DiZinno: Reflecting 10 years on from when F1 shot itself in the foot at Indy (VIDEO)

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It was supposed to be my favorite race weekend I’d ever been to in person, as a young kid finally getting to live out a dream and attend a Formula 1 race on the ground, the 2005 United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis, held 10 years ago today on June 19.

It wound up ending with a colossal thud, with reverberations that have lasted until this day.

FIRST GRAND PRIX EXCITEMENT

The genesis of my motorsports journalism career began exactly this weekend 10 years ago, when I was then a wide-eyed 15-year-old who was one of three winners of a national motorsports writing contest sponsored by Red Bull, and judged by the “Dean of American motorsports journalism,” the late, great Chris Economaki.

Having been to a handful of CART races in the seven or eight years previous, I had some idea of what to expect in an on-the-ground format. But nothing could have prepared me for the sheer opulence of what was coming at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as Formula 1 took over the place.

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Raikkonen at speed. Photo: Getty Images

The first thing I remember was the noise. While CART’s turbocharged Hondas, Toyotas, Ford Cosworths and Mercedes engines were an excellent hook, the sheer shriek of the screaming V10s launching through Turn 13 (oval Turn 1) onto the front straight was something that sent chills down the spine… and still does all these years later even just writing this sentence.

The second was the exclusivity. It was the introduction of passes, and which pass you need to get to which zone. My cousin and I had managed to finagle our way into the media center early in the weekend by way of a mutual, well-connected friend, but it felt as though we were playing with fire.

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Scott Speed at speed. Photo: Getty Images

Later in the weekend though, when Red Bull hooked us up with temporary paddock passes – and my cousin and I engaged in a full-on sprint from the grandstands into the infield to make it in time – the dream was real. Here we were, staring full-on at David Coulthard’s Red Bull chassis, the team’s first in its first season having bought the Jaguar squad.

Later that night, we were introduced to Red Bull’s American hope Scott Speed at a dinner with Economaki. Speed had run in Friday practice and the team was fast-tracking him some laps in hopes of his F1 race debut in 2006 (which happened by way of Red Bull buying Minardi and giving birth to Toro Rosso).

That night, Economaki told me a line I’ve never forgotten and still live by to this day. When I said I was done with my most recent year in school, he replied with that twinkle in his eye and thick New Jersey accent and volume and said, “You’re never done. Done is what a turkey is on Thanksgiving.”

To this point, nothing during the weekend seemed real.

Nor did the sequence of events that continued to follow during the weekend on-track.

BUILD-UP TO CHAOS

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Trulli and Zonta backed into garage. Photo: Getty Images

Earlier on Friday, Ralf Schumacher’s crash in Turn 13 – his second in that corner in as many years – knocked him out of the race. The fun trivia fact here is Ricardo Zonta replaced him for the rest of the weekend, but the Brazilian never competed in another F1 weekend again after this.

Overall, it was the tires that suddenly became the story, with the higher-than-normal loads potentially proving unsafe for the Michelin runners.

You’ll remember at this point that 2005 was an odd year in F1 annals, where there were no in-race tire changes and teams had to make their tires last a full distance. It cost Kimi Raikkonen the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring two races earlier when his suspension failed as a result of highly degraded tires.

There was one other key point – IMS had been repaved earlier in the year with a new diamond-ground surface. Bridgestone, by way of sister brand Firestone, had had the built-in track time advantage with the IndyCars and the Indianapolis 500 a month earlier. Michelin hadn’t.

It was quickly becoming the talking point of the weekend, where if Michelin couldn’t prove its tires were safe, there’d be some serious repercussions.

So Michelin called for backup. Michelin’s replacement tires – as Michelin and Bridgestone had to select tires in advance of the two back-to-back flyaway races in Montreal and Indianapolis – appeared to have the same problem. This was not a cheap exercise.

Saturday practice followed with minimal running by the Michelin runners, and although Jarno Trulli swept through to the pole in the afternoon for Toyota’s first pole position, there was little confidence that the Michelins could last more than a certain number of laps.

I remember a dinner on the Saturday where the talk wasn’t of excitement for Sunday. It was of the potential magnitude of what would be felt if a cluster happened on Sunday. It proved prescient…

THE RACE DAY DEBACLE

Sunday dawned with, fittingly, clouds overhead. There was talk of adding a chicane, or talk of making this a non-championship race. Neither occurred.

As a fan, you were almost left in the dark with what was going on, but it was obvious this was not going to be a normal Grand Prix Sunday.

And certainly, it wasn’t.

Here was the SPEED broadcast, which featured the well justified incredulity of the broadcast team of Bob Varsha, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett. Peter Windsor and Derek Daly in the pit lane were stupefied.

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The Michelin runners peel off. Photo: Getty Images

The field rolled out to the grid, still 20 cars strong. They left for the reconnaissance lap…

And then they started peeling off. One by one. Team by team.

The Michelin runners were all headed for pit lane. They were retiring before the race had even begun.

The lights went out with two Ferraris… two Jordans… and two Minardis.

Was this real life?

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This guy about sums it up. Photo: Getty Images

Certainly the situation didn’t call for fans actually throwing debris onto the track, as that would have affected the remaining runners. It was shameful, but justified in theory if not in actuality.

The paying customers – and in particular, the fans who may have been attending their first Grand Prix as I was – had a right to feel aggrieved. Most of all, they had a right to feel informed and understand what the heck actually triggered this mess.

Yes, Michael Schumacher won from Rubens Barrichello but it hardly mattered. It was Schumacher’s only win of the year. The fact they ran off the podium as quickly as they did post-race still sticks out in the mind.

On the bright side, third-placed driver Tiago Monteiro at least managed to make something of his moment in the sun in his only career podium, and the last for the Jordan team.

Minardi’s Paul Stoddart also had this memorable rant, below.

THE AFTERMATH

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First, and only, podium for Jordan’s Tiago Monteiro. Photo: Getty Images

The post-race post-mortem was intense. This race, of course, did irreparable harm for F1 at Indianapolis, and it was the latest – and probably biggest – dent in F1’s on-again, off-again history in the United States.

Michelin suffered a blow in the PR perspective even though they were not the sole culprits, in this writer’s opinion. Michelin made good by issuing refunds and purchased tickets for fans for the 2006 race at the track. Fans with tickets could use them to attend the Champ Car race at Cleveland a couple weeks later.

Michelin was out of F1 at the end of 2006, although it may one day return. Indianapolis was gone at the end of 2007, and no race in the U.S. occurred until 2012 at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, the purpose-built F1 facility this country had always deserved.

A year later, I had my first real writing gig in the sport, and that weekend helped propel me to where I am today, thanks to so many people.

But the biggest lesson I learned that weekend was invaluable.

F1’s political football is as much a part of the paddock as the on-track competition.

Ten years later, that remains truer than ever.

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.