The first (and only) Dallas Grand Prix was held on July 8. In a testament to the absolute greed of Formula One management, this poorly prepared and staged meeting was held without the previously required rehearsal event, simply because the organizers offered more money. In temperatures higher than any recorded before by the tire companies, Keke Rosberg in a Williams-Honda led home only eight finishers, out of 26 starters, for his only win of the season. René Arnoux in a Ferrari came from dead last at the start to be the only other driver on the lead lap, and front row starter Elio de Angelis in a Lotus-Renault managed to finish third, a lap down.
The Formula One management had been caught off guard somewhat when the organizers of the Long Beach GP announced that the 1983 event would be the final F1 race there. Fearful of losing a lucrative race in the US, the F1 bosses shopped around for another event, and in a mild panic, took the first offer that came along. That first offer was from a group of Texas oil people, anxious to promote Dallas as a "world class city".
The venue chosen was at Fair Park, the grounds of the Texas State Fair, held in the early fall every year. The event doesn't start earlier in the year, because it would be too hot for participants and the public. But that didn't deter the race organizers and Formula One management from setting a date for the race of July 8, when daytime highs are often above 100° F (38° C).
When the circus arrived, there were only a few minor changes in the entry:
- Arrows: For the first time, the team had two A7 model cars, running with BMW turbos.
- Brabham: Once again, Corrado Fabi was a substitute for his older brother, Teo.
- Spirit: After using a Ford Cosworth DFY engine at Detroit, the car was using a Hart four-cylinder turbo engine again. And the car was no longer referred to as a model "101C" but just a "101".
A number of teams were planning on updates and revisions when they returned to Europe after this race.
The full entry list for the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix is outlined below:
Practice was supposed to start with a one hour unofficial session on Thursday, just to get used to the circuit. But, in what was a precursor of the rest of the weekend, things were delayed due to a series of disputes with the organizers. Once the cars got rolling, though, the drivers were in for a shock. First they found that the track was the bumpiest they had ever encountered, must worse than the previous bumpiest track, in Detroit where they had been just two weeks before. There was insufficient runoff room at the end of the short straights, and no place on the track had any cranes for removing disabled cars. The tire companies were having their own issues, with extremely high temperatures, and the fact that their qualifying tires were almost useless. The cars were getting as little as half a lap out of the softest tires at speed during practice, and the drivers were learning to drive their out laps at greatly reduced speed, so that the tires would last through the timed lap to follow.
|2||11||Elio de Angelis||Lotus-Renault||1:37.635||+0.594||2|
|14||23||Eddie Cheever||Alfa Romeo||1:39.911||+2.870||14|
|16||26||Andrea de Cesaris||Ligier-Renault||1:40.095||+3.054||16|
|18||24||Piercarlo Ghinzani||Osella-Alfa Romeo||1:41.176||+4.135||18|
|21||22||Riccardo Patrese||Alfa Romeo||1:41.328||+4.287||21|
Late Saturday afternoon a support race for Can-Am cars was run. The cars were basically Formula 5000s with full bodywork, and weighed about 50% more than the F1 cars. At several corners, the asphalt was completely torn up and thrown aside, leaving nothing but the concrete foundation laid in the 1890s. Workers were mobilized, and all through the night were busy digging up the corners down to the dirt, and filling the holes with quick-dry cement. The drivers arrived about seven that morning for a scheduled 7:45 a.m. warmup session, but because of the ongoing repairs, the warmup session was postponed by more than an hour. But some levity came as a result of Jacques Laffite showing up in his pajamas. With the addition of a large public (and filmed) argument between Bernie Ecclestone and the race organizers over credentialing, and a pre-race press conference with the drivers almost unanimous in their condemnation of the track, organization and management, the pre-race TV show had plenty to cover.
