Posts Tagged ‘Mario Andretti’

Brands Hatch 27 Sept 1970 F5000 C’ship round. Gardner, Lola T190 Chev, Mike Walker, McLaren M10B Chev, Trevor Taylor, Lola T190 Chev, Graham McRae, McLaren M10B Chev. McRae won from Howden Ganley M10B and Mike Hailwood T190 (Autosport)

The answer is F1 of course, maybe the more interesting question is by how much. A warning this piece is strictly for the F5000 anoraks.

Some recent chatter amongst enthusiasts on the The Nostalgia Forum’s Ontario Raceway thread got me thinking about the relative speed of F1 and F5000 cars. The builder/promoters of the new Ontario facility ran an F1/F5000 race won by Mario Andretti’s Ferrari 312B in early 1971, see here; https://primotipo.com/2015/10/30/questor-grand-prix-ontario-speedway-1971/

In those far away days the ‘Race of Champions’ at Brands Hatch pitted the two categories together, the only occasion on which an F5000 car beat the Effwun jobbies ‘fair and square’ was in 1973 when Peter Gethin triumphed in a Chevron B24 Chev. The 1971 Italian GP winner was running third when Mike Hailwood’s leading Surtees TS14A Ford and Denny Hulme’s following McLaren M23 Ford F1 cars had mechanical troubles gifting Gethin the win. Peter had only qualified eighth though.

Its ‘raw speed’ i am more interested in.

 

Peter Gethin exits Druids on the way to his Brands Hatch ‘Race of Champions’ win in 1973, Chevron B24 Chev (MotorSport)

 

Peter awaits a new sparkbox, ROC weekend 1973 (MotorSport)

 

Brands first round of the 1974 Euro F5000 C’ship 16 March 1974. Peter Gethin on pole, Chevron B28 Chev alongside Brian Redman, Lola T332 Chev, then Guy Edwards in another T332 with Ian Ashley alongside in the yellow T330. Schuppan’s Trojan T101 and Steve Thompson’s Chevron B24 on the row behind. Gethin won from Mike Wilds’ March 74A Chev and Redman (Autosport)

During the peak years of the European and US F5000 championships both categories raced on some of the same tracks, viz; Brands Hatch, Silverstone, Zandvoort, Zolder, Monza, Mosport and Watkins Glen.

So. If we look at the fastest race laps in each event by the cars on the track in the same year, eg; the Italian GP and Euro F5000 round at Monza, we can calculate the difference in lap times. Originally i thought qualifying times would be the go but F1 had greater use qualifying tyres than F5000 so race times are a fairer representation.

The obvious flaw in the logic above is that absolute comparisons can only be made by looking at performances on the same day with each class racing in identical climatic conditions but such races did not occur. So we will not arrive at absolute answers but indicative ones.

What year do we use? To get the greatest spread of meetings lets use 1974. By that stage the greatest F5000 car of all, the Lola T330-332 was in its second year of development. I suspect (but can’t be bothered doing the comparison) that the difference in times between F1 cars and F5000 in 1970-1971 would have much more as the only ‘great F5000’ then was the McLaren M10B. Mind you it’s father is McLaren’s 1968 F1 machine, Robin Herd and Bruce’s McLaren M7. By 1974 there were plenty of very competitive bespoke F5000s- Lola, McRae, Chevron, Matich et al.

In 1975 there were circuit changes (chicanes added) at Silverstone and Watkins Glen between the F5000 and F1 races which make comparisons impossible. After a shitfight over dollars (what else) the Canadian GP at Mosport wasn’t held, and Monza held an F5000 race, in 1975 they didn’t. Further, in Europe from 1975 the Championship admitted the Ford 3.4 litre quad cam, four valve V6 engine with which Alan Jones and David Purley were very fast.

The comparison i am after is ‘one of purity’ between 3 litre F1 cars and 5 litre F5000s as originally concepted, so for all those good reasons 1974 it is.

Remember, it’s fastest lap of the race I have recorded, not pole.

