8 July 1984
With over 1800 miles for the team trucks to cover from Michigan to Texas, there was a two-week gap in between the two American races before fans and teams alike could take their first look at the new circuit. There was some caution, as the Caesar’s Palace race hadn’t exactly been popular and this looked likely to be a sweltering race in the heat of a Texan summer. On the plus side, though, the circuit layout looked fast on paper, and there was some of the glamour missing from Detroit with the inevitable presence of many cast members of the popular soap opera Dallas around the paddock.
Teo Fabi was off CARTing again – having taken a left out of Detroit to head for Cleveland when everyone else headed south – and so Corrado would be driving the number 2 Brabham, but unsurprisingly the field was the same in Dallas as in Detroit, except that Arrows finally had enough BMW engines to give both their drivers a turbo (something of a mixed blessing given the German engine’s reliability so far) and Brian Hart had replaced Spirit’s broken engine so they were back to their usual setup for Huub Rothengatter.
Nigel Mansell had looked useful in Detroit and in Dallas he was in equally fine form to take his first-ever pole position and with Elio de Angelis alongside it was Lotus’ first front row lockout since the Dutch Grand Prix of 1978. Derek Warwick was a fine third ahead of Lauda, with Rene Arnoux in fifth place, Prost seventh and both rivals united in their dislike of the circuit. The two were split by Senna’s Toleman, though the young Brazilian was visibly suffering once more from the heat and the vibration on the rough surface. Rosberg, Alboreto and Tambay made up the top ten, with Piquet struggling down in 12th, just behind Fabi, after the team moved the oil cooler to spare his feet and it upset the balance of the car.
On Friday, Martin Brundle had a puncture which snapped his car into a wall and broke his left ankle and right foot, so he would take no further part in proceedings, which meant everybody would qualify. However, no sooner had the RAM team finish rebuilding both cars after their crashes in Detroit than Alliot crashed again and would have no car to race in despite qualifying 24th. One can only imagine the looks on the faces of the long-suffering RAM mechanics.
One major concern was the way that the new track’s surface had already begun to break up badly by the end of Friday’s session, and Niki Lauda as unofficial drivers’ spokesman once more, suggested to the organisers that they cancel the Saturday morning Can-Am race to preserve the track and some were talking about a boycott. The race went ahead, but at Bernie Ecclestone’s suggestion the track was patched up with quick-drying cement on Saturday night and instead of a warm-up session on Sunday morning each driver got three laps to drive the circuit and identify any problems.
The weather was predictably hot and many were expecting the race to be an endurance run rather than a motor race, and it seemed to have claimed its first victim before the race even started, with Arnoux stalling before the parade lap, but the marshals gave him a push start and he would start from the back – apparently the circuit didn’t like him much either. When the race finally got underway it was clean, with Mansell leading de Angelis and Warwick away. Senna had got a good start to leap up to fourth and was looking confident – he tried to take third from Warwick under braking at the start of lap 2, only to get his angles wrong, brush a wall and spin. After having to sit and watch everyone pass him, he got turned round and vibrated round to the pits on flat-spotted tyres to get a new set. Rosberg, meanwhile, was also having a better race than he had for some time in a new chassis based on the previous year’s FW09 and soon got past Prost.
Mansell was beginning to leave his team-mate behind and, suffering from a small misfire, de Angelis was having to fight off Warwick, who got past on lap 4 and set off in pursuit of Mansell. Lauda followed Warwick through into third and both rapidly caught the number 12 Lotus. On lap 11, Warwick dived outside Mansell to take the lead – but only briefly as he skidded on the crumbling track and ended up in a wall and out of the race. Mansell nearly did the same a lap later, but only brushed the wall and was able to keep going, while Lauda took avoiding action and lost a place to de Angelis, who began to pressure Mansell once again. However, there was no love lost between the two Lotus drivers and Mansell wasn’t going to let the Italian past for anything, leading to a terrific fight between the two black and gold cars for the lead as a four-car snake of Mansell, de Angelis, Lauda and Rosberg was rapidly being caught by Prost.
The Loti began to pull away as Rosberg snuck through into third, and then on lap 19 de Angelis had a go at Mansell in the same place Warwick had gone off. Mansell wasn’t giving anything away though and de Angelis had to bale out of the move, and the lost momentum saw Rosberg capitalise into second place while a discombobulated de Angelis dropped back into the clutches of the McLarens. By this stage, Hesnault, Cheever, Bellof, Warwick, Patrese, Rothengatter and de Cesaris had all retired, mostly through accidents (though poor Huub Rothengatter had suffered a burned bottom after a fuel leak), and Tambay joined them on lap 25 as he rubbed off a rear wheel on the wall while chasing the McLarens. This let Piquet up into sixth place, suffering now with a sticky throttle as well as an unbalanced car, and behind him came Arnoux, having passed everyone else on the first twenty or so laps. Prost also hit Warwick’s wall but was unscathed and was pressing de Angelis hard, closing back up on Mansell and Rosberg. The McLaren got past the Lotus, with Lauda now looming in the Italian’s mirrors as well, while Rosberg was nipping at Mansell’s gearbox.
It was cracking entertainment for the crowds, who were responding well to Mansell’s dogged determination, and matters were further enlivened when one of Nigel’s blocking manouevres delayed Rosberg sufficiently for Prost to get past, but the Finn was having none of it and got back past the next lap. Mansell’s heroic defence of the lead came to an end on lap 36 when Rosberg finally managed to elbow his way past, and the Lotus’ Goodyears were too wrecked to fight back. Mansell ruefully peeled off into the pits for new boots and resumed in 7th place. His team-mate de Angelis was still having engine trouble and had now lost place to both McLarens and was being reeled in by Arnoux and Piquet, until the Brazilian’s throttle finally stuck open and put him into a wall, thankfully not too hard. Meanwhile, Prost had caught and passed Rosberg despite the Finn being just as resolute in defence as Mansell had been, and Arnoux took both de Angelis and Lauda to go up to third – quite remarkable given his start from the back, but by this stage there were only ten cars running anyway after Alboreto clipped a wall and retired from 6th.
Alain Prost led Rosberg, but the Frenchman was denied the win when, eleven laps from the end, he bumped a wall and removed a wheel. Lauda’s hopes of shortening Prost’s title lead evaporated when he did the exact same thing at the exact same place four laps later and parked up next to his team-mate. All of which left Rosberg free and clear to take his first win of the season, with Arnoux the only other unlapped driver in second. De Angelis hung on for third, with Laffite an anonymous fourth again. Nigel Mansell looked set for fifth place until the dreaded Lotus Gearbox Lurgi struck again on the very last corner. The crowd got to its feet as the Englishman climbed out of the car and began to push it towards the line, losing fifth place to Ghinzani’s Osella but crossing the line in sixth place – at which point the Lotus driver simply collapsed on the tarmac and was swiftly attended to by the medics. Fabi and Winkelhock were the only other drivers out there.
Unaware of all of this, Rosberg – who had returned to the parc ferme with a McLaren driver on each sidepod – used the podium microphone to berate Mansell for his earlier blocking tactics, and was slightly surprised to be met with vigorous booing from the crowd who had adopted Mansell as a hero and seen his heroics at the last corner.
|1||Alain Prost||34 ½|
|3||Elio de Angelis||23 ½|
|4||René Arnoux||22 ½|
|18||Andrea de Cesaris||2|