12/7/2012 - Historic Grand Prix Racers Add Panache To Austin F1
Austin, TX - Historic Grand Prix, a fixture on the vintage racing circuit in the U.S., linked the past with the present during the U.S. Grand Prix at the debut F1 race at Circuit of the Americas here Nov. 16-18. More than 80,000 fans caught the Friday practice and Saturday morning qualifying and Saturday afternoon race at the brand-spanking new 3.4-mile road course, as some 30 cars from F1's 3.0-liter era of 1966-83 took to the track.
Californian Dan Marvin won the 10-lapper Saturday afternoon in his 1974 Brabham BT44 by more than 3sec. over the 1980 Arrows A3 of pole-sitter David Martinez of Mexico, who suffered from an electrical problem in the car once driven by Riccardo Patrese. Final podium spot went to Dallas, Texas driver Charles Nearburg in a 1980 Williams FW07 first raced by 1980 World Champion Aussie Alan Jones. Marvin, the former Formula Atlantic, IMSA and Daytona driver, with a winning time of 21:14.34, was quick to praise the newest track in the U.S. "It was the most difficult I may have ever driven, very demanding, quirky and technical. It's a terrific facility and I'm astonished at the quality. I hope it will wake people in the U.S. to F1."
Among cars in the HGP support race were machines driven by icons of Formula 1 history, including Mario Andretti, Nicki Lauda and Gilles Villeneueve. Two-time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyenduyk was 3rd in Friday practice in the ex-Alain Prost '79 McLaren at 2:10.35, just 2/100ths of a second behind Danny Baker's Williams FW08, formerly raced by Keke Rosberg. Fastest in practice and qualifying was Martinez in the Arrows, who set fastest time of 2:04.921. By comparison, now three-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel in his current Red Bull F1 car turned in a 1:38.125 in opening practice for the USGP, on a very green racing surface with not a lot of rubber down. So while the historic F1 cars lack the modern cars' speed, they more than make up for it in style points with their wings and slicks and in some cases - engine intakes looking like giant submarine periscopes.
Luyendyk said of the new circuit, "It's really a beautiful track. I especially like the first part...which is downhill, and the turns are contoured in such a way that you can go just flat out in 5th gear...I was happy with my lap time."
This was the finale for HGP in 2012, as the group also had race grids at the Lime Rock Historic Festival and SVRA Vintage GP at Watkins Glen in September. The historic F1 group has also run previously as a support race at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal in 2010.
For more information, visit: www.historicgrandprix.com or circuitoftheamericas.com.
Photo: A good crowd watches Historic Grand Prix group mix it up in Turn 11. (photo Marcello Milteer, courtesy COTA)