Mosport 15 June 1975. Heat 1, turn 9, lap 1. Warwick Brown, Talon MR-1A Chev thinks about an inside run on Mario Andretti’s Lola T332, David Hobbs’ T332 #10 at left. Jon Woodner’s Interscope T400 behind Brown. Andretti won from Brown and Woodner (Norm Macleod)

 

Main men in the US- Jim Hall, Brian Redman, Mario Andretti and Lola T332 Chev at Elkhart Lake in 1974 (Getty)

 

Ryan Falconer prepared Chev in Andretti’s T332. Circa 525 bhp in period (J Morris)

Brands Hatch

F5000 16/03/74  1:25.90  Peter Gethin Chevron B28 Chev

F1       20/06/74  1:21.10  Niki Lauda Ferrari 312B3-74

Zandvoort

F5000  03/06/74 1:23.30  Peter Gethin Chevron B28 Chev

F1       23/06/74  1:21.44  Ronnie Peterson Lotus 72E Ford

Monza

F5000 30/06/74  1:37.40  Peter Gethin Chevron B28 Chev

F1       08/09/74  1.34.20  Carlos Reutemann Brabham BT44 Ford

Mosport

F5000 15/06/74  1:16.200  Brian Redman Lola T332 Chev

F1       22/09/74  1:13.659  Niki Lauda Ferrari 312B3-74

Watkins Glen

F5000 14/07/74  1:41.406  Mario Andretti Lola T332 Chev

F1       06/10/74  1:40.608  Carlos Pace Brabham BT44 Ford

 

Teddy Pilette, Lola T400 Chev playing in the snow at Oulton Park during Easter 1975. Gordon Spice and Guy Edwards were up front in their T332 Chevs with David Purley third in his Chevron B30 Ford Cosworth GAA-3.4 V6. Whilst the T400 had plenty of success in Europe and Australia the prominent American teams never set aside their trusty, fast, winning T332s (A Cox)

 

Zolder 28 April 1974, unusual, great from the grid shot. Look at that crowd. Heat 1 grid- the two VDS Chevron B28 Chevs of Pilette and Gethin on the front row. Bob Evans yellow winged T332, Chris Craft’ Chevron B24/28 in the foreground and a wheel of Mike Wilds’ March 74A at left. Gethin won the 25 lapper from Pilette and Evans (Zolder Museum)

 

Lella Lombardi, March 751 Ford and Vern Schuppan, Lola T332 Chev scrap during the 16 March 1975 Brands Race Of Champions- DNF both. Race won by Tom Pryce’ Shadow DN5A Ford. No F5000 was classified in a race run in cold, damp conditions

In making the assessment I’ve not considered the weather.

The biggest gap between the two classes is about 4 seconds at Brands, the smallest 1 second at Watkins Glen.

Brands in March can be awfully chilly and glorious in June, ambient temperature impacts on the heat and grip of the tyres of course. Denis Jenkinson’s race report of the Brands F5000 race weekend (actually the Race of Champions weekend in which the F5000 championship race was on Saturday, the ROC on Sunday) does not help me as to weather conditions, but he makes no mention of rain. Similarly, the British GP was run in the dry. If you can help with ‘mitigating weather or circumstances’ do get in touch.

Interestingly, Mario Andretti is on record in a number of publications as saying Vels Parnelli never approached the F5000 times set by the teams Lola T332 at Riverside and Watkins Glen in their F1 Parnelli VPJ4 Ford in testing, but then again that was not a great GP car.

The fastest F5000 cars on the planet in that period were the Haas-Hall and VPJ T332s raced by Brian Redman, Mario Andretti and Al Unser- what an awesome road-racer he was!

Bang for buck there has never been a greater single-seater class. It seems incredible today that, having killed the Can-Am Series, the SCCA also slaughtered their F5000 Championship in the forlorn hope of recapturing Can-Am spectator interest and numbers.

