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Michael Andretti: like father, like son

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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.

In 1989, Michael Andretti had joined his father Mario at Newman/Haas. The duo would lead the team to the very top of American single-seater racing. Early nineties, the Newman/Haas Lolas were taking over the dominant role in the Indycar scene that had been for so long a Penske prerogative. In 1990, Michael had already posted second in the championship, showing his form.

Photo Lola Heritage

Lola evolution

With the T90/00, Lola had designed its most successful Indycar racer, winning twelve out of sixteen races. Al Unser Jr. took the first of his two championships in a Lola T90/00, run by Galles. For 1991, Lola came up with an evolution, the Lola T91/00. The monocoque was identical in concept, even though it ended up stronger now that Lola had better climate control in its autoclave, according to The Lola Heritage. The cockpit was widened a bit in the shoulders’ area. Designer Bruce Ashmore stuck with a concept of an aluminium honeycomb lower part of the chassis, covered with carbon. Newman/Haas’ cascade rear wing and the vented rear upright were introduced on all Lola chassis.


Indy testing

Michael Andretti used this car, chassis 38, for testing at Indianapolis early in May 1991, covering over 720 miles. Since 1987, Newman/Haas had made the switch from Ford power to a Chevrolet/Ilmor powerplant. The 32-valve, turbocharged V8 ‘Chevy A’ engine had been in use since 1986 and produced around 720 hp.

Andretti podium

For 1991, Newman/Haas debuted the Havoline/Kmart sponsorship that would become the dominating view at the front of the Indycar field for the coming years. Michael Andretti had placed fourth at the Valvoline 200 in Phoenix and second at the Indy 500 before he switched to chassis 38 in the Miller Genuine Draft 200 on the Milwaukee Mile oval. After Rick Mears dropped out, history was made when three Andrettis – Mario, Michael and his nephew John – would occupy the podium. Michael came in first.

Michael Andretti at Laguna Seca. Photo Stuart Seeger, Wikipedia

Another moment for the history books followed in the streets of Detroit, even if this time it was an infamous chapter. Mario famously crashed into a recovery vehicle, followed just moments later by his teammate/son in chassis 38. At the next race, the Budweiser/GI Joe’s 200 on the Portland, Oregon airfield runways, Michael set the record straight. Not only did he win the race, but he also netted the bonus points for leading the most laps. From fifth on the grid, he went straight to first with a daring move in the first corner on the first lap.

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Photo RM Sotheby’s

Winning streak

At Cleveland, Michael Andretti won again, although not using this chassis. Chassis 38’s next competitive outing came in the Marlboro GP Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Here, Michael Andretti’s engine malfunctioned. Just one week later, on July 21st, Michael Andretti ended #38’s career on a high note, scoring both pole position and the race win in Toronto, Canada. This would be the first of three consecutive wins for Michael Andretti, who also ended the season at Laguna Seca with a pole position and a win. There was no doubt as to who was the man of the season.

Photo RM Sotheby’s

Andretti curse

Oddly, 1991 would prove Michael Andretti’s only year where he won the Indycar championship. 1991 would also be the year Michael Andretti came closest to winning the Indy 500, perfectly illustrating the ‘Andretti Curse’ at the world’s most famous oval race. In 1993, Mario’s son moved to Formula 1 where he had a disastrous season with McLaren. Now, of course, he is running the highly successful Andretti Racing team.

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.

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