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Mario's relationship with the Speedway? It's complicated


Image by IMS


By: Robin Miller | 21 hours ago



The fact Mario Andretti only won Indianapolis once in his career isn’t surprising – it’s stupefying. In his 29 starts at IMS, the man with the magic first name led 556 laps – more than multiple winners like A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford, Dario Franchitti and Louie Meyer, to name a few.


So that lone victory 50 years ago doesn’t begin to tell the story of how good Andretti truly was on the most famous track in the world. His name is synonymous with Indianapolis for outright speed, instant fame and countless heartbreaks.


But one of his many great attributes is that he doesn’t dwell on what could have been – he still celebrates that one day in the sun at 16th and Georgetown on May 30, 1969.


“I’ll always feel blessed to have won it once because it’s so damn hard,” he said recently. “It’s a race that’s with you forever. There’s no question about it. But when you win it, it does change your life in so many ways, and all for the better, quite honestly. Career-wise, it opens doors that you could have only hoped for before, and your personal life changes dramatically.


“This race carries so much weight because – and I’ve said this so many times, and I mean it – it’s the only race on the globe that I think is worth a championship. I was on the Tonight Show after winning the 1965 national championship and Johnny Carson introduced me as rookie of the year at Indianapolis so that told me a lot early on.”


The diminutive dynamo from Trieste, Italy, who didn’t look big or strong enough to muscle at Indy car, took to the two-and-a-half mile oval and daunting speeds like few before or since.


He finished third as a rookie, won the pole in 1966 and 1967, and started fourth in 1968 – but only completed 87 laps in those three starts because of mechanical failures. “Mario is slowing down” became almost as famous as Tom Carnegie shouting: “It’s a new track record” over the PA system.


And 1969 went from untouchable to unlikely in the matter of a couple days.



Were it not for some flimsy F1 hubs, the Brawner-Hawk would not even have been on the track in 1969. Image by IMS

Those were the days when Indy sported three weeks of practice. Andretti debuted Colin Chapman’s four-wheel drive Lotus, and had Gasoline Alley in a panic about his lap times. “We were 4mph quicker than anybody, and we were still waiting on Firestone to build us our front tires,” recalled co-chief mechanic Jim McGee. “But we didn’t trust the car. It had no miles on it and some flimsy components that concerned us.”


After the first weekend of qualifying was washed out, Mario was practicing when a hub snapped coming through Turn 4 and he pounded the wall, destroying the car and leaving him with facial burns and an old backup car that had not been intended to run.


“We told Chapman those F1 hubs wouldn’t work with the g-loads at the Speedway, so it wasn’t a surprise,” continued McGee.


The only option was the two-year-old Brawner-Hawk that had won at Hanford the month before, but had been put in mothballs afterwards. Chapman, who broke open the rear-engine revolution with Jim Clark and Dan Gurney in 1963, would withdraw his other two cars and never be seen again at IMS.


Clint Brawner, the wise old crew chief who gave Mario and McGee their big break, smirked as the remains of the Lotus were towed through the garage area. “Clint hated that car,” chuckled McGee.


Andretti, who had traded fast times with A.J. Foyt prior to his accident, wound up qualifying in the middle of the front row as Super Tex claimed the pole.


“We had no other option but to go with a Brawner-Hawk, and again, it was different for sure. The car was not as quick through the corners, much more of a handful, but you know, you just got what you got,” said the man who would win the world title in 1978 with Chapman. “So we put our nose to the grindstone, and said we’ve got to make the best of it.”



The 1987 Indy 500 brought domination – and then heartbreak. Image by IMS

A last-minute curveball came when USAC banned their external oil cooler, and ace fabricator Eamon “Chalkie” Fullalove and car builder Eddie Kuzma worked all night to remedy that situation.


The race began with Mario jumping into the lead just as his engine temperatures skyrocketed. “I figured, well this is going to be another early exit,” he recalled.

