Dave Charlton has been one of the most respected and successful South African drivers.
The South African GP was his only World Championship appearance in 1973, 1974 and 1975. He traded in the Lotus for a McLaren M23 for his last two appearances.
But let’s remember a little from the history…
In the two months between the Brazilian Grand Prix and the South African Grand Prix, F1 teams competed in the President Medici GP in Brasilia (won by Emerson Fittipaldi) and in the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, which was won by the Lotus by Jacky Ickx. The teams then headed to Kyalami for the test. At the end of the tests, Peter Revson’s Shadow suffered a suspension failure at Barbecue Bend and the American was killed when the car crashed into the barriers. The Shadow team withdrew and returned to England. Hesketh Racing had their new Hesketh 308 ready for James Hunt. The entry list included Tom Belso in the second Williams. The grid was completed by a group of local drivers led by Team Gunston leading Jody Scheckter’s brother Ian and Paddy Driver.
In this year Dave Charlton participated in a McLaren M23 ex-Works sponsored by Lucky Strike. A car with a really beautiful decoration.
The qualifying session resulted in Niki Lauda taking his first pole position at Ferrari with an impressive second place from Carlos Pace in his Surtees. Arturo Merzario had an extraordinary performance that classified Iso-Marlboro in third place, ahead of Carlos Reutemann’s Brabham, Emerson Fittipaldi’s McLaren and the second Ferrari, driven by Clay Regazzoni. Seventh on the grid thanks to the great work of Hans Stuck went to the factory March 741, while Jody Scheckter was eighth in his Tyrrell, ahead of Denny Hulme and Jacky Ickx’s McLaren in the new Lotus 76.
Dave Charlton had the 21st fastest time although he occupied 20th position on the starting grid as Ronnie Peterson participated in practice with the number 1 Lotus 76 Ford and the 31st Lotus 72E Ford. Ronnie Peterson had problems with his new car and He was only 16th on the grid.
At the start, Lauda took the lead with Reutemann overtaking Merzario and Pace to take second place. Regazzoni was third with Jody Scheckter fourth. In the middle zone, Lotus suffered a disaster when Peterson’s throttle opened and he collided with his teammate Ickx. Jochen Mass at Surtees also retired after being beaten by Henri Pescarolo’s BRM.
Lauda stayed in the lead for the first nine laps and then Reutemann overtook him and started to walk away. Regazzoni remained third with Jody Scheckter fourth, Hunt fifth and Emerson Fittipaldi sixth. Hunt retired on lap 14 with a driveshaft failure and Scheckter began to suffer from tire vibration problems and fell behind Fittipaldi and Hailwood. The order was unchanged for most of the race, although Hailwood edged out Fittipaldi for fourth place on lap 49, both trailing behind Jean-Pierre Beltoise’s BRM.
On lap 66, Regazzoni retired with engine problems to be followed nine laps later by Lauda with a similar problem. This meant that Beltoise was able to finish second with Hailwood third. Stuck scored his first F1 points with fifth place, while Merzario gave Williams a point for sixth. Carlos Reutemann won an undeniable victory with his Brabham BT44 Ford.
Over the course of the race Dave Charlton and his McLaren M23 did not have much luck finishing in 19th position 7 laps behind the winner.