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Historic Grand Prix for F1 Weekend

Circuit of the Americas confirms first support race

By Richard Whittaker, 12:01AM, Sat. Jun. 23, 2012

Mario Andretti's Lotus 79, coming to a Circuit of the Americas near you soon(ish)
Mario Andretti's Lotus 79, coming to a Circuit of the Americas near you soon(ish)
Photo by Richard Whittaker

Last weekend at the Formula Expo, some of the drivers and mechanics with the Historic Grand Prix racing series were quietly hoping that they would be able to race their vintage race cars at the Circuit of the Americas. Looks like they just got their wish.

Yesterday COTA management announced the series as one of the support races for the inaugural Formula One US Grand Prix, scheduled for Austin across Nov. 16-18. A support race is basically an opening band, and Historic Grand Prix has provided those curtain-twitchers at several other events, including the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix. It presents exhibition races drawing deep from the sport's history. The vintage machines, owned by private collectors, brings together a mechanical hodge-podge of machines from 1966 to 1983 under real race conditions.

Calling it "a series that was widely requested by our customers," in a statement COTA executive vice president Bruce Knox said, "Historic Grand Prix is a great compliment to the USGP as it allows our fans to see the technical and innovative progression of Formula 1 racing cars."

These cars are truly an artifact of a lost and more dangerous age of motor racing. As chronicled in the excellent BBC documentary The Killer Years, Formula One spent decades as a sport where deaths on the track were the norm, not the exception. It was only the activism of drivers, especially three-time champion Jackie Stewart, and later the intervention of safety expert Sid Watkins. Very few of these machines still exist, and the Historic Grand Prix collects some of the most legendary: Mario Andretti’s 1978 world driving championship-winning Lotus 79, the 1976 Ferrari 312-T2 that gave Niki Lauda silver and then gold, and Gilles Villeneuve’s 1980 Ferrari 312-T5.

Historic Grand Prix director James King said, "HGP honors the brave drivers of these cars and the innovative designers and fabricators who crafted them without the aid of computers or wind tunnels."

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