33 starters. “We don’t have a friggin’
chance,” said Mario Andretti a few days
before his Indy swan song. “Roger and
Mercedes did a superlative job of taking
advantage of the rules, but the rest of us
have zero chance of winning.”
Andretti’s prophecy proved correct as
Fittipaldi was the class of the field most of
the afternoon (leading 145 laps), but got
greedy trying to lap his second-place
teammate (Unser) and crashed in Turn 4
with just 15 laps, less than 40 miles, to go.
“I was glad to see Emmo uninjured
standing by the car, and then I let out a
big cheer,” says Unser, whose margin of
victory over rookie Jacques Villeneuve
wound up being 8.6sec. “For long
enough, it looked like a surefire 1-2, and
then everybody was holding their breath
those final laps, but what an effort.
“I really can’t thank Roger enough for
bringing us that great weapon.”
That year marked a crossroads for
open-wheel racing’s engines. Ford and
Cosworth were new partners, Honda was
in its first season of CART, and Toyota had
its eye on Indy cars, too. Chevrolet had
left CART after total domination, so Ilmor
had found an ally with Mercedes.
And no first-time powerplant had ever
come to Indianapolis and been so
impressive. “Basically, they were able
to drive through the field pretty easily
because they had more torque and more
power,” reasons Illien.
Penske was beaming in Victory Lane.
“From an idea, to an engine, to winning
No. 31 Al Unser, Jr.
Indianapolis all in about nine months,
that’s pretty incredible,” said The Captain
in the aftermath. “I can’t thank Ilmor,
Mercedes and this team enough for their
efforts. And Al is one of the best. It was a
No surprise, USAC immediately
changed the specs after the rout to
neuter the pushrod engine for 1995, but
Penske, Ilmor and Mercedes already had
the satisfaction of earning the unfair
advantage by simply playing by the rules.
Laps led: 4 times for 48 laps
No. 2 Emerson Fittipaldi
Finished: DNF (184 laps, accident; classified 17th)
Laps led: 5 times for 145 laps
No. 3 Paul Tracy
Finished: DNF ( 92 laps, turbo; classified 23rd)
Laps led: 0
FI T TIPALDI
(145 of 200)
( 48 of 200)
LAST MAN STANDING
If the Penskes could last the distance, victory in the ’ 94 Indy 500
was the likely outcome. But with Paul Tracy suffering a turbo failure
and Fittipaldi crashing out, it wasn’t a sure thing until the end.
PENSKE-MERCEDES PC- 23
An evolution of Nigel Bennett’s 1993 PC- 22, the PC- 23 had been penned
Between them, Unser Jr. and Fittipaldi led 193 laps of the ’ 94 Indy 500.
to take the Ilmor 265D turbo V8 engine that would power the car for the
majority of the season. Yet only relatively minor changes were needed
to accommodate the pushrod 500I, including a taller engine cover and
a strengthened gearbox to handle its increased power and torque.
The Ilmor-built 500I exploited
USAC’s call to allow purpose-built
pushrod race engines at Indy.
With an extra 10in. of boost
and 0.75 liters capacity, why
wouldn’t Penske build one?
The other seven? That would be rookie runner-up Jacques Villeneuve.
LAPS MARIO ANDRETTI
“We don’t have a friggin’ chance. Roger
and Mercedes did a superlative job of
taking advantage of the rules”
(LEFT) Playing it cool, Al Unser Jr. and his Penske teammates
kept it low-key during practice. (ABOVE) But come the race,
Little Al (No. 31) and Emerson Fittipaldi were off the leash.