But, for some reason the engine didn’t blow, and the STP Special hummed along. Despite strong challenges from Lloyd Ruby and Foyt during the race, Andretti would lead 116 of 200 laps and fight off an overheating engine and dodged a bullet with the gearbox. “I had both of them covered,” he declared. “I let them go when I was backing off because of my engine temperatures, and they never passed me competitively.”


A post-mortem showed the gearbox was about to seize up, and would have done so in a couple more laps. “It was just my day, finally,” said Andretti, who received a famous kiss from owner Andy Granatelli in Victory Lane. “I was as happy for Andy as I was myself, because he’d been trying to win that race for so long.”


Of all his near-misses after ’69, nothing was more gut-wrenching than 1987 when he totally dominated the competition, led 170 laps and lapped second place before breaking down with 22 laps to go. Ever classy, he stood outside his garage and told the media: “Well, at least they knew we were here today.”

He raced into his 50s, and even won Phoenix at age 53, but Indy was the one that kept getting away.


“Obviously we all strive for more than… at least one win, but then for more. Once you get one, you want more,” he said. “But the fact that I think I’m third all-time in laps led, all except for Al, more than the four-time winners, tells you that I had a lot of good times here.


“I figured after that first win, several more would follow, but it wasn’t to be. I still had 29 wonderful years here as a driver.”




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Robin Herd 1939-2019


4322-28a.jpg?w=1000&h=600&crop=1 Herd (right) with Max Mosley in 1972. Image by LAT

By: Mark Glendenning | 3 hours ago



Robin Herd, best known as co-founder and designer at March, has died at the age of 80 after a long illness.


Although his physics studies at Oxford initially led him into aerospace — he was part of the team that worked on what eventually became Concorde — an offer from Bruce McLaren to join the fledgling McLaren Racing in 1965 proved tempting enough for him to drop planes in favor of race cars.


His background was apparent in his (and McLaren’s) first F1 car, the M2B, which eschewed aluminum in favor of the far stiffer Mallite; a material used in aeronautical construction. Over the next three years, Herd produced another three McLaren F1 cars — the M4B, the M5A and the M7 (which claimed McLaren’s first F1 win) — as well as the dominant Can-Am machines that helped cement the team’s place on the map. Herd’s McLaren designs incorporated several features that would later become commonplace: the M8 Can-Am car leaned heavily on ground effect years before the technology could be applied in F1, and the M2A ran experimental rear wings three years before F1 began harnessing downforce in earnest.



The Herd-designed M7A gave McLaren its first F1 win in Belgium in 1968. Image by LAT


A move to Cosworth in 1968 resulted in the troublesome four-wheel-drive F1 car, but by that point Max Mosley was already sounding Herd out to join him in building March from the ground up. Herd accepted the offer to become a co-founder in 1969, and just six-months later the first March F1 car was on the grid.

“Money was incredibly short,” he later told Motor Sport magazine. “We agreed that each of the four partners should put in £2500 to get us going. I didn’t have £2500, so I borrowed £1000 from my mother and got her to put a bet on Jackie Stewart to win the 1969 World Championship at 2.5 to 1.


Over the next two decades, March contested more than 200 grands prix, claiming three wins and four pole positions, and also became a first-call supplier of customer cars in Formula 2 and also in the U.S., where March Indy cars won five consecutive Indianapolis 500s between 1983 and 1987. It was during March’s Indy car phase that Herd brought in a young aerodynamicist named Adrian Newey.


“There wasn’t much understanding of ground-effects then, so we started [at Indy] with an advantage,” he told Motor Sport. “For an engineer, a thinker, Indianapolis is great. People say you just turn left all the time, but it’s not like that. All four corners are different, the wind direction has a big effect, and you’ve got to get the balance absolutely right, with just the tiniest bit of oversteer so you scrub off the minimum amount of speed. The track varies with temperature and how long since it rained. You can listen to a car going through a corner, hear the engine note ease from, say, G sharp to E, and you can reckon how much speed is coming off. One of the best drivers I ever worked with on ovals was Rick Mears. He never came to terms with road circuits, but on ovals he was sensational.”


