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Gordon Kirby on Chapman’s last Indycar, the Lotus 64

Despite Andy Granatelli’s STP team’s worries for the 1969 Indy 500 practice, Andretti was able to set the pace, substantially quicker than anyone else, even Hill and Rindt in the factory 64s. “We were 4mph quicker than the second-placed car,” crew chief Jim McGee says, “even running four front tyres because Firestone hadn’t yet produced the rears. They were going to arrive for qualifying.

“That car would have out-qualified everybody by 4 or 5mph. It was that quick. Mario said you could drive it down into the corner with one hand. With 4WD there was no understeer. It would just pull the front end around the corner.”

McGee says Andretti enjoyed an advantage over Hill and Rindt because of his experience with big-boost turbo engines. “In those days,” McGee says, “the turbos had a big lag in response. Rindt and Hill were right-foot brakers and Mario was a left-foot braker so he could use his right foot to keep the boost and the revs up.

“There was no way those guys were going to compete with Mario because of their driving style. They didn’t have the oval experience or the experience with turbos that Mario had.”

Disaster struck in the middle of the week of practice prior to Pole Day, however, when one of the Lotus’s rear hubs failed. Andretti spun backwards into the wall and the car caught fire. Mario was lucky to escape with minor burns to his face and lips but the Lotus was written off.

The crash was the end of the road for Chapman and Team Lotus at Indianapolis. The three Lotus 64s were withdrawn and the 4WD Lotus never raced, nor would Chapman be seen again at Indianapolis or any other Indycar race.

Online with our writers

Mat Oxley
My personal highlight of 2013
My biggest laugh was having Michael Dunlop, riding an ex-Kevin Schwantz Suzuki RGV500, come flying past me at way over the ton as we approached the scary Barregarrow section. Silly thing to say, that, as there aren’t many parts of the lap that aren’t scary. It seemed like the RGV’s two-stroke powerband had caught him out and he had dialled in a lot more power than he had intended. The RGV’s front wheel was at least level with my head when he came rocketing past, just inches away, and it slammed back down onto the road as he shut the throttle. Not that it seemed to bother him.

Paul Fearnley
Timmy Mayer: McLaren’s lost talent
A second place (ahead of Mayer) at Warwick Farm and a third at Lakeside confirmed McLaren’s title, but it was birthday boy Mayer who took the fight to Brabham’s BT7A at Lakeside. He was leading and pulling away when the engine threw a rod after 15 laps. There had been no haggling over start money: Mayer had been warmly received as a top-flight racer. His greatest test, however, lay ahead: the 4.5 miles of Longford, Tasmania, a road circuit defined by hazards: a brick viaduct to be threaded through; a wooden viaduct to be traversed; plus a level crossing and humped bridge.

Top tweets

@Damien__Smith Saw the 1 film tonight. Fantastic. Great footage and interviews, covers a lot of ground and captures the spirit of why we love F1.

@paulpunter RIP Brian Hart. Has anybody generated more horsepower for less money? #Senna415T #ProtosF2too

@Andrew_Frankel Camouflaged LaFerrari seen at Fiorano likely NOT next FXX. Has snorkel and conventional race wing. It might have a V6 too… #LMP1

@Damien__Smith While encouraged by latest on Schumacher, saddened that there’s no knighthood for Surtees. Still. I really thought this was the year.

@Andrew_Frankel One of the better things about Toyota FT-1 is that it’s a genuine rabbit out of hat – a car we hadn’t all seen months before the show started.

@matoxley Motor Sport magazine has a poll on top World Champion of 2013. Currently MM93 is 1st, ahead of McNish/Vettel!

@paulpunter Will anybody win the first GP of 2014? #getyourexcusesinearly

And another thing
Will Ferrari return to Le Mans?

John B: Oh, please let it be so. ?I wonder if McLaren would follow – what then for F1? Andre: Ferrari’s been known to float the idea of moving to another series when they want to pressure Bernie and the FIA. Are we sure this isn’t just posturing by the prancing horse? IM: Fantastic, as long as it doesn’t take the WEC down the same path that F1 has taken – over exposure, excessive prices, explosion in the costs to compete, absurdly restrictive regulations etc. Wilbur Bottom: Or, just maybe, Ferrari is doing the rational thing: seeing that F1 is in self-destructive decline, they’re hedging their bets. From comments I’ve been reading on F1 sites of late, people are so fed up with the parlous state of F1 management and the reliance on fakery (DRS et al) to improve ‘the show’ that they’re threatening to start following WEC/Le Mans instead.