The race had been originally scheduled to cover 78 laps, but practice times showed this to be wildly optimistic. So the distance was dropped to 68 laps, and was due to start at 11:00 a.m., ostensibly to avoid the heat (read: reach the maximum viewing audience in Europe). And while the workers made tremendous progress on the repairs to the track, several drivers, including Alain Prost and Niki Lauda were talking of a boycott of the race, until a complete resurfacing had been completed. Formula One management's position was that if the drivers did not race, they would be in breach of contract, no matter what. Derek Ongaro added some hope by approving the latest repairs to the track, so at a few minutes after 11:00, the drivers were rolling off on three reconnaissance laps, being flagged off by TV star Larry Hagman. All except for Arnoux, whose car would not fire up until the field had completed more than half a lap, thus causing him to start at the back of the grid. With Martin Brundle still at Baylor Medical Center, and Philippe Alliot's car beyond easy repair capabilities, 25 cars lined up for the start.
With the thermometer just moving past 90°F (34°C) Mansell made a perfect start, to hold a three car length lead past the stadium. Behind him, teammate De Angelis was holding off Warwick, Senna, Lauda, Rosberg and Prost. Hesnault was the first retiree, losing a wheel at the first chicane. Senna slapped the wall near the end of the first lap, but was able to reach the pits to replace his broken wheel. Cecotto came around with a flat tire, after colliding with Hesnault after his accident. At the front, Mansell was pulling away, aided by a misfire in the engine of De Angelis, who was passed by Warwick on lap four. By lap seven, Warwick was shadowing Mansell (whose tires were overheating), and Lauda had passed De Angelis.
Around lap 10 things got interesting. First, Cheever had clouted a wall with a rear tire at the first chicane, and was out. And Bellof had gone wide at the first hairpin, and broken the suspension both the front and rear of the right side. At the front, Warwick had been directly on Mansell's tail for a couple of laps, and on lap 11 tried a pass at the righthander just before the first hairpin. Mansell held his line, and suddenly Warwick found himself on the marbles, then into a tire barrier, where his race ended. Lauda found himself in second, but that only lasted a lap, as De Angelis's misfire had vanished as quickly as it had come, and he took Lauda on the straight before the pit complex. Further back, both Patrese and De Cesaris had been victimized by unrepaired portions of the track breaking up, and been forced to park broken cars on escape roads. And by virtue of attrition and brilliant passing in traffic, Arnoux had moved from the back of the field to 12th. On lap 16, Rothengatter pulled into the pits to retire with one of only two non-accident related breakdowns, a fuel line that was leaking into the cockpit, making him ill with the fumes.
At the front, Mansell was just ahead of both teammate De Angelis, and Rosberg, who was benefiting from everyone else having the same handling problems that he usually had with the FW09. On lap 19, Rosberg managed to squeeze past De Angelis coming out of the stadium lefthanders when the latter was baulked slightly by Mansell, and caught right up to Mansell. On lap 22, Mansell managed to get some breathing room when he lapped Surer just before the pit hairpin, but within a couple of laps he had a train comprised of Rosberg, De Angelis, Prost and Lauda on his tail, and it seemed that his tires were going off for good. Tambay was closing in on the lead pack until lap 26, when he cut the second chicane too close, and left his right front wheel behind. About then Cecotto did almost the same thing at the chicane before the pits. On lap 28, Prost was shown on TV, slapping the wall with his right rear coming out of the first hairpin. But, astonishingly, his car seemed none the worse, and he passed De Angelis for third on lap 30.
This eventful race seemed to settle down a bit at this point (with the exception of Arnoux carving his way up the field), but it was by no means boring. Rosberg was all over Mansell, trying to find a way past, and Mansell seemed to have less and less grip from his front tires. Things were so close that Rosberg and Prost passed each other twice, while never getting more than a second behind Mansell. On lap 36 Rosberg finally managed to pass Mansell before the left hander at the back corner of the circuit. Only to have Mansell try to repass him at the last chicane, with both drivers waving their arms at each other. Once clear, Rosberg quickly opened up a five second lead, while in the space of two laps Mansell fell behind Prost, De Angelis and Lauda, before brushing the wall and pitting for new tires. This dropped him two more places to seventh, behind the incredible Arnoux, and Piquet, who had been fighting a sticking throttle for most of the race. Rosberg's hopes of keeping his lead were short lived, as Prost started catching him at a second a lap. De Angelis found that his front tires were worn out, too, as he was passed by Lauda, then a few laps later by the amazing Arnoux, now up to fourth.