Herd sold his by-now majority shareholding in March in 1989, and initially threw his energy into how own design office before quitting racing altogether in the mid-1990s and developing an ecologically-friendly waste and energy disposal process that was widely licensed, and also enjoying a spell as owner and chairman of the Oxford Football Club.




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Jaguar's long-serving test driver Norman Dewis dies aged 98

By Kevin Turner

Published on Sunday June 9th 2019


Norman Dewis, who was a key part of Jaguar's Le Mans 24 Hours success in the '50s, has died aged 98.


As Jaguar's chief test driver, Dewis helped with the development of the C-type and D-type machines that won the 24 Hours five times between 1951 and '57. Arguably Jaguar's finest achievement during the period was its 1-2-3-4-6 result at Le Mans with D-types in 1957.


Due to his value to Jaguar, Dewis's racing activities were limited, but he co-drove a C-type with Stirling Moss in the 1952 Mille Miglia and started the 1955 Le Mans, driving a D-type (pictured below) with Don Beauman.




A confident character, Dewis defended Mike Hawthorn following the Jaguar ace's involvement in the accident that claimed more than 80 lives in the 1955 24 Hours.


He was also at the wheel of the special XK120 that hit 172mph, then a record for production cars, at Jabbeke in Belgium in 1953.


Dewis, who was a member of the British Racing Drivers' Club, later drove the XJ13 sportscar that never raced - surviving a high-speed crash after a tyre failure - and was involved in Jaguar's road car projects from the '50s into the '80s, including the E-type. In later years he remained a Jaguar ambassador.


After working at the Humber car factory, his first job as a test driver had come with Armstrong-Siddeley prior to the Second World War. He then served on Bristol Blenheims during the conflict, but it is for his time with Jaguar - where he helped develop the first disc brakes - that he is best remembered.


"Jaguar owes a huge debt to Norman Dewis," said Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations managing director John Edwards when Dewis was awarded an OBE in 2015.

"His incredible skills have resulted in some of the finest cars Jaguar has ever made."



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Monte Shelton, 1933-2019


Image by Jason Isley


By: Jeffrey Zurschmeide | 17 hours ago



Legendary Pacific Northwest racer Monte Shelton has died at age 85. His professional racing career included appearances in the US Road Racing Championship in 1965, ’67, and ’68. He competed regularly in the SCCA’s Can-Am series, from its inception in 1966 through 1974, and made several starts in Formula 5000.


But it was in the Trans Am Series that Shelton achieved his greatest professional racing success. In over 40 starts between 1976 and 1987, the Portland, Oregon, driver racked up five victories, two pole positions, and 14 podium finishes driving a variety of Porsches.


On the amateur side, Shelton won the (Portland) Rose Cup race a record seven times, and had nine second-place finishes. He entered the very first Rose Cup race in 1961, and his seven victories were spread over five decades.


Shelton qualified for the SCCA National Championship Runoffs four times, first in 1968, when the event was held at Riverside International Raceway. His best finish came in 1975 — a second place in A Sports Racing at Road Atlanta driving a McLaren 8F, which he also raced in Can-Am.


Outside of SCCA, Monte competed 10 times in the 24 Hours of Daytona and had a third-place finish in 1979. He also competed several times in the 12 Hours of Sebring, and in the IMSA Camel GT series.


Shelton was a lifetime member of SCCA, and was one of the six founding members of the Oregon Region in 1962. In recent years, he raced a Volkswagen Rabbit at the regional level, and held a current competition license.


“I have held an SCCA competition license for 60 consecutive years, and never had a waiver,” he said just weeks ago.


His final race was in March of this year.


Off-track, Shelton was Portland’s premier British car dealer, selling everything from MG to Rolls-Royce over the years. In retirement he maintained a small business dealing in specialty vintage sports cars, known as “Monte’s Motors” after his first-ever car lot.


Shelton is survived by his wife Sue; daughters Darla Krieske and Jamie Martell; sons Tony and Neil Shelton; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.



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70 years ago on this very day – 26 June, 1949 – Ferrari scored its first ever Le Mans win; the first of nine outright wins it would achieve at the fabled 24-hour marathon over the next couple of decades.



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