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Foremost among the drivers vying for fame and fortune in the 9-race competition for the World Championship of Drivers are American Pete Aron, Britisher Scott Stoddard, Corsican Jean-Pierre Sarti, and Sicilian Nino Barlini. During the first race in Monaco, a smashup hurls Aron's car into the Monte Carlo harbor and sends Stoddard crashing into a cliffside wall. Although Aron is able to swim away from his wreck, it appears unlikely that Stoddard will ever race--or walk--again; and Aron is held accountable. At a party following the event, Sarti, whose marriage has lost all of its meaning and passion, becomes attracted to Louise Frederickson, a fashion magazine editor, and the young Nino takes up with a vivacious young Frenchwoman named Lisa who follows along with him to the other races. After the French Grand Prix at Clermont-Ferrand, which Sarti wins, Aron agrees to race for a Japanese industrialist, Izo Yamura; he also begins an illicit affair with Stoddard's bored young wife, Pat. During the race in Belgium, which Aron eventually wins, Sarti's car skids on the wet track, crashes off the road, and kills two children. The disaster has a lasting effect upon Sarti's emotional stability. Aron again wins at the German Grand Prix, but Stoddard, despite his still unhealed injuries, returns for the Dutch Grand Prix and scores an amazing victory. He repeats his triumph at Watkins Glen in the United States and again at the Mexican meet. At the British event in Brands Hatch, however, he buckles from pain and loses to Nino. By now Sarti and Louise are openly living together, but Aron and Pat have parted. At the final race in Monza, Italy, the point totals show Nino leading, one ahead of Sarti and Stoddard and two ahead of Aron. During the event Sarti dies in a terrible accident which so stuns Nino that he removes his foot from the gas pedal. Stoddard finishes a close second to Aron and also gets a second chance to save his marriage to Pat. As Aron is crowned the victor amid the throngs of cheering fans, he somehow feels strangely alone.