The most capable sports arena in the world will host the 104th edition of the Indianapolis 500 this Sunday, but the 257,325 seats of the gigantic motorsport coliseum will be empty.
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The covid 19 scared away the box office of the most traditional test of world motorsport and that is the heart of “racing” in the United States, whose figures and stories fill many pages that vastly multiply the miles traveled at the “Speedway”, home of the world’s greatest speed show.
Although the tradition has been broken a few times after the pauses that generated the two world wars, There will always be 33 cars that start and compete at frenetic speeds, between walls and on a pavement with very few slopes (just nine degrees, as on normal roads) and four symmetrical corners that link the two lines in which the 1,600 meters they measure are erased in seconds.
The accelerator that controls the power of the current engines to the millimeter barely rises in some entrances to the curves depending on the condition of the tires, the changing wind and the traffic of the track that is covered at an average per lap that is generally above of 365 kilometers per hour.
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Usually, interposing the yellow flags, the 500 miles are completed in less than three hours at the end of which the winner toasts -like him or not- with a glass of milk, which justifies a millionaire check, the juiciest that is won with a rudder, two pedals, 6 pistons that cover 2,200 centimeters, which receive the air pushed by two turbochargers that mix it with a fuel made up of 85 parts of ethanol and 15 parts of gasoline and that are consumed at the rate of one gallon for every two kilometers at the pair that yield about 700 horsepower. This means that the tank of his street car would barely give about six laps of that track.
All the pilots sit in the narrow bucket of some “chassis” made of carbon fiber by the Italian firm Dallara and the complete mechanical assembly weighs 721 kilos. At these speeds, a few small ailerons are enough to crush them against the ground with a load that exceeds 2.5 tons, which is why they roll almost on rails, but any deviation is catastrophic because they travel 100 meters per second, which is why when an accident is seen or obstacle, the car is already installed in the problem without the possibility of avoiding it, especially in curves whose exit cannot be seen clearly.
After this epic of resistance, tactics and recklessness, last year the winner Simon Pagenaud (who was in karting events organized by Juan Pablo Montoya at the Tocancipá racetrack) collected – before taxes – just over 2.6 million dollars from the bag that added 13, plus six zeros. It is a well-deserved payment for the pilot’s skill, the support of a more than specialized team, the investment of many millions of dollars, starting with the 3 that each “bare” car costs – and the risk.
Since its first day at the Speedway, 42 drivers, a motorcyclist, 13 mechanics and 17 other people have died in accidents, including several spectators.
The history of this pharaonic racetrack has been written since the beginning of the last century when the first events were held, which were an aerostatic balloon competition on June 5, 1909, followed by a motorcycle competition two months later and 5 days later, on June 19. August of that year, the first car test.
The dimensions of its stands were disproportionate for the place, since the city barely had about 230 thousand inhabitants, but these events were attended en masse, for which The entrepreneurs and owners of the 424 hectare site, Carl G. Fisher, James A. Allison, Arthur C. Newby and Frank H. Wheeler, undertook the task of “paving” the circuit with 3.2 million cooked bricks in the neighborhood that in Back then they were considered better traction and safety than the asphalt that was just being invented. They were installed on a gravel base in just 63 days after a colossal human and financial effort.
However, over time the speeds claimed a smooth surface and the famous “brickyard” changed its appearance between 1937 and 1938 with a layer of asphalt that forever hid the brick, minus a strip one meter wide that marks the line of arrival and tie the story up to these days. Who made this update was the famous aviator (with a balance of 26 enemy ships shot down in the first war), industrialist, promoter, national hero and visionary Eddie Rickenbacker, who among his many hobbies was a car racer and bought and refurbished the Speedway in 1927 for $ 750,000.
After the second war, the scene was in poor condition due to inactivity and he sold it to the Hullman-George family for the same money, in 1945, and they operated it until last year when the billionaire Roger Penske acquired it, from whom probably This was the only trophy that was missing from his juicy career of triumphs on the tracks driving and with his teams to which Montoya contributed one of his 18 victories in the “brickyard” in 2015.
The distance of the race was set whimsically because the idea was that the event would be sufficiently attractive for the public for which the program was calculated to last between six and seven hours. The scores turned out well and the crowd was happy because the first winner of some 500 miles, in 1911, Ray Harroun, covered them in 6 hours, 42 minutes and six seconds, at a respectable average of 119.34 kilometers. 108 calendar years later, Pagenaud did them in 2 hours, 50 minutes and 39 seconds at an average of 280.3 kilometers per hour. Harroun’s Marmom is said to have been the first car to use a rear view mirror.
Bordering all the automobile manufacturing centers in the United States, Indy was always the place of expression for all the specialists who annually made their cars to run the 500 in private workshops and even in personal garages. This is how the famous Offenhauser engines were manufactured that won the race 27 times between 1934 and 1970 and between 1950 and 1960 they scored 10 times the pole.. This brutal 4,128 cc engine distributed over 4 pistons was ideal to line up the Indy track because once launched at full revs it maintained an almost stationary rhythm that obviated the anti-technical weight of its internal components. Its great secret was that the block and the chambers were the same piece, so the mixture could be compressed a lot without problems of damage to the famous cylinder head gasket.
Just as that engine was an obligation for so many years, Indy cars known as “sprint cars” lasted a long time with a very peculiar design because they were wider to the right to favor the crossing that is always to the left and the weights they charged to the opposite side to have it in favor in the curves.
Two technical facts are noteworthy within the breadth of the test regulation that was open to all inventions. One was the presence of Andy Granatelli’s car (Roberto Guerrero raced for his son’s team later) known as the STP-Paxton Turbocar literally pushed by an airplane turbine that he almost won in 1967 but abandoned four laps from the end. when a transmission bearing that was worth $ 6!
In ’68, its two “turbocars” also collapsed simultaneously ten laps from the finish line. In 1969 he lined up a Lotus 49 4×4 for Mario Andretti! That didn’t work but he managed to win the test in the spare car for the first time, which he had been trying since 1943.
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The second was Jim Clark’s victory in a Lotus that had a Ford V8 engine but placed behind the driver, in 1965. Never before had a car built like this achieved it, nor did one with a front engine win the race again. From that moment, Indy entered a modern and international scheme, asymmetric cars gradually disappeared and now they all cross the same in both directions.
Tomorrow they roll again the 500, breaking another tradition since they usually run on the last weekend of May, coinciding with the Thanksgiving bridge in the United States.
Mario Andretti’s grandson, Marco, driving a car belonging to his father Michael’s team, starts tomorrow on pole seeking to reissue in better terms the record of the family and 33 years after his grandfather achieved that same position and when he was just two months old.
The great Mario was unfortunate in Indy because he could only win it once in 26 starts and then his son Michael failed in his 16 attempts at the wheel, although he crowned five times as owner of the team in which Andretti III could break tomorrow the well-known ‘curse ‘of the family in this oval as glorious as it is treacherous. Because, finally, Indy is a famous lottery, like all of them, unpredictable.
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