Forty years ago, in 1977 and ’78, Mario Andretti was the man to beat in Grand Prix racing aboard Colin Chapman’s JPS Lotus 78 and 79 Formula One cars. Andretti made his Grand Prix debut with Lotus in 1968, qualifying on pole for the United States GP at Watkins Glen. He scored his first F1 win with Ferrari in South Africa in 1971, but through this time Andretti’s primary commitment was to race Indycars for Andy Granatelli and Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing.
At the end of 1974, Andretti and VPJ went Grand Prix racing with their own car, which Mario raced through 1975 and into 1976. “When I finally decided to make Formula One a priority in my career I did it with Vel’s Parnelli Jones because there were no top seats available in F1,” Andretti recalls. “I had been driving for Vel and Parnelli in Indycars and Formula 5000, and it was a natural for the team to do F1. It was an all-American team, of course, which had some appeal, and the car was a good car, but we didn’t have the money to develop it the way we should have.
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