Posts Tagged ‘Michael Andretti’

(NAA)

The heavies before the start of the AJC Trophy at Warwick Farm, fifth round of the Australian Touring Car Championship, on July 12, 1970.

Allan Moffat, Mustang Trans-Am, Jim McKeown, 911S, Pete Geoghegan, Mustang, you can just see Brian Foley’s 911S then Bob Jane’s Mustang Shelby Trans-Am on the dummy grid.

Moffat’s Trans-Am started from pole but he lost it in the first corner causing mayhem – Moffat, Geoghegan and Foley were out on the spot. McKeown led, Norm Beechey was up to second but then he lost a wheel gifting second to Bob Jane. It was the first ATCC round win for Porsche. https://primotipo.com/2016/05/11/jim-mckeown-porsche-911s-warwick-farm-1970/

 

The power of the internet continues to amaze, in this case Facebook. The two shots above and below are the earliest I have seen of Frank Matich.

They show his ‘road-registered family car, the Healey 100/4 with LJC Motors bored out 3-litre engine at Huntley’s Hill in 1957’ for the Australian Sports Car Club Wollongong Hillclimb Championship..

‘First Healey bored out to 3-litres. Had a job with the distributor driveshaft. After that the only Healey to offer any opposition was Frank Bennett and that did not last long. Five records in five starts was not real bad’ is the note FM wrote to his friend Alan Cummine, to whom we are indebted for these shots.

Matich’ career is covered in this piece; https://primotipo.com/2015/09/11/frank-matich-matich-f5000-cars-etcetera/

(A Cummine)

 

(Examiner)

We have lift-off. John Bowe and Alfie Costanzo smoke their Goodyears off the line at Symmons Plains at the start of the Gold Star race in 1980.

JB won the race in his Elfin MR8 Chev from Alf’s Lola T430 Chev. Costanzo set a lap record of 50.16 seconds that weekend which stood for forty years until it was broken by Thomas Randle’s Ligier JS3 Ford S5000 on January 25, 2021. He did a 49.864 second lap in the S5000 opener before winning the John McCormack Trophy, Gold Star event.

It was a great, gutsy race win, the 24 year old below had his last chemotherapy treatment for testicular cancer on New Years Day.

A bit on John Bowe here; https://primotipo.com/2016/06/10/elfin-light-aircraft/

Thomas Randle delighted with his Symmons Gold Star win (S5000)

 

Randle’s Ligier JS3 Ford on the way to victory at Symmons- crowd limited to 5,000 given Covid restrictions. A magic weekend, was lucky enough to be there, these jiggers are magnificent, spectacular cars (Auto Action)

 

(S Griffiths)

Bob Jane had exquisite taste in racing cars didn’t he? I’ve said it many times. Here are his recently purchased Jaguar D Type and new E Lightweight.

Calder, Australia Day meeting, 26 January 1964. I wonder what the black single-seater is? See this piece on Bob’s various cars; https://primotipo.com/2020/01/03/jano/

 

(J Manhire)

Can ‘yer grab my helmet Alec- I gotta go. Kevin Bartlett talks to his headless team-chief at Wigram in 1968, it was the first Tasman Cup KB did in full, both Kiwi and Oz races.

That Brabham BT11A Climax was one of his favourite cars, he did pretty well that summer in what was by then an old car amongst all the multi-cylinder exotica. See here; https://primotipo.com/2018/04/27/kbs-first-bathurst-100mph-lap/

 

(unattributed)

Otto Stone, MG K3 during the January 2, 1950 AGP at Nuriootpa, South Australia.

As adept behind the wheel as he was twidding the tools, he retired from the race after only completing one lap, with engine problems. Nine years later Otto prepared the Maserati 250F Stan Jones raced to AGP victory at Longford.

1950 AGP article here; https://primotipo.com/2015/07/10/1950-australian-grand-prix-nuriootpa-south-australia/

 

(C Bottomley)

Marvellous shot of a Holden 48-215 in Bourke Street, Melbourne in 1959.

