|1975||Ford||MN Donohue, JM Watson||10||10||0||0||6||5||0||0||0||12||0||2||12|
|1976||Ford||JG Hayje, JM Watson||16||17||1||3||10||1||0||0||1||2||0||20||5|
|1977||Ford||H Binder, H Heyer, JPJP Jarier, D Ongais||12||15||0||0||9||6||0||0||0||9||0||1||12|
|First race||Canadian Grand Prix||Mosport||September 22, 1974||Race results|
|Last race||Canadian Grand Prix||Mosport||October 9, 1977||Race results|
Roger Penske runs what many experts acknowledge as the best racing team in the world. Interestingly, however, his business interests in the United States have caused him to concentrate on domestic racing programmes since his foray into the Formula One world in the mid-1970s.
Penske has won the Indianapolis 500 a record nine times. A measure of the dominance that he has achieved in North America was most graphically illustrated in 1994, when his Marlboro-backed cars finished one-two-three in the Indy Car World Series.
Al Unser Jr took the title, admirably backed up by two-time World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi and young Canadian Paul Tracy, who took the opportunity to test a Benetton Formula One car at the end of that 1994 season.
Penske is entirely self-made, starting off as a tin salesman and building the Penske Corporation into a truly huge conglomerate. He has a seat on the board of Philip Morris, whose Marlboro brand backs his Indy Car team, and he has been involved with the Mercedes motor sport programme. Mercedes is a major stakeholder in Penske's successful Detroit Diesel company and Roger himself owns a 25 per cent share of Ilmor Engineering, which prepares the Mercedes engines for McLaren.
Penske was a promising driver in his own right, but he hung up his helmet at the age of 28 to concentrate on business. Starting his own team, he struck up a hugely successful partnership with experienced American ace Mark Donohue.
Penske rented a McLaren M19 in 1971 and Donohue drove it to third place in the wet Canadian Grand Prix. Penske then started to think about a full grand prix effort. He bought a factory at Poole, in Dorset, and recruited Geoff Ferris, who had learned his trade with Ron Tauranac at Brabham, to design him a car.
The first car appeared in late 1974, with the testing done by Donohue, who had retired. The project sparked his enthusiasm, however, and Mark agreed to commit to a full Grand Prix programme with Penske in 1975.
With First National City Bank support and a Cosworth engine, Penske hardly set the world on fire and, midway through the season, replaced the PC1 with a March 751. In practice at the Osterreichring, Donohue suffered a deflating tyre and flew off the road, hitting television station scaffolding. Although at first he appeared to have escaped with a headache, Donohue fell into a coma and subsequently died from his injuries.
Penske signed John Watson and, with Ferris's elegant new PC4, the combination started to run at the front of the field in 1976. By mid-season, Watson was challenging for a win that, somewhat ironically, came at Osterreichring exactly a year after Donohue's death there.
Formula One was enjoying its epic Hunt versus Lauda season and Watson's sudden intrusion was something that Hunt could have done without, as the Austrian lay in a Mannheim hospital trying to recover from his Nurburgring accident. Watson also battled hard with Hunt's McLaren at Zandvoort before retiring.
At the end of 1976, First National City Bank defected to Tyrrell, attracted by the guaranteed exposure generated by the Tyrrell six-wheeler. Penske decided to halt his Formula One campaign and concentrate on the Indy Car scene instead.
Despite the occasional rumour, Penske has never returned to Formula One. In 1994, however, his closeness to Mercedes, through both business and personal friendships, convinced many that he would play an active role in the McLaren-Mercedes link. This, however, has yet to happen.
Reproduced from The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Formula One published by Carlton Books
- One record Schumacher doesn't hold ... (September 30, 2011)
- From bad to worse (March 15, 2010)
- Peterson wins on Lauda's remarkable return (September 12, 1976)
- Hunt holds off Regazzoni to slice Lauda's lead (August 29, 1976)
- Watson secures maiden win as Hunt fails to take advantage (August 15, 1976)