Unser and Andretti’s round the world weekend

Extraordinary tales from the Motor Sport digital archive


Who on earth does a spot of F1 qualifying at Monza on a Friday, flies back to the States for a quick dirt race on the Saturday, before heading back to Italy for a full grand prix at the ‘Cathedral of Speed’ on Sunday? Mario Andretti and Bobby Unser, that’s who.

IndyCar legend Unser (top) sadly died on May 2, but his ability to tell a good yarn stayed with him throughout his life, as evidenced in our rip-roaring Mark Hughes archive piece from 2000. September 6-8, 1968 might not have been quite the average weekend, but it wasn’t far off.

The US duo had decided they wanted to make their F1 debuts at that weekend’s Italian GP, but also had binding contracts to run in the Hoosier 100 in Indiana on the Saturday.

In addition to clocking up flying thousands of air miles over 72 hours, it also involved them driving RushHour-style through Italy and being threatened at gun point by soldiers before getting caught in the political maelstrom that was F1 in that era. And then, after all of that, being told they couldn’t even race…

“You’ve no idea what we went through to get to that race on time,” said Unser, still sounding like he hadn’t quite got over the events of that weekend. As the cliché goes, sometimes it’s just about the journey…

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