The post-office building stands, albeit as a retail emporium these days but the rest of the buildings in view copped the kiss-of-death from Whelan the Wrecker or one of Des Whelan’s mates. I wonder if YH-495 is extant? See here for a piece on Holden’s formative years; https://primotipo.com/2018/12/06/general-motors-holden-formative/

 

Triumph TR2 (B Young)

Grant Twining wrote in the marvellous Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania’s FB page that ‘The 1956 Mercury Trial (The Mercury is Hobart’s local rag) was a big thing at the time. The Second World War was still in recent memory and Australia was just starting to recover economically from the austere post war years. In little old Tasmania, the well publicised ‘Mercury Trial’ was a significant event and eagerly followed by the public. Bob Young was on hand to capture these images in Salamanca Place’ dockside in Hobart.

All of which is fine and dandy but I’m buggered if I can find any details of the event – not even a piece in the sponsors product! It may be others out there are more patient than I. Do get in touch if you glean some deatails on the events duration, route and winner. Bob Young’s Tassie colour shots I’ve used many times before and just too good to ignore despite a paucity of information.

Humber (B Young)

I wonder if the Salamanca stage of the trial is a speed test or speed and braking? Note all the kegs of something nice. In the fifties this stretch is now filled with lots of wonderful cars, restaurants and places of fun. It is to the left in this mid-sixties shot of Constitution Dock looking towards Hobart CBD. The boats are possibly from a not long finished Sydney-Hobart.

(B Short)

 

(NAA)

I had one of these when I was 18. The car, the Capri.

I had two in my student years actually, a 1600 GT and 3-litre GT V6, the little fella was much the nicer car to drive. I never had an accessory as cute as the one above in either car, sadly. Must have been my Brut 33.

Speaking of which, Moffat’s Cologne Capri was a Capri of a quite different type. Robert Davies’ shot of the car upon debut during the Sandown Tasman meeting in February 1975 is the best shot ever taken of the car. Lacked torque amongst all the big hairy V8 Gorillas but it was yet another of Marve’s imports which so enriched our grids.

Cologne Capris here; https://primotipo.com/2015/04/09/australias-cologne-capris/

(R Davies)

 

(Porsche)

Porsche’s PR machine has always blown me away. They do stuff in such an interesting kind of way.

When they put the 919 Hybrid away after several years of sterling service- a few Le Mans and WEC wins they enlisted Mark Webber and Marc Lieb to drive two of the cars 25km from Porker HQ in Weissach to their Museum in Zuffenhausen.

Milking plenty of teev, ‘paper and online coverage. Nice. The shot below is Webber’s 919 at Le Mans in 2014, check out this article; https://primotipo.com/2019/07/18/le-mans-arty-farty/

(Getty Images)

 

Walker with a couple of lovelies on the 1971 Zandvoort F3 grid, Lotus 69 Ford (J Ranger)

Its fifty years ago that one of Australia’s shooting stars had one of the most sensational F3 seasons ever- Dave Walker in his works Gold Leaf Team Lotus, Lotus 69 Ford-Novamotor during 1971.

In addition to winning everything in F3- he also had several F1 drives most notably aboard the incredibly sophisticated, complex, Pratt & Whitney gas-turbine powered, 4WD Lotus 56B.

Who knows, perhaps with some decent test miles under his belt he may have taken a podium finish during the wet Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. The shot below of the 56B is during dry practice.

Stay tuned for a feature on David Walker.

 

(T Carwithe)

Dave with Lotus Team Manager Peter Warr at Mallory Park during 1971. Walker was the the most successful of the Gold Leaf Lotus drivers that season. Emerson Fittipaldi and Reine Wisell didn’t win a GP, the first time in about a decade Lotus hadn’t won a championship round. Walker’s ascent to the F! team in 1972 was in part to placate British Tobacco.

The eagle-eyed will have noticed the A.I.R.O transporter behind Warr and Walker. The Australian International Racing Organisation was the rather flash name for the smell of an oily rag operation which ran two Australians in F3- Alan Jones and Brian McGuire.

(N Snowdon)

A.I.R.O. driver Alan Jones at it hammer and tongs with another up-and-comer, James Hunt at Brands Hatch during 1971. Brabham BT28 and March 713M.

Hunt the Shunt jumped out of F3 and into GP racing with Alexander Hesketh’s team in 1973, Jonesy was a year or so after him but no less successful!

Brian McGuire aboard his Williams FW04 Ford during the April 1976 BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone.

Q18 and DNF lost oil/black-flagged in the race won by James Hunt’s McLaren M23 Ford.

