Ayrton Senna’s first F1 start for McLaren ended in a controversial disqualification from his home race on this day 25 years ago.
Senna planted his Honda-powered McLaren MP4-4 on pole position at the Jacarepagua circuit in Rio de Janeiro. But as the cars prepared to take the start a gear linkage broke, Senna waving his arms calling for the start to be aborted.
The grid re-formed with Senna now starting from the pits in the spare McLaren. Nigel Mansell became the de facto pole sitter but his normally aspirated Williams-Judd was outgunned by Alain Prost’s turbo-powered McLaren.
While Prost motored off into the lead Senna was slicing his way through traffic. He came around in 21st place at the end of lap one, but by lap 13 he’d broken into the top six points-paying positions.
Thierry Boutsen (Benetton) and Nelson Piquet (Lotus) were next to succumb to the McLaren. Mansell stopped with a blown engine on lap 19 and now Senna was in a podium position. He came around the next lap in second place having dispensed with Gerhard Berger’s Ferrari.
But it was all in vain. The rules prohibited drivers from switching cars after the start had been given and Senna was belatedly black-flagged after 31 laps.
Prost ran out an easy winner – the first of 15 victories for McLaren that year in a season they dominated. But in their first season as team mates Senna ultimately proved too much for him, beating Prost to the drivers’ title.
Sadly construction work for the forthcoming 2016 Olympic Games has led to the demolition of the Jacarepagua circuit. It held ten rounds of the world championship between 1978 and 1989 and its oval course was later used for CART IndyCar races.
Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit. Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome in 1974. Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.