Star-Spangled Rubber

2y ago


At the 1974 Grand Prix of Canada, not one, but two all American teams appeared at the start of the race. The already well respected racing team of Roger Penske, Penske Racing, and a team in which a collaboration between Parnelli Jones and businessman Velko Miletich resulted in Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing.


Parnelli Jones realized he couldn’t focus on building chassis’ for both Indycar and Formula One, so he contracted Dan Gurney to build a couple of Eagle Indycar chassis’ for use back in the States. Parnelli could now focus completely on his Formula One effort. Behind the wheel of the Ford DFV powered VPJ4, Mario Andretti took his seat. With sponsor Firestone backing them, Parnelli jones entered for a full season in 1975. Sadly for Jones, Firestone stepped out of Formula One only shortly after, and at the end of the season Jones was not able to find a new title sponsor. After the first two Grands Prix in 1976, Jones retired from the sport.

Mario Andretti rounding the carousel at Nürburg in his VPJ4, German GP, 1975. Source: F1-History, DeviantArt.


Roger Penske decided, like Jones, in 1975 to run for an entire season. The PC1 chassis exhibited many problems, so over the 1975 season they lacked success. So much so, that Penske decided to borrow a March chassis for the last few races. Sadly, driver Mark Donohue tragically died a few days after sustaining seemingly mild injuries in a shunt at the Austrian Grand Prix. In 1976 Penske appeared with the PC3 and later on with a developed version, the PC4. Powered by the Double Four Valve, British driver John Watson got on with the top constructors quite well, and a year after the death of Mark Donohue Watson took the victory in the Austrian Grand Prix. After 1976 Roger Penske sold his team to the ATS Wheels team of German entrepreneur Günter Schmid. What followed was a period of nine years without a US manufacturer competing in Formula One.

John Watson's 1976 Penske PC3 in a Historic Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park, 2009. Credits: Mike Powell, Wikimedia Commons.


In 1985, a collaboration with Carl Haas and Teddy Mayer resulted in the participation of Haas-Lola at the the Italian Grand Prix. Haas contracted Lola to build him an F1 chassis.

L/R Teddy Mayer, two dudes from Cosworth, Patrick Tambay (in car) and Alan Jones, 1986. Source: F1-History, DeviantArt.

A collaboration with Lola was obvious since Haas imported the Lola sports cars back home in the U.S. The Lola chassis was powered by a four cylinder Hart engine. The Australian Alan Jones steered the car in 1985 during the last four Grands Prix. When going for a full season’s attack in 1986, the team had high expectations and believed to be in good shape to fight for victories. The contracting of talents like Adrian Newey, Ross Brawn and Neil Oatley made for a lot of confidence. Beatrice Foods was Haas-Lola’s main sponsor. Sadly though, the development of the car was slowed down by a recalcitrant attitude of engine supplier Ford. The four-cylinder was out of date and they had to get started on a V6. However, this took a long time, and once installed it showed many problems. The lack in success hardly impressed Beatrice Foods, and after a reorganization they withdrew from the Haas-Lola team. It appeared that the new owners were all but interested in Formula One. In the end, Haas-Lola underwent the same fate the others. No funds, no racing. Haas-Lola withdrew from Formula One at the end of 1986.

A look at Jones' office. Source: F1-History, DeviantArt.

Alan Jones in the 1985 Haas-Lola THL1 at the 1985 European Grand Prix. Source: Wikimedia Commons.