The self made Aussie, a mate of Alan Jones, hailed from East Melbourne. He set off for England to race in 1966, paying his own way by dealing in cars and later caravans. He jumped from F3 to F5000 becoming a front-runner in the 1975 Shellsport F5000 Championship racing the ex-Bob Evans 1974 British F5000 Championship winning Lola T332 Chev.

He progressed to an F1 Williams FW04 Ford (aka McGuire BM1). He won a Shellsport 5000 European Championship race in the wet from pole at Thruxton in September 1976 – the first ever win for a Williams. It was in this car he crashed to his death, taking a flaggie with him, after component failure in practice for a Shellsport International Championship race at Brands Hatch on August 29, 1977 .

McGuire, Williams FW04 and crew in the Silverstone pitlane in April 1976 (peter.bryan.org.nz)

 

(NAA)

Soap-box race at Albany, West Australia in 1970.

It’s a shame that bloody Volvo buggered up a great shot.

What was the seventies Oz Volvo joke? ‘Wots the difference between a Volvo and a Porcupine? Answer- the pricks are on the outside of the Porcupine. Boom-boom. More billy-carts; https://primotipo.com/2019/02/10/spitty/

 

(J Barnes)

Some shots from Elsmore Hillclimb, east of Inverell in New South Wales.

The first shot shows John French’ Holden 48-215 at the far left, then the white RAWGS sportscar , the beautiful blue JWF Milano and the Barnes MG TC Spl at far right- thanks to Dick Willis for the IDs. The photographs below are from the carpark looking back up the hill.

(J Barnes)

 

(A Purcell)

A packed crowd at Oran Park for the start of the

From left, John Leffler’s Bowin P8 Hart-Ford ANF2 car alongside Phil Moore, Elfin MR5 Repco-Holden. On row 2 car 8 is John Goss in his just acquired Matich A53 Repco-Holden and on the right John McCormack in the other Ansett Team Elfin car- an MR6 Repco-Leyland.

There were two heats, Max Stewart won both is his Lola T330 Chev- this group are the back couple of rows in one of them. Max won the Gold Star that season.

1974 Australian Grand Prix at Oran Park; https://primotipo.com/2021/01/15/1974-australian-gp-oran-park/

(P Weaver)

Here is the car John Goss raced at Oran Park in the hands of its creator Frank Matich at Sandown Park during the February Tasman Cup meeting. Repco’s Ken Symes and Matich’ chief mechanic Derek Kneller pushing.

The Matich A53 Repco-Holden was the smallest, last and best of the six Matich F5000 cars, it is a great shame FM did not return to the US that year as planned. His boating accident and Joan Matich’ illness meant the time had come to retire.

Goss did well with the car winning the 1976 AGP at Sandown in an A51 updated to A53 specifications. See here for a feature on the Matich F5000 cars; https://primotipo.com/2015/09/11/frank-matich-matich-f5000-cars-etcetera/

Above is Lella Lombardi in the same chassis Goss used to win the AGP at Sandown in 1976, A51 ‘005’.

When Goss used it, the car was converted to side-radiator A53 specifications similar to the shot of FM above. Lella is shown at Sandown’s Dandenong Road during the 1974 Victoria Trophy Gold Star round prior to contesting that years AGP at Oran Park, see here; 1974 Australian Grand Prix at Oran Park; https://primotipo.com/2021/01/15/1974-australian-gp-oran-park/

 

Reg Hunt, Maserati 250F during his successful March 1956, Moomba meeting.

He won both the 50-mile Albert Park Cup and 150-mile Argus Trophy feature from Lex Davison’s just acquired ex-Gaze Ferrari 500/625, Tom Hawkes’ ex-Brabham/Jones Cooper T23 Bristol, Bib Stillwell’s Jaguar D Type and others.

By the end of the year he had been the fastest resident in the AGP, also at Albert Park and retired from racing. His ‘reign at the top’ extended from the arrival of his A6GCM Maserati 2.5-litre in early 1954 to the end of 1956.

Feature on Reg Hunt; https://primotipo.com/2014/07/19/reg-hunt-australian-ace-of-the-1950s/

 

 

(J Fitzpatrick)

Who said Jean Shrimpton was the first to wear a miniskirt in Oz?

Leggy-lass, as we say in polite society, and a chap with quite questionable clothing taste, and Austin Healey 100 outside the Broadbeach Hotel on Queensland’s Gold Coast in 1957.