In 1975-6 US5000 had Redman, Andretti, Unser, Jones, Gethin, Oliver, Brown, Schuppan, Pilette, Ongais, McRae, Lunger and others. The Dodge powered Shadows added much needed variety to Formula Lola, mind you Jones won a couple of races in 1976 with a March 76A Chev, it really was a brilliant blood and thunder spectacle even if the cars were not quite as fast as F1…

Oulton Park’s prestigious Gold Cup gets away on 9 September 1973. Ian Ashley’s Lola T330 sandwiched between the blue Chevron B24 Chev of Tony Dean and yellow striped one of Peter Gethin. #25 is Keith Holland, Trojan T101 Chev with Graham McRae’s McRae GM1 well back inside left in red with Guy Edwards’ light blue T330 behind him. Gethin won from Pilette- who is well back here and Tony Dean (S Jones)

 

US Watkins Glen round, final, 2 11 July 1976. Teddy Pilette’s Lola T430 Chev leads a bunch of cars, DNF engine. Lola’s final F5000 design could not coax the Americans from their T332s either. Best place third at Mosport, Q2 at Road America. Successful in Australia in Warwick Brown (1977 AGP & Rothmans Series) and Alf Costanzo’s (Gold Star) hands (T Pilette Collection)

Credits…

Wikipedia, MotorSport, Autosport, Getty Images, Alan Cox, Jonesy Morris, Zolder Museum, Norm Macleod, Larry Roberts, Mike Hayward Collection, Steve Jones, Teddy Pilette Collection

Tailpiece…

(L Roberts)

The great Brian Redman’s Lola T332 Chev looking as good as a racing car ever gets.

Turn 9 at Laguna Seca in 1975, Brian was third that day behind the VPJ duo of Andretti and Unser- T332 Chevs.

What an amazing career in single-seaters and sportscars, whilst Brian dipped in and out of F1 from the mid sixties to the mid seventies he must be up there in any list of ‘greatest driver of the period outside Grand Prix racing’.

Finito…

 

 

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Inboard front suspension, top rocker, lower wishbone and inboard mounted coil spring/Koni shocks (Schlegelmilch)

Mario Andretti psyches himself up before a practice session in his Ferrari 312B2 prior to the 1972 Italian Grand Prix…

Andretti qualified the Ferrari 7th and finished 7th, teammates Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni proved the cars pace by popping the car on pole and 4th.

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Andretti, Ferrari 312B2, Monza 1972 (Schlegelmilch)

Jacky lead the race after Clay Regazzoni’s car clipped the back of Carlos Pace’ March when the latter spun at the Vialone chicane. Ickx snuck back into the lead only to lose it when the Flat-12 failed; Fittipaldo took the win and title in his Lotus 72D Ford.

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The Ickx’ and Andretti Ferrari 312B2, the #10 2nd placed Surtees TS9B Ford of Mike Hailwood and #9 de Adamich TS9B DNF. Note Ferrari rear suspension detail as per the text (unattributed)

Background…

The Ferrari 312B2 made its debut in Monaco GP 1972, it was a new car rather than a development of the original car for which the Ferrari 3 litre flat-12 was designed, the 1970 312B.

Said engine had a shorter stroke, aimed to increase revs and thereby increase power. The nose cone was low and squarish, the flanks more straight than the rounded shape of the earlier cars, and the rear wing attached to an appendage of the roll-bar.

The rear suspension was redesigned with twin struts and spring/damper groups mounted above the gearbox and connected to the hub with tubular arms. The aim was to reduce unsprung weight. The coil spring-shocks were shifted towards the centre of the car above the gearbox. The car remained a handful as drivers struggled with the handling in combination with the Firestone tyres, a continuation of some of the problems of 1971.

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Andretti’s 312B2 on the way to 4th place in the 1971 German GP, Stewart won in Tyrrell 003 Ford (unattributed)

 

(Tony Matthews)

Ferrari were struggling with direction at the time after several difficult years, the situation climaxed halfway through 1973 when Luca Di Montezemolo was brought in from Fiat to sort things and provide clear leadership.

312B2 wasn’t a great Ferrari, Jacky Ickx able to scored just a single win with the B2 in 197, the Dutch GP at Zandvoort in rainy conditions whilst teammate Clay Regazzoni placed 3rd twice.

In 1972 Ickx only won the German GP, despite 4 poles. Despite the disappointing results, It raced on into 1973came in action in 1973, Merzario scored 4th at Kyalami before the B3 appeared, a lousy car. with Ickx decamping prior to the German GP…The teams resurgence began with the 1974 B3 variant and the powerful Lauda, Montezemolo, Forghieri cocktail.

Design and Specifications…

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Chassis Type 621/A monocoque of ‘Aero type’ with aluminium panels riveted onto  tubular steel spaceframe structure with a partially stressed engine.

Suspension; Front Double wishbones: upper rocker arm, lower wishbone, inboard spring/damper units and anti-roll bar. Rear; Single upper radius arm, horizontal spring/damper units mounted atop the transaxle and anti-roll bar.

Engine; Type 001/1, Flat-12 derived from the 001, light alloy cylinder block and head, DOHC, 4 valves, Lucas fuel injection, Marelli electrnonic ignition. Aluminium wet cylinder liners, bore/stroke, 80 x 49.6 mm, 2,991cc, compression ratio 11.5:1. 480bhp@12500rpm

Gearbox; 5 speed Ferrai transaxle with slippery diff. Brakes; Lockheed discs and calipers, inboard at rear. Rack and pinion steering.

Tyres/Wheels; F/R 8.6-20-13″, 13.5-24.0-15″ Firestones. Wheels: cast light alloy; front 10×13″, rear 15×15″

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Andretti, 312B2, Monza 1972 (unattributed)

Etcetera…

imageAnother couple of Schlegelmilch shots on Andretti at Monza…

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Credits…

Rainer Schlegelmilch, f1technical.com, Tony Matthews

Tailpiece: 1971 Monza pre-race engine changes, 312B2…

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(Richard Meek)

The Ballinger/Stewart Arnolt Bristol Bolide at Sebring in March 1956 at dusk, such an evocative shot…

They were 13th outright and 2nd in the 2 litre sports class, the Fangio/Castellotti Ferrari 860 Monza won.

The photo below, of another time and age is the Miller/Maassen/Rast Porsche 997 GT3 RSR, DNF, in 2011. The race was won that year by the Lapierre/Duval/Panis Peugeot 908 5.5 litre turbo-V12 diesel.

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(Rick Dole)

Credits…

Richard Meek, Rick Dole, Racing One

Tailpiece: The ’69 Sebring field awaits the start with the Amon/Andretti Ferrari 312P on pole, the race won by the Ickx/Oliver Ford GT40…

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(Racing One)

 

 

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Smile for the camera boys! The presence of local lads Bobby Unser and Mario Andretti at Watkins Glen in 1968 must have added 25,000 punters to the gate?…

A good deal of interest was added to the end of season 1968 races by the participation of American aces Mario Andretti and Bobby Unser at the Italian and US Grands’ Prix on 8 September and 6 October.

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Andretti checking out his nice, new Simpson Team Lotus overalls, Hill convinced the Hinchman product the better Nomex choice! Monza 1968 (Peter Darley)

Mario raced a third works Lotus 49B and Unser a factory BRM P138 vacated by Richard Attwood. Both did quick times at Monza before returning to the US to race in the ‘Hoosier 100′ at Indy but were precluded by racing back at Monza due to a rule which forbade drivers competing in another event within 24 hours of a GP.

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Bobby Unser and Mario Andretti enjoying each other’s company prior to the ‘Michigan 250’, at Brooklyn, Michigan International Raceway on 13 October 1968. Ronnie Bucknum won in an Eagle Offy with Mario 2nd in a Brawner Offy. Its clearly not the chassis Mario is sitting in here which is Ford engined. Unser DNF in another Eagle Offy  (Upitis)

Unser was primarily a USAC racer whilst Mario mixed road racing with a diet of speedway events on dirt and champcars as well as the occasional NASCAR event. I wrote an article about the greatest all-rounder a while back, click here to read it; https://primotipo.com/2014/10/24/the-most-versatile-ever-magic-mario-andretti/

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Unser during the USGP at Watkins Glen 1968, its a pity he didn’t seek other F1 opportunities, his speed and ‘tiger’ potent down the decades, BRM P138. DNF engine (Upitis)

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Mario put the ‘cat amongst the pigeons’ by plonking the Lotus 49B Ford on pole ahead of all the aces of the day. Unser’s weekend didn’t start so well, boofing the P138 in the first session of practice, he qualified 19th. His cars engine failed in the race on lap 35.

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Andretti jumped away from the start well but was headed by Jackie Stewart by the end of the first lap, on lap 14 his Lotus was losing its bodywork causing a pitstop which dropped him to the back of the field. The Lotus’ clutch failed on lap 32. Jackie Stewart’s Matra MS10 Ford won from Hill’s Lotus 49B and John Surtees’ Honda RA301.

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Graham Hill at the pit counter whilst Colin and Mario arrive at a pole winning setup, Watkins Glen 1968 (Upitis)

Andretti impressed Colin Chapman bigtime with his speed, mechanical feel and sympathy. It wasn’t until 1976 that the ‘planets aligned’ and eventually the two great men worked together again. The Lotus 77 and 78/9 wing/ground effect cars the result, not to forget the 1978 World Championship of course!

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Osterreichring 12 August 1979, DNF clutch failure without completing a lap in the race won by Alan Jones’ Williams FW07 Ford (Schlegelmilch)

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Lotus 79 Ford, British GP, Brands Hatch 1978. Checking the tyre temps, Andretti famously brought ‘stagger’ to F1, DNF here with engine dramas, Carlos Reutemann took a Ferrari 312T3 win (Schlegelmilch)

Credits…

Alvis Upitis, Rainer Schlegelmilch, Peter Darley

Tailpiece: Hi-winged Lotus 49B Ford, Watkins Glen 1968, Andretti…

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Evocative Jesse Alexander pre-start shot of the Mario Andretti/Lucien Bianchi Ford GT Mk2 and a young Ford fan…

The American, Italian/Belgian combo survived 97 laps before retiring with head gasket failure of their 6982cc pushrod V8.

Andretti was the ‘young gun’. He won the USAC Championship in 1965 and had plenty of wins too in 1966, but had limited sportscar experience, Le Mans, was his first GT40 race! Bianchi was the opposite, vastly experienced in such cars with three straight Tour de France victories from 1957-9 and a Sebring 12 Hour win with Jo Bonnier in 1962 to his credit.

The pair started 12th and steadily worked their way up the field, but luck was not on their side, retiring in the eighth hour.

They hit it off though, Holman & Moody paired them together again in a MkIV in 1967.

Le Mans 1966 Ford prep

Pre race preparation, Hawkins/Donohue Ford Mk2 in the foreground, the #6 Andretti/Bianchi car clear…a military operation! (Dave Friedman)

The GTs’ famously failed to win in the previous two years but Ford made no mistakes in 1966, no less than thirteen of the powerful cars, both GT40’s and Mark 2’s started with Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon victorious in a Shelby American entered Mk2.

They ‘beat’ Ken Miles and Denny Hulme in the ‘infamous form finish’ in another Shelby Mk2.

LeMans 1966 grid forming

(Ford Motorsports Archive)

Gridding up pre start, above.

#2 is the victorious McLaren/Amon Mk2, #3 Gurney/Grant Mk2 (DNF), #4 Hawkins/Donohue Mk2 (DNF), and the rest. Captures the moment doesn’t it?

Le mans '66 start

(unattributed)

Le Mans ’66 start, look at that crowd.

#3 Dan Gurney, #4 Paul Hawkins, from grid slot 11!- what a blinder from the race start from the Aussie, #1 Ken Miles, the yellow car alongside is John Whitmore, #2 Bruce McLaren in the winning car- all Ford Mk2, you can just see the tail of the Bucknum Mk2, from 9th on the grid! and the rest.

Hill Le Mans 1966

(Automobile Year 14)

Every man and his dog have used this photograph in online and more traditional media down the decades! I first saw it in Automobile Year- I should check to see who the photographer is- such a marvellous action shot.

Graham Hill squirts his Alan Mann Racing Ford Mk2 off the line leaving the NART Pedro Rodriguez/Richie Ginther Ferrari P2/3 ‘Spyder’ on the line…’slippery diff functioning well.

In a race of incredible attrition amongst the front-runners only three of the thirteen Ford GT’s which started finished and only two Ferrari GT’s of 14 which set off at 4pm were running 24 hours later. The Hill/Brian Muir Mk2 retired on lap 110 with front suspension damage and the Ginther/Rodriguez car on lap 151 with gearbox failure.

Hub repair

(Ford Motorsport)

A Shelby-American mechanic checks a new disc before fitment to the Gurney/Grant Mk2 hub assembly.

The beautiful standard of fabrication and workmanship of the front upright and suspension assembly clear in this shot. Front suspension comprises double wishbones, coil spring/damper units and adjustable sway bar. Steering arm also in shot, knock off nut etc.

66 Le Mans form finish...

(unattributed)

Almost to the finish…the Shelby American cars of McLaren on the left, Miles on the right, at about this point Miles backs off allowing McLaren/Amon to take the win.

The absolute detail of the finish has several versions but the sequence as follows seems to be generally accepted.

At the race halfway mark four GT Mk2’s comprised the lead group. By 9 am only three Mk2’s were left of the ? which started- all the GT40’s had retired. Ford Director of Racing Leo Beebe was not happy as Ken Miles and Dan Gurney had been dicing for the lead- against team orders- the Gurney/Grant car was the last of the Mk2’s to retire just before 9 with head-gasket failure.

1966 formation finish

(unattributed)

It was at this point that Beebe decided upon a ‘dead heat’ between his two lead cars. This, it was thought,  would stop the competition between the remaining cars and emphasise the win as one for the car rather than the driver.

The organising club, the ACO told him that a dead-heat would not be possible as the McLaren/Amon car, which started from grid slot 2, would have covered a greater distance than the Miles/Hulme car which started from pole- a difference according to the club of 8 and 20 metres depending upon the account.

But, assuming the cars were still running at 4 pm, Beebe decided to push ahead with his plan and instructed Miles to ease his pace at the last pit stop- the Miles/Hulme car led at that point, to allow McLaren to catch up.

Just before 4 pm it started to drizzle again.  Ken Miles whilst pissed off, wants no part of it of the contrived finish, so eases gently before the flag in the photo above, or Bruce surged, depending upon the account, allowing Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon /McLaren to take the win.

Miles was dead in a Ford J car testing accident at Riverside, California within two months. The great British American the lead development driver of the GT40 program was in the view of many the more deserving of the drivers to win the race- but there are many layers to this race finish. Beebe’s successful attempt to get his cars to the finish and over the line first is understandable, to say the least, given the failures of the GT40 and Mark2’s at Le Mans in 1964 and 1965.

In terms of ‘deserving drivers’ lets not forget Bruce did a huge amount of the initial GT40 testing for JW Automotive way back in 1964 and subsequently, not to forget that he raced the cars at Le Mans in 1964, (GT40 with Phil Hill DNF gearbox on lap 192) 1965, (Mk2 with Miles DNF gearbox on lap 45) 1966 and 1967 (MK4 4th with Donohue).

Photo Credits…

Jesse Alexander, Ford Motorsport Archive, Automobile Year

Tailpieces…

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Andretti and friends before the off (Jesse Alexander)

 

Ford Mk2 rear suspension

Mk2 business end, Daytona 1967. Note 2 roll bars to counteract the forces on the bankings (Automobile Year)

Finito…

 

 

 

 

 

sebring e type

Lady Godiva meets California Girl in Florida? Compound curavature of both chassis’ catch the eye…

Automobile Year 18 was the first issue of that great annual i pored over repeatedly from cover to cover, this page has always stuck in my mind.

The race was won, if you care! by the trio of Ignazio Giunti, Nino Vaccarella and Mario Andretti in a Ferrari 512S from Peter Revson and Steve McQueen’s Porsche 908 and the Toine Hezemans, Masten Gregory Alfa Romeo T33/3 in third.

The 512S flattered to deceive, Sebring was the only blue riband event the fantastic car won in 1970, Porsche with the 908/3 and 917 swept the board with chassis suited to either handling or high speed circuits.

