Then & Now – American Formula 1 Constructors

When the Formula 1 constructor’s championship started in 1958 there were only six registered constructors:







None of these were American, it took until 1960 before Scarab entered.  Two cars were entered for Monaco (Did Not Qualify), Netherlands (Did Not Start), Belgium (Retired) and France (DNS) before finally a single car was entered for the final race of the season in USA.  Chuck Daigh finished tenth five laps behind the winner.

In 1966 Eagle was entered by Dan Gurney’s Anglo American Racers. Having missed the first race of the year at Monaco, a single car entry was made for Gurney for rounds 2-6, before a second car was added for the final three races of the year (driven initially by Phil Hill before being handed over to Bob Bondurant for the final race.  Gurney’s two fifth places were the only points scored for the year (points being 9, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1 for 1st to 6th place at the time).  Not bad by modern standards for a debut season for a new constructor.  It was enough to secure seventh place for Eagle in the constructor’s championship (12 constructors entered).  The following year Gurney won in Belgium and came third in Canada, but the 13 points were still only enough for seventh place in the constructor’s championship from the eleven entries.  Gurney then joined Brabham for the following year, and Eagle disappeared from the F1 constructor’s championship.  From 25 race starts they scored one win and two fastest laps.

The next American constructor to come along was Shadow, who started in 1973.  While the team ran until 1980, it was only entered for the first three years as an American outfit, before changing its nationality to British.  Starting out by scoring a point in its first race (a sixth place in the third GP of the year at South Africa for George Follmer), two podiums followed (both thirds at Spain – Follmer again and Canada – Jackie Oliver this time).  The team even sold a customer car to Graham Hill after their success in their first event. The nine points earned was enough for eighth in the constructor’s title.  The following year they again scored points in three races, but only a single podium this time (third place for Jean Pierre Jarier in Monaco, who followed with a fifth at the next round in Sweden), the final point came from Tom Pryce in Germany.  The seven points still resulted in eighth place in the constructor’s battle.  In the final year as a US constructor the points haul increased to 9.5 points from six races (three sixths a fifth and a fourth for Pryce, and a fourth (and half points) for Jarier in the shortened Spanish race.

1974 also featured the Formula 1 debut of two other American constructors: Parnelli and Penske.  Both had history in US single seaters and entered late in the 1974 season.  Mario Andretti was Parnelli’s driver for the entire F1 entry (the final two race in ’74, ’75 and the first three races in ’76).  The team folded in early 1976 through lack of sponsorship.  Andretti did manage to score five points in 1975 (a fourth in Sweden and a fifth in France) to get tenth in the constructors championship.  A single point for sixth in South Africa was all he managed in ’76, but this at least got the team 13th place in the championship.

Penske also entered the final two races of 1974, Mark Donohue was the driver, like Andretti in the Parnelli he failed to score in Canada and failed to finish in the USA.  In 1975 things got a little better, with a fifth place in Sweden, the two points giving the team 12th place in the championship.  By the Austrian round, the team had given up with the troublesome PC1 chassis, and were using the March 751.  During practice for the race at the Österreichring Donohue lost control of the car following a tyre failure and went off at the fastest corner of the track.  At the time there was no such thing as tarmac run off, or even gravel traps.  He hit catch fencing and while a track marshal was killed by debris, the driver appeared to have no significant injuries.  He went to the hospital in Graz the next day with a headache, lapsed into a coma and died.  Donohue was replaced by John Watson for the final GP of the year, back using the PC1.  For 1976 Penske had a new car the PC3 and a fifth place resulted in round two in South Africa,  but this was replace by the PC4 by the seventh round.  With this Watson achieved some success, scoring a further 18 points for a win (back at the Österreichring, and forcing Watson to shave his beard), two thirds and a sixth.  This was enough for the driver to be seventh in the drivers championship and Penske to be fifth in the constructors standings.  Penske stopped F1 at the end of 1976, although the PC4 was entered in 1977 by ATS for Jean Pierre Jarier, who scored a point for sixth place in Long Beach.  Penske’s F1 cars were built in Poole in southern England even though they were entered as an American team.

The last American team to enter F1 was Team Haas Ltd, who with backing from Beatrice and Ford developed a new 1.5 litre turbo engine to power their cars.  The chassis were built in the UK by Formula One Race Care Engineering (FORCE), with a young Ross Brawn on the design team headed by Neil Oatley.  Carl Haas chose to enter the cars under the name Lola, as he was the official importer of Lola cars into the USA, however Lola was not involved in the design or construction of the chassis.  With ex world champion Alan Jones driving, the development of the new engine was the subject of a Channel 4 documentary (Turbo – Made to Measure).  The team scored no points in 1985, but managed six in 1986 after entering a second car.  Their most successful race being in Austria with Alan Jones in fourth and Patrick Tambay in fifth.  This was followed by a sixth for Jones in the next race in Italy.  Despite finishing eighth in the constructors championship the team didn’t make the next season.

Gene Haas has a lot to do before his cars can run in F1 at the beginning of 2016, but there has been some success for American teams in the past, not all were as poorly organised/funded as USF1.

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