3/2/1974

Grand Prix de President Medici, Autodromo do Brasilia, won by Emerson Fittipaldi in a McLaren.

Emerson Fittipaldi inaugurated the new Autodromo do Brasilia by winning the non-championship F1 'Grand Prix de President Medici' on the twisting 3.4 mile circuit built in the nation's capitol at an estimated cost of 3.5 million dollars. The 12 car "invitational" field was made up of two cars for Surtees (Carlos Pace, Jochen Mass), March (Howden Ganley, Hans Stuck), BRM (Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Henri Pescarolo) and Brabham (Carlos Reutemann and Wilson Fittipaldi in a one off drive), along with single entries for McLaren (E. Fittipaldi), Tyrell (Jody Scheckter), Iso (Arturo Merzario) and Hesketh Racing (James Hunt). Since only 12 cars fit on the plane, Hesketh paid the way for his new Harvey Postlthwaite designed car in hopes of testing and possibly racing it, only to discover an irreparable leak in a fuel tank bag. The first Hesketh chassis was scratched and Hunt moved to the March 731 the team used in the Argentine and Brazilian GPs. As in the two South American championship rounds, the start was a bit earlier than expected and pole winner Reutemann got away first, followed by E. Fittipaldi and Merzario, who'd moved from row 3. Hunt had been pushed off with bottom gear engaged and did 3 laps learning how to drive without a clutch only to have the gear linkage break. Merzario gamely held off Scheckter for a few laps, but Jody finally clawed his way past. Reutemann had felt something go wrong with the engine on the warm-up lap and after about 8 laps, he had to let Emerson by on one of the shorter straights. Reutemann went slower and slower until he pulled off circuit in a cloud of steam after completing 11 laps. This left Emerson all alone, apparently on his way to an easy victory. But, halfway around the 40th and final lap, Emerson suddenly slowed and raised a hand. It looked like he was waving to the crowd, but in fact he was trying to signal his McLaren crew that he was running out of fuel. By switching on the electric pump, he was able to drive on to the checkered. Scheckter soldiered on to 2nd despite a terrible vibration and "Little Art" Merzario took Frank Williams' Iso to a well earned 3rd. Named in honor of Brazil's outgoing president (whose administration pushed for and backed the autodrome), the race is the only international auto race held on the lavish, then state of the art circuit.

Jim Thurman

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