Have always thought the Goldie a good place to fly over, the Queensland white-shoe brigade got better with their developments as they went progressively north.

 

Michael Andretti had a shocker of an F1 season with McLaren in 1993.

It was never going to be easy with the incredibly gifted and well established Ayrton Senna in the other car. The class was new to Mario’s boy. So too the tracks and the culture of F1. Stupidly, he continued to live in the US rather than camp somewhere close to McLaren in the Thames Valley. See here; https://primotipo.com/2015/02/06/michael-andretti-and-f1/

Indycar was mighty competitive as well. To come back after a season away and win the first race of the season at Surfers Paradise in Malcolm Oastler’s brand new Chip Ganassi Racing Reynard 941 Ford Cosworth XB V8- his first Indycar design, was quite a feat.

Emerson Fittipaldi was second in the new Penske PC23 while Mario Andretti was third aboard his Lola T94/00 Ford in his final season- it was the great all-rounders final podium.

(unattributed)

Credits…

National Archives Australia, Auto Action, Stan Griffiths, Bob Young, Ben Short, Robert Davies, Getty Images, Janathan Ranger, Tony Carwithe, Nigel Snowden, MotorSport, peter.bryan.org.nz, John Barnes, Clive Bottomley, National Archives of Australia, Jim Fitzpatrick

Tailpiece…

(LAT)

Vern Schuppan, Mirage GR8 Ford on the way to third place at Le Mans in 1975.

He shared the car with Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, Derek Bell and Jacky Ickx won in another Mirage.

Finito…

Dan Drinan prepares Michael Andretti’s March 86C Cosworth DFX at Indy, 19 May 1986…

Its the final few days of preparation before carb day and the final chance to test the car before the Memorial Day classic on 31 May. Michael’s cheque for qualifying third on the grid is on the wall.

Bobby Rahal won in a similar March with Michael sixth from grid 3 having led 45 of the 200 laps including the first 42. In a rout for March, the Bicester concern had cars in nine of the top ten placings, the only interloper was Al Unser Jr’s Lola Cosworth in fifth.

Rick Mears, Kevin Cogan and Rahal battled for the lead. In an emotional win, Rahal got the jump from Cogan after a lap 194 restart and took the victory for his team owner Jim Trueman who died of cancer eleven days later. Rick Mears was third.

Michael Andretti, Indy 500 1986, March 86C Cosworth (B Harmeyer)

With an opening photo like that the focus has to be on that magnificent engine and it’s conversion from F1 ubiquity to CART interloper.

John Barnard’s appointment to replace Maurice Philippe as Designer for the Vels- Parnelli F1 and Indy team was at the behest of his former Lola colleague, Jim Chapman, then VPJ Team Manager.

Barnard achieved much with both VPJ and Chaparral before returning to Europe and staggering F1 success with McLaren, but its his role in development of what became the Cosworth DFX V8 turbo which is of interest in this article. His primary job at VPJ was to design and develop the ground-breaking Parnelli VPJ6B and 6C which introduced the turbo Cosworth DFX to Indycar racing. Over the next dozen years the DFX dominated, winning 151 races, including 10 consecutive Indy 500s between 1978-87.

When Barnard arrived at VPJ in Southern California in 1975 he was thrown into the deep end, fettling the team’s F1 car and designing the drivetrain for Parnelli Jone’s off-road Ford truck- you can’t argue with those extremes of variety.

Danny ‘On The Gas’ Ongais, Parnelli VPJ6B Cosworth , Indy 1977 20th from Q7 (B Harmeyer)

Al Unsers VPJ6B rear, Indy 1977. Note turbo plumbing and wastegate outlet (B Harmeyer)

Through the early and mid-1970s Indycars were allowed to run unlimited boost with the ageing four-cylinder Offenhauser pushed beyond its limits. “I was on USAC’s rules committee and we kept blowing up engines,” says Parnelli Jones in a Gordon Kirby article published in MotorSport. “You could not buy an engine from Drake Engineering (manufacturers of the Offy) and run 500 miles. You couldn’t even run it 100 miles because of porosity in the engines. We had a machine to impregnate the engines so we could keep ours together, but you had to pull it all apart and blueprint it after you bought it…Then USAC cut the fuel mileage back to 1.8 mpg and I said to Vel, ‘We’ve got those little Formula 1 Cosworths. I think they could work’.”

