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Fiasco Italo-Brittanico
Part 13: 90CA on active duty - the early part of the second week of practice at Indianapolis



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Al Unser Sr


March-Alfa Romeo 90CA




1990 Indianapolis 500 (May 16, 1990)


If Roberto still had a theoretical chance to qualify high up in the field in case he found more speed in the week to follow, that chance was lost the very first day after qualifying had begun. During a practice run on the afternoon of Monday, May 14, the rear wing came off, sending Roberto into the wall of Turn 3.

Monday, May 14. Always a sad sight, a speedway wrecker returning with cargo: a crashed car (photo HG)

Once Guerrero’s hope,
now hanging wrecked on a rope. (photo HG)

Crew members awaiting their car with blankets in order to cover up as much damage as possible. The right side was hit the hardest. (photo HG)

The left sidepod was nearly intact. Other than that, the nosecone was gone. (photo HG)

A returning wreck always draws a crowd of spectators. (photo HG)

Arrival of the wreck at the Patrick Racing garages. (photo HG)

The wreck was initially put in front of the garages. (photo HG)

The car, which had been eligible for a shot at the pole, was wrecked beyond repair.

A short inspection of the wreck. (photo HG)

A little while later it was put into a trailer and taken back to the Patrick Racing headquarters at Indianapolis. This is the last what the audience saw of this particular car. (photo HG)

Fortunately Roberto escaped with minor, if any, injuries and was seen in the Garage Area later in the afternoon, still in an ever pleasant mood.

Roberto Guerrero after his accident later that afternoon, still approachable for the press. (photo HG)

In view of the risk of something similar happening with the other cars, the Alfas were grounded.

While the wrecked sister car `came home’, the other Patrick entry was `dressed to mourn’ the loss. It had been the intention for Unser to go out for practice, but instead the car was grounded. (photo HG)

Roberto’s crash was another first too: Although his crash was the 11th crash of the month, it was the first one involving a 1990-type chassis.

After the accident, Roberto returned to the track for a press conference and spoke about his accident. He also spoke about the Alfa Romeo engine: “The Alfa team is really puzzled. They see the horsepower on the dyno and something is killing it: intake, exhaust system. It may be something to do with the installation or one of the electronic pieces doesn’t agree with another. From the dyno, we should be close to the Chevrolet but on the straightaways, we’re 20 miles an hour slower.”

Patrick Racing appeared to be in trouble. A year ago one of the few opponents that could worry the almighty Penske trio, this time even qualifying appeared to become a massive task for the team. And whatever practice time that had been possible that Monday, it was lost. And if that wasn’t enough, even more precious time was to be lost as long as the cause of the accident wasn’t found and actions were taken to prevent a repeat. The following Tuesday was almost certainly to be another lost day for Patrick Racing because investigations about what had cause the wing to come loose meant that the cars were not allowed to be driven that day.

Investigations learned that the wing struts used had been poorly constructed and they were replaced. There was some concern that the Porsche-powered Marches also used unsafe wing standards. But that was not the case. To illustrate how separately March dealt with the two projects, 90CA and 90P, the Porsche project group within March had looked for another wing-standard supplier once they found out that the company they had in mind was already signed up by the Alfa group!

The inability to run the cars on Tuesday May 15 didn’t set Patrick Racing back too much compared with its rivals. Rain ensured nobody could drive on Tuesday.

New wing standards were obtained in time to enable Al Unser Sr to run in one of the very few cars that was out on the track at Wednesday in the brief period during which the track was opened, although under running yellow conditions, with no hot lapping possible.

Wednesday May 16. Al Unser Sr was one of only a few drivers going out to run some laps under the running yellow late that afternoon. (photo HG)

Once again rain accounted for what was effectively a lost day at the Speedway for everyone.