PIT STOP CHRIS MOWER, PANTHER RACING TEAM MANAGER
It all starts from when JR [Hildebrand] is
told he has to pit next lap. That in-lap has
to be really fast. If he’s not in traffic, he needs to
push harder than at any other time in the race. A
driver can gain or lose as much as 2.5sec
compared to his nearest on-track rival on the in
and out laps alone. And when JR comes in, he
must stop on his marks. If he doesn’t, it starts a
snowball effect, putting everyone in flux.
The outside rear guy is
typically the slowest because he
has more to do. When the others
are plugged on and are starting
to change the tire, he’s still
sliding on his knees and the gun
isn’t on the hub yet. From the
Lesley Ann Miller/LAT
in all of them and remaining competitive
pretty much to the end of an enormously
long career, Mario Andretti is simply in a
league of his own and will likely remain so.
There have been several race debuts that
were nearly perfect (Jacques Villeneuve in
F1 in ’96, for example) and several perfect
performances that were almost debuts
(Trevor Bayne in last year’s Daytona 500).
Yet it’s a man of fairly average talent
who remains the only driver to win his first
World Championship F1 race (other than
the inaugural World Championship race
in 1950, obviously). Giancarlo Baghetti
qualified 12th for the 1961 French Grand Prix
in his Ferrari 156, that year’s dominant car.
But after the works 156s (and other top cars)
time the car stops until the wheels are back on
and the guns are coming off, the tire change takes
between 4 and 5.5sec. It used to take about 7.1sec
to fill the fuel tank, but the new car has a smaller
tank ( 19 instead of 22 gallons), so it’ll take just
six seconds. That’s still longer for the fuel to go in
than to change the tires, but not by much, so that
will add a bit of pressure for the tire changers.
When the guns get pulled away from the
wheels, and the car comes off
the jacks, it gets pushed by a
couple of guys to help prevent
the car from stalling. Then it’s
up to JR to nail that lap on cold
tires and, hopefully, we’ll
have gained track position.
hit trouble, on the final lap Baghetti exited Reims’ final turn right
behind the Porsche of Dan Gurney and slipstreamed past to win.
Nigel Mansell’s first race in CART/IndyCar in 1993 was more
convincing. The reigning F1 champ started from pole in Surfers
Paradise and took the win. Even the guys beaten that day would
concede that it was also a perfect result for CART’s global status.
So many paint schemes depend on the car they’re wrapped
around and, equally, the real classic liveries enhance any car they
grace. Martini – whether accompanied by
white (Porsche 935, et al), red (Brabham F1
cars) or green (Lotus 80 F1 car) – looked
beautiful, as did the black and gold of
John Player Special on the Lotus F1 cars
from 1972 to ’78 and from ’82 to ’86. And
the yellow of Pennzoil complements just
about anything it touches.
blood red of a Ferrari, the British Racing
Green on an Aston Martin and the gray
with red wheels of Bill Vukovich’s
Kurtis-O;y would all get a vote from us.
Two of the greatest racecar liveries of all time
together as the Lotus of Mario Andretti pursues
(RIGHT) Ross Brawn – never play Risk with this man.
It bugs us when drivers change their
helmet colors every couple weeks, so kudos
to such as Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti
and the Andrettis for sticking to their
personal brand identity. Many feel Peter
Revson, Chris Amon and the Fittipaldi clan
had classics, too. But our vote goes to Helio
Castroneves; his “skid lid” is unique,
striking, adaptable to sponsor colors and
has been with him for decades.
The one that no one else has and which
earns you the race win. Those frequently