15 November 1987
Adelaide Street Circuit
The previous two Australian Grands Prix had been exciting stuff, with 1985’s inaurugal race seeing Keke Rosberg take his final win, followed by the Ligiers of Laffite and Streiff, and 1986 will be forever remembered for Mansell’s tyre blowout. With all titles already decided, there was a distinctly relaxed feel as the teams arrived down under, with the only fly in the ointment being that, in the absence of Alan Jones, the local fans had no home driver to cheer on. But there was still plenty of local enthusiasm, the teams and drivers enjoyed being here and
the fans had plenty to keep them interested, because 1987 was the end of a number of eras. It was the last race for the high-boost Turbo engines before the 1988 regulations restricted them further. The last race for the Porsche-designed TAG engines that had powered McLaren to two titles. Williams’ last race with Honda and Piquet; Senna’s last with Lotus; Johansson’s with McLaren – and with no confirmed 1988 drive as yet, perhaps his last ever – and Ligier’s last with their troublesome “Megatron” BMW engines.
To the disappointment of many fans, Nigel Mansell would be absent again, still troubled by his injuries from Japan and unwilling to risk anything for a “dead rubber” with his future at the team assured. Frank Williams invited his future team-mate Riccardo Patrese to take the seat and Bernie Ecclestone agreed to release him from Brabham early, and in his place sat young Italian debutant Stefano Modena
7. Stefano Modena
Born in Modena in 1963 into a modest household, Stefano Modena rose rapidly through the junior formulae, and by 1986 had become a front runner in the competitive Italian Formula 3 series, vying with other future F1 drivers such as Nicola Larini and Alex Caffi, and came to international prominence by winning the F3 Monaco race. Promoted to international F3000, he won the title at the first attempt for the Onyx team and was rewarded with the Brabham seat for the last race of the season
The weather had been a factor in the last two races, but it was a glorious spring weekend in South Australia for 1987, and in qualifying, Ferrari maintained their good form with Berger duelling with Prost over pole position, trading fastest laps until the Austrian claimed the place at the end of Saturday’s session. Piquet was best of the rest in third, alongside Senna, with Boutsen and Alboreto on row three. Patrese was seventh in the unfamiliar Williams, while his replacement Stefano Modena underlined his credentials with an impressive 15th in the Brabham. At the back, Roberto Moreno qualified his AGS 25th and it was Alex Caffi who would sit out the race while the Brazilian made his debut.
When the lights went green on Sunday Morning, it was Piquet who got away best of all, leaping from third to first to lead Berger into the first corner, while at the back Nannini blotted his copybook by catapulting his Minardi into the wall. Prost led for just a couple of hundred metres before Berger, with almost contemptuous ease, carved back ahead and began to pull away, while Piquet also got past Prost and a four-way scrap ensued between Piquet, Prost, a fast-starting Alboreto and Senna. An estimated 130,000 crowd – with many more uncounted spectating from windows and balconies – watched enthralled as the Williams, McLaren, Ferrari and Lotus duked it out around the streets with Patrese running well in his first Williams race in sixth until lap 25 when Johansson elbowed his way past. A few laps later Alain Prost made an uncharacteristic mistake, rattling over the kerbs and losing time to Alboreto and Senna, and on lap 34 Piquet dropped out of second place and a potential highest-ever points tally with tyre wear and rejoined 6th.
By half distance, Berger led by 13 seconds from Prost, Senna and Alboreto who on lap 42 came across Arnoux’s Ligier and Danner’s Zakspeed fighting over 10th place. By the time the three were past, Senna was up to second, Alboreto third and Prost down in fourth. And Berger was another 5 seconds ahead. But now Senna was on a charge, wanting to sign off his Lotus career with win, and began carving into the Austrian’s lead, setting a new lap record on lap 52, just as Prost’s brakes failed and threw him into a wall. Two laps later, Senna had the gap down to 8 seconds with Alboreto going well in third, Piquet now fourth, Boutsen up to fifth and Patrese sixth. The Ferrari garage radioed Berger to warn him about Senna’s charge, and he responded immediately, striking sparks as he put the hammer down to re-establish his lead and put Senna’s challenge to bed. On lap 72, he went round in a scorching 1:20.46 and was free and clear to take his second successive win: the first back-to-back wins for a Ferrari driver since Gilles Villeneuve in 1981 (at Monaco and Spain). Senna came in second and Alboreto third, to a rapturous reception from the appreciative crowd. Piquet had disappeared with brake trouble and Patrese with an oil leak, so Boutsen took fourth, with Palmer’s Tyrrell and Dalmas’ Larrousse-Calmels Lola making up the points.
The season’s drama wasn’t quite over yet though – in post-race scrutineering, it was decided that the new cooling brake ducts fitted to Senna’s Lotus were illegal and he was excluded, meaning that Alboreto was promoted to second place for a Ferrari 1-2 (the first since Canada 1985) and Roberto Moreno was promoted into sixth place for his and AGS’ first championship point. Yannick Dalmas, meanwhile, didn’t score any points for his fifth place because the Larrousse team had only registered one car (Alliot’s) at the start of the season and only later added Dalmas.
And so the 1987 season ended on a positive note with the resurgence of the charismatic Ferrari team and with three atmospheric cars in the top six a sign that 1988’s new regulations could lead to even closer competition.
|15||Andrea de Cesaris||4|
* Only best 11 scores counted
|Jim Clark Cup|
|Colin Chapman Trophy|