- January 15 down the years
Mad Max and a 'stonking' victoryWhat happened on January 15 in Formula One history?
Mario Andretti took his tenth career pole in the Lotus Ford in the season-opener in Argentina and went on to win by more than half a minute from world champion Niki Lauda. "I was just stonking it, man," Andretti said. "The car was beautiful and never missed a beat. I was never worried." Local hero Carlos Reutemann briefly looked like a challenger before a wheel change dropped him back down the field - he finished seventh - while John Watson's pursuit of Andretti, which had seen him in second for three-quarters of the afternoon, ended in engine failure. It was the first of six wins that year for Andretti on his way to the drivers' championship.
FIA boss Max Mosley announced a ban on a number of drivers aids including traction control and launch control, as well as all telemetry and radio communication between the team and drivers during races. "There is nothing wrong with the technical development in Formula One," said Bernie Ecclestone, "it's just a case that some teams cannot afford to compete at the current level." However, not for the first time, the changes were rushed and within a week Mosley had been forced to back down on some of them.
Mosley in the news again, this time when he announced the introduction of written tests for drivers before they were allowed to compete in races. "There have been one or two cases of drivers doing things they ought not to do because they didn't know the rules," he said. "On two occasions at least, drivers have been before the world council because they broke the rules. One admitted he did not know what they were. We will only test on things where there is a specific rule, such as whether a black flag with an orange disc means `Your car is on fire' or `Come in now for a cup of tea'."
Rene La Begue, born on this day in Paris, was a leading French driver immediately before World War Two, finishing placed in a number of major endurance races. In 1939 he came third at the French Grand Prix behind the dominant Silver Arrows, and in 1940 finished tenth at the Indianapolis 500. He headed back to Europe to fight for the Free French troops and when racing resumed in 1946 he was appointed vice-president of the French Drivers Association. Tragically, weeks later he died when asphyxiated by a defective water heater in his bathroom.
One of Ireland's first racing drivers, Dave Kennedy, was born in Sligo. He was one of the pioneers of Irish motorsport and was the first man from his country to win a British single-seater title, the 1976 Formula Ford 1600 championship. He first started racing Formula One cars in the British-based Aurora championship and finished the series as runner-up in 1979. His grand prix debut came in 1980 with Shadow, but by that time the team was in decline and its car was well off the pace. He failed to qualify for seven of the eight races he entered that season, only for the one he did qualify for, the Spanish Grand Prix, to be declared a non-championship race due to the FISA-FOCA war. After F1 he dabbled in Can Am and raced for the Mazda team at Le Mans. He went on to a career as a commentator and journalist in his home country.
Nicha Cabral was born in Cedofeita, Portugal. He competed in F1 erratically in the late fifties and early sixties, but only managed to finish one race. He drove a Cooper T51 at his home grand prix in 1959, he finished tenth.