23 June 1985
A plan for the season-opener to take place at Dallas (with the race being a plot line in the popular soap opera) had fallen through early on, so for the first time in some years there would only be one race held in the USA. The teams and drivers mostly hated Detroit’s bumpy surface, unforgiving walls and general lack of atmosphere, but the fans enjoyed what was seen as a great leveller for the smaller teams, and of course Detroit was the headquarters of Ford, who enjoyed having a home Grand Prix. In fact, Ford took the opportunity of a home race to launch their own turbo engine, a Cosworth V6, which would be used exclusively by the Beatrice Haas-Lola team on a three-year contract.
With no changes in the field during the short hop from Montreal, the teams took to the street circuit, and with the first two sessions dominated by the usual familiarisation accidents and rain on the Saturday, it was Friday’s session that counted, and once again it was Ayrton Senna that took pole – his fourth of the year. In second was Mansell, equalling his own best ever grid placing, with Alboreto and Prost on row two. Rosberg and Warwick were 5th and 6th, with Cheever 7th and de Angelis 8th in the spare Lotus after a collision on Friday. Piquet’s dreadful 1985 continued with in 10th, with Surer just behind. At the blunt end, the Arrows team were caught out by Saturday’s rain and hadn’t set good times on Friday, so Boutsen could only manage 21st and Berger 24th; the Austrian hadn’t set a time at all on Friday and his Saturday time was a full 23 seconds off the pace – and yet *still* faster than Martini’s Minardi which had.
Sunday saw clear weather and as the lights went out, it was Mansell who got away better, leading Senna into the first corner, while his teammate Rosberg also had a flyer and followed Prost through past Alboreto, but couldn’t quite get past the Frenchman into the bargain. Senna was harrying Mansell and got back ahead into turn 4, while Rosberg moved ahead of Prost during the course of the first lap as well. In fact, the Finn was charging and soon got past Mansell and started pressuring Senna, who was struggling a bit on a too-hard tyre compound. Senna pulled in for a new set of tyres, which dropped him to 14th, but unfortunately thanks to a communication mix-up, he had the same compound put on, and was no better off. The Williams cars were now running 1-2 for the first time since 1983, and looking good as the following cars; Prost, Alboreto and Warwick, were all suffering from brake problems of various descriptions. Elio de Angelis, on the other hand, was moving up rapidly in his own car, which had been repaired, and soon found himself third and catching Mansell. Also making progress was Stefan Johansson, who had qualified 9th but made his way up past Prost and Alboreto to go fourth.
Niki Lauda’s bad luck continued, retiring on lap 10 with brake problems, which promoted Brundle and Bellof to 8th and 9th, and the West German driver was pressuring his teammate hard, even making contact and losing part of his nosecone at one point. The Tyrrells came upon the struggling Prost, Brundle getting past into 6th, while Senna clipped a tyre wall at turn 3 trying to get back to the front in his Lotus, leaving a stack of tyres on the track. The marshals got them out of the way, but not before Tambay had bent his Renault beyond repair on the opposite wall while avoiding them.
By this stage, Rosberg had a lead of 20 seconds over Mansell, who was also now having brake and tyre problems, and pitted for new rubber. The tarmac at Turn 3 was now starting to break up badly and Prost was caught out, also hitting the wall. Mansell was next to go, spinning before hitting the wall head-on at a place that should have had tyres but for Senna’s earlier excursion. It took four laps for the craneless marshals to extricate a concussed Mansell and remove the car. Brundle was promoted to fourth, having a great race and chasing Johansson, but he was taken by surprise when Alboreto got back past him, a battle which became a battle for third when de Angelis bent his nose trying to lap Berger and went into a new one. It wasn’t to last though, as Brundle was taken out by Alliot as he lapped the RAM; Alboreto got through OK, but Alliot didn’t see Brundle behind and took the racing line, colliding with him. Bellof moved up into the attack instead.
With 13 cars left on the track at the halfway stage, Rosberg had a big lead over Johansson, but also had a bit of litter covering part of his radiator, leading to speculation that he might have to pit for its removal or risk overheating. Johansson and Alboreto were running 2-3 with Bellof fourth and Senna – now finally on the right tyres – a charging fifth. De Angelis was in sixth, now using a spare nose set up for Senna which wasn’t really working with the rest of his settings. Bellof’s Tyrrell was no match for Senna’s Lotus, and the Brazilian was soon past into fourth place and charging down the Ferraris. For another twenty laps or so, nothing much changed at the front. On lap 50, with a decent lead and rising engine temperatures, Rosberg dived into the pits. A plastic bag was removed from his sidepod and fresh tyres fitted and he left the pits, still in the lead but now under much more pressure from Johansson. Senna was also gaining on all three, but his race ended as another victim of turn 3. And that was pretty much how it ended. Johansson lost his front brakes and had to back off, so Rosberg was able to take his and the Williams’ team’s first win since the Dallas race in 1984, and indeed his third win in a row on street circuits. Johansson and Alboreto joined him on the podium, with Bellof fourth, de Angelis fifth (to continue his Mr Consistency act from 1984, having scored in every race so far) and Nelson Piquet, lapped, scoring his and Brabham’s first point of the year.
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