28th of February – It’s the birthday of a living legend: Mario Andretti will have to deal with those 69 lit candles on the cake today. Happy birthday, Mario A., all the best from Mario B. And to celebrate the event, here’s a snapshot I’m quite proud to have been able to source. Yet, it’s up to you guys to tell the full story behind this unusual car and driver combination.
Mario Andretti had won the AAA championship in IndyCar racing twice, when he accepted the offer to drive a works Lotus in the 1968 US Grand Prix. He promptly shocked the establishment by qualifying that Lotus 49B on pole position for the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen and went on to win the 1971 South African GP , now at the wheel of a Ferrari. He was one of the most versatile drivers of all time, winning regularly road courses, oval races and long distance sports car races. In 1978 he drove the sensational Lotus 79 to the World Championship title and raced intermittently in F1 through to the end of 1982. He would be 53-years old when he won his last ChampCar race at Phoenix, Arizona, in 1993 and when Mario decided that 1994 would be his final year of competition as a Champ Car driver, a season-long farewell campaign featured special tributes, salutes and honors at every race venue entering his last Champ Car race at the final round at Laguna Seca Raceway.
Even though officially retired, Mario continued the next few years to seek the one major trophy missing from his mantle, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He competed an additional four times in the world’s most prestigious endurance race, winning the WSC class and finishing second overall in 1995. In 2003 he even tested for his son Michael’s IndyCar team and a huge accident, from which he luckily emerged unscathed, finally convinced him to stop tempting fate. Today Mario is a successful businessman off the track and serves as spokesman, associate and friend to top executives around the world. His legacy continues with the Andretti Winery in Napa Valley, a petroleum business in California, several car dealerships, the Mario Andretti Racing School in Las Vegas, and the Andretti Indoor Karting and Games facility near Atlanta, while still residing with his wife Dee Ann in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.
Ellie Bayol was a front-runner in Formula 2 races as well as hill climbs around France in the early 1950s and qualified for the 1953 French GP at Reims that year, but did not finish. He also took part in the Italian GP that year and in 1954 he joined the Gordini factory team with Jean Behra and finished 5th in the first race in Argentina. After finishing 4th at Pau he edged out of the team. He returned the following year but suffered a string of mechanical failures. In 1956 he raced a few times but then left single-seater racing for good.
Born: 28th of February 1914 in Marseille, France;
Died: 25th of May 1995 in La Ciotat, France, aged 81.
Sébastien Bourdais signed up as a member of the Prost Junior Team in Formula 3000 in 2000 as the reigning French Formula 3 champion. But only when he moved to Super Nova Racing he was able to fight for the title and, after Tomas Enge was barred after a drug test, won the International F3000 Championship in 2002. He tested with the Arrows F1 team and then Renault. But as he refused to sign a management contract with team principal Flavio Briatore, wasn’t signed as the Renault’s third driver. As he did not have the backing to land another F1 drive he went to the United States and joined Newman-Haas Racing for the 2003 CART World Series season. He won his fourth race, finished fourth in the championship and won the Rookie of the Year award. In 2004 the Frenchman won the first of four consecutive ChampCar titles and his results in the US got him the invitation in the summer of 2007 to test for F1 outfit Scuderia Toro Rosso and was then signed to drive for the team in 2008 alongside Sebastian Vettel. Apart from qualifying for the Italian GP on the second row, it turned out to be a rather disappointing season with a couple of 7th place remaining his best results. Nonetheless Toro Rosso decided to keep Bourdais on Bord for 2009.
Robert Choulet is a French aerodynamics engineer influential in race car aerodynamics who worked on the unsuccessful Matra 640, the famous Porsche 917 LH (Langheck) with its spectacular new very low drag “Long Tail” body including partially covered rear wheel arches. He also worked on Porsche#s CanAm cars before Matra lured the Frenchman back to create the bodywork of the successful MS 670 sports prototype and after that . He then worked with the Ligier Formula 1 team at his beginnings in 1976, starting with the JS7 and culminating in the successful JS11 ground effect car. It looked like a championship contender early in the 1979 season and won 3 GPs that year. Then Choulet switched to Alfa Romeo and was responsible for the Alfa 179. Later he went back to sports car racing with Peugeot Sports, developing their successful Le Mans winning 905. Aside involvement in road car development projects, even in his 80’s he’d work with the Toyota F1 operation as a simulations and development consultant.
Antonio Creus was a Spanish motorbike racer turned sports car driver who decided to add a Formula 1 World Championship round to his career and therefore entered an elderly Maserati 250F for the 1960 Argentine Grand Prix. He qualified last, nearly 16 seconds off the pace of pole-setter Stirling Moss. In the race he was forced to retire after just one fifth of the distance as the smoldering heat had completely drained him physically within only 16 laps.
Born: 28th of February 1919 in Madrid, Spain
Died: 19th of February 1996 in Madrid, Spain, aged 76.