In amongst the team’s F1, USAC and F5000 programs Barnard was beavering away ‘converting’ the F1 design into a USAC car by means of a variety of changes including turbo-charging the Cosworth DFV F1 motor.

John Barnard picks up the design changes: “It was actually a completely new chassis. We put coil springs on the rear, but I kept the torsion bars on the front. The Brit strengthened the car by double-skinning the monocoque and designing a much stronger front bulkhead. “That proved very useful,” Barnard says. “In ’77 we were practising at Indy and Al ran over Janet Guthrie’s turbine wheel, which came out on the track, and had quite a big accident. But he walked away. I was glad I had double-skinned that front bulkhead.”

The resulting VPJ6B was a much smaller overall package than the existing Offy and Foyt/Ford-powered chassis then racing.

Ongais again in 1977, note front suspension linkages, torsion bars the spring medium up front (B Harmeyer)

Unser 1977, Q3 and 3rd in the race won by AJ Foyt’s Coyote Foyt/Ford V8 turbo and Tom Sneva McLaren M24 Cosworth who started from pole (B Harmeyer)

Barnard also designed many key components for VPJ’s DFX development program. “There was a lot to do on the engine — inlet manifolds and all sorts of things. I was drawing conrods and pistons, an oil pump system, fuel injection and God knows what else. It was fantastic for me because I had never really got into engines much, but we had our engine shop so we could do this stuff to every part of the car and engine. It was fantastic, just like having a toy shop.”

But there was little support from Keith Duckworth for turbocharging the DFV. Duckworth famously didn’t believe in turbos. “I remember him giving me a lecture about turbos,” Barnard adds, “and another one about why 4WD wouldn’t work. I remember Vel reporting that Cosworth told him he was a bit of a twit trying to get all this horsepower out of an engine that was designed to generate 500bhp, and there we were getting more than 800,” Barnard says. “Vel told me, ‘Those bloody guys at Cosworth don’t mind selling me pistons and heads all the time. I’ve spent $100,000 with them just on pistons.’ But they told him we were idiots for making a turbocharged version of their engine.”

Unser and Andretti ran a few practice laps at Indianapolis that year in an early version of the VPJ6, and the first complete 6B made its debut in Unser’s hands in 1975’s season-closing race at Phoenix, finishing fifth. “Once we got in the right ballpark with wheel and spring rates we had pretty good balance, and it got better and better,” Barnard remembers. “We continued to muck about with the engine. It was an ongoing programme. I was making wastegates and all sorts of things.”

Unser scored the Parnelli-Cosworth’s first win in the Pocono 500 in June 1976, then won again at Milwaukee in August and Phoenix at the end of the season. “We proved that the engine worked and we brought Duckworth over to Pocono because we wanted to get a distributorship for the Cosworth Indy programme,” Parnelli recalls. “So Duckworth came over and damned if he didn’t turn around and steal Larry Slutter and Chickie from us.”

Ongais 1977 (B Harmeyer)

Unser 1977, gorgeous bit of engineering kit. Won the first Cosworth DFX  Indy win aboard a Chaparral Lola in 1978- 11 of the 33 starters were Cosworth powered  (B Harmeyer)

Barnard took a dim view of Duckworth’s manoeuvre. “As soon as we won Pocono, Cosworth saw the light. It wasn’t long afterwards that they nicked Larry Slutter and set their own engine shop up right there in Torrance, which to be honest I thought was pretty mean. “I was told by somebody at Cosworth many years later that the turbo Indy engine programme — the DFX as they called it — was their most profitable programme of all. So I wasn’t impressed with the way they did that. Vel and Parnelli were the ones putting their hands in their pockets to develop this car and engine, and I don’t think they ever got the proper credit.”

After all the money and effort VPJ had put into developing the engine, not being able to turn it into a commercial enterprise was a big blow, playing a role in the team’s demise a few years later. “Of course,” Jones says, “we were in a catch-22 because you had to satisfy your sponsors and we needed to order parts from Duckworth. We could have sued him, but we decided to try to work with him.”

