Reflections at the Gaming Table

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Reflections at the Gaming Table

FOR those mere mortals who’ve been brought up in a rather conservative (small c) British fashion, Las Vegas is a major culture shock. It is brash, extrovert, full of neon lights and an absolute caricature of the American nation at play. I shall refrain from making any specific observation about the circuit: suffice to say that Alan Jones last year described it as a “goat track that somebody’s dragged down from the mountains.. This year the new World Champion driver summed it up even more succinctly at his post-race press conference. When asked why he thought Las Vegas was a bit better than he’d found it in 1981, Kosberg replied, straight faced, “because since last year, I’ve been to

Detroit. . .”

Seriously, the Caesars Palace circuit isn’t very impressive. The television transmission which was shown irt this country makes it appear like a desert circuit, so it is perhaps appropriate to remind everybody that it is in fact a car park. It is sitter imaginative street circuit like Long Beach, nor is it a purpose-built facility. Frankly, I think sits very sad that the World Championship final had to be enacted in such unprepossessing surroundings, but I am glad that the man who has emerged with the title is a driver who tries hard everywhere, street circuit or autodromc, fast track or slow track. -Keke” Rosberg’s enthusiasm for motor racing is infectious — and I am certaM that his taste for success will not be diminished by the fact that hr has won the Championship. However, we have considered Rosberg’s character in recent issues to the point where there is no need to repeat our feelings about him in this issue. Instead. I think it is worth reflecting on the Performance of Michek Alboreto, the Tyrrell driver who performed so smoothly at Las Vegas to win the final race of the season. Alboreto is one of those drivers who you tend sometimes to forget about: in his two-year career to date he has driven tidily, efficiently and with ever-increasing speed, but he’s a quiet non-political lad and has a mild ntanncred personality. This season he shouldered the responsibility for leading Ken Tyrrell’s now-modest little team and I feel that their success at Las Vegas proves a great deal. Alboreto’s application has been plain to see ever

since he first drove a Grand Prix car and, when he qualified third and never ran lower than third at Las Vegas, it was difficult to recall that he was driving for a team which seldom tested away from an official practice session at a, time during the 1982 season. One ri bound to ask why the sitnilarly-shod Williams FWO8s failed to get anywhere near the Italian in the race. Could it be that the financial stringency which a lack of sponsorship has imposed on the Tyrrell team has f’ocussed its effort to good effect simply because they were desperate to survive? Does it suggest that people perform at the best when they’ve got their backs to the wall? It certainly is an interesting poser: either way, I think Alboreto did an excellent job at Las Vegas and deserves a great deal of credit for his success. Much tO the delight of American enthusiasts, Mario Andretti was able to take part in the Las Vegas race at the wheel of a Ferrari 126C2. Although the 42-year-old American driver relinquished his place as an Fl regular this season in favour of a full Championship Car season in his native country, there’s no doubt that he still hankers after Grand Prix racing and misses it tremendously. Earlier in the season he was invited to drive the second.Williams at Long Beach and accepted, even though his CART team owner Pat Patrick was less than enthusiastic about him -dabbling” in Fl. Hr didn’t have a very successful outing, but his appetite for Grand Prix cars still wasn’t quenched: by Monza he was delighted to be able to accept the invitation to drive a Ferrari and delighted his many Italian fans by planting it on pole position for she Italian Grand Prix. Ferrari quite naturally then asked him to take part in the Las Vegas race, but it seemed that he would not be able redo so because of a clashing CART event at Michigan the following day. Happily, however, he secured another release from the sympathetic Pat Patrick and CART officials permitted him to miss Michigan qualifying in order that he could race at

Las Vegas. None of his rivals objected to this, even though it wasn’t strictly within the CART rules, and he was allowed to fly back to the East Coast on the evening of the Grand Prix and start his Wildcat-Cosworth DFX from the back of the grid the following day. Andretti, it should he recorded, did all this and was finishing second behind Bobby Rahal’s March in the Michigan race while most of the Grand Prix contingent were either lazing by the swimming pool at Las Vegas or hurrying home to Europe in a jet airliner! The point of this little aside is as follows: if the situation had be. reversed and special permission had been required for Mario to race in the Grand Prix without practice, starting from the back of the grid, how many Fl people would have been in favour of allowing him to do so? Andre. knew the answer. “Nobody,” he grinned without a moment’s hesitation. For 1982 Andretti will be taking in a full season of CART racing yet again, although his affection for the Ferrari team remains absolute and unshakable. It’s amazing to think that he won his first Grand Prix driving a flat12-cylinder 3/2B/ at Kyalami almost 12 years ago and also that his four Championship points scored at Monza this year made the difference between that team winning and losing the Constructors’ title! Another thing that struck me very forcibly at Las Vegas was just hew varied a season has been experienced by the McLaren International team. In this final race of the year John Watson drove as magnificently as he had done at Detroit, carving his way through the field and passing cars as though they were not there, although this time he only achieved second place and not a win. If we accept that Renault has won only dime races without question (Prost was awarded first place in the Brazilian Grand Prix after the disqualification of Piquet and Rosberg), then McLaren must be regarded as the most successful t.m of 1982 if you accept that winning is the name of the game. Lauda won Long Beach and Brands Hatch while Watson triumphed at Zolder and Detroit: all excellent victories by any standards. The McLaren MP4 has been a well-balanced, good handling car at many events, but there have been no half measures with either the chastiser the two

drivers. When they’ve been good they’ve been very good: but when they’ve been tiff-foam, they’ve been ineffective. It’s difficult to believe that the Lauda we saw trailing round at Monza or Monaco could be the same man who won at Brands and Long Beach with such dominance. To his credit, Lauda categorises his individual races quite clearly within his own conscience. “There are two races that we messed up completely because we couldn’t get the can to work — and two races / messed up completely through my own mistakes!” Interestingly, the Austrian puts Monaco and Monza in the former category — and Detroit and Hockenheim (where he made a mistake in practice and injured his wrist) in the latter category. 1 feat Las Vegas fell into one of these two categories as well: for while Watson was spearing his way to the front of the field Lauda get bottled up behind de Cesarit’s obstructive Alfa Romeo and took an absolute age to get ahead of it. I can honestly say that I was very happy when the time came to climb aboard the American Airlines DC-10 airliner and fly away from Las Vegas. I suppose one “freak” race in a season isn’t too bad, but I can’t say I take the Ceasars Palace track very seriously. Long Beach and Detroit have proved that temporary circuits can be demanding and imaginative in their layout, something which has singularly not been achieved by the Las Vegas organisers. Believe it or not, 1 was just reflecting about how-on-board, car-mounted television cameras would make a track like Caesars Palace a bit more interesting when I looked up and saw a television screen on a bulkhead which was spying on the DC-10’s cockpit crew as we taxied out and took off. It’s a novel idea which has been adopted by American Airlines in an attempt to placate worried passengers who are nervous about the experience of flying. But I decided that I really didn’t want to knew what was going on in the cockpit because I didn’t understand it — and there was certainly nothing I could do about it. It’s going to lend a totally fresh dimension to post-race paddock rows between entrant and driver if they adopt a similar system on Grand Prix cars. “I say you over-revved!” “I didn’t!” “Well, I say you did. And I know, because I saw you!” — A.H.

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