For many sportspersons, the crowning glory for them is to have their national anthem blare out after a win. Such a feeling would be euphoric for maiden winners, case in point, Charles LeClerc in the recently concluded Belgian Grand Prix. However, back in 1977, Shadow driver Alan Jones was not afforded that luxury.
The Australian driver landed an unexpected victory at the 1977 Austrian Grand Prix, ahead of Niki Lauda and Hans Joachim-Stuck. Unfortunately, the Austrian GP authorities were caught in an awkward situation.
“Well, certainly the organisers obviously didn’t expect it to happen because they didn’t have the Australian national anthem,” reminisced Alan Jones. “So [instead] a drunk played ‘Happy Birthday’ on a trumpet – of which there were plenty in Austria.”
At the time, the skies fell ahead of the race start leaving the track damp, but in the process of drying out. Lotus driver Mario Andretti was an early leader until his engine gave up the goose. Both Alan Jones and Gunnar Nilsson seemed almost invincible in the tricky conditions, moving to 4th and 2nd respectively from well down the order.
Soon, Nilsson was left in the lead, but later dived in the pits, with James Hunt inheriting it. Meanwhile, Jones slotted into second position and would remain there until the engine in Hunt’s McLaren M26 popped late in the race.
It had been seven years since the last victory by an Australian (Jack Brabham in the 1970 South African Grand Prix). Jones’ win had no effect the championship points race. Lauda’s second place, coupled with retirements to Scheckter, Andretti and Hunt significantly strengthened Lauda’s grip on the championship, expanding his lead to 16 points.
For the record the race, which Jones won from 14th on the grid after inheriting the lead from James Hunt 11 laps from home, took place in August. Jones was born in November.