. Basically, the company would pay for my flight to New York and back to Denver and I would pay for the difference in airfare to get me up to Elmira, New York. Not a bad deal. This trip to Watkins Glen, however, I elected to stay at in a motel rather than risk spending the night in the rain again in the back seat of my rental car.

With many of the places in town already full, I found a room at what turned out to be a delightful motel on the western shore of Seneca Lake called the Rainbow Cove Motel and Restaurant located about 14 miles north of the village of Watkins Glen. At the time it was run by an elderly couple, Carl and Dot Plubell, who had been there since the early 50’s. In addition to a pleasant (dry!) room, guests were welcome to join the Plubell’s for dinner in their home which also served as a restaurant. To add to the good food and interesting guests, the host and hostess had their terrier entertain us in the dining room with a series of tricks. Now you’re not going to get anything quite like that at a Residence Inn! Sadly, the Plubell’s are no longer with us, however, their nephew and his wife continue to operate the Rainbow Cove to this day.

Rather than give you a long, drawn-out article about a race that took place over 30 years ago, I thought I’d let my old photos tell the story instead:

1. Hans Stuck, the young German, surprised everyone by putting his Brabham-Alfa BT-45B on the front row next to pole-sitter and reigning World Champion, James Hunt. The two drivers tip-toe through Turn 6 entering the “Boot” on the opening lap of the 1977 U S Grand Prix.

2. Two-time World Champion, Emerson Fittipaldi, was continually questioned by the press on his ill-fated move from the McLaren Team, for whom he drove to his second World Championship in 1974, to the uncompetitive team bearing his own name.

3. Emerson Fittipaldi wrestles his Fittipaldi F5-Cosworth Ford to 13th place, two laps behind the leaders at the 1977 U S Grand Prix and Watkins Glen.

4. Alan Jones in the Shadow DN8-Ford backs it into the catch fencing on the third lap entering the “Boot.” That’s Clay Regazzoni in the Ensign Ford dodging Jones in route to a fine fifth place finish.

5. The crowd at the annual Fall race at the Glen is a hardy bunch indeed. For the second year in a row fans endured a wet race.

6. Niki Lauda, back on form in his Ferrari 312B, negotiates the toe of the “Boot” on his way to a quiet fourth place finish which was good enough to secure a second World Driving Championship for the Austrian.

7. John Watson, now driving for the Brahbam team, ponders the speed of his new teammate, Hans Stuck.

8. John Watson, Brahbam-Alfa Romeo goes wide while Jochen Mass, McLaren M26-Cosworth takes to the inside of Turn 6 with Clay Regazzoni lurking just behind in his Ensign-Ford.

9. Jody Scheckter, who left the Tyrrell Team and their novel six-wheeled grand prix contender after three years and just one win to show for his efforts, appears to be in a pensive mode as he awaits practice in his fast and conventional Wolf WR1-Cosworth Ford.

10. Scheckter, takes his Wolf WR1-Ford through turn 8 during practice. He would finish on the podium in third place in the race and would finish off the season the following week with a win in Canada, his third of the season.

11. Since the inception of the three-liter engine formula in 1966, there had always been a clause which allowed for 1 ½ liter turbocharged engines (approximately 91 cubic inches) in addition to the normally aspirated 3-Liter engines. No manufacturer had attempted to go small displacement-turbo route until 1977, when French manufacturer, Renault, entered a turbocharged car for Jean-Pierre Jabouille. The skeptics were many, however, six years later, the turbo era would reach its peak with a 1 ½ liter turbo taking the drivers’ championship.

12. Mario Andretti, Lotus 78-Ford leads Hans Stuck, Brahbam-Alfa Romeo on his way to a second place finish at the Glen and third place in the 1977 Drivers’ World Championship.

13. Patrick Depailler, Tyrrell P34-Ford six-wheeler, splashes through Turn 6 ahead of Niki Lauda-Ferrari 312T2, Jody Scheckter-Wolf WR1 Ford and Jacques Laffite, Ligier JS7-Matra V-12.

14. Hans Stuck turned a lot of heads at the Glen that weekend in his Brahbam BT45B-Alfa Romeo until he crashed on lap 14 while leading the race.

15. Italian Vittorio Brambilla, known as the “Monza Gorilla,” shows the way in his Surtees TS19-Cosworth Ford to Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Renault-Turbo and rookie Danny Ongais-Penske PC4 Cosworth driving in his first grand prix.

16. Patrick Depailler at speed in the 1977 streamlined version of the Tyrrell –Cosworth six-wheeler would finish three laps down at the U S Grand Prix at the Glen.

17. The rear end of Mario Andretti’s Lotus 78-Cosworth Ford in the Kendall Technical Center.

18. John Watson’s Brabham BT45B equipped with an Alfa Romeo Flat 12 engine, is attended to by the Brabham mechanics at the Glen’s Kendall Technical Center. Watson would soldier on to a 12th place finish.

19. For 1977, Jody Scheckter chose to go with the brand new Wolf Racing Team, owned by Austrian-born Canadian businessman, Walter Wolf, and it proved to be a good decision. During the 1977 campaign, Scheckter would win three grand prix finishing third in the final standings.

20. Following successes in Indy Car and F-5000, Ted Field and Interscope decided to go Formula 1 racing so he bought last year’s Penske PC4-Cosworth Ford for hot shoe, Danny Ongais. Unfortunately, the Hawaiian would qualify last and crash on lap six in a discouraging maiden run.

21. Always a crowd favorite more for car’s wonderful sound than for its speed was Jacques Laffite in his Ligier JS7-V-12 Matra. He finished just out of the points in seventh place at Watkins Glen.

22. The reigning World Champion, James Hunt, who won at the Glen in 1976, repeated that winning performance by qualifying on the pole in his McLaren M26-Cosworth Ford. Hunt’s three wins on the season was only good enough for fifth place in the Championship.

23. “The Bog” laid claim to 13 cars Saturday night before Sunday’s race. Fortunately, the author’s rental car was not one of them.