Monday, April 25, 2011

Remembering Alboreto...

Just ran across the headline that today marks the tenth anniversary of the late GREAT Italian Formula 1 driver Michele Alboreto’s untimely and all too soon passing – at NO less the LausitzRing; which in just short of a further scant five months nearly claimed the life of Alex Zanardi.

Unfortunately I cannot say too much ‘bout the affable Italian, whose greatest F1 career moments all occurred prior to my involvement as a “JAFO” in the sport. Although I like the idea of how Michele defeated all comers in his “lowly” Tyrrell 012 chassis on the slower street circuits that dotted the F1 landscape in North America during the 1980’s, as Michele grabbed his debut GP win at the notoriously unloved “Go Kartish” Caesar’s Palace parking lot’s Los Vegas Grand Prix in 1982 for Uncle Chopper’s (Ken Tyrrell) outfit.

And it was none less then Alboreto who secured the venerable Ford Cosworth normally aspirated 3.0-liter DFV’s victory in Detroit in June of 1983. As I can only surmise that  I did indeed see Messer Alboreto toiling behind the keyboard of a Formula One racecar  in the Iceberg Grand Prix – ‘Circa 1989-91. But I’m jumping ahead of myself here...

Actually it was the last gasp DFY variant that Michele utilized to score the venerable ‘Cossie lump’s 174th Grand Prix victory on the streets of Detroit.

Yet, Alboreto’s greatest moments in Grand Prix racing obviously were his four years at la Scuderia: 1984-88, where he replaced the departing Patrick Tambay, who’d moved onto Renault. With Michele scoring his final three Grand Prix victories with Ferrari, and even finished runner-up in the Drivers Title fight to Alain Prost in 1985 – having actually led the championship before mechanical woes at Maranello let him down...

Yet my fondest Scuderia memory of Michele is that most improvable 1-2 victory sweep at the Italian Grand Prix led by Gerhard Berger with Alboreto as his wingman in ’88, just weeks after Enzo Ferrari’s passing...

But back to The Valley of the Sun, as Yep, Alboreto was indeed there, having just returned to Tyrrell in 1989, being classified as Retired-Gearbox on that oppressively HOT (104deg-f) race day.

Alboreto was next spotted in the spring of ’91, which although Phoenix was the season opening race, it was to be the city’s final Formula 1 event, as Michele lumbered ‘round the tail end in the uncompetitive Footwork-Porsche V-12, once again being classified as Retired-Gearbox.

And I’m sure I watched it? But I’d either forgotten or was unaware that Alboreto won the 1997 24 Heurs du Mans in a TWR-Porsche alongside “Stevie Johnson,” a.k.a. Stefan Johansson and Tom Kristensen. As I’m guessing that was the Joest run Open-top Tom Walkinshaw Racing car...

Thus sadly, it was 10yrs ago that he perished in that fateful High-speed testing accident aboard an Audi R8 LeMans Prototype when its tyre let go...

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