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Giunti in the Ferrari 512S he shared with Nino Vaccarella and, later in the race Mario Andretti who jumped into this car after gearbox failure in the car he shared with Arturo Merzario. Car # 37 is the Collins/Wilson Ford Mustang, 24th. (petrolicious)

Photo Credits…

Automobile Year 18, Petrolicious

mario

Mario Andretti ‘using the cushion’ during qualifying for the ‘Sacramento 100’ Champ Car event, California, Fall 1969…

The ‘Sacramento 100’ was contested at the California Sate Fairgrounds, in Sacramento California, 100 laps of a 1 mile oval on 28 September. The event was won by Al Unser from Gary Bettenhausen and brother Bobby Unser. Mario had a loss of oil pressure, retiring his 1960 Kuzma D/Offy on lap 83, winning $853 for his efforts…

Magic Mario…

andretti 66

Bernard Cahiers’ portrait of Mario Andretti circa 1966

One of my mates contends that the title of ‘most versatile racer ever’ goes to John Surtees hands down, its hard to argue with the ‘World Championships on two wheels and four’ line of logic. The only other contenders are Mike Hailwood and, perhaps Johnny Cecotto with Hailwood the far better credentialled of the two on four wheels.

But what about most versatile on four wheels?

Right up until the 1970’s the nature of drivers contracts allowed them to race in other classes, in fact the pro’s needed to race lots of cars to earn the start and prize-money to eke out a living. The likes of Jim Clark could and would jump from Lotus Cortina, to Lotus 30 Sports Car, to Lotus 25 GP car, and then some, in British National Meetings.

It isn’t necessarily the case that drivers will be equivalently quick in single seaters, sports cars, touring cars, on bitumen and dirt, and road and speedway courses, but that is the criteria to apply in working out our ‘most versatile’.

If we limit ourselves to the absolute elite, Grand Prix Winners, there are a few names which usually come up in these conversations; Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, Graham Hill, John Surtees, Dan Gurney and Mario Andretti to name a few.

I am not discounting the Pre-War aces who raced GP and Sports cars on varying surfaces, but suggest the greater variety of cars was available to post-war rather than pre-war drivers.

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Lotus GP teammates that year, Mario Andretti and Graham Hill , Indy 1969. Hill an absolute candidate for ‘most versatile’, the only winner of motor racings ‘Triple Crown’ ; World F1 Title, Le Mans and Indy victories (unattributed)

Moss apart from his obvious success in GP and Sports cars, also rallied successfully.

Brabhams career started on Sydney Speedways, and then encompassed single seaters of all types, front and mid-engined like most of his peers, some sports cars, and some touring cars. He also raced ‘Champcars’ and CanAm. So Jack has to be ‘up there’ in consideration.

John Surtees is very similarly credentialled to Brabham without the Speedway or equivalent dirt experience.

Dan Gurney is also similarly credentialled to Jack, but without the dirt background. He came from the West Coast Sports Car scene, not through the rough and tumble of Dirt Speedways, and then into Road Racing in the way AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones and Mario Andretti did.

Mario is hard to toss as our ‘most versatile ever’…

He started in Speedway racing sedans and midgets, then into faster cars, dirt champcars, paved speedway champcars, into Nascar whilst still racing on Dirt Speedways and then as he built his name and reputation into road racing.

He was scooped up for the factory Ford GT40 program, to Lotus in Grands Prix, and all the rest, but still, well into the 1970’s racing speedway…he walked away from GP racing for a while in the early-70’s as he could not get the driving variety he sought by signing a restrictive F1 contract, ‘Vels Parnelli’, the American team with whom he made his F1 comeback allowing that freedom.

Its interesting to look at just one season, 1969 to see the breadth of cars, classes, surfaces, and circuit types on which he raced, just to test my contention…

Lotus 64 Indy 1969

Andretti testing the Lotus 64 Ford, 4WD and turbo-charged at Indy. The car was fast in testing, but a hub failed causing Andretti to hit the wall hard, with no time to rectify the problem, the cars were withdrawn and Andretti drove his regular USAC mount, a Hawk Ford to victory (unattributed)

Early in the year he raced at Sebring, co-driving a factory Ferrari 312P with Chris Amon…

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Andretti hands over to Chris Amon in the Ferrari 312P, this car a 3 litre V12 engined Group 6 prototype. Sebring 1969 (unattributed)

In March he did the first of three 1969 Grands’ Prix for Lotus… the South African GP, he also contested the German GP at the Nurburgring and US GP at Watkins Glen later in the year.