For the 1977 season both McLaren and Penske built new Fl-based cars with DFX engines and Tom Sneva won the USAC Championship aboard Penske’s Cosworth-powered McLaren M24 and Penske PC5. Johnny Rutherford also won four USAC races in the works McLaren DFX while Unser and new team-mate Danny Ongais each won a single race, with Big Al taking the California 500.

Barnard quipped “I didn’t start the Cosworth programme,” he adds, “but I had most of the input making a car work around that engine. Looking back, I learned massive amounts and enjoyed it, too. It was bloody hard work, but I was a young man and ready to do whatever it took.”

Unser 1977, classic aero of that just before ground effect period. The F1 Lotus 78 raced throughout 1977- the first of the Lotus g/e’s (B Harmeyer)

Bibliography/Credits…

MotorSport article by Gordon Kirby 2013, Getty Images- Bettman and Bob Harmeyer

Tailpiece: Cosworth factory DFX studio shot…

Finito…

andretti

Michael Andretti’s McLaren MP4/8 Ford Silverstone lines being scrutinised from above…

Michael was in and out of Grand Prix racing far too quickly, in less than a season. His 1993 run of woe was made worse at Silverstone, he qualified back in the pack, rain ruined his qualifying run and then spun on the first lap, ending his race, he was going too hard too early.

Teammate Ayron Senna qualified 4th and lost 3rd when his car failed on the last lap, he was classified 4th. The race win was taken by Alain Prost in a Williams FW15C Renault.

Click on this link to the article i wrote about Andretti’s 1993 season; https://primotipo.com/2015/02/06/michael-andretti-and-f1/

Credit…reddit.com

andretti surfers 94 reynard

Michael Andretti aviating his Reynard 941 Ford over the Surfers Paradise kerbs. Andrettis’ victory in The Australian Indycar Grand Prix in March 1994 was just the fillip the American needed after his abortive McLaren F1 season the year before…

Nigel Mansell started ’94 where he left off, the Brit a winner in the 1993 ‘Indy championship in his Lola Ford, the season after his F1 World Championship victory for Williams in 1992. Nige was on pole with Andretti alongside in the brand new Malcolm Oastler designed Reynard 941 Ford, the marques first Indycar.

The race was restarted 3 times, first lap contretemps famous on the Surfers circuit. In the final restart Michael got the jump on Nigel and lead all 55 laps, the race shortened by 10 laps due to lack of light.

Michael won again in the Reynard later in the season at Toronto but the Penske PC23 was the best car of the season and the ‘Dream Team’ of Al Unser, Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy extracted all the car had to offer winning most rounds and Unser the drivers title.

By seasons end Mansell had returned to F1 albeit briefly, with Michael competitive again with 2 victories and 7 top 5 finishes in a year where the pickings were slim for all but Penske.

andretti surfers 94

Same car, driver and kerb but lower altitude…Reynard a lovely car and the first of many successful Indycars by the late, lamented marque. (Unattributed)

So what Went Wrong in F1 for Michael?…

Andretti came into racing via Karts, Formula Ford, Super Vee and Formula Atlantic. Before long he was an established Indycar Star and after a dominant season in CART 1991, on pole 8 times, winning the title and demonstrating his versatility with a Porsche drive at Daytona, he was looking to F1 as the next challenge.

Joining McLaren for 1993, alongside established team leader and candidate for the Greatest Grand Prix Driver ever was always going to be a tough ask, the Brazilian famous for taking no prisoners and intimidating his teammates in all ways possible.

Into 1992 things were looking a bit grim for McLaren…the teams performances were down, Honda were withdrawing from F1 and Ron couldn’t achieve the alternative factory engine deal he wanted. He attempted to buy Ligier to get the Renault engines, a deal vetoed by sponsors. The best he could achieve was Ford customer engines, one spec below those used by Benetton, who had the factory Ford deal, Michael Schumacher of course the driver.

Ayrton was watching all of this but couldn’t get a better drive, the best seat was with Williams, and engine supplier tipped Alain Prost into it rather than arch rival Senna.

andretti british gp 1993

Andretti, European GP Donington Park 1993. McLaren MP4/8 Ford. (Unattributed)

Ron needed a name driver in the event Senna decamped and signed Andretti…on paper a driver with potential albeit unfamiliar with both the cars and circuits. His announcement was made at the 1992 Italian Grand Prix to a bemused media.

