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It is no wonder that Mario Andretti is considered by many to be the greatest racecar driver of all time. His career touched five decades, longer than any driver, and he has won championships at all levels of competition. His list of racing accomplishments seems almost endless.
It includes four time Champ Car National Champion (1965, 1966, 1969, 1984); the only person to have won the Daytona 500 (1967), the Indianapolis 500 (1969) and the Grand Prix world driving championship (1978); the only driver to win Champ Car races in four decades; and the only driver to ever win races in five decades.
In addition, Andretti was named Driver of the Century by The Associated Press in 1999 and Driver of the Century by RACER magazine in 2000. Andretti considers his 1978 Formula One World Championship to be his most memorable racing achievement.
When one considers Andretti’s childhood, it somehow makes his accomplishments seem even more incredible and inspiring. Andretti was born in Montona, Italy, just a few months before Italy joined Hitler’s Germany in World War II. Andretti’s family spent several years in a displaced persons camp after the war ended, before coming to the United States in 1955.
Just one year before his family immigrated to Nazareth, Pa., Andretti visited Monza, Italy, to see the great Italian racecar driver Alberto Ascari compete in the Italian Grand Prix. It was then, at the age of 14, that Andretti’s interest in cars and racing was born. Just a few years later, in 1959 at the age of 19, Andretti began what was to become an incredible racing career. His first victory came in the first race he entered in Nazareth, at the wheel of a 1948 Hudson Hornet Sportsman stock car.
Noria Corporation is thrilled that Mario Andretti will be the featured speaker at Lubrication Excellence 2003. He will speak about adapting to change and his need to get in front and stay in front. His unbelievable career as a racecar driver makes him a credible expert on setting and obtaining goals and striving for excellence, which is of course what Lubrication Excellence is all about.
Practicing Oil Analysis magazine editor and publisher, Jim Fitch, recently interviewed Mario Andretti about the roles lubrication and oil analysis play in racing. Here is what Andretti had to say:
Do you recall an instance when good lubrication or bad lubrication directly influenced the outcome of a race?
In 1976 when I was with the Lotus team in Formula One we had some engine failures. It was eventually determined that the oil was foaming because it wasn’t designed to operate at that high level of rpm. When you have foaming you have air. And, when you have air, you don’t have oil. Thus, we had a lubrication failure. When the engine was taken apart a few days later back at the Cosworth factory, it is my understanding that the cam shafts had started to rust, which means there was condensation in the oil which, of course, was caused by air bubbles.
How important is the analysis of used motor oils to monitoring and optimizing engine performance/health in motor sports? Was oil analysis a common practice during your racing days?
The analysis of used motor oils was always very important to lubricant manufacturers throughout my career, and common practice. The technology has certainly gotten more sophisticated over time, but it remains the only way to determine if you have a breakdown of viscosity due to excessive temperatures and to measure unusual engine wear.
Do race teams today give much importance to the type and brand of lubricants they use?
Yes. It’s dyno-proven that certain oils provide more horsepower because they provide better lubrication, thus less friction and cooler temperatures.
How do lubricants used today differ from those used when you first started racing?
Today the lubricants have properties that make them much more diversified. They take care of a wider range of needs. You can take the lubricants off the shelf and put them in any type of high-performance engine without any modification. When I first started racing, we needed special blends - special formulas that would mix with methanol, etc. Race teams couldn’t use oil off the retail shelf. Today, the oils for your average car will lubricate adequately race engines that turn as much as 16,000 to 17,000 rpms.
Do you have any personal preference of a motor oil type and brand that you use in your automobiles?
ChevronTexaco Havoline Formula 3.
Can you share any particular experience you’ve had regarding lubricants or lubrication in racing industry?
In 1995, I competed in the world’s most famous endurance race, the 24 Hours of LeMans, driving for the Courage-Porsche team. Upon arrival to their garage, I saw that they were using Shell oil. Because the team was sponsored by Havoline and based on my experience with the product, I insisted that they switch to Havoline, which they could purchase right off the shelf at a local shop.
Porsche hadn’t done any testing with Havoline and they resisted - even offering to pour the Shell oil into the Havoline containers. But I put my foot down and staked my reputation on it. I guaranteed the team that I would take full responsibility for any engine failure due to lubrication. In the end, the car ran the entire 24 hours and we came in second place, 53 seconds behind the leader.