guess people are going to wonder why
I’d choose the Lotus 78 rather than the
79 that I became World Champion in, but
I honestly feel that with a better finishing
record, we’d have won the 1977 title
more easily than we won the ’ 78 title.
In Sweden, we were dominating, but the
fuel meter that we used to switch to full rich
– to make the power delivery smoother in
wet conditions – slipped into that full-rich
mode. Well, I knew that, as usual, Colin
[Chapman, Lotus team owner] ran us close
to the edge fuel-wise because he was
obsessed with keeping his cars as light as
possible. We had no radio in those days, so
as I went past the pits each time, I pointed
to the back of the car, telling the team to be
ready for a splash and dash, but they didn’t
understand. The moment I saw the fuel
pressure fluctuate, I dived into the pits, and
they had to go find the fuel. I finished sixth.
Colin gave me development Cosworths
that had maybe 10hp extra, but I didn’t want
them because they weren’t yet reliable. So
I lost two more certain wins, in Austria and
Canada, plus a couple of podium finishes,
due to blow-ups. And the reason it was so
frustrating was because that car was great.
I had it handling perfectly, we should have
had everyone else on the run.
Well, this was probably the greatest
sports car I ever raced, and through
my career I drove some good ones
– the Ford GT40 MkIV, for example.
But a Ferrari 312PB was a Formula 1
car with fenders, and Jacky Ickx and
myself won just about every race we
entered together in 1972.
I loved the 312PB because it was
very quick and nimble, but also secure
under braking. It had everything going
for it, and a car that makes a driver
feel he can do anything with it is the
ultimate confidence-builder. That’s
where you find those last few tenths
of a second. I used to love to qualify
that car, and Jacky was happy to let
me do that. However I’d set it up to
suit my style, he was fine with racing
it that way. A perfect partnership.
The Lotus 78 is often overlooked because
of its successor’s title glory. But in 1977,
Mario took seven poles and four victories,
and the 78 still had the pace to win two of
the first three races of 1978. In fact, the
78 scored one more GP win than the 79…
The Brawner Hawk took Mario to Indy rookie honors in ’ 65, then the “500” pole in both ’ 66 and ’ 67.
Alvis Upitis/Getty Images
HIGHS AND LOLA
The Lola T332 is one of those cars that fits
my definition of a great racecar: if it stayed
healthy, I didn’t feel I could be beaten.
If you look at the 1974 and ’ 75
seasons, almost every Formula 5000
race that I finished, I was first or second,
and what decided the two championships
in favor of Brian Redman was that he had
superior reliability. I’m not underplaying
his talent: no question, Brian was a very
strong driver. But in the Vel’s Parnelli
Jones team, we used Ryan Falconer-built
Chevys, which were really good when
they lasted, but had a lot of issues.
It wasn’t all engine though. There were
a couple of races we lost through
mechanical carelessness – bolts not being
tightened and so on. But that car was
special, and nearly as quick as an F1 car.