The plot thickened somewhat with the signing of Mika Hakkinen, lately of Lotus, who was to be either test driver or race driver in 1993 depending upon what Senna decided, the Brazilian ultimately signing for the team again but on a race by race basis.

andretti kyalami

Michael optimistic early in the season at Kyalami, South African GP. (The Cahier Archive)

For Andretti things started badly with rule changes which limited testing…he badly needed seat time in both the car and on as many circuits as possible, the differences in characteristics between the relatively heavy single turbo 2.65 litre V8 Indycars, and 3.5 litre normally aspirated peaky, light, nimble and ‘very nervous’ Grand Prix cars immense.

The delivery of the Ford engine was late, only a month before the season opener at Kyalami, so was completion of the car and critical systems testing and checking which became clear with many failures particularly on Andrettis’ chassis during the year.

His season could be summarised as a series of own goals, accidents of his own making and mechanical or electrical failures which were entirely beyond his control.

Mixed in with that was his sheer pace which justified Andretti a second season in F1, at least.

F1 wisdom seems to be, including McLarens website, that the American didn’t really commit to F1. Indicative, in this view is continuing to live in the US, commuting by Concorde to the UK and the races as required. The theory is that living closeby to Woking, shootin’ the breeze with the Ronster and technicians would have helped.

It probably would have, as he would have done the testing miles Hakkinnen did but it’s too simplistic a view.

andretti helmet

Andretti started the season behind the eightball, noting he was ‘silly enough’ to sign for McLaren alongside Senna in a team ‘he owned’…

Jackie Stewart was smart to sign with BRM not Lotus for his debut F1 season in ’65, he had the choice but figured the lower pressure environment at BRM would be better for him, and allow him to come up to speed without the pressure of going head to head with Jim Clark, the standard by which all other drivers assessed themselves at the time. Noting that his BRM team leader, Graham Hill, the ’62 World Champ was at the top of his game at the time.

But these guys aren’t like you and I, they have towering self belief, why not go up against Senna in a great team, the chance may never come again? In that sense Andretti is be admired for putting his balls on the line, he was not the first or last Ace to be blown off by the Brazilians mesmeric other worldly skill.

On balance, looking from everyone’s viewpoint; McLarens’, Andrettis’ and the sponsors’, the deal made sense.

The McLaren MP4/8 Ford was a competitive car, Senna took victories at Monaco, Donington (one of his best) Brazil and Suzuka in the rain and in Adelaide, his last GP for McLaren and final victory.

During the rest of the season the Williams of Prost and Hill were the class of the field, Prost taking the title and retiring.

mclaren mp4 8 cutaway

McLaren MP4/8 Ford 1993. Neil Oatley designed Carbon fibre monocoque, suspension active with wishbones all around actuating coil springs and dampers. Carbon ceramic brakes. Ford HBE V8 ‘customer spec’ 3494cc circa 640bhp. McLaren 6 speed semi-automatic gearbox. 505kg. (Unattributed)

Let’s look at Andrettis’ year race by race…

andretti interlagos prang

Interlagos contretemps with Gerhard Bergers’ Ferrari. Could have been a lot worse. (Unattributed)

.Kyalami clutch failure on the line, fundamental preparation or lack of testing issue. He then ran into Derek Warwick on lap 4 trying to make up for lost time.

.In Brazil he goosed the start having muffed the 1-2 shift, qualified 5th (Senna 3rd), Wendlinger jigged one way, Michael the other collecting Bergers Ferrari initiating a spectacular shunt with the two cars cartwheeling thru the air.

.At Donington for the European GP. Q6 whilst Senna disappeared into the gloom in a sublime drive, from 5th to 1st in 10 corners and a lead of over 4 seconds at the end of lap 2. Andretti again took out Wendlinger  leaving the Sauber and McLaren beached in the Leicestershire mud.

european gp 1993 first lap

European GP, Donington Park 1993 lap1. Prost & Hill Williams, Wendlinger Sauber, Senna McLaren, Schumacher Benetton, Andretti McLaren, the Ferraris’ and the rest…Senna to the front and gone in 10 corners from Q4. (Unattributed)

.At Imola for the San Marino GP Q6 again, he completed 32 laps before spinning, whilst dicing for fourth with, you guessed it, Wendlinger. The spin was induced by a brake or suspension balance problem.

