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Flashback: Brazil ’75 - jubilant Pace secures popular home win 20 Nov 2013

Carlos Pace (Brabham) celebrates on the podium after winning his maiden Grand Prix. 1975 Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos Jean-Pierre Jarier (Shadow DN5) took his second pole position in succession, but retired from the race on lap 33 with an engine problem. 1975 Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos The water cannons were used to cool grateful spectators on race day in the sweltering conditions. 1975 Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos Clay Regazzoni (SUI) Ferrari 312B3, who finished fourth, leads Emerson Fittipaldi (BRA) McLaren M23, who finished second. 1975 Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos The water cannons were used to cool grateful spectators on race day in the sweltering conditions. 1975 Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos Carlos Reutemann (Brabham)  leads the race at the start from pole sitter Jean-Pierre Jarier (Shadow), team mate Carlos Pace (Brabham) and Clay Regazzoni (Ferrari). 1975 Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos Carlos Pace (Brabham) on his way to his maiden Grand Prix victory, 1975 Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos Niki Lauda (Ferrari), who finished fifth, leads Carlos Pace (Brabham) who took his first (and only) Grand Prix victory at the circuit that would later bear his name. 1975 Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos Carlos Pace (Brabham BT44B Ford) 1st position. Taking his maiden and only Grand Prix win. 1975 Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos Carlos Pace (Brabham Ford) 1st position, celebrates winning his home Grand Prix, taking his maiden and only win. Emerson Fittipaldi, 2nd position and Jochen Mass, 3rd position (both McLaren Ford) also on the podium. Brazilian Grand Prix 1975, Interlagos The podium (L to R): Emerson Fittipaldi (BRA) McLaren, second; Carlos Pace (BRA) Brabham, first and only GP victory; Jochen Mass (GER) McLaren, third place his first podium finish. Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, 26 January 1975. World ©  Phi

These days it’s very rare for any team to show up at the first race of the season with a car that is considerably faster than all the rest. But that’s exactly what Shadow did at round one of the 1975 world championship in Argentina, when the DN5 driven by Frenchman Jean-Pierre Jarier surprised the more-established runners by claiming pole position with a quite remarkable turn of speed.

Sadly, the Frenchman’s car succumbed to a minor but ultimately significant technical issue on the warm-up lap and so he was denied the chance to prove his superb practice pace. Thus when the field assembled in Brazil two weeks later - following an obligatory period spent relaxing in the South American sunshine - the big question was could Shadow carry their ominous Argentine form into the race at Interlagos?

It took barely ten minutes of the opening two-and-a-half hour session on Friday for Jarier to prove that his rapidity in Buenos Aires had been no fluke. The Frenchman hustled his sleek black Shadow around the notoriously bumpy 4.9 mile circuit in 2m 31.52s - only marginally slower than Ronnie Peterson’s ultimate lap record set back in 1973 in the then-outstanding Lotus 72.

Before his rivals could properly respond, Jarier then completed an even quicker lap with contemporary accounts reporting that he was the only man confident enough in his car to take the daunting left hand swerve following the pits flat out in fifth gear.

The quickest of the bunch trying in vain to match Jarier’s pace were a pair of South Americans - Argentinian Carlos Reutemann in his Brabham and Brazil’s reigning world champion, Emerson Fittipaldi, in his McLaren. Neither driver could get within half a second of the Shadow on Friday and it was a similar story on Saturday when Jarier obliterated the lap record with a stunning 2m 29.88s tour.

The real battle at this point was not over pole, but over second position on the grid, and it was a battle eventually won by Fittipaldi, albeit with a lap time 0.8s slower than Jarier’s. Reutemann was third quickest and would start just ahead of the Ferraris of Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni, with the second Brabham of another Brazilian, Carlos Pace, in sixth spot. Meanwhile, back in 20th on the grid - in what would turn out to be his 176th and final Grand Prix start - was the Lola of double world champion Graham Hill. The Briton would start just ahead of the third and final Brazilian entrant, Wilson Fittipaldi, who was racing with a completely new car following a fiery accident in Argentina.

Race day at Interlagos brought with it scorching weather and a festival atmosphere. The main grandstand opposite the pits was full to bursting with enthusiastic supporters and such was the heat that circuit staff had to regularly douse them with water from cannons to offer some brief respite. This did nothing to dampen the boisterous crowd’s enthusiasm for a home victory, though the likelihood of that with Jarier in such blistering form seemed slim.

After a short delay to enable Ferrari to change the leaky engine in the back of Lauda’s car, the 23-car field lined up on the starting grid. Then, with a swift wave of the Brazilian flag, they were away with Reutemann rocketing between Jarier and Fittipaldi to lead into the first corner. Pace, meanwhile, had bolted from the third row and was tucked in behind Reutemann and Jarier after the first turn. Fittipaldi had made an appalling start and was down in seventh behind both Ferraris and the Tyrrell of Jody Scheckter.

Having already made it considerably further than he had in Argentina, Jarier was clearly taking things easily as he carefully followed Reutemann’s striped Brabham around for the opening four laps. Then, on lap 5, the Frenchman had clearly seen enough and forced his black machine down the inside of the Argentine’s car into the tight curve at the end of the long Retao straight. From there Jarier streaked away from all opposition to build a comfortable lead.

Reutemann, struggling with his tyre choice, slipped backwards and before long was holding up a train which included his team mate Pace, the two Ferraris, Scheckter and Fittipaldi. On lap 12 a roar went up around the circuit as the tenacious Pace got by Reutemann and set off in pursuit of Jarier, by now some 15 seconds down the road.

A little further back, Fittipaldi began to move forward - first Scheckter was forced to pit to change a blistered rear tyre, then the Brazilian followed Regazzoni’s lead and went by the troubled Brabham of Reutemann.

Things stayed relatively stable up front until lap 25 of the 40 lap race when Jarier’s advantage began to be trimmed by Pace. Just like in Argentina, a mechanical gremlin had started to affect the Shadow - on this occasion a fuel system problem that was making the engine cut out intermittently. Before too long Pace was no longer chasing an invisible target - he had his rival in his sights. Even so, catching was one thing, passing quite another, particularly as time was running out.

Then, with just eight laps to go, Jarier’s luck ran out once more and his once dominant Shadow ground to a standstill. As the Frenchman despaired, the home crowd erupted - Pace was now leading and Fittipaldi had forced his way past Regazzoni into what had become second place. Meanwhile, Jochen Mass had been making quiet, unspectacular progress through the field and was now into third place, ahead of both Ferraris. Sadly for the German, his excellent drive barely registered with the locals who joyously cheered ‘their’ drivers over the line in first and second, Pace ahead of Fittipaldi. His victory may have owed a large amount to fortune (or rather Jarier’s misfortune) but that didn’t make the celebrations on the podium any less emotional.

It would turn out to be the only Grand Prix victory of Pace’s Formula One career; the popular Brazilian tragically perishing in a plane crash two years later. But Pace’s exploits at Interlagos would never be forgotten, and in 1985 the track was renamed Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace in his honour.

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