The last time F1 visited Texas

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This weekend, Formula One returns to America for the first time in five years at the Circuit of Americas in Austin, Texas.

Designed by track architect Hermann Tilke, it borrows corners from all manner of different circuits and should, in theory, produce a fantastic penultimate race of the season.

It looks light years ahead of the infamous Fair Park street circuit which played host to the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix – the last time F1 visited Texas – a circuit that presented an extraordinary challenge for the drivers with its 90 degree corners, hairpins, and concrete walls.

Oh, and just to make matters even worse, it was held in midsummer.

With temperatures averaging 38˚c, the track surface progressively disintegrated and had to be continuously repaired with quick-drying cement. As a consequence, only seven cars saw the chequered flag, the rest having crashed out after spinning on the marbles.

Having claimed his maiden pole position, Nigel Mansell managed to lead the first half of the race having soaked up the pressure – and no doubt buckets of sweat – from a trio of drivers.

First was Derek Warwick, who successfully overhauled Mansell’s team-mate Elio de Angelis for second and closed in on his fellow countryman within ten laps, before making an overambitious lunge for the lead and spinning into the tyre barrier and into retirement.

Next to hunt down Mansell was de Angelis, whose Lotus had initially suffered from a misfiring engine, but once that sorted itself out, the Italian was on his way to catching the other black and gold car.

But his pursuit wouldn’t last for long, however, because Keke Rosberg was going like the clappers in his Williams-Honda that seemed particularly suited to the point-and-squirt nature of the circuit.

Soon after claiming second, the flying Finn was quickly on Mansell’s coattails and began making life difficult for his rival. Mansell was doing everything he possibly could to keep Rosberg at bay on a track that was deteriorating with every passing lap.

A momentary lapse of concentration on lap 35 saw the Lotus skim the wall, allowing Rosberg to finally take the lead when Mansell stopped for repairs and fresh rubber a lap later.

Rosberg, however, was then pursued by the McLarens of Alain Prost and Niki Lauda – the Frenchman having reaped the benefits of taking it easy during the early stages of the race – and after 49 laps, the inevitable happened: Prost was in first place.

With tyres significantly better than those around him, he looked on course to take an easy victory. Alas, just seven laps after passing Rosberg, he struck the wall and damaged his wheel rim, thus gifting the Williams driver the lead once again.

At this point, Rene Arnoux was 30 seconds away in second place – having fought his way from the back of the grid – and even though the Renault driver chipped away at the gap to Rosberg, there wasn’t enough time left on the clock for him to mount a serious attack.

After 67 laps and two hours of hard racing, Rosberg took the chequered flag 22 seconds ahead of Arnoux – the only two to finish on the lead lap – while de Angelis finished third.

But perhaps the most enduring image of the race came courtesy of Mansell, who tried to push his Lotus across the finish line to take sixth, but collapsed next to his car through sheer exhaustion. It was a scene that epitomised the sheer lunacy of that weekend.

1984 United States Grand Prix – Dallas – Results

Pos Driver Car Time/gap Grid
1 Keke Rosberg Williams-Honda 2h 1m 22.617s 8
2 Rene Arnoux Renault  -22.464s 4
3 Elio de Angelis Lotus-Renault -1 lap 2
4 Jacques Laffite Williams-Honda -2 laps 24
5 Piercarlo Ghinzani Osella-Alfa -2 laps 18
6 Nigel Mansell Lotus-Renault -3 laps 1

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