.In the Spanish GP Andretti finished fifth behind Prost, Senna, Schumacher and Patrese, the latter duo Benetton Fords with the factory engines.

. At Monaco Q9, his clutch did its own thing, up shifting early, losing revs and power, he was engulfed by the field, then hit Barbazzas’ Minardi up the chuff at Loews. He pitted to replace his front wing but then had a great run from last to 8th…but Senna won.

andretti mc laren monaco 93

Andretti Monaco 1993. (Unattributed)

.In Canada the car again ‘cacked itself’, this time a dead battery, he started the race 3 laps down and was classified 14th, Senna also had electrical gremlins that day, finishing 18th with alternator failure. Whilst in more recent times (2008) there have been claims by Marco Andretti that McLaren ‘sabotaged his fathers career’, the claims don’t hold water as Senna had as many gremlins as Michaels’ cars did. Hakkinen was ‘standing in the wings’ but McLaren had every commercial and sporting reason for Andretti to succeed not fail.

Andretti was the only American F1 driver at the time, their was no USGP either, the US is the largest global economy which McLaren was keen to tap into via the interest provided by their American driver…the conspiracy theory makes no sense to me at all and contradicts the facts.

.In France at Magny Cours the semi-automatic shift misbehaved resulting in Q16 but a strong showing, finishing 6th and getting valuable mileage.

.Michael looked forward to Silverstone as he had tested there pre-season, but his qualifying run was spoiled by rain, Q11. He started well but spun on lap 1 again going too hard too early.

.German GP, Hockenheim he qualified 12th after more mechanical dramas unrelated to him. But he thumped Berger on lap 4, DNF.

.At the Hungaroring, his fly-by-wire throttle failed in a run as high as 4th. Senna experiencing similar problems 2 laps later.

.Belgian classic, Spa. He had a long tyre change during which the engine stopped, Andretti 8th

.Monza, Italy. Andrettis’ final GP. He qualified 9th, Senna 4th. In the race both cars had brake balance problems, both spinning, Senna into retirement. Andretti continued after having grass removed from the radiators, fighting his way back through the pack from 20th to 3rd, a great run and his only podium finish, ironically in his last race, Michael being sacked, the drive going to Hakkinen.

andretti san marino

San Marino GP, Imola 1993. (Unattributed)

Andretti returned to Champcars successfully…he was competitive throughout his career but didn’t win another title and famously lead the Indy 500 for 431 laps in multiple 500’s the most of any driver without taking victory…

There are so many ‘Ifs, Buts and Maybes’ in life and racing…

If McLaren had done a better engine deal or installed the Ford earlier, maybe the glitches both drivers experienced all year would have been sorted in pre-season testing.
If the testing rules hadn’t changed Andretti would have driven the miles he needed in cars alien to him rather than doing his testing and familiarisations in the full glare of race weekends…and as worked so well for Villeneuve at Williams 2 years later who did a million miles in the car on all sorts of circuits.
If he had lived in the UK maybe his intent and commitment to McLaren would have been clearer.
Hakkinens’ signing added to the pressure on Michael, if he hadn’t been signed, the imminent potential replacement would not have been there.
If Andretti had started some of his races less agressively the DNF’s would have been reduced giving him the miles he needed and making him look less of a novice.

But, as the saying goes, ‘if yer Aunty had balls she’d be yer Uncle’ …

At the end of the day none of the above happened and it made more sense for McLaren to sign Hakkinen to partner Senna for 1994 albeit Senna went to Williams and Martin Brundle got to race the McLaren Peugeot in 1994, a combination which made the ’93 cars look like paragons of speed and reliability. In short had Andretti raced on with the team in 1994 he would not have had a car capable of running at the front.

Michael Andretti and F1 is still one of racings intriguing ‘mighta-beens’ all the same?

andretti in car close up 1993

Etcetera…

Short History of the Surfers Indycar Grand Prix

http://www.goldcoastbulletin.com.au/sport/special-features/look-back-the-indy-300-glory-years-to-v8s-at-gold-coast-600/story-fnpctu9f-1227096490438

McLaren MP4/8 Ford…

http://www.mclaren.com/formula1/heritage/cars/1993-formula-1-mclaren-mp4-8/

Adrian Reynard and Reynard Racing Cars…

http://www.adrianreynard.com/reynard_motorsport.htm

Credits…

The Cahier Archive

Finito…