If you thought that Austin was the first city of Texas to host a Formula One Grand Prix then you would be mistaken. It was Dallas who held the first race in Texas in 1984. Later it has become a race of urban legend, described as one of the most controversial races to ever take place on American soil. Firstly, the track was crumbling down just hours before the start of the race. They had been filling holes all through the night and repairing tarmac. The race foreman wasn’t even sure the track would hold up, but they pushed ahead.
And let’s not forget the race was in summer. Texas heat is something of a legend, nowadays, all Grand Prix races in Texas are held in October. Keke Rosberg, a champion Finnish driver, described the asphalt as the worst he had ever seen anywhere. Newspapers were writing about the track as if it was a cross country rally course and not a pristine formula one circuit. Consequently, F1 racing has never gone back to Dallas – but the bad track was not the only reasoning behind this decision.
Racers were passing out as temperatures soared into the forties. Ghinzani, an Italian driver, had to be revived by a bucket of cold water. And this wasn’t before the race, it was during a pit stop. Rosberg who was driving a badly designed car at the time was able to keep cool and stay ahead by weaning a water-cooled skull cap. These were popular at the time for Nascar racing, but he was the only driver that thought to take one to F1 racing.
Mansell, the future world champion, broke down just meters from the finish line – after having to clip a wall early in the race. He was so frustrated from the heat, he tried to push the vehicle over the finish line. However, this simply resulted in him passing out and waking up in the hospital. In fact, out of the 26 drivers in the race, 18 of them had to retire and 14 of them were due to hitting the concrete walls.
Even the greats such as Alain Prost or Ayrton Senna were retired by the concrete walls. But in Senna’s case, it was kind of crazy, because the wall moved. Senna told his crew that he never hit the wall, and was so insistent that they walked out to have a look at the accident. And he was right. The wall had moved by just ten millimeters because of another driver crashing into the far end of it. Senna’s driving was so calculated that just these ten millimeters were enough to mess up his turn.