Stars and racing stripes: Six American teams that failed to crack F1

Luke Murphy
The Shadow F1 car on a demo run

Shadow even won a Formula 1 Grand Prix.

With F1 currently enjoying a healthy relationship with the USA, the sport has three Grands Prix on the calendar, a returning manufacturer, one driver and one healthy team, with another one banging at the door to join the grid.

This demand for F1 in the States is a stark contrast with the previous decades, with the country having to depend on the likes of Mario Andretti and Ford to drum up enough interest in the championship.

Several teams have tried to become the flagship American outfit to tackle F1, here are the six teams that have tried to tackle the likes of Ferrari and McLaren and establish themselves outside of US soil.

Note: For this list, we have excluded any one-off entries for the likes of the Indy 500, which was part of the F1 championship back in the fifties.

Scarab

Years active: 1960
Grands Prix entered: 5
Race wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Points: 0

Starting off as a sports and race car manufacturer, the Scarab team built up a strong reputation with racing success Stateside in the late fifties, which quickly triggered higher ambitions. For 1960, they became the first proper American F1 team entry that wasn’t a one-off appearance at an Indy 500 or a United States GP.

The scale of the task was quickly realised. On top of reliability issues, their car was underpowered and short of pace. They failed to qualify for their debut in Monaco, weren’t able to start the French and Dutch GPs and had a double-retirement from the Belgian GP. Their final race at the United States GP yielded a P10 result, but the car finished several laps down. They focused on other racing ventures after the 1960 season.

Anglo-American Racers (Eagle)

Years active: 1966-1968
Grands Prix entered: 25
Race wins: 1
Podiums: 2
Points: 17

Talented F1 driver Dan Gurney started his own motor racing team in the United States in 1964, named All American Racers. By 1966, Gurney had left the Brabham team to concentrate on bringing his team to F1, with this particular arm of the team called Anglo-American Racers and set up in the UK.

Initially getting by with an underdeveloped and underpowered car, the gorgeous Eagle T1G evolved into a competitive race car, designed by an ex-Lotus engineer and equipped with a punchier V12. With Gurney at the wheel, the car was guided to victory at the 1967 Belgian GP, the first ‘all-American’ F1 victory. A further podium came at the Canadian GP that year, but reliability issues prevented further success.

A drop-off in competitiveness and dwindling funds encouraged Gurney to withdraw his team from F1 altogether by the end of 1968. Concentrating on their efforts Stateside, the team went on to success at the Indy 500.

Shadow

Years active: 1973-1980
Grands Prix entered: 112
Race wins: 1
Podiums: 7
Points: 67.5

Initially competing in the North American CanAm championship, Don Nichols’ Shadow expanded into F1 for the 1973 season. They made a competitive start, and claimed a podium finish in only their second race with CanAm champion George Follmer, following this up with another top three result later that season with Jackie Oliver.

The pace of their cars improved, and the Shadow DN5 took occasional pole positions, but reliability issues meant they could only muster up occasional podium finishes from 1974 – 1976. During this time, the team had to deal with the deaths of talented driver Peter Revson and Tom Pryce, who both died racing for the team.

However, their day in the sun came in 1977 when, from 14th on the grid, Alan Jones took victory in the wet-to-dry Austrian GP. This was to be the only victory for the team, as fortunes turned for 1978. A gradual loss of competitiveness, sponsors and staff resulted in the team closing by 1980.

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Parnelli

Years active: 1974-1976
Grands Prix entered: 16
Race wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Points: 6

Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing was formed by Indy 500 winner and multiple championship winner Parnelli Jones and business partner Velko Miletich in the late sixties, and became wildly successful straight away on the American racing scene. IndyCar championship success, Indy 500 victories and titles in the USAC championship was enough to seek more success in F1.

The team, usually referred to simply as Parnelli, joined F1 for the North American leg of the 1974 season before embarking on their first full season in 1975. Mario Andretti, who had raced for Parnelli in the US, joined as their only driver, and almost scored a point on the team’s debut in 1974. He might have scored points at the following US GP but, starting from P3 on the grid, he suffered car ignition troubles and was eventually disqualified due to receiving a push start.

The 1975 was Andretti’s first full-time season in F1, but he could only achieve a couple of points finishes for the team, who were beginning to struggle due to the loss of Firestone sponsorship. The loss of budget meant the team pulled out of F1 after just three races of the 1976 season.

Penske

Years active: 1974-1976
Grands Prix entered: 41
Race wins: 1
Podiums: 3 (4 including customer entries)
Points: 22

Having founded his iconic team in the sixties, Roger Penske also had a brief attempt at expanding operations into F1. After sponsoring a McLaren entry into the Canadian (where Mark Donohue scored a podium) and US Grands Prix in 1971, he decided to put together his own team for the 1974 season.

The Penske PC1 car made its debut in the North American races of the 1974 season, and set the team up for their first full season in 1975. The Cosworth-powered PC1 occasionally earned points with Donohue at the wheel, but the lack of improvement triggered a switch to a customer March car. However, in just the third race with the March 751, Donohue lost his life at the Austrian GP after a tyre failure triggered a crash. The team would race just once more that season with John Watson.

With Watson staying on for 1976, the Penske PC3 was much-improved. After points finishes, an evolution into the PC4 helped the team to podium finishes at the French and British GP. At the Austrian GP of 1976, one year after Donohue’s death, Watson claimed the team’s only F1 victory. Penske made the decision at the end of the season to withdraw the team, sell the cars, and focus on racing in America. Their only win turned out to be the last victory for an American team.

Haas Lola

Years active: 1985-1986
Grands Prix entered: 20
Race wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Points: 6

Prior to the introduction of the Haas team that we know today, the last American team to enter F1 was also called Haas. This one from the eighties, owned by Carl Haas (no relation to Gene Haas), was backed by major American sponsor Beatrice Foods. Despite Lola being part of the entry name, the sports car manufacturer had minimal involvement in the team.

Less than two years after starting his CART team – Newman/Haas Racing – in the US, Haas’ F1 team entered four races at the end of the 1985 season with the Lola THL1. With an ageing Alan Jones at the wheel, their first car lacked performance, particularly with the Hart engine. Their second car was introduced for the third round of the 1986 season, and Jones, along with teammate Patrick Tambay, picked up points in two Grands Prix, but the team had anticipated more performance.

The team, equipped with Teddy Meyer, Neil Oatley and youngsters Ross Brawn and Adrian Newey, were bidding for a leap forward in 1987, but Beatrice withdrew support, and the team was forced to close at the end of 1986.

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