The margin between success and failure in motorsport can be measured sometimes in microns. The 1989 Indianapolis 500 was such an occasion.
With one lap to go, either Emerson Fittipaldi or Al Unser Junior could have become the first winning driver ever to walk away with over $1,000,000 in prize money. Fittipaldi had been leading for most of the race, but with the field having been drawn together under a caution flag, ‘Junior’ had caught right up and with around one and a half laps to go was actually ahead of the enigmatic Brazilian.
Hurtling down the back straight at over 230mph the pair managed to race wheel-to-wheel as they jinked past a line of slower cars, and as they approached turn three Fittipaldi drew alongside.
‘…and I’m thinking to myself “I’m not going to back off. I’m going to take [turn three] flat” and I’m sure Junior was thinking the same thing!’ Says Fittipaldi of the moment he realised that turn three of the penultimate lap was going to be crunch time.
There was a collision – you’ve probably figured that out by now – and one car speared into the wall at massive speed while the other went on to win. As the No.2 car bows out of the race in spectacular style, watch Emmo perform a graceful drift at what must still be over 200mph!
So, one driver left Indy with enough money for most people to consider retirement while the other took with him a destroyed racing car and nothing more. The difference between the two after 199 laps was just one little touch at over 200mph …