The late, great Henri Toivonen came closer than any of his rivals to
mastery of the insanely fast Group B rally cars. The Lancia Delta S4 is
a contender for a couple of our categories. It’s a perfect car in terms of
the power/grip ratio and it carries that arguably perfect Martini livery.
Historic moment as Baghetti beats Gurney at Reims in ’ 61, to become a winner on his GP debut. (BELOW) Jackie Stewart retired from F1 as reigning World Champion in ’ 73.
wasn’t always accurate, but it was
intrinsic in conveying the raw
excitement of the sport. Until 1993, he
had alongside him the cool, analytical
skills of 1976 F1 World Champion James
Hunt, who would correct Walker, but in
a kindly way, while providing the
perspective of a driver. It truly was a
dream team that ended only with Hunt’s untimely death, and
one which has yet to be matched.
LAP OF INDY RICK MEARS
There’s no such thing as a
perfect lap at Indianapolis. No
matter how good it might seem,
you left something somewhere.
One of my favorite things was
qualifying for the 500. You run
backward there – and everywhere,
actually, but more so at Indy. By that, I mean you
run on hindsight. Every corner you come to, you
use knowledge gained from the last time you went
through that turn. Where I lift, where I exit the arc
– all of that is based on going through there the
previous time. But it’s also influenced by what I
learned in the three previous corners to that one.
I always focus on the entry because if you
don’t get your entry right, you’re in trouble on
exit. The exit is dependent on the entry. If I get
my entry right, the exit is a no-brainer so part of
setting up the car is to get the entry just right.
So I go through Turn 1 and mentally log where
I ran and what the car did. If it’s doing something
majorly bad, I adjust my approach to Turn 2. After
I exit, I log what happened there and how the car
reacted and, as I go down the backstretch, I’ll
adjust what I can in the car to help fix anything
bad I felt in 1 and 2 to prepare for Turn 3. Then I
go through Turn 3 based on the information from
Turn 2 and the previous lap’s trip through 3. After
Turn 4, you start that process all over again.
It’s so fluid. The car, the track and the wind are
always changing, so you’re constantly working and
registering things to make each corner better. If
you blow one corner, you blow the whole lap.
So to do the four-lap qualifying run at Indy is
the most pressure-filled thing I ever did,
especially whenever we were in the hunt for pole.
I always felt there was more pressure on
Pole Day than in the races, to be honest.
CAREER (WITH PERFECT SIGN-OFF)
The perfect career hasn’t happened, nor
will it. There’s always that niggling
thought of what else might have been...
So you have to admire Jackie Stewart
(1973) and Alain Prost (’93) who walked
away from Formula 1 as reigning – and
multiple – World Champions.
Stewart can perhaps also point to the
varied categories he drove in – and won in
– as signs of a perfect career, but there
are more obvious candidates. Sir Stirling
Moss and A.J. Foyt stand apart from even
the dazzlingly versatile Dan Gurney, Jim
Clark, Parnelli Jones and John Surtees.
Yet in terms of driving a hugely varied
amount of machinery, being successful