Watkins Glen, New York, October 5th WITH only tweak separating the Watkins Glen season linak from the previous race at Montreal, the Grand Prix teams had a pretty hectic schedule transporting their cars and material down to the track in northern New York State which has been the scene of the United States Grand Prix since 1961. There is a great deal of speculation surrounding this year’s race. As to whether or not certain track improvements will be complete in time, but the organizers rose enthusiastically to the occasion and has resurfaced the hitherto bumpy section, to the cue at although soveral drivers hazard the opinion that all they have done is move the undulations from one place to another. Casualties from Montreal which had to be repaired included Daly’s ‘Tyrrell Olte which had to be rebuilt round the monocoque salvaged tom his spectacular Zandvoort accident and at that dubbed 2-2laner’s car is repairable which meant that young Mike Thackwell is going to being give another opportunely in the original chats. Number 1. Lottes are down to two cars. Renault decides to enter a single car for Arnoux following Jabouille’s accident which has wreck his car on his last outing her the Regee as well as leaving him with a broken right leg and the Fittipaldi team manage to patch up Rosberg’s Fittipaldi F8 1 although this meant replacing quite a lump out of the sandwich construction monocoque and gluing in a fresh front bulkhead. The only change to the line-up is the nomination of Geoff Lees to replace Kevin Cogan in the second RAM Williams although this turns out to be a matter of ret signiﬁcance. Practice takes place nominally at the usual times.
Although there can be few events at which there are so many interruptions to the schedule in order to drag bent racing cars out of catch fences or guardrails. Friday’s casualties include Lees, who blot his copybook early on during the ﬁrst untime session, sliding into the barrier on the outside of the right hand corner at the end of the circuit’s longest Straight. During the afternoon’s time session, Laffite spins his Ligier through the catch fencing at the same spot. receiving such unpleasant whiplash effects that It goes straight back to his hotel tee rest and tilts so dizzy the following day that he takes no further part in official time practice, emerging only on race morning retake part in the untime warm-up session and then the race itself. Before he has this accident he had recorded a 1'35"421 lap which is quick enough to qualify in the middle of the grid, even allowing for the fact he isn’t present on the second day. Others who start off on the wrong foot, so to speak, include Andretti, who has a nasty experience when his Lotus’ engine fails and locks up the back wheels, the American driver slithering to a ruffled halt uncomfortably close to the guard rail. The session is stop for Mario’s car to be recover, this break also helping Thackwell whose Tyrrell has suffer major engine troubles. The V12 Alfa Romeo using Goodyear’s softest compound rubber to best effect to post a tremendous 1'34"551 best although this is a matter Of hundredths of a second faster than World Champion Alan Jones in his Williams F550713 in 1'34"563. Watching the ﬁnal session on Saturday afternoon it seems likely that teveral others will approach, perhaps equal. Giacomelli’s time, but when Piquet, Reutemann and de Anglis threaten closely, the plucky little Italian driver goes out again and wraps up pole position without any question by posting a tremendous 1'33"291 best, which is a full eight-tenths of a second quicker than the hard-trying Nelson Piquet’s Brabham BT49.
Reutemann winds up third on 1'34"111 with a conﬁdent de Angelis fourth, beneﬁting from revise suspension pick-up points on his Lotus 81, to record 1'34"185. The Italian driver says that his machine is riding over the bumps much better than usual and feels certain that he will produce a worthwhile performance in the race. The fact that Alan Jones is ﬁfth in the starting line-up might not be typical, but it certainly isn’t any cause for alarm or despondency. Both Williams cars are on the front row together when the session is stops to retrieve Andretti’s car on Friday and Jones has be hold up in the ﬁnal session mid-way round what he feels will be his fastest lap when Keegan’s RAM Williams begins to lose control in front of him. Keeg, incidentally, eventually qualiﬁes ﬁfteenth quickest although his 1'36"750 is a long way off a competitive time and he rounds off the ﬁnal time session with another damaging incident which shred the nose section of his Williams which in no way please entrant John MacDonald in view of the fact that Lees had crashed again on the second day, damaging the underside of his F55 '078 badly enough to prevent him trying for a place on the grid during the last hour. In the Ligier camp Pironi upheld their challenge alone on Saturday, qualifying seventh men 1'34"971, although he has to take the spare car for this timed session after his regular machine developed engine trouble in the morning. That put him men the grid just behind Amoux, who had to wrestle with tyres that aren’t quite spin throughout practice and seemed unlikely to reproduce his impressive 1979 Watkins Glen form when he ﬁnished a strong second behind Villeneuve’s Ferrari in the predominantly wet race. Behind Pireeni is the second Brabham BT49 of Rebaque.
