For Indy car-bound Paul Newman and Carl Haas, Mario
Andretti was the ace in the hole, Lola the wild card. It took
some hustling and grind, but it worked – and then some...
t was the fall of 1982 and Mario Andretti
was restless. Formula 1 was in his
rear-view mirror and Indy car racing again
occupied his every thought. But the ’ 78 F1
World Champion had grown tired of being
a hired gun with no choice of weapons.
“I didn’t feel comfortable in the Patrick
situation, I was just a visitor,” recalls
Andretti, referring to his tenure with Pat
Patrick’s team in 1981- ’ 82. “I wanted to
have a situation where I had more say in
the direction of the team. I was resuming
my Indy car career full-time and I had a
long time ahead of me. The one thing that
kept me motivated was that I wanted to
do something different, no status quo.”
What transpired was anything but
routine and turned out to be the genesis of
one of Indy car racing’s most storied teams.
It was a melting pot of celebrity, creativity
and a little calamity, mixed in with hard
work, talent and the original odd couple.
When Can-Am folded, Paul Newman and
Carl Haas were car owners without a series.
Haas asked Newman if he wanted to join
forces and start a team in Championship
Auto Racing Teams for ’ 83. The actor said
no. Haas then asked if having Mario as the
driver made a difference? Newman was in.
“I had befriended Carl because Michael
was running one of his Super Vees, and it
was an opportunity for me to bring in Paul
because I knew he was a racer,” explains
Andretti. “March was dominating then
and I said ‘let’s bring Lola back.’”
Haas was Lola’s USA distributor, and
Lola founder Eric Broadley had designed
the Indy 500-winning car back in 1966.
“We went to a Japanese restaurant in
Michigan, Paul, Carl, Eric, Tony Cicale and
myself, and made the plan. Eric said it was
almost too late (fall of 1982) to have a car
for ’ 83 but he agreed to do it.”
Cicale was a 2-liter Can-Am driver who’d
designed a 5-liter Can-Am car for VDS in
1980, but also had wind tunnel experience.
“Mario wanted someone with technical
experience, but I wasn’t an engineer, per se,
and at that time there really weren’t any
race engineers at the track,” recalls Cicale.
“He came to my house and we started
talking racing. I told him I didn’t know
anything about engineering or setting up a
car, but I knew aerodynamics and was
familiar with wind tunnel testing. And Mario
was keen on having that as an advantage.”
Obviously on the ground floor of ground
effects from his Lotus days, Andretti could
see Indy’s future before most.
“Tony knew aerodynamics and I thought
he’d be fresh air,” says the 1969 Indy victor,
who hadn’t officially won an Indy car race
since ’ 78. “There was so much development
to be done and I thought we’d learn together.
Words Robin Miller MAIN IMAge RMA Paul Webb