1984 Detroit Grand Prix

On reflection, it has to be said that Piquet and Brundle provided the only performances of lasting worth during the 63 lap race round the rather seedy streets of “Motor City”. With only six of the original 26 starters managing to complete the distance, it wasn’t a terribly positive advertisement for Grand Prix racing under the eyes of a critical American audience and it’s worth noticing that the grandstands were emptying long before the event drew to its conclusion. Mechanical failures and driver errors abounded throughout this race, but, at the end of the day, it must have been Alain Prost who came away from Detroit with the most on his mind. Eight days earlier he had been riding high at the head of the Championship points table, a worthy leader with three Grand Prix triumphs to his credit. Nelson Piquet had none: his Brabham BT53 had failed to finish a single race prior to the Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal. Now, reflecting on a troubled fifth place at Detroit, Prost could see the worrying spectre of Nelson Piquet . . . perhaps on the verge of staging a repeat of his 1983 performance when he gradually crept up on the French driver, pipping him for the World Championship title in the very last race of the season. It was the same ghost at his shoulder .

Tyrrell’s Martin Brundle was 11th on the grid

Piquet led every lap at Detroit from pole position, but there are two very interesting facts that make his performance all the more remarkable. His pole position lap was achieved on the second of a two lap run in final qualifying on Saturday afternoon. At the wheel of his “qualifying sprint car”, the team spare, Piquet scorched round to grasp pole position, first in 1 min 41.290 sec and, on his second lap, in 1 min 40.980 sec. Not only was this more than four seconds faster than the best Friday time, established by Nigel Mansell’s Lotus 95T, but it might well have been even quicker had the Brabham not lapsed onto three cylinders a couple of corners before the end of the lap. “We couldn’t quite believe it,” smiled Brabham designer Gordon Murray, “because when Nelson came into view coming up to the chicane before the pits, we could hear that the engine sounded sick, so we thought we might have lost the quick lap. It had dropped a valve, in fact, so he was lucky to scrape across the line, let alone set the pole position time!” One is bound to wonder whether Piquet would have broken the 1 min 40 sec barrier if the engine had survived the complete lap intact.

Race Results


Circuit - Detroit


United States


Detroit, Michigan


Temporary street circuit


2.5 (Miles)


Ayrton Senna (Lotus 99T-Honda), 1m40.464, 89.584 mph, F1, 1987