Niki Lauda Keeps Ferrari In The Lead At 1976 US Grand Prix 40 Years Ago

Niki Lauda keeps Ferrari in the lead for the championship, on this day at the 1976 United States Grand Prix.

The year was not a good one for Lauda, after crashing and almost burning to death at the German Grand Prix, on August 1 in Nürburgring.

He returned to race a mere six weeks later during the Italian Grand Prix, to the delight of the Ferrari fans who had turned in the thousands to cheer on the champion’s incredible comeback.

During the US Grand Prix, Lauda was leading in the standings with 61 points to Britain’s James Hunt’s 56 and Ferrari was also on top with 73 points, with McLaren in second as well.

With only the Japanese Grand Prix to race, the performance in this race was critical and Lauda needed to place well to give Ferrari the championship.

Before his accident, the Austrian driver was almost a sure bet to do a repeat, a feat not accomplished since the 1959-1960 season.

And Niki Lauda was ready for the fight of his life, even though he was still suffering the effects of the horrific burns he sustained in Germany.

His arch rival, Hunt, had won three of the previous races, including Germany, were the accident occurred.

After two days of qualifying in the rain, and some snow, the sun came out to warm up the 100,000 fans who had turned up to see the dramatic championship play out.

James Hunt took the pole position, while Niki Lauda started the race in fifth place.

The Grand Prix saw a nearly deathly accident when the Ensign car driven by Jack Ickx spun out of control and split in half.

Lauda struggled in the cold weather with hard tires and barely beat Hunt’s teammate Mass to finish in third place.

When Niki Lauda finished the race and removed his helmet, witnesses saw his bandages soaked in blood. He and Ferrari were still in first place after the USGP.