On this day in… 1984
The 26 drivers who’d qualified for the race included former world champions Niki Lauda and Keke Rosberg, reigning title holder Nelson Piquet and race winners Jacques Laffite, Rene Arnoux, Alain Prost, Riccardo Patrese, Patrick Tambay, Elio de Angelis and Michele Alboreto.
Also on the grid that day were five rookies. Nobody expected much from French pair Francois Hesnault or Philippe Alliot, who’d qualified the RAM-Hart and Ligier-Renault in 19th and 25th respectively, but the other three had garnered rather more interest.
German Stefan Bellof, a star of the European Formula 2 and world sportscar championship, lined up alongside British Formula 3 runner-up Martin Brundle at the Tyrrell team, while Brazilian Ayrton Senna, who’d beaten Brundle to the British F3 title the previous year, would spearhead the small British Toleman squad.
Senna had qualified the Hart-engined Toleman in 16th to top the rookie ratings, while Brundle would line up in 18th, four places ahead of Bellof.In the race Senna got up to 13th before turbo failure meant the local hope became the race’s first retirement after just eight laps. Bellof also moved up the order before throttle failure put him out after 11 laps. It was thus left to Brundle to carry the torch for the first-timers. He finished a superb fifth, albeit a lap behind the podium trio of Prost, who won on his return to McLaren after three years with Renault, Rosberg and de Angelis.Sadly for Brundle, a mid-season discovery that Tyrrell had infringed car-weight regulations, resulted in the team being disqualified and losing its points, denying him the Brazilian GP result and second place on the streets of Detroit. Serious leg injuries in Dallas next time out meant he’d miss the rest of the season.
The Bellof story had a tragic ending when the super-fast and brave 27-year-old, who was well into his second F1 season with Tyrrell, was killed in a Porsche during the 1000km sportscar world championship race at Spa in September 1985.
And everyone knows the Ayrton Senna story…
Images: The Cahier Archive