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The Best That Never Ran: Part 3 – Epilogue

Photo credit: Don France (CC BY-NC-ND)

The drivers that may have competed for Lotus and Ferrari, depending upon the manufacturers’ motives, could have been some of the best CART drivers of all time. Lotus likely would have brought its Formula 1 drivers to Indianapolis, as the team did in its 1960s heyday, which would have seen Ayrton Senna, and eventually Nelson Piquet, try their hand at the Indianapolis 500. Senna would have flirtations with CART anyway, testing Emerson Fittipaldi’s Penske Racing challenger at Phoenix in December 1992, while Piquet attempted to qualify at Indy twice after his F1 career, suffering serious injuries in practice in 1992 and finishing 32nd in 1993.

Lotus’ CART ride could have also served as a stopover for the team’s test drivers, allowing them to race a full year in competitive equipment instead of spending time with mediocre F1 equipment. One driver who could have benefitted was Derek Warwick, who nearly drove for the team in 1986, only to have his signing vetoed by Senna. A full year in a competitive CART drive could have established Warwick as a consistent, winning driver, opening up better rides for him, instead of leaving him one of the most talented drivers to never win an F1 race.

Photo credit: Paul Lannuier (CC BY-SA)

As for Ferrari, they could have fielded three ultra-competitive CART entries in 1987 had they followed through on some of Enzo Ferrari’s threats to leave F1 entirely. The Rahal-Truesports combination would have been strong as it was, but had the political posturing led to serious action (and calling Ferrari’s bluff, historically, leads them to follow through), the team feasibly could have brought over Michele Alboreto and Stefan Johansson, its 1986 driver pairing, to the series as well. Both would make their way to Indianapolis in the mid-1990s anyway; Alboreto joined the Indy Racing League in 1996, finishing in the top eight in all of his races but that year’s 500, while Johansson may best be known for bumping Penske Racing out of the 1995 race entirely.

Instead, neither program was meant to be. Ferrari engine technology used on the 637 was eventually passed on to Alfa Romeo, which had been looking to improve market share in the United States, but the car debuted with a purpose-developed March chassis.  In three years of competition, Roberto Guerrero and Danny Sullivan failed to score a single race win, podium, or pole position, and eventually Alfa backed out. Of course, that’s better than Lotus’ debut year as an engine supplier has been this year; left with two cars at Indy due to a series of defections and a lawsuit from Dragon Racing, there are serious doubts as to how long their IndyCar program will last.

If only both companies had entered CART in the 1980s. Who knows what we’d see at Indy this year.

– Chris Leone

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