1976 Grand Prix victory
Penske Racing’s Formula 1 program was
short-lived (see above), but it did tick a
box with a win for John Watson’s PC- 4
in the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix.
1973 Can-Am domination
That man Mark Donohue again, this time ruling
Can-Am in the mighty Porsche 917/30. The
1,000hp machine takes all eight poles, with six
round wins giving Donohue more than double
the points of his nearest challenger.
1975 NASCAR success
Bobby Allison takes three wins
in Penske’s AMC Matador, including
Darlington’s Southern 500 (BELOW).
high standards for
to its drivers, and
trademark beard fell
some way short of the
desired image. The
promised to shave it
off if he ever won a GP
- and duly did so after
standing on the
Austria podium in ’ 75.
1974-1976 FORMULA 1
owadays, launching a new F1 team is a
manic whirl of strategic alliances, deep
pockets and long lead times. In late 1973,
Roger Penske put an F1 team together in
the space of a few months because of a
Can-Am rule change that banished his
mighty Porsche 917/30 into regulatory exile.
Penske Racing had dipped a toe into F1’s
waters in 1971, when it leased a McLaren
for the North American races and watched
Mark Donohue qualify and finish ahead of
the works McLarens in Canada. But when
the team returned to Formula 1 late in
1974, it did so with a full-scale program
using its very own Cosworth-powered
Penske PC-1 chassis. Donohue curtailed
a brief retirement to drive it.
The turmoil of the team’s first full year
has been well-documented: the PC-1 was
so problematic that Penske benched it
halfway through 1975 in favor of a
customer March 751. Then just as results
were beginning to improve, the team lost
its talisman when Donohue died from
injuries sustained in a practice crash at
Penske headed into 1976 with John
Watson driving its PC- 3, before switching
to the new and much-improved PC- 4. The
combo produced a string of encouraging
results, culminating in the famous win in
Austria a year after Donohue’s death.
But by that point, Penske’s F1
involvement was already entering its
endgame. The logistical challenge of juggling
multiple racing programs on two continents
was proving a handful, and there was a
growing recognition that more investment
would be needed to turn the car from
occasional threat into genuine contender.
Penske Racing’s history is built upon
pragmatism, and at the end of 1976,
the Formula 1 experiment ended. Still,
the team’s UK facilities did go on to
manufacture a string of successful Penske
Indy cars going deep into the 1990s.
(MAIN) With Mark
introduced its PC-1
into Formula 1 late in
1974. (LEFT) The
PC- 4 delivered John
Watson his first GP
win, Austria ’ 76.
Penske Racing’s Formula 1 team went through more in its two-
and-a-bit year lifespan than many other teams do in a decade...
TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH