Mario Andretti Is The Latest ‘Maestro’ Confirmed For Goodwood
Following the announcement that this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed will celebrate ‘the Maestros – Motorsport’s Great All-Rounders’, FOS organisers have now confirmed that Mr Versatility himself, Mario Andretti, will be among the celebrated icons.
Andretti, the 1978 Formula 1 World Champion among many, many other accolades, will join fellow ‘Maestros’ Jacky Ickx, John Surtees, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Sir Jack Brabham, Dan Gurney and Sir Stirling Moss, all of whom were confirmed when the announcement was made earlier this year. In celebration, Goodwood will be assembling some of the Italian-born American’s most famous competition cars on ‘the Hill’. While these have yet to be named, expect Lotus and Newmann-Haas to feature prominently.
For Andretti, this also marks the first time since 1998 that motorsport’s great one has attended the Goodwood Festival of Speed, owing to annual commitments at the Toronto IndyCar race.
“It was never my intention to do all those things,” Andretti told Goodwood.com. “It just happened, mainly because of my love of driving and of course all those opportunities that I had that will never happen again. I don’t think you’ll ever see another World Champion who has driven in all those disciplines.”
No kidding! Alongside an F1 career spanning 14 years, during which he won 12 Grand Prix for both Ferrari and Lotus and even threw in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo with Williams in 1982, Andretti is also an IndyCar icon, having won America’s foremost single seater series championship four times in ’65, ’66, ’69 (all under the series’ USAC Championship Car banner) and ‘84. Impressive enough in itself, bear in mind that first title came in Andretti’s first full USAC season!
And this truly is the tip of the iceberg. Having turned his first wheel in anger at the Nazareth Speedway in 1959, with the help of a falsified driver’s licence, Andretti went on to compete in the United States Automobile Club-run stock car series before turning his hand to NASCAR in 1966. Successfully too: despite having only six prior starts series to his name, Andretti won the Daytona 500 in 1967!
His yearning for a single seater career though eventually led to Andretti’s first IndyCar / USAC race start in 1964. One year later, the American young gun finished 3rd on his Indy 500 debut and closed a sensational season with his first IndyCar championship. On his fifth of an incredible 29 event starts in 1969, Andretti was an Indy 500 winner too, capping that achievement off with a win on the formidable Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
His F1 debut? No less impressive, Andretti setting pole position on his first attempt in a Lotus 49B at the 1968 United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. Following a two-year stint with Ferrari, and a questionable campaign with Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing in 1975, Andretti was back with Team Lotus for 1976, becoming the last American to-date to win the F1 crown two years later. And yes, he was still running a part-campaign with Penske at the time, even winning a race at Trenton Speedway in New Jersey before swapping to IndyCar full-time after a disappointing year with Alfa Romeo in 1981.
We could go on – no seriously, we’ve barely skimmed the surface – but Andretti finally bade farewell to full-time competition at the end of the 1994 IndyCar season, his 12th in succession for Newmann-Haas. Was that the last time we’d see the motorsport legend behind the wheel? Hardly. On his Le Mans return in 1995, 29 years after his event debut, Mario Andretti finished 2nd overall and claimed a class win together with Bob Wollek and Éric Hélary!
*Images courtesy of Goodwood, IndyCar.com, Ferrari, Lotus, Firestone and Octane Press