About this time Piquet's throttle stuck open at the right hander leading onto the start/finish straight, and pitched his car straight into the tire barrier. He got out, hopped the fence, and watched the rest of the race from one of the VIP suites. At the back of the field, Palmer retired with electrical problems, and Senna suffered a broken driveshaft on the wheel that he had hit the wall with on lap two. On lap 49, Prost caught Rosberg, and shot right past him, as Keke had no intention of driving like Mansell had. As Prost sailed off into the distance. On lap 55, Alboreto hit the wall and retired at the first hairpin, where a disturbingly large number of cars were seen on camera parked just after the apex. Surer hit a chunk of pavement kicked up just past the stadium, and the jolt to his tire and loss of grip put him in the wall. Boutsen blew his engine on lap 56, which was later traced to a chuck of asphalt piercing his radiator.
Everyone seemed ready to witness yet another victory for Prost, when on lap 57 he had a lapse of judgement, and clipped the barrier at the apex of the right hander before the first hairpin, probably the worst section of track at this point. The impact broke the wheel, and Prost had no alternative but to crawl around the hairpin and join the parking lot, as Rosberg sailed past into the lead. He was lapping at a steady four seconds ahead of Lauda, but the lead grew when Lauda hit the same barrier that Prost did, but with his right rear tire, breaking the suspension.
Rosberg took the checkered flag at the end of lap 67, having reached the two hour limit. Arnoux's brilliant drive netted him second, about 23 seconds behind Rosberg. After his tire change, De Angelis focused on not making any mistakes, and was rewarded with third, a lap down. Rosberg's teammate Laffite drove a very cautious race to fourth. But there was even more drama to come. Mansell had been trying to catch Laffite when he had just nicked the barrier at the corner before the first hairpin. He backed off, but when it had seemed like there was no damage, coming into the pit complex on his final lap his gearbox broke. He tried to coast as far as he could, but the car stalled 100 meters before the finish line. Inexplicably he hopped out, and with the thermometer now indicating 104°F (40°C) he tried to push the car over the line. Members of different teams were shouting at him that pushing the car was illegal, but with him still wearing his helmet, and other cars finishing nearby, he couldn't hear them. As he was pushing the car, Ghinzani passed him for fifth, so he had nothing to gain anyway. Mansell made it about 50 meters, and collapsed right in front of a TV camera. Medical personnel were on him immediately, and he was transported directly to the medical center. He regained consciousness a while later to find out that he had finished sixth, and the pushing had made no difference.
|3||11||Elio de Angelis||Lotus-Renault||66||+1 Lap||11||4|
|4||5||Jacques Laffite||Williams-Honda||65||+2 Laps||24||3|
|2||24||Piercarlo Ghinzani|| Osella-Alfa Romeo
|6||12||Nigel Mansell||Lotus-Renault||64||Broken gearbox||1||1|
|7||2||Corrado Fabi||Brabham-BMW||64||+3 Laps||11|
|8||14||Manfred Winkelhock||ATS-BMW||64||+3 Laps||13|
|Ret||8||Niki Lauda||McLaren-TAG||60||Broken suspension||5|
|Ret||7||Alain Prost||McLaren-TAG||56||Broken wheel||7|
|Ret||19||Ayrton Senna||Toleman-Hart||47||Broken driveshaft||6|
|Ret||26||Andrea de Cesaris||Ligier-Renault||15||Accident||12|
|Ret||21||Huub Rothengatter||Spirit-Hart||15||Fuel leak||23|
|Ret||22||Riccardo Patrese||Alfa Romeo||12||Accident||21|
|Ret||23||Eddie Cheever||Alfa Romeo||8||Broken suspension||14|
|DNS||9||Philippe Alliot||RAM-Hart||Accident damage|
|WD||3||Martin Brundle||Tyrrell-Ford||Driver injured|
* - Stefan Bellof was retroactively disqualified by the FIA.
- Only Dallas Grand Prix ever held
- One of the hottest races ever held, and highest scientifically measured track temperatures ever recorded
- First pole position for Nigel Mansell
- Only career points for Piercarlo Ghinzani
Standings after raceEdit
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