When Mario saw Indy slip away again
On October 29th, RM Sotheby’s has one of the most impressive single-seater collections ever up for sale. In its 25-year existence, the Newman/Haas team was consistently a powerhouse of Indycar racing. Paul Newman and Carl Haas saw their cars score 108 wins and 8 championships. In this series, we take a closer look at the Newman/Haas history.
Two years after Lola’s debut in the CART PPG Indy Car World Series, the results of Mario Andretti’s 1984 title became visible for all the see. If before Indy Car was a March-dominated championship, things were to change dramatically for the 1985 season. No less than fifteen Lola T900s were entered at one point during the season, with a total of 22 chassis built, according to Lola.
Evolution of the T800
The Lola T900 was an evolution of the championship-winning Lola T800. Carl Haas of course made sure his Newman/Haas team stood at the front of the line and helped Lola with the design of the new model by facilitating the move towards computer aided design (CAD). The chassis of the Lola T900 remained a combination of a carbon top on an aluminium monocoque. New safety protocols regarding the footbox were implemented. Lola announced a stiffer chassis, and even if regulations reduced the length of the side skirts, Lola was adamant the T900 was equal on downforce to the T800.
Mario Andretti picked up where he left, repeating his pole and victory in the season-opening Long Beach GP in the Beatrice-sponsored Newman/Haas Lola T900. A most dramatic moment followed in the Indy 500, the second race on the calendar. With Danny Sullivan spinning dramatically in front of Andretti in the battle for the lead, things looked decidedly positive for Andretti. He had been dominating the race up until then, and it seemed nothing was going to stand in his way as he raced towards what would have been his second Indy 500 victory.
Alas, Danny Sullivan had recovered from his spin and with 50 laps to go, he caught Andretti back and passed him. Yellows kept Andretti in contention, but ultimately he finished 2.477 seconds behind Sullivan, leading to the eternal quote: “Second sucks.” In his 29 participations in the Indy 500, Andretti won just once, in 1969.
Andretti would strike back with two victories in the following two Indy Car races (Milwaukee and Portland), but after that his season unravelled. No more wins, and in the end it would be Al Unser Sr who would wrap up the championship… with just the one win to his credit. Andretti’s best finish for the rest of the season was third at Phoenix.
The car that was kept in the Newman/Haas collection was chassis 1, so presumably, this is the winner of the first race of the 1985 season. It is not the chassis Andretti used at the Indy 500, which was sold earlier this year for a remarkable 376,000 dollars. With its turbocharged 2.6-litre Ford Cosworth V8 putting out 800 hp, it puts down some impressive numbers.
This car is one of 36 Indycar single-seaters from the Newman/Haas collection RM Sotheby’s auctions off on October 29th. More info on this one-of-a-kind sale here.