Ingo Hoffmann came into Formula 1 through the British Formula 3 and European Formula 2 Championships, debuting in the top league with the financially troubled Fittipaldi team. The Brazilian of German roots debuted in the 1976 Brazilian Grand Prix in the team’s second car when realistically the outfit could only afford to run one car. This meant Hoffmann only entered certain selected races, and ultimately the second car was dropped altogether. After his unsuccessful foray into F1, Ingo competed strongly in F2, trying to see if a second chance came up. It wasn’t the case and so concentrated on forming a career in sports cars and saloon cars both in Europe and in South America. Notably, Ingo Hoffmann has won the Brazilian Stock Car Championship in 1980, 1985, from 1989 to 1994, from 1996 to 1998 and finally again in 2002. That makes is tally a staggering 12 StockCar titels. In December 2006, now with the latest spec spaceframe chassis and V8-powered StockCars, Ingo was still a contender for the title. Not winning the championship was compensated by taking his 100th win in a national series race at the final race of the 2006 season. After the 2008 season, when he also competed in the Brazilian GT3 series and scoring a win at the wheel of a Lamborghini, Ingo Hoffman retired from motor racing at the age of 55.
Tim Mayer and his elder brother Teddy ran a Formula Junior team together with another brilliant youngster called Peter Revson. Mayer won the 1962 SCCA Formula Junior title in a Cooper and at the end of the year was given his chance to race a third factory Cooper in the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. In 1963 the brothers headed to Europe where Tim drove for Ken Tyrrell Racing and at the end of the year he was signed to be Bruce McLaren’s team mate in the 1964 World Championship. Before the World Championship began the pair took part in the new Tasman Cup series in Australian and New Zealand. Mayer finished second to Denny Hulme in the first event at Levin and a week later chased McLaren across the line to finish third in the New Zealand GP at Pukekohe. Finishing second to McLaren at Teretonga underlined his abilities.
A month later, in practice for the final round of the Tasman series at Longford in Tasmania, he went off at high speed in the braking area for Longford Corner, where the cars went light over a slight rise, and crashed into one of the trees beside the road. He was killed instantly. A distraught Teddy decided to continue in racing and became the force behind Team McLaren, running the business after McLaren’s death in 1970 and winning World Championships with Emerson Fittipaldi in 1974 and James Hunt in 1976.
Born: 22th of February 1938 in Dalton, USA;
Died: 28th of February 1964 at the Longford Circuit, Tasmania, Australia.
Carlos Pozzi was of Italian parentage and born in Paris, so he became known as Charles, the French translation of his name. Working as an automobile broker he only began racing in the late 1940s, when he was already 37 years old, while building up his luxury automobile business in Paris. He worked closely with Eugene Chaboud who helped him to become the French Champion of 1947. Eventually he and Chaboud set up their team called Ecurie Lutetia. Pozzi won the 1949 Grand Prix de l’ACF, which was held that year for sports cars. When the World Championship began he took part in the first French Grand Prix at Reims, driving a Lago Talbot to 5th place. He competed twice in the Le Mans 24 Hour Race in the early fifties, finishing eighth with Pierre Levegh in 1953. He was for many years a Rolls Royce and Chrysler dealer but in 1958 started dealing in Ferraris as well and was so successful that in 1968 he became the sole importer of the Italian cars to France. In the 1970s he became a well known entrant of Ferrari sports cars at Le Mans and was still running teams up until his death in 2001. His death came after a period of ill health in a hospital in Levallois Perret in the west of Paris close to the site where he founded the Ferrari concession.
Born: 27th of August 1909 in Paris, France;
Died: 28th of February 2001 in Levallois-Perret, France, aged 91.
Albert Scherrer was an amateur driver, mainly competing with some success in national hill climbs and sports car races in Switzerland at the wheel of his Jaguar XK 120. His only participation in a round of the World Championship came in the 1953 Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten at the wheel of a works HWM. Although he didn’t finish the race, Scherrer ended up in 9th in the final results. It remained his only foray into single-seaters, he was then seen competing at the wheel of a Mercedes 300SL, winning the class for sports cars over 2600cc in the famour Ollon-Villars hill climb in 1956. After this fianl succcess he decided to retire from competition.
Born: 28th of February 1908 in Riehen, Switzerland;
Died: 5th of July 1986 in Basel, Switzerland, aged 78.
ANNIVERSARIES ON THE 29TH OF FEBRUARY:
A race winner at SCCA racing level in the US, Masten Gregory’s big international break came by winning the 1957 Buenios Aires 1000km race sharing the car with Luigi Musso, Eugenio Castellotti and Cesare Perdisa. This led to his Formula 1 debut shortly after with Mimmo Dei’s Scuderia Centro Sud at Monaco. Driving the privateer Maserati 250F to a great 3rd place, he became the first American to stand on the podium of a Formula 1 Grand Prix. Injury made him miss a number of races in 1958, but driving for Cooper in 1959 he finished 3rd at the Dutch GP and 2nd in Portugal. Still he was dropped at the end of the season and the privateer teams he raced with, like Centro Sud, Camoradi International, UDT Laystall and Reg Parnell Racing, never allowed a break through in F1.
So Masten concentrated on his sports car career winning the 1961 Nürburging 1000km race with Lucky Casner in a Maserati Birdcage and in 1962 the Canadian Grand Prix sports car race at Mosport Park in a Lotus-Climax. After the 1964 season as Ford works driver he won the 1965 Le Mans 24 hours race sharing a North American Racing Team Ferrari with Jochen Rindt. That same year came his debut at the Indianapolis 500 where he was running fifth when he retired. After his friend Jo Bonnier was killed at Le Mans in 1972, Masten got disenchanted with the sport becoming a diamond trader. He succumbed to a heart attack during a holiday trip in Italy in 1985.
Born: 29th of February 1932 in Kansas City, USA;
Died: 8th of November 1985 in Porto Ecole, Italy, aged 53.