F1 flashback: Lauda takes title by half a point (VIDEO)

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The closest championship battle in Formula One history was decided today in 1984.

Less than a point separated McLaren team mates Niki Lauda and Alain Prost after the final race of the season at Estoril in Portugal. Lauda edged his young team mate by just half a point.

All season long the McLarens had usually been shaded by their rivals in qualifying – especially Brabham – but their TAG-Porsche turbo engines helped them come on strong during the races with a winning blend of performance and fuel economy.

At the season finale on the new Estoril circuit Nelson Piquet was on pole position for Brabham alongside Prost with Lauda down in 11th place.

Prost quickly made his way into the lead but he was doomed to win the battle and lose the war as Lauda inexorably made his way through the field.

When Lauda brushed Ayrton Senna’s Toleman aside to take third place only Nigel Mansell’s Lotus stood between him and a third world championship.

Fortunately for Lauda, Mansell’s entreaties to team boss Peter Warr to fit larger brakes to his car had fallen on deaf ears. When Mansell’s car skidded off the track with smoking brakes, Lauda was through into second.

It was the second year in a row Prost has missed out on the title by a slender gap. Piquet beat him to the 1983 crown by a mere two points.

What was most unfortunate for Prost was that he’d only taken half points for his victory in the shortened, rain-hit Monaco Grand Prix. Had the race carried on for a few dozen more laps, then even if Prost had slipped to second place behind the charging Senna, the extra points would have made him world champion.

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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