Motor racing in Europe, motor racing in America; two sports separated by a common language. The US, the world’s largest single market, can survive quite well on its own, thank you, and like all isolated eco-systems has developed several highly specialised forms that thrive within their own environment: NASCAR, the super-speedways, the incredible board tracks of the 1920s. But these rarely establish more than a toehold elsewhere. Yet there is a long history of crossover: the US driver George Heath was a mainstay of the successful Panhard team 100 years ago (see p80), contesting the events created by compatriots Gordon Bennett and William K Vanderbilt, while from 1913-19 only European cars won at Indy.
In 1921, Duesenberg introduced hydraulic brakes to Grand Prix racing when they won that year’s French race at Le Mans. Unfortunately, so xenophobic was the prize-giving, so fulsome the praise of the second-placed Ballot, that the Yanks marched out in high dudgeon. Roosevelt Raceway was built in New York during the ’30s, but the local stars and their cars never stood a chance on its twists and turns against the road-racing specialists of Alfa Romeo, Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union. They got their revenge in the Race of the Two Worlds on Monza’s banking in 1957-58, although that second year Europe gave the mighty Offy roadsters a fright
It all came to a head, though, when Lotus stormed the Indianapolis citadel in the 1960s (see p26). Colin Chapman and Jim Clark revolutionised the US racing scene in a stroke. Not everybody in America was thankful, however, as Joe Scalzo describes on page 34. Forward-thinkers attempted to turn the tables in 1978 by inviting Indycars to Silverstone and Brands Hatch (see p42). But once again, promise floundered on a wave of apathy, a lack of communication: same world, different planet
After the demise of Watkins Glen as a GP venue in 1981, America’s F1 race has been pushed from pillar to post, the relative success of Long Beach undone by farces in a Las Vegas car park and on the anodyne Phoenix street circuit. Even ‘Motown’ never really took to Formula One during an eight-year spell on its streets. The bid, though, will begin again on 24 September, when 22 F1 cars line up at The Bricicyard. A Grand Prix on a part-oval, part-mad course is nothing new (see p38), but this is the Big One. The bean-counters will see it as a closing of the financial circle; the purists will see it as the most important, most complete series in the world venturing onto the world’s most famous track. Both, of course, could be disappointed; indeed, history seems to suggest that they will be. But that might not be all bad; homogenisation is surely one of the curses of our ever-shrinking world. Vive la difference! Cover: Upsetting the apple-cart: Jim Clark in Lotus 38 at Indianapolis