The rebuilt Jacarepaguá circuit first hosted the Brazilian Grand Prix during the 1978 Formula One season.
The race was won by Ferrari’s Argentine driver Carlos Reutemann, with Sweden’s Ronnie Peterson, driving the revolutionary Ground effect Lotus 78-Ford, on pole position with a time of 1:40.45. The race moved for 1979 and 1980 to the Interlagos circuit in São Paulo.
The Grand Prix returned to Jacarepaguá in 1981 and would remain at the circuit until the end of the decade. The race was again won by Reutemann, this time driving a Williams-Ford. Reutemann won after disobeying team orders which required him to finish behind team mate, 1980 World Champion Alan Jones, who finished second.
The 1982 Brazilian Grand Prix was shrouded in controversy. At the height of the FISA-FOCA war, the winner, 1981 World Champion Nelson Piquet in a Brabham-Ford, and second placed Keke Rosberg (Williams-Ford) were both disqualified after the race for being underweight. France’s Alain Prost won the first of his record six Brazilian Grands Prix (five won at Jacarepaguá) driving a Renault.
Brazilian Piquet officially won his first home Grand Prix in 1983 driving a Brabham-BMW turbo. No second place was awarded after 1982 World Champion Rosberg was disqualified for the 2nd year running after receiving a push start in the pits (his Williams FW08 had caught fire during his pit stop, forcing Rosberg to temporarily abandon the car). Triple World Champion Niki Lauda finished third in his McLaren-Ford.
Both the 1984 and 1985 races were won by Alain Prost, this time driving the McLaren-TAG Porsche. Prost also won the 1987 Brazilian Grand Prix in a McLaren-TAG Porsche. The only interruption to Prost’s run was the 1986 race, won by Nelson Piquet driving a Williams-Honda.
The 1984 race also saw the F1 debut of future triple World Champion Ayrton Senna driving a Toleman-Hart. Senna, who would go on to win 41 Grands Prix and would claim 65 pole positions before his death 10 years later at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, qualified 17th (one position in front of team mate Johnny Cecotto), but was the first retirement from the 61 lap race with turbo failure on lap 8.
In 1988 the Jacarepaguá circuit was named after Brazil’s first triple World Drivers’ Champion Nelson Piquet. Piquet had won the World Championship in 1981, 1983 and 1987. In his first race on the track since it was renamed after him, Piquet finished 3rd in the 1988 Brazilian Grand Prix driving a Lotus-Honda, finishing behind the McLaren-Honda of Alain Prost, and the Ferrari of Gerhard Berger.
The last Brazilian Grand Prix held at Jacarepaguá was the 1989 race, the first in the new non-turbo era of Formula One that continues as of the 2012 Formula One season. Britain’s Nigel Mansell took a surprise win in his V12 Ferrari (complete with F1’s first semi-automatic gearbox) from Alain Prost’s McLaren-Honda, with Brazilian Mauricio Gugelmin finishing third in his March-Judd. 1988 World Champion Ayrton Senna of Brazil (McLaren-Honda) was the last F1 pole winner at Jacarepaguá with a 1:25.302 of the 5.031 km (3.126 mi) circuit. Senna’s time was the fastest ever recorded at the circuit, beating his 1986 pole time of 1:25.501 set in the JPS Lotus-Renault.
The most successful Formula One driver at Jacarepaguá was Frenchman Alain Prost, who recorded five of his record six Brazilian GP wins at the circuit. The four time World Champion won in 1982 for Renault, in 1984, 1985 and 1987 for McLaren-TAG, and 1988 for McLaren-Honda, while finishing 2nd, also for McLaren-Honda, in 1989.
From the 1990 Formula One season, the Brazilian Grand Prix was moved permanently to the Interlagos circuit in São Paulo.
This video is from official F1 tires testing in February 1986.