Mario Andretti

Mario Andretti's life story captured the essence of the great American dream. Born near Trieste in the early months of the Second World War, his family spent the first seven years of his life in a displaced person's camp before emigrating to the USA in 1955. Childhood memories of Alberto Ascari and the Mille Miglia fueled Mario's passion for racing. He competed in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in 1965 and won this classic American race four years later. He qualified a works Lotus 49B on pole position for the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen and won his first Grand Prix victory at the wheel of a Ferrari in South Africa three years later. Yet the whole point about Mario was his passion for racing. Sure, he made a living out of it, a good one, but the basic thing was to be battling away behind the wheel. He was one of the most versatile drivers of all time, winning regularly in F1, Champcars, oval racers and long distance sports car races. In 1978 he drove the sensational Lotus 79 to the World Championship title and raced intermittently in F1 through to the end of 1982. He would be 53-years old when he won his last Champcar race at Phoenix, Arizona, in 1993 and although he celebrated his 60th birthday at the start of 2000 he was still angling after a drive at Le Mans. Mario continued to hang out in racing circles and even tested for his son Michael's team in 2003 but a huge accident from which he emerged unscathed finally convinced him to stop tempting fate.

He remains the elder statesman of US racing and is now helping to guide the career of his grandson Marco, who tested an F1 car for Honda in December 2006.