His first GP was at Watkins Glen, in upstate New York, the year before, 1968, he put his Lotus 49 on pole, really shaking the established order. In 1969 he drove both the conventional Lotus 49 and experimental, four-wheel drive Lotus 63, quite different challenges, the latter a very unsuccessful car.

LOTUS 63

Another challenge…driving the Lotus 63 Ford 4 wheel drive car on the Nurburgring, one of the toughest driving challenges in one of 1969’s worst cars. The 4WD experiments that year of Matra, McLaren and Lotus were all unsuccessful, tyre technology and wings providing the grip the teams sought with 4WD (unattributed)

His primary program for 1969 was the USAC Championship…

brawner

Andy Granatelli of STP, crew and Andretti in the 1969 Indy winning Brawner Hawk Ford, a turbo-charged 2.65 litre V8 (unattributed)

Most of May was spent at Indy, very successfully, winning the 500 in his turbo-charged Brawner Hawk III Ford V8 on the famous Super Speedway. He won the 1969 USAC Championship which was contested on five dirt speedways, ten races on paved tracks, eight on road courses, and a hillclimb, this series alone a true test of a drivers versatility and adaptability.

In late June he contested the Pikes Peak Hillclimb…winning it in a mid-engined Chevy V8 powered open-wheeler on the famous dirt course 12.4 mile ‘climb to the clouds’.

hawk ford

Andretti in his Hawk Ford, Pikes Peak 1968, he was 4th in ’68, won in ’69, the majestric but challenging nature of the course readily apparent…(unattributed)

The CanAm was run annually in the Summer…Holman & Moody entering a Ford 429 powered McLaren M6B in several of the events, not a particulary competitive car but another quite different driving and engineering challenge. Andretti in a factory McLaren M8B would have been quite someting to watch!

mclaren

Andretti prepares to board his ‘Holman & Moody’ entered and prepared McLaren M6B Ford 429 CanAm car at Texas International Speedway, test session (unattributed)

Mario only did one Nascar event in 1969…at Riverside in February, one of the road racing circuits on the tour, it was never a big part of his career but still demonstrates his versatility.

Mario Andretti Riverside 1969, Ford

Mario in his Ford, ‘Motor Trend 500’ Nascar race on the Riverside road circuit February 1969. He qualified 7th and was classified 18th after engine failure on lap 132 (spokeo)

Mario raced on 34 weekends in 1969…his season commenced with a front-engined rear drive Ford Nascar and then a Ferrari mid-engined 3 litre V12 sports prototype…the Lotus’ GP cars he raced were the 3 litre Ford Cosworth normally aspirated V8 powered 2WD 49, and the 4WD 63.

His Hawk ‘Indycar’, for paved road-courses and speedways was a mid-engined single-seater, 2WD car powered by a turbo-charged Ford V8, but he also practiced the Lotus 64 mid-engined 4WD Turbo Ford at Indy.

His dirt-track ‘Kuzma’ was a front engined, rear drive 4 cylinder Offy powered single seater His McLaren CanAm car a mid-engined sports car powered by a normally aspirated 429CID Ford, finally his Pikes Peak car was a Chev engined ‘Grant King’.

The variety of cars and different driving challenges are enormous, the differences in cars and venues in one year of his career qualifies him as our most versatile ever! Let alone the other four decades in which he competed.

Andretti won the World Drivers Championship in a Lotus 79 Ford in 1978…he returned to Indycars after leaving F1, his last Indycar win in 1993, perhaps the only big win which eluded him is at Le Mans, but he was successful elswhere in sports cars of course.

He is synonymous with speed, and revered globally as a champion driver, sportsman and ambassador for our sport…he is also, surely, the most versatile driver ever?

Andretti Ford Mercury 1969

The gift of communication…Andretti with the press, Riverside 1969. Ford Mercury Cougar (unattributed)

Photo Credits…

Pinterest unattributed, Spokeo, The Cahier Archive