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Archive for the tag “Andretti”

With Mario at Monza ’68

65610012As the official photographer to Team Lotus in the 1960s, Peter Darley, like the photo-journalist, David Phipps, was close to both Colin Chapman and the Team Lotus personnel.  He was at Monza in 1968 when Mario Andretti (and Bobby Unser) were scheduled to make their F1 debuts for Gold Leaf Team Lotus and BRM. He recently sent us his recollections:

Colin asked me to collect Mario Andretti and Bobby Unser from the airport. No-one knew which one – Linate or Malpensa? Anyway, I researched which was used for transatlantic flights and rolled up. Bobby was driving for BRM, Mario for Lotus. I found them both and we piled into my Fiat 124 hire car. After a few kms, Mario decided he wanted to drive, although Bobby wasn’t so sure, muttering things about crazy Italians. It was thereafter a drive of a lifetime: Mario had the pedal to the metal for the entire journey. When we reached Monza, Mario and Bobby found they had no passes but a few words from Mario to the local police resulted in the gates opening and the crowds parting as if we were going through the Red Sea. We were there.

Unfortunately all this was in vain: since they had competed in the US the previous day, Monza’s Race Director, Snr Baccagalupi, refused to allow them to race in Italy under the 24 hr rule. We knew better, of course: with Mario a definite contender for the pole and a possible win – even though this would have been his first F1 race – it was in Ferrari’s interest to keep him away. He made up for it by taking the pole for what was his first race – the 1968 US GP at Watkins Glen.

I took these photos of Mario at Monza that year – (above) with his team-mate for practice (Graham Hill); and in the high-wing Lotus 49B with Colin Chapman.  (Photos copyright Peter Darley)57970014_257970001_2


Mario Andretti on TFL

It was an absolute joy to chat to Mario Andretti on Wednesday’s edition of The Flying Lap (see link above) – and, for me, one of the best moments came when Mario was describing his return to Ferrari (at Monza, 1982).  We used this beautiful Sutton Image during the show but I wanted to reprint it here because it certainly deserves closer analysis.  It’s taken at the entry to the Parabolica, of course, but what I particularly love about the pose here is the absolute neutrality of Ferrari 126CK2/061 – something that Mario was able to reproduce almost to perfection when his car was right and he could “feel” the surface of the road.  There’s a certain slip angle at the rear but Mario’s subtle use of steering against a decreasing brake pedal pressure has given him exactly the poise he needs mid-corner.  There’s no doubt that Mario used lower minimum corner speeds than, say, Ronnie Peterson (at John Player Team Lotus) or Patrick Tambay (at Ferrari) but for sure he was able to make up for that – and give himself an edge – with his exits.  Earlier in the interview, I was also fascinated to hear Mario talk about how much he learned about driving from Bruce McLaren.  We perhaps tend to think of Bruce these days as one of the ultimate driver-engineers and forget that he was, too, a first-rate racing driver.  It was in slow-corner rotation (an area often taken too much for granted by drivers blessed with great car control) that Mario told us Bruce had been particularly instructive.   In the picture above (taken, I believe, by the great Nigel Snowdon) note, too, that Mario is leaning his Bell helmet slightly to the left.  Peter Revson also used to do this (on both left- and right-handers):  I think it is a characteristic of drivers who have seen plenty of banked corners (ie US ovals) in their time.

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