THE car that claimed pole position for the first Indycar race at Surfers Paradise is set to go under the hammer during the Boost Mobile Gold Coast 500 weekend.
Michael Andretti topped qualifying for the 1991 Gold Coast Indycar Grand Prix aboard Lola T91/00 chassis HU15, one of the cars being auctioned by RM Sotheby’s in its ‘The House that Newman/Haas built’ event in the United States.
A total of 42 cars are on offer, spanning the squad’s 29 seasons at the top level of American open-wheel racing, from its title-winning years in the CART and Champ Car World Series through to its final days as Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing in the unified IndyCar Series.
It’s fitting that the auction happens to fall on the Gold Coast 500 race weekend given the squad’s history of success on the Surfers Paradise streets.
Newman/Haas cars claimed six race wins at Gold Coast Indy and seven pole positions, beginning with Andretti’s pole in 1991.
The second-generation star, now owner of IndyCar squad Andretti Autosport and co-owner of Supercars team Walkinshaw Andretti United, wasn’t able to convert his top-qualifying effort into a victory in the inaugural event.
Passed on the opening tour by fellow front-row starter Al Unser Jr, Andretti sat behind the Valvoline Lola for the first half of the race before muscling into the lead at the end of Breaker Street on Lap 41.
Unser Jr’s challenge ended a lap later, spinning at the final chicane while trying to lap Andretti’s brother Jeff in an incident that also took out Eddie Cheever and Michael and Jeff’s father Mario.
Andretti continued to lead after the restart but began to struggle with fading brakes. He lost the lead to Rick Mears with 10 laps remaining, his race ending a couple of laps later down the escape road at ANA Corner when his brakes finally gave up the ghost.
Another pole position came Andretti’s way at the following round at Long Beach, where he again retired after he and Emerson Fittipaldi crashed in pit lane.
Andretti never used the car again during the 1991 season but the pole positions at Surfers Paradise and Long Beach contributed the first two points of his sole championship-winning campaign.
Current photographs of Lola T91/00 HU15, complete with Chevrolet Indy V8/A engine. Pics: Supplied / RM Sotheby’s
The chassis was eventually repaired after its Long Beach crash and raced by Mario from the Cleveland round onwards, missing only the Michigan and Vancouver rounds and claiming podiums at Toronto, Elkhart Lake and Laguna Seca.
Newman/Haas changed engine allegiance for the 1992 season, moving from Chevrolet to Ford as the ‘blue oval’ returned to Indycar racing with the Ford-Cosworth XB engine.
Father and son Andretti did all the track development work on the new engine, with HU15 converted to carry the new unit and completing over 2,600 test miles during the ‘91/92 off season at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Laguna Seca, Texas World Speedway and Blackhawk Farms.
The team elected to start the 1992 season with its proven ’91 Lola chassis, with HU15 serving as Michael’s spare car at Surfers Paradise and his race car at Phoenix (where he scored pole position) before moving to the marque’s new T92/00 for the remainder of the season.
HU15 was retained by Newman/Haas after the end of its competition career and converted back to carrying a Chevrolet Indy V8/A, and is presented in the livery it carried at Long Beach in 1991.
Listed without a reserve, HU15 is expected to fetch between US$75,000-100,000 (AU$116,100-154,800).
The 42 Indycars are among a total of 77 auction lots that also includes vehicles from the late Carl Haas’ own collection – including a 2000 MV Agusta F4 750 Serie Oro motorcycle – as well as memorabilia, with items ranging from a helmet and race suit from Nigel Mansell’s time with the team, through to seven of the CART and Champ Car World Series Championship trophies earnt by the team.
The auction will take place at Carl A. Haas Automobile Imports race shop in Lincolnshire, Illinois on October 29.