Jansen van Vuuren is loving this. Usually he works as a booking clerk at Jan Smuts Airport, but this week the 19-year-old from Johannesburg has taken up station at the nearby Kyalami circuit for the 1977 South African Grand Prix as a fire marshal on the pit straight. Suddenly, at the end of lap 21, he has a job to do. Backmarker Renzo Zorzi parks opposite the pits with mechanical failure, a small fire licking around the rear of his Shadow DN8. Van Vuuren, who is carrying a 40lb fire extinguisher, and a fellow marshal run across the track.
Tom Pryce is loving this. At the age of 27, he's now in his third full season as a Formula One driver with Shadow, his dream job with a team that cherishes him. Already in '77 there have been flashes of promise: Tom ran second in the previous race in Brazil before an engine failure; then, on the wet first day of qualifying in South Africa, he uses his exquisite car control to set the overnight pole position, 0.81sec clear of Niki Lauda's Ferrari. In the subsequent dry conditions he falls to 15th on the grid, and to compound this he loses time on the first lap and drops nearly to the back of the field. So he gets stuck in.
As a contrast to Zorzi's, his DN8 is running well: Pryce sets what will stand as the fifth fastest lap of the race and, 20 laps in, catches and joins the battle for 11th. He works his way past Gunnar Nilsson's Lotus and Jacques Laffite's Ligier. Then, at the end of his 22nd lap, he enters the long pit straight tucked right into the slipstream of Hans Stuck's March. Up the crest they come, over the brow. But what's this? Why is Stuck swerving? Oh my God.