The little Mexican driver really rising to the occasion in wham must certainly be a N., good car although he is more than a full second slower than his team leader Piquet. Watson is a little disappoint that his best time of 1'35"202 only earn him ninth place us the grid, for his mmerule is running at a high level and he is fourth overall leer a long time on the ﬁrst day and felt particularly optimistic about his prospects for the race with the McLaren MIK going extremely well an the hardest race compound tyre. For Prost whose McLaren M36 has been repaired since its Montreal suspension breakage sent it off the track in the Canadian Grand Prix, Watkins Glen brought with it more trouble. After recording a reasonable 1'35"988 lap on Friday. he never goes on to practice in Saturday’s time session. On Saturday morning his M30 goes very violently-out of control on one IA the fast left hand corners shortly before the pits and plunge off the circuit, the accident apparently due to a suspension component failure. It’s a very big accident and Prost is lucky to emerge from his battered car with nothing more than a severe shaking and some nasty bruises on one arm. Unfortunately these become so painful that he doesn’t practice further and, after a handful of laps of his spare M29C on race morning, opted to withdraw from the contest before the race started. This little drama enable Jan Lammers’ Ensign N180, which has fail to qualify yet again, to take its place right at the back of the starting grid. The ﬁnal time practice session seems endless as it stops periodically for damages cars to be removes from the circuit. Chever’s sells FAI/B1, which has spin to a standstill when the suspension broke in the morning, has a most alarming crash when the front suspension gives out again and the car lost a wheel going into the right hander after the pits.
Cheever is sent ﬂying through the catch fencing at considerable speed and, although he walks away, the car appears quite badly damage. There are only two ‘Tyrrells running by now for Thackwell has been withdrawn after a breake disc broke on Ola I during the untime session on Saturday and since Janet’s car has suffer two similar failures on Friday, the Ripley team is getting a little short of spare parts: The Fittipaldi team is scratching its communal head after Rosberg slams his F8 into the wall again during the morning but by dint of using up their last spares they manages to get him going again in time to qualify on 1'36"332, which is just behind Andretti, not bad for a car with a large and obvious crinkle in its monocoque. Emerson Fittipaldi is much further back in 20th place after being affiict with dire understeer problems on Friday. the Brazilian rumor strongly lobe rethink at the end of the weekend although no formal announcement is forthcoming. Andrea de Cesaris does a ﬁne Mb for Alfa Romeo once again, the Italian novice managing a 1'35"235, which is tenth quickest and Villeneuve can always be rely upon to produce a spectacular performance from his uncompetitive Ferrari T5, and he does lust that although his verge-shaving enthusiasm goes a little too far on Saturday when one of his spins end against the guard rail at the right bander before the pits. Nothing daunted, he rushes back to the pits and climbs into his spare car even though there is little more than ten minutes of the session left to go. Scheckter, feeling rather reﬂective on the eve of his very last Grand Prix, was last-but-one quality ahead of Mass and can’t raise himself to approach his team-mate’s effort. Watching Villeneuve out on the circuit, it seems criminal that his tremendous efforts only net him 18th place on the grid with a lap in 1'37"040.