The weekend rolls in and we return to 1995 for another memory-sojourn in a most excellent season of Indycar racing. Last week, our favourite bunch of Indycar drivers tackled 250 laps of Michigan International Raceway, although owing to various mechanical failures including seemingly every Reynard, only two drivers actually completed mile 499 and 500. These were Scott Pruett and Al Unser, and in the canonical example of it only taking two cars to make a motor race, they battled it out for the entire second half and in the end could only be separated by 0.056 of a second. Naturally this was enough to declare Scott Pruett the winner, giving Firestone their first Indycar win in forever, and the former Trans-Am champ his first Indycar win ever.
This week, it’s 13 August and the racing is happening at CART’s second-twistiest road course, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, set in green hills midway between Columbus and Lake Erie. After some very fast and smooth left turns at the Michigan 500, drivers must prepare for such exotica as going left, right, up and down, corners with whimsical names, and the standard book of rationalizations for why they’re not passing everyone. Last year the Penskes lapped everyone and finished 1-2-3, with Al Unser, Jr winning from pole in his usual 1994 way. This is unlikely to happen this year, not least because there are only two Team Penske cars, . Sadly, Danny Sullivan has driven his last Indycar race, calling it a career after receiving serious injuries from a nasty crash with Lyn St James in the closing stages at Michigan. PacWest have signed IMSA GTP champiom and illustrious nephew Juan Fangio II as a stand-in for the remaining races. Any later than 1995 and that seat would undoubtedly have gone to Roberto Moreno, but at present he is still being detained in F1 testing the limits of the Forti team’s competitiveness.
How’s the championship looking? In a word: good (for Jacques Villeneuve). With 140 points and a maximum score of 22 points on any weekend, his 31 point lead over Bobby Rahal is looking pretty solid with four races to go. Bobby not having won a race all year (and only ever looking like winning one, when he finished directly under Michael Andretti’s gearbox in Toronto), Jacques’ more plausible championship rivals Unser, Gordon and Andretti are even further in arrears, with 98, 98 and 94 points respectively. Paul Tracy should be higher than 7th but hasn’t finished enough races, and Gil de Ferran and Andre Ribeiro are somehow 20th and 21st in points (behind Eliseo Salazar, for crying out loud) despite the sight of their day-glo yellow often troubling the leaders. Anyway, plenty of opportunity to change that. Starting now!
Jacques Villeneuve scoops his fourth pole of the season with a gap of more than half a second over the opposition, which this week was led by the frequently-unfortunate Bryan Herta. Man of constant sorrow Michael Andretti was a few hundredths back from Herta, and the only other guy within a second of the Quick Quebecois. These results in tabular form, plus others, below:
1. Jacques Villeneuve 1:06.836, Team Green R/F/G
2. Bryan Herta +0.580, Ganassi R/F/G
3. Michael Andretti +0.627, Newman-Haas L/F/G
4. Mo Gugelmin +1.045, PacWest R/F/G
5. Robby Gordon +1.172, Walker R/F/G
6. Gil de Ferran +1.209, Hall R/M/G
7. Paul Tracy +1.244, Newman-Haas L/F/G
8. Al Unser, Jr +1.312, Penske P/M/G
9. Bobby Rahal +1.343, Rahal-Hogan L/M/G
10. Jimmy Vasser +1.378, Ganassi R/F/G
11. Adrian Fernandez +1.518, Galles L/M/G
12. Andre Ribeiro +1.609, Tasman R/H/F
New guy Juan Fangio II is 12th, Fabi 16th, last week’s hero Parker Johnstone 20th, last week’s other hero Scott Pruett 21st. A full field of 28 starters, with Road America’s Hubert Stromberger failing to qualify his Reynard for Andreas Leberle’s Project Indy team. Bachelart and Greco are back with Payton/Coyne and the second Galles car respectively. Indy near-misser Scott Goodyear is also back in the field, albeit eight-tenths of a second down on his Tasman teammate Ribeiro in P20.
So that’s Mid-Ohio. We’ll do this at the normal time, starting 6pm BST on Sunday. Video below!